We need to develop the skills that are thought to be just in the zone of genius and make them commonplace.
Thought leader and innovator Dr. Erik Korem (@ErikKorem) introduced sports science and elite tracking technologies in the United States to collegiate and professional football. He has worked with and is sought after by the NFL Power Five NCAA programs, gold medal Olympians, Nike, and more. As an expert in performance, sleep, and stress resilience, he founded and is the CEO of AIM7. AIM7 is an innovative new health and fitness app that unlocks the power of wearables and provides daily personalized recommendations for your mind, body, and recovery to help you look, feel, and perform your best.
“Stress is really not the enemy. It’s the gateway to growth.”
– Erik Korem
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Mark Divine 0:00
Welcome to the Mark Divine Show. I’m your host Mark Divine. Thanks for joining me today. Super stoked to have you here. I love to talk to people from all walks of life around subjects that are near and dear to my heart such as human performance, longevity, exercise, science, Navy SEAL mental toughness, things like that. And my guest today is in the peak performance bucket. Dr. Erik Korem is a high performance thought leader that introduced sports science and ethic tracking technologies to collegiate and professional football. He’s worked with the NFL Power Five NCAA programs, gold medal Olympians, Nike, United States, DOD, he’s an expert in sleep and stress resilience holds a doctorate in exercise science. He’s also now the founder and CEO of a company called AIM7, which is an innovative new health and fitness app that unlocks the power of wearables, but providing you with daily personalized recommendations for your mind, body and recovery, to help you look, feel and perform your best. Super stoked to have Dr. Erik Korem calm on my podcast.
Mark Divine 1:06
Eric, thanks so much for joining me on the mark Divine, show. Pleasure meet you.
Erik Korem 1:09
Thank you for having me here.
Mark Divine 1:10
So I always like to start kind of getting to know the origin story of the guest. And what I mean by that is like, what was the general conditioning that shaped version one of Erik, where were you born? Where did you grow up? What were the influences of your family, peer groups, the thought structures that shaped. And then also, as we kind of get into that, like, what led to Erik 2.0, which is, you know, there’s usually some sort of either catastrophe, or breakthrough or mentor that radically shifts one’s perspectives that leads to, you know, a new path. You know, for me, it was Zen meditation, that led me away from my path of being a merchant into the warrior traditions, you know. So just give us a little story about Erik.
Erik Korem 1:58
Yeah, so I grew up in Dallas, Texas, two great parents, good family. When I think about what shaped me, when I was a kid, I was pretty overweight, and picked on a lot verbally and physically.
Mark Divine 2:13
That’s such a shame, by the way, then such a common story, isn’t it?
Erik Korem 2:17
Mark Divine 2:18
These kids think that it’s okay to bully someone who’s a little bit different.
Erik Korem 2:21
I would show up to the bus stop, I’ll never forget it was going into seventh grade, I show up to the bus stop one day, this guy just, I was talking to a friend I turned around, got hit square in the face, woke up on the ground.
Mark Divine 2:31
Erik Korem 2:32
I got jumped in the hallways. And you know, I didn’t have a ton of friends growing up not until like third grade did I really have like a, besides my brother, right, which he and I are really close. And I had really good parents. But I always felt like there was a part of me that, you know, you have this physical shell that the world sees something. And there was a part of me that was like, you don’t really know who I am. And so I was always interested in the physical pursuits. And so I was a decent athlete, like I could play baseball. My parents would not let me play football until I was in sixth grade, which now I realized was a very wise decision.
Mark Divine 3:08
Was that because of the danger and safety issue or, or self esteem or what?
Erik Korem 3:10
Yeah, I mean, you know, I’m 40, almost 43. And I think they just had this idea that, you know, maybe kids in third and fourth grade, just nailing each other with these big helmets on, there’s probably something wrong there. And we know now that it’s not the best idea, the way things were in a rec league where I grew up, I was placed on a team of outcasts. It’s like it’s like a movie. And all these kids were outcasts, and the head coach to the team owned a tortilla company. And he would pick kids up in the big truck and drive us there. The kids that bullied me, were all on one team. And it was the first time I was ever to be able to exert my physical will over somebody, not to harm them. But to be like, This is who I really am, you know what I’m saying? Things kind of changed for me, but the bullying and stuff continued probably until high school, I ended up being a pretty decent athlete. But I’ve always kind of struggled with a little bit of body dysmorphia. So, you know, like, you kind of never get that, who you were out of your head.
Mark Divine 4:12
It’s very hard to do that, by the way. And I think it’s important to double click on that, because, you know, those first few years of your life, you know, first seven, like there’s, I’ve read before that there’s like three different stages of conditioning first 7, then 7 to 14, and then 14 to 21. And then after that, you know, your your brain is nearly fully develop and you’ve got a sense of self. But anything during those stages, especially the first seven, all that conditioning is radically shaping the sense of identity or the ego, the sense of personality. And so if you spent seven years with body issues, weight challenges being bullied and shamed. You don’t just shake that off. It stays with you for your entire life. And it shows up in different ways and it takes a lot of self awareness.
therapeutic processes to like really eradicate that, doesn’t it?
Erik Korem 5:03
It does. I recently heard Matt Leinart, the USC quarterback talking about how he struggled with the same thing. Now he wasn’t picked on as much. But he has like body dysmorphia. He just doesn’t see because he was a chubby kid. And it was something he struggled with. And here he is a good looking guy, USC quarterback, Heisman Trophy winner, but he still carries that baggage.
Mark Divine 5:22
Yeah, define dysmorphia?
Erik Korem 5:23
You’re physically fit, but you see in your mind’s eye that you’re still that overweight kid.
Mark Divine 5:29
Yeah, that’s fascinating. I had a client I worked with this guy’s a phenomenal individual, Eric, and he had lost a significant amount of weight working with us on doing SEALFIT training for years. But he couldn’t get the final 30% off. And I remember I was hiking up White Face Mountain Lake Placid with him and just having a conversation I said to him, you know, Eric, this is not a physical issue you’re dealing with here. The issue here is you still see yourself as someone who’s overweight. And he said, You’re absolutely right. And so we have to work with how you see yourself, I mean, no more amount of working out is gonna get you there. And so he began to work on his imagery and his self-esteem. And he’s really made significant progress since then.
Erik Korem 6:11
It can actually hold back to physical as you know, like the human body’s this complex multi-dimensional system, and stress, which we’ll probably talk about a little bit later. But it’s a multi-dimensional process. It comes in as one input, but the sources are, you know, the body reacts to it, the same processes, but it can come from different places that can hold you back.
And so I went off to college, I was a walk on football player, Texas A&M, had some smaller division one offers but A&M at the time was like on the top and had an opportunity to go there and I wanted to be a surgeon, and our strength coach Mike Clark, who has been just a mentor my entire life, he’s with the the Detroit Lions now, we had a physiology lab attached to our weight room. Now, this is the late 90s. This is like cutting-edge stuff. A lot of the early Gatorade RTD research was going on there. And it’s like when to coach Clark is like what is going on here. He’s like, there’s a science to training athletes. And so I got hooked because as a walk-on, and somebody with my past, I was always looking for ways to get better. I used to mow lawns, to go to Speed clinics, I would literally go to, this is back like mid early 90s like Doug Donnelly, and these former Dallas Cowboys. And so you know, when you’re chubby kid, you want to be fast. And so when I graduated from A&M, I went to the University of Arkansas, got a master’s, and I was very fortunate to be there at the golden era of Arkansas sprints. And one day a coach walked in, he’s like, Hey, would you work with these athletes? And there was one of them was Veronica Campbell Brown. She’s an eight-time Olympic medalist three time gold medals from Jamaica. I worked with her and several other elite world class sprinters for about 14 years.
Mark Divine 7:47
Doing what? When you worked with them, what were you doing?
Erik Korem 7:50
Everything from starting on just the performance side of the physical training off the track, to eventually it became technical skills coaching, helping with recovery, helping with nutritional planning, putting together like an entire performance team. So Veronica is one of the greatest sprinters in the history of track and field. In Jamaica, she is known as the Queen. And so that was a just a wild experience, I got to travel the world with her and see how the rest of the world was developing athletes. And I noticed that we were pretty behind here in the US, the only reason I could think of why we were behind is we have the greatest genetic population in the world.
Mark Divine 8:31
And a lot to draw from.
Erik Korem 8:33
Yeah, and when you have a natural resource, you’re not just looking for ways to develop, you know, you’re like, Oh, I just go to Miami Dade County and get 10 more great athletes, or Dallas or Austin or wherever, Cleveland, Ohio. And so as I’m traveling the world and seeing this, I’m like, Okay, I’m seeing the emerging world of high performance and sports science. And that had not become a thing in the US yet. If you kind of think about my personal journey, my personal journey was going from this kid that had struggled a lot, didn’t have a lot of friends always felt like he was misunderstood, coming into my own a little bit in college, and then the tables was turned, now I’m the guy helping other people unlock their potential. And so I guess if we want to just stay with the theme of me, Eric 2.0, I think emerged along the pathway of helping others unlock their potential led me to a deep dive into what is it that really drives performance and thriving and then being able to apply those things to my own life, and really rounding things out. You know, not just the physical, but the spiritual, which has always been a very important part of my life, my faith has always been really important. But then recalibrating my mindset that that’s, you know, we always have this, some people call it the old man, this like just mask and realizing that that’s really not who you are, and being able to strip that off and see yourself for who you are, when you look in the mirror, it’s like I am, for me, it’s a lot based off of my faith.
But like, my value is not based off of my skin one day, I’m going to be old and wrinkled. And you know, I’m fit now, but it’s all it’s all going to kind of come through a full lifecycle. And the value that I bring is my character, how I impact others. And so really, I had to shift. Does that make sense?
Mark Divine 10:24
Erik Korem 10:24
And I think that’s that was 2.0. 1.0 was, I don’t want to say, poor me,ut it was like, how do I deal with this? And then 2.0 is, as I’m looking for ways to make my athletes better, I’m identifying things that are holding them back and then applying them to myself. Like the ultimate study.
Mark Divine 10:43
I think that’s a really important point for people to appreciate about coaches, mentors, advisors, etc, is that it’s a two-way street; we call it coaching, it’s co-creation, and the coach is helping the athlete or you know, executive co create a better possible future for both. And the athlete has certain skills that needed need to deploy look maybe more efficiently or effectively or with less burnout or stress. Same thing with executives, the coach has certain skills that can help them. But then the process is elevating both, and the conversation becomes something new, the realm of possibilities and potential as opposed to the stuck energy that got them where they were, and that they’re working with originally.
Erik Korem 11:25
Mark Divine 11:26
It’s a profound understanding for coaches to realize that you’re not better or in a lot of cases you’re not even more knowledgeable. You just are the container that is helping something new to emerge.
Erik Korem 11:37
That’s exactly right. It’s just trying to help somebody unlock their potential or pull a roadblock out of the way. And sometimes simplifying processes, and not leaning into so many things, but working towards their strengths, while fixing the weaknesses. I think a lot of coaches go, let’s go fix the weaknesses. Now let’s lean into what makes them who they are. What drives them. And I’ve learned that in sprints, which is really interesting, even in short sprint’s 100-200 meters, there’s power sprinters, and there’s more elastic reactive sprinters. What I mean by that, if you think of Carl Lewis never lifted weights, he’s a sprinter jumper, he’s elastic reactive, he can store elastic energy and use it really well. He almost floats when he runs. Then there’s these power sprinters that come out the gates with a lot of fury. And they’re unbelievable accelerate the weight room as a driver for acceleration for them developing more strength and power is what really drives them. Two different types of sprinters. You know, bolt was very unique, he was kind of all of them blended in one. But like if I think about somebody like Shelley Ann Fraser Pryce, amazing accelerator, if you were to take the elastic reactive and put it in the athlete that’s driven by raw horsepower, you try to train them the same, it’s not going to work very well.
Mark Divine 12:54
Erik Korem 12:55
And so sometimes I find as a coach, it’s like you got to identify what their strength is, and lean in towards that, don’t be so dogmatic about what the model says.
Mark Divine 13:03
That rings true with me, and that’s kind of my philosophy is that what you give attention to generally grows, will generally get stronger in your life. So if you’re working with someone who’s got, you know, a real bad habit, let’s say in addiction, or, you know, a tendency to to obsess about the negative, or, you know, the coulda shoulda’s woulda’s, and you try to bring attention to that to change that you actually strengthen it. And so this is very similar what you’re saying, if you focus on the weakness, and oftentimes what you’re doing is you’re re-greasing the groove of that weakness, even if you’re trying to eliminate, but if you focus on something that is the opposite, or is positive, or is a strength, in other words, and you reinforce that, and you bring all attention to energy that then the energy that used to be committed to the weakness or to the negative begins to dissipate. And eventually, it just gets overwritten in neurobiology or the mind-body system.
Erik Korem 13:58
Mark Divine 13:59
It’s a very different approach, but I think it’s a more modern approach. And it’s one that that will ultimately prove to be more effective. Right?
Erik Korem 14:08
Mark Divine 14:08
That applies to physical training as well as mental training. So when working with you’re, in the human performance field, what are the big levers have you found that like, almost always need to be brought into the equation that that can move the dial significantly? And that mental levers, stress levers, you know, recovery, like there’s usually sleep there’s usually like, two or three that are, you know, always can be improved, that lead to a significant improvement in performance.
Erik Korem 14:36
I’ll tell you how I how I came upon this. Okay, so 2010 I was hired at Florida State University as the speed development coach for Jimbo Fisher he just taken over for Bobby Bowden. So if anybody knows who Bobby Bowden is, he was a living legend in football two national championships A conference titles. I mean, this guy was the stadium was literally a cathedral to him. After the first season I was essentially promoted to the GM of the team, Coach Fisher was, you know, said, I want you to take on this role. And I’m like, this is a total shift for me. But I think I’m a pretty good strategist. And so I think he saw that. I said, Look, I’ll do it. If you call me Director of Sports Science too. He’s like, you can call yourself whatever you want. That job didn’t exist.
And so I went to Australia for a month on my vacation and took my wife with me. And I was invited by an Aussie rules football team that was a startup, as an information exchange for some very specific things. I was like, I will help you with this problem if you teach me about sports science and athlete tracking. So I brought back with me the first athlete tracking units ever used in the US and we quantified the game of football for the first time.
Mark Divine 15:41
Erik Korem 15:42
Yeah, we actually tracked in game and in practice what was happening, nobody had ever done this. And so essentially, they were developing training plans for something they really hadn’t quantified yet. And we had an unbelievably talented roster, unbelievable football staff. But our second year, there is the year that I tracked 2011, we were injured, and we lost a bunch of close games, and we took a little step back. But after that season, we identified some things that were very unique. First of all, we were just wearing our players out by game day, we were playing like four to five games during the week before we got to Saturday. Number two, all although each position had unique demands, everybody was training the same, which didn’t make any sense. Coach Fisher to his credit, let us start adjusting a little bit of the way that we practiced and monitored players Long story short, we had an 88% reduction and injury the next year, our team went on to win the championship the next season.
After that season, the NFL flies in and they’re like they sent eight people to Florida State and like what the heck is going on here, we’ve heard about this tracking, and it literally opened a multi-billion dollar market for sports wearables and data. So now every NFL game is tracked AWS next-gen stats came out all this. So we had a really cool group of people that were working together and kind of exploded out from there. I went on to University of Kentucky. And I was really interested because now not only were you measuring objectively what was happening on the field, but we started diving into the biometric side of it, there’s what you do, and then how you respond to it. So I could play a football game. And then biologically, I could measure how they responded and how quickly they recovered both from their central nervous system and their autonomic nervous system. And we identified something I started noticing whether it was Veronica Campbell Brown, who I’m using the same tracking now, everywhere she goes around the world, or elite football players. And now I’m getting calls from all over the place, as you can imagine, right?
Mark Divine 17:35
Erik Korem 17:36
The best in the world had the ability to adapt to tremendous levels of psycho-physiological stress. I’m talking the elite versus even that, you know, SCC starter versus the elite first-round draft pick, like we could get that we could see the difference.
Mark Divine 17:52
Was this an adaptive thing? Or do you was this…
Erik Korem 17:55
Yeah, we call this adaptive capacity.
Mark Divine 17:57
Yeah, adaptive capacity that was developed, it wasn’t necessarily you know, genetic.
Erik Korem 18:01
Well, part of it is genetic, part of it is developed. So just like any capability, people are wired, you know, are born with certain innate abilities, but you can always improve them. And so, Dr. Chris Morris, who was my graduate student now, at the time, now he’s running performance science at UK, brilliant physiologist, we started looking into how can you improve the capacity to adapt to physical and mental stress. And so stress is really not the enemy. It’s the gateway to growth. And the problem is, is like when you exceed your capacity to adapt to acute stress, or chronic stress, that is when we get injured burnout, physical and mental health issues, right. And so if we can make as we think about it, the gas tank bigger than you can do more with less cost. And so there’s a way to build this capacity.
And it basically boils down to five basic things. They’re they’re kind of five pillars is sleep, exercise, mental fitness, nutrition, and relationships, healthy relationships, the scientific literature is pretty clear that that’ll lead to these things at a certain threshold, improve longevity, but they also improve your ability to adapt to stress, all for very unique and different reasons. Because what they do is, you know, what Allostasis and allostatic load is?
Mark Divine 19:29
Mhhmm, to some degree.
Erik Korem 19:30
Yeah, so Allostasis is essentially your body trying to achieve stability through change. Allostatic load is the cost that is incurred whenever you experience a stressor. And so if you can build more capacity for more allostatic load, your tank gets bigger, bigger and bigger. And now what once was incredibly taxing is now just table stakes. Now there’s a limit to this, but most people haven’t even like gotten close to their absolute capacity.
Mark Divine 20:02
This is again psycho-physical, it’s both capacity of mental processing as well as physiological processing.
Erik Korem 20:09
Right. Because stress is really one input to the body, the systems turn on the same processes. So for instance, the whatever you experience stress, the HPA axis is turned on the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis. And so you have these release of glucocorticoids, including cortisol, right? Everybody thinks about, oh, my cortisol levels up because I went stressed, or the autonomic nervous system responds by becoming the gas pedal goes down, you go into the sympathetic state, where there’s an immune response. What the problem is, is when these systems are turned on all the time, and they don’t turn off, then you have mal adaptation, you can’t adapt. But if your body gets really good at turning stress on turning it off, turning it on turning it off, and then you can recover faster, your capacity expands. Does that make sense?
Mark Divine 20:56
Erik Korem 20:57
It’s not this mythical thing. It’s pretty simple biological processes, you just got to figure out what areas to spend time in to bring up that capacity.
Mark Divine 21:06
And those five areas are ways to turn off. Turn on the recovery turn on the parasympathetic nervous system, right. So proper sleep, effective recovery, proper nutrition, exercise, you know, effective exercise, effective exercise, not overtraining, right.
Erik Korem 20:20
Mark Divine 20:21
And then, you know relational time spent in a heartfelt relation and a community of practice.
Erik Korem 21:25
It’s not mythical.
Mark Divine 21:26
It’s not. What I meant by mental and physical, it’s like, all of those can be activated mentally, or not all of them. But a good portion, like, for instance, relational recovery, those two, for instance, like you can activate those through effective thinking.
Erik Korem 21:42
Mark Divine 21:43
Which then changes some physiological or biological pattern, for instance, breathing. So if you know, the way we teach and for for SEAL candidates is you get into a hyper-aroused state, which combat will of course do to you or even training. So the natural response when the sympathetic nervous system is activated, is to seize up into fight or flight, right, so you’re going to activate all those neuro neurological patterns and the neuro peptides and everything that’s going to say, this is really dangerous situation, I better get the hell out of here, you know, and so you get the adrenaline dump, you get all that, which then starts this downward performance spiral. So the first thing to do is to recognize that and change your thinking.
So you pause, recognize what’s going on, and then breathe. And so the deep diaphragmatic breathing, tactical breathing activates the parasympathetic, the opposite rest and digest, which then interdicts that that whole cycle, and gives you now the space to make a better decision. So that’s the think, period. So pause, breathe, that allows you to think more clearly about the situation and make a more positive response, as opposed to continuing this cycle and doing some action or taking some action, which is going to lead to danger or injury, or whatever the situation might be. So what I’m suggesting is most of the work is actually done in the mind, because every action is preceded by some thought process, or some emotional pattern. And every action also triggers a thought process and emotional patterns. So you’ve got to get a control in the mind. It’s both and you train the physiology. There’s certain things you can do drills and skills and change the the behaviors around sleep and exercise nutrition, but ultimately, for optimal performance, and longevity, and peak performance, and putting those all together; it’s a mental game.
Erik Korem 23:20
It is I think this stress gets a bad rap, though, because like, people are saying that the sympathetic nervous system is bad. It’s not.
Mark Divine 23:28
Erik Korem 23:28
Stress is the brain and the body preparing you to do something effortful, like a problem is, is when you don’t have control. So like the idea that your blood pressure goes up, that you’re moving blood from your digestive system to your working muscles, do you have a dump of catecholamines, that is all excellent, because without it, you’re not able to exert as much force and power and speed as you’d want, the central nervous system gets ramped up. The problem is, is when those systems overtake your ability to like you said, think clearly, respond in a very precise and accurate way. But those actual physiological processes of ramping you up is what allows you to achieve peak performance. If it clouds your judgment or ability to make decisions, then that’s really bad. Or if that system stays on, after the event is over with…
Mark Divine 24:17
Erik Korem 24:17
Now you can’t recover. And so that’s where these things like you’re talking about, like the belly breathing and things like that moving into this parasympathetic state. Now we got to shut this back down. So our body can then mobilize resources to recover. But I do think that a lot of people think, oh, stress is bad. We don’t want this fight or flight response, you actually need it. You know, like, if you really want to go exert force, will, and power, like you just can’t do it in this I’m on the couch state. Like if I want to go play football and go exert my will on somebody. I’ve got to have certain systems turned on and ready to go.
Mark Divine 24:50
I’m interested in the technology like, what did you bring back from Australia and how has it evolved in what what do we use today?
Erik Korem 24:57
What we brought back was something called catapult, and essentially what it was is, It was a device that we would put it like thoracic, I think it was T 4-5 of their spine. And it would it has fat or fat Kyler Murray was wearing one of these sport we call them bros or like a sports bra. And it was all all over the media just recently. But that was like the exact company. And so what it was is this devices that connected to GPS satellites. So you can get velocity. You can get accelerations, there’s accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers, you can understand facing direction, you can understand it was millions of data points. The early problem was, this is a long time ago, this is before Fitbit was really a thing Apple Watch didn’t exist. And the UI, the user interface was terrible. And so I had to hire a former NASA propulsion engineer to help me organize the data and derive meaning from it. Because originally, as you can imagine, Coach Fisher had come to me after about a week, and he’s like, hey, so what are we gonna do with this data, I didn’t have a good response for him. And as you can imagine, that didn’t sit well with the senior leader.
Mark Divine 26:01
Erik Korem 26:01
And I just like, hey, just give me some time. So not only did we measure what they did, internally, we were measuring with heart rate monitors how they were responding to it. So there’s, in the world of sports science, you need to look at what’s called internal and external training load. What did you do? How did you respond to it? And you can get data objectively and subjectively, and both are very powerful. So we started with the predominantly external. What did they do on the field? It was kind of like, once we knew that we could reverse engineer training processes. Then we started going into, okay, how now that we get this? How do we know if we’re ready to adapt to the stress of training?
Because the old school mindset was, let’s just punch them in the gut and keep doing it, and we’re going to get better. And the reality is, research shows even with a periodized training program, meaning we’re undulating volume and intensity over x period of time, a third of people get better, a third stay the same, and about a third get worse. Why is that? Because just because it’s written on a piece of paper doesn’t mean your body’s actually ready to adapt to it. And I don’t care how tough you think you are. If your body can’t adapt to stress, you will get injured, or you will not adapt. it frustrated me as a performance coach, because I put together what I thought were amazing plans. And I saw this. So, to Chris Morris’s credit, Dr. Morris, we started measuring athlete’s capacity to adapt to stress that day, using what’s called DC potential or slow cortical potentials of the brain so we can understand the central nervous system from a power speed perspective. Then we’re looking at the autonomic nervous system to understand energetically how much load we could put on the body. This is University of Kentucky, these are SCC football players. But half the team said, Hey, we want to do this. It wasn’t just starters, it was a mixture. We built out our training summer, our summer programs, the guys that used a model that adapted daily to what they were able to adapt to. We called it a fluid and flexible model had anywhere between 50 I think it was 54 to 590% improvement over a summer training period and things like peak vertical power, broad jump, triple broad jump, lean body mass aerobic capacity. And here’s the crazy part. They were doing the same program.
Mark Divine 28:20
Oh, no kidding. So you didn’t change the programming just their..
Erik Korem 28:23
Just the volume and intensity.
Mark Divine 28:24
Volume and intensity. Yeah. And so they would get a score that said, Okay, this is your at 70%. day today, so go at 70, I mean, how did that, what did it look like?
Erik Korem 28:33
Yeah, without giving away the secret sauce.
Mark Divine 28:36
Erik Korem 28:37
Some days like, if they were better than significantly better than their average, we would say we’re gonna do 20% more total work today. Let’s say their central nervous system was good, but their autonomic nervous system was a little bit off, we’d say Alright, let’s keep the volume of high of the power speed training in we’re going to drop accessory work. We had about five different versions of this, that we came up with a color-coded system. But the commonality between the 60 I think it was 62 players that had the significantly better results than they did 10% less work. This is hard for coaches or performance people to hear because they always equate more performance with more work.
Mark Divine 29:15
Erik Korem 29:16
This is coming as a as a has, you know, historically started as a strength conditioning coach strength conditioning coaches often over value themselves in the process. The higher you go up your job is you know, you develop general qualities, speed, power, strength, skill, you know, stamina, suppleness, etc. But then as you get you start moving up the ranks in your qualifications, the more that person can actually rep at their skill and a state of high readiness, the better it’s going to translate the the more it’s more game like or, you know, in your situation, the more it’s like the actual tactical environment that you’re going to be in where the stress is very high, the speed is very high. And if they’re at an optimal state of readiness, you can get lots of repetitions at that specific thing they’re going to improve same thing with football or any other sport, but you can build a general capacity and then more specific.
So we actually, you know, have spun this up into a company called AIM7, where we actually can now do this for anybody. We measure their capacity to adapt to stress, we make very specific recommendations for exercise, sleep, and mental fitness tied to what their capacity is that day or their readiness. And then we have a long term plans to build it over time. But it was just really interesting, because that was the first time it was ever done. And we’ve had outreach from Department of Defense, people in Europe, you know, coaches from all over the world, we’re like, holy cow. And just now people are, there’s papers starting to come out that kind of understand a little bit of the process. But the fundamental thing that I think people get frustrated with right now is they have these. We’ve translated this to wearables that people wear right now, like Apple Watch, or Garmin, or an Aura ring. What frustrates people right now, and I totally get it is their aura ring will say that you’re like a 90 today, and you’re like, I feel like crap. Or the device says that you’re a 20, and you’re like, I feel amazing. Your interoception is dialed in. Without giving out a farm, I’ll tell you this. Objective data from the device is a lagging indicator.
Mark Divine 31:18
Erik Korem 31:19
How you feel, is a leading indicator. And this is really funny. We used to in sports be like, you know what, I wonder if these guys are sore. And so we would take like creatine kinase, which is a biomarker for muscle damage, I wonder if there’s stress, let’s go take cortisol. And then we found out if you just ask, and then you apply the right math, and then algorithms are sensitive enough, you how you feel is directly related to biologically what was happening. So those biomarkers were adjusting, but you have to do the right math. So what we do is we combine objective from the wearables, and subjective and some other data points, then we have a better picture of where the human where the human is physically and mentally. And then you know which area to dial in on. Does that make sense?
Mark Divine 32:08
It does. Yeah. So it’s predictive?
Erik Korem 32:10
It’s predictive and prescriptive. Yep.
Mark Divine 32:12
That’s pretty cool.
Erik Korem 32:13
Your tech works with any wearable?
Erik Korem 32:15
Right now the Apple Watch, Garmin, Fitbit, and Aura.
Mark Divine 32:19
Does it t work with a Whoop yet or?
Erik Korem 32:21
We were, and then at the API got cut off. So we’re finding a new way to integrate. Whoops, a little bit hard to integrate with sometimes, but they kind of have an insular system, but we’ll be integrating with them back in with them soon.
Mark Divine 32:34
So, where are you going with this? Now you’re, you’ve gone from human performance into entrepreneurship, and you’re tapping a whole, and you got an old tiger by his tail? And what skills do you need to develop now? And when is this going to lead to version 3.0 of, of Eric, because now you’re in the business world?
Erik Korem 32:52
Yeah. As you know, there are a lot of skills that transfer. And then there’s the last three years have been me drinking out of a firehose and seeking out mentors. And fortunately, I’ve had some very good ones in the tech space that have come on our board. In some ways, it’s like being a head coach, I was never able to be a head coach for obvious reasons.
Mark Divine 33:12
Wait, what are those reasons is not obvious to me.
Erik Korem 33:15
I was a performance coach. And so typically, to become a head football coach, you’d have to be like a running back coach or receiver coach, and then an offensive coordinator, and then a head. That’s kind of the traditional paradigm, although I think that there’s people in the performance realm that would make great head football coaches, or, I observed though, and being like, you know, working with Coach Fisher and being on his I guess, you could say, senior leadership team, I got to see behind the curtains of how things worked, and then working with coaches like Sylvester Croom and other great ones. First of all, they they all were unbelievable recruiters of talent, if you want to be elite, and in business, and in the world I’m in in technology, you got to have A players. And the skill set is really important. But then the character is of unbelievable value, especially now we live in an asynchronous environment, you know, really getting clear on what our values are, and who fits on our team. And then finding the right or the right match from a skill perspective has been probably the thing that I’ve been fleshing out the most, what’s the process for that? And for us, it’s, you’ve got to be a lead on the skill side. And then you have to be in line with our core values. And then your behaviors have to match those values over time. And you have to be intrinsically driven.
Well, I’m not into people that are externally motivated by things all the time. It’s like they have an internal drive to be the absolute best to be a master of their craft, but at the same time, they’re willing to listen and collaborate with the team.
Mark Divine 34:45
Erik Korem 34:45
And so working on that, honing my skill set as a leader, and then finding people that match that has been just, it’s been hard. It’s been the greatest challenge of my life. And I feel like we know we’re making tremendous progress. And I’m very thankful for my team for giving me the opportunity to grow in this capacity, you know, so I would say version 3.0 of Eric, is, you know, I was a coach at one point, but I was very tactical in the perspective of building specific, almost like a product development expert. Now I’m having to go into the true coaching of people. So it’s from the doer to the cosher, to the coach, for the person that’s like, actually hands on keyboard to now how am I mentoring leading and educating and guiding people and letting them unleash their capabilities. And so that’s the new version of Eric that I’m stepping into. And then I’m hopefully becoming better at over time.
Mark Divine 35:45
That’s a phenomenal story. And I love the your assessment of kind of like, the shift of mindset from one domain to another, like, a lot of the skills transfer, but then you have to open up to a whole another level of mentorship and coaching and skill development. And I’m still doing that right now trying to transfer my company, you know, because it was saying that, you know that what got you here is not going to be what gets you to the next level. In fact, it’s going to it’s exactly what’s going to hold you back. So you always got to be reinventing yourself, if you want to stay relevant. And this is applies to everybody, you know, in all domains with AI, and the rapid changes this VUCA world like you have to become an adaptive individual who’s always asking, What can I find new? What new skills can I develop? How can I empty my cup of all the old things that I thought I was an expert at? Because, you know, most things people were experts at are going to be done by AI within five years?
And then how do I expand my capacity to handle more and look at that as just a skill, I think that your work is really important. And we’ve been a tackling the same thing, just from the soft skill side, you know, teaching the the skills of breath control and visualization and, and mental management, and positive self-image and self-talk and eradicating shadow and understanding the mental maps that have guided your behavior that led you to where you are, which is suboptimal, at least most of my clients, very successful, but they assess is something’s holding them back. And they’re right. They’re holding themselves back.
All the mental models and all this stuff, all the habits that got them where they are aren’t going to be what they need for the future. Because things are happening moving too fast. We need to develop the skills that are heretofore thought to be just in the zone of genius. They need to become commonplace. Intuitiveness, spontaneous, correct action, spontaneous knowingness that’s going away, same intuitiveness. And also collective genius, which you see. And when when a team is in flow, you say, wow, look at that they’re in flow. But that’s a trainable skill, right, you can literally train human beings to act operate in that place, all the time. And we proven that it SEALFIT their skills, this way you use your mind and your body together. So I think your technology is going to be really useful for people to really be able to dial in their physical movements or exercise. You know, those six pillars, or five pillars that you talked about? It’s cool.
Erik Korem 38:07
Thank you. It’s become a new passion. And I feel like it’s all I’m sure, like, just like you you have all these experiences that you look back on. You didn’t know why you experienced them at the time.
Mark Divine 38:17
Yeah, that’s right. It makes sense. Only in the rearview mirror. Right.
Erik Korem 38:20
Yeah. Now, I’m like, it’s coming together. And it’s an opportunity for mass impact. And I had this experience in 2019, I was selected as a presidential leadership scholar, it’s it was to program put together by the two Bush foundations, the Clinton and LBJ Foundation, and I was the dumb coach that was with all these, like, you know, politicians and CEOs. And it totally blew up my aperture for what impact I could have on the world. And they equip you over about seven months, you literally get trained by the former presidents and their administrations all over the United States. And it was, it was a life-changing experience. And actually, AIM7 came out of that my company came out of a bus ride.
Mark Divine 39:02
Erik Korem 39:02
But sometimes you need something to really shake you up to really broaden what you can do. And they really challenged us to like, hey, you’ve been given skills and abilities, how can you use those for broader impact in your community and the rest of the world? And I would just challenge people that are listening to this right now, we’ve all been given very unique gifts and abilities, and how can we use those for the betterment of other people? And you’re doing that right now with your company. And there’s always the next horizon, right?
Mark Divine 39:31
Uhuh, that’s right.
Erik Korem 39:31
Like, you’re gonna get through this one, and you be like, Oh, my gosh, we can do this, this and this, and we can help more folks. And so it’s really awesome to be able to meet people like you and, and to see like that we’re all kind of like on this journey. We’re on different roads. We’re all we’re all experiencing the same thing, you know.
Mark Divine 39:46
All the paths are leading toward helping the humanity to be a better place. And yeah, the way I look at that is it’s just more connected, more peaceful, more inclusive, less of the opposite of all that, you know less violence…
Erik Korem 39:58
Mark divine 39:58
Less judgment, less, you know, non-inclusivity, world-centric care and concern. And you know, I believe ultimately that you know that all the violence in what’s going on in the world is just a symptom of our collective consciousness of fear and separation and greed. And the whole world is just been steeped in has actually quite literally trained to feel this way and to be this way, and then that shows up as violence and shows up as fear and separation and judgment and racism and isms all over the place. Like Gandhi said, You got to teach people to be the change that they want to see in the world. But then we can do this at scale, through conversations like this, and through technologies like yours, and to bringing people together to completely and radically change the narrative.
And we get enough human beings to change that narrative and to think, feel, act, breathe, and make decisions from the heart and from compassion, caring concern for all sentient beings, then all of a sudden, the outer world will completely change. And all those old structures that were feeding off that energy of negativity and violence will suddenly get starved. In order to to destroy the fear wolf, you got to ignore it, and feed the courage wolf.
Erik Korem 41:07
I love that.
Mark Divine 41:08
Eric, where can people learn more about you and your work?
Erik Korem 41:10
You can connect with me on social media at Erik Korem, I also have a podcast called The Blueprint, we distill cutting-edge science, leadership and life skills in the very short, tactical 10-15-minute episodes.
Mark Divine 41:22
I’d love to be on it.
Erik Korem 41:23
Hey, you’ve got an open door, I’ll get you booked, that we bring people like you on and we try to distill these messages into really short bite size digestible moments.
Mark Divine 41:34
Erik Korem 41:34
And then AIM7, if you’re interested if what we talked about today, and you have a wearable and you want to use that to build up to capacity. We will be in the App Store on August 28th. And I’ll tell you what..
Mark Divine 41:45
Erik Korem 41:45
I’ll give you guys a coupon code for your audience that they can use for like 30% off for their first three months, but…
Mark Divine 41:53
Erik Korem 41:53
We’re trying to bring more value. So thank you for having me on. It’s been just a pleasure.
Let us know what that coupon code is. So we can put it in the show notes. That’d be great.
We’ll do SEALFIT A7, how about that?
Mark Divine 42:03
Awesome. Well, thanks again, Erik, and super appreciate you and I look forward to working with you actually. And getting to know you more. Have a good day.
Erik Korem 42:10
Have a good one.
Mark Divine 42:14
But a fascinating episode, it’s really cool to see the state of the art in peak performance technology. I can’t wait to try the AIM7 app and that we’re going to probably roll it out to seal fit into unbeatable mind communities or you any Mark Divine Show listener just use the code that he provided. It’s on the show notes. You can find the episode show notes on my website at Mark Divine.com. You can find the video on YouTube you can reach out to me on social media at Mark Divine and at real Mark Divine. Twitter’s at Mark Divine and Instagram and Facebook are at REal Mark Divine. If you’re not subscribed to my newsletter, Divine Inspiration, you might find it interesting comes out every Tuesday where I have show notes from the podcast, my blog, a book I’m reading with notes on it a practic, and other information which I think you would find valuable, if you like the themes that I talked about here. So go to Mark Divine.com. To sign up, subscribe and shout out to my great team, Jason Sanderson and Catherine Divine and Geoff Haskell who helped bring podcast guests like Eric to you as well as produce the newsletter every week.
Ratings and reviews are very helpful. So can you share the show and rate it wherever you listen so that others may find it and it can stay at the top of the rankings. Thanks so much also for doing the work to being more relevant in the world to being VUCA strong, to be world-centric, compassionate, and caring leaders, in essence being the change we want to see in the world. Let’s do this together. Hooyah, till next time. This is Mark Divine out.
Transcribed by Catherine and https://otter.ai