Ryan Berman talks to thought leaders from around the globe in business, sports and entertainment to uncover what it means to be courageous in today's world.
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EP96 Adam Markel - CEO at More Love Media Group

Adam Markel – CEO at More Love Media Inc

RESILIENCE. That’s the word Adam Markel wears across his chest in big bold letters for his conversation with Ryan. Adam is a CEO, Best Selling Author, Keynote Speaker, and Business Mentor. In his most recent book Change Proof, Adam gives readers a blueprint to “Leveraging the Power of Uncertainty to Build Long-term Resilience.” A self proclaimed cynic with a hopeful heart, Adam does not subscribe to the mindset that “balance” is ever truly attainable – instead he has adopted a perspective that works with uncertainty rather than against it.

Episode Notes

In this episode of the Courageous Podcast, Adam shares the ways in which fear shaped his career, and how he was able to break free to live a life that is more authentic to himself. He also unpacks how a shift in environment can have big impacts on someone’s mindset, and why the elusive work-life balance is a concept that is destined for failure.

Ryan Berman 0:00

This is a show about facing fear, unlocking courage, and taking action.


Speaker 2 (Female) 0:05

Courage isn't necessarily a daunting thing.


Speaker 3 (Male) 0:07

It's going to give you more purpose, it's going to give you more drive.


Speaker 4 (Male) 0:10

It feels like making a courageous decision is going to get you closer to who you aspire to be.


Ryan Berman 0:14 

It’s knowledge, plus faith, plus action equals courage.


Adam Markel  0:18

You’re never going to wipe out stress, it's not even a good idea for us to try to eradicate stress in our lives. Stress helps us grow, but we need recovery that's commensurate with the level of stress that we're dealing with, and that's how growth occurs.


(Intro Music 0:34-0:42)


Ryan Berman  0:43

It's quite funny that you and I are having this chat today, and I'll say that the universe decided to reconnect us. And I want to go back to the beginning because what I was between act breaks in my last life to this life, you're one of the first guys that I came in touch with. We went and had coffee, and I really wasn't sure about this journey that I was going on, if I'm just being brutally honest here. And now, fast forward today, when I think about Courageous as a company, the line that I use to describe my business is “Your future is safe with change.” You don't get a say on change, change is happening whether you like it or not. And you, Adam Markel, have a book called Change Proof that's out. For those of you who can't see, Adam is wearing a T-shirt right now that says, “Resilience.” And there is this amazing relationship between when it's time to be resilient and when it's time to be courageous. Before I bring Adam in, I just want to say, again, you don't get a say on change, it's happening whether you like it or not. I always used to say that, when you drive change, that's courage, but when change drives you and how you respond, that's resilience. Now, that's my take on it, Adam, but I'd love to hear your take. Really happy to be joined by Adam Markel. How are you my man?


Adam Markel  2:11

Oh, buddy, I couldn't be happier, actually. I'd like to make room for more happiness. I'm happy to be more happy. But in this moment, I can't picture anything missing, and that's just a great feeling.


Ryan Berman  2:27

I guess that's the definition of Happy New Year. So, happy 23, by the way, here we are. Are you your resolutions guy?


Adam Markel  2:36

No, but let me ask you quick… Just as the audience goes, is it okay to use expletive here and there?


Ryan Berman  2:42

Of course.


Adam Markel  2:43

Okay. Yeah. I don't believe in fucking resolutions, I think they don't work. Every evidence you could ever want or need to have to point to is that they don't work. So no, I don't waste my time with resolutions.


Ryan Berman  2:57

Okay. So, when you go into a new year, is it just, it's just another day of the calendar, and here we go, and that's that?


Adam Markel  3:07

No, quite the opposite. Wow, this is so interesting, I love what we're starting. So, I do have an end-of-the-year ritual. And it's not just my own, but I've inculcated or indoctrinated the family, I have roped the family into doing this for a bunch of years too, and I'll share what that is in a moment. But I also believe that if we wait till moments like the end of the year, or the sort of special occasions to create our, quote, “Resolutions,” or, “our changes, or, “or goals”, or whatever you want to term it, then we're missing the other opportunities, maybe, 364 other opportunities to set the coordinates for how you want your life or your business to be. Again, I was a lawyer for 18 years, to me, there's just no logic in that approach.


Ryan Berman  4:01

All right. How does somebody go… Look, I come from lawyers, so I get it.


Adam Markel  4:07

My apologies.


Ryan Berman  4:09

No, it's great, I feel protected. There's a safety to that. It's not like fear, “Who’s coming for me?” There's joy in being surrounded by all sorts of different types of environmental law, family, law, corporate law…


Adam Markel  4:27

No, brother, that’s the law. That feeds into so much of my own tail, if you will. I gave a TED talk some years ago about this, where I was sort of documenting for this audience, this unnamed audience, who I'd been in my transition times in life and in writing a book called Pivot, which was my first book. I talk about that transition out of the law and into the life that I'm currently leading. And, as part of that, I was saying the law fit in well for me at a certain point in my own development because I was a fearful person. I'm still a fearful person, more than I want to be, and that's part of my path. We can talk about that, but at that moment, at that time in my life, I was really a fearful person, and the way that I combated that fear was to be on guard all the time, to be vigilant. By being a lawyer, I had so much more safety, I felt as though I had the safety that I was craving, and then, I realized that that was all just a facade, that was all just a mirage, an illusion. At that point, when I realized that being a lawyer wasn't bringing me… Wasn't the answer to the issue of fear, then I was able to make a transition out of that work, which wasn't the right work for me after a point in time.


Ryan Berman  5:52

So, let's go back to that. When you unpack that and think about how you got to where you are now because both of us were East Coast guys for a long time.


Adam Markel  6:03



Ryan Berman  6:004

So, I made my move out West in 04, and to be honest, I thought that this was like, “Oh, cute little San Diego. This is a pit stop, and then, I'm going to go to LA.” Same thing, I'm writing my book. My book, the additional thought was it was a devious attempt as a marketing tool to position my business. It sounds slightly similar, do tell me [Inaudible 6:29] off of this. I realized I wrote Return on Courage first because I needed the book. I didn't know that when I started it, but once I went into it, I'm like, “Oh, shoot, I'm writing this book first because I need it,” and then off we go. How did you get to San Diego? Give me a little bit more on this shift, the pivot, so to speak, if you don't mind, from last life to this life.


Adam Markel  6:53

I think the first thoughts about San Diego were in a Bruce Springsteen song. I'm trying to remember… It might have been Rosalita, actually, where he talks about this little club, people playing guitars all night and all day, and it's in this little place, San Diego. So, it could have been that that was an early influence, but I fell in love with the place. We came out here, Randy, my wife and I, and my in-laws, who are now passed. I was super close with them, we used to vacation together, which now, our kids vacation with us so it's ‘apple in the tree’ thing. But we came out and I just literally fell in love with the joint, and I’m like, “This place has everything I want in life.” I'm going to go to another… Lyric, it’s so funny, but I want to go someplace where the weather suits my clothes, and it's an old song. That was my, internally, it was the antidote to all the stress, to all the anxiety, to the anger that I felt living in New York, New York, and New Jersey. I was equipped to do that. I grew up in that environment, I learned how to be not just somebody that could survive in that jungle, but could also thrive in that environment, and I wanted almost the opposite of it. I wanted to find peace of mind. Again, that's a Boston tune. I would play these songs, and they were signaling on some level that a change was needed, that a change was coming. I wanted to find that peace of mind, and San Diego seemed like the place that I could do that, and that was what we ultimately ended up creating. I also want to say that it's become clear to me ever since we moved to San Diego, which is about 10 years ago now, that wherever we go, there we are. That's the truth of it. You don't escape yourself, you don't ever escape yourself, nor should we want to, nor do I want to. But, at that time, I was looking for a great escape, and I found it, and we've made a great life out here. So, the story is taking some good turns, but not without some dark moments as well.


Ryan Berman  9:15

So, how did he get from the guy talking about pivots to a guy wearing a T-shirt that says resilience?


Adam Markel  9:24

(Laughs) That's good. Wow, I want to think about that for a second. I wrote this book, ‘Pivot,’ similarly to you. Not as a marketing thing, initially, although I'm all in favor of the marketing side, and we've certainly used it for that. But I started writing this book for our kids. Randy and I, we have four kids. And I found myself at a certain point in time in my life, lying on a gurney in Freehold Medical Center, like on a hospital gurney. I had the electrode stuck to my chest, and I'm sweating profusely. And talking about fear, I feared I would never see my kids again, like I was going to leave the hospital. My wife was there right next to me too, watching me go through this. And it turned out that I wasn't having the heart attack I thought I was having, I was having -- and all the people listening to this now, they could fill in the blank -- I wasn't having a heart attack, I was having a what? Yeah, You heard it right, a panic attack, an anxiety attack that was brought on by my inability to resolve stress and resolve the repressed emotions that I wasn't even aware of, frankly. That’s a lot of things with our suppressed or repressed emotions, we don't often even have an awareness that that's what we're up to. We're just doing it, and we do it from such an early age that we don't even know that we're doing it, it's just subconscious, it's unconscious. It’s Freud’s -- One of great, great thinkers and researchers who I think many people associate with psychotherapy, but I think his early contribution, it's still a lasting contribution, is that our emotions get expressed, but they don't get expressed when we're conscious, when we're awake. Often, our emotions are getting expressed in other ways. So, I wasn't dealing with any of that shit, and I ended up in this emergency room and thinking I was going to die, only to find out that I wasn't… The good news was I was just having a panic attack. Even that, which was such a massive relief to me, for a couple of weeks, I was clear-eyed, and grateful, and nothing could get me out of that blissful, happy, or grateful state, but then, I forgot about it. Three weeks later, I was back to running on the treadmill, man. Just the little rat on the wheel, working the usual 80, 90 hours a week, and all to try to find an escape. Again, I'll make enough money at some point, or I'll have enough security, I'll feel safe enough at some point, to just be able to escape this life that didn't feel like the life that I envisioned or wanted even. I don't mean to… My family, it was so... I'm married to Randy now, it's more than 30 years, and our kids are out of the house, and healthy, and happy, or productive, let's say, and making their way, and all that good stuff. I was grateful for them the whole way through, I was grateful for my life, but I was still miserable, and that's a weird place to be. I don't know if you've ever felt that way too, that you realize, on the one hand, you have so many blessings and there’s so much that you appreciate, and yet you're in some pain, like emotional or mental pain at the same time. It's fucking… It's weird.


Ryan Berman  13:04

So, I want to know… Because I want to answer that, I don't want to duck this. How old were you when this happened? How recent?


Adam Markel  13:16

Yeah, it's probably in my really early 40s, is when this happened.


Ryan Berman  13:22

Okay. So, I have a seven-year-old and a 10-year-old. And since I've been married, also to a Randy, by the way, and it's been 12 years. We made a decision 12 years ago when our son was born that we were lucky enough that someone in our family can raise our kids, so that's what we were going to do. So, that was a choice that we made, and it was a choice. And I think a lot of this comes down to choice, and sometimes you make choices but it still doesn't feel like a choice. If I want to live in this special place, someone has to make money, that would be me. So, I definitely feel the burden and the stress of trying to keep up, make it, live here, and this idea of envisioning what success looks like and having enough money to live the life I want to live is real. I can't explain why ideas come into my mind, probably like how you feel with ideas that come into your mind. I definitely believe in a higher power. I definitely believe even courage, for me, it's not about me. If I can nudge someone else to go for it and do it in this lifetime, I'm all in on that. It doesn't mean that it isn't exhausting, it doesn't mean, “Why me?” All the toll that comes to it as the only person making money in this family. So, all of the anxiety that can come, I'm still human, I still feel all of those things, they're still very real. Is that going to get in the way of my purpose? I don't think so. I'm grateful that I could, at least, step out of myself, look back at myself, and go, “This is the thing I want to do with my life.” It wasn't always that way. And, by the way, I was 40 when I figured this out, for me. So, the first 40 years was like fumbling through life. I wanted to entertain people, I wanted to be a creative, and I wanted to get paid to do all that. Then it's now like, “Oh my gosh.” I know I'm on my path, it's still messy as all hell. No way am I going to say it's figured out, but I have peace with the bumps and the bruises that go along with it. I think I've answered some of what you're asking, and it's like, I still feel it. I still feel the same things that you feel, I'm just happy that I found a lane for me. It's just not a clear lane, there's turbulence along the way.


Adam Markel  16:09

Yeah, I don't know that anybody's ever going to find a lane that doesn't have… Or a clear, or clean air the whole way through, it doesn't work like that. It's not what would serve us best if it did even work like that, which it doesn't. So, I don't know if that's, again, logically speaking… Why go after something that's unattainable? That's its own misery, that's its own suffering. People are chasing after fucking things that don't make sense to chase after. I'm not saying don't shoot for the stars and miss and hit the moon stuff, I mean just don't go after things that are unattainable. So, a lot of the work we do today, in regard to change, is done in a corporate environment. I've spent plenty of time in the personal development arena, I ran a company in that space for a bunch of years as I started writing these books, and started speaking, and whatnot. I find that our greatest ripple effect is actually in the workplace, there's a lot of people in that space to begin with, and it's where people spend the majority of their lives anyway. So, if we can help them to be more productive there, happier there, more engaged there… If we can help them to be more resilient in the face of ever-consistent change and disruption, then we feel like we're making a difference. So, one of the things that I do call BS on in that space is this concept of work-life balance because there's a thing that people chase after all the time, and I don't mean it like in a personal growth space, I mean in the business development space. Everywhere you see people talking about work-life balance, and that's just such a crock. Why chase after, again, why go after something that’s not attainable? Balance, think about balance, what's a great example of balance? I think of the high wire, the tightrope. I think that French guy whose name is escaping me right now, who literally when the Twin Towers were standing, this flipping courageous, like, talk about courage. This guy strung a wire between the North and South Twin Towers in lower Manhattan, and walked on that tightrope for a long ass time and didn't fall, and the police were waiting for him, of course, when he’d got off, and maybe you can even look up and see the person's name.


Ryan Berman  18:44

I did, Philippe petit. Of course, it's like the most French name you've ever heard in your whole life.


Adam Markel  18:48

The most French name ever, right? Exactly. And that's what Philippe did. So that's, to me, what balance looks like. At its best, it is temporary. At its best, it is fleeting. And if what we want is to find something that's more ephemeral, more lasting, longevity that we seek for our happiness, for our well-being, for all that stuff, then we have to reframe that. I don't mean in just a superficial splitting hairs way, I mean it's not balanced we’re after. You don't salt and pepper your food in the exact same proportion, do you? No, nobody does that. When I was younger, I used to use a lot of salt, and now that I'm a little older, I use much more pepper, and very little salt/. But whatever it is, it's a blend, it's a mix, and the word for that in eastern terminology, Yin and Yang, is not a symbol for balance, anyway, it's a symbol for harmony. That's what we're looking to create, it’s harmony. And, to me, that's again, one of those examples where people chase after something for, sometimes, their whole lifetime, only to find that it's not attainable, and that can be disappointing.


Ryan Berman  20:08

I find it exhausting. And, to me, the way that work-life balance… In some ways, we're both fluid in subtext. As a guy that came out of advertising, I was always taught to hear what's not said. So, as an observationist, when I hear someone say, “Work-life balance,” I also sadly hear like, “I'm going to bust my ass at work, I'm going to grind it out even though I don't like it that much. Maybe I like the money that comes from it. But finally, finally, when it's all done, those 80 hours, I'm going to rest for 16 hours, and that's where my happiness will come in that small little window where I can try to recover from whatever has happened during the week.” So, I will say, my harmony comes from surrounding myself with courageous people. Courageous, to me, is very much like skiing, it's relative. If I can get you to the mountain, whether you're a buddy slow, or a black diamond version of it, if there's a willingness, I'm in. I don't like spending a lot of time with people, unfortunately, that... Look, if you're listening to this podcast, obviously, there's part of you that wants to build the courage muscle and build the resilience muscle, and that's the type of people I want to spend my time with. And the good news is there's 340 million of us here in the US, I don't have to be best friends with everybody. For you, resilience is also a muscle, and you talked about, like, you need to build the muscle before you need it, in some ways, it's an insurance policy. When you work with these teams, how does it start? Do they already feel resilient? Do they get it's not just about them being resilient, but them plus their teammates, and what happens when they all come together? What does that look like when you're brought in?


Adam Markel  22:09

Yeah, it's establishing a baseline, to begin with. So, we have to use the same language and understand the language together, and so, that's the first thing is, what is resilience and what isn't it? We have to know what it's not, and it is not what it was. So, I like to think of this as sort of the 20th-century, 21st-century distinction. Things were different last century, and I don't mean just from the standpoint of what the calendar tells us, but everything that was a norm in 1995 has pretty much changed by this point. I'll give you an example, when our first children were being born, I had a beeper, man. I was in law school, and I had a beeper to tell, “Is my wife going into labor?” People are hopefully laughing, or smiling, or remembering, going, “Oh, holy shit, I remember that.” We had fax machines, we communicated in these archaic, or, at the time were state of the art, and now, they look archaic. So, it's like they're different universes, so what did it mean to be resilient in 1995? What did it look like to be resilient in 1955 or in 1855? At any point in terms of the context of time, resilience has meant something different. What it has meant for a very long time for a lot of people is, “How do I grit things out? If I need to grind it out, I get even more points for the courage to just continue to just grind, man, to never quit, to be that last person standing, to be the first in in the morning and the last to leave.” Again, it's romanticized. I look at a movie like Rocky, I like to tell stories about Rocky, and the first movie. And Sly Stallone in that movie made in 1976, hit the theaters, I think, in 77. They've now made like, what, 68 Rocky movies?


Ryan Berman  24:18

A lot of them out there.


Adam Markel  24:19

Yeah, a lot of Rocky movies, right? He gets knocked down again, and again, and again. He gets knocked down dozens of times in that movie, and we all know, even if we don't know how many times he gets knocked down, maybe there's somebody out there who knows that, we know how many times he gets up. Everybody knows how many times he gets up; every freaking time. And so, for so many people, they look at resilience as that's the paradigm, if you will, that you just keep moving forward. That is perpetuating, to have that model of resilience in the 21st century, which it cannot exist in this environment in the same way that it could have existed when we didn't have cell phones attached to us, when we weren't connected to information in the internet, and our job, and our business, and our colleagues and everybody in the world for crying out loud 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We cannot continue to run that old program on just gritting it out. And no disrespect to Angela Duckworth or the grit philosophy etc. That is ultimately only going to lead to the word that you said earlier, it leads to exhaustion, it leads to burnout, it leads to ultimately to a level of depletion mentally, emotionally, physically, and even spiritually. That is the reason, the underlying cause, if you will, of the great resignation, quiet quitting, and any other term that we're going to give to a workforce that is just fed up with being used in a way that is not in harmony with what they require in their lives at this moment in time. Again, it would have been easier in 1995 to separate, or to find some interplay between work and non-work, although, when I had my moments early on in my law career, I was already struggling with that whole concept. So, when we go into an organization, the first thing we want to do is understand that resilience is not about endurance, it's not about how we endure, it's about how we restore. It is about recovery, it is about creating rituals on a daily basis, micro-rituals, and ones that are longer and more involved as well that allow us to recover. It is about not bouncing back as the old paradigm might suggest, it's about bouncing forward, and that's about being able to become stronger in the face of the stress because stress is not the enemy. Again, chasing things that don't make sense, that we're never going to attain, you're never going to wipe out stress. It's not even a good idea for us to try to eradicate stress in our lives. Stress helps us grow, but we need recovery that's commensurate with the level of stress that we're dealing with, and that's how growth occurs. So, these are nuances on some level, it's redefining language, and it's creating a baseline for where we're starting. So, the very first thing we'll have an organization do is something that your folks can do right now. We've set this up, it's entirely free. It takes three minutes to find out how resilient you are in a snapshot moment, mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and people can go to, and three minutes later, they'll get a score in each of those four areas to see what, holistically, their own level of resilience looks like in this moment.


Ryan Berman  27:57

I love that. Adam, I guess I want to go back to the… In some ways, I'm going back to your last life. Not lawyer life, but personal development life. Second, the idea that harmony is attainable for anybody who, once they know their resilience level, let's just say. Okay, let's go back to Rocky, what if I’m in the wrong ring? You're coming in now from a corporate level, and you're going to help a team. It sounds like you're going to bring clarity, establish a language, a lexicon that everybody can play off of. What happens when I realize I think I'm resilient, but I'm just not passionate about this ring anymore? How often is that happening when you're going into a corporation, let's say, you're working with a team of 12? I have to imagine there's one or two people that are going to have an ‘aha’ moment. That are just like, “Get me off the ride.” Does that happen? Is that an unspoken thing that no one wants to talk about?


Adam Markel  29:07

The team norms is the term we sometimes use for this idea of getting everybody on that same page, the same sheet of music when it comes to this stuff. And, often, it's in the exploring what that looks like, how we see the world, our literal worldview, where we see people that might not look like a great fit, but that's just the start. That's the beginning of the story because, as we start to explore these things, we also find that, often, there are leaders within that organization who have been modeling things that lead people to believe that this is what ought to be done, this is what should be done, this is the requirements here to work here. When we can identify that and we do, then we can see the environment, that there's an opportunity for the environment to actually shift. And then, the people that have sort of been self-selecting out, or showing the signs that they might not be a good fit, then are not necessarily in the same position that they were in before that. Meaning that they might not need to leave, they might not have to go find some greener grass, because, again, it's one of those things we chase, we chase the green grass, when the grass is never going to be greener somewhere else. I'm not saying you shouldn't change, or make a shift, or pivot, I wrote a book about pivoting, but what I can say, and I often will say this to either folks that asked me this question directly, or sometimes when I'm in a group of people that are similar to the colleagues I used to have in the law; accountants, and engineers, and lawyers, and bankers sometimes too. It's like, “I didn't need to quit the law.” They'll say to me, sometimes people say, “Did you need to quit? Did you need to pivot, like your books said, out of practicing law?” No, I didn't.  I did, and I'm glad I did, but the reason I did was because I was ill-equipped at that time to make that environment what would sustain me. That environment was killing me. I knew it was killing me, and I love my family, and I love my own life too much to allow that to happen, to end up like some of the people I'd seen who died from a heart attack or got cancer. They worked their whole freaking lives, and they get to be 60-something years old, and then, they're in a health issue, and so, all the money that they saved, or all the money they made is useless to them because their health sucks. Nobody wants to end up like that. And I was at least smart enough. I was an idiot in a lot of ways, but man, I was at least smart enough to recognize in my 40s that I didn't want that to be my destiny. So, the answer is, yeah, there's always going to be people that are on a team that this might not be their ring, like you said. To stand in that ring might not be their destiny, or what have you. But, often, what I find is that the ring itself has been designed poorly. And when the ring is designed poorly, when people don't have permission -- I'll give you a good concrete example here. We talk about resilience and how it is that we create greater well-being because, for the most part, the overall, overarching brand promise for our company is that we're in the corporate well-being business, that's what we do. We help individuals and organizations develop greater resilience and well-being. And therefore, their performance is better, their longevity is better, all these ripple effect things. But we find that, when we get in there, that the environment, the ring, it’s set up for depletion, it's set up for exhaustion, it's set up with this old paradigm of what it looks like to be successful. So a person, let's say, that is feeling challenged in some of the ways I was feeling challenged, like their head, they're having thoughts that are anxious thoughts, which is really anxiety, just anticipation of pain. So, they're just anticipating pain here and there and in fear of it, et cetera. They don't know what to do with it, they don’t know what to do about it. So, they want to go to therapy, but they can't make time for therapy, and there's no permission, let's say, within their organization that if you're feeling this way, then you can go talk to the HR person, but that HR person is not going to be your therapist because that same HR person might fire you. They might be doing your exit interview. They are responsible for so many different things, they're not your therapist. But you need to see a therapist, but if there's no permission to do those things, if people aren't being encouraged to take care of themselves in those ways, well then, the ring is the wrong ring. That means you don't need to lose your talent, just change the ring.


Ryan Berman  34:00

As you know, easier said than done, but also possible. I think both of us are guys that have changed rings, and by the way, I'm way better in this new life. I didn't leave my last life behind, by the way, I use all those skills, all those muscles. And even when I was terrified and scared to move into this new world, I still took all of what I learned from that last life into this life. Let's talk about change for one...


Adam Markel  34:29

Can I just quick say one… When I say change the ring, I don't mean literally get out and go find another ring, you could do that, there's nothing wrong with that. I'm saying that the ring itself, the environment, the culture we call it, that's possible to change. So, I would have maybe bet differently about that some years ago. Honestly, I would have said, “Yeah, companies, that's just not… It's an extraction model,” to use my son in-law’s last term, an extraction model. So basically, they're just trying to try to suck as much as they can out of a person, and wherever that person ends up, they end up. If they're resilient for whatever reason, they're resilient, great. If they're not, they end up on the side of the road somewhere, they end up in a ditch, they end up leaving, whatever, it's not my business, our business is to produce a profit for our shareholders, and that's it. What I've seen more recently, and I have evidence to prove it because of the organizations that have hired us, frankly, to do this, is that they understand that when people are leaving at the level that they leave, are disconnected at the level that they are disconnected, are disengaged at the level they are, not only is it bad for business, but it's a harbinger of something that will only get worse in the future if we don't recognize and make some pivots to the way we do things now. That's what I meant about changing rings, changing the ring.


Ryan Berman  35:59

Wow. Yes, and I was like, “No, I am literally changing my ring.” And, for me, I do wonder. This is a rabbit hole question, and we only have so much time, but in some ways, you can make a case. I have a lot of faith in the next generation leader because I think there's no way… They're just more purpose centered, and to be honest, they think my generation messed up their world because they were cold, because the environments were off, because it was all about money. I'm not saying that this doesn't exist still, in corporate America, a lot of this does still exist. However, I do think this next generation that does wear their values on their sleeves will be a more empathetic environment to work in. And it won't just be about making money, it's going to be all the above. So I’m curious, one; no doubt, there are many cultures that need resilience today. Two; in the future, if we have more heart-centered leaders running businesses, how does resilience play in those environments? So, if we had a time machine and we're going to go a decade into the future, maybe it's 20 years in the future, talk me through what you see in business, what do you think is going to change?


Adam Markel  37:28

Yeah, it's a future of work conversation. And I'll say that just at 30,000 feet, the future is net positive. I say that only because we can learn from history, and learning from history is to learn that the future is always net positive. Now, I'm not Pollyanna. I got my cynical moments, I grew up in the city of New York, and where it was a pretty rugged environment. So, I've seen some bad stuff, just to be clear about it. I'm pragmatic in my approach, and I see the future is net positive, and that is that we are an evolutionary society. As an organism, as a species, humans are always evolving, and I believe in what you call the greater power. I don't mind saying, I'm a God guy. I just use that word, I'm okay with that word because I haven't spent a whole lot of time in religion, and I know some people get triggered by that. Some people love it, and they're all down, like, “Great, use the word, ‘God.”’ Some other people are triggered by it because, having spent a lot of time in more dogmatic environments, that word has a lot of charge to it, so I get it, I don't want to be disrespectful about that. But, for me, I believe in a unifying source of everything. That there's not randomness, it's that things connect. If we can't see the connections, that doesn't mean the world is random, it means we’re just lacking the insight to see the connectedness. So, I know that we're moving, that the universe is expanding, everything is moving into an expansion of some sort, and things change in that environment. And some things that change, we don't like. And other things, we do like. Some things, it's just too early to know, for ourselves, how we feel about it or what it's going to mean to us. Because, at the end of the day, a psychologist told me recently, I'll repeat this, it's like we got an ADT system in our head 24/7. Always, that's what our head is looking for, is where do I have to be on guard? Where do I need to be alert and unaware? That's fine, insofar as alertness and awareness are a sort of a default setting, if you will. But I think we've tipped over, and a lot of people are not just in that alert or aware stage, but I think they're hypersensitive to change, more so, now, than ever before, and they're anxious about it. They're on edge. The cortisol, the adrenaline is constantly coursing, and the anger that we're seeing, the division, while we can certainly point the fingers at politics, and point the fingers at social media, and a lot of things -- And I'm not saying we shouldn't because they bear responsibility. We are in an evolutionary stage where there's just a lot of anger that I think is going to come to some natural kind of head, and people will do what people do, which is they have to check-in. They check-in every minute of the day, it's just a question of whether we're checking in consciously and going, “Do I like the way I feel? Do I like how I'm experiencing my life right now?” I think more and more people are going to feel they don't like what it feels like to be almost constantly triggered, and almost constantly in a state of either low-level anxiety or anger. And then, they will do what we have the freedom to do, brother. Again, no politics here, you're not going to legislate away big tech, or the conflict between transformational technology and profit, and the economics of it all. What's good for a company that gets our eyeballs, and what's good for the eyeballs, the people who have the eyeballs, are in conflict.


Ryan Berman  41:52

Yeah, no doubt.


Adam Markel  41:54

We're not going to solve that, but when the people with the eyeballs and the ears and the senses decide for themselves, as they will, that they don't want to consume certain things… Just one quick digression because you asked me about the future, and I'm a hopeful person. My wife reminds me a lot. She says, “Do you have a hopeful heart right now?” Because I can be a son of a bitch, I can be nasty, angry. I get triggered back to moments when I was 25 years old, I just get out of those moments so much quicker now. I don't go down that rabbit hole for very long, but she sometimes said to me, “You have a hopeful heart right at this moment?” I was reading in the paper two weeks ago, or so, about this group of kids, high school students in Manhattan, and I think they created something called the Luddite society, it's this little club. Where some kid decided that she didn't want to have a smartphone anymore because she's just self-loathing all the time, and looking at Instagram, and seeing everybody else's got everything, and she's got less. She just said, “This sucks.” She got rid of it, and then, another kid joined her, and then they created the club and they call it the Luddite society. Now, there's dozens of kids that got rid of their smartphones, but their parents freaked out, their parents freaked out. Why? This is blowing my mind because our kids are older, we didn't have our kids have smartphones when they were younger. They were already past that. So, it was like the parents are tracking their movements through the cell phone. So, that's their way of knowing every moment of the day where their kids are. Lke, holy smokes, I didn't realize that these kids all got tracking devices on them. So the kids got rid of these things, and the parents freaked out. So, what ended up happening and the compromise was that they got flip phones. So, there's a whole group of kids running around in Manhattan that are not accessing the internet, or not looking at these apps, or not comparing themselves endlessly to people, and places, and standards, and lies, a lot of it, or half truth, they're not doing any of that. They're just got flip phones in case they need to call home and see whether or not taking over to Johnny's house for dinner, or whatever. Like when we were kids, and that used to be you'd have to dial a phone or scream out to your parents up in the apartment house, and that gives me great hope, brother, that's what the future can look like.


Ryan Berman  44:31

To me, it's funny, the word ‘change.’ You talked about it earlier, it does send the sirens blaring for many. You try to do… I don't know how you feel about this, I tried to do my part, like, where can I help somebody get their mindset just a little bit, tweak it a little bit so they're not freaking out. One of the things I was thinking about recently was how come when you see the word ‘change,’ you think of scary, you think of fear? “We need to change, this organization needs to change.” But when somebody says, “Hey, you've been handpicked to lead something new,” suddenly, it's exciting, there's joy. “Hey, this is a new project, here's your budget, come back and let me know where we should take this.” “We need to change,” you're on your back foot, fear, anxiety, scary. When you get to lead something new, there's joy there, there's excitement, there's opportunity. One is an exercise and speculation. Change; fear, “I'm going to get fired.” One is an exercise and visualization, leaning forward, new, let's go forward, excitement.


So, for any listener, I still think happy new year, so happy change year, it's happy new year. As you think about what you want to take on that's new, and the excitement that comes from that, whether you need the courage muscle, or the resilience muscle, maybe that's where it starts, is like, you get to decide what's new for you. Now, Adam is holding his book, ‘Change Proof.’ Talk to me, first of all, like, where can people find the book? Adam, where can people learn a little bit more about you? Again, give me the... I want to go do my rating on resilience, where do I go again?


Adam Markel  46:23

Oh, way cool. Yeah, I'm going to get to see your results, that's awesome. Rank my resilience;, we'll get to see. Yeah, that's going to be fun, actually. We've had more than 5000 business leaders across the globe take this thing now. So, it's been a minute that we've been doing it, and it's a fun tool. The book is called ‘Change Proof,’ and the subtitle is ‘Leveraging the Power of Uncertainty to Build Long-term Resilience.’ So, it's just what you were just saying, it's not just a sort of a form over substance concept of how we see change, change is how we see the things that we're looking at. That's just a reality of it. But how it is that you change how you see change. That's really the juice, and that's what this book is all about. It's how it is that you, or the teams that you lead, or the team that you're a part of, actually sees the change in the way. And I love the way you language that as always. I love your language. I love your emails. It's not just clever, even though there's cleverness in it, it's there's wisdom that's embedded in your writing, brother. It's a kind of thing that I look at it through the lens of my grandmother. This is a lady who she was a secretary for most of her life. In the world that we're living in now, 50 years later, she probably would be the CEO. I know, probably a lot of people look at their grandparents or grandmothers like that too. She used to do the New York Times crossword puzzle each Sunday in pen. I still have not met anybody that does that. She was an intelligent and thoughtful, caring woman. And she would joke about things. There was always this cleverness, but it was not just like a cunning cleverness, or taking advantage of a situation, like an opportunistic cleverness. I feel like, when I read your work and how you frame the conversations with your podcast, guests, etc., there's just this intelligence to it, there's a level of scholarship, of wisdom, and it's clever. I always tilt my head and I go, “Man, that's just great languaging.” The market in you comes out a lot. So, when you made that distinction about change being something that we can have expectations around, and our instinct, expectation-wise, is to fear it. How's it going to affect me? How's it going to change things, potentially, in a way that I won't like? As opposed to, like you said, you could give somebody a budget, and give them your support, and have their back in that change, and they're just all about it. That's the changing the ring, buddy.


Ryan Berman  49:13

Totally, totally, that's the environment. The ring is the same ring, it's just changed. Now, you have permission to play a little bit more in there. Adam, man, it's great to catch up. Again, people, Go buy the book ‘Change Proof,’ it's on Amazon, I’m sure it’s on And, I’m sure...


Adam Markel  49:35

Yeah, as well.


Ryan Berman  49:36

I'm sure I will stumble into you at Lofty Coffee or some coffee shop, or Fish 101, probably tomorrow. Happy new year, my man. Great to see you. Thanks for coming on the show.


Adam Markel  49:47

So great to have you interview me, buddy. I got to get you on our show, so I can return the great favor.


Ryan Berman  49:53

Yes, and we got two podcasts. First podcast was walking into a bar, it happens. All right, Markel. Be good, man.


Adam Markel  50:00

See you, brother.


Ryan Berman  50:02 

Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Courageous Podcast. If you enjoyed the show, don't forget to rate and review us on Apple podcasts so more people can find us. See you again next week.


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