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Mindset Shift with Former UFC Fighter, Charlie "The Spaniard" Brenneman

You are in for a delight. I am super fired up to bring you this show with Charlie “The Spaniard” Brenneman. What's fascinating about Charlie is he is just your average guy that took a couple of actions in life and set him on the path to being ranked in the world, number seven to be exact, at one point in MMA. I know you're thinking, “Dustin, I'm not a fighter. How can I benefit from this show?” This show is up there in the top five for the number of times I personally laughed. I know it's going to be educational. It's going to be funny and that you're going to benefit from it. This show is about mindset. It's about the journey and how getting knocked down as “The Spaniard” has been knocked down cold nationally on television in front of half a million to a million people. What that's like and how do you recover from that?

In addition, we talked about the value of education and I know you understand the value, otherwise, you wouldn't be here. We talked about what are some things that you can do to up your game and how you can actually be bolder in your life. Not out of control bold or on a tier but how you can step up in your life to get more things. If you feel like you haven't been playing the game at the level that you know you can play the game at and you feel like you can up your life in different areas, then I believe this episode will challenge you and at the same time will make you laugh.

Dustin
Spaniard, for most of your life you were a good athlete but just seemingly shy of that next elite level. In the span of a few short years, you, a 5’10” junior high school Spanish teacher from a sleepy town in Pennsylvania, found yourself number seven in the world in professional Mixed Martial Arts. I want to start here. How do you go from your average Joe guy to being ranked worldwide in Mixed Martial Arts?
Charlie
That’s fun and funny. I hadn't thought of it in that context for a long time. I thought it was going to start back to when I was a kid and wrestling and when you said 5’10” Spanish teacher, I was like, “Oh my goodness.” If I show my wife the pictures of me when I was teaching, it’s not flattering. She does not like it. I post college wrestling. I had a pretty successful Division I wrestling college career. I finished top twelve in the nation in my last year. Then it was like, “Let’s hit the brakes off a bit.” I got a little plump and a little soft. Then one day on a whim, it was basically, “I want to be a UFC fighter.”
I saw a friend of mine doing it and thought I can do that. At that time, I weighed about 190 pounds. I was pretty soft, fluffy cheeks and I made a commitment right then and there. I hear a lot about connectivity in shooting or pursuing something. You see someone who you think is normal or average and they do these extraordinary things and then all of a sudden you believe you can do it. That's what happened. Friends of mine were fighting in the UFC and I thought, “I can do it.” It was that blind faith, but then playing on Napoleon Hill, it was backed by unwavering faith and work. I knew what I wanted to do and the thing with fighting that drove me extra more than wrestling or any other competitive outlet that I had was the fear of getting my butt kicked in a fistfight. I did not want it to happen. That drove me to levels beyond what I had been capable of prior.
Dustin
If I got my research right in getting to understand you and your story, you mentioned UFC, you said you got your buddy that inspired you. You saw what they were doing over there. I thought I discovered that the impetus was your application or your desire to be on this reality TV show, Pros vs. Joes. I thought that was a big pivotal point in your story. I want to get to how did you even get notified that there was that reality TV show that you applied to?
Charlie
That’s a good pickup on your end because that is a super pivotal point of this story. I consciously omitted it because I thought, “That was a long answer, I'll just stop talking now.” Basically, I was teaching Spanish. I'm getting bored but I hadn't gotten to my wits end of wanting to change directions in life. I was a high school wrestling coach and I was the assistant. We went out to Ohio for a coaches’ conference. Because of signing up to go, we got email. We filled out our email address so we would get promotional mail from whatever. It was from that that I got a promotional email from a show that was being created called Pros vs. Joes.
It was complete luck, chance, happenstance or whatever. It came at the right time to where I thought, “Yeah.” I put on hypothetically because I was typing but I thought, “What should I say? How should I come off? I should make them think I'm this or that.” I sent a confidently and humble email and it just went back and forth. I learned that it was legit. There was a long screening process and I was fortunate because Pros vs. Joes lasted four or five seasons and this was the first. There was not a lot of murmur about it. It wasn't being talked about. I had no idea how many people applied but through whatever, I was picked. I was like, “Yeah, right.”
Then I got the itinerary and the flights and I was like, “This is actually happening.” When I was out there, this is where it becomes relevant to what we're talking about. For that show, it was a physical show. Pros vs. Joes, amateur athletes taking on professional athletes. At that time, fighting was not even a thought of mine. I prepared for it. It was the first time in my life where I realized, “My preparation was more than my opponent’s preparation and I won.” That became a positive correlation there. Out-prepare, win. Of course, it's not black and white but that was my mindset. I thought if I can outwork everybody, I can win a lot. What do I want to apply that mindset to? The only thing that made sense was professional fighting.
Dustin
Did you know who was going to be on the show? Were you intimidated at all or were you in the dark?
Charlie
I did not know, especially the Joes. I did not know the Joes until we got there. We didn't even know the pros. I have to talk to my brother because he was part of it as well. I don't think we knew the pros either until we got there. It's one of those things. I explained professional fighting in a way such that it's almost like getting on an airplane. It's so overwhelming. A professional fight is so overwhelming that I equate it to getting on an airplane. Once you're in an airplane, it's out of your hands. It's all done. You're sitting there and a fight is very much the same way. It's going to happen. If you didn't put in the work, it's going to show. Even if you did, you might get unlucky and then it's going to be bad. It is what it is. That show was a little bit like that in the sense that it was so cool and it was so outside of my life at that time that it was like, “I don't care. I'm just happy to be here. This is great.” That lack of worry or angst helped me.
Dustin
I love that and now because you’re right, if you're on an airplane, you’ve given it up to the gods as to what happen. You say this show was a mindset shift. Before you said you were soft and you were bored and so you get on this show. What does that do? What's going through your head after winning the show? How does your mindset shift?
Charlie
There was a bunch of things that came together. I had at least decent success in wrestling and I always had big hopes and dreams. I always wanted to do something. I traveled internationally for my major, I was a Spanish teacher. That opened my eyes up to the world and big things and the vastness of everything out there. I always had these big hopes and dreams. At one point post-graduating from college, I got a headshot like professional pictures taken. I don't know why. I was in a small town in Pennsylvania as a junior high Spanish teacher. Something inside of me said, it was actually at Pros vs. Joes where I have learned what a head shot was. I never even knew what it was. I learned what it was, and then I went home and signed up and paid $600 to $800.
My wife and I have these pictures. I looked like such a dork, but I always had something inside of me that said, “I wanted to do this thing.” Then when I was on Pros vs. Joes, it was like I was teaching junior high Spanish. We filmed in December of ‘06 and then it didn't air. My two episodes aired in May of ‘07, it might have been ‘05, ‘06 but that timeframe. I had to be a regular junior high Spanish teacher for five months before it aired. By contract, I wasn't allowed to tell anyone. I couldn't talk about it. I went back to my normal life with this budding amber inside of me saying this is going to be awesome. Then when it aired, it was the thing in high school. The kids, my students, they were all for it and all supportive. It was back to back weeks. I won my episode and then I came back for the finale and I won the final episode. It was just this wave. I thought I got to do something with this wave. I got to ride this somehow. Eventually, that segued into what turned out to be professional fighting.
Dustin
You win the show and then mentally from your track record, you say, “I can do this.” You go 5 and 0 as an amateur, then 5 and 0 as a pro. When you're winning a show, you've got the spotlight, you’ve got adoring fans there and you’re 10 and 0. Did your mindset say, “I was born to do this?” Did that ego creep in at this point? What was happening?
Charlie
It’s a weird thing. There are a lot of entrepreneurs or business people reading. This is a mind F. I don't know how else to put it. When you're a professional fighter, it is completely okay, normal, the proper way to say that you're the best in the world and I'm going to kick the crap out of you. It’s a normal thing. In life, it's not that way. I had to remember, realize and relearn that that idea, mentality and mindset is different in real life. You can't just walk around fighting people in real life or telling people that you're the best thing and they don't. You're going to smash them etc. It was a completely different mindset. I had this idea from wrestling that I want to do these big things and then Pros vs. Joes, and then it was what I'm going to do now, and then it was fighting. Then post-fighting is like a transfer of energy and a change of course, but the underlying ambition or drive, has been there throughout. That may be sidetracked a bit from what you asked, but that came to mind when you asked that.
Dustin
I'm personally curious. You're from a sleepy town. I can't imagine Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania is the hotbed of MMA and UFC training. Are you training in your own town at this point or do you move or what?
Charlie
You alluded to my record. I decided I want to fight. I became 5 and 0 as an amateur. I got into a big tournament down in Atlantic City. I made $14,000 on my third or fourth fight, which is crazy because 25 fights into it, I wasn't making $14,000. It was weird how that worked out. It was not that at all. I would do my best wrestling and wrestling is such an advantage in any physical combat sport. I would hone my wrestling and learn what I could. I went to an even smaller town called South Fork, Pennsylvania, which is between Altoona, Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh, a small town on a mountain. I would train there all I could and then I did not have access to world class yet. When I started winning and getting closer to the UFC, I made a decision, I have to relocate. I moved to Eastern PA, which connected me with the New Jersey circuit. In New York City and New Jersey, there are world-class and world champions etc. Gradually, it became like how boxers are groomed. I didn't necessarily groom it but as I got closer and closer, I realized I need more than what I'm getting now.
Dustin
To go back to that part, you're training, you're winning, you're moving up in the world. From what I understand, you take a kick to the face that shatters your eye socket. You lose your vision at least for a time and then you have plates inserted, is that correct?
Charlie
That's 100% correct. I was 5 and 0 professionally at that time. That was in May. It was my nephew's birthday, the 16th or 17th and I got kicked in the face. I was training with Frankie Edgar who was a buddy of mine and who's a UFC champion and another one of our buddies, Chris. Chris threw a kick and to add insult to injury, it was probably 100 degrees in this gym. I was scheduled to fight the next Friday. This was a week before my fight and it was so hot and so nasty and the stinky hot sweat box. He threw a kick and it wasn't even that hard. When you train with someone you trust, you're not trying to knock them out. Chris is a professional, but he threw it and he pulled his kick enough such that what I think happened is his toe landed right in my eyeball. I'll get graphic with it.
When it happened, my left eye went completely black. I fell to my knees. My eye was open. I couldn't see anything. I threw off my gloves, they slid off because they were so sweaty. I reached my hand. I slowly trepidatiously reached my hand up to my eyeball because I thought he kicked my eye out of my head because there was blood squirting and it was a cut. I had gotten cut but I thought I did not have an eyeball. We were frantic and they got me to the hospital and that all happened. I don’t know how it happened. I ended up getting two plates in my left eye socket. It was shattered and that was May. Then oddly and crazily enough, I fought in September. The surgeon that I had was tremendous. He was in New Jersey. He works with all kinds of professional hockey players and he was like, “We'll get you fixed up. Don't worry about it.” I was like, “You're the best. This is awesome.” My mom was like, “No, I want him to quit.”
Dustin
Typically, I would think a year because doctors want to cover their backside. I would think a year before you get back in. That's crazy. You come back from this. You triumph over this setback and you come back a lot quicker. This isn't the end of your tale because you take now the first defeat of your career. What’s going through your head, Rocky? You just come back from this and now the first defeat what’s happening?
Charlie
It was an opportunity. The guy that I lost to was John Howard. After that fight, he got signed to the UFC. It was a pretty controversial call, decision fight or whatever. The point was he won, I lost. He was in the UFC, I was no longer in the UFC. It was constant up and down, dealing with this, dealing with that. The silver lining of that was around that time, Mixed Martial Arts got sanctioned and legalized in Pennsylvania. I'm from Pennsylvania and I have a big strong following in Pennsylvania. I was able to stop making the five-plus hour trips to the Jersey shore for the casinos to fight in my backyard in central Pennsylvania. It was not nearly as glamorous as I'm on the UFC, but it was awesome. I essentially made more money because more people would come to see me fight locally in my town. I was able to fight in my backyard for four or five fights and then eventually get signed to the UFC as a much more developed solid fighter.
Dustin
Is getting a UFC contract the pinnacle of your world at that time?
Charlie
Yes, it was every fighter's pinnacle at that time. There was nothing else. There were organizations in Japan, but to me that was more so of, I don't want to say a pipe dream because it wasn't a dream. It was an alternative that I never fully considered, though you could have at that time made a lot of money fighting in Japan. It just never crossed my path. To me, it was UFC and only UFC at that time. Bellator is another major fighting promotion who has since grown. It's funny that the night before I got the call to sign my UFC contract, I had been issued a Bellator contract to get into a tournament for $100,000 grand prize, but the terms of the contract were not good at all. It was tough but I decided not to do it because the UFC was the pinnacle at that time. In present day, it's very different. Now, people are starting to say, “You might be the pretty girl or the cool dude, but it's not worth it. We're going to start checking out other places.” Other organizations are becoming bigger and bigger.
Dustin
I'm not a fighter but I'm always fascinated by the fighting story, the Rocky-like story. Before we move on to what you are up to now in the world, I want to ask you this. You’ve been knocked out cold on live TV. What’s that like?
Charlie
It’s terrible. The way I speak on stage is a lot and especially with kids. It's universal, if you go to the bathroom, you have toilet paper on your shoe or hanging out of your pants. That's embarrassing. With kids, I always use the idea of dropping your tray in the lunch room, that's embarrassing. Getting knocked out in front of a million people or half a million people, however many it was, it's the most vulnerable spot ever. I'm sure there are worst but for me that was it. You're like an unconscious dummy. It was a Matrix-like knockout so that made it even worse. You open your eyes and luckily and thankfully I had my wits about me when I opened my eyes. It seemed like Mount Everest times a million. That’s what getting up felt like. The good side of that is on the other side, who I am now and what I have to go through to deal with now is much less. It gives you a perspective. It's much less than it could have been because I went through that thing. I had to overcome that thing and on the other side, it isn’t so bad and I didn't get knocked down on live TV.
Dustin
You mentioned it was a Matrix-like knockout. What do you mean by that?
Charlie
I'm actually not a fan of the Matrix but I know there's a scene where the main character is bending backward. The gravity or something is holding him up. Danny Castillo came over with overhand right and knocked me right on the button on the chin, one punch. I was essentially like if you touched a light socket and then were shot backwards into space or shot backwards across the room. It was that type of a knockout, just clean one punch. It was perfect for him and the opposite of perfect for me. It was the worst thing in the world for me and it was perfect for him.
Dustin
Thanks for sharing and I definitely appreciate that. I know the WealthFit Nation appreciate your humility because you've had accolades and you've had highs and lows to have that perspective. I think it’s the great word there. One more thing before we depart from the fighting arena, so to say or step outside the ring. I thought I’ve read somewhere that you had a stroke. Is that correct? Was that due to boxing or fighting?
Charlie
I still don’t know what it was from. Back in 2011, I was 28, just before my 29th birthday. I woke up one morning and I went to the bathroom and then I turned around to wash my hands and the world started spinning. I went through a lot of stuff, a lot of tests, MRIs and blood work, MRAs, scan, echocardiogram and everything. I did have a stroke and I had to go to a neurologist because this was in the middle of my fighting career and I did not want to not fight. I got letters or statements or whatever from two different neurologists saying that it had nothing to do with combat sports and I’m cleared to fight. That was the only thing I needed to continue my journey. I won't say without hesitation or reservation, but for a long time after that, idiopathic I believe is the name for they can't find the cause of it.
For a long time, my every move everyday was, “Did I just stumble? Did I stumble because I had a stroke? Did I trip because I'm losing my balance?” It's this total introspection of everything. Then it got overwhelming to the point where it was like, “Just live. It happened. If it's going to happen again, it's going to happen again but take care of yourself. In the meantime, live.” Physically it was tough to get through but then also consider I'm on top of the Alpha world being a fighter fighting. That's my point and then athletic and fit and then all of a sudden you have a stroke. You're like, “This is for a 70 and 80-year-olds, not for a 28-year-old. What's going on here?” Psychologically, it was pretty tough too.
Dustin
Can I call you Spaniard? Have I earned the right?
Charlie
You can. I like it. You say it naturally. I feel like a dummy sometimes because I've heard from people, “You've got to build it. Don't ever introduce yourself as Charlie.” I feel like a fool sometimes saying, “Hi, I'm Spaniard.” I like whatever people feel comfortable enough to say it and you say it naturally so keep it rolling.
Dustin
You're big on learning and I appreciate that and everyone else appreciates that here at WealthFit because that's what we do. We're in the education and passing along valuable information. You're known as the world's toughest lifelong learner. I definitely can appreciate that after learning more of your story and seeing you battle some of the world's scariest dudes, I guess it’s the best way to say it. The thing that fascinates me is something you said. You say you can learn your way to confidence and courage and typically those things are discussed as if you’re born with them. You don’t learn from a book per se but you learn from the world. What do you mean when you say you can learn your way to confidence and courage?
Charlie
I’m the most fearful, paranoid, don't want to step on anyone's toes, don't want to bother anybody. For example at the gym, I reached for a weight when someone else reached for a weight and I felt like, “I don't want to meet this person.” I'm that person. That's who I am at my core. I've learned that by sheer persistence, sheer hard work and gaining actual know-how knowledge. The technical aspect of throwing a kick, the technical aspect of writing a book, the technical aspect of creating a podcast, all of these things are learnable. For a long time, my fear or my second guessing on myself ruled me. I use the terminology from the dance movie from the ‘80s, Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner. I put my fear in the corner with baby.
I learned by way of Pros vs. Joes that if I shut my mind up and I work so freaking hard to the point where I can look at a guy like Anthony Rumble Johnson. Anthony Rumble Johnson is one of the scariest humans on Earth. What sane human would ever think I can beat him up? If there's any answer to it, it's a person who can look at him and say, “I outworked you.” That equals to me confidence and courage and all that stuff we were talking about. It became a matter of, “Dummy, shut your mind up.” “Don't try to shut up, just forget about your mind and work stinking hard.”Then through that, it at least gives you the confidence to perform. If you think you're going to get tired, you're going to get tired. If you truly believe that you outwork the guy and you're not going to get tired, you're not going to get tired. It's the learning. All aspects of it as you alluded to and as I added as well. That's how you do it and you only do it by doing it. It's a disappointing answer to people because they want a pill or a thing, but it's not that way at all. It's a gradual process of reading, hearing and listening.
Dustin
That's ironic you say it that way because my follow-up is what about the people that get paralyze about trying to learn the next thing? Paralysis of getting a bunch of information. What do you say to those folks? Education is critical, learning is paramount however, it can be crippling too. What are your thoughts about that?
Charlie
Paralysis by analysis is a real thing. A lot of things to me are black and white because in a fight you win or you lose, period. You're the champion, the hero or the zero. That’s how I work with a lot of things. What I would say is paralysis by analysis, I deal with the same thing. I'm like you, a person who's doing a thing. I'm doing the same stuff, but with me, it gets to a point where if you're not taking action, the business concept is ready, fire, aim. Not ready, aim, fire; it’s ready, fire, aim. Hearing that for the first time and then thinking about it, processing it and then asking myself, “Do you want it?”
If you're suffering from paralysis by analysis, how bad do you want the thing? “I really want it.” You're not doing anything to get it. “I'm learning.” Learning is not going to get you the thing. You got to do something. “No, but I will.” Then you've got to ask yourself, “Do I really want it or do I not want it?” Maybe you're self-sabotaging yourself. Maybe you're not taking action because you're afraid to fail or because of something. To me, it comes down to do you really want it? Then do something to make it happen. Do something beyond learning like an actual phone call or an actual post or an actual recording or an actual speak on a stage. At the end of the day, if you can't do it then you've got to look yourself in the mirror and say, “I don't want it. I want to say that I want it, but I don't want it.”
Dustin
Right in line with that is you teaching people to be bold. Why do you resonate with that word? Why do you share this concept with others about being bold in your life?
Charlie
Because I'm that guy that's scared of everything and missed out on so much in my life because I was afraid and I didn't believe. I thought that all of those state champions, those national champions, those Olympic champions, they have this extra thing that I don't have. It must have been something they got somewhere and it's like, “No, it's not that at all.” Maybe their ability is more than mine. Maybe I won't be an Olympic champion, but what they do is work freaking hard and then they perform. It is that black and white. They don't have an extra thing. I've been with George St-Pierre and I'm friends with Frankie Edgar. I've sat behind Anderson Silva and listened to these people talk and none of them have anything that I don't have. Ability or talent or skill, that's the difference. We're not all going to be champions of the world, but the effort and the training and this and that to be your best, I was so afraid and didn't do that for so long that I see the other side of it. My fight is for that person that was like that because I want to say to them, “No.” I want to shake them and say, “Just do it.” That works. Do it.
Dustin
Other than outworking, because I guess people understand that it's more of a concept, but do you have any ideas or strategies or even tactics for that guy or that gal who is a little timid and I can totally relay to that as well, that they want to be bolder. They subscribe to this and they’re like, “I do need to step up and I do need to put fear in the corner or not shut the mind but just put it over there.” What are some things they can do on a day-to-day to immediately start taking action to being bold?
Charlie
The idea of incremental is huge. I didn't go from my Spanish classroom to fight Johny Hendricks overnight. It was a two or three-year process. Taking gradual steps is huge. The idea of long-term thinking is huge. Not wanting a thing to happen tomorrow or the next day or the next day but from the beginning saying, “This is going to take gradual steps.” The actual fruition is not going to realize itself for maybe a year, two years or five years from now. Connections, like connecting you to that thing.
The moon is super high but if you can connect yourself to the top of a tree that's in your neighborhood, that's great. You get to the top of tree, then you see a bird and then you climb to the bird and that's huge too. It goes back to the incremental. Then two huge ones are strong mind and strong body. Read books. On my desk, I have The Four Agreements. I have Taya Kyle’s American Wife, How to Change Your Mind, Alone On The Wall, David Goggins’ book. I don't care what you read, just pick a book and read because that helps to develop your mind and give you the skills and confidence to do the things that you need to do. The skills and confidence that you might not already have and then a strong body is taking care of yourself.
I'm not going to recommend that everyone becomes a professional fighter, but there is nothing so peaceful as being able to walk around wherever, whenever and know if the crap hits the fan, I can take care of myself. I can take care of my family. That's the most peaceful and satisfying feeling in the world. Maybe you're not going to become a professional fighter. Maybe you're not going to dedicate your life to that, but you can at least take care of yourself physically and mentally to give yourself at least a boost of confidence, that confidence and that energy. Read Kevin Hart's book. It's a great book, but he talks about energy. He’s a guy full of energy. If you can be good at something, project energy, then that's half the battle. Those are some day-to-day things that you can do.
Dustin
I want to talk about speaking. You do your great share of speaking and the old adage is people would rather die, be in a coffin than actually up there on stage. Entering the ring for myself personally, I don’t know if I want to get knocked out cold. I want to ask you about that. After battling these crazy dudes, was that a fear of yours getting up on the stage?
Charlie
No, it goes in line with everything else. It's funny you say that because two of the biggest fears of anyone is speaking on stage and getting in fights. My wife says to me all the time, “You dedicate get your life to the thing I hate most which is public speaking.” I'm always alive and realized this is an opportunity. I want to do my best and things might not go great. I realized it's a performance every time, which carries with it some angst or anxiety or nerves like a fight or like a wrestling match. Having done the fighting and actually having a fist fight with someone in a ring, a locked cage on TV, in the center of an arena, it makes getting on a stage where no one, even if they threw stuff at me, it still wouldn't be as bad. It is a lot less. Plus I've been given interviews and talking in front of the camera since I was ten, twelve. It was a natural transition from what I was doing.
Dustin
What surprised you about the speaking business? This next path in your career being a thought leader, a podcaster or an author. I know that’s a lot to throw at you but this next phase, what surprised you about this world?
Charlie
I'm pretty green. I grew up in a small town in education. I was a teacher. That was my track the whole time. I didn't know anything about marketing. I didn't know anything about business strategy or growth. It surprised me, when I learned how you write a bestselling book, that was an eye-opener to me. Maybe a disappointment to me, but learning that bestselling books aren't necessarily because you wrote a book that was so awesome and that a million people bought it. It's because strategy was involved. I come from the mindset of a wrestler like the state champion is the kid who simply won because of performing.
Business to me, learning that strategy and marketing, that there was so much that went into it was one of the biggest things that I had to learn and to understand that this is how it is. I had this romantic vision that I'm going to write a book and it's going to be great. Millions of people are going to knock on my door and say, “Can you come to speak to my crowd and can I buy a million copies of your book?” It's just not that way. It could be an awesome book, but it needs to be in front of them. The call to action, getting people to do the thing. It's like that's a fight in itself. My mind has been expanded a great deal post fighting.
Dustin
You’ve come to the end of your fighting career. I know you’ve got the book and you’ve got the podcast. What kind of order did that manifest for you? Did you get up on a stage first?
Charlie
My last fight was on November 7, 2014. I lost for the third time in a row on my second stint in the UFC. I knew, “This is it. I'm done.” I had to make the decision, does that mean I'm done fighting? Will I look for opportunity elsewhere? Immediately I had nothing to do. I thought I need to do something. I started writing a book. That time, 2014, I started writing a book and basically, I wrote the book because I was asked so many questions from people in my town, small-town Pennsylvania, doing something that's different. I got a lot of questions. I essentially wrote that book to tell my story and to answer those questions. That was a several month process. It was about a year or even two years until we actually published it. I started then and there. That January, I learned that authors are speakers and then I just said, “I'm a speaker now.” People say, “What do you do?” I'll say, “A speaker.” I didn't know what that meant.
I did my first speech and I had done rotary clubs and chamber of commerce growing up. It's easy. If you talk, if you tell your story or the things you know, it's easy or not nerve-wracking anyway. It's like telling the truth. If you tell the truth, you don't have anything to worry about. That January I did a talk at a wrestling match and it was a lot of people. In retrospect, it was probably terrible. I probably talked about me all the time and didn't give any lessons or anything. Then I thought I have connections at schools. I love positively influencing kids. I start trying to do assemblies. I reached out to all the people I knew and little by little, that was I think 2015, maybe 2016.
I kept plugging away, getting the gig here and there and learning about it and learning all this marketing. I'm not doing a very good job at marketing but learning about it. Then gradually picking up steam and following. It's like throwing mud at the wall and seeing what sticks. Whether it's actual things that I talked about or whether it's different locations of speaking or maybe focusing on this for six months and that for six months, trying a bunch of stuff and wherever I get some traction pursuing that. Little by little schools turned into a couple of businesses, some stuff at universities, sports groups. It's been an interesting journey and one that I feel like finally in 2019, I'm systematically going after it. It seems like it's finally working after a couple of years.
Dustin
I’m curious, I understand the speaking world a little bit because I don’t understand the childhood, the school and the university. I don’t understand that world. What’s the difference about speaking to kids versus going to a business group?
Charlie
On the surface, it seems very different. On the surface it's more serious, I would say maybe more serious or maybe use the word professional, which makes sense. Maybe it seems more serious/professional or suit and tie or tie and slacks. Schools might seem less formal. It's funny because you take anyone in any suit and you start talking about certain things, universal things and it touches their heart. It touches their soul and their suit becomes a shirt and a pair of jeans and you're just having a conversation. On the surface it seems very different but the more and more I talk with or workshops or phone with people that I would be nervous to talk to, very important people in businesses and organizations. You realized, “I'm a person, you're a person and we have a lot in common.” Then it becomes that much easier to talk. Professional speaking, it certainly is and was more nerve-wracking but then on the other side of the coin, speaking in an auditorium of a thousand kids who don't know you is a pretty challenging thing. It's whatever, pick your poison.
Dustin
I think I’m more nervous about that, the kids and the suits for sure. What’s next for you with what you’re up to in the world? What are some things that you’re excited about? What are some things that you’re working on?
Charlie
For sure, 100% performing on a stage is my favorite thing to do and I'm very excited that is picking up. I’m very excited to do more and more gigs. I equate it, what I do right now, say I'm a speaker, but in the future, I plan on just to be The Spaniard. The Spaniard does The Spaniard. He is the Spaniard. Meaning, I resonate with comedians. A comedian tells jokes and I want to get on a stage and tell learning. That's my goal for several years from now or whatever that you hire The Spaniard to talk about learning. Jokes make you laugh and they make you smile. Good comedians make you think too. Maybe I do the exact opposite of that. Maybe I make you think then I make you laugh too. I have this model of a performer that I aspire to be and that's what I'm most excited about.
In the continuous learning, my show, I produced so much content because I'm constantly learning. I believe in the value of lifelong learning. I believe in its ability to help us live full lives. I'm excited to get on stages and there are a lot of sub-themes to what I do. The mother theme is to create lifelong learners. To get a person to buy into this idea of reading a book. The magic of book. Making reading cool again. Every morning when I click on my video to go live and record my daily episode, I literally could go from zero sleep, sick, fighting with my wife or whomever to I hit live and I'm like, “Good morning.” It literally does that to me and I love it so much and I'm excited to infect other people with that fire.
Dustin
You truly are a bright spot, a beacon, especially coming with the education and that learning message. I appreciate that. I want to move us into WealthFit round to put it in your words or your world. It’s like a little sparing action. For the rapid-fire question round. The most worthwhile investment you’ve ever made?
Charlie
Books to me, that's a plural, but books to me are it. I have so many books right now. I'll continue to have so many books. It’s just representative of how Bear Grylls is to adventure, like climbing mountains, books are that to me. Right now, I'm going to say books.
Dustin
I get this from my wife sometimes. She appreciates books for sure but when you’re a collector like you and you appreciate them, I imagine you’ve got a lot of them. Did your wife accept that now or did she grumble every time an Amazon package comes in the mail?
Charlie
She grumbles. I have this romantic vision. When I read books, I read the actual hard copy in front of me, I take notes. I have a little system of how I take notes because it's all done in the thought of teaching it on my show or on a stage. I read a book to be able to teach it. My romantic vision of this, my show is for my kids. I have this vision that my kids, when I'm dead and gone, my grandkids, they'll have a daily recording of their granddad in what he learned and thought. I'm buying these books as if they're relics for my kids. My wife is like, “Tell me where are we going to put that?” To me, it's like, “No, this is their dad, honey.” I hope they do eventually read it or at least look at them, but she has not gotten used to them.
Dustin
I’m going to do that line of thinking with my wife. I’ll let you know what she says.
Charlie
Please do it. It is what it is. It's better books than something unhealthy.
Dustin
What’s that investment you would rather not talk about? What’s that misstep early in life?
Charlie
I don't buy a lot of things to be honest. I’m frugal with what I purchase. The one thing that I'm coming, and this is off the subject of the flow of this conversation, but you'd say I'm cheap, relatively cheap or efficient with my funds. Being an entrepreneur, you know that you have to be, at least at the beginning. I am now getting into the mindset of buying inexpensive few things that lasts for a long time versus buying a bunch of non-expensive things that you either don't wear or use because they're not as you want them to be. My friend, Johnny Waite, who is one of the cohosts of the Spartan Up! Podcast, he puts it the way of saying that his goal is to live a lifetime of adventures of a lifetime. Then my buddy, when talking to him, he was like, “Every shirt in my drawer is my favorite shirt.” It's like putting those things together, I thought, “I'm going to downplay the quantity, upgrade the quality.” That has been adding peace of mind to my daily life.
Dustin
I can definitely appreciate that. I think that spoils my next question but it’s the hallmark of the Get WealthFit Show so I have to ask. When life is good and you want to splurge on yourself, what’s that guilty spending outside of books?
Charlie
Books would be a thing, but they're $12. It's not clothes because I'm not into clothes or anything like that. I love experiences. An experience that might cost $100 or $1,000 or whatever, relatively speaking. I splurge on things, I'll pay $100 for a massage, which spending $100 on a massage regularly is a lot of money. If it's something that I believe in, like a trip or an experience, that to me is where I splurge. I'm so simple. If I do a several thousand dollars paying gig, do you know what Sheetz is? It’s a convenience store. It's like a Wawa or a Turkey Hill. It's over in my side of the country. I’m like, “I'm going to go there and I'm going to have a burrito and a soda.” It's like I spent $10. I'm like, “Back off, don't get too crazy.” Life as a fighter made me fear of having nothing that anything is a gift. I like to live conservatively in that regard. It's embarrassing actually to talk about it.
Dustin
I definitely love that, everything is a gift, especially in the training that you got. I appreciate that you always got to make weight and you don’t get to have what others get to. I completely get it. I think there’s a huge lesson in there. You’ve got any special routines or rituals you do to get yourself in peak state?
Charlie
Pretty much daily. It would be the daily things. I flirted with this because I'm a big fan of Jocko Willink and I'm a big fan of Frankie Edgar, UFC champion. Jocko Willink wrote Extreme Ownership and Navy SEAL, a hardcore dude. I measure myself against them and The Rock as well. I measure me and my work against them. It's not, “Did I do well now compared to the average person?”If they put me and The Rock side by side and they gauged hard work, who's going to win? That's how I think. As a fighter, that's how I thought about my opponent and I had to learn that I'm not them. It happened first with Frankie because with Frankie, I would watch him train and this guy trains like no other I've ever had come across. He outdoes them all and I tried to do that and I learned I can't do that. It's negative returns. I can't do it. I listened to Jocko and when I see him post his 4:30 and I was doing that for so long. I was like, “At 5:00 PM, I'm dead tired. I can't play with my kids.”
I had to accept that those are my guide posts but I got to see what works for me. For me, I still get up very early in the morning, at least six days a week, most weeks, seven days a week. I get up very early in the morning and I either read first thing or workout first thing. Most of the time it's reading but it depends on where I'm at and what responsibilities I have that morning. I get up early, I read, and then if I don't train then, I train later in the day. Those three things keep me straight. The idea of learning, of reading a book, is like whatever you do, whatever you're aspiring to do or to create or whatever, you have to be the best version of that thing. If I'm always reading and I'm a speaker, I always have something new and fresh to talk about. Hypothetically, I should never get on a stage and freeze, because if I freeze and I can think what did I read this morning, I talk about that thing. It all revolves around performance or mindset or being the best version of yourself.
There's a book called The Boys In The Boat. It's a tremendous book. You should read it. It’s about the 1936 Olympic gold medal rowing team. They shouldn't have won. They’re from the University of Washington. They won. Tremendous story. Their boat builder, the guy who builds their boats, his name is George Pocock and he liked the wood on these boats. It was just craft and it was passion. In the book, he talks about his lifelong pursuit of the ideal. I feel like the key is to identify the tangible daily activities or actions that will get you closer to that lifelong pursuit of the ideal. Exercising and reading books and getting up early are three things that helped me get closer and closer to that on a daily basis.
Dustin
I completely subscribed to your line of thinking and practice what you preach there. Thank you for sharing that because I think it's incredibly valuable. I've got one final thing although I could keep going for hours because this is fun and exciting being in the virtual ring with you, so to say. In boxing or in fighting you have to be pretty focused on the opponent because if not, you’re going to catch something and you’re going to be cold on the floor. When it comes to entrepreneurship though, because it is such a game of creation and anything is possible out there, often entrepreneurs struggle with that. Do you struggle with the shiny object syndrome or all the different things that you could get yourself into?
Charlie
What I do struggle with in that regard is getting frustrated at that. I wish there were less of it. I wish there was less noise. I wish there were less shiny objects. I wish there was less clutter. I'm speaking a little bit prematurely because I've not been in this world, but I waste energy getting frustrated at things rather than using that energy to do what I do. That's an area that I don't know if it's ego or insecurity or what, but that's something that I consciously have to tell myself. I don't chase shiny objects. I operate on my gut, but in regard to that question you asked, I react to it that way and it's wasted energy.
Dustin
If you feel yourself wasting energy or getting off track, what do you do to get yourself back on? Is it more of a gut thing? How do you get yourself back?
Charlie
I have my partner whose name is Dread, Keith is his real name but I call him Dread. I simply talk about it with him. He's essentially my Mr. Miyagi and I talk about it and I say, “Dread, this is how I'm feeling. Can you make sense of this and/or tell me I'm an idiot for thinking this?” Then we'll talk it out. It sets me straight for the rest of the day or the week or whatever it is. I don't harbor it anymore. I just let it out. Maybe it could be your wife or friend or your business, whatever it is. I get it out of me and that practice helps dissolve it.
Dustin
Spaniard, thank you for being on the Get WealthFit Show. I had a lot of fun on this. You made me laugh so much and I appreciate you sharing your wisdom and your story here with the WealthFit Nation. For those who want to keep up with you, keep up tabs, maybe if you decide to get back in the ring because you just decide to do it one day or they want to get a copy of your book or book you for a keynote, workshop or consulting, what’s the best way for people to find you?
Charlie
I try to make it simple. My website is CharlieSpaniard.com. All of my social media is that as well, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, @CharlieSpaniard. On my website, you have links to my book. Type in my name on Amazon, Charlie Brenneman, it will come up. Speaking and workshop, it’s on my website as well, CharlieSpaniard.com/booking and I produce a lot of content. If you're reading this and you think, “I enjoyed a thing or a lot of things that guy said,” I produced fresh daily episodes based on new content. It's my way of sharpening my own saw and I hope you can use it to sharpen your own saw as well.
Dustin
Thank you big time. I appreciate you being on the show.
Charlie
It’s my pleasure, thank you.

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