Lessons on Pushing Limits and Maximizing Life with Jesse Itzler

Most of us go through life on autopilot.

New day, same routine:

  • Work the same hours
  • See the same friends
  • Have the same weekend plans (aka Netflix…)

For Jesse Itzler, “same old old plans” would be worse than death.

Jesse is an uber-successful entrepreneur, New York Times bestselling author, endurance athlete, and former rapper.

A few of his career highlights:

  1. Cofounded private-jet-card company Marquis Jet, then sold it to Warren Buffett
  2. Helped pioneer Zico, which was acquired by Coca-Cola
  3. Co-owns the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and is married to Spanx founder Sara Blakely


But Jesse wasn’t handed a silver spoon with all of the successes. Back in 2010, Jesse felt his life was boring and routine. After months of wasting away, Jesse had enough and did something crazy unconventional…

He hired “the toughest man on the planet” — an ex-Navy SEAL — to kick his ass into gear.

The SEAL didn’t just put Jesse through some gym routines 2-3x per week. Instead, the SEAL lived with Jesse and his family for 31 days. They had one rule: During those 31 days, Jesse had to do everything the SEAL asked him to do.

No exceptions. No excuses.

Jesse shared the whole crazy adventure and everything it taught him in his book Living with a SEAL.

I loved Jesse’s book so much I had to get him on my podcast. I reached out to him on Twitter to see if we could connect.

A month later, I visited Jesse at his office in Atlanta to record this episode of Noah Kagan Presents. I even got to sit with Jesse in the owner’s seats at an Atlanta Hawks game.

Hanging with Jesse Itzler at the Hawks game

During this podcast, Jesse shares some stories and lessons from his wildly successful and unorthodox life.

Here are just a few of the INSANE takeaways you’ll get from listening:

  • Why you’re probably under-valuing yourself (and doing less than you think)
  • 40% left: Methods to fight when you’re tired — but you still have lot left to give
  • Jesse’s weird reason why he only eats fruit until noon
  • The most IMPORTANT thing in the world
  • Why most people give away their time too freely
  • How to buy an NBA team
  • What it’s like to sell a company to Warren Buffet
  • How to know when you’re ready to settle down
  • Plus tons more…

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I really, really enjoyed learning from Jesse. During our chat, there were three key themes:

  1. Learn to respect time
  2. Eliminate the fluff
  3. Build a life resume

Strategy #1: Learn to Respect Time

Your relationship with time is probably out of whack.

  • Are you giving away your time too freely? For example, when you’re asked for a “quick favor” do you say yes too often?
  • Are you spending most of your time working a job, or hanging out with people, you dislike?
  • How much of your 24 hours each day are you wasting?

Too many of us live like we’re never going to die. (Click to Tweet)

Jesse has laser focus on embracing his time.

Instead of getting pissed off by plane delays or long lines, Jesse embraces the downtime to catch up on tasks (or do something he enjoys). For example:

  • Reading a book
  • Replying to emails
  • Listening to his favorite music

Always be looking out for chances to turn “frustrating” time into “productive” time. Most days, we all have downtime which can be used to double up on tasks or 2x productivity:

Strategy #2: Eliminate the Fluff

Jesse tries to remove any “fluff” from his life and focus on what’s most important for him.

During our conversation he gave an example:

There’s a lot of fluff around the Super Bowl: you get the pre-game hype, coin toss, commercials, anthems, timeouts, halftime, celebrations and more. The entire game snap-to-whistle only lasts about 5 minutes. The Patriots won the game and only had the ball in play for 2-3 minutes total.

Fluff, or not-so-important tasks we spend time on, takes up time and often holds us back from achieving our goals.

For example: 90% of meetings are fluff. In most meetings, there’s a whole lot of bullshit, talking about the same thing 72,232 times… and then 1-2 minutes of actual discussion. (I hate meetings so much I cut back in my own biz.)

Imagine all the time you’d save if you reduced your meetings and other fluff in your life.

Bottom-line: When you eliminate fluff, you leave more time for action. This is partly how Jesse has done more insane stuff in the past few years than most people have done in their entire lives (like writing a book, rapping, and starting a company).

In my own life, eliminating fluff means:

Think about the things in your life you enjoy most. How can you maximize the time you spend doing those things? Can everyday be your Best Day Ever?

Strategy #3: Build a Life Resume

Jesse has had an incredibly successful professional career. But when we reflected back on his proudest moments, most aren’t business related.

Instead, Jesse looks back on challenges like running 100 miles, raising his kids, and the diversity of his life experiences as his proudest moments.

Businesses don’t define Jesse’s life. He’s focused on building a “life resume” which includes LOTS of other stuff besides work. His scorecard for life isn’t how much money he has in the bank, but how many amazing memories he’s experienced.

Do you look at your startup, job title, or the money you’ve made as markers for success?

I’m guilty of this, too.

My conversation with Jesse inspired me to take a look at the big picture of my life and helped me to think about how and where I spend my time.

Before I say ‘yes’ to something, I think about how it fits with my scorecard and ask myself “is this something I’ll be proud to look back on in 20-30 years time?”

What does your life scorecard look like? Let me know in the comments below.

And if you want to listen to my whole conversation with Jesse Itzler, check out the recording below.

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Subscribe in iTunesSubscribe on AndroidSubscribe on Stitcher

Check out Jesse’s website for more details on his crazy adventures and experiences.

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8 responses to “Lessons on Pushing Limits and Maximizing Life with Jesse Itzler”

August 30, 2017 at 5:20 am

Hey Noah I love your stuff.

You know what would be great?

I binge listen to them, but I hate going to page after page.

Also kills my data at the gym.

If you had a page with a link to download all of them up to date that would be divine.

Much love.

Monica Cisneros
June 23, 2017 at 3:40 pm

Thank you for the Podcast! Of course most of us have heard of Sara Blakely but I never paid any attention to who she was married to. I was very impressed by Jesse’s bio and what he feels is truly important in his life. I am about to pick up his book. Wonderful podcast as always.

Sebastian Juhola
May 28, 2017 at 5:03 am

Ok so this was a great podcast as usual, but when you first mentioned his book “Living with a SEAL” it just bugged me the whole episode.

I hadn’t heard of the book before. I was like 98% sure he had been living with a navy seal for a month. But 2% of me had my doubts. Did he live with an actual seal for 31 days? What could he have possibly learned from it?

I googled the book afterwards. It was indeed about a navy seal.

May 2, 2017 at 3:38 pm

Holy crap. I was listening to this episode as I was running errands and when I got back I googled Itzler’s wife. I was curious about her pre-existing wealth and converting to Judaism. Its the chick that invented Spanx! She was featured on “How I Built This” podcast – which was one of my favorite episodes. She’s another one of those “I had an idea, convinced a manufacturer to partner with me with nearly nothing to invest, called up Neiman Marcus, flew to Texas for a meeting and didn’t leave without a deal” types. That’s extremely simplified, but she’s definitely an awesome entrepreneur. She hustles backwards and in heels.

Noah, Thank you for doing this podcast. I’ve had to drop a few other shows to make room for you – but totally worth it. [Not sure the other podcasters agree…] I truly enjoy your content.

Noah Kagan
May 2, 2017 at 4:13 pm

This made my day Miranda. Thank you 🙂

Brad Costanzo
May 2, 2017 at 10:59 am

Great episode Noah! I was fortunate enough to get to interview Jesse on my show over a year ago and he blew me away with not only the insights he shared, his life story and his crazy attitude, but how genuine he is and his approach to life.

Since then I’ve gotten a chance to work much closer with him and his team and realize just how much his attitude toward life, business and relationships rubs off and even makes me think bigger, bolder and out of my comfort zone.

Will be sharing.

Mitchell Cohen
May 2, 2017 at 10:26 am

Awesome episode. Some of my highlights:
-Going off “instinct” rather than business plan and building 3 hours of solo time every day
-Rapper dinner “just go for it” what’s the worst that can happen?
-Interesting hearing about NBA owner bid process (Jesse is the man)
-“how you do anything is how you do everything”

So many great pieces in this episode. Thanks Noah!

Travis Johnson
May 2, 2017 at 7:44 am

Epic episode! Jesse’s attitude on just not giving a shit and getting stuff done was super inspiring. I wrote a list of action items to implement in my life as I listened.

His perception of you in the beginning was awesome. I often have these moments with others and they’re always amazed that I can tell so much about them after knowing them for a few minutes/hours. It was cool to see someone else who has this “trait”.

Keep it up man! Always stoked to get your latest episode in my inbox ?

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