Demir Bentley on Life Hacking, Productivity, And Accountability

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We can make more money, but with time, when it’s gone, it’s gone. Our guest today is productivity coach Demir Bentley. Demir is the Cofounder of the Lifehack Method. He coaches thousands of clients each year with a client list riddled with high profile names like Facebook, Google, Uber, PepsiCo, and Lexar. In this episode, host Penny Zenker talks with Demir about life hacking, his passion for productivity, The Four Layers of Accountability, and setting your environment up for success. He also shares his insights on what people need to think about or engage themselves with on their path to productivity and success.

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Demir Bentley on Life Hacking, Productivity, And Accountability

On this show we are dedicated to helping you take back time. I know it sounds crazy and impossible to take it back. Because once we’ve spent it, it’s gone, but we can invest it wisely which means that we’ll save more time, energy and even money. That’s what this show is dedicated to and I am excited that we have our special guest to talk about accountability. Demir Bentley is here with us and let me tell you more about him. He is a legendary productivity coach and the Cofounder of the Lifehack Method. His coaching combines personal accountability with daily practice to unleash your best productivity every single day. His client list is riddled with high-profile names like Facebook, Google, Uber, PepsiCo and Lexar, but don’t worry it’s also good for you.
Before starting Lifehack Bootcamp, he worked at the highest level of government technology and finance. His work has been featured in Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and other media outlets. A quick fun fact, Demir and his wife Carey, live a completely nomadic lifestyle for three months at a time in different cities around the world. The last few years have seen them living on a boat in Croatia, the vast country of Spain, a retreat in Bali, islands in Hawaii, and they live in Medellin, Colombia. Demir, welcome to the show.
I’m happy to be here. I have to say right off the bat I love your take on investing time. I’m mildly obsessed with this as a productivity coach. We tend to think about time in linear ways, like, “I’ve got time. I have an hour and I’ll spend that hour.” We don’t think about time like a stock that we can invest in. Like this idea of, “I’ve got an hour. What can I do with this hour that could get me three hours? What can I do with three hours that can get me twenty hours?” It’s so funny because that’s common sense in other areas of our life. Everybody knows that financially. You invest in stocks, you put in $1 and $5 comes out. We don’t have this around time so thank you for bringing that up. Literally as I heard that, I was thankful because somebody else gets it.
I would hope so. We’re in this business because we both have that passion for helping people think and act differently. Sometimes we do have great practices and habits in other areas of our lives, sometimes we don’t. When we think about money, it is a great comparison. Except for money, we can make more of it but in time, when it’s gone, it’s gone. Why are you passionate about productivity?
My journey to productivity is funny because the reason that I’m such a great productivity coach is that I’m naturally like the works at it. A lot of people out there can relate to the idea of being smart but not productive. That describes me to a tee. I’ve always been smart but not productive. Some of the things that plague people who are smart but not productive are that they can get those grades, but it takes twice as much studying time because they’re distracted. They can’t hit the books the way that somebody else can. They can dance their career, but it takes more work than an average person or always living with that specter of fear. I’m an emotional worker, so there have been two weeks of the time that because of my emotions I can’t do any work.
There’s something about being in a team where the environment creates positive social pressure especially when one person starts succeeding. Share on X In finance, hiding the fact that I’m not getting anything done for two weeks creates this additional layer of stress and anxiety like, “Is now going to be the day that I can work? Am I going to wake up to do it?” All of that stress, fear, anxiety and overworking to get the same result as somebody else typifies my entire journey. When I was finally able to learn what ended up incredibly simple ideas, tools and techniques. I felt like if I could go back and teach this to myself when I was younger, I would have had a completely different career trajectory. Not that I’m not happy with my life right now, but I have some clients who are in their early twenties and I look at them and say that they are lucky. I had to go through my entire 20s and 30s doing everything wrong, and there are people out there in their twenties that are learning what we don’t teach them in high school.
We should teach time management, calendar management, priority management and mental gain. We should teach these things to high school and college students, but we don’t. Because we don’t, we all walk out into the buzz of life. Life has this art where we get more responsibilities and fewer resources to deal with them. Most of my clients that come to me are what I call, “They’re where the two trains have hit.” They’re usually in their mid-40s and mid-60s. They have kids, responsibilities, and they have bills. They’ve lost the passion for work because it’s been so hard for so long that they don’t want to do it anymore. Now they’re in a place where they can’t stop because everybody depends on them, but they have no passion. They never had a workflow that was efficient or leverage and they’re in a place where they want to give up but can’t.
I feel stressed with you talking about it. It’s a difficult place to be and there are so many people out there that are in that space.
The quick version of my story is before my brain said no, my body said no. I had a chronic stress-related illness that ended up having pre-surgeries. I had a rare gift of my doctor saying, “You can’t do this. You need to stop right now.” For me, being the primary breadwinner working 80 hours to 90 hours a week in finance, I had to figure something out and fast. It turns out that with the combination of luck and the right place at the right time, the right information, and the right mentors, I was able to go from working 80 hours a week to two hours a week. It’s a funny quasi-famous story in finance where I outsourced my entire job to somebody else. That ignited this passion of like, “I thought I was doing it as well as anybody could do it. If I was that wrong, not only did I not have to work 80 hours a week, it could have been two hours a week. If I was that wrong about this topic what else is there about this topic that could be learned?”
I realized that this whole topic of the workflow of productivity, we had so much pride around it, “I’m doing it as well as anybody could do it.” We tend to shut down our learning brain, we don’t want anybody to criticize our productivity or work. We don’t want to learn and nobody can teach me anything. “I’m the expert of what I do.” We have to put on that façade. It made me super passionate about going out there and being like, “I had that same disease that you have, let me help you find the cure.”
Before you end up in the hospital, that’s the key. Something that you said that’s important is sometimes we don’t have anything in our environment that helps us to be creative because it supports the status quo. A little bit of optimization is not going to get you from 80 hours to two hours, it might get you to 60 hours but it’s certainly not going to be the investment that changes everything. I believe that sometimes we have to hope not the way that it had happened to you, but we can think about it. If we only had so many hours to work. That’s what I felt when I read The 4-Hour Workweek, like what you’re saying, that’s BS. You went to two hours, that’s impossible. Once we get past that it’s impossible and think what if it was possible, we’ll think how will we do it and focus on being creative to think about how to do it, we get out of our own ways.

TBT 91 | Life Hacking

Life Hacking: We have so much pride around productivity that we tend to shut down our learning brain and don’t want anybody to criticize our work.

I call this the heart-attack. I’ve met so many of my clients in their mid-50s and right when their career is hitting its pinnacle, their body and the years of abuse they’ve put on them starts to take their toll. They end up having the triple, quadruple, sextuple bypass. They have the widowmaker heart-attack and what has happened at that moment is that the doctors tell them, “You can work about four hours a week.” This is somebody who has been working 80, 90 hours a week regularly. If you had told that person before they have a heart attack, “Could you manage your business?” They would say, “No. There’s no way I can do it. It can’t happen.” Once it’s a cold hard reality, a combination of things happens.
First, people who haven’t asked for help all their life are forced to ask for help. People that they should have promoted years ago get a promotion in one day. You’re promoted, everybody’s promoted. Clients you should have fired years ago because they’re not paying you a lot, and they’re taking up all their resources get fired. A lot of change that should have happened overtime happens in one week and all of a sudden you’re doing it. I’ve never seen one person who’s a client of mine who had that experience happen to them ever had to shut down the doors to their business.
They do a combination of factors, made it all come together and it’s the catalyst. I tried it as a productivity coach would say let me be your heart-attack. I don’t want you to have a heart attack. Let me be that rock and a hard place that forces you to make the adjustments, arrangements, and compromises that you’ve been refusing to make and see that there is a way to do this. Everybody who asks their selves that question, “If I had a heart attack, do I believe that somehow, someway, I don’t even know how I can figure it out?” Yes.
We want to talk about accountability. You said that as a coach, you say, “Let me be your heart-attack.” How important is accountability and having resources, whether it’s a coach or something else, and ways to hold yourself accountable?
When we started this journey in productivity coaching, I noticed this huge chasm between results. The people who are getting incredible results. We see it out there the US military, pro sports, music conservatories. When you think about it, we don’t associate these but groups like twelve-step groups that can teach somebody from being a complete drug addict and loser to becoming part of the society. This all happens in the context of groups, accountability groups. We have all of these examples of people truly becoming exceptional human beings. We are doing things that we thought would be impossible in the context of groups that provide accountability. Most people have their life riddled with stories of failed accountability.
Like, “I tried this. I joined this person’s program, they said there was accountability, it didn’t work. I tried to have accountability by myself, it didn’t work. I tried to make my wife be my accountability buddy, it didn’t work.” What we did in the very beginning we set out. My wife and I are both data hounds. We set out to do a research project and study what the accountability groups that are absolutely crushing it and creating incredible results, hard-to-believe results versus the accountability groups that are run of the mill.
Accountability is not a salt shaker that you spread on anything. Share on X What we found is one simple thing, accountability is not a silver bullet. We’re using accountability as if it’s a salt shaker. “Spread some accountability on it. It will make it work.” The truth is that everybody knows they’ve been part in programs, worked with coaches. Had a program they were part of where accountability fell apart, it has melted. Our research has shown us that about 90% of accountability relationships fail within two weeks. Not only does accountability fail often, it usually fails fast.
That didn’t answer our question, it created more questions. Now we have two classes of accountability. We have failing and failing fast, and we have this incredible accountability that takes people to the highest levels of human performance. Of course, the question that leaves us is what is that? That was much harder to untangle. It took us a couple of years of visiting people and analyzing accountability groups. What we came up with is The Four Layers of Accountability, when I tell you this, you will be like, “It’s so obvious.” This is an advanced common sense. What we found was that people who achieve truly incredible results that they would never achieve on their own didn’t have one layer of accountability. They had neutrally reinforcing layers. If one failed them then another would catch them. It was like safety nets under safety nets.
I always say, for myself and anyone else, you need to have three to four ways to hold yourself accountable if you own what you want your results to be. That makes sense to me.
The first layer is the bar raiser. Your bar raiser could be a coach. It’s very popular these days. Years ago, it could be a mentor that you were assigned at work. It could be a pastor, some people say it was their dad or their mom. For me, it was a drums instructor. I used to play drums for several years and my drum teacher was more than my teacher. He saw me as being capable of so much more. That’s the defining role of a bar raiser. It’s a person in your life who even, when you tell yourself you don’t think you can do it, they are like, “I know you can do it.” They see what’s possible for you way before you see what’s possible.
What’s interesting about a bar raiser, the right way to leverage them is you have to have a lot of exposure to them. Even though your brain is coming up with all the fear, doubt and anxiety. The more that you’re close to them, by phone or video conference, they infuse you with the feeling that, “Maybe I can do this.” Their proximity, their belief in you rubs off on you. That’s one of the right ways to use them. The wrong way to use them is to spend more time trying to convince them that you are a loser and that you’re not able to do it. You’re getting them to co-sign in all of the doubts, fear, and BS that are swimming around in your brain. They’re going to say that, “If you’re so committed to your limitation then go live with them. I don’t want to waste my time.”
That bit is so important and every one of us has had it at some point in our life, somebody who believed in us and we can appreciate how that moves us. What are the other levels?

TBT 91 | Life Hacking

Life Hacking: The most effective buddy relationship is what we call the “exchange your shoes at the end of the day” relationship.

As I’m going through these levels don’t simply agree with me, sense check it in your own life. Think back to the times that you created an incredible result and I don’t care who you are. Everybody had at least one time when they surprised themselves. Ask yourself where one or more of these layers present? Did you have a bar raiser? The second layer is a buddy. This is commonly understood and commonly misunderstood. A lot of people think that two people holding each other accountable is a buddy relationship. What we found in our research is that it is not the most effective buddy relationship. The most effective buddy relationship is what we call the exchange your shoes at the end of the day relationship.
If you and I are at the gym together and we say, “Am I going to see you at 6:00?” You say, “Sure.” The chances are now 40% that you’re sure you’re going to show up at 6:00, but if I give you my shoes and you give me your shoes. That means that if you don’t show up at 6:00, not only do you not get to work out, I also don’t get to work out. Great buddy relationship in the US military has taken this to the next level. Your safety, security and success depend on the other buddy showing up and doing their part. That’s sink or swim, linkages, that’s what makes a buddy relationship work. That’s why so many buddy relationships fail because their structure is you end up getting to know each other, liking each other. Penny calls me saying, “You don’t understand. Something’s going on.” I’ll say “Penny, don’t worry.” It’s different if I got my shoes. I might, after three or four times be like, “You have to stop doing this because you’re killing my workouts by not coming.”
It’s a whole different level when you’re in the boat together.
That’s the second layer. The third layer is a team. By team, please don’t get too wrapped up on 45 years old you’re not joining a sports team. What I mean is a community of people who are gunning to the same result that you are and they’re holding you to the same value. It can be a church, a mastermind group, a coaching group. It’s a group that there’s one thing we found that completely makes this effective or ineffective, and that switch is respect. I call it respective accountability. You could put me in a group of twenty teenagers in accountability. I’ll be like, “I’m sorry I don’t respect these guys. I’m not going to let them hold me accountable if I don’t respect them.” It’s not just being part of a group. It’s being part of a group that you identify with and respect. When you look at people and say, “I want to be like him or her,” it’s respected accountability.
People always say, “It’s about the support.” They’re in a generation where it’s all about support. A more effective way is competition. Where if Penny and I go into the same mastermind group, I’m pretty much the same as her, but then she turns around and gets these incredible results in her business and her life. I’m going to be jealous and I’ll need to double down, I need to get myself moving. I’m the same as Penny but her results are going up and mine are staying the same. There’s something about being part of a team where the environment creates positive social pressure. Especially when one person starts succeeding. I do this much. I ready bootcamps where I create these teams of 30 people and I take them to eight weeks of hardcore productivity training. The funniest thing I see is that I don’t need everybody succeeding. I only need one person getting incredible results. You get one cow running and all the other cows will start running too. We do this so naturally as herd animals, we will naturally allow ourselves swept away and all it takes is one match for the whole fire to start.
As you explain it, we can also ask ourselves, for everybody who’s reading. Do I have all these levels? If my goals are important to me, I want to own them at the highest level and be accountable to them. All of these levels are so important. What’s level four?
We naturally develop a passion for things that we’re good at. Share on X The last layer of accountability, level four, is public accountability. You’ll think that the sports team has this built in. What tends to happen is that if I say, “I’m going to write a book this year, but I don’t declare it to anybody and I don’t write it,” what will I do at the end of the year? I quietly sweep the dead bodies of that failure under the rug and hope that it goes away. Most of us have these goals, learning the piano, writing a book, starting a business, all these goals we declare to ourselves but then disappear. When you think about our local sports team, they can’t do that, if they lose to their cross-town rival it’s going to be splashed across the front page. You’re accountable publicly to your fans is built into it. What’s cool is that there are more channels than ever for us to be publicly accountable. You’ve seen it. You see somebody on Facebook saying I’m committing to lose twenty pounds. They picture themselves every single week and they post it. You’ve seen somebody use public accountability.
When I wrote my book, I made the cover first and I put it out there declaring what date I was going to do it because then my feet are under the fire. We are so much accountable to other people and what other people are going to think about us if we don’t hit the mark of what we said we were going to do.
A program we launched, what it’s going to be and we had a date, we started taking sales on it. When you have 100 people pre-booked for a product, you are motivated to get that product built, and it was done. Those are the four layers.
Something came up for me as I was thinking about accountability and the layers that I am also putting in for myself and asking others to put into place. These are strategic layers of accountability and I believe there are also tactical layers of accountability. What about planning, scheduling and getting the time blocked in your calendar to work on these things that are most important. To take a look at your environment and see that you are making it easier for yourself by setting your environment up for success. What would you say about that distinction that I’m making?
Back to this concept of accountability is not a salt shaker that you spread on anything. What people don’t appreciate that I’ve come to appreciate having done this research project is that, to create an environment that succeeds with accountability. Both tactical and strategic takes a lot of work. There usually has to be somebody who’s intentionally designed each piece and they’re there. Being paid or otherwise, they’re there holding that space of accountability for people and making sure that each layer is in integrity. An idea that you’re just going to throw that together in a weekend or you’re like, “My friends and I are going to do that.” It takes a lot more work that’s why for us in Lifehack tribe, we have a membership community where we engineer all four levels. Although I fancy that we have great techniques that we teach people and great information. The truth is that the real value is that we’re there paid and incentivized to hold that space every layer of every accountability we’ve got.
Coaching layer, we have a team layer and a buddy layer. When we bring in something, we have monthly pre-planning sessions. When we bring in our monthly pre-planning session, it’s reinforced because your buddy has probably already signed up to go to that session. Your coach is sending you a message asking you to, “Jump into this pre-planning session. If you haven’t, make sure that you remember it.” You have a team of people. If you’re not there, a lot of people will so you’ll be the one that’s left out. You end up having a lot of layers of accountability engineered in. I agree with you but also deepen it saying like, “We tend to trivialize amazing accountability structures.” Saying, “I can do it like how the US military does. I can do what these pro sports do.” Not realizing that somebody works hard to create that structure for you.

TBT 91 | Life Hacking

Life Hacking: The thing that brings us the most satisfaction, feeds our family, and forges our vision in life, that’s our work.

I’m thinking about that like, “Why would we trivialize?” It’s more on the fear that we don’t want to be held accountable. There’s this, “I can do it myself. I’ll hold myself accountable.” It’s easier to fall down and fails then you’ll give yourself a break, but someone else won’t do that. I don’t trivialize it or don’t want to engage because they do not own the results at the end of the day.
I’m probably speaking to the choir here. I’m not Michael Jordan or LeBron James, that’s not my game though. My game is my work, and it’s the same for you. The thing that brings us the most satisfaction feeds our family that forges our vision in life, that’s our work. Many will talk a big game about how they want to be the best. How do you engineer the same structure that LeBron James has in his life around you? Lebron James, I don’t care how talented he is or how physically gifted, he can’t do what he does living out of his grandma’s payslip. He has a sleep coach. He has every coach on the menu, all the medicine and all the doctors. He surrounded himself with an environment that reinforces excellence, both behavioral and performance excellence.
We tend to take it on ourselves and say, “I need to do everything. Create the environment and need to hold myself accountable.” The truth is that you don’t and you can’t. You’re never going to be able to replicate the environment and the whole pro sports team. You have to design that around for yourself. You can do it for free. You can do it in a mastermind where you bring your friends together. Expect that it’s going to take a lot of work to sustain and maintain that environment. When we set our expectations, that is worth a lot and it takes a lot to maintain, then we’re setting our expectations the right way to use it and value it.
I believe in those levels of accountability. A lot of people think about accountability at the end of a process. It’s more about holding you accountable because you didn’t do something that you were supposed to do. I always say, “Accountability starts before you start.” It’s the very first thing that you do because if you don’t put those accountability layers into place, you might as well already say you’re not committed to the highest level of success that you can reach. You’re going to have challenges along the way and unless you have those layers, you’re not going to be able to be at your best because you’re going to give yourself too many breaks. What is something else that you think the readers need to think about or engage themselves with as they’re on their path to productivity and success?
It’s work on your work. LeBron James doesn’t just play basketball games. He re-watches the tape, he asks himself how he can be better. He thinks about minute details like his dribbling techniques and no improvement is too small. He’s looking at everything as a whole. We don’t bring that attitude of excellence to our workflow. We think, “I’m only an accountant. I’m just a doctor. It doesn’t matter and why should I do all that extra work?” The benefit is that you get to live in this beautiful, glorious way where everything in your environment supports you. You simply have to do the things you love doing and you’re good at doing them. News flash, when you’re good at doing something, you love doing it. For a lot of people who have lost passion in their work, I’ll say in a way we’re trying to get that passion by pumping that more. “How do I get passionate about this job?” Ironically, get better at the job because we naturally develop a passion for things that we’re good at.
Keep better and get creative. Get better by getting more creative. We love what we do because of the sense of pride in it. Because of the results we’re creating and we always hit a plateau-like, “I’ve been there for a long time.” It’s allowing yourself to feel that pride, creativity and the grit that it takes to get to the next level. It’s in the process. It’s not in the receiving of getting there that makes the difference. What’s your definition of productivity and why?
Productivity is the thing that can unlock that lifestyle that you’re going for. Share on X I couldn’t give a fly about and you know what about productivity. People are surprised to hear me say that because I’m a productivity coach. It happens to be the single best way to create the life that you want to live. Waking up, setting your attitude, opening your laptop, crushing it, closing it and go back to being a human being. I’m not here to tell anybody that that’s inherently cool, it’s not. It’s inherently boring. It happens to create a cool result. My definition of productivity is usually focused on the results. What’s the lifestyle that you want to live in? We call ourselves the Lifehack Method, the Lifehack Tribe, and Lifehack Bootcamp.
The reason we call it Lifehack is because at the end of the day nobody wakes up and says, “Let me be more productive so I could be more productive.” It’s said by no one ever. People wake up and say, “I want to spend more time with my kids, have a better relationship with my wife. I want to contribute more to society. I want to make more money so they can have more financial security.” There are amazing results that we want to create and this boring thing we call productivity which I will freely admit is boring. That’s what kept me away from it for so many years, is the thing that can unlock that lifestyle that you’re going for. That’s how I think about productivity. I think about lifestyle way more than productivity.
It’s a means to an end. Where can people find out more information about your Lifehack Bootcamp and the other types of products and services that you offer?
We are going to offer a download that has the four layers of accountability and that’s You can always visit us at We are famous for putting out a ton of free information on productivity between our YouTube channel Lifehack Bootcamp, and our website. We have tons of free training and cool stuff that you can check out.
Thank you so much, Demir, for being here. This was awesome and so valuable. Since it’s about accountability, it’s probably one of the most important shows for everybody to check out. I hope you guys read this again. Think about those layers and how you’re going to put those in place so that you can reach the goals that you have. That you can have the life and the lifestyle that you want. At the end of the day that’s what we’re all about. Thank you for being here. Demir, thank you.
Thank you.

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About Demir Bently

TBT 91 | Life HackingDemir Bently is the head coach and co-founder of Lifehack Method, which consists of his two primary programs Lifehack Tribe and Lifehack Bootcamp. Lifehack Bootcamp is a 60-day productivity coaching program that combines personal accountability with daily practice to unleash your best productivity every single day. Demir coaches thousands of clients each year, and his client list is riddled with high profile names like Facebook, Google, Uber, PepsiCo, and Lexar.
With a passion for enabling others to live their best life, Demir is a brilliant productivity expert known for his empowering coaching style. Before starting Lifehack Bootcamp, he was a technology CEO with a background in Wall Street finance and real estate. His work has been featured in Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, CNBC, and many other media outlets.
Demir and his wife Carey live a completely nomadic lifestyle, living for 3 months at a time in different cities around the world. The last few years have seen them living on a boat in Croatia, the Basque country of Spain, a retreat in Bali, and the islands of Hawaii.
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