Today’s episode is with Tofe Evans, author of Everyone Has a Plan Until Shit Hits the Fan. Shit can happen to anyone, whether it’s a life-threatening situation, a death in the family or a business gone bust. In this episode, Tofe will give you the tools to mentally prepare yourself to weather any storm. And Tofe should know: the endurance career he embarked on literally saved his life. He believes in rising above your personal turmoil by conquering your own mind.
By the end of this episode, you’ll be better prepared for whatever life throws at you.
Tofe Evans: This started about four years ago. I was struggling really badly with like depression and anxiety. The thing was, I was never that kind of person.
Throughout 2014, I came throughout a bunch of setbacks with relationships, with friendships, with business stuff going on, with finances. It was just a conglomerate of things.
It ended up becoming too much for me.
I wasn’t diagnosed with depression or anxiety or anything like that. It became like a tidal wave and it just kind of took over me. When I look at it now, the incidents, everything that led up to that really heavy point, they’re not even that bad. It’s just what I did with my thinking. It just felt like I just didn’t see the point in it.
There’s 7.6 billion people, however many people there were at the time, and I realized I probably don’t even need to be here.
It really did just become too much and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I was coping with it with hard drugs and alcohol and self-harm and prescribed medication. I was seeing different doctors around the world, and I didn’t know how to fix it.
Discovering Mental Health
Tofe Evans: As a male, I was essentially masking. I didn’t like who I was as a person anymore, so I thought, I would just write myself off.
Looking at it now, it was probably like when you put Mentos in a coke bottle.
That was me. A volcano, it’s going to erupt any second. It’s very chaotic for everyone around you. I was living in an egocentric paradigm, thinking I had it worse than everyone else.
“Depression is kind of like you’re living too far in the past and anxiety’s being too far in the future.”
When they’re working together, it’s a pretty terrible feeling.
I remember Googling ways to kill myself and like I can attest to this, I don’t know of the exact same sites are up. Some of the sites are like big, bold letters going, “PLEASE DO NOT GO THROUGH WITH THIS.” I can’t even touch the screen anyway because it’s just saturated with tears. I thought these moments only ever happened to rock stars, but it’s actually very prevalent in the world.
There is so much stigma attached to it that, at the time, I had no idea what mental health was.
Charlie Hoehn: What is the stigma like in Australia?
Tofe Evans: Yeah, it’s actually just as strong. For me, it’s slowly becoming a bit of a household name, trying to make more awareness.
In the mining industry, it is Insane. I think the stats are like 20 men commit suicide a week.
With mental illness in men, they don’t want to open up.
It’s like it’s been passed down like folklore. Don’t do it, don’t cry, all this kind of stuff.
I figured out that any first world country, the rate of suicide is relatively high.
When I was going to a lot of developing third world countries, the people that aren’t fortunate are the most grateful people I’ve ever met. I remember, in Nepal or Papua New Guinea or in the favelas of Brazil.
“The people have nothing, but they’re so grateful and so giving and so generous.”
They know what it’s like to have nothing, so they don’t want to impede on anyone. All it comes down to is the fundamentals in life, dude. It’s food, shelter, water, family and your very close friends. Everything else is just a bonus.
There is almost a correlation with first world countries. Everyone is so focused on certain material items that they don’t have or they’re focusing on what they’re missing, as supposed to what they have already.
Perspective Is Everything
When you have too much going on in life, it starts retracting and you kind of want to be a minimalist. I’m not saying remove everything, but it comes back to the food, shelter, water, the family.
For example, my car hasn’t had aircon for two years because I’m always reinvesting it into my business. I’m just grateful to have a car—and it is the hottest time of the year. My laptop is almost on its 10 year anniversary, still running. Just grateful to have a laptop even though it isn’t the best laptop.
I remember there’s this one race I did in 2016. It was like a 70 mile race and my first ever experience running at that distance. It was running into the night, so we’re running past midnight. I remember, eight hours in, I’m absolutely just wrecked. We came across like a bridge full of homeless people, sleeping thin cardboard boxes, and my first thought is “Do you reckon they’ll move over so I can have a quick nap?”
At the end of the day, of that race, I’m just grateful to have a bed. When you do this, even like a marathon or even a half marathon or 10k.
“When just go balls to the wall, you finish these races and all you care about.”
You’re hungry so you don’t care what food you have, as long as you have food in the stomach. It’s time to go home, you don’t care what car you have, you just need a ride home. You get home and you just pass out, you don’t care what bed you have.
I think in the world of today where we have access to everything, people aren’t embracing enough grit. Grit is like the proponent to resilience, and resilience is the proponent to good mental health.
Overcoming Anxiety and Depression
Charlie Hoehn: I know the process of overcoming anxiety and depression is not always a clean “Aha” type moment or breakthrough, but if you can point back to one moment, what would it be?
Tofe Evans: When I had depression and anxiety, I’d being too far in the past, too far in the future. I’d not actually be anywhere in the present. I’d get to the end of my day and be just so tired—I didn’t even know what I did that day because I didn’t live in the present at all. I didn’t live in the now.
Not trying to sound like a Zen Buddhist or anything, but when I was running, I was learning to push mental blocks, it was almost like a direct correlation with life and being in the moment.
I was caring about where my feet were going. I was just focusing on my feet, dude. There could have been a category five hurricane going off in my city and I wouldn’t even know.
For me, all I was caring about was foot placement. That kept me focused on that mental awareness. I’ve literally just adopted that mentality to life.
That was the first pivotal moment.
Philosophy of Everyone Has a Plan Until Shit Hits the Fan
Charlie Hoehn: In your book, you have a section called “Rewiring Automatic Neural Pathways And Mind Hacks.” Talk to me a bit about those, what are those about?
Tofe Evans: When it comes down to neuro-linguistic programming, you’ve got audio people, you’ve got visual, kinesthetic and audio visual.
Voice is so powerful, but everyone who is analytical is going to go, “Tofe, that’s all well and good, but how do I know your methods work?”
I literally collaborated on this book with experts in the field. So a doctor in psychology worked with me with this book. I had one of the top human behaviorists, not only in America but in the world. It was a bunch of neuroscientists that that I was working with, making this book.
Within neural pathways, when we come across a tough situation, it’s fear versus trust. You’ve got to pick one or the other.
“99.9% of the world is living with fear.”
Essentially, you have to start rewiring your neural pathways so fear is becoming your best friend. I’m not saying fearless, but fear less. You’ve got to get in the rhythm of saying yes, so you start to prime your brain to take on things.
I was getting to a point where I could just do something and just tackle it straight on. Jodie said, “You’ve skipped a process in the brain literally because you’ve put yourself through enough like fearful things on purpose and endurance. It’s like you’re telling the narrative in your brain, it’s all good.”
Essentially, I’m just making fear my best friends by putting myself through simulated adversity so the fight or flight isn’t as bad. Now it becomes first nature as supposed to freaking out of everything.
I used to be that guy. I didn’t know how to handle fear. Now I’ll go for it because I’ll see opportunity that comes from it.
Charlie Hoehn: Give me an example of before. What’s the situation where you would freak out, when you would be that guy?
Tofe Evans: It was even signing up for anything. Just doing anything new.
For me to do all these endurance races, like some big ones too, it almost looks psychotic. I look at it like a win/win when I do them because I can bring in good for charity.
There’s been some pretty life threatening situations where I go, “It’s all good bro,” this is what I’m telling in my mind. I start to make it a habit.
I do it with mind hacks. There are, I think 10 mentioned in there. A really good one is, “What’s the worst that can happen?” That six worded sentence is so powerful. That’s perspective.
I go, “Well, I don’t have to go to war today, I don’t have to get surgery…”
This one event I did for charity last year was like a double marathon on a paddle board.
The board sponsors go, “You can train with us if you want,” and I remember driving to training Monday morning for like three weeks.
I didn’t have much preparation for this event, and I’m thinking, “What the hell are they going to think of me?” These guys that I train with, that I’m training with, again, are like some of Australia’s best paddle boarders. They go to Japan, all over the world to win championships.
When you do anything the first time, you just think negative.
“We think worst case scenario because the brain is primed.”
It’s like that clever ancestral brain that goes back to thousands and thousands of years ago. If your ancestors got ostracized from the tribe, there’d be a chance a lot of tigers after them.
Nowadays if our friends or family ever were to betray us, it is still like as if there’s a lion or tiger after us, because it’s been passed down through ancient history.
It’s hard to quantify how much we’ve progressed, it’s insane. But how we deal with fear and our thinking has only changed a slight fraction.
Tofe Evans: With my philosophy in life, it is like an amalgamation of philosophies. As much as I love stoicism—which is rewiring your pathways like delayed gratification—I’m trying to break stoicism in men in particular. In history, all the men are the ones who are creating the wars. It’s unfortunate but it’s true.
All the shootings like that unfortunate one that happened in Florida recently, despite color I think it’s all men. All the destruction, all the wars are men.
It’s ego, massive ego, and testosterone issues. It’s like, “I’ve got the biggest dick,” “No, I’ve got the biggest dick.” And you guys are thinking about yourselves, now millions of people are going to get hurt physically or emotionally or you’re going to destroy them.
I am trying to break stoicism in men because there’s a time to be tough and there’s a time to be vulnerable. And I say it to all my male friends: if you need to cry, just get it out of your system. I always use the analogy of a bottle of water that weighs about a pound. If you were to hold onto it for 24 hours straight, it’s going to feel like 500 pounds. Now these are arbitrary numbers, but profoundly, it’s still a pound.
“We do that with our thoughts in our head. The whispers becomes yells.”
They’re the same volume, whether they are yelling or whispering, the thoughts in your head are the same volume. It’s like they are magnified overtime and they end up feeling like a 500 pound weight. So I say to my male friends in particular, “If you guys need to cry, get it out, or else it’s going to magnify to a 500 pound weight.”
Building Real Habits
Charlie Hoehn: Your stuff is actually backed by science. That’s really good.
Tofe Evans: Yeah, you make it a habit. It becomes first nature. After like 66 days, it rewires in the brain. From the University of College London—it used to be 21 days, but they broke that myth.
When you start saying yes to everything, you jump into that moment and you’re focusing on what’s happening. When it comes to habit building, start so small that you are essentially just building a crescendo.
“If you are going balls to the wall every day, you might even get it quicker than 66 days. But the key is to not burn out.”
So for example, when you go to the gym for the first time in ages or the first time at all, don’t be a hero and try to do it six days that week. As motivated you are to lose a bunch of weight or to put on a bunch of muscle, start small because you’re going to burn yourself out that way.
So I have learned that when I was going back into training into the gym, I would just focus on doing like 30 minutes that day, and I might do one or two days that week. I would be focused on incremental change to the point where the fear isn’t that bad.
Something I live by is a cold shower every day. Now, people are so off put by that because cold showers suck. I’ll tell you that cold showers really suck. But the thing is there are ways to go around it.
Like have a hot shower first, then at the end, blast it on cold. And you only have to do it for just like four seconds. That’s what you have to do, that’s it just four seconds or three seconds. The next day, it would be three and a half seconds. Then do four and then maybe stay on four and then go five, to the point where you’re increasing that crescendo.
That’s pretty much how I live. If I am going to do something new for the first time, just start really small and then build the crescendo and then the fear isn’t as bad now.
The Importance of Resilience
Charlie Hoehn: You say that, “The greatest thing you can acquire in life is resilience,” why resilience?
Tofe Evans: It comes back down to the evolution of psychology. Dr. David Buss mentioned in his book, Evolution of Psychology, you don’t have to be the smartest or the strongest or the quickest or the richest or the most famous person. You don’t have to be the most successful.
It comes down to two traits: Knowing how to adapt, and bouncing back after every fall. So the book title is so incredibly fitting because even to this point where the book is at, anything that can go wrong has.
And it’s knowing that when plan A doesn’t work, you have a whole alphabet to work with. However, sometimes we don’t have the resources to get to plan G. So this is when you have to get creative. Sheer creativity has gotten me ahead of where I needed to go sometimes. The other is if you get push back, just get back up.
“The word failure has a lot of negative connotation attached to it.”
If it really scares you and you don’t want to try things, don’t look at them as failures. Look at them as experiments that didn’t go to plan.
Everything goes back to science. For example, every astrophysicist, neuroscientist, anyone that’s won a Nobel Peace Prize, when they found that their findings, their discoveries they wouldn’t have it out in one hit.
You conduct the experiment, you put your hypothesis, what you believe and then you test it. Whatever doesn’t work, you put it to the side, and that’s just feedback. So it’s the same thing in life. Sometimes we become so emotionally invested in what we do, or we’re so immersed in what’s going on, we really take that loss like a loss. But look at it like an experiment that didn’t go to plan.
It comes back to evolutionary psychology for me, like knowing how to bounce back. When you are in a war, you want a guy that’s covered with battle scars that knows how to guide you because he’s been there himself. When you’ve gone through rock bottom, you’re living with more empathy because you don’t want to put that pain onto anyone else.
Applying Practical Resilience
Charlie Hoehn: Do you have a particular success story of either somebody that you’ve worked with or somebody who’s come across your message that you really are proud of?
Tofe Evans: Yeah, I’ve got a lot of case studies and hearing people use practical rules and its framework.
It is a very humbling thing to hear when people used it and how effective it’s been—from things sport related to overcoming workplace bullying. But the one that got to me was this lady that lost her kid to cancer.
When you truly understand the practical resilience framework, when you see through it, it’s so powerful.
“The tools are in us the whole time.”
This lady, she’s managed to push through it and I think she’s helping a lot of other people that are going through something similar.
I remember I had a phone call with a friend the other day. He is based in Dallas and he was speeding and the cop pulled him over. He should have lost his license, that’s what he told me and he said he was talking with the cop and explained his current situation and then the cop goes, “All right, I’m going to drop it down a bit so you don’t lose your license but you are still going to have a fine.” He said, “Dude, because of practical resilience, I managed to stay composed and didn’t lash out at the cop.”
One of my close mates, there was a time in his life and this is males because of stigma, he really didn’t tell anyone about suicide that he wanted to go through. He’s like, “You know what? Screw it. I’m going to make this video, put it out there,” and he’s like, “I’m doing this for you Tofe.”
He actually got a really impactful result because a lot of men are going, “It’s not just me that doesn’t want to talk to anyone about this.”
So to get people more vulnerable, to get people to express more humility and express more gratitude is a pretty cool thing to see. I don’t want the ego saying, “I started this,” but it makes us more human.
It’s not just males. There’s also females who don’t want to open up about this stuff.
“When you suppress so much emotion, you are not really a human being anymore.”
It’s like surfing, look when the right wave comes, you just ride it. When the waves of emotions come, just ride it. I am not saying complain to everyone, but sometimes if we’re angry we’re being a little bit more vulnerable too, I’ve noticed it’s like you’ve got the category five hurricane but you want it to get back down to a gentle breeze. I feel like vulnerability is a very powerful tool, but that’s one step.
The second step is building the resilience back in, so you are a little bit more emotionally self-aware and have self-acceptance of what’s going on.
A Challenge from Tofe
Charlie Hoehn: Can you give our listeners a challenge, something they can do this week, something small from your book that can improve their life?
Tofe Evans: I have an entire section pretty much on gratitude. It’s becoming more of a buzzword, but in a bloody good way. I’m glad. It’s like resilience has become more of a buzzword.
Express more of it, because it will change the definition of reality.
For me, it gave me purpose in life. You don’t know whose life you save. It might be even your own, and that’s what happened to me.
Literally, it stopped me from killing myself.
Depression is a state of worthlessness, and I had no more worth left. That’s what I felt. I was going backwards in life. I lost all curiosity in what I was doing, and that is heartbreaking for someone who is incredibly curious.
Now something as simple as calling up a friend who you haven’t spoken to in a long time and telling them how much their friendship means to you. You don’t have to donate a $100,000 to charity or anything like that. Just being kind and being grateful for everything.
“It gets to the point where even the terrible moments, you are grateful.”
You’re going to look back at this and it’s going to make your life easier because you are able to push through it now when it is happening. That’s the result it gives you.
I say three things I am grateful for every morning. Even something simple as gratitude journaling, when a happy moment that comes in or something that is very fulfilling, write it down from a really strong perspective so when you’re going through a tough time, you can just reopen that gratitude journal and you can re-spark something.
When you practice gratitude, it’s an art, and you can’t expect like a breakthrough straightaway. It becomes a habit and it gets to a point where people start recognizing it as a trait and they want to be around you because they see the good it can bring for you and they want it for themselves.
Connect with Tofe Evans
Charlie Hoehn: So Tofe, how can our listeners connect with you and follow you?
Tofe Evans: I’ve got an upcoming book coming out and it’s all in my site. I was just going to literally take it to the book page, but everything is on my site. It’s tofe-evans.com. It’s got everything about the book, it has all my social media sites. I am just usually @tofe.evans all over Facebook and LinkedIn and Instagram and Medium, and that’s where you can find me. Anyone is welcome to email me at tofe-evans.com if they want to get in touch with me. They can reach out to me if they want to say hi, if they need someone to talk to.
I am that kind of guy that if you need someone to talk to at 3 AM, give me a call. If I am not passed out or if I hear my alarm go off, if I can hear my phone go off.
But I am always happy to be there for people that are really struggling and in need because that might be their last opportunity. That might be it whether like, “I need someone to talk to” or “This is it. I am going to call it quits for life.”
Catalyst: Joseph Kopser and Bret Boyd