This Man Wants to Help 100 Million People Live Healthier Lives: Dr. Josh Axe
“You become who you surround yourself with.”
I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS. Dr. Axe is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist, chiropractic physician and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine. He operates one of the world’s largest natural health websites at www.DrAxe.com, a site visited by more than 14 million people every month looking for healthy recipes, herbal remedies, nutrition and fitness advice, and information on essential oils and natural supplements. Dr. Axe recently authored Eat Dirt and Essential Oils: Ancient Medicine, and has a mission to transform the lives of 100 million people by 2020.
What is your “backstory”?
Around 20 years ago, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
This was crazy for my family at the time because my mom was a gym teacher, swim instructor and was always considered to be “healthy.”
After her diagnosis, she took the advice of her oncologists at the Cleveland Clinic and underwent a mastectomy followed by many rounds of chemotherapy. I can still remember seeing my mom’s hair fall out and thinking she had aged 10 years in the few weeks following chemo.
Praise God, after all of her treatments, she was diagnosed as being “cancer-free” and healthy. But for the next several years, she was sicker than she’d ever been in her life and struggled with constipation, candida, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Then, around nine years after her first diagnosis, a terrible thing happened: She was diagnosed with cancer again. At that point, I had experience working in the natural health field, so when I flew home, we prayed together and talked about the best healthcare strategy. She decided to pursue natural cancer treatments by focusing on diet and lifestyle changes. We threw out all of her processed foods and replaced them with organic vegetables, berries and pantry staples.
My mom started following an all-natural plan that included vegetable juicing, probiotic foods, immune-boosting supplements, stress-reducing techniques and prayer. She indulged her love of horses and began riding, she drank bone broth daily, she did natural treatments such as chiropractic care. And after only four months, the tumors on her lungs had shrunk significantly and one year after that, she was again diagnosed as being “cancer-free” and healthy. She noticed an upswing in her energy, her thyroid issues disappeared, she lost 22 pounds and most importantly, no longer felt depressed. It’s now been 15 years and my mom recently turned 65 years old — and she is in the best shape of her life, regularly water skiing, running and still going strong.
I want to be clear: Cancer is one of the most extreme health concerns any of us will ever face. I would never claim that what we did with my mother is a cancer cure. But I believe these natural therapies, either used by themselves or in conjunction with conventional medical treatments, may support the body in the healing process.
The experience of helping her heal her leaky gut — and subsequently overcome her hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue, depression and cancer — crystallized my life’s mission as a medical professional.
What got me into building this business is these principles that helped saved my mom’s life. There has to be a better way to find long-lasting health.
In the simplest form, we teach people how to use food as medicine. We also provide food-based products and supplements so people can get easy access to the nutrients they’re deficient in.
We look at empowering people to be their own doctors and become knowledgeable on how to take care of themselves and their families.
One of the things that’s so different about our website and the way we publish content is that we not only list the benefits of a certain supplement or food — but we also include the various ways to incorporate that food into your diet through various recipes and dosage amounts.
When I think about what my company does, I think back to when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. The biggest thing I noticed was that she was overwhelmed and stressed out with all of the conflicting information, like a deer in headlights. I saw that I had to hold her hand and walk her through, step-by-step what she needed to do in order to get her health back on track. I curated shopping lists, personal cookbooks and more so that she wouldn’t have to deal with the stress of sorting through the internet, on top of the stress of having cancer.
I tell all of my patients and online community: I am going to take care of you in the same way I take care of my own family.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
When we were first starting out, we wanted to save money in any way possible. When I was coming out with my first book, we decided to order our books from China — 10,000 copies to be exact (which would be stored in my garage). However, when they finally arrived, nearly every copy had water damage to it. They did redeem themselves and sent us another 10,000 books that were better packaged and arrived intact.
Nonetheless, for two years, I had nearly 20 thousand books in my garage, half of which were damaged.
Additionally, when we first started out, my small team worked from my house; my living room, kitchen, bedroom, etc. However, when I married my wife, one of her stipulations in order for her to move in, was that we had to move the offices elsewhere and had to get rid of the books so that she had a place to park!
I quickly got rid of the books and found a small office space so my business could really start to grow — and remained a happily married man.
What makes your business stand out? Can you share a story?
One of our eight internal core values is to create WOWs and Purple Cows.
This one stems from our desire to have beyond imaginable customer service and content — consistently creating WOWs for our customers and audience.
If our content and customer service is the equivalent of a purple cow (never before seen, as referenced in Seth Godin’s book by the same name), it is more likely to make people change and talk about it — versus seeing a regular cow, as it doesn’t invoke as much wonderment and curiosity.
While I originally used to do all of the writing for my site, when the business first started to grow I hired an editor and told him I wanted our website to house the best articles in the world. If the article is not the best in the world and we post it on the site, I want to take it down and reconfigure and rewrite until it’s the most actionable, engaging, comprehensive article ever written on said topic.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Indirectly, we receive hundreds of testimonials and letters every day attesting to the way in which we’ve transformed someone’s life either through our education, products or content. This is what motivates me everyday to continue the fight to transform the lives of others.
In terms of giving back to the world and community, I am a firm believer in and supporter of ministries, specifically Mercy Multiplied, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young women break free from life-controlling behaviors and situations, including eating disorders, self-harm, drug and alcohol addictions, unplanned pregnancy, depression, sexual abuse and sex trafficking. Unlikely Heroes is another organization that provides safe homes and restoration for child victims of sex slavery.
Additionally, in relation to my mother’s battle with breast cancer, I am newly partnered with two incredible breast cancer organizations, Keep A Breast and Unite for Her. The week of October 13, I will donate 10 percent of all proceeds from products purchased on my website to these two incredible charities that are aligned in holistic breast cancer education and prevention methods. We aim to donate at least $50,000 to each charity.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started My Business” and why.
1. You become who you surround yourself with
Luckily, I learned this fairly early on into starting my business. When I look back at the moments where I really took off in my career, I see myself connected to and networking with extremely powerful leaders, coaches and entrepreneurs. I learned and grew the most in my business when I networked with various business owners and attended mastermind conferences. Some notable people that I surrounded myself with who truly helped my business soar to new heights: Dan Sullivan, Jordan Rubin, Michael Hyatt, Ivan Jones and Dave Ramsay.
2. Hire “A-team” players
In the early days of getting my business off the ground, I hired people based off of what I could pay them or what they typically made, salary-wise. With nearly every person I hired in this way, I found I got average results in terms of hard work and ROI.
When I began hiring the strongest people who are mission driven, care about being successful and are passionate about people, my business began to take-off.
It isn’t until you put all of your resources into your A-players that you’ll find success in your business. Everyone that I hire now pursues their job with excellence and a larger goal in mind.
When I hired Evan Tardy (our current company President) back in 2010, his brother was a friend of mine who ran the leadership division for Dave Ramsey and initiated the conversation. At that point, I was just getting started and didn’t really have anything for him to do — but upon meeting him, I could see how mission-driven he was. I hired him because I could tell he was the type of personality that was so driven for excellence that we would undoubtedly get there one day. For several years, we worked together out of my garage shipping products to people, and now he’s our company president. Hard work always pays off.
3. Be More Numbers Driven
I began my business when I was newly graduated from Palmer College in 2007, having just obtained my chiropractic degree and certification in nutrition. I could tell you anything about your body, the foods you eat and the supplements you should be ingesting for optimal health. I was slightly unaware of the monetary and numeric demands of creating your own business and actually obtaining customers. Nonetheless, through many mastermind courses and business development lessons, I was able to create a tangible business that was not only focused on bringing health to people around the world, but also would elicit high ROI and website traffic.
Today in our Nashville offices, we use scoreboards and scorecards to keep track of our monthly goals and to see visually whether or not we’re on target to hit them. As our team members are all A-players, they are consistently curious to know if they’re “winning” and doing the best possible job that they can. Each month, employees grade themselves and then sit down with their team leader who has also graded them to discuss their grades and how they can help them hit goals, better achieve success and be the best possible version of themselves.
We also have general scoreboards for team units which track how many products or programs have been sold, how many lives transformed, how many articles read and so on.
4. Work Smarter in Systems
When I first started my business, like many others, I was an entrepreneur. I put in long hours and had a hard time separating the different components of my life. Through business coaching and the realization that I couldn’t do it all, I was able to let go and start delegating, which freed up an countless hours in my day and gave me the freedom to enjoy both my life and my business.
I now work smarter. I schedule time each day/week to work on the following areas of my life: in my business, on my business, personal growth and on my family time.
When I took a step back and looked at the things I was best in the world at, I was able to tackle the projects I was truly meant to do and leave projects not in my wheelhouse to my respective team leaders.
I knew that I could be one of the best in the world at creating content, leading a team, teaching and creating a strategy to help my team succeed. .
Many entrepreneurs will spend 90 percent of their time on their business, but during that 10 percent of time when they’re not working on it, they lose focus and aren’t able to utilize that time efficiently. But when you make time for yourself and your own life aside from your business, you’ll truly start to find success and happiness.
5. Think 10X, not 10%
When I began to curate original content for my website, I initially looked at what other small blogs and competitors were doing in order to ensure our content was as good as if not better than theirs.
However, I quickly realized that my mission is much larger than small blogs and websites. If I had a big mission, I had to also think bigger picture. Instead of looking at small blogs, I needed to be looking at the kingpins of the internet such as the New York Times, Huffington Post, Yahoo, BuzzFeed and so on. I also examined the largest publishing houses in the world such as Rodale, Condé Nast and American Media. I looked at the way they were structured and the readership that they brought in, along with loyal followers.
If I wanted to grow 10x (not just 10 percent), I would have to do what my competitors weren’t doing — I had to start competing with the top tier media. Through all of my research and examination, I saw what I needed to do in order to exceed and adjusted my business model and content team accordingly. We’re now ranked as the №1 Natural Health Website in the World and receive close to 14 million unique visitors every month.
Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S., whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
I have three: John Mackey (Whole Foods CEO), Tim Ferris and Gary Vaynerchuck.
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If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.