Everything starts with the mindset. Our minds can be our greatest tool or our greatest enemy. Today, Penny Zenker talks with Kam Knight – a coach, writer, and author of several bestselling books in the area of mental performance – about his endeavors and pursuits to study the mind and how it works. Sharing the two main “whys” that drew him to this direction, Kam also opens up about how he was able to overcome the mental challenges and roadblocks and started focusing on his original goals. Conquer the negativities in your mind. Don’t miss this episode to discover how.
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Overcoming Mental Challenges With Kam Knight
Kam Knight is here with us. He is a coach, writer, and author of several bestselling books, quite a few amazing books in the area of mental performance, such as memory, concentration, and productivity. He’s dedicated the last couple of years of his life to understanding the secrets of the mind and how to optimize its performance. When he’s not writing, he’s globe-trotting around the world and he’s traveled to nearly 100 countries around the world. We’re going to get some interesting stories from Kam.
Kam, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Penny. I’m glad to be here and I’m excited to share some of the knowledge.
What’s your story? Why did you want to study the mind and how it works? Tell us a little bit about the why behind.
I’ve got two main whys that drove me in the direction that I went in. One main why is that after I graduated from college, I decided to study for the CPA exam. For the people who don’t know, CPA stands for Certified Public Accountant. At that time, it was one of the most difficult certification exams with a pass rate of only 15% for the first try. I thought to myself that it might be worth my while to study some learning or study techniques because the time I put upfront could help me save more time in the long run. To my surprise, it helped. It was effective. I’ve learned a lot of cool information that helped me almost pass the exam on my first try. I passed 3 out of the 4 parts and the fourth part, I missed only by a few percent. It got me thinking that this intelligence thing was a bit overrated. Growing up, the way I was conditioned from teachers and parents like intelligence was this difficult thing to strive for. Either you had it or you didn’t and if you had it, it would be effective for you in life. If you didn’t, it would limit what you could do in life and how far you can go.
Through learning some of the techniques, I realized that we could operate just as well as the people that we call genius if we learn the right tools and tips. Geniuses seem to have figured it out on their own or their brains naturally work that way. If we apply that same information or the same systems, we can operate just as well or even better. That’s one part of my story. Another part of it is that as far back as I can remember, I’ve had an unquiet mind. I had a lot of challenges around sitting still and focusing. My mind was racing. When people hear that, they immediately assume or think ADD. I wish it were only that because I also had my emotions cycling, spinning and almost raging. When people hear that, they assume bipolar and I wish it was simpler.
I thought a teenager. I don’t know.
That’s another thing because when you’re young, this behavior is almost expected. People thought I would grow out of it, but I didn’t grow out of it. In fact, it got worse. After I graduated from college, I had this intensity and my mind was spinning. I had many thoughts going on. I had little control over what I was doing and who I was. It was affecting all areas of my life, personal, professional, as well as academic. I sought to get a handle on this. This took me on a journey over the last couple of years across over 100 countries to understand what was going on and to be at a point where here I am, doing a podcast with you.
I didn’t know we have so much in common. I went to school to be an accountant and at the CPA I decided, “This isn’t for me.” I didn’t even sit for it because there’s something to that whole idea of intelligence. You either have it or you don’t. I wasn’t a good test taker, so I felt I didn’t get those genes. My brother did. Both of my brothers were test-takers and they did well on the SATs. It is important for people to know that there are tips and techniques. Intelligence isn’t also about what you know. It’s about emotional intelligence, how you direct it, and the level of discipline that you deploy. There’s much that goes into it. I always say that there’s more than being smart. You have to have more than that intellect of intelligence. I saw in some of your write-ups and whatnot that you saw a shaman in the Amazon jungle. Do we need to go to the Amazon jungle to be more productive? Is that what has to happen?
We don’t need to go there, but I had this mindset that I was willing to try anything and everything. Anything that came my way, I was willing to give it a shot. Whatever advice systems, techniques, and processes that people told me about, I put it to use. This condition that I had, I would almost call it insanity because I had little control.
That represents 95% of the population nowadays.
When I had an opportunity to start traveling, I started doing that and, in my travels, it wasn’t all fun and games. I was focused on learning more about myself and the mind and why we have these blocks being able to do what it is that we want to do. When things like that came up where I got to see a spiritual healer in Brazil, working with the shaman in the Amazon, as well as all sorts of freaky things that didn’t seem to work out as well as those experiences, I jumped on them.We operate just as well or even better as the people that we call genius if we learn the right tools and tips. Click To Tweet
I’ve talked to a lot of different people about their success stories and it sounds like if you had the mindset that, “It works for them, but it’s not going to work for me,” you’d be where you were before. Is that the first thing that you say to people?
One of the things I talk about is mindset because the mindset isn’t a technique, systems, and procedures. It isn’t taking action but it’s a shift in thinking. It’s thinking about something a little bit differently.
It can have a system on how to do that, can’t it?
Yeah, that is true. We could, but if we can make some little shifts that drive everything else, all of our decisions and actions, that can have a profound effect on our results. I will be honest. The reason I went down this route is that I did have a mindset that this is stuff wasn’t going to work for me. I had beliefs that my problems were more challenging and they have been or they may not have been, but it was the core of what I thought and what my mindset was. Because of that, I thought I needed something extreme, something new, something novel, and something nobody was doing. This was one of the reasons that motivated me to go in this direction. To answer your question, “Does somebody need to go out there?” I don’t think they need to but it’s not something that we should call ourselves up to. It doesn’t have to be the Amazon. If there are some new and novel experiences or something that we don’t think will work, we shouldn’t close it off. We should be open to stuff that maybe other people aren’t talking about, but we’ll be useful for specifically one person.
I see what you did by trying new things, getting outside of your comfort zone and you’re forcing yourself to think differently or to explore. There is a technique. It’s called breaking the pattern. We have patterns of thoughts, so that makes sense to me. I hadn’t thought about it in that context, but now that you said that, all that is, is a pattern interrupt. Because you put yourself in a new context or a new way to experience something and then it’s breaking the pattern of the old thoughts allowing new perspectives.
You hit it on the head. One more thing that you had said, which I want to hone in on was getting out of your comfort zone. Because for success, for productivity, for doing more and getting more in life, we’re always going to be faced with something uncomfortable and new and an area that we don’t want to go to. If we can get into a habit of coming up against things that were uncomfortable and still doing them no matter how different or extreme scenes, that can be applied to other areas of our lives. I would say my success has been dependent on my willingness to break out of my comfort zone and do a lot of these out there. Things that nobody was talking about at the time or nobody I knew personally, that was doing it. I didn’t have a model to go in that direction. There was a lot of fear that came up. There’s a lot of assistance and being able to push past that has helped me now, when fears and resistance come up in different areas of my life.
The more we step outside our comfort zone and experience that, as you did, the more you realize what’s possible. It opens up possibility crazy and you’re comfortable with being uncomfortable. What do you think is the biggest thing that you’ve learned for yourself with your mind and your emotions everywhere? What’s the technique that you used the most that supported you the most to get you where you are now?
One of the biggest things that I’ve learned in this journey across 100 countries is trying all sorts of different things that were effective and not effective but having the open-mindedness to do whatever. The one thing I’ve learned is that because I want to do something and I have the desire to do it, it doesn’t mean I’ll be able to do it. Desire does not equate to action. That was a huge realization for me because prior to that, the majority of the conditioning per se I was getting was if you can’t do something, it must mean that you’re lazy, you’re scared or there’s something wrong with you. For a long time, I carried this belief that there must be something wrong with me because I couldn’t do these things. When I started to realize that we have all these unconscious mechanisms and processes that are designed to stop us from moving forward, to stop them from making progress and growing, I realized that there was something wrong with me. I had some things that were preventing me and if I can learn about them and how they work, then they would help me move forward.
What came to my mind was you said that you felt like you were insane with all these ideas and everything. Isn’t that the ideal insane is that our brains are working against the things that we want? That sounds like we’re all insane and we don’t even know it. With all this distraction and stimulation that we’re overstimulated is probably making it 100 times worse.
In a lot of ways, we have all these things going on internally that is holding us back. We, ourselves, are holding ourselves back and we can’t move forward to getting the progress that we desire. We start thinking that there’s something wrong and this and all of this stuff. If we go down the whole two months, it can lead to thinking that we are insane.
We do have a problem now with depression being a big issue and the level of stress. The World Health Organization has declared stress a worldwide epidemic. It’s key. Let’s assume that everybody online says, “I get it. My brain is working against me. What do I do?”Making some little shifts that drive our decisions and actions can have a profound effect on our results. Click To Tweet
The most important thing we can do is understand how this is working against me and manifest. If our mind and our brain are going to hold us back, it’s not going to be explicit and be like, “Penny, this thing that you’re trying to do goes against the years of habits or your form, so we’re not going to be able to do it. Kam, this goal that you set for yourself goes against your beliefs about who you are and where you fit into the world.” We can’t do that.
It’s not going to say, “Penny, I’m going to tell you the wrong thing. Whatever I tell you, don’t listen to me.” Is it going to tell that?
Exactly. If I’m going to tell you that it’s manipulating you. It’s going to manifest in other ways and there are all sorts of ways that it can manifest and you have to be on the lookout for them. I can discuss a couple of things and some of the ways that it manifests. Some of them are obvious and traditional ones that we have experienced. Number one, we’re going to postpone it. If there’s something that we want to do but for one reason or another, our unconscious doesn’t want to do it, it’ll make us postpone that thing. We’ll put it out for the next day, the next week, until we finish this or until we develop ourselves in this area.
When the next day, the next week and this thing is finished, we postpone it further. We’re led to believe that we’re making the decision to postpone it. The fact of the matter is, our mind is tricking us. It has no intention of wanting us to do that and will keep us planning it. That’s one of the more obvious ones that we’ve come across but there are other things that will happen. For example, we might all of a sudden get busy. Things that were never a priority or concern before becoming a priority and top of mind. We’ll have a need to call our aunt that we haven’t talked to in a couple of years and that we have no desire to. This need will be strong and overpowering like, “We need to do this now.”
What the mind is doing is it’s buying time. It’s distracting you with all these other relevant activities that aren’t related to the goal of the pursuit at hand. It can buy time. Why is it buying time? Because if it buys enough time, we’ll forget about our original goal and the original advice that we thought was going to be helpful. That’s another word, manifest. If we can see these patterns, we can catch ourselves and we can realize, “There’s some resistance going on in our lives. For one reason or another, my mind doesn’t want me to go in this direction.” We look at why that is.
Those excuses that we come up with, there’s the postponing and the get busy. There are all the good reasons why we shouldn’t do it. I find that we’re good at that. One of the common ones is someone will say, “I don’t have the time.” That’s in that busy category. Now, that I know some of the symptoms and I see them come up, how do I handle it? How do I get past my brain trying to self-sabotage me?
There are all sorts of reasons why the brain will sabotage you. What’s the one technique that was the most effective for you? There’s one technique that I find to be one of the most effective to get over many of our self-sabotage, instead of going and trying to figure out why. What happened in my past that’s causing this resistance? What’s creating this resistance? If we applied this one technique, it could help us push past many of the blocks that we experience. The technique is self-talk. I don’t know if your readers know about what self-talk is, but self-talk is more or less statements that you repeat or say to yourself over of the changes that you want to have or have happened in your life.
Is that an affirmation?
More or less, that’s another word for an affirmation. For example, if I am shy and insecure and I want to become a more assertive person, I could affirm statements like, “I’m a strong, competent communicator. I communicate my needs and wants.” If people are struggling with memory, they can affirm statements like, “I have a strong power memory. I remember anything I choose.” Affirming these statements may not seem like they would help all that much, but it’s huge. Words have a bigger influence on us than we realize. The majority of the limitations and blocks that we have in our lives didn’t come because we tried something and realized it didn’t work. It came from the words that were spoken to us from the time we were growing up, whether it was from parents, teachers, bullies, peers, and even ourselves. Those words have created all sorts of walls and barriers for advice and it was all through words.
The meaning that we gave those words in whatever the experience was that we had.
That’s even more important because somebody could have said something and had one intention, but if we took it differently and if we took it as it was limiting, then it could create the same wall. What I tell people is if it was mere words that created a lot of our blocks and challenges, then we can undo them with words as well, more positive and constructive words. Here’s the thing, the way our mind works, it focuses more on the negative and puts more weight on the negative. The negative will have a much more profound effect on us than the positive. We need to counteract the negative words with many more positive words. I had read or heard a study that said, “For every negative thing we hear or we’ve accepted, we need five positives to neutralize it.”
I’ve heard that. I’ve heard 3 to 5 sounds right. You got to overpower that negative so that the positive stays.
What I would recommend people do or the people I coach who I work with is that I’m trying to figure out where they’re trying to go in life. What they want, why they’re trying to, why they’re striving much, all that effort that they’re putting in, and what they’re trying to achieve. From that, I would create a set of maybe 8 to 10 statements that describe what it is that they’re ultimately trying to achieve. Have them repeat those statements on a regular basis. Repeat each statement ten times. For somebody, when it comes to productivity, think about what it is that you’re trying to achieve by wanting to be more productive. What end goal are you trying to get to? What do you want to have in life? How do you want to become a person?
Ways of being, too. I want to be attentive. I want to feel at peace, be in the flow, and ways of being that make you more productive as well.
We can look at the being part as well and create statements that are positively directed. Repeat those statements on a regular basis. What I recommend people do is create 10 to 12 statements and repeat each statement ten times, twice daily. One in the morning and one in the evening. That’s a lot of commitment. If people can do it at least one time a day, that’s still going to be much more effective than anything else. What’s great about repeating these statements is that these statements go inside our minds. They go into our unconscious and rewire ourselves. We can do the things that we want to naturally, instead of forcing ourselves and going up against our unconscious blocks. Those blocks start to dissipate and go away. Our unconscious creates motivation and drives us to act and behave that way. Does that make sense?Your success is dependent on your willingness to break out of your comfort zone. Click To Tweet
It does. Do you do these on a regular basis like every day, twice a day?
Yes, I do. This is one technique that I have stuck with since I learned about it. It’s the one technique that was instrumental to my healing because I had some things that were overpowering where I didn’t have control over. How I was able to manage the things I didn’t have control over a choice, was to repeat a statement that went in and help change things, so I didn’t act in the ways that I was trying not to act in. My self-talk statements have changed and evolved as I have evolved. When I had certain issues, I had certain statements, but when they stopped becoming issues or those weren’t the areas that I wanted to go in, I change my self-talk statement. If there’s one thing that I do over anything else is repeating those statements.
Thank you for sharing that with us. I know you’ve written 6 or 7 books. Where can they find more information about you?
I’ve done a lot of writing books, but I put together an online course called Double Your Productivity in 30 Days. This is one of my proudest works because it goes deep into the mind to help people understand all their blocks, why the mind is holding them back and the reasons why those blocks are theirs. More importantly, they get to learn about how those blocks manifest. We only talked about two of them, which was postponing and us getting busy. In this course, I talked about more than a dozen more. I give them techniques to help them get past that and I’ve created a special site for your readers. They can go to MindLily.com/penny and anybody who’s reading this podcast can get 50% off on that online course.
Thank you. We’ll definitely have you back again to talk about some other because I know that this is just the tip of the iceberg. The foundation that a house is built on is you have to have a solid foundation. If you don’t have the right mindset, whatever strategies, tips, tools and systems are not going to work because when a wind comes by, it’s going to knock that house down. If your mindset isn’t there, then you don’t have the foundation.
It’s not that we lack systems. Most people know what the systems are and they’ve heard it plenty of times. It’s that we’re not putting them into practice. If we can understand why we’re not, then we can put them into practice and get the results we desire.
Thank you for being here.
Thank you, Penny.
Thank you for being here because it starts here. It starts with the mindset and it starts with you. From there, you can put on top all of those great systems, tips and tools. These are the ones that you want to start with and you want to spend for the next 30 days. Go and check out this Double Your Productivity course because it’s going to make a big difference for you.
- Kam Knight
- Double Your Productivity in 30 Days
About Kam Knight
Kam Knight is a coach, writer, and author of several bestselling books in the area of mental performance such as memory, concentration, and productivity. Growing up, he had tremendous difficulty focusing, sitting still, and keeping his mind on his thoughts and his thoughts on his mind. His mind and emotions raced and flew all over the place in quick, intense, and uncontrolled succession. This kept me from performing well in school and affected every area of his personal, professional, and academic life.
Over the past 15 years, Kam has dedicated his life to understanding, exploring, and managing this mayhem. In his quest, he has left ‘no stone unturned,’ willing to go anywhere and try anything, including working with shamans in jungles of Amazon, experimenting with innovative plants in Africa, visiting ashrams in Asia, and everything in between.
This has given him insight into the mind and human condition that is unparalleled – what’s going on inside and how different drives and mechanisms affect our thoughts, actions, and decisions. Kam Knight’s writing, books, and courses are a distillation of what he’s learned on this incredible journey.
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