Podcast from bengreenfieldfitness.com/sparta17
[02:25] At Spartan World Championships
[07:26] About Gene Gurkoff
[08:32] What is Charity Miles?
[12:20] Walk with Purpose
[15:02] Gene’s Charity Miles Journey and the People He Met
[20:24] Appreciating the How’s, the Why’s, and Giving Back in Life
[28:17] A Starter for the Charity Miles App
[38:38] End of Podcast
Ben: Hello! What’s up, it’s Ben Greenfield. Hey, I have a pretty special series. A doozy full series of interviews for you. Coming up today and a whole bunch of other days this week. I’m churning up the podcast this week because I just got back from Lake Tahoe. I got a chance to hang out with some of the world’s top athletes, and biohackers, and inventors, and physicians, and more down at the Spartan World Championships. Even if you’re not an obstacle course racer you’re going to dig today’s show.
You can access the show notes where I have a special video for you over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/sparta17, yes, as in Sparta17 like the movie 300 where they all talk with Scottish accents even though they’re supposedly from Greece. Anyways though, we digress.
So in that video that I posted for you at bengreenfieldfitness.com/sparta17, I actually have fascinating discussions at the top of the page where you see there about legal ways to dope your blood. Legal ways to get nitric oxide up like Viagra for your whole body without actually taking the little blue pill. At how to max your ATP and what are called your erythrocyte levels using some pretty fringe formulas that are out there. So when you visit that page over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/sparta17, you’re going to want to watch my interview there at the top of the page this guy named Craig Dinkel. Craig you may have heard on previous podcast episodes he is like a total wiz when it comes to formulating very potent and unique supplements. I’ve got a bunch of discount codes for you over there too on some of the stuff that Craig and I talked about. That is what is bringing you today’s show. That video and those supplements which I consider to be now as one of the best supplements for altitude but some of the best supplements for sex, and for nitric oxide, and for recovery from jet lag, and for enhanced blood flow, and for just about any situation where you want more blood. So check it out bengreenfieldfitness.com/sparta17. Alright, let’s move forward shall we?
Hey, what’s up? It’s Ben Greenfield and this is a bit out of the ordinary but I happen to be sitting here with my trusty podcast sidekick Brock Jason Skywalker Armstrong. Brock, how are you doin?
Brock: I’m doing well. Hello, hello everyone.
Ben: And you could get sick of that lolling Canadian accent over the next few days. Because Brock and myself to a certain extent but Brock to a much greater extent, we’re going to be bringing you some amazing interviews over the next several days because we are at Spartan World Championships.
Brock: Spartan World Championships!
Ben: So here’s what to expect. First, if you’re not an obstacle course junkie or an athlete, don’t worry. We are right now here surrounded by some of the top fitness, health, biohacking, nutrition and even personal productivity and lifestyle minds on the face of the planet who Spartan CEO Joe De Sena has flown in to be here. And Brock and I have decided to get the microphone in front of them and take a deep dive with them into their top secrets that we can deliver to you. And we’re also of course, since we are surrounded by some of the fittest people on the face of the planet here, we’re going to be interviewing some of the most hardcore men and women that exist when it comes to their insider training tactics, their nutrition secrets, their recovery hacks and a whole lot more.
So basically you are going to be getting lots of podcasts over the next few days. Don't worry if you don't have time to listen to them. You can save them, and I even believe there's even a handy save function in Apple podcasts. Most podcasting apps. Save for later, next time you're bored on a drive or you have a few extra gym sessions or you're out on a long hike, you can basically listen in to a lot of these extra episodes we're going to be pushing out over the next few days.
Brock: You can bathe in them even.
Ben: You can bathe in them, literally. Like a float tank or epsom salts, yes. So we are, in addition to a bunch of podcasts, you're going to get right here on the podcast feed doing a bunch of short video and audio interviews over on the Facebook page, and if you don't know the facebook URL, it is… Brock, take it away.
Ben: So go to facebook.com/bgfitness if you want extra photos, amazing, entertaining and educational content for you in addition to what we’re giving you right here on the podcast.
Brock: I call it edutainment.
Ben: Edutainment, did you make that up?
Ben: Okay. Now we may not have our usual show notes, I’m going to warn you because…
Brock: Yeah, I’m illiterate.
Ben: Brock is illiterate and dyslexic.
Brock: And Canadian.
Ben: And frankly, we’re going to be so busy interviewing people. We’re probably not going to have a lot of time to sit down and make for you show notes. But we will make for you plenty of extremely helpful content and we promise mad value if you just listen in the next few days. Again, we’re not going to bore you with the ho hum – I eat Red Bull and stinkers before the race and my top recovery tactic is compression socks.
Brock: Nor are we going to bore you with a longer intro than we’ve already done.
Ben: No, this is getting a little bit long in the tube. So I will be racing and I will be not only racing but likely out there leading other racers through the course after I’ve done the race myself. So you’re going to need to get used to Brock’s Canadian voice and his beautiful, shaven ballerina legs.
Brock: You bet ‘yah.
Ben: Which you actually can’t see on an audio podcast but I can vouch that they are quite beautiful. He’ll be the voice you’re listening to and seeing if you’re on Facebook all weekend as we make you a part of what is widely considered to be the Super Bowl of obstacle course racing and is the crown race to discover who the fittest person on the face of the plant actually is.
Brock: Spartan World Championships!
Ben: Unless you’re a crossfitter in which case it would be the Crossfit Games. So get ready of plenty of action. Get ready for plenty of action over the next few days. And if you want to have the most fun with these, stay tuned on the live content and the conversations over at facebook.com/bgfitness. And keep a notepad for your own freakin’ nugget.
Brock: Make your own show notes, guys.
Ben: That’s right.
Brock: Come on! We’ve been holding your hand for too long now. It’s your turn.
Ben: Take notes on everything that we bring your way. We promise we’re going to make this a lot of fun for you. So that being said, listen in ‘cause here we go.
Brock: Hey everybody, Brock here for Ben Greenfield Fitness and throwing a bit of a curve ball already this morning here at the Lake Tahoe Spartan Up Podfest. I’m supposed to be interviewing somebody else but she didn’t show up, so this fellow Gene and I we’re standing around having a lovely conversation about a really cool app, a really cool idea, his whole background and we just thought well, we should throw a microphone on this. This is a great conversation so we’re recording live here in Lake Tahoe at the Spartan Up Podfest which is part of the 2017 Spartan Race World Championship and Ben is still sleeping (laughs). That’s why you’re hearing my voice ‘cause he’s racing tomorrow and we thought it was smart of him to get his rest. So you’re stuck with me but you’re also here with Gene.
Gene: Hi everybody. Thanks for having me on the podcast.
Brock: Yeah, this turned out to be really fortuitous so I’m going to let you tell the people all the stuff that you we’re just telling me a few minutes ago about your background and how you ended up here.
Gene: Great. Hi everybody, my name is Gene Gurkoff and I’m the founder of Charity Miles, and Charity Miles is an app that allows you to earn money for charity whenever you walk, run, bike, spartan, skip, hop, dance, jump, however you want to move for your day, walk your dog. It’s an app that you can use anytime.
Brock: Was it prancercise? Could you…
Gene: You can prancercise, actually the woman from Prancercise did reach out to us at one point. I think she has used the app.
Gene: I think she has.
Brock: I just totally pulled that out of my butt.
Gene: She reached out to us at one point. We’ve been around for five years. We’ve won every award that you can win. From the webby for the best health and fitness app to the South by Southwest People’s Choice Award, and we’ve earned over two and half million dollars for charity which I’m really proud of.
Brock: Okay, I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves so we need to know what.
Gene: What does the app do?
Brock: Let’s go further back even to your history so what you were doing when you started to have this idea?
Gene: Oh, got it. I used to be a finance lawyer on Wall Street.
Gene: Doing the Lord’s work (laughs) and when I was in law school a long time actually in 2002, I started to run marathons to raise money for Parkinson’s research in honor of my grandfather who has Parkinson’s. And actually the last time I was in Lake Tahoe was in 2004 when I was really getting into marathons I ran a race here called The Lake Tahoe Triple which is a triple marathon that goes around the entire lake.
Gene: And if anybody wants to do a cool race that is a really cool special race.
Brock: So 126 kilometers?
Gene: Yeah. It’s 72 miles.
Gene: Yeah, with miles. I don’t know how kilometers work.
Brock: Silly Canadian. What am I thinking?
Gene: And I always wanted to get companies to sponsor me so I could raise more money for Parkinson’s but I’m not a celebrity, but now that I’m on this podcast I guess I’m a celebrity.
Brock: There you go, yeah.
Gene: (laughs) I’ve made it.
Brock: You’re done. You can retire now.
Gene: So I figured if I could get enough people together then collectivity we’d have the clout of the celebrity and companies might want to sponsor us. And you know, fast forward number of years and the iPhone comes out and I saw how much companies wanted to connect with us through our phones and they were, you know, apps were updating and I was thinking, man, if I could get all the people like me on one side of the phone then the companies would want to be on the other side of the phone and then we can all be sponsored for charity.
Gene: And now as the idea for Charity Miles we started it five years ago, summer of 2012 and the first few weeks it was like 30 people using the app and now we’re grown we’re got hundreds of thousands of members, and we’ve earned over two and half million dollars for charity and we have great charity partners from the Michael J. Fox Foundation, ASPCA, Feeding America, Habitat for Humanity, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, ALS Association with over 40 world class charities in the app. So if there’s a cause that you care about we’ve got one that is likely on the cutting edge of that issue and doing great work, and we’re sponsored by great companies who are repurposing advertising money media dollars that they would otherwise spend on banner ads on your phone to have a better advertising product. And Charity Miles we reach the types of people that they want to reach and have their money to do good for the world.
Brock: Sounds like there’s several ways you can get involved. You can either be a charity that gets itself placed onto the app, you can be an individual obviously that goes around and uses the app and raises money by…
Gene: Walking, running.
Brock: Walking, dancing, skipping, doing all that stuff or you can be a company that wants to buy some advertising space.
Gene: Exactly. Yeah, if you want to reach out to healthy people we’ve got a really good way of doing it.
Brock: Cool! Okay.
Gene: So everybody out there, we would love for you to download the app. We would love for you to join our movement and walk with purpose, however you walk through your day.
Brock: I like that. Walk with purpose. As we were just talking about before we rolled the tape that this isn’t just raising money for charity, this is actually something that can benefit people. Do you use this as part of your training when you’re doing your marathons?
Gene: Yeah, I do. So obviously, I use it when I run and I started this as a runner and I kind of came to this little runner’s mindset, and the more I got into it the more I started learning about these charities and I would use it to walk to work for different charities. I just realized that it’s really about how do you walk through life. It’s not like raising money for charity is really nice and that’s certainly what we do, and that’s what I want to do but if we change the way that we walk through this world we can have such a bigger impact.
When you walk a mile to work for Feeding America you become so much more appreciative of the fact that you have food. And you become more conscious about the food that you eat. And you know, maybe instead of getting the unhealthy lunch you’re more likely to get a salad and be appreciative of the fact that you have the opportunity to eat this healthy food maybe someone else doesn’t.
Brock: Yeah, we talk a lot on the podcast about gratitude and how healthful it is to express gratitude and to feel that feeling of gratitude when it releases the oxytocin and all of those hormones, and stuff like. In fact, Ben actually released a gratitude journal not that long ago that you can purchase on Kickstarter. There are a lot of gratitude journals out there but Ben took in a really specific direction particular to him. But what I’m getting at is you’re absolute right, if you’re doing something that is instilling that feeling of gratitude or that feeling of giving of anything. Not only who you’re getting the steps in but you’re also getting that great feeling, so it’s a very healthful thing to do on a spiritual level and a biological level, physiological level, I suppose.
Gene: Yeah. I’m sure totally. It makes a huge difference. You become so more appreciative of your health when you’re walking for Parkinson’s research.
Gene: And you know that 20 mile run that you don’t have to do for your training you get to do for you know, I get to do this 20 mile. I get to do this.
Brock: That’s a nice way to look at it.
Gene: And it totally reframes the way you might approach an obstacle or a challenge or the things that are in your way.
Brock: It sort of turns down the volume on the crappy stuff in life, isn’t it? When you’ve got something that you’re feeling so passionate and so warm inside about? When the boss comes into the office and says something derogatory to you it’s kind of like, ah. Instead of taking it right to heart and feeling terrible about it.
Gene: My journey through this has certainly evolved in the people that I’ve met. My favorite thing about what we do is the people that I’ve met and the people who have become a part of our community. And that’s what brought me out here is I’ve met Joe a number of years ago through this. And so I stayed in touch with him and when I saw that he was doing this he invited me to come out. And we have a podcast called the Extra Mile where I interview people at the intersection of Health and Purpose. A lot of our members, and so he thought it would be cool for me to come out here and I get to meet you like the serendipity of when you walk through life with purpose and you become more open you get to meet some amazing people.
Brock: It’s true, isn’t it? You’re not necessarily in just this situations you put yourself in because people come here and be completely closed off and not meet anyone but most of us haven’t even been here for like 12 hours and we’ve already like…
Gene: So many amazing people.
Brock: Made some good friends already.
Gene: When I walked into the coffee shop this morning and saw kinda one person and we recognized each other’s names from emails that we have sent back and forth, started talking and you just become more open to meeting people, and like the people that you meet enrich your life in so many ways and you learn so much from them and their stories are inspiring. Like I was mentioning to you earlier that there’s a young man who is one of our members and he on January 1st was on the south eastern tip of Key West on the Buoy. Today he is somewhere in the middle of Idaho, and the way that he got to there is that he marched. He didn’t walk. He marched. And he’s on his way to the northwest tip of Washington State which is plain Washington where he’ll be there probably by the middle of November. So he will have marched across the country but not just across but diagonally across. And there’s a couple of really interesting things about this young man, the first is that he has Type 1 Diabetes, the second is that he is 11 years old.
Brock: What?! (laughs)
Gene: (Laughs) And he will be the youngest person by four years to have walked across the country. And he’s doing the whole thing with Charity Miles.
Brock: That’s insane.
Gene: He’s actually doing this with his father. They were not athletic before. They didn’t do any hiking or running or walking before, but the kid saw a documentary about somebody who ran across Canada the guy Terry Fox from Canada.
Brock: Yeah, Terry Fox.
Gene: He saw the Terry Fox documentary and he figured I want to do that. I want to raise money for diabetes.
Brock: Yeah, even Terry Fox wasn’t that young now. He was a teenager, but 11, wow!
Gene: So he was inspired by that and he convinced his dad to do it. At first his dad was like, you’re 11 you’re not.
Brock: (Laughs). You’re supposed to be in school.
Gene: Well, actually he was 10, when he started he was 10. And you’re not going across the country. And then he kept saying and so eventually the father said if you train, we’ll do it. Thinking like what is he going to do to train? And so the kid goes out to the beach in Florida where they live and it’s like walking like 15 miles a day on the beach. Ten to fifteen miles a day and they were like, okay, he’s serious. So they were like put their house on the market. The mom was driving like a support jeep and like get to meet people like that.
Or another one of our members, he’s 41 years old. He’s had Parkinson’s since he was 27. And for the first seven or so years of his diagnosis of his Parkinson’s he really got out of shape, was overweight, depressed. He kind of like a life changing moment where he fell down the stairs and decided to get fit and he started running. He’s run over 15 marathons. He’s doing the Chicago Marathon again this year. He’s done countless half marathons and his daughter who’s 12, I think she’s 12. I might be wrong about that but she’s young, got into ninja training.
Brock: How cool.
Gene: And so he started doing that with her and he got really good and he was just on American Ninja Warrior.
Gene: Got Parkinson’s disease competing on American Ninja Warrior. And see you get these amazing stories of these people. And what you realize is like everybody is walking through life with some kind of a struggle. Whether you’re walking across the country or you’re just walking through life. Like everybody’s got their obstacles and it’s just interesting and their stories are amazing. And maybe when you walk through life with this purpose it just opens your eyes to that and you can learn so much from it.
Brock: It’s true. This isn’t the direction I thought we were going to go. I was going to like hammer you on how you can use it for your training and stuff like that but we can still talk about that. I think the whole spiritual side of this like the whole emotional side of this it’s more than what it appears. Like raising money for charity is something that a lot of us do. I got into marathoning through the Leukemia Lymphoma Society.
Gene: Yeah, they’re one of our partners. They’re great.
Brock: Oh okay. Their team in training I coached for them for years afterwards because I really enjoyed. And again actually was the people. I really loved the idea that I was raising money for leukemia lymphoma research and stuff but there’s a bit of a “no jerks allowed” kind of sign that gets posted on the door when you’re doing something like that. When you’re doing something that really is giving and from the heart. You don’t get a lot of a-holes showing up and so they’re not all walking across the country when you’re 11 years old, but everybody like you said has their story. They have their struggle and when they’re good people at heart, it’s a lot easier to get that story in and get that information and get inspired by them too.
Gene: Yeah, so much about you know, Ben and I think your podcast like the how and like the biohacking and like the techniques that you might use to be keto or super charger training in this way or how you train in that way. And truly that’s all really important but I think that the why is also really important. I did a podcast with Jillian Michaels.
Brock: The Jillian Michaels?
Gene: The Jillian Michaels and she said… I’m going to paraphrase the quotes. I’m not gonna get it right but if you have a strong why then you can figure out the how. And I think that that’s really important.
Brock: I have a feeling Jillian wasn’t the first one to say that (laughs).
Gene: No, in fact she said that she was quoting it from Victor Franco. He wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning, which is like a classic book which we recommend to anybody. So she was paraphrasing it or quoting it from him.
Brock: Sorry, I didn’t mean to be a jerk about Jillian (laughs).
Gene: No, not at all. So but that’s I think really important. If you have a strong why you can figure out the how, and the how is like learning different things and are always fun too. But the why are always found to be the most important and it gets you through that moment when you might not know how.
Brock: Yeah, and I mean right there that’s a biohack. It doesn’t have to be a crazy machine that you hook up to your brain or some kind of supplement or something like the best biohacks are the ones that you can actually do in the moment like a breathing exercise or a gratitude practice or what you’re saying just taking that moment to remember. Why am I doing this? Why is this important to me? And then yeah, then you find that how or you don’t. The other side of that is if you can’t find your why maybe you need to try something else. Maybe you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing in this life. And that’s something I think a lot of us make that mistake because we think we should like those shoulds. I’ve a friend, Dr. Alessandra Wall who says, “Don’t should all over yourself.”
Brock: And she’s absolutely right, like we have so many people that are telling us: you should see this movie, or you should get eight hour sleep, or you should… well, why? wait? Let’s dissect this before we say you should be doing this. I could be doing this but if you have that connection to your why, then you definitely know that you should probably be doing this because you have a strong why, but if you don’t well maybe that should was misguided.
Gene: Yeah, that’s great. Don’t should all over yourself.
Brock: I want to get t-shirts that say that. I have to put her name on it though ‘cause that’s absolutely her quote.
Gene: And the only thing about it also is that I mean as with anything like the Beatles said, “In the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Actually I think it’s even more like the more you give the more you get, right? It’s not just about giving money to charity or anything like that but (cross talk). I think you get more back than what you give through all these. And when you’re with team in training you probably got more from being a coach of a team in training than when you were giving. Surely you did.
Brock: Yeah, and that was beyond giving like a free trip to Disneyworld. Like which I did get. That was amazing it was really fun but the lifelong friends that I made and the mindset that I developed during that time, and I think a lot of the positivity in my life ‘cause I have just come out of an illness. I had some heart problems and one of the reasons like a lot of people, like people you were talking about too coming out of a health problem often the first thing you think like the guy who got Parkinson’s, like I’ve got to get healthy. I had to do 15 marathons. It’s kind of what I did. Just like when the cardiologist told me I was okay, he actually suggested that I needed to do a marathon or something, in quotations.
Gene: Have you done a lot? How many marathons have you done?
Brock: I’ve done 70 some races. I don’t know what the breakdown is but that’s 10k’s, half marathons, marathons, Ironman.
Gene: What’s your favorite distance?
Brock: I like Olympic distance triathlon. I feel like it’s a good distance for me. It sort of suits my, I’m a bit of a heavier guy. Like you look at the longer course guys and they’re a little bit smaller, a little bit leaner. I’m built like a hockey player, so I could go on hard and fast for a shorter time. It’s better for me but where was I going with this? Yeah, so I basically started a whole bunch of marathons and not only was that not necessarily the greatest way to get healthy, but it changed my mind set and set me up on a whole different direction for my life like I guess, like yours did too like leaving your law career and going into something like this. People don’t do that very often, completely uproot their life. I was working for the government. I was a web developer. You were a lawyer. We gave up what most people would consider to be a great career.
Gene: Right. And by the way, I don’t recommend it (laughs).
Brock: (Laughs) You don’t recommend giving up or becoming a financial lawyer?
Gene: No, I don’t recommend just quitting your job and…
Brock: No, no.
Gene: Doing. That was made probably a little fool hardy on my part. Sometimes there’s almost like a fetishization of like that. I’m going to like quit everything and…
Brock: There is. It’s a culture thing right now. That everybody is talking about like, “Oh, yeah, quit your day job and go work for yourself and be an entrepreneur.” And that’s great for some people but not everybody. Certainly not everybody.
Gene: There’s like a lot of self-awareness that I have gained since doing that where I love what I do and I’m really glad that I took this path but it’s a hard road as you know, and it’s not for everybody and I don’t recommend it to most people. I think that there’s other ways to get that sense of purpose in your life without quitting your day job.
Brock: Yeah, well I think that the idea that you have to quit your job to be happy means you’re putting way too much pressure on your job. You need to refocus your priorities and make your life more meaningful if your job is sucking everything out of it and certainly there are (cash register). Oops sorry, Carrie (laughs). That’s our editor. Certainly there are crappy jobs out there that you probably should walk away from. I’ve had some of those in the past too, but if you’re putting so much pressure on your job to make you happy well, you probably need to find like an app that tracks your steps. So you can raise money for charity while you’re walking to work.
Gene: Yeah. That’s actually one of I think the hidden benefits of Charity Miles that I did not anticipate. When I walk to work with it every day, it centers me. It really is beyond any amount of money that you’re raising for charity. It just centers me and makes me again feel that gratitude for the opportunities that I have in my life. It makes me aware of the trash on the street. Makes me want to not use as much plastic. It’s impossible to avoid but I don’t need the plastic bag when I go to get lunch.
Brock: I’m drinking out of a throw away cup right now.
Gene: I try not to have as much of that. You find these small ways to incorporate more of this purpose into your life. When I’m with my son I try to be a lot more present. I have a one year old son.
Brock: Oh wow!
Gene: I try to put your iPhone away and be with Max and play with him in the swings and just find these moments that you could just be much more grounded in, and it just changes the way that you see the world. And that when a lot of people are experiencing that, it’s going to be so much more transformational than any amount of money that we raise for charity, by far.
Brock: So when you’re starting the app let’s say you’re on your way to work or you’re going off for your walk or whatever do you have a practice? Do you take a moment to do some breathing exercises or do you have any way to sort of focus yourself in on those feelings or does it just sort of happen automatically?
Gene: You know, that is a really good idea. I haven’t done like a meditation.
Brock: Thank you. I’m full of good ideas.
Gene: In our company I haven’t ritualized this and maybe I should but I like to think about what is my why today? And I like to try to draw from something whether it’s a story from our community or a photo that somebody shared from Charity Miles or something I read in the news or something. What is my why today? I really try to think about that when I’m walking to work. I think maybe I should do like a little bit of a breathing thing. That sounds like a good idea.
Brock: I always think of breathing just because that’s a big thing for me but to having that moment where like the way you were talking about when you were playing with your son. Having that moment where you actually remind yourself what you’re doing ‘cause I think it is easy to just, and I can see this happening with the app. It’s easy for us to just fall into routine and we are routine machines like humans, we’re terribly we’re so predisposed to finding the most efficient way to do everything right. Routine becomes routine. So finding those times to break that routine and remind yourself like no, there’s a bigger purpose here. There’s like you said find your why, like what is my why for today or what is my why for this moment?
Gene: That’s a really good idea. ‘Cause a lot of times I come just like you know, when I’m starting out when I’m walking to work. I’m like rushing out the door, you know like I’m a little bit late.
Brock: We all are. That’s everybody’s day constantly.
Gene: I’ve got to get on a call for a meeting or something, you know ‘cause I’ll start and then I usually get on a call or not do a call while I walk to work, or I listen to another podcast while I walk to work. I think maybe taking a few seconds to do that would might even ground me even more.
Brock: Yeah, not to influence the app or something but having that moment in the app when you push start or whatever, maybe it pops up and makes you fill in your why for the day or for the moment.
Gene: There’s actually a really cool, it’s not an app but it’s a program but I can’t remember the name of the company that makes it. But it’s called Breathe and it’s meant to break our addiction to social media. So I definitely experienced this where like I feel addicted to email and Instagram and Facebook. I don’t anymore because I’ve consciously been trying to break it. Consciously trying to break it and all these apps and I know this an app developer now. We spend all day trying to addict you. That is my job.
Brock: Absolutely. Yeah. It’s not a mistake.
Gene: We’re a small company. I’m not Facebook with thousands of engineers who are really smart who are doing really well, but they’re creating habit loop where we actually did a podcast with a guy named Nir Eyal who wrote a book called Hooked that breaks down the way that habits are formed. And I recommend anybody to read that book. It’s called Hooked. And they talk about the four stages of the habit loop and how the most powerful stage is the variable reward stage. So you get an itch. You perform an action and then you get this variable reward which creates this rush of dopamine. And that’s what hooks you to this product. So like you’re bored which is your trigger, you open Facebook which is your action and then you get this variable reward of like all these photos and articles and friends immediately.
Brock: Immediately. It doesn’t have to be good or well thought out. It’s just as soon as you see it.
Gene: That immediate variable reward is like creating that dopamine which is like hooking you and addicting you to this product in the way that cigarettes would addict you or gambling would addict you. It’s like a slot machine, you know? And so to break it there’s this program called Breathe that you kind of like attach to your Facebook and then every time you open your Facebook this thing opens up and it’s like “breathe for five seconds.”
Gene: And then it’ll take you to your Facebook. But it creates this five second barrier between opening Facebook and that dopamine rush. That helps you break that addiction and it gets you out of that habit.
Brock: Or delaying the gratification even by five seconds is significant because most of the time I think that I saw a figure somewhere that most people only spend thirty seconds or something at a time on Facebook because like, when we’re waiting for a phone call or like we’re sat down at the bus stop or whatever, and it’s usually we don’t sit down and do it for hours and generally it’s like few seconds. So having five seconds that you’re doing something meaningful before you get that and you still get your pay off, I guess. You still get to see the cat photos but it’s, yeah, I like that.
Gene: That’s a cool kind of hack to break habits or to help form habits. I think that’s a really good idea maybe incorporate that into Charity Miles in some way to kind of get you centered into that moment. It’s a really good idea.
Brock: Yeah. It’s an extra biohack on top of your biohack that’s already there. Or to remind you that you’re actually doing a biohack of some sorts by even having the app running.
Gene: That’s pretty sweet.
Brock: Yeah, we’ve got a whole new layer of the app here now.
Gene: (Laughs) Exactly.
Brock: And it’s only 8am. Look at us go. I’m not even done my first cup of coffee yet.
Gene: Yeah, so I hope that folks out there if you’re listening to this and we’d love to have you join our community and share your stories with us. We love seeing people’s photos on Facebook.
Brock: Is this international. Could I use it in Canada?
Gene: Yeah, you can use it in Canada.
Brock: Alright. I know we have a lot of listeners in the UK and Australia.
Gene: We’ve got tons of people in the UK and Australia and Canada. We even had four people in Iran use it and I’m not really sure how that happened, but we are in over like a hundred and something countries for sure.
Brock: That’s fantastic, wow!
Gene: Mostly in the US but definitely international. It’s cool like people share photos from all over the world and it’s amazing. It’s like my favorite thing and that’s actually how I got addicted to social media was I was like, I just love the photos that people are sharing of their Charity Miles from all over the world like I just kept…
Brock: Somehow I think that’s better than just scrolling mindlessly through photos of cats and lunches.
Gene: Well, those are fun too. I’ve got a cat.
Gene: We take some funny pictures. Now it’s all baby pictures of my kid Max.
Brock: Yeah. I just have pictures of my bike.
Gene: Oh, yeah? (Laughs)
Brock: ‘Cause I don’t have a cat or a kid so it’s all my bike.
Gene: Yeah, I went through that stage as well. Yes, we’d love for people out there to join us. I’m super appreciative of the opportunity to come on the podcast and share our story with you.
Brock: Yeah, thanks to Alicia for not showing up for her interview so we could get you on here.
Gene: Thank you, Alicia. Thank you Alicia.
Brock: It’s been great.
Gene: So yeah, check it out charitymiles.org. You can just type in Charity Miles into your app store. We are podcast as the Extra Mile. You can search our Charity Miles in the podcast store. Check that out. We’ve got some really good episodes on there and we’d love to have you guys all join we can create like a Ben Greenfield team in the app.
Brock: Oh, hey that’ll be fun.
Gene: And people can join that and you guys can all see like the miles that you all do collectively.
Brock: (Laughs). And set up a little competition. (cross talk)
Gene: And also I love the way hearing how the app affects people. So if you share your stories with us.
Brock: Yeah, we can set up a whole different layer of how people are using it to hack their gratitude or hack their oxytocin releases and stuff.
Gene: Hack your oxytocin release. Actually, my colleague Lauren came up with this kind of slogan called Hack the App. We say you can use the app to walk, run or bike but people do so much more with it like they all grocery shop, they walk their dog, they’ll dance, they’ll roller skate, they’ll windsurf. They do all that stuff so she calls that Hack the App. So that’s the idea how you Hack the App.
Brock: Yeah, being active is really the only criteria.
Gene: You can just use it for anything. Cool.
Brock: That’s fantastic. Well, thanks so much for coming on. This is really great and thanks to you and thanks to our host Spartan Race Joe De Sena and of course, the Spartan Up podcast itself for setting up this, I’m reading this verbatim and it sounds terrible. I’m going to go off script and say, thanks for setting up this weekend. It’s been really fun so far and it’s barely even begun. And Ben will be racing in the 2017 Spartan Race World Championships tomorrow. If you’re hearing this podcast today, which is Friday make sure you tune in to Facebook live because we’re going to be…
Gene: Is this going on live today? Are you going to release this?
Brock: I’m going to release this right away, yeah.
Brock: The world will hear this probably later on this afternoon.
Gene: I’ve got to see how you do that. I also would love to get some podcasting tips from you because our podcast is so new.
Brock: Alright, we’ll do some techie nerd stuff in a bit. But yeah, so everybody stay tuned. Get on to Facebook facebook.com/bgfitness and I’ll be shooting some stuff hopefully live of Ben on the course if not then I’ll get him when he is a pile of mush at the end of the course and it will be a fun time. Thanks again.
Gene: Thank you.
Brock: And thanks for listening everybody.
Live from the Spartan World Championship Podfest in Lake Tahoe, podcast sidekick Brock Armstrong interviews Gene Gurkoff about his app, Charity Miles, and how it can increase gratitude and reset your mindset around movement.