On Becoming Superhuman: 7 Life Lessons from The Bold Academy

As many of you know, since creating this blog in July 2011, I’ve been on a quest to become the best version of myself.

A quest to achieve extraordinary performance in all areas of my life.

A quest to unleash my full potential and help others do the same.

A quest to become… Superhuman.

Along the way, I’ve made some incredible discoveries, figured out a lot of stuff, and managed to take my life to the next level.

But a couple months ago, I realized that in order to keep moving forward, I needed some help.

First, I hired a team of kick-ass individuals to help me run this website.

Second, I applied to The Bold Academy.

What is The Bold Academy? Well…

The best way I can put it is this: It’s a revolutionary 30-day program designed to help young entrepreneurs and change-makers overcome limiting beliefs and negative habits, get clarity on their greatest gifts, and learn how to share them fully with the world.

My application was selected, and along with 17 other young “superheroes-in-training”, an extraordinary staff of 8 people, and a slew of world-class mentors, I spent all of July at The Bold Manor (a pimped out fraternity house).

Every day was filled with workshops, activities, challenges and exercises designed to really help us step up our personal and professional game.

There was laughter and there were tears, there was elation and there was frustration, there was a whole lot of everything…

We kept it real. Very real.

And in the end, everyone walked out with a head full of amazing memories, a different perspective on life and a newfound (or renewed) desire to make the world a better place.

For all of you who couldn’t be there, I’ve decided to distill the best of what I learned at the Academy and share it, so you too can unleash your inner superhero.

My friends, here are my top 7 life lessons from The Bold Academy:

1) Work Hard. Real hard.

While I was at Bold, I was lucky enough to learn from some of the most brilliant minds in the world as they came in and talked to us about their journey.

They were all really, really smart.  But the one thing that struck me is that they also work their ass off.

Total commitment, long hours, big risks, superb focus, and never-ending hustle.

While some books out there *cough The 4-Hour Workweek cough* lead us to believe that success is possible with minimal effort, I’ve realized that no matter how smart or talented we are, hard work is simply necessary to create something meaningful in this world.

As Daniel Epstein, founder of The Unreasonable Group told us: “Being an entrepreneur means living for 5 to 10 years the way other people won’t, so you can live the rest of your life the way other people can’t.”

2) Set Clear Goals. And Put Them Up. 

Ryan Allis is quite the accomplished guy. Only 27, he’s already sold the company he co-founded (iContact) for a hefty 169 million dollars. Needless to say, when he came to talk to us about building a successful business, I was all ears.

After he was done speaking, I approached him and asked him how he was able to stay so focused and disciplined throughout the 9 years he spent building iContact.

His answer? “I always had clear goals written down and framed on my bedroom wall.”

Interesting. Right as he said that, it hit me: why the hell didn’t I have clear goals?

All through my swimming career, I always had clear goals for each season. And guess what? Staying focused and disciplined was easy, even though the training was super hard.

I saw each workout, each length of the pool, each repetition in the weight room as a stepping stone towards these goals.

I have now given myself clear goals for the next 4 and 12 months and I can already feel a significant shift in my level of focus and commitment.

As you’re reading this, if you don’t have a set of clearly defined goal for the future, I strongly urge you to take 30 minutes to clarify exactly what it is you’re aiming for.

Include both what you want to do and what you want to be (how do you want to show up in the world) and make sure your goals are SMART: Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely.

From there, review your goals every week and make sure your weekly actions align with your bigger goals. It’s going to rock your world.

3) Ask For Feedback. Quickly. 

I’ve always been a little bit scared to receive feedback (I’m sure I’m not the only one!). Receiving feedback means potentially being told that we’re not good, that our idea sucks, etc.

But in reality, getting feedback is the fastest way to improve ourselves and what we’re working on. It helps us see our blind spots and gives us ideas that we wouldn’t have come up with ourselves.

Tom Chi, the lead engineer at Google X, taught us a powerful process called “Rapid-prototyping”.  This means that when you have an idea (big or small), you should create a prototype as fast as you can and immediately get someone to try it out for feedback.

That way, you’ll know right away if there are flaws and you’ll be able to correct course instantly.

We all tend to spend way too much time in our own head, tweaking our ideas and refining them, but the truth is we need to get our ideas in front of potential customers in order to know if they’re truly viable.

4) Be Honest. Radically Honest.

Just as asking for feedback is important, being able to be radically honest with people is a wonderful quality, and one of the greatest gifts we can give people.

Sometimes we shy away from telling people the hard truth in fear of hurting their feelings, but we really are doing them a disservice in doing so. We’re preventing them from a golden chance to improve and take a big step forward in their life.

Next time you’re hesitant about telling someone something, be compassionate and respectful, but be radically honest. You’ll be surprised how well the other person will take it and you’ll be proud of yourself for keeping it real.

5) Rejection is OK. Regret SUCKS.

One of the challenges we did at Bold was called The Boulder Hu$tle. Inspired by the American TV show The Apprentice, we had 24 hours to go and earn as much money as possible by hustling around Boulder.

Our team’s strategy was to create a menu of different services we could provide to entertain people, from doing the chicken dance, to taking a picture shirtless with them, to teaching them some French/Spanish, and many other crazy things… believe me. :)

During that day, I probably approached about 300 people on the street. Most of the time, they didn’t want my services.

But here’s what I learned: rejection doesn’t really hurt at all. In fact, it feels pretty good you know you went for it, and that’s all you can really ask of yourself.

The only time I felt bad during that day is when I had the chance to approach someone and I didn’t go for it. The regret stung much worse than any rejection.

To find out what happened at The Boulder Hustle, check out the full story here. 

6) Don’t Fear Failure. Fear Not Trying. 

During the first week of Bold, we spent a lot of time figuring out what was stopping us from succeeding. In my case, I realized that fear of failure was a BIG thing. I was afraid that if I went for it 100% and came up short, people would see me as a failure, think less of me, etc.

But as I started to look at this fear… I realized it’s all an illusion. Whenever we see someone go for it and not quite achieve what they were aiming for, we have only respect for their trial. Plus, in the end… This life is our life, not anybody else’s.

So if you want to try something… Go for it! As they say… Fortune favours the bold. :)

7) Community Rocks. 

While living in a house with 30 other people was a bit much at times, it was also super cool to be surrounded by like-minded people. By supporting and keeping each other accountable, trading ideas, sharing insights and challenges, and imagining + creating a better world together… We realized that the sky really is the limit.

I truly believe that it’s communities of like-minded people who are going to change the world in the future. And wherever you are in the world, I encourage you to find a community of people who share the same values as you. If you can’t find one, consider moving someplace where you will. It’s that important.

***

The 28 days I spent at Bold were truly special and I feel very blessed to have been a part of it. If you’re curious about what a day was like at the Academy, check out this sweet video by Ryan McDaid and Mike Bell.

To being BOLD,

Phil

PS If you’re ready to unleash your own superpowers, check out and apply to my coaching program The Peak Performance Experience.

Please share this post, because that’s how more people can become BOLD!

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"PS. Ever feel overwhelmed when trying to reach your goals? Watch my TEDx talk to learn how to stop slowly killing yourself while accomplishing more. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-M9i3-QhWzg&t=565s"
Posted on : 14, Aug 2012

33 Comments

  • Awesome post Phil! And love the insight from Ryan. I actually create my own “day planners” that have my goals spelled out so I see them wherever I go.

    Glad to have you back bro! We still need to set up a Skype call.

    Todd

    • That’s awesome Todd- yeah it’s all about connecting our daily actions with our bigger goals. Each action we take is a stepping stone to where we want to go.

      PS Just sent you a FB message about our Skype call!

    • Howdy! Do you know if they make any plugins to assist with Search Engine Optimization?
      I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good success.

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  • Hey man! :)) So glad to hear it was so great at Bold Academy! I watched that video before when you posted it and it really does look like a life-changing experience! So beautiful and so fun :)

    This 7 lessons are, as always with your tips, rules, techniques, -brilliant!! Love the SMART acronym, it really sums up what we have to have in mind when defining our goals. Lesson 3 is really an important one because it’s often hard to be objective, especially when it’s about something that we made. And feedback can help us sooo much to realize how it looks from other perspective.

    Rejections and failures generally are instinctive in us that they will bring some kind of low self-esteem to us or any bad feeling. But, we have to realize that that moment is another lesson and we are closer to success. If we don’t fail, how will we learn.
    Well, we all are familiar to that philosophy, also more and more people today is, but it’s still easy to fall to that “feeling bad” state. We just have to bring our awareness every time that negativity is not the one that defines us. We do not succeed when in doubt, we succeed when we believe.

    Also, love the last lesson! There’s nothing better then surrounding yourself with people with similar goals! They don’t have to be the same as you, different people can initiate different kind of conversation, which can stimulate your brain to whole new spectrum of ideas. And with them your goals will be clearer every day and your energy level at max, because you feel like in perfect place in perfect time, and believe in what you’re doing. As long as you love it, you’ll thrive. :)

    • Hahah thanks for the epic comment Ivor :) It’s obvious that you really get these principles!

      I’m curious, have you set goals for yourself? I know you’re constantly learning and assimilating new ideas, but have you defined clearly where you want to be and who you want to be in a few months?

      • Well, I really try, I think about it every single day and trying to figure out. So you could say my goal at the moment IS to define myself – my future “career”, my purpose. I don’t know..that’s something that has always been hard for me. All this years I couldn’t decide what “job” I really want to do. I always thought about what could bring me a lot of money, but it was never connected to what I want to do from the bottom of my heart.

        Just in last maybe 1.5 years I realized I have to find something I’ll enjoy doing every day, but that choice is hard to make. I did often fall into thinking what if I won’t learn to do something I have to do, what if I won’t earn anything with what I try. But, I realized in the last year that that’s something I just have to believe it will work out.

        I’m thinking it has to be connected with the healthy lifestyle because I love this kind of living so much. Being involved with amazing (healthy) food, understanding our body, our organism in details, feeling energetic… It is still hard to define… But I will keep trying to figure it out. I still wish to start a blog, hoping it will help me in realizing what I want to do.

        Again me with the long comment…sorry heh. All in all, I feel every day that I’m closer, it’s just that I don’t know if the A-ha moment is near. hope it is.

        • I think you hit the nail on the head when you said “I just have to believe it will work out.”

          It’s super important that you have faith and trust that it’ll happen in due time.

          But the other part of it, is that you have to try different things. 18 months ago I thought I was going to start a superfoods company.. so I managed to get a job with one. Only to realize that that wasn’t really my path after all.

          I think in your case even reaching out to people who you admire and are doing things that inspire you and offering to do free work for them would be highly beneficial- that way you can get an inside view and figure out if it’s for you or not.

          Belief and action.. the two magic ingredients to any great endeavour :)

          • You’re right. Maybe it’s hard for me to decide because I don’t know how it will look like. I’ll check it out who’s doing what in my country and try to start communicating with them and offer help.
            Just hope I can manage my time good because I have tons of work on College.

            Thanks for help and great comments! ;)
            p.s. I think you’ll need different kind of comment section for this kind of conversation xD

  • Wow, Bold Academy sounds like an awesome way to spend 28 days! Before hearing Tom Chi speak, have you practiced rapid prototyping or anything similar? It sounds like the process of prototyping will actually clarify our ideas and sort out a lot of questions before even launching the prototype. Thanks for sharing your experience and Bold Academy in general!

    • Hey Robby! Actually, I hadn’t.. I was very much a guardian of my own ideas until I felt like they were fully ready to be shared with the world. The closest I’d gotten to it was getting an editor to help with spelling/grammar for these articles and starting to ask her for feedback on the overall piece..

      I’m definitely implementing it a lot more these days, consciously seeking feedback on different projects I”m working on and not being afraid to hear the hard truth.

      How about you? Any experience with rapid prototyping?

      • I actually don’t have much experience with rapid prototyping either besides a similar situation to yourself. I like to draft blog posts for a few days looking at it each day and catching mistakes or just parts I want to change that I didn’t notice the day before.

        I’m going to make an effort to try rapid prototyping projects, big or small, and I’ll let you know what I discover!

        • Hey Robby, blog posts are actually are great way to rapid prototype, but the way to do it is to actually write a first draft, and right away get feedback on it by sending it to a friend (as opposed to going back to it every day for a few days). It’s all about getting out of our own world and enrolling the help/ideas of others!

  • Where’d you get that Bruce Lee shirt? I want it!

    Wow. I’d love to try the Bold Academy if I ever have the time (I’m fully employed right now, but maybe someday in between jobs when I have a free month). Looks like an incredible experience. Thanks for the awesome post!

  • This is dope dude! And I’m excited to watch you implement these AH-HAs as you continue on your journey. Knuck-bumps!

    • You’ll definitely be witnessing the evolution in the coming months.. and be asked for your feedback a few times for sure :)

  • #5 – you always fail if you never try! My Life motto right there.

    Glad you had such an inspiring month @ the academy bro!

    • Amen brother! I’ve understood that concept intellectually for quite some time now, but I”m definitely applying it more than ever now!

  • PHIL YOU ARE TRULY BLAZED UP,AND A CLEAR EXAMPLE OF THE TYPE OF AWESOME PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD AND THE TYPE OF HOPE STILL IN THIS WORLD,BROTHER WE TRULY POSSESS THE SAME VISION AND IT SEEMS WE’RE BOTH DOING IT , KEEP GOING AND KEEP WORKING IT DUDE,AND THANKS FOR SHARING YOU JUST STOKED AN ALREADY ACTIVE VOLCANO IN MY GUT,NOW I;M EVEN MORE HUNGRY.

    • Hahah my pleasure Migat!! Keep stoking that volcano and making big things happen my brother!

  • Great post Phil! I completely agree with all the tips. I am glad you mentioned working hard (real hard). I feel like this has become a lost art over the years. When a lot of the “experts” came out talking about working less, the message seems to have been lost in translation. It’s not that you should work less – hours or effort – merely that you should work less in things you aren’t truly passionate about. Working 9-5 is ridiculous if you hate your job. When I first became an entrepreneur I definitely misinterpreted this message. I started waking up at 4pm in the afternoon and partying all day. Quickly I became less happy. I had to realize I gain a lot of fulfillment by putting in a day of hard work. The work isn’t hard. I love it! But that doesn’t mean I should go at it with any less intensity or focus. I now wake up and work 9-5 many days, if not later in the evening, but am happier than ever doing it. This is my life’s project. It’s my legacy. Of course I should put in as many hours and effort possible. None of this has to imply I lose balance or lose the freedom to live a great life. A great life is a passionate one. And thankfully… a lot of my “research” involves me living life to the fullest.

    I also like your point about radical honesty. I definitely think you should check out Sam Harris’ book “LYING”. It took me about 20 minutes to read and touches on the subject in great detail. It’s helped me tremendously to approach my life with radical honesty. http://www.samharris.org/lying

    Thanks for the post. Keep doing your thing, Phil.

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