Rich Roll — From Alcoholic to Ultra-Endurance Star, Rebooting Life at 40, the Trap of Lower Companions, and How to Reinvent Yourself in the New Year (#561)

Artist's rendering of Rich RollArtist's rendering of Rich Roll
Illustration via 99designs

“Who are you becoming?”

— Rich Roll

At age 40, Rich Roll (@richroll) made the decision to overhaul the sedentary throes of overweight middle age. Walking away from a career in law, he reinvented himself as a globally recognized ultra-distance endurance athlete, bestselling author, and host of the wildly popular Rich Roll Podcast, one of the world’s most listened to podcasts, with more than 200 million downloads.

Named one of the “25 Fittest Men in the World” by Men’s Fitness and the “Guru of Reinvention” by Outside magazine, Rich shares his inspirational story of addiction, redemption, and athletic prowess in his bestselling memoir, Finding Ultra, and in the cookbooks/lifestyle guides The Plantpower Way and The Plantpower Way: Italia, which he co-authored with his wife Julie Piatt.

Rich is a graduate of Stanford University (where he was a member of their dynastic, multiple-NCAA-championship men’s swimming program) and Cornell Law School. He has been featured on CNN and on the cover of Outside and has been profiled in The New York Times, Forbes, ESPN, and many other prominent media outlets.

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Amazon Musicor on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.

Brought to you by Athletic Greens all-in-one nutritional supplement, Eight Sleep’s Pod Pro Cover sleeping solution for dynamic cooling and heating, and Tonal smart home gym. More on all three below.

#561: Rich Roll — From Alcoholic to Ultra-Endurance Star, Rebooting Life at 40, the Trap of Lower Companions, and How to Reinvent Yourself in the New Year


This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. I get asked all the time, “If you could only use one supplement, what would it be?” My answer is usually AG1 by Athletic Greens, my all-in-one nutritional insurance. I recommended it in The 4-Hour Body in 2010 and did not get paid to do so. I do my best with nutrient-dense meals, of course, but AG further covers my bases with vitamins, minerals, and whole-food-sourced micronutrients that support gut health and the immune system. 

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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES…

Want to hear another episode that outlines effective paradigms for dealing with trauma and addiction? Listen to my conversation with Dr. Gabor Maté, in which we discuss investigating the causes rather than the consequences of addiction, the therapeutic value of psychedelics (including the right way and the wrong way to experience ayahuasca), why some powerful modalities aren’t for everyone, and much more.

#298: Dr. Gabor Maté — New Paradigms, Ayahuasca, and Redefining Addiction

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SHOW NOTES

  • Prior to turning things around at age 40, what role had alcohol played in Rich’s life, and when did he realize it was a problem? How bad did it get? [07:27]
  • Why did Rich decide to pursue a career in law? [16:09]
  • What was the last straw that made Rich decide to seek help for his addiction to alcohol? How old was he, what was going on in his life at the time, and what form did this help take? [18:26]
  • What does Rich notice people commonly missing when he retells his story of addiction recovery and lifestyle changes that led him to become the person he is today? [27:45]
  • As Dr. Gabor Maté says: “Don’t ask why the addiction, ask why the pain.” What tools have most helped Rich understand and manage his own addiction? [33:51]
  • Was the decentralized nature of Bill Wilson’s Alcoholics Anonymous basically blockchain before blockchain was cool? [40:45]
  • Rich says that addiction is “a spectrum so broad that almost anybody can find themselves somewhere along the line.” Even if you might not consider yourself an addict, the tools of addiction recovery can often be used to help you break bad patterns you find yourself repeating. [43:45]
  • Having trouble cultivating good habits (like regular exercise)? Remember: “Mood follows action.” [48:36]
  • Why (and how) did Rich turn his physical health around at age 40? [50:52]
  • Rich’s most worthwhile investment of time, money, or energy. [57:59]
  • Rich’s advice for anyone trying to make positive changes in their own life — whether it’s building a small, beneficial habit, picking up a new set of skills, or overhauling their physical regimen for maximum results. [1:03:55]
  • Zone 2 training thoughts, experiences, and recommendations. [1:14:59]
  • How — and why — did Rich get in the habit of regularly sleeping in a tent on his roof? How does he maximize benefits and alleviate potential dangers of this unorthodox practice? [1:24:34]
  • By not scheduling commitments before noon, what does Rich’s daily architecture look like? How often does he succeed in fending off disruptions to this schedule? [1:32:00]
  • How Rich got to the point where he commits to living a month off the grid every year, what he does to ensure that it happens, and how he benefits from this practice. [1:38:37]
  • An aside: Rich asks me to share what I experienced off the grid recently in Antarctica. [1:42:41]
  • What would Rich’s billboard say? [1:49:49]
  • What is Rich most excited about for the year ahead? [1:52:32]
  • What Rich would ask the audience to consider and parting thoughts. [1:56:51]

MORE RICH ROLL QUOTES FROM THE INTERVIEW

“Addiction lives on this incredibly broad spectrum. And it’s a spectrum so broad that almost anybody can find themselves somewhere along the line.”
— Rich Roll

“Compulsion to want to know all the answers and how it’s going to play out and all the steps you’re going to need to take to get there can prevent us from moving forward in our lives.”
— Rich Roll

“You have to live your life if you’re going to have anything worthy to say about the human experience.”
— Rich Roll

“My original thought was, ‘Who are you?’ But I’ve modified that. I think a better question is, ‘Who are you becoming?’”
— Rich Roll

“Every decision that we make, every interaction that we have, every word that comes out of our mouth is either moving us towards a better, more authentic version of ourselves, or away from it.”
— Rich Roll

“My whole life has been premised on this idea that if I haven’t suffered to create this thing, that I haven’t worked hard enough, or that it doesn’t hold value. And I’m in this journey of trying to let go.”
— Rich Roll

Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyOvercastPodcast AddictPocket CastsStitcherCastboxGoogle PodcastsAmazon Musicor on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.

PEOPLE MENTIONED

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 700 million downloads. It has been selected for “Best of Apple Podcasts” three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it’s been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.