How do you run a multi-million dollar business while raising a loving family and taking care of your well-being? It’s a question that so many high achievers have failed to answer for themselves.
Today, I’m speaking with Matt Allison, a man that has. Matt went through all the trials and tribulations of founding and then selling a wildly successful business. He was the Founder and CEO of the digital analytics & PR company, TrendKite, that in 2019 was acquired for $225 million.
Matt has worked with most of the Fortune 100 companies. As the Founder and CEO of Handraise, he’s on a mission to help every company he works with deliver on their promises and always provide value for their customers.
Besides being a successful entrepreneur, Matt is a loving husband and father. But before he learned how to juggle his different roles in life, Matt struggled with stress, anxiety, financial difficulties, and the burden of running a multi-million dollar business in his 20s. Yet, he took invaluable lessons from that experience that made him a stronger person. And he’s here to share them.
In this episode, we’re discussing why being financially broke doesn’t mean that you also have to be mentally broke, the importance of unplugging and finding what provides meaning to your life, why discipline equals freedom, and much more.
After talking with Matt, one can’t leave without being inspired to take on the world. Listen in and learn for yourself why that’s the case.
The Better Man Podcast is an exploration of our health and well-being outside of our physical fitness, exploring and redefining what it means to be better as a man; being the best version of ourselves we can be, while adopting a more comprehensive understanding of our total health and wellness. I hope it inspires you to be better!
Use the RSS link to find the Better Man Podcast on other apps: http://feeds.libsyn.com/404744/rss
Watch a Clip From Episode 016
Key Takeaways with Matt Allison
- Life can suck, but you choose how to interpret stressful times and what meaning you give them.
- How he started doing regular self-reflection by listening to Tony Robbins. Learn the morning priming exercise that he does each day.
- The mindset helped him go from living in a basement with no heating to founding and running multiple multi-million dollar businesses.
- How team sports changed his mentality and made him appreciate hard work and perseverance.
- Being an underdog led him to push himself more in sports and business. Learn to appreciate the struggle instead of wishing for life to deal you better cards.
- Discipline = Freedom. Learn why being disciplined does not confine, but liberates you.
- Being a Founder and CEO can be stressful, especially at a young age. Learn how Matt overcame the crippling anxiety while running his first business. What lessons did he take away and apply later?
- Even in his most prosperous days, Matt made it a point to surround himself with people smarter than himself. Find out why.
- The importance of scheduling play in your life.
- The habits he followed to lose over 30 pounds.
Matt Allison Notable Quotes
- “If you do a really good job on the business side and you make a bunch of money, then you can potentially really enrich those experiences with the people that you care about. But the greatest tragedy would be to make all that money but then not have anybody to share those moments and experiences with.” – Matt Allison
- “When something traumatic happens, I think there are two different places people go with those things. They either use it to create excuses for everything for the rest of their lives, or they take that thing, and they use it to empower themselves.” – Matt Allison
- “There were lots of times where I would just kind of sit and question, ‘Whoa, is this really what I should be doing?’ The anxiety and everything back then was through the roof because you have all of your friends and family telling you, ‘Hey, you should get a job.” – Matt Allison.
- “I check in pretty regularly just to make sure that I’m not only doing the things I want to do, but also thinking the way that I want to think.” – Matt Allison
- “I always had a chip on my shoulder, which caused me to work harder than the guys next to me almost all the time. And I think that’s what created this kind of drive and work ethic for me.” – Matt Allison
- “The thing that I struggled with really was working too much, being on too much, and being too ingrained in the business, and actually, had to pull myself away from it.” – Matt Allison
Dean Pohlman: Hey, guys, what’s up? It’s Dean. Welcome to the Man Flow Yoga podcast. Today, my guest is Matt Allison, a fellow Austinites, an entrepreneur, and a lot of other really cool things that we’ll get into here. So, Matt, thanks again for joining me.
Matt Allison: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, so we’ll get a little bit more into you in a second, but I always like to tell people how we met. So, we have a mutual friend, Gary, who’s actually showed up in a beginner yoga series that I did on YouTube that lives entirely for free on YouTube. We filmed it out at Bull Creek, which is this beautiful creek here in Austin, part of the Greenbelt. And he brought you along to a workout one morning. This was like 2014.
I used to live very close to these fields where we would go, do like conditioning and sprinting and sports conditioning stuff. And he said, “Hey, is it cool if I bring my buddy along?” And I’m like, “Yeah, sure, whatever.” And you show up, and I’m like, “Ah, who’s this goober?” And I think I don’t even know if we exchanged any words that day, but he is not goober. Matt eventually went on to do some really cool things, paramount of which, well, I think one of the most interesting of which is selling a business that you created for hundreds of millions of dollars.
And the reason I wanted to bring you on the show is because we were talking about this earlier before we started, but I think that people who have the ability to create division and create what it takes to be that successful, especially, you’re not even near 40 yet, I don’t think.
Matt Allison: 35.
Dean Pohlman: I just think that people who are able to do that, they are also adept or have put in a lot of thought into just how to take care of themselves and health and mental wellness. And having a big part of which I think is just having the headspace to be able to create clarity and a vision like that. And you were also a former athlete, too, so we’ll talk all about that. Well, yeah, that’s kind of why I wanted to have you on. So, man, I don’t know, what’s the first question that I asked you here? Do you want to address anything that I’ve mentioned so far?
Matt Allison: I remember the workout really well. Were you at the lacrosse tournament at A&M?
Dean Pohlman: Yes. I broke my rib there. That was the first time I broke a rib. And I didn’t do anything for it. Just broke a rib.
Matt Allison: So, that might have predated that first workout.
Dean Pohlman: Okay.
Matt Allison: But I don’t know if you know this, I was out with Gary and Justin, another mutual friend. And it was like a Friday night. We were down at the bars, and they were like, “Hey, you should come out and play some lacrosse with us tomorrow.” And I never played. I’m from the northeast, from Pennsylvania originally, knew nothing about lacrosse other than that it was a sport, basically.
And after a few drinks, they got me to agree to come out. So, I woke up the next morning and I was driving up to A&M. And we were on the phone, and they were literally explaining to me the rules of lacrosse and how to play. And in my head, I was going to just like a fun scrimmage. I didn’t even know if pads were in that mental picture that I had. And I showed up. and it was like full-on legit tournament. Everyone’s geared up – pads, jerseys. And just kind of jumped in and played with you guys. It was pretty crazy.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, every men’s lacrosse experience I’ve had has not been– it’s intense. None of them have been like, “Oh, we’re just here to lightly play.” It’s always intense. And as long as we’re talking about that A&M tournament, I actually got in a fight at that A&M tournament, like with two minutes to go, someone made an unnecessary hit. And I got up and I’d punched the guy right in the face, and both teams ran onto the field.
I remember one of our other friends, or if you remember Murph, Murph had to dive to save me from the guy who was attacking me. And then the refs ran off the field. They’re like, “Screw this, we’re done.” And then, I was like, okay, I got to stop watching boxing highlights on YouTube because I’m thinking that this is acceptable behavior now to just start a fist fight in a men’s lacrosse game. So, anyway, that was a fun experience.
Matt Allison: Yeah, it was a hoot, man. It gave me a nice appreciation for the sport. Definitely had a kind of blast, but it kind of goes into the way I like to approach things anyway. That was one of those things, and I think this is a good segue into the startup stuff as well. It’s just like I knew that I had no business being in that field, but it was an experience that I thought would be fun and wanted to have. So, just kind of jumped in to do whatever thinking and research you can, the short period of time going into it, and then you just kind of experience it. And there’s a quote I really like, it’s “Buy the ticket, take the ride.” And I’ve tried to incorporate that into my life a lot, especially my younger years.
Dean Pohlman: Nice. I’m writing this down. By the way, I love notecards. I don’t know about you, but I write hundreds of notecards on my desk. And this is just how I keep track of my life and my thoughts. Buy the ticket, take the ride. Yeah, so that got to lead me in to my next question. And I do want to get into how you think and a lot of your mindsets because I’m interested in all of that.
But I told you this, but one question I wanted to ask you was what did you do? What’s something ridiculous that you bought? I mean, I told you, I hoped it was something extremely extravagant, flamboyant, unnecessarily expensive, but what’s something that you did after you did sell TrendKite?
Matt Allison: So, I told you a little bit about this, but it was interesting. Right after that sale, there’s a guy that is a good friend of mine back in Pennsylvania. His name is Johnny Broome. And I remember chatting with him about the influx of cash that was coming in. And his advice to me was like– my nickname is Curly. You can’t really tell now, but I used to have a real big blond, kind of crazy afro when I was playing college sports, and that’s when I met these guys. So, they’ll call me Curly.
He’s like, “Curly, wait six months before you spend any money on something.” And if you still want to go for it, but don’t just spend it right when you get it. And it was really, really good advice, I think, because what it did is it kind of locked in this mentality of, being comfortable sitting on cash, and buying something because you really want it, not because it’s just like cash is available.
So, what I ended up doing was I took his advice. I did go on a pretty baller trip. She was my girlfriend at the time, wife now. We went down to Turks and Caicos. We stayed in Turks and Caicos for a week, and then we did a week down in South Caicos where you take a little small puddle hopper flight. And that island was really cool. It’s like super remote. Just have like a real proper celebration trip, and that for me kind of, it cemented in all of the work over the better part of the last decade.
I did a whole bunch of reflection on that trip as well because you don’t go through something like that without having some demons from the process as well. So, you got to take your brain to some pretty serious places to be able to stick around and put in the work every day consistently for that long period of time. And then, we may have co-founder dramas and we hired executives, and I hired a professional CEO to come into the business.
So, there were lots of things that I felt like I wanted to really process and kind of let go through the proper mental process of figuring out, like how did I feel about that and what was I going to do with that thought moving forward? Because this is something I’ve done my whole life is when something traumatic happens, I really think there are two different places people go with those things. It’s like they either use it to create all the excuses for everything for the rest of their lives, like, oh, on this way, because of that, like, woe is me.
Or they take that thing and they use it to empower them and then go out and do something because it’s like, oh, I went through that, learned about it, or it was hard, so now I can go do these other things. So, I’ve always been one to look at that fork in the road and go to the latter side of it. But we did that trip and then came back. I bought a Ford Raptor. So, that was like my dream truck.
Dean Pohlman: I remember that, yeah.
Matt Allison: And still, to this day, I’m obsessed with that thing. It’s like the perfect blend of, like, luxurious sport. It just looks badas* too. Like, in my opinion, there’s more powerful throw to your trucks out there now, but I don’t think anything looks more badas* than a raptor.
Dean Pohlman: Is this the blue one? What color is it?
Matt Allison: No, I got a dark gray one.
Dean Pohlman: Dark gray, okay. I’m thinking of something else. Anyways, so you had one purchase somewhat.
Matt Allison: Yeah. Well, then we bought a house, too. So, really, fortunately, I was able to pay for that house in cash to make the deal a little bit better. We don’t have to get into all this stuff, but I’d ended up refinancing it after because interest rates were so low. It’s better to have that cash. But I’d say those if I think of the buckets of like where that money went over the subsequent, probably like year, those were the big things that I did.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, well, I like that you brought up taking time for reflection because I think that’s something that is really hard to do, especially since 2000, let’s date it like 2008, 2009 when smartphones became a real thing. And it’s so hard to be bored, so easy to be distracted. So, I’m curious, can you remember when you started doing that? Is there a particular influence? Is there something that you read? Or when did you start? Why did you start doing reflection?
Matt Allison: This will take me back because I started, I think it was like right after I graduated college is when I really started to do that. I started listening to Tony Robbins pretty young, probably in my teenage years. Probably a little bit even before I was like 16 years old, I started listening to Tony Robbins. There were CDs back then, the CD series. But I cranked to those things and just always had, I think, a zest for self-improvement.
So, I always focused on those things, but I didn’t really start getting into the deep journaling and thinking through things probably until after college. And the reason for that is you go through grade school, you go through college, life’s kind of on my plate, more or less. It’s like you go to second grade because you’re supposed to go to second grade. You go to college or you go get a job after high school because that’s just what people do.
But once you get out of college, outside of going to hunt down that first job, you’re kind of set free to figure out where do you want your life to actually go? And I think for me, as I was doing my first startup, which was not doing well, it just caused me to really reflect and be like, whoa, am I really doing what’s best for me? Because at that time, I was living in my co-founder’s unfinished basement in Blandon, Pennsylvania. And that guy is still one of my best friends to this day. We’re like brothers. And I think this experience really helped codify that relationship together.
But back then, I was fresh out of school, 2008 financial crisis. I had an economics degree, a minor in engineering entrepreneurship. What I should have been able to do is like, go get a job on Wall Street or something. That’s kind of like I went to Penn State. So, like a lot of Penn State folks do is they go work for one of the big firms. But I was unable to get a job even when I tried. And as I was doing the startup stuff, just really struggling, there were lots of times where I would just kind of sit and question like, whoa, is this like really what I should be doing? Because the anxiety and everything back then was just like through the roof because you got all of your friends, family telling you, like, hey, you should really be going and getting a job because nobody wants to see you suffer.
And I can tell you, those years are definitely some of my suffer years for sure. It’s like I had no cash. When I say unfinished basement, no heat down there side, like one of those little plug-in radiators next to an air mattress that was up on a metal frame. I had four sleeping bags. You think of wintertime now as like 20, 30 degrees or lower. And it was bone-chilling, really cold down there some days and nights, and no windows, cobwebs, spiders, just it is…
Dean Pohlman: Everyone needs that struggle story as an entrepreneur, though, right?
Matt Allison: Yeah, I think so, man. But going through that, I think, is really what started my deep reflection into just like, okay, what is this world that I’m creating for myself? And it caused me periodically throughout the rest of my life to just– I check in pretty regularly just to make sure that I’m not only doing the things I want to do but also thinking the way that I want to think.
Dean Pohlman: Got it. So, you being in a difficult situation, from what I’m understanding, is what led you to really start questioning things, start reflecting on things, and making sure that, hey, is this like, this is where I want to go?
Matt Allison: Yeah, absolutely.
Dean Pohlman: Okay, that’s great. That’s a common theme that I’ve heard or that’s something that I heard on a show I did recently. One of the guys I had on here, who’s actually my coach, programs my workout program. He said he went on like a 262-mile canoe ride, and said, he’s like, “Yeah, when you’re doing that, you question things, you question life.” So, that’s great.
I remember when I first moved here, I had a really crappy job. I had the same situation. I graduated in 2012. So, at that time, the economy was still like– and people weren’t hiring. I had trained to be in government, so I spoke Turkish. I had been learning Persian. I had worked at the US Embassy in Turkey. So, I had kind of like a foreign officer or like something with foreign affairs training.
And no one was hiring in the government. Sequestration was in full effect. I couldn’t find a job doing anything related to what I wanted to do. So, I took a job in Austin doing third-party logistics, which is basically you call companies that use trucks and you say, “I can find you a truck.” And they say, “Okay, you call those other truck companies and see if you can do it.” And then you make your living based on the price you negotiate from the carrier and the person who’s using carrier.
But anyway, that was a job where I had to severely change my lifestyle, like you had to start, oh, wow. Oh, this meat’s only $1. This meat is $3. I’m going to get the $1 meat. And like, going through that and really, 50 bucks was like, oh, my gosh, 50 bucks. Like, that’s a huge difference in your monthly spending. But ultimately, because I was getting paid so little, that was what encouraged me to, hey, if I could just train two people a day, I’m making the same amount of money I am if I do that other things, so probably do that. But yeah, anyway, that was just what was coming up for me when you were talking about that. So, when you were at Penn State, you were a walk-on for track and field.
Matt Allison: Yeah. So, as a walk-on for track and field, and then I also I tried to walk on to the varsity volleyball team as well. So, I did three years of club there, and then I got to play with the varsity guys for the better part of a month. Back in 2008 was when I got to play with them. They won a national championship that year, but I ended up getting cut before we jumped in a competition.
Dean Pohlman: But your practice with that team was invaluable and contributed to their championship-winning.
Matt Allison: That’s right, yeah.
Dean Pohlman: That’s the claim.
Matt Allison: It caused everyone to look at me and say, “We can’t let him on the team. We got to step it up.”
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. So, I’m an athlete, too. I played collegiate lacrosse. And I’m kind of curious, how does your background in sports kind of relate to your drive with other things?
Matt Allison: Yeah, so I credit a lot of my work ethic to a few different things, but one of them, most closely tied to sports. I spent a lot of time with my friends growing up. So, this will go even before college, but back in, I think it was sixth grade, I met one of my friends, Chris Ramos, who was a really top-notch wrestler. He wrestled at UNC, part of the top recruiting class in the country back then, back in 2004.
And him and I grew up, we had a couple of other buddies too. It’s like me, Chris, Danny, Jared, Toby Sawyer. We had our little crew of fellow athletes and really, I think Chris just kind of pushed us, man, like, it didn’t matter what we were doing. We didn’t grow up on our cell phones and have devices back then in our generation. So, we were just out and about constantly.
So, we would either be out running trails, in the gym, lifting weights, playing some sport that wasn’t even the sports that we played. Like we played a lot of tennis. We played a ton of beach volleyball back when we were little kids. And we would always play against the older kids. So, I think I always just wanted to be the best at whatever I was doing. So, I think that was inherent in my personality from a very young age.
And then when I met Chris, who felt the same way, but he was kind of like a freak athlete at our age. Like dude was just always shredded and pretty strong. So, when I met him, it just, I think, pushed me and pushed me in everything that we did. So, as that jumped into sports, you think about like I played volleyball in high school was my primary sport, and playing volleyball, it’s not like a football mentality. It’s not like what people think of when they think of the real competitive sports, but it was for me, like, I treated it that way. I was a shorter guy. So, I’m like 5’11.
Dean Pohlman: Oh, man.
Matt Allison: Six-foot with some good shoes on.
Dean Pohlman: If 5’11 is shorter, I’m in trouble.
Matt Allison: Well, for volleyball, it is.
Dean Pohlman: For volleyball, okay, yeah.
Matt Allison: Yeah, like most of those guys, to be like an outside hitter D1, you’re talking probably 6’3 at the very low end, 6’5, 6’7 is kind of average. So, on the club program at Penn State, I played as an outside hitter because I just worked my butt off with my vert to reach 11 feet. And I could get up there and I could play, but at the varsity level, I had to try out as a libero with the varsity guys because even though I could get up this high, it’s like that split second that they can get up there faster makes all the difference at that level. It’s just such a fast game.
So, I guess, to answer your question, for me, with sports, I was always kind of an underdog with them. So, I always had a chip on my shoulder, and it caused me to work harder than the guys next to me almost all the time. And I think that’s what created this kind of drive and work ethic for me, where as I saw the fruits of that labor kind of fused that mental connection for me of like if you work harder than other people, you can compete at the same level or greater.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, that’s bringing up a couple of things. I’m writing my questions down, but I was shorter. Growing up, I was just behind, I was like probably 4 or 5, maybe 6 inches shorter than most people growing up. But I was always like, I try to be the fastest. And I usually was the fastest. So, I wasn’t big, but I always tried to be the fastest and I was always very physical. So, whatever the sport was, I was in it. I was ready to fight, not fight, but like I was ready to push. I was ready to be physical. I was ready to be aggressive. And I think that that definitely does give you a chip on your shoulder, like you not having the gift of size, I think you definitely do have to push yourself harder.
And for me, at least, the ability to push yourself in a workout is probably one of the easiest things to push yourself in. It’s hard to push yourself through, like if you’ve been at work for 5 hours, you’re like, I’ve got to go for 30 more minutes. It’s hard to push yourself for 30 more minutes and stay focused. But if you’re already in a workout and you’re like, I’ve got one more minute in this, you’re like, I can push myself for one minute. So, being able to be in a workout, be in that environment, and teaching yourself, I can push myself a little bit further, I can do more than what I’m doing right now, I think that translates really well into other situations where you’re struggling.
Matt Allison: It also brings up just the discipline side of things. So, for me, I didn’t have a father that was really active in my life with my sports at all. So, I had to be a big-time self-starter with all those things and figure out what was my training program going to be? How much was I going to be training?
And as you create that discipline around that work schedule, I think that’s really what you learn that transcends the sports and the workouts and goes into your day-to-day job or whatever it is. It’s just like a lot of people think of discipline as this really intense thing sometimes or like a limiting thing or not. They don’t really associate it with freedom. I’m a big Jocko Willink fan. I’m not sure if you follow him at all.
Dean Pohlman: I’ve read the book.
Matt Allison: Okay. And he talks about discipline equals freedom, like all that stuff has always really resonated with me. It’s like, how do you free up time for yourself? Have a more disciplined time management system. And you kind of go through the whole gambit with those things. Yeah, to answer your question, I think like a chip on the shoulder plus work ethic and discipline, the team side of things, working with the teams and the sports and everything. I just can’t say enough positive things about what sports do for your mentality for the rest of everything else in your life, really.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, totally agree. So, what I’m thinking of now is when you were in the height of– I mean, I have no idea how acquisitions work. That startup world is not my world. Even though I technically am a startup, I don’t live in that world of getting seed money and all those other things that go with getting acquired all those things. So, I’m curious, let’s say, you were at the height of your busyness with TrendKite, and were you running other things at the time? Or were you 100% with TrendKite?
Matt Allison: 100% TrendKite.
Dean Pohlman: Okay. So, at the busiest time, you were in with TrendKite, what was your work-life balance like? I mean, talking about discipline. Discipline is sticking with things that you plan on doing, not really worrying about whether you’re motivated or not, but how did you balance that with the internal resistance? So, like, I really don’t want to do this, but I have to keep doing this. So, that’s something that I’m really interested in is, is the work-life balance, but balancing that with discipline and actually listen to yourself, do I really want to keep doing this?
Matt Allison: So, the interesting thing about that, I’ve put it in two different buckets. So, there was like really early stage TrendKite, which I just learned about myself, like I’m an early-stage guy. I don’t really love the later stage of companies, at least so far from my experiences, and that could change. But there’s the early stage TrendKite experience, and then there was the later stage, and my strategies and kind of tactics for how I handled work-life balance were different for each of them.
So, early stage, I didn’t really have what you’re talking about as far as like having to talk myself into enjoying the work. In fact, I almost enjoyed the work too much, I became pretty obsessive about it. Back in those days, I was a single bachelor, so I worked nonstop and then I partied a bunch and repeated. And that was my life. It was just like I was just constantly on.
Dean Pohlman: How did we not– because I was in that party stage too for a while. Was I just too inebriated and didn’t remember? Or were we just not together?
Matt Allison: We crossed paths a few times at Wade’s pool parties. I think we saw each other.
Dean Pohlman: Oh, yes. Okay, yeah.
Matt Allison: A few times at those things, but…
Dean Pohlman: Those were fun.
Matt Allison: Yeah.
Dean Pohlman: Yes, Wade, you get your plug again, Real Estate with Wade. You need a house in Austin.
Matt Allison: We’ve used a few times, successful.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah.
Matt Allison: There you go, Wade. But yeah, so with that, what I will say, so the work-life balance was different for me then. The thing that I struggled with really was working too much, being on too much, and being too ingrained in the business, and actually, had to pull myself away from it, whereas later in the company, those roles kind of flipped, so.
Dean Pohlman: When you realize when you’re too much into it, how did you realize that? What did that feel like?
Matt Allison: It was like crippling levels of anxiety, basically. I felt like I was paralyzed with too much, like too many open loops in the brain. So, it’s like, oh, I need to do this. What about this relationship? What about these people we’re hiring? Do they got along? What’s the office environment like? How’s the lighting? What’s the sound like? What music are we playing? Like you think of all these little micro-decisions all day, and unless you have a way to properly manage them and kind of move them off your plate and through your brain, they hang.
And what I found is that when they kind of gathered to too high of a level, I was basically incapable of squashing them down. And I lived with just like mind-crippling anxiety for over a year. Honestly, it’s pretty brutal.
Dean Pohlman: Wow.
Matt Allison: I felt like I was having back-to-back panic attacks, like nonstop every day for over a year, if you can imagine that. It’s torture.
Dean Pohlman: Wow. That’s really tough. I mean, just thinking of decision paralysis, you hear about that, but also like when you’re in that stage, when everything looks like a good opportunity, it’s bad because you’re not focusing on just one thing. You’ve got 100 things that you’re trying to choose from and you just got to pick a thing, eventually, but.
Matt Allison: Yeah. The other really important ingredient there is, you got to think about like first-time founder for some reason over a million bucks for a business. Back then, I was founder/CEO. So, like all the weight of that is on your shoulders. And I think those two things combined just created a really toxic headspace for me back then that I had to learn how to kind of deal with and make sure I didn’t repeat that again moving forward.
Dean Pohlman: Did you delegate things well at that time? Or do you have to learn to delegate things well? Were you scared of giving up control? What was your managing kind of style? And how did that affect your mental well-being?
Matt Allison: So, my management style has always been– I’m like the opposite of micromanage. I like to hire smart people and kind of set them free to do what we hired them to do. So, it’s like, hey, here’s the problem. Here’s how I’m thinking about it. I might give some direction, but it’s like you figure it out. Like this is why we brought you in.
So, I’ve always been really good at delegating from that standpoint, but I think the thing that I’ve always struggled with is even if I delegate one of those things, then for me, it’s just like, oh, I just opened up new slots and I can throw something else onto my plate. So, my delegation process was just like move something off, move something else in. So, I never really cleared my plate.
Dean Pohlman: Gotcha. And then in terms of after you delegated something if you found the right people, did you have to maintain, like was there a lot of maintenance work, so to speak, involved in making sure that they had the same vision or you shared a vision? Or was it just like, you do this, here’s what you do, go on your own, and I don’t have to check in with you?
Matt Allison: It was more that, I think for myself and my co-founder AJ back in those days, we were really big storytellers and vision-based people. So, I think everyone was already always aligned to what we were trying to do as a business and as entrepreneurs and as an organization. But yeah, I think where it gets difficult is just the business changes so fast. So, as you bring people in, and they start doing the things that you brought them in to do, the business overnight can change dramatically, where all of a sudden, maybe you don’t need that person doing that thing anymore, or maybe you need a completely new person, new skill sets.
And then as you’re trying to maintain consistency in your culture, as you have to bring people in on and off that bus, I think that’s really challenging as an early founder because you really want to make sure you got that right in the early days because once you hit a certain scale, the bus is kind of moving forward and the people really are what dictate your culture. It’s not us talking about what we think of the world as much anymore. So, those first early hires are super critical.
Dean Pohlman: Gotcha. So, as you had that year-long or that, however long it was, of just feeling completely anxiety-ridden, was there another period where you felt like you were just doing way too much work? When did that happen? And how did you realize that was up if it happened? I guess, did it happen?
Matt Allison: No, it didn’t really happen, not like it did before. So, I had a CEO coach, and he always told me, he’s like, “Matt, listen, as the business grows and scales, things will become more stressful, but you will become less stressed. And that sounds like kind of a weird thing to say, right?
But what he said is basically as the business grows, there’s going to be more things going on and more things that cause stress, but you’re going to have more and more brilliant people around you to work on those things. And as long as you trust them, then that stress drops off dramatically.
So, as we scaled, I felt that big time, I mean, especially as we hired out our executive team. I mean, I was 25 when I started TrendKite, and AJ and I were the only 25, 26-year-olds on the executive team. Everyone else was quite a bit like double our age, probably at least. So, once we had that experience then from an operational standpoint, I think that freed up a lot of our kind of anxieties around things.
But I wouldn’t say that the stress anxiety ever goes away on those things because it’s always high, you just figure out better ways to manage it, cope with it. You can change what it means to you as well. So, like back then, the meaning for me because I was coming off of, like you have to think back to where I came from, where it was like I had no money, was living off of like maybe 11,000, 12,000 bucks a year for five years, in and out of people’s basements and guest bedrooms. Sometimes, I didn’t even have enough money for a Wendy’s meal.
So, when you raise that cash and then that comes in, you have all this stress and pressure. It’s like you think of your reputation, like there’s so much on the line. And I think back then, it just had such a significant meaning in my brain that if I messed anything up, it was just going to put me back in the basement kind of mentality, whereas as we grew and as I pulled a little money off the table, I was able to just really squash that belief system. And it’s just like, hey, these things are really important, but they don’t have to be life or death for me. And I can treat these things with the same level of intensity, work ethic, thoughtfulness, just without the baggage of it wearing me out in the process, if that makes sense.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. So, it sounds like getting the right people on board made it enabled you to be able to grow. I mean, not just the business, but free up your time so that you could continue to do what was important to you.
Matt Allison: Yeah, 100%. And I told you, things flipped. So, that was like early TrendKite as we scaled and grew the business, my tactic changed from like, I don’t think it’s a secret that I didn’t really agree with a lot of the things that the CEO that I brought in thought directionally for the business. I think overall, we were aligned that we wanted it to grow into something awesome.
And generally speaking, we got there, but there were lots of us just kind of dragging each other through the hallways over a lot of different decisions to get there. So, by the end, the TrendKite, I just didn’t really like to be in there anymore, man. It was a very different company when we exited than the first five years that we were in business, and so that’s where it switched, like I had to convince myself to go in and do the work still.
And for that, I had to tell myself a story every day. It’s like, all right, why am I going into the office today? It’s like, what’s the thing that’s going to actually get me excited to focus on the work that I know needs to be done for us to have the best chance at a good outcome because those outcomes, it’s kind of like assumed you raise a bunch of money, you get to a certain level of annual recurring revenue coming in. As long as your churn isn’t too bad, you’re probably going to have a good exit. But those things, they aren’t guaranteed. So, I found that where the stress and kind of anxiety just kind of stays with you until you actually exit is really around, just like making sure that, like I’m still thinking, are we doing the best and right things for this business to have the best outcome for all the shareholders by the end of it?
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, that sounds really tough starting something and then seeing it change and then still being there and having to push yourself through that. I mean, did it feel kind of like burnout at that point?
Matt Allison: Yeah, it was like beyond burnout. It’s like burnout happened probably, and I don’t know, sometime in 2018, I would say. And then my co-founder left the business to start a new one, and most of our early employees were gone. So, it was just like kind of me hanging out there with our executive team.
And I mean, we’re a big company. We’re like 300 employees. But at that point, I didn’t know we have a relationship with a bunch of them, and it was really like those early people that I think kind of kept me hanging around there. And then I’m just a big, like finish what you start kind of guy. So, I didn’t want to bail on it. And it was just kind of brutal as super fun, man. I mean, like, we had so much fun in the glory days of that thing.
And even when I look back and reflect on the later days, those were still some of my favorite memories of the company, which is kind of weird too, because you start to realize a big party doesn’t have to be what leads to the best times, like the learning and growth opportunities can sometimes be what leads to your favorite times at a business like that.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, absolutely. So, finishing what you start, that sounds like a value. I just want to mention my experience with that because I’ve always been a finish what you start kind of person too, like to the point that it’s been detrimental. I think I’ve held on to relationships in the past just because I’m like, I’m in it. I’m going to get– and thinking about that now, I was like, why would I stay with someone that long if I didn’t want to be with them? Or I think in other things too, I would just feel like, okay, I started, so I have to keep going. So that’s one thing that I feel like I’ve actually done well, is like, okay, you don’t have to keep doing this. You can stop. I’m kind of curious about some of your other values, and whether or not how much self-worth did you have wrapped up in the success of your business?
Matt Allison: As far as like if I left with things I’d still want the same?
Dean Pohlman: In general.
Matt Allison: Like, what’s my role?
Dean Pohlman: No, what’s in general, like how much did you base your feelings of success and your feelings of self-worth, and you know?
Matt Allison: I gotcha.
Dean Pohlman: On your professional career.
Matt Allison: If I said anything other than a high amount, I’d be not being truthful about it. I think even to this day, I still place a lot of value on those things because it’s kind of like as a man, I feel like your word is really important and your reputation is really important, and the way that you attack things. So, I agree with you, like it is great and necessary to quit things sometimes, but not just because they’re hard.
It’s like if you quit them because you’re tapping out on something from a place of it’s just like hard or uncomfortable and you just don’t want to push anymore, if it’s like really impacting your mental health or something, like I get that side of it. But I think, for me, the values that I had around my sense of self-worth were probably pretty high as it related to even to this day, like what I do professionally, because I kind of correlate those things as like my work ethic, who I am. All of that goes into, especially when you raise money, like you tell people, hey, I’m going to take their money and go do something great with it.
So, I do still feel on one hand, I’ve talked to some of the top investors in the world and a lot of them have the mentality of like, hey, we’re all adults here, especially like a pre-seed, early seed round. If you try something, it doesn’t work out, like it’s okay, no big deal. And I think I’ve matured in that sense. But like what I just wouldn’t be able to deal with is like if I took someone’s money and then just decided, like, ah, I’m just not really having fun with this anymore, and no, thanks.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, well, I don’t want to make any assumptions. So, instead, I’ll say or I’ll ask, so how did the sale? I’m assuming that’s like, I’m talking about this like this is the defining moment of your– I mean, it’s probably a big one. It is a big one, obviously. But did you continue to feel the same way about, in terms of how much importance you placed on your success and how you felt about yourself? Did that event change that? Or did it just reinforce it?
Matt Allison: It actually did. And I think you see people go in both directions here as well. It’s like some people will go through something like that and it is their defining moment, and they’re the founder that had the exit, that’s who they are. Now, they’re going to going to do the next one. And it’s like they create their whole brand around themselves as the successful entrepreneur or executive or whatever it is. It’s like they really identify with that business relationship.
What I did was, after reflecting a bunch, like I actually went the other direction, where for me, I started seeing a lot of people that stick around in that environment for the wrong reasons for too long. I just watched a lot of executives just go through heart-wrenching family problems, personal problems. You see addiction problems.
To me, it’s like you start this business and you start doing these things for these reasons. And I’ve just seen too often, people just do it for too long for the wrong reasons. And all of a sudden, it’s like what they were doing it for in the first place has been sacrificed. It’s like, oh, I want to make all this money so that I can have a great life for my family. And then it’s like they have the family, but they’re still in the work grind and don’t unplug at all.
Dean Pohlman: Right. And I’m asking this because that’s the trap that most people want to avoid, but it’s also the trap that I feel like most people fall into. So, what did you do that helped prevent you from falling into that trap?
Matt Allison: So, the biggest thing is– so like I’m doing another startup right now. I’ve raised money. It’s like just as serious for me with this one as it was for TrendKite. I don’t tie my sense of self-worth anywhere near as much to this one. But like I said, it doesn’t change my work ethic or the dynamics of how I build this thing. But what I do, man, is I just make sure that I balance my time out.
And I’m really fortunate to be married to a great woman now, where it’s like, if I’m spending too much time in the weeds on my business, like she’s going to let me know, and I’m going to feel some pressure and pain from that side of it that it’s like, hey, you need to chill out a little bit and come back to this side. I’ve just seen, like I’m a big modeling guy, and it’s like when I look at the happiest, in my opinion, most successful people on the planet, it’s the folks that have great families and friendships at the end of the day.
So, it’s like if you do a really good job on the business side and you make a bunch of money, then you can potentially really enrich those experiences with the people that you care about. But like the greatest tragedy would be to make all that money but then not have anybody to go back and share those moments and experiences with. So, for me, I prioritize the family side of things now, making sure I maintain good friendships with people that I love and care about. And then it’s like all this business stuff now just gets to enhance that.
And I’m lucky that I was one of the lucky guys to have a good exit and be able to create some space, I think is why I was able to think that way, because a lot of guys, they just keep going. And it’s like if you don’t give yourself the space to realize what’s going on around you, then it’s really, really hard to notice that kind of stuff.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. So, I really want to ask you if there’s anything more that you can share about being able to create that space because I mean, personally, I struggle with that. Like I say, I do something really cool for Man Flow Yoga, something goes really well. And then I’m like, cool, let’s do something else. There’s no like, hey, let’s celebrate this. Let’s actually appreciate this. Let’s actually try and feel gratitude for this. I’m wondering if there’s anything that, how can you practice giving yourself that space?
Matt Allison: So, there are a few different things that I do. One of my favorite things to do, and you can do this even in the middle of all the chaos, is Tony Robbins, he calls it his morning priming exercise. So, if you get on YouTube and type in Tony Robbins’ priming exercise, it’s like this 12 to 15-minute meditation that he does every morning. And for me, personally, my favorite part of that meditation is it’s this three-minute segment of it where you just picture what you want your life to be like. So, it’s like, think of one to three things that could be small or could be big that you just want to go a certain way and just like sit with that.
So, I think what that does is it creates a pretty crystal-clear North Star who is for myself, where when my life feels, like you just feel in your core when things are off-balance, it’s like you’re spending too much time on something or you’re giving something too much weight. And that morning meditation always kind of just like reconnects me. But then anytime I’m on a trip, like, I always have a journal with me on every trip that Marisa and I go on, and my favorite thing to do usually is a good morning coffee journal session.
And anytime I’m feeling just like flustered or anxious, like if my anxiety starts going up again, I’ve learned that don’t just let it go off the rails, like pause. It’s just if I’m feeling uncomfortable, I’ll pause and I’ll do some good journaling. I use MindMeister. It’s a good mind mapping software. I use Asana for kind of like task management. MindMeister is awesome, though, because I can just sit down on the computer and just like, my brain kind of goes off in a bunch of different directions rapidly.
So, I can just create these little notes of, okay, like house stuff, car stuff, relationship stuff, work stuff. And then it’s like you can kind of bounce around and just come up with like, all right, what are the open loops in my mind that I need to really deal with for this? And then you can create like a list of the things you need to do. And usually, I’ll take that list, throw it into Asana, and then it gives my brain the sense of peace because I’m like, I don’t need to manage it. The system is managing all the stuff that I need to worry about.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I’m a big fan of closing off the open loops. Like if I feel like I’m anxious or I feel like it’s near the end of the workday and I’m just like, ah, where am I right now? Closing those open loops is a huge– have you heard of a, it’s called the shutdown process or the work or what was it called? It’s Cal Newport. Cal Newport has this thing called the shutdown or the work shutdown process, but it’s basically this process of marking off where are you with all these major things that you’re going on and like saying, okay, this is where I am, this is what I need to do next. So, work shutdown, that’s what it’s called, but it’s basically tying off the loose ends or closing off those open loops so that you can move into your home life, your family life, and not feel stressed about it. So, that resonates a lot with me.
Matt Allison: There are two other things that I just want to throw out to you that I just kind of adopted from other folks that I think are important on this too. So, there’s another tech entrepreneur in town. He’s working at one of the unicorn companies now. And we were talking about having kids and babies and how do you manage the intense work that comes with a startup with also making sure you’re there for your family. So, like he had a thing where it’s like from 6 to 9, the kids are mine. It’s like this thing that he says in his head.
And for me, I do it a little bit different, but the whole intention there is just like there’s some chunk of time every single day, no matter what, that business is shut off and I’m just there present with my family. So, that’s something that’s been really important for me that I’ve focused on and I just blanked on the other one. So, it must not be as important as that one, but I’ll throw it out if I think of it.
Dean Pohlman: That’s a Turkish phrase is if you forget something, what you’re about to say, that it just wasn’t that important.
Matt Allison: That’s right. Just let it fly away, it’s gone.
Dean Pohlman: Fun fact. So, two things that came up. I’m curious, you were talking, throughout this, you’ve been mentioning friends by their first and last names. Do you stay in contact with people that you’ve been great friends with from childhood? Because it sounds like those relationships are really important to you. Do you maintain weekly contact with these people or monthly or…
Matt Allison: Yeah. So, it varies. And for me, the hardest part for me living in Austin, Texas, is I’m not from here. So, it’s like most of my closest friends from childhood, I have to be really intentional about how I keep in touch with them. And I’ll tell you how I kind of manage each group that I have. Obviously, it’s a lot easier for my friends here.
I guess I have three buckets of friends. There’s probably more, but like the big ones are my high school friends. So, these are the kids that I’ve known, some of them since second grade. It’s like, how do I keep in touch with them? Then I’ve got my college friends and then my post-college friends. So, those are my three buckets.
And because of my nature of kind of bouncing around, I mean, I lived in Redding in college, Philly in Pennsylvania, then I was in Atlanta for a little bit, San Diego, Austin. Like every place that I’ve ever lived, I’ve developed really close friends with people from wherever that location is. And from my high school friends, we all professionally do things that are very, very different. And I think I’ve been really blessed to be in a different financial situation than a lot of them.
So, for me, the intentional things are like we’re in a group text thing, so we text pretty much daily, something funny or just like something that’s going on in our lives. I try to get those guys in on an annual guys trip to do something. It’s really, really hard with them. I think they have like a very kind of negative thought about spending money and going on a trip, especially now that they’re all married with kids now, as well. So, that’s been difficult.
So, what I try to do is just meet them more where they are. So, it’s like, okay, cool. Because usually, I’m like, hey, I’ll pay for it. Let’s just go somewhere, do whatever. But because that’s difficult, I’m like, okay, how about I come into Redding, Pennsylvania for a night and let’s just hang out and do whatever you guys want to just kind of keep that because we don’t relate as much on our day-to-day lives today as we did back then. But the history that we have is, I think, so important to all of us. Like I consider those guys my brothers, and I know they consider me the same. So, we treat it probably more similar to what you would treat like a family, brother relationship with those guys.
My college friends, I try to pop in and kind of the same thing, like there’s one guy in particular. Every time I go back to Pennsylvania, we’ll link up in his town. But everyone’s just scattered. So, people are literally all over the globe now. So, I don’t keep in touch as much with those guys as I wished I would.
But then my post-college friends, some of them, like the guy that I lived in his basement. So, what I do intentionally is I have a phone call with him. So, his name’s Ron, and then my friend James, the three of us have an ongoing hangout call, like this scheduled once a month. And Ron’s Filipino, James is black, and I think the meeting is called like a white guy, an Asian guy, and a black guy walk into a bar, dot, dot, dot, or something like that. That’s our monthly hangout.
And we talk for like, I don’t know, an hour and a half, two hours. But yeah, man, for mental health, I think, I know one of the things that you wanted to ask me too is just like what’s like something that’s plaguing men in general right now from a health standpoint. And I think with social media, with everything going on in the news, it’s just like even like look at us right now, we’re doing this over the computer. I think it’s incredibly easy for people to not be together in person doing things and connecting. And I think the best thing at the very top of the list that men and probably women as well can do for mental health is just get together and play.
There’s a book I really like called Play It Away. And this person basically says, like best thing anyone can do is just go play with their friends. We’re not too different from when we were five years old, like at the end of day, we just want to get together with our friends and have some fun. And that author actually says like that single thing alone is what can just put a bullet in the head of anxiety, depression. They go off on some tangents on things, but I think that’s one of the things that is the hardest thing to do right now but also the most beneficial.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, know that concept of play is something that keeps popping up. We had Aaron Alexander on the show and he’s got the Align Podcast. He’s a big fan of that. And I asked him like, “How do you start playing?” Because like as adults, we kind of have to relearn how to play. But one other thing that a phrase that’s come up a lot in some conversations I’ve had is this idea that we’re children living in adults’ bodies. Like all of us are still kids at heart with kids’ emotions and big feelings, but we’ve learned to impersonate adults. So, yeah, that idea of play being helpful makes a lot of sense and it’s a really popular one. So, your family, oh, by the way, your wife’s name is Marisa as well?
Matt Allison: Yeah.
Dean Pohlman: My wife’s name is Marisa. We should have a Marisa convention. That way we can hang out. Is it one S or two S?
Matt Allison: She has two S’s.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. They won’t get along, never mind.
Matt Allison: Does she get Marisa?
Dean Pohlman: She does sometimes. Yeah, she does. So, you had your son with Marissa five months ago, four months ago? How long now?
Matt Allison: Just a couple of days, past four months now, September.
Dean Pohlman: Congrats.
Matt Allison: Thank you.
Dean Pohlman: Yes. And it sounds like he has the same temperament as my son, which is terrible. Or another, I’ll say colicky or particular or however you want to describe it. So, you are also going through the transition of, oh, I have free time too. Oh, I have no free time. How are you dealing with that? How’s that going?
Matt Allison: It’s good, man. It’s a journey, for sure. The timepiece of it actually isn’t the hardest part for me. It’s funny, I think you have kids and you can hear like what colic is before you have a child that has colic. And it’s like, oh, they’re screaming a lot. And it’s like, oh yeah, it sounds bad, right? But then when you actually have a child who has colic and they’re screaming at the top of their lungs for hours and there’s like nothing you can do really to soothe it, it’s like a form of mental torture that it’s like you realize that words in the English language start to have meanings that you didn’t even know before with some other stuff.
And it’s been such a great experience, but it’s been definitely one of the hardest things that myself and for her, for sure as well, like that we’ve ever done. So, I think the big adjustment that the timepiece of stuff, I have my startup, my wife just went back to work. We don’t have a nanny or any help yet, so it’s just the two of us trading off and doing the work, like the normal grind. So, that is very, very difficult. But hands down, the hardest transition for us has just been dealing with an infant that is just constantly uncomfortable, screaming, and not really being equipped for how to handle that.
Dean Pohlman: It’s tough. And I’m like you, I’m from Ohio in Pennsylvania. But now, we’re here in Austin as Marisa from– where’s Marissa from?
Matt Allison: She’s from right here, Buda, Texas.
Dean Pohlman: Okay, cool. So, at least you have family here. But we had that situation where family is– oh, my family’s not here. Your family’s not here. So, everyone’s moving away from family because it’s like you want to get away from your family. But then COVID happened, and now people are like, you know what? Maybe being next to family isn’t such a terrible thing. And having a child is one of those major life events where you’re like, oh, you know what? Having grandma and grandpa close by might not have been such a bad idea.
Matt Allison: Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny. So, right after I graduated college, I was in the middle of doing all my startup stuff and I spent like, I think it was a three-month chunk out in San Diego, California. And I went out there, had no money. I went out with a couple of suitcases, slept on the floor on a towel my first couple of nights, then got a mattress from a shady company. Like just kind of paint the picture.
Dean Pohlman: Comfy.
Matt Allison: Yeah, I went, this was like. But I’ll tell you, man, I was in paradise over there living in Mission Beach. I woke up, I went out, checked the surf, jumped in the water. I just like surfed all day. And I go to gym, it’s like one of those cool– the windows are all open, all that fresh air’s coming in. Life was super interesting and cool, super active lifestyle out there. In my opinion, it’s like one of the most fun, cool places you can live on this planet.
And what I found, though, that was transformational for me was after those first three months, I was like, the vacation is kind of too long now. Like, I’m ready to reengage with a more business-minded civilization. It was kind of how I felt. But I remember thinking to myself, home really is where your family is, in my opinion. So, I’m a little bit of a tortured soul here in Austin. I mean, I love it here. I love my wife’s family.
But not having that whole crew together, it’s like, I really miss that even as a 22-year-old out in San Diego. It’s just like I remember thinking to myself, like, of all the places in the world, why did my family decide to plant down in Central Pennsylvania? It’s like because they didn’t really…
Dean Pohlman: Home prices.
Matt Allison: Yeah. Well, I feel like with social media and Airbnbs and everything, like people just didn’t get to get out in the world like we’re fortunate to now. And I laugh, I’m like, come on, guys, let’s get the whole family go to a coast somewhere or something.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I send my family, so my mom and dad, Zillow links and Redfin houses every now and then, like, hey, this one looks nice. You’re almost 65. Maybe you should think about it. But yeah, I’ve been unsuccessful and I don’t want to move back to the Midwest because there’s no sun there and it’s cold. Cold weather isn’t terrible, but…
Matt Allison: The sun is a real thing though.
Dean Pohlman: The sun, yeah. I actually have a vitamin D deficiency. I still do because my body never learned how to process sunlight because I grew up in Cleveland. So, there’s a downside. So, you’re talking about being active in San Diego. Before we get to this, I wanted to touch on you, you have your kind of oh sh*t moment when you realize like, hey, I used to be an elite athlete. And now, my body does not reflect an elite athlete.
And then, while you are at the height of all of this, you were going through five or six workouts per week, you were saying, and you put on, I don’t know, the photos look great. We should definitely put in a link to this 12-month or 11 or 13-month journey, I think you had, showing this month-by-month progress, but…
Matt Allison: 12, not 11, I think.
Dean Pohlman: 11 months?
Matt Allison: The pictures were 13 months. So, yeah, you’re right.
Dean Pohlman: Okay. So, yeah, do you want to tell me when you had that moment and what you did and how you started that?
Matt Allison: So, the one thing about having money for the first time, the startup is going well, busy all the time, traveling the cool places is I found myself just eating out all the time. So, let’s go pre-TrendKite, I was cooking pretty much every meal at home and it was like just bare, raw– it was like chicken breasts and spinach, basically, because that’s all I could afford – brown rice, the cheap stuff.
But then as I was eating out more and more, this transformation probably happened over the course of a couple of years, and I just didn’t really realize it. But I remember before I started this thing called Precision Nutrition, I went probably on average 3 out of 3 to 4 meals a day. I was doing Uber Eats, Favor, GrubHub.
Dean Pohlman: Oh, wow.
Matt Allison: Like getting food delivered to my house. And I just, like, wasn’t cooking anymore at all. And what’s funny is when my wife and I got married, I went on this little health kick where I was like, oh, you want to look good for your wedding day and your wedding pictures and whatever. So, I got my weight down a little bit, but it must have been like a really unhealthy way to do it because very shortly after our wedding, so we went on our honeymoon and we were living large, I was just eating nonstop. Every meal is just like filling up until I couldn’t eat anymore. And I got back from that thing.
And so, my fighting weight is probably like, I don’t know, 155, 160 if I was training for a wrestling match or a boxing match or something, and I was up to 205 after that. So, like, I’d say my kind of regular weight is like probably in the 170, somewhere. But I was 205, and there was a picture from our honeymoon, I was out at some giant waterfall in Hawaii, and I’m like bending over as I’m walking through this thing and I’ve just got this huge gut, it’s like hanging over my lap, and I’m just like…
Dean Pohlman: This is a wonderfully flattering photo.
Matt Allison: Yeah. And I looked at, I said, “No way, dude, you are not going out like this,” so…
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. When was this?
Matt Allison: That was probably the end of October 2019.
Dean Pohlman: Okay.
Matt Allison: So, I decided, like, I got to start doing something. So, I started working out pretty much right away anyway. And we can talk about that. Like, workout is my entire life up until that moment. We’re just completely different, and the mentality and everything just completely different. I had to basically relearn how to work out all over again. But yeah, I went from 205 down to about 172 by the end of that competition. I won a global weight loss competition, which if you asked me that a few years ago, if I would have done that, if I would even be competing in a weight loss competition, it’s like, what are you talking about?
Dean Pohlman: You would’ve been like, I don’t need to lose weight. What are you talking about?
Matt Allison: Yeah.
Dean Pohlman: That’s funny. But we’re also talking about how you had to kind of change the way you work out because the way that you work out when you’re in your early 30s versus the way that you work out when you’re training in college is really different. In college, whether or not you can do the next rep determines like if you’re going to keep pushing or not. But when you’re 30, you’re like, oh, I could do a few more, but what’s tomorrow going to feel like? So, I don’t know, at least for me, learning that, okay, you might be able to do this, but you shouldn’t do this was a big adjustment. And what was that like for you?
Matt Allison: So, when I think back to when I was a college athlete doing workouts, I’d say the first 95% of the workout was just on like autoplay. This is easy. It’s like you go to the gym, you start doing your thing, whatever, and then it’s that last rep, that transcendent rep, where you make or break yourself and edge yourself above the competition. It’s like that’s where you really push yourself is just how much pain can you endure at the end of the exercise or workout or whatever?
So, the difference in mentality, it’s like I remember when I was done running track at Penn State, I’d go out for a run, I had to retrain myself how to run because the track mentality, like we’re running splits that would take you to states and high school is just like a casual workout when we were running. So, I had to tell myself it was okay to just jog instead of just hit the hammer.
So, with the workouts, the big transition was like, okay, don’t just go in the gym and start throwing the heavy stuff around. Don’t have your intensity up to a 10. I had to tell myself, it’s okay to not even push myself on this, like this whole first week of workouts, like just get my body, get the fluids used to moving again, get used to just like being active. And then I increased that a little bit. And what I found is just like I would increase it a little more and a little more and a little more. And that’s how I navigated that.
And even the mentality side, like the psychological side of like when you’re a D1 athlete, you’re in pretty good shape for pretty much all those folks. It’s like you look in the mirror, you feel good, you look good. When your body image is really far off from where it was and you think of all the hard work that went into that, there’s a real mental barrier to overcome, to fight back, to get into shape.
So, it gave me a ton of respect for people that start somewhere not nice and get somewhere that they want to be as well. But it was a grindness, a lot harder for me to work out, lose the weight, get back in shape than it would have been to just keep grinding.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I mean two things, so learning that appropriate intensity when you’re first coming back is challenging because you want to feel like you’re doing enough, but then you think you do enough, but then you’re so sore. The next day you’re like, I think I maybe did too much. So then, at least for me, I got to this point where I was like, I think I’m doing too much. I’m like, I shouldn’t feel this sore. And part of that was just learning like, oh no, this is just how sore you’re going to feel.
So, it was really hard to figure out after taking off so many years of intense weightlifting or just strength training, coming back in and figuring out, okay, where should I be aiming for with these workouts? And yeah, the big adjustment being you’re not just going to push yourself as hard as you possibly can every time.
Matt Allison: One other thing that was critical for me too is it’s like I’m real big on identifying the patterns. It’s like, what are my habits that are causing me to behave a certain way? And I realized that my habit was I would go in the gym, I’d hit it hard for like, let’s call it one to three months. And always by that three-month mark, I was like back in pretty great lifting shape, felt good, was moving. And then every time, without skipping a beat, I would just stop for some reason because like I’m good, I don’t need to go anymore.
And my call it four to five, maybe six days a week of consistent exercise would turn into two days a week, and then now turn into one day a week. And before I knew it, I was right back into those bad habits of just eat whatever, not exercising. So, what it really, I think, pushed in my brain and what I still cling on to is it’s like, all right, what’s my minimum amount of physical activity that I’m okay with every single day of my life? Like, it’s more important for me to go in the gym, even let’s say I check into the gym and I just walk around in a circle, for me, that’s better than if I don’t go to the gym at all. So, it’s like I need to just do something every single day. That’s kind of what I’ve now got wired in my brain, and that has kept me from falling off the cliff where it’s like I go in these long periods of inactivity or just not doing what I need to do.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, that makes sense. Atomic Habits has a kind of cool anecdotal story of this guy who wants to lose weight, and he gets started by just going to the gym and getting dressed, but he has rules. He just goes to the gym and he just stands in the gym and then he goes home. And he does that for long enough that he gets into the gym one day and he’s like, well, I might as well do something since I’m here. And then I think he lost like 100 pounds that year or something, but just from creating that repetition of just going into the gym. And yeah, so that makes total sense to me.
Man, I have a couple of questions here that I didn’t ask you, but I want to go through kind of my rapid-fire questions for you. And these are things that I’m asking most people on the show. So, what do you think is one– and we’ve also covered a lot of this just through that conversation, but hopefully, here, we kind of will spell it out, so to speak. So, what do you think is one habit, a belief, a mindset, a practice that has helped you the most in terms of your overall happiness?
Matt Allison: Two things. One, that anything’s possible, and two, that I am in total control over my own happiness.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, like that. What’s one thing you do for your health that you believe is overlooked or undervalued by other people?
Matt Allison: I don’t watch the news anymore and I stay off social media.
Dean Pohlman: Two very good things. I got a social media, a long time ago, uninstalled the apps. I still cheat and I go on my mobile browser, but it’s a lot less enticing then, yeah. Do you have a set time for a regular stress relief activity? And what do you do?
Matt Allison: For me, I walk my dog twice a day. That’s really therapeutic for me. That morning meditation, I could put in that bucket, but then just like my workouts, go to the gym. It’s funny, what’s peaceful for me is throwing on some hard-grungy rock or rap or electronic music and just kind of grinding out a workout. It’s like high energy, but it’s actually very therapeutic and it chills me out.
Dean Pohlman: I forgot to ask you this before, but has your morning routine stayed intact with– what’s your son’s name again?
Matt Allison: Ryan.
Dean Pohlman: Has it stayed intact at all? Has any of your routine stayed intact?
Matt Allison: No, in fact, every time I try to recreate what I was doing before, it’s just like, I mean, you never know when he’s going to wake up and need something. And the pieces are in my morning and afternoon, but sometimes, it’s just like I have an evening routine instead of a morning routine, and it’s good enough for now.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I used to be a huge morning routine guy. I made tons of content, tons of pieces of content on morning routines. And now, my morning routine is just waking up and immediately tending to Declan and making food for people. The extent of my morning routine is that I get to make a smoothie and coffee for myself. Otherwise, there is nothing left. Evening routine, that’s where I actually get the opportunity to do things. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, you’re like, oh, I’m really tired. So, your evening routine isn’t exciting as your morning routine once was.
Matt Allison: Well, so think about this. So, it’s like the whole point of a morning routine is to just drill in discipline and habits to put you in the best place you can be for your life. And what I think is really interesting that I haven’t really heard people talk about this is it’s like the traditional morning routines that you hear from the most successful folks on the planet, it’s very regimented around like waking up, getting the workout in, eating healthy, doing the most important things for the business, whatever. That’s usually what you hear.
But what I said earlier, my mindset has shifted where it’s like family and friendships are the most important thing for me. So, waking up and tending to your child is the first thing in the morning. Like, to me, that’s a pretty awesome new morning routine. It’s like you’ll still get to the other stuff in the day because of the discipline you have, but it’s like, why not prioritize the most important thing for yourself first thing in the morning?
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, that’s a good point. I should probably reframe to look at the way I’m looking at that. Yeah, I mean, I do want to spend time with him, obviously. I enjoy spending time with my family. I guess right now, I still continue to feel like I have to start working. I have to get to the things that I want to do so that I can finish my X time and then I can focus on the family, then I can really relax. So, I don’t know.
Matt Allison: Yeah, for me, I try to think of it as more of like a fluid thing where it’s like right now, because he’s a little colicky still, even at four months, it’s just not going to work for my life. And I like to be happy if I’m like waking up at some hours and just going straight to the gym and then like, cool, you deal with all the hard stuff with him first thing and see when he’s chill in the afternoon. So, for me, it’s like, all right, let me be here, help now, and then hopefully, in a month or two, once the colic dies down, I’ll have no problem waking up at four or five, get to the gym, get that done for the day because there is something I do really still buy into getting that stuff done in the mornings because it’s like, for me, I’m always way more stressed because I’m thinking about the workout that I need to do if I don’t do it early in the morning.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, that makes sense. I’ve always worked out. I do morning yoga. That’s like something that I’ve been good about, but I’ve always worked out after work. I’ve always worked out at 4 o’clock. That’s just when the weight room is open at school. That’s just what I’ve gotten into the habit into, but I don’t know, maybe eventually, that morning routine will include the big workout.
Matt Allison: So, I was the same as you, Dean, like if you think about high school, college athletics, it’s usually when you work out, it’s like after class. So, it’s like a little bit of a mental rewiring. If you want to, you can have too, but…
Dean Pohlman: True. Yeah, and like what you were talking about with being there to helping our Marissa’s, yeah, I really had to talk about how important me working out again was with her, especially when he was younger, it was like a big point of contention with me doing my workouts in the late afternoon. Like the plan was always to start at three, so I’d be done by four, but sometimes, I wouldn’t start until like 4:30, and then she’d be taking care of Declan by herself, and I’d be like, okay, I’m just going to keep working out over here. I hope I don’t get yelled at, but yeah.
Matt Allison: Yeah, so the same thing on our side. I mean, I think the older we get with our relationships, you learn how much we live and die by communication with our spouses. And it’s like I do the same thing, I had to sit down with Marissa and say, like, hey, I know that working out for a lot of people is a luxury and something that it looks like they do in their free time.
I was like, for me, this is actually imperative that I get this stuff done because if I don’t exercise, my mental health is going to suffer dramatically, and that’s just how I’m wired as a person. So, I was like, so I really need for us to figure out, like every day, I need to find a time to get this in. And my flexibility is going to be like, I don’t care when it happens in the day, but I do need to make sure that I get it done. And that was kind of like how her and I were able to talk through it and provide a little give.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. What’s nice is when you have those conversations. I don’t know about you, but sometimes you go into it, thinking like, oh, she’s going to react this one way and it’s not going to go well and like she’s going to– and then eventually, you have the conversations, you’re like, oh, that was a lot better than I thought it would have been. Or like, there’s the initial, what’s been interesting to me is you don’t have to solve every conversation you have, like you don’t have to, I feel this way. Well, I feel this way. Well, you don’t have to come to terms to an agreement. You just get it out and then you move on. And it’s just like this thing that it doesn’t have to have a conclusion. It’s just like, okay, well, we both put that out there and we’ll probably put it out there again in a month from now, but just there and we’ll be fighting.
Matt Allison: Yeah, and that’s the cool thing too, man, it’s like you can always argue the events or the things, but you can’t argue the way someone feels. It’s just like, hey, these are my feelings, I’m entitled to them, you’re entitled to yours. And if you’re feeling bad, like, I’m sorry. I obviously don’t want to make you feel bad. So, I will say maybe something that I do differently from a lot of folks. It seems like probably from all the self-help stuff over the years as it’s like when those moments come up, a lot of times, I think couples will start building their onions. It’s like the layers just get stacked because they don’t address those things.
For me, I’m like, all right, if Marissa’s feeling negative or bad about something I’m doing, I always try to, and I’m not perfect with it, obviously, but I try to pause and just be like, all right. Like, am I being a little too sensitive here, is usually the issue? Or is there something I’m doing? And then I’ll think about it and go like, hey, I’m going to try to be a lot less sensitive about that or not do that thing if I think it’s a fair criticism. But then you also have to know when things aren’t a fair criticism, and that’s like a whole– we could probably spend hours just talking about navigating relationships.
Dean Pohlman: Not an expert in this situation, just yeah, I don’t know. All right. What’s the most stressful part of your day-to-day life?
Matt Allison: Most stressful today is probably just trying to manage so many different things. Right now, I’ve got a water business, I’ve got a new tech startup. We’re about to do a pretty sizable addition on our house. We have Ryan. Like all these things are kind of all happening at the same time, and you can make an argument that any one of them is a full-time job. So, I think just managing all of that with my wife’s work schedule, it’s like time management. Short answer to your question is getting it all in, prioritized and making sure everything gets the right attention.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing men and their well-being right now?
Matt Allison: What we talked about before, not getting together and playing, whether it’s sports or whatever. Guys need to play with each other.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I feel that. That was one of the reasons I started this podcast was just so I could hang out with guys more like you. I mean, we’re not in person, but like, hey, this is closer to what I was doing before. There’s got to be like some sort of plug-in for this video conference that allows us to play like tic tac toe or something.
Matt Allison: Well, I’ll tell you, one of the startups that I was considering doing before I started doing what I’m doing now is I was like, why do sports just like kind of stop? I had an awesome high school sports experience, so it was just like I lived in a small town and it was just a really cool thing. And I always enjoyed the rivalries with the competing towns and I was like, why aren’t there still sports like high school versus high school based on where you live? Like, why isn’t there Westlake versus Lake Travis, the adult years of all these different sports? How cool would that be? That still existed. Kids can come watch their parents compete, the town sports like, I don’t know.
Dean Pohlman: My dad’s going to beat up your dad.
Matt Allison: Yeah, exactly.
Dean Pohlman: That’d be awesome. I’m down for that. It’s a good reason to stay in shape, to be sport ready. All right, man, we talked about a ton of stuff in this conversation. So, thanks for being honest and going through all of that stuff with me, first off. Thank you.
Matt Allison: Oh, yeah. Thank you, man. It’s my pleasure. It’s fun to chat through all this with you.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. So, how can people keep up with what you’re doing and learn more about you? What’s the best place to do that?
Matt Allison: Really, it’s through direct conversation with me at this point. Like, I mentioned, I’m off social for the most part.
Dean Pohlman: Send him a carrier pigeon.
Matt Allison: Yeah. So, my email is pretty easy. I’m at it at Handraise.com right now. It’s my new tech startup. I’m on LinkedIn, but I don’t really post much updates on LinkedIn. I’ve kind of found the more successful I get, the less I want a lot of people to know, quite frankly, about like a lot of the stuff that I’m doing because you just get kind of like hunted down by the financial planners and accountants of the world all day every day.
Dean Pohlman: Oh, really?
Matt Allison: Yeah. No knock on these folks, by the way, but that’s one of my reasons for kind of ducking low. But I’m happy to hang out and chat with anyone, so just hit me up, direct email, I’m happy to chat.
Dean Pohlman: Sweet. All right. Well, thanks again, Matt. Thanks for joining me on the Man Flow Yoga podcast. I hope you guys enjoy this episode and I will see you on the next video, or we’ll talk on the next podcast.
Matt Allison: Thanks, Dean.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, thanks, Matt.[END]
- Matt Allison on LinkedIn
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- Align Podcast
- Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
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