"When we learn to develop a positive relationship with our struggles, we are more likely to succeed at our goals, but we’re also more likely to enjoy the journey."
Wow. I was nearly speechless during and after my conversation with today’s guest, Akshay Nanavati, who is as fascinating as he is brilliant. After serving during the Iraq War, he returned home and found himself suffering from addiction, post-traumatic stress, survivor’s guilt, depression, and alcoholism.
On the brink of suicide, Akshay discovered a unique way to find gifts in what most of us view as “negative” emotions—such as fear, stress, and anxiety—so that they would no longer hold him back. In fact, these emotions became fuel to help him achieve his greatest goals, including running across 8 countries (on his way to running across EVERY country in the world).
His new book, Fearvana, is his actionable guide to transforming fear and struggle into boundless bliss. Today, he joins the podcast to share his unbelievable story and teach us exactly how he turns what should be debilitating adversities into major successes.
- How Akshay utilized his story, his struggles, and the adversity he faced in life to create the concept of Fearvana.
- What Akshay did to run away from the so-called “real world” after his war deployment – and how an abundance of free time led him to alcoholism, a diagnosis of PTSD, and his own investigation into post-traumatic stress.
- How hitting bottom allowed Akshay to reframe survivor’s guilt, addictive tendencies, post-traumatic stress, and fear as his allies.
- Why developing a positive relationship and finding joy within struggle is key to empowerment.
- How Akshay got the Dalai Lama to endorse his book.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
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Hal: Hey, goal achievers, this is Hal Elrod and I wanted to take just a quick second to let you know, actually, you know what, this is probably more like two or three minutes but just a minute or two or three to let you know that this episode of the Achieve Your Goals Podcast is brought to you by the Best Year Ever Blueprint Live Experience and if you have never been to the Best Ever Blueprint or you have questions about it, I’ll take just a couple of minutes here to tell you what this is all about. First and foremost, it is our annual event. This will be our fifth year, fifth Annual Best Year Ever Blueprint. It’s in San Diego, California. People fly in from 16 different countries all around the world for this really once-in-a-lifetime experience. And to give you an idea, I go to a lot of events. I go to events for entrepreneurs. I go to personal development events. I go to events with my wife, for couples. I go to all sorts of events and the Best Year Ever Blueprint I can say without even any hesitation it’s unlike any other event that I or probably you have ever been to. And I think that all of our attendees who most of them come back year-after-year-after-year, they will tell you the same. And I want to give you kind of a high-level overview of what makes Best Year Ever Blueprint unlike any other event.
Most events, if you’ve been, you go and you listen to speakers and you take notes. Well, yeah, we bring in some world-class speakers, some seven-figure and eight-figure entrepreneurs, some world-renowned experiential trainers, some great keynote speakers, and there is some of that there but that’s not what makes Best Year Ever Blueprint different or special. It’s a very small part of it. It is a scientifically designed event that invites reflection, awareness, and reconnection with your highest self. It is artfully engineered with nature, with live music, movement, and space to help you amplify your most powerful strengths and harness your brightest future. It is collectively empowered by the intelligence, humanity, and impact that the global Miracle Morning Community and listeners of the Achieve Your Goals Podcast have come to stand for. And in terms of who it’s for, it is for individuals who are ready to take any or every area of your life to the next level of accomplishment, fulfillment, and purposeful progress. It’s also for entrepreneurs who understand that they are already fully capable. You just need one insight, one aha, one discovery to unlock your full value-creating potential and it’s for leaders of organizations and communities who want to experience firsthand and learn from the best experiential facilitators in the world on how to bring out the best in others, in those that you lead, and those that you love. And finally, it’s really just for anyone who believes in the power of community and are ready to learn in an environment where everybody belongs.
And I’ll close with just a couple of thoughts. These are a few comments that I pulled off of Facebook from people that have been to Best Year Ever. One is Stephen Christopher, CEO of Seequs. He said that “Since coming to my first Best Year Ever Blueprint, I’m already halfway done with the book and I’ve experienced over 500% growth in my business.” Dylynn Coolen said, “I was at your event. A small-town girl from Wyoming, I immediately felt pure, unconditional, genuine love by everyone and for everyone. It was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had.” And finally, Shane Brautman said, “Was one of the best weekends we’ve had as a couple,” relative to her and her husband, Ted. She said, “BYEB, Best Year Ever Blueprint, should be hyped as better than marriage counseling to bring couples closer together. Worth every single penny.” So, whether you’re an entrepreneur or an individual, a couple, a leader, this is an event that really can be a game changer. That’s all I’ll say about it today. Go to BestYearEverLive.com to get all the other details and see if it’s a good fit for you. See if the dates work out, December 7 through 9, San Diego, California, and we’d love to spend two or three life-changing days with you, two being the main event and there’s an Entrepreneur Day that is optional if you’re an entrepreneur and you want to be a part of that. So, check out BestYearEverLive.com and I sincerely hope that it’s a good fit for you and that we’ll see you in San Diego for what is sure to be another life-changing unforgettable weekend together.
So, today we’re going to dive into this interview. I’m excited for this. This is Akshay Nanavati and Akshay was referred to me by a friend. I did not know this man until I interviewed him and what you’re about to hear was one of the most fascinating conversations. I was just enthralled to the point where at the end of it, I asked, I said, “Hey, I want to meet you in person,” like I became a fan of Akshay very quickly. I think you will too. Even after he got off the podcast I said, “Hey, mark your calendar for, you know, if you’re in the country next December 2019, we’ve already got our speakers lined up for this one, but I’d love to have you consider speaking at the Best Year Ever Blueprint in 2019.” So, anyway, I’m a huge fan of Akshay. This, I think, you’ll find out why here in just a couple of minutes. So, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Akshay Nanavati.
Hal: All right. Goal achievers, what’s going on? This is Hal Elrod. Welcome to another episode of the Achieve Your Goals Podcast. I, as always, really appreciate you tuning in. And today, you’re in for a treat. The topic today and my guest, it’s a topic that’s very near and dear to my heart. In fact, it’s kind of very closely related to what I speak on when I go speak at events in conferences and that sort of thing. My guest today is Akshay Nanavati and Akshay is a Marine war veteran, an ultra-runner, an entrepreneur who has overcome drug addiction, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and alcoholism that pushed him to the brink of suicide. And his book, FEARVANA, which was endorsed by the Dalai Lama and it rhymes, Fearvana, Dalai Lama. But it’s an actionable guide on how to transform fear and struggle into, I love this, boundless bliss. And the purpose of our conversation today is really to help you find the gift in all of our seemingly negative emotions like fear, stress, and anxiety in order to leverage them as fuel to achieve your greatest goals. I’m pumped for this. Akshay, welcome to the podcast.
Akshay: Thank you for having me, my friend. A pleasure to be here.
Hal: Yeah, man. Congrats on everything. Just on your success on the book taking off. I know you published about a year ago and now you’re in talks with traditional publishers and Fearvana, I looked on Amazon it’s, you know, you’ve got 61 reviews, five out of five stars, and people are loving it. Their lives are being transformed. So, congratulations on your work, making a huge impact.
Akshay: Thank you so much. I’m very blessed to be able to be here and to touch these lives all over the world.
Hal: Very cool. Well, let’s just start with your story I want to know what is your story and leading into how did you utilize your story, the concept of Fearvana.
Akshay: Yeah. So, it kind began in high school. I was born in India. I moved to the US when I was about 13. Soon after that is when I got pretty heavily into drugs and me and this one other friend, we’re the first in our group to start going into hard drugs and he’s no longer alive today. I ultimately lost two friends to drug addiction and was very much headed down that path myself. And one day I saw the movie Black Hawk Down. Have you ever seen it, Hal?
Hal: It’s been a long time but yeah.
Akshay: Powerful war movie. It’s based on a true story. And that movie just triggered something in me about this very selfish and meaningless existence. I was living in the power of humanity to the courage that we can sacrifice our lives for other human beings. And so, almost overnight I stopped doing drugs, decided to join the Marines. It took me about a year-and-a-half because I have a blood disorder that two doctors told me would kill me in Marine Corps boot camp. So, I had to sort of fight my way into the Marines. But the Marines, when I first started learning the value of struggle, like the gift of fear and how adversity is such a beautiful thing because Marine Corps training, obviously, wasn’t easy.
Akshay: And after going out to boot camp, you know, nature became my playground to explore my limitations. I went mountain climbing, cave diving, skydiving. I used to rock climb 80-foot walls without rope, all of it. And then in 2007, I was deployed to Iraq as an Infantry Marine or out there. One of my jobs was to walk out in front of our vehicle convoys and look for improvised explosive devices before they could blow up our vehicles. So, somewhat dangerous job.
Hal: The risk was being blown up every time.
Akshay: Exactly. Because if somebody was going to get hit with an IED, guess who would it be, right? Like that would mean we have to cat walking and clearing the area before the vehicles came through. So, once again, you learn out there how to engage fear, how to thrive in a position of adversity, but to be honest with you, the toughest battle really was after I got back, struggled with survivor’s guilt. I was diagnosed with PTSD and that’s when I really hit depression, started drinking myself into really, really dark places. So, one day after just five days of binge drinking, I woke up and thought about ending my own life. And that was the trigger that led me to the years of research in neuroscience and psychology and spirituality to initially heal myself, but it led me on this far more meaningful quest to figure out how we all navigate the experience of suffering. Because as you know, you’ve run through your fair share of struggles. It’s just as part of the human experience and how do we transform that into bliss, which is what led me to the idea of Fearvana concept, the research, and my own life experience and many people I interviewed as well that ultimately led to the book and now everything I’m doing with Fearvana.
Hal: When you hear the story, you connect bills with the Fearvana title now. It has so much more meaning to me.
Hal: Now, what age did you say you moved to the US? Was that 14?
Akshay: About 13, 14, yeah, 13.
Hal: And then was it that you met some – was it just running into kind of the wrong crowd that were into drugs and got you into it or how did that come to be?
Akshay: Yeah. When I moved here, I wasn’t very sure of myself of who I wanted to be, what I wanted to be. I had already moved to three different places before this. I moved from Bombay to Bangalore to Singapore. So, with all the moving around, you know, I always adjusted well and that I found friends and all but I wasn’t sure. I was kind of lost. And so, when I moved to Austin, I got and I don’t blame my group of friends because I take responsibility for my actions, but truth be told, if I got into a group of friends who were let’s say ultrarunners or mountaineers, I would immerse myself in that. I’ve just kind of figured out I have a fairly addictive personality and from a young age, I used to when I would play rugby when I was a kid in Bangalore, every time I got a cut, I would love these cuts because they were like sort of these war wounds, these battle scars. So, I always had this kind of extreme personality and it just got channeled into drugs because of, again, finding a community that embraces that. But, again, I take responsibility and I want to be very clear. However, with that said, a different community and it might have gone a different path but no regrets.
Hal: And I just want to trail back here. I took notes when you’re talking, but what age did you see Black Hawk Down?
Akshay: So, I think it was about 16 or 17. I was 16 or 17 because I was into drugs at that point for about a year-and-a-half. I still remember that very day. We were actually about to have a night of doing lots of LSD, marijuana, drinking, and one friend wanted to go see the movie and nobody go with him so I was like, “All right. I’ll go with you.” And right after watching the movie, he had the book Black Hawk Down. I ended up reading the book, Black Hawk Down, and just book after book on military combat and it transformed my life.
Hal: And that got you so intrigued that you joined the Marines and headed overseas.
Akshay: Yeah. That made me want to go initially into Marine Corps, into special forces, but I wasn’t a US citizen at the time so I couldn’t become an officer or go into special operations because you have to have a secret clearance to do both and you need a US citizenship to get a secret clearance. So, I just thought, “Okay. I’ll go Marine infantry and later on I would go special operations,” but obviously that path changed as well.
Hal: So, I want to bridge the gap for me personally and for listeners of how you got from there to exploring the concept of Fearvana or even preliminary ideas, concepts, ventures that led to that. So, take us from that. Take us from you came back from the war. You became an alcoholic, you can correct me, dealing with posttraumatic stress disorder. And walk us through kind of what series of events or some indications that led you down the path that you’re on now.
Akshay: So, when I got back, I ended up finishing my undergrad and then went to master’s and I got my master’s in journalism. So, at this point, I’m in college and I always did well in college and I’m partying on weekends as many college students do so I never really saw it as a problem because I wasn’t drinking every day. My problem is when I was drinking, I drank pretty heavily, but I was like, “I’m a college student, whatever.” So, I still was doing well in school and still fairly fit and all that. Then after my master’s program, I got a corporate job for year-and-a-half, hated it, quit, spend a month dragging 190-pound sled for 350 miles across Greenland in minus 40° and again once again, started embracing all of the struggles, looking for ways to explore my fears. So, it wasn’t until many years after the war…
Hal: Wait. I’m sorry. But what was the Greenland story? Expand on that a little bit.
Akshay: Yeah. Sure. I spent one month dragging 190-pound sled with 32 days’ worth of food 350 miles across the ice cap there in like temperatures as low as minus 40°. Got stuck in brutal storms for five days. The following year a British explorer was actually killed in one of these storms. So, fairly intense expedition.
Hal: And you did this, what was the context of you doing this? It’s just, “Hey, I want to get a sled and survive Greenland for a month?”
Akshay: Yeah. Again, I got pretty heavily into outdoor sports since joining the Marines. So, this was like the next big one to pursue. And truth be told, like looking at it now, I was running away from the “real world”. I wanted to be in environments where your life is in the line and environments that are that intense, that hostile, because there’s a kind of beauty and simplicity and peace to that environment, to that life. And so, I was seeking that. I was running away from myself. Like today, I still do something similar, but I’m doing it from a very different place of consciousness and so I was kind of running away. I actually signed up for my corporate job and I knew exactly what day that I would quit because I also signed up for the Greenland expedition so I knew that I would quit at the latest a year-and-a-half later when the expedition came up, and that’s what I did, so I quit and went to Greenland. At that point, I had kind of started the foundations for building my own business. And so, when I came back and started building my own business as you know, that’s when it started to strike because at this point now, there’s no longer external structure imposed upon you. You have to find it. You have to create it. And when that happens, you start leading room for the demons to rise if you will because now there is that freedom. There’s that freedom of space, freedom of time, and with that those demons can rise.
And soon after that is when I was been diagnosed with PTSD by the Veterans Affairs Administration, which I went over there because, I mean, to be very frank my wife and I were having some problems and it was like physical problems and to be honest with you, there’s nothing wrong with me physically. It was clearly psychological. So, my wife was like, “Why don’t you go get a checkup?” And when I did, that’s when they diagnosed me and that’s when it led me into like kind of deeper and deeper into the darkness and to be honest with you, I love like the people there. I think they’re great human beings, but I think the way that they were operating the therapy was from just a very bad playbook and that’s why it led me deeper into darkness, which again I take responsibility for but something wasn’t working clearly and that eventually led me to my own research in fear and navigating posttraumatic stress. And the realization that posttraumatic stress is not indicative of a disorder, that our stress, our “traumatic experiences” or fears can be really an access point to enlightenment. And transforming my own struggles would lead me to Fearvana and then helping other people do the same thing for their suffering as well.
Hal: Wow. Okay. By the way, did the alcoholism was that after the Greenland trip when you came back that that started or was that before?
Akshay: So, I was always at this point where, again, I was kind of drinking on weekends but I was like a “functioning alcoholic” like during my job when I had it, I would drink heavy when weekends rolled around, sometimes during the week and maybe skip a day of work and blame it on sickness or whatever but never really saw it as a problem because, I mean, I was doing a good job at my work. I was still fairly fit. I got promoted two weeks before I had to put in my two weeks to quit, which was awkward, to say the least.
Hal: Got it.
Akshay: Don’t promote me now. I’m about to quit.
Hal: Maybe they had wind and they’re like, “All right. Let’s promote him. Maybe he won’t leave.” All right. So, you’re back. You’ve done this 30-day trip across in negative 40° weather.
Hal: Survived that. Now you’re researching what’s causing your PTSD, your fear, etcetera, and then, yeah, and then keep going. Where did it go from there?
Akshay: So, when I hit that low moment, I mean, again, so when I didn’t have the structure for a job to kind of forced me to let’s say show up to work at 9 AM so to speak, I now at my own job. So, you know how it is but the only job you could kick your feet up, sit on the couch all day for one day, and potentially could not be the end of the world because you’re imposing your own structures. So, when that happens, slowly two days of drinking which started becoming three and then maybe four and then eventually, I mean, I got to a point where I was drinking like a liter of vodka a day and I would wake up and I would wake up, drink until I pass out, wake-up, drink, put on movies, put on TV, something to numb the chaos of consciousness, something to silence my mind. And after five, six days of this, one day because I would go through this for five days or six days and then eventually, obviously, it just got so bad that, “All right. What am I doing? I have to slow down and get back to work,” and then all that kind of thing. And then eventually though after one of these cycles of drinking and sobering up, I just woke up, still see the couch next to me, woke up and thought to myself, “There’s no point going on and let’s just walk over to the kitchen, pick up knife, and end it all because this pattern would never change.”
And that was a shock to me that I would even think about ending my life like it blew my mind that I had gotten so low. You know, I already consider myself someone with some fair grit, some resilience. I’ve gone through these challenges before, joining the Marines when two doctors told me it would kill me. And not only did I survive the Marines but I graduated infantry school as the honored graduate so I thrived in it. And I always did well anything I put my mind to, so it shocked me that where I had become was a vast different like a 180 between the self-identity that I had for myself.
Hal: So, was the desire or the thought of suicide was that the wake-up call? What was the wake-up call?
Akshay: That was definitely the first like the huge trigger that shifted it. I mean, I’ll say I went back into the pattern a little bit, but that was like the – because it was like that was the one that really pushed me to rock the boat so to speak enough to, “Okay, something’s got to change.” So, that’s when I started reading book after book. I mean, I read hundreds of books and then eventually I made the decision to stop drinking for a while and then I started moderating it. So, I actually got pretty good at moderating because I kind of came back to it and moderated for a while. At this point I was thriving, writing my book, all of that, and only later, much later did I finally say, “You know what, moderation is not good,” because I moderated for a while but every once in a while, these triggers would hit and I’d go back and just sort of two, three, four-day spiral. And so, finally, I said, “What am I doing?” Like I don’t ever want to go back to that place where I was on my couch and I’m really not good at moderation. I kind of got that at this point and so let’s just embrace the addictive personality and channel it into something positive and meaningful. And that’s what I did. I mean, I refrained my experience, my survivor’s guilt. I reframed my experiences, posttraumatic stress, of fear, of all of these things I’ve been through and turn them into a gift and sort of my ally in accomplishing all these other things I’ve accomplished since then.
Hal: Wow. I’m excited to dive into this, dive into the content, dive into your brain if you will because it’s all fascinating and I’m so glad that we went a little deeper because when you shared the fact that you were drinking up to a liter of vodka a day I think that’s a really powerful visual like I don’t think it’s a liter of vodka a year.
Akshay: Yeah. It shocked me. I mean, literally, I would wake up and see these bottles in my exactly what you’re saying. I mean, I remember thinking that like we have four or five bottles of this in my trash and I’m like there are people who drink, who don’t drink this in a year or two years. That’s insane what I’m doing.
Hal: And you said you’re married at this time you said, yeah?
Akshay: I was. Yeah.
Hal: How was your wife? What was your wife’s take on this? Was she scared, freaking out? What was going on?
Akshay: I mean, sometimes I would do like it would go really heavy when she wasn’t there like sometimes let’s say she was traveling in India. Her families are in India so something like that. But even when she was here, I would sneak like I would find ways to hide it because I was always a late-night worker so I would be like, okay, when she goes to bed, I’d have my bottle of vodka hidden under the bathroom cupboard kind of thing, pull it up, and it never resulted in like sort of like we still have a great marriage but I was hiding it. I was hiding this ultimately not only from herself, of course, but from myself like not only from her. So, yeah, she knew it was a problem because there were days clearly that I was really drunk and so it was a problem but it wasn’t like a severe problem yet in some of these moments until finally I hit that low moment and that’s when I really confessed to her after that that I’m just in a dark space and obviously she was very supportive at the time.
Hal: So, based on your experience, both your experience what you’ve gone through, what you’ve overcome and then really your research and then the work that you’ve done and the book that you’ve written, what have you found is the biggest barrier that stopped people from, well, you kind of say blank meaning achieving their goals, realizing their dreams, being happy, because it sounds you are so unhappy that you are turning to alcohol and drugs. What’s the biggest barrier that’s holding people back from what it is that they really want?
Akshay: Yeah. Love it. Awesome question. To me, fundamentally, the biggest barrier that stops us in getting our goals from living a happier meaningful life is our relationship to struggle or our relationship to suffering as I like to put it. The most important we can do to improve our lives is to develop a positive relationship to the experience of struggle. Because here’s the thing, Hal, like when we seek out something meaningful, we’re going to have to struggle to get to achieve that goal. Writing a book was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Running ultra-marathons, building a business, these things are hard, and when we learn to develop a positive relationship to that struggle and find joy in the struggle, we are more likely to succeed at our goals but we’re also more likely to enjoy the journey. So, it’s not only that struggle we’re seeking. It’s also the struggle that life throws in our way. Like now, again, I developed a positive relationship to my experience at war through my struggles of that like as a quick example, right now as I sit next to you I’m looking at this poster of my friend that I lost in the war and it says this should have been you. Earn this life. So, my guilt became my ally. I developed a positive relationship to it.
Because that’s the huge problem. We demonize emotions like fear, stress, anxiety, guilt, anger. We say these are “negative emotions” but there are no bad or good emotions. They’re just emotions and we can do whatever we want with these emotions. We can choose how to transform them and make them work for us in any way. And when we develop the positive relationship to the hard emotions to the “negative ones”, the ones that do require some struggle, we can ultimately achieve anything and then also just enjoy the ride more because it’s going to be hard. You know that. You’ve gone through struggle. Whether we seek it out or not, life is going to throw struggle our way and if we learn to smile in the face of it like nothing can stop us anymore.
Hal: Yeah. I agree and my wife always tells me that, “You’re not normal,” because I’m like, “Sweetie, you can’t change it. Why don’t you just enjoy that you’re…” In fact, I’m going to tell a story that I started to write this in my new book and I’m like, “This isn’t really appropriate,” but I feel like a podcast is even though it is permanent, it’s not quite as permanent. So, I’m just going to share it.
Hal: I was at a, and I’ve never shared this before, but I was at a college party at UC Davis. I lived in Sacramento. It’s up near Sacramento. And I was at a college party and I was like 21 I think, maybe 22, and I wasn’t a big drinker so like I was a lightweight you could say, right? And this particular night my buddies were like, “Dude, drink with us. Let’s do shots,” and I’m like, “Okay. Why not? Let’s try it. Okay.” Anyway, I drank so much that I got really sick and I was sitting out on the bench by myself or everybody’s having a great time and I go, “I’m definitely, I’m about to throw up,” and then I had this thought. I go, “Why don’t I enjoy this experience?” Instead of wishing I wasn’t that I didn’t drink so much and being sick and I guess now as I’m saying this I could say, well, you don’t want to condition yourself to enjoy doing things that you shouldn’t do. That’s a whole different conversation but here’s the point. Something that normally would be like, “Oh, God, this is terrible. Oh,” like no one likes throwing up. I don’t know anybody, I’ve never met anyone that enjoyed throwing up. I personally, I don’t like it at all and I thought since I can’t change that I’m about to throw up, what if I just try to experience really intense gratitude, not for the throwing up but just for life while I’m throwing up and just enjoy and to smile.
So, I sat there heaving. It was disgusting. It was horrible but I was smiling and I was genuinely, it happens when a test, I think you administer yourself with all your ultrarunning where you’re going, “Let me figure out how to enjoy the most unenjoyable thing,” because if I can enjoy that then I can enjoy the mundane challenges and adversities that we experience in our daily life, right?
Akshay: That’s amazing that you had that awakening while drinking like that. That’s beautiful and powerful.
Hal: I think the awakening was before. I just luckily remembered it. I was going to accept all the things I could change and find the best in situations.
Akshay: Love it, man. That’s amazing. But, yeah, totally relate. That’s exactly why I love ultra-running. I mean, again, I think you’ve done some of your own ultra-running adventures too but what I love about it was…
Hal: One, I checked it off the bucket list. Yeah.
Akshay: Nice. Awesome. So, you know the pain that it entails.
Hal: Oh yeah.
Akshay: But the beauty in rising above that. Like to me, what I love about it is it really is this microcosm for the entire spectrum of the human experience. You got these intense highs and intense lows and in everything in between and it becomes a microcosm for this life, and that’s what I really, really enjoy about it.
Hal: Yeah. You’re in Austin, right? We definitely got to hang out. We’re as like-minded I think as they come.
Akshay: I actually am in New Jersey. I still got my Austin number but I lived a lot of time in Austin but I will be back there soon. So, 100% would love to hang out, my friend.
Hal: Yeah. Absolutely. So, let me ask you, what made you decide? In fact, tell everybody. I don’t think we talked about this. We’ve been here and there, but in my understanding correctly, you’ve made a decision to run across every country in the world. Is that correct?
Akshay: That is correct, yes. I’ve done eight countries so far and I’m about to do my ninth.
Hal: Okay. So, this could be the whole episode. I’m fascinated by this. You’ve run and I almost feel like we should’ve had Jon Berghoff interview you because Jon is an ultra-runner and I’ve done one and he’s done quite a few but when you say run across every country, so you’ve done eight so far, give me an example. You’ve run from one end of a country to another end of a country. Eight, is that correct?
Akshay: Yeah. So, I ran like from the southern tip to the northern tip 55 miles across Luxembourg, did 350 miles which is technically cross-country skis across Greenland. Some of the ones have started with our smaller just to kind of not only to build up my running skills but also to logistically learn how to manage these things. So, I did 28 miles across Barbados which although not as big as some of the other ones, it was probably one of the worst. I got severe heat exhaustion at the end of that run like full body heat cramps. That one was awful. Just horribly painful.
Hal: And where were you 55 miles across?
Akshay: Luxembourg. I’m about to do 210 miles across Liberia.
Hal: That is insane. Greenland is interesting. So, 350 miles and that’s separate from when you – is that separate when you were dragging the…
Akshay: No. So, that’s the dragging the sled. Yeah. We dragged 32 days’ worth of food and supplies to survive out there for a month.
Hal: And that was cross-country skiing for 350 miles.
Akshay: Yup, cross-country skiing. I actually had to put on 17 pounds of fat to prepare for that expedition and then I lost 20 pounds out there.
Hal: So, what was your – and was that the furthest of all the countries that you did?
Akshay: That has been the furthest. Yeah. That was a multi-day. I mean, I kind of I don’t, in my mind, I don’t put it in the category of running because a polar expedition is just a different beast like, I mean, it is a cross-country thing but it’s just a different beast in running. So, in my own sort of psychological profile, how I handle these things, that was a whole different project to accomplish and to manage everything. So, Liberia is kind of the biggest run that I’m doing now and I have some much, much bigger ones planned after that like eventually running across an entire continent. So, I got some of those planned out in a couple of years.
Hal: How long is this plan? How long will it take you to run across every country in the world?
Akshay: This is one of those things. It’s a lifetime goal. I mean, what inspired this is as in my own dealing, as I said, I realized that I’m not very good in moderation, so I needed something to consume like the depths of my soul. And how do we find like something that like this is kind of a useful way, how do we find our path? I knew at this point clearly, I love physical adventures. I love pushing myself. I had experimented with it, played around with it, I realized this is a huge part of who I am, and I ran into this ultra-runner who ran – ha ha, ran into him, but he ran from the North Pole to the South Pole averaging two marathons a day every day for ten-and-a-half months. I mean, the guy is a beast. Insane feat of human endurance. One of the best feats of human endurance I ever came across. So, when I saw what he did, it was like, wow. Because I come from a mindset that if one person can do it, it means anybody can do something as you can relate, obviously. So, I saw that and I was like, “Okay. If he can do that, I’m going to run across every country,” and that trigger had sparked something and I wanted something to consume the entirety of my spirit, to become obsessed over. So, this project is a lifelong project. It’s one of those things that I don’t know if I will cross every country by the time I die but the journey itself is the destination and even on my deathbed across 50 or 100 or 150, it be kind of worth it.
Hal: Well, it’s a great point that the purpose of a goal is not to reach the goal. It’s who you become in the pursuit, right?
Hal: So, you get every country or you only do 49, whatever, right? It’s the process that develops.
Akshay: Yeah. It’s already transformed me. It’s like with so many things with Liberia what we’re doing is we’re using the run to bring water to those that need across the country. We’re actually distributing water filters along the run because the country went through a brutal civil war for 15 years so I’m working with the gentleman out there who helped rescue 20,000 child soldiers during the Civil War. Amazing human being. And working with him to distribute water, we’re helping to raise funds, build the first sustainable school in postwar Liberia. So, running is one of my vehicles to service. Really there’s two. There’s owning an entrepreneurship and running is one of the major ones, so I’m just using my vehicle now to serve in any way I can.
Hal: Yeah. Fantastic. So, let’s talk about the book, Fearvana. I just added it in my shopping cart. I’ll be ordering it. First, as an author, I have a question for you which is how did you get the Dalai Lama… Was that just emailing him? Or how did you do that?
Akshay: Yeah. Cold pitch. I actually shot a video for him. Shooting personal videos was a game changer, but it definitely took a lot of persistence. Actually, as I reached out to the email on his website, which got me nowhere so I spent like hours and hours and hours researching one name and contact, found a name and contact who then connected me through three other people, finally connected to the right person, shot this video, wrote a letter for him, and really five months building relationship with this monk in the monastery there. And like one important point on this, if anybody listening, the whole time I was doing this, I’m constantly having to self-doubt that, “Oh, they’re going to think my book is garbage. They hate me. That’s why they’re not responding to my email,” all of this stuff. And the real point is that it’s okay to have that voice but you don’t have to listen to it. So, that voice was there but I continue to rise above it and five months of building a relationship with this gentleman and he sent me these beautiful emails saying, “Considering everything you’ve been through and your genuine desire to serve, I’ll press your case.” That’s exactly what he said and then he sent me this letter and I got this letter that we framed and put up in our house from his holiness with his seal and his signature. He ended up writing before. I only asked for like a one-liner or testimonial but he wrote the foreword for the book. So, it was just a huge blessing. It’s been a tremendous blessing.
Hal: And look at the effort, right? For everybody listening, that’s extraordinary effort to achieve that goal of five months of you missed the initial didn’t get responded to the first email that you sent so you recorded a video, you wrote a letter, you kept pursuing until you achieve the goal. So, the book is called FEARVANA: The Revolutionary Science of How to Turn Fear into Health, Wealth and Happiness. Who is this for, I mean, other than everybody, of course? This is universal for everybody but if someone’s listening, what are they going to get out of this? Why should they read this?
Akshay: Everybody navigates the experience of fear, stress, and anxiety in their life at some point or the other and this book is about transforming that experience whether you’re an entrepreneur, you’re an athlete, you’re a student, you’re a parent. I was writing, obviously, as we all do, we look at your message so in the categories of where I see myself, an athlete, entrepreneur, a veteran who’s gone through all these things, but it’ll help you transform that experience that the world tells us is negative. I mean how often do we hear people say things like, “Be fearless.” We attach disorder towards like stress and anxiety. We say, “Eliminate your stress, manage your stress, how to do things easily,” and that stuff never works. Like a just quick anecdote of that, I mean, I worked with this client who said, “I’m just waiting for the fear to go away so I can quit my job and start my business.” That’s why you’re laughing because I told you that’s your problem. You’re waiting for the fear to go away. It won’t. Instead, how do you use it? And that’s what this book will help you do is transform that “negative emotions” into an ally to help you accomplish your goals.
Hal: Beautiful, man. Well, Akshay, this has been a fantastic conversation, man. One of my favorites that I can remember and in recent time.
Akshay: Honored, brother.
Hal: Yeah, dude. Thank you. Again, I think that we all like like-minded people. I feel like you and I are two peas in a pod, brother. So, the book, best place to get it is on Amazon I’m assuming. I see Kindle audiobook and paperback.
Hal: Any other way? If somebody wants to follow up with you, get a hold of you like you are there, Dalai Lama, they want you to write the foreword to their book, what’s the best way to connect with you?
Akshay: Fearvana.com, you can find me on there. You can reach at me personally. I respond to my own emails, [email protected], and all the profits in the book are going to charity. And right now, there are folks in building that school so it’s not just the book itself will hopefully help but what we do on the backend will help others as well.
Hal: Beautiful, man. Well, I love your mission or missions it sounds like. There’s quite a few. How old are you right now by the way?
Hal: Thirty-three? Okay. Got it. So, you’ve been through a lot. Cool. Well, Akshay, appreciate you. By the way, for everybody listening, the book is Fearvana. I want to spell it out for you, F-E-A-R-V-A-N-A. Goal achievers, I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Akshay as much as I did. We may have him on again because I had so much fun talking to him. So, love you, appreciate you. Thank you for being a listener, a loyal listener of the Achieve Your Goals Podcast and I will talk to you very soon, my friends.
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