Marie Forleo introduction


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Marie Forleo: Hey, it’s Marie Forleo and you are watching MarieTV, the place to be to create a business and life you love. So I got a question for you, have you ever struggled to create change in your life? Maybe around a birthday, you’ve said, “You know what? This year is going to be different. It really, really is.” But then it becomes a sad repeat of the past. If you’ve ever struggled to create meaningful change in your life, my guest today is here to help.

Marie Forleo: Todd Herman is the founder of The Peak Athlete, a peak performance coaching and researching company working with hundreds of pro and Olympic athletes on the inner psychology of winning. Todd also consults with leading executives and business owners on leadership, sales, and communication. His corporate leadership programs are used by over 17 organizations globally and three governments reaching over 250,000 people. In 2010, he was awarded the World’s Greatest Salesperson at the Con International Advertising Festival and has been featured on the Today Show, the Australian Today Show, Sky Business, the New York Times, and other media.

Marie Forleo: Todd Herman.

Todd Herman: Marie Forleo.

Marie Forleo: Thank you for being on MarieTV.

Todd Herman: I’m so happy to be here.

Marie Forleo: So I think you’re amazing and you and I have been friends for years. One of the coolest things that you taught me, and this was a few years back, was on the biology of change. It’s this concept and these ideas that really have stuck with me. So I am so excited to have you share that with everybody here today. So let’s get right into it. What’s happening on a cellular level when we try and create some kind of change? A new habit, learn a new skill, anything like that.

Todd Herman: Well, there’s a chemical cocktail of changes happening inside of us and it’s working from the inside out. Anytime we’re trying to break an old habit, embark on a new skill, or try to improve ourselves, generally, there is a biological process that’s going on inside of us. And most people would tap into it as an emotional part of what’s going on. It’s this part that trips people up. It’s this misunderstanding of what’s happening that prevents people from actually continuing on with the change. Actually, there’s some great research that was done, and last year, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to two researchers on this very subject. What’s interesting to note about the cells, what’s important to know, is that they are constantly receiving information and they’re constantly replicating themselves. It’s important to know this because this is actually what’s happening when we’re going through our process of change.

Todd Herman: So when we actually start on the process of embarking on a new skill or changing a bad habit or something like that, we’re actually sending some positive juju through our body. So positive emotion that comes in the form of hormones. Dopamine and serotonin would be the two main ones. But if our cells are used to being constantly bombarded with cortisol, because they’re receivers of information, they’re used to getting cortisol. Just like hungry little hippos, they’re just wanting to be fed anything. And if you’re constantly feeding them cortisol, they’ll accept it.

Marie Forleo: They want more of it.

Todd Herman: They’re going to get more of it and they’re going to send information up saying, “Hey, give me some more cortisol. Give me some more stress.” So if you’re wondering why you’re always stressed out, it’s not that you’re a bad person and you’re supposed to be living that way. It’s just what your cells are used to.

Marie Forleo: Interesting.

Todd Herman: So when we stick with change, the replication of the cells that happens, if we’re constantly giving them dopamine and endorphins, they’re going to want more dopamine and endorphins when they replicated because the cells replicate based on the last information that happens to them.

Marie Forleo: Right. So tracking here, so we start to create a new habit. Let’s say, for example, we’re starting to exercise. Before, our butts were on the couches. We’re all stressed out all the time, and all of a sudden, we say, “All right, I’m going to start working out.” You start sending these new hormones, the dopamine and serotonin, and your cells start getting bombarded with some new hormones and they’re shaking and they’re replicating. Then they want to start going in a new direction.

Todd Herman: Yeah. They’re vibrating away because they’re not used to getting this information so they need to vibrate to accept it because they need to change their receptor sites to allow in this new information. It’s this vibration that trips people up. This is the cause of what we would call self-sabotage and resistance many times in people because they interpret this, “Ah, this doesn’t really feel good. It doesn’t feel right to me.” And that’s their own story that they’re attaching to the cellular change that’s happening. Now, you got to remember that those cells don’t automatically always want the good stuff right away because they’re still elements of the need for cortisol. So you are going to still get some stress going on in your body, but overtime, if we just stick with it, that’s why the greatest breakthroughs always happen when you are wanting to quit almost and then around the next corner is this massive change that happens for us. Right?

Todd Herman: It’s this knowing part, when I’ve shared this with clients and even when we talked about it for the first time, people relax into it because now it explains so much of why sometimes we’ve quit when we’ve been doing something that was really positive. But just knowing that this is how we work, people can relax into the change more. It’s like, “You know what? Now you know what to expect.” I’m not going to be positive forever because day one exercise is easy. Day two is easy too. Day three, a little bit of resistance kicking in because maybe we’re a little bit achy. Day four, maybe we don’t want to go to the gym. And day five, we just end up quitting on ourselves. The change was happening if we would have just stuck with it then when our cells are used to all this dopamine and serotonin that’s coming at it. They’re going to be wanting what? More of that which means that the activities that you’re going to be choosing are going to lead you to be sending that information back down. Activities, the action you take on your daily basis.

Marie Forleo: So it’s almost like we have to stick through it to get through that transition period so that our cells have built those new receptors, want the dopamine, want the good stuff and then they become hungry hippos for the good stuff. It’s like, “Give me that juice. Give me that juice.”

Todd Herman: And you’re only going to be doing the things that give them the juice, which is usually these new activities and new habits that you’ve done in your life.

Marie Forleo: Awesome. So really, what we’re doing is misinterpreting some really good stuff that’s happening inside of our body especially when we’re around that stage with resistance. I think resistance is such an interesting topic. So let’s dive a little bit deeper into that resistance.

Todd Herman: Sure. So after all the work that I’ve done with professional athletes, amateur athletes, Olympic athletes, and executives as well, there’s basically two categories of people that I’ve classed people in. There’s OWW brainers and WOW brainers.

Marie Forleo: OWWs and WOWs.

Todd Herman: OWWs and WOWs.

Marie Forleo: Okay.

Todd Herman: And the difference between the two is this: OOW brain people, when they’re faced with a challenge, some sort of obstacle, when they’re going through say a process of change will automatically start the dialogue or the story that they tell themselves. So they feel this vibration that’s going on and then what they attach to it is, “I’m not really feeling this. Oh, this isn’t right for me. Why should I bother anyway. I’ve always been like this,” things like that. It’s all wrapped around that type of story. Then when you’re telling yourself that, of course you’re going to end up quitting on it. There’s basically three categories of story that we wrap around it. There is this feeling of being stuck. There’s this feeling of being bored. And then there’s this need to feel safe, retracting into ourselves. So it’s like a comfort zone then. People are stuck, they’re bored, and they’re safe. If you notice that’s what happening in your life, you’ve fallen into this path of this OWW brain.

Marie Forleo: The OWW brain too is like, “Ow, that hurts. I want to step away. This isn’t feeling right. This isn’t feeling good. Let me go retreat to my old habits.” If we can, before we go onto the WOW brain, I’ve seen this so much in the programs that I teach because I see the two different people. And the folks that have the OWW brain, the moment that they’re trying a new framework in marketing or they’re trying to be more organized or trying to stick to a schedule, they’re like, “Oh, I’m just not built like this. This doesn’t work for me,” and that’s amazing because I’ll see this whole other track of people that respond to the same information in a different way and it’s just extraordinary. Extraordinary.

Todd Herman: We have an OWW and a WOW brain. It’s not like we’re just one thing. It’s segmented parts of our life that for me, it could be the idea of me giving up chocolate cake. That’s OWW to me. And you brought it up. So another word that’s wrapped around it is pain. It’s a pain part of our brain. OWW is about pain. The dialogue that happens and continues on with that is, “Maybe my friends will leave me as well if I continue on this.” Here’s the reality. If you’re going to build a business for yourself and you’re going to become more successful, you’re going to lose friends. You will. I mean, I did. You probably did as well. You don’t hang around with the same people anymore. Anyways.

Marie Forleo: Sure. Now lets talk about the WOW brain.

Todd Herman: Sure. WOW brain people, when they’re going through this resistance, is they’re seeing things as more pleasurable and it’s, “This is feeling really good. I can’t wait to see what happens out of this. I wonder what opportunities are going to unfold for me because of this. There’s so many things that I’m learning and growing. I never would have expected this.” It’s all about this sense of WOW. Exactly. So three other categories that they revolve around is growth is one big thing. Confidence is another. And the other one is adventure. People that are going through the OWW brain, they’re dealing with feeling stuck, bored, and this feeling of safety, need for safety. Growth, confidence, and adventure for people that are in the WOW brain.

Todd Herman: But when you move those circles together, if growth, confidence, and adventure were all circles and we moved them together, where growth and confidence overlap, then we get momentum. When we’re growing and we feel good about our growth, we get momentum. We’re moving on things. Momentum is the exact opposite of feeling stuck. Then when we have confidence and adventure coming together, now we have excitement in our life as well. Excitement is the exact opposite of feeling bored. Then we have growth and adventure, and then growth and adventure are all about transformation. When we go on an adventure and we grow from it, we transform and we’re not safe. And in the center of it all is leadership.

Todd Herman: When you take a look at your own brand, and I’m not doing this because I’m on MarieTV and I’m going to give you a bunch of affirmations. But when you take a look at your own brand, it has all those things going on. And if people just wrapped their lives more around this idea of just growing, getting more confidence from our growth and learning to look at life with more of an adventurous spirit, then change isn’t so daunting. Plus with this new knowledge of, “You know what? This chemical cocktail that’s going on is going to go on all the time anyway and I’m tired of feeding those hungry hippos nothing but cortisol and stress.”

Marie Forleo: Right. I love this. This is so fun. Every time I hear you talk about this, I really just get excited. Okay. So we’ve got the framework. We’re starting to know this, okay, we’ve got the OWW brain and the WOW brain and we all have both, a little bit of both in our lives. So let’s go on. So if we find ourselves in the position of being in OWW, associating some kind of pain, pulling back when we know the change that we want to make is really in our best interest, it’s something that’s really good for us and something ultimately we want, what are some practical steps that we can take to support ourselves to move into more of that WOW position?

Todd Herman: Sure thing. So there’s five prescriptions that I give people. One is you have to have a vision that’s clear and very specific. Now, people have heard that before. It’s not that it’s something new and shiny object type of thing. I’m not talking about this grand vision off into the future. But if it’s a very small change that we’re trying to make or if we’re trying to break a habit, what does that look like? Specifically, what am I trying to change about myself? Or what’s the new skill? Because if we take a look at growth and confidence and adventure, well, what’s a vision that I have about my growth that I can be growing in my business? What does that look like for me? And very tangible, it has to be.

Marie Forleo: Yeah. I can give you an example that can help illustrate this. I mean, I just did this 14 day detox with Josh. Well, it wasn’t necessarily like I had this ultra clear vision of what it would look like, but it was a specific thing. It was like, “Okay, these 14 days.” It was concrete. I understood there was a plan. There was a place I was going to get to and I knew the kind of things I was going to eliminate on my path. So it made it so easy rather than this big grand vision of being the perfect healthy person forever. It was specific. It was concrete and it gave us something to work from.

Todd Herman: So you used a keyword. You said path. The path is everything. You saw the path. There was no guessing and uncertainty because uncertainty is the enemy to the OWW brainer. If there is uncertainty, wow, you’re going to get resistance and self-sabotage in your life then. So just be specific and clear about what it is that you’re trying to go after.

Marie Forleo: Awesome.

Todd Herman: The second thing is to set trigger goals for yourself.

Marie Forleo: Mm-hmm (affirmative). What does that mean?

Todd Herman: So trigger goals are about the little micro changes that we need to be set up for ourselves in order to maybe accomplish the bigger goal. If I’m trying to start a new exercise regimen, a trigger goal is if I pull the thread on that goal of going to the gym, what’s one of the first actions I would even ever have to take in order to get to the gym? It would be, “Four times this week, I’m going to get dressed up in my Lululemon gear.”

Marie Forleo: Oh, Todd.

Todd Herman: Very sassy. My Lululemon gear in my home because that’s probably, just probability says, that I’m more than like going to take the next step which is maybe walk out the door. So trigger goals would be, “So five times this week, I’m going to get dressed up,” and it’s the complete opposite of what most people hear about goal setting. I want to find what is the behavioral action step that you can take because I know that if I get you to walking down that path, the likelihood of you getting to the gym is just that much more likely. Then the next goal on top of that would be to open up the door five times this week with the mission of going to the gym. We’re not even at the gym yet. And those are things we do, when we accomplish it, there is a little dopamine dump that we get because we did achieve the thing that we set up that we were going to do.

Marie Forleo: It’s almost building on small wins. I can think about it in terms of productivity. I know for me, one of the biggest habits that I developed that serves me so much and I always recommend it, it’s like end of day, take out my notebook, set up for the next day.

Todd Herman: Huge.

Marie Forleo: Huge. Simple trigger goal impacts my level of accomplishment, how I feel about myself, how rested I can be when I go to bed. Just doing that one simple tiny action that cascades into incredible results in every part of my life.

Todd Herman: And what’s funny about that goal you set for yourself is when I take a look at one of the hallmarks of a WOW brainer, people who do achieve quite a bit, that’s one of their things that they do. Is they are fantastic at planning out their tomorrow today.

Marie Forleo: I love it. It gets me high. I really do. I’m like, “Whoa.” I get so excited.

Todd Herman: Think about it. For me, it’s like this sense of excitement expectancy now because I’m taking control of my day. Not control in that I’m going to force things to happen but there’s an internal power that we get from that.

Marie Forleo: Oh, absolutely. Also, a sense that we know that we can’t control so much of what happens. So to go in at least with a plan of, “Okay. This is what’s really important for me. So no matter what else happens, I got this to go in there with. It may not always work out but at least I’m coming in prepared.”

Todd Herman: Yeah, exactly.

Marie Forleo: So cool.

Todd Herman: So number three would be to set improvement goals.

Marie Forleo: Okay. What’s that?

Todd Herman: I’m not going to go on all about, “There’s 19 different types of goals you need to be setting.” Improvement goals are really important as well. And improvement goals are all about numbers with a date attached to them. Because the great thing about photo albums is that we can see change in photo albums. When I see myself when I’m 5 or when I’m 15, I can see the visual change that’s happening. But when people go on these… Maybe when they sign up for one of your programs, if I don’t set up an improvement goal for myself, then it’s really hard for me to know and get feedback for… Well, I want to create a feedback loop for myself of, “Is this improving or am I growing from this?” So I can get more confidence with my abilities and capabilities.

Todd Herman: So an improvement goal would be, for example, if it’s working out again, “I will improve the number of pushups I can do consecutively from 5 to 15 by X date 6 weeks from now, 4 weeks from now,” whatever it is. Or if someone is in a sales type role, “I will improve the number of successful calls that I make to prospects from three per day to six per day by date.” Because then I can put that on a plot chart and I can see it go up or I can see it go down. And then the feedback loop says, “No wonder my sales are dropping because I’m not doing that one little activity.” I don’t need to beat myself up over it. It’s just an improvement goal.

Marie Forleo: Yes. It’s that classic old phrase. Right? Anything measured improves, anything measured and reported improves exponentially.

Todd Herman: Exactly.

Marie Forleo: Again I’ll go back to this detox I was doing. It’s related but I drew 10 little glasses on my one sheet of paper every day because that was that I needed to do, is to have 10 full glasses of water everyday and I got such a high out of ticking those little babies off. It just feels good, but now I have a record as you say of exactly what I did and I was like, “Yeah.”

Todd Herman: Yeah. And there’s this whole movement in the online space too of something called growth hacking.

Marie Forleo: Is that related to quantified self?

Todd Herman: Growth hacking is all about finding little micro changes in the conversion on your page that maybe it’s 1% improvement. The 1% on that page plus 1% on the next page plus the 1% on the next page increases to 10% actually overall. I’m trying to growth hack performance for professional athletes or growth hack performance for executives or an entire team of people. The great thing about it is it doesn’t scare the limbic part of our brain that’s all about fight, flight, freeze and things like that. We’re looking for micro changes. So set improvement goals for ourselves.

Marie Forleo: Awesome.

Todd Herman: Yeah. The fourth one is to gather a tribe around yourself.

Marie Forleo: Hallelujah.

Todd Herman: Yeah. A tribe can look many different ways. It could be a coach or a mentor. It could be a friend who’s already gone through what you’re hoping to go through and can be a bit of a coach for you. It can be an online community. That’s the great thing about the internet now, is there’s all these micro-niches that are everywhere that have interests that I’m shocked at sometimes but they’re there to help out. There’s tons of helpful people out there that are there to gather around you and cheer you on. Then if you start reporting to people, your improvement goals and your trigger goals and things like that, people go, “Well, you think differently than me.”

Todd Herman: Now you can actually get to that place where we all want to get to. It’s a natural part of the human experience which is to share with other people. That’s what the hero’s journey is all about. Is we go on this journey and then Luke Skywalker comes back with the magical elixir and he can help save other people. When we go through and we actually complete the change that we’re trying to go on, now we have data. We’ve got experience. And then we become so much more valuable to the people around us.

Marie Forleo: Love it. Okay. So now we’re going to talk about my favorite one, which is script your setbacks. I love this. Tell us what that means.

Todd Herman: Exactly. Anytime we’re going through change, there’s always going to be moments that are going to challenge the change that we’re trying to go through. And whether it’s breaking bad habits or whether it’s trying to start a new skill. Scripting your setbacks, I also call it the positive power of negative preparation. Scripting setbacks is all about, what am I going to do in the moment when someone says, “Hey, Todd, do you want some chocolate cake?” If I’m on this health kick that I’m trying to drop these seven LBs around my waist, then just thinking about that ahead of time, and it’s going to be… Because I’d normally do it like, “Oh, it looks really good. I don’t know.”

Marie Forleo: Right. Maybe I’ll just have a bite.

Todd Herman: Maybe a bite. Exactly. Instead, it’s just going to be a definitive, “No, thanks.” It just greases the slide for us in our own heads. We don’t need to think about it. It’s just there for us.

Marie Forleo: I live this.

Todd Herman: And scripting your setbacks, we can do it in so many parts of our life. When I’m working with a professional athlete, there’s a lot of times where there’s tons of trash-talk that’s going on on the field of play. And sometimes, people can be going through very sensitive times in their life. We need to think that stuff through so that they don’t cost their team a penalty which then costs them the game or something like that. But the same thing happens in business. What are you going to do when the deal that you thought was the sure thing that was going to be closing doesn’t happen? What are you going to do?

Marie Forleo: What are you going to do when you want to put that video out or that blog post or the book proposal and you get rejected or criticized or whatever?

Todd Herman: Because it will happen.

Marie Forleo: Yes.

Todd Herman: It will happen.

Marie Forleo: Yes.

Todd Herman: Absolutely it will. And it’s, “What am I going to feel?” So it’s not just the doing part. What am I going to feel as well? What am I going to see? Who am I going to call? Do I have a support system around me? And make it just like that. Don’t think about it, just do it. That’s what the power of doing the trigger goals is as well. Have my Lululemon pants laying out for me so I don’t have to think about it too much. Just have them staring me in the face. Scripting your setbacks is exceptionally powerful. Everyone talks about positive thinking, positive thinking, but really there’s a lot most power in actually thinking through the challenges because if we think that life is one big Pollyanna episode, it’s just not. We would talk about it in the context of it’s just mental weakness because I talk about mental toughness so much. Mental toughness is knowing what to do when things aren’t going well.

Marie Forleo: Yeah. Even scripting your setbacks just opens up so many file folders, I feel like we could down. Even when especially because I know eating and being healthy and taking care of your body is something I feel like all of us strive for and there’s always a different level in something we’re experimenting with. Again, back to this detox just because it was recent, I was traveling and going to speak at a seminar right in the midst of one of the most intense parts of it and it was 14 days long. In the idea of scripting setbacks, I planned out all my meals. I knew I was going to be on a plane. I planned everything out so that I wouldn’t be stuck in a hotel room going, “What am I going to eat? I want to kill myself,” and then a cheeseburger comes. Whatever.

Todd Herman: Exactly. Because it’s in those moments of weakness when we usually make this decision that takes us away from really the goals that we’re trying to go after. This gets to the other point of we’re expending will power throughout our entire day. So if we’re waiting until the end of the day and expecting ourselves to follow through in a whole bunch of change, it’s treating ourselves very poorly really because we should be front loading our day with all the change that we’re trying to do.

Marie Forleo: Todd, this was fantastic. Thank you so much for taking the time out today. I know you have a new baby girl in your life and she is beautiful. I love Molly and obviously I love your wife, Val. She’s amazing too.

Todd Herman: That you so much.

Marie Forleo: So I really appreciate you being here with all of us and sharing this incredible knowledge. I feel like people are going to just freak out. I love it. It just helps me out since we had that conversation years ago. So thank you.

Todd Herman: Yeah. Well, it was awesome.

Marie Forleo: So now, Todd and I have a challenge for you. So take a look in your own life. When you’re trying to create change, do you have an OWW brain or a WOW brain? Obviously, we both have both, but where do you tend to go most often? If you’ve been having a hard time trying to make any kind of change recently, which one of the five steps do you feel will help you the most? Tell us all about it in the comments below. Now, as always, the best conversations happen after the episode over at So go there and leave a comment now.

Marie Forleo: Did you like this video? If so, subscribe and share it with your friends. If you want even more great resources to create a business and life that you love, plus some personal insights from me that I only talk about in email, get those sweet buns over to and sign up for email updates. Stay on your game and keep going for your dreams because the world needs that special gift that only you have. Thank you so much for watching and I’ll catch you next time on MarieTV.

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