Joe De Sena explains his rules of resilience and mental toughness for your family

Virgin Radio

9 Feb 2022, 13:03

Credit: Getty

Credit: Getty

Best-selling author and endurance athlete Joe De Sena joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky to talk about his book, which is a guide to parenting in which he outlines his 10 principles for building true resilience.

Founder and CEO of company Spartan, Joe De Sena’s latest book, 10 Rules Of Resilience, is out now. When speaking about his story so far, Joe told Chris: “I grew up in Queens, New York. If you saw the movie Goodfellas, I grew up in Ground Zero for that movie. All of the folks portrayed were literally neighbours. In the middle of the raviolis, and the sausage and peppers and the jail time, my mum somehow finds a yogi from India, and converts into a vegan, starts teaching yoga, starts meditating.”

He continued: “I thought it was nuts, my dad thought it was nuts, everybody in the neighbourhood thought it was nuts. It was way too bohemian, way too crunchy, at that time, late-70s, maybe mid-70s, so they get divorced. I’m kicking and screaming, my sister’s kicking and screaming, we don’t want any part of it, but after a few decades, I realised my mum was right, and I started doing some of the crazy stuff.”

Joe spoke about how his mum would run ten miles a day and found a race called the Transcendence Run. He explained: “It’s a 3100 mile race around a one-mile loop. It takes 50 to 60 days. And the point of it was to show humans, to show our species, what we were capable of.”

Joe’s racing history is now the stuff of legend – he once competed in 50 ultra-events and 14 Ironman events in one year alone. He told Chris: “Anything became possible for me.” 

The endurance athlete explained: “I really was passionate about what I was fighting my mum on, which was this health and wellness idea of pushing people way outside their comfort zone and, in the process, seeing them transform. So that passion ultimately turned into Spartan, and here we are today.”

Spartan has more than one million annual global participants at over 270 events across over 40 countries. They have transformed more than seven million lives since 2010. Its founder told Chris: “Spartan is basically a military-inspired obstacle race, not too dissimilar to Tough Mudder, but more challenging in the sense that we’re going to hold you accountable. You’re going to do the obstacles or you’re going to do 30 burpees.”

In his latest book, Joe outlines his principles for building true resilience - a term he uses for a body and mind that have been carved out of hard work, challenge and failure. When Chris asked how he came to write a parenting book, he explained: “I have four children and I’m trying to live the Spartan mindset with those children. I’m trying to push them physically, mentally. I’m trying not to overstuff them with cookies. And everywhere I go, I’m met with boobytraps. If I’m in a ski resort and I’m skiing with the kids, people next to me that I don’t know are offering them literally cookies. 

“Or, I’ve got my kids swimming with a life-jacket, a mile. We’re going to do a mile swim today, it’s going to be unbelievable, epic, and I’ve got parents kayaking out to the swim, trying to pull my kids in off the water, ‘This is too crazy, this is too dangerous, get your kids back to shore!’ What are you talking about? The kid has a life jacket on!

“Or my boys are carrying kettlebells, and we’re walking around the neighbourhood getting some exercise and people are stopping, screeching their car, asking if the kids are okay, if I’m a coach, if they know me, or am I torturing them!” 

Explaining how he teamed up with psychologist Dr. Lara Pence to write his book, Joe said: “It just became clear that, oh, there’s nothing wrong with these people, they just haven’t seen children outside in over 10 or 15 years. People don’t go outside anymore. So I said, this is so ridiculous, I’m going to write a book about it and I’m going to get a psychologist alongside me, because if I don’t, everybody’s really going to think I’m crazy, my wife’s going to divorce me, right? ‘You can’t write a parenting book! You’re too insane.’ So, thank god the psychologist agreed with me!”

When Chris asked what it was like to be one of his kids, Joe responded: “It is hard to be my kids because we play at a different level, at least we try to, and all because I want to make them better. Look, life is hard. We’re gonna face incredibly difficult challenges. All I’m doing is manufacturing a little adversity. I’m not asking them, by the way, to jump on a horse and carriage with mum and me, and go over the Rocky Mountains on the way to California, where we see Grandma die along the way. This is not that bad. We’re going to do some push-ups, some burpees, some rope climbs, we’re going to go out in the rain, we’re going to get a little cold. They will miss some sleep.”

Joe’s 10 Rules include “You Can’t, Until You Can”, “Earned, Not Given”, “Live Your Values” and “Dedicate to a Daily Routine”. The author told Chris: “The biggest thing is you’ve got to change your frame of reference. You’ve got to change your perspective in life. When Covid hit, most people were not ready. But if you were taking cold showers, if you were doing the hard workouts, if you were skipping some meals here and there, or not eating when you’re not really that hungry, if you started to peel away that onion and build some resilience, well then when Covid hit and you were trapped on your couch with Netflix, it wouldn’t have been so bad.”

You can listen back to Chris’ full 30-minute interview with Joe here.

Joe De Sena’s 10 Rules For Resilience is out now.

For more great interviews listen to The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky, weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.