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James Whittaker: Think & Grow Rich: The Legacy

We are with James Whittaker. He is the author of Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy and he’s also a speaker.
I’m excited to dive into his story for you to hear it and also understand what it takes to achieve at the highest level.

Dustin
James, welcome.
James
Thanks, Dustin. It’s great to be here.
Dustin
You've got a crazy story. You were crippled with anxiety. Fear ruled your life so much so that McDonald’s passes on you. You get a little motivated and you do land a job at a liquor store. This fear and anxiety are so crazy that you end up not holding this job because you're afraid to be alone.
James
It's such an important point about adversity and how we respond to it as ultimately what determines our success trajectory. Many people go through life with a chip on the shoulder. It's an important part that you should never accept temporary failure as a permanent defeat. At the age of thirteen, I remember sitting in there at the McDonald’s. I knew I’d be the best employee for this company as well because I was eating a lot of McDonald’s at the time. I sat down at the interview and they said, “Why should we give you the job?” and I completely froze. Finally, after what felt like hours, three words came out and which was, “I don't know.”
Dustin
What did the person do looking at you? Was there any indication?
James
Even afterward, I thought that I would be such a great asset to the team. I was waiting for the phone to ring. Weeks and weeks went by and nothing. It was then I realized that just because I have an opinion, that doesn't mean that there are other things that I need to prepare. I swore at that time that I would always have a great answer to any question that I would be asked for the rest of my life.
Dustin
Describe this anxiety that you have in the hopes that someone that's out there like you describe it to them and they're like, “That's me,” and they open up. What were you going through?
James
It manifested for me in high school, things like sitting in a classroom but mainly sitting for exams where it felt I would have these hot flushes and feel these bright lights. I would look for a way to escape that environment. If I felt it was an environment that I couldn't get out of, you would faint or throw up. In the worst-case scenario, which is a bit of a horrible way to go through life, the only way that I could get through those things was if I didn't care. That was then my key for living. Keep in mind at this point in my life, my goal was to be a normal person. It wasn't to succeed. It was to get through the days.
I made it into university by the slimmest of margins. I didn't show up often because of these interesting things that I have with this anxiety. The only way I could perform on these exams or turn up through them was if I didn't care, I crawled through university. I had this issue with the liquor store that, “I’m not going to live like this anymore.” That was it. If I don't make the decision to engage with life, then my life is over. There would have been a whole heap of depressive things and other things are around the path. Anything could have happened in that situation. When you have lost hope, you feel like there is no hope as a lot of people in life feel like, rather than coming up with a proactive way of how to go after what it is that I want. That was the first time at the age of 23 that I decided to engage with life.
Dustin
You speak all over the world. I’m curious, have people come up to you and say, “James, I can relate. I’ve had anxiety?” You've had that happen I would imagine.
James
Yeah, for sure.
Dustin
What do you tell those folks that experience some level of what you experienced?
James
A big part of it is understanding the physiological symptoms around what's going on. You do breathe work and breath training and you start to realize that if you can control the physiological symptoms and you're aware of what's going on, you can take a lot of steps around that. Things like eating clean, exercising regularly with the self-talk that you have. Probably my biggest weakness is around negative self-talk. It's something that I still have. I need to schedule that time once a week where I have this problem meditation, which is I deeply love and accept myself, which is something that I learned from Dr. George Pratt, who was a clinical psychologist who helped Rob Dyrdek. Rob credits him with all of his success. It's being disciplined around those things and being aware of it and then making sure that you don't resist it. My anxiety flared up in situations that I had to be in as part of my life. I couldn't ignore them. I would have to dip my toe into those areas. I would have to turn up to work and I would have to turn up to university and expose myself to these different areas. I had to change all those different things. Overwhelmingly, the biggest decision that I’m not going to be a victim anymore to plant my flag and say, “Life, I am here. Come and get me.”
Dustin
I think back to a story similarly was definitely afraid to speak in front of others. In high school and in college, I was able to get out of it. I found a loophole. I remember having this opportunity where if I wanted to stay around this environment and learn all these secrets, I had to do it. There was no way out and I did it. Once I did it, I did the thing. I feel great about it. I’m like, “This wasn't hard.” Has that been your experience where you have this crazy fear or this anxiety of tackling something that's self-imposed and then you do it and then a whole new world opens up for you?
James
When you think about being in a classroom and worried about having all eyes on you. A big turning point for me was when I was put on stage speaking in front of 700 people with no notes and no PowerPoint presentation. I’m speaking before Olympic gold medalist, Steven Bradbury, an Australian Winter Olympic figure skater. At that point, all eyes are on you. It’s like that moment in that movie 8 Mile with Eminem like, “You only get one shot,” and how you respond determines the trajectory of your life. To have the opportunity to have done a good job then, the feeling after public speaking as any public speaker knows. To me, that's about as good as a feeling as you can ever have as a human. To be able to engage with a large scale audience and to be able to provide tips and strategies and stories and examples and case studies to help them unlock their own potential and take ownership of their life. It's such an exhilarating, unique feeling. Coming from someone who struggled to hold a job and front up to exams and classrooms and things to speaking on stage in front of 2,000 people, where you have your usual butterflies before you do those things. It motivates me and inspires me to keep doing it big.
Dustin
Here at WealthFit, we're all about personal finance and education. You have a career. You've spent a decade in personal finance. What were you doing?
James
I started off in marketing then as a business development manager, which meant my job was to source centers of influence that would help our financial advisors with referrals and things. That could be accountants, mortgage brokers, solicitors, various associations. After that as practice development manager where I was managing the whole end-to-end client experience from the moment someone walked in or emails to what happened during the appointment and afterwards. The big decision for me was when I made this decision to engage with life. There are many people. The majority of people who are completely disengaged with their personal finance and whatever you don't deal with right now will deal with you eventually. It was a great opportunity to meet a lot of people and understand the importance of personal finance because if you don't have a great understanding of that. That's why I’m big on the alignment of success around all these different areas. Financial issues and communication are the two reasons that marriages and relationships fail. If you're not right with that, then it can be a huge recipe for disaster down the track. It was a great time in my life but ultimately, I felt it was time to move on and find myself.
Dustin
What's the origin story? What got you excited about personal finance?
James
My father had been big in personal finance. I would see the difference that he would make in people's lives. He was my mentor without sitting down and having sessions. He inspired me about how you could tread your own path. You didn't have to worry about someone else's permission. The most important opinion is how you feel about yourself. When I saw the mark that he was able to make in personal finance and Think and Grow Rich was the book that changed his life. He and I are still close and have worked together on many projects.
Dustin
You guys co-wrote a book together?
James
We wrote The Beginner's Guide To Wealth, which we thought was a unique perspective having a young person and a more experienced person. It's important with personal finance the dollar value is essentially irrelevant when you're younger. It's about the goals, the attitudes and the habits that you develop and that you get into. Whereas most people, they're spending increases in line with their income increases. It a great book where we could inspire and motivate people to start to be engaged with their finances. It was also essentially a personal development tool to let people know at the age of seventeen or eighteen. If you have an issue in a relationship, a breakdown with a romantic partnership or a friendship or possibly even a business partnership that it's not the end of the world. That there is a lot more life to live because we can only bring out life experiences to those situations at that point. Anyone who's 30 and 40 and 50 knows that you go through a huge amount of heartache and a lot of it is through no fault of your own.
Dustin
Who came up with the idea for the book? Was that you pitching dad?
James
He had already written a lot of other books and I wanted to write a book called The Success Blueprint that would help people in every area that you could think about. If you wanted to buy a house, if you wanted to get a job, if you wanted to get a promotion, if you wanted to get a date and all those different things. He was going to write a young person's guide and we thought, “Let's do it together from this unique perspective of the more experienced person and the younger person.” That's what it was. It did well and was Money Magazine's Book of the Month for March 2010. To have the opportunity as a tangible resource that people can use to start taking action in their own lives, to start figuring out a bit of a rudder where they need to go. Rather than constantly going around in a circle and feeling like there's no hope.
Dustin
In what ways did the book change things for you? Other than you guys collaborating, but the way that the world looked at you, the way that leads came in. How did it change once you had published?
James
It's like an athlete when they win some type of trophy or a championship where it's more from other people where people are like, “You've got a book out,” but I woke up feeling the same. As a personality thing, it's always been natural for me. I’m always focused on the climb. I don't care about the view at the top and I never look back. I always look forward and I’m always onto like, “What can I do now to make a bigger impact? What can I do now to help more people?” It’s a great thing to have as part of the portfolio. It's an opportunity for me to help people and refer them to that book. It didn't have any huge, life-changing impact for me.
Dustin
You spent your time in personal finance. You say you want to reinvent, it's time to change and you left Australia. Why?
James
I always wanted to go and study in America. I don't know if it was the college movies or whatever it was. I thought, “That would be pretty cool.” At the age of 28, I went and did an MBA at an international business school for several months in Boston and three months in Shanghai, China. The difference between the East meets West culture was huge. Australia is huge geographically, but it's a small place. You'd be surprised at the number of connections and things that people have. I wanted to throw myself in the deep end to prove to myself that I had what it took. It was about a few years at that point since I had made that decision to properly engage with myself or engage with life. It was a logical next step of me proving that I was worthy of being able to achieve the success that I wanted. It's only sometimes when you leave a bubble that you are properly aware of how big of a bubble it is.
I got to Boston and I went, “I have no idea.” I saw people who were 28 years old and younger who had their own business, who were working on exciting projects. I thought to myself, “What's the difference between me and them?” The difference was action. I thought that I was taking action because I had always wanted to have my own business, but they were taking different action that was getting them the results they craved. It was at that point when I surrounded myself with a whole heap of entrepreneurial people that not only did I realize it was possible and it was possible for me. That I knew that I was able to have a bit of a different blueprint to take that action to go after whatever I wanted. That was when a whole new life for me opened up.
Dustin
How did you come to pick this school? Did you like the fact that there were entrepreneurs there? Did you like the fact that you were going to be in Boston and Shanghai? How did you pick this from Australia?
James
This one school, Hult International Business School, was well-ranked and they had campuses all around the world. They had campuses in London, New York, San Francisco, Dubai, Brazil. You could go and pick. You would do the first few months in your home campus and then the second two semesters you could rotate however you wanted to. I did the rotation to Shanghai and back to Boston after that. I feel the world is only going more international. If you don't have empathy for other people, in my opinion, it's because you haven't spent any time with them and don't understand their culture and their personalities and different traits and things. You can apply that to a whole heap of different backgrounds and scenarios.
Before that, I did a few months backpacking in South and Central America and then went to an international school with people from 50 countries. I was living in China after that. By the time you're done with that, you've got a strong international flavor and you can understand these different things. That was a great platform to be able to have these great relationships and friendships with people around the world, which ended up becoming a cool tool that I can leverage, but it wasn't like that. We're friends, how can we help each other out? My friends weren't clones of each other. They were in Colombia and Brazil and London and Africa.
Dustin
It should be required in the US, even abroad. I feel the US is known for being inward-focused. I was fortunate to go to Costa Rica and study and I have the same feeling. I feel we need to bring that. Folks are always curious, “Do I need to go get an MBA? Do I need to degree up?” You’ve got your MBA. Would you do it again?
James
I wasn't going to use the word worthless, but I was going to say it's important that you understand what you are using it for. The biggest misconception on the entire planet is that we’re hungry in the pursuit of knowledge and we're not hungry at all in the application of knowledge. Many people are after this education thinking, “If I get an MBA, it's going to solve all my problems. My life is going to be great. I want a six-figure salary. Crushing the world, everything's going to be great.” You can write your own ticket. You enter this thing and it's like a washing machine. It chews you up and spits you in a different direction and you've got to be ready for that. I wasn't ready for that. It was interesting for me because it was only through this whole process of the Think And Grow project that I had a far greater understanding of the importance of applying that knowledge.
I feel as a society and educational systems, in particular, we need to put much more value on what you do with what you know. What you know is completely meaningless. Don't go and do an MBA and have it up on your wall. My wife said to me, “Can we put all our diplomas and degrees and things up on the wall?” I said, “No, they don't mean anything to me.” What means things to me are the people that I’m able to help along the way? If there are photos of that, great, but I want to be surrounded by inspiration and motivation, not an expensive course that didn't help me out as much as life experience. Above all, the best education that you can get is starting your own business. No business course in the world can rival that.
Dustin
I’m thinking of all the fires that I’ve had to experience and I agree. You can't learn this out of a textbook. It’s absolute problem-solving. I want to get into Think and Grow Rich. This book has changed my life and I know people in our audience have changed their life as well. When did you discover Think and Grow Rich?
James
I read it when I was young, but it's an interesting point because I was always aware of the power and how it changed my dad's life. I was always envious of when we were getting driven to elementary and high school how I was always jealous of the cool dads who would put on a rock music station on the radio. My dad had to be playing Jim Rohn and Napoleon Hill. Later, I realized the value of that. It was amazing. It's incredible how much you remember. I read the book and it did nothing for me admittedly. Bob Proctor says 99% of people read Think and Grow Rich and do nothing with it because we're not taught how to read Think and Grow Rich. If you read it like a textbook and sit there with a pen and paper and write down a plan and brainstorming as you're going along. Reading a few pages and then thinking about how I am going to apply that into my relationships personally and professionally now and then you're going to revisit it tomorrow. That's how you keep leveling up reading this book.
Most people read the book. They put it in a drawer never to be seen from again. It's cool to say that you love Think and Grow Rich, but you didn't do anything with it. It was only when I revisited it a bit later that I realized how powerful. I knew always how powerful it was, but how life changing it then became for me personally. It is also an important thing to know that people like Jim Rohn and Tony Robbins and all the big people these days. They're all enormously influenced by Napoleon Hill and credit Think and Grow Rich as their greatest influence as well. It is the godfather of the whole personal development world.
Dustin
This book had such an impact on your father and you. Your father, did he force it on you or was it osmosis? I’ve got kids and I’m thinking like, “I want them getting this information,” but I don't want to be the dad that forces them. What's the play here?
James
If there are two people who can't give them any information, they're going to read it. It's hard to force things onto them. I’ve had people who say they read my book to their kids growing up. My Think and Grow Rich The Legacy is a collection of stories and they love reading that as a family. It was at the age of 23 after that life-changing moment that I said, “I’m not going to let this condition control my life anymore ever again.” It wasn't a click your fingers and it was done. It was a process. You stumble and you keep moving forward. I said that I’m going to consume everything that I know about how to be a bulletproof human and I mean everything. I would listen, I would watch, I would read everything. That was when I started to revisit these things. You know the quote that, “When the student is ready, the master will appear.”
I had those masters everywhere in the forms of those books, every single one of them. People are busy trying to find a real-life mentor. You don't realize you've got a whole library full of mentors right there who can help make a life-changing impact in your life on the condition that you read the book. People growing up you've got access to everything your parents and your grandparents had, universities and libraries, but you can also go to the bookstore and read a book. If you couldn't be bothered walking to the bookstore, you can pay a company like Amazon to deliver to your door. Starting to cut out the excuses and if you couldn't be bothered reading, you can pay someone to read the book to you in the form of an audiobook or a podcast. There is no reason not to be constantly, increasingly becoming a person of value.
Dustin
I saw it as a light switch for me. When the student's ready, the teacher will appear. You had heard it growing up. You weren't ready until 23. I feel it is easy and there is no excuse, but that switch has to go up. Do you see it that way?
James
It does and it’s resilience. My wife and I are due to expect our first child coming in April. We’re a little bit nervous/excited for that. It's a hard thing because you want to protect this child and give them everything that would help them in their life that would make them happy. That short-term gratification is not going to make them happy in the long-term. Giving them things is not going to teach them anything. Teaching them how to fish rather than giving them fish is important. Being able to teach them resilience and to a certain extent they have to go through. 95% of that they have to go through themselves. They have to get crushed in relationships, they have to go through these things in business. They need to go and meet homeless people who have been affected by drugs and gambling addictions and all these other vices to realize the importance of it in their own life.
There's a lot of roll of the dice around the friends that they happen to make as well along the way. There are a lot of things that are up in the air that you can't control. Being able to provide a loving environment, but also setting the example, there's no point trying to tell them one thing while you're not doing it. I can't tell them to eat healthy if I’m eating unhealthy food. I can't tell them to write down their goals if I’m not writing down the goals. I can't tell them to not have their phone at the dinner table if I’m sitting there with the phone at the dinner table. Setting that standard and hopefully they learn from that example and it will inspire them whenever they make that change, whenever they have that light bulb moment that, “I’m ready to make a change in my own life.”
Dustin
The problem I struggle with is I’ve got two young ones and one on the way as well. The hardest thing is letting them go through it, but I know I’m here now because I went through that struggle. I went through that adversity. It's the hardest thing. It’s the trickiest thing as a parent.
James
You want to help as much as you can. You feel your heart's beating outside of your chest, but they have to go through it themselves.
Dustin
Think and Grow Rich is one of the most influential personal development books of all time. Knowing it’s over 100 million books sold. What did you see as an opportunity when you sat down to write The Legacy?
James
Almost everyone now, people don't naturally identify with Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. It's hard for them to get excited about that in their own business. People like Barbara Corcoran, Rob Dyrdek, Grant Cardone and all the people in the book. There are a few different things I realized. The first one is you can never rewrite Think and Grow Rich. It’s like the Bible, you could never do it justice. I would never want to do that anyway, it’s an amazing book and it is a timeless classic for a reason. I also think people learn from stories. They're more memorable and they’re more engaging. My book is a collection of short stories.
Each of the thirteen principles is covered in its own chapter. Each chapter starts off with a brief overview of that principle in a modern-day context. I referenced everyone from Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk and Oprah Winfrey and Sara Blakely from Spanx, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos and Hollywood contemporary icons. I tell two inspirational stories about people that showed who they were before the adversity came into their life. Talks about the struggles they went through, their big defining moment and how they came out of it. Give a lot of clues and a blueprint as to how they were able to apply these principles. How they were able to apply them practically to enormous success in their own life.
It’s a misconception that you need to have a million followers on Instagram to be successful or you need to be on a billboard in the Hollywood Hills to be successful. It's not true. There are people in the book like Janine Shepherd who was hit by a truck and the fact that she is alive and is a walking paraplegic was able to have three kids despite being told that she would never walk again. That is inspirational to me. People like Jim Stovall was told that he would go totally and permanently blind at the age of seventeen and be the author of 30 bestselling books. That to me is inspiration. If you want to be on TV, Barbara Corcoran, Rob Dyrdek, great influences and they're in there as well. I feel this is an eclectic mix but above all, it's a modern companion to the bestselling self-help book of all time.
Dustin
How did the book come to be? Did you pitch them? Did they come to you? Did you see an ad?
James
I had the opportunity to meet them in Santa Monica at True Food Kitchen. We sat there and they said, “We love your energy. Tell us how you can be involved in the project.” I said, “You're releasing a book with a film,” because the film project was already underway at that point. They were vague on the details. I found out it's because they were busy with the scrambling of the day-to-day operations of making a film that they were bootstrapping and ended up crowdfunding as well. A few days later, I got a phone call and the main guy in the film said, “We loved your energy, but tell us how you can be involved in the project.” I said, “Tell me more about the book idea.” They didn't have anything. He was vague on the details and I said, “There are thirteen principles of Think and Grow Rich. I would do a brief overview in a modern context. Tell the stories of two to three inspirational modern-day icons. If I were you, that's what I would do.” I offered that to them. I didn't say it comes with me attached or make them sign an NDA. You can have that, take it and run with it. That's an absolute recipe for success.
He said, “I can't believe I didn't think of that. Can you do it?” I said, “Yes, I will knock it out of the park.” That's when I came on board as co-executive producer of the film and author of the book. The step from there was making sure I didn't overthink that. It was getting down to what am I going to do? The process is writing a book, but the action that I need to take is figuring out the people who I’m going to interview and doing as much research as possible to show that I am being respectful to them. If there's any information publicly available, I need to show that I’ve consumed it. I ended up with 500,000 words of research notes from 25 people for this project. It was a tremendous honor and something that I’m grateful to be a part of.
Dustin
How did you pick the list of who you were going to reach out to and then finally include?
James
We had a few people already who were included. It needed to be an eclectic mix, people from different backgrounds and around the world as well. There were a lot of people who publicly were big on Think and Grow Rich, people like Bob Proctor who shot to fame from The Secret. The film that came out in 2006 was an absolute blockbuster. The only criticism that's warranted of The Secret is it's not as embedded in practicality as it could have been. That's something that we try to alleviate with this one as well. People like Rob Dyrdek we sent an original copy of Think and Grow Rich to make sure we got him committed because he doesn't do a whole heap of things like that. A whole heap of people whose lives were changed either from Think and Grow Rich directly or who had applied the principles. We had conversations with them or people like Janine Shepherd had a TED Talk out that already had more than a million views. We were able to see her messaging and make sure it aligned with what we were doing. That was it.
Dustin
Is there a secret vault where they store original copies of Think and Grow Rich?
James
I was at the Napoleon Hill Foundation in Wise County, Virginia. Don Green, the CEO of the Napoleon Hill Foundation who has to get a lot of credit. He's been there for many years. He's made it accessible and everything from prisons to universities. Napoleon Hill was a prolific writer. There is so much content available and he's got a lot of original copies sitting there in a locked cabinet in the archives that they have there. It's got the Napoleon Hill's original typewriters as well. You can feel the history in this place and original copies and manuscripts of things like Outwitting The Devil and his other manuscripts as well.
Dustin
When I was getting started, there was an opportunity to be involved in Three Feet From Gold. I helped fund that book. I’ve got a bunch of books out of it and a little name in the back, but happy to pay it forward.
James
A lot of people have mentioned Three Feet From Gold. It’s a popular book and The Power Of Persistence with that. That was articulated in the movie, Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy as well. If you give up, opportunities aren't missed. They're passed onto someone else.
Dustin
Out of the people you interviewed, achievers in their own rights. Who surprised you the most and why? What interview surprised you? Maybe went a different direction than you thought.
James
They were all amazing in their own right. To go to someone like Rob Dyrdek’s office in Beverly Hills, his penthouse office, 360 degree-view of the city. I and he in his amazing office for two hours was a surreal experience. A kid who was given a skateboard when he was eleven or twelve years old, to be able to transition and I’m a big believer in anyone who's been successful in one field can be successful in other fields as well. The way he has been able to hit many different industries. Admittedly, I didn't know a great deal about him beforehand. He is probably the most famous person in the whole project. People like Janine Shepherd and Jim Stovall, deeply emotional interviews for me. The power of gratitude has been well-documented, particularly in the last few years around the physiological benefits that provide. You can chart a better course to happiness and subsequently avoiding depression through a regular gratitude practice.
People who think they don't have anything to be grateful for, then you interview people like Janine Shepherd who spent ten days in a coma, six months in a spinal ward. People like Jim Stovall who was diagnosed with blindness. Can you imagine where your whole world literally fades to black? Given dark sunglasses and a white cane and confined to a room where you would be safe to see out your days and making that decision to say no. Someone else's reality or someone's version of their reality, what they think my life should be like is not my reality. That's what they had. That's what everyone in this book had. They had this.
They were possessed by their own self-will. The most important opinion is how you feel about yourself. That's what got me fired up. A lot of people talk about evaluating risk, which is important before you take action but don't be paralyzed. It's easy to think about 100 reasons as to why you shouldn't do something. You just need to come up with one reason as to why you shouldn't do something and then burn the ships, which means all in. That's what all these people did. Sometimes, people who are too smart or have too much academic success don't end up taking that action. That's what makes them such great employees, but terrible entrepreneurs.
Dustin
It's not the failures. We’re all going to fail. If you're not failing, you're not playing hard enough. You're playing the wrong game perhaps, but it's how you respond. What's your advice on how one ought to respond to failure?
James
The first question you need to ask yourself after setting aside any emotional response is to say, “What's the gift in this?” It's easy to say when times are good, but being able to think about that when things are going wrong. That's a relationship break down, an issue with a business partnership. You've been hit by a truck or diagnosed with blindness, whatever that might be but saying, “What is the gift in this?” Every adversity, every failure, every misfortune carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit. That's Napoleon Hill who said that. It's being able to say, “What is the gift in this?” and then coming up with a plan around, “That's happened. I can't do anything about it. What am I going to do? Where do I want to go? What am I going to do about it?” The two most important attributes are resourcefulness and resilience. They can get you out of anything and they can get you to the highest of highs in the world irrespective of what background you've got.
Dustin
What, if anything, did you cut and why? What did you have to leave out?
James
There wasn't much to leave out. There was a lot of practical information there along. I wanted to make sure the story flowed well. A big concern for me was making sure it was an easy read and an exciting, interesting read. Anyone who says to me, “I’ve got the book. I haven't started reading it yet.” All I say to them is read the first chapter because the last thing I would want is to have someone feeling like they're stupid from reading a book that will change their life as well. That was my primary focus. It would kill me if a kid was fifteen years old who had all this potential inside, went to read a book and they learned nothing. “I don't even understand this,” and then they were lost again. That was a big focus on making sure it was an easy, exciting, engaging read.
Dustin
How has life changed for you? What have you noticed since releasing the book, going out doing these interviews, speaking and sharing the book?
James
The big thing for me was I realized my mission and purpose on the Earth. Like Steve Jobs says, “You can never connect the dots looking forward. It's only looking back.” I realized that my mission is to help people take ownership of their financial, physical and mental health because I’m big on the alignment between those three areas. It was clear to me through this whole process that that's what I wanted to do. I needed to structure my life to remove anything else. Remove ownership and being tied to anything else that I did in my life that wasn't in those areas. Having the opportunity to do that, but then what I learned around structuring the day. I wake up now and I grab The Five Minute Journal, which is an amazing resource. Most people who want to do journaling, staring at a blank page are the hardest thing.
As a writer, that's the hardest thing. As any creative, that's the hardest thing. Staring at that way, you write down three things you're grateful for and three things that would make the day a win. At the end of the day, you write down three amazing things that happened that day and what you could've done to improve the day. Also during the day, I realized I woke up and I want it to be productive. What most people, the trap they fall into is sending emails. That's like picking the ultimate, low-hanging fruit. You can send an email in 30 seconds, but they're like boomerangs. You send one and the bloody things keep coming back. I realized that I would only do emails at the end of the day because I can do that on autopilot. I wake up and I’ll use my two or three hours of hyper-creative mode, which is all we have each day, to do the activities that are going to get me closer to my 90-day goals. I don't do someone else's agenda for my day until I do what I need to do for myself. I feel that's something everyone should do.
Dustin
I get up rather early in the morning and I’ve started working on my sub. It's easy to get trapped up and like, “I’ll knock this out.” I did have that realization, but you sharing it cements in. I thought I picked up somewhere that you say you should do your life's work in that however much time you have in the morning.
James
I still am involved in a lot of writing. I’m in a new book for the Napoleon Hill Foundation. I’ll wake up and it's not like I jump out of bed and go straight for my computer. I wake up, ideally get a little bit of sunlight to wake up the body, have a good healthy snack and have a coffee and do a little bit of reading and whatever that might be. If it's a little email like the Daily Skimm, something about the news, something to wake up the brain a little bit. Maybe even a little bit of mobility work to get the body moving and then to make sure I’m focused and ready to go. Do your life's work before you move on to someone else's agenda for your day. It is the ultimate productivity hack.
Dustin
How are you parlaying the book, the movie, everything you're doing into creating wealth for yourself or to keep in line with the brand riches or riches for yourself?
James
My focus is on making a big impact around the world. I wanted one million people to see the project within several months of it being released. We've got the film and the book but also doing a lot of speaking engagements around the world. I’m going to start doing mastermind groups soon, doing more one-on-one coaching. I’ve got a newsletter that comes out every two weeks as well. It's more long-form content, which I know isn't for everyone. I see many people and the only emails they send out is when they're trying to sell something. It's a little sad, but it's the real personal development gurus are the ones who do that.
The only time you hear from them is when they're trying to manipulate you into being into some course or some product that they're selling. I’m very big on creating a long-term relationship. I’m trying to give a lot of value and a lot of practical tips. It's not for everyone. If you don't want it, unsubscribe. No hard feelings at all. I also created a Facebook group called Win The Day, which is what I want to use for people who want quick access and where I can post a lot more content. It's an opportunity for me to start getting more access and give more to those people who I feel are more heavily-invested and want more access to the messages that I’m sharing.
Dustin
Beyond this new book that you're working on, feel free to share as much as you'd like. What's the future for you? What are you most excited about?
James
This book is the interview between Andrew Carnegie and Napoleon Hill. I’ll be doing what Sharon Lechter did with Outwitting The Devil. I’m modernizing and annotating this. It's going to come out soon. It's a surreal experience sitting at home reading a manuscript that no one's seen. It's life-changing. I’ve got a close relationship with the Napoleon Hill Foundation and Don Green. They do a lot of great work. I will be continuing to figure out the best ways. A lot more speaking, a lot more coaching mastermind programs. This is what I love to do and I will always move on to more projects. I’ve got another big one, which I probably shouldn't say, which I’m excited and I’ll work on next. I’m grateful for the opportunity to help change as many lives as I can.
Dustin
I want to move us into WealthFit Round, essentially that's my fancy name for rapid-fire questions. What's been your most worthwhile investment?
James
I’d have to say relationships. It's been something that I have been very heavily focused on for probably my whole life, mainly for probably the last several years. Relationships are everything, not just romantic relationships. I’m talking about unconditionally adding value, which means without the expectation of anything in return. You do that for enough people, you can get anything you want. If you help enough people get the success they want, then everything will come back to you. That's been the biggest one. For more of a financial thing, I’m big on investing money in the share market. I’ve been doing that for a long time. It's something I’m comfortable with. I’m young enough that I’ve got an aggressive risk profile to write out any volatility. I’ve got mutual funds but also enjoy mixing it up with investing in direct stocks. Companies like Facebook and Zillow are things that I’m invested in that I’m excited about for the future. You need a licensed professional to align with your risk profile. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.
Dustin
What's that investment you don't want to talk about?
James
One of the biggest ones would be not ejecting from a friendship earlier on when it doesn't serve you. It was someone in particular who I was in a business partnership with and close friends with. I mistakenly believed that I would be able to pull them up because I’ve been able to help a lot of people start to achieve the success they want and make meaningful change in their lives. It was a big learning moment for me when I realized that sometimes when you try to pull people up, they end up pulling you down. Having the blinkers on around that and being able to not lose sight of who you are. I probably spent a little bit too long in that, but we learn from everything.
Dustin
When you're thinking and growing even richer, what does that guilty spending splurge? Life is great and you want to treat yourself to something, what is it?
James
I’m not a materialistic guy. I bought a paddle board which I love because there are no mobile phones out on the ocean. A big one my wife and I, we got married and went on the honeymoon. We spent many days over in Europe. We went to a whole heap of different places and had an amazing life-changing time that we will probably never be able to do again, especially with kids and things on the way. Travel is a big one. I also love putting money in the share market and things like that. It makes me happy.
Dustin
What are one or two areas that pop for you? What were the cities that you enjoyed?
James
Positano in Italy is a fantastic place. One of the best places I’ve ever been to. Santorini was another great one. Monaco we also went, which was great, a little extravagant for my taste. It was great being all around there. Often you have these vacations, but it also gives you a renewed appreciation for where you live. I live in Marina del Rey in California. It's a nice place close to the beach, beautiful sunsets and great people. I’m from Australia, which is the best place in the world. Never forget how lucky you are for the things that you have.
Dustin
Where can folks get the book? Where can they see the movie? Where can they keep tabs with what you're up to?
James
You can go to Instagram, @JamesWhitt or you can go to my website, JamesWhitt.com. I’ve got a link in my bio on Instagram. There are some cool resources there. There's a free bonus chapter. There's a Success Plan Template that’s a free download as well and a whole heap of exciting things.
Dustin
I’m thrilled that you were our guest. I’m hoping that people out there haven't read Think and Grow Rich yet. They read this interview, they understand you and your passion and your stories and they go out and discover it for the first time. That would be the greatest thrill. Thank you for doing what you do and being on the show.
James
Thank you so much for having me.
Dustin
WealthFit Nation, thank you for being here. As you can tell, we're big fans of Think and Grow Rich. I wouldn't be here now if I hadn't read that book. Go get the movie. Get the book. It will change your life. If it's not for you, do it for your friends or do it for family or people that you care about. Give it as a gift because it is an amazing resource. That's it for now. I can't wait to have you at the next show.

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