Spartan Up! - A Spartan Race for the Mind!

Mike Sandrock, a formidable marathon runner and author of Running with the Legends, finds that excellence and talent are not necessarily interchangeable. It is those with the wherewithal to actualize their potential who reach the highest levels. Raw talent is not enough to drive an athlete to give everything they have every day which is what it takes to be the best. It takes a desire, usually spurred by adversity, to dig deep into the essence of who they are.
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1.  Find your passion and thank those around you who help you along the way.
2.  If you want to be great don’t cut the lines in practice and life.
3.  Inspiration is hard work.  No complaining.
Panel Notes:
Joe Desena: Mike Sandrock was talking Spartan before many of us knew what it was to be a Spartan. He has studied all kinds of ultra-endurance athletes. Tune in and learn a little about sports and persistence beyond what you thought was normal.

Col. Nye: Author of Running with the Legends.  Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Smart guy - great quotes. Desire to actualize their potential  Follow your Bliss. Speaker of Words and Doer of Deeds.  Praise Be what Hardens Us. Build from Adversity.  Greatness requires 100% effort.  Cheating is quitting.

Sefra Alexandra: Mike believes “be the best you can be to discover who you are, we create ourselves by our choices.” The Tendai Monks or “Marathon Monks” embark on the quest of kaihōgyō: a1,000-day challenge that only 46 men have completed since 1885. It’s a seven year challenge where you run  40-84km per day for 100-200 days a year, increasing as the years go on and in year 5 going 7.5 days without food, water or rest… now they Run Tough.

Direct download: 014-Mike_Sandrock-SpartanUp-Audio--N.mp3
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Steven Pressfield, author of "Gates of Fire," War of Art," "Warrior Ethos" and many others tells us what we can learn from the original Spartans and how to overcome resistance in everyday life.

One of the first things Steven Pressfield learned in researching his book Warrior Ethos is that the Spartans were serious about their laconic ideals. To his knowledge, they wrote a grand total of twenty four words about themselves so Pressfield had to rely on hearsay and poetic license to flesh out that  portion of his tome. But, fortunately, the actions of the Spartans spoke volumes, imparting valuable lessons on honor, determination, discipline and overcoming adversity. Pressfield harnessed these lessons when faced with the challenges of a blank writing page and the ultimate obstacle, a resistant mind.

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1.  Honor yourself.
2.  Embrace Adversity.  The harder it is the more you get out of it.
3.  When you wake up, expect the negative force of resistance.  Be ready and conquer it.
Panel Notes:
Joe Desena: Before you listen in here you should look Steven Pressfield up and find out who you are listening to. He is an incredible author and writes about things we care about-- how to push through, succeed in the face of adversity, deal with life's daily challenges…oh,  and he is the preeminent expert on Sparta!

Col. Nye: Historically, Spartans got a bad rap. They thought of brutish thugs but they have a lot to offer today’s world.  Current society could learn from Spartan mindset, focus, philosophy, expression of honor, soldierly honor, and grit.  Modern peoples are lost and need an identity. They need honest pursuit and need to face adversity.  The voice of resistance is always there.  Expect the negative force. It’s relentless; it must be defeated.

Sefra Alexandra: "All warrior cultures start with a great man. In ancient Sparta, that man was Lycurgus. He took the city from a normal society and made it into a warrior culture." Warrior Ethos: Ch. 12 “How the Spartans Became the Spartans”

Hmm... Joe Lycurgus DeSena... has a nice ring =]

Direct download: 013-Steven_Pressfield-SpartanUp-Audi.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:00am EDT

Obstacle immunity became a kind of obsession for Mark Webb after attempting, and failing, the Death Race for the third time. First he overhauled his mental toughness, and next his physical, then came redemption and the iconic finisher's skull. His growth as a human became all too obvious after he lost his leg below the knee in a freak motorcycle accident. Just days before the accident he completed a Spartan Sprint with his young son. In retrospect, these races seemed like a dress rehearsal by comparison, but by now Webb was well tooled to take on the next challenge with grace and an indomitable spirit.

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1. You can’t quit life. You only get one shot at it so you must keep going.
2. You can’t stop doing the things you love in life because there is risk.
3. Recognize that you will have days that you don’t want to do your workout so just do a small amount and more often than not you will achieve your goal.
4. Aim as high as you can for a goal and then chip away with small increments.
Panel Notes:
Joe Desena: How would you do if you lost a limb? Would you be upset? Would you get angry? Could you just roll with what life throws your way? Mark and I saw each other just a day before he had a tragic accident.  This guy is more twisted steel than a Harley Davidson. If he doesn't give you inspiration, I don't know what will.

Col. Nye: The student becomes the teacher.  You can’t quit life.  Positive mindset and the injury give him motivation to set and achieve new goals.

Sefra Alexandra:  What is obstacle immunity? Are you born with it or is it learned? Neuroplasticity refers to neural pathways (how information is transmitted through your body) and how they change due to behavior, thinking, or bodily injury.  Was it Mark’s history of overcoming adversity in training and races that has fortified him with such heroic resolve and resiliency in the face of a life-changing incident?

Direct download: 012-Mark_Webb-SpartanUp-Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:00am EDT

Angela Duckworth, Associate Professor of Psychology at Penn, not only studies grit, she epitomizes it. She has doggedly researched the concept for a decade. Despite what may appear to be over the top determination, even obsessiveness, those with the quality are unusually down-to-earth. They're that rare breed who has their head in the clouds but their feet on the ground, which, surprisingly, means that Spartan Race co-founder Joe Desena may not be so crazy after all. 

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1. Sustaining passion and endurance over time (years) is essentially the definition of grit.
2. People who are gritty have a cognitive mindset to focus on things that they can change. They are positive and optimistic.
3. Always remember that no great human achievement exists that doesn't have thousands of hours of work behind it.
Panel Notes:
Joe Desena: Do you know what grit is? Do you have it? Have you ever quit anything and regretted it? Well, Angela has been studying grit for a long time and knows how important it is as a predictor of success. If you don't have it, get some.
Col. Nye:  Grit is sustained passion over a length of time for a singular long term goal.  There is an environmental component. It’s not just genetics. It can be developed.  Gritty people have a cognitive mindset to focus on what they can change and screen out that which they cannot.

Sefra Alexandra:  In 1777, sixteen-year-old Sybil Ludington rode through the night on horseback to alert American Colonial forces of the British’s approach completing a similar feat as Paul Revere’s, yet covering twice the distance Revere travelled by herself without getting captured. This, by any standard, personifies grit. Professor Duckworth will explain why.

Direct download: 011-Angela_Duckworth-SpartanUp-Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:00am EDT

Four time NCAA wrestling champion Kyle Dake's parents raised him in a nurturing environment that would pave the way for his success. Yet this never meant that he could bypass the hard work. Every day, and he's in the gym just about every day, Dake pushes the wall back a little further, extending how far he can go without breaking. As a result, he has complete faith in his invincibility. He doesn't believe in losing. He wants to be the best, and, more importantly, he knows the way there.  

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1.  Actions speak!  If you want to be great, commit to it and do the things you need to do to be successful.
2.  Be positive!  You can always take something away something positive from an experience.
3.  You can only lose when you quit.
Panel Notes:
Joe Desena: What does wrestling have to do with success? Everything! Life is one giant wrestling match. You have to hand it to a guy that can go up four weight classes in four years, while everyone else is losing weight, and take the title year after year. This is a true champion with the most incredible attitude i have seen on a young man. Take notes.

Col. Nye:  Arguably the greatest college wrestler of all time.  Strive for excellence in everything you do.  You must make the commitment to be the best and be better than you were yesterday.  With the power of a positive mental attitude, find the silver lining in all your endeavors.  Entertain zero thoughts of losing  and remain focused on the goal. There is always someone training harder than you. Actively push the wall back a little further every day.
Sefra Alexandra: The rough translation of  abracadabra from Aramaic is: I create as I speak. The immensely positive words and mentality of Kyle Dake serves as a true litmus test of mental fortitude, obstacle immunity and success. His attitude rings true as a siren call for our generation to Spartan Up and truly dedicate ourselves to our dreams, fight to get stronger and achieve our goals. Knowing you are getting better every day is the reward.
Johnny Waite: His father did not push him, but held him accountable. Kyle got to choose what he committed to and was then not allowed to quit. You might have an awful day, but there is always something good that will come of it. Sometimes the most important stuff comes out of the toughest experiences. You don't need harsh circumstances to develop grit. It can come from inside with enough determination.

Direct download: 010-Kyle_Dake-SpartanUp-Audio.mp3
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Allen Lim, founder of Skratch Labs and the only American scientist to have worked and cooked for teams at the Tour de France, has worked with dozens of top American cyclists to improve their performance and nutrition. He conceived his company in the intense atmosphere of  the Tour de France. If his methods could succeed in this gritty environment, he figured, they'd certainly thrive in day to day life. His company caters to the daily lifestyle needs of young athletes in particular, who may neither have the time or resources to keep this crucial ingredient of training in check. Excellence is ultimately a holistic endeavor, and as Lim proves, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 

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1.  We are all humans and we are all athletes.
2.  Lessons learned in sports can be helpful in life.
3. Find a way to be happy first and that happiness will create success.
Panel Notes:
Joe Desena: He and I disagree on some things regarding food. We met in a coffee shop while he was ordering croissants and coffee, and, I don't know, that just doesn't seem like healthy food to me. That said, this is one of the smartest folks I know when it comes to food and nutrition, and, right or wrong, I think you will be impressed.
Col. Nye: Identify the “bottleneck,” in your life and unclog it.  Life is about the summation of experience.  All competitors have stress and mundane challenges: diet, sleep, happiness and relationships. The mission of Skratch Labs is to provide life skills which then allows the athlete (everyone) to perform at their peak. Food is about context. A wholesome cookie is better than some prepackaged “health food.”  Food can be about pleasure. It has a cultural component. Enjoy it.

Sefra Alexandra: The human body can range from 45-75% water depending on the stage in your life and your fat content. Hydration, therefore, is of the utmost importance. Allen Lim has been working to provide hydration and nutrition to athletes for years. If you get a chance look up the original power bar, pemmican, and locate your nearest freshwater spring  ( I can attest to the undeniable difference of hydrating with "raw water."

Johnny Waite: We are all athletes. There is an important social component to food. If you lose this and get too extreme with diet you will fail. We are pack animals and our best things are accomplished together. Ambition is a really easy thing to hide behind until you realize you aren't happy. Don't shy away from or ignore pain. Experience it and let it make you better.

Direct download: 009-Allen_Lim-SpartanUp-Audio.mp3
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Gracie Van Der Byl finds her bliss by swimming in competitions that are the aquatic equivalent of the Tour de France. It is in the midst of these undertakings when she feels like she is her best, most authentic self. Her swims are an exercise in zen, focusing on the now and surrendering to not knowing. Even her philosophy on shark hazards reads like a koan: It's not the shark you see that's the problem; it's the shark you don't." That's little comfort to Joe Desena who is afraid of something after all. Who knew?

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1.  During life tackle things one stroke at a time.
2.  Don’t overly project into the future; live in the now.
3.  Boredom comes from not setting good enough goals.  Always find new ways to grow.

Panel Notes:
Joe Desena:  I have always had a fear of sharks. I remember as a kid taking a shower standing on a chair. I'm kidding about the chair but not about the sharks. The fact that she can swim in the dark all through the night gives me chills. She clearly has something to teach all of us on how to put it together to get through the "difficult" times.

Col. Nye:  To be your most authentic self, focus on the here and now and don’t dwell on the future. Push the line: find it then find out how far you can stretch it.  Boredom is a result of not setting challenging goals.  Growth must be in all directions, not just unidirectional, otherwise you will snap like a piece of gum

Sefra Alexandra: Gracie seems to have fear immunity in her epic feats of open water swimming. She states, "Some people want to swim. I need to swim." My fear is that there will be so much plastic in the ocean in the future that these types of endeavors may be hindered.  Learn more at and do your part to decrease your reliance on plastic.

Johnny Waite: Don't project into the future. Focus on right now. As soon as you've completed a challenge find a new one. Don't grow only in one direction -- stretch horizontally as well as vertically. Don't just keep doing something if you aren't passionate about it. Find what you are stoked about. There's nothing worse than getting to an event and knowing you could have done more to prepare.

Direct download: 008-Gracie_Van_Derbyly-SpartanUp-Aud.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

It started as a bet, but soon turned into a mission. Tony the Fridge carries a 93 lb. "burden" on his back on journeys that make marathons look like fun runs. Why? He does it for those who carry what he sees as greater loads, notably the cancer sufferers for whom he raises funds. How? He never runs solely relying on his own strength. He is empowered by the community supporting him. His dedication to them leaves him no choice. When he's running, Tony rarely thinks beyond the next step.
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1.  We are all going to die that’s why we have to live.
2. Focus on who you are not what you are.
3.  Live everyday as it’s your last one.

Panel Notes:
Joe Desena: Tony the Fridge was the first interview I did that got me to cry. His story, energy, and reason for doing what he does is pretty incredible.

Col. Nye:  Leadership through demonstration. Grit personified. The measure of a man is not what you’ve earned but what you've achieved for the greater good.  Tony provides strength and hope for the physically challenged.  He’s an epic storyteller, whose deeds demand our respect.
Sefra Alexandra: Some burdens are forced upon us; some burdens are chosen. The amazing spirit of Tony the Fridge inspires us all to pick up some extra weight around the world on some heavy matters.

Johnny Waite: Never think about the finish line -- it will kill you. Don't worry about how many steps ahead or behind. Can I take this step? Yes! You can do anything -- you just need a big enough reason. When you are committing to something, don't talk with anyone who will try to discourage you.

Direct download: 007-Tony_The_Fridge-SpartanUp-Audio.mp3
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How does Jeff Clarke, the new CEO of Kodak Film, propose to take a company that the digital age has rendered bankrupt back into prominence? He has a few tricks up his sleeve. If you ask him, analogue film, much like vinyl records in the music industry, is an art form that is bound to make a comeback. Furthermore, film has spurred many cutting edge technologies with exciting possibilities for everything from healthcare to smell free clothing. Clarke tells us why he welcomes the challenge.

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1. Spartan values and philosophies are valuable in work and life.
2. Maintaining a healthy diet and an active lifestyle helps the mind process clearly at work.
3. As a leader it is important to take time to mentor employees and monitor their wellness by supporting the importance of living a balanced life.

Panel Notes:
Joe Desena: What kind of a guy, one who is already wealthy and a great family man, takes on the task of rebuilding one of the world’s if not the world’s greatest iconic brand, Kodak? He is basically done in life:  He has all he needs living in California with a wonderful family and decides this is going to be awesome, “I am going to help revive and save one of the world's greatest brands.”
Col. Nye: Adaptation is crucial; individuals and corporations cannot remain stagnant. Environments change; goals change; technology changes. Competitors recognize and leverage change to their advantage.

Sefra Alexandra: A true leader and proprietor of obstacle immunity is a successful CEO that consistently throws himself into difficult situations with faith in his role as a mentor/ leader and belief in the Phoenix model of resurrecting businesses such as the iconic Kodak.

Johnny Waite: You always need to push limits and look for new opportunities. Kodak was enormously successful but rejected opportunity to grow by clinging to old way of being. You cannot be afraid to grow and evolve. Staying physically active keeps you mentally sharp. Always find a way to workout, especially when you are just out of your normal routine/element.

Direct download: 006-Jeff_Clarke-SpartanUp-Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

Zach Even Esh, body builder, strength coach and author, built success out of the raw material of failure. His self belief carried him through the rough patches of a startup wrestling camp that he ran out of his garage. It took him a year to even make a dime. But he would tap into the energy of the small successes to build momentum, in his eyes a crucial component of making it, and that propelled him past the disappointments. In the process, his mental grit became the equal of his physical grit.

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1.  On the road to success, pay attention to the unsuccessful stuff.  These experiences will help you.
2.  Don’t let circumstances boss you around.
3.  Wake up early!
4.  When the going gets tough, get creative.
5.  Build on momentum.

Panel Notes:
Joe Desena: Zach is the man. It’s rare to find someone that cares so much about helping people. He's an educator, a trainer, a businessman and a family man.  Zach’s a really awesome guy who opens up his life to anyone looking to be better.

Col. Nye:  Emotional pain can be a great motivator. That bad taste in your mouth is failure. Spit it out. Circumstance, you’re not the boss of me. Rise above the average and build upon success. Small victories build and lead to success.

Sefra Alexandra: Mike Horn, one of the greatest adventurers and explorers of our time,  posits, “If you are afraid of losing, you can never win.”  Zach epitomizes the entrepreneurial spirit of grit in never surrendering to the myriad of obstacles inherent in starting a business.

Johnny Waite: Success is great but failure is more important. Many of the lessons that lead to success are learned in the unsuccessful times. If you don’t want to be average, stop doing what average people do, like hitting snooze in the morning! Most people give up as soon as "life happens" allowing jobs and kids and injuries to be the lame excuses to stop growing and striving and thriving. Momentum is everything. Get started and keep moving.

Direct download: 005-Zach_Even-Esh-SpartanUp-Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:15am EDT