Rich Roll shares how he battled alcoholism and health challenges in his 20s and 30s, before transforming his life after turning 40. Through this transformation he has become an elite endurance athlete and a leading name in veganism. Rich’s podcast, the Rich Roll Podcast, is a consistent chart-topper and one of the most popular shows on the planet. He is also the author of the bestselling book, Finding Ultra.
Rich discusses the importance of personal growth and why being teachable is one of the keys to a successful life. He also dives deep on his approach to sleep and recovery and why he says it’s the Holy Grail of athletic performance.
Stay healthy and stay in the green!
5:32 – Being an Alcoholic. “[Drinking] took me to a place where I was alienated from my friends and my family. Everything aspirational in my life evaporated. I was sleeping on a bare mattress on the floor of a crappy apartment in Los Angeles on the precipice of losing my job and facing potential jail time for multiple DUIs. It was death by a thousand cuts to get to a point where I finally couldn’t take it anymore. I was so broken and so alone and so desperate that I knew that I had to make some changes.”
9:15 – Becoming Teachable. When Rich was 31, he sought treatment for his alcoholism, spending 100 days at a treatment facility. “The humbling nature of that situation was not lost on me,” he says. “I never wanted to be back in a place like that again. I realized that all of my best thinking had led to that point, and if I wanted to find a way out, I was going to really have to reprogram my mind. I made myself open to new ideas. I became teachable in a way that I was resistant to prior and that willingness to take direction from other people is, in truth, what saved my life.”
15:09 – Mantra to Live By. “Mood follows action. So when I feel discontented, or I feel emotionally raw, or I don’t want to do something, it’s a reminder that the actions that you take dictate the emotional state that you are seeking.”
18:36 – Making a Change. “I was [about to turn] 40 and found myself 50 pounds overweight, just really lethargic, and unhappy with this career that I had chosen. I had a bit of a health scare shortly before my 40th birthday that really impressed upon me that I needed to change how I was living. And it was a profound experience, not dissimilar from that decision that I made to go to rehab to address my drug and alcohol problem, but I needed it now for diet and lifestyle.”
21:27 – Practicing Patience. “We all like to hear these stories of overnight successes or these breakthrough moments, but in truth, anybody that I’ve ever met who’s achieved great things is really focused on process and the tiny little things that they’re doing every single day.”
22:28 – Diet. “I would say the big kind of breakthrough, at least with respect to diet, was this epiphany that diet actually matters. Either you believe what you’re eating has an impact on your health and on your performance, or you don’t,” Rich says. “[I realized] now it’s incumbent upon me to eat with that in mind. To choose foods with that in mind, to approach my plate every single day with a little bit more mindfulness. Refining it, experimenting what works and what doesn’t.”
27:34 – Taking Leaps of Faith. “You’re not allowing anything new to come into your life if you’re holding on too tightly to the thing that’s not working. So on some level you have to be ready to take a leap of faith into the unknown, because you’re not going to know how it’s going to play out. And if you’re waiting until that roadmap is completely laid out in front of you, you’re never going to take the leap.”
29:40 – Recipe for Success. “I spent thousands and thousands of hours in [AA] meetings learning how to be open, honest, and vulnerable.”
32:47 – Endurance Sports and Addiction. Rich talks about the healing power of running and why some people may flock to it. “Endurance sports [are] a receiver for a lot of people who are looking to either run away from their problems, or people in recovery who are finding some kind of healing or outlet for that addictive energy.”
37:12 – Training, Intuition, and Technology. “When you’re training to be your best, you become very connected to your body and very intuitive about what your body is telling you,” Rich says. “Now we’re in a situation in which we have all this technology. … And I think [technology has] been crucial in honing that intuition in a much more scientific way.”
40:37 – Importance of Sleep. “There’s nothing better than sleep. Sleep is, in my opinion, the best recovery tool available. And it’s totally free.” Rich goes on to explain that he sleeps outside every night in a tent, as he’s found that’s what lets him get the best sleep possible.
44:37 – Recovery and Diet. Rich explains why veganism has worked for him and how it has helped with his recovery. “Recovery is the holy grail of athletic performance. You get better not in the workout, you get better in the moments in between the workout.”
46:33 – Being Present. “Growth for me resides in the striving to be OK with where I’m at with who I am. It’s a spiritual practice that requires patience,” he says. “These are principles that I learned in sobriety.”
48:07 – Gratitude. “By diligently practicing gratitude, I’m able to find that joy. I’m able to be more comfortable with myself. When I can be in that state of presence, present in the moment that I find myself in, that allows for the best version of who I am.”