om Bilyeu is a relentless agent for change, here to see how far he can push his own potential and the potential of others. Tom used to think he was Morpheus or Neo, but now considers himself the White Rabbit. His job is to simply show you how deep the rabbit hole really goes. The rest will be up to you. He only considers a life well lived if he can pull people out of the Matrix by positively impacting the direction of the culture at large. He believes that’s done through two things: 1. The creation of, financing for and mentoring of mission-based businesses and entrepreneurs and 2. The creation of media properties of all types that tell empowering stories.

Tom is best known as a co-founder of Quest Nutrition, the second-fastest-growing private company in North America on the Inc 5000 in 2014. He is also the founder of Impact Theory, a for-profit media company designed to “leverage the self-sustaining power of commerce to radically influence global culture.” You can find links to Tom at the end of this interview:

1. What is the purpose of education?

To me the purpose of education and the purpose of life is to actuate your potential, so there’s a big difference between having potential and actually doing something with it. Education should be about having a goal and working backwards to figure out what gap and which skillsets stand between where you are today and where you need to be. So whatever your goals demand that you get good at, that’s where your education should be taking you and I think that humans have a nearly limitless capacity to learn and get better. So it’s about the acquisition of skills.

2. What core principles or ideas do you think everyone should learn? What core principles do you hold true?

I think the most important thing that people need to understand is that you should do and believe that which moves you toward your goals.

So I think that people fall into the trap of believing that some things are empirically true and cloud their vision but when you couple that with the fact that human beings are more likely to believe negative things than they are positive things you get into a world where you’re more likely to believe a pessimistic outlook than an optimistic outlook. But optimism is connected to future success so that’s just a core thing.

The other thing that I hold to be very true is that you can do anything that you set your mind to and if that’s true then how you spend your time becomes a spiritual consideration and I don’t think people are very good at optimizing their time.

Third, I believe that people can and should really focus on problem solving. Problem solving is one of those things that we don’t really teach people. We don’t teach people that things always have an answer and that there is a way to break a problem down and find a solution that is going to move you forward.

Because people don’t have the fundamental belief that their problems can be solved so they don’t even try. So if that’s because they don’t believe that they’re are capable or they believe that it can be solved period then the people that advance are just the ones that have the guts to believe in themselves. That’s a pretty ridiculous reason for somebody to be successful and yet it is terrifyingly true that it isn’t the brightest people that end up succeeding it’s the ones with the most belief.

3. Where does your work and particularly the work of Impact Theory belong in the traditional education system? Is it a supplement, an alternative, or an entirely new model and potential replacement?

I don’t see myself as trying to disrupt the education system. I really see this is as a supplement.

I’m trying to empower people to think in any way. So in that sense it’s more foundational than what you’ll find in reading, writing, and arithmetic. It’s meant to be an operating system, a sort of root kit level knowledge, and it’s the new way to think.

4. What are the three greatest lessons that you’ve learned from building Impact Theory and Quest?

The most important thing I’ve learned in my entrepreneurial endeavors is that it matters what you build your self-esteem around. Once you accept that everybody needs to feel good about themselves then it becomes a really pressing question of what do you build your self-esteem around? What do you allow yourself to feel good about? If you’re building your sense of pride around being smart or being right those are very fragile things, because inevitably you’re going to encounter somebody that’s smarter than you and you’re going to be wrong probably more than you’re right.

So you need to switch it and build your self-esteem around something that’s antifragile, meaning not that it’s resilient or tough but truly the way that Nassim Taleb defines it which is the more it’s attacked the stronger it gets.

To me those things are being “the learner” and identifying the right answer fasting than anybody else, and never ever being afraid to look stupid or admit when you’re wrong. If you can do those three things and literally build your self-esteem around them, take pride in admitting you were wrong, take pride in sitting at somebody’s feet with humility and learning from them, and If you can start taking pride in those things the more somebody tells you that you’re stupid, you’re dumb, you’re inadequate,you actually think it’s great and awesome. You respond by asking in what ways can I get better? Over a long timeline somebody that’s always looking to learn, grow, improve, and adapt is going to win every time.

5. In your mission statement, you say that you want to “Ignite Human Potential.” What does it mean to ignite human potential and more specifically, what does it mean to have “Impact” through your work?

So I want people to get excited about self-improvement, to feel that giddy sense of growing power that I feel when I read. It’s the same thing that the ancient Greek philosophers used to talk about as this concept called Techne that if you want fulfillment in your life, it comes from getting really good at something that is unique to you, that you’re then able to put it into service for something larger than yourself.

So it’s one thing to help people by ladling soup at a soup kitchen, it’s entirely another to build a school, or to write a book, or to be a surgeon. Those are hard to learn, hard to become, and now that you have it, you’re able to go out and help people be better than themselves. When people can get excited and literally amped up intrinsically to learn, grow, and to push themselves, that’s igniting human potential.

To have impact is literally to manifest the thing that’s in your mind to make it real means exactly what we were talking about in philosophy class that it’s making it real, it’s making it tangible, and actually impacting change for me at scale. At scale is what I care about.

What’s scale for you?

Think as big as you can make it. If you can scale it to every single human on the planet fantastic, it’s going to be something far short of that obviously but trying to impact as many people as you can meaningfully given the tools that we have now with the Internet being global, and the persistence which is then going to have a ripple affect.

6. What is the greatest problem facing our world today and what’s one way in which you think we could solve it?

That’s a great question… You’re going to get a 100 answers if you ask 100 different people so the one that I’m trying to attack that I think is at the top is people have a limiting belief system, so they think they’re only capable of X when in reality they’re capable of virtually anything they set their mind to.

As we were saying earlier the difference between the most successful people and the least successful people isn’t IQ, it isn’t where they were born, it’s not who their parents are, it has nothing to do with their genetics, but it has everything to do with belief.

Do they believe that they can learn what they need to learn to execute at the highest level. So I want to address the belief system on a global scale.

7. What does the future of education look like to you?

My gut instinct says that it’s going to be something that leverages video game mechanics. So if you play a video game everybody can get to the end, there’s no shortage of people, and there’s no necessary limit to the number of people that can do it perfectly. So it comes down to: are you willing to keep going at it, to play it time and time again, to play, to die, to learn, to try something new until you beat every aspect of the game?

It’s not like in class where it seems like there’s a finite number of people that can get the top score or even more horrifyingly, if it’s actually graded on a curve then only one person can get the “top score” and “win the game.”

At the end of the day for knowledge to be usable it has to in some way impact the world, which means it has a tangible manifestation, it makes something happen.

So the easiest way to think of that is surgery, or architecture, it either works and the building stands, and people like it or it doesn’t work and the building falls, or the patient dies.

One of the most exciting things about gamification is that it’s got an addictive quality, you keep coming back, it’s always taking you to the edge of your limits and then rewarding you with “whoa I’m now capable of something I wasn’t 10 minutes ago and in a month from now I’ll be 10 times better than I am today because I’m able to practice, and practice, and practice and the practicing is inherent in the game.

8. What’s the greatest problem in education that you most hope to see solved?

If each subject is about gaining actual mastery, then you can’t learn everything at once, you must learn things sequentially, hopefully the things that you learn stack on each other and in order to maximize your potential, education should be a never ending game. The problem I think that we have with education is it has to be one size fits all, they haven’t figure out how to scale at an individual level which I think the answer is invariably technology.

I think that we don’t attract the brightest minds to education innovation because there’s not enough money in it. So how do you get the most impassioned, enthusiastic people that are leveraging technology and what we know about the human mind, brain chemistry, all of it to make learning a self-addicting, self-advantageous cycle? That’s the biggest problem and something I would like to see solved.

9. Who is one historical or public figure, alive or dead, that you admire and why?

That list is long, so I’ll name somebody alive. Elon Musk is challenging everybody’s sense of what a human being is capable of and when you look at the fact that this guy did not go to school for rocket science, and when he decided to make his dream come true of getting to Mars that he worked backwards until he got to the point where he was like, “I need to build a reusable rocket engine and spacecraft, so okay that’s step one.” That isn’t the end goal but that’s step one, so I guess I’m going to have to pick up books and learn rocket science.”

It’s so inspiring and then the fact that he’s not just doing it with one thing he’s got Tesla, he’s got SpaceX, he’s got SolarCity, the Boring Company, I mean it’s ridiculous.

Then on top of that he also injects personality into what he does and doesn’t become invisible in the things that he’s building which in the age of personal branding and people really wanting to maintain a sense of themselves as they grow, and develop, and put themselves out there, I think Elon stands as the ultimate example.

My other example is Einstein who in my mind isn’t famous just because he was so smart, he was famous because he didn’t let people shut him down. This guy was an iconoclast, people thought he was out of his mind and they kept telling him so, he just kept pushing forward, and a lot of his biggest breakthroughs were just because he knew unless I get so good they can’t ignore me they will keep ignoring. So Einstein really pushed himself to do these incredible things because he just refused to be ignored.

10. What new invention is going to change the way we live and learn?

I think it will probably be AR. One day, you’ll look at a flower and know what it is, you’ll look at a car and know it’s make and model, you can look at food and it will break down the chemical components, it’s just going to be unreal what that’s able to do and how it changes the way we think and learn.

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Thanks for reading ❤️
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This series was designed by Vasjen Katro, Visual Designer of Baugasm
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This interview would not have been possible without an introduction from David Rock.

Mar 18, 2018

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