Vince Poscente is a multiple international bestselling author, a Winter Games Olympian, and a Hall of Fame speaker. Author of the New York Times bestseller The Age of Speed and the international bestselling phenomenon, The Ant and The Elephant – Leadership for The Self, Vince has a new book, titled The Earthquake – Your Journey From Setback to Breakthrough, set to be released this month. The book is endorsed by The Dalai Lama, who said this book “will inspire many to meet the difficult challenges of life.”
At age 26, Vince decided he was going to become an Olympian. He went from being a recreational skier into one of the top 10 speed skiers in the world in four years. In the past decade, Vince has led expeditions for novices up to the summit of the Himalayas.
As a renowned expert on mindset, resiliency, and overcoming setbacks, he‘s had an incredible speaking career for the past two decades. MPI ranked Vince one of the “Top 10 Motivational Speakers in the World,” and Meetings & Conventions Magazine named him “Meeting Planners’ Favorite Speaker.”
For more on Vince or to book him to speak: https://speakers.calentertainment.com/profile/10?btsc=1
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Vince Poscente: The Earthquake – Olympian Speed Racer On The Journey From Setback To Breakthrough
Joining us now is Vince Poscente, a multiple International Bestselling Author, Winter Games Olympian and a Hall of Fame Speaker. Author of the New York Times Bestseller, The Age of Speed and the International Bestselling phenomenon, The Ant and the Elephant: Leadership for the Self. He has a new book titled, The Earthquake: Your Journey from Setback to Breakthrough, which is endorsed by the Dalai Lama, who said this book would inspire many to meet the difficult challenges of life.
At age 26, Vince decided he was going to become an Olympian. He went from being a recreational skier to one of the top ten speed skiers in the world. In the past decade, Vince has led expeditions to the summit of the Himalayas. As a renowned expert in resiliency and overcoming setbacks, he’s had an incredible speaking career for the past decades. MPI ranked Vince as one of the top ten motivational speakers in the world, and Meetings & Conventions Magazine named him Meeting Planners’ favorite speaker. Please join me now with the awesome, Vince Poscente.
Vince, how are you doing? Thank you for joining me here on the show.
It’s good to see you, Chris.
Thank you. It’s been great to always check in with you and have known you for all these years. I’m so happy to have you here. I’ve been excited about this one. I’m excited about the fact you have a book called The Earthquake, which reminds me of where I live here in Los Angeles.
It might not be so well in California, but it’s about personal earthquake, so we can all identify with those.
You have a great subtitle, which is Your Journey From Setback To Breakthrough. I love that. We will definitely talk about that. Of course, your story is amazing. I’ve been telling people your story for many years. I’ve known you for many years. I remember yours is one of the first videos I ever saw of the speakers speaking when I started into this business. It was on a VHS tape. You were 26 years old, we were hanging out wherever you were and you’re like, “I want to be in the Olympics.” Is that what happened?
I raced in luge for a couple of years and quit. At the opening ceremonies, I was 26 years old, watching some of my luge buddies marching in the opening ceremonies, and I’m in the stands with a ticket. I was like, “You got to commit. You got to engage. You’ve got to go into that uncertainty.” Four years later, I was buying for the gold medal in the Olympic Games and the sport of speed skiing. I went 135 miles an hour and my hair turned white.
That’s how it happened, so you went from luge into speed skiing?
There are windows of opportunity and you choose the opportunity that presents itself. That’s the best opportunity. I got a little recreational thing. In luge, I ended up being the Executive Director for luge and leading up to the Olympics in Calgary. You’ve heard of politics in sport, and it was so prevalent in that sport. I thought it was too hard to go uphill on that one, but speed skiing would be a demonstration sport in the Olympic Games and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to march in the opening ceremonies?”
I put together this mental training program that was so effective that not only was I going to the Olympic Games. I went into the Olympic Games ranked tenth in the world. There were legitimate ski racers who were also trying to get into the Olympic Games and people that quit downhill and went into speed skiing or former world record holders. It wasn’t a layup at all. It was definitely a challenge to be able to get to those Olympics. In hindsight, looking back, that mental training strategies that I used as an athlete also worked in sales and leadership. I ended up giving speeches at conferences and that’s how we met.
I definitely want to dive into that method that you came up with. At age 26, that’s remarkable. To let everybody know, you’re going up this huge ladder or stairs. How many stories high is this?
We build these tracks in avalanche shoots. You’re thinking of maybe ski jumping where they launch off like that. In speed skiing, when you’re going straight down, you’re trying to be the fastest person through the speed trap at the bottom. In all ski disciplines, there’s a timing light at the top and bottom. In speed skiing, both those timing lights in a speed trapper are 100 meters long, about the length of a football field. It goes 0 to 60 miles an hour in 3 seconds.
It can end up to 125 miles an hour in about 8 seconds, so all heck is breaking loose when you get to that speed trap a second and a half to cross the distance of a football field. It is insane, Darth Vader style, helmets, skin-tight rubber suits, and all about going fast. You could say it’s scary, but you don’t start at those speeds. You start low and 60 miles an hour. It’s crazy. You think, “How do I do this?” Pretty soon, 60 is easy because you’re doing 100 miles an hour and then you go, “I’m doing 120 miles an hour and 100 is doable.” You work your way up.
You are going to the length of a football field in 1.5 seconds by the time you’re at the end of this shoot.
Right, and the way you slow down is after the speed trap, you stand up and throw your arms up. You slow down and that’s when you get that adrenaline rush that, “I want to do that again.”
I’m excited to learn about what this methodology was and what you came up with that, that launched you not only 136 miles an hour eventually, but into the top ten in the world. Tell us a little bit about that.
Let me use a little metaphor that ended up being a book I wrote called The Ant and the Elephant. It was the sports psychologist, Dr. Lee Pulos, found that in a second of time, your conscious mind is processing with 2,000 neurons, while the subconscious mind is processing the 4 billion neurons. Now, you’re learning what I have to say and people are thinking, “He looks like the old man from up,” whatever you’re thinking consciously with 2,000 neurons, but in the same second, 4 billion neurons sub below consciousness, so the ratio between the activity of the conscious and subconscious mind is the exact same ratio between an ant and an elephant.
The ant on the back of the elephant says, “I want to go to the Olympic Games,” but the elephant says, “You don’t know anything about ski racing. You don’t know how to get there.” Effectively, the program was based on aligning 4 billion neurons with 2,000 neurons of intention. It’s the human condition. “I want to go West,” says the ant on the back of the elephant. They start marching West, but what if the elephant is headed East. You can end up East going, “How did I end up here?”The deciding factor or the thing that makes a massive difference is to identify who the competition is and do what they're not willing to do. Click To Tweet
I want to go on a diet, and then you could end up walking out of the shower, looking in the mirror and say, “That’s not working.” How do you get your ant and elephant pointed in the same direction 2,000 neurons and 4 billion neurons? When I figured that out in the sport, I then realized that we could do that in sales or leadership when people have an emotional buzz. In this case, it was marching in the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. That’s not realistic. It just felt right.
There was no explanation why it felt right, but that’s a litmus test for aligning your ant and elephant and making sure mental training was part of the program beyond visualization and imagery. I was doing stuff like the experiential realization and I was doing things using gold dots to stay on course. The gold dot thought would be a trigger for where you want to go. When you see that gold dot, you go, “Yeah,” and when you have the emotional buzz, then it ends up being this alignment of the ant and the elephant, and 2,000 neurons and 4 billion neurons headed in the same direction. Things get a whole lot easier. That’s how it worked.
There were daily practices, lists, tools, and goals?
Over two hours a day of mental training from Biofeedback, sensory deprivation, float tanks, hypnosis programs, visualization and imagery, experiential education, meditation, and pulling all those different tools together, there’s a philosophy. When we’re in a competitive landscape, we often identify who our competition is in ski racing, sales or whatever. We want to do what the competition is not doing, but the deciding factor or the thing that made a massive difference on this journey is to identify who the competition is and do what they’re not willing to do, not just any competition.
In order to compete for your country, in Canada, it’s the top sixteen in the world, so if you’re in the seventeenth place or lower, you don’t go. Immediately, even at a local race, you identify the competition as the best top sixteen in the world because you’re not going to the Olympic Games unless you’re top sixteen. To do what they’re not doing would be a tall order, but in a heartbeat, you could do what they’re not willing to do. It’s not necessarily working harder.
In fact, the Olympic motto, “Citius, Altius, Fortius,” which is swifter, higher, stronger. I added a fourth one, which was smartius. How much smarter can you compete to be able to supersede what the competition is not willing to do? I was interviewing people that the PhDs and the politics and sport, aerodynamic principles, I was doing what the competition wasn’t willing to do, and one of those things was the tools of mental training.
That book that you ended up writing was called The Ant and the Elephant?
Right. It’s a parable, but in that book is the formula that I used to get to the Olympic Games, which very briefly clarified where you want to go, raise your level of commitment to a process of commitment, not episodic commitment like saying you’re in but you’re not really in until you’re constantly reappearing. Consistency, do what the competition’s not willing to do.Confidence is 80% of the game in any sport or business. Click To Tweet
Confidence, that’s 80% of the game in any sport or any business when you have confidence, but it comes from experience if you don’t have the experience, so being able to create confidence through certain tools and then control. You can’t control the environment, but you can control what you bring to that environment. There were routines that you could do to set up peak performance. If you go through those five Cs, you’ll end up probably further and getting there faster than you ever imagined.
I love that you simplified it there. That book was the New York Times Bestseller, I assume?
That was an international bestseller. It’s so funny. That’s how it sold my book The New York Times Bestseller called The Age of Speed 5 or 6 times over, but it’s been this perennial seller.
Hopefully, this new book is even bigger than those two books were. What was the subtitle?
The Earthquake: Your Journey from Setback to Breakthrough. The opening line of that book is there’s no linear way out of chaos. What’s fascinating to me about that phrase is what I gave you in the ant and the elephant is a very linear prescriptive methodology. How to get from where you are, establish what that big ass goal is, and then getting to that end game, that oasis in the book.
What if you go through a personal earthquake? What if you go through a massive bankruptcy, divorce, cancer, something financial, physical, or whatever it is? You’re debilitated and stuck. This book is somewhat autobiographical because when we went through the downturn in 2008, I couldn’t do anything wrong until that point, and then everything just went boom. Everything I’d bet money on and invested in caved in.
I was so frustrated that what got me to the Olympic Games was not working in this present earthquake. What got me to the New York Times Bestselling list of the Hall of Fame for Speakers, all these different achievements, and the things that I drove towards we’re not working in an earthquake. If there’s no linear way out of chaos, then what is the way out of chaos? How do you do that? This book, a parable about the ants and the elephant, what’s fascinating about how to get out of an earthquake is the relationship between your ant and elephant.
It supersedes the ant and the elephant being aligned. It gets down to, “What if the subconscious mind is headed in a completely different direction? I don’t want to feel that pain anymore. I don’t want to feel that feeling of helplessness. I want to stay stuck. I’m not going to move. I’ll stay here and don’t do anything, maybe I don’t deserve it.” All these kinds of psychobabble subconscious limiting beliefs can hold us back in being able to direct the personal intention and the subconscious agenda and get those going in the same direction has much more of a process and it unfolds in the book itself.
It sounds similar to the other book, but it’s an updated version.
It’s not similar, because The Ant and the Elephant had challenges along the way. It wasn’t a relationship between the conscious and subconscious mind. It was more along the lines of academic things like the gold dot were tools to be able to create that alignment. A gold dot doesn’t work in an earthquake. This little trigger reminder affirmation is trite. I call it the solution loop. It’s a whole methodology that’s different. People will relate to it if they’ve gone through an earthquake or used it as a tool.
I’m excited that leaders could use this to be able to get everybody to coalesce in their organization, having gone through this freaking pandemic, everything ten years of change happened to what a year and a half and what to do next to the uncertainty of all that. There’s a lot going on at the subconscious level with everybody that works for us. Everybody is scratching their head. People were leaving their jobs. Why? Where are the people going? What’s going on? Where are the truckers? There are so many things going on now that are so uncertain and confusing. Creating that stability is important.
Were you writing the book before the pandemic?
They were like, “This is going to help me. This is going to inspire me to finish this book.” Did it change the direction of the book?
Not at all. I wrote the book before the pandemic. Through the editing process, I went with three editors, one after the other. As the pandemic was unfolding during that editing process, there’s evidence in the book that it’s not about these personal earthquakes, it’s about polarity and how it stands in the way of progress, which is a societal, political example.
The second piece is being able that relationship book. It’s almost like the conscious and subconscious mind are two entities in a relationship, or think of a marriage, you’ve got your hand on the steering wheel. She’s got her hand on the steering wheel and you’re in the same vehicle. How’s that working out for you? It’s like, “No,” and then we think collaboration is, “I’ll take a turn for a bit and then you take a turn.” That’s not how you drive a vehicle when this vehicle is called you.
To be able to have the ant and the elephant, let go of the way they think this should be done. Letting go of, “I know how to go forward because it got me here.” What got you here isn’t necessarily going to get you there. In this dynamic of a relationship, creating what Harville Hendrix calls the third reality, which is creating this new solution, the alignment that is completely separated from what you ever have known in the past. We’d flippantly call it pivoting or reinvention.
You can say those words all day long, but that is a tall order when somebody has got their hands on the steering wheel, trying to control what they’ve got going on. It ended up being much more of a book about our world nowadays, the way we’re replacing it and how we can create more equanimity rather than having this struggle that seems to happen all the time.
What are you hearing mostly from the customers that are hiring you now to speak virtually and in-person now and going forward? Do you hear a similar theme from everybody where you’re like, “My book is perfect for that. I’m perfect for that. This is great?” Are you starting to hear the same issues that people are dealing with now that they’re bringing you in?
There’s a massive amount of uncertainty. When we go through an earthquake, a personal one, a corporate one, or a societal one, this uncertainty can keep us so stuck that we don’t know how to move forward. Every leader I’ve pulled aside and talked to, they don’t know what to do exactly. They’re making the best guests they can. It’s endemic through the entire organization that this uncertainty can really debilitate us.It's a universal truth that you'll gravitate towards your current dominant thought. Click To Tweet
Now, certainty in the face of chaos is trivial. To think that you would have certainty of what’s going to happen in this chaos, that’s not going to happen, but there are certain ways that you can step up and have us do it good, and that’s the conscious and subconscious mind internally, but also the forces at play in the book, Earthquake, is the ant and the elephant want to get somewhere. Mother Nature says, “These are the rules.” You could call that the market conditions. The market conditions are going to dictate where you’re going to go.
Therefore, how are you going to create a third reality? How are you going to create a new way or an alignment with new market conditions or fluctuating market conditions? That ends up being the process of it rather than what we’re used to, which is a very episodic approach to achievement. What are we going to do? What’s our three-month plan? Let’s take our one-year plan and work it backward and all that stuff. Good luck, because the whole process of staying in this dynamic is going to take us further. That’s what I’m hearing more than anything.
A little side piece I’m hearing is engagement. It is so critical for us in this business to create an experience for our audiences. I’ll give you an example of how I started. I used to start saying at age 26 I’d never ski race before. At age 30, I was vying for the gold medal in the Olympic Games. What I’d like to share with you is a formula that would take us forward. That’s reasonably engaging. This is the first thing I say. You might wonder what it’s like to ski 135 miles an hour. You’re standing on the side of a 42-degree slope.
You’re going to go 0 to 60 miles an hour in 3 seconds up to 125 miles an hour at 8 seconds. All heck is going to break loose. You want to be in a tight aerodynamic tuck. You’re wearing a skinny, tight, rubber suit, Darth Vader style helmet. Your heart’s beating, working its way up to the base of your throat. The difference between opening number one and this one I said was this is an experience and you never forget an experience.
What if you took the content and infused it into that experience? That’s why when I wrote this book, I was going, “What if you had a parable about an ant and the elephant? What happened next?” My theme that I worked towards was to make it Pixar worthy, to make it so experiential in nature that you’re drawn into the story, and then the content is infused much better in terms of people internalizing it rather than consciously processing it and going, “I think I can relate to that. I’ll take a note and I’ll remind myself.”
The experiential nature of our business is so much more important. We’re doing a lot of this virtually as well still, which doesn’t seem to be going away any day soon. It has the virtual sessions that we’re doing, or the live sessions as well. The experience of the session or the keynote will make it much more profound and answer that question, “How do I keep my people more engaged?” People are leaving. They’re going. They’re not staying. Engagement is critical.
I’m spending so much of my time now on that part in dealing with leaders and much more time upfront consulting on that side of things, because it ends up being when they’re honest, what they’re saying is “What have you seen? What’s working?” I help leaders with their storytelling, which is interesting. I didn’t see myself doing that down the road, but that’s been a by-product of what’s going on as well as how they can give more engaging presentations.
That’s definitely something that you have been known for. I remember from that first video I saw how engaging you were, how you immediately draw the audience in and connect with them and make them a part of the experience where they’re living your experience and they’re feeling that. You’re one of the best at it. I’m thinking about this chaos thing a little bit too.
It’s interesting to me because it seems like when you’re hitting those speeds of crazy speeds, that is chaos. You’re trying to control chaos there. You have some ways of doing it that always work a little bit, but the chaos can still overpower you. I’m sure before you were in the Olympics, practicing all these times, you fell quite a bit. You got hurt, the wind and the edges of the skis didn’t go the way and they knocked you over.
I’ve crashed three times, each time about 100 miles an hour. Let me give you a little leadership tip that your viewers can use. In the state of chaos in real-time speed, when things are happening so fast with chaos all around you, 100% of the time there was this invisible pocket that you could be in. You could get to the line of chaos, you were thrown into it, but if you had the basics over your skis if you were stable, you were going to do well. Whenever I’ve talked to people skiing, on the perpendicular ground, you’re going to stand upright. However steep it gets, you want to stay perpendicular to the slope.
What people do when they’re struggling is they lean away from the danger or they lean into it. When you overextend or lean away from it, you’re going to have issues. The same deal goes with whether it’s skiing or the business, the landscape of uncertainty, whatever grade and speed we’re dealing with, staying over those skis in that perpendicular stance, that’s the basics of, “I’m in this pocket.” When you get to the bottom in a speed skiing race and everything went well, I don’t work comes from, but I know where it goes. It’s right off the ends of your fingers and toes. You’ll go, “I’ll do that again.” I never forget that feeling.
In other words, embrace the chaos, but know where you’re supposed to be and don’t be too worried about the external factors of where you are. You got to stay within yourself and not try and do something too drastic, but also be comfortable enough to stand on your own two feet. A lot of people are panicking through a pandemic and they’re making decisions that maybe they should have waited on.
They’re also thinking of the worst possible outcomes and how bad this all is, rather than the things they can do to get through it and the things they can do or the control they do have to put them through that. It sounds like you’ve talked a lot about the chaos and what your subconscious is telling you. Is the subconscious normally going negative?
No, but there are negative patterns that exist there. If you feed those negative patterns or give them attention, it’s a universal truth that you’ll gravitate towards your current dominant thought. What is your dominant thought? Let me ask a second question. Are you the architect for your dominant thought? Are you taking the emotional buzz that this is where we’re going to end up?
I was talking to a buddy before. He’s got a family issue going on. I went back to what I was ski racing was selling real estate that’d be my own sponsor. This seasoned realtor came into this negotiation and it was not going to work out, because I knew what my guy was wanting to do. I knew the seller was so far apart. The first thing this guy has said is, “Together, we’re going to sell this house. That’s where we’re headed,” and then everybody would snap to attention with, “That’s why we’re here.”
You’re going to march in the opening ceremonies. How awesome would that feel to do that as a 26-year-old to have that emotional buzz? Not just a goal that like, “I have $10 million net worth.” What does that mean? What if a $10 million resort in Puerto Vallarta that I’m hosting a family and I’m flying them in for a family reunion and we’re all getting together? That has an emotional buzz attached to it. The Emotional Quotient is so important because it ends up being the opportunity for a dominant thought. If you gravitate towards the dominant thought, are you the architect for that thought?
Leadership is so much about communication and more of people remote. How often are you communicating the emotional quotient? What does it feel like? How do you feel about raising our kids? If they’ve got a good grade on their exam or they did something, we’d never say, “That’s great, honey. You did great.” We would say, “How does that feel?” They go, “It feels great. I did this.” That feeling ends up manifesting that momentum.
They’re wanting to do it again, the relationship between that feeling and as a result of your work.
For themselves and not for anybody else, that’s leadership. They have people instilled an internal compass of, “This is exactly where we want. I’m going to sell this house. We’re going to end up a place in Puerto Vallarta.”
You are leading people now into the mountains of the Himalayas. Is that correct?
I’ve led some expeditions since 2006. We have a mutual friend, Jeff Salz, who passed away. He introduced me to these climbs in the Himalayas. I’ve since led some climbs and carried on his legacy in a way and that way. I’ve always taken offices and make sure that they’re non-technical, that we’re not hanging off the Eiger Sanction on a rope going, “I’m going to die.”
Here’s what’s interesting about these expeditions. It ends up being the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your life. When people are raw, they’re not on their best behavior anymore. The true personality traits that they’ve been hiding or holding back surface. Facilitating those conversations in the tent or the conversations that happen throughout the day, or somebody just losing it is a process of self-discovery to take groups up to these mountains.
We’re going back next year. COVID will be handled in India. We’re going to the Indian side of the Himalayas, where nobody ever goes. Everybody goes to Nepal or the base camp, it’s a super high rate of people going back and forth. We go where nobody goes and we end up naming mountains after everyday heroes. This next mountain summit that we want to name after Jeff Salz. He’s an iconic speaker. He’s just such a great guy.
He will be missed. He was a friend and it’s sad that so many during COVID passed away. It’s a tough thing for all of us to get through together, but at least we have each other to get through it together. Vince, you’re such a great speaker. Whenever I pitch you and whenever you are booked by somebody, I know it’s an automatic rave review. You’re solid as a rock.
I’m so excited to read this new book and see what that has in it for me because I know there’s always some great stuff in there with everything. This has been such a wonderful conversation. I love how deep you go into how listening, what we’re saying to ourselves, and how we can chart our own courses. It’s such great stuff. Thanks so much for coming on here with me and having this conversation.
You’re welcome. To that point, when you have a client and they hire me, they’re hiring me for all the content, the value, and the takeaways that their people can have. A hundred percent of the time after a speech, people will come up and say how they were personally moved. That union of the personal professional comes together at these keynote opportunities. Although it is just an hour, it’s a pretty strong hour. When you called about this, I was like, “I’ll get on your show. That’s fun. Let’s do this.”
Thank you so much. I hope it’s a big earthquake for you. I’ll look forward to talking to you real soon, Vince. Thanks so much again.
Take care, Chris.
- The Age of Speed
- The Ant and the Elephant: Leadership for the Self
- The Earthquake: Your Journey from Setback to Breakthrough
About Vince Poscente
If alignment, agility and adaptability are important qualities with your employees and team members then check out Vince Poscente. In the corporate landscape, he helps leaders, sales people and entrepreneurs reach their quality goals in record time. With safety cultures, he takes his expertise in neuroscience of performance on the path to zero incidents.
About Vince Poscente: Since his athletic experience in the 1992 Olympic Winter Games (in Speed Skiing 135 mph) and summiting five unclimbed mountains in the Himalayas, he has been researching, writing and speaking about on-the-job peak performance. He is a New York Times bestselling author. His eight books include The Age of Speed and the international phenomenon, The Ant and the Elephant – Leadership for the Self.
With a Masters in Organizational Management – alongside his corporate experience – culminate into an invigorating perspective on optimum results from high performers. The fact that Vince Poscente could be a stand-up comedian with his signature insights translate into instant impact and lasting influence as a corporate motivational speaker.
Poscente illustrates how each team member can sustain an excellence advantage. Through insightful research and edge of your seat stories, Vince is an in-demand speaker around the world.