The 5 Pillars to Success in Anything: An Interview With Craig Ballantyne

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What do people who achieve incredible transformation in their life have in common?

That’s the question Craig Ballantyne set out to answer years ago. Craig is a productivity and fitness guru and the inventor of the Turbulence training workout program. He writes for Men's Fitness, has an email newsletter (with a massive following) called “Early To Rise,” and has authored a number of books, including The Perfect Day Formula.

I recently interviewed Craig to get his advice on how to find true success, in anything. (The transcript below has been edited lightly for space and clarity.)

Kevin Kruse: You’re all about the perfect day, and you say it begins with the three C's formula.

Craig Ballantyne: The three C formula comes from a quote from an ancient philosopher called Epictetus and he said: “Control what you can, Cope with what you can't, and Concentrate on what counts.” I thought a lot about that, and in time I realized, “Wait a minute, you can take this formula, this three C formula and apply it to the three parts of the day.”

In the morning we have the greatest control over our lives. We control what time we get up, we control what we eat first thing, we control what we focus on for the first fifteen minutes to an hour. Then, as the day goes on, we have to move to the second C which is “Cope with what you can't control.” So, you overcome traffic and if your boss is angry you can't control that, if it's raining you can't control that, but you can control your response to it–your thoughts, words, and your deeds.

And then, because you controlled your morning and you coped with the chaos that the world sent you in the afternoon, you're able to concentrate on what counts in the evening. Which means you can get home on time, you can have dinner with your family, you can help your children with their homework, read them a story, put them to bed…and still have time for yourself and your spouse and be able to wind down and get to bed at a good hour and have a good night's rest and have another perfect day the next day.

Kruse: Back when you were working with your fitness clients, what were the patterns you saw among the winners.

Ballantyne: It was 2008 when I started running these classic before-and-after transformation contests. You know, people do the “Before” photo and the “After” photo and they write this little essay. And I've read hundreds of essays over the years and I've found that they have these five things in place. And these five pillars are the same things that allowed me to overcome anxiety in my own life.

They are:

  1. Better planning and preparation than ever before: You couldn't just say that you want to achieve a goal; it’s essential to put together a detailed plan.
  2. Professional accountability: Research shows that when you're accountable to a professional, you're going to get expert advice and you're going to do the work. It has to be a mentor/mentee relationship, because a friend or a buddy isn’t going to be a hardass on you. And that's what you need, you need somebody to draw the hard line.
  3. Positive social support: You need to surround yourself with positive people, who are going to pick you up when you're feeling down. They're like the cheerleaders, the people alongside the side of the road as you're running a marathon at mile 25, cheering you on.
  4. A meaningful incentive: It's not money, it's not stuff that inspires us to take action, but it's something that we're doing for somebody else that we love (in most cases).
  5. The big deadline: This is the most important pillar of them all because it spurs us to action, helps us overcome the initial inertia, keeps us going through the tough times and shows us a light at the end of the tunnel.

And then as the deadline gets closer and closer, we actually take more and more action, faster and faster action. We get some of the best results as that deadline comes up.

It's not just about weight loss; these five pillars can help people do anything! Lose weight, get back in shape, make more money, and even find the love of their life. Using this system, you can achieve any goal.

Kruse: What's a specific action readers can take right now to get closer to their perfect day?

Ballantyne: My advice is always to tell people to get up 15 minutes earlier than they do now. They don't have to get up at 5 AM–I'm not a big fan of the 5 AM club. I think it's a terrible idea for a lot of people. You get up at the right time for you.

But if you just get up 15 minutes earlier than normal, before everybody else is up in the house…you go down to your kitchen table with a pen and paper and identify your #1 priority in life. And you start planning and preparing: Want to make more money? Start putting together a sales plan. Want to lose weight? Start putting together a workout plan and a nutrition plan, a grocery list. Want to find the love of your life? Start writing out the best Match profile ever, in the world.

That 15 minutes, first thing in the morning before anyone else gets up, working on your #1 priority: It’s six days a week, 72 hours in a year of uninterrupted thinking that most people will never get if they try and fit it in at any other time of the day.

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CEO of LEADx, and NY Times bestselling author, of Great Leaders Have No Rules and Employee Engagement 2.0. Get a FREE demo of the LEADx platform at