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“Don’t do any things that hurt you” with Julien Backhaus

The simple answer to this question is, don’t do any things that hurt you. 1) Alcohol gives us nothing — it only takes things away from us. It costs health, relationships and perception. The world is more exciting without being stunned. 2) Drinking a lot of still water (bottles, not glasses) constantly detoxifies our body […]

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The simple answer to this question is, don’t do any things that hurt you. 1) Alcohol gives us nothing — it only takes things away from us. It costs health, relationships and perception. The world is more exciting without being stunned. 2) Drinking a lot of still water (bottles, not glasses) constantly detoxifies our body and keeps us slim. 3) The optimal supply of nutrients is the basis for our well-being and functioning. If we don’t give our body what it needs, it cannot function in the long run. And in the short term it cannot perform at its best.

As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julien Backhaus, 34, a German serial entrepreneur for the last 15 years. He founded four media companies including several brands and services. He has written four books, two of them became bestsellers in Europe. He was awarded with the Change Award and was recognized as Man of the Year 2019 in Germany.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in a small town in northern Germany. We had a farm where my parents and grandparents worked together. So I spent a lot of time with cattle, chickens and pigs, I earned my pocket money in the vegetable fields and I also learned that you can earn more money with a filled sack of potatoes than with an hourly wage. Beside attending school, I helped my family to sell the vegetables at the weekly market. That way I had to deal with thousands of people already as a child. I learned what makes people tick and what I have to say to make them buy more. My teachers always told my parents that I would become an entrepreneur one day. Even as a child, I’ve been setting up fantasy companies and getting my friends to join. Until I founded my first real company at the age of 18.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

I think this drive has always been within me. And my passion for communication has ultimately led me to start an agency first and then a media company. I had started to read many books by successful people. The key message has been always the same: you have to do something to become happy. You must not wait for something to happen by itself.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

I have met many people who have inspired me or helped me. I never had the feeling to have a special mentor. But every help, whether it came from a person or a book, helped me in a way. At the same time, there is an important lesson behind this. I have never waited for “the one Messiah” to show me the “right” way. I have received many impulses from many great people. Some of them were useful, some were not. I have learned which methods work for me and my character and which don’t. This helps a lot in developing an own “template” for success. Because one tip can bring millions to one person and lead others into the abyss. Success is something very individual. In the end, it’s all about becoming your own cheerleader. I have always encouraged myself to dare something.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

In the early days of my entrepreneurial activity I had little money at my disposal. I had no loans, no investors — and I didn’t want any — and therefore I could only work with the money we earned every day. I never studied business administration and I set our prices on a gut feeling basis. It was always important to me that we offer the highest quality. One day I met with a customer to show him what we had made for him. He said: “I have been your customer for a long time now and I like you very much. You do great work, but you are too cheap.” I couldn’t believe what I had heard. Too cheap? I asked some other customers who I knew they would also like me and tell me the truth. They all told me that our prices were far too low for our high quality. I learned from this story to make prices not depend on my assessments, but on the willingness of the market. Today I have a better approach: Take as much as you can get.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

In my opinion 80 percent of success is based on turning your passion into your profession. This has the advantage that you don’t have to force yourself to get active. It follows the natural urge to push something forward in this field. If you are very musical by nature, you absolutely have to do something with music. And it won’t feel hard for you. Then you have to make an irrevocable decision to persevere until the success becomes visible. The energy you need for this you draw from the love to your work. The remaining 20 percent can be learned. How to negotiate, develop ideas, lead employees and all these things can be learned. I am a fan of books. Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Reed Hastings — they have all written great books about how to make a difference in this world.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The book “Goals” by Brian Tracy had opened my eyes. I read it when I was 18 and learned that you can achieve any goal in the world if you divide the goal into daily small tasks and work disciplined on them. In a sudden, big goals were no longer magic, but mathematics.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“It takes more courage to change your mind than to defend it.” I’ve always been curious and I love to learn new things. That includes throwing old beliefs overboard. Seeing the world with different eyes is exciting. But the more “professional” you become, the more difficult it is to change beliefs. We are manipulated by the encouragement of others. But we still have to constantly question things and take the risk of being laughed at.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

We are shooting a documentary series about exceptionally successful personalities. The viewer is about to learn that success rarely comes from a “big bang”, but rather from consistent and focused performance. Since most people are inconsistent, I hope that many will be convinced otherwise.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

Everything we do regularly leads us in one particular direction in our lives. Much more than our thinking, our actions shape our world. It is always about influencing probabilities. As a teenager I had acquired bad habits. Cigarettes, alcohol and lots of sugar. After I had understood that it is about tendencies and probabilities in our life, I realized that these tendencies were leading myself into the wrong direction. There were more negative points about these habits than positive ones. So I decided to replace these negative habits with a positive one. Since then I drank a big sip of clear water instead of following a negative habit. I never touched a cigarette again, never drank a drop of alcohol or ate something sweet again. This discipline still gives me a feeling of happiness today, 15 years later, because I keep myself under control.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

First things first. There are important tasks that often don’t even feel urgent but are crucial for long-term success. Getting the most important tasks done first every single day is a great art. You never become perfect at it, but I usually manage it. For this, I write down every single morning what is important and what I want to achieve. It’s not about the tasks to be done that day — my calendar tells that to me. It’s about the long-term successes that are important. This daily writing reminds me of what all these tasks actually have to serve. And if I notice that some tasks or appointments have crept in that don’t actually contribute to the long-term goal, I try to get rid of them as quickly as possible. Reading books is also an important part of my daily routine. It helps me to think with the heads of other successful people. And it challenges me to question my own convictions. Nothing else has influenced me as positively as books.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

You have to justify it to yourself. It has to be clear to you that this habit will change your life. A bad habit must be coupled with pain and loss in your brain so that it feels wrong when you do it. It is a choice that we make. But to do it this way, we have to take ourselves seriously which most people don’t do. We simply do not believe our own words. That’s why we have to do a kind of “brainwashing” on ourselves. With reminders hanged on the mirror or set on the smartphone. The daily suggestion can help us to take ourselves more seriously.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.

The simple answer to this question is, don’t do any things that hurt you. 1) Alcohol gives us nothing — it only takes things away from us. It costs health, relationships and perception. The world is more exciting without being stunned. 2) Drinking a lot of still water (bottles, not glasses) constantly detoxifies our body and keeps us slim. 3) The optimal supply of nutrients is the basis for our well-being and functioning. If we don’t give our body what it needs, it cannot function in the long run. And in the short term it cannot perform at its best.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

1) Never drink any alcohol again. In the beginning it simply needs a lot of self-discipline. Try it for a week and see how well you feel afterwards. Then do it for another week. It becomes easier. 2) Put bottles of still water on the table (in a handy size) and drink several bottles a day. There are even apps in the Appstore that keep reminding you regularly to drink water. Observe how energetic you feel after just a few days. Many people do not like to drink a lot of water because you have to urinate more often. But that is something positive. Toxins must leave the body as quickly as possible. We underestimate how many toxins are in our body. 3) With nutrients it becomes much more difficult. If we actually ate everything that provided us with optimal nutrients, we would burst. Therefore, the only way out is to eat pressed nutrients in the form of capsules or powder. There are some suppliers that meet very high standards (GMPs). With very good preparations you will notice a big difference in your well-being after a few days, because the cells and organs receive an optimal supply.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.

1) Do what you are excellent at. You do this work with more passion and with better results. At the beginning of my career I did almost everything by myself. Even the things I’m not good at. This includes administration and accounting. It just stole energy and enthusiasm from me, which is why I was only able to do a little good work. A vicious circle. 2) Do only one task at the same time. Different things take too much energy. I always thought it was admirable to do several things at once. I was quickly interrupted when a customer or employee wanted to know something. But that kills your momentum. It’s like a fast-moving train making an emergency stop every few minutes. Rebuilding the momentum consumes a tremendous amount of energy. 3) Abstain from sugar at work and make sure that your blood has a high oxygen saturation. Sugar triggers increased insulin production. This makes us feel tired. We also need a good oxygen supply for an optimal performance. When people sit in an office, they inhale oxygen and exhale used up oxygen again. After a while there is almost only used up oxygen left in the room.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

1) I had to learn to hand over my „weak“ tasks quickly to someone who is better at it, so that I can do more of my good work. 2) Divide the day into blocks for your most important tasks and allow some space between the blocks for “urgent” tasks, which you can work through all at once then. After a short break you go over to the next block without any interruption. 3) Instead of eating sweet things at work, take a bottle of water. The important thing is that there are no sweets anywhere within reach. Open the window regularly to let in new oxygen. You can set up a reminder function on your smartphone for this. It is also helpful for your blood circulation, if you can work in a standing position in between.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.

1) You always need to know your long-term goals so that you know what you have to do for them at that moment. If you want to go to the North Pole and drift a little bit off track every day, you will end up at the South Pole. 2) Do not focus on all parts of a task at once. Concentrate on the first step, then on the second one and so on. Whenever I had a big task to do, I looked at all the things that were going to be done. And that killed my focus. I felt overwhelmed even though I hadn’t even started. 3) Be antisocial while working. It’s about keeping your energy and concentration at a high level until valuable tasks are done and finished. Conversations with colleagues or helping others are not appropriate during this time, even if it seems rude.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

1) Regularly write down where all your work should lead to. What is the big goal? That can be selfish. The main thing is that it is clear. It’s important to write down again and again what is the smallest possible task that needs to be done every day. It hangs like the sword of Damocles over the daily schedule and must be completed. 2) Always concentrate only on the part of the task that lies ahead of you. This is how marathon runners do it. They concentrate on the next kilometer/mile, not on the entire distance. After the part is completed, go to step two. Your motivation stays high that way. 3) Make it clear to your colleagues as soon as possible that you do not invest time in talking or helping during important tasks. And also make it clear to yourself that this is counterproductive. Soon no one will interrupt you any longer when they notice that you are concentrated. It also helps to lock the door or hang up a “Please, do not disturb” sign.

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

It is important that our tasks match our own honest goals. When we feel that we are doing something that fulfills our dream, it releases creativity and energy. However, most people are constantly doing work that has nothing to do with it. We need to become more selfish in the selection of our tasks. Successful people are good at neglecting things that do not contribute to their goal. So instead of this just do more great work. In the beginning it will feel antisocial to refuse unimportant tasks. You might even provoke some disputes. But in the long run you will experience flow.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would like to ban excuses. The world is facing great challenges, but people spend a lot of time making excuses. If we were to abolish this alternative, the only possibility there would be solutions. These may not always be the best ones at the beginning, but the more ideas of a solution there are, the more likely the right ones we have. Excuses, on the other hand, do not lead us anywhere, except to where we already stand, and this is no progress.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I am sure that Elon Musk is the Thomas A. Edison of our time. He puts things that seemed impossible into series production. I think if you had the opportunity to meet Edison, you would like to take it. But I think the world would be helped more, if Elon puts his focus on his priorities instead of mine.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I share content on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook on a daily basis.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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