Joe De Sena Joins Us On The Steve Jobs Inspired Join Up Dots Podcast
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Introducing Joe De Sena
Joe De Sena is today’s guest on the Steve Jobs inspired Join Up Dots business coaching podcast.
He is the founder of Spartan and the Death Race and someone taking the competitor edged businesses by storm.
And also a man who has kindly given up their time to come on and inspire the world with their story and passions for tackling the big things in life.
And his life has seemed a constant state of having the best and worst that life can throw at you, but wanting to have even more come his way on top of that too.
He grew up in Queens New York, which had been made famous in so many Hollywood’s films that focus in on the criminal activities of the infamous Mafia Don, John Gotti.
His life was surrounded by scenes from the movie Goodfellas, and so it wasn’t a surprise that his mother felt that it would be a good time to move him and his sister upstate, away from such influences.
Which was not the best of time as our young budding entrepreneur was just starting to earn some money by selling fireworks.
How The Dots Joined Up For Joe De Sena
Even as a young lad it was clear he was always going to be someone that would get out and flex the hustle muscle, as he was so inspired by his father entrepreneurial ventures, that he quickly grew his money making mind-set to go out and get his own cash.
However on the other side he was also being influenced heavily by mothers drive for a world of healthily living, healthy eating and building up the muscles and fitness to undertake extreme endurance and create the ultimate healthy lifestyle.
And those two parental influences really seemed to set the foundation to what our guest has since gone onto achieve.
Just the fact that an ever increasing Google search is “Joe De Sena Net Worth” shows he has become someone, and the world is taking notice.
You can hear how it has inspired the amazing Stephanie Keenan to tackle his big challenges on this episode of Join Up Dots
The Start Of The Spartan Way
Now he has founded the incredible movement known as the Spartan Race, where across the world over a million people have signed up and tackled the hardest of activities such as an eight mile sprint and the hardest of obstacle races.
So as with all guests on Join Up Dots does he look back and think that the path was always going to get him here, even when undertaking detours onto Wall Street and the Bed and Breakfast business?
And can he understand the appeal that make so many people, like the UKs very own Sophie Radcliffe want to test themselves to such extreme levels, whilst the rest of the world are happy giving the excuses of why they haven’t got the time for anything?
Well let’s find out as we bring onto the show to start joining up dots, with the one and only Joe De Sena.
During the show we discussed such weighty topics with Joe De Sena such as:
How he believes that success is truly a mind-set and you should never base it on money, but truly from the way you impact people and the legacy you leave on this world.
Why Joe De Sena feels that people really need to feel pain in life to truly appreciate the pleasure. Too much pleasure leaves you unable to truly appreciate what you have gained in life.
How he has always had the ability to compartmentalise the good and bad in life, and loves tackling issues that leave him with both sides to assess what he needs to move forward.
If we are not happy with our lives, then we cannot possibly expect things to change without discomfort and stress.
How Joe De Sena once invited 1.5 million people to visit his house on Facebook much chagrin of his wife, but would do the same time and time again.
Joe De Sena Books
How To Connect With Joe De Sena
If you enjoyed this episode with Joe De Sena then why not listen to some of our favourite podcast episodes such as Raf Adams, Dave Sanderson, Richard McCann or the amazing Dr Joe Vitale
Or if you prefer just pop over to our podcast archive for thousands of amazing episodes to choose from.
Audio Transcription Of Joe De Sena
When we’re young, we have an amazing positive outlook about how great life is going to be. But somewhere along the line we forget to dream and end up settling. join up dots features amazing people who refuse to give up and chose to go after their dreams. This is your blueprint for greatness. So here’s your host live from the back of his garden in the UK, David Ralph.
David Ralph [0:25]
Yes, hello there. Good morning to you. Welcome. Welcome to another episode of join up dots Episode 312 on this one, and I think the shows are getting bigger and bigger and bigger. If you’re taking anything from any of the shows. It’s got to be that it’s down to you guys. It’s down to us to take action to move on with your life. And stop looking for the excuses and just throw those over your shoulder and just move on. And today’s guest has kindly given up their time to come on and inspire the world with their story and passion for tackling the big things in life.
He’s life has seen the constant state of having the best and worst that life can throw at you but wanting to have even more come his way on top of that, too. Now he grew up in Queens, New York, which had been made famous in so many Hollywood films that focus in on the criminal activities of the infamous mafia, Don john Gotti. His life is surrounded by scenes from the movie good feathers. And so it wasn’t a surprise that his mother felt it would be a good time to move him and the sister upstate away from such influences, which was not the best of time as our young budding entrepreneur was just starting to earn some money by selling fireworks. Now, even as a young lad, it was clear he was always going to be someone that would get out and flex the hustle muscle, as he was so inspired by his father’s entrepreneurial ventures, but he quickly grew his money making mindset to go out and get his own cash. Now interestingly, on the other side, he was also being influenced heavily by his mother’s drive for a world of healthy living, healthy eating and building up the muscles and fitness to undertake extreme insurance and create the ultimate healthy lifestyle.
Those two parental influences really seem to set the foundation to what our guest has since gone on to achieve. Now he has founded the incredible movement known as the Spartan Race where across the world, over a million people have signed up and tackled the holidays of activities such as an Eight Mile sprint, and the hardest of obstacle races. So as we’ve all guests on join up Does, does he look back and think that the path was always going to get him here, even when undertaking detours onto Wall Street and the bed and breakfast business? And can you understand the appeal, but make so many people want to test themselves to such extreme levels, while the rest of the world are happy giving excuses of why they haven’t got time for anything? Well, let’s find out as we bring on to the show to start joining up dots with the one and only Joe De Sena , how are you, sir?
Joe De Sena [2:44]
Great. How are you?
David Ralph [2:46]
I’m extremely well, I’m extremely well. I’m a bit exhausted just by reading the introduction. And you are somebody that really sort of pushes your body to the limits, which we’re going to obviously talk about later. Did you find that because you do but you’ve got more energy. Are you somebody that gets up at the crack of dawn and really powers through a day until you go to bed?
Joe De Sena [3:07]
Yeah, my time here is 6:30am. And when I looked at a having to do this last night, I thought, all right, I’m gonna have to get up at four because I’ll get cleaned up and then I gotta go work out for an hour and then I want to hit the steam room. So I feel great right now, because I did that. It obviously didn’t feel great when the alarm went off at four. But um, but yeah, I think I get a lot more done. I’m a lot more positive each day. I think I’m more successful in life no matter how you define success, because I’m always just upbeat and healthy feeling. So how do you define success? I suppose that’s the million dollar question. What what is success in your view? I think it’s a mindset. I don’t I don’t think it’s monetary. I don’t I don’t think it’s having you know, the greatest job or, or even being the fittest person. I think it’s a mindset and that mindset requires an enormous amount of work. to constantly stay on point stay on point. I’ve done lots of very long distance races throughout my life where if the analogy was looking at an automobile it would be like taking an automobile automobile across the desert. You really get to know that automobile right you it falls apart, it has to deal with all the stresses and strains of the environment. And and I’ve done that to my body in my mind enough times to really understand it, and just shake my head when some negative thoughts are getting in there. And so, so for me, success is getting through a day and being positive.
David Ralph [4:41]
So that that obviously if I’m for my side of things, that sounds horrible, taking your body to fat, is it something but once you get to that point it does it become like a drug Do you need to sort of push yourself that far?
Joe De Sena [4:55]
First of all, you’re going to think I’m crazy as you already do. But I think everyone needs to go through that. I believe that if you don’t go, you can’t have highs or pleasure, true pleasure, without a lot of pain. Why? Why is that so because you can’t appreciate it. You can’t appreciate a beautiful hotel room or a wonderful car or, or a great partner or a good friend. Unless or even food let’s use food, food as an example if you’ve been hungry, and most of us have never been hungry. But But when you’ve been really, really hungry, well, somebody could give you you know, a 12 day old cracker. And it tastes like the best bit of food you’ve ever had. And, and that’s why I think it’s so important for all of us to put ourselves in a place where we’re hungry, we’re tired, we’re cold, because then you really appreciate anything you’re given. And it’s it’s a gift, it’s a gift just to wake up every day to gift.
David Ralph [5:56]
So it’s so easy. It’s a point of life, friend, Joe, is it fact that so many people live in the comfort zone where they earn a decent amount of money, and they have a nice holiday every two weeks of the year. And I have a nice car and everything. He’s that kind of nice and comfortable. It’s about where sort of dreams get left behind, because people are happy in that comfort. And they’re not going into that realm that you’re talking about.
Joe De Sena [6:22]
I think so I think if we were to chart it, and we were to chart a life, and happiness and sadness or highs and lows, that comfort zone you describe would be at the top of the chart. Right, you’ve got everything you need right at your fingertips that the house has he, there’s money in the pocket, there’s an abundance of food, everybody’s happy. There’s only one way to go on that chart each day. And that’s down. And and so I don’t know, I at a very early age realized I’d rather I’d rather my chart start at the bottom. So that every day, I can go up. And and so this morning was tough, right? waking up early, having that tough workout jumping into the steam room. But during the day, I’ll be faced with adversity as everyone is. And it’s not as bad as what I just went through.
David Ralph [7:15]
But let’s frame your day and the people that don’t know the Spartan Race to tell us what it’s all about. And then we’re obviously going to delve back and look at your journey up to that point. But But somebody going over to the website and signing up for the Spartan Race, what are they going to get from it.
Joe De Sena [7:33]
So Spartan Race is exactly what we just described, it’s going to task mind body spirit, it’s a military inspired obstacle course race. It’s, if you’ve ever seen any of the military movies were the military men and women are training under barbed wire climbing walls, carrying heavy objects going up hills, wading through water, that’s the race. And it’s your pit against competition, your pit against yourself, as well as others. And it’s typically three different distances. So you’re either going to do a three plus mile, an eight plus mile, or 13, which is a half marathon, it’s going to take you depending on the distance anywhere from an hour to 10 hours. And you are going to hate me hate off while you’re doing it. But you’re going to come out the other side, a transformed human being. And and I know that now because we’ve had millions of people do it. And we get the same response every time. Which is that was unbelievable. You transformed me. I can’t believe I did it. And and there’s a science behind that. And that’s some of the some of what I was discussing with you before I described the race. So so it’s super exciting to be involved with it because we’re changing lives globally.
David Ralph [8:51]
Well, you are you are changing the belief system, aren’t you. And as you’re saying that I’m looking at images for Spartan Race, and anybody goes over to Google and type in sponsored by and go over to all the images that you’re fine. And some of the sort of branding that you’ve got, you’ve got these pictures of people dragging themselves through mud. And it says, if it doesn’t challenge you, it sure as hell won’t change you or where there is no struggle. There is no strength. So it is it’s it’s obviously is physical. But the ultimate rewards are more mental. Are you saying?
Joe De Sena [9:24]
Yeah, I think if you look at a tree or anything in nature, if you need to change that, that object, or even look at coal turning into diamonds, it requires an enormous amount of strain and pressure to change anything. So if we, if we are not happy with our lives, if their whole home lives, and like you said, We’re living in a comfort zone, to expect it to change without discomfort, you’re never going to get there. So so you can understand why going through this process. This Spartan part process is transformative, it’s required to change, you
David Ralph [10:04]
know, I can see that I don’t personally think I’ve got it in me to do it. I don’t know why. But when when I, I look at it, it looks self fulfilling, it looks like something you work towards, and the journey of working towards it. And the physical aspect and the mental aspect will be so rewarding at the end of it, you’ll you’ll come out the other side change that you say, but do you need? Do you need to have that desire from the first start to do it? If somebody just sort of goes, ah, I’m going to do that because it looks fun is it is it going to be fine? The old way?
Joe De Sena [10:37]
It’s funny because I was gonna say, someone like you who’s skeptical, I would just I would just kidnap you and bring you to the starting line and throw you into the fire and, and you would get through it. And you know, you kick and scream in the beginning, but you’d get through it and you’d get the same result. So know somebody doesn’t need to be super excited about doing it. We’ve got thousands of examples of friends, right? bring other friends into it. Before I put on this race I used to put on events. And I used to have to rope people into coming and I tell them, Hey, we’re doing a barbecue this weekend. Why don’t you come? They had no no idea that I was going to have them run 26 miles through the woods. And I’d wake them up early. And they say gee, you know, it seems kind of early for the Bhagavad. We gotta do a little hike and get some preparations done. And I started high. And before you know it, you know, there’s seven hours into this. I’m so excited
David Ralph [11:27]
Joe De Sena [11:29]
are they hate me. But when they come out the other side, it’s transformative. Because I’m
David Ralph [11:33]
not skeptical in any shape, or form, what you’re doing and what people are getting from it, I think is brilliant. And it’s the theme of the show. But you know, when in your heart of hearts, I just know, I’m not not bear to want to tackle that. I just don’t feel it. So do people need to be looking for something in their life? Is? Is this like, one of those things that they think if I do this, everything else is going to fall into place because of that pain and pleasure scenario?
Joe De Sena [12:00]
Yeah, I think I think as I said, I think talking to the people that come out the other side and get to the finish line will all tell you the same thing, which is it was transformative. And, and it’s it’s only transformative, because it’s hard. You know, we interviewed a happiness professor from Cornell University. And he and he talked about Spartan Race. And he said, I understand completely while it’s working, he said, we’ve done thousands of tests on happiness. And true happiness doesn’t come from purchasing an expensive, good, you know, a handbag or a car, whatever true happiness actually comes from going through some adversity and coming out the other side. And he said 100 out of 100 times, the person describing that difficult scenario they went through will state that they it was actually worse than it actually was. So So you’ve all heard the story about the fishermen who says the fish was biting. It was so big, you know, and they’re definitely exaggerating. That’s what people do about difficult times, but it makes them hail good.
David Ralph [13:01]
It’s funny you say that, because that’s true, isn’t it when you’re in something if you’re building something like, and we’re going to see how you build Spartan Race, because it’s not just a race, it’s a global movement. So when you start something, you’re just slogging away, and you’re trying to get some momentum. And it feels like the hardest thing in the world just to get the first race off the ground. But then when you look back on it, like two years later, you come in Well, I don’t think that was too hard, really. But it just kind of seems hard at the time. And you can build up some very juicy stories, can’t you about the extra effort it takes to get anything going. But really, it’s just step off the step after step after step, that consistency, that persistence, and just not knowing where you’re going, but just going for it anyway.
Joe De Sena [13:47]
I couldn’t I couldn’t agree more.
David Ralph [13:51]
That’s why I’m good at this, you say you say after 312 shows I know a thing or two. So if we go back, Joe to your younger life, because it does seem like this is the path that you was always going to be on and the fact that your father was very entrepreneurial, your mother was very sort of health conscious. And it’s taken you to where you are now, do you see any sort of relevance to who you are to the small child growing up in Queens? Is there a connection with the young boy but really lights the passions of what you’re doing now?
Joe De Sena [14:23]
Without a doubt, and it’s really interesting. You may be the only person I talked to that actually understands what I’m about to say I am. One is I have four we have four children right now. And so it’s at the top of my mind all the time and top my wife’s mind, how do we how do we develop the perfect kids? And and and, and you wish you had a system for it? Because we’re all we’re all new at it. All parents are new at it. And I keep thinking back to my childhood, how do I tap into the good things? How do I understand what happened to me as you asked that we’re good that transfer for me that made me successful, however, I define success and not and discard the bad things. And so when I look back, I think certainly my mom, being extremely health conscious, was powerful teaching us about food, meditation, yoga, long distance endurance journeys, super powerful. But what was more powerful about my mom, was that she did it in Queens, in the face of adversity. What I mean by that is, when my grandfather and I or my father and I, or even my friends would walk into the house expecting to get an eggplant parmesan here, anything any Italian, Brooklyn or queens kid would expect. Instead, we got branch sandwiches and falafel and you know, she was so far right off the charts on food. It didn’t jive. It didn’t make sense. And it had every everybody in the neighborhood making fun of me and my sister and my mom. Well, why was she
David Ralph [16:05]
like that? But it was she influenced by her parents were Why was she so focused on that?
Joe De Sena [16:11]
Now, you know, it’s a strange thing. Her mother had cancer and died at a young age. And somehow she must have stumbled upon alternative medicine. And she got hooked. And she was extremely forward thinking and which is one attribute That’s powerful. But the bigger attribute is to go through 20 years of people making fun of you, but sticking to your guns. Right. And having kids my sister and I and family members say You’re ridiculous. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Yoga is for sissies, right? Why would you meditate, it’s a waste of time. And I’m and I’m, I’m being nice, the way I described the the negativity that was put forth. And then you know, today, you’re talking about, I don’t know if 40 years later, 40 plus years later, and she was right. She was right about everything. And so that was a massive influence when I think back because that what that says to me, consciously and subconsciously is don’t worry about what other people think people tend if you if you go to a motor vehicles, to get some work done on your license, or whatever you need done. It is proven that if there are three lines to go on, and two of the lines are empty, but one line has all the people everybody will get on the line real people.
David Ralph [17:31]
Yeah, that is absolutely true, isn’t it?
Joe De Sena [17:33]
It’s true. So no one’s going to want to stick their neck out and, and fly in the face of adversity and ridicule. And I guess I saw my mom do that. So that was big. On my dad’s side. My dad was an entrepreneur like no other not because he was super successful, because for a short time he was but because he was relentless. I mean, he didn’t stop I watched him go through really tough times, he was lost 95% of his assets. Banks took buildings back I we lived through it. And and he was a guy that was on top. And he just, you know, he had massive respect, but from from from the neighborhood not he was just an amazing entrepreneur, but but got overextended and lost. And and that experience and watching him deal with it, I think was was very powerful and transforming. And then the other one is just the environment, you know, back then everybody looked up to organized crime, and there was a price to pay to be involved with that. And the price was death, or jail. And 90% of the people that I knew, took either one of those routes. And so that subconsciously unconsciously gets ingrained in the brain. And the other big one is I started a swimming pool business when I was early before, about 10 years old, 910, 11 years old. I was lucky enough over 1112 years to build a 750 customer business. And the reason that’s relevant to your question is, I had a view, I didn’t understand it at the time, I didn’t even understand it five years ago, I understand now. That was like having a $2 million plus social experiment funded by an Ivy League college. What do I mean by that? I got to go inside 750 homes for 11 or 12 years and see what worked and didn’t work as a young teen, and teenager and then a young, you know, 20 year old, I got to see that the guys that cheated, ultimately ended up in divorce, I got to see that the guys that that stole went to jail, I got to see that people that didn’t work and were lazy, lost their house, I got to see all these amazing things up close and personal. I was friends with every one of them. I could walk in anybody’s house, lay on the couch, watch TV, go in the refrigerator, go in the backyard. And and I guess I took consciously and subconsciously, the attributes and the actions that I thought I the way I wanted to live. And I discarded the rest. So I got really, really lucky. And the difficult thing for me today is how the hell do I do the same for my kids? Because that’s that’s a very hard childhood to replicate.
David Ralph [20:29]
Well, I don’t think you can, can you I I grew up in the 70s. And I talk about this quite a lot in the shows because he is one of those sort of rose tinted images that I had. But I used to leave in the morning, you had no mobile phones or cell phones or whatever. And you’d say to your mom, when do I need to be back, be back at dinnertime and off you go. And you would just go and have adventures and off in the woods and all that kind of stuff. Now kids are literally on their x boxes, and you’ve got to drag them out of the rooms. So life is different. And I don’t think in many ways you can replicate it. But what you can do extremely well is what you’re doing, and trying to make that extra effort. You’re trying to look at the good things that were in your life, discard the bad things and try to bring them through and that that positive influence is going to make a difference. If I see that dad trying trying trying every day is gonna make a difference, isn’t it? Because I think that’s how life is.
Joe De Sena [21:26]
Yeah, I think I think you’re right.
David Ralph [21:29]
Well, one of the things that was interesting when you was talking Joe was the fact that you were saying that your dad was at the top and when overextended himself and sort of lost a lot. Now at the beginning, you were saying that you’d rather have your day start at the bottom, so that you can work your way up? Did you feel that sort of reflection of what you’ve seen your dad did, you do always want to set your store low so that you don’t feel like you’re losing anything, you only gaining stuff?
Joe De Sena [21:58]
Probably part of it. I think I learned I learned a bunch of things watching my dad go through that right I learned that, that you can deal with pretty much everything but death. So so whenever things are going bad, I say, Well, I’m not dead. Right. And so you get to put things into perspective, I learned that I think I think I learned not to make some of the mistakes he made, which was he got extremely over leveraged. And so I think I’ve lost a lot of opportunities, because I wouldn’t leverage myself when everybody else was. There were many, you know, I don’t know if you know, vitamin water, you had a great story about vitamin water. But there was a deal on my desk to purchase a large percentage of vitamin water for what was a very low price. And I just couldn’t do it. Because again, I just didn’t want to be over leveraged. And two years later, vitamin water was sold for five $5 billion to coke Cola, I would have I would have made $500 million on that transaction in two years. Not that I need $500 million. I don’t, nobody does. But But I think back as to why I didn’t make the decision. And it was really because of watching my dad. Go bus. So I think I think you’re right. I think I’m probably a little hesitant because of it. And I could think of five or six other examples in my life where, where it’s been a negative, I’ve been more cautious, but maybe it hasn’t. Maybe maybe knock on wood, I’ve always come out of the fire. Okay, because because I play a little more cautious.
David Ralph [23:32]
Well, that’s the thing about join up dots. But you’ll look back on that. And a year later, two years later, you go, oh, what did I do? I missed out on that opportunity. But 10 years down the line, you’re more likely to go, Ah, if I had taken that this wouldn’t have happened. And this is much better. So I’m actually happy. But that that got moved away from me and I didn’t take part of it is on the timeline of join up dots. There’s no bad things. It’s just the experience season. That’s what makes up that rich tapestry of life. Really.
Joe De Sena [24:04]
I love it. I love the concept. I didn’t know, I didn’t know the concept of the show. But But I’m, you’re getting me to join up some dots. So I like it.
David Ralph [24:12]
The other thing that that struck out of me when he was talking as well, was the fact that your knowledge, your experience, you seem to be very sort of fit in your mind. You look at the good things, you look at the bad things, you discard the bad things, you keep the good things, has that always been the way of your life as well, because it seems like most people will take everything that comes towards them and absorb it into their body. But you seem to sort of compartment what you need, like like your mom would have done, she would have said this is good food, this is bad food will have the good food that’s going to be good for us. And you seem to be like that on the knowledge as well. You’re going to people’s houses, you see the good way of operating you see the bad way? I’m going to take the good way. So it’s like a healthy knowledge base that you’re building as well.
Joe De Sena [25:00]
Yeah, and it’s subjective, obviously, because I have I make my own decision as to what’s good or what’s bad. And obviously, I make mistakes like everybody else. But I do have an amazing ability to compartmentalize and discard stuff, whether it’s memories, history, people that were not positive influences on me. I just I move on. And so yeah, I think I do have that ability. I don’t know where it comes from I love I love my kids, everybody should have that ability. I it doesn’t weigh on me, I move I move forward, not backward. So great attribute. Maybe it’s because I’m a DD who knows, but it’s but it’s powerful.
David Ralph [25:39]
But let’s play some words now. And so what about taking risks and going for the thing that you love? This is Jim Carrey,
Jim Carrey [25:46]
my father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him. And so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant. And when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job. And our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want. So you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.
David Ralph [26:13]
Now, positive words, powerful words, is that the kind of message that we should be getting out to your kids and my kids and all the kids coming up. But when they go through the education system, yes, work as hard as you can get a good education. But at the end of it, don’t just go out and get a job. Go for something that will make you happy that you feel that you will love is that the powerful statement to make nowadays.
Joe De Sena [26:38]
That is a powerful statement. I think I think people need those kinds of words, those kinds of messages. But But I think, as we said in the beginning of the show, I think people need to go through some discomfort to get some pleasure. And so i don’t i don’t think i don’t think it’s just words. I think we’re we’re okay, reading is okay can get people somewhat inspired. But I think ultimately to transform and have a different mindset, you’ve got to go through a rite of passage. And I think today Spartan Race is is and I’m not just plugging Spartan Race or anything like that you can. I used to get my wife, for example, to drop me off 40 miles from the house and I would have to run home with no money. That’s a rite of passage. That’s my advice. You could do it five miles from your house, you could I used to kayak 40 miles, that was the only way back. So words are good positive words, certainly better than negative words. But I think you’ve got to have the physical and mental aspect as well.
David Ralph [27:44]
Did you think about it is Bo taking a risk, if you look at that statement, and it’s two halves, you can only ever get a job, where one day somebody’s going to touch you on the shoulder and say thank you very much for your time you’re out. Or you could take a risk on doing what you love, and try to build your own economy. Now, from your side of the fence, being a father who’s very entrepreneurial? Which way would you try to stay your kids would you go, if you can build your own economy, you’ve got a good chance of protecting what you’ve got and developing. If you go into a job when somebody says we’ve had a bad time, we’re going to get rid of 50% of this stuff. And you’re out, which is the safe route. Now do you think Joe
Joe De Sena [28:27]
the safe route for me is the uncomfortable route. When you know somebody said to me early on with the children, if you’ve got to go the hardware, the software with kids, you got to go the hard way. And my life I’ve always taken the hard way. I when I had a choice between a hot shower and a cold shower, I took a cold shower now the listeners and you might be saying this guy’s nuts. But but at the core of it. I think I don’t think you grow. I don’t think a plant can grow. I don’t think a cell can grow. I don’t think anything can grow without adversity. I. So I want to always be growing and moving forward. And that requires adversity and in today’s environment where everything is at our fingertips. Right? I think about Chris Rock, the comedian had a great stand up statement. He said, we have so much food in America now we now we’re getting allergic to it. Right? So we’ve got an abundance of everything and and that doesn’t create growth, doesn’t create growth in the mind doesn’t create growth in the body in the spirit. And so unfortunately for you and your listeners, we got to get uncomfortable to be comfortable.
David Ralph [29:48]
But when when you were taken away from Queens, which obviously when when you’re growing up is your formative surroundings is what you’re comfortable with. And you get put up state and for for the listeners who don’t know upstate New York, you’re not talking about New York City, you’re talking about fields. You’re talking about Woodstock, you’re talking about sort of country area. Was that something that changed your life? Did? Was it easy to transition from that? Or did you find that difficult?
Joe De Sena [30:16]
Easy to transition from New York to Vermont? Yeah.
No, it wasn’t it wasn’t difficult. I was lucky my mother moved us to Ithaca, New York early on. And so going to the country I we were kicking and screaming my sister and I, when we first did it back in the in our teens, early teens, I would come back on the weekends are my my, my weekends in the spring and fall and come back all summer with my dad and, and run my business. But I had in my mind, as I was building businesses, through my 30s into my I guess by my late 30s, we made the decision to move to Vermont. And for me, I just wanted to go back to the country back to the way it felt when I originally left when as I just described and went to Africa. And and I wanted to grow a family and I didn’t want the the traffic pressures, the the just the enormous amount of people the garbage, I wanted to be in a really clean, pristine place. At the end of the day, all we have on this planet is time. You have no other asset. It’s just time. And I don’t want to waste time. And I didn’t want to shorten my duration on the planet. And so I felt like if I had clean water, which Vermont has plenty of clean air, somewhat of a hard working environment, right? It gets cold, you got to chop some wood. I thought it was going to be great. My wife was resistant because this was a crazy concept for most but but I think she agrees now it was it’s it’s a great way to live.
David Ralph [31:53]
But as teenagers, you will you came to get back into the hub. The fact that one of your first was Wall Street, which you quite openly didn’t like at all. But that’s that’s really is in the heart. But what were you sort of drawn back to the world that you knew?
Joe De Sena [32:11]
Well, they tricked me and manipulated me, my mom got me a dirt bike. Actually, I bought the dirt bike by selling fireworks, but she allowed me to buy the dirt bike. And so I think that helped make the transition from Queens to Africa a little easier as a 13 or 14 year old. I definitely wanted to get back to the action. But before you know it, you adapt to the new environment. And boy, it was a it was a hard left turn in my life. I don’t know, if I would have had anywhere near the same life. If she didn’t pull pull my sister and I out and bring us to Africa.
David Ralph [32:52]
And so so what where do you think you would go? Did you see a straight down the line? Good guy. But if you’re surrounded in a place, which has a lot of criminal activities, after a while they almost stopped being criminal activities. They’re just normal. Do you think that she did you a favor? Do you think that you might have got him with the wrong crowd? I know it’s very subjective. What do you think?
Joe De Sena [33:16]
Without a doubt, without a doubt, I was I am and always was a hard worker. I have a massive industriousness to me, and that is sought after in that environment. As a young kid. None of it was wrong. If you grew up in that environment, as you said, it’s normal. How would How would you know anything different everybody looked up to these guys. That’s who you wanted to be around. So now what’s interesting to me getting off the subject a little bit is is it’s much different in the country, what I found in Vermont, less so in Africa, but Vermont small towns, there’s there’s a lot of jealousy, there’s a lot of hatred, created out of jealousy that I didn’t see in Queens in New York City. And I don’t know, I don’t know why that is I’m still studying that. But but in Queens and New York and these metropolitan areas, what I found was that people wanted to get close to success, again, could be a priest that successful could be anything didn’t just mean money. But that was the way you got ahead was getting next to somebody that was doing it right and learning from them and kind of lifting yourself up. What I find in in Vermont and small town is they don’t actually do that they resent it. And I don’t know why that is because that’s a very negative way to be.
David Ralph [34:46]
But isn’t that the way in all small towns and small offices or whatever, if it’s a small environment, people like the status quo to remain that they’re comfortable with. And if I see somebody doing something slightly different, or taking on bigger tasks within an office environment, for example, because that’s where I came from. And I used to see this time and time again, when somebody was trying to make that extra effort, the rest of them would go, I don’t want him to do that. Because that’s gonna make me look bad. I’m quite happy sitting at my desk, just kind of going through the motions until I can go home. If he’s doing all that, what’s it going to make us look like? Isn’t that a normal way of life?
Joe De Sena [35:24]
You know, I don’t know, I didn’t have experience. It’s funny that you’re saying it because you’re you’re just opening my eyes to it. I don’t know that that’s normal. I’ve never other than my migration to Vermont, I didn’t experience any of that. It’s very foreign to me, I’ve always sought after being next and learning from somebody older and successful. That’s just my instinct. I don’t see how you can get ahead. If you don’t learn from a person that’s already doing it, and has some tips for you. So so I just don’t understand the other way. I’ve never been jealous. Lots of other people. I don’t get resentful.
Sorry, I don’t know.
David Ralph [36:05]
So so when you started on the Spartan Race, because there’s so much in between that, but that is the key thing that you’re known for across the world. Now, when you came up with an idea, was it an idea or something to do? Was it an idea to build a business you couldn’t possibly fall? Or maybe you did. But this is gonna be so big, and it’s going to be across the world and millions of people are going to flock to that? What What was the first germ of that idea?
Joe De Sena [36:33]
First, Jeremy, the idea was, I cannot start another business. I had at that point in time, I was running the general store in town with our wedding business. I had another small race company that had been losing money for nine years at this point, I needed to get these things healthy. And and it was at a time where the world had just ended economically, right, 2009 2010
was a disaster. And
and so the idea was, okay, can is there an opportunity to build a business where the masses would come out and compete. And I thought maybe, maybe there’s 50,000 people globally that would do this. I’m not going to invest more than x. And we’re going to give it a go, I’ve got a couple of great people, an old friend from the neighborhood actually started it. A guy and a girl from the UK jumped in. And we and we gave it a go. And very quickly realized it was a mistake because it started losing enormous amounts of money. And, and I ended up putting in 100 times more than I expected, the quickest way to become a millionaire in the race business is the start with 10 million. Yeah. So so you know, I’ve yet I’ve yet to be paid in this business. But But I am getting paid in an interesting way. I’m getting emails from, you know, thousands and thousands of people that say you transformed me. So yes, it was in the back of my mind that we could transform some people but never at this scale. Never thought it would be this big.
David Ralph [38:18]
So why did you choose that? 50,000 bigger was that? Because it is true? You dream and then you dream bigger, and then you dream bigger again. And it almost seems a given now from the conversations I have on a daily basis. But if you dream as big as you possibly can, there’s less competition. And that’s the place where the real success comes we hold ourselves in. So when you have that 50,000, which is quite obviously rubbish now because you’re talking millions, where where did you get that bigger from?
Joe De Sena [38:47]
I just did a quick calculation in my head. Remember, I was doing lots of races around the world crazy stuff. myself. And I thought, all right, how many people already trace how many people do marathons and it just seemed like that the right number? And, and and the very beginning, I thought maybe I Maybe I was wrong the wrong way. Maybe it’s a lot less than 50,000. But, but very quickly, I was proven wrong. And actually, I think I think we’re going to get 10s of millions to come out and go through this. I
David Ralph [39:19]
think you will as well. You know, I was quite open with you at the beginning. It doesn’t sound like my thing in any shape or form. But I can just imagine because people are searching for stuff now. And they they’re searching, searching for adventure. Everything nowadays seems to be such a fast pace and humdrum. And I think the bottom line, Joe, I think so many people feel like they’re out of control, by have to get up when their alarm clock goes off, they have to go to work, I have to get the train, I have to get back. And this is something where they’re going to take the control back. And it’s because by you want to do it, isn’t it?
Joe De Sena [39:53]
I think that’s right, I think you know, and I look at my dog, I had eight dogs at one point because my dog gave birth, which is another whole story. And so my wife and I were dealing with eight puppies, and finally narrowed it down to four and then three, and now we’re down to one. But what was interesting and watching the growth through two generations of those dogs is when the dogs are in a really comfortable spot in the house. Heated food on demand water, nice, comfy bed. They’re actually miserable. Soon as I put them out in harsh environments, their tail is wagging, their jumping, they’re alive. They feel great. And so the dog is an animal, human, we are animals, somewhere along the line we forgot. We’re animals. And so I think that’s why they’ll be 10s of millions, if not a billion people that come out and do do things like this. Wouldn’t it be fascinating?
David Ralph [40:53]
I know this sounds a little bit weird, like I’ve been taking drugs or something. But wouldn’t it be fascinating if we all had Dr. And when you see people going off to work, you actually could see what they’re thinking because of the tail wagging or whatever, it’d be fascinating. I bet most of them would just be Lou lifelessly hanging behind them.
Joe De Sena [41:12]
I couldn’t agree more. I love the idea we should do that.
David Ralph [41:15]
We create hobbies somebody did I remember seeing on a TV program, somebody created a towel that you could strap to yourself, and it picked up your emotions or something and it would give you a happy probably about five or 10 years ago, I look it up on the internet, and I send it to you. But what I want to do now I want to play another speech. And this is what I’m from the movie that we’ve all heard. And we all love the rocky films. And it’s so powerful. And it’s so relevant to what you’re talking about. Going the hard way. This is Rocky.
Rocky Balboa [41:44]
You mean nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take a keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.
David Ralph [42:01]
Now, obviously, that’s a film that kind of goes to your life, doesn’t it? It seems you know, you say you you go the hard way. You look to push yourself. And you surprised actually how much you can take when life hits you in the face.
Joe De Sena [42:16]
The human body is amazing. I mean, we think back you you think back I think back to when we’re kids, How many times should we have been dead? Right? We’re flying at 500 miles an hour and up in an airplane 30,000 feet in the air. We’re driving 75 miles an hour and cars around wet snow returns. We did all kinds of silly things as teenagers. We are pretty resilient creatures. We’re still here, the dinosaurs are gone. So we we we’ve got pretty amazing creatures, I agree. And it’s just a matter, really the only stumbling block, which I’m sure you get into over and over on every one of your podcast, the only stumbling block the only thing holding us back, the only thing keeping us from achieving great things is our mind.
David Ralph [43:01]
I saw a professor, and he was doing a speech and he said look, I’m going to plant this tree. And this tree will grow to the biggest version of itself. I’m going to put this Cheetah on the ground and tell it to run it will run to its fastest. I’m going to put a dolphin and it’s going to swim its fastest and jump its highest I’m going to put a human is going to keep itself small. And it really struck a chord with me. And that was many years before I started doing this show. But it stuck with me on a deep level. But yeah, we do we we keep ourselves small. And what this show is all about is showing really that you don’t need to have the answers. You don’t need to know how to do it. You just need to try and get off your backside and try. And that’s what you’ve done. And hopefully that’s what I’m doing in a small way just showing to people that it’s not a perfect journey. It is a Spartan Race, life is a Spartan Race. And as rocky says, you know, you dust yourself down, you get up and you go again. And that is how winning is made.
Joe De Sena [44:02]
I couldn’t agree more. I mean, that is one of my favorite quotes.
David Ralph [44:06]
Did you do you think when you sort of watch films, because I’m a kind of very motivational guy. I love having conversations like we’re having now and I’m lucky that I do on a daily basis. But I will watch films and I would listen to songs. And more often than not, I think to myself, Oh, yeah, that was talking to me is it’s like a line jumps out or a phrase appears. You like that when you’re sitting watching a film? Do you kind of go? Oh, yeah, I know exactly what he’s saying. Because that kind of that that touched me somehow.
Joe De Sena [44:35]
I movies have shaped my life. Rocky was one of them when I saw Rocky, come from the gutter and win that fight. And then in Rocky to become lazy. That transformed me. That said to me, a lot of the theories You and I have discussed this morning David come really from that from that movie. Because I thought it’s I called it rocky syndrome at a very young age. When I when I first saw that I said, you can’t get comfortable, he got comfortable. And he was no longer at the top of his game. So maybe subconsciously. That’s why I started doing all the things I described to you. So I movies are very, very powerful for me. Have you seen the good lie with Reese Witherspoon?
David Ralph [45:22]
No, I don’t recognize that one.
Joe De Sena [45:25]
You must see the good lie. It’s it’s directed by Ron Howard. It’s a fairly new movie probably last six months. And it talks about the kids in Sudan, who ended up as orphans I think in the late 80s, early 90s. Due to the north south Warren Sudan. These children, five years old, seven years old, 11 years old. 100,000 of them found themselves homeless without parents in overnight. They had to walk in many cases 1100 miles with no shoes on, and no rations. Safety, obviously, many of them died along the way. They drank their own piss. They tried to find food along the way, ended up in a United Nations refugee camp for I don’t know, 1011 years, the United States allowed parents to mature their countries as well to adopt some of these kids. And you see the kids come over to the US and one of the kids first jobs is to throw away food in the grocery store that’s expired, that’s one day old. And it can’t do it. Obviously can’t tell your walk 1100 miles lived in a in a fenced in United Nations refugee camp with very little food for 11. He’s not doing it. And it just it juxtaposed how ridiculous. Our lives are versus many parts of the world. And it really just changed my frame of reference, again, kind of like I do to myself every morning with the with the workouts and but obviously, that visual that movie, I’m much more extreme level.
David Ralph [47:04]
I suppose once again, that life without problem is, is it comfort? Or is expectation? Do we set ourselves out and say we should be doing this by now? It’s all right. For Joe, he’s doing this and that looks great. And I should be doing that. Because the suicide rate in America apparently now is higher than the homicide rate. And the suicide rate in like India, where they’ve got no money in certain places is hardly anything. And they kind of tie it up to the point. But in the poor places, it’s about survival. They’re not thinking about how I should be doing this. I should be doing that. It’s just getting through a day. But we all get to the point where if we’ve got a million pound, we should have had 5 million pounds if we and when I started this I honestly thought in six months, it would be to where it’s taken almost a year. And I just couldn’t see why hasn’t gone on as quickly as he could. Do you think that’s that’s where we struggle in life? Joe, do you think it’s the expectations we set aren’t realistic?
Joe De Sena [48:04]
I think you nailed it. I think we talked about it earlier when I said if you charted the human certainly expectations versus let’s say happiness, right, your expectations, and happiness levels years ago were completely different than they are today. You years ago, you just wanted to wake up and survive the day and not have grandma die while she was out on the horse and wagon. You had very low expectations as the people doing India and parts of India. Our expectations today are so high. They can’t be delivered. We can’t hit the target. And so suicide ensues are enormous drug use and Sue’s depression and suicide. I can’t imagine in a third world country that there are many psychologists. There’s no, there’s no need no time.
David Ralph [49:00]
I never thought of it. But I reckon you know.
Joe De Sena [49:03]
So. So that’s that’s the issue. The issue is, we have it too easy, we need a little harder, the pendulum has swung too far in one direction.
David Ralph [49:14]
So just before we kind of bring you to the end of the show, do you have expectations for Spartan Race? Do you do set goals? Or do you have dreams? How do you push it forward?
Joe De Sena [49:26]
I just don’t want to go the way of the dinosaur. I never rest and never want to become comfortable like rocky did I want to constantly push forward see what is coming around the turn and just survive as an entity. I the first two big businesses I built in my life that you know, calling 1012 years each are still in existence. And if if the same can happen here where Spartan becomes this bigger movement. And it’s not about money, it’s it’s about being sustainable as an as a company, and and having it continue on beyond me.
David Ralph [50:09]
And keeping that is your legacy? Are you leaving something but your kids will see how much it meant to dad? And they can take it forward?
Joe De Sena [50:18]
100% I mean, one of my dreams would be we have investors so so this is not going to be easy, but one of my dreams would be Can we turn Spartan into a charity? Hmm, can it can it just be a charitable organization? And that would be that would be incredible. And that would be something Yeah, the kids could run and can go on for generations to come.
David Ralph [50:40]
Your core you and I hope this doesn’t sound trite. But you are a profoundly good person.
Joe De Sena [50:46]
Who knows? I hope so I try my best. But we all have flaws. And we’ve all made mistakes. But But I was definitely I was always the kid back at you know, seven years old, six years old, that looked over and saw the new kid in the classroom and grabbed him and kind of bridge the gap between being new and not knowing anybody and getting them in with the cool kids. Yeah, I naturally want to help people.
David Ralph [51:12]
I used to do that as well. Yeah. Brings brings back memories it does. Now this is our last of our speeches. And this is the theme of the whole show exactly why we called it join up dots. When you’re living your life is are there good dots on a bad dots? Is it experience that we’re gaining? Is it the knowledge is it the journey? Who knows, but this is what Steve Jobs said.
Steve Jobs [51:33]
Of course, it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards. 10 years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leaves you off the well worn path. And that will make all the difference.
David Ralph [52:09]
Now I always ask this question, Joseph, what was your big dot? When you look back on your life? When when was the moment that when you think Yeah, I pretty much think that’s when I started becoming who I am today.
Joe De Sena [52:23]
My dad, my dad asked me it’s going to sound cliche, it’s going to sound like an old fable that my dad asked me to move a big stone. And I spent about two hours trying to move it and I couldn’t move it. And then I walked over to him and embarrassed and said I can’t move it. It’s not movable. And he said always no problem. I’ll get somebody else to do it. And I sat there for about a minute and I thought well, if somebody else is going to do it, I’m I got to do it. And I went back out and I spent a few more hours and I got it moved. And and that was it. That was that was the metaphor for the rest of my life. Like I’m gonna move the rocks, even if they feel and movable.
David Ralph [52:59]
And did you knew deep down Was it a profound moment? Did you think this is life changing? Or only when you look back on it?
Joe De Sena [53:07]
I don’t know. That’s a great question. I I suspect it was I suspect I recognized it but not to the extent that I do now.
David Ralph [53:16]
But you are literally moving rocks every day on your you’re moving people’s mindsets, and they’re the hardest rocks ever to move.
Joe De Sena [53:24]
They’re a lot harder than that rock.
David Ralph [53:26]
Yeah, absolutely. Well, this is the end of the show. Now I really don’t want this show to finish but this is the part that we call the Sermon on the mic when we send you back in time to have a one on one with your younger self. And if you could go back in time and speak to the young Joe What advice would you give and what age would you choose? Well we’re going to find out because I’m going to play the theme tune and when it fades you’re up this is the Sermon on the mic.
Joe De Sena [54:10]
I would say Big Joe would tell Little Joe he’s got to not worry about what other people think and he’s got to spend more time with his family as exciting as it was to build these businesses I regret not spending more time with my mom and dad are no longer around so little Joe spend more time with with the parents.
David Ralph [54:30]
Joe How can our audience connect with you sir?
Joe De Sena [54:34]
They can email me Joe at Spartan calm or they can go to Spartan calm and and check out what we’re doing. They can go to Spartan up podcast com we’ve got this really cool podcast not as cool as yours. Where we’re interviewing crazy people all over the world. And they can come out and do a race and I tell everybody if they don’t have the money to do it, don’t worry about it, shoot me an email, I’ll give you an entry.
David Ralph [54:58]
And that is why you never gonna make money from it, isn’t it? That’s what I’ve never heard about your wife goes Joe, you’ve done it again. You’ve done it again.
Joe De Sena [55:08]
My wife said to me one day you went on Facebook and invited everybody to our house we do not have room for 1.5 million people.
David Ralph [55:17]
And you sort of slap yourself in the head when you when you look back and doing those kind of things.
Joe De Sena [55:22]
Now that’s me That’s me. I mean I no matter how many people have have hurt me
I just continue to believe in them. And and and I want to help people.
David Ralph [55:37]
Well, we believe in you Joe and thank you so much for spending time with us today. joining those dots Please come back again when you have more dots to join up because I do believe that by joining up the dots and connecting our past is the best way to build our futures Joe to center Thank you so much. Thanks
David doesn’t want you to become a faded version of the brilliant self you are wants to become so he he’s put together an amazing guide for you called the eight pieces of advice that every successful entrepreneur practices including the two that changed his life. Head over to join up.com to download this amazing guide for free and we’ll see you tomorrow on join up dots.
David Ralph [56:20]
Hi, he thought you got rid of me. Now I’m just going to ask you a favor anyone out there who’s enjoyed the show and has enjoyed all the shows. Could you go over to iTunes and leave a review the more reviews I get the better the show will perform. And Ben it’s a win win you’ll be getting me every single day for the rest of your life don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But yeah, iTunes David Ralph join up dots. And I love you so much or even come down to walk your dog. Thanks very much. Bye bye