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Welcome to episode #93 of the Morning Upgrade Podcast. In this week’s episode I spoke with John Clarke, a therapist and owner of Private Practice Workshop and Calm Again Counseling.

Top Talking Points

  • How to adapt your work schedule to fit your body, not adapting your body to fit your work schedule.
  • A strategy for reducing stress by planning vacations for yourself.
  • The benefits of having a hobby you enjoy that is completely separate from your work.

Resources & Links

Connect With John at CalmAgainCounseling.com or PrivatePracticeWorkshop.com

Find The Books Mentioned on Kindle or Audible

The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday

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Thank you for listening to this episode of the Morning Upgrade Podcast. If you enjoyed my conversation with John, be sure to subscribe to the podcast and please leave a review.

Episode Transcript

Announcer 

Hey, welcome to the Morning Upgrade podcast with Ryan Cote, where we feature casual conversations with entrepreneurs about personal development and growth.

Ryan 

Hey, John, welcome to the Morning Upgrade podcast. How are you?

John  

Thanks for having me doing well.

Ryan  

Excellent. Let’s introduce you to my audience of Morning Upgraders Why don’t you tell us who you are, what you do for a living, and then give me one thing that’s going really well in your life right now.

John 

I was a strange kid. And that from childhood, I wanted to be a therapist, I thought that was the coolest job in the world. And that I made that dream a reality. I guess I’ve been a therapist for my entire career. I own a group practice in San Francisco. And I also have a consulting business called Private Practice workshop where we help other therapists grow kind of a purpose-driven business and one that’s really connected to their personal values and their mission in life. One thing that’s going well, right now, lots of things are going well, I’m a new father, and parenthood is going well and getting better by the day. Although people tell me it’s also gonna get harder, which is fine. But I have a really cute one-and-a-half-year-old. And I’m kind of leaning into fatherhood. And also enjoy some of the benefits of being self-employed and being able to spend you know long mornings with my daughter or go pick her up early. And, you know, have that flexibility because I’m, I’m an entrepreneur, so I’m grateful for that right now.

Ryan  

Good job, and congrats on crafting this life. And we’ve known each other for a bunch of years because we were part of the same mastermind, and just seeing you develop the different businesses and just conquering the obstacles must be very rewarding to be where you’re at right now, especially with a child, one and a half year old.

John  

For sure you having a kid made me really forced me to really distill down what I need to actually get done in a day, especially when she was really young. And I didn’t have much bandwidth, both in terms of being exhausted and also time. And so it forced me more than anything before to really figure out if I’ve only got, you know, three and a half hours today to work on my business. What do I need to do and kind of that 8020 rule is something I think about a lot in terms of finding that 20% for my business, and also making smart moves in terms of building a team of people who can keep the ball rolling when I’m exhausted or overwhelmed or out of commission, or whatever it is. So that’s been really a big lesson the past year and a half or so.

Ryan 

That’s a good point, though. It’s like, you know, we all most of us work like a nine to five, those are the hours that were set, I’m not sure where that came into play in business-wide nine to five. But yeah, sometimes you can pack more into like a really focused concentrated three hours this, as opposed to diluting it out over from nine to five, because after a certain period of time, at least most people, they just become less effective.

John  

100%. There’s also a part of where that work we came from, I think is actually Henry Ford and the assembly line, and the hours that they needed people to fill on the assembly line. And whether or not I’m I may or may not be completely making this up. But even if I’m not It sounds good. And it’s a cool story so difficult straightaway. But yeah, it’s good to question that right. And it’s kind of like Tim Ferriss, The Four Hour Workweek was one of the first books I read. And it’s gotten a lot of recognition and praise. And it’s a little cliche and a little overdone. But the point of that book is really to think differently about things and to question the status quo, right? So one step that I took a long time ago was, I said, Okay, what if I just forced myself to get everything done in four days a week and stop working Fridays, I did that, you know, and I haven’t worked Fridays since 2013 or so. It’s a day that I carve out every single week to do other things and spend time with my daughter go surfing, focus on kind of passion projects, and things like that. And then again, it forces me to make the most out of a shorter week. So I’m always experimenting with stuff like that. The other pieces, you know, they call it Parkinson’s Law. If you’re a teacher, and you give your students a week to write, you know, a 10-page essay, they’re going to make that task fit that gap. If you give them three weeks to write that 10-page essay, they will make that task that that gap. It’ll be a three-week project, right? So there’s a lot of little things like that, that helped me along the way in terms of giving myself smaller windows, it kind of forces my focus. And it also forces me sometimes to let go of things, right? Whether it’s delegating it or eliminating something entirely or saying no to a business opportunity. That’s another thing that I’ve kind of gotten better at over the past couple of years.

Ryan  

The sweet spot in terms of how many hours you’re looking to work per week, I know it depends on what you have going on. But is there a number that comes to mind when I asked that question?

John  

I do and I don’t but I also don’t want to offend people because people are so locked into their 40-hour week Right? And people grow resentful of that. You know, those hours sometimes. So for me, if I pull up my calendar right now, I’m generally between the hours of 11 to five, Monday through Thursday, so that would be six times for that. 24 hours a week, are effectively the hours I have. Part of that is because I actually have my mornings blocked off for part of my kind of morning routine that we can talk about. And then another part of that is I have a hard stop at five because our childcare is done at five. So I have no choice. But to end my day that I try to be done for the day, you know, at five, rather than working late at night and stuff. So I’m trying more and more to push, you know, keep everything within those boundaries, and it is working more or less, my days are short and intense. And that’s worked really well for me. So, to me, it’s just about finding what works for you, right. And I also tell a lot of my business consulting clients, you have to have something outside of work that you love enough to where you can’t wait to get off work and go do that thing. You know, and I have a bunch of those things, whether it’s surfing, also making music and other passion. For the past year, so has been acting, I’ve been learning to act and you know, getting cast in different projects and stuff like that. So I have to have those things, you know, outside of work, to, again, kind of force me into having balance. And also, I have to have something exciting outside of work that will pull me out of work otherwise, I am inclined. And by nature, I will work all the time, you know if I don’t have anything else pulling me from it. So yeah, it’s just been a kind of a journey. But there are also periods where it’s clearly a sprint for me, and I’m working more than those hours and I’m working a lot. And that’s a very dedicated or that’s an intentional period. And the thing I teach my consulting clients is I don’t really care what you do, as long as it’s intentional, right? If you’re working 70 hours a week, as long as it’s intentional, then I don’t care, right? I’m kind of agnostic in that regard. If you’ve set your fees a certain way, I don’t care what your fees are, as long as it’s intentional, right for you and your life and your goals and your family and all that stuff. So that’s just another big piece of kind of what I teach, helping people figure out for them what is what are their values and how to align their life with their values.

Ryan  

I love that point. You just said about having something outside of work that you enjoy because you’re making me go like Oh, because I don’t know if I have that and I’ve got Morning Upgrade but this is a business to me with the mission. It’s officially a business. So it’s not really like a hobby, even though it’s outside of work. But yeah, I don’t know if I had that you got my wheels turning, I like to box in the boxing gym. Also, I do have the Oculus VR now. And I download a bunch of boxing and app servers.

John  

I’ve got one too. Okay.

Ryan 

So I guess, does that count? 

John

That counts.

Ryan

I feel better. So let’s talk about your morning routine. You mentioned it before, and I want to get to surfing as well, maybe that’s connected. But what is your what are your mornings look like?

John 

I started my morning routine not again, not uncommon, but reading a miracle. The Miracle Morning. That’s what changed everything for me to get in terms of how to think about your day and why it matters to kind of win the day early on. I also will tell you right after that I am not a morning person, my body is wired. And there’s actually I actually read some science behind this to some people who say, I’m a morning person or I’m a night owl, there actually is some science behind that in terms of our hormones, and our neuro chemicals and what gets emitted in our brains at Morning or night. So for me at night, I get really sleepy during the day around two 3 pm. And then it starts cranking up again in terms of my energy. And then at probably eight or nine, I get super awake and super sharp, and actually have a lot of ideas at night. And I might, you know, write some stuff down or have realizations about my business or my life or create a project. So that’s just kind of how my brain works in the morning. My brain isn’t really doing much until 10 or 11 to him. So that’s just what it is I’ve had to learn to work with that. That being said, having a one-and-a-half-year-old means I’m up at six o’clock every day, whether I like it or not the morning routine that tries to stick to when I’m I’ve woken up about the house. Ideally, I get up before my daughter, so I have that window to do my thing. The first piece is a brief kind of meditation or devotion, whatever you want to call it. Usually, a book like that has a daily meditation. I’m reading this daily stoic thing right now by Ryan Holiday, which I would guess you probably know about him. Great book. Yeah, so I’ve been I’ve been doing that. That’s just a quick little, you know, 32nd read and kind of meditation. And then I write down what I call three and three. And as a therapist, I assigned this as homework to tons of my clients. So all you do is write down three things you’re grateful for, and three things you’re looking forward to. When we deal with burnout, depression, loneliness, when we’re kind of feeling lost in life or purposeless. This is a really good way to start to create that snowball again, and sometimes it’ll feel really forced. So I’ll tell people when you’re doing that three and three, and you say it, man, it’s really hard to think of three things I’m grateful for. You might need to simplify all the way down to I’m just grateful for the clothes on my back today or I’m grateful for having clean drinking water, or whatever it is. is, and then the piece about having things to look forward to. There’s actually research when it relates to depression that scheduling or booking a vacation that Stephen way in the distance, just that in itself has a significant reduction in depression symptoms, whether or not you even take a trip. So think about this, right, if you don’t have a vacation on your books right now, and you working, life is crazy, there’s this whole COVID thing happening, you know, the background of all of our lives are in the foreground. And it’s kind of like, man, life is just a grind, right with any without a clear break coming up, you schedule that trip you in your family, or going to the beach, or whatever, and a couple of months, and you set your computer and you feel a little different, and you feel a little better, right. And it also makes your struggle a little more palatable for now, right, because you’ve got, you’ve got an opening coming up. So, because of that, you know, take that right now three things you’re looking forward to. And again, it could be a big trip. But it could be as simple as you know, I’m looking forward to going surfing on Friday, or getting coffee with a friend on Saturday, whatever it is, I’m looking forward to, you know, exercising later today after work really small, that simple, but your mind is, it is prone to habits. And we get anxious and depressed because of bad habits, right? Bad cognitive habits. So we have to kind of spoon-feed ourselves better cognitive habits all the time and build those muscles. And by doing that, you’re going to change your emotional reality and your emotional world. So again, sometimes that might feel like a stretch. But the key is just to do it and get something on paper and over time, it’ll become automatic. If you do this enough, what’ll happen is you won’t even need the paper anymore, you will just wake up and open your eyes. And you’ll think of your three and three. Right? So that’s really powerful too, once it becomes that habitual eye in your mind. Does that make sense?

Ryan 

No, it does. And it’s really interesting what you said about planning out the vacation in the future. Sounds like a little hack, because the optimized program I’m going through right now from Brian Johnson and even the interview I watched with Tony Robbins on Ed, my lead show washed it yesterday. And again today, they both mentioned hope, like having hope, something to look forward to you know, that positive mindset is really key to inner fulfillment and whatever words you want to use joy. And it sounds like that might be circling that whole theory, what you’re saying.

John 

It has a lot to do with it, right? When we have hope everything becomes more palatable, right. Or this is also why having faith in any regard, whether it’s religious faith or not, is extremely protective. Right? People of faith are extremely resilient because bad things happen. And your reaction is this happened, and I’m suffering. But everything happens for a reason I can, I can live through this right? And things will get better, I’m trusting that it’s all gonna work out. Versus I’m in control of everything. I’m in control of my life and every single variable and things going right or wrong. Right. And finding that sweet spot, right? It’s kind of like the Serenity Prayer, and knowing the difference between things you can control and things that are out of your control and having peace with letting go. So I think all that stuff really matters, you know, and if anything, the second pandemic that’s happening underneath COVID right now is mental health, not to give too much of a soapbox, but people are struggling more with their mental health. It also means they’re taking it more seriously. And they’re valuing therapy more in there. It’s becoming more commonplace just to talk about your therapy, which I think is a good thing. But you know, it’s a game of inches right in the game of having better habits that are going to help you compound over time.

Ryan 

I cannot agree more. I’m trying to instill that into my girls right now. Like, yes, you want to exercise and all that. But that’s the physical don’t forget about your, mindset too. And so I think it’s super, super, super, super important to mention that. We’ve talked about a lot of self-care. And it was one of the questions I have for you. And I’m happy you mentioned that. I do want to talk to you about surfing. I know you’re a big surfer and it ties into your personal growth. I know you think that and I think it’s an awesome sport for getting to flow and, you know, try to convince us if you know I don’t surf, you got to convince me that surfing is Yeah, trying to convince me.

John 

Okay, so I actually only started surfing when I moved back to California about two years ago. And so yeah, living in San Francisco, the water is extremely cold. And this is certainly part of it, right even though you’re wearing a wetsuit, you get into the water, and there’s a mental barrier there of getting yourself in extremely cold water. And lately, the temperature has been in the 40s in the mornings, and the water is very, very cold. Your feet are going on pretty much instantly in your hands as well. So there’s that too, and I know you’ve experimented with cold showers and a lot of people do that. This checks that box for me this is more fun than taking a cold shower at home, you know, so I get to the beach. The driving itself is a nice little wake up of that coffee on the way and then I get there and there’s a ritual right of putting on your wetsuit, waxing your board, going out and actually checking the waves and just looking out at the waves for a bit to visualize how you’re going to surf and how you’re going to ride waves. and how you’re gonna approach it today, getting in the water again, that cold, that temperature change wakes you up. And it’s extremely stimulating. And it’s really therapeutic for your nervous system. Right? From there, there’s it checks a lot of boxes. One is the immersion in nature and having some light on my face. And even seeing wildlife. There’s a little seal that swims around in the surf break that is that every morning. And he’s often no more than five or 10 feet from me, which is really, always pretty wild. But he’s just playing in the waves there with me and doing his own surfing, being away from your cell phone is part of it too, right? cellphones and being efficient, don’t mix, at least not the current stuff. And I have. So being completely disconnected is certainly part of it too, right, versus being on the peloton and checking your phone or being on a screen all day, you’re about to go be on a screen for nine hours anyway, right. So this is a good chance to step back from that. In the other piece, there’s also a social component, right? So I have friends out there, I meet people in the water, I check in with people, we have little conversations and it fills that need for me as well, in terms of the activity itself, surfing is very vigorous, it’s very intense, requires kind of full coordination of your body and lots of different muscle groups. But from a challenging perspective, it puts you in a flow state. So a flow state. And if you want to kind of Google this, or if you’re listening, you can just Google like what is a flow state. And you can click on images and look at a chart. So flow state, if you think about this on this chart, it’s this middle zone, where you have just enough challenge that it requires you to be fully present, right. But it’s not so challenging, that you’re overwhelmed or anxious, but it’s also not so boring that you’re bored and under-stimulated. So it’s one of the things similar to you know, I used to ride motorcycles. And it’s one of those things where part of why riding motorcycles to therapeutic is because the second you take your mind off the task is when you potentially lose your life, right? Surfing depending on the waves can be a similar thing where it is forcing you to enforce your focus entirely on what you’re doing. Because the wave comes, there’s a very short window where you’re paddling hard to catch it doing the pop-up riding the wave, dodging other people, dodging rocks, whatever it is, and then doing it over again. So there are also these great moments in between waves where you’re paddling back out, and you’re just sitting there sitting, you’re starting out in the distance for the next wave. And you’re sitting in your thinking and it’s extremely quiet, I have some of my biggest realizations about my life and business while I’m out there. So I mentioned the whole work hours thing, those are the hours where I’m actually sitting down doing stuff, right having meetings, seeing clients building programs, but those moments are out there in the water. When I’m stepping back from the business, I get so much clarity and I make so many decisions out there, I actually just let my unconscious make decisions out there. And by having something as intensive and involved as surfing, it actually lets your unconscious crunch on your problems the same way that you can solve problems in your dreams by letting your unconscious kind of take the floor and, you know, process through things are that’s why they say the big decision sleep on it, I would say sleep on it, and then maybe go surfing or go for a long run or go ride your motorcycle or go fishing. Because your unconscious is really powerful. And it can help you kind of uncover the truth that you’re looking for. So after that, it’s impossible to have a bad day, you know, I go to take a hot shower at this surf club I go to and then I go to the office and I’m there by 11. And it’s really hard to have a bad day after that. So that’s, that’s become an integral part of my morning routine and the reality of my life given that it takes almost half my day, but it’s well worth it. So there you have it.

Ryan 

It’s also the only sport where you can get eaten, that I can think of at least I know not to joke around about that. But it’s true. But joking aside that all the points you made, it makes total sense. It sounds like you’ve got an article in you that needs to be written because, like everything you’re saying with the connection of, you know, all the points to personal development, the connection to personal growth, exercise, and all that. It all makes a lot of sense. Yeah. Well, this was good, John, super actionable. I knew the 1520 minutes we fly by and lo and behold, they have if someone wants to reach out to you learn more connect with you. Where should we send them?

John  

Yeah, if you’re in California, you know, on the counseling side, or my counseling site is calmagaincounseling.com. And we’re a practice group practice. As therapists, we see people virtually all over California, and also in San Francisco, we focus on trauma and anxiety. And then on the business consulting side, that site is privatepracticeworkshops.com We’ve got loads of free content, YouTube podcasts, mastermind groups, and things like that. So yeah, reach out and either direction if you’re interested in learning more about the kind of what I do, and either way, thank you, Ryan, for having me. It was a lot of fun.

Ryan 

Yeah, great job, John. Thanks for everything you shared. And thanks, everyone for listening.

Ryan 

Thanks for listening to the Morning Upgrade podcast, please subscribe and review. And don’t forget to visit us at morningupgrade.com for more content.

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