Get to know Mark, his background, and his entrepreneurial spirit like never before!
Mark Sisson has been a great friend and mentor of mine for 30 years. As one of the founding fathers of the primal/paleo/keto/ancestral health movement, Mark has probably been on a couple hundred podcasts, including perhaps a dozen of our own for Primal Blueprint and Primal Endurance shows (listen to the very first Primal Blueprint podcast, published December 30, 2013, where he talks about the dangers of chronic cardio.) Since you can grab a lotta content on healthy eating and primal living from Mark with a push of button, we aspired to do something special with this conversation. Enjoy this lengthy and intimate conversation where Mark covers seldom heard life journey material starting from childhood and continuing to his present day role as a prominent health expert and entrepreneur. We rolled for a couple hours, and the end product is now destined to be archived for eternity in the Library of Congress as The Ultimate Mark Sisson Interview.
If you know all about Mark as a longtime follower, this interview will give you a more complete picture than what’s offered by his public image. Even I was surprised to hear some of the details about his early years! If you’ve never heard of this blond guy, you will enjoy a fascinating account of the wild and wacky journey of a born entrepreneur and intense competitor. You will reflect on the importance of trusting your gut, never giving up on your dreams, taking action rather than just talking a good game, and honoring your basic nature (whether you’re risk averse or are repeatedly called to grand ambitions.)
The show begins with a check-in about Mark’s surprise 2018 relocation from Malibu to Miami. He loves the warm water and the awesome restaurants, and the Ultimate Frisbee games are just as hard-core as in Malibu! Then we take the narrative back to his childhood in a small fishing village in Maine. A fascinating insight about the genetics and disposition of a born entrepreneur prevails throughout the conversation. From day one, this guy has shown industriousness, vision, and a fearless competitive drive that has led him to pursue ambitious goals, keep going when others might give up, and change direction on a dime when most would stay the course on the comfortable beaten path.
As a pre-teen, Mark harbored a desire to “participate in the economy,” so he built a thriving lawn mowing business in the summer. Feeling restless midway through high school, Mark took the initiative to apply to the prestigious Philips-Exeter Academy prep school in Exeter, NH. Yes, this place is a legit, boasting a billion dollar endowment and an alumni list featuring 19 US Senators, a US President (Pierce), a Mark Zuckerberg face, Dan Brown of DaVinci Code fame, and Mark Sisson of Primal Kitchen fame.
While Mark showed some early promise as a big fish distance runner in the small pond of Maine, he experienced a breakthrough in confidence and performance after an epic Outward Bound summer experience on an island off the coast of Maine. He excelled at Philips-Exeter in academics and athletics and was off to Williams College (often ranked as the #1 liberal arts school in the nation) to pursue his dream of becoming a physician. You’ll start to notice a recurring theme in the story: numerous pivots and redirections from even the best-laid plans. Mark’s medical school ambitions were detoured by a random knock on the door of his dorm room by a nostalgic Williams alum who had occupied the same room. The alum was so amazed by what he saw inside he challenged Mark on the spot to second-guess med school and pursue other passions. No, it was not a jacuzzi and live band party setup that Rodney Dangerfield created in the movie Back To School…I guess you will have to listen to the show to discover the details.
Indeed, Mark’s entrepreneur gene was in full bloom even in college. He became such a skilled house painter that he was making what most would consider an excellent annual salary in a few summer months of wielding a mean paintbrush. Forget scaffolding, just race up and down a ladder all day like a marathon runner, and paint with the dexterity of a gymnast, to finish houses in a fraction of the time a professional crew could.
With med school plans on hold, Mark headed out to Northern California to pursue his dream of qualifying for the US Olympic trials in the marathon. He had some fantastic success as an endurance athlete, running a 2:18 marathon (5th in the national championships), but overuse injuries ended his career before he could even participate in the 1980 Olympic trials. Mark had a fabulous swan song as an elite athlete when he moved over to the sport of triathlon. With running injuries managed on account of swimming and cycling sharing the training load, Mark gained competency quickly and placed 4th in the Hawaii Ironman world championships in 1982. Since Mark’s endurance career predated the days where elite athletes could earn a decent living, he was hustling all the while in the background. He operated a thriving frozen yogurt shop in Palo Alto, CA, custom-built a restaurant featuring the world’s first refrigerated salad bar, and did more house painting and construction work.
In the mid-80’s, Mark chased a new dream, heading to Los Angeles in hopes of becoming a sportscaster. This entailed immersion into the model slash actor slash personal trainer scene in LA, and Mark soon emerged as a top trainer and health expert. Mark and I first met back in 1988. There was a newly-formed team of professional triathletes, and Mark was enlisted to coach us. His methods were revolutionary at the time, when he argued for athletes to avoid the chronic training patterns that led to breakdown, burnout, illness and injury. Instead, he told us take it easy at many workouts and focus on the occasional “breakthrough” workout where you could push yourself enough to break through to a higher fitness level.
Mark was ahead of his time with these insights, as the prevailing approach to endurance training was to grind out as many miles as possible and hope to avoid injury or breakdown. Mark’s own breakdown experience as a marathoner had prompted his awakening to a more sensible way of training. Mark would prove the value of his approach by occasionally jumping into high profile races or competitive workouts and hanging with professional level athletes, despite training minimally while pursuing a full time career as a personal trainer and nutrition consultant.
Mark also did consulting work to design nutritional supplements for various companies, and became the central figure in the first anti-doping organizational efforts in triathlon. In 1990, Mark was invited to serve as Executive Director of the national triathlon federation out in Colorado Springs, CO. After a few years of growing the sport wildly, Mark returned to LA to embark upon a lucrative career in the nutritional supplement world.
Yes, here as Mark humming along, making a great living and raising two young children with his wife Carrie. Alas, the entrepreneurial gene switched on again, and Mark decided to leave his cush position to plunge into debt and uncertainty, strike out on his own, and develop the world’s most comprehensive multivitamin, mineral, antioxidant, anti-stress supplement formula, aptly named Damage Control Master Formula. The venture became an immediate success, and Mark quickly ascended into the role of vitamin king living at the top of the hill in Malibu. Yes, this operation was dialed, with only a handful of employees and millions in revenue, mostly from a single product with a high profit margin. This gave Mark plenty of time to work on his golf game, to no avail. His grain-based diet causing hand arthritis was a worthy excuse. Seriously, but we digress…
Mark “fed the beast” (his term, not mine. Love it!) by hopping on a plane to Dallas every two weeks to tape a couple talk shows that were broadcast across the Bible belt to viewers whom apparently desperately needed the world’s best vitamin by “calling now” to the number on the TV screen. Alas, the infomercial era ended with a big giant thud. With the beast starting to get hungry, Mark blew a million bucks trying to keep the dream alive by producing dozens of episodes of his own TV show, which he quickly pulled the plug on before most of them ever aired (wouldn’t you love to see these now on YouTube?).
At this point, now 2006, Mark turned his attention to something called blogging. The launch of MarksDailyApple.com was inauspicious. After a year of devoted effort and a six-figure investment in the team and infrastructure, MarksDailyApple.com was pulling in a whopping 1,000 readers a day. Staying true to his values and vision despite the stress and anxiety of declining sales, Mark and his team stayed the course, cranking out great content without polluting the message with supplement marketing.
Over time, Marks Daily Apple readership continued to grow exponentially. The publication of The Primal Blueprint in 2009 was another watershed moment, as the reception was excellent and served as a catalyst for the overall explosion of the primal/paleo/ancestral health movement. Funny now, but Mark was turned down flat by many big time New York publishers when he pitched The Primal Blueprint. The prevailing rejection theme was that Mark was not an MD so he lacked the necessary credibility. True to form, Mark decided to self-publish and sell the book out of the Malibu warehouse—about as far away as you can get from the big time publishers on Madison Avenue! Indeed, once upon a time you could only find The Primal Blueprint for sale at Primal Blueprint.com.
As we reach the final decade up to present day, Mark covers the crazy explosive growth of his enterprise, and the consequent challenges and complexities this brought. You will be inspired by his well-placed enthusiasm and resolve to stay true to his vision despite challenges. #ListentotheSisson carefully and notice the difference between someone spewing shallow positive affirmations versus someone who faces the day with a healthy but realistic competitive intensity, a willingness to fail and grow stronger accordingly, and an emphasis on leading a healthy, balanced lifestyle. It is here, with his “Live Awesome” ethos, that Mark distinguishes himself from many narrowly-focused peak performers who succeed on a material level but neglect health, fitness, family life, or being kind in the process. While we didn’t discuss this in the show, “pivot” is Mark’s favorite word to describe the necessary skills and disposition to succeed in a competitive environment and be happy in general life. You have to keep moving and growing as a person, adjust to uncertainty and setbacks without falling apart, and generally becoming skilled at pivoting to take what life gives you in good spirit. Enjoy the Ultimate Mark Sisson Interview and stay tuned for a follow up Breather show called Deconstructing The “Listen To The Sisson” Show.
- Most of us know Mark as the well-known athlete/entrepreneur, but how did he get here? [00:02:26]
- What is he doing in Miami? Looking for warm weather. [00:06:51] ]
- He started right out from age 12 as a hard worker. [00:13:30]
- The athlete emerges. [00:14:41]
- On to prep school. [00:16:30]
- Outward Bound is a program that was a pivotal moment for Mark. [00:18:03]
- Participating in endurance athletics is about managing discomfort. [00:21:12]
- When it comes to being a competitor, is it the ability to turn it off and regulate and manage that in daily life? [00:23:39]
- When it is time for college, Mark, the house painter, headed to Williams College in Massachusetts, where he was premed. [00:26:37]
- Besides being a house painter, Mark did construction, including a project it his college dorm room! [00:29:56]
- He exits university at the time of heyday of the running scene. (The 70s and 80s) [00:32:27]
- Looking at the running situations then, we find the times are so much faster then than they are today. [00:34:12]
- He travels the world racing marathons. [00:37:43]
- Mark moves to the west coast and joins the West Valley Track Club in 1978. Next was the Aggie Running Club. [00:39:38]
- Mark had been dreaming of making the Olympic team when President Carter announced the US would be boycotting the games in Moscow. [00:43:16]
- There is a real physiological addiction to the endorphin rush we get when we are this realm. [00:44:22]
- Looking for more rush, Mark enters the February 1981 Ironman on Kona. [00:45:32]
- In 1983 after his triathlon experiences, he decided to work on the entrepreneur track. His resume includes: author, painting business, frozen yogurt shop, restaurateur modeling, acting, sports broadcaster, personal training. [00:49:01]
- Mark participated in the committee to write the anti-doping rules for triathlon and subsequently became the Executive Director of the Triathlon Federation. [00:52:46]
- It is important that the coach/athlete have that competitive background in his role as mentor. [00:56:07]
- As a businessman, are some of those attributes applied in his coaching necessary? [01:00:20]
- Is he just a learned characteristic to be an entrepreneur or is it a genetic attribute? [01:03:28]
- Invest in yourself. What does that mean? [01:06:29]
- In 1996 he started Primal Nutrition. (Damage Control Master Formula) [01:14:12]
- In 2004 everything changed. “Responsible Health”, a TV show was born. [01:23:05]
- Mark’s Daily Apple came into being in 2006 and the Primal Blueprint was published. [01:26:37]
- There was a bit of a disconnect selling a multivitamin as well as promoting the ancestral lifestyle. [01:31:02]
- How you prepare primal/paleo food is important so Mark developed the dressing, sauces, and the rest of Primal Kitchen products. [01:32:55]
- What has he learned from the mistakes in hiring? The team is the most important part of business. [01:40:07]
- Mark looks for the opportunity to meet the needs of the people’s understanding of what is healthy eating. [01:42:11]
- What is Mark still doing that is working? [01:45:15]
- What did Mark learn from the restaurant venture? Know when to pull the plug. [01:52:17]
- Primal Blueprint Podcast #1
- Phillips Exeter Academy
- Williams College
- USA Triathlon Federation
- Primal Master Formula
“We sold out of our first 12,000 jars in 10 days. We realized that we had something the public hungered for (with Primal Kitchen mayo)” – Mark Sisson
“Participating in endurance athletics is about managing discomfort.” – Mark Sisson
“If you’re an entrepreneur, you have to keep moving forward, keep looking for the next opportunity” – Mark Sisson
“It’s great how running used to be.” – Mark Sisson
“There is a real physiological addiction to the endorphin rush.” – Mark Sisson
“A truly successful business is a team sport, not an individual sport.” – Mark Sisson
“You only need one home run” – Mark Sisson
Brad Kearns: Welcome to the Get Over Yourself Podcast. This is Brad Kearns.
Mark Sisson: “It really doesn’t matter whether you save a thousand bucks a month or a hundred bucks a month, but the idea here is that as long as you keep hammering away, as long as you keep listening to the universe and being open to opportunities that come your way, and identifying what it is that you’re here to do, it only takes a couple of really good years to make up for all the time that you didn’t save here and save there.”
Brad Kearns: Here’s a quick thank you to our sponsors. They make this show possible and the tremendous production behind it – online and in audio. Thank you wildideabuffalo.com. Grass-fed locally raised on the great plains for the last 130,000 years. Quit eating that junk food feedlot cattle and get some quality meat into your life.
And thank you DNAFit.com. Cutting edge genetic testing, delivering customized diet and exercise recommendations for your peak performance. Use the discount code – GOY30, get over yourself.
Entegro probiotics make this fabulous liquid probiotic, high potency. It’s called Flourish, so your microbiome can flourish. Gut health is everything. Get started. Visit Entegrohealth.com.
And Tribali Foods, pre-made creatively flavored hamburger and chicken patties. When you’re in a rush, drop one down, fry it up. It’s delicious, T-R-I-B-A-L-I.
And Almost Heaven – that’s the name of my sauna. These are beautiful home-use saunas made of real wood, shipped to your door, easy to assemble, and then you are rocking. That’s right, I’m going from chest freezer cold therapy into the hot barrel sauna. Check them out at almostheaven.com.
And the Primal Blueprint online multimedia educational courses. To go primal, go keto. Get a stand-up desk going, master the challenge of endurance training. Go to Bradkearns.com and click on the links to learn more about these courses. If you’re sick of my voice on the podcast, you can now get sick of my face too on the videos. Now, onto our show.
Welcome to the Ultimate Mark Sisson interview. I called the show that because he’s done so many podcasts, talking about healthy, primal living, ketogenic eating. We’ve done so many shows ourselves on the Primal Blueprint, Primal Endurance channel. So, my dream was to track him down. He’s been all over the place and get focused on a recording that can be archived for eternity in the library of Congress as the ultimate Mark Sisson show.
So, we got to get his whole life story going because his background, so interesting. So, many twists and turns and incredible insights that frame who he is today. And of course, he’s a public figure and he’s a persona. You might have an image of him. You see his smiling face on the mayonnaise bottle and his books and videos. But it might not be the whole picture. So, I try to get deeper here and go back into our long friendship and the journey that we’ve had together.
Okay. So, we go back 30 years and we met in the endurance athlete scene way back when, as you probably know, Mark was a champ in his day in the marathon and Ironman Triathlon. I’m a little younger than he is, so when I came about and started on the professional circuit, he became my coach. He was a fabulous coach, learned so much from him. We kept in touch over the years and now the last decade has been an absolutely fabulous ride, promoting the Primal Blueprint movement, Primal Paleo, keto living, producing these books in live events and educational material.
So, you have this public image of him stand up, paddling with his six pack, glistening and then his smiling face on the mayonnaise bottle. And for sure, he’s a real peak performer and a very ambitious and competitive person. Very comfortable being the kingpin of his wonderful primal enterprise. This incredibly fast-growing primal kitchen phenomenon.
But this old friend of mine, he’s also a kind and funny and sensitive guy and he calls himself an introvert who doesn’t like big public gatherings, although he’s on those constantly and the center of attention many times. Anyway, he has been such a great inspiration to me.
I actually have in my secret file some of the life-changing insights that I’ve heard from him at the exact right time when I needed to hear them. And we’re going to cover some of those in the show and also in my wrap up show. I think you’ll really love it and if you don’t know who Mark is, I’ll give you a little bio information before we kick into this lengthy and beautiful discussion together.
He is the author of Mega bestselling books like the Primal Blueprint and the 2017 Keto Reset Diet. He’s had this blog, marksdailyapple.com since way back in 2006, cranking out daily content, promoting the Primal Paleo ancestral health movement. It’s widely regarded as the top ranked blog in the alternative ancestral health scene. He’s been lauded for challenging and reshaping the flawed conventional wisdom about diet, exercise, and lifestyle.
He also presides over this dynamic enterprise that includes all our books and educational materials, a health coach certification program, and of course, the crazy fast-growing line of primal kitchen, healthy mayonnaise, salad dressing, ketchup, mustard and so many other wonderful products.
Okay, this guy is like 64, 65-years-old. I can’t remember which one, but he looks good. Google him if you don’t believe me. He goes back, he’s going to talk about his college experience. He was on the pre-med track and got a BA in biology from Williams College. Then he plunged into the elite endurance racing scene, ran a 2:18 marathon. That’s crazy fast. If you’re not familiar with marathon running, it’s like sprinting for 26 straight miles.
Then he took fourth place in the Hawaii Ironman World Triathlon Championships and has had a long career being involved in the sport of triathlon today. He takes out his competitive intensity on these poor young players in the Ultimate Frisbee pickup games in Miami, Florida. I think you’re going to love this wonderful show with Mark Sisson. So, here we go.
Mark Sisson: All right, so what are we going to talk about today?
Brad Kearns: We’re going to go on a journey on the Ultimate Mark Sisson Podcast. Starting with Miami, man. What’s up? Let’s get up to date here. I know we’re visiting Malibu, we’re visitors. We had to sign in at the Malibu Guard Gate. There is a guard gate to enter the City of Malibu, they let us in. But how is it going over there?
Mark Sisson: It’s awesome. I mean, I really-
Brad Kearns: You’re living awesome?
Mark Sisson: Living awesome every day, loving Miami, loving Miami beach. Loving the warm water, the sand, great stand-up paddling, great Ultimate Frisbee, fabulous gyms. I mean, it’s really like a playground for me now.
Brad Kearns: Yeah, for those listeners, not aware, the Pacific Ocean, even in southern California is freezing ass cold all the time. It’s a huge boost to go in there and enjoy swimming in the ocean and frolicking, because here we’re like, we’re going in, we’re getting something done, we’re surfing, we’re paddling, but pretty soon it gets chilly.
Mark Sisson: Pretty soon, your lips get blue and you have to get out.
Brad Kearns: So, the paddling is in the, like the still water or somewhere?
Mark Sisson: Well, I mean, you can go on the ocean side for sure certain days. But I’ve just found these inland waterways that are … they’re bigger than canals, but they sort of interconnect throughout the other side of Miami Beach. And fabulous homes and fabulous boats and the occasional manatee-
Brad Kearns: When you’re paddling?
Mark Sisson: Yeah.
Brad Kearns: Oh, wow! Oh, and then you’re touring the coastal homes there, checking it out. There’s always a sight to see.
Mark Sisson: Always.
Brad Kearns: Waving at Will Smith and singing some lyrics from Miami.
Mark Sisson: That’s right.
Brad Kearns: What other adjustments? Is it nice to have just a new place after being here so long?
Mark Sisson: Yeah, I mean, that’s the other part of it. Is just, I think Carrie and I are ready for a new adventure. We’ve been in Malibu for 20 plus years, I think 22 years now. And we’ve been in this same home for 15 – and it’s great. I mean, I love Malibu, I love the people of Malibu. I am completely over the State of California and its governance and its taxes and it’s incessant thwarting of anyone’s ability to start a business. So, it’s a combination of that. It’s a combination of wanting to have a life adventure, live in a new place. I’ve always been attracted to warm weather, and it’s warm there and I love humidity.
So, there are a lot of great reasons that we decided this would be the appropriate time to move.
Brad Kearns: This is a guy from Maine talking about how he likes warm weather and humidity and getting it done. And it’s like my dad moved out from Milwaukee to Los Angeles, whatever, 60 years ago and we’re hearing the stories about how he just drove on Sherman Way and saw the palm trees and like, “Why don’t I live here? Why the heck should I go back?” And his answer was, “Why should I go back there? It’s cold.”
Mark Sisson: No, it’s crazy. I mean, I grew up in a small town in Maine where 1,800, 2,000 people when I was growing up there (I mean really small), and very few people left. This was a salt of the earth, Protestant work ethic-
Brad Kearns: Fishermen, was it a fishing scene?
Mark Sisson: It was a fishing village, for sure. And a bit of a tourist town in the summer, but mostly fishing. And yeah, a lot of people stayed and a lot of people are fifth, sixth generation in that town, even longer. They proudly go back to the mayflower. And I just could not see it. I mean, like as soon as I experienced warm weather, I’m like, “Why would I want to live eight months of the year in freezing cold temperature?”
I mean, I go back to Maine and it’s beautiful in the summertime and it’s fantastic. But for me, I like to be warm more than I like to be cold. If I’m going to be cold, I want to choose to be cold. I’ll go to Aspen, I’ll go snowboarding-
Brad Kearns: Cold plunging.
Mark Sisson: Cold plunging, for sure. Two minutes, not two months.
Brad Kearns: So, how old were you when you were growing up in Maine, seeing a bigger picture that maybe you weren’t going to stay there forever and maybe warm was better than cold?
Mark Sisson: Well, I mean, my parents got tired of the cold in Maine one year when I was in third grade and they moved to Florida for the school year. I was in third grade.
Brad Kearns: Wow, how cool? They just bailed and said, “Hey, you’re going to third grade down at Miami Dade Intermediate.”
Mark Sisson: They didn’t sell the house, and we moved to Sarasota. But they didn’t sell the house in Maine. They just purchased another one in Sarasota. And when I say purchased another one, I mean, I remember what they paid. They paid $13,000 for it. But after a year there, they didn’t like it, and so, we went back to Maine. But I was like already enamored of the warm weather. And the house that we had in Sarasota was sort of bordering on the eastern range of what had yet to be developed.
So, in my backyard were rattlesnakes and the occasional alligator coming up from Philippi Creek and certainly a lot of tortoises or turtles and things like that. And it was like a jungle. And in third grade, I thought I was Tarzan. So, it was perfect for me. I’d be out in the backyard playing, hanging out, swinging through the bamboo shoots and racing through the tall grass and trying to avoid the wild animals.
Brad Kearns: Wow, then you get hauled back to Maine and stuck it out there through the school years. And I want to talk about some of that upbringing. This is based on our drive from Tulum to the airport. And there you were giving this wonderful presentation, yet again, at PrimalCon to a packed house, hitting all the talking points so wonderfully about the grains and the sugars and becoming metabolically efficient, and the balanced exercise thing. And then, I’ve heard it so many times. I was getting a little bored, although I did give you accolades that you nailed it. Everyone loved it.
Then we’re driving to the airport, and we just wound you up and got you going on some of these other things. I’m like, “Dude, that’s an awesome talk. We are doing that next time.” And we did get into that at the next PrimalCon in Oxnard. I teed you up with some background information, because I think people would be interested and sort of informs how you got to this point now. So, one part I remember was the Outward Bound month, a few weeks on the island and then a championship race at the end.
Mark Sisson: Yeah. So, let’s pick it up from third grade. So, we go back to Maine and I’m kind of like-
Brad Kearns: Here’s Mark. Hey, you look 10 Mark.
Mark Sisson: No, back to the snow and in the wet. I’ve always been very entrepreneurial. So, starting from the ages of 12, 13, 14, I was mowing lawns 40 hours a week in the summer, ages of 12 and 13. Then, when I was 14, I had a job in the daytime painting houses and at night time, I bussed tables at a restaurant.
Brad Kearns: At 14?
Mark Sisson: Yeah, and I remember the painting houses was fine, but I couldn’t get a work permit. I had to wait until I was truly 14 to get a work permit to be able to work in a restaurant to buss tables. And eventually, I waited tables. But I was always interested in participating in the economy, shall we say. Whether it was entrepreneurial or not, I wanted to participate in the economy. I wanted to have my own money so I could buy my own stuff and feel like I was not dependent on my parents for permission to do stuff.
Then when I was in high school, a freshman in high school, I was too small to play football, basketball, baseball. I was still pretty strong because I could shovel snow like nobody’s business. But, I chose to run to school and run to and from school because it was faster than taking the bus. So, as a freshman in high school, I was doing this jogging to get to and from school and I was … because I was fairly smart for my age, I got placed out of some of my normal classes and the net effect of that was I was put into an all-senior Phys-ed class.
So, now here I am, this scrawny little guy in a senior-
Brad Kearns: It’s brutal, man.
Mark Sisson: … Phys-ed class with people are just wanting to … it was the age of bullying. So, I got mercilessly, towel whipped and I had to do multiple push-ups every day, and got all sorts of purple nurples, and all the things that kids did. And it was kind of a miserable time for me.
Well, spring track rolled around and I decided to go out for spring track. And because I’d been running so much, I found myself entering the mile and the two-mile and the pole vault. I learned how to pole vault because my dad had been a pole vaulter, and I taught myself how to pole vault in my backyard with a bamboo pole.
So, I would enter these track meets, these high school track meets and I would be … like I’d usually win the mile and the two-mile and sometimes-
Brad Kearns: In freshman?
Mark Sisson: As a freshman. So, that gave me a tremendous amount of credibility locally, anyway.
Brad Kearns: With the chicks? Not really. Not so much. “Mark, you’re very strong with the boys in gym.”
Mark Sisson: Yeah. So, anyway, but I’d had enough of that. By the end of my sophomore year, I’d had enough of it. My parents were getting ready to get divorced and so, I just decided I would apply to a prep school. And so, I applied to a number of prep schools in New … I got into Exeter, the Phillips Exeter Academy. So, I wound up going to Exeter the last two years.
Brad Kearns: So, this is at your own behest you applied to … I mean, one of the most prestigious prep schools in the country. You said, “What the heck? I’ll just head there?”
Mark Sisson: Yeah, and the situation in Maine had kind of become not untenable, but I was just like bored and I needed more excitement in my life I guess. So, I enrolled at Exeter my junior and senior years of high school. So, the junior year I show up at Exeter and I had a running background now, and I’d been doing reasonably well in track and field events in my local small town.
Brad Kearns: Right, so he’s got swagger. He’s coming in, going, “Yeah, I’m undefeated in the mile, two-mile. What do you got?”
Mark Sisson: What do you go? And of course-
Brad Kearns: “Well, we have got the Kennedys, the Rockefellers and some highly recruited prep runners from wherever.”
Mark Sisson: Pretty much. So, we had five guys who could jump 13’6” in the pole vault. And this is back in ’68, ’69-
Brad Kearns: With not the fiberglass spending poles.
Mark Sisson: Oh, yeah.
Brad Kearns: You’re sacrificing-
Mark Sisson: No, early fiberglass poles, yeah. But I got put on the JVB squad for cross country and through the season, the first season there I got a little bit better and I got moved up to … eventually I made sort of varsity, but at the low end of the varsity squad.
Anyway, that summer, between junior and senior years, I did this program called Outward Bound. And it’s an amazing program to this day. It was probably one of the single most pivotal moments in my life. And it was a 28-day experience on an island off the coast of Maine, on a Hurricane Island.
Brad Kearns: Is this voluntary or was it part of the Phillips thing?
Mark Sisson: No, no, no. It was voluntary. Again, it was one of the things I was looking for-
Brad Kearns: Wow, this guy is going for it.
Mark Sisson: … looking going for adventure, head out on the highway. And again, 28 days of just amazing … it’s based around these open, what they call pulling boats, but sailboats, 30-foot sail boats – 12 people per boat. That was your crew. Those were your homeys for 28 days. You had to get along, you had to organize lots of rock climbing, lots of ropes courses, lots of water experiences. I mean, I could do a whole show on how cool it was. And for a kid who was looking for adventure, this was pretty amazing. And it was also interesting to see city kids who got sort of forced to go do Outward Bound-
Brad Kearns: What are you here for?
Mark Sisson: … hated the whole thing, right?
Brad Kearns: “I’m here for dealing. What are you here for?” “I’m here voluntarily.”
Mark Sisson: Every day was like fabulous as far as I’m concerned. And sometimes, there were literally almost life-threatening days. But at the end of the 28 days, they had this thing, they called the marathon. It was an around the island race, and the islands of Maine are … they call it the rock-bound coast of Maine. There’s almost no beaches in Maine. It’s all just littered with huge boulders and rocks. There’s very little sand.
So, this race was around the perimeter of the island, a lot of which took place on these boulders. So, it was literally jumping from boulder to boulder to boulder for seven miles.
Brad Kearns: No trail, just get around the island.
Mark Sisson: A little bit of trail once in a while, but not much. And I wound up winning that race and I think the time that I ran held for a couple of years as the record of it. And so, that was a real confidence boost for me.
So, I went back to my senior year at Exeter and wound up being captain of the cross-country team and captain of the track team and won the biggest meet of the year, the Exeter Andover meet, and had a great, great season. And, I do look back on that Outward Bound experience as having really … simply shown me what was already there. It wasn’t like it gave me any amazing new skills or new tactics, it just opened me up to the possibilities, and showed me what I could do if I really put my mind to it and what I could do if I really believed in myself.
Brad Kearns: Right. So, when you got back to campus and you’re in with already some good runners that you were behind the previous year, you start escalating your training, getting more focused in daily life.
Mark Sisson: I mean, it was interesting. I don’t know whether it was also a factor of having matured physically in terms of strength and speed and endurance, but I just was able to dig a little bit deeper in workouts, dig a little bit deeper in races. And I look back on that time and I think … you and I share in common having been elite endurance athletes and we know that this is really about managing discomfort. It’s certainly about training hard, and it’s certainly about some genetic aspect of it. But it’s almost mostly about your willingness to dig deep and manage pain and manage discomfort.
I use the term “pain” a little bit too glibly because it’s really managing discomfort. You’re not really in danger of tearing a muscle when you’re doing an endurance contest. You’re basically just managing the discomfort of being in oxygen debt and being out of fuel and having your brain tell you it’s probably time to pull over to the side of the road and stop and yet you’re willing to keep going.
Steve Prefontaine was the master of that. Prefontaine would show up at any starting line and he wasn’t necessarily the most well-trained athlete there, he wasn’t necessarily the most gifted genetically, but he would look every competitor in the eye and say, “The one difference is I’m willing to die in this event to win.”
Anyway, so that was a big epiphany for me, was my being open to a much greater realm of possibilities than I thought possible.
Brad Kearns: Well, now we know about the central governor theory promoted by Dr Tim Noakes, and it sounds like … and I can relate to this as well, where you didn’t even realize your limit, you didn’t realize that you had more there. And you talk to athletes, “I tried my hardest and I got 17th and I gave it all I had.” But they didn’t really, because they didn’t have that confidence boost or something that kicked in.
Mark Sisson: It’s huge. I mean, and you know from your experience in triathlon and I know from my experience in running, that on any given day in those events, there are 20 people who have the ability to win that race, but only one of them is going to win that day. What is it that makes the difference? It’s probably that willingness to dig a little bit deeper to endure a little bit more discomfort or a little bit more pain, and to override that governor, that is the brain.
Brad Kearns: Now, here’s my follow up question – when it comes to being a competitor over the long term and reaching that number one ranking like Mark Allen in triathlon for years and years, is it the ability to turn that off and regulate and manage that in daily life and making the right training decisions? Because we know these macho beasts that will go out there and be willing to drop every single day, they don’t get very far because they fall apart and break down.
Mark Sisson: I think Mark’s a great example of that. Somebody who managed his … eventually learned how to manage his training to the point that he could give it all when it made the most difference. You can say that about Lance Armstrong too. That he didn’t do a lot of these smaller races, he pointed to one race every year and managed his training that way, and whatever assistance he got, notwithstanding because everybody got the same assistance.
But I think that that’s key. One of the things I learned as a marathoner was (and too late in fact) that I left a lot of my best races on the track the week before. Where I’d had these amazing track workouts. It’s like, “Holy crap, I’m ready to run 2:14.”
Brad Kearns: “I’m so willing to suffer, I can’t wait until the race. I hope I’m not too tired.” Yeah, that’s what I’m getting at is-
Mark Sisson: Yeah, and you and I, we shared that when I was coaching you. You had that same sort of … which is, by the way, the elite athlete mentality is, “I got to put in more work. I have to put in more work. Because I understand that Mike Pigg down the road is doing these workouts and Scott Molina’s doing these workouts and all these other guys that I race week to week, I’m hearing what they’re doing and I feel somehow like I’m short-changing myself if I don’t grind it out on the workouts.” And there is that erroneous belief that that will then manifest itself in a better race performance.
But the real, going back to the grip, to the Mark Allen scenario. I mean, Mark and I don’t hang out, we don’t exchange Christmas cards. I mean, I have the utmost respect for him and I would say once again, that I think on analysis of his training and we know from speaking with Maffetone and so on, that I think he was very strategic in how he trained and then just gave everything he had almost to a fault in races. I mean, he’ll tell you he left possibly part of his longevity out on the race course.
Brad Kearns: Same with Lance, he focused on the tour. Knew that most of the tour, he’s sitting behind his teammate drafting and then when they get to the bottom of the madaleine, and it’s time to turn it on for 27 minutes, he’s directed his entire life and his entire months and months of preparatory training for that moment. And that’s how you win seven times in a row.
Okay. So, we’re going back to the timeline. You’re now a distinguished athlete at Phillips Exeter, you’re teed up for college. You have some running dreams now that you can carry to the next level?
Mark Sisson: Not yet. So, I didn’t know where I wanted to go to college.
Brad Kearns: Heavily recruited. He was just getting bombarded with letters, text messages … oh, they didn’t have text messages back then, sorry.
Mark Sisson: No, I just applied to a bunch of colleges. I got into Williams College and I literally went out there one weekend to look at the campus and thought, “This looks awesome. It’d be a great place to live for four years.”
Brad Kearns: What city?
Mark Sisson: Hmm?
Brad Kearns: What city?
Mark Sisson: Williamstown, Massachusetts. And I had a great experience in college. My Exeter preparation was top-notch. And so, Williams is fairly easy for me and I enjoyed the experience.
Brad Kearns: Those prep schools, man, they tee you up, don’t they?
Mark Sisson: Absolutely.
Brad Kearns: Yeah, I went to Harvard Westlake in Los Angeles, which was the top prep school, and I only lasted one year. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t hang. In seventh grade, I was like, “This is too much work, I got to wait until I get to college. I got to pace myself.” But if you’re properly prepared, wow, you just sail through.
Mark Sisson: It’s amazing. It’s amazing what that early preparation does. Anyway, so, I was pre-med. I wanted to be a doctor. I’d had a number of family friends who were physicians. I’d been lucky enough to be invited into the operating theater, scrub up and be right there during a four-hour operation when I was 14 years old. One of my other family friends was a plastic surgeon. And by the way, this is before boob jobs and lip injections. This was actual reconstructive surgery.
Brad Kearns: Car accident plastic surgeon. They still exist, I believe, I’ve heard. I don’t see their ads in airline magazines, but-
Mark Sisson: So, I had a real strong pull toward medicine. So, I was pre-med and took a biology track and went down that route for a number of years, and enjoyed my experience and had … I was track and field and cross country and exceled there and did very well in that small community. But oh, the other thing of note is that I put myself through college.
So, I would paint houses in the summer. And to this day, I’m probably still the best house painter I’ve ever met. I could monkey up and down a ladder all day long and I could paint a house in a week where it would take another company in a week to scaffold the house, and then five guys another week to paint it.
So, I was able to be very competitive in my bidding and yet make a lot of money in the summer. I remember one summer I made more money than my dad made the whole year.
Brad Kearns: Was this with a crew or just you?
Mark Sisson: No, just me.
Brad Kearns: Slamming that house on a ladder up and down.
Mark Sisson: No, I mean I could do 12 or 14 houses in the summer. And it was great training because I was doing a lot of outside work. I had my shirt off all day. I wasn’t getting tan, I was working the mobility aspect. Again, going up and down ladders and stretching. Rather than go down and move the ladder over two more feet, I’d just lean way out and put my foot on the window sill, on the third story window or whatever. I look back on these days now and I think, “Geez,” I mean, I’m kind of afraid of heights these days. I don’t know what I had those days.
But anyway, so, I was able to make a good living and put myself through college doing that. And then, I was also interested in building … In construction, I did a little bit of contracting in terms of construction, remodels and things like that. So, when I get to my dorm at Williams, I literally remodeled the inside of my dorm. And it was a new dorm, but it had cement walls covered with the vinyl wallpaper. So, I built a box within it and then put a-
Brad Kearns: Like a framed in-
Mark Sisson: A framed in thing.
Brad Kearns: With two by fours in the dorm room.
Mark Sisson: Well, two by twos but-
Brad Kearns: You see these kids carrying their backpack and Mark’s got a power drill just walking across campus.
Mark Sisson: Pretty much, and a power saw-
Brad Kearns: A delivery from Home Depot.
Mark Sisson: And so, I literally, I put wall to wall paneling, wall to wall carpeting. I mean, the floor ceiling paneling, wall to wall carpeting, built my own furniture. And I had a great pad-
Brad Kearns: This is on campus?
Mark Sisson: On campus, like in the dorm on campus.
So, I remember during one homecoming weekends, this guy comes back and he wants to visit his old dorm room, and he knocks on the door and he opens the door and he goes, “Holy crap, what have you done? This is fabulous.” We started talking and he said, “Well, what’s your major and what are you doing?” And I said, “Well, I’m pre-med and I’m thinking about trying … what it’s going to take to get into med school.” And he goes, “What are you doing that for? You should be doing this.”
I don’t know what it was. It was something about what he said and the timing of it and where I was in my life, and I’d seen already a tendency in the pre-med candidates to be like, “God, these people are really going to be doctors? These are like kind of, I don’t know, I don’t see any bedside manner in any of these people, and yet they’re the ones who are going to get into med school.”
So, I had a kind of a sour taste in my mouth already from friends who had applied and not gotten into med school. And I thought, “Geez, I’m going to shift over a little bit and I’ll spend a couple of years revisiting this medical thing,” and I pursued my running career. So, by the time I was a senior, I was running very well and, in the summers, I was also, in addition to working 40 hours a week or 50 hours a week, I was also training hard and entering road races. So, entering 10ks and 20ks and sort of the longer the race was, the better suited I was for it. So, by the time I got out of college-
Brad Kearns: Oh, this is what year?
Mark Sisson: ‘75.
Brad Kearns: Yeah. So, right now is the boom with Frank Shorter.
Mark Sisson: It was amazing.
Brad Kearns: Kicking it off with the gold medal in ’72.
Mark Sisson: ’72, he won the gold medal. ’75, Bill Rodgers wins Boston in 2:09:55.
Brad Kearns: Hot weather.
Mark Sisson: ’76, Shorter gets a silver in Montreal. And then Alberto Salazar comes on the scene in the late ‘70s and Alberto is a teen, a high school phenom who is now winning the Falmouth road race, which is the biggest road race in the country. And so, it becomes the heyday of running. And it’s really now … and again, it was sort of this tipping point where the interest in jogging had started with Ken Cooper in ’68. So, more and more people were jogging. The interest in distance running in heart health and cardiac health and doing cardio training was kind of coming to a head.
In the general population, while we were also seeing great runners with Steve Prefontaine, with Frank Shorter, with Bill Rodgers – and so running was like really, really big in the late ‘70s, in the early ‘80s. So, I just thought, well, I’ll take a couple of years. I’ll train for the 1980 Olympic trials and try and qualify for the marathon and the Olympic trials and that’ll be my goal in running. And I’ll put off medical school and re-evaluate that later on, and see-
Brad Kearns: When people put off stuff like that, it’s like when your kid says, “Yeah, I’m going to put off college for a year.” And you’re like, “No, you’re not because the things unwind easily.”
Mark Sisson: Easily.
Brad Kearns: I should note to the listeners that you’re talking about … this is so long ago in the ‘70s and you’re saying you’re doing pretty well in these races. And the way that the running situation was back then to now is you’re most likely, vastly superior to today’s winner of the Little Race and the 10k in your community and wherever you are, the times were so much faster in your day than they are today.
Mark Sisson: It’s one of the rare examples in sports where-
Brad Kearns: The regression.
Mark Sisson: The quality of the field has regressed.
Brad Kearns: Too many grains and sugars in the diet.
Mark Sisson: I don’t know, but I mean, like you look at the Los Angeles Marathon today and you look at the top finishers … I don’t mean to sound disparaging to anybody, but in the ‘70s, if you couldn’t break three hours for a marathon, you were a jogger-
Brad Kearns: Not a runner.
Mark Sisson: You were not a runner, you were a jogger. And it was a legitimate kind of thing. If you couldn’t run seven-minute miles for 26 miles, you were a jogger. And today, if you run three hours in the Los Angeles Marathon, out of the 28,000 people who start, you’ll be in the top hundred. It’s unbelievable to me. By the way, of the top hundred, the first 15 will be African. There’ll probably be East African. And so, it’s crazy. I mean, the times that we ran, I ran 2:28:38 in one of the races up in Oregon. I’ll never forget it, because it was a qualifying time for the Olympic trials. Actually, it might have been to 2:21:38.
Anyway, and again, in any major race today, that would get-
Brad Kearns: Fourth or seventh.
Mark Sisson: Yeah, seventh, something like that.
Brad Kearns: Well, in New York City Marathon, which is the huge participation, 50,000, you look at the ranking of the American finishers and you would be the fourth American or whatever instead of-
Mark Sisson: Anyway, this was a small race up in Oregon.
Brad Kearns: A small race in Oregon.
Mark Sisson: 670 people entered it. And the 2:21:38 that I ran finished, I think it was 48th place.
Brad Kearns: It’s mind blowing.
Mark Sisson: And there were only like three foreigners in front of me; Dick Quacks from New Zealand, and I forget one of the Japanese guys. It’s crazy how great running used to be. So, anyway, I’m getting side-tracked on the minutia.
Brad Kearns: That’s all right. You’re going to go for this Olympic training that took you to the West Coast. Was that specifically to train in a new environment?
Mark Sisson: So, by then, I was living in Williamstown, I was painting houses, I was doing a little bit of construction. I was making a good living. Like I was making close to $100,000 a year in those days.
Brad Kearns: You’re kidding.
Mark Sisson: No.
Brad Kearns: Today, that’s double, right? So, you’re some college kid making a couple hundred large painting houses.
Mark Sisson: By then, I had a couple of people working for me too. But it was still a-
Brad Kearns: Yeah, you did. You had an accountant, you had a financial planner.
Mark Sisson: It was a nice business, and I was not compelled to do anything other than that. I was not compelled to go to med school. And by the way, this was back in the days of amateur sports, right? You couldn’t qualify for the Olympics if you’d received any sort of compensation for a race.
So, I would have to pay my own expenses. Sometimes, I’d get my expenses paid to go to races. There was that allowed, but you couldn’t get prize money, you couldn’t accept. This goes back before you, but there’d be an awards table and you’d go over the awards and if you finished first, you got first choice of all these things that were on the wrap bag.
Brad Kearns: A pair of shoe laces-
Mark Sisson: It was crazy, but it was great times. It was fun times. I traveled around the world and I raced with a lot of cool people.
Brad Kearns: This is doing marathons mostly or?
Mark Sisson: Marathons, almost all marathons. Yeah. The occasional 20-miler or even 20k. But the longer the race, the better it was for me. I mean, I’d do 10ks if it was local, but to go to a different country or to go across the country, it would only be for a marathon.
But anyway, I was doing this in New England. I was in Williamstown and Williamstown is in the Berkshires and it’s cold in the wintertime. It’s like one of the coldest parts of the country, and it can be five below to get up to a high of 20 during the daytime. Sometimes, it’ll get up into the 40s. But for the most part throughout the winter, here I am putting on 10 pounds of clothing to go out and run in really, really cold temperatures, 10 degrees, 15 degrees, sometimes wind. And it was just annoying. It was certainly good for my attitude and my resilience-
Brad Kearns: Toughness.
Mark Sisson: Toughness, but by the same token, I’m not sure what it was doing in terms of my specific training. I went to Miami one weekend and I entered the Orange Bowl Marathon and finished second in that race with no acclimation. It was a hot day, but I was a good heat runner. I wasn’t negatively impacted by the heat as much as everyone else was. I mean, everyone’s sort of negatively impacted by the heat, but me, not so much.
So anyway, I realized that I liked warmer weather and I wanted to be comfortable. Then I had a friend who had gone to Williams, one of my good friends at Williams who had moved out to San Francisco. I went out to visit him one weekend and when I was out there, I met some of the people in the West Valley track club. Well, West Valley track club was the top running club in the country at the time. So, I moved to the West Coast. This is 1978 now, joined the West Valley track club. Quickly shifted over to the Aggie Running Club, which became like the renegade track club in the country.
Brad Kearns: These guys were crazy. They were like partiers, just freewheeling.
Mark Sisson: No, it was amazing how you think of what you do as an endurance athlete and you have to be sort of keep everything in line and not get too crazy. But we would have the most outrageous parties. We had a van full of beer and sometimes we would bring to races and we had a cheer; the faster we run, the sooner the fun.
Brad Kearns: What was the thing they did with the centipede? They had like a costume thing or something.
Mark Sisson: So, Gore-Tex, when Gore-Tex was first invented, Gore-Tex started to sponsor the running community. Aggies came up with this idea with Gore-Tex to put together a team event where 10 people would be linked with sort of this Gore-Tex Parka for lack of a better term, that you put over your head and it would go around your neck, but there’d be about a foot between you and the person in front of you, maybe two feet, and then another foot. And you have to be 10-people long.
So, it’d be this 10-person long link and then you’d race as a team that way. So, clearly, you were only as fast as your slowest person.
Brad Kearns: And you’re racing against other 10-person centipedes? Like a division?
Mark Sisson: Yeah, I mean, and it started at the Bay to Breakers in the, again, in the late ‘70s. And it was within a few short years, there was 200 teams that would race in the centipede division. Yeah.
Brad Kearns: Yeah, that’s 2,000 runners just stuck together.
Mark Sisson: I forget whether it was six runners or 10. I think it was-
Brad Kearns: Yeah, 10. A centipede, yeah.
Mark Sisson: And so, our team would typically take that-
Brad Kearns: Because even with your stuck together, you guys are … I mean, it’s a very competitive thing. It was a big deal. And you guys are running like five-minute miles or something, crazy.
Mark Sisson: No, for instance, we would beat the first woman. And the first woman in those days was … it would be like a Mickey Gorman or a Hansen. So, it was like a serious business. But yeah, that was one of the crazy little events that we participated in. But we had 10 guys qualify for the Olympic trials-
Brad Kearns: On the team?
Mark Sisson: On the team, yeah, in 1980. So, it was a pretty great team. And then, one of our illustrious early founders – Angel Martinez, went on to become the president of Reebok, and then went onto Rockport shoes, a very successful businessman. And he was a third hired Reeboks that was selling shoes out of a van.
And then Peanut Harms, who was the sort of manager of the team. Was the coach of one of the African teams for one Olympic games. It was great, great times. That was real comradery because we weren’t doing it for the money, we were doing it because we were trying to … I guess we were doing it for the accolades.
Brad Kearns: Yeah, but you’re training extremely hard at the same time and have this intense competitive drive. I guess the overpowering goal is to get to this Olympic marathon trials starting line.
Mark Sisson: Yep.
Brad Kearns: And so, at some point coming up to the 1980 trials, Jimmy Carter got on TV, gave some bad news to athletes in this country.
Mark Sisson: Yeah, said we were going to boycott the games. And that was devastating for a lot of people. I have to tell you though, that by then while I had qualified, I’d met sort of my life goal to qualify for the Olympic trials. That’s the point at which I had so trashed my body from training and had become so inflamed from the diet and from all the other aspects of my life that were centered around this singular goal, that my training had dropped from 110 miles a week and 120 sometimes to 40 miles a week. I literally couldn’t walk for an hour in the morning because of the arthritis in my feet. I had severe tendonitis in my hip, that hip flexor issue that would not resolve.
So, I literally … I didn’t even compete in the Olympic trials. I just couldn’t tow the starting line at that race.
Brad Kearns: So, you’re a young guy still, what are you? 26 years old in the Olympic trials date? Something?
Mark Sisson: Yeah, 27.
Brad Kearns: And so, you gave it all you had for what? Three or four or five years after college?
Mark Sisson: Yep.
Brad Kearns: And then, basically ground to a halt?
Mark Sisson: Well, I was not going to let that one injury keep me from pursuing the endorphin rush that I had been chasing every day. And this is one of the things that you start to realize as an endurance athlete is that there’s more to this than just your willingness to go out and hammer it hard every day. There is a real physiological addiction that happens to a lot of us who are in this endurance realm. And you create endorphins, natural painkillers and natural opiates that attach to receptor sites and give you pleasure. And when people talk about the runner’s high, it’s a real thing. And so, you wind up chasing that high for better or for worse, on a daily basis.
So here I am, I’ve shut down the running, I can’t do the running anymore. I pick up a bike and start riding a bike because I need some outlet for my desire to put myself through some amount of discomfort every day. And I meet this guy, Ian Jackson, who was a big wave rider in Hawaii and who’d done a bunch of ultra-marathons and was now doing this big race in Hawaii called the Ironman. And, “Hey Mark, you should do the Ironman with me.” And I’m like, “You are crazy. There’s no fricking way I’m doing that. That’s ridiculous. Why would anybody choose …?” Next thing you know, I’m training with Ian and-
Brad Kearns: Is it the Bay Area?
Mark Sisson: It’s the Bay Area. Yeah. This is in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Woodside, Portola Valley, great training, great training grounds. And so, I entered the race and I go … in February of ‘81 was the first one that I entered, and it was the first one on the big island, on Kona.
I meet the likes of Bob Babbitt and a bunch of the guys that we know now to be the sort of the old guard, the old salt of the race. John Howard shows up, hoping to convert his cycling fame into another sport. But I’d never done a triathlon when I showed up at the line of-
Brad Kearns: Never done any triathlon.
Mark Sisson: No.
Brad Kearns: Not the splash and dash Palo Alto YMCA?
Mark Sisson: No.
Brad Kearns: Probably, didn’t have it.
Mark Sisson: No. So, I didn’t know what I was getting into. I had not been a swimmer. In fact, as you know to this day, I’m probably one of the worst swimmers that ever entered the sport of triathlon. But I slugged my way through the yardage and the pool and got myself to the starting line. And I finished 24th in that first event and at the end of it, I thought, “I did it and I’d like to come back and see if I can do better.” So, for the next year, I did a couple of other triathlons and I learned a little bit more about swimming and I was able to take some time off my swim. Anyway, I went over to Kona and finished fourth.
But the story is I came out of the water in 95th, road my way up to 15th, ran my way up to third place. So, it was Scott Tinley, Dave Scott and me. And then Jeff Tenley was behind me. But in those days, they wanted you to drink so much fluid, like I drank probably 30 bottles of fluid because they were afraid you were going to die from-
Brad Kearns: They weighed you to make sure.
Mark Sisson: In ‘81, they weighed you to make sure you hadn’t lost a certain percent of your body weight. And if you had, they’d pull you out of the race. Because really, they were so afraid people were going to die doing this event.
So, anyway, I’d run my way up into third, but then I drank so much liquid that I had to pull over to the side of the road and piss and piss and piss. I mean I took like a four-minute piss. And so, Jeff Tinley went by me and I wound up in fourth place.
Brad Kearns: His catheter was shaking with all this … He didn’t want to stop, he had-
Mark Sisson: No, that started all of the talk about how do you pee while you’re on the bike and is it possible to pee while you’re running. I just think it’s not, but I guess some people would figure that out.
Brad Kearns: It’s possible. It’s possible.
Mark Sisson: Some people would figure that out.
Brad Kearns: It goes into your bike shoes. It goes right down your leg into your bike shoes, it’s not good.
Mark Sisson: Anyway, so, that was my early times in triathlon. I got back from the race, I was sort of involved in a relationship at the time, it was going well. My friend who I’d gone out to California to visit and now had become a potential partner of mine in a business. And so, I just sort of said, “I’ll retire from this endurance competition thing. That’ll be it. And I’ll just start really grinding away on the entrepreneurial side.”
Brad Kearns: You’re not leaving any money on the table unfortunately, because today you probably would have got more swim lessons and had a longer career-
Mark Sisson: Still wouldn’t be leaving much on the table, the way triathlon has gone.
Brad Kearns: Well, if you’re a painter that was in the big bucks while still in college, you got that entrepreneurial light bulb going all the time.
Mark Sisson: Yeah. So, I basically retired first from competition in ‘82. I wrote the Runner’s World Triathlon Training book with Ray Hosler, and we had a great time with that. Runner’s World published the book and it did very well. But I went onto – started a much larger painting company called Marathon Painters. Had a frozen yogurt shop in Palo Alto, did very well in the early days of frozen yogurt. Built a restaurant in San Jose, next to Apple Computer.
By the way, what you should know is that in building the restaurant, my partner and I borrowed money at 17 and three quarters percent interest, which was the best rate that you could get in 1983. And not needless to say, but we went out of business – the restaurant failed. And so, that’s when I moved to … I just had had enough of the Bay Area and moved to LA to get into sports broadcasting.
Brad Kearns: Out of nowhere or you dabbled or something?
Mark Sisson: No, I’d done a little bit of modeling. I had done some little bit of acting classes and things like that, and I just decided I wanted to change and I was interested in commentating. And so, I came to LA to become a sports broadcaster and found an agent. The agent basically sent me out on to acting classes and to groundlings and a bunch of different training things. And the next thing, I’m going out on auditions for roles in television and commercials and-
Brad Kearns: And you’re game for all this?
Mark Sisson: Well, I guess. I mean, if that was what was going to get me to my goal. So, I got into that acting scene for about two years, but then I just thought to myself, “This is not what I came here to be. I don’t want to be somebody else, I want to be myself.”
At the time, let’s see, that’s about the time that I met you and Scott Zagarino and I … So, you need to know that all this time, I’m still training. I’m still riding my bike. I’m still-
Brad Kearns: You’re personal training, you’re doing that too, right? While you’re acting.
Mark Sisson: I’m doing personal training while I’m acting. So, I’m in LA and I’m doing personal training, actually making a lot of money as a personal trainer too. Sort of on the strength of my Ironman, fourth place Ironman finish, whatever. I mean, there were enough people that wanted to train for that race that were willing to pay a lot of money for me to go on bike rides with them and go on runs with them.
Brad Kearns: It’s not whatever in this town because 78% of the trainers are posing as someone they’re not. And if there’s a real athlete who’s actually a trainer, you’re going to rise to the top quickly.
Mark Sisson: Yeah. So, that was fun and I made a lot of money doing that. But it was very time consuming. And then that sort of … because I was still involved in triathlon, coaching people and I’d had this experience writing a book and I was sort of known in the triathlon world, I was asked to participate in a committee that would write the Anti-doping rules for the sport of triathlon. Because there were no drug testing rules for triathlon at the time.
So, I got put on that committee and was asked to be the one to go present it to the board of directors in St Louis at a board meeting. They adopted the rules and three weeks later I get a call, would you like to be the executive director of the Triathlon Federation?
Brad Kearns: I guess you had a good presentation.
Mark Sisson: I guess I did. I guess I did. So, this was interesting. So, I moved to Colorado Springs with my girlfriend at the time who was Carrie.
Brad Kearns: With some negotiation involved I understand. Does Carrie like warm weather too, as a matter of fact?
Mark Sisson: She likes it more than I do.
Brad Kearns: “Hey Carrie, I got a great opportunity. How about Colorado Springs?”
Mark Sisson: Yeah, how about you move there with me? And she’s like, “How about we get married?” So anyway-
Brad Kearns: Donde mi anillo You know the J Lo song? Donde mi anillo, where’s the ring? She sang it to A Rod.
Mark Sisson: So, we moved to Colorado and I took on the Executive Directorship of the federation. Of course, three weeks later, I get a call from ESPN, “Would you like to be the co-announcer for triathlon?”
Brad Kearns: It’s a dream come true.
Mark Sisson: We’re covering all these Bud Light triathlon events.
Brad Kearns: And you’re going there anyway as the Executive Director, “Let me see how the sport’s doing.”
Mark Sisson: So, my dream did sort of come true. I got to do a bunch of these ESPN events and it was great.
Brad Kearns: You got many compliments about your hair, I remember from the broadcast. And like you’d come back into the cycling pack and you’re on TV. Everyone watches the race; all triathletes watched the race. And everyone loved your hair, man.
Mark Sisson: Really?
Brad Kearns: Yeah.
Mark Sisson: I had no idea.
Brad Kearns: Mike Norton, that’s the first thing he’d say to you every time he saw you, “Nice hair. It’s perfect. Is your hair always perfect?”
Mark Sisson: “Nice hair coach.” And just backtracking a little bit, because before I took on that position, I had been the coach of the Pioneer triathlon team, which was the team that you were on.
Brad Kearns: This was a team of pros that Zag, our wheeling, dealing mastermind put together. And so, we all wore the same clothes. It was an idea that had never been presented in this individual sport. Yeah, so we were wearing the team … and then guess what? We had to coach supplied and a massage therapist. It was a great idea.
Mark Sisson: Yeah, it was great idea. We had a lot of fun doing that. So, there was almost a year I think of doing that, where we traveled around. Were you on the Japan trip?
Brad Kearns: No. I didn’t go.
Mark Sisson: Okay. We took the team to Japan. We did-
Brad Kearns: Saint Croix.
Mark Sisson: Saint Croix was awesome.
Brad Kearns: ‘Roxanne,” I’ll never forget that.
Mark Sisson: And we had a great, just a great year of just traveling around and good comradery and it was some of the best memories of the sport of triathlon. But anyway, back to-
Brad Kearns: Well, what was also important about that coach-athlete role for me and the other athletes anyway, was you were this ancient old guy in our perspective. You were 38 or something, and still training like your rapport, working out with your clients, not really committed to it or putting in the proper workouts that you should if you had ambitions to be whatever champion.
But you jump into our workouts that you were part coaching and then just part riding along, and we’d notice this old guy, he’s keeping up with us. And it was, deep down we’re all super competitive and want to measure our success and our place in the pack. And it was a tiny bit frustrating, like, “What the eff are you doing?” Because I know you’re working all day making money, and we’re sleeping and training and you’re hanging with us as old man guy.
That was I think an awakening to some of the future principals where we realized that you didn’t have to pound your brains out every single day. You could still maintain a high level of fitness. Didn’t you go to the world championships in the duathlon one of those years?
Mark Sisson: I mean, I was 38 and by then, I was just a hobby runner. I was probably doing 10 miles a week of running-
Brad Kearns: Just a hobby, yeah?
Mark Sisson: 50 miles a week of cycling, but I finished 11th overall, and I think I won my age group by a lot. And I think I ran 34:50 for the 10k and had a great ride and then ran 35:10 for the second 10k or something like that. It was a good showing, if I do say so myself. But it was based on, like we talk about in the Primal Blueprint. It’s based on a strong aerobic base that arose from very low-level activity,not training in the black hole every single day. And the difference was you guys were just inclined to half-wheel each other every single ride.
Brad Kearns: Half-wheel means?
Mark Sisson: It means, “I’m not going to let you get ahead of me. So, I’m going to be a half wheel ahead of you.”
Brad Kearns: Even if we’re sitting together chatting side by side.
Mark Sisson: Even if we’re sitting together side by side, exactly. So, there was always that competition. Of course, in southern California … well, not even southern California. If you were in Boulder, if you were in San Diego, there was always the Tuesday ride, the Wednesday run, the Thursday … all of these different things, and they were all competitive. They were always competitive. So, it’s tough to like take that time off and just not participate in those because they’re so enticing to get in with the crowd, and go out and have a group ride or a group run.
Brad Kearns: Yeah. I guess you’d know the endorphins are coming, and then you’re also selecting this population that’s highly driven and highly motivated. You told Jason Wachob on the Mindbodygreen Podcast, that you identified the sociopathic mindset when you were an endurance athlete. That you had this compulsion to suffer and to just push. Explain that. Is that a necessary quality or is that something that if you had in hindsight, you would have done the whole thing differently and either alcohol and weed and less mileage?
Mark Sisson: No, no, no. I mean, you have to have that. Again, it’s why a lot of athletes are assholes. I mean, you have to have that single-mindedness of purpose. You have to have an ego strong enough to believe in yourself at all costs sometimes. There are a lot of aspects of being an elite athlete that make you somewhat sociopathic. And if you try to be the well-rounded person, the good business person, the family man, the community participant and a world class athlete, I just don’t think there’s enough bandwidth to do all that.
So, the world class athlete, the elite athlete has to kind of make a lot of sacrifices in other areas of life to be able to stay on that thin, thin, thin, knife edge that has that person be just a thousandth of a second ahead of the next guy, who wants to knock you off.
Brad Kearns: What about for a business leader in building the enterprise? Do you feel like some of those attributes are absolutely necessary or is it a different venue because it’s not so calibrated towards your physical peak performance?
Mark Sisson: Yeah, I think it’s a different venue. I used to think they were the same and I used to think that … I mean there are certainly some attributes of work ethic and belief in oneself that crossover. But I think a truly successful business is a team sport, not an individual sport. A truly successful business … Like if I’m building a team in sports and I’m trying to compete with other people, I don’t want people who are better than I am to be on my team. But if I’m putting together a business, I want to find the best possible people.
I love this saying that if you’re the smartest guy in the room, you’re in the wrong room. And my business success has only come from hiring exceptional people who are driven, who understand the philosophy, who buy into it, who have good work ethic, and who are smarter than me, smarter than I in these particular areas for which I hired them.
Brad Kearns: Well, what I’ve learned also from you and being on the business journey together is that you have that ability to be an intense competitor and tough and direct and demanding and all those things. But then you’re adhering to this motto of living awesome, where the stuff at some point, rolls off your back and you’re able to enjoy your life.
And we’re going to get into some of these – my top-secret notes that no one’s ever seen; Sisson’s life-changing insights for me. And one of them was (this is the punchline), “Hey man, it’s just a fucking book.” I went away from that lunch at Marmalade with an epiphany that we can get so deep into this and try so hard and be so competitive and driven and all these things, that it has the ability to throw you off and hamper your enjoyment even if you are successful.
We see the celebrities and the athletes that have [inaudible 01:02:43] because they haven’t figured out that they got to get over themselves even though they’re the number one person. And you’ve always had a pretty good balance there or presented a pretty good balance. And I know you pretty well, but I know like in recent times, it’s been battle ground and it’s been tough just to keep your life balanced and positive attitude.
Mark Sisson: Yeah, I’ve had one of the toughest years ever in business and with the failure of the Primal Kitchen restaurants, it’s been devastating. It’s been a huge hit, but you have to … I mean, I take everything on balance and I’ve got a food company that’s one of the fastest growing companies in the country right now. And so, on balance, everything’s awesome, right?
Brad Kearns: Well, I mean to that point you have this entrepreneurial mindset starting at age 12, where I was going to interrupt you, but I try not to – where you said you wanted to do things without your parents’ approval and all that. I’m envisioning like you’re buying another lawnmower instead of going like a regular kid to the fair and buying some cotton candy.
So, is this sort of an innate genetic attribute that you’re just wired this way, and you can take these incredible risks and experience these highs and lows that your next door neighbor who’s had a stable, steady professional career would never dream of throwing money at a restaurant whim nor a kitchen start-up?
Mark Sisson: Yeah. Is it genetic? Is it learned? Maybe a little bit of both. I think it starts with genetics, but I think growing up again, in a small town in Maine, where we didn’t have much money (nobody did in that town), there was a strong work ethic. So, I wasn’t the only 12-year-old kid working in the summer. Every one of my friends, it’s like some of them went out and they had their own lobster boats and would pull traps at 12 and 13 years old. Yeah, I mean it was crazy. But that’s literally what you did.
But having said that, I don’t think … I mean, I think I’m as risk averse as anybody. I like to think of myself as fairly risk averse. But I take calculated-
Brad Kearns: Is that why you had three monitors going in your office when I visited you 15 years ago? “What the eff is this Mark? Why do you need so many computers?” I’d never seen a day traders’ platform there. Really? You’re not messing with me?
Mark Sisson: No, I’m not messing with you. I’m fairly risk averse, which is why the day trading thing didn’t last that long. I thought I had an angle and I probably did, but I wasn’t willing to stare at a level two screen for eight hours a day, just to find three times during the day when it was appropriate to enter or exit the market.
No, I mean, I take calculated risks but they’re still risks. I mean, I’m willing to take a risk. That’s what an entrepreneur does. An entrepreneur is willing to take risk. Willing to risk capital over time, in order to achieve what that person thinks is an outcome, a product, a service or something that will benefit the marketplace and contribute to the economy in a way that is meaningful.
So, I don’t think I have this particular risky gene. I’m, in fact, probably quite the opposite. But in business, you just sort of look at the data and you say, “On balance, this something that looks like a good idea, I’m willing to invest time or money or whatever in it, and prove the model and see if it works. And if it does, great, I’ll scale it. If it doesn’t, I’ll move on to the next thing.”
Brad Kearns: Well, another on the list of life-changing insights is invest in yourself. And that one seems to make so much sense because you can touch and feel the stuff that you’re doing. Whereas if you buy Apple stock right now, some people think it’s going to grow and continue to … but you can’t touch any of that. But it seems like that’s been your pattern, is you’ve always invested and reinvested in stuff that you not only believed in – you talked about your Primal Kitchen products, you make products that you want to consume yourself, that you feel like you need for your salads. And that seems to have been by and large pretty successful. Successful mindset.
Mark Sisson: It’s a successful mindset. Yeah. No, I’m absolutely one who, I follow my passion, I follow whatever I’m interested in at the time. But I’m always … I think this idea to invest in yourself is one in which if you just look at simple things like investing in an education – I would tell young people today if you don’t think that you know what you want to do, when you want to go to a liberal arts college and take a Poli Sci major and spend 120,000 of your parents’ dollars for what? You have no idea what that’s going to be. That’s fine. You could do that, but if you don’t have the money, go to a trade school, learn a trade.
I see now that a builder can make $100,000, $150,000 a year like a carpenter, right? They can’t find anybody to do it because nobody’s willing to undertake physical labor anymore.
Brad Kearns: Really? Is there shortage of skilled laborers?
Mark Sisson: Carpenters, skilled laborers in the building industry. Welders up in the oil rigs. I mean, there’s lots of trades that you can learn. And my point there is by investing $5,000 in learning how to weld, you can create a $150,000-job for yourself. So, that’s one example.
But what I like to look at is every business I’ve ever had, I did it with my own savings. I didn’t raise money from other people. I could have and that’s a legitimate way of doing it. But for the most part, I invested in myself. I believed in myself enough to start a business and to believe in it and grow it and hire the right kind of people, and make the investments that I was willing to forego profit shall we say, from one year to the next and reinvest the profit to grow the business at a higher rate than say, taking profits at the end of every year and investing in the stock market where I’d cross my fingers and hope that I made 6% or 7% a year.
Brad Kearns: That’s a risky strategy because most experts would say, “Hey, take some of this money off the table and put it into an income fund or something.”
Mark Sisson: Yeah. Well, so that’s maybe where I’m a little bit more or less risk averse. Is I’ve always felt like the stock market is a fool’s game, and you’re not investing in the economy when you invest in the stock market. You’re buying a piece of paper that represents fractional ownership at a company. And you’re buying it from somebody else who has nothing to do with the company.
So, the money that you spend to buy the stock does not go to the company unless it’s an IPO. You’re just trading pieces of paper and you’re just hoping you can sell it to somebody else, what we call a greater fool at a higher level in a year or two or three. That’s not participating in the economy the way I like to.
So, I like to grow businesses. I’m an angel investor, so money that I invest in a start-up company, that money gets used to hire people and to do R&D and to rent buildings and to build widgets and things like that. It’s actually participating in the company.
Brad Kearns: Hey, what’s a widget? It’s a fictional product. It doesn’t matter – what movie?
Mark Sisson: Life of Brian, I don’t know.
Brad Kearns: Rodney Dangerfield, Back to School.
Mark Sisson: Okay. Yeah, well, you’ve said it with a British accent.
Brad Kearns: That was the teacher, the professor.
Mark Sisson: So, we’re back to investing in yourself. Is that where …?
Brad Kearns: Yeah. After movie references, we’re back.
Mark Sisson: Yeah. the idea that you should … and again, this is advice from an old guy who’s … I’ve had times when I’ve had a fair amount of money and I’ve had times when I didn’t have a pot to piss in. I was basically living in a bedroom that I rented from an old lady in Santa Monica when I met my wife. I literally didn’t have a pot to piss in. I was making some money and doing some training stuff, whatever, but I didn’t have anything saved and I didn’t … it was living hand to mouth.
But I knew that at any point in time if I stuck to my guns and was reasonably successful, that a couple of successful years would make up for an entire 30 or 40 years of not making any money to speak of. Now, let me be clear on that. When I say not making any money, yes, you make enough to live on, right? You make enough to pay the rent, wherever you’re living. You make enough to buy some food. You make enough to clothe yourself, to have a car, whatever. You make enough to do that.
But whether you save money or not, I’m not buying that American dream thing for somebody who’s an entrepreneur. I think if you reinvest in yourself, you can go decades without having a success and as long as you don’t owe money, as long as you’re not in debt to the mob, as long as you don’t owe money and you … by the way, as long as you enjoy your life, as long as you live your life in the moment, have friends – if you have a family, have family, if you have kids, enjoy the kids. As long as you are able to live your life, then it really doesn’t matter whether you save a thousand bucks a month or a hundred bucks a month or whatever, you’re probably going to spend the money on something.
Brad Kearns: Even if you save it.
Mark Sisson: Even if you save it.
Brad Kearns: You’re going to blow it 24 months later.
Mark Sisson: On a vacation or whatever. And again, that’s all good. But the idea here is that as long as you keep hammering away and as long as you keep listening to the universe, and being open to opportunities that come your way, and identifying what it is that you’re here to do, it only takes a couple of really good years to make up for all the time that you didn’t save here and save there. That’s my philosophy, anyway.
Brad Kearns: That’s number three on your list. You hit it, which was all you need is one home run. And for anyone who’s in the self-employment or the entrepreneurial journey that can serve to motivate you in the background and also calm you.
Mark Sisson: It’s crazy. I mean, my first success came when I was probably 47 or 48-years-old. I would say the first year I’ve made a million bucks, right? That was my metric for, “Now, you’re playing.”
Brad Kearns: Oh, for most people, it’s six figures. We hear that as a common cultural term. So, you’re at seven.
Mark Sisson: Whatever. I mean, it’s whatever the number is for you.
Brad Kearns: That’s what it is in Malibu. They just factor in. It says, “Welcome to Malibu,” and it says, “Population – 23,000.” But then someone wrote another zero because they put another zero on everything.
Mark Sisson: Yeah, actually the population is 13,000.
Brad Kearns: It says 130 on the sign. Some jokester put a zero. So, that’s getting us back to the timeline. So, you were here, you had your broadcasting ambitions and then you transitioned into the Executive Director position at USA Triathlon. That was a fixed timeframe of-
Mark Sisson: Three years.
Brad Kearns: … dealing with this now. Three years?
Mark Sisson: Yeah.
Brad Kearns: I thought it was like one.
Mark Sisson: No. Well, it was two and a half years.
Brad Kearns: You lived three bloody years in Colorado. Wow, Carrie, the props if you’re listening. Carrie hung in there. I mean, not everybody would. People would bail at two years and go back to LA. Yeah. Have a car sent to take her to Nobu by her next date.
Mark Sisson: Oh, she almost did that a couple of times.
Brad Kearns: Yeah, for sure, man. Yeah. So, you came back and were you again, penniless with just a pot to piss in, not much more? Because I know they don’t pay highly at the Executive Director position.
Mark Sisson: No. So, at the time that my friend Andrew Lessman who was starting his vitamin company or had been in business a couple of years already, was looking for a COO. So, I came back and I did that for five years and collected a nice pay check and did that and supported what was … now my wife and my child, Devyn. And then later Kyle came along. So, there was the four of us.
But about five years in I realized that again, I’m an entrepreneur. I don’t like working for the man-
Brad Kearns: Even though he’s your buddy.
Mark Sisson: Even though he’s my buddy. So, I left in ’96, again, with no money in the bank, a wife and two kids to start Primal Nutrition
Brad Kearns: And ambitious spending habits. If I recall, we were living well just on the LA vibe where you’re just making money and spending it. And so, then it was time to start a new business, and you had zero capital and some credit cards.
Mark Sisson: I had credit cards, I had zero capital.
Brad Kearns: I’m sorry. I know you hit me up for a few bucks there. Actually, do you recall when you banged me for a raise when you were my coach and I was your employer?
Mark Sisson: Is that right?
Brad Kearns: Yeah, we were talking on the phone. This was years before that, but we’d left the team environment and I said, “Mark, I still need your help, man. I want to keep going with this journey and you got me right to my very best in national champion and number three rank in the world.” And we were talking all the time on the coaching realm, and I was paying you a certain amount that was equated with what you would pay for your personal trainer services, even though it was on the phone or we’d do a workout and talk and stuff.
So, that great year in ‘91 when I had six wins and won the Coke Grand Prix, which is a big bonus check at the end. He was like, “So, you’re doing pretty good. Like, what kind of money are we talking?” And I’m like, “Well, Mark, it turns out to be a lot. I’m still adding up my sponsors things.” He’s like, “All right, well, I need a raise.” So, we bumped from 100 to 125 an hour, a bargain, a bargain.
Mark Sisson: There we go.
Brad Kearns: Okay. So, back up to ‘96, you’re amicably partying with Andrew. He’s got a great business going, but it’s time to do your own thing.
Mark Sisson: Yep. So, I started Primal Nutrition. And when I just talk about taking risk, I mean, I knew going in, I already had some consulting gigs. So, I was consulting with the Sports Club LA to develop a line of products with them-
Brad Kearns: And improve their valet parking situation too.
Mark Sisson: No, that never happened. And I had a couple of clients who were doing things like Guthy-Renker and some direct response things. So, during my five years at the Winning Combination (which was basically a vitamin supplement company), I developed a real skill for designing product. So, now, I was basically a supplement designer. So, I would be able to create these products that I could … for other people, on behalf of other people and help them with their marketing and their packaging.
So, I had an income in terms of consulting fees while I was creating my own product. So, I created my own product and it was called Primal Nutrition and I had five products. They were specific formulas. One was called Extreme Focus. I had Extreme Liver Repair. I had Extreme-
Brad Kearns: Sexual Performance.
Mark Sisson: Not that.
Brad Kearns: Oh, no, sorry.
Mark Sisson: I had Extreme Anti-inflammatory. A bunch of other, like five products. And very, very early in the process realized that I would just combine them all into one master formula. So, I created this product called Damage Control Master formula. And that was a 12-capsule a day super supplement. Around that time, I’d met somebody at an advertising agency who had a radio show in Texas on health. And he asked me to come out to Dallas and be on his radio show. This guy’s name is Doug Kaufman. He’s become a very good friend of mine.
So, I go out to Dallas, I do this radio show. I talk about my Damage Control Master formula, and I do so very sort of offhandedly, “Oh, by the way, I have this great formula, just a combination of all the best vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, that you could get in one comprehensive formula.” And business started to take off.
Brad Kearns: So, it was a radio show, not a TV?
Mark Sisson: So, it started as a radio show.
Brad Kearns: It started as just a radio?
Mark Sisson: The first couple of visits was radio.
Brad Kearns: You flew out there to sit in the radio studio?
Mark Sisson: Yeah, it was crazy.
Brad Kearns: Live?
Mark Sisson: Yeah, it was live. And by the way, because there wasn’t internet, you really couldn’t do a remote …. I did it on the phone and [crosstalk 01:19:41] phone cell. So, one day I go out there and he says, “Oh, by the way, I’ve got this gig over at a TV station. The network is called FamilyNet, and it was sort of a Christian faith and family broadcasting cobbled together network of about 80 small stations around the country.
Brad Kearns: It fits well with your monkey values.
Mark Sisson: Yeah, exactly. And so, I think there were probably 35 million homes that had access to the particular network at the time. So, he says, “Well, I’ve got a guest spot on a show that’s on FamilyNet, the host …” (I love this). Her name was Karen Hater, and it was a show on love.
Brad Kearns: People, they’re called their names and their birth numbers.
Mark Sisson: So, anyway, so I go out and Doug does his show and it’s live. It’s a calling show and it’s live, and we have a great response. And I’m not talking about vitamins, I’m talking about training and diet and nutrition. And Doug’s one of the early guys who’s sort of anti-grain guy and we’re chatting back and forth about this. “And oh, by the way, Mark has got these great vitamins, you should call in and get them.” And again, before the Internet, this was how you bought, was through, “Pick up the phone and call now.” And I had a call center that I had hired to take the calls. And I’d come home at the end of the show and I got 150 calls. For this product, it was 129 bucks a month.
By the way, at 129 bucks a month, it is an exceptional value. And I know you know the product, it’s been around for 22 years now. It’s probably still the best, single best high potency multivitamin multimineral in the world.
So, at the end of that week, I come back and Doug says, “Geez, I got this opportunity now, I can take over. Karen’s going to … she’s going to retire.”
Brad Kearns: Say goodbye to the haters.
Mark Sisson: “… and I’m going to take over the show. Would you like to be a sponsor?” And I said, “Hell yeah, I’ll sponsor.”
So, that became this beginning of a beautiful friendship that lasted for six or seven years where I would go out to Dallas every two weeks and I’d do one live show and one recorded show. So, I was on every week with Doug and I would sell a crap load of products, and it was fantastic. And the company grew like literally 6, 7% a month for a couple of years. It was incredible.
Brad Kearns: And this was a small operation where you’re contracting with a manufacturing facility to make this product to your custom specifications. They’re sending it over here to Malibu-
Mark Sisson: Yeah, I had two employees.
Brad Kearns: You had two employees. Haji Baby was one of them?
Mark Sisson: No, Haji wasn’t an employee yet. I had Elliot, who-
Brad Kearns: Elliot, the top sales guy, who gets on the phone and-
Mark Sisson: And then I had a girl who was sort of the receptionist and keeping the books. Elliot was the salesperson. And that was it, the three of us. And I’d literally pick and pack myself or I’d have the salesperson … I mean the girl who was the receptionist pick and pack at the end of the day. And it was crazy. I mean, I was doing millions of dollars in business in those days, and at a very high margin and very successful.
Well in 2004-
Brad Kearns: Eight years into it.
Mark Sisson: Yep. Just the bottom-
Brad Kearns: You’re adjusting to your lifestyle.
Mark Sisson: Right. Bought a home in Malibu, much more than I could afford. In 2004, everything changed. So, it seemed that the Internet was now coming on so strong, people were starting to buy on the internet. Television, there were now 300 channels on cable and dish and whatever.
So, the interest in a sort of TV show on a small carved out State network had diminished. The public’s receptivity to, “Call now in the next 30 minutes,” that had gone away. And I was like losing business left and right. And then, Doug was having the same experience. So, of course, he had no choice but to raise my rates, and so I was losing money on a regular basis.
So, we parted ways and I spent a year thinking, “I can do this, I can do a TV show.” So, I hired a producer, I hired a director and I hired a script writer. And I shot 52 half-hour episodes of a TV show called Responsible health. We had a set, I had a co-host. I had guests, at least two guests every show come in.
So, over the course of several months, we shot these 52 half-hour episodes. And then I paid to broadcast them on Travel Channel.
Brad Kearns: Did you sneak into the Junior College TV studio to do these at night or something like that?
Mark Sisson: No, but it was with Golden West College. They have a studio where one of the local PBS stations broadcasts out of. And I was able to do a deal with them where I could pay for their entire studio for an entire day, including three cameramen, control room and all that stuff. And we would shoot, some days we would shoot eight shows in a day.
Brad Kearns: Just back to back. The guests are like coming and sharing the parking pass.
Mark Sisson: Absolutely. It was crazy and it was so cool. And the shows are great. I mean, if I do say so myself, the shows turned out fabulous, and I was the sponsor of the shows. And it was shot as if it was going to be a syndicated show on health, because I did want to do a syndicated show.
But about three months into airing them, I looked at my bank account and thought, “Jesus, I’m down a million bucks on this, and I’m not …”
Brad Kearns: On the TV production of your own. It’s a huge endeavor.
Mark Sisson: Yeah, and I’m not making any money and I’m down a million bucks and this isn’t a scalable model, and I had to pull the plug.
Brad Kearns: Where were they airing?
Mark Sisson: Travel Channels.
Brad Kearns: And that was the big money?
Mark Sisson: No, well, I was paying I think (don’t tell anybody now) 7,000 bucks a half hour per day, every day for months and months.
Brad Kearns: Looking at that bank account.
Mark Sisson: Plus, the cost of producing the TV, the actual shooting it. Anyway, so, that was a great experience. It’s one of those things that I don’t regret doing because I fear that if I was on my deathbed 40 years in the future and I think, “Oh shit, I wish I’d done that TV show. I wish I had acted on that.”
I did, I gave it my best, it wasn’t to be. And what it did, was it led to, “Maybe, I’ll try my hand at this blogging thing.” And so, in 2006, after that massive failure, I started Mark’s Daily Apple.
Brad Kearns: So, the TV show, did you air all the episodes? Did you pull the plug after-?
Mark Sisson: Pulled the plug after 20 or 30 episodes, I forget what the number was.
Brad Kearns: So, you had the call now, Elliot was waiting by the phone getting orders, but it wasn’t 7,000 bucks a day worth of orders or whatever?
Mark Sisson: So, here’s what you soon realize that in those days, even though Travel Channel was in 95 million homes, if you look at who’s watching TV at 8:30 in the morning, it’s maybe 20% of people, right? So that’s, of the 300 million people that are going to be watching, 20% of that’s $60 million.
Then if you look at what those people are watching, 80% of them are watching ABC, CBS, NBC, or Fox. So, then you take the 20% left and you start to diminish these numbers, and then you get down to, of the remainder, the next tier, they’re watching is HBO, Showtime, whatever. And then they’re watching ESPN, CNN, NBC, MSNBC. By the time you get down to Travel Channel, I guarantee you they’re probably 1,400 people watching.
Brad Kearns: So, it’s in the background while they’re vacuuming, missing your key pitches.
Mark Sisson: So, even though you say, well, it’s in 95 million homes, it doesn’t matter. And I needed 35 or 40,000 people to be watching in order to get my message across.
So, I started Mark’s Daily Apple. And again, I thought, “This is going to be great. I’ll have 100,000 viewers a day within a year. It’ll be awesome. I’ll write something every day for a year, and then I’ll be good to go.”
So, I start writing and I start grinding stuff out, and I set this up and at the end of the year, I had a thousand people a day.
Brad Kearns: That was your viewers. That was unique visitors.?
Mark Sisson: Yeah.
Brad Kearns: So, the legit. Not the number of hits, but unique visitors per day?
Mark Sisson: No, a thousand a day.
Brad Kearns: Which is pretty good.
Mark Sisson: Well, but it’s a lot less than I expected it. But then, the next year it was 2,200 a day and then the next year it was 5,000 and then it was 10. And so, within a few years, it doubled and doubled and doubled. And so, I got to the point where I had enough of an audience that when we launched the Primal Blueprint, which you and I wrote together, I had a ready audience for the book.
Brad Kearns: Except they weren’t New York City publishers. They were not a ready audience. They said F-U, and you went back home with your tail between your legs and you said, “Eff this, we’re going to publish it ourselves.” And then when you announced the book was available, it was at first only available via Mark’s Daily Apple, Primal Blueprint shopping cart, with your ads and vitamin-
Mark Sisson: Right, and it was on Amazon too.
Brad Kearns: But it was your Amazon account.
Mark Sisson: It was my Amazon account, right.
So, between Mark’s Daily Apple or the Primal Blueprint account and the Amazon account, we sold a lot of books. I mean, I don’t know what that number is. It might be 50,000 copies. It was a good number to get for a full retail price. But I realized-
Brad Kearns: Helped attract the interest of the distributor.
Mark Sisson: Right. So, then I met my distributor, Eric Cartman.
Brad Kearns: What’s up Eric? Thanks for listening.
Mark Sisson: At Midpoint Trade Books, at a publicity event in New York. And we had a nice chat at a dinner table and I showed him a mock-up of the book and he said, “That looks great.” And he told me he was a distributor and he was interested in the book and I said, “Nah, I’m going to do it myself.” So, I went home and I continued to plough away.
Then about a couple weeks later, I thought, “Geez, I have to really take advantage of this distributor relationship.” So, I called Eric back up and I said, “Why don’t we do this? Why don’t you represent the book in distribution?” And we signed a contract.
Then I said, “Oh, by the way, Eric, I’m going to run this up to a top place on Amazon in a couple of weeks. I’m going to do a promo and I’m going to run up to Amazon.” He sort of chuckles and said, “Well, we’ll see about that.” And lo and behold, we ran it up to the number one spot on Amazon for a whole day. And not just in the category, but of all the books on Amazon. And he was blown away by that, and that was sort of an indication of what we would do for the next couple of years with the publishing.
So, we cranked out … but we put out a number of great books and they did very well. And we became Eric’s, of the 200 publishers that he carries, we were the number one publisher for a couple of years.
Brad Kearns: So, now, the Mark’s Daily Apple is getting lauded as the top resource for this burgeoning movement of primal and paleo. The space is getting filled up with other experts and leaders, but you’re riding this wave and the books are cranking out. And then, you started to branch out into … you had the kitchen idea come up at some point.
Mark Sisson: Well, not yet. So, now I’m thinking still in terms of supplements. Like I want people to be buying my supplements.
Brad Kearns: Oh yes, and by the way, so when you started Mark’s Daily Apple, it was incredibly soft sell. It was just a tiny little mention in text, not even any logo. So, it was really meant to be an editorial site, I guess to build a platform and then at some point down the road, were you going to ask for a sale or what was your mindset there?
Mark Sisson: Well, the mindset was you had to be very careful of the FTC regulations about combining health information with supplements. And I was very mindful of that. So, it was a very low, low key soft sell. And, by then, we had books as part of the business. We were doing seminars, we were doing PrimalCon events. We were trying different ways to get this information out there. And each of those became its own revenue stream, which was nice for the company. But the supplement thing wasn’t really catching on the way I had hoped. And truth be told, my writing on a regular basis about this ancestral way of living sort of was antithetical to supplement with some of these things.
So, here I am talking about real food and making your own sauces and making your own dressings and all of this minimalist DIY lifestyle, and then advertising the world’s highest potency full spectrum multivitamin, multimineral, antioxidant, phytonutrient over on the other side of the page. So, there was a little bit of a disconnect. We still did well, but there was a bit of a disconnect.
Then, around 2014, I thought, “Geez, I’m missing the boat here. I really should be thinking about what’s missing in the marketplace in terms of the food that I would like to be eating,” because it’s the sauces, the dressings and the toppings that really give real food the interesting quality. It’s like once you get rid of all the sugars and all the added sweeteners, once you get rid of the industrial seed oils and once you get rid of the processed grains, you’ve got a fairly small list of foods that fit the paleo or primal or ancestral diet. You’ve got meat, fish, fowl, eggs, nuts, seeds, vegetables, a little bit of fruit. It’s probably five kinds of meat you’re going to eat next year; lamb, pork, beef, turkey, chicken.
Brad Kearns: Wild Idea Buffalo, some of the good stuff.
Mark Sisson: Yeah. Name me 17 vegetables you’ll eat, and of those 17, you’ll have three of them 80% of the time. So, what makes the difference is how you prepare them; the sauces, the dressings, the toppings, the herbs, the spices, the methods of preparation. That’s what really makes this whole way of eating sustainable. And no one was making great tasting sauces, great tasting dressings, great tasting condiments that you could put on food and feel good about using literally with reckless abandon.
So, I set about to create this line of product that you could … it’s basically what we call food enhancers. These are products that you can add to real food and not only improve the flavor and palatability, but improve the healthfulness of them. So, by adding healthy fats to your salad, instead of these nasty industrial seed oils. By adding organic eggs and avocado oil, in the form mayonnaise to your tuna salad or to your potato salad, your egg salad. To be adding an organic, unsweetened, great tasting ketchup to a burger or to sweet potato fries or whatever.
These were the things that we felt were missing from the marketplace where an increasingly discerning, buying public was starting to go, “We recognize that we’re trying to avoid all this crap, where are the products that fulfil that need?”
Brad Kearns: You say this in every book Mark, about avoiding the vegetable oil-
Mark Sisson: Yeah, what do we eat?
Brad Kearns: … and then we go get Paul Newman’s red wine and olive oil dressing and look on the back, and it’s a blend of canola and cotton seed and maybe a little olive – distressing as heck.
Mark Sisson: Yeah. So, that became the impetus for Primal Kitchen and we launched in February 2015 with just the mayonnaise. I went to my co-packer, and I said, “This is a real novel product. No one’s done anything like this. It’s avocado oil-based mayonnaise made with organic eggs and organic vinegar from non-GMO beets, a little bit of sea salts and Rosemary extract. It’s 12 ounces and it’s going to be 10 bucks. What’s the smallest run we can do because I’m not sure we’re going to be able to sell this?”
He said, “The smallest run we can do is 12,000 jars.” I roll my eyes like, wow, crazy. Okay. So, we did 12,000 jars and basically the short story is we sold out in like 10 days through Thrive market and through our own platform. So, we realized we were really onto something that the public was hungering for no pun intended. And since then, we followed that up with collagen bars and salad dressings and collagen powders. We now have condiments in the form of … we have great tasting ketchup, mustard. We have barbecue sauces, we have steak sauce, we have like 25 products in the line right now.
Brad Kearns: And it’s been a crazy ride that has sort of overwhelmed your life or at least your business day. This growth of the Primal Kitchen brand, which was just an offshoot of the many other things you’ve been doing.
Mark Sisson: But that’s how it happens. I mean, it’s like when I say if you’re an entrepreneur, you have to keep moving forward. You have to keep looking for the next opportunity. And I’m going to tell you that I missed this opportunity probably four years earlier. I just kept my optic tunnel vision on, “How do I sell supplements, how do I sell supplements?” And I literally like completely blinked and missed this opportunity for food. Now, I didn’t miss it because I finally hit it, but only until 2014.
This is how businesses get started. It’s like sometimes you start with one product and the next thing you know, it morphs into something else. I mean, Apple Computer had the Mac and the Lisa and it was the iPhone or the iPod that really took Apple to the next level and then iPhone and all these things that maybe weren’t even part of Steve Jobs’ vision from day one, but he’s open to the possibilities.
Brad Kearns: And how do you manage this crazy growth? I mean, it seems like the complexity of your daily life from working with you and knowing you closely, and we’d be sweating over how to reword this paragraph on one page of the book and then getting into these events which were such a trivial part of this massive business that’s growing. How do you manage all that?
Mark Sisson: So, I went from seven, eight, nine employees, four years ago to 75 now.
Brad Kearns: Seven, eight, nine, for the total enterprise? Including the people shipping the supplements, and the publishing team?
Mark Sisson: Everything, the entire company was seven or eight or nine people.
Brad Kearns: Now it’s 75?
Mark Sisson: 75.
Brad Kearns: You know everybody’s name?
Mark Sisson: No.
Brad Kearns: But they know you. If you show up in Oxnard, do they bow and stop their production line?
Mark Sisson: They know me. But that’s because my picture is on every label.
Brad Kearns: They better know you. Some guy’s like, “Hey, can you sign in please?” “You don’t know me. Okay. You’re not paying attention.”
Mark Sisson: No, but it’s literally hiring the right people and it’s a lesson that I mean, I learned a long time ago, but it continues to be reinforced. That the success of a business basically revolves around the quality of employees that you hire and their dedication to the mission and their creativity and their willingness, their loyalty, their willingness to go to the mats for the company. That’s really where we’ve gotten to where we are right now.
So, now, my managing is I basically allocate resources. So, I sign checks and I approve expenditures. I love to do the R&D, that’s my favorite part of what we do. So, I’m in the kitchen concocting something that I think would be a great next product. And then obviously, there are other steps before we get to production, but that’s how it kind of starts.
Brad Kearns: What about the hires that didn’t work out versus the ones that did? What have you learned?
Mark Sisson: Oh yeah, there have been some hires that I thought-
Brad Kearns: Not just hires but like business associations where we hired the PR agent that did a fall for us and took us for a lot of money.
Mark Sisson: I mean, that’s part of the process. That’s part of the heartache of being in business, is sometimes you make mistakes, you just move on. And mistakes in hiring can be costly because you spend a lot of time trying to qualify a potential hiree, and then you spend time training them and then if it doesn’t work out, you’ve got to start over again, literally.
So, to me that’s the most important part of being successful in business, is the team that you assemble. I think, a lot of venture capitalists and private equity investors would agree that they more than anything, they invest in the team than in necessarily the concept or the product.
Brad Kearns: It seems like a lot of times when these mergers occur, they disregard the team and they take the product and run with it and screw it up.
Mark Sisson: There’s that, and that sometimes is an artifact of … sometimes it takes a certain mindset and a certain entrepreneur to grow a company to a certain level. And beyond that level, it takes an entirely different mindset, an entirely different skillset to get to the next level.
So, quite often, and especially in tech, you’ll see C-suite replacements every round of financing because what it took to get them … it takes scrappiness and budget cutting and all this other stuff to get out of the gates and prove your concept and be successful. But then, you want some other skills or some other attributes to take you from 50 million to 500 million, say.
Brad Kearns: So, now you’re kind of in this position where you’ve built this thing with a small team. I mean, 75 is still a small. And where are we headed in the future? What’s your vision?
Mark Sisson: I mean, my vision is no less than I want to be one of the largest food companies in the country. Because I think we’ve been given permission because of the 10 years that I spent building the brand before I launched the product. We’re already in 9,000 stores across the country. So, we’re in Kroger and Publix and Safeway. We’re in Costco, we’re in Whole Foods, Sprouts, Raley’s, Wegmans and many others that I haven’t mentioned. We do very well in all those stores. We’re in six different aisles. We’re in the ketchup aisle, we’re in mustard. We’re in the salad dressing aisle. We have mayonnaise, we have bars-
Brad Kearns: Energy bars.
Mark Sisson: Energy bars, protein powders. We have one of the best-selling specially oils in Kroger with our avocado oil. We have spray oil.
It’s crazy, and we’re doing well in all of the aisles that we’re in, because people are understanding that this is about a lifestyle. This is a lifestyle brand. It’s not just a salad dressing brand. This is a brand that looks for opportunity to serve the public wherever there is a need to be met because there’s a lack of product fulfilling that need.
Brad Kearns: No offense to Best Foods or Paul Newman’s or the other crap that we’ve been consuming without appropriate choice for something that’s healthy. But that’s your approach I guess.
Mark Sisson: Yeah. No, we just want to be the best choice in every aisle that we’re in, full stop.
Brad Kearns: So, those aisles will continue to expand or you’ll be entertaining ideas to extend into this product category, that product category?
Mark Sisson: Right now, we have to sort of pull back because I have so many ideas about where I want to be. We just got to kind of have to fill out the aisles that we’re in before we go to the next arena. But it’s been really gratifying. I mean, I’ll share with you, I don’t know when this podcast airs, but just this morning, there’s a big food convention on the East Coast called-
Brad Kearns: September 2018, we’re here.
Mark Sisson: Expo East and we just won the biggest award in the expo, the Consumer Choice Award for our ketchup. And we also, by the way, won the Industry Award for the best condiment, which is the same product. So, we won two awards at this thing. And that’s the recognition that we’re getting for making great tasting products that are better for you.
Brad Kearns: So, we have so much content out there. We’ve talked about your health and fitness and your views on keto and all that kind of stuff. So, we can direct the listener to search for the many other podcasts. But we should kind of wind up figuring out what are you still doing that’s working and how do you manage … you’re this entrepreneur that’s slam busy building a business, but you also have the physical and the life balance aspect going, which is, I would venture to say, it’s unusual.
Mark Sisson: Well, I guess it’s unusual but I don’t feel that I’m sacrificing in any area. I mean, I feel like I get my work done. Again, it gets back to having a great team. The better team you have, the less actual work the head guy has to do.
But I will say that all through my lean years when I was starting the company, when I left the well-paying job to start from scratch at zero, and I had a wife and two kids, the major thing is I always, I still spend time with the family. I still went to my kid’s soccer practices, I went to their games. I went boogie boarding with them on the weekends. We did a lot of stuff as a family because I recognized early on, that the only reason that I’m really doing all this investment in myself is to make a better life for my family.
Well, if I sacrifice 20 years of family life to make money and they’re off doing their own thing, that’s completely beside the point. And so, I’ve tried to create this balance where I live my life in a way that I have … I certainly have a routine. But I go to the gym, I work out, I go paddle when I can. Sometimes I can’t, that’s okay. I have a standing ultimate Frisbee game at least once a week. Probably the most fun I have all week.
Brad Kearns: Are you saying these Miami guys are as good or at the level of the incredible Malibu game that wore me out and sent me home vowing that I may never go back if I want to focus on speedgolf at this point, because you just get drilled for two hours. So, Miami’s bringing it too.
Mark Sisson: As good or better.
Brad Kearns: How did you find them? Did you hire these guys?
Mark Sisson: Ultimatefrisbee.com or ultimatepickup.com.
Brad Kearns: There’s players out there. It’s amazing. And you’re probably one of the older gentlemen on the field.
Mark Sisson: I suspect I’m one of the older gentlemen. I don’t think there’s anybody much older than me.
Brad Kearns: So, unfortunately, we’re not seeing these values as much as we’re seeing the overworked, harried parent that seems to be sacrificing family life if they want to be successful in their careers or they’re putting the brakes on and they’re getting the other parts of their life handled. Like they’re great at surfing, but they’re trying to find the next job.
Mark Sisson: Those are choices. I mean, I can point you to a number of very successful female entrepreneurs who drop their kids off at school, who cook them dinner every night, who tuck them in and run multimillion-dollar businesses. So, it’s not like it’s an impossible task, it’s a choice. And it’s a time management choice. I think a lot of times, the concept of well, I worked till 10:00 last night, if you actually look at how much work got done, they were there and they were whatever, but researching or surfing the Internet for some, whatever.
The amount of work that actually gets done is a relatively small amount of work. And if you can do that amount of work in a relatively small amount of time, it frees up time to go to the gym, to have a family life, to have a social life outside. The life of an entrepreneur, you have to be dedicated and you have to be willing to put some long hours in once in a while.
But I just don’t think that it requires this inordinate amount of work and this inordinate amount of time away from pursuing the rest of your life, which is actually the enjoyable part.
Brad Kearns: Well, you’ve written about how when you’re out paddling is when you often get some breakthroughs and the thought process, and comes to the problem-solving part is facilitated by living that balanced life. So, if you’re missing that and you’re poor at prioritization because you lack sleep, and you’re working for too long without a physical break, you’re losing your time management and your productivity.
Mark Sisson: Yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s sleep, let’s talk about sleep. I mean, that’s the other thing that a lot of entrepreneurs brag about, is how little sleep they get. I’m like, “Well, Jesus, you can do that for a little while, but it catches up to you and bites you in the ass at some point.”
Brad Kearns: But you’re not going to notice because you’re not getting enough sleep to notice how unproductive you are.
Mark Sisson: And that’s how it happens as well, yeah.
Brad Kearns: Elon Musk said it’s difficult to be useful all the time. It’s a challenge. In other words, were you useful today? Were you productive today? And it can get away from us with all this overstimulation. I think hyperconnectivity, I was telling you before we started recording, like my email window’s open all day when we’re trying to research and work on our next book. And I realize it’s a problem, but I’m still talking about it, it still happens. It’s very frustrating.
Mark Sisson: Well, I mean that’s an interesting point of view or an interesting concept. How do you measure your usefulness in the course of the day? You know, if Musk says it’s difficult to be useful during the day or find those times, yeah, that might be a metric that somebody would use, to say, “Well, how can I be of use? How can I be of service?” Gary Vee, Gary Vaynerchuk says, “The only role of a CEO is to put out fires, because if everything’s going smoothly, you’ve done the right hire.” Right? And so, your job is just to handle shit when it comes down.
Brad Kearns: I really like that.
Mark Sisson: I feel like that’s how it is a lot of times too. Like when things are going smoothly, everything’s great, and then I don’t even have to do anything because I put a system, a machine into place that when it runs well, everything comes along smoothly and I don’t have to do anything. And that’s why I can go out and paddle and I can do whatever I want and not really worry about anything.
But when the stuff hits the fan, is when it all of a sudden, becomes imperative to get in and make decisions. “How much money do we spend on that? Do we fix that? Do we get rid of that? Do we hire a lawyer for this?” All of this sort of one-off decisions that have to be made on the fly.
But that’s the exciting part about being an entrepreneur. As Von Clausewitz said about war, it’s like long periods of boredom interspersed with brief moments of sheer terror. Not exactly like that as an entrepreneur, but it’s ups and downs for sure.
Brad Kearns: What did you learn from the restaurant venture?
Mark Sisson: Wow, well a lot of things. But most of them I’d already learned before, which is the sad part.
Brad Kearns: Before you went into it, you mean?
Mark Sisson: Yeah.
Brad Kearns: You went against your values or your intuition or something?
Mark Sisson: I did. I went against my intuition. So, number one, go with your gut. My gut was always like, this is probably not a good idea, but-
Brad Kearns: You had gut disfunction going into it?
Mark Sisson: Yeah, I got … Pick the right partner. That was a big issue for me. Know when to pull the plug. Know when “this is not going to work” and you have to start unwinding.
Brad Kearns: When was that? You’re saying you pulled the plug too late.
Mark Sisson: Yes.
Brad Kearns: I mean, you pulled the plug.
Mark Sisson: I pulled the plug.
Brad Kearns: We can’t go eat there today. But at some point, did you linger on hoping for a miracle or something?
Mark Sisson: Yeah. So, part of that is just a better analysis of what’s going on and then I guess ultimately, my fault is taking my eye off the ball. Like I just assumed again, that I’d-
Brad Kearns: Hire the right people, pick the right partner.
Mark Sisson: Hire the right people, pick the right partner. And I’d set it up in a way that I could just stand back and let it happen, and I would be the brand and it didn’t work out that way.
Brad Kearns: So, there’s no going back. It’s gone. You lost a few bucks. You had some stress and all that. How do you control your thoughts at this point? Not to get mired in negativity or whatever?
Mark Sisson: No, just onward and upward. I mean, it is what it is as they say in New York, and lesson learned. Lots of other cool stuff to be thankful for. You can’t hit a home run every time. In fact, like you said, and I agree, you only need one home run in a lifetime. So, I’m fine with it. I’m totally reconciled.
By the way, for six months, I was miserable as it was unwinding. But now, that it’s unwound, I’m fine.
Brad Kearns: What do you say to people that seem to get stuck? They can’t get over whatever it was? Maybe it was a broken relationship, get terminated from a job, whatever, and you see them a year, two-year, five years later and they’re still suffering.
Mark Sisson: Well, that’s too bad. Because I can see suffering in the moment and I can see getting through it with some amount of pain and suffering. But at the other end of it, typically, people, unless they’re resentful and hating and unwilling to forgive or move on, no one else gets hurt by that except themselves.
Brad Kearns: Well said, Mark Sisson. The Ultimate Mark Sisson Podcast. Thank you for sitting so long. Great stuff, man.
Mark Sisson: Good talk.
Brad Kearns: Love it. Thank you for listening everybody.
Let’s talk about probiotics from Entegro Health. Do you want me to sing the messages? Nah. But probiotics are an extremely important concept. Hopefully, you’re all in on the values, the benefits of nourishing a healthy gut microbiome, so you can flourish in life. And that’s the name of Entegro’s product; Flourish – a unique, extremely potent living liquid probiotic. Yes, it’s liquid form. How is it different from other probiotics we usually see in pills? This is the message from Entegro.
Microbes continue to thrive and metabolize in their own [mil-u 01:01:22]. Do you like when companies use the word “mil-u” to describe their product.? I do. These include short chain fatty acids, bioactive peptides, amino acids, enzymes, and minerals. The liquid base makes it acid stable, so microbes can survive the stomach environment and transit to the lower GI tract for integration to give you a healthy gut microbiome.
There’s 11 different strains in this thing, carefully hand-cultivated in the laboratory with precision to deliver 8 billion total CFU. Why take probiotics? Come on, do you have to ask? It’s going to strengthen your immune function, reduce systemic inflammation (the root cause of all disease), improve digestion, promote bowel regularity, relieve gas and bloating, get you going again after illness or antibiotic use.
That’s me, because I first got this shipment the very day I returned home from a Mexican vacation and had a stomach illness once again. What a bummer? So sad because I love going down south, but I needed to repair and return to action quickly. So, I started guzzling this stuff and had a wonderful return to health. I’m a very enthusiastic user, and will be over the long run because I need all the help I can get. I don’t know about you when we’re talking about our routine usage of antibiotics, the stress we put on our system and in the environment every single day.
I especially notice my gut health is compromised when I engage in overly intensive athletic training, have trouble recovering. My gut is the first thing to go. So, this is my go-to product, the Flourish probiotic in liquid form. Try It yourself. I love the delicious root beer float flavor. Just kidding, man. This stuff is no funny business. This is the real deal. It’s very potent. It tastes fine, it goes down okay. But no root beer float flavors, sorry. Take it, you’ll love it. Go look at Entegrohealth.com for more information, and to order shipped directly to your door in its unique liquid form; Flourish.
Hey listeners, here’s a wild idea -eat good, clean, delicious, sustainably raised meat. That’s why we’re going to talk about Wild Idea Buffalo; 100% grass-fed and finished meat. These are animals that lived a fabulous healthy life out there on the great plains of South Dakota. Look at their website wildideabuffalo.com, and the homepage picture is going to blow your mind. These beautiful animals out grazing.
You probably know or have a basic awareness of the distinct contrast between the horrible, miserable feedlot existence of the conventionally raised animal, a grain-based diet filled with hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, and a body filled with stress hormones when they slaughter it violently. You may not want me to go deeper here, but I will. anyway. This is a quote from Jared Chrisman, primal health coach who’s in tight with the Wild Idea Buffalo people, introduced us. Thank you, Jared.
He says, “Slaughterhouse animals have been taken out of their natural environment and trailered to a feedlot where they stand in their own faeces, eating corn grain. And in some instances, expired human food like cookies and candy, sometimes with the wrapper still on. Then, once the animals are sufficiently fattened up, they trailer them again, putting them under more stress and they put them in shoots and kill them in mass quantities without regard to the animal’s wellbeing.”
So, this concept of having stress hormones running through the bloodstream as any hunter will tell you, is bad news. If you don’t get a clean shot on an animal and it suffers before it dies, you’re going to have a meat that doesn’t taste as good and has less nutritional value.
Then we have the contrast of the natural life of the Wild Idea Buffalo, whose diet is basically water, grass and sunshine, and supporting this goal of sustainability. They call it Beyond Organic. The company’s mission to let them graze on the pasture, not ruin the native lands of America, but just be in harmony with the environment.
When you taste an animal that’s been sustainably raised, you will notice the difference even if you’re a less sophisticated consumer like me, who just eats food for energy my whole life and goes out there and trains. Of course, a little different now. But when I consume a pastured egg with that bright orange yolk, or when I bite into a grass-fed steak or some Buffalo Burger, which is one of the greatest meals. So simple to prepare, try it yourself. Give them a chance. I know you will be extremely pleased with the quality of food that you get from wildideabuffalo.com.
Here’s what you do, follow Brad’s instructions carefully. Visit wildideabuffalo.com and hit the order button. They have organized everything for you with beautiful pictures. Click on monthly specials. Try their bundles, so you get free shipping. If you’re on a budget, hit the ground bison and burger section. They have all these different flavors and packages. And if you have pets and you care about them, you’ll click on the pet food section and order up for those beautiful animals too. They deserve to eat healthy food instead of garbage in a bag. Wildideabuffalo.com, check it out today. Thank you for listening.