006C. An Interview With Kevin Palmieri and Elijah Desmond on Positive Growth Mindsets

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Key Quotes

“Having a fixed mindset seems like it keeps you safe, but the more you are open to the growth that comes with the feedback, the more successful you’re going to be.” – Kevin Palmieri

“Embrace the suck.” – Elijah Desmond

Episode Summary

Join us for a double-feature episode as we journey through the transformative lives of Kevin Palmieri and Elijah Desmond, two individuals who have wrestled with adversity and come out the other side stronger and wiser.

Immerse yourself in the riveting tale of Kevin Palmieri, the Founder and CFO of Next Level University. From the challenging trials of a volunteer firefighter to overcoming the fear of making mistakes, Kevin’s story is a testament to resilience. He shares his personal journey, where the power of continuous learning and feedback becomes tangible.

Witness Kevin’s evolution from bodybuilding to entrepreneurship, embracing the growth mindset and learning to thrive outside of the comfort zone. Join him and Wesley as they unravel the immense power of self-belief and the sometimes deceptive nature of success.

Next, step into the vibrant world of Elijah Desmond, also known as DJ Smiles, an individual who defied odds with his infectious zest for life. Navigate his complex biracial identity, where he finally finds wider acceptance by simply being authentic.

Feel the pulse of Elijah’s past as a celebrated athlete, his dreams dashed by a fateful injury. Traverse the highs and lows of his entrepreneurial journey, as he pens a bestselling book, starts numerous businesses, and experiences the stark contrasts of success and failure.

Follow Elijah’s journey through depression as he grapples with lost opportunities, emerging stronger and more resilient. Discover how his commitment to helping others became his lifeline, guiding him out of his struggles and lighting up his path to recovery.

Learn from Elijah’s philosophy to “embrace the suck”, a stark reminder that it’s okay to have a bad day. See how maintaining a positive mindset and spreading positivity helped him thrive amidst adversity.

Ready to dive into a sea of inspiration and life lessons? Don’t miss this unique episode, where Kevin and Elijah share their compelling narratives of resilience and triumph. Join us as we navigate the human journey, one story at a time.

Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Wesley Jackson: Can you relate to this? Picture yourself in your mid-twenties having set your mind on becoming a volunteer firefighter. So, you enroll in the local academy and you begin schooling. But when it comes time for the practical sections, you find yourself shying away from engaging and questioning out of a fear of looking bad or making a mistake.

Let’s just say that when it’s time to put out your first fire, things do not go according to plan. But how do you know if after this embarrassment that you’ll ever bounce back? How do you ever get the courage again to break out of your own comfort zone? Why is feedback like this so essential to your success?

You’ll find this out today through a story from Kevin Palmieri, Founder and CFO of Next Level University. In today’s Self-Help Podcast episode, you’ll learn about positive growth mindsets, how they relate to mind shifts, and how these two powerful forces influence our lives. Welcome to Surviving Humanity: A Self-Help Podcast, where we shift your perspective to help you overcome the obstacles in your life.

We are Wesley Jackson and Andrew Gilley, and we hope to foster a sense of connection and community over our common struggles while providing you with the tools to overcome them. As always, our Facebook, Subreddit, and Twitter are the best places to go for community, connection, and support. Links to these are in the show notes.

Let’s get started.

So Kevin, do you have any stories that you’d like to share that are related to positive growth mindsets?

[00:01:18] Kevin Palmieri: I do. Looking back, unfortunately, it’s going to paint me in a rather negative cowardly light, but I think at times that is necessary for growth and change. So when I was in my mid-twenties, I said, “You know what, I would like to be a Firefighter. Let me see what would that entail? What would I have to do to become a firefighter?”

So I went to the town I lived in, and I went down to the fire station and I said, “Hey. I’m interested in becoming an on-call Firefighter, Volunteer. Like, what is that? What happens?”

They said, “It’s interesting. We actually have a class going on right now. What a coincidence. Awesome.”

So I sign up and I begin going to the Massachusetts Fire Academy volunteer class, which I think it was like Monday and Wednesday were classrooms, where you would go in and learn. And then, Saturday was practical. And you’d go like, you know, operate a hose or you’d work on a live fire or whatever it is.

I threw out the entire schooling. Every time I had the opportunity to go, you know, turn a wrench on a hydrant or take a closer look at the engine. I never did. I was always so afraid to look bad. I was so afraid to make mistakes. I was afraid to ask questions and get laughed at. So I always sat back and said, “Ahh. I’ll figure it out. I’ll figure it out on my own.”

So I end up graduating. And the first time I ever had an opportunity to serve on the fire department, when you’re a volunteer, you get a pager and you’re on call for if it’s the weekend, the week, whatever it is. So my pager goes off at 3:00 AM and I sit up and I’m like, “Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. What is happening here?”

So I hop in my car, I buzz down to the fire station. I dawn my gear. I get on the engine and we roll up to this house and there’s a car on fire in the driveway. And we hop off and the captain says, “Hey. Kev, grab the two and a half and attach it to the outlet.”

And I just sat there like a deer in headlights. I have no idea what you’re speaking about. I have no idea what to do. I should have asked more questions in the fire academy. So, I end up just kind of sitting there and saying, I don’t know what I’m doing. They put the fire out, everything goes fine. We go back to the station, and that was quite literally the last day where I felt like I was capable of doing that.

And it shook my confidence so bad. But yeah, the moral of the story is this: “No matter what, you are going to get feedback. You either get feedback in small spurts along the way, or you get it all at once. And it’s very hard to digest when you get it all at once. At the end.”

[00:03:30] Wesley Jackson: I can relate to the not asking questions because of a fear of, you know, rejection.

[00:03:35] Kevin Palmieri: Yeah.

[00:03:35] Wesley Jackson: That was pretty much my whole life during schooling.

Yeah. So I want to know what were you seeing, hearing, feeling, and thinking when you were going through that and during the aftermath as well? What did this do to you?

[00:03:45] Kevin Palmieri: Yeah, it’s interesting. I don’t know when I was going through it, it was just… I mean, even in the schooling, it was just embarrassment. It was feeling like I was on an island. It was all the fields of school again. Because I didn’t go to college. So when I graduated in 2007, I’m going back to some sort of schooling and whatever year this was, like, you know, 7, 8, 9 years later, I don’t know. I’m out of sorts here. I don’t know what I’m doing.

So there was a lot of those, not enoughness, not smart enough, kevy or stupid thoughts going on, there was a lot of that. A lot of just feeling rejected even though I wasn’t necessarily. And then, it shaped me in the way of, once I was capable of owning up to the fact that it was my responsibility to make sure I understood not somebody else’s, I mean, I’m sure you’ve had these situations where, you know, “Is there any questions? You know, make sure you raise your hand.”

It’s like, “I’m not gonna raise my hand.”

I need you to pull me out into the hallway and say, “Hey Kev, what are you struggling with here?”

But that’s not really sustainable. So the aftermath of that was me trying to understand what responsibility I could take and what ownership I could take, and it’s something now that runs me on a daily basis. I like feedback more than I ever have. It still sucks. But I’d rather get a little bit of feedback saying, “Hey, you could do this better.”

Than, “Hey, I don’t wanna work with you anymore because you didn’t do this, this, this, this, and this.”

[00:05:02] Wesley Jackson: Yeah, you’re so right. It’s really hard to grow, you know, to and reach your maximum potential alone if you’re not asking for any help whatsoever.

[00:05:10] Kevin Palmieri: Yes. Yeah. No, everybody asks for help, right? Like, if you look at the most successful people in the world, they have coaches. They had to reach out and say, “Hey. I’m doing really well, but I wanna do better.”

That everybody, I think everybody has that experience. It’s just ‘what is your relationship with that experience?’ Now, it’s better than ever. But, I’ve had times, I used to work at an HVAC company and I have never felt so dumb in my entire life. The leadership was just brutal. And every time you asked a question, you’d get called names.

It’s like, “Well, that’s one surefire way to make sure I never ask another question.”

So, I think the community and the people you surround yourself with, that plays into it in a pretty big degree as well.

[00:05:45] Wesley Jackson: I agree a hundred percent. How would you say that you found a way through this then? Was it through community, like you just mentioned?

[00:05:50] Kevin Palmieri: Yeah, it’s interesting. Yeah, probably community more than anything. But I think if you pair that, ’cause this kind of, this was part of it too. If you pair that with the fact that, “If you understand what you’re good at, it’s far easier to get feedback when it comes to that.”

So I did a bodybuilding show again in my mid-twenties and this was after the fire academy and all that. I remember asking my coach for feedback. I remember saying, “If I’m fat coming into this show, I need you to tell me. I need you to tell me where I’m screwing up. I need you to tell me, I can’t cheat on my diet. I need you to tell me. I need you to be hard on me.”

I think the feedback you’re capable of taking is directly connected to the level of belief you have in the arena. So that’s what helped me is I went to arenas I already felt pretty competent in, and then I ask for extra feedback. And then when you start to understand, “Ah. Yeah. It might sting a little bit, but I have control over it.”

I think that’s an important component of feedback is – I can use this feedback constructively versus this feedback is gonna take me apart. So yeah, I would say, “Search for something where you feel like you have a pretty high level of competence because you’re probably more capable of receiving feedback there than you think.”

[00:07:00] Wesley Jackson: Yeah. I always tell people to start with their values and their strengths before anything else.

[00:07:04] Kevin Palmieri: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s the thing you’ve practiced the most. One of my clients reached out to me recently and said, “Hey, can I give you a little feedback when it comes to speaking?”

[00:07:12] Wesley Jackson: Mm-hmm.

[00:07:12] Kevin Palmieri: I like, “Yeah. Sure. Whatever.”

I mean, I’ve been doing that for so long. I’m sure I’ve just fallen into many bad habits at this point. So yeah, I feel confident enough where if you tell me something, it’s not gonna break the foundation of what I’m doing. Where if you’re new in a relationship and your partner says to you like, “Hey. I don’t like when you do this.”

You might start questioning everything. Like, “Oh my goodness. Am I a bad human? Am I a bad partner? Am I capable of this?”

So, yeah, I think that’s very well said.

[00:07:33] Wesley Jackson: How would you say this whole experience during the firefighter academy and then the bodybuilding show changed your perspective on all of this?

[00:07:40] Kevin Palmieri: I think it really helped me understand the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. And it helped me understand that nothing goes from new to perfect. Well, perfect doesn’t exist. Nothing goes from new to the best it’s ever been. It goes from new to like, okay to like operating to pretty good to a little bit better. That, the understanding that there is no such thing as ever getting to final form.

You’re always gonna have questions and you’re gonna always gonna have potential weaknesses, but the more you are open to the growth that comes with the feedback, the more successful you’re gonna be ultimately. If I could put it in one sentence, “Having a fixed mindset seems like it keeps you safe, but having a growth mindset pays off way more in the long run.”

[00:08:25] Wesley Jackson: That’s gonna be the quote right there. I totally agree with you. Yeah. The growth mindset is essentially like, you got infinite potential in one hand. And like you said, comfort and safety in the other and you gotta find a way to kind of balance both of them, because we can’t always be a hundred percent in either, I would say. Wouldn’t you agree?

[00:08:43] Kevin Palmieri: Yeah. We say, one of our mentors taught us this: “There’s the comfort zone. There’s the learning zone, and there’s the anxiety zone. Like, if you live in the comfort zone, there’s not gonna be a lot of learning and growth. But if you live in the anxiety zone, there’s not gonna be a lot of growth either, ’cause it’s deconstructive or destructive to be there.”

So yeah, it’s very important to figure out what your own unique balance of that is, or a unique harmony, however you wanna put it. And it’s, that’s the interesting thing is it’s different for everybody, right? Your comfort zone in podcasting and mine are probably different. Where yours in maybe like marketing or whatever your highest level of expertise is, I’m a fish outta water there.

So it’s very important to understand that. Wherever you have put the most time and energy is probably where you’re gonna feel the most comfortable, and you’ll be able to kind of expand those zones more frequently and I would say more flexibly.

[00:09:30] Wesley Jackson: Yeah.I would also say that’s why if you put all your time and energy into maintaining this narrow mindset also, it really gets you stuck there too.

[00:09:37] Kevin Palmieri: Yeah. It becomes the barriers to which you convinced yourself you can’t move past. Right? I gave a speech and I said, “Fear is offense for most of us.”

Simple analogy. You’ve determined that planes are not allowed to happen, so you’re not gonna get on a plane because you’re afraid of it. I know, trust me, I dealt with that for many, many years. But the fear becomes the fence that we walk up to. We look on the other side and we said, “Ah. I wonder what’s over there.”

Well, believe it or not, there are gates within these fences a lot of the times where we can kind of, unlock it and take a look on the other side. You don’t have to jump out of the plane, but maybe, you know, stand on top of a ladder if that’s a good first step for you to facing that fear.

[00:10:12] Wesley Jackson: I like the extended metaphor. It sounds pretty much like exposure therapy.

[00:10:15] Kevin Palmieri: Yes, a hundred percent. A hundred percent.

[00:10:17] Wesley Jackson: Cool. How would you say positive growth mindsets are related to mind shifts then?

[00:10:21] Kevin Palmieri: I think for most of us, we look at our most recent and relevant proof when it comes to making a decision. So think of Amazon, right? Why do Amazon have reviews? Because you’re looking at somebody’s recent, potentially, or relevant proof of what happened. If you have a fixed mindset, if you have a mindset that feels stuck, you’re always just gonna say, “Well, last time I said I couldn’t do it. I didn’t do it. I have no proof to say I could, so I’m not gonna do it again.”

Right? It’s that thought of when you don’t have belief, you don’t take action. When you don’t take action, you don’t get any results, no feedback. Right? That’s kind of our theme. When you don’t get feedback or results that proves to you that you couldn’t do it in the first place, but if you inject a little bit of belief, then you can kind of bridge the gap between ‘I can’t do that,’ and ‘I’m scared to do that.’

And those are two different things. Then you get feedback, which usually goes better than you expect. Then the next time it’s like, “Well, yeah, I did do a podcast episode, and I mean, it wasn’t great. But it went better than I expected, like I could do another one.”

Versus every time… Oh, let me use this analogy: There are many people who self-identify as “I am the type of person who would never raise my hands in a public setting.”

Right? So, You’re already thinking about it. “I really hope the speaker doesn’t ask me to raise my hand. I really hope the speaker doesn’t say, does anybody have any questions?”

But if you can, just one time, even if it’s a room of 10 people, just raise your hand and make up a question, even if it’s a dumb question that you already know the answer to, you’ll have different relevant and recent proof next time. So, yeah, that has been very, very helpful for me. Where my business partner and I have gone to events and I know the answer to the question I’m gonna ask, but I just need to do it so I can reflect on it and say, “Ah. Yeah, okay. I’m proud of you for doing it.”

[00:11:53] Wesley Jackson: Yeah, it’s just this giant self-fulfilling prophecy at the end of the day, huh?

[00:11:57] Kevin Palmieri: Yes. Yeah, it’s complicated and I think we get lost in the fact that, if you’ve ever met somebody who all like, just has a very high level of belief in themself, they’re probably going to succeed ’cause they’re just gonna keep trying. It’s not that they’re any better. I remember I used to know this kid who all things considered, he wasn’t the best looking, most put together, most successful human on the planet, but he always approached women. And he always dated beautiful women.

And I was like, “Why?”

Because he just believes that it’s possible, so he goes and tries it and it usually works out. So yeah, I think that’s just an interesting understanding that usually we are what’s in our way more than anything else, unfortunately.

[00:12:32] Wesley Jackson: I love it. It is exactly what I say to people too. We are our own worst enemy.

[00:12:37] Kevin Palmieri: Yes, we are. Yes we are. Or best friend, depending on how you do it.

[00:12:40] Wesley Jackson: That’s true. So how would you say then the story of yours is related to larger problems throughout society, and why do you think this is important?

[00:12:48] Kevin Palmieri: I would say my story parallels what a lot of people deal with because we assume that success will make you feel better, when in reality you have to take the actions to help you feel better, so you’ll actually get the level of success that you desire. The interesting thing about like my full story is I made really good money and I still ended up sitting on the edge of a bed contemplating suicide. And the reason is I thought the quote unquote, “Results of Success would make me feel like a successful man.”

When in reality, I wanted to feel fulfilled. That’s what I wanted. I wanted it to feel on purpose. I wanted to feel aligned. I wanted to feel like there was something more to life. And I thought that if I bought things that would help me. So I think that, it’s one of those things, Wesley, where you can look and find somebody on social media, and you can assume they’re very happy, because they have nice things.

They probably do have momentary bouts of happiness, but it does not mean they’re fulfilled, right? It does not mean they are fulfilled. And I think fulfillment is kind of what we’re after at the end of the day. So I would say, “The parallel is, my internal state of how I felt about myself and what I thought about myself were drastically different than the external state of what everybody else thought about me.”

And I think social media is a really good connection to that for those of us who consume social media.

[00:14:02] Wesley Jackson: I agree with you. It’s such an illusion, and if we’re seeing it every single day and all we see is everybody else’s highlight Reels.

[00:14:09] Kevin Palmieri: Yes.

[00:14:09] Wesley Jackson: It’s a little bit hard to think our life is as good as that.

[00:14:12] Kevin Palmieri: Well, and everybody’s catering it, right? Like, you know,I say this all the time. You might see a picture of me on stage, but you’ll most likely never see a picture of me crying into a pillow at night. Not because I’m afraid to post it, but I don’t know if it’ll do any good. Maybe it will. Maybe that’s the most valuable content there is.

But yeah, you don’t really see that. You see the photoshopped version. You don’t see therough draft. You see the final cut. You don’t see the first one. So it’s hard to compare. Comparison is dangerous if you don’t know what you’re actually comparing to.

[00:14:36] Wesley Jackson: Yeah. Especially if you’re comparing yourself to literally everyone on earth, practically, in your newsfeed.

[00:14:42] Kevin Palmieri: Yes. Yes. Well, it’s interesting. I mean, think about it this way. And this, like, really, this perspective helped me a ton.

[00:14:48] Wesley Jackson: Mm-hmm.

[00:14:49] Kevin Palmieri: 30, 40, 50 years ago, if you wanted to see some of the most attractive humans on the planet, you’d have to buy a magazine or watch TV. Now, you just open your phone and everybody looks like that.

I used to think I was in really good shape until I started following people on Instagram that were in really, really, really good shape. But those are the top 1% of 1% of 1%. They’re just showcased highly there. So yeah, it’s a very… It’s not real. It’s fairy tale land and you’re seeing the best of the best from around the world, and that obviously, I don’t think our brains are ready for that yet.

[00:15:18] Wesley Jackson: So what would you say then, the moral of this story is of yours and what can we do to become better humans in response to all of this?

[00:15:26] Kevin Palmieri: I would say the quote of you either get feedback, you know, in small bouts along the way, or you get it all at once at the end. And to be a better human, you can, this is what I would say. Make sure you’re surrounding yourself with people who you feel comfortable getting feedback from, because it’s almost like getting feedback is hard.

Being vulnerable is hard. But it’s easier with people who make you feel safe. And I think that’s a really good way to put it. I’ve never gone skydiving nor do I desire to. But I do imagine if I went skydiving with somebody who had done thousands and thousands and thousands of jumps, I’d feel more safe. Than, if it was just me and you scrapping up together saying like, “Hey, I don’t know, man. Pull the shoot.”

At some point, one of us will pull it. I don’t think I feel super safe doing that. So yeah, use training wheels where you have them. There are some people that in your life that might be very, very easy to get feedback from or be vulnerable with. There are other people where maybe that’s like a level 10 challenge that you’re not ready for yet. That’s totally fine, but there are some arenas where getting feedback will be easier and probably to your point, yeah, start there.

[00:16:27] Wesley Jackson: Yeah. Just starting is usually the biggest step for everybody. Wouldn’t you agree?

[00:16:31] Kevin Palmieri: Yeah, because again, it’s zero to one is the hardest, right? You know, going from zero episodes to one episode, that’s the hardest. It’s like you’re basically making something real that doesn’t exist yet. And you don’t have any, you do not have any feedback yet. You don’t have any recent relevant proof of what’s gonna happen. So, yeah, a hundred percent, the zero to one is always the hardest in any business and any relationship and anything really.

[00:16:52] Wesley Jackson: Before we go, Kevin, if you had to choose: what is your one tip for Surviving Humanity?

[00:16:57] Kevin Palmieri: Man. I would say become as self-aware as humanly possible to what your unique strengths are and what your unique weaknesses are, because it’s gonna be very hard for you to survive humanity if you don’t understand what you are the best at, or what your biggest weaknesses are. That self-awareness is such an important thing.

[00:17:16] Wesley Jackson: Thank you to our guest, Kevin Palmieri. Kevin is the Founder and CFO of Next Level University. A heart driven but no BS approach to holistic self-improvement. They focus on life, love, health, and wealth through formats, ranging from online courses, group coaching, one-on-one coaching, all the way to live local events.

You can find their latest work at “nextleveluniverse.com.”

I first met Kevin at PodFest Expo back in January, 2023, and ever since then, I have continuously appreciated his authentic and transparent approach to self-improvement. We highly encourage you to check them out. If you’re interested in learning more about positive growth mindsets

Can you relate to this? Picture yourself as a star athlete at your high school. You consistently bring home, not just one, but two first place trophies nearly every time you attend a wrestling tournament. Not only that, you’re the star player on the football team too. Your dream now is to go to the Olympics. But one day after suffering a stinger injury, your world begins to be turned upside down.

They’re telling you that you can’t play ever again. But how do you get through this? Your identity has basically just been ripped from your hands. What do you need to change now in order to move on with your life, but how do you prevent yourself from spiraling downwards out of control?

You’ll find this out today through a story from Elijah Desmond, AKA, DJ Smiles. A Motivational Speaker, DJ, and MC for events both big and small.

In today’s self-help podcast episode, you’ll learn about positive growth mindsets, how they relate to mind shifts, and how these two powerful forces influence our lives.

Welcome to Surviving Humanity: A Self-Help Podcast, where we shift your perspective to help you overcome the obstacles in your life.

We are Wesley Jackson and Andrew Gilley, and we hope to foster a sense of connection and community over our common struggles while providing you with the tools to overcome them.

As always, our Facebook, Subreddit, and Twitter are the best places to go for community connection and support. Links to these are in the show notes. Let’s get started.

So, Elijah, do you have any stories that you’d like to share that are related to positive growth mindsets?

[00:19:20] Elijah Desmond: Absolutely. I’ll share a story of me as a kid and the changes that I had to make along the way. So, I basically was…Essentially, put into two different families, my mom and my dad. And I’m biracial. I’m half white and half black.

And my parents, they remarried. And my mom remarried someone from the farm and they owed a big dairy, a pretty wealthy. And my dad, he remarried a lady from the projects, all good people, but entirely different lifestyles. And, basically, you know, growing up I had these multiple sets of families.

And it was really difficult, whenever I got to high school, to really decide, figure out who I was. What was my identity, essentially. And you know, was I white? Was I black? I would go to, you know, I would go to my dad’s side and go to my stepmom’s. And I was like, I was too white because of my voice or what I was wearing, right?

And then, I would go back to school and it was all white school. And I would be too black, right? I was wearing Fubu or, you know, was wearing different clothes that it was constantly like I was trying to fit in. Then, I realized that I don’t need to fit in and I need to just be myself, and that may be with a Fubu pants and an Abercrombie shirt. And to stop trying to fit in.

So just be myself, and that’s exactly what I did. And I was essentially, at that point, I felt like I had more friends than I ever had before because I was being my authentic self. And one thing I had going is I was a star athlete and I had been wrestling since I was,literally, coming out of, I felt like I went from diapers to a singlet.

You know, I was wrestling since I was a child, like four or five years old. And I went to all these different,wrestling tournaments in the state of Ohio and around Ohio. And I’d wrestle all year round and my dad would actually put me in two different weight classes. He would put me in my weight class and the weight class above mine.

So I would leave with two first place trophies, from two weight classes. And it was just what I was used to. I was really, really good in wrestling. Like my dream was to go to the Olympics, and I was really good. And I was really good in football. I was the one black kid that was essentially, the all-star athlete, and had a lot of friends and it was really cool.

And basically, for wrestling, I went to University of Michigan’s invite only wrestling camp and at the very end they have you do a wrestling tournament. So it’s a camp, but then it’s a tournament at the end. And that’s how they do a lot of their scouting. I had pinned the person in the championship round, who already committed to Michigan.

And at that point I began and I was, “This is going into my freshman year.”

And at that point, began all the phone calls and the serious recruiting. And it was later on in the football season, that year where my top vertebrae was fused to my skull. I found out my top vertebrae was fused to my skull.

And how did that happen? I was playing in a game and I got a stinger. That stinger, you know, it was a stinger. It was terrible that it wasn’t that bad. After the game, I would put my left hand down or back and it would tingle. They wanted me to go to the chiropractor or a doctor, any type of doctor to figure out what was wrong before they release me.

Essentially, after going to that chiropractor, the chiropractor said, “Elijah, this has nothing to do with your stinger or the reason why your thumb is going numb, but your top vertebrae is fused to your skull, and so is your bottom vertebrae is fused to your sacrum. Andyou should not be playing football or wrestling.”

So I got a second opinion. Second opinion,was a sports doctor, told me that the chiropractor was a quack. I could go back and play. But he’ll order a MRI for later on, after the season. AndMRI was ordered and I was actually told thathe was right, and I could no longer play footballor wrestle.

And I went and I got about three or four second opinions. My parents paid out of pocket for them. They all said no. And just whenever I found out who I was, that got ripped from me, right? So I was the athlete. That guy, right? And it got taken from me. Worst feeling in the world. But I, I pivoted quickly and I instead played basketball.

I sucked at it and ran track. Andgot to college early, tested out of high school at 15. Got to college early. Went to Ohio State University and some of my best friends were on the football team. So I decided that I would get in the best shape of my life. And since I, you know, it was after a couple years of college, I was 18.

I decided I would try out and walk on to the Ohio State football team. The doctor basically told me that, you know, asked me if I had any medical conditions and I told him the truth, but I said, “Stuff can change. And I’m, you know, adult now. I’m 18 years old. And look, I wanna play.”

So he went and we did x-rays again and basically what he was about to tell me, like literally, I had no idea. It set me into a spiral. He told me, he said, “Sit down. I have some news I wanna share with you.”

And I’m sitting here thinking like, “You can’t tell me any worse news than I’ve already been told, like, what? I can’t play.”

He said, “You actually were over-diagnosed. You’re overdiagnosed and you could have been playing your entire high school career and your neck is actually stronger than a normal person’s neck.”

And while you think that, that would be like the best news ever, it was the worst news I ever heard before. And at the time, I lived with three roommates, there was a finished basement that I lived in. And I sat in that basement and I did not come out for three days. And I was so depressed. I missed walk-ons. And I felt like my life was like complete shambles. And the only thing that got me out of that basement was thinking that there was something else.

And I wanted to tell my story, basically, share my story. And so I got out of the basement and I decided that essentially, it wasn’t for me, wasn’t supposed to be for me. But it was super difficult to get out. At that point, it allowed me to talk about ‘rock bottom’, talk about ‘depression.’ And I was everything but suicidal.

But I didn’t wanna get out of bed. Like I woke up, I wanted to go back to sleep. I woke up, I wanted to go back to sleep. I wanted it to go away. And,you know, it was one of the hardest times that I’ve ever been through in my life. But I knew that I had to move forward. I had to get up.

And so I got up and ended up finishing college. Graduated from, from college and basically started, my journey in the entrepreneurship lane and, you know, since then, wrote a bestselling book and started over 20 businesses. Sold a couple, successfully failed miserably on about six. And life has been good. Wow, that is quite the story. It sounds like you had your own identity basically ripped out of your hands and then only to be told, “Oh. Wait, nevermind. All of that was, you know, wrong.”

[00:25:49] Wesley Jackson: Wow. That must have been really shattering for you. So during this period of depression where you’re basically just staying inside the basement, all you wanna do is sleep.

What were you seeing, hearing, feeling, and thinking when you were going through that?

[00:26:04] Elijah Desmond: Yeah. How could this be true? My whole career, my whole high school career, like was just, it was ripped from me. And it didn’t have to be. I was angry. I was angry at the doctors who were being, you know, essentially, I feel like they didn’t really look into it.

They just knew that they were a third opinion and other doctors said ‘no.’ And essentially, I was a kid. So I was angry. I was really sad because of what could have been. You know, I could have got a full ride scholarship for academics, which is cool, but I could have got a full ride for football or wrestling.

My Olympic dreams like flash between my eyes. I was angry because I constantly had the same dream and I still get the same dream ’til today. I’m walking down on the football field. I’m playing in the game. And I wake up and it’s a nightmare ’cause it was a dream. And it’s the same one every time.

Like, I’m literally playing in the same field, different game. And it’s happened since this trauma, basically. And would I be getting these nightmares, like if it weren’t for this? So, it was just a whole bunch of anger and sadness, essentially. That was what was going through my head.

[00:27:02] Wesley Jackson: Wow. Yeah, it sounds like it was really intense. So how did you find a way through this exactly, would you say?

[00:27:08] Elijah Desmond: Yeah. So, the first thing is like, I know because I’ve talked it since getting into college early, and spoke to kids about this. And it’s essentially, when you’re down and you’re feeling low, go and help somebody, and go and help other people volunteer in.

So I would do things, like, volunteer, community service stuff. Anything from trash pickups to food drives, feeding the homeless. And that’s what I said to do and that’s what I did. And so, I basically went and it’s like you can be at a rock bottom, but know that like there’s so much worse that can happen.

There’s so many horrible other situations you can be in. And all of a sudden, when you’re focused on helping people, and essentially, helping them solve their problems, your problems pretty much go away. It at least numbs the problem for a while. And if it’s numbed long enough, you don’t have to like stay in that zone of depression, right?

It’s not like whenever you’re done feeding the homeless or when you’re done picking up trash and making the world look better, like you all of a sudden revert back to the super depressed. So I feel like it helped me to get out and,you know, if I’m solving that somebody else’s problems, I suddenly don’t have my own.

[00:28:14] Wesley Jackson: I think that’s a really good way to look at it. You know, you both talked the talk and you walked the walk at that point.

[00:28:20] Elijah Desmond: Yes.

[00:28:20] Wesley Jackson: So, how would you say this entire experience changed your perspective?

[00:28:24] Elijah Desmond: Yeah, absolutely. So, it taught me early to be able to pivot. Like, it taught me for really, life as an adult. And having the ability to pivot and also to find the positive in everything. You know, some things don’t go as planned and you have to not freeze. You have to just be able to do something else and take that energy and just put it somewhere else, because there’s just so many things that can happen in life. And so it taught me to pivot. It taught me to pivot andnot dwell on things.

It also taught me that it’s okayto have a bad day. It’s okay to have some bad days. It’s okay to embrace the suck. I like to call it. And know that it will be better because life sucks. Like, you’re gonna get out of it. You’re gonna appreciate when life does not suck.

And so, embracing the suck and knowing that it’s okay to have a bad day, early on. And that I could come out of it, and had the ability to come out of it and teach people to come out of it meant a lot.

[00:29:18] Wesley Jackson: I love it. Embrace the suck. It reminds me also of like, this too shall pass. Yeah. So let’s connect the dots here. How would you say that positive growth mindsets then are related to mind shifts?

[00:29:30] Elijah Desmond: Absolutely. So basically, you know, I’m not this huge believer of the universe and putting everything out into the universe that’s gonna come back, or imagining you’re gonna have a million dollars and you’re gonna get it.

But I do. I do have a belief that if you have a positive mindset, number one, it is way better than a negative mindset because that doesn’t feel good. But a positive mindset will help you accomplish your goals. It’ll help you do many things in life. Having the mindset of, you know, I am around for a reason, there is a bigger picture for me.

It helped me to get out, right? It helped me to get up out of bed and help me to move on. And, you know, you have two options. You can wake up and be angry or wake up and be happy. I choose happy, right? And I continue to choose that every single day. This is similar to my positive bubble. So, I have this positive bubble that I keep around me at all times and if there’s ever anything that’s negative, I just bubble bounce it out.

Like I just don’t deal with it. You know, you have the opportunity to deal with nice people, nice and kind humans or negative ones, you choose. I choose my nice, kind humans. And I just don’t deal with the negativity. There are some people though that love negativity. I don’t. I just keep myself around, you know, people that are positive.

That is a perfect segue into our next question.

So how do you think this story of yours then is related to larger problems throughout society and why is this important in the context of growth mindsets?

Oh man. So, I mean, as far as having a growth mindset,You know, that issue is of me getting out of bed, right? And what’s the next thing for me? And I feel like in relation to like, overall society andapplying it to real world, essentially, any time there’s gonna be a curve ball that’s thrown to you. You can’t just ball up and essentially give up. You have to overcome it. And use a positive mindset to overcome it. Not a negative mindset.

A lot of people will go and use a negative mindset that doesn’t do anything for you or anyone else around you. So essentially, this applying that to everything in life is using a positive mindset to overcome the adversity and obstacles.

[00:31:35] Wesley Jackson: Reminds me a lot about like scarcity versus abundance, right?

[00:31:39] Elijah Desmond: You talk about that often.

[00:31:40] Wesley Jackson: Yeah. Awesome.

[00:31:41] Elijah Desmond: Yeah.

[00:31:41] Wesley Jackson: So what would you say then, at the end of the day, is the moral of this story and what can we all do that are listening right now to become better humans in response to all of this?

[00:31:51] Elijah Desmond: Absolutely. So the moral of the story is that rock bottom may come at some point in your life. It came for me two times during my life. And know that it’s gonna get better. I mean, that’s the moral, it’s going to get better and embrace the suck. It’s okay. Not every day needs to be a holiday. Not every day needs to be a happy day. It’s okay to have some pitfalls during your journey in life.

And just know that it will get better. And surround yourself around positive people to help you get better.

[00:32:16] Wesley Jackson: I love it. So then before we go, Elijah, if you had to choose what is your one tip for Surviving Humanity?

[00:32:22] Elijah Desmond: One tip for Surviving Humanity. Oh man. I would say go and help as many people as you possibly can and help more people whenever you are at your low. Help as many people as you can.

[00:32:32] Wesley Jackson: I love it. Perfect. Thank you to our guest, Elijah Desmond. Elijah AKA, DJ Smiles is a Motivational Speaker, DJ, and MC. He focuses on motivating entrepreneurs at events by guiding them towards realizing their goals. Whether you need a DJ, an MC, or an Event Panelist, Elijah is your guy. You can find his latest work at “elijahdesmond.com.”

That is “E L I J A H D E S M O N D .com.” As someone who was lucky enough to see him speak at PodFest Expo 2023, I found Elijah to be really engaging and he really helped raise the spirits of the entire crowd each and every day. We highly encourage you to check ’em out if you’re interested in learning more about positive growth mindsets.

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