Keep your habits simple and realistic. Pick the top three most important habits you want to work on and make them easy to get started. Going from not working out to working out two hours a day is a big jump. Start with a 15-minute daily home workout instead.
As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jodie Hewson, CEO and Co-Founder of Stay Wilder.
Jodie Hewson is a seasoned marketing veteran, who after years of working as a growth marketer for startups, tech companies, and nonprofits, grew tired of witnessing the disastrous effects of unregulated business growth and unethical tourism on both society and the planet. Now, as the CEO and Co-Founder of Stay Wilder, an eco-resort and environmental advocacy brand, Jodie, along with her husband and business partner Rob Cable, hope to disrupt the travel industry and provide the eco-curious with an accessible alternative to the status quo.
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’ve actually been starting little businesses and clubs ever since I was quite small.
I started a mystery solving business, where I very quickly learned that successful businesses need to fill a customer demand. I pivoted to teaching kids how to cartwheel, which caught on like wildfire and created big buzz on the playground for a few days. Later on I created a lemonade stand, where I’d hire kids to ride around on their bikes and bring us customers.
Eventually, I decided I wanted to make a difference, and created my Don’t Pollute club. I made signs, and wrote a chant; I was thrilled with the change we were going to make. Sadly, NO ONE would join in. I sat on the edge of my driveway, waving my sign and singing my song.
I think this is why I’ve always felt drawn to solving problems through business. I was scorned at such an early age. I did not have Greta’s persistence.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I was in grade 12, and I loved biology and science, but I also loved art.
I applied and got into a bunch of university health programs, but I couldn’t help shake the feeling that I was giving up my opportunity to be creative.
My dad told me about how he’d read an article in the paper about a marketing contest at the University of Ottawa, and said he could just see me doing that type of thing.
The second he said it, I knew it was the right thing. I cancelled my applications and reapplied for business. The rest is history.
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’m a product of so many people. My parents taught me hard work, excellence and the importance of education. My teachers and first few managers gave me opportunities that I probably wouldn’t have shot for. I’m forever grateful and extremely privileged for these experiences.
But I’d say my husband and co-founder, Robert Cable, has probably had the most overall positive impact on allowing me to be myself, and pursue my passions. He endlessly believes in me and supports me in showing up as myself. He’s very intuitive, grounded, and heart-centered and I trust his opinion on all big things.
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?
When I was about 25, I was Director of Marketing at a 12m tech company. I was on a senior leadership team with five men over 35. I felt immense pressure in my role.
One day, I had to present about a company-wide rebrand and product restructuring I was leading across the entire company. It was a big deal and many people were still skeptical.
I had a dentist appointment in the morning. I wasn’t allowed to eat before the dentist, and when it ran late I had to rush back to work to present, starving. The only thing I could eat before my presentation was two chocolate bars.
The stress of being late mixed with the shocking sugar high created the worst presentation of my life…
It was horrible.
But, that was probably one of the first times it ever occurred to me that I had to be kinder to myself in order to perform my best. I had never created boundaries to support healthy habits or healthy thinking before that. I just felt like I *had* to just grind through everything. It was the first of many lessons that led me down a path to protecting my mind and body as a top priority.
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?
I spent my twenties studying the best businesses and leaders, wondering how I could be more like them and piecing together all the ways I wasn’t enough. I’d have a constant list of books I needed to read, skills I needed to build, places I needed to work, or people I should know to be successful. It was paralyzing.
It was only when I started leaning into my uniqueness, recognizing what lights me up and what fires me up, and trusting my gut and intuition, that I started piecing together a company that was actually really interesting.
So I’d say: Use what you have and bet on yourself. Never stop learning and never stop letting yourself grow. Whenever you’re lost or confused, return to yourself, your stories, your lessons — and use your own super powers to change the 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?
Ironically it’s not a business book, but the book, Swell, written by Captain Liz Clark.
In her introduction she writes about how she’s come to believe that chasing your dreams is equally important as trying to change the world. When you go after what you truly want, you’ll naturally be faced with challenges that will allow you to become the best version of yourself, and in becoming that best version of yourself, you’ll have the greatest impact on the world.
I live by this mentality every day, and treat every challenge or roadblock we run up against as an opportunity for me to take another step towards becoming more authentic, courageous, and creative.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
Choose to act from love and hope over fear and hate.
I constantly come back to this notion whenever I’m making choices.
Humans default into fear mode often, and some of us spend so much time there, we don’t even recognize it.
I recently realized most of my day-to-day life choices were all made in efforts to avoid failure. I couldn’t actually point to many decisions I’d made in efforts to succeed.
This was a huge wake up call for me, and as soon as I started making choices from a place of love and hope, my life started changing for the better.
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 launching the first iteration of my business, Stay Wilder eco-resort, in Spring/Summer 2021, located two hours outside of Vancouver, British Columbia.
Our vision for Stay Wilder is to replace the destructive way we travel and live with a way of life that can regenerate the planet and ourselves. This vision thrills me and every choice we make ladders up to this goal.
Not only are we creating an experience that will give guests a taste of a lighter, more regenerative way of living, we’re also rethinking the way companies should work in the future.
Giving back, regenerating the environment, and supporting social equity. We’re trying to redefine the ways companies should support these efforts at every stage of their growth, from pre-revenue, to unicorn status.
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?
People are not robots. Our productivity, creativity, energy, and ability to think rationally are reliant on the state of our body, mind and emotions.
Habits should be designed to support your body, mind and emotions in two ways:
The day-to-day habits that help regulate the ups and downs of being a human by nourishing your body and mind with what they need to work “optimally”.
The emergency habits that act as a detour or map back to yourself when things aren’t going your way. No matter how great your daily habits are, you can’t prevent bad things from happening. Some of the most healthy habits you can have are ones that help you deal with setbacks, roadblocks, bad news, or burn out.
An easy example to imagine is a professional athlete.
Their basic daily habits are probably working out, eating well, practicing their skill, and some form of recovery.
Their emergency habits might be a certain way they shake off a bad call in a game, a slip up in an important match, or a losing streak so that it doesn’t continue to affect their performance.
I spent most of my twenties perfecting my day-to-day habits, but I didn’t have any emergency habits. I didn’t know what to do when I started to burn out, so I would just keep working and pushing until my burn out became debilitating.
I now have habits or procedures when I’m starting to get overworked, anxious, or dealing with a lot of unknowns, that help me get back to myself. These emergency habits make the biggest difference. They fuel you with resilience.
How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
The best habits don’t just make you successful when things are going right, but when things aren’t going your way.
In 2018, I was burnt out and battling depression carried over from the year before. I was also responsible for the launch of a new product, a new website, a large-budget video and a huge event.
I was barely hanging on.
To bring myself back to life, I started waking up 15 minutes earlier every day, doing a 10-minute yoga flow, and a five minute meditation. I did it every single day without fail for three months. That tiny little gesture to myself every morning, slowly helped me reconnect with my mind and body to get me through a very hard time.
Two years later, I’m a lot more self-aware and haven’t let myself get back to that state.
When I do sense myself dipping back into a place where I’m not as happy, productive, or calm as I’d like to be, I have my emergency habits. One of the more fun ones is my “Restore Week” ritual: I delete Instagram and email from my phone, restrict TV, minimize meetings, make time for kundalini or restorative yoga, and daily nature. I avoid sugar and alcohol and take daily vitamins. I book a therapy appointment, a massage or acupuncture, and schedule at least one activity with a friend.
A restore week allows me to reset and recharge before I enter into a danger zone.
Great habits make room for you to be human and imperfect.
Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?
- Keep your habits simple and realistic. Pick the top three most important habits you want to work on and make them easy to get started. Going from not working out to working out two hours a day is a big jump. Start with a 15-minute daily home workout instead.
- Keep your habits true to you. Make sure you’re creating a habit because it makes sense for you and your life. If you actually hate working out or meditating, choose something that will make you excited, like a walk, a dance class, or playing with a pet.
- Build before adding. Focus on executing your habits every day for at least a month before trying to add a new one or expand your requirement for yourself. Creating daily habits is about building trust and faith in yourself over time. Rushing to add more when you haven’t built a strong foundation is a recipe for all of them to start crumbling.
- Track the success but go easy on yourself. If you mess up one day, don’t make it a reason to hate on yourself and start over — just keep going. Pick it up the next day.
- If you’re trying to cut a bad habit, ask yourself, why are you engaging in that bad habit to begin with. What are you hoping to get out of it? Are you looking for comfort, validation, worthiness, entertainment? Try to pick an alternate activity that will bring you the same things, but are more aligned with who you want to be.
I’ve been very bad for checking my email and Instagram lately. When I sat down to think about why, I realized it was because I was very excited about our business and whenever I checked both, I usually got good news. I was craving validation and positive enforcement, and I usually did it when I was starting to feel stressed.
I decided that whenever I feel the need to check email and Instagram, I should take a moment to breath and be grateful for the fact that I’m working on my dream business and check in with myself about what was worrying me instead.
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.
Before trying to build any habit for optimum wellness, I urge everyone to define what optimum wellness means for you.
My definition of optimum wellness is feeling strong, creative and joyful. In the past when I’ve sought to “perfect” my “wellness” with rigid workouts, meal plans, or specific weight or body fat goals, it ended up being extremely dangerous to my mental health — and generally didn’t make me feel any happier.
So now my three wellness habits are a lot more fluid and aligned with me:
Move, meditate, laugh: I move daily for at least 30 minutes, but usually closer to one to two hours throughout the day, and longer on the weekends. I let my body tell me what it needs — whether that’s an intense HIIT workout, a dance party, or a long walk outside. I meditate and check in with myself multiple times a day, and I try to laugh with my husband, friends, team, and family in all my interactions.
Three moments: Throughout the day, I try to take in three different moments of joy. Usually they’re simple things like a hug from my husband, the sound of the waves on a beach, or a call with a friend. When I get into bed, I try to recap them and live them over again.
No phone between 8:00 p.m.- 8:00 a.m.: I set my phone to restrict use between 8:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. I also leave my phone far away from our couch and bed during these times so I’m not tempted to check them.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
- Define your version of optimal wellness and then break down the top three minimum requirements you need for feeling that way. Keeping your wellness practices simple and aligned to your authentic self are probably the most underrated paths to wellness that no one ever talks about
- Ask yourself: When do I feel at my best? How do I want to feel every day? How could I support that with the least work possible? How can I keep this as simple as possible for myself?
- Reframe your relationship with food, exercise and “wellness” in general
- Reframe your wellness practices as a nourishing gift to yourself and as a show of affection for your body and mind. It makes wellness habits less of something to do or a punishment, and more of something you can crave and enjoy.
- Leave room to do more or less
- Pick a habit that is achievable on 90 percent of your days, so that you don’t get caught up in being perfect and lose momentum. If I were to create a goal of moving two hours a day, I don’t think I would ever hit it. Instead, my goal to move 30-minutes a day allows me to easily hit that goal in the morning, and then build on top of it. It also means when work becomes a little bit too much, I can move for 15-minutes in the morning and in the evening, and still hit my goals.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.
Again, like for optimal wellness, it’s important to define what optimal performance at work means for you.
My definition of my own optimal performance is when I’m able to be innovative, focused, and empathetic. This is my own personal genius zone, and the combination of my best strengths.
Daily breathwork is a way to help your body get out of fight or flight mode, so that you can access your best mental capabilities. I’ve made it a habit to start, end, and interject different breathing techniques throughout my day, to help calm my body down and get back to creativity and innovation.
- Box breath: Inhale four counts. Hold four counts. Exhale four counts. Hold four counts.
- Extended exhales: Inhale four counts. Exhale eight counts.
- Lion’s breath: Inhale through your mouth and exhale loudly through your mouth
Fear & Belief Check-Ins:
More often than not, we are limited by our attitudes, beliefs and thought structures more than our actual capabilities.
This lesson hit me hard a while ago, when I was asked in a social media post: If a fairy godmother promised she could transform one area of your life, what would it be? My immediate thought was “my belief in myself.”
This motivated me to have mental check-ins be part of my weekly habit list as well as one of my emergency habits when things aren’t going the way I want them to. I’ll ask myself basic questions like, “why am I hitting blocks right now?” “Do I actually believe what I’m trying to do is possible? If not, why not?”
Then I’ll write down whatever thoughts come up.
Sometimes I’ll realize I have very logical concerns that I’ve been trying to ignore or push through. Other times I’ll realize I don’t believe I’m actually worthy of my goals. This type of thinking is programming we all carry around from our childhood, and it keeps us feeling inexplicably stuck.
These check-ins sound simple, but so few people actually do them. Instead they push and force their way against themselves. It’s the definition of sub-optimal performance, because you are literally holding yourself back.
Once I get through these exercises, everything starts moving a lot faster.
Sleep & Rest
I do truly love to work and create. If I let myself, I could work for 12 hour days, and live on much less sleep. BUT whenever I do do this, my ability to innovate and also be kind and empathetic completely diminishes. My “productivity” might be higher, but what I’m doing and how I’m moving through the world is far from optimal.
So, I prioritize sleep and rest above almost all else.
I close my computer at 6:00 p.m. at the latest and go for a walk or a run. 8:00 p.m. onward is meant to be downtime. My husband and I lower lights, light incense or candles, stop talking about work, and either read or watch tv or chat. This helps me wind down for bed at 10:00 p.m.
If I am having a restless night, or not sleeping well, I never let myself get up and start working or check my phone. I leave a journal by my bed to write down any ideas or thoughts I have in the night, and then try to relax, do breathwork or watch reruns of my favorite shows, as a relaxing treat even if I can’t sleep.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
- Take time to define what optimal performance means from you.
- Reframe the way you think about productivity and performance at work.
- In order to make space for rest and reflection, we need to work optimally, we need to let go of the modern work day mantra that “there’s not enough time” and that being “busy” or “hustling” is the most noble way to live.
- I’d recommend reading “It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work,” or Kate Northrup’s “Do Less” for great examples of how to take back your time and work optimally.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.
Focus happens on two levels. The first level is in deciding what you’re doing to focus on, the second is actually focusing enough to execute those things to the best of your ability.
So often we do neither and end up doing many things poorly. Here are my habits for tackling both levels of focus:
Idea Seeding Time
One of the most important things I do to optimize my focus is acknowledge that in order to innovate and be creative, you need time to dream, create and get ideas out of my head without boundaries. I write everything in my head down on large sheets of sketch paper, talk through things with my inner circle, or research or read about new ideas.
This practice essentially lays a fresh foundation for me to find the best ideas to work off of, and helps quiet my mind for later on.
This is also a great exercise to do if you are feeling unfocused at any time. Before trying to prioritize, write everything in your head down on a piece of paper.
Prioritize your big three, and small three points of focus.
After idea seeding, I always try to whittle all the ideas down to focus on three big things and three small things that need to get done. I use this same model whether I’m planning a year, a quarter, a month, my week or my day, and work to ensure that they all ladder up to each other.
This method forces prioritization and also acknowledges that some things will take less time/energy than others.
I don’t allow any more than three big & small things, but I do allow myself to have less than three.
Get calm & clear.
The best thing I can do when it comes time to actually focus on executing is getting calm, and clearing space and time. I use all my wellness and performance habits to calm my nervous system, and work towards clearing my schedule for large blocks of two to four hours for uninterrupted deep work, usually in the mornings when I function the best.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
- Schedule time quarterly, monthly, weekly and even daily to make time to both idea seeding and prioritization.
- When prioritizing what you should focus on, always underestimate how much work you can do, and assume everything will take more time than you plan.
- If you’re struggling to prioritize what to focus on, rate each item for how much effort they’ll take and how much impact they’ll have. Cut things that are low impact, high effort, and prioritize things that are high impact, low effort.
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?
Getting into flow is about prioritizing your work and life to support your most optimal state of mind, which inherently also helps support happiness and working in your genius zone.
Defining your own version of wellness, performance, and the metrics you use to prioritize your life around being more joyful, creative, and kind will allow you to enter Flow state more often naturally.
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.
The Stay Wilder mentality is that we can replace the destructive way we live and travel with a way of life that can regenerate the planet. This #wilderlife movement is just getting started as we launch Stay Wilder next year, and I can’t wait for it to grow.
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 would definitely say Jen Rubio, Co-Founder of Away. Jen is the face of the billion dollar startup, Away’s lifestyle brand, and is a thought leader I have admired and followed for the last few years. I know she’s also a fan of British Columbia, Canada, where our first Stay Wilder resort is going!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.