Marc Champagne – Author of “Personal Socrates” and Host of “Behind The Human” Podcast

Episode 187

Do you know what it means to be mentally fit? Our guest today is here to teach us what it means and how to use it to our advantage. Marc Champagne is the author of Personal Socrates and host of the top-50-ranked fitness podcast, Behind the Human. Marc is an entrepreneur and in this episode, he shares the challenges he faced in his own entrepreneurial journey. Great insight on how important it is to ask questions and take time to reflect on them as well. Lots of good stuff to look forward to on this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow. You don’t want to miss it!

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be, I want to just sort of make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked out knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Kara golden show. So join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone, its Kara golden from the Kara golden show. And I am so excited to have my next guest here. We have Mark champagne just like it sounds. And just like it spelled, I should say I like that the champagne is what I’m trying to say sorry, it’s a early morning here. And Mark is an awesome, awesome author, podcast host and overall has some great insight on mental fitness, which he’s going to talk a bit about. So Mark, as I mentioned, has a top 50 ranked podcast called behind the human, which I have actually been a part of as well, too. So thank you, Mark for having me for sure. And he previously co founded the journaling app that many might remember called to and spelled k y o which reached over 86 million people. We’re going to talk a little bit about that. And as I mentioned now he’s the author of an incredible book that is coming out in October called personal Socrates. And I absolutely loved it. We’re going to get into that as well. But, Mark, welcome to the show. I’m so excited to have you here.

Marc Champagne 2:05
So my Kara, thank you so much. We should had a mimosa to kick this thing off.

Kara Goldin 2:11
I know. Right? It’s so fun. So take us back a little bit. You know, I read your book, obviously, some incredible questions and and sort of interviews with amazing, interesting people in the book too. But it made me think Were you always like a really curious kid? or How were you? How did people describe you growing up?

Marc Champagne 2:38
It that? It’s a great question, because I’ve just actually started to think about where all of these questions may have come from, like as a kid, because no doubt that it was very clear that I would say probably about 10 1015 years ago, we actually were talking with us before we hit record, but a mutual connection, Chase Jarvis is someone that I had started following for a photography standpoint. And I was learning from him. I mean, just from a distance. And I will only share that because what what photography had done, for me at that point was teach the element of paying attention to details, and seeing the light and seeing, you know, the shadow in the corner, if you’re walking down the street are always seeing where the photo is. And for me, that’s where it kind of kicked up this whole idea of being present, and starting to be curious of what in that case, what I’m seeing. And I think, you know, I think that translated into asking more questions as I got into my my day work, which, which was about 10 years in the corporate world, and just asking more questions and trying to understand, you know, how, essentially how I could stand out from the pack of people that were being hired and trained up. That’s when I started really diving into mental fitness practices, because I was getting up earlier in the morning and reading positive things and coming across all of these different journaling practices. And, and that was the big kind of opening moment that I never would have predicted I’d be where I am right now, you know, so first of all writing a book about this or having a podcast about it. But that’s where it all started.

Kara Goldin 4:16
So interesting. So you were the co founder of Keo, which was a journaling app that reached over 86 million people and a couple of years. I mean, so incredible. What inspired you to create the app?

Marc Champagne 4:34
Well, so going back to that, that corporate world where like I said, I spent about a decade there, and I was getting up early during the reading I just mentioned and then like I said quickly became aware of a practice like journaling because it seemed like a lot of people were doing this. And they were talking about in these articles about just spending time in the early mornings reflecting. So what I would do is I would I grab the Pick the prompts. This is before podcasts. I mean, I’d be reading Success Magazine or various publications and picking out these prompts. And then I’d write them down. And the next morning, I would I think, at that time, I was probably using Microsoft Word. And I paste in the question. And I would reflect on that based on where I was at in my life and what was going on. And I just kept doing that. And over the years, eventually started using different apps. And you know, like Apple notes, and there were, there were some other journaling apps available, but they were essentially word processors, there was nothing at the time, that resembled something like a headspace or calm, you know, and how they do a really good job guiding people through meditation, there was nothing in the space of guided journaling on the digital side of things. And, you know, that was kind of that scratch your own itch scenario where, well, if nothing exists, and I don’t come from an entrepreneurial background, but I was just so frustrated with the lack of tools there. I linked up with my brother in law and said, Hey, here’s my frustration over the last decade, you know, he was an entrepreneur, so you know, had some trust there. And and we got along really well. And just asked, Would you like to explore creating some sort of app to try to solve this problem? And that’s how it started.

Kara Goldin 6:18
So you saw kind of this, this whole the space? And again, this was before seven, these others that have come out that you mentioned, obviously, it was appealing to a lot of people, why did you make the decision to shut it down?

Marc Champagne 6:33
Yeah, that’s a good question. It’s still I mean, it’s still a sensitive one in the sense that there’s, there are questions on how, like, how could that have actually happened? Right? I mean, I’ll never forget, I was I was in a co working space in Toronto, Canada, and I had the apple dashboard up, which, you know, had all our metrics, and it said, 86 point 9 million people in terms of App Store impressions. And we had hundreds of 1000s of downloads, and people using it. And the next step was to hit delete from App Store. And I remember the flurry of questions just like how could we fail at such a colossal level? What What would my ex colleagues think, because I left the job that I was doing really well in and that I actually quite enjoyed to pursue this because I didn’t want to regret not trying this idea. So there was just this, this this fear and anxiety around deleting the app and what led to that, you know, it’s not more complicated than the fact that our business model didn’t work. And then we reached a lot of people, I was using a lot of the brand strategies that I had learned about and was deploying in, in my, in my product manager role in that corporate environment in the pharmaceutical world, and collaborated with a ton of different experts and brands, you know, VaynerMedia, and LinkedIn and Lego and Adam Grant and just, you know, people that had credibility in all these different spaces to pull in their reflective questions. And that’s those questions were guiding people in the app. So Apple started featuring the app all around the world, as new apps, we love our app of the day, when we started getting these App Store impressions. But, you know, just as fast as people were coming in, people were coming out, as you know, at the same rate, essentially. And, you know, we spent probably a good year, trying to sort all of that out. And a lot of development challenges, three, four development teams that are all around the world. I mean, that was a nightmare. And finally, we landed on a team locally in just outside of Toronto, which came at, you know, a much higher cost, obviously. And we had just finished our first round of user research, because up until then, we were creating a product essentially, for me, it was solving my need, but I mean, I wasn’t, you know, the the end user like everyone else, there were there were some gaps in there. So we got to this point where we had a very clear roadmap on what what we need to do next. But we’re also not naive to the fact that we weren’t going to nail that in the next product iteration. And we had no idea how many of those iterations would be required. And we were already really financially strapped and mentally strapped. And, you know, I had, I mean, you can probably relate to this as well. And, you know, I had one year old at the time. We were my wife, and we were all living in Toronto in a place that we couldn’t afford. I was starting to get really nervous that the one year old was picking up on the stress as much as we were trying to obviously, you know, shield him of that. And just something I learned from Scott Belsky, I just lost the conviction for that app. Or that medium, I should say, not for the space because I’m still in it. But I lost the conviction to continue forward. down that avenue. I had picked up information and I could see where some because other apps were starting to launch now that were heavily funded. And I could see how much we had to do to really compete in that level and figured you know, There’s probably another way to continue in this space. And that’s what led to that decision.

Kara Goldin 10:04
So interesting. And you still own the the own, but you still have the names of the people. I mean, if you decided to start a backup or you know, yeah, stuff,

Marc Champagne 10:14
all the code, it’s one of the developers call it spaghetti code. But we do have the code that we can work with, and all the content and the data and whatnot. I mean, I spent a good six months afterwards, really close in conversation, actually, with the team over at comm about acquiring, you know, pieces of the data and whatnot. And, you know, trying to figure out a nice integration between people are either journaling before meditating, meditating, or after, typically, in terms of what we used to see. So how could, you know, we could bring the insights that we had on hundreds of 1000s of reflective questions that were in the app, and marry those up with the, you know, the the guided meditations didn’t work out, I got close, but I tried

Kara Goldin 10:59
hiding. And the reason why I was really asking so many questions on on this topic is I think it’s, it touches on something that I always share with entrepreneurs, that if you don’t believe, and you’re, you know, really feeling like you’re not 100% in then you it’s, it’s really key to do what you did, and I think it’s, it’s, if you don’t believe no one else is going to believe that that person that’s really carrying the torch needs to, you know, be in it. And I think when Yeah, you know, what you’re talking about, too, for whatever reason is, you know, it’s something that a lot of founders, I think, go through, you were a co founder, which is great, at least you’ve got somebody else in there, but it’s, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of stressful days that go in that maybe not every job is and being an entrepreneur and being a founder that I think we don’t always talk about, and certainly your you know, like you said, it’s a it’s one for many mental health and mental fitness, you know, it seemed like, you know, you definitely made the decision that was right for you, which is amazing. But going on. So you talked about, you know, afterwards like shutting it down at, like, how did you make the transition to kind of lift yourself up and sort of go into doing something next? I mean, what was I love? You know, like, when I hear that people did have that moment, and then they pick themselves up? How do you do that? How do you, you know, bounce back?

Marc Champagne 12:39
Such a great question. And because I, you know, I guess the way I described the whole situation, but deleting the app, and all of that SAP probably sounds like you know, was a one step process. And then I moved on, but those, those, we’ll call them those years, were the hardest of my life. Because at that time, you know, when I, when I made the decision to leave the corporate world, the question I had asked myself is what’s the worst that can happen? And, and the worst that could happen, essentially happened in somewhat of a way. But the way I was looking at it was the worst that can happen. If I go down that route, then I just come back, I come back to this industry, I was doing well, I’ve highly connected in that space. What I didn’t predict was, as I jumped into mental fitness, and all this preventative health, I just didn’t feel aligned with going back to the pharmaceutical world. It just, it didn’t feel right anymore. And I wanted to stay in the space. But I had just deleted the vehicle that was keeping me in the space. So now I’m left with no backup plan. And again, all that stress and financial tension. And for the first time in my life since before University, no plan forward. So those days were those days were tough. I mean, I felt physically sick. I remember waking up and just you know, looking in the mirror and, and looking at myself and seeing essentially like a broken version of myself and wondering how the hell am I going to get out of this? And what like, what can I do? And just again, asking kind of all the wrong questions around, you know, why did this happen? Like, why why us in this case, and you’re just questions that lead you further down into the pit versus, and this is when I came to the realization that I’ve interviewed so many incredible humans because of this experience. And they’re all asking a very different set of questions. Right? And you’re the same way and I’ve got a list of your questions. But they’re all questions that are more progressive. And that led me to what do I want for my life? And that question was the unlock to least start a plan? Okay, well, if this is what if this is the ideal scenario, and this is what I want? Well, then who do I need to speak to? And what’s the first step and then that least gave some drive and some motivation Some hope to, you know, get up every morning and work hard. And this is where I’m going. I mean, it took a whole bunch of trial and error. But finally, I landed in a place that feels very much aligned with this book. And just speaking about this and working with different teams around, like how to be mentally fit, and the differences. And I don’t, I wouldn’t have known this until getting to this point. But the difference between now and the app is that there’s still a ton of financial struggle, but doesn’t feel as relevant. It just, it feels like that stuff is all gonna work itself work itself out because I’m on the right path. I love it. No, so, so

Kara Goldin 15:39
super, super great. So you talk about mental fitness. What does that define that for people? Like what? Yeah, I mean,

Marc Champagne 15:49
well, mental fitness, I mean, there’s there, you know, official definitions, the my definition came out of necessity when talking about the app, because at that time, when I would speak about it, people would look at me and say, Oh, so you’re talking about journaling? Or a diary, like the girl that’s writing about the boy at school? That’s 12 years old or something, right? And I would say, you know, no. And first of all, there’s nothing wrong with that. But no, I’m talking about questions that you’re buying their books, or you’re, you’re watching their TED Talks, and you’re studying these people like the Picasso’s of the world, and they’re asking big questions, and they’re reflecting on questions all throughout life. And, you know, those questions are the ones that, for me really, really lead mental fitness. So I had to start talking about it from from, from this perspective of mental fitness as an umbrella, so that I wouldn’t get looped into, oh, you’re only talking about mental health, which, obviously, there’s a ton of stigma around there. And that’s, there’s, there’s all these different areas that we can go down. I’m talking about mental fitness that includes mental health, mental resiliency, mental performance, all of it, right. And it’s and it’s also something I think that’s relatable to people, because of physical fitness, you know, we make the decision to be physically fit, we put in the effort, it’s it’s on our merit that we want to be healthy, let’s say. And you can think of it as mental fitness in the same way. So there’s, there’s just more of a positive I think, connotation to mental fitness. But I talked about care to really anything that you’re doing to train your mind.

Kara Goldin 17:28
I know I loved it, and you talked so your new book, personal Socrates, it doesn’t come out until October, but you can preorder now. And the book is an exploration. I will I guess it’s already you know, we’re in September right now. And so yeah, I mean, how did that happen? By the way, I’m just, it’s crazy. So the book is an exploration of introspection, and the questions that shape the minds of high functioning individuales. Tell me about one of your favorite interviews in the book.

Marc Champagne 18:06
Oh, you know, that’s a loaded question. Kara.

Kara Goldin 18:09
I’m gonna see if you’re yours is my favorite.

Marc Champagne 18:12
Yeah, well, both. I mean, they’re there. First of all, it was so hard to pick which interviews are which which people to profile that are either because everyone that that’s in there that’s alive today, I’ve interviewed and anyone that’s that is no longer around, at least as of right now. I had to do the research on it, like Kobe Bryant, for example, example, or Jane Austen or Coco Chanel. I mean, I haven’t interviewed those, those people. But it was just so hard to pick, you know who to, to, to bring into the fold. And I had to really look at Well, I really just like the app, I really want to meet people where they’re at in their life and approach this subject from a different narrative than what most people are used to like meditation coaches, or yoga instructors, where you assume that these practices will come up. So that’s why there are people like my Angelou or Picasso or Kobe Bryant or Cal fuss. Minh is one of my favorite interviews in there. Because probably because he that that story in his path relates the most to where I’m at right now in my life in terms of interviewing people and trying to find the best questions. And I couldn’t ask for a better scenario, because that’s the intent of the book that if I wrote this properly, my answer to your question in six months should be a different profile. The idea is that, you know, you land into it, and that it, whatever resonates with you right now is where you know where you should probably go, because that’s what you need right now. Which one was your favorite on now? I’m curious.

Kara Goldin 19:46
Well, you I mean, obviously, you didn’t meet with him. But Kobe Bryant’s I thought was really interesting. I mean, the way that you know you, you sort of framed it but Larry King was actually one that I thought was interesting, maybe because I used to work at Siena. And then and you know, when he was on there, like I think every Friday night, I mean, it was, you know, definitely I always thought he had really kind of, he was one of the first people that I remember kind of having, like the weird questions that, you know, we’re just sort of like, Yeah, that’s a good point, you know, and I remember just watching him, you know, ask these questions, and he definitely did have some gotchas that came in there, you know, when he Yeah, like, you could just see people squirming a little bit, but I don’t know, I just kind of appreciated that one in particular, I loved actually Coco Chanel, too, when I was

Marc Champagne 20:41
so hard to write, yeah, I

Kara Goldin 20:42
mean, so hard. I remember in in Paris A few years ago, I mean, I obviously knew who Coco Chanel was. But somewhere along the way, I’d seen her like, you know, the Chanel headquarters and had, I had read in one of the, like, travel books that I had had a much more background on her. And I was like, Wow, she’s really interesting. So anyway, reading hers, was was pretty was pretty interesting as well. So I, but you know, it’s just thoughtful, right? Like, you just think about, I think, in many ways, even thinking back on the people that aren’t around anymore. Like, that’s what I kept where my head kept going on this, like, what are the questions? I would ask these, you know, people if you knew you had more time, right, or you were lucky to have that interview with them. So anyway, I think it was, I loved it made me you know, super think about things and obviously good. You’re, you know, you’re an incredible question. asker yourself. But I think it really, it really starts with kind of the Curiosity more than anything that we all like, have in US deep down. You know, you had said like journaling sometimes gets a bad rap, I guess, in some ways, but I really do think that, you know, when people start doing it, I mean, I wrote my book, based off of my journal, and getting down for me was when I was out public speaking, people would ask me questions, and at the end of my talks, and then I would answer the questions most of the time, if I didn’t know the answers, and I would say, you know, I don’t really know. But I would always go back to my room and take those questions and start journaling things out about what that’s the

Marc Champagne 22:33
difference. Right? Right. Because we’re all asking questions. I mean, that’s the thing. We’re all asking questions. It’s just, they’re either surface level, like, Oh, you know, where do I want to work? Where do I want to live? And, you know, they’re big decisions like that. But then they kind of stopped there versus what you’re doing, and actually taking some dedicated time and being still enough to then really dive into those questions. Like, that’s, that’s the sweet spot that I’ve noticed with all of these interviews, and you obviously fall into that same same bucket is that there’s some dedicated time to think, and if we can drop the definition of journaling, even if it’s pen to paper, like, I don’t care what you’re using, the practice is reflection. That’s the key, whether you’re doing that on a voice note, or you’re typing that or you’re writing pen to paper. I mean, there is good science that suggests that pen to paper is probably the best method from a retention and what’s the word? I’m looking for retention? And, you know, just the the opportunity for that stuff to actually come to fruition if you’re actually writing out goals and things like that. But it’s still better to do any other method if if you’re not going to do it in the first place. Yeah, it’s no action that counts.

Kara Goldin 23:46
Well, and I kept thinking, too, I mean, obviously, most of the audience for for my podcast is, is wants to hear from founders and CEOs. And obviously, you’ve done that. But also, how do we become better leaders in general? And I kept thinking that if people actually did ask the questions, that that’s that’s the way that we all learn, through ask questions. But we always, you know, when you start asking probing questions, that’s how you’re, you know, kind of upping your game and in some way, whether it’s, you know, a division that you’re working in, or innovation, or there’s so many ways to think about it. So you write that, as individuals were one question away from a completely different outcome. What are some of the most important questions you’ve asked yourself? And maybe that’s also something that we can kind of share with people on how do they become better too?

Marc Champagne 24:55
Yeah, absolutely. Well, I mean, I won’t, I won’t go back into it. I mean, Because the the most important question definitely in this journey was that, you know, what do I want from my life? question because that that broke the that broke the internal looping narrative that was driving me essentially into a deep depression. So it’s between gratitude in the present moment to stop that narrative to have enough space to even, you know, write down in five minutes and answer that question. That’s all it took to do that eventually. But I think the one that I gravitate towards the most, and usually early mornings is when there’s a lot going on. And there are opportunities that are popping up all over the place, or big decisions to be made is just the question, What am I hearing, and just taking some time with that, and again, tapping into your intuition, because I mean, we, we have all the data, if we can just allow enough space, and bring enough clarity to our mind, our mind will do the work. It’s all up there. It’s just like our minds, like a beautiful, huge library. It’s just Unfortunately, most of us and just life happens. It’s like that it’s like you’re in the library, and someone’s pushed over the bookshelves. And now you’ve got to kind of like rummage through the books to find the one that piece of knowledge you’re looking for. And that’s where mental fitness, right? That’s where mental fitness can clean up the, you know, that mess and be allow you to go and see, okay, well, this is the step that feels the most right, like, I’ve got the data. And this feels like it’s the right move forward. And then you can you can make some, you know, intentional steps down that direction.

Kara Goldin 26:42
So asking yourself, what, what am I hearing? Is, is I mean, that it? That’s, that’s a really great question, actually.

Marc Champagne 26:53
Well, on the other another one that that’s similar. And, you know, I brought up Kalfa Simmons profile, but one that he had left with me, specifically when writing, but you can use this really for, for anything, whether you want to you’re preparing a presentation, or you’re working on a brand strategy, like whatever it is, is to write down the question, what do I want to say? And then go to sleep? And then first thing you do when you wake up? Have a glass of water? Ideally, hint? And then answer that question, right? And answer it just without thinking about but again, the stillness of your mind throughout the night, like your mind is working on these things. And then you’re waking up without, you know, stimulus from your phone and meetings and all that stuff. And then now you can unload the answers. And because we’ve got them, we’ve got to say the question again, what do I want to say? What Yeah, the first one would be? What do I mean? There’s similar questions, and you can use the the morning, the morning wakeups strategy for both, but it’s what am I hearing? Or Kalfa summons was? was what do I want to say?

Kara Goldin 28:02
I love it. I love it. Those are? Those are awesome. Those are going to be my new things, my new things for the week that I’m going to be yes. And maybe maybe beyond. I’ll keep you posted. I love it. It’s so great. So tell me and the listeners a little bit more about, first of all, how they can follow you repeat your podcast, we’ll have it in the show notes as well, but and also your book so that everybody can go out and get a copy of it.

Marc Champagne 28:31
Yeah, well, I mean, the easiest place would just be behind the human calm. That’s my personal page, and everything will link out from there. The book will be available, preorder October 1. It’ll be available on Amazon, but also independent bookstores. And if you order directly from Baron figs website was the publisher. They’re going to be offering a whole bunch of like special pre order goodies and things like that. And I’m biased. I’m a big fan of their brand. There’s a lot of really cool things, notebooks and pens and stuff like that, that you’ll probably dive into on their website. But October 19 is the big day. And yeah, behind the human, that’s where it’s at. And I would just encourage everyone, if you’re picking up the book and going through things, just be open and really follow your intuition, you know, in terms of which profile or prompt feels right for you, and start there. And just be kind to yourself. Yeah, well,

Kara Goldin 29:31
it was such a great book. And it was it’s a fast read, but it’s it’s one of those ones that I’m going to have lots of yellow highlighters in there. And I was like, Oh, that’s really interesting. You know, it’s an interesting question to think about, but it’s, it’s definitely going to be sitting on my bookshelf, for sure. So Mark, thank you so much for sharing a little bit more about all of your goodies that you have but also just about your experience and About how to think about those great questions and think more about just how we all kind of up our game a little bit. Thanks everyone for listening and if you like this episode, definitely give it five stars or on all the platforms that are out there and also definitely follow mark. He is doing some amazing stuff and is such a thoughtful leader and definitely come on my social channels at Kara golden I’m doing a ton of writing and thoughts on lots of different stuff. And of course, if you haven’t already picked up a copy of my book undaunted, overcoming doubts and doubters, please do it’s also on Audible. And thanks, everyone for listening. We’re here every Monday and Wednesday with amazing interviews and I really appreciate all of you have a great rest of the week. before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where by new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the book calm and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara golden and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara golden thanks for listening