Episode 255 — Joe De Sena — The Spartan Mindset: Embracing Discomfort and Unleashing Mental Toughness

In a world where comfort is often prioritized over challenge, Joe De Sena — the pioneering mind behind Spartan Race — offers a compelling counter-narrative. He champions the idea that true fulfillment comes not from ease, but from overcoming obstacles and embracing discomfort head-on.

On this episode of The Game Changing Attorney Podcast, Joe sits down with Michael Mogill to dive deep into:

  • The transformative power of personal accountability in navigating life’s challenges
  • Strategies for fostering a resilient mindset that thrives in adversity
  • Why venturing outside our comfort zones is essential for unlocking our full potential and experiencing genuine happiness
Episode 255 — Joe De Sena — The Spartan Mindset: Embracing Discomfort and Unleashing Mental Toughness
Show Notes:

The ultimate motivator. “The number one motivator for a human being is not sex, not drugs, not rock and roll, and not food. The number one motivator for a human being is the avoidance of discomfort. That’s legacy, hardware, and software that’s kept us alive on this planet. We want to make sure we won’t go out and freeze to death, sweat to death, or fall off a cliff. We avoid discomfort at all costs. The brain senses discomfort and says, ‘Oh, time out. Relax. Check your phone. Don’t go do that workout. Drink your coffee. Don’t go outside. It’s raining.’ We don’t even know that’s happening, and so our citizens — the folks around us in our communities — sell us stuff that helps us potentially avoid discomfort. Six-minute abs, five-minute abs, four-minute abs, or chocolate cake that’s not going to get you fat. We fear being uncomfortable the most.”

Toughness is lost in comfort. “We are all really tough at birth — and then we get coddled. We get told what we can and can’t do. We get fed in our zoo with climate-controlled cages and food on demand. How the hell would we be practicing being tough? We don’t need to do anything. We don’t have to hunt an animal. We don’t have to walk to get to a phone. We don’t have to do anything. How would we possibly be practicing being tough? Yet we practice cooking. We practice playing the piano. We practice academics. But we don’t practice being tough — and then when the shit hits the fan, when everything’s up against us and we’re facing obstacles, we’re expected to perform. But if you’ve been sitting in your cage in the zoo and haven’t done anything hard, how would you possibly perform when you face an obstacle?”

Savor the exhaustion. “When I go to bed, I giggle in bed. As soon as I get horizontal, I giggle. It’s a funny response, but the reason I giggle is because when I reflect on it, I worked so hard and I’m so tired that I’m so happy to be laying down. So if you’re laying in bed at night and you can’t get to sleep and you’re tossing and turning, you didn’t push hard enough. Think about when a child eats a meal and they’re complaining about the broccoli. They’re not hungry enough. They didn’t earn that meal because if they’re hungry, they’ll eat their fingers. I know I’ve been there. You need to earn these tremendous gifts we get in life.”

Commit to your health. “The only way to achieve optimal health — whether it’s to get ready for a race, for your health, or ready for anything — you have to first sign up for something hard which then demands your excellence. When you sign up for something instead of taking the time to get in shape, it’ll force you to go to bed early, to wake up early, to put down the cookie, and to not drink. If you do it the other way around, you’ll never get in shape because you would’ve been in shape already, but you’re not because you don’t take it seriously. None of us take it seriously, but as soon as there’s a date on the calendar, you get serious.”

Manufacture obstacles. “The biggest threat to our children is a six-car garage. It’s that over-indulgence, that ability to be complacent. Our job as parents is not only to make the children become appealing and fun to be around, but also resilient and have a ready-for-anything attitude. It’s hard. Even as people who know it (my wife and I set out to do it), we still find ourselves — without even knowing and reflecting back on it — removing obstacles. Instead, we should be putting obstacles in front of the kids. We should be making it harder. I’m pretty hardcore relative to other parents, but I still see the mistakes.”

What does being a game changer mean to you? “Game changers are people who aren’t afraid to think differently and get outside their comfort zones. Just because somebody has done it one way forever doesn’t mean we can’t do it a different way.”


The Menu (film)
Shackelton’s Expedition
Sir Edmund Hillary
Spartan Race
Tough Mudder Event
Wall Street
The Transcendence Run
Saks Fifth Avenue
Goldman Sachs
Mat Fraser
Green Beret

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