Affiliate Nerd Out

Avoiding Burnout for High Performers with Andy Johns

April 16, 2024 Dustin Howes Season 1 Episode 80
Avoiding Burnout for High Performers with Andy Johns
Affiliate Nerd Out
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Affiliate Nerd Out
Avoiding Burnout for High Performers with Andy Johns
Apr 16, 2024 Season 1 Episode 80
Dustin Howes
When my old friend Andy Johns, a former tech executive turned mental health advocate, recounts his ascent through the ranks of Silicon Valley's elite, it's more than just a career highlight reel. It's a raw and revealing saga of personal metamorphosis, from the boardrooms of Facebook, Twitter, and Quora to the quiet self-reflection that followed his tenure as president of Wealthfront. Venture with us as Andy shares the wake-up call that reshaped his life's trajectory, grounding a conversation that strips back the layers of our work-entwined identities and implores a reexamination of our priorities.

The fabric of our daily lives is threaded with stress, but why does it so often feel unmanageable? We explore the intriguing link between ancient biological instincts and present-day anxiety, depression, and emotional distress. Our chat navigates the complexities of a nervous system in overdrive, the unintended consequences of childhood stress, and the significance of creating a nurturing environment shielded from technological inundation. Discover how reconnecting with nature and the world around us can be foundational in building resilience, both for children and adults on the brink of burnout.

For those feeling the weight of modern pressures, the episode culminates with transformative strategies that high achievers can seamlessly weave into their routines. We discuss the 'bookend method,' a daily practice framing each morning and evening with intention and calm, as well as the mood-enhancing benefits of hot and cold therapies. Closing the conversation, we invite you to join us on a journey toward a more peaceful existence, revealing not just personal coping mechanisms but the creation of sanctuaries for rest and recovery — places where stress surrenders to serenity.

Publisher out there, go check out their easy javascript functions on WordPress sites. It works like magic to add up to date CTAs within your blog posts. Go see it for yourself at dustinhowes.com/acom

This is a tool all publishers out there need to be utilizing, go to dustinhowes.com/nuc for a 1-month free trial and a demo of the product. Please use my link to enable my content making addition. Dustinhowes.com/nuc

For more tips on how to scale your affiliate program, check out https://performancemarketingmanager.com

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers
When my old friend Andy Johns, a former tech executive turned mental health advocate, recounts his ascent through the ranks of Silicon Valley's elite, it's more than just a career highlight reel. It's a raw and revealing saga of personal metamorphosis, from the boardrooms of Facebook, Twitter, and Quora to the quiet self-reflection that followed his tenure as president of Wealthfront. Venture with us as Andy shares the wake-up call that reshaped his life's trajectory, grounding a conversation that strips back the layers of our work-entwined identities and implores a reexamination of our priorities.

The fabric of our daily lives is threaded with stress, but why does it so often feel unmanageable? We explore the intriguing link between ancient biological instincts and present-day anxiety, depression, and emotional distress. Our chat navigates the complexities of a nervous system in overdrive, the unintended consequences of childhood stress, and the significance of creating a nurturing environment shielded from technological inundation. Discover how reconnecting with nature and the world around us can be foundational in building resilience, both for children and adults on the brink of burnout.

For those feeling the weight of modern pressures, the episode culminates with transformative strategies that high achievers can seamlessly weave into their routines. We discuss the 'bookend method,' a daily practice framing each morning and evening with intention and calm, as well as the mood-enhancing benefits of hot and cold therapies. Closing the conversation, we invite you to join us on a journey toward a more peaceful existence, revealing not just personal coping mechanisms but the creation of sanctuaries for rest and recovery — places where stress surrenders to serenity.

Publisher out there, go check out their easy javascript functions on WordPress sites. It works like magic to add up to date CTAs within your blog posts. Go see it for yourself at dustinhowes.com/acom

This is a tool all publishers out there need to be utilizing, go to dustinhowes.com/nuc for a 1-month free trial and a demo of the product. Please use my link to enable my content making addition. Dustinhowes.com/nuc

For more tips on how to scale your affiliate program, check out https://performancemarketingmanager.com

Dustin Howes:

Hey folks, welcome to Affiliate Nerd Out. I'm your nerdi rator, Dustin Howes. Spread that good word about affiliate marketing. You're going to find me here on Thursdays, 1215 PM Pacific time, going live with my guests. So put it on the calendar, hit that subscribe button and come on by for a good old conversation and join us. My guest today, an old buddy from little league, from hanford, california, andy johns.

Andy Johns:

Welcome to the nerdatorium buddy thanks, buddy, it's good to see you again.

Dustin Howes:

Happy to be here uh, funny enough, we haven't seen each other since high school, and then I've just been following your career on LinkedIn and just been amazed by the things that you've done with it and so happy that you've transitioned your life into helping that greater good, and I just want to pass that message along. So today's episode isn't necessarily about affiliate marketing and we probably won't talk about it, but it is about helping deal with the stresses in life. So happy to have you, man.

Andy Johns:

Thank you. Thank you, thanks for carving out time for this important conversation.

Dustin Howes:

Awesome, Awesome. So if you'd like to be an Andy Seaton, come be a guest of mine. Go to dustinhowes. com, slash nerd and drop in a topic. What do you want to talk about? Let's hang out Our question of the day how to handle stress. How do you handle stress at work? Everybody's going through it. If you have a job, how do you do it? Put it in the chat. Let me know what you're thinking about and, without further ado though, Andy Johns, who are you?

Andy Johns:

That's a good question. I'm rediscovering that in real time as my life unfolds, you know. The short answer is you know also grew up in a small farming community and growing up I was that high achiever, did really well in school. One way or another I made my way into the technology industry, and so I spent 17, 18 years working in Silicon Valley technology companies, and that defined a significant portion of my life and who I was. But for the last four, almost five years, it's my sense of who I am and my identity has shifted quite a bit and I'm moving in a new direction, and so now I think of myself more as a mental health advocate and somebody who's trying to help others free themselves from psychological suffering. So I can't say I'm just a person, a singular identity, because it's continuing to evolve.

Dustin Howes:

But that's who I am. Well, that's awesome to hear. You are a person, and a lot of people that answer that question come out firing with oh I'm the director of partnerships over at this company and like that's not who you are, like I like your answer, like you're still figuring it out. I'm still figuring it out who I am and what I'm doing in this world. So love that answer, man. All right, uh, let's talk about your background, what you've had some really huge startup companies that you've been working at.

Andy Johns:

Let's let's talk about that yeah, yeah, actually I was a marketer myself in the beginning of my career. I was doing growth, marketing and product work in the early days at Facebook. That goes all the way back to 2008. And then, after a couple of years at Facebook working on user growth over there, I went to Twitter and was doing the same thing, overseeing a lot of the different marketing efforts as well as product work related to growing the customer base or the user base and driving engagement. And then I went and sort of a three-peat, I guess and I joined Quora as one of the early employees I think there's somewhere around 15 people and Quora itself had about 10,000 users, so it was just this brand new, nascent thing that was kind of being murmured about in Silicon Valley circles.

Andy Johns:

And I joined there, worked on user growth and then, after that sort of was on a big upslope, I was, honestly, I was just super burnt out. I was having some mental health issues myself, so I took a big break, took some time off of work, took care of my health and then, when I got back into work, I had a brief stint as an entrepreneur in residence at Greylock Partners, which is a pretty successful venture capital firm, and while I was there, I was scouting out companies and I saw one called Wealthfront, which is in the fintech space, and I just thought that there was a huge potential there. And so I said you know, I'm all about the journey and I like the early stage startup stuff. And so I threw my name in a hat and I joined Wealthfront as one of the first employees and it's actually cool to see because when I joined, it had about 300 million of assets under management, so 300 million dollars of people's money. It was managing okay and we were getting about 60 new customers signing up a week and and that was like a, a big like oh, we just broke a new record. Right, but fast forward to today and it's managing 60 billion dollars and had somewhere around seven or 800,000 customers and is a big, profitable, yet still public company. And so I was there for quite a while.

Andy Johns:

I grew up within the ranks of the business and I eventually became the president of the company. I was next in line to be the CEO and that was the plan was for me to take over for the co-founder and potentially take the company public. But then I had another health scare actually a heart attack scare and I was only 35 at the time, and so I ended up stepping away, reluctantly, because I loved that company and its mission. And, after some time off, the workaholic in me convinced me to go back into work and I joined with a couple of folks and became the founding partner of the consumer arm of an early stage venture capital firm. And so in my deluded head at the time I was thinking oh you know, this is a step back from the stressful lifestyle which is, you know, starting a venture capital firm is is is starting any business is for you.

Andy Johns:

So, yeah, I've been doing that for a couple of years before I finally said you know what Like things really came to a head with my mental health. I was in a dark place, I was extremely burned out, and that's when I kind of had, you know, the come to Jesus moment and I said you know what I don't want to be? You know the 45 year old guy who dies from a heart attack just because he was working too hard and began a really intensive mental health journey, which I'm still on today. But now, four or five years into it and my life's changed pretty substantially.

Dustin Howes:

That's an incredible story, and not enough of us know when to stop, I would feel, and it's so glad that you did it before it was too late, and I know you've changed your focus into helping the greater good rather than being in that startup environment that was killing you. So tell us about CluesLife. This is your new venture and you're taking it easy, but CluesLife tell us a name, origin story here.

Andy Johns:

Sure, yeah. So there's a few things that I'm doing right now that are in the the mental health field. One of them is I'll get to the clues in a moment but one I want to mention that's important is uh, I'm now on the board of a non-profit called heroic hearts and we work with military veterans, with ptsd, wow, and we raise money so that we can take struggling veterans who have tried everything through the Veterans Administration but haven't managed to find the healing that they need, and we give them access to the emerging field of psychedelic psychotherapy, which really really helps them work through not only the war trauma but any prior life trauma that they might have had, but any prior life trauma that they might have had. I myself have participated in the ceremonies with the veterans and have found similar healing, and so that's something that's near and dear to me, and so some of the work that I do is with veterans and really passionate about that. But the other work I do is sort of at the intersection of my old life in tech and this emerging passion around mental health, and that's what clueslife is.

Andy Johns:

Where you know, I called it clueslife, not truthlife or factslife mental health journey is that, at the end of the day, the solution that one finds for themselves in terms of what helps them heal, what helps them reestablish a balance or homeostasis with their nervous system and what helps them move beyond any of the events in the past that might have been traumatic for them. At the end of the day, it ends up being an individual journey. If you speak with any honest, really competent psychotherapist, they'll tell you that they haven't used the same treatment plan more than one time. It's an individualized approach, individualized care, and so just a little asterisk on that if you feel like you're getting a cookie cutter treatment method from your therapist, then you might need to do some more shopping around. And so that's where the language of clues came from.

Andy Johns:

Is think of yourself almost like an animal tracker, where you're just looking for the footprints in the soil, you're looking for the bent leaves, you're looking for the broken twigs. The signs aren't always obvious. When you're looking for the bent leaves, you're looking for the broken twigs. The signs aren't always obvious when you're trying to track down the solution to your own well-being. And that's where the language clues came from, and so I created, you know, this kind of artful, simple web prototype that I'm continuing to play around with. That is, imagine it like spotify, but instead of spotify for exploring different forms of music, it's for exploring different fields of knowledge, information and wisdom related to the art of living, and so it sort of ranges from anywhere from, you know, 5 000 year old ancient spiritual and philosophical perspectives up to modern clinical neuroscience and everything in between, because that's what my search, my own search for the clues to my own well-being, involved.

Dustin Howes:

I realized that just western psychotherapy itself was not the answer that is an interesting journey and veterans will have an interesting way of capturing your attention. Like me, being a veteran, I joined the Marines right out of high school and served my time and I never saw any action, if you will, but the guys that went through that PCSD. Every war is a new set of problems for those that served right. It's a different world than the World War II guys that just sucked it up and like went on with their life. And today's war veterans are more praised than ever, which is very deserving, I would say. And I would say like we're going through the same thing in this tech hub. We don't know what's coming up and things aren't necessarily getting better, but I like that you are starting to service this industry that is well underserved and people don't know why they're going through this kind of thing. Right.

Andy Johns:

Yeah Well, and if I could, I want to take a moment to provide, like, a broader context for all of us to understand about, like, like we know it, we see it around us all the time. We hear about the studies in the news, we see the challenges that today's children are going through, and there's a lot of anxious, depressed and emotionally unwell people. And the question is why and I have a perspective on this and this is what I wanted to share and it begins with a fundamental understanding of our evolutionary history. So our nervous system and the system that we know generally as the fight or flight system right, we know that this is something that we inherited as a mammal through our evolutionary biology and it's when one part of the nervous system kicks on that allows us to become hypervigilant and prepared as if we're going to fight to the death with a lion or something, and prepared as if we're going to fight to the death with a lion or something. And then, when that fight is over, there's another part of the nervous system that comes in. It's a parasympathetic nervous system and it shuts that fight or flight system down. It brings us back down to homeostasis, and when you think about an animal in the wild, it's essential that first they're able to kick into high gear, so to speak, to be able to defend themselves or flee for the purpose of survival. But it's just as important that, as soon as that risk is gone, the parasympathetic nervous system comes in and shuts it down, because that is an extremely energy expensive process, and if you're an animal in the wild, like you know, efficiency of energy is essential through food, water and mobility. And so we have that exact same system. You can test the fight or flight system across the entire animal kingdom and 100 of the time the nervous system will respond in the same way.

Andy Johns:

Now, what's different is that that nervous system was not designed for a world in which we have steady, consistent, daily psychological stressors. And that's the world that we've designed for ourselves and that we live in. And that's the world that we've designed for ourselves and that we live in. We're getting busier than ever. Cars are faster, information is faster, shorter, briefer. We're flooded with information. We got bills to pay, we got bosses, we got this, we got that. We're on our computer all day. Notifications are constantly going off. We're doing all that while trying to raise a family, and then we're hearing about the news of potential World War III every day. These things, these psychological and social stressors, are activating the exact same nervous system that was designed to run away from a lion and it was designed to only be on for a little bit and then, after that fear is over, it shuts down. But the modern context is such that that system is turned on, even if the volumes turned up on it just a little bit, but it's kept on all the damn time. Yeah, it wasn't evolved for that purpose and not enough time has passed for our biology to catch up and to evolve in a sense to where it can cope with that. So that's the first point, is it is a fundamental misalignment between how our nervous system is designed and the constant sense of stress in the world that we live in today.

Andy Johns:

And the second point that can be compounded if we've also faced stress and trauma as a child, because in the wild it's a dark but a real part of mammalian life and animal life in general is it's known as infanticide. You'll see it all the time if you watch certain birds and they hatch a certain number of eggs. There'll be times where the bird makes a decision of like this one, this one baby bird is the weakest, or I don't have enough food in my environment to pay for it or to provide for it, and so it'll just remove that bird, it'll just throw it out of the nest, and that's infanticide it will kill one of its young children. Now, the difference with humanity is you might grow up in a stressful household or in a broken household, or grow up with a parent who has substance addiction or who is abusive or who has neglected you because of their own life circumstances and not having their stuff together emotionally and spiritually. And so, unlike the animal kingdom and this is a good thing unlike the animal kingdom, we won't just throw out our young when we realize we can't provide for them. Instead, sometimes we raise children for years in a chaotic, traumatizing and neglectful environment, and our nervous system wasn't designed for that either.

Andy Johns:

And so what you can find is that there's an awful lot of people today that their nervous system is just completely overtaxed, either due to the circumstances of the day-to-day psychological stressors that we face, which is having an unnatural interaction with our nervous system, and that can be compounded if they also had a really difficult, challenging childhood. And you bring those two things together and then you continue to work and work and work and work, and guess what? We're going to have meltdowns, right, and that's my general sense of society as a whole is, we are becoming increasingly manic and it's reaching a crescendo and it's unprecedented times, and we're doing our best to figure it out. But, truth be told, we haven't figured it out as a species or a civilization yet.

Dustin Howes:

Oh man, that is so fascinating and you brought up so many great points. I raised my children to be children. I'm trying to keep that stress out of their life for as long as possible so that they don't go through that and be anxious like I am at 42, right. So what are some of those tactics that we can teach our children to avoid that kind of burnout that we may be going through in this workforce today?

Andy Johns:

Yeah, you know, there's a reason why some folks are so adamant about doing our best in the modern context to get back, to call it, a more traditional or primitive form of living. One of the simplest things that we can do for children is have them play outside yeah, unsupervised in nature in the sun, socially together and away from these things.

Andy Johns:

Yeah, as best as we can. That that is. Yeah, there's a lot of really brilliant research demonstrating this fact. You know, it's just basically call it rewilding. Getting back to the environment in which, like, let me talk about the nervous system again, it was calibrated over millions of years to be in a natural environment, to be in a social environment with multiple other people, multiple adults, multiple other children around each other, in this sort of tribe-like setting surrounded by nature, right Like it. That is what the nervous system is calibrated for.

Andy Johns:

And so there's a reason when you hear people talk about grounding and like get up in the morning with the sun, go outside, let the sun hit your skin, touch the ground barefoot. It's not just woo-woo hippie shit to like generalize and say, oh, you know, that's for all the hippies and this is stupid stuff. This is essential basic information about what it means to reharmonize our nervous systems and try and bring it down to that level of homeostasis where we feel secure and where we feel calm and, unfortunately, the broad access to technology. It has an incredible amount of benefits to it, there's no doubt, but it also has significant downsides and that's what we're feeling at the level of our nervous system today. And so, like the old saying goes of the pure and simple, truth is never pure and rarely simple Like those are the facts. The technology is incredibly powerful. We're using it for a lot of good, but it's also outrageously disruptive to our sense of wellbeing.

Dustin Howes:

Well, man, very well said, and I didn't learn about grounding. Till just a couple of months ago I didn't know this was a thing and uh, then, when I learned about it, that's exactly what I said. This, this hippie shit's not for me, but uh, you know, I will. I will give anything a try once and and see if I can't reap some benefits going outside, standing in the grass when the sun shine for 15 minutes. I'm all on board. But leave it to entrepreneurs to go out and create an item that represents grounding that you can stand on at your desk. I thought that was the funniest product like on the market right now that they're trying to represent nature while you're standing at your desk.

Andy Johns:

And those little foot pedals from under the desk you know, if there's a principle that I can leave with people, it'd be this. It's that think of the human body as a tuning fork to its environment. The human body is essentially one giant sense organ that is constantly detecting its environment and it's making subconscious calculations and subconscious predictions about am I safe or not, and whether we realize it or not, that's what's happening and that's the whole point of grounding and getting back to nature and being away from stressful environments with the horns and the people walking fast and the constant beeping of our phone. Those are all things that our body is very, very subtly absorbing constantly.

Dustin Howes:

Awesome and let's take a full step back. For those that aren't fully in tune what burnout is? Let's go off just a simple definition. Tell the folks what work burnout really is If they haven't seen it yet, like I ran into it just this year.

Andy Johns:

So I would say burnout is the point of physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual exhaustion. It's a point at which it's not that just productivity and our effectiveness drops a bit, it's that it almost comes to a halt. It is the overwhelm of a nervous system that we sometimes experience through panic attacks. It's when our cognitive abilities completely decline because basically our mind is saying that's all I got. So that's what burnout is to me.

Dustin Howes:

Okay, and what are some of those warning signs that folks can recognize to help to really recognize that they need some help before it's too late?

Andy Johns:

that they need some help before it's too late. There is a book that I would recommend everyone check out, especially if you're interested in this subject, and the title says it all. The title of the book is the Body Keeps the Score, and it's by an author named Bessel van der Kolk. He is a psychotherapist himself. He has spent the better part of three, almost four decades working with trauma patients, and the entire book is a. In my opinion, it's a masterpiece and it's an important shift in how we think about mental health where, as the title suggests, the body is the indicator.

Andy Johns:

The body is going to give out a lot of signs of impending distress or impending burnout, and so when we think about mental health, we typically think about the really noisy voice that is in our head. That sometimes drives us crazy, and that is certainly part of it. But the symptoms of burnout they end up revealing themselves, or impending burnout. They reveal themselves through all of our basic biological functions. You know, when we assess our energy levels, when we assess even chronic pain, we may not realize that the chronic lower back pain we have has something to do with the state of our nervous system, the quality of our digestion. I know of people who have irritable bowel syndrome, and many doctors will say oh, I don't know, who knows, maybe you need a different gut bacteria or something, and that also could have something to do with it. But in many cases the physical symptom is a byproduct of the psychological distress, because what happens is think of the human brain and, as we understand it, it's communicating through neurotransmitters and neuromodulators up and down our body. Right, it sends signals down to our body to perform certain actions digestion, for example and our body sends signals up to the brain as well.

Andy Johns:

But there are times in which, if we're flooding the body with too many of these neurotransmitters, such as in the case of chronic stress, which our body is not well adapted to again going back to what I said earlier, when you're flooding the body with stress hormones because you're constantly stressed out, the body eventually begins to break down, and what a lot of emerging science is revealing is that a significant portion of our chronic physical illnesses originate from psychological distress. As an example, if you're sending stress hormones into the body constantly, such as a veteran with PTSD that's a part of what's happening, at least at the level of the biology, level of the biology then certain things will happen that are extremely detrimental to our physical health, such as a elevated and constant rate of stress hormones, has been well shown to destroy our gut biome, and our gut biome plays a vital role in the development of our immune system, and so there is a direct relationship that we're continuing to research between psychological distress and certain forms of cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis and other forms of chronic pain and chronic illness. That a lot of people think is okay.

Andy Johns:

Maybe it's got to do with my diet, maybe I'm not exercising a lot Like all of that is certainly part of it, but the thing that we're underestimating is the psychological origin of our chronic physical illness based in, or rooted in, psychological distress. So I'd say my answer is like look to your body. Are you not sleeping very well? Is your sleep constantly disrupted? How is your digestion? How is your diet? How does your body feel? What are your energy levels? I can guarantee you, if you really sit down and tune in with your body and pay attention to how it's doing today versus how it was doing five or 10 years ago, you're going to see a lot of the warning signs are?

Dustin Howes:

they're right there in front of you, hmm, Uh, so true man, and uh, I've recently, this year, gone through a pretty traumatic time with stress and having some really, you know, very bad bits of depression that I've never even touched on in my entire life, and having a giant like stress attack come to me and not even knowing how to handle it or not recognizing what it really was until I was in the mix of it, and it was really terrifying for me. But I didn't listen to those signs. I didn't listen to my body about like hey, I'm not sleeping enough, and in the right kind of fashion, and I'm waking up every hour and all of my beard hair has gone gray in the last year. It is it just like gave up, just decided I'm going to be older now.

Andy Johns:

Like I'm done, I'm done yeah.

Dustin Howes:

But I think the biggest trigger for me was, you know, I was okay with losing sleep, but my transition into like just hanging out with people. I wasn't the same person anymore and even as a dad I wasn't the same dad and I wasn't giving my best to my kids. I was more irritated with them than ever and that is not a way I want to be. I don't want to be that guy and that dad. And that's when I recognized that I needed to get help and to get the therapy, go to the doctor and get medicated to try to fix what's going on here and reverse as much as I possibly can.

Andy Johns:

Yep, yeah. And look, just to speak about the traditional Western approach to mental health is usually a combination of talk, therapy and medication. Yeah, but I'd say from my experience and again a lot of psychotherapists and psychiatrists who have been practicing for many, many years and who are willing to be very, very honest about it, they will say that we're just treating the symptoms, not the root cause. There are some people where you can definitively say that the root of their depression, the root of their anxiety, the root of whatever mood disorder they're experiencing has a mostly or purely biological basis, saying the same thing that the dated model of dopamine and serotonin levels are out of whack, it's dated, it's inaccurate. Again, for some people that's true and medication is necessary, but for most of us and I can speak for my case specifically I was on and off of antidepressants for various times throughout my career and I'm actually at the tail end, trying to taper off of them right now, when I needed them at the very end of my career just to stabilize my mood because I was carrying so much stress and so much psychological overhang.

Andy Johns:

The the root is how we're living. It's this abundance of chronic psychological and social stressors around us, and this is the challenge that we're all faced with. It's like okay, the practical reality is we've got to work a job and make some money in order to provide a living for ourselves and our families. But how do we do that in a way where we don't get overburdened? But how do we do that in a way where we don't get overburdened by the psychological stressors that we're increasingly flooded with? How do we do that? How do we strike that balance? And I'll pause there for a second, because I don't want to say too much more about the psychotherapy and medication approach.

Dustin Howes:

Okay.

Andy Johns:

I just want to make that big point of like this is the modern challenge. Two generations ago, the challenge for our grandparents was fighting global wars against totalitarianism and fascism right. The modern struggle today is against an overburdened nervous system and a society that has designed everything to be addictive.

Andy Johns:

That's the modern challenge I just whether or not psychotherapy and pills is the right answer for most people and I'd say it's a treatment to for the symptom. It's a way for us to do our best to cope with an outrageously expensive environment in terms of nervous system demands.

Dustin Howes:

Yeah, absolutely. And you talk about those tools and not everybody's program is going to be the same. Everybody's going to be different, so not every method is for everybody. And today I, uh, I was having a stressful time and my computer is running slow and I just started rage, yelling at it and like, and then I decided, hey, I'm gonna fix this by uh, creating a tiktok and like, uh, and like, uh, addressing how my ancestors who were on a farm, like how their stress levels were nowhere near where I was. But it was a different kind of stress and it was a different time and I missed that. I missed that calling as a farmer and kind of wish I had been in it at this point in my career. But tell us about what tools that you are seeing out there that really help the people, at least what you're finding.

Andy Johns:

And to make it practical for folks in tech that I chat with, I talk about what I call the bookend method. You know, like if you have books on a bookshelf and you kind of put the bookends there, hold them in place. The bookend method is basically like have a, a routine for the beginning of the day and the end of the day. You want to bookend your day, and bookend your day with things that are uh to use the language my friend johnny miller uses, who's a nervous system expert are are literally remote controls for our nervous system. And so imagine a ritual that you have at the beginning of the day, a certain set of things that you do that act as a remote control to bring you to a state of calm alertness at the beginning of the day. So you're alert, but you're also really really calm that way.

Andy Johns:

When you move into the day, so you're alert, but you're also really really calm that way when you move into the day and then your laptop starts acting up because you've brought down the sort of homeostatic level of your nervous system.

Andy Johns:

You are less likely to have that strong nervous system reaction to a small disruption in your day. So there's certain things you can do at the beginning of the day to establish a calm yet alert nervous system. And then you go through the day stressors, and then that shit builds up inside of you and then there's a certain things you can do at the end of the day to bring it back down to that level of calmness and to reset and recalibrate for the day. So that's the bookend method I talked about because, again, practically speaking, so that's the bookend method I talk about because, again, practically speaking, we still got to go work our day jobs for the most part. So and we can't necessarily change the fact that we have an asshole boss you might have to deal with that person for a while. And so I advocate for, like, what can you do to directly manage your nervous system beginning of the day and end of the day and you got to stick to it.

Andy Johns:

Specifically about the methods, I'll say that in Western psychotherapy its legacy is predominantly top-down, meaning it's use the mind to sort of treat the mind right. That's where talk therapy comes in. Let's talk through things. But what I've found, and a lot of people found, is it is beneficial but of limited benefit Because, again, you can't really use the mind to directly control the nervous system. You've got to use the body to control the nervous system. You've got to use the body to control the nervous system. So practices such as hot and cold therapy so we see people doing cold plunges, we see people going into a hot sauna.

Andy Johns:

There's a reason for those. It's not just because it's like the cool, fad thing to do to kind of seem like a wellness bro, right. These are things that directly modulate the state of your nervous system. All right. So that's something that I try and do every day, whenever I get the chance is some amount of time spent in really cold water, some amount of time spent in a hot sauna. These are things that allow me to not only practice the art of remaining calm when my body's trying to freak out because it's too hot or too cold, but there's also what's generally known as hormesis.

Andy Johns:

There's a physical, biological response to being really really hot or really really cold, where then, when the body is bringing itself back down to a normal temperature or back up to a normal temperature, there's a mood stabilization benefit in there.

Andy Johns:

For example, when you expose yourself to really cold water and you're doing cold plunges, that's basically your body's way of releasing its natural cocaine, right, like norepinephrine and adrenaline, like if you're feeling depressed, go sit in an ice bath for four minutes, get out and allow yourself your body to warm up and you'll feel some adrenaline.

Andy Johns:

You'll feel a mood lift, right. So, hot and cold therapy my preferred is hot yoga, so it involves, you know, some amount of body movement and exercise. I like the yoga because by relaxing the body, it's sending a signal up to the brain that hey, you can chill out. And what most people don't realize this is also kind of a dated model is, when we think of neurotransmitters and the flow of information through our body, we tend to think that the brain is entirely controlling everything and it's sending signals down to the body. It's only partly true. There's actually quite a bit of research that suggests that somewhere around 80 percent of the neurotransmitters in our body flow from our body to our brain wow so the vast majority of the information that's being transmitted through our body.

Andy Johns:

Like I said, the body is a tuning fork to its environment. What you do with the body will communicate certain messages to the brain, and so that's where physical activity is essential, and for me, the hot yoga, the stretching, the breathing, the relaxation that's involved in it is directly communicating to my brain. It's okay, you can calm down, let go.

Dustin Howes:

Nice man.

Andy Johns:

So there's a whole set of physical activities hot and cold exposure, any form of exercise that you enjoy, just do it. It could be walking, it could be pickleball, it could be anything. If you enjoy it, do it. If you can do it in the morning, great, get sunshine. Andrew Huberman talks about this all the time so I won't go into it, he's the expert on it. But be out in the sun. If you can expose yourself to calming environments, such as natural environment, even better. Breathwork is huge People. You might've heard of wim hof.

Andy Johns:

he's kind of the you know the ice man and, yeah, uh, an eclectic figure. We'll put it that way and not. I'm not an advocate for everything he says and does, but the role of breathing. The breath is again my friend johnny miller, who's a breathwork expert. He talks about this all the time. My experience has been that when you learn certain breathwork patterns, the pace and the way in which you breathe is directly communicating to the mind and to the body. It can calm down. For example, if you just sat in your chair and you hyperventilated, you'll start sweating. For example, if you just sat in your chair and you hyperventilated, you'll start sweating. Your body is getting the sense that it's preparing for some fight or flight type situation. But if you take long, slow breaths, box breathing, you know breathe in for five seconds, hold for five seconds, exhale for five seconds, hold for five seconds. Do that for 15 minutes in the morning, you'll feel pretty calm.

Dustin Howes:

That is awesome. That's some great advice there, andy, like those are some really great tools. I actually started cold plunging because I was trying to lose weight, but then it turned into a stress reliever of like I get to reset my mind, and I'm so thankful I have the Cold Plunge set up now for that exact reason and looks like you're tapping into some folks Grateful for this conversation. Thanks for joining in, caitlin Amira. Incredible, valuable conversation. That is awesome to hear.

Dustin Howes:

I'm glad people are getting something out of this. Well, as we wrap up here, it is definitely time for you to defend your post here, good sir. So we're going to bring up something in your LinkedIn. I'm thinking about a halfway house for burned out high achievers a place to stay, rest, recover around others who are similarly going through a midlife transition and being on the achiever path for too long thoughts on this. So my first thought is this sounds like an incubator of a new company. Like everybody, all these smart people are going to get together and start a new company doing something. But that's not your intention, right?

Andy Johns:

no, no, it's. It's actually a good friend, steve. He's working on basically a career decelerator. That's the way to think about it is for a lot of us high achievers, you know, career ladder climbers. When you look back at it, it's like it wasn't just maybe the 10, 15, 20 years, 30 years of your career where you've been working really hard.

Andy Johns:

It might have started when you were eight years old, when you started getting straight a's.

Andy Johns:

You know that was the case for me. When I look back at it was like 30 years of just being switched on the whole time, you know, and it's just like when am I going to take the foot off the gas? And it's so anti-american, right, it's so anti-western, where it's like rugged individualism, and so that's the point of it, and it's part of why I'm on this cross-country road trip right now, and while I've been doing a lot of traveling is real deep soul searching myself, but also exploring what different sorts of sanctuaries look like and what it might look like if I designed a place to help people decelerate, to help them come back to that calm clarity and to a peaceful way of living, because maybe that's what we need to do. And you know, in the response that I saw to that one post, I was like, okay, yep, there's something here, and so I defend it. I have a couple really close friends that are working on things that are similar and I think the time is right. People need something like this.

Dustin Howes:

Awesome. I look forward to hearing more about that. Now before I let you go, let's finish off with Clues Life. Who are you servicing out there? How do people get a hold of you to learn more?

Andy Johns:

you servicing out there? How do people get ahold of you to learn more? Yeah, you know. The best if you want to get ahold of me is my email andyjohns at gmailcom. A-n-d-y-j-o-h-n-s at gmailcom. I basically got rid of all my social media. Ironic because I used to work at those companies.

Andy Johns:

The only thing I have left is LinkedIn, so you can find me there. And yeah, clues Life. It's for what I would call the serious seeker, the person who's answering the call to transform themselves at this stage in their life and they're saying you know, I can't live the way I'm living anymore and I want to figure out how to live in a way that is more peaceful and that serves me better. And I'm just trying to create a Spotify-like resource of sorts to help people on that journey of discovering the clues to their own life.

Dustin Howes:

Awesome man. I'm so proud of you and what you're doing. This is an incredible venture that I'm glad you're a part of, and doing that greater good is is really important. So I appreciate your time and spreading that good word about mental health. That is something this industry needs to be paying attention to, because it is one of those high stressors when we've got clients, when we're companies that we're working for. So thanks for your time, buddy, Good to see you. All right. You too, Dustin, Appreciate you man. All right For those out there. Keep on recruiting and we'll see you out there. Take care.

Navigating Mental Health Journeys
Modern Stress and Evolutionary Biology
Recognizing Burnout and Addressing Mental Health
Managing Modern Stress With Daily Rituals
Mindful Wellness Practices for High Achievers
Life Clues