Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Matt Fitzgerald, welcome to The Intrepid Entrepreneur Podcast.
Matt Fitzgerald: Thank you so much for having me.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: I’m absolutely honored to have you here. I just finished—well, I read it three times now, and I’m not lying–your book, How Bad Do You Want It, which you—you’ve written several books. We’re going to get into all of that as we talk here. But I wanted to have you on my show to share you with my awesome audience because I happen to cover a swath of entrepreneurs who are completely passion-driven in their businesses, and they built businesses to support lifestyles that enables us to train and do fun events and do expeditions and things like that.
So what I want to bring to my audience through interviewing you here today, Matt, and I’m super excited about this, is your specialization of endurance psychology and how that translates into entrepreneurs having success because I think everybody listening to this would attest that it’s really obvious that being entrepreneur and doing endurance sports—there’s just a ton in common there.
Matt Fitzgerald: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: So I think the sentence I’d love that’s just–kind of have you start riffing on in terms of what drew you to this field and how you discovered the gateway, if you will, around improving your performance by really understanding the way your mind works, and fixing your mindset, I guess, in a certain way, is on your website here which is mattfitzgerald.org. “The greatest athletic performances spring from the mind, not the body.” That is a really strong statement. And I feel like the best businesses can also spring from the mind and not so much the hard work.
Matt Fitzgerald: Yeah.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Of course, it takes work. You can’t show up and do a huge endurance event without training, same for entrepreneurs. But can you talk with us a little bit about, like, your aha moment when you realized this connection, and how you’ve developed it into a specialization, as an endurance support coach nutritionist and author.
Matt Fitzgerald: Yeah. Well, the aha moment, really, where I discovered that endurance sports really are fundamentally, psychological or mental–like, that’s where the challenge really is was when I was in the 5th grade. It was, like, the 1st “long distance race” I ever did. It was maybe about a mile. And kids love to run but kids sprint. They don’t voluntarily, like, try to run fast and far. So this is the 1st time that I had ever tried to run fast and then keep going. And just the misery I experienced was just completely noble. It was unlike any sensation I had ever experienced before. But all the other kids were doing good. If they weren’t, I would have been like, hell no, I’m stopping. But I wanted to win the race and I did win the race. And afterwards, I thought, well, it helped to be fast, it helped to be skinny, but the real reason I won that race is that I was just willing to suffer. I didn’t flinch from the misery I had to go through to win the race.
So I think, almost–virtually, every endurance athlete kind of knows that that’s true, but what’s exciting is that scientists are finally catching up. And they’re proving in sort of a rigorous way for the first time that it’s really true. That, of course you need a fit body to be able to perform well as an endurance athlete, but your real fundamental limiter is your mind.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: So your book, I think, is a fantastic map, if you will, to start discovering more about yourself. And that’s one of the reasons that I love both endurance sports and being an entrepreneur. Nothing has taught me more about myself than those two. Well, that’s not true. My kids–I mean, there are lots of things that you can learn from in life. But I will tell you that those two, I’m a disciple of. I love anything and everything that has to do with improving as an athlete and as a businesswoman and being an entrepreneur.
So can you talk with us a little bit about how your work or your contacts across the world–because reading your book, I found out you kind of tapped into a great group of specialists here to help create a map to enable us as athletes, and I think also as entrepreneurs, too, understand how to cope and manage and use your mind to kind of really master some of these things to improve your performance.
Matt Fitzgerald: Yeah. To be clear, the ideas in this book are not mine. They’re really not original. [inaudible] myself kind of as a conduit. I learn from the masters, and then if I’m good at anything, it’s just communicating. And then I pass it on. And there’re really kind of two name sources of the ideas and lessons that are in my book. One is scientists who I mentioned already. And the people–psychologists and exercise scientists who are coming up with cool ways of showing exactly what it takes, like, what is mental fitness. Like, what are the skills you have to have in order to not flinch when it’s hard. And in the other group of masters is elite athletes. The top performers. Because those are the people who have to have those kills. They don’t even necessarily have to know that they have them or to be conscious of the advantages they have. They just have to have those advantages.
So the book is [inaudible] these stories, real world examples of top performances and endurance sports overcoming significant challenges with mental coping skills. So I sought out those stories because they do just a great job of making it concrete for people, making these lessons and [inaudible] concrete. But also sought out the researchers and just said, “Hey, can you dumb this down for me a bit so I can pass it on?”
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: But I am really grateful that you did, and honestly, there are certain chapters in the book that really appealed to me because they hit on things that I struggle with and ceilings that I have come up against where I literally have a belief system that I’m wired to get to a certain place as an entrepreneur and an athlete. And I can tell you they’re different, obviously, because it’s in two different parts of my life and two different passions are fueling it. But just so you know, every chapter kind of really causes you to look inside and see how it’s relevant to you. I feel that that’s a really important thing for us to maybe bring up a couple of those to share them with the audience here.
And then not to let the cat out of the bag too soon, but I’m going to be giving away five signed copies of How Bad Do You Want It as part of a podcast giveaway on this episode so you guys will have a chance to win a free copy of Matt’s book. So I have to just start because my #1 idol as an athlete is Ned Overend. And he’s my neighbor here in Durango, nicest guy you could ever meet. I have known him for 21 years, and he’s always waving at the airport, like, hugging me at the top of Mount Evans. Like, the guy is just the nicest person you’d ever meet. And he’s always so stoked.
Can you talk a little bit about what you uncovered around Ned and his passion for what he does and how it’s really carried him far beyond where anybody thought an endurance athlete could go.
Matt Fitzgerald: Yeah. So back in 1998, Ned Overend, at the age of 43 won the XTERRA World Championship, which is basically the world championship of off-road triathlon.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: That’s badass.
Matt Fitzgerald: Yeah. He was 43 and he became the oldest winner of any endurance sports world championship by 5 years. He wasn’t just the oldest, he was the oldest by 5 years to ever win at that level. And then he came back and won it again at 44 the next year. So it’s just incredible. It’s like, barrier-breaking stuff. And so the question becomes, well, how did he do it? And the short answer to that question is passion. Obviously, in athletics, youth is your friend and age is your enemy to a certain extent. I mean, you can’t just keep getting better through your entire life. Time eventually will ensure that your peek years as an athlete don’t last forever. That’s just inevitable. But some athletes do a really good job of staying at their highest level for a long time.
They sort of—as I put it, they slow down more slowly than the rest of us do. And if you look at those athletes, that’s what they have in common. Is just this unbridled passion for their sport which they keep alive. That they nurture and protect it. And they make a lot of important decisions about how they approach their sport and life in general that keep that fire alive. Sometimes, actually, it involves maintaining balance. It’s kind of a little counterintuitive. They will, at times, de-prioritize their sport in order to maintain their passion for it in the long run. And that is a good example of that as well. Just kind of kept things in balance. But, yeah.
The title of that chapter is Passion Knows No Age. And if you really want to be a high performer in any sort of endeavor, fuel it with passion.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: And that’s actually why I feel so fortunate to be working with entrepreneurs in the active outdoor lifestyle markets because we choose to be in these markets because we’re passionate about all of the products that we make and the things that we sell and use and the services we offer. And when we overwork ourselves or we join a company that doesn’t have a passion, it may look like it does in the catalog but it doesn’t have any internally as a corporation, it definitely can [inaudible] down our need to innovate. And that’s why I think a lot of people become entrepreneurs in these markets is they join it because they want to be with their tribe, and they really want to take their passion and keep it new.
And so I think the takeaway from maybe Ned’s chapter is the nurture it point that you just made. Like, make sure you’re actually taking time to enjoy what you love to do outside, and bring that creativity back in. And then I think, also, really just looking at–remembering why you got into it in the first place and remember what it feels like to succeed is also really important.
Matt Fitzgerald: Exactly.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: And in Ned’s case, that would be what it feels like to kick the you-know-what out of people who are 30-years-old [inaudible]. And I just want to add in as a little additional plug for Ned because he does our race every year here in Durango, the Iron Horse. I think he got 3rd in the men’s pro this year. Isn’t he, like, 62 now or something?
Matt Fitzgerald: Yeah.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: That is unbelievable.
Matt Fitzgerald: Yeah. It is incredible.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: It’s awesome. So anyways, I think there’s a lot of parallels and takeaways on the Ned Overent chapter, please be sure you check that one out. The other one I wanted to prompt you on is the chapter on team work and how when you’re part of a team where a group of likeminded relentlessly motivated people, how it can also pop you out of any plateau that you’re having.
Matt Fitzgerald: Yeah. Yeah. So that chapter–the story that kind of anchors it is about the 2013 World Cross Country championships where [inaudible] American Men’s Team defeated Mighty Kenya which is—I mean, that is–people who don’t know about the history of cross country running, they wouldn’t understand. But that is even more unlikely. That is even more of a David and Goliath thing than USA beating Russia at Lake Placid in the 1980 Olympics. It’s just, like–it was a shocker. If you’re an American fan of running, it was just awesome. So then, the question again as with all these chapters is, how did they do it?
And in this case, it really is–the title of that chapter is The Group Effect. I go into the–just the power of aiming for high performance in a group environment where it’s both sort of teamwork and competition that are working to your benefits. So what’s great about it’s that your self-interest are served, but also, you’re serving the interest of others. You’re all raising yourselves to a higher level.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Now you’re also an entrepreneur, Matt. Do you belong to any masterminds or are you part of any groups of people who work on businesses together?
Matt Fitzgerald: I’m really a loner. I’m not a joiner.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Han Solo.
Matt Fitzgerald: Yeah. Like a lot of writers are. They don’t like being told what to do and they don’t like telling others what to do.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: That’s [inaudible] talking a real treat.
Matt Fitzgerald: True. That’s true. So I do—it’s not like I’m living alone in a cave on a mountain top. I do collaborate. I enjoy it. But it’s pretty selective. I know the extent to which I need that outlet and that kind of support and I know where to get it and I do.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Interesting. Well, I’m putting this out there because do I feel—I guess, in our markets, this is—what I’m trying to put together is really the first community for entrepreneurs. And the goal of it—I can’t help but go back to the frame that I have around growing up doing team sports and then moving to Durango and learning mountain endurance sports and that whole culture and lifestyle. That’s the whole, like, draw for me is obtaining that team mentality where everybody kind of lifts the level of the ocean together and [inaudible] together.
So I definitely saw a lot of parallels in your group chapter to what I see people doing in masterminds. And so I wanted to make sure people also earmark that chapter because it’s definitely a good one. And then the other one that I absolutely have to bring up which I think between Ned and this one, I think this one even was my favorite because it really made me reflect to myself so much is the chapter was [inaudible]. And this isn’t what the chapter’s called, but for me, their key takeaway there, and I talk a lot about this in my blogging and on the podcast is not having those limiting beliefs in that baggage and BS, like, get in the way of what you’re capable of doing in your life–whether it’s as an athlete or as entrepreneur.
And having grown up in a family with three brothers–my dad was, like, an amazing athlete, we’re all amazing athletes, honestly. Like, looking back and what we did. But we all have what we call the Carpenter Head Syndrome. Like, bad head. And nobody knew how to coach us through that. And I can remember my dad finally found a book when I was in college that was, like, mental toughness training for athletes. And that was the first time I ever even knew that your head had anything to do with it, to be honest. I shouldn’t have captain hindsight, but look at what I could have done, maybe, if I had my head together with my athletic ability and my youth.
And I don’t want to have that get in the way of my business, too. So I really wanted to take some time to talk about your chapter with Siri Lindley because it’s an incredible story. So if you could just give a quick, like, what was the amazing–like, what made you choose her, I guess, is the best way to convey that message to your readership.
Matt Fitzgerald: Yeah. So, Siri Lindley, for those who don’t know, she was a top American triathlete in the late 1990s up just past 2000. And the very first Olympic triathlons took place in 2000 in Sydney. And Siri Lindley was considered a lock to make that team. She was supposed to make it. She was the best female American triathlete at the time. And there were two qualifying races for three slots. And she choked horribly in both of them and failed to make it to the Olympics. So that was a major crisis for her and lead to a lot of soul-searching and search for answers. And to her credit, she changed some things. And the very next year, she was the world champion of the sport. So, I’m going to talk about comebacks. So she basically overcame the Carpenter Head or the–a propensity for choking.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Yes. And that is–just knowing that it’s possible because, I don’t know, I may be getting a little too philosophical here but your book really was a game-changer for me, Matt. So much so that I actually reached out to Siri Lindley. I’ll probably have her on a future podcast. But her story resonated with me so strongly. First of all, I also wanted to share with the audience that she actually had no background in swim, bike, and run. She was a ball and bat sport girl going into triathlons. So the fact that she picked it up when she heard there was going to be an Olympics for it, and then was the top person by the time that came around–what was it, a six-year span? Is that right?
Matt Fitzgerald: Yep.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: So she accomplished that, and I took notice there, but then the fact that she could really overcome what she did and learn as much as she did and show up and realize what she had to change–and a lot of it was done through athletics and learning how to push your body in the coping mechanisms that you talk about in your book, I felt like, God, if I could get my arms around what that was–I just wonder what I can do in my life. Because I’ve got all kinds of junk going on up there.
Matt Fitzgerald: Right. Yeah.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: And I like to think I’m a pretty positive person, but I have to work on every day.
Matt Fitzgerald: Yes. Well, I mean, shoot. What we all do [inaudible] that we all have limiters and obstacles. Because when you’re challenged, when you’re stressed in your pursuit of difficult goals, the weak link in your psychological chain, will be found. We all have one, at least.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: I just feel like you do thankfully go into her coaching career also and how there’s a lot that can be taken if anybody who’s listening has struggled with this or maybe has come up against the wall that feels familiar, this is a chapter you definitely want to read. Not only because it will help you look inside, but it also helps you realize there are pretty quick solutions to be had, if you really put your mind to it and make the changes that you need to. So that was a fantastic chapter. So I love that and it really changed a lot for me, so thank you.
And then the last one I have to bring up because I just really enjoyed it so much is the one on Steve Prefontaine. And he’s actually on the cover. And the reason I thought this would be a great one for us to close with, Matt, is because I felt like it opened the door and it made just a very inclusive feeling to the sport of running, and in the bike market, believe it or not. Verde is very dedicated to working to bring more women into the sport and to help retailers understand how to sell product to women and throw the number of female cyclists in their community. It’s definitely a lot of habitual thinking and limiting beliefs going on there.
But what I love so much about your chapter on [inaudible] is that you show there are two groups that formed in terms of people with their allegiances and their identities with running. And I love that [inaudible] was really kind of hardcore. Okay. Very hardcore. No, kind of. And then one was very much like anybody can join who wants to get exercise. And both were equally cool. So can you talk a little bit about the mindset that kind of brought that chapter together for my audience?
Matt Fitzgerald: Yeah. So obviously, the title of the book is How Bad Do You Want It, which really points to motivation, right? Which is a huge part of the psychology of high performance. But really, is there a way to get into motivation until that chapter, which is the last chapter of the book–and I’m talking about the importance of it and the individuality of motivation and where it comes from. That’s just kind of the point is that motivation is a very individual thing. In order to perform at the highest level, you have to know what the meaning of that story is, for you. Why am I doing this? Why does it matter to me? Why is it worth giving it everything I got? The answers to those questions are not the same for every person as you alluded to.
I touched on that as it relates to running, in the book by talking about Steve Prefontaine who is very quotable. He was kind of like the Muhammad Ali of running. He said, to give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift. So he almost didn’t even care whether he won or lost. I mean, he did. But his thing, he wanted to finish a race and know that he made it an honest race. That everyone went to their limit. His tactics weren’t always even good. He would just run as hard as he could from the start, and part of that was a sense of—he wanted to honor the fans. It was like people who came out there to see something, not just to see a bunch of guys jog 24 laps and sprint the last one. So there was that. And that’s what motivated him.
But then there are other people who just are on the other end of the spectrum. The specific example l gave in the book is John “The Penguin” Bingham. One of his mantra was the courage to start. Which is, it’s actually not that different. Because if you’re terrified to start, that’s a big deal, to take that lead. But what’s interesting is that, The Penguin, he was a runner for a while, and he kind of came to the same place [inaudible] in a different way. He thought–well, he was slow. That’s why he called himself The Penguin. He kind of wobbled. They thought, well, if I’m not naturally fast, then what’s the point of trying as hard as I can? What’s the point of leaving it all out there? And he ended up deciding–you know what? There’s just as much point for me to give everything I have as there is for people who are capable of winning races. And the rewards are the same.
When you really challenge yourself, whether you’re gifted or not, fast or slow, you go on that same journey of internal exploration and you grow from it. And if you only sort of—you can run for any reason you want. It can be a social outlet, it can be weight loss or whatever. But there are special awards that are reserved for those—again, whether they’re fast or slow–who just test their limits and see what happens when they try to reach higher than they’re initially capable of doing.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: I think that you totally hit the nail on the head there. And when you said the courage to start, that to me, is probably 90% of the people that find my community is they’re online and they’re just looking for somebody who might resemble them that gives them permission by looking at all of the content. Like, you know what? I probably can do this. I just feel like that is such a huge part of it. And then we also have the icons who are the [inaudible] who just leave it all out there and go big all the time. And I think they’re equally important. So both of these archetypes are—they almost give us a way to justify the belief we have about our own identities, I think. I saw a little bit, aspirationally, of myself in [inaudible] even though I’m, like, 5 million years old and a mom and trying to do what I do on a bike.
But that got me fired up. But then when I read about the penguin, I was like, now this guy, he had a huge impact on bringing sport to people who’ve just thought they couldn’t have it because they weren’t XYZ. And that also is really meaningful to me and it’s so important for an entrepreneur to know you have this idea for a reason. Like, explore it, take steps with it every day, and just start. You don’t have to leave your job to do that. And that was just super inspiring to me. So I know you’re not a business book writer but there’s a part of me that wants to see if we can write a book together.
Matt Fitzgerald: There’s that expression “life is a marathon.” I am talking about endurance sports in the book but it does transcend it.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: And so is being an entrepreneur. Just what I think just stacked up so perfectly for me with this book, and for my audience is the fact that you bring it in from the sport frame, if you will. And so many of my—the people in my audience can relate with that. Because that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing. We love to be outside, be active, test ourselves, and be part of that natural landscape. So I can’t thank you enough, Matt, for taking the time to take with my people here today, and I’m so stoked that we’re going to do a book giveaway together. And just know this book was a game-changer for me. it really has been. There’ve been very few books in my adult life where I bought a bunch of copies and given them to friends, and yours was one of them. So just know that finding this book was a big thing for me. And I just wanted to say thanks.
Matt Fitzgerald: That is music to my ears. I really, really appreciate hearing that.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Yeah, and I hope that we’ll get to have you back on the show. Maybe for a future book launch or to talk about how you’ve structured your business. Because I have a lot of freelancers in my audience, not that that’s what you are, but they’re curious to know how to expand the way you have and how to try doing books. And so I’d love to have you back, maybe just to even talk about that a little bit.
Matt Fitzgerald: You bet.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Cool. Well, thank you, again. I really appreciate your time.
Matt Fitzgerald: Thank you, Kristin.