Dec. 8, 2022

Best Books & Authors in 2022 – Marc Champagne (Personal Socrates: On Self-Reflection, Self Improvement, and the Socratic Method)

We explore self-reflection, self improvement, and the Socratic Method. We’re joined by Marc Champagne, author of Personal Socrates. We cover building a mental fitness practice, simplifying the Socratic method, and the writing process.


We explore self-reflection, self improvement, and the Socratic Method. We’re joined by Marc Champagne, author of Personal Socrates. We cover building a mental fitness practice, simplifying the Socratic method, and the writing process.

“You need to understand if you're climbing the right mountain to begin with and understand who you're optimizing to become.” – Marc Champagne

EPISODE GUIDE (LINKS, QUOTES, NOTES, AND BOOKS MENTIONED)

https://www.danielscrivner.com/notes/marc-champagne1-outlier-academy-show-notes 

FULL TEXT TRANSCRIPT

https://www.danielscrivner.com/notes/marc-champagne-outlier-academy-transcript 

CHAPTERS

This episode is our definitive guide to self-reflection, self improvement, and the Socratic Method. In it we cover:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction
  • 00:01:55 – We are one question away from a different life
  • 00:07:22 – Building a mental fitness practice
  • 00:11:33 – Marc's morning reflection routine
  • 00:16:00 – Behind the Human podcast
  • 00:20:09 – Simplifying the Socratic method
  • 00:28:45 – Profiles and questions in Personal Socrates 
  • 00:34:50 – The writing process
  • 00:39:28 – Pausing the autopilot of life and work

 

ABOUT PERSONAL SOCRATES

Personal Socrates is filled with profiles of incredible people from Cal Fussman and Robin Williams to Kobe Bryant and Maya Angelou. Each chapter contains a short profile along with a few clarifying questions you can ponder and use as a journaling prompt, questions like how could I be clearer in fewer words or my personal favorite from Cal Fussman, how can I be the most curious person in the room? This is the first book published by Baron Fig.

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ABOUT DANIEL SCRIVNER

Outlier Academy is hosted by Daniel Scrivner. Over the last 15 years, Daniel has led design teams at Square and Apple, turned around a $3M+ ARR SaaS business, and invested in more than 100 companies. He launched Outlier Academy in 2020 to learn from the world’s best founders, investors, authors, and peak performance experts.

Website: https://www.danielscrivner.com

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/danielscrivner

Transcript

Daniel Scrivner (00:06):
Welcome to another episode of Outlier Academy, a show about the misfits, rebels and idealists reshaping the way we work live and play all told through in-depth conversations with incredible entrepreneurs and investors. I'm Daniel Scrivner. And on the show today, we take a deep dive into Marc Champagne's new book, Personal Socrates, which is the first book published by Baronfig.

Daniel Scrivner (00:25):
Personal Socrates is one of the best books I've come across in a long time. It's filled with profiles of incredible people from Cal Fussman and Robin Williams to Kobe Bryant and Maya Angelou. Each chapter contains a short profile along with a few clarifying questions you can ponder and use as a journaling prompt, questions like how could I be clearer in fewer words or my personal favorite from Cal Fussman, how can I be the most curious person in the room? In this conversation, we cover Marc's journey building K-Y-O, which was a journaling app that reached 80 million downloads before Marc had to delete it from the app store; how that loss prompted him to reflect on his life and eventually write this book what he's learned from interviewing some of the world's highest performers on his incredibly successful podcast Behind The Human and why setting aside time each day to write, reflect and ponder even a single question can have a profound impact on your life.

Daniel Scrivner (01:15):
To learn more about Personal Socrates, visit baronfig.com. If you order the book directly from Baronfig, you'll get some incredible extras. You can also find the show notes and transcript for this episode at outlieracademy.com/48. And if you haven't already, find us on twitter at @outlieracademy and subscribe to our channel on YouTube at youtube.com/outlieracademy for more great quotes, ideas and interviews from guests like Marc. Now, let's jump into my conversation with Marc Champagne, author of Personal Socrates.

Daniel Scrivner (01:46):
Marc, I am super excited to have you on the show. Thank you so much for the time and for coming on.

Marc Champagne (01:51):
Thank you. I mean, I can't wait to dive in with you on all these topics.

Daniel Scrivner (01:55):
We're going to spend most of today talking about your book that's coming out called Personal Socrates. And I was thinking quite a bit about the right place to maybe start off this interview, and there's a quote in the beginning that I think's really profound. And it's just this idea that at any point, we are one question away from a different life. And that felt like a great frame for this conversation, so can you maybe share a little bit of the story behind that sentence, behind that thought?

Marc Champagne (02:18):
It's a loaded sentence, definitely. I mean, you know a bit of the backstory, but for the listeners, essentially what happened in my life was I spent about eight to 10 years in the corporate world in brand management, project management and product management as well. And I loved the job, loved the people. It was an awesome team. But while I had those jobs and it was moving around in that corporate world, I always had some sort of mental fitness practice. Never called it that at that time. That wasn't really a language I was familiar with. Essentially got up earlier, read positive things, tried to prime my mind for the day in its simplest form. And I'm just sharing this because that one line that you share, I mean there's a buildup to what led to that realization.

Marc Champagne (02:59):
And basically, what happened, fast forwarding about eight years or so of doing those practices early in the morning, there was eventually a frustration with the digital tools that were available for me when it came to journaling or reflection. At that time, Calm and Headspace were really starting to pick up steam in the mainstream media or market, I should say, so there was this, I guess this realization that "Okay, well, it seems like people are open to being guided digitally in some sort of a wellness space, meditation, but there was nothing that existed on the journaling front, and especially nothing that really talked about journaling from the narrative that I was seeing it or how I was using it," because most people would leave comments like, "Oh, you're talking about the 12-year-old girl writing her diary about the boy at school type thing." And not that there's anything wrong with that, but no, I'm talking about people making huge decisions, life and work decisions, and they're leveraging a practice like reflection or journaling to do so.

Marc Champagne (04:00):
And what I was doing is I would take these questions that I would be picking up through blogs and books and then eventually in podcast, the market on podcast, and then I would reflect on those prompts the next morning during my mental fitness time. It got to the point where it was copy, paste and different apps and Word processor. I'm like, "This is ridiculous. There has to be a better way to do this." I mean, the app store was thriving at that point. There were apps for everything.

Marc Champagne (04:27):
So I flipped my brother-in-law and co-founder of what became KYŌ an email saying, "Hey, here are the frustrations. Do you want to try this out and see if we can build something?" as naive as that sounds right now, but we did. And eventually, I left that corporate job to go all in on this journaling app called KYŌ. And within the first couple years, without any type of paid media we reached 86.9 million people in terms of app store impressions, and there was hundreds of thousands of people that were using that product.

Marc Champagne (04:58):
But ultimately what happened to me, as much as we had a lot of traction and we had a lot of collaborations and great experts and brands in there with their content and their prompts leading people through a practice, our business model was not sound. It needed more time. We needed more resources. We needed to refine our team and find some different experts, especially on the development front. We had neither of those to continue, so we had to delete the app. And that's where that quote comes from because at that point, it wasn't just deleting the app. It was deleting essentially my identity for the last three years.

Marc Champagne (05:32):
And at the time, I think my son was about two years old. I remember thinking as much as my wife and I were doing everything possible to shield him from any of the stress that we were feeling, well now what? What are we going to do next? We're living in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, Toronto. We don't even really like the place that we're living in. We can't afford it. And the backup plan, which was to go back to the industry I had left, just did not feel right. Everything in my being said, "The work you're doing for this app and this space of mental fitness, that's where you need to be." But I just deleted the vehicle that was allowing that to happen. And this is where it gets to that quote.

Marc Champagne (06:12):
Essentially, I was starting to go really essentially to a deep depression. I've never been in that state before, but I remember reflecting, thinking, "Wow, this is what it must feel like to hit rock bottom. I can see how easy it would be to slip even further down this road and stay here," because I just felt hopeless, essentially, until eventually I started remembering, "Well, wait a second. I've had the great pleasure and luxury to interview hundreds of people about their mental fitness and questions, and they're asking a very different set of questions. They're asking progressive questions to pull you out of things like this." And eventually, I landed on this prompt where it was, what do I want for my life? And that was the one question that changed my life because the alternative was, like I said, going deeper and deeper into that hole and losing complete faith and hope, whereas this question now led to the next and okay, well who do I need to speak to, to march a little bit forward or do something today?

Marc Champagne (07:10):
That's the realization. It doesn't matter where you're at in life, what part of the journey you're on. With a simple question like am I happy, if you answer yes or no, it can completely change where you're at right now.

Daniel Scrivner (07:22):
I want to talk about mental fitness for a second because use that term. It's not a term I've ever really heard, but immediately upon hearing you, I'm like, "It's just obvious." It's something that should be much more common, and we should be talking about it more.

Daniel Scrivner (07:33):
I've struggled myself to come up with a really compelling way to articulate why taking time to reflect is so valuable because I feel like today, it's the choice for a lot of people. And I feel like I've been in this situation, is okay, I've got to staggeringly long to-do list and a lot of just generalized anxiety and stress. Do I want to take this time to maybe try to ease that by checking some stuff off my list, or do I want to take this time to do something that feels valuable but maybe not? So I guess I would just start with why is mental fitness so important, and what is your take on why you need to take that time to get clear? Because it's this hidden, invisible thing.

Marc Champagne (08:07):
Absolutely. It's hidden and invisible, but unfortunately the results of not doing any type of mental fitness or having any practice makes everything else you're doing that much harder. In its simplest form, the example that often comes to mind for me is a physical example.

Marc Champagne (08:23):
Let's say you're envisioning a physical room and you open the door, and that room is just jammed floor to ceiling with boxes. Just for fun, let's say that those boxes are full of good books. So that whole room is full of probably very valuable knowledge, but we can't see the box at the back of the room. There's no path. We can't get through there. Just like an unorganized library essentially. If you can't get there and you can't see the path, then what do you do?

Marc Champagne (08:55):
And our minds are often clogged like that for a whole host of reasons. I mean, there are emotions that are clogging things up. For example, when I was in that state of essentially a survival state, massive fear, crippling fear to the point where I couldn't really think, thankfully I had that prompt that paused that narrative for even microseconds to then be able to chip away at it. But then there are relationships that are in our lives that we all have that were amazing 10 years ago and maybe have fizzled out. And that's totally fine, but they're still hanging on or there's something that's eating away. It's like a low-grade... I don't want to say annoyance, but a low-grade stress in our minds that's there, again, eating up mental capacity. And then there are just the sheer volume of our work and decisions that we have to make.

Marc Champagne (09:42):
So when you look at it from that perspective, now all of a sudden, well how the hell am I supposed to be at my best at home and at work and everything in between if my mind is so jammed like that? So that's why for me, just like physical exercise, you don't have to exercise for three hours a day. But even just starting and building a consistent practice or a routine in your exercise eventually leads to results, and we see that. And with mental fitness, it's no different. We'll start seeing that because what happens is then you start feeling way more clear in the decision-making, and then all of a sudden opportunities or challenges come up and you know exactly where to go. It's just clear.

Daniel Scrivner (10:25):
Yeah, I think it's a big change. I feel like you highlighted there what I've taken away from all the time I've taken to reflect, which is just a real sense of being grounded and being clear on just where I am now, what I'm focused on. And it just takes away a lot of the fog in this generalized sense, which I think is really common today of just... I think so many people are just really hopped up on adrenaline and stress that just being able to tamp that down and quiet your mind and be able to focus, I think, is really helpful.

Marc Champagne (10:54):
Yeah. Just on the other side of that, because there's the processing of emotions and whatnot and clearing it out, but then there's the whole other side of these practices, which is celebrating and learning from what you're doing, even taking a pause on a Friday mid-afternoon, taking 15 minutes and asking three prompts. What did I learn this week? What would I have changed this week? And what can I celebrate? It's just a beautiful way to A, finish off the week, clear out all the stuff that's in your mind and then you're fully present with your family. You're not stewing on "Oh, I should've did this. I should've did that." You've taken literally 15 minutes, and that can dictate basically the next two, three days.

Daniel Scrivner (11:33):
And to build on that, I think it would be helpful to flesh out for people what maybe this routine looks like, because I love the framing. It feels super achievable to do something, like just try to do 15 minutes a day. Do you have any other best practices or any other tips about how to go about booting up this practice in your life?

Marc Champagne (11:50):
Absolutely. I mean, the key to this, and I really think any new habits or practices, is really finding something that works within your life. Sounds obvious, but we often, myself included, it's not. We like, "I have to meditate," and then we don't do it. So first thing, I think, is just being really honest with yourself and taking a look at your day from the moment you wake up to the moment you head hits the pillow and seeing, okay, well where in there can... Not that you add time, but maybe stack on top of while your coffee's brewing, your tea's brewing or something like that, where you can layer in one little practice, and then that'll probably expand over time. Or maybe after you eat lunch, you take 10 or 15 minutes and add in something like this, and then that energizes you for the rest of the afternoon.

Marc Champagne (12:38):
But the buckets to think about really revolve around three areas, in my opinion, and it's what can I do to learn? So that might be podcast reading, audiobooks, whatever it is. And for me, it's in the morning. I do most of this in the morning. And that could just be three to five pages of whatever book is ongoing.

Marc Champagne (12:56):
And then with the learning is the reflecting, and this is where I usually stack in the journaling with the learning, just like I was doing for a decade, and just taking that knowledge that's coming in and writing in the book or writing in a journal to see how it could be applied right now because then we use it. It goes from information to knowledge that's practical.

Marc Champagne (13:17):
And then the third thing is just some sort of movement. Whether that's exercise, again, whatever works for you. But here's the thing. Just because you may not like training for a marathon or running doesn't mean you've ruled out exercise. So same thing with mental fitness. Just take a moment. The first step, take a moment to list out five or 10 things that you know will put a smile on your face at any moment. And it's all different for all of us.

Marc Champagne (13:41):
For me, it's taking a run or doing a Peloton spin class or listening to a positive audiobook or podcast. Those things I know immediately, no matter what's happening, can flip my mind into a positive state. And then you have a default list, but then you can start working them into your routine, being kind to yourself, not trying to overdo it and shame yourself for not over-indexing on these practices essentially.

Daniel Scrivner (14:07):
I love that. I think that's super helpful. And the thing that I would just add is, I don't know why it took me 30-plus years to figure this out, but what I eventually stumbled on was anytime I wanted to do something when I was in my 20s, I would set the bar just insanely high. It'd be like, "If I'm going to workout, my workout has to be 90 minutes. I need to go through this whole crazy workout system that I found online and follow it to a T."

Daniel Scrivner (14:28):
And in my 30s, part of this was just having a family, and you just have things change your life. But I really moved to "No, my goal now is just to get into the gym for some period of time." I set the bar low as 15 minutes. 5, 15, 20 minutes to go to the gym, I think that's a great place because what often happens is one, that makes it achievable to where you're actually just have some momentum, and then what I always find, which it shouldn't be that surprising, is if I just get in there and do it, 15 minutes becomes 45 minutes super easily, or it becomes 30 minutes or I just up the intensity.

Daniel Scrivner (14:59):
And so anyways, when it comes to, I think, a practice like this, I love that idea of drop the bar to the floor and just try to spend some time. Writing something down, answering one question can be five minutes.

Marc Champagne (15:10):
Yeah. Well, and just having that list, right? So for me, I mean again, keep in mind it's been essentially over a decade, but I prioritize about an hour, an hour and a half early morning, which includes physical and mental fitness, the whole thing. And within that time, though, it's not rigid. It's just that "Okay, for those first 30 minutes, there's going to be something related to mental fitness in there." And when I wake up, that might be reading. That might be journaling. That might be doing Wim Hof breath work, some visualization, whatever it is, but that's been new for me and it's only been the last, I would say, couple years but man, does it ever take a huge amount of pressure off and sense of, again, "I don't have to meditate. I don't have to journal today. I'm going to do something, and I'm going to do something that truly, I feel like I need right now today."

Daniel Scrivner (16:00):
Yeah. I love that. I want to ask a little bit about your podcast Behind The Human. And I think part of it is it would be great, I think, if you could just generally share a little bit more of the backstory there and some of the people you've interviewed.

Daniel Scrivner (16:11):
But my one specific question is, you talked about in the beginning the progressive questions that high performers would ask themselves. And something I wanted to ask you is, I think, well, for a lot of people, when they think about elite athletes or really successful entrepreneurs, I think people think that they're have this really harsh dialogue with themselves. They're always really pushing themselves. And what I've found is yes, there's some of that there. They are going after something big. They do need to push themselves, but they do it a lot of times, or mostly, from a gentle, loving place. And so I'd love it if you could talk a little bit about some of the questions and some of the ways that they think and how that maybe influences your approach to mental fitness.

Marc Champagne (16:53):
Yeah. I mean, I think that the biggest lessons I've picked up from the podcast and that have essentially translated into the book as well is just typically, there are questions or practices that are either helping you become more clear, which is usually part one in the process as James Clear says, and he's one of the profiles in the book, but you need to understand if you're climbing the right mountain to begin with and understand who you're optimizing to become, for example. And once that gets clear, which for me was what do I want for my life, that was that question that helped there, who am I, but there's so many different questions like that that can help, but then from there most of these people then get real intentional with what they're doing, how they're thinking, the people that are surrounding themselves with. And that's all, again, supporting that initial work on clarity.

Marc Champagne (17:42):
So for Kobe Bryant, for example, one of the profiles in the book, I mean the goal or the clarity-seeking exercise, I don't want to say it's simple, but it was very clear for him. He wants to win an NBA championship. So when he's getting up an hour before the team to add in another workout at four in the morning, he's human like the rest of us and also does not want to get up when the alarm goes off, and has that whole internal negotiation that I'm sure everyone listening, myself included, have had in the past.

Marc Champagne (18:16):
It's so amazing how fast we can internally negotiate to stay under the covers, because I remember doing this when I was writing the book because I was writing the book really early in the morning. So I had other work strategy work and whatnot.

Marc Champagne (18:28):
And I'll never forget the one time. I think I went to bed a little bit later so then right away, as soon as I got up, "Oh, sleep's really important. I know that. If I don't get enough sleep, then that's going to affect the rest of my day, so I need to sleep an extra 20 minutes. Well, that's going to throw off my writing, but I can write maybe in the afternoon. I know I'll have an open slot. I'll block it off." The whole... Fast, right?

Marc Champagne (18:49):
And next thing you know, life happens and I don't write because meetings come up, calls, whatever, and I'm at the end of the day and that whole plan was blown out of the water, where I could've just paused it and, just like Kobe, reflected on the overall goal, the clarity there. Well, I have to write a certain amount of words today because there's an objective to get to a total amount for the book at a certain time, so I'm just going to get up. I then use something like a Mel Robbins tactic of 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 rise, which can also cut anxiety if you're struggling to get up from bed.

Marc Champagne (19:23):
So anyway, all to say, with the podcast, and it's very much related in the book, the goal is to show that it's not just meditation instructors or yoga teachers that are doing these type of practices. It's all walks of life. From Michelin star chefs to athletes to executives to billionaire entrepreneurs to designers and developers, everyone has their own take on this stuff, and we can learn from those things. And then, again, if we're prioritizing some time, then "Oh yeah, that makes sense. The one from Maya Angelou, I can use that because I have a presentation coming up and I can leverage her practice," and just building up our toolkit so then we can cherry-pick what we need in any given time.

Daniel Scrivner (20:09):
I'd love to transition and dive a little bit deeper into the book, and I thought a great place to start would be to talk a little bit about the title because to set it up and then I'll see what you can add on top of this, but what I thought was really profound about the book is the title's Personal Socrates. The meaning behind Socrates is really following the Socratic method, where you're really trying to ask these reflective questions just to force yourself to think and that that gets you this clarity. And I think what's fascinating about the book is yes, there are profiles. So the book's basically in three parts, which we'll talk about in a second. There are profiles in each of those parts of these notable figures throughout history and just incredible people. And then in each of these profiles, there's also these prompts that you can ask yourself. So I'd love to start with just talking about the Socratic method. What is it, and why is it profound and important?

Marc Champagne (20:58):
I smile just because if you would've ask me even three years ago that if I'd be describing the Socratic method, I'd of laugh you out the room because, I mean, here's the backstory on the title. When it first came up, I actually hated it. I'm like, "Personal Socrates. I mean, I'm not a philosopher. I mean, that's not how I see myself. And I think of Socrates, I think of ancient, thousands of years back type thing." But then when I really started to dig into the method, I got real curious because how it came up was I was speaking with Joey, who's the founder of Baronfig and who's publishing the book, and was just explaining the book concept and then also explaining what I do on the podcast and how my own reflection has evolved. And he is like, "Oh yeah, so you're asking a question and then question after question and..." He's like, "This is the Socratic method." I said, "What? The Socratic what?" I mean, I know of Socrates. Most people high level-

Daniel Scrivner (21:51):
Know the name. Yeah, yeah.

Marc Champagne (21:52):
Yeah, exactly. And I know, oh yeah, that's a guy that asks a lot of questions, and that's kind of it. So when I started digging into it and seeing, "Okay, there's six different question types. Essentially, the idea is that you're going to seek more clarity with these questions and you're going to challenge these assumptions and you're going to keep probing and all of this." And then the thing that really lit me up was wow, there's so many of us, good majority of us, that are actually using the Socratic method often and we don't even really know it. And especially all the people on my podcast had some sort of flow into that space haven't really recognized that.

Marc Champagne (22:31):
So then I was wondering, Well, why is that?" because I can't even remember all the six question types, and that was the problem. How can we take something like the Socratic method that's been around from the beginning of time almost and that's been used highly in an academic setting, how can we simplify that so that we don't even really think about the process, but we know we're doing it and we're getting the value? And that's where the whole idea of the book structure of "Okay, well we can all remember that we should probably get clear first, and then from there we're going to be intentional." And that's all you have to remember because if you do those two things, then the third part of the book and the third part of the grouping of the questions is really about unlocking opportunity because now, going back to that physical room example, now you can see the next steps forward.

Daniel Scrivner (23:19):
You have a quote in the book from Socrates that I love which is, "I cannot teach them anything. I can only make them think," which I love because one, that's like the antithesis of a book in many ways because most books, you're just trying to learn. And I think some of the things you'd brought up earlier of as you're reading, really thinking about, deliberately, how can I apply this today? I feel like that's a superpower because otherwise, my sense is a lot of people read a lot of books and that information filters out their mind or has a decay curve and they start forgetting it at a certain point.

Daniel Scrivner (23:50):
And so one of the ways that I've thought about books is almost like figures or voices that I can have in my life. And when I go and open up another book and reread it again, it's like having another conversation with that friend that's pointing me in the right direction.

Daniel Scrivner (24:02):
Because this is a really unique book in that you are learning, but it's also like homework for you to go and take. Was that difficult to work through, or was it difficult for you to be like, "Yeah, let's do this. That makes sense"?

Marc Champagne (24:12):
Well, again, it comes back to the morning practice that I've had for years now. And essentially, what the app was trying to do as well is meeting people with questions at a place in their life where they resonate.

Marc Champagne (24:25):
Everyone's different, and that's why there's such a varying group of people, different industries, different time periods and so forth because we're all at a different point in our lives. We all have different things going on. So if you go into the book or any of these type of practices prompt-based, I just encourage people to follow their intuition because that's probably where you need the most guidance or the most stillness, let's just say, in a reflective practice. So that part always made sense because just sticking to books in general, something that I've always struggled with is just the classic "I want to read as many books as possible this year." And I don't know how that started.

Daniel Scrivner (25:07):
Why?

Marc Champagne (25:07):
Exactly. Why? And I mean, as we speak, I probably have about three books on the go, but I'm trying to read them slowly. And again, as I'm going through a page, okay. For me, my mind just works in terms of questions now so usually, everything gets flipped into a question. Okay, well if they're talking about happiness and this and that or if they're talking about strategic thinking, well am I thinking like that? Am I truly happy? What are the elements of my life that are driving my happiness? What does that mean to me? I mean, that's why I really like the idea of providing context, some teaching around this stuff, showing that it's been around from the beginning of time and there are different use cases to applied, but then get into this "Okay, we'll try this. Let's jump in a little bit."

Marc Champagne (25:52):
And again, the idea of these profiles are two to four pages. And just because I'm just finishing the audiobook, they're seven to nine minutes long type thing from a voice perspective, so it's not this massive time commitment which, again, for me is whatever I can do to help people start or have something. And if you've already started, maybe this is an upgrade to how you're thinking about questions and just questions in general and be more curious.

Marc Champagne (26:17):
Because again, all of this stuff, if you're doing it consistently just like an Olympic athlete is doing and just like someone training physically, then when you're at the event, i.e. life, we can rely on our training. It just happens naturally. We think better. We're happier. We're showing up with an energy that's infectious from others, and it just makes life so much better.

Daniel Scrivner (26:39):
Yeah. You touched on something interesting there which I loved, which was, I think it's at the end of the introduction before you begin to get into some of these profiles. There's an explicit note to take it slowly and do one profile at a time, which I love. And I mean, this relates to some of the things we've been talking about, but just going back to helping people start or my idea earlier of just how do you lower that part of the floor, I think one of the big insights or ahas that I've had there is I spend a lot of my time doing investing work, and so I often am thinking about compounding or just pondering on it. So that's the way that I think about growth.

Daniel Scrivner (27:11):
And an aha moment I've had is I think for a lot of people it's like, "Let me over-index on quantity or volume and let me under-index on consistency." But really, all that compounding is, is you could... Quantity doesn't matter. In fact, quantity is totally fine if it's just a really small amount that you're putting in every single day. Where it really matters is that consistency of just engaging with it again and again and again, because that's where that compounding really happens, where you're eliminating gaps and you're making that just super easy and fluid.

Daniel Scrivner (27:38):
Does that spark any ideas for you? Is there any way to build off of that?

Marc Champagne (27:41):
Yeah. Well, I mean immediately who comes to mind is just James Clear and his work around habit formation and creating the systems to support your habits. And I mean, like I said, he has a profile in the book just because I've interviewed him. But in his actual book, which I reference often in there and I highly encourage others to take a look, but his whole concept is just around being 1% better. I mean, that's achievable and that compounds, to your point. So if we can take those micro steps and... Again, something as simple as if your coffee's brewing, you set a one-word intention for the day, how do I want to feel or how do I want to show up for myself and others today, one word, energized or motivated, you're priming your mind already before anything has started in the day. And again, that's just one small micro step, but that just keeps compounding.

Marc Champagne (28:30):
So again, I think just to find the time and the right places to inject this stuff and really spend some time at identifying the practices or the tools and whatnot that resonate with you the most and just start there.

Daniel Scrivner (28:45):
I'd love to talk about some of the people in the book because you have figures that everyone's going to recognize. James Clear is, I think, an example there. Kobe Bryant, Robin Williams are other big names. But you also have names that I had never come across.

Daniel Scrivner (28:58):
Probably my favorite profile so far is Mikael Cho, who founded Unsplash, and just really wonderful profile. As I was reading it, I was literally like, "Wow, how have I never come across any of this?" And a really powerful question or prompt which was, how can I be clearer in fewer words, which depending on your personality type, I think for me that really resonated.

Daniel Scrivner (29:18):
Another example in the book is Chip Conley, who I'm sure I've read articles about him at some point. He was the head of hospitality. I'm probably butchering that title, but generally was at Airbnb for four years, still serves as a special advisor, has a background in hospitality that had a fascinating question, how can I be the most curious person in the room, which I think for you and I, doing what we do is... we definitely relate to.

Daniel Scrivner (29:39):
So I guess my question for you would be what are a couple of your favorite profiles? And then which profiles were the hardest to work through and put down and get to the aha moment or the question?

Marc Champagne (29:50):
So first of all, the intent of... It was hard to pick, obviously, because at first the idea was "Okay, let's take a look at the 200 or so people I've interviewed over the last four years and pick a diverse group of individuals in different industries and whatnot and backgrounds and write the profiles," because I have the content from the interviews. But then to your point, I mean not all those names are recognizable, which I think is fine as long as it's balanced. But what about just any names? Like you said, the Kobe Bryants and Robin Williams or Coco Chanel, for example, I mean anyone would recognize those names. Those were really hard to write because I'm not writing a biography on any of those people. And there have been, for most of them, incredible authors that have written thick books on their lives and their learning so-

Daniel Scrivner (30:39):
Like 500 pages.

Marc Champagne (30:40):
Yeah, exactly. Exactly, which blows my mind. So I really had to go in and I had to essentially follow the flow of the book and the practice of doing enough research where I felt clear enough to then move to the intentionality part, which is the outline, and think, "Okay, if it's Maya Angelou or Robin Williams, what am I picking up from the research that I can throw a mental fitness lens on?" Some of those questions, they're directly from them. Many are inspired just from how they thought or what their work was all about, but then it's mixed together with their stories and whatnot. But it was tough because, like I said, I was trying to keep the profile somewhat short and follow somewhat of a structure so that everything was consistent and was approachable for people. I mean, how do you summarize thoughts and advice from someone like a Robin Williams in four pages?

Marc Champagne (31:34):
And later on, in his case specifically, I remember I had to take a couple breaks. The way his life ended is just controversial, and when anyone takes their life, and I didn't want to write something to try to pass judgment on that or for others to start thinking along those lines. But really, what can we gain from Robin's life?

Daniel Scrivner (31:52):
It felt like a celebration, so I think you struck the right note there, which was great. Yeah.

Marc Champagne (31:56):
Yeah, well, so thank you. But, I mean, there were pauses there. And again, I just had to listen to what was going on and say, "You know what? I'm going to take a break here and I'm going to outline another one, and I'll come back to this one once it felt clear enough." It was an interesting process. Obviously glad you're getting some value out of that. But the idea, again, is just to have a really diverse group and really land wherever you're at in your life.

Marc Champagne (32:16):
And then you can evolve. You can pick this thing up in six months or whatever, and there should be something that resonates. Your favorite question now, if I've done my job properly, should be different in a month from now.

Daniel Scrivner (32:27):
Well, totally. Or my answer will be extremely-

Marc Champagne (32:29):
Oh, yeah.

Daniel Scrivner (32:29):
... different six months from now or nine months from now than it is today, which is, I think, just as valuable. Do you have a favorite prompt or question? It can be from anyone in the book, but is there one that is really resonating for you at the moment?

Marc Champagne (32:40):
Yeah. I mean, the one that resonates the most now, just given what I'm doing and just interviews like this and whatnot, it's a combination of Cal Fussman's, which is how can I ask the best questions, and Chip Conley, which is how can I be the most curious person in the room, because they both link back to presence.

Marc Champagne (32:58):
And for Chip Conley, for example, to be the most curious person in the room, you also happen to be the most present person in the room. So for interactions like this, I mean I just get so much energy from having conversations, especially... I mean, you and I really jive well together. We've had a few calls before. I mean, the best I can do is just be super focused on your questions and our conversation and not be thinking of, "Oh, what may he ask next?" or "What's next on the calendar?" for example, and just be really, really dialed in because then, and this is where it links to Cal Fussman's profile, when you can do that, then you can trust your mind will pull the right answers or will pull the right thoughts when they're needed, for example.

Daniel Scrivner (33:40):
It's so interesting hearing you say that because I'm suddenly just realizing that the times where I've felt the most present, I've also felt the most... I have no anxiety. I'm just totally in the moment. I'm super relaxed, and it feels almost like flowy, like a flow state, which is interesting because I think for a lot of people, there's just this idea that being present. It's almost like you just need to not blink. It's like, "How can you just take all of this energy and just make sure that it's on that person?" But it's really not that. It's just about being there, being in the moment and just letting things be without any expectations or thoughts or nerves or anxiety.

Marc Champagne (34:14):
Yeah, yeah. This is where the practices help. I mean, if you're journaling and you're writing about details and you're noticing the subtleties of your life or what's going on, I mean you're training your mind to see those details. If you're taking a walk and you're taking a 10 or 15-minute walk without an audiobook or a podcast or music and you're literally just paying attention to your environment, well that trains your minds then to see the detail when you're looking at a slide deck, or someone's pitching you an investment and you can see the "Okay, well this makes sense. That doesn't make sense. I've been there before. I can see the nuances there."

Daniel Scrivner (34:50):
I want to ask one question around the process for writing this book. And I think just something I would highlight is one, the book is beautiful. I mean, if anyone has any expectations around what to expect from Baronfig, I feel like this book exceeds it. It definitely feels like a Baronfig product. It's beautifully made. It's beautifully printed. It comes in a special box. And anyway, so it's just beautifully done.

Daniel Scrivner (35:10):
But when you and I were talking before, this is your first book. You've certainly done a lot of interview preps. You do plenty of writing, but it's very different to go about creating a book. And I think something that was really profound when we were talking before is just the ahas you had and how challenging it was to get the feedback from your editor to just really focus on quantity first and then focus on quality. I would love it if you could just take that and expand on that and talk about just lessons learned in the experience of writing the book.

Marc Champagne (35:38):
Well, so that exact example, I mean, it's shown up in other areas of my life since and just, again, being okay with that discomfort of essentially starting, let's just call it that, starting and writing, in this case it was writing everything that was on my mind or drawing the connections from the research that initially came up without really trying to fine tune it, and then you can do that as well when... If I'm preparing a keynote or a presentation or something, just get it all out there, then you can massage it and refine.

Marc Champagne (36:07):
But I think something that's played over in other areas in my work and life since writing the book is just the idea of, again, surrounding yourself with people you really trust and that are experts in different spaces. I don't know if I've ever told Joey from Baronfig this, but knowing their brand and what they put out, I knew they would not let me deliver a garbage quality product. It doesn't line up with their brand. So there was a confidence there that yeah, even though right now we're really working through content and what felt like garbage, eventually it's going to get to a polished state and I'm going to be really proud of it because they're going to be really proud of it.

Marc Champagne (36:44):
And same thing with my editor and just instead of stewing and stewing, I would send her a text and be like, "Listen, I just need five or 10 minutes just to chat through some things. Do you mind jumping on the call?" And often, it had nothing to do with the writing and had everything to do with reassurance that "Listen, what you're feeling right now is exactly what every first-time author or writer feels like. You are not alone in this process. It's totally fine. You can accept it. Just here's what I've seen that you can do to move through these things."

Marc Champagne (37:15):
And again, I mean I had Baronfig cue cards at the bottom of my monitor, essentially it's about quantity, not quality or at times what I needed when I was trying to polish was write as if you're writing, or speaking, to a friend. These were all just little suggestions from my editor but again, just reminding myself of these little things because we forget and your mind starts to fill up so rinse and repeat on the practices. Clear out. Prime your mind with this stuff, and then you can move forward.

Daniel Scrivner (37:44):
I mean, as a designer... My background was in design. I did that for 15-plus years and still do a lot of that work today, but I still remember a really formative experience early on in my career was I was at Apple. I was a junior designer on the team when I first started, and it was the first time in my life that design for a lot of people feels like think about something for a little while, then take the best idea in your mind and just move forward with that. And at Apple, that was not at all the approach. The approach was very much like "We don't know what's the best ideas, and we're going to actually leave a lot of time to throw out a lot of different ideas and then we're going to triangulate between those."

Daniel Scrivner (38:16):
And so I just remember there was this period of, I'd say, three or six months where I felt like the lesson I was learning is just the benefit of continuing to throw out new ideas without any attachment or any judgment. It is really challenging because I think with all of us, our first thought whenever we're creating something, I mean it can mean writing, tweeting, whatever, is the voice "What are people going to think of this? How could this get misinterpreted? Or what do I think of it? Is it good? Is it bad?" And it really is just drop all of that. That can be a separate phase, and it is really helpful to just have it be two separate phases, so it's interesting.

Marc Champagne (38:48):
Yeah. Well, and being okay with I guess that time and letting things sit and marinate and whatnot. I mean, that was the process with the book cover. Joey was the one that did the design and man, the amount of covers that came through, I was like, "I don't..."

Daniel Scrivner (39:01):
I'm sure. Yeah.

Marc Champagne (39:03):
"I don't think so," or "Yes." And then it finally got to the point it felt like oh, there's a concept behind here. And we got to that but man, it took some serious time.

Daniel Scrivner (39:13):
So this book has been one of the most profound books I feel like I've come across in a while just because rather than just something that can be read, it really feels something that you should use and you can apply. And it just feels incredibly practical in wonderful way.

Daniel Scrivner (39:28):
So one question that I wanted to ask is, what is your hope at the end of the day for people that read the book? Is there a message you would just leave everyone with at the end of this conversation?

Marc Champagne (39:37):
The biggest thing is I think to go into a book like this just kind to yourself and try to drop any type of self-judgment. Just go in open and ready to explore because when I first jumped into these practices of mental fitness, I mean I never would've imagined all of the different areas that you can go down. I mean, it's not just journaling. There's so many different things we can do. And again, depending on where we're at, some will be relevant and some will not be and so forth.

Marc Champagne (40:02):
So for me, I mean the greatest gift that I could get is knowing that someone landed on at least one prompt or profile that really paused the autopilot of life or work and stimulated some reflection that unlocked clarity and unlocked some intentionality. And then because of that, not only is that person feeling better and feeling and performing and showing up better, but there's a ripple effect to that with the people and the products they may be working on or whatever they're doing. That energy is there.

Marc Champagne (40:38):
Because we all know when you're feeling good and things are flowing, people start calling. Opportunities show up. You like to be around people like that, and it's infectious. So if I can have just a small drop in helping whoever's on the other side of those pages get to that point in their hardest times or in just okay times, it doesn't matter, that makes me smile.

Daniel Scrivner (41:01):
Yeah. I think that's a wonderful goal. When does the book come out and where can people get it? Because I know, for instance, that the audiobook is not out yet because I did try to look for that. So just timing on when people can order the book and when people can order the audiobook.

Marc Champagne (41:14):
The official release date for everything is October 19th. That's hardcover, ebook. The ebook is up right now as we speak for pre-order on Amazon. The audiobook should be up within the next couple days for the same thing. And again, I mean, so Baronfig, you can obviously order the hardcover directly. I'll have all the links just to make it super easy just at my site, which is behindthehuman.com. And yeah, so as we're recording this right now, within the next couple days, basically all the pre-orders will open up.

Marc Champagne (41:47):
And if you do it through Baronfig, just so we have a little bit more control of the system versus Amazon, but there's some mental fitness guides that I've written up that are downloadable right away for the pre-orders. There's also going to be a Q&A with me on launch week as well. You get access to basically the first chapter and the first couple profiles immediately until the book officially releases on the 19th.

Daniel Scrivner (42:10):
Well, I would highly recommend everyone listening get the book. This is a fantastic book, so thank you so much for taking the two years to write this and put this together. And it has just been an incredible conversation, so I just really appreciate the time, Marc.

Marc Champagne (42:21):
Ah, thanks for your energy. I mean, I'm lit up. I really appreciate the conversation and fantastic questions.

Daniel Scrivner (42:29):
Thank you so much for listening to this episode. You can find the show notes and transcript outlieracademy.com/48, including links to everything we discussed as well as a collection of five books, articles and videos you can explore to learn more about the power of self-reflection. For more from Marc, listen to the short bonus interview that follows this one, where I dive into everything from Marc's habits to the tools he loves his, favorite books and more, all in less than 20 minutes.

Daniel Scrivner (42:54):
And if you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend or leave a short review on Apple Podcast to help more people find the show. Finally, visit outlieracademy.com to explore more incredible interviews with guests like Scott Belsky, Kevin Kelly and the founders of Titan, Rally, Superhuman and Primal Kitchen.

Daniel Scrivner (43:11):
Thank you again for listening. I'll see you right here next week on Outlier Academy.