Do you ever have moments of terrible realization where you recognize that you’re living on autopilot? Instead of feeling like you’re in the driver’s seat, you feel like life is happening to you. You’re just going through the motions, you’ve lost your spark, and the months and years slide by in an indistinct blur.
My guest today has been there himself, and has an action plan for how to find your way out. His name is Antonio Neves, and he’s a writer, speaker, and success coach, as well as the author of Stop Living on Autopilot: Take Responsibility for Your Life and Rediscover a Bolder, Happier You. At the start of our conversation, Antonio shares his own experience with outwardly having a life that seemed happy and successful, while inwardly feeling totally lost and stuck. We then turn to some really great, incisive questions to ask yourself to assess if you’re coasting in life and to become more accountable to the changes you need to make to start intentionally steering again. We talk about what you’re really missing when you say you miss the good old days, how to ensure the best of your life is ahead of you instead of behind you, and why you need to make a list of all your current complaints. We then discuss the importance of who you surround yourself with, why you need allies instead of thieves in your circle, and the difference something called “Man Mornings” has made in Antonio’s life. We end our conversation with concrete steps you can start taking today to shift out of autopilot, including Antonio’s personal checklist of five things he does every day to ensure it’s a good one.
If reading this in an email, click the title of the post to listen to the show.
- Why Antonio’s life looked good on paper, but was turmoil inside
- What it means to be living on autopilot
- How a homeless man and a secret smoking habit changed Antonio’s life
- How the phrase “life is short” ends up being an excuse
- Why re-committing is more meaningful than committing
- The most powerful question that Antonio regularly asks himself
- Would you bet on yourself?
- What do people mean when they say they miss “the good old days”
- How our complaints can actually open up a window into our desires
- Allies vs. thieves
- What are “man mornings”? Why are they so beneficial to Antonio’s life?
- The things Antonio does every day to keep his life off autopilot
Resources/Articles/People Mentioned in Podcast
- The Power of Implementation Intentions
- Embracing the Grind
- How to Make Time for What Really Matters Every Day
- Think Like a Poker Player to Make Better Decisions
- Sources of Existential Angst
- Finding an Existential Second Wind
- Nostalgia — Its Benefits and Downsides
- How to Turn Fear Into Fuel
Connect With Antonio
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Read the Transcript
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Brett McKay: Brett McKay here, and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. Do you ever have moments of terrible realization where you recognize that you’re living on autopilot. Instead of feeling like you’re in the driver’s seat, you feel like life is happening to you. You’re just going through the motions, you’ve lost your spark and the months and years slide by in an indistinct blur. My guest today has been there himself, and has an action plan for how to find your way out. His name is Antonio Neves, and he’s a writer, speaker and success coach, as well as the author of Stop Living on Autopilot: Take Responsibility for Your Life and Rediscover a Bolder, Happier You. At the start our conversation, Antonio shares his own experience with outwardly having a life that seemed happy and successful while inwardly feeling totally lost and stuck.
We then turn to some great incisive questions to ask yourself to assess if you’re coasting in your life and become more accountable to the changes you need to make to start intentionally steering your life again. We talk about what you’re really missing when you say you miss the good old days. How to ensure the best of your life is ahead of you instead of behind you. And why you need to make a list of all your complaints. We then discuss the importance of who you surround yourself with. Why you need allies instead of thieves in your circle. And the difference, something called Man Mornings has made in Antonio’s life. And we end our conversation with the concrete steps you can start taking today to shift out of auto-pilot, including Antonio’s personal check list of five things he does every day to ensure it’s a good one.
After the show’s over, check out our show notes at aom.is/autopilot. Antonio joins me now via clearcast.io.
Antonio Neves, welcome to the show.
Antonio Neves: Hey, thanks so much for having me. It’s an honor to be here.
Brett McKay: So you got a new book out, Stop Living on Autopilot: Take Responsibility for Your Life and Rediscover a Bolder, Happier You. This book is sort of a culmination of experiences you’ve had personally as well as coaching and working with other people, executives and things like that. And you start off the book talking about how 2016 was one of these pivotal years in your life and career. And you describe how on the outside, everything looked like it was going great, but in your personal life, in your inner life, it was a wreck. What was going on there, and how were you both a success and a wreck at the same time?
Antonio Neves: Yeah, it’s wild, because if you looked at the internet in 2016… If you did a Google search… I was living my best life ever. I had everything figured out. I was speaking on stages all across the globe, with big companies like Google on topics like leaderships. Had a nice coaching business I was building. Award-winning journalist, married with a wife and newborn toddler twins. So… I had the house with the white picket fence, all of it. So on paper, everything looked great, but internally it was wild. Because even though everything on the external was good, internally, I was wilting. And funny enough, as I talked to men and women across the country, I realized I wasn’t the only one who on paper everything looks good, but internally something is off.
I’d reached an interesting point in my early 40s that it kind of felt like the best thing to happen to me was in my past, as opposed to in front of me. And as I think about it, I think one of the main things that happened was that the “manual” that I had received for life… The roadmap, that book came to an end. I reached a point in life when more was expected of me than ever before. As a husband, as a father, financially, etcetera, and I didn’t know what direction to go. I’m a kid from a small town in Michigan, who’s parents divorced when I was young. Between my mom and dad are six different divorces. Moved over 15 times before I graduated from high school. So… From marriage perspective, I was trying to figure that out in real time.
I wasn’t raised with a father on a regular basis so being a new father, I didn’t really know what that meant. Funnily enough… The Art of Manliness, I was really trying to figure out what it meant to be a man. And more than anything, I think what had happened was I had lost intention. I was just going through the flow. I was on cruise control. Life was happening to me, as opposed to me intentionally going after things.
Brett McKay: And that’s what you mean by… Living on auto-pilot.
Antonio Neves: 100%. That’s like when you check off the boxes in life. All the boxes that society tells you to check off. And many ways, it’s like the American dream, right? Get your education, get a home, get married, have kids. Okay, I checked all those boxes off and I’m still unhappy, now what. And yeah… So you can find yourself on… Living on autopilot.
Brett McKay: And I imagine you’ve worked with a lot of people that have that same issue. They’ve checked all the boxes. They think, “Well, I’ve done it. Why don’t I feel better? Or feel like I accomplished anything?”
Antonio Neves: People come up to me all the time after talks and they’ll say, “I’m not as happy as I look on Facebook.” I’m not as successful as I look on LinkedIn. And it manifests itself in a unique way. The way it hit me in the face was, I became a secret cigarette smoker. Smoking is something that I despised, Brett, but I became a secret cigarette smoker in alleys in Los Angeles and across the country when I was traveling. And it took me wearing a bright green gardening glove, smoking cigarettes. And I wore this green glove so my wife wouldn’t smell the smoke when I came home ’cause she didn’t know I was smoking. And one day I was smoking a cigarette in a Santa Monica street alley, and what I perceived to be a homeless man asked me to borrow a cigarette.
And dude, look like he had seen much better days, so I gave him a couple of cigarettes. And as we were talking like smokers do. He says, “Yoh, what’s up with that green glove man?” And I was like, “Oh, my wife doesn’t know that I smoke.” Brett, he looked at me like I committed a crime. He felt sorry for me. And he said some words that I will never forget. He said, “Hey man, you gotta figure that out.” Here I am, this “successful” guy on the internet, doing good yet a homeless man in a street alley is telling me, I have to figure my shit out. And I think a lot of people have these secret vices, they don’t tell people. It may not be smoking, but it may be binge watching the Amazon Prime or Netflix series non-stop to the point where it says, are you still watching?
It may be scrolling through Instagram where you’ve reached a point where it says, you are all caught up. It maybe having that glass or two of wine or those extra beers in the evening just to take the edge off, to take the attention off of the things that you are not doing.
Brett McKay: Alright, so this shook you up. This started getting you to explore how did you get to this point. We’re gonna talk about how people get on auto-pilot, what questions they can ask themselves to figure out where they are in their life and things they take for granted. But one thing that really stuck out to me in your book that you start off with is you sort of debunk this idea that you hear in self-improvement circles that… This mantra… It’s like, life’s short. Knowing that you’re supposed to start taking action to start living life like it’s your last day on Earth. But you argue that’s actually a short-sighted way to look at life. Why is that? How can that idea of living your life as life is short get you into trouble?
Antonio Neves: Well, funny enough, the person that got me to think about this was the comedian Chris Rock. And I don’t know him personally, but I remember seeing a comedy special of his. And he was talking about how people always say life is short. He says, but it’s not the truth. He says, “Odds are you are not going to get hit by a bus. You are gonna live for like 50 more years, and you’re gonna have to live with the decisions that you have made.” And I think people say life is short frankly, to give themselves an excuse. I know that very well. They say life is short so they don’t have to take accountability. When you say life is short, sometimes it means, like, “You know what life is short, guess what, I’m gonna have that extra beer. Guess what life is short, I’m gonna eat unhealthy.”
Guess what, life is short, why work out when I can do something else? So it gives us an opportunity not to take accountability for ourselves. And also we always talk about the decisions that we make in life, but I also am a firm believer that it’s about the decisions that we don’t make as well. Not making a decision is making a decision.
Brett McKay: And also, something that hit home to me too, and you talk about throughout the book is that where you are today in your life, it didn’t happen overnight. Whether it’s a place you wanna be or don’t wanna be. If you are overweight, that didn’t happen overnight. That took maybe months, years to get to that point. And to fix that problem, it’s gonna take… It’s gonna be a process too. It’s gonna take a while.
Antonio Neves: 100%. Because people like to say, “Oh, suddenly I got fired from my job.” And… You did not suddenly get fired from your job. Some things happened that led to that. Out of the blue my relationship was in shambles. No, it wasn’t out of the blue. It was a large collection of days when you ignored having certain conversations with your spouse and doing certain things that led to that. And one day everything was turned upside down. Again, that’s us not taking accountabilities for our actions are lack thereof. So yeah. You’re spot on with that.
Brett McKay: Yeah you’re just… You’re on auto pilot. You’re not even thinking about what’s going on in your life. Alright, so another pivotal, you talk about your story. It was 2004. You got fired from what you thought at the time was your dream job. What happened there? And what did that teach you about living on autopilot and change and growth?
Antonio Neves: Wow, yeah, 2004. It seems like another lifetime ago. I moved to New York City in 2000 with less than $1000 in my bank account with the goal of breaking into the television industry. And two years later it happened. I was on live TV every single day on children’s television network, Nickelodeon, co-hosting a show called U-Pick Live. This is a different Antonio with long dreadlocks and a whole other outlook on life. I was living my best life. I was living the dream. I had “thought” that I had made it. But after two years of being on the show and interacting with big name celebrities on a daily basis, ended up becoming a writer on the show and an associate producer, I ended up getting fired from this job.
I can still remember going into the executive producer’s office there in Times Square in 1515 Broadway. And essentially he said, “Well, the show is going a different direction and you will no longer be on camera.” Which means you’re gonna be fired from the show. And I frankly thought that my life was over. I was more depressed than I had ever been before in my life. And I was like, “You know what, I’m gonna show you. How dare you fired me from this job.” And I remember moving to Los Angeles at the time, thinking I was break into the television industry out here where I live now. And three months later, I was smoking weed and drinking beer in a small closet in my apartment in Silver Lake, Los Angeles every single day, down and out on my luck.
Again, thinking that the best thing to ever happen to me was in my past. But as I slowly, Brett, started to evaluate what was happening during my time at Nickelodeon. First and foremost, I wouldn’t recommend to anyone that their first gig in television be on a national television show, in millions of households nationwide. There’s a reason why local news reporters start in Iowa and small town New Mexico and not New York City, because the stakes are so high. But even during that job at Nickelodeon, I was going through the motions. I was on autopilot. I was coasting. I wasn’t getting better. I wasn’t studying. I wasn’t doing the things that they asked of me to develop, to get better, to become a better host, a better writer, a better interviewer, you name it. And that led to me being in another deep dark funk thinking the best thing to happen to me was over with and I would never find my way to the television industry again.
Brett McKay: When did you realize that you could do something else? That wasn’t the end of your life. What happened that you could start building up again?
Antonio Neves: First and foremost, I think whenever things… I’ve gone through challenging times in my life. The best thing that ever happened was working with a community in some regard. So I was fortunate enough even then and throughout my life to have amazing people in my life. It was the kind of people that hold you accountable. Those kind of people that won’t let you just sit and wallow in misery and complain all day long. So I had those people in my life that basically said, “Hey, you have to get back up.” And so instead of sitting in my closet smoking weed drinking bear, I started getting out and getting active in the Los Angeles community of writers of improvers, of comedians and actors, you name it. And that really gave me a new lease on life.
And I really realized how much I loved telling stories, and that I wanted to stay in the television industry, but I wanted to do that in a different way. And funny enough, I would have never imagined this. I ended up applying to go to grad school after being in LA for about a year. And I ended up back in New York City at Columbia University, to study journalism, where I realized I wanna put my energy and focus on telling stories that matter, as opposed to trying to make sure kids don’t turn the channel from Nickelodeon to the Disney Channel to the Cartoon Network.
Brett McKay: And I think it’s an interesting point here. So you had this moment in 2004 where you had lots of success. You were at the apex and then it was all taken away from you. And as you said, you realized that you were taking some things for granted. You were on auto pilot. And it was a process. It didn’t happen overnight. It might have felt like that. And then you started building yourself up slowly again. But then in 2016, you had that same sort of experience like, my life’s… And I think the take away from there is, I think, a lot of times people think they’re gonna reach this point where they just… They’ve made it. And I’ve had that experience too. That’s not the case? You’ve never really made it. You might have… Feel like you made it for a little bit, but then something happens to… That up turns everything.
Antonio Neves: You hit it spot on. I thought I had made it and I was done. And as you know, this an ongoing journey. And in life… It’s interesting as a coach and the work that I do in the personal development space, the word we hear all the time is commit. You have to commit. Commitment, etcetera. But what no one tells you, very rarely is that you have to re-commit every single day. Once you land the job, the work isn’t done. Once you land that amazing spouse or partner, the work isn’t done. Once you land and you have those amazing kids in your life the work isn’t done. Every single day you wake up, you have to re-commit to what’s most important. And that’s where I fell off, where I wasn’t re-committing every single day. I was coasting. I was making a lot of assumptions. And just letting things happen organically. And sometimes when things happen organically, it can be good, other times you can end up somewhere, you do not want to be.
Brett McKay: Another thing that happens besides coasting people just stop doing the thing that got them there in the first place. You see is like when people lose weight. They think, “Well, I’ve lost 10 pounds. I’ll just go back to eating the way I was before.” And then they gain weight. And they’re like, “What the heck happened?” No, it’s like you gotta keep eating like the way you did to lose that 10 pounds for basically the rest of your life if you wanna keep it off.
Antonio Neves: Yeah, that’s one of the questions I ask in the book as people think about where they are today in life, and they do wanna make a change. Is the question of that. Like what have you stopped doing that has got you to where you are today? And you can look at that in so many regards with your health and fitness as you just referenced. As you look at our relationships. As we look at our career, you name it. There are things that… I’ve always been blown away by the way, as like… As a coach who’s worked with so many top executives, founders, etcetera. And I’m sure you’ve seen this first-hand as well. These amazing men and women, they do this amazing work to get that title of vice president or senior vice president or in CEO. But then once they get in that chair, they get in that office, they stop doing the things that got them there.
And then what happens that organization, that department gets in trouble. It’s the same way when you think about sports. We’ve all seen that football team kill it in the first half. They kill it. They’re up 35 to nothing at half time, and then all of a sudden they come back from a half-time and they start playing not to lose. They stop doing all those things that got them to that 35 to zero lead. And guess what? You know what happens. Fourth quarter, two minutes to go they’re only up by two points and the other team has the ball and they may lose the game. So that’s another great way to think about it as well.
Brett McKay: One of the things I love about your book is that you take readers through these questions to analyze whether they’re coasting in life and just living on autopilot. And one of the most powerful questions I got from the book was this question of asking yourself, basically… You end up looking at the past 30 days, and you’d say, “Okay, based on my last 30 days of my life, of my work… ” You’d ask, “Would my company hire me again?” And you can do this with other parts of your life. Based on the last 30 days of my relationship with my wife, would she wanna marry me again? What do you think is powerful about this question? Why look at the most recent 30 days and not look at the past five years?
Antonio Neves: I think five years is such a big long runway that it’s just overwhelming. I find that when you look at something in 30 days spurts it gives you an honest assessment of where you are in life. It’s like real raw data. It’s not yesterday. Because if you worked out yesterday, great. But if you didn’t work out the 29 days prior to that it gives you a good idea of where you are. And I just think that seven days is too short. I like to think about it as… Wine. And I remember when I first learned about wine and I took class and someone was explaining why you smell the cork of wine before you drink it. And you smell it to make sure the bottle is still good to drink and that the wine hasn’t spoiled. And the last 30 days metric gives you an idea to see if anything has spoiled in your life.
And that question of when it relates to our work. Like based on the last 30 days, if your boss, if your manager had to make a decision to re-hire you, would the answer immediately be yes? When I ask that question to people, whether I’m in a board room, whether I’m at a conference or doing a Zoom presentation, most people start looking down because they’re like, “No.” Based on how I showed up the last 30 days, no, they wouldn’t hire me. And then you can take this on a personal level as well. This is a real one that I hate asking myself sometimes. And that is, if you happen to be married or in a committed relationship, based on the last 30 days of your marriage or your relationship, if your partner had to make a decision to re-commit to you or not would they immediately say yes?
Or would they say, “You know what, maybe we should keep dating for a little bit longer before I commit to marrying you.” Brett, we can look at that as it relates to parenting. We can look at it as it relates to our diet, health, personal finances, etcetera. But just briefly, as it relates to the career one to get a little bit deeper so people can know what I’m talking about. For those people who have jobs right now, I want you just to briefly to think about when you first were interviewing for the job that you’re in right now, and how bad you wanted that job. Think about when you had the second job interview. Think about when you were a finalist. Now, think about the day you got the job and how fired up you were. Think about how you showed up that first month, that first quarter, that first year of the job.
And then going back to what we talked about earlier, is how much of that man or woman still exists? Are you still doing those things that got you to where you are? The wild thing is that today, technically, we are smarter than we’ve ever been before in our life. We’ve had more experiences, more data, so we should be killing it at marriage. We should be killing it at our jobs. We should be killing it at parenting. However, we’re not doing those things. And 30 days, man, it is a great metric. And just briefly, I don’t want anyone to beat themselves up if they’re not happy about their last 30 days in their marriage or their work. All this is is data and information, so we can make a better decision today and a better decision tomorrow.
Brett McKay: And then what you can ask yourself is, once you’ve done this analysis and say, maybe it’s not where you want it to be, you can say, “Well, what can I do in the next 30 days that I can change those answer?” Right?
Antonio Neves: 100%. I mean, as it relates to my marriage, I can tell you as a guy prior to the pandemic, I was on the road sometimes five to 10,000 miles a month. Let me tell you, when I’m delivering a workshop in India and she’s with our toddler twins by herself for eight, nine days, odds are, she may not wanna say I wanna re-commit to that dude. But there are key things that I can do when I’m home and even when I’m on the road to ensure that we stay connected that I wasn’t doing previously, so it’s all just awareness.
Brett McKay: Yeah, I love the 30-day time frames. I think people can… That’s more manageable. It’s like, I can do better in 30 days. And if you say, “Well, I gotta do better for five years or 10 years.” Like, oh, man. I don’t know… That’s too much. I’m not even gonna try. But 30 days, that’s doable.
Antonio Neves: Absolutely.
Brett McKay: Alright, so another question you have your clients ask themselves to figure out if they’re sort of slacking or just sort of going on autopilot in life is, would you bet on you? What do you mean by that question? Why is that a powerful one to figure out where you are in life?
Antonio Neves: Betting on you… At first, I believe that to get others to bet on us, we have to be willing to bet on ourselves. And that means kind of like doing the work when no one is watching. I like to think about it like this. If you’ve ever find yourself at a casino or Las Vegas before, I like going to the sports book area. That’s where you go and they’re betting on all the different sporting events. That can be horse races, boxing matches, football games, baseball games, you name it. And they have this really big board up in the sports book area, and they have the things you can bet on and next to them are the odds of who is going to win that game, that match, etcetera. And the question I like to frame for people is, if your name was up there on that big board, would the odds be in your favor or against you? And would you let others bet on you? Would you let a family member bet their last dollars on you accomplishing what you say is most important?
Well, I think what people don’t realize is that every single day, people are betting on us. Guess what? Our employer is betting on us doing the work that we said we would do when they hired us. Guess what? Our spouse is betting on us being that amazing man, that husband that, who they met, the promises we made to them. Our kids are betting on us as well. Society, the banks that gives us loans, etcetera. And I’m a firm believer that if you don’t think the odds are in your favor, all you gotta do is think about those last 30 days. And if you do wanna know where your odds are or are not, it is in the last 30 days and you can make some new decisions moving forward. I just wanna make sure that every single day I’d be willing to bet my last dollar on myself.
Brett McKay: Now, I think that you literally don’t have to bet, but it’s a good mental exercise to do. I’ve done this to Annie Duke. She’s a psychologist and she was a professional poker player. One sort of heuristic she used to determine whether your opinion is good or not, is ask, “Okay, how much would you bet that your opinion is right?” And by doing that, be like, “Oh, well, probably not that much, so maybe I should re-evaluate this opinion.” I think you can apply the same thing. “Well, I’m gonna… How much would someone bet on me, be willing to bet on me to do this thing I said I would do?” Well, if it’s not much, that means you got work you gotta do.
Antonio Neves: 100%. I love that heuristic. That’s something I’m gonna have to use to ask myself, that’s brilliant.
Brett McKay: So another thing that you talk about that puts people on autopilot, or not necessarily that puts you in auto pilot, but something you’ve noticed with your clients you’ve worked with that are on autopilot and just coasting through life, is that they often talk about that they miss the good old days. When people say that, they miss the good old days, what do you think they really miss?
Antonio Neves: Well, we’ve all heard people say, “College. Best years of my life. High School. Best years of my life. Oh, that old job was the best one.” People are saying a few things. I think a great way to think about this is I read an article in The New York Times a few years back, and two business owners were being interviewed. And they started their company in New York City in the 1990s. And as you probably know, New York City in the 1990s was a lot different than it is right now. A little bit more grimy, a little more rough, etcetera. And at some point, one of the co-founders of this business said, “I really miss the old New York.” Reminiscing about what it was like in the 1990s. But his co-founder corrected him. He said, “You don’t miss the old New York. What you miss is the old you, who you were during that time, how you showed up in life during that time, that optimism that you had, that vigor that you had, the positive attitude that you had. You don’t miss the old days. What you miss is the old you.”
And so that makes me think about my early days in New York City, who I showed up as, with less than $1000 on my bank account, and how fired up I was, the intention that I had, the things I wanted to accomplish. First to that guy in 2016, two different people. One was coasting, one was leaning backwards and one was leaning forward. I think another way to think about this is, if you’re missing those old days and trying to figure out where you’re going in life is ask yourself a fun question. And that question is, if your life was a movie and the movie was halfway over, what would the lead characters start doing to turn things around? Odds are that person wouldn’t be reminiscing about the old days, that protagonist will be thinking about a new decision that they can make to make things better in the future.
Because for so many of us, we talk about the old days so much because atrophy has set in in our life. Again, we’re no longer living intentionally. We’re just going with the flow. And people get there so many times because so many of our responsibilities in life have accumulated over the years that we feel really paralyzed. You look around your house, you look around your garage and you have all this stuff and you’re like, “Do I even really want all of this?”
Brett McKay: Yeah, it’s like sort of gilded cage captures you. How do you counter that? That’s hard. It’s like you can’t just quit your job and go off and leave your family behind, so you can go find yourself and rediscover that old you. So how are you able to get that vitality and vigor back when you’re 40 years old, you’ve got a house, mortgage, bills you gotta pay, health insurance. Is it possible to get that spark again?
Antonio Neves: A, 100% is possible. One thing this book is not is, I’m not gonna tell you to go quit your job. I’m not gonna tell you to leave your marriage. I’m not gonna tell you to go start a brand new company on your own. But one thing I do do in this book is, I think I keep it real with people in a raw way. A lot of personal development self-help books don’t. And I think first, one thing we have to acknowledge, and this is hard for a lot of people to accept, including myself, is that we have to know that our dreams, whatever they are, have an expiration date if we don’t act on them. I’m a firm believer that our tombstone can have three dates, the date that we’re born, the date that we give up and the date that we die. And for far too many of us, that gap between the day that we give up, we start coasting, we live on autopilot, and the day that we die, is far too long.
And there are a lot of folks that have good intentions that will tell us things like, “Oh, well… ” If things don’t happen, they’ll say, “Well, maybe it’s not meant to be.” And I always like to say, “Well, was it not meant to be or did you give up?” And other people will say, “Y’all, don’t worry. It’s never too late.” And I believe that, and it’s never too late, but the longer you wait, the harder it is going to get. So what I invite people to do to ensure that the best thing is ahead of them as opposed to behind them, is first and foremost, to accept that. I truly believe, Brett, that things change when you wake up every single day and you say the best is ahead. Not just mentally like, “Yay, the best is ahead.” But then you actually work like the best is ahead as well. What do they say? Pray like God exists, work as if he doesn’t. So that’s first and foremost.
Second, something I talk about in the book that people can do that is extremely intentional is doing things to regularly find the edge in your life. When I talk about finding the edge is, if you’ve ever been an athlete before in your life, I don’t care if it’s football, baseball, volleyball, soccer, we all can remember that feeling before the game or match would begin. And you would get that increase heart rate, or you would get those butterflies in your stomach. That feeling right there is finding the edge. It’s the same thing if you’ve ever been a performer before and you get on a stage for public speaking, debate, open mic night, you name it, and your hands start trembling, your throat gets a little bit dry. And if you’re about to ask someone out for a date, when you get that sweaty upper lip.
I invite people to think about the last 30 days of their life and ask themselves in any shape or form, did they do anything that gave them an increased heart rate, that gave them some butterflies in their stomach, that made their hands tremble a little bit, that made them a little bit afraid. I mean the odds are, if we’re not doing that in some shape or form, we are not growing and we are not moving forward. We can do that at work. It can be simple as, are you taking action on your ideas anymore or are you allowing them to gather dust in a notebook or a hard drive? It can be in our relationship. Are you willing to have that conversation with your spouse, even though you’re both tired and you’re exhausted from taking care of these kids, but when you have that 10-minute conversation before you go to bed?
It can be that project that you’ve been talking about for so long. I’m not gonna say you have to finish it, but can you devote just 15 minutes of your life to it? And lastly, it could be that email, that email to a family member that you need just to press send on to apologize or to ask a question or to ask for support. At some point, we stop doing those things that make us a little bit uncomfortable and that’s when we can start stagnating.
Brett McKay: Alright, so push yourself, feel uncomfortable as much as you can. Another diagnostic you use I thought was useful that can help people to shift out of autopilot is you ask your clients to say, make a list of the things you’ve been complaining about over and over again for, let’s just say for the past 30 days, staying there. What’s useful about looking at objectively on paper the things you’ve been complaining about?
Antonio Neves: Well, first and foremost, I believe that, in terms of complaining, I think our life in many ways is like a Hollywood casting department. It will cast in certain things, certain experiences to help us learn a lesson and they will keep showing up over and over again until we are actually willing to learn that lesson. In my experience, complaints really open up a window. They truly can give us an insight into what we truly want in our life. And so for that person listening, I would just ask them to think about for a moment, what are the things that they regularly complain about? Working with clients over the years, I can tell you three things people tend to complain about a lot is money. People complain about the marriages, and some people complain about their health if they’re out of shape. And the second question though, after you identify those things you regularly complain about is, what does complaining about this provide us with? ‘Cause what we forget is complaining about something actually provides us with something. When we complain about money, sometimes it gives us permission to feel sorry for ourself. When we complain about something that’s not going right in our marriage, we’re giving ourselves permission to be right and make someone else wrong.
When we complain about our health and our well-being, many times it can give us permission just to stay lazy and not do anything to change things. What complaining about things does on a regular basis, man, it stops us from taking accountability for our experience. It allows us to continually to point the finger outward and to blame others. But most importantly, all complaining does is leaves things exactly where they are. One thing I’ve taken to doing, and I suggest that my clients do, if they have someone in their life who regularly complains, is to stop that by clearly asking them, “Okay, I hear you don’t like X, but what do you want?” And they’ll say, “Well, no, no, no, no, no… ” “I hear you don’t want X or you don’t want Y but what do you want?” Nine times out of 10, in my experience, people don’t want a solution. They want a complaint. But when we stop them with that question, “Well, what do you want?” It kind of puts a taser to that complaining and can open up a brand new window, if they’re willing. But there’s work that happens once they’re willing to answer their question of what do they want.
Brett McKay: Alright, so we’ve talked about a lot of great things so far that can help you get out of autopilot. And I think a lot of it’s just these questions help you figure out if you’re in autopilot in the first place. And then once you see the areas of your life where you’re sort of just coasting, those questions can give you things you can start doing. So that 30-day question. “Well, okay. I’m not doing great these past 30 days so here’s the things I can do for the next 30 days.” Well, then you have something there. You look at the complaints, you can see, “Well, here are my complaints. What can I do about it? What do I want?” Just going through these questions gives you things to start working on. Oh, the other thing we talked about is finding your edge, looking for ways you start feeling a little bit uncomfortable, pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. But another thing you talk about that can really supercharge all this stuff is doing this with other people, it’s not just a solo project. Why is having a team so important helping you become the person you wanna be?
Antonio Neves: If there’s something that I lament in my life is how much time I wasted by trying to figure out and do things on my own. That’s how I solved personal problems, challenges with my marriage, learning about new things as a parent, starting my own business. The answers are out there, but for some reason, a lot of us like to be stubborn and try to figure things out on our own. In my experience, no one who has accomplished anything of significance did it alone. And it makes me think back when I was in undergrad at Western Michigan University, I walked on the track and field team. And if you know anything about being a walk-on in collegiate athletics, you try out for the team, but you’re not guaranteed a spot. You don’t have a scholarship, you can be cut any time. Now, after two years of being on the team, I was doing absolutely horrible.
And the reason why I knew I was doing horrible is because one day my head coach came up to me and said, “You’re doing absolutely horrible.” I think the only thing I placed first in, those first two years on the team, was in line at McDonald’s after our track and field meets. But Coach Shaw did something special that day. He pointed to two people on the track and he says, “Both these guys are All-Americans.” One of these guys would go on to compete in the Olympics, another one would go on to compete in multiple world championships. And then he pointed to a whole bunch of other guys that were laying back, laughing, having a good time on the high jump mat. He says, “We have All-Americans on our team, yet you’re spending all your time with these guys. These guys laying back, laughing on the high jump mat.” Now, to be clear, the guys on the high jump mat weren’t bad people, they weren’t committing crimes, but they weren’t All-Americans. And Coach Shaw just walked away on that.
And what Coach Shaw did for me in that moment changed my life. He introduced me to this concept of thieves and allies. See, in my book, thieves are individuals that don’t encourage you, that don’t inspire you, that don’t challenge you, that don’t push you, that don’t hold you accountable to be the absolute best version of yourself. These are those people you spend time with that when you leave from spending time with them, you have less energy than when you arrived. That’s what my friend, John Gordon, the author, calls energy vampires. Thieves are those people, and we all know them, those folks that always got drama going on in their lives. You call them and the first thing they say is, “You’re not gonna believe what just happened to me.” And you’re like, “Why are things always happening to you and no one else?”
But the cool thing, as it relates to your question is, that we have time… We can also spend time with allies. Allies are people that do encourage us, that do inspire us, that do challenge us, push us and hold us accountable to be the best versions of ourselves. These folks don’t have drama going on in their lives, they have good things going on in their lives. These folks don’t take away your energy, they give you energy. And that was an early moment in my life when I realized how critical it was who I surrounded myself with. For people who are listening, a question I have for you… And that’s one thing you notice in this book, Brett. I don’t necessarily tell you what to do, but I give you a lot of questions. The question I have for you is to think about the five people you spend the most time with and ask yourself a simple question, do they make you better? Do the five people you spend the most time with, do they make you better or do they keep you standing still where you are?
And when I say the word thief, and we think it’s people committing crimes. Being a thief could be spending time with a friend of yours, and you have a good hang out, and then he’s about to leave because there’s a project he wants to work on at home, and you say, “Oh, come on. Stay for just one more beer.” That simple action right there of saying, “Come on, stay for just one more beer.” When you know he wants to go home and finish a project, in many ways that’s being a thief. So it’s really critical who we decide to spend our time with. By the way, just for an end note, I didn’t become an All-American or an Olympian, but I did go on to become an All-Conference triple jumper, which was cool because I ended up earning a partial scholarship, which meant my mom no longer had to pay for my tuition on her credit card. So spending time with those allies did make a difference in my track and field life, but also in my day-to-day today.
Brett McKay: And you’ve continued this, looking for allies even in your life now. You type on the book, you have this thing you call Man Mornings. What are Man Mornings, who are the guys that do this with you, and what goes on there and what benefit has it given you?
Antonio Neves: Yeah, for the past five, six years, we’ve done something called Man Morning Thursday. Every week at 7:00 AM, about five to seven guys, we get together for an early morning walk or hike. And we made it intentional to do it at 7:00 AM. We wanted it on the calendar, because we knew that the conversations that we had at 7:00 AM over coffee or tea were very different than the conversations we had at 7:00 PM over a beer or a drink. Not that those were bad conversations in the evening, but they were just different. And these are men from all different walks of life. Some were married and parents like I am, others are single, some have 9-5 jobs, some are business owners like myself. And over the course of sometimes just an hour, we talk about everything from relationships to marriage, to business, to money, you name it. And you realize, first and foremost, that you’re not the only one going through something, that someone else has been there, that people can give you some feedback, you can get some advice.
But what’s amazing about Man Morning as well about this intentional group of guys, is that there are times I’ll go to this where I don’t really say anything over the course of the hour, but I still get so much value out of it. And another thing that I think we take for granted is that our own personal breakthroughs can come when we help others. We think we have to… It’s all about us, but when we’re helping others, we can have our own personal breakthrough. So I always encourage people to find a group. It can be co-ed, it can be a Man Morning like this, it can be a virtual Zoom Talk, it could be a group coaching program, it can be the Strenuous Life, you name it, but I think we have to have something on the calendar. That’s the key right there. Have something on the calendar that you opt out of as opposed to opting in on every week.
Brett McKay: I love it. So we’ve talked about a lot of stuff. As we end this conversation, what are some things, like some concrete things that people can start doing today to shift their life out of autopilot? What do you think will provide that most bang for their buck to get them a taste of what this can do and keep them motivated to keep going?
Antonio Neves: Yeah, I’ll share a few things. First and foremost, just to reiterate point from earlier, don’t do it by yourself. Something I wish I would have hit on earlier in the book or more in the book, is that I work with a group coach. I’m part of men’s groups, I’m part of different groups, I’m always learning online, so I invite you to not do it alone. To be more practical, for me something I suggest, I have a daily checklist that I know if these things happen, odds are, I’m gonna have a good day. I’m not gonna say it’s gonna be a great day, but odds are it’s gonna be a good day. And I invite you to identify what your checklist is from a good day that you know will make things better. For me, I know that if I learn something every single day, that’s gonna be a game changer. Learning something can be reading 10 pages of a book, it can be listening to an amazing podcast like this, it could be consuming some content from an online course. So that’s one key thing. Ask yourself, “Are you learning something every single day?”
Second, just before we even got on, I have to sweat. And if I don’t sweat every single day, the crazy in my brain doesn’t go away. And I find that people, when they sweat, even if it’s something as simple as a 15-minute movement, it’s a game changer for them. Third, of course, these are things that people probably already know, but it’s great reminders, it’s really critical what we put in our body. And I think a great question we can ask ourselves as it relates to food is, “Is what I’m about to put in my body, is it going to fuel me or is it going to deplete me?” That’s a question… That helps me make good decisions. Is this, what I’m about to put in my mouth, going to fuel me or deplete me? And the two last things, I think from a daily basis checklist that I like to focus on is one connection. Like, I have to connect with someone and have to hear their voice on a daily basis, a friend, a family member. It could be a five-minute call, doesn’t need to be an hour, but it’s a game changer.
And the last one, and this is my five, is the meditation. Like 15 minutes to 20 minutes of meditation for me a day, I try to do that twice a day. But if I get that in, it’s a game changer. So just to repeat those, learn something, sweat, watch what you eat, the meditation and the connection. And then just to round it out, I invite people to do two last things. One, to regularly finish something. I find that we have so many projects that we’re working on, but nothing’s getting finished. I invite you to look at your lay of the land of what’s going on in your life and say, “Hey, what can I finish?” And as I mentioned about Man Morning, how we do that every single week, I invite you to look at your calendar and say, “What can I put on there?” Have something to look forward to. I find so many people don’t have anything to look forward to on a regular basis. And I’m not talking about just a vacation to Tahiti or something like that, it could be a men’s group. It could be a date night, weekend outing, etcetera, and I list a whole bunch of those activities in the book.
Brett McKay: Well, Antonio, this has been a great conversation. Where can people go to learn more about the book and your work?
Antonio Neves: Yeah, everything about Antonio Neves can be found at theantonioneves.com, theantonioneves.com and on social media, everything’s at @theAntonioNeves.
Brett McKay: Alright, Antonio Neves, thanks for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
Antonio Neves: Thank you for having me. It’s an honor.
Brett McKay: My guest today was Antonio Neves. He’s the author of the book, Stop Living on Autopilot. It’s available on Amazon.com and book stores everywhere. You can find out more information about his work at his website, theantonioneves.com, that’s N-E-V-E-S.com. Also check out our show notes at aom.is/autopilot where you can find links to resources, where you can delve deeper into this topic.
Well, that wraps up another edition of The AOM podcast, check out our website at artofmanliness.com where you can find our podcast archives as well as thousands of articles, written reviews about pretty much anything you could think of. And if you’d like to enjoy ad-free episodes of the AOM podcast, you can do so on Stitcher Premium. Head over to stitcherpremium.com, sign up, use code MANLINESS at check out for a free month trial. Once you’re signed up, download Stitcher App on Android iOS and you can start join ad-free episodes of the AOM podcast. And if you haven’t done so already, I’d appreciate if you take one minute to give us a review on Apple podcast or Stitcher, it helps out a lot. And if you’ve done that already, thank you. Please consider sharing the show with a friend or family member who you think will get something out of it. As always, thank you for the continued support. Until the next time, this is Brett McKay reminding you, not only listen to the podcast, but put what you’ve heard into action.