Momentum Podcast: 72

Success in One Breath

by Alex Charfen

Episode Description

Working with entrepreneurs I have always obsessed with the base level foundational habits that will create success in all areas of lives. I've asked the question over and over “what is the one thing that makes everything in an entrepreneurs life easier?”After working with thousands of entrepreneurs, I have realized there isn't just one thing. There is a series of foundational habits.I call these Keystone Habits.When you improve a Keystone habit you will improve everything in your life. The interactions you have, your relationships, your family life, your physiology and your business. Keystone habits change everything and are 100% progressive, there is no negative trade-off.This is arguably the most important Keystone Habit and also may be the most effective at creating success in all areas of your life.

Full Audio Transcript

I'm Alex Charfen, and this is The Momentum Podcast, made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers and creators of all kinds, those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution.

Sure, we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, and then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny. We define it. We don't understand defeat, because you only lose if you stop, and we don't know how.

While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future and, instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we enter the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real.

We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly, the most important people in the world because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive human evolution, and we always will be.

This episode of the podcast is Success in One Breath. As a coach, as a consultant, I've spent my entire career obsessing over the question how do you make life and business easier? How do you create more success with equal or less effort? How do you make things easier on entrepreneurs?

I've obsessed over the question, "What is the one thing that makes everything in an entrepreneur's life easier?" and what I found after working with thousands of entrepreneurs and working with some of the most successful people in the world is that it's one thing, but there are a series of habits that, when we lean into them, they help our relationships, our families, our physiology, our business, everything in our lives get better.

I call these keystone habits. I don't think a lot of people talk about these because maybe they seem simple. They're not sexy, but when you think about keystone habits ... I've shared some of them with you.

One of the keystone habits that makes everything in our lives easier is hydration, when you start hydrating, when you start drinking enough water. If you go back to the episode that I have on the one biohack or the most important biohack for entrepreneurs, it will explain how to drink more water. As soon as you do that, everything in your life gets easier.

Tonight, I want to talk about another one of those keystone habits, because here's what I'm ... Again, I'm going to make some assumptions. If you're listening to me, then you want to be successful and you're probably not where you want to be. You want more success, and here's what I know about people like us. Awareness creates success.

In my career, here's what I found early on. In my 20's, I started working with Fortune 500 companies. I also worked with startups in the consumer and computer electronic space. I helped people grow tens of millions of dollars and all the way up to billions of dollars, and what I found was you can create success by forcing through these keystone habits. You can not have to focus on them, but if you do, it makes everything easier and, if you don't, eventually it catches up to you.

The keystone habit I want to talk about tonight, the one that changes everything is breathing, breathing in and out, getting enough oxygen. See, here's what I know about people like us. We are evolutionary hunters, so we are more sensitive than most. We feel more. We react to more.

You're more empathic. You understand what's going on around you. You have awarenesses that not everyone has and, as an evolutionary hunter, I believe you are predisposed to go into fight-or-flight mode. You probably carry a little bit more body tension than most. You're probably a little more reactive than most and, if you're really admitting everything to yourself, there's things that bother you that shouldn't and you let things get to you sometimes.

How I see that in today's world is that all of us walk around at some level of fight-or-flight far too much of the time. There's so much today that we are reacting to or accommodating in the modern world and in our lives that makes us reactive.

We're exposed to really harsh indoor blue lights, where most of us and especially those of us who really haven't done a hard look at our lives, we're eating toxic foods. We're taking in toxicity. We're getting our bodies into a reactive state, and so we can get into fight-or-flight like that. It doesn't even take anything major. Just sitting down and seeing an email that irritates you or triggers you, so much of what we do can put us into a reactive mode.

Here's the first thing that we do as human beings when we get even the slightest bit reactive and get into that fight-or-flight space, the first place we're constrained is we start breathing shallow and we don't breathe as much, and we don't take in as much oxygen.

Here's what's interesting. The keystone habit water, I have a whole strategy for water because people forget to drink water. Water is just as vital to our lives as oxygen, but we can actually forget to drink water. If I was to choke you right now, which I wouldn't, but if I was, every muscle in your body would tell you you need oxygen, because the thing that takes us out of awareness as human beings totally and all the way is when we don't get enough oxygen. That's the fastest thing that's going to cut you down.

Here's the challenge. When we get into fight-or-flight and we start shallow breathing, we start cutting our body short of oxygen, we don't pass out or die as if someone was choking us, but we go into this lowered state of productivity. When you're not breathing and taking in oxygen, you're affecting how you react in the world. You're affecting how you show up. You're affecting the two things that make us successful as entrepreneurs.

Make no mistake. Anyone who tells you that it's not these two things hasn't spent enough time around entrepreneurs and hasn't really grown to big businesses and hasn't had the teams and hasn't gone to tens of millions, because you realize very quickly that presence and awareness are more important than just about anything else.

Your ability to show up and be present, to see what's going on, to understand what's happening, your awareness of who's doing what and what you're doing and how your business is growing and how the market is reacting, and then your presence to be able to be with your team and support them and coach them and move them in a direction, your awareness to do the right things within your business to make the next decisions, to find the path forward, those are arguably the single most important things you have.

Oxygen affects both almost immediately. As soon as we get into that shallow breathing pattern, we're breathing more often, we're putting off more CO2, which stimulates the nervous system. It puts us even further into fight-or-flight. Like there is scientific proof how this happens.

Here's what happens in fight-or-flight. See if this makes sense to you. You enter fight-or-flight and, cognitively, you start breathing more shallow, but then, physiologically, that shallow breathing causes your pulse to increase. That pulse increase sends a signal back to you cognitively where we react even more and so, now, we're in a place where, once you're in fight-or-flight, until you pull yourself out of it, you're probably going to continue into it, and then we're even more constrained and we have a harder time getting things done.

Those are the days where you feel like you can't write an email. You make mistakes everywhere, and it feels like you're just not making progress. Those are the days where you sit at your desk and you can't figure out why you're not doing anything, but you can't figure out what to do even though you know you have a massive to-do list. Even though you know there's stuff that you can do, you find yourself wasting time.

Here's why. It's because we lose presence and awareness, because if you were fully aware, you wouldn't throw away an hour on Facebook. If you were fully present, you wouldn't miss time or waste time. You'd go right to your to-do list. You'd remember where you're going. You'd understand your client-centric mission. You'd work back to the day and get after it.

The challenge is, once we're in fight-or-flight, we start shallow breathing. We don't actually die or pass out. We get into these lowered productivity state where things are like I just described, and it completely and totally affects your everything.

When you get into fight-or-flight, now, you're having even more shortness of breath. Now, your heart is beating faster. Now, you're more reactive and you're frustrated. Your metabolism starts messing around. Your blood sugar goes a little crazy. Your body tension goes up.

We feel more tense. Like anyone who hasn't been there probably ... Like, let's be honest. That was a silly thing to say because anyone listening to my podcast, you know you've been there, and so I want to give you the foundational hack that would change everything. You have to learn how to breathe again.

If you're like me, there was some situation you were in in your childhood or in your life, or there's been a lot of them, where you felt out of control and you felt fully in constrain and you felt that panic that an entrepreneurial personality type, that an evolutionary hunter feels when they're cornered, when they're backed against the wall, when they don't have options, when they're in a situation that they don't want to be in, when they're in a system that's constraining them, when you're in a situation that you just don't feel like you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Everyone of us, including me, has been there. It's the worst place for people like us to be and, if we get into fight-or-flight, we can get there. I want to help you start breathing and getting back to where you should be because those situations throughout your life, and everyone of us has had them, the full constrained moments, the places where you just can't see forward, those put us into a full fight-or-flight, and our body gets accustomed to being there, and we can get there in a minute now. We spend so much time shallow breathing that many of us don't know any other way.

It's shocking, because I'll sit at a boardroom table with a group of executives within a company and I'll point out to every single one of them that, when the other people are talking, they're holding their breath, and I'll show them on recorded audio how they don't breathe, and then I'll show them this strategy.

If you want to turn this around, if you feel yourself going into that fight-or-flight place, or if you just want to learn how to breathe better, there is a simple breathing technique you can use. It's just seven seconds in, seven seconds out through the nose.

Now, if you look at all breathing, like you probably can assume that I have, I've gone out and tried or I've done I don't know how many hundreds, maybe thousands of hours research on breathing which, gosh, sounds so silly when I say that out loud, but please forgive me. I get little obsessive. What I found was seven seconds in, seven seconds out, or around four to six breaths a minute, closer to four is better, is where human beings tend to normalize CO1 levels because, when we normalize CO2, we calm the nervous system.

Seven in, seven out is where we take on the right amount of oxygen. We fully oxygenate the body. The nervous system calms down. Muscle tension melts away. Our focus, our concentration comes back. Our metabolism returns to normal. We start digesting normally. Our stomach acids go back to what they should be.

A lot of people don't know this, but breathing is the single greatest way we burn fat. When you breathe, you're breathing out, in a lot of ways, you're breathing out the fat, and that's how we're burning fat. It's through our breath.

When you learn how to breathe seven in, seven out, it changes everything and, if you practice it often enough, it would change how you breathe throughout the day and you will have more oxygen. You can use this proactively. Like when you are in an acute situation and you're feeling that frustration, that constrain, breathe seven in, seven out.

You can use this preventatively. Get up every morning and breathe seven in, seven out 20 times, or set a timer for five minutes and do it, or set a timer for three minutes, or when you use your Muse headband, like I do each morning, breathe in seven in, seven out, because it helps you meditate easier. In fact, when you're meditating, you can go beyond seven and seven if you want to.

Here's what I've done. I'll share with you one of the strategies I've done to remind myself to do this. When I walk through a doorway, I've anchored doorways with breathing seven in, seven out. When I look at a screen, so when I'm using my computer or when I'm using my phone, I remind myself to breathe seven in, seven out. When I get up to use the restroom, I'd hyperhydrate. I remind myself to breathe seven in, seven out.

When I'm looking at a screen, computer or phone, that's one place where I've learned that, if I breathe seven in, seven out, I don't end up thumbing over to the wrong app and wasting time on Facebook. I get what I need. I'm done, and I get out of the screen, so I'm experiencing the world around me and I'm getting what I need to get done.

Breathing and doing this and understanding how to incorporate this in your life really will change everything. If you were to sit down right now and think about the times of the week where you feel the most tension, the most loss of momentum ... For me, I can tell you that when I'm planning meetings, like, it's ironic because I teach entrepreneurs around the world how to plan, but I get the same anxiety that every entrepreneur gets when planning.

I have the same type of anxiety when I'm on legal phone calls or when I'm doing financial review. Like a financial review is like I want to just go to do stuff. I don't want to have to look at spreadsheets, but I've learned how to. I've gotten myself in the habit of being able to do the things that help you become a successful CEO, but I attribute a lot of that to learning how to breathe and to studying breathing and to being able to make sure that, you know what, most of the time when I'm at a boardroom table with a group of executives or any of my clients, I believe I am the best oxygenated one there because I've learned how to breathe and I don't hold my breath when other people are speaking and I keep a really deep, relaxed pattern most of the time, and I feel like that's my responsibility because if I'm the consultant or the coach, I'd better be the most present and aware in the room.

I'll ask you. In your boardroom, in your home, in conversations with your kids, how many of us, me included, you included, could use more presence and awareness and a heightened state of consciousness and a easier time with decision-making and an understanding of what's going on? I know I can.

This habit of breathing will really help you increase your success, and the title of this podcast is Success in One Breath because the breath that is going to make you successful is the next one. Make sure it's seven in and seven out and you're relaxed. I don't what you think that that's a breathing pattern that you have to try and maintain all day, but if you're willing to practice it, when you walk through a door, do a few seven in, seven out. When you look at a screen, do a few seven in, seven out. In fact, while I'm using my phone, I try and maintain that breathing pattern the whole time because it reminds me not to use my phone for too long.

When you get up to go to the restroom, seven in, seven out, and what you will find is that, overall, your breathing deeper. You feel more aware. You're taking in more more oxygen and you're getting more things done, and those times in the day where you think, "Why did I just do that?" they just become less frequent and you create way more momentum.

If you're looking for more strategies like this to help you understand how to move everything forward in your life and even more strategies around breathing and meditation and hydration, nutrition, movement, you should check out my Momentum Master Class. Go to There's a short presentation there, and I'd love to share it with you because the more you understand keystone habits and the more you understand how to create momentum through what you do on a day-to-day basis, the more you'll find your business exploding and your life getting easier, and you're creating more momentum.

I want to help you. Go to We'd love to have you check it out, and I look forward to seeing you again soon.

Thank You For Listening!

I am truly grateful that you have chosen to spend your time listening to me and my podcast.

Please feel free to reach out if you have a question or feedback via our Contact Us page.

Please leave me a review on iTunes and share my podcast with your friends and family.

With gratitude,


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