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Over the last two decades Douglas Vermeeren has conducted extensive first-hand research into the lives of the worlds top achievers. Doug has the success strategies of top business leaders from Nike, Reebok, Fruit of the Loom, FedEx, KFC, United Airlines, Microsoft, Disney and others to share with you. ABC television and FOX Business refer to him as the modern-day Napoleon Hill.
In addition, Doug is the producer and director of 3 out of 10 of the top personal development movies ever made. He is the producer of The Opus (featuring Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Joe Vitale, John Demartini, Marci Shimoff, Morris Goodman, Bob Doyle and others.) The Gratitude Experiment (Bob Proctor, Marie Diamond, John Demartini, John Gray) and The Treasure Map (John Demartini, Loral Langemeier, Raymond Aaron, Marshall Sylver, Randy Gage.)

Doug has authored 3 books in the Guerrilla marketing series and is creator of PERSONAL POWER MASTERY which is rated one of the top personal development programs in the world providing powerful tools to companies, individuals and students.

To learn more about Douglas Vermeeren visit:


Stefan Aarnio: Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the show, it’s Respect the Grind with Stefan Aarnio. This is the show where we interview people who’ve achieved mastery and freedom through discipline. We interview entrepreneurs, athletes, authors, artists, real estate investors, anybody who has achieved mastery and examine what it took to get there. Today on the show, I have a special friend of mine, Douglas Vermeeren, who is well known worldwide for interviewing some of the world’s top achievers, some people have called him the modern Napoleon Hill. He’s a filmmaker, he’s an author, done all sorts of fantastic work. Doug, welcome to the show, Respect the Grind, thank you so much for joining me today.

Doug Vermeeren: Thanks for having me, Stefan, good to be here.

Stefan Aarnio: Awesome. So Doug, you and I have known each other for quite some time, when did we meet, was it 2012?

Doug Vermeeren: Oh goodness sakes, yeah, maybe even earlier, but yeah.

Stefan Aarnio: It might have been ’11 actually, it might have been 2011. Now, for the people at home who don’t know Doug Vermeeren, what’s Doug Vermeeren in your own words for the people at home, so you can let them know about you and the current things you’re doing. You’re always changing, you’re always doing new stuff. Tell the people at home about what you’re doing.

Doug Vermeeren: I don’t know, you want some background or do you want me to just share what’s going on right now? What’s easiest for you?

Stefan Aarnio: It’s freestyle man, give us some story, give us some sizzle, and what people at home love to hear about, and I think what’s most entertaining to them is to hear the before and the after. Where was Doug before, where was Doug after, what do you-

Doug Vermeeren: Now and how, let’s do it.

Stefan Aarnio: Yeah, exactly, exactly.

Doug Vermeeren: I guess the thing that’s kind of interesting is just looking at my life, I didn’t come from a background of how should we say prestige or wealth or anything like that. In fact, I’m a Canadian, I was born in Canada, and my parents didn’t really have a whole lot of money, my dad worked in construction and my mom actually babysat kids in the home. They repeated what I call the poverty pattern, meaning that their mindset and their ideas of creating the ideal outcomes of what they wanted to achieve in life really were this idea of work, work, work, work, and just like many parents and many people, they say “Let’s work smarter”, but they really didn’t know what that meant, working smarter instead of harder. So for them, working smarter was actually saving a little bit of money, working even harder and saving a little bit more money, but obviously with that poverty pattern, that doesn’t really work out, ’cause your bills find a way to keep pace with that kind of mentality.

Doug Vermeeren: I was raised with the work really, really hard kind of mentality, and I still have that, and that’s still valuable, but kind of where things shifted for me, where the real change happened is when I was about 19, 20, I took a job in California. I was going to school in the United States, and this job was actually selling pest control door to door. And so I don’t know if any of your listeners have done door to door, but we know that is a crazy grind, and if you ever want rejection, do door to door sales, but then add to that what you’re selling, and I was selling pest control. Nobody likes to hear that they’ve got bugs, and nobody likes somebody to show up on the doorstep and do this.

Doug Vermeeren: Needless to say, I was working as hard as I could, we estimated that the summer that this occurred, and I did this for three summers, but I knocked on about 22,000 doors.

Stefan Aarnio: Wow.

Doug Vermeeren: Yeah, so if anybody knows California, I was in places like Victorville and Hesperia, out in the Mojave Desert, it’s not cool, it’s hot, you get sweaty, and a sweaty kid knocking on doors telling you you’ve got bugs, I just didn’t at first have a lot of experience of success. I really had some, how should we day, discouraging moments. Up until that point, I’d never heard of personal development, I had just really heard what my parents and close family had taught: work, work, work. And so I really I began to be I guess discouraged, and it was about at this point that I kind of … We started manifesting our inner feelings by the words that we used, and so I would then say to work colleagues and my managers, people like that, “I’m not really sure if this is for me, I’m feeling like I’m spinning my wheels, I’m not really getting anywhere.”

Doug Vermeeren: And so these thoughts started obviously creating negative situations around me, the more I expressed it, the worse things got. And I one day had one of my friends say, “Shut the heck up. If you’re going to continue this course, maybe it’s better if you do go home because you’re bringing negative energy and you’re bringing all kinds of other challenges here to the group, so either shut up or go home. Before you make that decision though”, he says, “I’m going to tell you that what you’re feeling right now isn’t necessarily the truth. You can change these outcomes of you start looking at things differently.” And I said, “Yeah, yeah”, blah blah blah. And he said, “Tell you what. Do me a favor. Before you make a decision, I want you to take the day off, or even the next couple of days if you need to, and I want you to read these two books.”

Doug Vermeeren: I was like, “What? That’s going to change my life? I did enough reading in high school, thank you very much.” He said, “Again, shut up or go home, or do what I’m going to ask you.” And I said, “Okay, fine. Fine. I’ll give it a change I guess, maybe there’s something to this.” The two books that he gave me to read were How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie, and Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Now both of those books have amazing information, citing them in fact, one of the first things I learned with How to Win Friends and Influence People, was the first person I needed to become friends with was myself. I was actually my own worst enemy.

Doug Vermeeren: And then as I read Think and Grow Rich, something different happened. Obviously my mind shifted, but one of the things that I really kind of I guess developed was a little bit of an understanding of who I was surrounding myself with and who I was listening to ultimately started to influence the thoughts I was beginning to have and manifest and that obviously created my reality.

Doug Vermeeren: As I read what Napoleon Hill had done to write the book, you’ll remember that he interviewed more than 400 of the world’s top achievers in his day. He met with people like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, the Rockefellers, the Wrigleys, you remember Andrew Carnegie is in fact sort of credited with starting the whole process off for him, and so to be honest, I kind of felt a little bit jealous with Napoleon Hill. I kind of felt in some ways that if I started surrounding myself with high level people, well of course I’m going to succeed. You know, he had this ability to network with these people, of course he’s going to feel powerful.

Doug Vermeeren: So I started believing in myself, but even more than that, I started setting a goal that I actually was going to go and interview 400 of the world’s top achievers as well. Now interestingly enough, at that point, I didn’t do it with the motive to become a speaker or a teacher, I just did it from really a selfish point of view, that I wanted to surround myself with that caliber of people. And so I started interviewing top achievers wherever I could find them. Obviously the people that I had access to in the beginning were successes in their own community and in their own areas, in fact, some of them were multimillionaires and people who had done pretty good with either their own real estate companies, kind of like what you’ve done, or there was a fellow that owned a sporting goods store that was a person that I knew that was quite high up in an oil company. Again, being from Calgary Alberta, there’s a lot of oil people in our circles, and so I began to kind of interview these people and learn from them.

Doug Vermeeren: There was one gentleman that really changed everything for me. After about six months of meeting with him on a weekly basis, and having him help me to learn about everything from my personal life, my relationship life, my financial life, he stopped me and he said, “You know what, we’ve had a lot of time together, you’ve asked me a lot of questions, but there’s one question you haven’t asked me that’s going to change everything for you.” And I said, “Well do tell, what is this?” And he says, “You haven’t asked me who else I know that you should talk to.” And so I began to ask that question now every time I would meet a top achiever, and by the time I was completed my journey now, you know, of interviewing people, I had a chance to spend time with people like Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, although some people aren’t really big fans of his, he was one of our success interviews.

Doug Vermeeren: All the way to people that you maybe wouldn’t know like Howard Putnam, the former CEO of Southwest Airlines, the former VP of all customer service for United, people like Bill Farley, who was the former owner of Fruit of the Loom, Christian Dior, Jordache Jeans, Sportswear, Marilyn Tam, the former CEO of Nike, Reebok, the founder of the Avita Group, people like Frank Maguire, the former VP of Marketing for all of KFC, one of the co-founders of Federal Express and so on. And what I did that was maybe different than Napoleon Hill was Napoleon Hill focused a lot on business leaders, and I understand that because in his day, those were kind of the people that were making money, right? They were the successes.

Doug Vermeeren: I decided I wanted to expand that, so I also included in my success resources people who were athletes, so Olympians, medalists, people playing professional sports, either NBA, NHL, for the baseball leagues and so forth. I also included actors, everyone from people like Robert Duvall, to Kevin Costner, to Annette Benning, to Jessica Biel to Anthony Daniels to C3PO to people like that, and so I included that. So I got a much broader view of what success really looked like, and even in addition to that, as you know, there’s a lot of industries that didn’t exist in the 1930’s when Napoleon Hill wrote his book. For example, people are making money online, people are now information marketers, there’s just a whole different shift in how to become successful.

Doug Vermeeren: I mean a lot of the core principles are the same, but there’s been so much that has evolved since the days of Think and Grow Rich as well, that most people aren’t aware of. And so I was able to use that material first of all, to make some mass changes in my own life, and financially, I did very, very well. As a young man, in my first six months implementing this information, as a 19-year-old, I started averaging about $9,000 a day in income, which is about $1.6 million dollars in six months. But I noticed beyond the money, which again, the money is one thing, there were so many other changes that took place. In fact just even inside of me, because if you want to expand what you have, you’ve got to expand who you are first. I just found that my way of looking at things, my way of understanding things …

Doug Vermeeren: Let’s go back to this idea of working smart, right? My parents understood how to work smart at maybe a five and six figure level, and to them, that’s what working smart looked like. That was their interpretation of that. But as I started becoming exposed to bigger and better ideas, people that were now doing seven, eight, nine, even 10 figures or more, their idea of working smart was completely different than what I had been exposed to previously. So I started looking at problems in a different way, and my solutions obviously evolved as I became bigger.

Doug Vermeeren: In fact, it was interesting, one of the biggest takeaways that I learned, we hear this, that our net worth is a reflection of our net work, and I think that that’s definitely true, for sure it is. But I also think that our net work is a safety net, and as we gain a high caliber of people in our circle of influence if you will, and in our immediate situation, the kind of problems that we can solve also expands, so that is the safety net of the people that I could go to. I’ve had now certain mentors that I’ve turned to and I asked them how they would solve a problem, and they have literally given me solutions or ideas to consider that weren’t even on my radar, you know, 15, 20 years ago.

Doug Vermeeren: So it’s just really given me a power that I’ve never experienced before. And so kind of with that information is obviously, I started creating my own personal life changes and successes. People started to invite me to come out and speak about it, that’s kind of how I got introduced to the speaking industry, and what’s really kind of funny is I got hooked.

Doug Vermeeren: Anyone in your audience who’s ever spoken in front of a group that enjoyed it by the way, you’ll know that it’s kind of a neat feeling. And I won’t lie to you, you feel kind of like a rock star, especially if the information that you’re sharing is helping and serving other people, you really feel valuable and validated. And so I decided I wanted to teach this, I found so much value in doing that. But the problem, and maybe the benefit, was that I didn’t really know any speakers at the time. So I couldn’t say, “How do you build a speaking business? How do you build this into an enterprise?” Right? And thank goodness for that, because most of the speakers that I know are broke and have no concept of how to run a speaking business. They may have some content and some expertise, but they really don’t know how to serve people at massive levels.

Doug Vermeeren: And so the only people that I could literally turn to to grow my speaking business was the top achievers that I just interviewed. So I was turning to people like Frank Maguire, one of the founders of FedEx, a multi-billion dollar company at the time, said, “How would you build a speaking business?” And so he didn’t tell me as the speaker how to build it, he told me as a business leader, and so that’s what’s allowed me to kind of really go global, international, to have multi best selling books, to creating three of the top ten personal development movies of all time, we’ve got a contract for four more. You’ve been with me to England before, we’ve got massive audiences in the U.K., Australia, South America, South Africa, Canada and the U.S., and I attribute that really not to my own thinking, but by really having the right people in my team and in my corner to help me see opportunities that I really wasn’t aware existed.

Doug Vermeeren: And so now, as you know, we go around the world, we teaching something called Personal Power Mastery. We can talk a little bit about that in a minute if you’d like, but it was just recently rated as one of the top three personal development programs in the world, and as we do the book, it’s hilarious ’cause I was just telling you before we got on, Bob Proctor just gave me the forward for it and a variety of testimonials, but some of the top leaders in personal development, people that everyone knows featured in films like The Secret or massive stages around the world, they’ve actually written me testimonials for this book, and some of them are claiming that this material we’re about to share is actually going to revolutionize personal development. They’re saying it’s an immediate classic in personal development literature because, and I think this is what it is. If you look at a lot of the coaches and speakers that are out there right now, they’re sharing information they’ve learned from someone else’s book or a seminar that they’ve been to.

Doug Vermeeren: For example, when The Secret came out, how many law of attraction coaches appeared? Everybody became a law of attraction coach. Or you listen to speakers, and how many of them went and heard Tony Robbins speak and two weeks later, they’re a coach and a speaker. Well, when you’re doing that, you’re really just getting a photocopy of a photocopy of someone else’s material. In other words, their interpretation of Think and Grow Rich, or their interpretation of Tony Robbins, or their interpretation of The Secret. And what’s interesting is my work is kind of unique in the sense that no one since the time of Napoleon Hill has actually gone out and met face to face, knee to knee, in person with the world’s top achievers. And so the information that I have is not a photocopy of a photocopy, it’s what I learned firsthand sitting with these top achievers.

Doug Vermeeren: And so I got some stuff that I can promise you that no one has seen. And even if you look at Napoleon Hill’s work, he’s passed away, and there’s a lot of gaps that are in there. There’s a lot of things that top achievers really do that are still not found, even in his works. I hope to expose those, that’s my goal.

Stefan Aarnio: So Doug, they say there’s nothing new under the sun. It’s interesting, the number one most influential book in the United States is the bible, number two is supposedly Atlas Shrugged, and the bible is Greek, it means book. It was the only book for like 2,000 years, around 2,000 years, ’til the renaissance of the printing press. When I look at personal development and I look at Tony Robbins, when I look at Bob Proctor, any of these guys, it seems to me even Think and Grow Rich is almost like a secular version of the bible. Is there nothing new under the sun? It’s like Jim Roland says, he says, “New antiques” there’s no such thing as new antiques. These are old ideas. What would you say is something that’s new that’s new to personal development, ’cause it seems to me that there’s a lot of fundamentals, and it’s people going back to the fundamentals is what makes personal development and success work. So why don’t you dispel what I’m saying here.

Doug Vermeeren: You know, it’s interesting that you talk about the bible here for a minute, and actually the Greek word actually doesn’t mean “book”, it means library. I don’t know if you knew that, a compilation of books is really what it is, and if you think about the bible, you’ve got each individual book in the Old Testament and each individual book in the New Testament, and if you look at any single book in there, most of them have elements, but only together do they have the whole picture, right?

Doug Vermeeren: I think that that’s kind of one of the big things that’s missing with personal development is you’ve got people that kind of … How do I word it? They kind of dabble in their specific hobby. So, for example, you might have a book on the power of thought. Wonderful. And by itself, thought is amazing, but if you don’t attach specific, deliberate, correct action to it, that book on thought has its limitations. Right? And so what I have seen in personal development is you’ve got different books that people sort of focus on, let’s call it a hobby or a niche on a certain area, and so they’ve only got a part of the picture. And so really, my goal is to bring this all together.

Doug Vermeeren: Let me just share one example that I found really profound. As you remember, one of the movies that we did was called The Gratitude Experiment. When I went out and I interviewed the world’s top achievers, as I was interviewing them, just like you, I’m an avid reader, and so I would interview them in person and then in my private moments, I would be reading every success book I could get my hands on. It was so interesting, that as I met with the top achievers, I noticed that certain things, like gratitude, they practiced in their life. But many of the success books I was reading, they would talk about time management, taking action, setting goals, but they rarely had a chapter on gratitude for example.

Doug Vermeeren: By the way, another thing that I found kind of interesting is these ideas around goals setting, this write it down, set a date, this idea of smart, specific, measurable, achievable, all that kind of stuff, when I looked at the top achievers in real life, they actually didn’t do that. In fact, most of them did not follow that whole write it down set a date kind of formula. One of the things that I discovered that was really interesting is more so than this write it down set a date, the way top achievers operated was something called the law of probability. Meaning that instead of saying either you’re a success or a failure, or you write it down, you get it done, you do the next thing, they actually understood that with every activity that they took closer, it increased the probability.

Doug Vermeeren: What’s interesting is that to me, really provokes true thought. Where did this goal setting thing come from? And I did find a book actually speaking about antique stores, in an antique store, that talked about where this goal setting stuff came from. And it said that this write it down, set a date kind of stuff, or the smart goal setting stuff, all the things that HR teaches today, came from assembly line manufacturing.

Doug Vermeeren: There’s two problems with that though for human nature, is that we’re human beings, not human doings. And if we look at the assembly line, if you want X amounts of widgets at the end, you’ve got to do this, this, this, and this, and this to get to that, because we’re not human doings, that’s why so many people, they’ll start something, they logically, with their logic mind know what to do, but if we go lower to the remoter mind or the reptilian brain part of their mind, we know that we’re motivated by things that inspire us, things that have deep purpose, things that are more emotionally driven, and that’s why activity and emotion can’t be separate. People start a goal, start a new year’s resolution, but because it’s focused on what to do rather than who we are, we never stay focused long enough to get to the end.

Doug Vermeeren: The other problem, and I think a great person that really shares this is Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, if you look at an assembly line, each task along the way requires a certain level of expertise. Well, Malcolm says it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at any given thing, and so this idea of having to follow an assembly line to create our widgets at the end, the problem is most of us run out of time. We end up dying with our music still in us because we can’t possibly become an expert at every given thing.

Doug Vermeeren: The way top achievers do it, like I said, is they increase probability and they also learn how to delegate almost everything they possibly can. People ask me, “Doug, what do you do for a living?” And the answer that I actually share, I gained from one of my top achievers. People say, “What do you do for a living?” I say, “As little as possible, and I delegate the rest.”

Doug Vermeeren: And so the other problem with [inaudible 00:21:34] with this idea of trying to do everything is they say you’ve got to step out of your comfort zone to really become a success, and I’m going to tell you that’s totally not true. Every top achiever that you’ve interviewed isn’t interested to become uncomfortable, rather than getting out in the world and learning all these new things, they delegate it. So what they do is they step into their brilliance zone, and that’s where they become uncomfortable, so the things that they’re good at, they develop that, and anything else they delegate.

Doug Vermeeren: For example, myself, I don’t do my own taxes, I delegate it. I don’t build my own websites, I delegate it. I don’t do my own dental work, my own haircuts, my own whatever it is. You need to learn to delegate so you can fast track that way to get to success. Find people in their brilliance, and employ them to do the heavy lifting. Right?

Stefan Aarnio: Let’s talk about gratitude. I remember Tony Robbins, he was interviewing one of the, I think the world’s biggest hedge fund managers, one of the richest men in the world, and he said, “What’s the secret to wealth?” and he said, “It’s gratitude.”

Doug Vermeeren: Yeah.

Stefan Aarnio: You made a movie, The Gratitude Experiment, I haven’t seen it yet, I was in one of your movies, The Treasure Map, I saw The Opus, so I’ve seen I think two of your three movies. Tell me about The Gratitude Experiment, and why is gratitude so important to top achievers and achieving top level success.

Doug Vermeeren: Wow, I mean that’s a whole podcast on its own, maybe one day we can get into the detail. About the movie, let me just share how that came about, and then maybe I’ll share some insights into gratitude. Like I said, when I went out and interviewed the top 400 achievers, I found that gratitude among those that I interviewed was a massive, common thing. And by the way, I should mention, in addition to interviewing successes, I waded through a lot of people that on the surface appeared successful, but ultimately upon examination, they were not.

Doug Vermeeren: I also spent some time interviewing some people who have failed dramatically in their life, whether it was in relationships. In fact there was one fella that I interviewed had five divorces and was still hopeful with another relationship. Here’s the deal and I’m not criticizing him, wonderful person I suppose, but when you have five divorces, the common attribute might be you, right? I also interviewed people who had mass business failures, people who had … You know in fact, funny enough, I even recently spoke in a prison in North Carolina, and some of the people that were in prisons that had created some massive things as well, I mean they created those situations, right? Needless to say, what we found as we were going up to study gratitude is that those that were successful understood how to practice gratitude correctly. So it’s not enough just to say “thank you” or recognize what you’ve got going on good in your life, there’s a correct formula for that.

Doug Vermeeren: Now before I get into the details on that, I just want to share that with that movie, I interviewed several of the top thought leaders as well for that. So in that movie, we have Bob Proctor, we have Marie Diamond from The Secret, we have John Demartini from The Secret, John Gray who did Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and a few others, so some people who had some experience teaching this. One of the big lessons that I found, well I guess there’s two that really kind of blew me away. The first one is that gratitude expands anything it connects with.

Doug Vermeeren: And maybe to preface this, there’s really five pillars in our life of what we want, and our balance of things, and I apologize for kind of going into ADE with you here, but I think this is maybe important for people to understand. The five pillars in our life are really what we feel needs to be in balance for us to feel totally successful. The first pillar is what we call self, and that really focuses on our self worth, our self esteem, our self value, our confidence, our feelings of self fulfillment, bottom line is we always only rise to what we believe about ourselves. Our actions will never be larger than ourselves. If we don’t believe we’re worthy, we can’t sustain it. We might take an action based on who’s surrounding us, our peer pressure, but we can’t sustain that until we fully, independently believe it. So that’s the first pillar.

Doug Vermeeren: How that relates to gratitude, when we’re grateful for ourselves, we begin to expand who we are. There are many people who don’t see their value, they don’t see their worth, and sometimes they even self-sabotage. And so in Personal Power Mastery, we talk about how to anchor ourselves to our best self, and also to expand our best self. Like I said earlier, we can’t expand what we have before we expand who we are.

Doug Vermeeren: The next level up is what I’m going to call spirituality, and that doesn’t mean necessarily Sunday school or going to church or even a religion thing, that means how do we connect in terms of the thing that we truly value and believe, both on an ethical and moral level, how are we creating that, let’s call it eternal legacy beyond who we are. So that’s the next level up. You remember, speaking about the bible again, it says that we must love our neighbors as ourself. Well again, we can’t get to that next level until we do love ourselves, right? So that’s the next level.

Doug Vermeeren: The next level up is what we call health. And most people [inaudible 00:26:36] kind of irrelevant, they oftentimes sacrifice their health to get their work done, but in the end, we all know that people end up trading what they worked for to get their health back. I’m going to say it also this way that if we don’t get ourself and our spirituality figured out, it manifests itself in our health, and we can start seeing people who are challenged by that.

Doug Vermeeren: One of the things also as I interviewed the top achievers that I found interesting about health is that health doesn’t always mean an optimum performance, like some of my people that I interviewed, in fact, I can think of three right off the top of my head, one is a guy by the name of Drew Hunthausen, who is a blind and deaf triathlete. He runs triathlons, and yeah, it’s incredible. And of course, he has a partner that guides him through these kinds of things, but he feels very good about his health although he’s missing his sight and his hearing entirely. He is a very competitive athlete. There were also people like Morris Goodman, who you remember from The Secret that crashed his airplane into the power lines and broke his back and everything else and was paralyzed and told the doctors he would walk out of the hospital. He did so, and was called the miracle man because of it.

Doug Vermeeren: So there were people like that who felt very good about their health, but like I say on the flip side, I interviewed some people, like one guy who was involved in a body building competition internationally, and he won, but he didn’t feel good about his health. He didn’t think that he was measuring up and no matter how much time he spent at the gym, it was insufficient, no matter how hardcore his diet became, it was insufficient. And so he was always lacking. By the way, we’ll follow that all the way back down to self, right? That manifested itself in that.

Doug Vermeeren: Well the next two are kind of interesting because when we are connected to these three things, the next level up is what we call relationships. I’m not just talking here about like a spouse, a husband and wife, or a significant other. I’m not also talking only about say your kids or even your siblings, or your parents, those are all manifestations of this, but every relationship in our life, whether it’s business or what have you, that all appears in this category.

Doug Vermeeren: And then the next category, because relationships actually generate ultimately, our abundance. Money is never generated without two people involved, right? There always must be another individual to create a transaction, so if we can’t get our relationship right, we can never, ever create sustainable abundance. But when we can learn how to deal with people in ethical ways or with integrity, what have you, then we can build abundance in a massive way. And so those are the five pillars. Now, back to this idea of gratitude, that until we have gratitude for these things in our life, we can’t create more of them. In other words, it’s kind of like Lego. Unless you have a foundation built, you can’t put more blocks on top, right? But we’re grateful for it, it can expand.

Doug Vermeeren: It’s really interesting that as we did The Gratitude Experiment, one of the teachers in the film, and I apologize, I can’t remember who it was, they shared an exercise that they teach their students, where they say whenever you’re feeling as though things aren’t going entirely right, whenever things are feeling discouraged or challenged, he says rewind to the beginning of the day that you kind of arrived. You were naked, you had very few attachments except for your immediate parents, and all you really had was some breath and some food. So start there, and start being grateful for the things that get added to that. And obviously for most of us in our life, especially if we live in a first world country, I’ve lived in third world countries, and even in South Africa, I still see this a lot.

Doug Vermeeren: Not everyone adds the things that we can in North America. For example, we can add regular food coming into our life, other markets or other areas, they can’t always do that. We add that we’ve got fresh and clean clothing, not everyone can do that. We add that we’ve got peace and that we’re not worried about someone breaking into our home right now at gunpoint and taking one of our brothers or sisters away to join a militia off in the jungle somewhere. We don’t have to worry about that here, so if we can start to add what we’re grateful for, we’ll find that we actually have so much to be grateful for, and it expands.

Doug Vermeeren: I do remember actually, Marie Diamond in our movie, The Gratitude Experiment, you’ll remember her from The Secret, she actually said another way to feel grateful right away is clean your house, and you’ll recognize what you already have. And when we recognize what we have, when we’re good stewards over what we have, and we take care of what’s in our possession, it gets added to. So to me, that was really important, so that’s lesson number one.

Doug Vermeeren: Lesson number two I think is maybe even a bit more profound for me. At the time, when The Gratitude Experiment came out, it was a lot of strange things going on in the world. You might remember that there was a big tsunami that rocked through Japan, and it leveled many of the coastal cities, in fact, most of Japan did not even have clean drinking water, and it was shipped in from places like Canada and abroad. You remember also at the same time that there were tornadoes whipping through Oklahoma, and thousands and millions of dollars in property damage, where people lost their homes, not too recently before that was this Katrina that had whipped through New Orleans that had taken out most of the some of the different quarters of the city, and if you’ve been in New Orleans, you’ll see a lot of that still isn’t repaired.

Doug Vermeeren: At the same time, there was also a young man who was shot by the police I think, I’m trying to remember where it was, but Trevon, I lost his last name now, was shot and the riots that were erupting from people that felt that the police were not operating correctly. So in the midst of that, we released The Gratitude Experiment. And so my phone went off the hook from television stations saying, “Will you come and tell us how with all this crap hitting the fan, we could even expect to be grateful?”

Doug Vermeeren: Well of course, now I’m a little bit nervous because I’m going on live TV, I have no idea what they’re going to ask me, and all these things going wrong, I thought maybe, again without permission, maybe to some extent they’re right, there are certain moments that you know, it’s okay to gripe, it’s okay to be a victim. We don’t always have to be grateful. But as I began thinking about what I had learned in The Gratitude Experiment and by meeting some of these top achievers, I recognized that the ideas that I was initially going to, the ideas I was primed by my society and my environment to bounce to were incorrect. And I recognized something that one of the speakers in the film said, and this was Marion Morrissey, she said, “There’s a massive difference between gratitude for and gratitude in, and most of us are in the state of gratitude for.”

Doug Vermeeren: The state of gratitude for is when we’re attached to the things in our life. In other words, I’m grateful for my bank account, I’m thankful for my car, I’m thankful for my clothes, I’m thankful for my house, I’m thankful for my relationships with my family and wife, and all those are things that are external of us. And if you look very closely at scarcity thinking, right? And in fact, even in Stephen Covey’s amazing book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective Thinking, he talks about two kinds of thinking. He doesn’t call them scarcity and abundance thinking, he says it’s reactive and proactive thinking.

Doug Vermeeren: And if you think about scarcity and reactive, that’s always based upon our circumstances around us. But proactive is independent. Abundance is independent. And we have empowered ability that we’re not really even, how should we say, affected by what happens around us. We build boundaries and we build how should we say, a wall, that our thoughts and our feelings, our actions, everything, is independent of anything that’s happening around us. So we choose. That’s gratitude in, that comes from within, and we can find things to be grateful for no matter what circumstance we’re in.

Doug Vermeeren: Wow, I’m starting to lose my voice here. But one of the things that I think is important, if you look at gratitude in, is still to remember that we are human, and the initial emotions that we might experience, you know, we’re going to feel sadness. We’re going to feel pain, we’re going to feel challenged. I’m going to have to get a cough candy in a minute. But I’m going to turn it to you, I’m going to go get a candy.

Stefan Aarnio: Go get a candy Doug.

Doug Vermeeren: Back.

Stefan Aarnio: Okay, good, you got some water, got some cough candies.

Doug Vermeeren: Okay.

Stefan Aarnio: Okay, awesome.

Doug Vermeeren: We’ll start again. So yeah, when we were on these TV shows, and I could share with them that gratitude is actually, how shall we say, independent of events that we experience, we take our power back. I guess something that’s kind of interesting, and this is actually coming from the new book, Personal Power Mastery, we talk about feeling helpless versus feeling empowered. One of the interviews I did was maybe not someone who the world would consider a top achiever, but someone who saved a lot of lives in my opinion. It’s a friend of mine that works in the Suicide Hotline. In chatting with her, she said something that really surprised me. Something that I didn’t see coming at all, in fact, she said in their training to work with people who are contemplating suicide, she says they are not allowed to tell them “You can’t commit suicide”. It was like what? Isn’t that your job? Aren’t you supposed to prevent these guys from taking their lives? And she goes, no, well what our job is is to actually help them see choices and consequence.

Doug Vermeeren: You see, the reason they feel discouraged, the reason they feel like everything is lost, the reason why they are feeling hopeless and helpless is ’cause they feel like all their choices have been taken away, that they have no choice but to kill themselves. Everything isn’t a dramatic and terrible state. And this is the same with gratitude. When we recognize that we have a choice in things, even in the smallest things. The biggest catastrophe, we still have choices, what happens is we actually gain our control back. We regain control and shift into a [inaudible 00:36:36] state. And so in terms of again, back to the Suicide Hotline, is by helping people see they have a choice, they also begin to recognize that there’s consequences to every choice. And so they can begin to recognize that even though you feel helpless, you’re truly not. And that tomorrow, actually you can make something different than what you’ve experienced today.

Doug Vermeeren: And so when I went on to the television programs, this is what I talked about. I said I know that people in Japan have lost their homes, I know that people in Oklahoma have experienced these challenges, I know that this poor boy was shot by the police and it may have been a really big accident that we can’t control, but everyone now affected by that has a choice. They could either choose to create something great out of it and better, or they can choose to give up their power saying, “This is just the way that it is”, right? I guess the biggest thing to tie this all back to even the top achievers, for your listeners, if they want to become a top achiever, they really need to understand that they have the power and they can’t give it away.

Doug Vermeeren: You see, people who are reactive will always be the servants of those that are proactive. Those that are proactive will always create the rules that those that are reactive will have to respond to. There will always be reactive people, and even in our own lives to some extent, no matter how proactive we are, there will also still be moments where we’re reactive. But the more we can shift into that, the more awareness we can have of becoming proactive, the more power we gain, and the more we then begin to control our destiny. Our decisions in those moments are really what make the difference.

Doug Vermeeren: Obviously, I’d love to have you come up to Personal Power Mastery, but we talk about that difference because this is so easy to say, but the challenge is the way our brain works. It goes through a pattern called split second reasoning, which means we seek for that answer as quick as possible. We go from stimulus to response quick. We don’t really think about that all the time, and so how do we first of all I guess, prime ourselves or program ourselves, so stimulus, we have an ability to create a new response by how we react in the center, and that’s the problem that most people have, they never ever question that programming and they also don’t know the tools to reprogram that in such a way that they can empower themselves.

Stefan Aarnio: Doug, I love what you’re saying about the reactive and the proactive, I think that the reactive is where victim mentality comes from, and the victims are at the bottom of the barrel for mindset, and when you become an owner, I call it victim and owner, that’s reactive and proactive. You said something interesting, when you were interviewing some of these top people, that some of them appeared successful, but they weren’t, and how could you tell? Because we live in a world of appearances, we live in a world of brands and shiny this and shiny that and the Kardashians and everybody’s so excited and everybody wants to be a brand or looks so successful, especially with social media now. How can you tell when you’re interviewing somebody that it was all appearance and wasn’t for real?

Doug Vermeeren: I mean there’s a lot of things that we can do, and maybe one of the ideas even to come back to is something you just mentioned. You’ve got your Respect the Grind, right? Well we’ve actually got something that we say in Personal Power Mastery all the time, this is one of our catch phrases, we say, “If you own it, you can change it.” And that’s the problem with most people is they’re not prepared to own what they’ve created, and so therefore they can never change it. So if you own it you can change it.

Doug Vermeeren: That’s one of the big things that a lot of top achievers do, but those that on the surface look like they’re successful and are not, do not do. In fact, a lot of these individuals that we interviewed, they may have accumulated a lot of money or they may be running a company that on the surface looks pretty big, or they look like they’ve got their family together or whatever the situation you’re exploring, but inside, you’ll notice that it’s really a facade, it’s kind of like when you go into a movie set and you see that they’ve just built the front of the house, there’s nothing behind it. So that whole idea of owning what is happening in all circumstances of their lives is really important.

Doug Vermeeren: It also kind of reminds me, and I’m a big Stephen Covey fan, Stephen Covey says again, that private victories precede public victories, and so oftentimes you get these people that are successful, maybe it’s through luck or through association, or what have you, but they’ve never put in the work privately to maintain that success.

Doug Vermeeren: So sometimes it’s … they’ll have this flash in the pan success, but very shortly thereafter, they’re right back to where they were. I think one of the things that I have found is that people, having interviewed the top achievers, having seen the less successful, having now taught this in seminars around the world to thousands of people, the one thing that I find to be consistent is that we always rise to the standards that we set for ourselves and the people we surround ourselves with. We always rise to those two standards, and if you look at that carefully, it’s easy to participate in things above our standards, but if our standards aren’t high, we’ll always find that we reset, just like a temperature gauge, right back to what we truly believe about ourselves and how we deal with others and again all those five pillars.

Doug Vermeeren: If you gained your business and your wealth through stepping on other people, you might experience abundance, but that pillar underneath it, relationships, will very soon bring you right back down because if you don’t have that integrity … What do they say, there’s a saying that says, “Nice guys finish last.” I like that because it implies that nice guys get to finish. You’ve got a lot of people who aren’t nice, and they’re never invited back, right? So they technically don’t get to keep going, they never get to finish. But a nice guy, even though maybe he’s a little slower than the how should we say, out of the gate sort of success, because he’s treated people properly and he structured his business properly, he can continue, and he does get to finish.

Doug Vermeeren: In fact, one of the success interviews that I did, at first this fellow, and this was in about I want to say maybe 19 … no sorry, it was probably about 2003. And he had made a fortune and he was doing internet stuff, which then he started flipping houses. So he started as an information marketer, and then he started flipping houses. He was buying tax deeds and stuff like this, you know more about this than I do. Anyways, so what happened when 2008 came along, all of a sudden it was discovered very clearly that a lot of his business was not structured effectively. He hadn’t correctly done his taxes, he hadn’t correctly licensed his businesses, and of course when he didn’t have money to cover up the mistakes, the mistakes became very apparent. What is it that Warren Buffett says when the tide goes out you get to see who’s swimming naked? Well, it became very apparent that he had not done things in a correct way. He had sped through to get to success, and created a very false façade of what that looked like and it wasn’t sustainable.

Doug Vermeeren: I saw that in many things too. It’s kind of like one of my favorite success interviews was a fella by the name of Jim Tunney, and most people wouldn’t know him, but he was a referee for the NFL for about 30 years, he participated in all the major games through the years, he was in the referee hall of fame for the NFL, he was one of the biggest guys, he says, “You know what?” He says, “One thing I can tell you about the NFL is when the game starts, you can see very quickly which players did not do their homework.” You could see which guys did not earn the right to be there. And most of the time, they’re not invited back because when you get to the big show, so to speak, you’re expected to perform like other people in the big show.

Doug Vermeeren: And you know this, being a top achiever yourself, is that if you get some little fish that comes to play, even if he’s got a little bit of money or he’s got a little bit of success, very, very quickly do the holes in his game appear. You can see what he’s either inflated or falsified or skipped over steps, you can see very quickly. And by the way, I see this all the time in the speaking business. I got people that knock on my door and want to share the stage with me and come out and for the most part, you try and give them the chance. But a lot of times you get these guys who claim that they’re such a big deal and it’s a very ego-driven game, so they’re trying to prove themselves and it’s kind of like a pissing contest a little bit, so these guys come on the field, but very quickly you see who’s done their homework and who hasn’t.

Doug Vermeeren: I’m pleased to report that a lot of people do their homework, which is good, but you do occasionally see these guys that try to fast track and they’re not prepared to play there, and they can’t sustain it, it becomes very apparent quick.

Stefan Aarnio: So Doug, we’ve got to wrap up here in a couple of minutes, three more questions for you, super quick. What’s the one thing that you think young people need to succeed today? People talk about the millennials, I’m starting to hear about generation zed, my slogan here, Respect the Grind, is really for young people. I think that the older generations, they knew what grinding was about, and grinding was a positive thing to the baby boomers, that was something they did. For the millennials, it’s I say respect the grind guys, you’ve got to put in the work, put in the time as you said. What do you think young people need these days to succeed?

Doug Vermeeren: Well, I think we’re seeing something happen today, and by the way, where do we go after generation zed, we’ve got to find another letter or something, right?

Stefan Aarnio: It’s going to be A, we go back to A.

Doug Vermeeren: Back to A and start again? I don’t know, maybe. But it’s interesting, I speak at a lot of schools as well. I do a lot of colleges, universities, and even high schools. I have a lot of hope for the future. I see some amazing people coming out with crazy, amazing abilities, something things that they’re smarter than ever before, they’ve got the technology on their side, so I’m super hopeful. I’m not one of these guys that feels like oh man, the whole universe is going to crap, and if it wasn’t for my generation, the world would end. I don’t believe that. I believe we’re on the way to amazing and great things.

Doug Vermeeren: But, I am realistic, and I see not only in the youth, but I see this in adults too, that we’ve got kind of I call it three sort of negative mindsets that [inaudible 00:47:31] outcomes. The first negative mindset is what I’m going to call a victim mentality-

Stefan Aarnio: We’re going to need that one more time, we got some interference. One more time on that.

Doug Vermeeren: I think in today’s society, not just with the youth, but even with adults too, we see that there’s, for those that are achieving less, those that are struggling, you see three kinds of mindsets that are appearing. The first one is what we call a victim mentality, and the victim mentality is the one that tries to blame everything around it for its problems. “I can’t do it because so and so didn’t give me this” or “I can’t do it because of the way that I was born.” “I can’t do it because of my race”, “I can’t do it because of my sex.” I can’t do it ’cause of whatever, and so the first thing we need to understand is if you own it, you can change it. Whatever everyone else has created around you is irrelevant to your circumstance.

Doug Vermeeren: The next kind of mentality that we see is the entitlement, where it’s like everybody owes that to me just because I’m a great person, I’m so good. Again, we’re giving our power away, outside of ourselves. It’s the polar opposite really on the same spectrum of a victim. A victim says it’s everyone else’s fault, the entitled says everyone owes me, but they all involve everyone else so we’re giving our power away.

Doug Vermeeren: The other, I’m not really sure of the word to use this, but it’s that … Maybe the easiest way to explain it is comparison. Even if we are doing good, we compare ourselves to other people. So in other words, we’re getting our sense of identity from how other people feel about us. Again, we’re giving our power away. I find that people are feeling … Let me use an example. Unless you get so many likes on Facebook, you feel like what you posted probably isn’t valuable, right? Unless you get X amount of views on the YouTube video well that must mean either no one likes it or I’m wrong, right? And so I think that people need to trust that inner of who they are. Again, back to that idea of self, right?

Doug Vermeeren: I think the message that I would share for today is that you first of all need to learn to trusts yourself, right? If you’ve got a good idea for a business, if you’ve got an idea for what you’d like to achieve and accomplish in your life, the person that matters most is you. And I don’t care who else you have in your life, if you’ve got someone that’s telling you that you can or you can’t do it, it’s nice to hear that you can, right? It’s nice to believe that, but it’s irrelevant ’cause until you believe it, you’re never ever going to be able to create it.

Doug Vermeeren: So I’m going to encourage you to first of all really tap into that who you are, and I think that there’s two things with every goal that we need. People talk about writing it down and setting a date. Again, I think that’s only part of the equation. I do believe that a goal needs to be specific and clear, if a goal’s specific and clear, it’s attainable and near, but we’re not just talking about say a quantifiable value.

Doug Vermeeren: So for example, say your goal is to become a millionaire, that value is to have a million dollars in the bank account. That’s a specific, you need that as a target, right? But there’s another part that you also need that will make that valuable, and that’s how you feel about it. You see, it’s not enough to say, “I want to become a millionaire”, because if it’s not attached to your values, you might do some pretty crazy things to accumulate a million dollars, right? Unethical things. You need to do it in such a way that you’re going to feel good about it.

Doug Vermeeren: My definition of happiness, or success maybe is in another way ’cause success is happiness, it’s being happy with the choices that you’ve made and the consequences that you’re experiencing. So it’s not just enough to have a specific, you’ve also got to have good feelings about it. And so I think that for those that are listening, whether you’re youth or whether you’re youth that’s just a little older, we really need to understand that it really begins with us. No one can tell us we feel good, that’s a decision we need to make. We need to decide we feel good, and then whatever it is that we’re attaining or seeking unto, we need to have some specifics that we can measure that against.

Doug Vermeeren: Just maybe one other concluding thoughts, Socrates once said that we are teleological beings. The word tele means that we’re progress-seeking, we’re only happy when we’re making progress, and that’s why it’s so important that rather than just squandering our life, whether it’s playing video games or gaming, and that’s not just for you, that’s even for adults, we know how many Farmville players there are out there, Gummy Drop guys. You got to understand that that’s not giving you the progress that’s going to give you the satisfaction. You’ve got these inner goals and inner feelings that you need to satisfy, so what can you do to become more progressive? What’s the best you that you can tap into? How can we not get out of our comfort zone but into our brilliance zone? What is it that ignites you to become your best self, and then how can you turn the volume up on that. That’s the question. And when you can learn how to tap into that, you’re going to find a greater sense of fulfillment and from here, everything that we talked about gets to expand.

Doug Vermeeren: You’ve heard that idea of actions speak louder than words? You’ve met my wife, you know her. She said something to me super profound that I actually share with all my students. Actions may speak louder than words, but being speaks even louder than actions. When we really be it, when we tap into our greatest self, and start really expanding who we are inwardly and outwardly, all of a sudden, we can be it, which allows us to do it, which allows us to have it, and the thing that most people will forget is to sustain it, and that’s even more important.

Stefan Aarnio: Right, you gotta live it.

Doug Vermeeren: You gotta live it. You gotta be it and then live it.

Stefan Aarnio: Love that. So Doug, one final question for you. How can people get in touch with Doug Vermeeren, and what’s something you want to promote before we wrap up today?

Doug Vermeeren: Sure. Well obviously my last name is crazy hard to spell, I don’t know if you’re going to put this on the screen, but you can get to my website at DouglasVermeeren.com, but even easier than that is PersonalPowerMastery.co, okay? So they can get to us on that website. But you know, I’ve got a ton of free stuff that we give away to help people and support them on their mission at becoming better and more powerful, and I would say probably the best way to do that is get on Facebook, type in Personal Power Mastery, and we’ve got a group that you can join for free, and I post there almost daily, whether it’s quotes, videos, articles. I share insights from the top achievers that I learn from. Sometimes I even bring them on and do Facebook lives, but it’s all 100% free. It’s our gift to you, and you can find it very easily just type in Personal Power Mastery on Facebook, and it’ll say “Personal Power Mastery with Douglas Vermeeren”, that’s me, click on it, we’ll approve you, and of course participate in our community, we’d love to hear your thoughts on some of this material as well.

Stefan Aarnio: Amazing, thanks so much for being on the show, Doug.

Doug Vermeeren: Awesome, thanks for having me.

Stefan Aarnio: Hi, Stefan Aarnio here. I hope you enjoyed this episode of my podcast, Respect the Grind. Now if you enjoyed this episode, I want to invite you to check out my book, Self-Made Confessions of a 20-something Self Made Millionaire. At age 22, I had just graduated from university, I had no cash to my name, I was a guitar teacher, broke, living at my mother’s house and with $1,200 dollars in cash that I scraped together, got into my first real estate deal, and by age 28 and a half, became a self made millionaire through real estate and through business. In this book, you’re going to find out how I did it and how I built the foundations for building equity and cash in real estate and in business. So if you want to get a copy, go to selfmadeconfessions.com/podcast, and you can get a special offer just for podcast listeners. Once again, that’s selfmadeconfessions.com/podcast to get your special offer.

Stefan Aarnio: I want you to remember, you are self made, you are on a journey, and I salute you in the pursuit of your highest and greatest self. Respect the Grind.