“I understood that any true or lasting lifestyle change would require rigor, specificity, and accountability. Vague notions of eating better or going to the gym more often just aren’t going to work.”- Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself


Rich Roll is a seriously inspiring, plant-powered ultra athlete, podcaster, writer, and father. During his midlife, he drew a line in the sand and decided to change his lifestyle. From 50 pounds overweight to being a top 10 placer in the Ultraman Triathlon, he is now taking his life story and inspiring others to draw that line in their own life.



To learn more about about Rich Roll, his family and to hear The Rich Roll Podcast, go to richroll.com


To learn more about his meal-planning, you can go to meals.richroll.com

Show Transcription

[00:24] Welcome to The Ziglar Show, where we inspire your true performance. I’m your host Kevin Miller and today we bring you a guy who was near 40 and in horrific shape…and he transformed himself into not just a fit and well guy, but an elite, ultra endurance athlete. And from that, a guy who is massively inspiring hundreds of thousands of people. Rich Roll. You may know him from his top ranked podcast, “The Rich Roll Podcast”. Rich is a world-renown, plant-based ultra-endurance athlete, in-demand public speaker, wellness advocate, bestselling author and inspirational hero to a global audience of wellness seekers as a transformative example of courageous and healthy living. The story is…after succumbing to the sedentary throes of overweight middle age, at age 40, Rich made a decision to overhaul his life, adopting a plant-based diet and reinventing himself as an ultra-distance endurance athlete. Just a few years later, Rich stunned the multisport community with top finishes at the Ultraman World Championships, a 320-mile, 3-day double ironman-distance triathlon widely considered one of the most grueling endurance events on the planet.

[01:58] Rich chronicles his journey in Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself — an inspirational memoir of plant-fueled athletic prowess which quickly became a #1 bestseller. In 2015, Rich and his vegan chef wife Julie Piatt released The Plantpower Way – a plant-based cookbook and lifestyle primer for the active modern family.

[02:26] The discussion was, well…Rich! I felt quite a kindred spirit in Rich, and from the authenticity he shares in the struggles he’s dealt with, I think you will too. You can connect with Rich at richroll.com and you’ll want to check out his new offering, meals.richroll.com.

[03:14] Now folks I give you…Rich Roll.

[03:27] You found yourself 39 years old, Degrees from Stanford and Cornell, a corporate lawyer entertainment law firm. Married with 3 kids, a dream house you’d built. But then…one eveninng you find yourself up at 2am in your home after hours of TV and junk food, winded climbing 8 steps, with 8 more to go. You went in to your wife and young daughter and had an image of them at your daughters wedding in the future…but you weren’t there. You were dead. You write, “In that precise moment, I was overcome with teh profound knowledge not just that I needed to change, but that I was WILLING to change. You had what Donald Miller in his book, one of my all time faves, “A million miles in a thousand years”, calls…an inciting incident. Looking back now, about 12 years ago, and as you’ve walked with many other people…what do you attribute that too? You stopped and SAW. The blinders came off. But many, maybe most, never have that moment and they die with their music in them. What do you say or do to give people that awakening?

[04:47] Yeah that’s a great question. I would preface my response to that. Well first of all thank you for having me on the show. I would preface my answer that by saying that I think in certain respects it’s fair to say that sometimes life does boil down to these very specific moments of time, these are all like ripples in the universe where everything kind of conspires to catalyze change and certainly I can point to two or three instances like that in my own life. And the staircase episode is certainly one. I think the linchpin in all of it was that it drove me towards this point and I had a point books like it really is all about willingness and in the work that I do trying to activate people and try to inspire them to live healthier and provide them with the tools and the education. The one thing that I can do is give them that really is giving them the willingness . That is a self driven internal kind of thing that you simply cannot will in another person and perhaps can’t even be willed within yourself. It’s a thing that’s very special sort of state of mind, body and spirit that you can leverage to change your life and super dramatic ways. But I don’t know that it’s something that can be sometimes you know like that. So it’s tricky in terms of trying, I don’t think that you need to be in pain or you need to be you know hit some kind of rock bottom in order to change but willingness really is a gift. If you have willingness, hold down to it.

[08:15] “I understood that any true or lasting lifestyle change would require rigor, specificity, and accountability. Vague notions of “eating better” or maybe “going to the gym more often” just weren’t going to work.” And you drew a line in the sand.  You cite yourself as an extremist, but in your experience, does anyone actually make much change without…drawing a distinct line in the sand?

[08:54] I think it’s no harder to draw that line in the sand and say you know the road just got narrower. This is no longer ok with me and in order for me to change I need to make a decision you know a line in the sand is kind of like a metaphor for me in making a decision and decision that you’re entering into a new phase of your life and I think trying to get change to take a change in your life so that has a shot at transforming your life and having some state of at least semi-permanent. It is important that you know this change that you seek in your life be specific and be time bound and have all the kind of qualifications that allow you to stroke quantify what it is that you’re trying to do. So in the case of my you know my situation the idea of saying I need to go to the gym here and there or maybe I should be better, one of those things really mean. So I think that he said that you know we’re in the new year now and your listeners are trying to wrap their heads around, the goals that they set for themselves and how they’re going to go about achieving now, I think specificity is super important or having an idea what that ultimate angle must be is accurate from the grave the stepping stone goals, having accountability, building community around and holding yourself in a truly accountable and negative way to your community, so that you are taking an insurance policy on having the best possible chance of achieving that goal.

[10:50] Well I read in your book, I mean you started off this story with a very physically focused. You know initiative in how you were out of shape physically and yet how you change that, but at that moment when you look back again now how much of that cash that at that beginning time and that ultimate change that I’m going to ask you more about was physical part of it, was that just the catalyst?

[11:19] Yeah that’s another great question. I mean for me it really is all spiritual. It’s been a spiritual journey from day one. I sort of expressed myself you know in the physical realm in a way that most people don’t and so my transformation began with me trying to understand and better and how I can connect with my body, with myself physically, trying to better understand the equation between the food that I was eating and how it was feeling and that impact on me. Not just you know pure physical sense like was my waist line or my energy you know how is this affecting my mental state, my motional state, or my spiritual state and I think better that I began to treat myself and the more I kind of invested in this physical experience and the more I began to expand spiritually. And the things that I’ve done in the altar endurance world are really just manifestations of this spiritual journey that I have been on to live more authentically and kind of in line with my true self for a lot of a better phrase.

[17:40] How much of your own initiative is to get people actually physically healthy…or just to get them to pursue their own journey of purpose and wellness?

[18:40] I would say is the latter but I think the conversation around food and nutrition is like a very powerful first hurdle that is very welcoming and easy, very accessible for people to understand, that gets them through the door and then I can catch their attention, by talking about the impact of food and health and talking about the physical things that I’ve been able to accomplish and getting people to rethink their own capabilities, you know physically helping them to understand that some of the conventional wisdom that you’ve heard out there around food and nutrition and physicality might be worthy of questioning. And once I have them there are captive attention and I have them kind of moving forward on some of my ideas and experiences. Then it’s like the lights come on and then I’ve got them right where I want them, where they’re more open to hearing about the bigger journey ahead which is that journey towards greater self actualization, that journey to you know unlocking somebody’s spiritual connection with the universe, the great responsibility to the planet and all of these other things that I think are very important and really essential. And the foundational of what I’m trying to talk about that sometimes you got to just talk about like hey what is dinner look like. What are you eating for dinner? What do you having for breakfast you know sometimes that’s where it begins and that’s fantastic.

[20:22] Regarding food, you understand addiction, as you battled it with drugs and alcohol. Where do you view food on the addiction scale? The average legal, grocery store fare?

[20:48] I think that food addiction is very real. I think the word addiction gets thrown around very cavalier like it’s very easy to say, like I’m a shopaholic or I’m addicted to this T.V. show. But real addiction is a very different thing and somebody who’s been in recovery for alcoholism for a number of years and somebody is very involved in the recovering community in Los Angeles and somebody who’s lost a lot of friends to addiction. You know it’s a life or death thing and I think that there are millions of people who are addicted to food, not just people who struggle with eating disorders but people who are just making choices three times a day, that the food they’re putting in their mouth without even being consciously aware of what’s impulsive them to do that. And if your kind of take out a ten-thousand-foot view on health in America, it’s a pretty dire picture. I mean we’re such a prosperous nation, we have everything on our finger tips. One out of every three people is going to die of heart disease, one out of every three is crazy and they’re predicting that by twenty thirty, fifty percent of Americans are going to be diabetic or pre-diabetic type two diabetes these are the epidemics of our era. So what is going on, well it’s the food.

[28:45] So from that fateful night in 2006 with you in such a bad place, how long did it take to really reinvent your life?

[29:10] It took a long time, I mean if you research me or Google my name on the Internet, it makes sound like I snap my fingers and change my life over. You know I can tell you that it was you know the story didn’t begin at age 39 I am at staircase, like it began with me getting sober at 31 and realizing hey I’m not really living the life that I want to live. You know and that was probably the first instance of me starting to think for the very first time like what is it that I want to do, what is the kind of life that I wanted to live. And it’s now starting to really you know take Shape at age 51, so it was really like twenty years I would say but over the last ten years you know my life has changed dramatically, from being very unhappy so my depressed, corporate lawyer, who have the privilege of fantastic education but also trapped in a construct of you know what you’re supposed to do when you have that privilege.

[31:55] How did you do it amongst work, marriage, parenthood?

[32:07] I had all those things and it was absolutely terrifying all the time and we came you know look we had to go through incredibly difficult period of time. We lost a lot of stuff and we were for late hours away from having our home taken away from us like I risk a lot, you know I risk everything. Bit you know to kind of contextual life I was a corporate lawyer, I had a corporate law firm that was making really good money that became after a number of years of sobriety that became intolerable for me. I just couldn’t do it anymore so I left. I started my practice and over the years I became less and less enthusiastic about that and so I actually wasn’t doing very well financially even as a lawyer because my heart was not in it. And when I had that kind of crisis point moment on the staircase, I decided to change my life and I just like what makes me happy and it turned out like when I really did an inventory this question, the things that made me happy are really simple things.

[37:18] You talk about whatever plan for change you adopt…needing to be sustainable. Talk to us about this.

[37:36] Because if it’s not sustainable then it’s not going to have a lasting impact on your life and you know I write that and say that to remind myself because as somebody who (inaudible) streams you know, as a recovering alcoholic is somebody who likes to go into these crazy races. You know I like to push it to the edge and what I’ve had to learn the hard way is that when I’m doing that, that’s something that’s not sustainable because it’s so you know five years from now, not to be able to maintain that pace. So you know learning a sustainable model for what I do whether it’s a podcast or write books, I have to build teams around that word to let go trying to control every aspect of it.

[39:27] Past the halfway mark in your book…as you struggle to juggle everything, it comes to mind, “Why are you doing this to yourself?” And I honestly love your answer, “I don’t know for sure”. But then, not long later…you came to the revelation that, “You’re being called to step into who you really are.” So would you say the journey is not a means to an end, a goal…it is the goal?

[40:37] If people think they know why then I think they’re deluding themselves. We don’t have all the answers and I think we use that you know that questioning mentality in an excuse or a crutch to not simply just do right. Like we want to know where this is leading us, why we’re doing it, what’s going on and I you know I feel like this all the time. You know I always wanted to run a marathon. All these questions are just; they’re just reasons to not do. They want to know where it is leading, how exactly we are going to do it, like forget about all that, you mean anything and go outside and run in your bare feet if you have to. That’s all you need to know right now and I think you know a lot of people most people again and you know because it’s early January and this is like setting goals kind of time of year, most people unfortunately are so disconnected from themselves that the goals that they pick are not the right goals. So what’s less important or what’s more important in a goal that one is setting for themselves is a commitment to better understand who you are.

[43:23] Friends, what a great story. I’m inspired to up the scope of my OWN journey. Again, you can connect with Rich at richroll.com and you’ll want to check out his new offering, meals.richroll.com.

[43:53] In our next episode, #529, we follow the 7 spokes of the Ziglar Wheel of Life and hear what habits rich employees in his daily life for overall success. Some highlights, for a while, Rich journal what he did over every 15 minutes block to discover where he was wasting time in his life, so he could be more efficient. His morning time starting predawn he feels is his most creative time and sets the stage for the entire day. In his early days as a corporate lawyer he felt like an artist trapped in a lawyer’s body. He believes we are spiritual beings having a human experience and there is little in his life he gets more joy from than a bike rides. Till then, thank you…for letting me walk with you, as we inspire our true performance together!