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509: Hunting Discomfort: How to Get Breakthrough Results in Life and Business No Matter What with Sterling Hawkins

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509: Hunting Discomfort: How to Get Breakthrough Results in Life and Business No Matter What with Sterling Hawkins

At the end of every day, most of us, the only thing we wish when we get home is to relax, binge some random series and just think about nothing.

Life can be so overwhelming and uncomfortable that we actively seek ways to avoid feeling the minimum discomfort. Nobody tells us that pushing down every uncomfortable situation will make it gain momentum and hit reality’s surface even harder.

In this episode, the successful multipreneur, author, and internationally recognized public speaker Sterling Hawkins reveals why we miss an incredible opportunity to evolve every time we avoid discomfort.

He shares how he went from a multi-billion-dollar startup to being six figures in personal debt to raising up again and founding not one but several successful companies.

We explore the links between discomfort and danger, how our beliefs get in our way, and the importance of commitment. Sterling also breaks down the proper way to deal with discomfort and eradicate it from our lives.

Tune in and discover how to seek discomfort instead of avoiding it can change your life.


Today’s Guest

Sterling Hawkins

Sterling Hawkins is an author, investor, entrepreneur, keynote speaker and founder of the #NoMatterWhat movement. He is also the CEO and founder of the Sterling Hawkins Group, a company focused on human and organizational development.

From a multi-billion-dollar startup to collapse and coming back to launch, invest in and grow over 50 companies, Sterling takes that experience to work with C-level teams from some of the largest organizations on the planet and speaks on stages around the world.

His mission is to support people, businesses and communities to realize that potential regardless of the circumstances.

He shows people how to achieve the results they want regardless of the circumstances and believes that we can all unlock incredible potential within ourselves.


Connect to Sterling Hawkins







Book: Hunting Discomfort: How to Get Breakthrough Results in Life and Business No Matter What


You’ll learn:

  • The two main components of breaking through discomfort
  • Why discomfort becomes the ceiling of your growth and evolution
  • The main roles of desire and intention in your breaking free from discomfort journey
  • How the three ways you interpret reality are getting in your way
  • You don’t need a rock bottom moment to start changing your life
  • Why associating discomfort with danger is so common and how that affects us
  • What is true freedom and how to reach it
  • How we can change our world from the inside out by committing to do something
  • And much more…



Related Episodes:  

342: Your Comfort Zone Is Killing Your Success (And What You Can Do Right Now To Change It) with Sterling Hawkins

399: Navigating Uncertainty: High-Performance Strategies That Can Help You In Times of Crisis with Sterling Hawkins

RTF 106: How to Leave your Comfort Zone and Enter your ‘Growth Zone’


Podcast Transcription: Hunting Discomfort: How to Get Breakthrough Results in Life and Business No Matter What with Sterling Hawkins

Ted Ryce: Sterling Hawkins, thanks so much for coming back on this show. Looking forward to connecting again and to diving into how we all need to get more uncomfortable.

Sterling Hawkins: Yeah, me too. Thanks for having me on, Ted, I’ve missed you. Good to be back.

Ted Ryce: Missed you, too. Yeah. And I just want to jump right into it because we’re seeking discomfort. But it’s already been a very uncomfortable couple of years with masks and vaccines and arguments about vaccines and a bunch of other things that I don’t even want to open up the can of worms. Why did you write this book about seeking discomfort in a time where I think everybody’s super uncomfortable?

Sterling Hawkins: Well, it’s even a step further than that. It’s not just seeking, it’s hunting, looking for the things that trigger you, make you uncomfortable, and then deliberately going after those things. It’s actually a divining rod to find the results that we most want? And I’ll tell you, the biggest question I get from people out there is exactly what you just said, you know, the kind of generic version is: “Sterling, I’ve got this going on with my business, this in my relationships, this in my bank account, I don’t need to hunt discomfort, I’ve got plenty of it.”

And my answer is always the same: “Oh, you mean you’re living with discomfort.” Hunting it is when you’re ultimately free of it. And that’s the point of this whole book, it’s not to live an uncomfortable life, it’s to free yourself of discomfort. When you hunt it, you never have to deal with it again.

Ted Ryce: Now explain how that happens.

Sterling Hawkins: There’s two components to breaking through discomfort. One is really based on exposure therapy. And I’m sure you’re familiar with, I’m sure many of your listeners, in psychology, psychotherapy, if somebody’s got a phobia, they’ll slowly expose you to that phobia until you no longer have it.

So if you’re afraid of dogs, for example, you might start out talking about dogs, then maybe look at a picture of dogs and see a dog outside and then be in the same room as a dog. And then maybe get up next to that dog. And it’s slowly going to decrease your fear, decrease your discomfort, when you start to realize that, well, there’s not really anything to be afraid of. So that exposure therapy is the first part of hunting discomfort.

The second piece is equally as important. But it’s to get to the root of where that discomfort started. Just to stick with the dog analogy, since we’re already rolling with it. I work with businesses, not dogs, by the way. But it works, it’s like a parallel here. There was a reason dog phobia started, maybe it was something when you were 5 years old, or 10 years old, or at some point, that discomfort took hold and grew within you.

And as you can get to the root of that discomfort and distinguish what actually happened, it starts to free you from it. So those two things together combined, leave you ultimately free from any discomfort that you’re facing, whether it’s fear of sales, or asking people for money or having particular conversations in a relationship or public speaking, or anything else. You do those two things together, you’ll break through it in no time.

Ted Ryce: Yeah, and I would even… I mean, I’m kind of trying to pretend not to know about this stuff.

Sterling Hawkins: You’ve got to play devil’s advocate here.

Ted Ryce: Yeah, exactly. And also, we met doing something really uncomfortable. As anybody who’s listened to our past interviews, we went to Costa Rica, drank Ayahuasca a few times. And what you’re talking about, it’s been a big part of…People ask me like, “Hey, Ted, you’ve been through a lot in your life, man. How did you do that?”

And there are two fundamental things. Number one is you’ve got to take care of your health. But the other part of that is to go hunt the things that make you afraid and to conquer them, and then that makes you free. And I’ve got a bunch of stories about that. But I want to hear from you again, why is this so near and dear to your heart?

Sterling Hawkins: Yeah, well, discomfort is the ceiling on our results, no matter how hard we work, no matter what we do, even how much we want it. If we’re avoiding discomfort or surviving discomfort, that’s going to act as a ceiling, which is really a limiter to anything that you want to achieve.

And to answer your question, I figured this out the hard way. I was certainly not a discomfort seeker in my early days. I founded a company with my dad, sold that to a group in Silicon Valley. Long story short, became the Apple Pay before Apple Pay, and initially, it was hugely successful. We raised 500 million US dollars, multibillion dollar valuation, which, in the early 2000s, I think there were two companies it at that level.

Now there’s a fair number of them. It’s fairly common for companies to reach that billion dollar valuation. But early 2000s, it was rare. So we were really flying high. And it was almost like I was playing out a scene from The Wolf of Wall Street. Like, it’s just parties, fun, success, money, nice hotels, first class flights, like the whole deal.

And well, just like the movie, it doesn’t end well. You know, we grew too quickly. Frankly, we raised too much money too fast. And when the housing market collapsed, our investment dried up, and half a billion dollars was gone.

Ted Ryce: Wow.

Sterling Hawkins: Yeah, it was almost too much to bear. I mean, reflecting on it now, I see that my whole identity was caught up in that company, you know, who I was, what my relationships were, what success looked like. And so when it went bankrupt, I was really plunged into the abyss of the unknown and all the fear, anger and grief that went with it. It was discomfort at the highest levels.

And early in that breakdown, I retreated from it. I withdrew from friends. I was scared to look at different jobs. And so eventually, I ran out of cash, I go from this big, beautiful penthouse in downtown San Francisco, you know, just looking at the Bay Bridge, it was a gorgeous place, my favorite apartment I’ve ever had in my entire life, to the guest bedroom in my parents’ house, which is not a good look in your 30s. It’s just not.

And it was almost like I was playing out a bad countryside. Even my girlfriend broke up me. It’s like one thing after another. And that first night, I’ll never forget, I’m laying in bed, I’m staring at the ceiling, I’m in six figures of personal debt. And frankly, I don’t know if I can go on, I don’t know if I want to go on. It was a real dark night of the soul kind of moment.

And that first night, I made this declaration to myself, I say, “I’m not sure what I’m going to do, I’m not sure how I’m going to do it. But I’m going to do something, I’m going to take steps forward with three words that have become hugely important to me, no matter what.” And that was the beginning of building myself back, in all this research that I’ve done hereafter, because I didn’t want to be in that place again.

So I’m like, “How can I avoid it? What can I learn? Like, how do I not get into that dark place again?” I’ve found that discomfort, not only was it really good for me, but it’s where all the results in life are. So, how is that?

Ted Ryce: Powerful. And I think it brings up the same question I get. It’s like, well, how did you get to that point? What were the things? Because I don’t feel that way. I’ve been in a bad situation. I didn’t feel like, oh, well, I’m going to conquer this #nomatterwhat, you know? For someone who’s maybe struggling with that, and maybe they just sold their business.

And I’ve got a client who just sold his business and he’s going through some challenges. I’ve got listeners who reach out to me. For someone in that situation where they don’t feel like, well, I just naturally rise to the occasion and look at the silver lining in this terrible situation. How do you help those people?

Well, the first is that there’s got to be some desire or intention, or at least acknowledgement that they actually do want to grow and move forward. And that is not the case for everybody. And unless somebody is really committed to doing the work, which will be hard, will be uncomfortable, there’s no silver bullet, there’s no magic wand.

If they’re not ready to go through it, I don’t think there’s anything that you can do for them. Now, on the flip side of that, if somebody’s really committed and ready, well then the work begins. I think the first step is something that I did myself, it’s take a hard look at how you see reality in the most general terms.

And I mean reality in three components, like how do you see yourself? What’s your identity? Who do you think you are? What are you good at? What are you not good at? And maybe more importantly, which one of those things that you hold true about yourself maybe isn’t true? And that’s a really hard, maybe even painful process to go through.

The second piece is how do you see other people? And the third is how do you see the world? When you don’t have the results that you want…I mean it in the most generic way. Results could be money, it could be a relationship, it could be love, joy, happiness, however you want to define results. It’s very personal. They’re all in the same place, though, which is you’ve got to open yourself to the discomfort to be able to ultimately achieve them.

Ted Ryce: Yeah. I hear you. And I’m curious, right? I feel like, at least in the US, we’re in this situation where, you know, I don’t want to open up too big of a can of worms. But I do believe like, it’s we’re trying to be more considerate to people who are really struggling thing, and maybe you have a history or even a generational history of being disadvantaged. And we’re trying to be cool with that.

But at the same time, no matter what we’ve gone through, there is just kind of picking up your burden, picking up the cross and bearing it and moving forward. How is this being received? You’re talking about just achieving things no matter what?

Ted Ryce: Well, I think you need to risk offending somebody, in order to see reality more clearly, to take more effective actions. It’s not that you see it correctly, it’s not that they see it correctly. But unless you’re willing to risk something, nobody’s going to be able to see it better.

I think there’s this great analogy about beliefs, and they work kind of like lenses, lenses in glasses. And just like glasses, you put them on, you take them off, you see better, you see worse. Beliefs work the same way. Different beliefs will work better, or work worse. The second part of the analogy, I think, is critical, which is, most people aren’t taking off their glasses and assessing their own prescription. You just take it for granted.

Maybe you clean off the lenses, you put them on and you see what you see. But if we’re not assessing the prescription, or better said, the beliefs through which we’re viewing something, then we’re stuck. And when we challenge some of those beliefs, that’s where the results will start to come in.

Ted Ryce: Yeah, I remember going through something like that in health and fitness. Way before I started this podcast, I had fringier beliefs, and didn’t believe in the things that I believe in now, and that I use with my clients to great success. And it was a really tough moment where I got fat. And I was like: There’s no way I could be wrong here. I’ve been doing this too long. I’ve spent too many thousands of dollars on too many seminars.

And there must be something wrong with my metabolism—even though I was only 38 at the time. Or my hormones, I had my hormones tested. And eventually, I realized it was my beliefs that was the issue. And I had to relearn a bunch of things or unlearn some things and empty that cup and learn new things. And man, but I don’t know if I would’ve ever gotten there. It was super uncomfortable.

I don’t know if I would have ever gotten there had I not been at that point of like, am I going to just be like the way I am? Because not only was I fat, I had low sex drive, wasn’t sleeping well. So it’s just like, I felt a shadow of the person that I felt that I was. Do we all always have to hit that—like you in your parents’ guestroom from the penthouse moment, or…?

Sterling Hawkins: I think it’s a great place to start. But you don’t require a rock bottom moment. Like, you don’t have to wait till your whole life and world falls apart around you to start doing some of these things. In fact, had I known some of these things, I would have started way sooner.

I think everybody has this vision especially after a failure or breakdown of being like the Phoenix that rises from the ashes like, “Oh, I’m going to return and rise again, I’m going to be successful.” But the piece that’s easy to forget is the burning, like you’re rising out of something that’s burnt, and unless you’re burning, maybe the values, the ethics, the beliefs, the perspectives, the identities that you’ve had, then you can’t rise. It’s a necessary component.

I found this…You’re going to appreciate this because this is a new research I found in working on the book. It’s really cornerstone to this whole thing. It’s out of the University of Michigan. And they were studying my favorite topic, which is discomfort.

And they were doing these brain scans on people as they were going through different kinds of discomfort; physical discomfort, like a broken arm, emotional discomfort, they lost a job or broke up with a loved one, something like that. And they’re scanning their brains going through this discomfort and what they found was mind blowing to me.

No matter what kind of discomfort that people are facing: physical, mental, emotional, their bodies and brains handled it almost identically. So much so—and may be you know this part—you can take acetaminophen to make your emotional pain better. It’s crazy. Now, I don’t recommend that, that’s not like a life hack. Nobody should be doing that. But the important part of…

Ted Ryce: Biohack.

Sterling Hawkins: Right. That’s not a biohack, that’s sanction. I’m not a doctor, definitely don’t do that. But the powerful part of that is, if we experienced discomfort the same way everywhere, we can grow our capacity to deal with it anywhere. It turns out that it’s a muscle you can build. Everybody knows, you especially, if you want to build your biceps, you go to the gym? Well, if you want to build your resiliency, your capacity to create breakthrough results for yourself personally and professionally, you hunt discomfort. There’s just no two ways about it.

Ted Ryce: Yeah. And it’s interesting, in your book, you talk about using discomfort as the compass as the, “Oh, I feel discomfort. That’s the direction I should go to,” where the natural reaction to experiencing heightened anxiety or whatever that however that discomfort manifests itself is, yeah, you want to get away from that fast. Can you talk a little bit about why it’s the compass and why those feelings that come up, may not be telling us the truth.

Sterling Hawkins: So it’s absolutely critical. Of all things, I came across some work that this guy by the name of G.A. Hansen was doing in the 1800s. And this will make sense in a minute, I promise. But he was studying leprosy. And everybody thought that leprosy is this terrible disease, you get it and your body parts fall off and your skin rots, like, it’s really awful.

But what he found is that that’s not what leprosy, the bacteria does, what it was doing to people is it was numbing their ability to feel physical pain. So if they burned themselves, or got a scratch somewhere, they wouldn’t feel it, they wouldn’t know that that area needed any attention, then it would get infected. And you know, all these terrible conditions then ensue.

So discomfort is critical, it orients us to the world. And if we’re not paying attention to it, we’re just not properly oriented to the world around us. Now, where people get in trouble is the fact that discomfort isn’t correlated to actual danger. We’ve miscalibrated our compass. If I am to stand up in front of the conference room, I might be scared.

But there’s no real danger there. At least if you’re really nervous to stand in front of the room, like there’s no reason the world should be spinning and your heart rate should be popping out of your chest, and your hands getting clammy. There’s no real danger there. And so as we hunt discomfort, we go into discomfort, we start to better calibrate when we feel discomfort with actual danger.

I work with a lot of people in companies around how to reach their potential. And there’s always greater potential inside of us. And if we’re denying discomfort of any sort, physical, mental, emotional, and however that feels in the body, if we’re denying those things, we’re ultimately denying a piece of ourselves, and it will literally be impossible to achieve your potential. It’s critical. We just need to turn towards those things, instead of just avoid them or survive them all together.

Ted Ryce: Yeah, you talk about discomfort versus danger. And it’s really important. It’s not like, well, hey, go walk on a tightrope in between two cliffs with no harness on because you’ve got to seek discomfort. This is like distinguishing between what could be physically damaging to us versus like the example you gave where you’re not even getting a tomato thrown at you these days on stage, right?

Sterling Hawkins: Exactly.

Ted Ryce: Not even food, most likely. Nothing happens. It’s all in your head.

Sterling Hawkins: Yeah. And by the way, some of the resolution to that story early on when I was kind of living this broken life at my parents’ house, the thing that scared me most was, I kid you not, speaking in public, like, terrified me to no end. And my mom said this thing. She said, “The way out is through,” which is actually Robert Frost quote.

To me, it will always be my mom. I just picture her saying that to me. And it was like, “Okay, if I want to transform this situation, I’m going to go through that discomfort.” And long story short, I ended up speaking at a conference in Singapore. I was terrified. It’s a good thing I practice because I think I blacked out during it.

And I get off the stage and I think I totally bombed. I’m kind of hiding my eyes. I’m like, “Just get me back home. I need to get through this.” And that conference director comes up to me, he goes, “Sterling, that’s the best talk I’ve seen in my 17 years of doing this.”

Ted Ryce: Wow.

Sterling Hawkins: I was blown away. And by the way, to this day, I don’t think he was in the same talk that I gave. I think he just wanted to say something nice to me. But he did put me in touch with all of his conference director friends and all of a sudden, I had this career on my hands.

And the thing that scared me most in life… I love that Seinfeld quote, like, most people would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy. That was me to a tee. But going into that fear, confronting that fear, opened up a new opportunity for my life and career that frankly, I don’t know if I would have found without and it feels like something that I was meant to do. I can’t see myself doing anything else now.

Ted Ryce: I also think it’s important, you know, something came up while you were telling these stories. I had a conversation with an entrepreneur, and he was into motorcycle riding and some other stuff. But he had this thing with scuba diving. And we’re in Mexico, which is a great place to go diving. And it’s like, well, you have to go diving. You’re this guy, you challenge yourself, you have to do it, why haven’t you done it?

And so we ended up doing that, and I even have a personal thing where I was in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu doing competitions. A lot of people would say, “Oh, my gosh, I would never do that, so scary.” For me, it was okay. But public speaking like for you, that was my thing. And now I’ve gone on to do keynote speeches. And I think it comes also back to this like identity, right? Where, “I’m not the type of person who gets up on stage.”

And it’s like, well, maybe you don’t have to make that into your profession. But if you ever hope to achieve your potential, you need to hunt that out. And what would you say to someone, though, if they had some fear of public speaking, but didn’t necessarily see how it would be the right move for them in the context of what…Or the dots aren’t so easy to connect for them on how that would help them?

Sterling Hawkins: Yeah, well, that’s the big thing with like, changing your perspective on yourself for the world is, you can’t really see what’s on the other side of that until you go in it. In fact, it’s impossible to truly predict tomorrow with 100% certainty, right? Tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us at any level. So I’d say a couple of things.

The first is, the point, again, is not discomfort. It’s not to find these dangerous or even highly uncomfortable situations that happen to be safe. But they may be avenues to free yourself from that discomfort, if the way out is through, the way through is to surrender, to open yourself to those things, so you’re no longer triggered by them.

Now, if you’re afraid of public speaking, the path for you doing some of those things, freeing yourself from that worry, may not lead to a keynote speaking career. In fact, probably not. But it will lead you somewhere dramatically new. I have no doubt about that. But you do have to step into it to see where it can go.

Ted Ryce: Yeah. And what’s the most uncomfortable you’ve ever been?

Sterling Hawkins: Well, I’ll tell you, this book coming out, it was pretty uncomfortable for me.

Ted Ryce: Is that the answer, though?

Sterling Hawkins: It really is. And I’ve done some crazy things over the years, from joining you in Costa Rica for some plant medicine down there, diving with sharks, trek in the Sahara, skydiving. I’ve done a lot of things. But this book, just very transparently has been uncomfortable for me in a couple of different ways. The first is committing to do it.

Ted Ryce: And people have told me for years, “Oh, Sterling, you’ve got to write a book, you’ve got this great perspective.” And I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, okay, I’m going to be 40 in a couple of years. You’re right, I do need to commit to do it.” So the commitment of the time, the effort, the resources that I knew it was going to take was the first step.

And I think there’s an analogy there for whatever people are dealing with, right? You’ve got to come to terms with, yeah, it’s going to take this money, this time, whatever it is, to produce that result. And you’ve got to sit down and say, I’m committed to that. I happen to commit with signing on the dotted line with a publisher.

The second thing that’s been really eye opening for me, especially about a month ago, the book doesn’t come out until June 21. Although my publisher would have me say it’s available for pre-order now, right? About a month ago, I had this thought like, “Well, what happens if people don’t like it? Or what if they don’t read it? Or what if it doesn’t have the impact that I want it to have?”

And I did spend quite a bit of time coming to terms with that. And it was a little bit of soul searching and some journaling and some breathing practices and yoga, like, really looking at where that discomfort actually stemmed from. I even shed a couple of tears in the process and came to terms with the fact that I put everything I possibly could into that book, like I put my heart and soul into it.

And that’s not to say I wouldn’t do it a little bit differently now, but I did everything that I could. And if people don’t like it, if they don’t buy it, I’m actually okay with that point. But it took not avoiding it, not trying to just get through the book launch, but coming to terms with what I was uncomfortable with and why. And now it feels great. I can’t wait for this thing to be out there.

Ted Ryce: Yeah, and I’ve just started reading it. You gave me kind of the advanced copy, and I’ve been slowly making my way through it. I think is very well organized. And it’s actionable. And I think you hit, at least in the chapters that I’ve read so far, you really hit hard on like, you’ve got to start to reevaluate the way you see reality. And I think that’s very appropriate timing in this world, where we don’t know what’s true with…I mean, just in my world of health and fitness, I get into arguments with people about like, whether carbs make you fat or not.

And I started to see myself and how I was tied into those beliefs and how it helped me take action on those things, and how the community that I was a part of, but then I also realized that when I left all that, I became a happier, more success, I just became better in every single way. What do you have to say about that?

Ted Ryce: Yeah, that’s just what it takes. I mean, it’s the cost of entry. And it’s very much not an intellectual journey. Somebody can read this book and know it better than I do, and have no results, you have to take the things that are on the page and go do them, you have to get into that discomfort.

That’s one of the reasons we built a whole bunch of exercises into it, to take it from the idea to embodying in your life, in your business, how you’re approaching everything. A lot of the people, the executives I work with, entrepreneurs, especially, they all want freedom. And they think that freedom comes from a certain amount of money.

And I can tell you from doing work with people that have made eight, nine figures plus, personally, freedom is not in your bank account. True freedom is when you free yourself of discomfort, you’re no longer confined by these things that you’ve been avoiding and surviving your entire life.

And when you find the courage, you dig deep in yourself, you find the courage to get into those things and open yourselves to them, the results are just—they’re dramatic. They’re unbelievable. They sometimes to the outsider, sound like magic. But that’s how much power that’s in that unknown if you’re willing to step into it.

Ted Ryce: Do you have a favorite story about a client that you worked with? Or someone that followed your teachings and had breakthrough?

Sterling Hawkins: Yeah, well, it’s funny. So this week, we’re highlighting a whole bunch of different people and leaders from their businesses that have used these tools to create breakthrough results. And one of my favorite stories is this guy, his name’s Emmanuel, and beginning of the pandemic, he parted ways from his job.

He had a wife, he had a family, he was taken care of, he lived in New York. And when he lost a job, he was stuck. He didn’t know what to do. And one of the practices in hunting discomfort is commitment, like commitment so deeply, there’s no going back. And he’s thinking about this, as he’s walking through some New York neighborhood, and he happens to walk by a tattoo parlor.

And he gets the name of the business he wants to start—has wanted to start for years—on his, I think it’s his left bicep. It’s big, too. It’s not like a little thing. It’s like his entire bicep. Now, I don’t know how he explained that to his wife when he got home. But from that commitment, once he committed to it, he started taking actions.

He moved his family down to Texas. He formalized the inception of his company, he started to work with people. First, he was donating his services, and then he was starting to get paid. And he just texted me the other day, this guy’s got an eight figure business on his hands. Now, it took him a lot of hard work.

He spent many sleepless late nights—I know because I was talking to him—where he was worried about how much money he was making, where business was going. But he committed and had these incredible breakthrough results. Can I give you a little more brain science? Is that too much?

Ted Ryce: Of course, no, we’d love that here. You’d be like Sterling Huberman on the show.

Sterling Hawkins: Right. I should say, again, I’m not a doctor, but I’m just obsessed with these things. There’s this thing in our brain called the reticular activation system, RAS for short, let’s call it, and it’s like the bouncer of your subconscious. It decides of all the things your subconscious is thinking, feeling, understanding, taking in from the world around you which of those things are important to surface to your conscious mind.

But a great example of how it works is I moved to Denver somewhat recently, I had to switch from a sedan to an SUV so I could get around this in the snow this past winter. And I see the car that I bought everywhere. Now, it wasn’t like I bought that car and magically all these other cars appeared, it was that my RAS was tuned to look for cars just like mine. And of course, they were there.

It’s also the reason, by the way, while you can pick your name out, if you’re at a busy conference or concert or something, you’re tuned to listen for certain things. Now, when you commit, not when you have commitment forced on you, but when you actively commit, it retunes your RAS to look for openings for action for things to do to achieve your goal.

And they will oftentimes be things that you can’t see until you commit. It takes stepping into that commitment, and really cutting off some of your Plan B’s and the safety nets. It’s, getting a tattoo right committing in a way where there’s no going back, and you’ll start to see things, pathways, again, openings for action, that will lead you to whatever it is that you want to achieve. But the commitments got to come first, just like a manual.

Ted Ryce: Yeah, that’s a powerful story. I’ve never gotten a tattoo. But I could see how like, you better follow through with that. Or you’re going to have some explaining to do every time you wear short sleeve shirt.

Sterling Hawkins: Exactly. It’s not the physical tattoo that’s most important, although a surprising number of people in the No Matter What community have gotten tattoos of their business or things that they’re committed to. So it’s cool to see, but it’s not necessary, what is required to make a commitment is to have something on the line.

And you could do it with something, like I could commit to you and say, “Ted, I will do X, Y, and Z by a certain point of time.” That’s a commitment. If we wanted to step it up a notch, we could sign a legal agreement, you want to take a step further, you could put your identity at risk. Another personal example is before I wrote the book, even before I contracted with the publisher, I started telling people I had a book coming.

I told my manager, I told the speaker bureaus, I told my agents, I told clients, I said “I have a book coming.” And so my identity, or my credibility was on the line. So it called me into action. So it doesn’t really matter how you commit, whether it’s a physical tattoo, or you commit with words or putting something at risk. But it does take committing in some way.

Ted Ryce: Sterling, you talk about like building the discomfort muscle. And this is a health and fitness podcast. And so someone might not see the connection between like, hey, this discomfort thing. And let’s say someone’s already handled their discomfort in going to the gym, although that could be for some people, some of the people that I worked with.

But let’s say most of the people who listen to this show their past that discomfort, like, “Oh, people are looking at me.” The thing that I love about what you’re talking about, and why it’s so important to talk about on a health and fitness show, is because stress—we all do what we do in life, because we want to feel like we’re experiencing life to the fullest. And we get into these traps, where it’s a number on the scale, or it’s a number on the bank account, or it’s the number of, you know, people we’ve hooked up with, or whatever it is.

And it’s like, in the end, you’re never going to be that healthy just from exercise, diet and even sleep alone. If you want to get to that next level, you’ve got to get out there and you’ve got to live this life of hunting discomfort, because if you don’t do it, there’s something that’s going to be holding you back from being the best person in your business, being the best person in your relationship. And so that’s why I’m super pumped.

Sterling Hawkins: Yeah, well, I’ll give you another like fitness story specifically from the No Matter What community—it happens to be my sister, her name’s Evelyn. She’s really the reason the whole No Matter What community movement started, because I got into this just to figure out my own life. And she was right out of college at the time.

And she was the first person to take some of these things and actually apply them to herself, outside of me, of course. And one of the things that she dealt with and had for years was her health and fitness. She had gained a lot of weight, she would was diagnosed with some allergies, she was dealing with a tremendous amount of stress in her life, you know, right out of college, figuring out what to do.

We had some family things going on at the time. And it wasn’t that she didn’t want to be healthy or didn’t try to eat healthier. It wasn’t even that she didn’t go to the gym. She was just tremendously stuck. And she said, “Okay, well first is I need to come to terms with my discomfort, with the stresses in my life, with going to the gym, with eating the things. I’m going to sit down…” Same as I did.

Do a little soul searching on why you’re not doing the things that you want to be doing or why the things you’re doing are uncomfortable in the first place. And she did that for a while. She didn’t even tell me she did this, by the way. It only came across my radar when she goes, “Sterling. I’m going to sign up to be a bye He built her and be on one of those stages in a bathing suit and all the muscles.”

And I looked at her, I’m like, “What?” It’s like she didn’t tell me she was doing the soul searching and uncovering her discomfort. She’s like, “Yeah, I’m committed to having a body like this.” And she shows me a picture of some rip woman on Instagram. And so she committed. And she didn’t just say she wanted to do it, she actually hired a coach.

She built a street gang, what I would call it, people surrounding her that were committed to her success. She got a coach, a fitness coach, a diet coach, a posing coach, and she signed up for a competition, I think it was like nine months from when she was, and she put in the work.

Even in those mornings she didn’t want to, like I saw her do it. She’s weighing out her food, she’s having the protein shakes, she’s taking the supplements. And she met many challenges along the way, like her allergies have stopped her in different ways. But she’s learned how to overcome them and work with them.

And she is today, a professional championship bodybuilder. I still have to deal with the fact that—we work together, when people see us on the road together, they’re like, “You know, your sister can beat you up.” And I’m like, “I know.” The transformation she has been through, sure, manifests in the physical, but it was really handling that discomfort inside of her that gave her access gave something greater within her a chance to rise. And that’s who she is today.

Ted Ryce: Such a great story. And now I know why you have visible ABs all the time is because Evelyn pushed you to that.

Sterling Hawkins: I’m hanging out with you to that.

Ted Ryce: Yeah, you’re like, “Man, I need to die down here.” And one other thing that this conversation brings up is a client of mine, who just became a client, he started crushing it in our program. But when he was on a call with me, he’s like, “Our world doesn’t really force us to do anything that uncomfortable. I mean, it feels uncomfortable to go to work, it feels uncomfortable to do those things that you don’t really feel like doing.

But once you come home, you can just sit on the couch, and you can watch your Netflix,” which I love. I do that. But for a lot of people, that’s all they do. And even very successful people running their business all day. And it just feels like you start to become less and less of that person who went forward to create the big changes. I mean, all of us have had things that we’ve had to overcome.

And we become, especially people who’ve been in the game for, you know, they’re out of their 20s. They’re in their 30s, 40s, 50s. So it’s like you become less and less if unless you continually focus on own growth. And I think there’s no better way, at least, you know, this is where it’s kind of hard to interview you because we see so eye to eye.

I haven’t swam with the great white sharks yet, but I’ve swim with both sharks in Mexico.

Sterling Hawkins: Which is more dangerous.

Ted Ryce: Yeah, they were pregnant females is what I learned. So they’re totally docile. As long as you feed them, they’re not coming after you, although they will run into you.

Sterling Hawkins: Well, just comfort versus danger. You don’t want to do anything overly stupid.

Ted Ryce: Yeah. But then again, it took me a couple times to get comfortable. I dove with them a couple times. And you better believe the first time, I’m hearing the jaws theme going down and seeing these sharks—because there was like, a, I don’t know what you call them, a school of sharks, I guess, swimming around you.

Sterling Hawkins: You’re constantly checking your back to see if there’s a shark behind you. Yeah, yeah. Right on. Well, I think to your point there, the world today is very much set up for comfort. I mean, I can literally work from home, be entertained from Netflix, and have food delivered to my door.

I don’t have to do anything uncomfortable anywhere. And I’ve got a pretty good life. And that’s the case, for not everybody, but a lot of the world these days. And that’s called living with discomfort, not hunting it. And unless you’re willing to go after these things...

Ted Ryce: I like that distinction.

Sterling Hawkins: Right. Like, you’re going to, by the way, rationalize why you have all the results that you have, “Oh, my boss is like this are my personalities that are you know, now’s not a good time. I’m too old. There’s not enough money. It’s a pandemic.”

There’s always going to be reason and rationality to back up why the results that you have, are valid, which they are, but unless you’re willing to hunt that discomfort and break through it, you’re just going to be resigning yourself to a life of incremental improvements at best.

And to your point, that’s no way to live, you keep shrinking from the discomfort, you keep kind of finding more comfort and certainty in your life, you’re just going to shrink as a person. And it’s not a good way to live a fulfilling life.

Ted Ryce: I feel like this is going to be something that the psychologists of the future do with people. Obviously, exposure therapy actually comes from the psychology literature, but you we don’t hear a lot like, “Hey, oh, so you’re depressed, go take this medication,” instead of solving the root problem, which maybe some people need that medication. I’m not a doctor, either.

But it would be interesting to see, like, “Hey, what are the things that you’re not doing right now that we know promote peace of mind or promote a positive outlook, and go do those things first. Oh, you have this anxiety? Well, let’s expose you to something slowly so that let’s see if this brings down your anxiety.”

I think also, it takes a little bit more time for the, you know, for example, getting used to speaking on stage is going to take a bit more time then say, the taking a pill and certainly a lot more effort, or even just taking a Toastmasters class.

Sterling Hawkins: Yeah, I mean, whatever it looks like. And there’s this doctor out of New Yorker named Dr. Edna Foa, and she works with women specifically that have dealt with like some pretty terrible traumas in their life. They’ve been beaten up, they’re raped, the worst of the worst. And they come to this doctor, Edna Foa.

And many of them and I think this is the relatable part of it, are in some way, dodging or avoiding or medicating that terrible experience that they went through. And some of them might be committed to being healthy. But at the same time, they feel better when they eat a whole pizza.

Ted Ryce: True.

Sterling Hawkins: But there was something about that experience that they had in a very intense way. And we all had probably in lesser ways, that’s in the way of us achieving the result that we really want. And what Dr. Edna Foa does, is newer on the scene of psychology and therapy, is she actually brings these women back into those experiences, to put themselves at the center of what happened and relive the emotions that they went through; some pretty dramatic and painful emotions.

And when they do that, after only a couple of sessions, these women are ultimately free of it. They’re not taking medication to feel better. They’re not taking things to get rid of the trauma. They’ve acknowledged the trauma, they moved through it— with an expert, by the way, which I think is important—and they’re forever free of it. Yeah, it goes back to what we were talking about in the beginning, you get to the root of that discomfort, and you start to unearth it and dismantle it, you’re forever free of it. And you can achieve whatever you want, because discomforts not standing in the way.

Ted Ryce: Yeah, I feel like this whole conversation has been pointing at like, I need to go with you to Peru in. Is it August?

Sterling Hawkins: I think you do. I’m biased. But yeah, it’s the end of August.

Ted Ryce:  Interesting. Yeah. Well, Sterling, just an incredible conversation today. Again, I feel like this is the psychology of the future. I really do believe that, the psychology or of personal development, the future of treating, maybe not like full blown psychosis, but for people who are like, “I don’t know why I feel bad. I have trouble with my relationships. I struggle with my health.

I’m not able to do what I want.” This is like the first line of treatment, if you will, I really do believe that. And it’s been an honor to have you on the show today. And if you’re listening right now, you can get Hunting Discomfort at Amazon. You’ve got to get this book. It’s amazing. Of course, I’m all about this. But I would even tell you, if you feel uncomfortable talking about this, or that with the idea, maybe this is exactly what you need to hear today. What would you say in closing for someone listening right now?

Sterling Hawkins: Well, first, thanks for having me on. Ted, it’s always a blast to spend some time with you. It’s good to see you again. I think it’s always hard to see what’s on the other side of the tunnel. You can’t see it from where you sit today. And if there was one thing that I would suggest everybody does, is it’s commit to one thing that you’re going to do every day no matter what. It doesn’t have to be the same thing. It could be big or small.

Today, it might be, I’m going to call my mom, no matter what. I’m going to send that email, no matter what. I’m going to spend an hour at the gym, no matter what, whatever it is. And you can change it day to day. But commit to doing one thing every day, no matter what. And what it does is it builds a confidence, a resilience inside of you so that your subconscious actually believes that as this uncertain world around us changes, you’re the kind of person that still going to be able to achieve what you want to achieve. So I’ll leave people that.

Ted Ryce: Love it. And Sterling, where would you like people to go? I know you have a group.

Sterling Hawkins: Well, so we do have a No Matter What Community, we call it, and it’s people from all around the world that are committed to really big goals, personal goals, professional goals, and not just the goal themselves but committed to move through this discomfort necessary to achieve them.

The best place to learn about that the book, all this stuff is my website, which is You can learn about the community there, here about Emmanuel, hear about my sister, hear about all these people that have created incredible results and join us. You can find my social media there, you can sign up for our emails, and I welcome anybody that wants to go on the hunt for discomfort with us.

Ted Ryce: Very cool. Well, Sterling, always a pleasure, my friend.  And yeah, we need to go hunt some discomfort with each other in person sometime soon. So really looking forward to that.

Sterling Hawkins: No doubt. Thanks, Ted.

Ted Ryce is a high-performance coach, celebrity trainer, and a longevity evangelist. A leading fitness professional for over 24 years in the Miami Beach area, who has worked with celebrities like Sir Richard Branson, Rick Martin, Robert Downey, Jr., and hundreads of CEOs of multimillion-dollar companies. In addition to his fitness career, Ryce is the host of the top-rated podcast called Legendary Life, which helps men and women reclaim their health, and create the body and life they deserve.

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