#561: Rich Roll — From Alcoholic to Ultra-Endurance Star, Rebooting Life at 40, the Trap of Lower Companions, and How to Reinvent Yourself in the New Year | The Tim Ferriss Show

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Key Takeaways

  • Who are you becoming?
    • Don’t ask yourself ‘who are you’ – that is a static question and human beings are not static
    • We are always on our way to becoming something – are you moving closer or further away from your true essence?
    • Mood follows action – whatever you want to become, starts with behavioral changes
  • Addiction lives on an incredibly broad spectrum – anyone can find themselves somewhere on the line
    • We are cavalier to the idea of being a ‘shopaholic’ or addictions to video games
    • But we are rigid to the idea of being an alcoholic or heroin addict
      • Oftentimes, the objective truths are the same regardless of the vice or the extent of said vice
  • The outside perspective often forgets that the substance is only the solution to the problem, the problem itself is deeply psychological and emotional
    • “Don’t ask, why the addiction. Ask, why the pain.” – Tim Ferriss quoting Gabor Mate
  • Knowing you have a problem and your willingness to solve the problem are two different things
    • People with addictions protect their addiction at all costs – you dilute yourself into thinking people don’t know what’s going
    • People with addictions have to strip away the layers of denial to face the objective truth – this awareness comes from within, you can not compel someone to see themselves as they are
  • Tim and Rich also discuss zone 2 training, sleeping on the roof, and living off the grid

Intro

  • Rich Roll (@richroll) has been named the “Guru of Reinvention” and one of the “25 Fittest Men in the World”. He is an ultra-distance endurance athlete, bestselling author, and host of the acclaimed Rich Roll Podcast.
  • But it didn’t all start that way… Rich and Tim discuss his past struggles with alcoholism and how he became who he is today.
  • Host: Tim Ferriss (@tferriss)
  • To begin the podcast, Tim recites a tweet from Rich Roll back in 2018:

I didn’t reach my athletic peak until I was 43.

I didn’t write my first book until I was 44.

I didn’t start my podcast until I was 45.

At 30, I thought my life was over.

At 52 I know it’s just beginning. Keep running. Never give up. And watch your kite soar. ✌🌱

Rich Roll Early Life

  • As a young person in high school, he was very studious and goal-driven
    • But this was caused by deep insecurity for his introversion
  • He wasn’t athletic early in life but discovered swimming
    • “I realized that I wasn’t the most talented kid but I had this capacity to suffer and work hard and a willingness to go the extra mile” – Rich Roll
    • With this new confidence, discipline, and mindset, he became one of the best high school swimmers in the DC area – this success philosophy bled into his schoolwork too
  • Went to Stanford and was a part of their legendary swimming program at the time
    • But then alcohol entered his life…

Alcoholism & Addiction

  • Drinking alcohol was the first time Rich felt comfortable in his own skin
    • ‘Alcohol was like a warm blanket for all his insecurities’
  • Became a short-term thinker:
    • Where am I going to find the next good time vs how am I going to live a successful and fulfilling life
  • “There’s nothing cool or Rock & Roll about any of it – It’s just lonely, sad, kind of pathetic, and deeply embarrassing” – Rich Roll
    • Lived the college party lifestyle into his 30’s and hit bottom
    • Associated himself with ‘lower companions’: relationships that are only brought together and supported by mutual vices
    • Was flying places and didn’t remember how he got there, drinking vodka tonics in the morning shower, getting DUIs, getting married and divorced by the honeymoon causing relapse after 6 months of sobriety, etc.
      • He medicated his shame with more alcohol
  • Knowing you have a problem and your willingness to solve the problem are two different things
    • People with addictions protect their addiction at all costs – you dilute yourself into thinking people don’t know what’s going
    • People with addictions have to strip away the layers of denial to face the objective truth – this awareness comes from within, you can not compel someone to see themselves as they are
  • The outside perspective often forgets that the substance is only the solution to the problem, the problem itself is deeply psychological and emotional
    • “Don’t ask, why the addiction. Ask, why the pain.” – Tim Ferriss quoting Gabor Mate
    • Addiction and recovery are two very different timelines
    • Rich was 10 years sober before he became an endurance athlete, it took him a long time to reorganize his life to get to that point
  • Addiction lives on an incredibly broad spectrum – anyone can find themselves somewhere on the line
    • We are cavalier to the idea of being a ‘shopaholic’ or addictions to video games
    • But we are rigid to the idea of being an alcoholic or heroin addict
      • Often, the objective truths are the same regardless of the vice or the extent of said vice
  • Rich Roll credits the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous for his sobriety and recovery
    • How to take inventory of his life, how to identify shameful themes and address them
    • Mood follows action – behavior change comes before mental state change
    • Allowed him to be open and discuss his past
    • Found the benefits of meditation
    • And more
  • He returned to practicing law trying to become what society expected from him – even though he was sober, he applied the same negative psychology to being workaholic
    • Worked 80 hour weeks, ate fast food all the time, didn’t exercise
    • Knew he hit a breaking point when he was winded walking up the stairs
    • When you have a goal, know why it’s important to you. Endurance training was an internal solution for Rich.

Zone 2 Training

  • Zone 2 Training – exerting yourself in an aerobic zone (utilizing glucose and fat) at a level just beneath crossing the threshold of the anaerobic zone (which is dependent on glycogen storage)
    • This training is the best way to improve efficiency
    • Don’t be in the gray zone – people often go too hard and too fast to develop aerobic capacity & you’re not able to go hard enough to develop anaerobic capacity
    • Zone 2 asks you to hold back – you’ll feel like you didn’t do anything but it develops a greater mitochondria density
    • You’re training the body to use fat for fuel
    • Nothing about endurance is fast, it’s about being able to efficiently persist
  • Peter Attia has explored this topic in-depth

Sleeping in a Tent… On the Roof

  • Rich has always struggled with getting a productive, restful sleep
    • Problems derived from temperature control between him and his wife
  • One night they did a family campout on the flat roof of their home
    • He got the best sleep of his life on the roof that night
  • Now he regularly sleeps on the roof in a tent, the quality of sleep is a great benefit to Rich
    • Also a nice reminder of stoicism – if he were forced to live in a tent, he knows he could be happy with that

Rich’s Schedule

  • Early to bed, early to rise
  • Rich doesn’t schedule any commitments before noon, the early hours are dedicated to working on himself:
    • Meditation, journaling, writing, creative projects, no meetings or phone calls
    • Does his endurance training in the morning as well
    • Commits to this about 85% of the time – there is a balance of creating personal healthy boundaries and being a people pleaser

Living off the Grid

  • One month every year, Rich lives off the grid
    • This is a counterbalance to his workaholic tendencies
    • Periodize your life – breaks are necessary to maintain your love of your work and embrace the richness of life
  • Tim spends 2-3 weeks of his year off the grid as well
    • You’re forced to look at all your systems, does shit hit the fan while you are gone?
    • Tim just recently went to Antarctica off the grid

Billboard – Who are you Becoming?

  • Rich’s Billboard Quote: Who are you becoming?
    • Don’t ask yourself ‘who are you’ – that is a static question and human beings are not static
    • We are always on our way to becoming something – are you moving closer or further away from your true essence?
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Notes By Drew Waterstreet

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