Author G. Brian Benson: Getting An Upgrade; How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus
Be Proactive — The more self-aware we become about who we are, how we are operating and where we need to make adjustments, the better. Self-awareness allows us to become proactive in our choices, not reactive and conversely just by becoming more aware, it helps us to begin to limit and adjust our bad habits. It allows us to strengthen our foundation so that we can really begin to realize our goals and dreams.
As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing G. Brian Benson.
G. Brian Benson is a multiple award-winning and #1 best-selling self-improvement and children’s author, actor, spoken-word artist, filmmaker, coach and TEDx speaker. As a 4x Ironman triathlete and cross-country bicyclist, Brian knows the value of hard work and never giving up on his dreams, a message he shares with audiences through each of his creative expressions. Brian’s brand-new book Habits for Success — Inspired Ideas to Help You Soar was an Amazon #1 Best-Seller and was selected as a 2019 Book Excellence Award Winner in the Motivational book category.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was very curious and active. I grew up in Salem, Oregon playing lots of sports through high school (baseball, basketball, golf etc.) I also started working for our family business in 7th grade which was a golf center. I would pick up the range balls driving around a beat-up john Deere mower with a chicken wire cage to protect me.
Growing up I loved baseball and its rich history. I collected antique baseball cards and could name any number of facts had you asked me. One day back in the late 70’s, I came across a magazine that had the addresses of a bunch of retired legends of the game. I decided to write to all of these guys.
I made out a list with the date of when I sent the self-addressed stamped letter and also recorded when and if I received it back. Each day had the potential for me to be like Christmas when I walked out to the mailbox hoping to find an autographed index card. Some of the guys would add an extra card or a personal letter and it was quite exciting for me to be receiving notes and autographs from the likes of Satchel Paige, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Duke Snider just to name a few. I remember Don Newcomb set the record for getting back to me in only eight days. I think Hank Aaron was the longest at just over a year. I feel fortunate that I had an enterprising yet slightly quirky spirit, which laid the groundwork for my work and continues to flow through me today.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
12 years ago, I was running my family business which was a golf center in Salem, Oregon but I was really unhappy. I felt like I wasn’t growing anymore. I know a lot of people would give their “left arm” to have that job, but I didn’t feel like I was being true to myself and that bothered me. I felt like I had this giant gift inside of me that wanted to come out, but I didn’t know what it was …I just knew that it needed to be released. So, I left the business. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I trusted my decision.
While finishing up the last few months at the business I was struggling with finding balance in my life and I came up with the idea to write down a few things to help me to stay in balance through the process of leaving. This helped me so much, even though I wasn’t a writer, my intuition told me to expand the list and try and write a book to help others as well. After self-publishing it, it even ended up winning a couple of awards which shocked me, but more importantly it gave me the direction I was looking for after leaving the business.
I knew that if I wanted to market the book, I would need to overcome my fear of public speaking so I stepped out of my comfort in a lot of different ways to deal with that. I started off by taking a couple of community college speech classes, I joined Toastmasters for a while, I hired someone to help me co-host my own internet radio show, took an acting class and I also created an “interactive” workshop that I could offer people. I really went for it! And as I went for it…other doors opened and guided me to new creative avenues that I had no idea were inside of me but which keep me fulfilled and supported to this day.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
Absolutely. After I left the family business, I ended up moving from Oregon to Reno, Nevada. It was in one of those community college speech classes that I met a fantastic human being by the name of Joe Giampapa. Joe was the teacher of the class and just a very kind, empowering individual. He had been a motivational speaker and was a teacher at heart. He really took me under his wing and gave me the confidence that I was on the right track and that I could be successful. He is still a friend to this day.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
While this isn’t necessarily funny…but I think it is interesting and definitely the most important for me. I remember feeling like I needed to be perfect and almost pious when I started writing self-help books. I really did a huge disservice to myself. I am by nature a witty, fun and playful person. I held that part of me back, after my first books were written. I mistakenly thought that since I was writing about self-improvement topics, I needed to be a model of perfection for the readers. Which is actually the furthest thing from the truth. I attached a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself and became quite unhappy. I just needed to be me.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
I would say please pay attention to your intuition and what it is guiding you to do. It never lies. And it doesn’t always make sense at first…but it will. Had I not completely trusted what my gut was telling me, I wouldn’t have taken this crazy, amazing ride that I am on. Secondly, please be brave enough to truly be yourself and honor who you are and what you have to work with. It can be so easy to try and do it like everybody else, but true happiness and I believe true art comes from being honest with and being able to express our true selves. I wish I would have been able to do that at a younger age. It took me a while to truly stand in my own power. But once I did, things began to get really fun and I released so much emotional weight that I carried around trying to be someone I wasn’t. And it made me and my work stand out instead of look like everyone else’s.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
A few years ago, I read a book called “Anything You Want” by Derek Sivers. Derek is an entrepreneur who has had much success (he founded CD Baby) and I really liked his attitude about just starting with what you have, truly caring about your customers more than yourself and to run your business like you don’t need the money. What he had to say made a lot of sense to me and helped me reframe some of the ways I felt like I needed to operate. It’s a great book!
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“We are all here to learn about ourselves and inspire others in our own unique way.” I came up with this quote a while back to use in some of my work. I feel like it reminds me to give myself permission to truly stand in my own power and be OK with who I am. I know it can be hard for some people to step out of what is societally expected of them and I was there before myself. But when I left my family business 12 years ago, I began the process of truly stepping into my own path and learning how to love and accept myself which made things so much easier and has made the journey so much more enjoyable.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I am currently doing a podcast called “Recess! A Playful Approach to Living Awake,” with a talented friend of mine named Jamie Dawn. We dive into all aspects of self-growth and self-awareness in a fun and playful manner reminding our listeners that life is too short not to tap back into being playful, creative and less serious. It makes such a positive difference in all areas of our life. I know that I personally got way to serious for quite a long time and began to lose my joy of the process of creation and of my journey. So, my hope is that through sharing the podcast and my own experiences, I can help remind others that “enjoying the process and journey,” is really what it is all about. That is where the true happiness comes from.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?
Good habits are imperative for anyone who wants to live proactively, be the best version of themselves and move a project or intention forward. I wouldn’t be where I am at today and achieved what I have been able to create had I not learned about and utilized good habits in my life. And it started out with learning how to identify and achieve balance in my life. That was the beginning of solidifying my foundation, which helped lead into more positive habits, which have helped me structure my career. It hasn’t always been easy juggling so many things (book writing, film and video projects, acting, speaking and coaching), but I am able to do it because of the good habits that have helped me establish discipline and routine in my life.
How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
Positive habits have been absolutely instrumental to my success. For as long as I can remember, I have always tried to be the best version of myself and that lead me to doing a lot of reading in the self-improvement genre as well as becoming an observer of my own life. I would pay attention to everything and try to learn from my mistakes so that I wouldn’t repeat them. And I also think that all those years of racing in triathlons earlier in my life helped me learn how to become really self-aware about my body, my feelings and how I best operated (what food worked best for it, when to take breaks, etc.).
Some success habits that have helped me in my journey:
1) Create Self-Awareness — This habit is incredibly important. Self-awareness gives you the information you need to begin to make positive changes in your life. Like I made mention earlier, my life began to radically change in a positive way as I become more self-aware!
2) Get Curious — We aren’t meant to be stagnant. We were put here to learn, be fluid, and grow. I think it is incredibly important to be curious and to continue to expand our horizons. The more curious we are, the more open-minded and flexible we will become. This is an incredible plus and will give us a huge leg up on everyone else no matter the endeavor, not to mention make life a lot more enjoyable.
3) Be Proactive — The more self-aware we become about who we are, how we are operating and where we need to make adjustments, the better. Self-awareness allows us to become proactive in our choices, not reactive and conversely just by becoming more aware, it helps us to begin to limit and adjust our bad habits. It allows us to strengthen our foundation so that we can really begin to realize our goals and dreams.
Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?
I know that I just touched on it, but self-awareness is the first step for sure. Before we can begin to make positive changes in our lives we need to identify and take stock of how things have been operating up to now. And we need to be honest with ourselves. Where are some areas that I could be better? Where do I usually trip up? What are some of my current unconscious habits and how are they affecting my life?
What are my goals and intentions going forward?
It’s so important to answer all of these questions so we can see the areas that need tweaking, as well as begin to tailor a roadmap going forward. I am a big fan of writing all of this down. Make lists. It makes it more real having this information down on paper and it also helps to be able to identify the areas we want to improve and to visualize the path that we want to travel forward on.
Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.
Three good habits that can lead to optimal wellness:
1) Take care of your instrument– This is incredibly important, if one doesn’t have their health it sure makes it tough to do anything else. I am a big advocate of healthy living and it has played a huge part in my success. It’s allowed me to have more energy, be more creative, live more proactively and feel more positive and optimistic. With that being said, here are some things that I do that allow me to really take care of my instrument. Drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, movement/exercise, eat healthier/eat less and meditate (quiet time).
2) Go Play/laugh — I can’t emphasize how important play and laughter is in our lives. Life can feel so heavy and be so serious we need to offset it with play and laughter. I promise it will make you happier, more creative, more fun to be around and a lot healthier. To laugh and play is to feel alive. To laugh with another is to truly connect with them. Laughter brings hope. Laughter brings relief. Laughter heals our bodies. Laughter brings people together.
3) Clean up disagreements/forgiveness (yourself and others) — My life really started to positively change when I began to clear up lingering disagreements that I had had with others. Not only that, but as I began to be easier on myself for past transgressions or mistakes that I had made, I noticed a huge weight lifted that I had been carrying around for a long time. I would venture to say that we all have unresolved issues: a misunderstanding with a family member or friend, or possibly a disagreement with a co-worker. And it is not an accident that our lives improve when we can forgive and forget others as well as ourselves. We are human, things happen. But to truly free ourselves of the pain, anger, guilt, or confusion we are holding onto, we need to make our best effort to clear things up. Forgiveness is the single hardest thing that keeps us from thriving and not just surviving.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
Some practices that can be used to help develop these habits. Study and learn the many different ways that you can help improve your health (Diet and exercise for starters). For forgiveness: Be completely honest with yourself and see where you might be holding grudges and disharmony within yourself and toward others.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.
Three good habits that can lead to optimal performance:
1) Step out of your comfort zone — It is so important to continue to grow, gain confidence and learn about oneself and the best way to do it is to step out of your comfort zone. I wouldn’t be where I am at today had I not repeatedly stepped out of my comfort zone at the beginning of my journey after leaving my family business. Each time I ventured out, I felt alive, empowered and that I was on a magical journey experiencing things I had no idea were inside of me.
2) Do Your Best Work Always — Steve Martin has a quote that I absolutely love where he says, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” This makes so much sense to me because I have witnessed it to be true. When you do your best work, not only are you going to be recognized by your employers but you are going to be recognized buy potential employers or others with whom you may want to collaborate with. This happened for me when I was self-publishing books and releasing inspirational videos and short films. I did the best work that I could and others recognized my work and would reach out leading to other jobs and projects. Not only that, but you will feel really good personally, because you know that you gave it your all and you can rest well in the self-satisfaction of a job well done. And finally, by doing good work you are creating a very important habit that will continue to pay off in other areas of your life. Your foundation will be stronger and you will gain the respect of others as well as from yourself.
3) Just Say No — I think if you can become adept at using no in the right situations, it will be a major contributor in your ability to stay focused, happy and grounded at work. It can be hard to say no when others come to us for help. I am no different. But once I learned how to say no to projects or other things, I had no desire to do or weren’t right for me, I began to feel more empowered, not to mention way more productive. And it’s not being selfish. It may feel that way initially, but you are simply taking care of your needs first. It’s ok to say no to the people and events that do not move you forward. If you want to be of service and help someone out, that’s fantastic — and more power to you. I love to be of service as well. But check in with yourself before you say yes, and honor your true feelings.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
I always have found it interesting and inspiring to read bio’s and watch documentaries of others who have stepped out of their comfort zones. I found that it gave me permission to do the same. And a lot of those same people who are stepping out of their comfort zones are also doing their best work. That helps me want to give the extra effort on mine. I also find it incredibly important to celebrate “my wins.” It is imperative that we honor the work that we are doing and the strides we are making. Plus knowing that I had a celebration coming up helped me across the finish line a time or two.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.
Three good habits that can lead to optimal focus:
1) Clear out and clean up — What does your desk look like at work? Is it messy and unorganized? Full of things that don’t need to be on it? Stuff has a way of creeping into our lives and before we know it, they start to take over. I feel like most clutter ends up strangling our energy every time we look at it. Unless you are absolutely going to use an item or finish your project, it is much better to free yourself of the stagnant energy and make room in your life for something new and vibrant. I have found that this helps me to regain my energy and sparks my creative juices. Try it, you will be amazed at how much more productive you are. I know that I am in a much better flow when my place is cleaned up. I am freed up energetically and feel more optimistic.
2) Create an Intention and Visualize It– Through the years, I have been blessed to have set and accomplished a number of goals of mine, but as I got older, and a little bit wiser, I learned that there is an even more powerful tool that we have at our disposal. It is called an intention; and I really like to hold intentions. For me they feel broader and have a wider route to get there. Goals are great. But sometimes they can feel narrow in regard to the process of how we are going to get there to achieve them. But with an intention, the sky’s the limit in regard to the path that will take us there. Once I have my intention set, I begin to visualize it already being a part of my life. I mean I feel the joy, the happiness and excitement run through my body before it has even happened, I have used this technique to prepare for Ironman triathlons, acquiring a literary agent, acting roles with people I have always wanted to work with and much more. In some ways it is a bit like “faking it until you make it.” It’s a really great way to hone in and focus on your goals and dreams.
3) Take a Moment for Yourself (re-fill your cup) — With today’s world becoming busier and busier, it’s no wonder people are having trouble functioning, not to mention suffering from stress-related health problems. And with technology at our fingertips, it makes it much more difficult to separate ourselves from work and all those people who may want to track us down. It can feel like our “on” button is never shut off. With cell phones, email, text messages, and social media, it can feel downright overwhelming to steal a moment of quiet time to get centered and regain your bearings. I am a huge proponent of taking breaks and giving myself time to regenerate and find balance by going for a walk or meditating. At first it was hard for me, because I felt like I needed to keep pushing, but after a while, I recognized that my work was suffering and I would hit “walls” where I wasn’t able to tap into my normal creative reserves. But once I started taking breaks, I noticed that not only did my work improve, but I got more done than I had when I wasn’t taking breaks. It made a huge difference for me and helped keep me feeling energized throughout the day.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
Meditation is a great way to not only give your mind a rest and re-fill your cup, it is also a great time to visualize your future intentions. And the beauty of meditation is that it lends itself to many forms. One doesn’t just have to do it in the conventional way of sitting cross-legged/chanting in a quiet room. Looking back when I used to race in triathlons, I would go on long training bike rides and runs. Those rides and runs were definitely a form of meditation for me. My mind got quiet and I almost went on auto-pilot. Listening to soft gentle music or going for a walk or hike in nature can help put us in that same place.
In regards to creating an intention and visualizing it, be really specific with how you want your intention to come into your life. If you want a new job, don’t simply write, “I want a new job.” Write the kind of job you want. Write what kind of people you want to work with and what your hours and pay structure will be. That same specificity applies to everything on your list. After you’ve written your list visualize yourself in those situations. Imagine being in that new job, on that dream vacation, or crossing the finish line of a marathon! Play those movies over and over in your head. Have fun with it. I found that it really lifted my spirits too.
As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
I know I keep coming back to it, but I think learning about and implementing life balance techniques makes a huge difference in one’s ability to stay in flow. Looking back, it’s no coincidence that the first book I wrote focused on a whole bunch of different ways to stay in life balance. As my life continued to unfold with the books and the workshops; staying in balance became my rock, my foundation. Staying in balance allowed me to lead a proactive life, not a reactive one which makes it much easier to be in flow. And when I was in balance, not only did it help me stay in flow for longer periods of time, I could also take advantage of opportunities when they came because I was grounded and ready. One of my favorite ways to stay in balance is to go hike in nature. It provided exercise, cleared my head and most importantly helped to keep my channels as clear as possible to allow my intuition to come through because that is where I get my new ideas and inspiration from. Taking breaks, eating healthy and surrounding myself with other creative, positive people are just a few of the other ways that have also helped me to stay in flow.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
What I have learned I think above everything else, is how much self-acceptance and self-love play a part in the amount of joy, success and fulfillment that is in our lives. The more that we can love and accept who we are and what we have to work with, the less we look outside of ourselves to find that validation and happiness which more often than not is fleeting and not sustainable. We do it in so many different ways. And the more that I have been able to just be with and totally accept myself and all that I have to work with…the easier and more joyful my life gets. I have released so much “weight” that I used to carry around trying to be someone I wasn’t. So, I would love to help others become more aware of this and help show them how amazing they are just by being themselves. I always say, “love yourself and everything else falls in place.” It sums up this movement perfectly.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)
I really like the work that Ewan Macgregor is doing on a lot of different platforms. Not only is he a great actor, but he is a humanitarian and adventurer. I have really enjoyed the three-part documentary series of him traveling around the world on his motorcycle with his best friend. Would love to meet him!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.
Thank you kindly…it’s been my pleasure!