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In this week’s episode of They Don’t Teach This in Business School, Robb Wolf, Co-Founder of Drink LMNT chats about what gets him out of bed in the morning. The food systems regenerative agriculture space is part of his legacy, but it’s also a double-edged sword. Listen in to find out why Robb recognized it might be career suicide. Robb also shares some personal burnout stories and what he is currently burned out talking about.
[00:00:00] Julie Bee – Host: On this episode, I talk with Rob Wolf about legacy, what deep down internal success looks like, and flirting with career suicide, but moving ahead with an idea. Anyways, I’m Julie B and they don’t teach this in business school.
[00:00:17] Midroll Spot: Julie has spoken to countless organizations for 13 years on topics including leadership, management, employee engagement, and.
Workplace culture, small business ownership and entrepreneurship. If you’d like it, engaging, relatable, and inspiring speaker for your next event, book Julie to speak to your group more firstname.lastname@example.org.
[00:00:40] Julie Bee – Host: Hey there, I’m Julie B and you are listening to They Don’t Teach This End Business School a podcast where we discuss business ownership lessons that are learned through experience not in the classroom.
Today I’m really excited to welcome Rob Wolf to the show. Rob is a two time New York Times and Wall Street [00:01:00] Journal bestselling author, and he is a top ranked podcaster. He also co-founded the first and fourth CrossFit affiliate Gems in the World and is the co-founder of Drink Element Electrolytes. His resume goes on with other impressive mentions.
But let’s get into this conversation because I know we are all going to learn some really valuable business ownership lessons today. So Rob, first of all, welcome to the show. I’m really glad to have you here today.
[00:01:27] Rob Wolf – Guest: Huge honor to be here. I, I got my start in kind of the health and wellness space and whenever I can talk about something besides protein, carbs, fat, like it is, it is a godsend.
So thank you for caring enough to bring on the show.
[00:01:41] Julie Bee – Host: Well, that’s awesome. Yeah. I’m glad that we can have that platform for you. So let’s get into this because you’ve got a lot of things going on, but I really wanna ask you, what is your primary vision these days for the work that you are doing?
[00:01:57] Rob Wolf – Guest: Primary vision.
I really is, I [00:02:00] guess I turned 50 this year, and I’m not expecting you expire anytime soon, but I think when you hit that, that mark, like you, you realize I probably have more days behind me than in front of me. You know, it, it just, mm-hmm. , we can tell ourselves all kinds of stories, but you know about like, oh, I’m gonna live to be 130 and whatnot, and I think most of it’s bollocks and so, You start thinking, I, at least I have a little bit about legacy and, and leaving a better place than what, what I arrived at.
I have two, two daughters, eight and 10. So I’m really thinking a lot about Legacy and I guess the two. Two big areas that I’m, I’m looking at, and this is where I’ve, I’ve put business effort and kind of entrepreneurial effort. Mm-hmm. is clearly in this health and wellness space, like trying to improve the, the health and wellness for, for folks in general, but also in this kind of food systems regenerative ag space, which is a really.
Controversial topic because we, [00:03:00] we have things like climate change and different issues that we need to deal with, and I, I have a fairly contrarian view of say, like animal husbandry as it relates to climate change. I think it can, you know, well manage grazing animals as an example, could actually be a hedge against climate change, not a primary driver.
And so those are the areas that I, I put a lot of time and effort. It may end up being career suicide at some point because it’s so completely unpopular, but I’m, I’m holding out hope that reality physics thermodynamics end up winning the day before I’m dead. And that, that people see that there is something to this, this kind of more holistic, integrated process.
I’m a huge fan of technology, but I think that people. Believe that technology is gonna fix far too many things, and I, I, I’ll just diverge on this a little bit. Three years ago. I, I, I just have that on this because it’s kind of the most recent, but three years ago there were [00:04:00] 30,000 peer reviewed articles about type two diabetes, about insulin resistant type two diabetes.
This is on top of hundreds of thousands of, of research articles that have been published on Type two diabetes over the last, say, 40. Yet the incidence of type two diabetes has continued to explode, so we know more about a topic, but yet the problem is getting worse and worse and worse. That never happens in technology, that never happens in engineering.
Like our iPhones don’t get. Worse and more expensive, they actually get cheaper and better via Moore’s law. And so I, I make the case that there’s a lot of things that we’re doing from health to regenerative agriculture that we’re just flat doing wrong right now. And it, it’s kind of a bold claim, but that’s kind of the battle that I’m, I’m fighting here, is that I think that we are doing some things that maybe are, are well intentioned but are simply not working.
And I think we have some really [00:05:00] empirical, quantifiable data to be. To support that position and kind of encourage people to think about this in a, in a different way.
[00:05:08] Julie Bee – Host: So, Rob, you said something that really caught my attention. Career suicide, and I think a lot of business owners. There’s always, there’s a line sometimes that you have to cross.
And can you, can you talk a little bit, unpack that a little bit more about how you made that decision from a business perspective to just continue to move into these areas
[00:05:26] Rob Wolf – Guest: that you’re discussing? It’s, the only thing that’s interesting to me is, you know, like, and making money is great, like being wealthier is always.
Fantastic. Don’t, don’t get me wrong, I’m not some sort of pie in the sky idealist, but mm-hmm. , there could be a really remarkable payday lurking at the end of a project, but if I don’t find it interesting. I just can’t get out of bed to do it. And like it, it’s literally like a gun at my head. And I, I don’t know that I could, I could work on the project, but alternatively, if I, if I have some fire in my belly for a topic, you could drop me [00:06:00] off in Siberia and build a wall around me, and I’ll figure out some way to get out and start working on that project.
Mm-hmm. , you know, and so a lot of it is, is just passion and it, it, it really is. I. I’m not particularly spiritual, but I’ve kind of done some, some studying around like Buddhism and some Zen stuff, and I really do ascribe to this notion of minimizing harm and suffering in the world. Like that’s just kind of one of the.
The, the things that is a, a north star for me. I could be wrong, I could be completely asked backwards on everything that I’m, I’m thinking, but I, I think that I’m onto some good things with, with both health and, and some of this, you know, food space stuff. And I think that this direction that I’m, I’m moving in.
Going to minimize suffering. It’s going to make for a better world. But there’s a fight that’s going to be involved in that, and I just have to accept that I’m gonna take some lumps on it. So, and you know, funny enough, the, uh, the likelihood of a really big [00:07:00] payday in this space is very, very low because it’s not.
Say like the, the fake meat section of, of food, it, it’s all intellectual property. Like the, the, the whole concept of the fake meat thing is that food should be handled like, Software in that it’s IP that can be owned. Mm-hmm. . And then once you have IP that is ownable and patentable and defensible, then we can go out and, you know, do these iterative products off of it and whatnot.
And what I’m recommending is something that looks a lot like an 18th century farm, but it’s got infrared scanning, you know, small hover vehicles that can help you figure out when to graze your animals on a patch of grass. Mm-hmm. . And there’s just. Well, and, and that’s a whole funny side. Side. I was gonna say there’s not the potential upside that we see out of the technology sector, but I would put a little caveat on that.
Mm-hmm. , the recent reset in the markets. I think I, I don’t know how much cursing you have on this thing, but I’ll, I’ll do a little bit. Mm-hmm. , I [00:08:00] think the last 15 years of tech speculation has been complete bullshit. There’s been all this money built into. The equities market. Yeah. And with no vetting.
You, you know, there finally, after this last reset, like Uber and a, a couple of the like D R B O outfits, they said we need to find a route to profitability. . There’s been 20 years of people saying, just get eyeballs. Just get eyeballs. You know? Yep. And that is, maybe it’s, I’ve been, my wife was a co-founder of a technology company that ended up doing reasonably well, but they were always profit driven first.
It was a service, a SA platform, but they always were of the crazy notion that if this thing’s not profitable at some point, like we’ve got nothing. Yeah. And I think. Maybe 80% of the tech darlings that we’ve seen of late mm-hmm. [00:09:00] are, are complete boondoggles that we’re gonna look back 20 years from now and we’re gonna say, how on earth did anybody think that that was gonna work?
And how did we think that it was reasonable to just dump infinitely printed money into these things to try to make them go? So, even as I’m saying that there’s, there’s not, the, the irony is that these more brick, brick and mortar feeling things. Well run farms that have a distribution network into like local communities and whatnot, those things can be profitable.
Mm-hmm. , and they are profitable. And that may actually be where people end up settling out over the long term because as, as people have discovered, if you are just dumping money into a speculative process, You better be better than Warren Buffet at timing the market to get your money back out. And he doesn’t try to time the market because he knows that that is a fool.
Err. So, yeah, sorry for the one. No, it’s, you know, kind of stuff
[00:09:53] Julie Bee – Host: there. It’s one of those things where I, I am. Kind of old school and I’m like, if [00:10:00] I’m going to invest in something, I want to be able to hold it in my hand or see that it’s going to provide value. You know, at least be a conduit of providing value from one to another.
Right. So some of the things Yeah, that, that this whole venture capitalist thing of people just dumping money into technologies that are never profitable. I think you’re right. I think, you know, even. You know, those questions are coming up, so it’s, it’s an interesting conversation to have. So, Rob, one thing I wanna ask you is, what is your favorite part of being a
[00:10:31] Rob Wolf – Guest: business owner?
You know, I, I would call myself like a, a small e entrepreneur. Like I became an entrepreneur more out of need than. I wasn’t the kid that had a, a newspaper route at, at the age of like eight. And you, you know, just mm-hmm. a good friend of mine, Dave Dooley, which he would be an amazing person to have on the, on your show.
He is a Biggie entrepreneur. Like that guy bleeds entrepreneurship. So, um, [00:11:00] Uh, I, I could almost answer this in, in the reverse better. The most of my, my business life has necessitated me working on a bunch of things that I’m not singularly. Uniquely positioned to do well, and it’s only been maybe the last two or three years in this activity with, with element that I’ve been able to focus 100% on the, the things that I, I do the best, which is, is kind of translational, a translational position of taking complex science.
And then making it accessible and palatable to kind of the masses. And I do that really, really well. And I enjoy it. And I think it has a disproportionate impact. And so definitely just being able to focus on the one thing that I know how to do and know how to do really well and kind of better than anybody else.
I, I think in the world is really, really cool. But if I’ve been kind of in different businesses for 20 years, I’ve [00:12:00] only spent 10% of that time being able to do only the thing that I’m really, really good at. And some of that is my own failing as, as a, a business person, is that I’m not a great systematizer.
Like I haven’t, I haven’t, and my wife is, is better at this than I am, but she’s even more, she’s more closer to me being, you know, on that visionary side, being more on the artistic, creative side. Uh, but so many of the things that we’ve been involved with haven’t been of sufficient scale. To grab an integrator, to be able to like, you know, put the, put, put all those pieces together, element is kind of one of the first things that we’ve done where we are directly involved with it, not just kind of passive investing.
That we managed to get integrators and get a really solid team, and then my wife and I have been able to do just exactly the things that we’re really good at. You can have
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[00:13:10] Julie Bee – Host: Hey, this is Julie B and you are listening to, they don’t Teach This in Business School. I’m here with Rob Wolf, author podcaster, business owner extraordinaire. I would say, and Rob, you said something, or just now where you became a business owner out of need most of the time. Will you share a little bit more about that story specifically?
I’d really like to hear.
[00:13:34] Rob Wolf – Guest: Yeah, so I, the way that I kind of got down this track, I, so by training I’m a biochemist. I was looking at either standard medical school or a PhD track, and I was in cancer and autoimmunity research. And this is back in the mid nineties. And then I, I, I developed a health crisis. I developed ulcerative colitis so bad that I nearly died from it.
And that’s a whole long [00:14:00] story, but in figuring out what was going on with that, and that led me to this kind of idea around ancestral eating and a paleo type diet for dealing with gut and autoimmune issues. It made me realize that I really didn’t want to go to Standard Medical School. I, I, I was facing another eight years of learning about pathology and then getting out and generally having about 15 minutes to work with people to unwind these super complex.
Health issues that that just, you can’t just give people a prescription and expect everything to be solved, you know? Mm-hmm. , that worked great in the 20th century. Prescriptive medicine worked great because infectious disease was still the main problem that we have. Chronic degenerative disease is the primary problem we have now, and that involves like really.
Complex diet, lifestyle, behavior change. And you can’t just do that in a 15 minute visit. And then at that point, the also my opportunities to research this stuff within the [00:15:00] scientific community were really limited. Nobody was looking at, at this stuff 20, 22 years ago. Yeah. And so I, it, you mentioned a little bit of my CV where I co-founded the first and fourth CrossFit affiliate gyms.
I bumped into the CrossFit concept online around 2000, 2001, and then I helped open the first affiliate gym up in Seattle, Washington, CrossFit North in 2003. And then moved back down to Chico, California in 2004 and opened a fourth affiliate CrossFit, north Cal, north Cal strength and conditioning. But when I saw this opportunity to open a gym, what I, I, I, for ages, I’ve, I’ve called the gym.
The gym is primary care medicine. Mm-hmm. . That is where we can talk to people about sleep and food and get some exercise. And we have this amazing community, like inadequate community. Is as negatively impactful to our health as a pack a day smoking habit. And, you know, coming off of Covid, I don’t know that we could, [00:16:00] you know, recognize that any anymore.
Yeah. Profoundly, you know mm-hmm. . And so I saw this opportunity for a delivery system, like an operating system within this gym environment that was very different than the standard. You know, kind of a global gym model. And so that is where I became an entrepreneur at need, like I didn’t necessarily want to own a gym.
I didn’t necessarily want to to do those things, but really CrossFit has become so open into the culture of the world that. People forget that there was a time when it didn’t exist. Mm-hmm. , I remember when there were maybe 300 people on the planet that understood the term Paleo diet. Mm-hmm. , and they were mainly anthropologists and, and researchers, you know, and then now that, that, that has gone on and it’s, it’s become pretty popular.
And then there was a time when. The, the concept of CrossFit and these, these gyms that have ropes and rings and bumper plates and everything, they didn’t exist, you know, so this was a, a, a [00:17:00] literally, uh, creating a whole new conceptual box that we had to. Help people wrap their heads around mm-hmm. , but that, that was where, you know, my entrepreneurship was born out of that, that need to just be, there was no other place that I could go and do the things that I wanted to do.
You know, at, at that time, I, I couldn’t do. The, the depth and breadth of talking about nutrition and circadian biology and sleep and exercise people in a way that I, I felt like was really beneficial to them, including that community piece, like people working out together. It, it’s so powerful when we look at, when folks do successfully.
Complete diet and lifestyle change. It is almost always because the peer group that they’re a part of is supportive of that. And so often when people are unable to make these changes, it’s they will go back to, well, I have this peer group, either a significant other family or friends that are [00:18:00] unwilling to really embrace or just support that change.
And so it kind of, kind of undermines the person. Yeah.
[00:18:06] Julie Bee – Host: So when did you know that? You know, CrossFit, now everybody, I think almost everyone knows that, that word and what that means. When did you know that you had something there that was going to catch fire? Because it really did around that time. And, you know, what was that, what was that experience like?
Because you, you didn’t even wanna be a business owner, but here you were, you know? Yeah. In front of this, this movement. Yeah. Um, just talk about that a little.
[00:18:33] Rob Wolf – Guest: You know, it’s interesting. Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit. I remember a conversation I had with him. He, he asked me around 2000 threes, like, how big do you think this thing could get?
And I just did a little back of the envelope. Estimating, like I, I, it wasn’t quite open the phone book, but you know, it was close to that, you know, like the Google search algorithm stuff wasn’t as good as it is today. Mm-hmm. , but I figured out that within that [00:19:00] greater Seattle area, there were X number of like, of strip mall karate and TaeKwonDo studios.
Mm-hmm. given a certain population density, and then I just kind of extrapolated from. You know, a reasonable growth and I, I said, by 2010, you’re gonna have over 10,000 affiliate gyms worldwide. And he laughed at me. He’s like, that’s bullshit. There’s no way that’ll happen. I’m like, no, I guarantee you will.
And I was maybe like three months off on it, and it took a little longer than what I thought it would. And in, in part because as great as CrossFit is, they, one of the failings that they had is they really offer nor foster, Good business systems within the gyms. Mm-hmm. . So it was complete knuckleheads like myself who had no idea what they were doing, and it was just a person.
They would do all the exact same mistakes. Here’s a week free, free first workout. It was just a disaster. Whereas if you went over to more [00:20:00] mature verticals like yoga and Pilates, they had already gone through that, that disastrous. Mm-hmm. developmental period. It’s like you need an on ramp program, you need some structured fee systems, you need some group training, you need some personal training.
You need to be able to customize all this stuff. And that was something that my, my wife, she has an econ degree, she ended up developing a lot of the business systems that we had early on. But, but you know, I. CrossFit was going to be a, a world altering event, maybe as early as 2000. Three and I, I’m both, I was never surprised by the, the total impact it had.
Mm-hmm. , I also predicted that there would be a peak and a trough because there wasn’t the emphasis on, on quality control. And, and so these gyms end up burning themselves out. They, so your book is about workplace burnout. Holy. Holy smokes. If you want burnout, open a gym, you know, open job. Yeah. And, and you know, there’s just a, a lot of different mechanisms there [00:21:00] that contributed both to the SEC success, but also undermined the possibility of it having a really sustainable vector over the long haul instead of a, a pretty catastrophic drop off.
[00:21:12] Julie Bee – Host: you, you bring up burnout and of course, you know what, I have a book coming out about burnout in the, in the near future. One thing I love to ask business owners is have you ever experienced burnout as a business owner? And if you have, would you be willing to to share some of that story
[00:21:27] Rob Wolf – Guest: with us?
Yeah. And you know, I, I, I, man, it’s, it’s funny. I joked a little bit at the beginning of, of the show that anytime I can talk about something other than protein, carbs, fat, like it’s a, it’s a good day because I, I’ve been doing that for 23 years and although I still enjoy it and I still love helping people, the, the cool thing is that my books have sold a lot of copies.
I’ve got, you know, 15 years of podcasting. Like there’s a good army of people out there that know. [00:22:00] Everything that I know and more now mm-hmm. and so that was some anxiety in the beginning is I, I felt like I had some information that was singularly positioned to be able to help people with like autoimmune disease.
Both my mother and my wife’s mother died quite young from autoimmune complications and there is absolutely stuff that we can do other than just putting on immunosuppressant drugs. Mm-hmm. , you know, there’s diet and lifestyle things that can save people’s lives. So I had a lot of anxiety. Will I be able to get enough people to understand this before I die, that this matters in the world?
I, I think that we’ve kind of, you know, ticked that box and, and we’re kind of there mm-hmm. , but there is kind of this, this reality that as complex as human nutrition is, There are some really simple algorithms that I think most people can plug into and they just need to start there. Mm-hmm. , and then it’s just an iterative process.
People just need to tinker and fiddle, whereas there are these other big, so I’m kind of burned out on that person. Mm-hmm. wife [00:23:00] is an outstanding coach, a phenomenal trainer. She was actually a, a 13th place CrossFit games finisher. She’s a way more legit athlete than I would ever hope of, of being. But it’s interesting.
When we were running the gym, she’s a phenomenal coach, but on that introvert extrovert spectrum, I am a bit of an extrovert. Like, I like having a bit of an audience and getting up there and doing my horse and pony show. Mm-hmm. Nikki does a phenomenal job, but where. I could do eight hours of that in my feet, or like six inches off the ground.
And I’m just like, man, bring me another, bring me another, yeah. My wife is blown out from that. Mm-hmm. , like, it just nukes her. And so that, that was why we decided to sell our brick and mortar gym actually to our, our brother and sister-in-law. Mm-hmm. , uh, because they, they were just younger, fresher, you know, and they, they actually took the gym even though, Our gym was originally picked as one of men’s health top 30 gyms in America, and it was very successful.
Mm-hmm. , [00:24:00] they took it to an entirely higher level. Like it was really impressive what they were able to do with it, because they were fresh and not burned out, so. Mm-hmm. , you know, personally, I’m still dealing with the, the reality that most of what I do that pays me is still very protein, carbs, fat related.
And most of the other side projects that I look into, there will never be a payday associated with them ever. And, and, you know, so I deal with that degree of, of kind of low level burnout and try to figure out how I can, I can moderate both of those. And then for, for folks like my, my wife, and this is something that I’ve talked to lots of people when they ask me Should I open a gym or should I do this, should I do?
There are some great personality tests. You know, Myers breaks is helpful, the Jordan Peterson personality Matrix. But any of these things that look at like introvert versus extrovert and like you can be, you could really like people, you could really love being around people and you might end up being a gregarious introvert [00:25:00] where you need some people in people interaction, but you need it to be in a really.
A dose specific fashion. I think that that’s an important thing for people to understand, to avoid burnout. And the flip side of that, and, and I think we’ve seen this again with like the, the shift towards home based work. Mm-hmm. the, the response to covid and whatnot. There are people that they will, they will say, they’re like, I’m 25%, 30% more efficient working from home.
Mm-hmm. , and I want to hang myself with piano wire because I’m lonely. Mm-hmm. , like, I’m just profoundly lonely. And yes, driving through traffic sucks and parking stinks. And, you know, there’s, there’s oftentimes like workplace shenanigans that I don’t enjoy. Dealing with, but the reality is that oftentimes folks are like, I still just wanna see my, my friends and my coworkers and stuff.
And so I think that you can experience. Burnout from just a skill set that’s not appropriate to you. A volume of work that that isn’t appropriate within Element. And again, [00:26:00] maybe somebody for a future podcast, our ceo, we’ve enacted a a three weeks on one week off rest and assess program where people will have some OKRs, some specific goals that they’re shooting for, and they have a three week sprint to hammer that.
Mm-hmm. , and then they’re off for one week. And this. This is not their paid vacation, but they’re still paid for the four weeks that they normally do. Yeah. But we just want them to completely unplug, don’t answer phone calls, don’t answer emails. And what we’ve found is that people are awesome at doing these sprints, but you can’t both sprint and marathon at the same time.
Yeah, absolutely. So, so that, that’s a piece of this thing. So finding appropriate workload, appropriate stress load. If you’re under challenged, that can be stressful. If you’re over challenged, that can be stressful, you know? So those things mm-hmm. . And then I think finally that, that piece of just introvert, extrovert stuff is, is huge in this whole story, and it can cut on both sides, you know?
Mm-hmm. , if you don’t get in social [00:27:00] interaction, Or if you get too much or the, or the wrong type.
[00:27:03] Midroll Spot: Every business owner needs a support network. When asked, most business owners will reference their support network as what gets them through the tough times. There are three characteristics to consider when documenting who is in your support network.
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[00:27:27] Julie Bee – Host: You’re listening to, they Don’t Teach This In Business School, and I’m the host Julie B and I’m here today with Rob Wolf and we’re just having a really fantastic conversation. Rob, some of the things you said about burnout really.
Really make a lot of sense. One thing that I always, I, I recommend is that people know what burnout looks like on them, so that when you’re starting to kind of slide into it, you can mm-hmm. course correct if you need to. And I think some of the things that you mentioned, the assessments, the, you know, avoiding loneliness, that even if you are working from home, making sure you’re going out.
At least have some [00:28:00] type of social interaction if you need that as an extrovert, like I need that, I’m that person too. So I get that. Yeah, it’s just, it’s, it’s really important to do. So those were just some fascinating tips there. I want you to unpack just a little bit. You mentioned that proteins, carbs and fats are what pay you still pretty much, and you’re, you know, you’re trying to figure out how to.
Find other routes that, that probably pay you. So what are some of those other routes that you have coming up that you’re excited about that you, you do see some potential for?
[00:28:31] Rob Wolf – Guest: One is just this working in the regenerative act space. So I’ve been working with ranchers and food producers and trying to build.
Some local decentralized networks for food distribution outside of the, the standard channels. And, uh, there’s a outfit. I, I live in Montana and there’s an outfit in Big Sky Montana called Regenerative Market. And what they’ve done is they, and it’s kind of cool, it’s some, some VC backed. People, so they’re really well capitalized, but what they’ve been doing is [00:29:00] going out and building these wonderful relationships with local food producers, including ranchers, and then connecting them with a, a pretty food savvy group of people.
And, and, um, One of the cool things about modern civilization is the fact that we can go into a, a Walmart or a Costco and get all the stuff we can get is jaw-dropping. Like it is really amazing. Like the logistics and planning of a globally networked economy is, is nothing short, miraculous, but there’s also some, we discovered there’s some, some failure points in that.
Mm-hmm. some things that maybe you’ll be a little bit concerned about and it also, Tends to remove a lot of the wealth from local economies and, and there’s opportunities for reinvesting in kind of local economies. So one of the big things that I’m, I’m looking at is trying to build these resilient, decentralized food networks and health networks to, to kind of facilitate that, that that whole process of producers being more [00:30:00] directly connected to consumers and.
Minimizing or pairing out the, the middle man. And then this other thing that I’ve been working on for over 10 years now, I’m on the board of directors of a, a medical clinic, and 10 years ago we completed a pilot study with the Reno Police and Fire Department, and about eight years prior to this pilot study, it, it became, it was put on the radar of the, the medical director of this clinic.
That police and firefighters tend to die disproportionately young, and they tend to die from these metabolically driven things, heart attack and stroke being the mm-hmm. , the biggies. And so they ask the question, could we find. People at risk for these problems. Find them early, and then do interventions to try to, to change the course.
And there’s all kinds of corporate wellness programs, but when you really look critically at these things, they don’t really do anything. Mm-hmm. like, it, it, it’s kind of a, a lot of finger wagging. And so we, we put this [00:31:00] program together, we did some advanced testing with, and this is another possible person for your, your podcast.
My, my good friend who founded a. Program called Precision Health Report, advanced Blood Work Testing that gives you like 99% accurate for your tenure risk for type two diabetes and cardiovascular disease, but this similar technology, and it’s only about 150 bucks to do this, this, this blood work testing.
But if you know the person who. Age, ethnicity, gender, you know, some, some other health factors, and then their, their biomarkers. You can really get a pinpoint accurate idea of what their risk is for cardiovascular disease and, and type two diabetes. So we, we had this pilot study. We had 40 folks from the Reno Police and Fire Department part.
And we found the folks that were at the highest risk for, for these metabolic complications. We modified their diet and lifestyle as best we could within first responder [00:32:00] world. Shift work is a major issue. Mm-hmm. , it’s now recognized that shift work is a known carcinogen in addition to like Quin toppling your likelihood of all these other, you know, heart attack and stroke and all these things.
But at the end of the day, we were able to get enough change in the health situation of. These police and firefighters, the pilot study alone saved the city of Reno 22 million, and the return on investment was a conservative 33 to one. And people think I’m lying when I say that. I oftentimes don’t even mention the, the return on investment cuz people are like, ah, there’s no way it’s possible.
But 10, you know, 12 years ago now, I thought that we were going to transform healthcare. With this program and we’ve had a modicum of success, but it, it, the healthcare system is so broken that mm-hmm. , it, it’s been really hard to get much traction. We actually did two years of work with the Chickasaw Nation, like the Chickasaw Nation was [00:33:00] recognizing a similar.
Problem, just these exponentially increasing healthcare costs within their, their tribal populations and their employee pool. And what was really, it was cool, assuming that we’re both right, but they recognized the opportunity of doing advanced testing using CrossFit type gyms. Kind of an ancestral health type of diet and community driven activity to change folks’ behavior for the for the better.
And I had really hoped that the Jigsaw Nation was gonna do a front facing offering where they would offer this out to everybody. But they decided to make it mainly an internal facing offering and kind of deal with the, the problems within their, their tribe first. Mm-hmm. , it was cool in that they were looking at the same problem and arrived at largely the.
Response that we had arrived at, we were just maybe five to eight years further down the road of putting some pieces together, which is part of the reason why they reached out to us to, to help integrate some of [00:34:00] this stuff. So that is my dream thing I would like to work on. And, and, you know, part of that, Healthcare, you know, risk screening program in the background.
I’m assuming that this other project I’m working on, which is networking food producers with local consumers, that is a non-negotiable piece of it, so it’s a. It’s a really big many, you know, many faceted process that I’m, I’m trying to spin the wheels on to get this
[00:34:28] Julie Bee – Host: going. You are most definitely a visionary when you’re talking about the, the, the traction terms, and I can definitely relate to that and see where you definitely need those integrators to help you get all these big ideas actually pushed forward because they are really great ideas and, and definitely needed to, you know, for, I think for just our.
Collectively, our, our world to, to sustain and survive, quite frankly, some of the things that you’re talking about. So, yep. Rob, one thing I wanted to ask you is [00:35:00] how do you define success?
[00:35:04] Rob Wolf – Guest: Man, these are things that I’m, I’m terrible at. I, I guess it, you know, it definitely is a, a highly internally benchmarked item.
Like some people, it may be a certain dollar amount in their, their portfolio. For other people, it may be like legacy or, or in, for me, what I’ve been discovering success to be is a sense that the work that I’ve done matters. But that I’ve stayed dynamic enough and maintained relevancy such that my future work will, will also matter, you know, because I, I, it would, it would suck to reach a point where, you know, I’ve created my own obsolescence and I can’t, I can’t figure out a way to adapt and move forward and, and still remain, you know, valuable to the, to the world around me.
So I, I guess that’s the, the way that I would kind of define success. That’s
[00:35:57] Julie Bee – Host: pretty great. I’m not even gonna ask a follow up to [00:36:00] that one. So, so listen, we are, as we’re coming to the end of the question or the end of the interview, Rob, I always ask this, this one question because I think it’s, it’s, it’s really important to, you know, there are only, there are some things that you can only learn, I think, through experience and so, If you were asked to teach a class to future business owners about, about becoming a business owner and being a business owner, what is the one thing that you would want them to take away from, from your
[00:36:27] Rob Wolf – Guest: class?
You, you told me at the beginning that this was gonna be a question and I started sweating because it, it, it’s a, it’s a biggie, I think at a brass tax level. Some really good analytical skills, you know, and kind of. Math based analytical skills. I, I listened to a Freakonomics podcast probably two years ago, and they were talking about the way that math curriculum is taught in the United States, and it, it’s, you know, arithmetic and then pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, trig, calculus.
Mm-hmm. , they call it like the algebra [00:37:00] sandwich and everything, and all of that stuff is important, but they made a really interesting case. They looked at what high school teachers thought that students entering college, particularly within science and engineering, needed to know versus what the college professors hoped that these kids would, would know.
And the high school teachers thought that people needed to know all of math. Whereas the college professors were like, no, we need some really specific things. And then a huge area that folks are. Deficient in statistical analysis. Like what does a one standard deviation mean? What does a Four Sigma event mean in the context of like a global pandemic, when we’re looking at actuarial tables of, of excess death and whatnot.
It, it, it is a four sigma. Is something that happens, like for it to happen randomly, it’s a once any universe event. Mm-hmm. , so it’s a big [00:38:00] deal. Mm-hmm. . But when, when people lack the basic, you know, analytical skills to be able to parse that stuff out, some of the most profound learnings and understandings just wash over them because they don’t have a, a, a framework for, for understanding it.
So I think a really. Set of skills, just basic statistics is, is so critically important to be able to, you know, like our element team, they constantly are modifying like different spins in different places, trying to optimize return on ad spend and stuff like that. And they, they’re really good at it. And you look at the, it’s not a super complex mathematical suite, but they are really comfortable with, with dealing with those things.
And it is, it is your life blood like it, it is. The analogy for a human being, it is like your proprioceptive ability to stand, walk, and run It is the feedback. You know, the bi, [00:39:00] the statistical analysis of what’s going on in your business is the feedback of the five senses in our body to know is something too hot, too cold?
Is it unbalanced? Am I falling? And you know, And without that, you’re just operating completely in the dark. And I, I would throw one other thing out there. I have been disproportionately successful in the stuff that I’ve done because I have a worldview that is informed with a good understanding of economics, like basic economics 1 0 1, like resource allocation, this branch of physics called thermodynamics, which is just basically energy inputs and outputs.
And I’ll, I’ll use an example. For why that’s important. Mm-hmm. , 30 years ago, some folks decided that they wanted to minimize our use of petroleum for a fuel product, and so they suggested that we would make ethanol out of corn and that this would get us, get us off of using the petroleum. The [00:40:00] problem with that though, is it costs more energy to make the gallon of ethanol.
Then we get out of it. So it’s, it’s a boon Do it only it operates because of, of government subsidies. Like we, it literally costs us more money and effort to get that, that gallon of ethanol than we, than we, we, you know, we get out of it. Mm-hmm. . So this is this thermodynamics thing, and, and there’s so many topics, you know, with climate change and energy, and should you invest in solar panels, should you invest in wind, should you invest in early stage development?
Small modular nuclear facilities and thorium and whatnot, like without an understanding of, and it doesn’t actually need to be super math based. Like it can be very concept driven. Mm-hmm. . But if you, if one doesn’t understand that process, all of the world around us is magic. And I don’t mean magic in a good way.
I mean, magic in a, in that, Literally have no idea what’s going on. Yeah. Like somebody could tell us something that is a completely [00:41:00] disastrous suggestion and we don’t have a framework to be able to, to look at it and really understand it. And then the next part is a, a basic understanding of evolutionary biology.
And again, this doesn’t have to be a really deep understanding, but. Recognizing that complex systems have tradeoffs, and when we want to talk about optimizing something, optimizing is always in the context of what we’re gaining versus what we’re losing. And I don’t think that that folks are like, there aren’t a lot of algorithms that help people to make those cost benefit.
Understanding. So both economics and evolution help us with that. This understanding of thermodynamics helps with that. So if I had a college course that I taught, I would do a survey. Of economics, thermodynamics, and evolution. And then I would wrap all of that together with some good solid statistical analysis so that people were comfortable with like kind of basic data crunching.
This is something statistically [00:42:00] significant. What are multi sigma events and what do they mean for business or a society or, or, you know, different endeavors and. I, I think that that would provide an operating system that is so superior to what most people work with mm-hmm. , that it would, it would be just a shocking, comparative advantage to be able to, to have that, that skill set to look at and analyze the world that people are, are going into business and, and trying to solve problems with.
[00:42:34] Julie Bee – Host: That would be a very interesting class, and I, I can see definitely where it would help owners. Just be better business owners, be able to make better decisions with a, with a broader worldview of how all of these things play. And, and then also, yeah, when you hear a Four Sigma event, you know, most people hear the number four and they think, oh, four’s not that big, but right.
You know, that’s, that’s, like you said, that’s a once in a once in a lifetime or more [00:43:00] type of event that you, you know, understanding that type of thing is, is really important. So, well, listen, Rob, I have really enjoyed this conversation today and I know that the business owners listening will as well. And I just wanna thank you again for being on the show with me today.
[00:43:15] Rob Wolf – Guest: Huge honor. Thank you.
[00:43:16] Julie Bee – Host: And that is a wrap on this episode. Be sure to subscribe so that you don’t miss out on future conversations. I’m Julie B and they don’t teach this in
[00:43:26] Rob Wolf – Guest: business school.
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