In case you don’t know, Awesomeness Fest is a put on each year by my friends at Mindvalley and it’s designed to teach you how to bring out the most of your capabilities as a human being.
It brings together the most enlightened entrepreneurs I’ve ever met, all with the purpose of sharing revolutionary life lessons.
I arrived at the event mid-afternoon on the first day. I checked into my room, did a quick tour around the hotel property, and then made my way to the ballroom to join over 300 other guests who were soaking up the awesome life lessons from various speakers.
Things started off great. I caught the last 10 minutes of Lee Brower’s talk and could have gone home a happy man. Then, it got even better as Terry Tillman took the stage and dropped some mind-blowing truth bombs about life, business, and happiness.
I could go on and on about every speaker but let me get to the big takeaways from my 4 (which turned into 5) days in Punta Cana. I’ve been incorporating these into my daily life ever since, on a mission to create new healthy habits that power me to new happiness and success.
Life Lessons in Punta Cana
Lesson #1: Detach from the Outcome
This was the BIGGEST of the life lessons for me and it hit me smack in the head within a few minutes of arriving and listening to Terry Tillman. This alone was well worth the trip.
What does detaching from the outcome mean?
I believe that relates to every area of our lives. It’s important to remember that we are the effort, not the outcome. Once you’ve set a goal and you’ve started moving towards its achievement, you’ve done your job. The result, in many cases, is out of your control.
As you know, I’m a very heart-centered entrepreneur and our mission is to empower 10 million people to amazing health and fitness by 2018. But for some reason, the last few months (this was a while ago) my focus has shifted to numbers and metrics and less on the vision that we’d created.
For me, detaching from the outcome means having faith that the business will grow even if I don’t check the numbers like an obsessive fool. In fact, we will reach our goal more seamlessly first by adding tremendous value to the lives others – the rest will take care of itself.
What about you?
Let’s say you want to lose 20 pounds. You eat right and workout intelligently. You do so consistently for a few weeks.
In this case, letting go of the outcome means to not obsess about the end result. Focus on what you CAN control (your day-to-day actions). Energetically, obsessing about the end result communicates a sense of scarcity – that you’re not enough and that you don’t have enough. This is not the right message to be projecting.
Instead, feel confident in what you’re doing and that you will eventually reach that ultimate goal. That’s not to say you shouldn’t measure your progress along the way, but certainly not in the form of obsessing about how you much weigh every single day.
Lesson #2: Life Is a Continuous Cycle of Giving and Receiving
One of the most profound life lessons you’ll ever learn is that life is all about giving and receiving.
Think of the hydrologic cycle: Clouds “give” water in the form of rain or snow and then “receive” it back through evaporation and condensation. There are countless examples in nature of this process.
The idea here is to be a provider of value. To give more of what you want because in doing so it implies you understand that more will come back to you. If you hold on, you essentially block this natural flow.
Want more money? Then get comfortable giving more of it away through tithing, donations, tips, etc…
Holding on to that which you want most, once again, displays a feeling of scarcity. If you feel that you are not enough or don’t have enough, then you never will.
One of the coolest examples of this was Terry Tillman’s Dead Sea analogy. The Jordan River is the only major water source flowing into the Dead Sea and there are no outlet streams. Aside from the fact that the Dead Sea is the lowest sea on Earth (which partially explains its high salt content), it’s a “dead” body of water inhospitable to life because it only receives. It does not give.
So, if you want more in life, be a giver. If you want more money, provide more value to others. If you want to lose weight, then be willing to let go of the stories that are holding you back.
Lesson #3: Do the Thing You Don’t Want to Do
One of the most profound life lessons from Punta Cana hit me when Terry Tillman (yes, him again) asked everyone to bring something of value with them to one of his talks.
We had no idea what was about to happen. And honestly, I actually forgot to bring an important item with me. Quite frankly, I don’t own anything that I hold so dear to my heart. My memories and experiences are good enough.
Anyways, he asked everyone to pair up and bring forth their valuable item. For some, it was a necklace given to them by their grandmother, for others it was a meaningful pen. You get the point.
I had nothing and neither did my partner.
Then, Terry asked us to give that cherished item to our partner. It wasn’t mandatory but he suggested that if we felt comfortable doing so we could.
For many people, it was a very uneasy process because of the attachment they had to their item.
At first, I felt safe because I had nothing to give away. But then something deep inside of me knew just what I had to do…
The only thing that I had been holding onto over the last year had been the makeup I’d been using to paint on my fake eyebrows. As I revealed a few months ago, my hair loss (Alopecia) had restarted and I was losing my eyebrows once again. Out of shame, I decided to cover that up with makeup to look “normal”.
However, Terry’s exercise stirred something inside of me and I knew what I had to do.
Yet, I still resisted. I didn’t want to give away my safety net. If I no longer put on my fake eyebrows, what would others think of me? After all, I’m supposed to be a health expert.
Or had I just been fooling myself this whole time? Everyone probably already knew that these drawn on eyebrows weren’t real anyways.
The makeup was in my room so I felt exempt from the potential discomfort of giving it away – at least temporarily.
Later that night something magical happened. I had a number of life-altering conversations with two close friends—Dane Maxwell and Fabienne Frederickson—that gave me the courage to move forward into the resistance and do the thing I knew I had to do… even if I was terrified.
On that hot and humid Saturday night in Punta Cana, in the wee hours of the morning, Dane asked me “Yuri, are you doing chemo?”
I told him that I wasn’t. Which is the truth. I then proceeded to tell him my story (as I alluded to earlier).
A second later he gazed into my soul and asked me what happened to me when I was 11. I wasn’t really sure, but that was around the age when my parents divorced.
He then took me aside, sat me down, and took me through an amazingly emotional exercise to get to the root of this issue.
To say I was stunned by Dane’s level of sincere caring for another human being would be an understatement.
He doesn’t talk to you. He gazes into your eyes and gets into your soul. I’ve never met anyone quite like him. He really does have a gift.
And he gave me the courage to say “no more makeup” and just be myself – hair or not.
Just a few minutes later, I ran into Fabienne. We had a similar conversation. Her words of wisdom gave me some much needed perspective and I committed to her (and Dane) that I was going to give away my makeup first thing in the morning. Both Fabienne and I had tears in our eyes during this breakthrough. I can’t thank her enough.
The next morning, I chucked the makeup into the trash and showed up fully vulnerable. I did a morning yoga session and then ran into Dane on the beach shortly after.
He said, “You are more beautiful than ever”. Sure it sounds weird, but it was really touching.
I am forever grateful to him and Fabienne for being the catalysts that gave me the courage to stop hiding and just be myself.
They gave me the courage to step into resistance and do the thing I didn’t want to do.
To make this life lesson work, ask yourself one question:
What’s the thing you know you need to do, but simply feel paralyzed about doing?
That’s what you have to do.
The sense of freedom and lightness that comes as a result of this is indescribable.
Lesson #4: You Can Have Reasons or Results – Not Both
The only thing holding you back from what you want is the story you keep telling yourself about why you can’t have it. Stories, excuses, reasons—they’re all the same. They BLOCK you from the results you say you want.
You can’t lose weight if you hold onto the story that you have fat genes. It’s simply an excuse. After all, genetics are such a small a piece of the puzzle.
Don’t fall into the lies and stories that others have injected into your mind. You can be, do, and have anything you want but you need to leave your excuses at the door.
Lesson #5: All Physical Change Must Ultimately Come from the Invisible
This lesson hit home with me big time. I’ve heard variations of it before but I was definitely ready for it to sink in this time around. Terry Tillman (yet again) discussed the various levels that affect our being, where each preceding level has domination over the subsequent one.
They are organized as the following:
- Soul (connection to higher power, love)
- Etheric (unconscious)
- Causal (emotions)
- Astral (imagination)
As you can tell, the physical realm is at the very bottom, which means that NO physical change can occur until changes take place in the realms above it.
If you want your physical body to improve, then your thoughts and emotions must first improve. For that to occur, you have to go even higher up to your unconscious beliefs. Then going even higher to a greater power or simply accepting yourself (and others) with unconditional love.
I know it sounds a little “woo woo” but I truly believe this is stuff that creates miraculous breakthroughs.
After all, our current medical model doesn’t seem to be working… so it’s time to turn inwards and rely on the invisible for true healing and life-long change.
I’ve always believed that the invisible is infinitely more powerful than the visible. Why else would so many people put their faith in God—a being they’ve never seen. Gravity, electricity, magnetism, and love are all invisible—yet they are arguably some of the most powerful forces in the universe.
Lesson #6: The Key to Happiness Is…
Wanting what you’ve got. In other words–gratitude.
This is the only one of the life lessons that I can say I received before, though it hit me even harder on this trip. My business coach Dan Sullivan illustrates this beautifully through what he calls “The Gap”.
Most people are unhappy because they continue to focus on that gap between where they are and where they want to be. Essentially, they focus on what they HAVE NOT accomplished yet.
To be happy, you’re far better off looking back and being grateful for how far you’ve come. It’s a simple shift of focus and it’s amazingly powerful.
So you want to lose 50 pounds. Are you focusing on the 40 pounds you haven’t yet lost or celebrating the 10 pounds you’ve already shed? That little difference could be the difference between feeling depressed and giving up or feeling great about yourself and moving forward with hope and optimism.
One of the best ways I’ve found to express gratitude is through my daily gratitude journaling and meditation. Writing down what you’re grateful for takes just a few minutes but it could be one of the most powerful practices you add into your life.
Likewise, meditation is a practice I think everyone should do. Since I’ve been meditating almost daily my stress has gone down, I’m happier, more present, and life seems to support me even more.
As an entrepreneur, being satisfied with the status quo is as foreign to me as the Japanese language. I’m constantly striving forward and reaching for more. I want to help more and more people and sometimes I can lose sight of what I’ve already accomplished at only 33 years of age (I’m now older than this).
Meditation has been a helpful bridge in keeping my feet grounded in the present while my head and vision soar into the clouds.
Another common message was that happiness can only come from within, not external stuff. I’ll talk about that more under lesson #9.
Lesson #7: What if This Is FOR Me?
Our broken down airplane
This is awesome. What if everything in life is FOR you? Instead of things happening TO you and being a victim, why not see events as working in your favor?
I was supposed to fly back to Toronto on the Monday after the gathering concluded. We boarded the plane and everyone was set to go. 30 minutes after our scheduled departure time, the pilot comes on the mic and says there’s a mechanical problem which required a part that was not available in the Dominican Republic (I think).
As he said, the good news was that we got to stay another day in Punta Cana. It was funny to see the reaction of some…”Oh my god! I can’t believe this is happening to me!”
Listen: I’m a pilot too and there’s one thing I know: if there’s a problem with the plane, you definitely want to be on the ground, not in the air wishing you were.
After a few hours of deliberation waiting for Westjet to figure out the hotel situation for 100+ people, we were finally shuttled over to a nearby hotel. The cool part is that the hotel was arguably even nicer than the first resort I was at! And everything was covered by the airline. ☺
Even more meaningful were the relationships I developed with a few people I got to meet and hang out with during those 24 hours. These relationships would never have formed if our plane had flown back to Toronto the day prior.
I find it amazing that our paths had never crossed during 4 days at Awesomeness Fest. So thank you Westjet for bringing us together.
Lesson #8: Stop Adding, Start Replacing
My friend Greg Habstritt was one of the speakers at Afest. His talk about the “Myth of More” really resonated with me, especially since I have two young children (now three) who love toys.
During this talk, he made a terrific suggestion that instead of adding something new, we replace something old. So, if you want to buy a new pair of shoes, throw away (or donate) an older pair that you don’t really need anymore. That way, you don’t continue accumulating more and more crap in your house and in your life.
There’s a huge sense of relief that comes with not having a lot of stuff. As I said earlier, other than my cars (and even that’s debatable), there’s nothing I own that I couldn’t get rid of without remorse.
Greg alluded to his trip to Africa where he spent time with kids who had close to nothing but were 1000x happier than most westernized kids. These kids (and families) have something even more important – real human connection. No video games, Facebook, or other artificial escapes.
A message to parents: your kids don’t give a hoot about the latest toy. Believe me, I had all the toys in the world growing up and I could care less about them. What kids really want is YOU.
Lesson #9: True Happiness Comes from Within, Not Externally
Greg started his talk by asking us to fill in the blank in the following statement:
“If only I had more _______________ I could be truly happy.”
What is that for you? Money, material things, sex, etc…?
Whatever the answer, nothing outside of you can make you happy indefinitely. If you want a new car because you think it’s going to make you happy, let me tell you, it won’t.
Initially, you’ll feel awesome and you’ll want to show it off to your friends but the honeymoon soon fades. Within a few days or few short weeks the novelty wears off. You see others with the same car and you don’t feel as special as you did before.
You start filling it up with gas and realize it’s costing you an arm and a leg. Then you’ve got insurance and lease or finance payments. And the last thing you need is a ding in the bumper from another bad driver.
None of this brings much joy to your life.
And I’m no better. I love cars. But I have never bought them to fill some void inside of me. Actually that’s not quite accurate. I think most people buy stuff to feel special and unique. We buy stuff to show off our status. I’m guilty of that—at least with the cars I’ve purchased.
Nonetheless, they don’t make me happy. I’m pretty happy as it is but having been conditioned from an early age that happiness is tied to money, I’ve had to slowly unravel and discard those inherent tendencies over the past few years.
Regardless of your guilty pleasures, nothing outside of yourself can make you consistently happy. Happiness comes from within and can be harnessed at any moment by smiling, feeling grateful, making someone else feel great about themselves, etc…
Lesson #10: 3 Emotions Can Heal Almost Any Problem
Me with Fab Mancini, Sonia Ricotti, Per Bristow, and other friends in NYC 🙂
Dr. Fab Mancini—one of my dearest friends and colleagues—gave an inspiring talk on self-healing. The one thing that stuck with me the most was that there are 3 emotions that can heal almost any problem (health or otherwise):
Forgiveness, gratitude, and love.
Our SNA students know full well the negative health consequences of holding onto grudges and having feelings of resentment. Eventually, they manifest themselves physically as disease.
Is there someone in your life you need to forgive? If there is, please do so as soon as possible. Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It will only hurt you.
And remember this: we all do this best we can with what we know at the time. If someone hurt you in the past, it takes courage to be able to forgive them. It may help to realize that they were only doing what they knew how to do. Them hurting you had more to do with them and their own issues, than you.
With true forgiveness comes a sense of gratitude for having gone through that experience and even a sense of love and understanding for that person. Yes, it sounds daunting and perhaps a little unrealistic but true acceptance (love) of yourself and others is the ultimate sign of spiritual growth.
Lesson #11: Be Playful
Me (in the middle) with Micha and Jeremy at the costume ball party.
In university I owned an event planning company, mainly because I loved to party and mainly for the music. But over the last few years, being out of the big city and having kids has meant that I’ve had to find new ways to ‘play’.
Thankfully, on the inside I’m about the same age as my kids, so it’s pretty easy to act like a complete goof. However, I’d been yearning to just dance all night and let everything out.
Well, 4 nights of beach, pool, and dance parties at Afest got that fixed pretty quickly. It felt great to just unleash and have fun. No judgments, no worries, nothing. Just pure playfulness.
At home, I’m probably more childish than my kids and I hope that never changes. Being playful is a sign of youth and it’s sad to see that inner quality sucked out of most people as they go through life.
On my last day at the in Punta Cana we played a fun iPhone game called “Heads Up”. We must have looked like total wackos to everyone in the waiting area but, who cares? We were having a blast.
What can you do today to be more playful? Get out of your comfort zone and be goofy for a day – you’ll love it and it will probably give permission for others to the same.
Lesson #12: Being Vulnerable Is the Ultimate Sign of Strength
I have an issue with crying. Apparently, I find it hard to do. After some of the deep discussions I had with others at Afest I realized this is something I need to work on.
Why have I been afraid to cry? Probably because it makes me look weak—I don’t know. Was that something ingrained in my subconscious at a young age? Who knows.
Thankfully, Lisa Nichols led us a through a highly emotional and liberating exercise to close out Afest. It was called “whispers”.
Essentially, half the people in the room had their eyes closed, while the other half circulated throughout and whispered (into the ears of those with their eyes closed) what they wished they had been told as a child.
With my eyes closed for what seemed like an eternity, I was receiving whispers like “You’re good enough”, “You’re perfect just the way you are”, “I love you”, and on and on.
It wasn’t long before the tears started pouring out. I committed to crying full out and not holding anything back.
I was tired of feeling like I had to be strong and holding my emotions in. That hasn’t served me up until now and quite frankly I don’t really think it’s a sign of strength.
Having observed so many others get emotional (during that exercise) and even in expressing their gratitude for a magical morning yoga session, I realized that being vulnerable takes guts.
With that said, here’s another video of me without my eyebrows…
Lesson #13: Dancing is Frickin’ Awesome!
I just had to throw this in there again. You can dance anywhere at any time. Just turn on good tunes and let go. For me, the ultimate dance party involves some great electronic music (usually techno or drum & bass) – that’s about it. No drugs or alcohol for me thanks.
Lesson #14: Deep Human Connection Eclipses How Many Virtual Friends You Have on Facebook
Yannick and I (before the eyebrows went bye-bye)
I’m forever grateful to the amazing people I met and connected with at Afest. You guys know who you are. Thank you. I love you all.
I love connecting in person with others. I can’t stand social media. Ironic? I don’t think so.
If you’ve used any of my workout or nutrition programs and feel like you think you know me, chances are you’re probably bang on. I’m as open and authentic in real life as I am online and through my work—at least I try to be.
Some people I know are almost frighteningly different when you meet them in person. For whatever reason that really bugs me
At dinner the first night, I bumped into a lady while we were both getting food. She saw my name badge and said, “Yuri, is that you? My trainer?”
I said, “I don’t know, is it?”
She proceeded to tell me that she’d be using our Treadmill Trainer 5k training program for the last year and it’s helped her lose 100 pounds in the process!
How amazing is that?!?
I gave her a big hug and we got a pic together to capture the moment. Her name is Yannick Lemieux and it was so great to meet one of my virtual clients in person.
Seeing and hearing about her success is why I do what I do.
Then two days later, I ran into another virtual client from the Dominican Republic named Orling who approached me in much the same way and told me she had been training with me for several months with my Treadmill Trainer workouts.
The workouts had helped her get into running and now she’s been able to do a number of races. How awesome, right?!?
You’d think that running into two women who were virtual clients of mine at one event would be lucky enough, right? But there was still room for one more.
Pamela and I actually ran into each while in line for our first (but cancelled) flight. She thought it was me and I confirmed that indeed it was. She found my work through one of my recent videos.
It’s quite ironic that I stopped training and working with clients almost 6 years now, because it’s these real human connections that juice me up the most. That’s why I love attending these events and meeting all sorts of amazing people, whether they’re clients or not.
I think real human bonding is what really nurtures our soul. You can’t get that from an iPhone or Facebook. I find it sad when groups of friends or even families gather together and waste most of their time in virtual conversations with people who aren’t even present.
It’s no wonder so many people are unhappy nowadays.
It’s almost as if we lost the ability to even interact normally. When we stand in line anywhere, that awkward moment compels so many of us to reach for our “blankie” (aka iPhone) to find someone online to talk to. God forbid we should have no email or Facebook to turn to.
Why not speak to someone in line? Heck, they might even be a friend on one of your social media pages.
Hey, here’s an idea…
Put the frickin’ phone down and look someone in the eyes and have a sincere and meaningful conversation. Then hug it out.
This is one of those life lessons that should be plastered on billboards everywhere. I bet it would put a dent in the use of anti-depressants.
Lesson #15: Love Yourself No Matter What
I’m an entrepreneur and I love marketing—when it’s used appropriately. But I believe that the evil powers of some advertising has created an epidemic of self-hatred.
We look at billboards and magazine covers and instantly feel terrible about ourselves. Again, it’s “The Gap” at work – constantly measuring ourselves against some unrealistic and unachievable ideal. Mostly, because many of these images are so photoshopped they’re not even close to being real.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned since losing my hair more than 15 years ago, it’s that you are much more than your physical body. You are a unique soul and there is no one else in the entire history of the world that is like you.
When you come to terms with the fact that you have incredible gifts that no one else but you can give to this world, it’s truly an amazing feeling. You, not one of the hundreds of million other sperms made it. You are here for a reason. Do you see that?
Why not embrace who you are? You don’t have flaws. You have gifts. Developing an autoimmune condition and losing my hair was a blessing because it allowed me to see beyond all the physical BS and empower you and millions of others to greater health.
By no means am I perfect… and I’m grateful for that.
My imperfections are what make me awesome. And your imperfections do the same for you. If we were all perfect think of how boring that would be. Talk about plain vanilla.
If you haven’t done so already, I give you permission to love yourself. Really.
Here’s a great exercise that I learned from Louise Hay…
Stand in front of a mirror and look into your eyes. Then simply say, “I love you”.
It may be tough as first but do this as often as you can and your body, your health, and your life will shift.
Only when you love yourself can truly love others. Only when you nurture yourself can you provide for others. You are #1. There’s a reason that airlines have you put on your oxygen mask first before helping anyone else, in the case of emergency.
Think about that.
Since returning from Awesomeness Fest, I’ve observed many conversations (online and offline) where attendees feel like they’re in withdrawal. Like something is missing after having had such an amazing experience with so many other awesome people.
If you’ve ever felt that way after a trip, event, relationship, or something else, then I encourage you to pay it forward. How can you make someone else feel special? What can you do that will bring someone else that same feeling of joy and aliveness that you felt?
Give someone a hug. Tell them you appreciate them. Say I love you. Whatever it is – just do it.
I think that’s the ultimate gift we can give someone else… and in turn we feel great for making their day just a little bit brighter.
Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.