The Phoenix Principle – TSMP #64

Matt and Jay discuss The Phoenix Principle, death and rebirth, the art of the pivot and why you MUST accept the truth that “everything changes.”

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Intro: First You Must Die…

  • Review from last podcast “Becoming Death Proof”
    • There are a few things that are guaranteed in this life:
    • Politicians will bang their interns
    • Computers will keep getting faster and smaller 
    • Porn will continue to get weirder
    • Taxes will continue to suck…especially in California
    • People will spend too much time on social media 
    • And, of course, the true kicker…YOU’RE GONNA DIE
  • The WeCroak app (“We Croak” – free in Google Play and Apple App Store)
  • Bhutanese culture and death: Think about death 5x/day and you’ll be happier
  • Conclusion from last episode:
    • Like it or not, you’re going to die
    • If you want to be happy and at peace – do the psychological work now and ACCEPT YOUR DEATH
    • Once a man can accept his death, he can truly start to live

Death…and Rebirth (The Phoenix Story)

  • Okay…so last time we told you you’re gonna die…bummer right, but hey it is what it is. Prepare accordingly.
  • But are you ready to have your mind blown? Here’s the crazy part… if you TRULY want to succeed in life you’re not just going to die once. You’re actually going to die MANY, MANY times.
  • Okay, so yes, granted, you’re not ACTUALLY going to die multiple times but it’s going to feel like it.

Religious/Mythical Stories of Death & Rebirth

  • Christianity: Jesus death/rebirth – humanity → divinity
  • Greek: Persephone (death, into the underworld, rebirth – cycle of winter and summer), Dionysus (son of Zeus, killed by Titans, Zeus took fragments of his heart and put them into the wine of a mortal woman…symbolizing being drunk, dying and rebirth)
  • Nordic: Odin sacrificed on the World Tree and comes back with the secrets of the universe
  • Egyptian: Osiris (killed by brother Set, cut into 12 pieces, put in a box and sent to underworld. Wife Isis finds the pieces of his body, wraps up his body, Osiris returns and becomes god of both the underworld and rebirth)
  • Phoenix (bird) – A mythical creature that burns to death and then is resurrected from the ashes into full life. 

Which brings us to the Phoenix Principle…

The Phoenix Principle: In order to become the best version of yourself, you will occasionally need to “burn up” then “die” and then become “reborn” 

  • Burn Up (suffer through tremendous pain)
  • Die (to give up your old self)
  • Be Reborn (to transform into something different, with new life and vitality)

Life is ALWAYS About Cyclical Change (Death and Rebirth)

  • The four seasons – winter bringing death and spring new life
  • Sleeping every night (tired, weak –> unconscious sleep → stronger, revitalized new consciousness)
  • Vacations → Old routine broken, refreshed and restored → better life
  • Circle of Life among animal world 
    • A few predators vs many, many prey = balance is achieved
    • Too many mouths to feed, land is overgrazed, all prey animals die…BUT
    • …if predators kill old, sick, weak prey animals…large amount of healthy prey animals survive…land is not overwhelmed…balance is achieved 

Be a Cat (with 9 lives) not a Dog (with only one life)

Famous People Who “Resurrected” Themselves Using the Phoenix Principle

  • Stephen King was a high school janitor when he wrote his first novel “Carrie.”
    • Had been writing for years but didn’t know if he could ever succeed. After spending a long time working on the manuscript for Carrie he threw it into the trash because he hated it. His wife Tabitha found the manuscript and told King to finish it…she wanted to know how it ended.
  • Pope Francis used to be a nightclub bouncer in Buenos Aires, Argentina
    • Seriously? Seriously.
    • Before he became leader of the entire Catholic world, Pope Francis – real name Jorge Mario Bergoglio – worked his way through school by doing various jobs, including janitor and nightclub bouncer!
  • Steve Jobs was kicked out of Apple, the company he helped create
    • Jobs was young and brilliant but he butted heads with anyone who disagreed with him – including Apple’s board of directors. Not the best choice for Jobs.
    • “I was out – very publicly out,” Jobs said in a 2005 speech at Stanford University. “What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.”
    • After spending several years dealing with depression and a nervous breakdown, Jobs shook himself off and restarted again from scratch.
    • He co-founded computer company NeXT, which was later acquired by Apple, and then he launched Pixar Animation Studios.
    • When he returned to Apple nearly a decade later, Jobs brought the innovation of the iPod – then iPhone – and then iPad.
  • Colonel Harland Sanders had SERIOUS attitude problems and failed at basically everything because of it
    • Colonel Sanders sold tires in the early 1920s and became the top salesman in Kentucky, but he was fired because he treated customers and clients like crap.
    • He was fired from two separate railroad jobs, once for insubordination and the other time for fighting a colleague.
    • He pivoted again and put himself through law school and became a country lawyer…but then he publicly beat the crap out of his own client in court. Adios law career.
    • Over the next thirty years Sanders was fired from over a dozen more jobs before opening – and then closing – his first restaurant and going broke at age 65.
    • After losing his restaurant, Sanders traveled across the U.S. looking for franchisees who would sell his fried chicken.
    • It took nine more years for the Colonel to get real money. Finally, in 1964 when Sanders was 74 years old, he had built over 600 franchised outlets and he sold his interest in the company for $2 million (equivalent to $17 million in 2021 dollars).
  • Harrison Ford the Carpenter
    • Before he was Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford was a professional carpenter for 15 years.
    • Ford was actually hired to build sound stages and an office for none other than George Lucas.
    • After an impromptu screen reading for Lucas, he decided to cast Ford in American Graffiti…and soon after as Han Solo in Star Wars.
    • The rest was history.
  • Martha Stewart has followed the Phoenix principle MULTIPLE times
    • She was a full-time model until, as a 25-year-old mother, she found the modeling jobs were drying up
    • After modeling, Stewart reinvented herself, becoming a Wall Street stockbroker where she was successful for five years
    • After Wall Street, Stewart decided to turn her love of gourmet cooking and creative presentation into first a show, then magazine and then an entire series of products.
    • When Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia went public in 1999, Martha Stewart became worth over a billion dollars.

We All Know Regular People Who Followed the Phoenix Principle

  • Family members
    • Jay’s step-dad battled cancer and two strokes and still kicking ass, riding his motorcycle, maintaining his beautiful garden, keeping his granddaughters on their toes
    • Matt example – Mom – divorce – back to school, new career etc
  • Friends
    • Jay has a couple of buddies who reinvented themselves after serious addiction. One guy was an alcoholic for years, been sober now for almost a decade, successful w/beautiful wife and two kids. Another guy was addicted to amphetamines and in mental hospital – now successful writer, health trainer and coach.
    • Story after story of people losing a hundred or more pounds and getting healthy (we have an amazing story on our website about how David Goggins lost 106lbs in 3 months)


  • You’re going to die…but you have a choice. Will you be a Dog with only one life or a Cat with 9 lives?
  • Maybe you need to fight harder…maybe…BUT MAYBE you need to quit and start something completely new!

What’s so fascinating and frustrating and great about life is that you’re constantly starting over, all the time. And I love that. ~Billy Crystal

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