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For over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D., has helped hundreds of thousands of people from over 87 countries find happiness, success, and fulfillment in their social, professional, and love lives. His presentations – whether keynotes, seminars, or workshops – leave clients with insights into their behavior, psychology, and keys to their empowerment. His training methodologies are the result of over a decade of coaching and education of thousands of students around the world. Join him on the “DTPHD Podcast” as he explores deep questions of meaning, success, truth, love, and the good life. Subscribe now.

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How to guarantee you take action on your goals | DTPHD Podcast 8*****

HENRY CHONG is our special guest speaker on this episode. Henry is Director of Fusang Capital, a fund management company that manages the assets of multi-family offices. He is also a Director at the Portcullis Group, Asia’s biggest independent group of trust companies, providing comprehensive wealth administration to high-net-worth individuals, providing a one-stop shop for corporate, trustee, and fund administration services to individuals, family offices, philanthropies, private banks, and investment managers. Henry is a graduate of Oxford University with a B.A. (Hons) in Philosophy Politics & Economics and is a founder of the Oxford Economics Society. He also holds a M.Sc. in Behavioral Science from the London School of Economics and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSC). He will be sharing with us from his deep insights in behavioral economics, finance, health, and psychology.

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DTPHD Podcast Episode 8 Show Notes:

4:31 Why we procrastinate on important tasks

8:11 The scientific reasons why we procrastinate

13:13 How this resistance shows up in many small ways in our daily lives, and how if we don’t face it in the small ways, we’ll never step up in the big ways

14:47 The scientific reasons why many people procrastinate in going to the gym

16:17 The top method Henry Chong uses to guarantee he crush his goals

16:37 David has never revealed this about himself ever before — one of his biggest professional regrets

23:07 How to trick your brain into following through on any goal you set for yourself, no matter how intimidating


How to guarantee you take action on your goals

  • David Tian Ph.D. and Henry Chong deliberate on why we find it difficult to conquer complex and important tasks.

  • David Tian Ph.D. and Henry Chong discuss the scientific evidence behind procrastination.

  • In this podcast episode, David Tian Ph.D. and Henry Chong share their methods in overcoming these complicated quests.

Truth, love, and the good. Here we go.

Henry Chong: (NARRATING) Although the sight of water made her feel ten times thirstier than before, she didn’t rush forward and drink. She stood as still as if she had been turned into stone with her mouth wide open, and she had a very good reason: Just on this side of the stream laid a lion. It lay with its head raised and its two fore-paws out in front of it, like the lions in Trafalgar Square. She knew at once that it had seen her, for its eyes looked straight into hers for a moment and then turned away — as if it knew her quite well and didn’t think much of her.

David Tian: (NARRATING) “If I run away, it’ll be after me in a moment,” thought Jill. “And if I go on, I shall run straight into its mouth.” Anyway, she couldn’t have moved if she had tried, and she couldn’t take her eyes off it. How long this lasted, she could not be sure; it seemed like hours. And the thirst became so bad that she almost felt she would not mind being eaten by the lion if only she could be sure of getting a mouthful of water first.

Henry Chong: (NARRATING) “If you’re thirsty, you may drink.” They were the first words she had heard since Scrubb had spoken to her on the edge of the cliff. For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken. Then the voice said again, “If you are thirsty, come and drink,” and of course she remembered what Scrubb had said about animals talking in that other world, and realized that it was the lion speaking.

Anyway, she had seen its lips move this time, and the voice was not like a man’s. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way. “Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.

David Tian: (NARRATING) “I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.

Henry Chong: (NARRATING) “Then drink,” said the Lion.

David Tian: (NARRATING) “May I – could I – would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.

Henry Chong: (NARRATING) The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience. The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.

David Tian: (NARRATING) “Will you promise not to – do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.

Henry Chong: (NARRATING) “I make no promise,” said the Lion.

David Tian: (NARRATING) “Do you eat girls?” she said.

Henry Chong: (NARRATING) “I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

David Tian: (NARRATING) “I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.

Henry Chong: (NARRATING) “Then you will die of thirst.”

David Tian: (NARRATING) “Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”

Henry Chong: (NARRATING) “There is no other stream,” said the Lion. C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair.

David Tian: Alright. We did not rehearse that at all. Great passage. You sent this to me in a WhatsApp and I was like – I’m a huge fan of C.S. Lewis. By the way, in case this is the first time you’re seeing or listening to the podcast, I’m David Tian, Ph.D. For the over the past almost 12 years, I’ve been helping hundreds of thousands of people in over 87 countries attain success and happiness in life and love. This is my good friend Henry Chong. I’ll allow him to introduce himself.

Henry Chong: I’m Henry Chong. I’m the CEO of The Fusang Group, sometime a compadre on this podcast, and my day job is in finance but my evening job, I suppose, is looking at things like life, love, and the universe, and talking with David Tian.

David Tian: Yes, and we are in one of the meeting rooms of Fusang in Singapore. We have a nice backdrop if you’re watching this on video: the Li River in Guilin. Beautiful. Anyway, I’m not going to get lost. We were reading C.S. Lewis. I’m a huge fan of C.S. Lewis. In fact, I’m such a huge fan, I could go on for hours about C.S. Lewis. But before we do that, or instead of doing that, why did you send this passage to me?

Henry Chong: This passage, I came across it a long time ago. It is something that I think is so profound because like all good writing, it means different things to different people at different times in their lives. I came across this — I just thought of it recently because I was thinking about something that another stoic had written where he said that, “You could never step in the same river twice.”

I think a lot of us in life think that we can. “I’ll do it tomorrow” is the common refrain. The truth is, it’s different. You can’t go back to the way things were, ever, no matter what. The river of time will have moved on and things will have changed. I thought of this passage specifically because I’ve been reading another book talking about by — I call the War of Art by this great author called Steven Pressfield. Another book I heard about a lot and never actually gone around to reading until recently, and I found it very profound.

He talks about this concept of the resistance, and he basically says that any time you want to do anything significant in your life, any time you want to make change, this force called ‘the resistance’ shows up. It is directly proportional to the size of the change you want to make or the size of whatever you want to achieve. The resistance can be very subtle.

It’s even things like saying, “It’s the New Year. It’s January. I’m going to go the gym” and “Oh, my grandmother died, so I can’t.” It shows up in all kinds of ways. I find it fascinating because he talks about how… I mean, he’s a writer and he’s talking specifically about writer’s block and how so many writers say they have books within them and they just say, “Well, I can’t just seem to sit down and write.”

David Tian: I think everyone’s experienced that.

Henry Chong: Exactly. You got to sit down and you’ve got to do it. You’ve got to recognize that this force of the resistance will show up. Once you realize that and you expect it, then when inevitably comes, as it must, it’s almost like Newtonian physics: There’s an equal and opposite force that must show up. When you recognize that it will come and you’re prepared for it when it does come, “Ah, this is the resistance. I expect this and I know how to deal with it.”

The reason why this passage made me think about that, is because so often so many of us, myself included, we need to go to the gym. It’s almost like we’re standing at the bank of the river looking in and saying, “You know what? I’m really thirsty. I’m really thirsty. I really want to go to the gym.” But like, “Oh, I don’t know, there’s a lion in the way.” And to me, the lion is almost like the resistance. It’s like saying, “Well, you know, maybe if I just wait until tomorrow, the lion will go away, or maybe I’ll just find a different stream.”

And of course, the truth of life is that there is no other stream. The lion will never go away. The resistance has shown up for you as it has shown up for everyone in history. I am sure that emperors and kings of the past faced the exact same struggles and the exact same resistance. Marcus Aurelius’ famous with these meditations, struggle to wake up in the morning, right? He’s like, “My bed is warm. I don’t want to get up in the morning.” These things don’t change.

And I think that once you realize that resistance will be there, that it will never go away, and then you have no choice but to jump into the river because there is no other stream. I think the shift is quite interesting. No point of waiting until tomorrow to go to the gym. It won’t get easier. No point sitting around hoping that, I don’t know, miraculously I’ll get in shape without going to the gym. You say, “Look, the fact that I want to go, I know that the resistance will show up. I have no choice but to stare down the lion, to jump in the stream and to just immerse myself in the present, in the river of time.

David Tian: Yeah. I was turned on to Pressfield years ago by Seth Godin’s book, Linchpin. Have you heard of that one?

Henry Chong: Yes.

David Tian: I was just a big fan of Godin back then, and still am, and I’ve read everything. Linchpin was his newest book at the time, and Linchpin blew me away. I guess I could say it changed my life. It was so many years ago now. He kept referencing Pressfield. And Godin talked about the lizard brain, and how the lizard brain will always try to give you this resistance and you have to say no to the lizard brain.

The lizard brain is really great, because thinking about it in terms of a more primitive part of our brains, it makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. So in evolution, scientists posit that one of the reasons why men live shorter lives on average is because they were rewarded for taking more risks. But if they took too many risks, they would just die all of the time. We are the product of a risk and being able to play with risk in an intelligent way. Risk and caution.

Once you’ve risked enough, you kind of just want to stay alive, and hope that your kids stay alive, and then your genes will be really happy about this. We have inherited a relatively risk-averse life, and playing it safe was a good strategy for survival. If you don’t rock the boat, you don’t offend anyone; if you don’t stick out too much, then you’re generally going to survive. You’ll be better off in terms of the tribe and so on. You can benefit from society, societal protections.

Of course, you’re not going to be rewarded with disproportionate rewards if you are always risk-averse. We’ve inherited risk aversion as part of our genes. It makes sense if you’re about to make a huge change in your life. Generally, there isn’t a resistance. I don’t think there’s a resistance in children. When you’re young enough, you’ll do everything. You’ll try to walk even though that’s incredibly difficult for a child to do when he’s first learning it. You’ll fall down. You’ll get up. There’s no part of you that’s like the resistance to walking like you really want to talk.

There’s all of these other things you really want to eat. There’s all these things where there’s very little resistance. And then as you get older and older, you want to play it safe more and more. If you make any big changes, it’s your primitive brain saying, “Oh, shit. You’re getting into some trouble here, potential risk, because you’re sticking your neck out. You’re making major changes.” Evolutionarily, this has been a risky strategy, but you’ll never get any big wins unless you do that.

The word that Godin kept using was ‘ship’. Actually, workouts really good. I want to come back to that. But what it was for me was — writing was a big one, and finishing any projects and putting it through. I’m really good up to the 90%. 90% done. I’m fully in it. And then that last 10%, I feel it’s pretty much done. I’ll go get a beer, you know. That 10% takes as long as it took you to get to 90%. I discovered I need to outsource this just to give me some extra accountability, so at that point I’ll push it off to a bunch of people and then they’ll usually run with it. I just do that about myself, that right at that edge, I get that perfectionism thing. I don’t want to actually sign my name off on it. Because then if it’s bad, that means a lot of — it says something about me.

I have to get over all of that, and I’m reading about this in Godin. Writing a term paper is a big part of that, that resistance of just ‘get it done, get it out there.’ Most students — I was a university professor for about three years, and then as a grad student, and an instructor marking papers for like four years. I know from both the student’s side and as the marker side that you tell students the first day of class when the paper is due. You never get the paper though or very few people even hand in drafts unless it’s required.

Most people don’t hand in drafts. 90% or more of the students do not hand in drafts to be created or be given feedback on until they basically start working on it like the week of, or depending on how long it is, might be maybe the night of. I was like that too, we’ll just put it off forever until you can’t put it off any longer. Versus — I started to get more handle on the resistance as I got through grad school. I realized I needed to get the paper to the marker like halfway through the term.

Even if it was just the thesis statement. What do you think about this? And doing that was a path way to getting A’s and A+’s all the way through. When I read about this — in business, there’s a lot of shipping that has to happen. The faster you ship, the more you turn around projects, the more you turn stuff out and instead of holding back and waiting, the more success you will get in life. Just putting it out there.

Reid Hoffman has a great quote. “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you shipped too late. You launched too late.” I discovered that it’s true in everything. There are a lot of guys who watch me and found me through dating, maybe even through the old pick-up stuff. Approach anxiety is like a perfect example of that. You know, as an adult, mature person, you should be able to talk to or walk up to a stranger and just start a conversation, or at least, you know, do your part, say hi, and start that. Initiate it. Initiate the conversation.

But a lot of guys have approach anxiety, and that’s, again, an example of the resistance. You’re really putting yourself out there. If it turns out she’s married to a gangster boss who is really possessive, then he can come and just kill you. Now, that’s something from 10,000 or 20,000 years ago that might’ve been — or 50,000 years ago that might’ve been the case. It might’ve been that risk. Now, in modern times, there’s very little chance of that actually happening, but our brains are inherited or evolved from bad period. We’re still reacting to that; the lizard brain is still reacting to the resistance.

What are ways that you’ve discovered to get through this resistance so you don’t end up feeling — ?

Henry Chong: That’s the thing. There’s nothing wrong with being risk-averse. I mean, you talk about people like Nicholas Nassim Taleb, and he says that you don’t want to run the edge too fine. The problem with walking on the knife’s edge is you might fall off. There are good reasons to have a strategy that is resilient, antifragile and all the other things he talks about, especially in an uncertain chaotic world.

The issue I think is that — I work in finance. Everything is about pricing risk appropriately. The problem is that in our lives, we don’t price risk appropriately. The reason why we don’t want to go to the gym is because once upon a time, conservation of energy was a prime directive as an organism. Don’t think too hard. Don’t move too quick because you’ll burn more calories.

In today’s world, that’s not a real risk anymore. If anything, the risk is the complete opposite: I’m not burning enough energy. In that sense, we are completely pricing risk the wrong way. I don’t think it’s so much, you know, you just need to take more risks, be more risk-averse. You need to learn to price risk properly.

David Tian: The resistance comes in when it’s an irrational risk aversion.

Henry Chong: Exactly.

David Tian: So if you understand the evolutionary background of why you would have this feeling even though it’s irrational, then you can say, “This is an irrational feeling and I need to take steps to get through that.”

Henry Chong: Exactly. I think that’s exactly right. You know, talking about writers, for example. They think you’re going to die. That’s why they can write. To them, it’s almost like an existential threat. The lizard brain believes. And I think the best way to get over that is by, obviously, setting clear goals. Everyone talks about this, very few people do it, and then having feedback mechanisms and most importantly accountability. That’s what I found in anything that we do.

For example, talking about writers, journalists know how to write to deadline because they had no choice. If you were writing at a newspaper, you had no choice. You’d have a deadline at 3:00AM and you produce one way or another.

David Tian: I used to write for the newspaper. This paper in Singapore, a national paper called The New Paper. I had to send in a column every week on the dot. There’s a deadline. There’s two or three hours leeway, but it’s going to print. If I don’t get my thing in, I’d miss the deadline. I never missed the deadline for over a year. I was crazy, because sometimes I would literally be writing on the deadline while friends are waiting down stairs, in the car, and I’m just like, “I got to get this thing out!”

It sucked. I’m going to tell you something that I haven’t told many people. There’s a literally agent who was very high up in the literary agency world. He was a literary agent for Robert Greene. He was, at that time, just finished The 50th law with 50 Cent. He’s a big time literary agent. He emailed me out of the blue. We had a bunch of conversations. He wanted me to write a book.

And he said to me, “Because I see that you’re a journalist, I know you can get it done on this time. The problem was, I had then just begged off of the newspaper thing because the university was saying — giving me pressure on writing these dating columns in the national paper. And so, I acquiesced one of the small regrets I had and gave that newspaper column up.

As soon as that stopped, I had no accountability on writing again, and I kept thinking, “I’ve got this great idea, and it just kept ballooning into bigger ideas and I couldn’t sit down and get it all out. One of the things is perfectionism. All achievers suffer from perfectionism. Perfectionism is shame-based. The main reason why achievers are perfectionists, is because once they ship the thing, once they put a finality to the project, they can then be judged. If the project isn’t an A or doesn’t match what their identity is psychologically or how they think of themselves, then that is actually shameful to them. It makes them lose face to themselves.

Even if it’s completely irrational, which many times it is. That resistance, every time you skip a deadline, for every minute or every day that you miss a deadline or you let yourself down, it just builds and builds. Eventually, it becomes an albatross over you and you just can’t get anything done. Eventually, after dilly-dallying for like a year, the literary agent was like, “Look, man, I need something now.”

And so, I sent it to him, but even then he’s like, “Okay. I got all these other projects so it’s going to be way down here on my priority list. It’s one of the things I lost because I let the resistance win.” That’s a little — learn from your —

Henry Chong: That’s why personal trainers are great. Even some of the fittest people in the world have trainers purely because you have an external force keeping you accountable. You need a way of measuring. Ideally, you make these things public is a great way of being accountable. I write a letter every Sunday and my magic somehow gets done, right? Because once you’ve publically committed to it — I remember when I decided to stop doing it. I just announced I was doing it, and my magic, the first one, got done somehow.

I would say, again, find clear goals, find someone to give you feedback whether it’s a coach or a third party. It’s very hard to do it internally for yourself. You need an accountability mechanism. It doesn’t have to be reward-punishment. It’s just literally someone measuring and saying, “Hey, what’s happening with this?” Keeping you on track and recognizing that, again, resistance will show up, that that is just part of being human, and findings ways to just get it done.

But to be honest, I would still say at the end of the day, like Jocko says, there is no magic to it. You still need to begin and you just got to jump into that river and go.

David Tian: That, I can help. Accountability’s been huge for me. Unfortunately, many of the things that I wanted to transform myself around, I’m often the first in the peer group to do that. Sometimes, I can find somebody who will work out with me but most of the time I’m pushing myself more than in that area than the others. Otherwise, I would be at their level in that other thing because they’d be pulling me forward. Here’s one of the things that I discovered in fitness.

I used to work out three times a week and I could do that. There would be pretty intense workouts because I had a trainer three times a week. He was there every session. And then I moved away from China where it was cheap to get training and moved that time to Singapore where, at that time, I wasn’t making as much. It was more expensive to get training. So, I stopped doing that.

Friday rolls around, you’re tired, and your friends are calling you out, and you got to meet this chick or whatever so you just — “Ah, I’ll do it some other time.” And then you just miss the work out. Sometimes, you’re trying to remember, “Is today a workout day?” And then just that little — what happens was like I did P90X. I had accountability but we weren’t working out together at all. We were in completely different countries, different time zones, in fact.

There was a little bit of accountability. We check in online once a week to make sure we were on track. But what really helped was it’s every day. Well, six days. Six days a week, there’s some work out you’re supposed to be doing. Sometimes, you’re sick or you get too busy and then you just — I just picked up where I left off. The regularity of it was what made it into a habit of working out.

So, I didn’t have to think about it. Every day at this particular time, I’m supposed to be at the gym and I just get used to it so I don’t have to think about. It’s even better with the workout program because you just open. Like, a training program. You open it like a computer and you just press ‘Play’ on whatever. They tell you, so you don’t have to think. Once you get into that habit, the rhythm.

One of the things I’ve discovered for — well, anything like writing, creating video content, creating a podcast is — if you get a regularity to it. And the thing is, the reason why there’s resistance is if you think it’s a big deal. I’ve tricked myself into thinking it’s not a big deal. One of the things I did was, for writing, is I write emails. You can write an email because you notice, like, when you’re really incensed like somebody pisses you up, or you’re really passionate about something, you can sit there forever and just write. People on Reddit, or those old forums, they’ll write long essays and not even realize it because they’re just so pissed.

And when we see the inbox, the viewer, edit the preview thing, right? We’re used to writing in that. I know people — I think I might’ve picked this up in Tim Ferriss who used to right long essays in his Gmail to himself. You also have it automatically saved and you can search it. I don’t do that, but similar to that. If you trick your lizard brain into thinking you’re not doing anything spectacular, it’s nothing special, you’re just going to do it. You have very low expectations.

Instead of doing P90X, there’s another program called P90, I think. There are 10-minute workouts. You can just start with 10-minutes. You trick your brain into doing it. If you go to the gym to do it, or if you go to then to your condo gym or whatever, you’re not going to just work out for 10 minutes, not after a while. You already got all dressed up and into your work out gear, and you’re going to shower after. You might as well do another 10 minutes. Actually, you know, it’s 20 minutes, 30 minutes, but you get into this regularity of it. You trick your brain into just starting it.

When it came down to approaching women, I used to do this to teach my students. I probably do this myself 10+ years ago is how I figured it out. You just start moving your legs. She’s there. You’re frozen. You’re scared, anxiety. Look away and just start moving your feet forwards her. That momentum, before you know it, you’re there. And then now you have, she’s seeing you walk towards her so now, she’s looking at you. Now, you got [INAUDIBLE] office. It’s ridiculous, right? You’re just tricking your lizard brain into thinking, “Well, you’re distracting me, lizard brain, in that case.”

But you’re also tricking it to thinking it’s not a big deal, because thinking it’s a big deal is what creates that resistance in the alarm.

Henry Chong: Something you were talking about earlier I think is very important, where you said 100% is easier than 99%. Because if you’ve just decided to do something, you say, “Every single day I work out, and it’s just what I do.” You should do it 100%. If you say, “I do it 99% of the time, is today the 1%? Maybe it’s rest day. I don’t know. Maybe it’s not.”

David Tian: Yeah. When you work out six times a week, the day you have to remember is your rest day. And then you have to take effort not to work out, which is a great feeling, and then you’re like, “Aww, I want to work out!” But then you reward yourself with some nice meal or something. Yeah, that’s a great point. It’s harder to do 99%.

Henry Chong: You know, people say “I can’t meditate 5 minutes in the morning.” I say, “Well, you brush your teeth every morning, most people.” Again, once you’ve just decided that thing you do, you just do it. There’s no optionality.

David Tian: People say, “I can’t meditate every day so I’ll just do it three times a week.” I’m like, forget it. It’s not going to happen. Instead of doing that time, cut it up into seven different units and do that every day. One other thing is your identity, the way you think of yourself. You have to begin to think of yourself as somebody who does that activity that you’re putting off. If you want to work out more, you just think of yourself as somebody who works out all the time. You can even think of yourself as an athlete, like an amateur athlete, or a warrior, or something like that. It’s just part of who you are.

And if you want to write more, you start talking about yourself as a writer. That will help the resistance disappear because you’re already thinking, “This is what I do. This is just a natural part of what I do” versus “I am somebody who is now going to try doing this other thing.”

Henry Chong: One last thing, this is stretching, that you’re talking about — when you make it a big deal and resistance shows up even more. I was watching this thing by Bruce Lee a while ago when he talks about dynamic tension, and exactly how when you punch, the whole — all coaches or martial art coaches can tell you you can’t be tense. Because if you’re tensing when you punch, some of that energy is going towards tensing the muscle not towards the punch.

One thing I’ve realized, gym, to use it as an example, again — When I’m trying to grip my way through a workout, it’s hard. But you know, if I just let go, and surrender to the process, then it just sort of happens. I mean, it’s still objectively hard, but you know, stoics talked about how when there’s pain and suffering — that’s Tony Robbin’s thoughts. Two different things. If you choose to suffer over and event, it’s almost like getting hit by the same dot twice. It’s just like if you’re in the process of a hard workout, there is objectively the fact that it is hard, and then there’s me struggling against the fact that is hard and saying, “This is hard.”

I think we spend a lot of effort on that sort of — it’s almost like tensing your muscles when you’re trying to punch. If you can just let go and, again, maybe to come back to it, you know, jump into that stream and just flow in the stream and realize that there is no other stream, there is no other way. There’s no point trying to decide. “A) Whether to get in the stream and” “B) There’s no point fighting against the current.” That stream is going whether you like it or not. You might as well be present in this stream.

David Tian: Physical fitness is such a great analogy and metaphor for life. One of the things I discovered along those lines is when the pain starts to happen, instead of wishing you weren’t working out or hating it, you lean into it. You go deeper. One of the things I did squat and deadlifts today and kettle bell swings all in the same workout. I love this day, but it’s a tough workout.

After a deadlift state, I’m just standing normally. I feel like after a little while, not too long in the lower back, like, “Oh man, sore.” But that’s a good sign. But anyway, one of the things that happens is, inevitably, you’ll reach that point where you’re getting to failure. Ideally, every set or the later sets should be towards failure in the type of hypertrophy workouts I do. You could think about the muscle.

The muscle is in pain. It’s burning, especially if you’re at a high rep range, like 12 reps or 10-12. On the last three or whenever it’s painful, you start to imagine that you’re sort of like a sci-fi movie. You’re in that muscle now, and blood’s rushing. Whatever visualization you need to do. Remember Arnold Schwarzenegger talking about how he’d imagined his biceps were gigantic Mount Meru, mountains.

That actually makes the pain feel good and your brain reinterprets the feeling. It’s like, “Yeah.” Sometimes, I try not to say that too loud. But when I finish that, I sound like, “Yeah!” You know.

Henry Chong: Yes. I can remember that the resistance is directly proportional to the size of the thing you’re trying to do. If you’re looking at the stream and you see a big lion that means that it’s something important and it’s exactly where you need to go.

David Tian: Right. So just going back to the story and just to end off, we’ll try to end off. The passage ends with, “I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill. “Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion. “Oh, dear. I suppose I must go and look for another stream, then.” He says, “There is no other stream.” The penultimate line on this passage, “I supposed I must go and look for another stream, then” is the default response of everybody.

The best response — I run this show Man Up. And in the Man Up show, it’s just Q&A. Every question, there’s an easy response. But most of the video or most of the response is me massaging the truth because I know over 10 years giving answers, I can’t just say at point blank because there’s going to be resistance. If you just point-blank tell them or tells me some ex situation. The point-blank truth is that relationship will never work out, will 99% chance it won’t work out. You need to go through the breakup recovery process and go through a therapeutic process.

The answer will be, “What if I did this?” Can I get her back? There’s always the ‘but what if’? “Is there another stream? Is there another way? Is there another path to get to this goal?” I guess we’ve all done that sort of thing, like, “Is there no other way?” As you get older, hopefully, or more skilled and more experienced in life, you realize that the — even if there were another way, that’s almost always the bad way to go. There’s a subculture of hacks — I think we talked about this in another podcast, of looking for ‘cheat codes’ in life. There are better ways of doing things for sure. If they were that easy to discover, like everybody would have them, in a way.

And then when you get higher and higher up in achievement — Imagine an Olympic athlete. All the Olympic athletes know all of the other Olympic athletes’ secret, like their techniques. They train in the same facilities. At a certain point, it’s not about, “Do you have any tricks?” It’s about how good are you at these fundamental things.

David Tian: And your mindset, most importantly. There’s the obstacle is the way. That’s what I think about when there’s no other stream. You have to lean into the obstacle that you’re trying to avoid because that’s the only way through. Look for the pain and then lean into it. What I’m doing a lot now in my other — like the video series and things like that is clinical psychology. In clinical psychology, all you’re doing is discovering emotional pain in your life present that you currently feel as a clue back to some earlier traumatic event at which you made a decision about how you are, or how life is, or how you are with life.

You have to go back, go back to that point, where you made that decision, and make a new decision with a new perspective now that you’re more mature, or now that you’ve talked through and you can see it more commonly and rationally. It all starts with finding the emotional pain and tracing it back where there’s even more pain. The original point is going to be so much stronger. Experiencing it, feeling it, and then only then can you heal and grow from here and become stronger as a result.

Most people in life go through life trying to avoid all the pain. What I’ve also discovered: I’ve made the mistake of just recommending therapy to people right away without explaining why. I have these very obedient students. They’ll just go to the therapy, “Okay, David says I should go to therapy. I go to therapy.” So, they go to the therapist. The therapist is always going to ask you why you’re there. That’s the presenting problem, and you’re supposed to say something like, “I’m really depressed because my mom died” or something.

But they all say, “Because this guy David told me I should.” But they’re just totally thrown off. He’s never heard of this before. He’s like, “What does this mean?” And they’re like, “I don’t know. I was just told this is the next thing I need to do.“And then it doesn’t work because in order for the therapist to actually do anything with this person, he needs to feel some pain. He’s going to therapy to not feel pain. So then, he just quits. He’s like, “Oh, whenever I see the therapist, it’s just too painful and I just cry, so I quit.” That’s exactly what he’s supposed to be doing in therapy. He’s supposed to lean into the pain and cry.

I guess now I’m trying to say that more and more: You got to find the thing that makes you cry, makes you sad, and lean into it and feel it even more, and then try to remember back to when — what that triggers for you and then process that. So, C.S. Lewis.

Henry Chong: Absolutely. There is no other stream.

David Tian: Yeah, there’s no other stream. Okay, well, that’s a great way to end. Thanks for following us on this conversation. We’d love to hear what you think. Join the private Facebook group. Click the link. There’s a group for the DTPHD Podcast. You can interact with us there. How do they get to know you better?

Henry Chong: I guess you can find me on my website at I write a newsletter every Sunday come hell or high water. You can find that at

David Tian: Yes. My wife reads that religiously. She always says she responds to it and then you respond back. You can reach me at, and you can see all the podcasts at Alright, man. Another good conversation. See you at the next one.

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