The Thrive Questionnaire//

High-Performance Psychologist Michael Gervais on Why There Are No Life Hacks

'There’s no shortcut (that I’ve found) for a meaningful and high performing life.'

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people. 

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Michael Gervais: Say good morning to my wife, then head to wake up my son, then turn on Spotify for some fun music.

TG: What gives you energy?
MG: Being on the edge of my capabilities. That comes in many forms: stimulating conversations of uncharted or difficult to express ideas; solving difficult problems; being vulnerable; pushing limits of whatever activity I’m engaged in (surfing, writing, listening); and down-right being lost in humor. There’s nothing quite like being on the edge.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
MG: There are no hacks. I think that’s not really a secret though. There’s no shortcut (that I’ve found) for a meaningful and high performing life. The idea that all things are temporary, including the necessary challenges, certainly is an accelerant, though.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
MG: Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
MG: As of 10 pm it becomes my alarm clock.

TG: How do you deal with email?
MG: Not very well. I’ve developed a few helpful strategies, though: I’m the second person that looks at the majority of my emails (I have help from a trusted source to filter timely and mission critical emails to top of my inbox); I have a rock-solid and thoughtful FAQ response email; and do my best to answer emails with clear resolutions and action to take.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
MG: Breathe. Read. or call someone that I wish I connected more with.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
MG: This year. It wasn’t a full burn-out, but it was a fatigue that was hard to shake. It’s easy to fall into the trap: to do more. I was traveling 4-5 days a week for far too long, and that type of work long days-travel-at-night-program can turn into grind very fast.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
MG: I make lots of mistakes, and those are part of the learning process. Failure has a much deeper tone for me. It comes in two primary ways: Completely missing this moment (whatever it may be) and not going for it. My busy mind gets in the way of connecting with people that I love (being present) and also keeps me from playing on the edge (hesitation stemming from all the ways something could go wrong). The best way I’ve come to learn to work with those conditions is to wink at ‘em, and run right back to “right now.” In sport, masters of craft talk about necessity to play one play at a time. The same holds true for life: One play at a time, over and over and over again.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
MG: Be water my friend. Bruce Lee.

Throughout his career Dr. Michael Gervais has followed a central question: Is there a common thread connecting how the greatest performers in the world use their minds to pursue the boundaries of human potential? Gervais is a High Performance Psychologist working in the trenches of high-stakes environments and is Co-founder of Compete to Create and host of the Finding Mastery podcast.  

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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