February 16, 2021 · 6 min read
User Story: Making the impossible possible – Joel Runyon
Joel first reached out to us about a year ago and we’ve been in contact ever since. He has been a passionate Flow user for years now and since he runs several businesses and achieved various milestones in his life as an entrepreneur and athlete, we’re happy to have him as a guest and interview partner for our series of user stories.
How about a quick introduction, Joel?
My name is Joel Runyon. I’m an endurance athlete and founder of IMPOSSIBLE – a performance lifestyle company. It has several components including a fitness training site, an apparel and supplement ecommerce store, and the Impossible.org site where we raise money for various charities. I have several other businesses including a paleo guide, a meal planning app, and a mobility exercise coaching app. I’m also an advisor to several startups – my current favorite is LMNT – a sugar free electrolyte drink which is awesome.
What motivated you to start your own business and what advice do you have for other entrepreneurs or for people wanting to start their own business?
I didn’t start thinking I was building a business. I started thinking that I wanted to do something interesting with my life. That was the story behind the impossible list. As I started writing out the things I wanted to do and then started writing about doing them, I started to find an audience. As I built that audience, I would take note of the things that people resonated with and what they didn’t. I would make small things around the things that people resonated with and then eventually turned those into products. I did that a few times and voila – I had a business!
I firmly believe blogging can be one of the best ways to build an audience and start a business. Not that I need another side project, but I believe in blogging as a launch pad so much that we created this blogging guide at StartABlog.com to help people start their own. The goal is to help 10,000 people start their own blog and then their own business and unleash their creativity on the world.
How is the current global pandemic affecting your work and daily routine?
To be quite honest, it hasn’t shifted much at all. If anything, I find myself working (quite a lot) more. I’ve been remote working since I quit my job in 2012, so the adjustment has been okay, but I find with everyone online now – I can easily shift into over-working. I’ve had to intentionally slow down and make a lot more exclusive time for my fitness and solo walks outside – which help me sort of a reset my brain in an ‘always-on’ remote working culture.
You recently finished running 7 ultra marathons on 7 continents and raised nearly $200k for charity. What helped you accomplish this and how do you stay motivated?
777 might have been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. The only reason I was able to do this was because 1) I decided up front that quitting was not an option. 2) The goal was adventurous and motivating on it’s own! Once I was in Antarctica and I was exhausted 50 miles in, I wasn’t NOT going to finish! I was in Antarctica. Even if I had to suffer for the next X amount of miles, I was going to finish. 3) There was a cause bigger than me. Pencils of Promise does great work around the world and knowing that we’d be able to build 7 schools and provide opportunities for kids that deserved them kept me going even when I wanted to quit.
If you could go back in time a few years, what advice would you give yourself about productivity and things you learned the hard way?
Discipline creates freedom. For a while, when I was traveling – I would just wake up and work on whatever I wanted. Things in business and life were going well, but not amazing and the businesses weren’t growing in the way I wanted them to. Life was fun, but it wasn’t expanding.
Then, a few years ago, I decided instead of having ultimate freedom, I would intentionally give up a few good things so I could focus on the things I really wanted. I stopped traveling constantly, I moved to Austin, and I dedicated myself to a schedule and working off my calendar. What I found was that I got more traction and scale out of 18 months of discipline, than I did out of months and months of doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. As a result, I got unstuck, way more.
What’s one habit that makes you more productive during the day?
Can I pick two? I would say cold showers and workout every day. Cold showers help wake me up, focus and get me uncomfortable every day. Working out (or at least moving) every day completely resets my outlooks, changes the way I try to do something active every day. Days when it doesn’t happen, I feel worse, get less done and sleep really poorly.
What are some apps or tools you use to organize your day?
I use the Flow App to keep me on track with pomodoros. I use google docs for most of my team collaboration and Things for my personal todo list. Beyond that, I use our MoveWell stretching guides to help me stay active when I’m sitting at the desk all day. I use Roam and Mem.ai for note taking. I’m also a big fan of using analog tools like post-it notes and notebooks to write and plan away from the screen – it helps me focus quite a bit. I also try to keep my phone in my bag or use a faraday bag to keep my phone in it’s place and keep the distractions to the minimum.
How has Flow helped you in your daily life?
It’s easy to get caught up in minutiae or distracted throughout the day, but I find by combining pomodoros with a change of location and having set tasks at each location helps me get more done. Flow helps me with that. I actually termed this “workstation popcorn” and it’s my preference for working all day without just sitting and going crazy at my desk.