Meet Brad

Brad Kearns

Distraido

I recently discovered my second grade report card in a box in my mom’s attic. In the comments, the teacher wrote, “Bradley is a bright student, but tends to distract the other children and disrupt class.” I kinda freaked out because those characterizations played out in middle school, high school, and into adult life as well. Here I am distracting you with this meandering “Meet Brad” message! I’m an athlete, author and podcast host interested in ancestral health (primal, paleo, keto, carnivore, etc.), athletic peak performance, and how to live a long, healthy, happy life. The description of my Get Over Yourself podcast says “covering health, fitness, peak performance, personal growth, relationships, happiness, and longevity.”

Sports have been a centerpiece of my life since I was a kid. I had the good fortune of experiencing a childhood that predated the digital age, and it was filled with nonstop outdoor physical activity and adventure in the place known as Los Angeles, California. Okay, we were roaming air conditioned shopping malls instead of pristine forests or windswept coastlines, but at least we were active and creative. My passion for sports was unpolluted by today’s disturbing influences of over-pressurized competitive environments and over-caffeinated helicopter parents. Left to nurture my own focus and competitive intensity (and influenced by awesome peers like future NCAA Div II All-American and World Junior Cross Country Team USA member Dr. Steve Dietch, as well as Dr. Steven “E” Kobrine and Dr. Todd Pearsons), I became an elite high school distance runner—12th in the National Junior Olympics 1500 meters at age 16, and 9th in the California State High School championship 1600-meter final in 4:19. Harboring big dreams upon arrival to UC Santa Barbara, my collegiate running career was a big, fat disaster. I was either sick or injured five seasons in a row before I finally walked away in disgust, hopped on a borrowed bicycle, rode my frustrations out for 103 miles with no training, and turned my focus to the exciting new sport of triathlon.

High Rising

As a young person who formed my identity as an athlete, and attached a fair amount of my happiness and self-esteem to the results of my workouts and races, being forced to the sideline was my first awakening into a more evolved perspective. I realized that my great strengths of focus, discipline and competitive toughness could also very easily lead to my downfall via overtraining, a flawed, results-oriented mindset, and ego-driven, unregulated competitive fire that left my best performances in workouts instead of saved for the starting line. My chance to immediately pivot from a distance running obsession into the fresh challenge of triathlon helped me build the fantastic skill of going with the flow in life instead of forcing things to happen that aren’t naturally meant to be. It’s important to see everything that you experience as an opportunity for learning and personal growth, especially struggles and setbacks.

At the end of my senior year as a Business/Economics major at UCSB, a great tragedy occurred in my life: graduation. I was teleported from the beach ’n bike life at school into rush hour traffic in Los Angeles, working downtown for the world’s largest accounting firm (then known as Peat, Marwick&Mitchell; now called KPMG Lefty Mickelson.) I lasted 11 1/2 weeks at the firm before announcing my retirement to pursue a career as a professional triathlete. This was a ridiculous notion at the time, since the sport had little economic opportunity and I was (literally) miles behind the pros with my amateur race results to that date.

No matter, the sense of freedom and excitement I felt leaving the downtown LA high rise for the last time was one of the great moments of my life. I again went out and pedaled 100 miles the next day (this is known in the public accounting world as a “detox.”) On my new path, I was able to do what I loved every single day, again free from harmful influences like economic pressures, judgmental friends or family, nor FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) or FOKU (Fear Of Keeping Up; Hey, Foku too!). I wasn’t even troubled by my pedestrian finishes at my first local professional races: I was overjoyed to pursue personal improvement and compete in the same field with the world’s best multisport athletes.

Every day was filled with hours of difficult workouts, napping, eating healthy foods, studying race results, plotting the travel and competitive schedule, and talking training and competitive strategy with my sidekick on the triathlon journey, Andrew MacNaughton. We dreamed of great success, fame and fortune, but we were consumed by a tremendous passion for the day-to-day experiences of being professional athletes. It was a simple, focused, and purposeful life that brought deep satisfaction and contentment, even when things were difficult, frustrating, or exhausting.

King Of The Desert

At the end of my first season as a pro, running out of shekels (despite some cash flow from delivering pizzas in the evening), and wondering what the future held, we traveled to an exciting new race in Palm Springs, CA called the Desert Princess Run-Bike-Run World Championship Series. The race was touted as a showdown between the world’s #1 ranked triathlete, Scott Molina, and the world’s #1 ranked duathlete (run-bike-run specialist), Kenny Souza. It was so exciting to be in the same field as these two superstars! The race was surprisingly difficult, with the desert heat and brisk winds, and the unusually long distances of 10k run-62k bike-10k run. Again focused on personal peak performance, I kept a steady pace and let the marquee athletes and over-excited challengers leave me behind right out of the gate. I was 24th out of 27 pros after the first 10k run. By the end of the 38-mile bike ride, I’d (unknowingly) passed everyone on the course. Running “like I stole something” for the final 10k, I broke a tape on the pro circuit for the first time. At the finish, I was approached by media members asking two questions: “What’s your name?”; and, “Did you complete the whole course?!”

Six weeks later there was a rematch race on the same course in the desert. With a target on my back this time, I prevailed by the ridiculous margin of five minutes, chronicled in a magazine article titled, “King of the Desert.” These rookie year victories legitimized my efforts to become a professional athlete, and teed me up for a 9-year odyssey on the global triathlon circuit. Alas, the blissful disposition and pure motivation that facilitated my success in the desert was often swallowed up by the measuring, judging forces of the modern world, and also the realities of professional athletics as a business and the athlete as a brand (although we never said that word back then, geez.) The allure of fixating on results would cause me to become influenced by pressure, ego demands, impatience, or greed. Instead of taking what my body gave me each day and being satisfied, I would force the issue and overtrain. This would lead me to breakdown, burnout, illness, and injury. Then, through the painful and raw self-reflection that defeat forces upon you, I would eventually reconnect with my source of power and contentment: I was a young person (freed from the prison of the high rise!) pursuing a dream, challenging my body every day to improve in three sports, and traveling all over the world to compete with the best. I’d take a break from heavy training and enjoy a vacation, then eventually “get up off the mat” (like my friend Johnny G says), get back into the groove and turn things around with some good results.

At my peak in 1991, I was two-time US national champion and ended the season ranked #3 in the world. When the hard work starts to pay off and you get into a good rhythm as an athlete, things feel easy. I remember after several of my best victories feeling like I had barely exerted myself, and wondering why main competitors weren’t able to keep pace on the steep hills of the bike course. Alas, the experience of being in the zone is fleeting. After a binge of 45 races, including 15 victories, a seven-race win streak, and 80,000 miles on Pan-Am airlines over my two best years of ’90-’91, I was cooked. I had to sleep 12 hours every night and take it easy over the entire winter. Well, that feeling of deep exhaustion never quite cleared when I returned to training, travel and competition. This was a clear signal that the end of days on the circuit were fast approaching.

Re-immersion into real life was challenging (read my reflections in this article, “How To Retire At 30“), but I carried with me valuable character lessons learned through pushing my physical limits, overcoming my fears, and striving to accept both victory and defeat gracefully. I have a maxim that sums up the most valuable attributes that I learned in the most intense and dramatic of competitive arenas that is athletics. It applies to all other peak performance goals I’ve pursued in life, such as parenting and career goals: Get Over Yourself—hence the title of my podcast. This describes cultivating a pure motivation for peak performance goals, releasing the attachment of your self-esteem to the outcome, and thereby unleashing a healthy competitive intensity to be the best you can be. The late Sir Roger Bannister of Great Britain, the first human to break four minutes in the mile back in 1954, put it this way in one of the great sports quotes ever (up there with Mike Tyson stuff). “The essence of sport is that while you’re doing it, nothing else matters, but after you stop, there is a place, generally not very important, where you would put it.” I think you replace the word “sport” and fill in the blank with whatever challenge you are facing.

Maintaining The Edge

I’ve been retired from the tri circuit for so long (~25 years) that I’ve forgotten most everything about that life (except the details of my 31 victories, ha!), but I am striving to maintain passion and competitive intensity for the rest of my life. My dad, Dr. Walter Kearns, was a great role model in this area. He passed in 2019 at age 97, and was an absolute golfing phenom for decades. He played in the US Amateur at age 19 while captain of the Princeton golf team. Fifty-two years later at age 71, he again competed in his national championship, the US Senior Amateur. This is believed to be a record span between qualifying for America’s most prestigious amateur tournament.

Walter was undoubtedly the top golfer in the world over age 90 for several years. He shot an even par 71 at the age of 87, and a 76 at the age of 92. Shooting 16 strokes under his age on a championship course is at or near the best ever known in golf annals. Beginning with a four-under par 66 at age 67, Walter shot his age nearly two thousand times over the ensuing 30 years. His 11 hole-in-ones included five in five years after age 80. He enjoyed the game at all times, the challenge of every single shot, and worked hard to be the best player he could be throughout his life, up until his final shot. He applied the same passion and focus to his career as a general surgeon. After formally retiring and closing his practice at age 71, he worked full-time for six years on the Navajo Indian Reservation as a surgeon. He also volunteered at medical clinics in Los Angeles and maintained his medical license until he was 95 years old!

2013: Dr. Kearns retrieving the ball after holing out from 103 yards for an eagle!

MVP

I loved the all-consuming experience that was training and racing the circuit, but it’s much better to recognize and be willing to gracefully transition through distinct phases in life and always look for exciting new challenges and growth opportunities. This mature, self-aware, evolved, high-minded perspective, combined with getting my butt kicked(!) routinely in my last two years on the circuit, inspired me to put my ego and passport in a drawer, get a real job, and start raising a family. Speaking of maintaining competitive intensity, my athletic focus went from swim-bike-run to dominating little kids in soccer, basketball and track for a decade as a ridiculously-enthusiastic participatory coach.

Starting with first graders, I was the clear MVP every year in every sport. Unstoppable, un-guardable, relentless. By the time my son and his buddies reached high school, I’d been caught, passed, and left to clap in the stands. Note to parents: This is just as it should be! Know when to step aside and become skilled at clapping, supporting, and letting your offspring become their own person(s). Be like the caddy on the golf course, handing the requested club to your player but not taking the shots for them! Yes, it was again time to transition and plunge into current athletic passions of Speedgolf, sprinting and high jump. The theme here is to find endeavors that you love, appreciate the process (even if you suck at first), and strive for continued improvement.

Toe The Line!

Watch out, because a highly disturbing alternative option is trying to lure you in these days. That is, to indulge in the many luxuries, conveniences, and nonstop entertainment opportunities that the high tech modern world offers–to become a professional spectator. Sure, you can get some deserved instant gratification, stress release, and entertainment value from watching the NFL Red Zone on Sunday or tracking your bets every day on March Madness, but you are going to slowly and imperceptibly lose your edge and extinguish your competitive spirit over time. In the process, you’ll track toward the epic Teddy Roosevelt quote about “the poor spirits who neither enjoy, nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

Essentially, my mission is to help you wake up, light up, and get the juices flowing again. Say what you want about my goofy YouTube videos and podcasts calling attention to my morning flexibility/mobility routine, the high jump bar I sail over with a scream of joy, or my Guinness World Record for the fastest single hole of golf ever played (minimum length, 500 yards; I birdied a 503-yard par 5, using one club, in one minute, 38 seconds—a miracle!), but I’m here to be myself, share my enthusiastic message, and make an positive impact on your life. I want to be a leader in the battle against the aforementioned health-destructive influences of the soft and easy life, including the ridiculous marketing hype, flawed science, propaganda, and misinformation shoved down your throat in the health, diet, and fitness scene.

HJMarch_16

Release Attachment To The Outcome

Here are some important things I want you to “get” about my approach: I’m promoting peak performance and competitive intensity, but not in the typically flawed way we’ve been socialized into. With big money modern sports, the popularity race of social media, and the college-admission-bribing parenting trend, we’ve forgotten about the pure joy of the journey: toeing the line, giving your very best effort, and achieving the unsurpassed self-satisfaction that a healthy competitive disposition allows. Hey, that sounds like my former coach John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success! (okay, I was a camper at his youth basketball camp, does that count?)

Unfortunately, the evolved ideals and character values communicated by Bannister and Wooden have been pretty much dissed these days, in 140-280 characters at that. Instead, we proceed with a win at all costs mentality and attach self-esteem to results. Coach Wooden said, “worrying about the scoreboard is a big mistake; focus on the perfect execution of every possession.” Today, the scoreboard indicates that happiness is accessed with a Beemer, a kid on the all-star team or the honor roll, or through Amazon Prime (okay, Amazon Prime makes me pretty happy–better than the glitz and marketing propaganda at the shopping mall!)

What’s the problem with obsessing on the trappings? When we succeed with tangible goals, we create outsized egos. When we don’t bring home the gold (nor the silver or bronze), it’s easy to get discouraged, disenchanted and negative. I had to learn the hard way as a young athlete that attachment is not a path to happiness—not just in competitive athletics, but also with parenting, career goals, financial security aspirations, or even healthy relationship dynamics. And while people can often achieve superficial material success with a flawed mindset, it’s also likely to come with a sense of emptiness and negative energy in general. Look no further than the prominent athletes and celebrities with tremendous material success but living train wreck lives.

Getting Over Ourselves

The sweet spot is to cultivate the beautiful passion, curiosity, and competitive intensity that makes us human, but also release the attachment of your self-esteem to the outcome. My MOFO partner Brian “Liver King” Johnson of Ancestral Supplements says simply, “Do something that scares the shit out of you every day.” It’s time to destroy and reframe your self-limiting beliefs and behavior patterns and take some radical action to make today a special day, and a catalyst for change. Of course physical pursuits are a great vehicle, because we operate so much from our heads, interacting with machines, these days. But you can model this evolved competitive spirit as an artist or musician too. Just realize that our genes crave frequent everyday movement as well as brief, explosive efforts to be truly healthy, happy, and fit.

Finally, because modern life is so stressful and serious, and because posers and manipulative marketing forces and general insincerity lurk around every corner, my message is wrapped and airbrushed in humor, irreverence, and general goofiness whenever possible. As an athlete, husband, parent, content creator, and peak performance motivator, this allows me to bring the most authenticity, vulnerability and {fill in other hot buzzwords} to the table to be the best I can be. Thanks for reading my message. Take a look around the site and see some cool podcasts, videos, books and carefully cultivated products that I believe in and use every day.

Amazing Exploits

Everything you are about to read is true…

Brad Kearns Guinness World Record – Fastest Golf Hole

This was a really fun, complex, and challenging process to prepare for and execute two successful record attempts. Maybe the details will inspire you to set your sights on a peak performance goal and go for…

Brad’s Diet, Exercise, and Lifestyle Tips For Peak Performance and Longevity

Following are details of my personal diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits that honor the principles of evolutionary health. In 2008, I started working on The Primal Blueprint book and movement with Mark Sisson. I immediately transitioned away from the…

Triathlon Results

1986 1st – Desert Princess Duathlon World Championship Series: Race #1 1st – Penrod’s; Ft. Lauderdale, FL 1987 1st – Desert Princess Duathlon World Championship Series: Race #2 1st – San Diego International 1988 1st –…

Get in Touch with Brad