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Transcript: The Art of Self-Mastery (EP41)


Intro (with music): Welcome to The Culture of Things podcast with Brendan Rogers. This is a podcast where we talk all things, culture, leadership and teamwork across business and sport.

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Brendan Rogers: Hello everybody, I'm Brendan Rogers, the host of the Culture of Things Podcast. This is episode 41. Today I'm talking with RJ Singh. RJ is the director of Cora group which provides businesses with integrated freight and logistics management services. He is the founder of Ultra Habits and Ultra Endurance Athlete, self-mastery mentor, and devoted family man. His mission is to lead by example and share the ultra habits needed to achieve peak performance in all areas of life.

With a ray of magnetic personality that naturally draws you in, he can't help but inspire his audience. Maybe it's deciding to run a marathon, start walking at 4:00 AM to improve productivity or a doctor with no excuses attitude. RJ is someone that leaves a lasting impression on everyone he meets. But it was a long and winding road to get there. Born to immigrant parents in Australia and raised in the US, RJ grew up in a close-knit family, but experienced racism and violence at school, which led to him falling in with the wrong crowd.

A string of bad decisions including crime, truancy, and youth detention ended in dependency on alcohol and a one-way ticket to Sydney. Desperately wanting to change the course of his life but ill-equipped to steer the ship, he was fortunate to land a job and connect with some male mentors that started him on the journey to self-mastery. With support, he got sober and free from the chains of addiction, fully committed to cultivating the life he wanted. Recognising that to accomplish his life goals, he needed to rebuild and master not just his mind, but his body and spirit too.

Learning through experience and employing self-discipline, self-awareness, and finding purpose in tough challenges, he mastered his fears and smashed his limiting beliefs. Every day he's getting closer to the very best version of himself. Driven by empowering men to achieve maximal success, he developed his pioneering framework—Ultra Habits. This same methodology has enabled him to earn an MBA from AGSM, focus on stoic fitness, and endurance running, form healthy relationships, have a family, and achieve mental peace. 

The focus of our conversation today is the art of self-mastery and achieving the best version of yourself. RJ, welcome to the Culture of Things Podcast.

RJ: Thanks for having me, Brendan. Wow, what an introduction.

Brendan: It was a fair bit in that intro wasn’t it?

RJ: It was amazing. I'm blushing. I don't know if the audience can see it. I was like, is he talking about me? But yeah, it was a good introduction.

Brendan: You're a man who packs a punch. I have to tell you this now. I was talking with a mutual friend of ours, a guy by the name of Alex Carver. You might know him. Alex and I came to the conclusion, you're actually the central coast version of David Goggins.

RJ: Oh no. Some of the guys at the gym tell me I'm the poor man’s David Goggins. I try to find my own space, but I can't seem to get away from David Goggins. Ultimately, I think he's really—if you can remind people of David Goggins, I mean there's a lot worse he can be doing in life, right?

Brendan: Absolutely.

RJ: I like David. I respect him, and I think the greatest thing I respect about David is he shows a sermon. He doesn't just talk about it. He shows you the sermon by his actions. For me, that's what's inspirational about him.

Brendan: Absolutely. Great point, and that's going to lead us into the conversation absolutely around self-mastery and those ultra habits. First of all, how about you tell us a bit about that. I'd love you to go into the background in the states. The difficult upbringing and loads of things. Tell us a bit about that and how that journey, and really how you came out of that journey.

RJ: I was a kid that—like many, many kids out there—didn’t have a strong sense of self. We talked about your daughter earlier and how she just had this innate ability to know her true north. Her behaviours and actions guide her towards that true north irrespective of what the external environment is presenting her. I didn't have that. I got swept up in everything and everyone around me tried to be all things to all people and didn't really know who I was. Because I wasn't grounded as they say when you stand for nothing, you fall for everything.

That coupled with the fact that I have an addictive streak, whether that's nature, nurture, or a combination of both, which I believe to be true. That created the perfect storm for a disaster. I got involved with gangs, the wrong people—ultimately drugs, and alcohol. What happened was I started to create an identity. I started to find myself in what I perceived to be respected from others in a life of crime, and that was intoxicating for me.

To start to finally find a sense of power when I felt effectively powerless was something that I couldn't walk away from. That took me into really bad places. Ultimately, I think where I really designed my character, my parents had bought a pool table when I was 10 years old. I was a very good pool player by the time I was 16 or 17. I started going to pool halls, and I started living in pool halls effectively. I loved pool halls because it had the environment—gambling, fast money, alcohol. Everything that vice was available down there in the San Francisco Bay Area and the places that I was hanging out.

This is a theme even in business, but I started to hang around really established men that were doing the wrong things. I am always attracted to men that could teach me something. I think that might be because I didn't have a strong relationship with my dad. Even though he was there, he worked. There wasn't a connection there, but I really let the negative environments mold me into what I believed was a better hustler. I liked the fast money. I liked to cut corners. I was addicted to doing the wrong thing, amongst many other things.

At the age of 25, really looking around me was just carnage. It had been a life of in and out of institutions, jails, rehabs, and all the sorts. I had managed to get a degree. I was leaving this dual life where I got into a private university in San Francisco and did a business degree. By evening I was going to night classes, and by day and by late night, I was doing all kinds of forms of skulduggery I guess. But I was 25, 26, and looked around me and there was just absolute carnage.

I was heavily addicted to alcohol. The women in my life had been toxic, twisted, and not as well as I. I had a really skewed, warped value system, and the way that I perceived the world. This is now a theme in my life. One of my focuses and main focuses in life is to purify my perception. If I look back on how I perceive life, it was perceived through the eyes of someone who is very sick.

Brendan: What changed it? How did you get out of this situation? What was that spark that said, hey RJ, this is not a good place? Where are we going? Let's do something about it.

RJ: I was 25 years old. I had a lot going on in the US in terms of troubles. I knew something was going to happen. I was coming to a crossroads. I was telling my mom, I was like, yeah I got a degree, but I've got a history here. I can't pull myself out of the physical environment. I cannot untangle myself from this identity that I've created. I was going to leave for Australia. I was playing with the idea. There was a catalyst that ultimately brought me here that I won't necessarily go into, but it was a catalyst. I, basically, went and bought clothes from Target and a suitcase. I stayed in a hotel and I bought a one-way ticket to Sydney, Australia.

I knew—as difficult as the decision was going to be because I had never become a naturalised citizen in the US. All my family had become, I hadn’t because I was too busy just out there in the streets and wouldn’t bother to go. Plus I had problems that would have prevented me from easily doing it by that stage, but I knew once I left to come here, my Green Card was getting expired. There was a fair probability I wouldn't be coming back.

It wasn't just a decision of jumping on a plane coming to Australia. It was a decision to come to a country that I effectively didn't know since I left at the age of three with the prospect of never being able to return to the United States to live. It was a big decision, but I knew it was a decision I had to make. That was the first connectedness to reality I have had in a long time. It was also the first lesson that facing the unknown is ultimately the way. Probably to the point now where I intentionally—to my detriment—look for it because I'm now biased towards the unknown path, but the path that I get a sense there's going to be transformation. I had a sense that this is my opportunity. There was nowhere else, nothing else.

Brendan: Let's go into that point since you've taken us there, this transformation. What is this transformation in you? And even going back to some of that stuff you've shared—and thank you very much for going to that place—how have those experiences helped guide and bring out the best in you in this transformation, in this self-mastery piece that we’re going to go into?

RJ: I would say looking back on my life in the US, I was a very driven person. Before addiction took me out, I was obsessively playing soccer to the point where I cut class and trained. I've had someone come along and said, we need to redirect this kid into—I was in an Olympic development program in California, which is probably one of the best states in terms of soccer in the country there. I could have got to a national team level. I had no interest in school. 

Had I had the right frameworks put around me, I could have done very well had that been harnessed. I used to sleep with my soccer ball. I had an obsessive characteristic. I didn't know that. I thought I was lazy and flighty. I just didn’t have the discipline and strength of character, but I had a single-minded focus, and that never left. 

The abilities that kept me alive on the streets have given me an ability in business to read a play that I thought other people could. But I now realised—finally I think at the age of 40—in business, I've got a unique ability to understand what makes people tick. I'm very in sync with stakeholders. I believe that was developed early on as a kid in situations that were high risk, and I had to be in sync with the environment and the people within it. I had to know how to move and groove.

Those characteristics are characteristics I bring in today that are really the key drivers of my—what they call success I suppose to some degree. Those things have never changed. The fundamental shift has been the realignment of values. I've had a reorganisation of values. That happened through the process of sobriety and getting onto a path that was what we can call spiritual, if we want to put a word on it. That was the beginning of the rearrangement of ideas that were no longer working.

As I got sober, my physical life started to change. I became successful quite quickly when I got sober in Australia. Partly because I had a mentor who literally was there, and he owned a business. He knew what was happening and he was taking me on this journey. I was still a crazy person, but physical success was happening because I can work, I was channeling it, and I was exercising. But my values, my spirit, and all that stuff still hadn't changed. The key there was I had now awareness I wasn't a well person.

Brendan: I want you to dive into a little bit around those values. You keep saying how that value realignment, and there was some support through mentorship—absolutely fantastic, but what is that value? What drives you? What does RJ stand for now?

RJ: If you would have asked me how I saw myself when I was in the US, I wanted to cultivate an image of myself of being a hustler, shrewd, all about money, all about the angle. I loved to cultivate that view of myself. That was my narrative. I think the first thing was realising that my narrative was starting to change and what I wanted my narrative to be was very different. 

One of the things we do in 12-step which is interesting, which I'm a member of the recovery community is when you're getting sober in one of the steps, you list a bunch of attributes and values that you want your potential partner to have. Unbeknownst to the person that's doing it, once they show their sponsor who's taking them through the steps, what their sponsor will say is, okay, you want to attract these values? Now, you're going to attract it by exhibiting them, living them in your life.

What started to happen to me was I started to form this view of who I wanted to be. It wasn't who I was, but that was the shift and then it was okay, what do I need to do to get there? That was a massive piece. It was funny, a lot of those values were shaped by the mentors that I had in this new life. Just as it was in the previous life and looking at the qualities and attributes they had. 

I would say one of the good things and what I was lucky I think for was that I came into, and I've said this to many people in many different times that business for me was never an opportunity to become successful. It was an opportunity that someone presented to me to enable me to change my life.

For me, as soon as I got into the business, I had a sense that financial success isn't the end game. I'm very lucky in that sense because I never had to live that get to 40 and realise, oh my God, I've got everything and this crisis of conscience. I was always quite acutely aware that this is a vehicle. That's how I still view it. 

I still view what we do in the business world as a means of personal transformation. I almost view it like sport because of that, because it's a complete game for me around the business on a daily basis. It is helping me evolve. I would say, to digress a little bit, my number one priority with my children is to help them find their functional passion in life because your functional passion, i.e. what you do, can be used as a means of transformation.

The Japanese do this. You can access mastery through form and through function. That's why I think it's one of the greatest responsibilities of a parent is to help the children find their thing. Because through finding their thing, they will then evolve because the passion dictates that. You cannot be the best at what you do without refining yourself. That's what business has done for me.

Brendan: I want you to maybe just give one or two examples of that realignment of values, again, going back to that point, but what is it that you wanted to transition into, and therefore that thought around the types of people that will be attracted to you? You've got a lovely wife and a lovely family now, and your world seems pretty good. Just give us a sense of what one or two things were.

RJ: Let's use that. Let's unpack that because that's a really good example. Until I met Tilly, who’s my wife—lovely wife, the better half exponentially. Until then, when I was sober, water seeks its own level. Even though my physical environment was looking good, I was attracting women that were still very sick. I sought it out, women that looked like the women that I was with when I was back in the USA doing my thing. I couldn't get away from it. I could not get away from it 

I met a group of men who identified what was going on with me. They took me under their wing, and they were all married. All with strong values, but had been through what I had been through in the transition to get sober.

When I met Tilly, it was probably the first two years, especially when we lived together, was the most excruciating period of growth I had ever had because I now have someone in my space. Romantic relationships have an ability to push your buttons in a way—they're great teachers in that sense like children. But I wanted to abandon the relationship many times. Back to this perception thing, because my perception was skewed on relationships, I was seeing her as the problem. 

Everything in me was like you need to get out of this and the men in my life wouldn't let me abandon the relationship. We had made an agreement. I would not abandon the relationship. I extricate myself from being able to make that decision. I couldn't make the decision. The agreement I had with these mentors, I can’t make the decision to do it. What was guiding me was my value to be a good man to get into a healthy relationship. That value, that objective was my true north, and because I was held to that value, I did not abandon the relationship. 

That's an example. I'll tell you, there are many people in the recovery community, in the addiction community that is sober for many, many years and they're very broken in relationships. Addiction ultimately, when you take the drugs and alcohol away, there always is a dysfunction in the person's relationship to other people. An individual’s willingness to face that will dictate whether they can get married and move on or they will spin for the rest of their lives in these relationships that are not well. I've seen it. 

You know what? That's what actually kept me in that relationship because I was looking around me, at all my peers that were young. They were all in and out of relationships, they were all physically doing well, but they couldn't seem to get that part of their life together. I went and sought people in the recovery community that I saw all these people had what I wanted. How did you do it? They told me. I didn't always like the answer. 

Now with two kids, sometimes in relationships, what we don't realise is that we as individuals are looking for other people to help with our inherent self-dissatisfaction. When they can, we become resentful. That's what was happening to me. I was looking for her to help me feel better about myself. Because she couldn't, because no one can, she became the problem. Again, it comes down to perception.

Brendan: Our interview will continue after this.

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Let's continue this focus on yourself. I want to use the word self-mastery because we mentioned it in the introduction. All of these things you talked about, they're all around self, what you're doing, and fantastic. First of all, what does self-mastery actually mean for you? What does it look like?

RJ: For me, self-mastery is the struggle, the journey to access the awareness I require to understand how I really tick. Which then leads to the effective management of the good, the bad, and the ugly of my character. It has nothing to do with it's going to result in making $2 million next week. I don't care about that. It's about self-analysis, which leads to the recognition of my operating system. Once I have that, I can work with it. That's what it means for me. That's the only game in town for me.

I got to be honest with you, it was revealed to me in my MBA when. We had a leadership weekend. It was like, who do you want to be, and everything was about leadership. It was a great weekend. It was unbelievable. We did a paper, and I did this paper about the leader I wanted to be. I came up with this thing around mind, body, spirit, and everything that I wanted to do was focus on the evolution in those areas.

The feedback from my professor was that—I'm not saying this from an ego perspective. He said you were the only one that focused on behaviour. Most of what other people said was CEO, CFO, blah, blah, blah. There was none of that. For me when I say the only game is self-mastery, I have a belief that focusing on that will just lead to success. It's going to happen. I have to have the drive, passion, and stuff, obviously. I don't need to really worry about it, I got to be a CFO in two years. Those moves mean nothing.

Brendan: You and I have had various conversations around these sorts of topics. We both use that word hypocrisy from time to time in leaders. Now is a good time to maybe expand on that with your own version of what's this hypocrisy in leadership in relation to self-mastery that we see probably quite often today.

RJ: Let me preface this with, I always felt embarrassed or a sense of imposter syndrome when someone would say—I never wanted it to say I believe I'm a leader. I'd almost rebel and say I'm not because I recognise, I enjoy my individualism. I tend to revel in my own success more than group success. I tend to be geared that way. I thought I'm not a leader because of that. It was pointed out by a mentor, someone that has been very good to me. She said you are a leader because you're leading through your own example. People are watching what you do. Then it made me realise that okay, there's a level of accountability there, but there are different types of leaders.

I suppose speaking on this hypocrisy piece, I don't believe a leader can impact their environment effectively unless they have done thorough and are continuing to do thorough self-analysis. I believe a leader needs to hold their own evolution as a matter of priority before they feel they can go and bestow their wisdom on everyone else. I'm not saying you can't do it concurrently, but a leader to me has to be the first person to fall on their sword.

Jim Collins talks about it a lot in terms of the show horse versus the workhorse, and what types of CEOs and leaders are typically successful. I even look at my currency CEO at Cora. One of the things I love about Steve is that he reflects. He reflects a lot. We have conversations about that reflection. I feel that we tend to be in an era now where there is a lot of team-orientated stuff, we've talked about it. 

But the question really is, those individuals and those team-building exercises that are all leaders that are working on creating cohesive teams, what work are they doing on themselves? How sustainable are all these initiatives that are being put into play when they've got no view and perspective on their own shortcomings and their own blindsides? They're not working on the self-analysis piece themselves. That to me is what I call that hypocrisy. It's not vicious. It's not something that's intentional. 

Everyone wants to lead other people, but how many people want to lead themselves? That should actually be the qualification for any leadership position. Everyone wants to make $100,000 more, but what are you doing with yourself? What kind of work are you doing on yourself?

Brendan: Looking at yourself in this journey that you're on—and we're all on a journey of self-discovery, I hope—has there ever been a time in your own life where you've felt that maybe you have been more than a hypocritical leader? When was that? What did it look like?

RJ: When I first was working in my previous firm under my mentor who helped me change. In many ways, it was a privately owned company. I was given a wide berth. I had gotten sober there, so everyone had witnessed that.

I was getting really good results, I had a high level of energy, but there was a double-edged sword with the level of energy I was having at that time. It was driven by a lot of fear and a lot of imposter syndrome. I need to get results because business is my means of transformation. If I'm not getting results, I'm not transforming. I think that's what was really going on for me.

Because of that, I could be a nightmare. I developed at times the means justify the ends, which happens in sales especially because that's where I'm in. That's the world I live in. That propels it as well. If you're going to measure everything I do, sales within an organisation are generally the most measurable function.

You're either doing it or not, and if you're going to put these targets on me and I achieve them, I'm going to do, be, and act how the hell I want to. I had a lot of that general sales stuff you see going on but coupled from where I had come from, probably the level of fear and insecurity. Then I'm going through this whole self-help stage. I'm like Mr. Inspirational sometimes, but I'm cutting people down 20 minutes later. Does that make sense? 

I was crazy. I'm sending YouTube videos of Eric Thomas at 6:00 AM to all the staff, and then by noon, I'm screaming at somebody. There's this whole piece when a person's going through their own evolution. It's in their head, and it takes time to get to their heart.

There's a knowledge accumulation stage. A lot of people live there forever. That's where the pontification is like oh my God, look at all this material I found. You're in that stage of your development where you want everyone to get into your inspirational material. Napoleon Hill is changing my life, and I want you to read Napoleon Hill. By 1:00 PM, I'm screaming and kicking you.

That's the hypocrisy that I would have exhibited totally because who I wanted to be and who I was were two different things. That's generally the case. With most of us, the game is identifying it and bridging the gap.

Brendan: Let's go into that bridging of the gap as you refer to. This self-mastery, you've founded this business, Ultra Habits. A great little hashtag, #ultrahabits. Tell us about that. This action, what are you doing? What action are you taking? What action do you believe others should be taking on this journey of mastery and building up these ultra habits? 

RJ: What happened to me was when I finished my MBA, I started running. Before I started my MBA—and I'm glad I didn't realise it was a thing—I used to go hiking a lot before I did my MBA and then I'd start running while I was hiking. I loved it, but I didn't know it was actually a thing. Thank God, because I probably would have quit work. I tend to go to what's hard. That's hard, but I didn't. 

I finished my MBA, started running again, and got it and realised that there’s this whole community of crazy people that run ridiculous masochistic distances. I thought, well, this sounds like my new MBA.

Anyway, what I realised when I was out there—and this is where people talk about David Goggins and people like Rich Roll, and there's a lot of learnings, personal evolution, and just synergies in ultra-running or ultra-endurance that exist in the world of high performance in any space.

When I had my second child, I could no longer race, and I didn't want to because of the level of required training. It was a selfish endeavour for me, but what I did realise is that the learning from my whole ultra habits, the ultra running—which I still run in trails, but the whole learning, outcome, and gift I received in that journey was this concept of ultra. It was actually already embodied in who and what I was before I was ultra running. I was ultra studying. I was ultra living. I was all about focusing on exponential growth and activity. 

The premise of Ultra Habits is looking at the minutia in our lives. Everyone wants to look at the sexy big picture stuff, but ultimately, the secret sauce is in the minutia in our lives. When you're ultra-running, it's in the minutia. You're out there by yourself on a Sunday training, running six hours in the Great Northern Walk or wherever. Everything is in the minutia—what you're drinking, what are you eating? Do I run this? Do I walk up this because I've got to get back. No one's out here. There's a lot in it. 

Adopting those principles in life. Okay, what are the small things that I engage in, and for me now in my life, it's very much tweaking the small things. The big levers are no longer there. It's really the small things. What am I engaging on a day to day basis that enables me—once I compound that activity day in, day out, it unlocks value. No habit in itself is ultra, it's very much mundane. But when compounded, it has an ultra effect. That's what it is. 

In the podcast that we're going to release in January, our first guest is Joe De Sena, the founder of Spartan Races. I've got a massive man-crush on him in terms of just everything about him. I ask him about his kids. The podcast that we do release is all going to be focused on the minutia. I want to understand the mechanisms and we're going to be talking to CEOs, athletes, academics, true experts, not social media experts, but experts around what's the minutia? What's the stuff they do? Because I'm interested in that.

Brendan: What is RJ's minutia? Everyone talks about morning routines, and [...] is a pretty common acronym around the ritual morning routine, really great things. I have my own morning routine, but what's RJ Singh's minutia? How do you start each day?

RJ: Before I say that—I think it's very important—when you have a structure to be skilful in the sense of knowing because when you have structure or you become structured, and I've been through this piece as well. That becomes a real risk of being inflexible and rigid, which actually does the opposite of what you're trying to achieve. 

High performance to me, the definition, has changed. Hence why I've stopped running so much because high performance is the effective integration of all areas of my life. Whereas when I'm running at that level, I become lopsided. If I was a professional runner, I'd be different, but I'm not. I had to have someone help me see that. Effective integration of different activities and different priorities in my day that unlock the best I can be. 

The night before the next day, kids drive efficiently as you know, especially little ones. I've got three and a half and a six-month-old. I pre-plan and preset everything. My movements, as soon as I wake up, are limited because I don't want to wake anyone up. I also don't want to be fumbling around wasting time in the morning. I get up very early. It varies, depending on what time I go to sleep because sleep—on my hierarchy of needs—is the priority over waking up early.

Generally, I'll wake up anywhere—it can range between 4:00 AM to 5:00 AM. Everything is literally placed where it needs to be so I can walk out of the house. My keys are in my shoes. The bags have been loaded in my car the night before. There's limited movement through the house. I get out and I get to where I'm going, which is generally the gym or the trails. 

My journals are sitting on my passenger seat with a pen in it, and I usually have one reading. Right now I'm reading Jocko Willink, he’s an ex-SEAL or something. He's got a book on discipline. I enjoy some of his stuff so I'm reading that. But I've got a journal that I write in, which is a stoic journal. Actually, I enjoy some of the stoic stuff where it asks you questions and you reflect. I do my journaling. 

At the end of the journal, I have a habit that I'm focusing on every day until I develop mastery. Right now, I've got two of them. The reason I still have two is because I haven't gained mastery over one of them. It’s batch-checking my emails, 9:00 AM, 12:00 PM, and 5:00 PM and I keep cheating. I will not take it off the list until I stick to that. The other is around rumination. I do that journaling, and for me, it's really, really important that I do that.

The next thing is focusing on the high impact stuff that is required for me to be successful on that day. There's a lot of external noise, there's a lot of noise in our lives. There's a lot of people, places, and things pulling us in different directions, so it's understanding Pareto's Law. What do I need to be focusing on in terms of what's that small percentage of the stuff that's going to deliver most of what I need to have done that day? I'm reflecting on that.

I go off. I kind of do my energy. I manage my energy through exercise and running [...] gym. Some of the other things I do—in no particular order—is every morning I make my bed. There was a speech by an admiral in the United States—I think Texas A&M. He did a whole speech run making your bed. For me, it's super important. There are many times I can't because I leave so early, I get home. But on the weekends I always do. As soon as I get home and if my wife hasn't done it, I make it—even if it's midday or later on in the day. I need to feel my environment is clean and organised. 

In fact, to my wife's annoyance—and some can call it a bit of compulsiveness—when I get home from work, there are certain things I do in terms of tidying the environment because it makes me feel settled.

What else? There's eating right, eating healthy what I put into my body. Food isn't necessarily something that I'm as conscious of as probably other areas of my life, but I eat well. We already talked about exercises. Finances, I track throughout the day. Really having a high level of awareness around, not frugality, but how I spend money. Why I'm spending money, I think that's very important in the main to really understand why I spend the money I do.

For me, I place peak experiences at the apex of where I spend money. Anything that results in a peak experience, which is transformative, that's why I'm willing to pay a lot of money for my kids’ education because, for me, that's a peak experience. I'll pay the premium for anything that I feel will change their view of the world and their relationship to the world. I have a hierarchy of where the money is. A car to me has no value. I won't buy a nice car for myself. There's no point.

I think the other is I suppose—whether it's a habit or behaviour—is I err to impulsiveness versus analytical procrastination, and then I pivot as required. I think far too many people tend to think their way into things. I think one thing we need to realise is that action changes our mindsets, behaviours, and attitudes. 

I'm very existentially focused. I believe in the behaviour of altering the state. The output alters the state. I can’t think my way into change, to act myself into it. There are a few things around how I operate and some of the thought processes that I engage throughout the day. 

Brendan: In this journey of self-mastery and all those things you just mentioned there—the ultra habits. Is there anyone that you would point out to say has been the most impactful on your journey so far?

RJ: Self-analysis. Socrates said, "Unexamined life is not worth living." I wholeheartedly agree. It all starts with self-analysis. Deciding to turn the light inward. We're all looking externally—why he, she? Years ago, I had to be the change I see in the world. When you're working with an individual, I feel you have to get them to see that trying to change the external environment is okay and noble, to some degree. But not when you’re not looking and not implementing that change within yourself. Because ultimately, the only way the world is going to change is not through other people telling each other to change, it’s through everyone doing their own work on themselves. 

Self-analysis is the key. Most people will never do it because there’s no impetus. That’s why my history has been a blessing. Pain is a good motivator. A promise is a good motivator. People don’t change when they don’t have to. 

This whole thing around self-deception we talk about in the workplace happens when I’m closed in my own subjectivity, in my own world. The only anecdote with that is starting to gain insight into how your own world is skewed based on the causes and conditions of your upbringing and whatever. That only happens through the decision to start to look into yourself.

Brendan: How would you suggest to me and others to start that journey? What habit do you think we need to get into to help with our own self-analysis?

RJ: First of all, for anyone to change, it was told to me that the individual has to see what they’re going to lose or what they can gain. Human beings are moved by emotion, and you have to find a reason to get interested in change, first of all. I met with a dude a few days ago who has been diagnosed with bipolar. He’s got all these ideas. He’s in that knowledge accumulation stage we talked about where he’s off his head but he’s like oh my God, this is great, that’s great, whatever. I’m just trying to make sure he doesn’t get burned out.

He’s now on his journey of self-evaluation. The impetus for that was being diagnosed. Here’s the thing, I can’t—as we call it in the 12-Step community, they call it the gift of desperation. You can’t bestow that to anyone. I can’t bestow that to anyone. I think sometimes it’s easier to work with people that are broken versus people that just want to change a little bit because the consequences of it not happening is obvious to the person that’s broken. Whereas the person who thinks they’re already good, well why do I have to be great or tweak it?

I can’t give people that, but if you do already have that gift of wanting to look at yourself, start to investigate—mind, body, spirit. Learn, books, get interested. Start to read. Use social media for its benefits, man. Use Youtube for its benefits. There’s a wealth of information. Go on your journey. Let curiosity guide you. Curiosity needs to become first and foremost the guiding principle in your life, and it will unfold from there. But the impetus has to first be there and they get curious. Start to learn, develop a learning mindset. That to me is probably the biggest.

From there, you find your tribe. I’m a big believer in leveraging tribes. Gyms that are community-based, even LinkedIn local. [...] is to tribe. Find people, find environments where the norms that are held are norms and values that you strive for. The community will start to shape you too. Once you get involved in those communities, you’ll be off and running. 

It’s as simple as that. It’s from curiosity to community and then it just becomes a learning process and iterative from there. 

Brendan: When we talk about the impact and going back on what you said earlier about you never saw yourself as a leader and yet you are. You see that now but by your own actions and self-mastery. What impact are you hoping to leave with people that interact with you?

RJ: If you were to ask me what life looks like when I believe I’m in a place of being self-actualised, it means that when I’m engaged with people, having these kinds of conversations, they leave with the knowledge that change is truly accessible and it’s there. 

It isn’t through these wonderful ideas, and it’s not for those people over there. It’s accessible to me right here and now through actions. Actions, actions, actions. By redesigning how I am in the world via my habits and actions will start to drive different outcomes. That’s the goal.

Brendan: Absolutely, man, and there is absolutely no doubt in the world—in my experience—you are a man of action.

RJ: Action Jackson.

Brendan: Absolutely. Probably the most simple question, to finish off, how can people get hold of RJ Singh? 

RJ: I’m on LinkedIn. RJ Singh on LinkedIn. I have a couple of emails. I’ve got rjsingh@coragroup.com. I’m also at rj.singh@ultrahabits.co. You can email me. There are also social media platforms on Instagram. Ultra Habits is on Instagram. It’s also on Facebook, but I’d suggest the emails for anything. I’m always up for a good deep dive, especially if there are actionable items at the end of it that people are going to do.

Brendan: That you are, mate. How about you also share, I know there’s a great little one- or two-pager on your website around Ultra Habits, a little checklist. How can people get a hold of that? 

RJ: Email me as well at rj.singh@ultrahabits.co, and I’ll be able to send that out. It’s also accessible via LinkedIn on my RJ Singh page. Those two ways are probably the best way. The actual website, the proper website right now is being built by our mutual friend who's also a runner, that’s why he got the [...]. There’ll be more there soon. 

Brendan: Fantastic. Aren’t relationships everything?

RJ: They are, man. They definitely are.

Brendan: Mate, once again, fantastic to chat with you. I’ve known you for a bit of time. Absolutely action, action, action—that is you 100%. It’s fantastic to learn even more about you today and where you’re at in this journey of mastery and discovery. I’m so glad you’ve landed on a place like the Central Coast because I can get to have coffee with you every now and again and have a chat. We have some really great conversations. 

Thank you for coming to the show, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Thanks for being a guest on The Culture of Things Podcast.

RJ: Thanks, Brendan. Thanks for having me, man. I appreciate it. 

Brendan: Pleasure, buddy.

RJ: Thanks, bro. 

Brendan: RJ is well on his way to building his tribe. He's ultra habits philosophy is powerful and simple to do, but also simple not to do. It is about making a decision to continuously improve yourself. If you focus on improving yourself, the risk will fall into place. If you don't already have RJ Singh in your network, you're missing out. Connect with him on LinkedIn mail. After all, who wouldn't want to be connected to the Central Coast version of David Goggins, or as his gym buddies call him, the poor man’s David Goggins.

These were my three key takeaways from my conversation with RJ. My first key takeaway, leaders focus on the art of self-mastery. If you aren't working on improving yourself, what gives you the right to guide others to improve? As RJ said, everybody wants to lead other people, but how many people want to lead themselves. If you focus on the art of self-mastery and what this means to you, you will have a solid foundation for leading others.

My second key takeaway, leaders have a high level of situational awareness. This is simply knowing what is going on around you. You could also call it street smart. Having the ability to sell up a situation, be aware of how your own actions impact that situation, and also being attuned to other people's behaviour in the given situation is a powerful skill to have. Leaders who are tuned in to the dynamics of their team will normally have a high level of situational awareness. 

My third key takeaway, leaders know the small things done regularly make a big difference. Often the small daily actions don't seem like they have any impact in the short term, but doing these small things over and over and over again will eventually compound. Leaders get clear on the small things. Do them and trust the process that they will make a big difference.

In summary, my three key takeaways were: leaders focus on the art of self-mastery, leaders have a high level of situational awareness, and leaders know the small things done regularly make a big difference.

To win this week's $30 Jangler gift card of your choice, answer this question, what is the name of RJ's business he has just founded? Send your answer to brendan@brendanrogers.com.au. Thank you for listening. Stay safe. Until next time.


Outtro (music): Thank you for listening to The Culture of Things podcast with Brendan Rogers. Please visit brendanrogers.com.au to access the show notes. If you love The Culture of Things podcast, please subscribe, rate and give a review on Apple podcasts and remember a healthy culture is your competitive advantage.