Now his story was: This is who I’m going to be.
And there’s a lot of really interesting science behind the idea of spending money on your goals. So for the last four or five years I’ve been getting my PhD in organizational psychology. And one of the research studies that I did was studying the difference between wannabe entrepreneurs and actual entrepreneurs, people who had been successful.
And I asked them a bunch of questions, trying to figure out what is the difference between these two populations.
And one of the questions that I asked the wannabe entrepreneurs and the actual entrepreneurs was: Have you ever had a point of no return experience?”
And almost all of the wannabe entrepreneurs said no. A lot of them hinted to the idea that they hoped to have that experience one day.
Almost all of the entrepreneurs said yes, and not only were the entrepreneurs, I asked lots of authors, professional people at all scales and they all said: “Yes. I’ve had them and at multiple stages have I had a point of no return experience.”
So my follow-up question was: Well, what happened after that experience?
And actually I was interested firstly in what was that experience? What was the point of no-return? What created that shift? Then my next question was what happened after that?
But I was kind of surprised, what often created a point of no return experience was making a financial investment in the goal.
So I interviewed like a 17 year old entrepreneur, for example, and his point of no-return experience was when he and his friend… they were both seniors in high school… when they invest… they put their money together their savings they invested $10,000 into a huge shipment of shoes because they wanted to sell shoes.
And he said his point of no return was first, when they spent the money but second, when a huge truck came and offloaded basically a mountain of shoes. He said he realized that at that point he couldn’t go back. He couldn’t give the shoes back. He had this mountain of shoes now completely filling his garage.
And basically at that moment his identity shifted. He said at that moment he realized that he was running a company, that he was leading a company. And from that moment forward he acted from that leadership role.
So he put himself in essentially a position where he had to move forward. That’s why it was a point of no return, because in a lot of ways he couldn’t actually go back. He couldn’t actually give the shoes back.
But what was more important about the point of no return for the 17-year old and for Tom Hartman was, is that there was an identity shift. There’s a really good quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes and he says:
“A mind stretched by a new experience can never go back to its former dimensions.”
So this episode of Tom led to actually a more profound peak experience that gave him the realization that his identity had shifted, that he was no longer the person he had formerly been but now he was this person who he envisioned himself to be.
So Tom was hanging out in a grocery store. He was actually in an aisle looking for food. And he… and a four-year-old girl walked by with her mom. And the four-year-old girl said, “Mom, look there’s a fat man.”
And Tom swung around and he looked, because he wasn’t sure who the girls talked about and he realized that there was no one else on the aisle. And it very quickly kicked in: this girl is talking about me.
And he just started laughing, like this was the first moment where it just hit him and he was just laughing, laughing, laughing, laughing. And then eventually a tear came to his eye. And he realized at that moment that he no longer identified as a person who was overweight. And at that moment he realized that he was going to succeed.
Fast forward 18 months, Tom Hartman has lost 175 pounds. He now weighs 225 pounds. He has started and successfully created a company and is becoming very successful. He’s become far more spiritual. He’s changed in every area of his life. He’s a totally different person.
How you do anything is how you do everything. And in a lot of ways, Tom Hartman’s example is pretty much a very clear case that things like fad diets, a 30-day diet, trying something for a year is not a way to change your behavior because changing your behavior has to be first to shift an identity.
When you shift your identity first, then the behavior that is up here where your goals are is in alignment with your identity. If you keep your identity down here and you’re trying to act up here, then you’re actually acting in conflict with how you see yourself. And that doesn’t work.
So kind of to portray this example or to take this idea a little bit further, I want to introduce you to a person named Elco.
Elco is an entrepreneur from Amsterdam. He’s 38 years old and he as well has struggled with weight his entire life. And he’s always had a bad diet and he’s always had a story in his head that was actually planted in there from his mom.
His mom told him when he was a teenager that they are the kind of people who always are going to struggle with weight, always struggle with food. And that was the idea that he had in his mind.
He actually also had the idea in his mind that he was going to be able to potentially willpower his way to holding off just self-destructive behavior until about his 40s 50s or 60s but then at that point it would just go all downhill.
And because of his bad eating habits he actually struggled to sleep. He couldn’t sleep very well. And so one night he was up all night struggling to sleep and a thought came to him. And he said what would happen if I went back to eating nature. What if I just went back to nature and just ate clean.
And then a second thought popped into his head and that thought was: what would happen if I did this for the rest of my life. Rather than thinking what if I did this for like 30 days or what if I did this for a year.