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Transcript #44: A Daily Routine for Growth Mindset & Gratitude That Will Change Your Life with Alex Ikonn, Creator of The Five Minute Journal and The Productivity Planner

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Episode #44: A Daily Routine for Growth Mindset & Gratitude That Will Change Your Life with Alex Ikonn, Creator of The Five Minute Journal and The Productivity Planner

Alex Ikonn:

People think like, “Oh, if you created The Productivity Planner you must be productive all the time, or if you created The Five Minute Journal you just must be all the time grateful and happy,” but we create these tools because we need to work on something. And I think most importantly, gratitude has shifted my whole life. Of course for me, that pivotal moment really did come from having a very challenged childhood, in a way being a victim of the circumstances.

 

When you have scarcity in your life of some sort, whether it be from things that are happening in your family or in your maybe career or school or relationships, you can get into that trap of really playing down on yourself and saying, “Why poor me?” And things like that. I had that, and I had a big first realization that if you want to make any difference in your life, you got to take responsibility. You can’t blame your upbringing or the situation you’re currently in or anything. You got to take responsibility for your life. What you focus on, you really cultivate and then create in your life. You’re really planting seeds to your reality with your everyday thoughts.

 

When you build years of certain behaviors and then people think like, “Why is it so hard to change?” It may seem like, “Oh, it’s nothing,” to watch some news or do some gossip here or pay attention to that thought or go down this rabbit hole. In reality, those are habits, and as we all know, habits create your reality. You are a creature of your habits. There are certain things that you automatically do. Everyone’s trying to sell you the pill. “Take this pill, and miraculously you’re going to become happier, you’re going to lose weight,” and all that stuff. The thing is, depending on your age and cases in your history, it may take you a long time to really uncover a lot of the stuff that you may have been building over time to then create a new trajectory for yourself and to change your mindset.

 

The thing is, no one can really make me unhappy. Once you take responsibility in your life, the power in this, and of course in our society and people I can see how many of us are clinging onto the blaming of somebody else, and we can see this in especially the news and the politics how it’s always somebody else’s fault. I think the biggest power that people have is when individuals stand up and take responsibility and start making different choices, and I hope really everybody takes that shot because that’s one of the reasons why we create the tools that we do whether it be for ourselves or for other people or even why do I come on this podcast and share this with you or why do you even record the podcast? We’re doing it for the reason that you listening right now, that we believe in you.

 

I know that that boy like myself who wasn’t exposed to this type of information, I know we can help them shift and change their lives. And it may be even listening to this, these type of things, all the time, but at one moment I’ll just click. And you’re like, “Well, I can change. I can make this difference in my life by even doing a simple thing.” You don’t even need The Five Minute Journal. The listener on this podcast right now, what you can do is, without even buying any products or doing anything, is starting right now of course, you can say one thing that you’re grateful for in your life. But if you can make this a habit on a daily basis, I believe if you do that continuously for at least six months, 6 to 12 months, and that’s where it all starts with that love and taking care of yourself, if you take care of that one being that you can be responsible for and start there, you’re making such a big change because it’s going to be a ripple effect, because people are going to feel that energy and then you’re going to inspire others.

 

I think most importantly, that shift of me taking responsibility, I really want to go back to that, because having that first decision to say, “I am responsible,” and even that word, able to respond, to a certain situation that you’re going through in your life to take that next step of action, whatever it may be. Once you do that, things start aligning in a magical way. I think both of our intention here with the people listening is to help and empower you right now to make that change that you want to create and take that action in your life, because maybe I’ll be the one or [inaudible] we’ll be using your product to help us improve our life or the lives of many people other people in whatever industry that you need to be working in. That is the most incredible, magical thing.

Caneel Joyce:

Welcome to Allowed. This is your host, Caneel Joyce. I have a favorite product. I’ve talked about it on this show many times as well as in other places, and this product is called The Five Minute Journal. I am so excited that the creator, one of the co-founders of Intelligent Change who created The Five Minute Journal is here on the show with me today. We have Alex Ikonn. He is a person that I’ve been watching from afar for a long time. I was looking back through my journal, which is part of my regular morning routine, the most consistent part of my morning routine, and specifically it’s The Five Minute Journal. I was flipping back, and I noticed I have been using that system for four years now, and it has remained the most consistent part of my morning routine. As a student of life, and he means that in just such a profound way and I can’t wait for you to hear his story, he’s always learning, and that’s what he inspires in us as well.

 

That’s what he supports in us. He’s an entrepreneur. Alex has co-founded several successful businesses, including Intelligent Change, which produces The Five Minute Journal and The Productivity Planner, which are both bestsellers with nearly a million copies in print of The Five Minute Journal and really quickly catching up is The Productivity Planner. Luxy Hair was his first startup, which was co-founded with his wife, Mimi Ikonn, who is herself quite an icon, and her sister, in 2010. Quickly, they become one of the largest direct to consumer hair extension eCommerce brands online. Now, hair extensions and an incredible productivity tool, these both being the product of the same mastermind, this is part of his brilliance and I think you will see it in this interview. This beauty company was acquired in 2018. Since then, they’ve been angel investing.

 

They’ve invested in great companies like Calm, June, Tradesy and others, so we share some friends in common, I think. Alex’s YouTube channel is his outlet, and that’s a great resource for you. We will link to it in the show notes at AllowedPodcast.com, and there you can see his very inspiring talks, where he’s talked about growth mindset versus fixed mindset and truthfully in his life how he has discovered that as a pivotal difference and really applied it in the most vivid way. I cannot wait for you to hear his story. So he wants to share that with you.

 

We also here are focused on a particular product, and I have used this tool, as I’ve mentioned, for many years, and on episode 43, I detailed for you my morning routine and all the different ways I’m playing with it, the tips and tricks that I feel are useful for you, and maybe turned you on to some tools you have not heard of before. But this one is really, truly my fave and today we’re going to dive deeper into the thinking behind this particular tool, which I feel is useful to you whether or not this ends up being a tool that you personally use, because this is an incredibly well-designed and thoughtful piece of work. Also, I want to remind you that gratitude is a core and fundamental practice of conscious leadership. The Five Minute Journal happens to be a tool that really is based around and designed around gratitude. Asking yourself, “What are you grateful for?”

 

This is almost a cliché at this point, but Alex shares his story and it demonstrates how truly this simple question, asked once per day, made a massive, massive fundamental difference in his life. I’m so excited for you to learn about it, and I want to refer you back to episode number three of this very podcast, which you can find at AllowedPodcast.com. Episode three is where we talk about gratitude. So please welcome with me Alex Ikonn, dialing in from London right after putting his daughter to bed. Hi, Alex.

Alex Ikonn:

Hey. Good to be here. Thank you so much for the intro, I really appreciate to be invited and to be speaking to you across the world. I’m still, every time, I don’t get tired of how amazing technology is.

Caneel Joyce:

Absolutely, and isn’t it nice sometimes to not use technology? Your products are case in point.

Alex Ikonn:

No, you definitely need to go analog sometimes and not be digital. I think that’s one of the reasons why when we created it is that intention is to have something in your life that you’re able to… There’s still, I believe, a power to putting pen to paper and interacting and writing. Of course maybe a lot of… We’re still part of that generation that still remembers writing, but I really believe the way it’s able to go in your subconscious is a lot deeper than kind of just typing along.

Caneel Joyce:

There’s a lot of evidence for that, absolutely. You’ve been really at this personal growth game for a very long time, and we were both well studied, but also a thought leader in your own right. I know that you’ve got some very popular videos around growth mindset and habit change. This The Five Minute Journal that you’ve created, which is designed to be used in the morning as well as in the evening and there are separate questions for both sections, and then your new tool, The Productivity Planner, are both bestsellers, which is mind-blowing and so inspiring to think of how many people are down for that kind of a ride.

Alex Ikonn:

We’re probably approaching, end of the year I believe we’ll be close to a million for The Five Minute Journal. Yeah, so it’s beyond my wildest dreams what I was able to achieve, and most importantly it’s the strong word of mouth, like yourself and other people who share it. So it’s pretty incredible.

Caneel Joyce:

Dang, kid. That’s a lot of copies.

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah.

Caneel Joyce:

I can imagine that a lot of them are also gifts, which is how I received mine and fell in love with it.

Alex Ikonn:

Oh, I would say majority of the… Because a lot of people always ask, “How do you market? What’s the genius behind it?” Reality is, as they say, the best marketing is the product and when the product is able to deliver on that value, people, once they gain that value from the product they want to share, they want to do it themselves and majority of our sales comes through people sharing and gifting and of course once we’re approaching Thanksgiving and the holidays, that’s, half of our sales come around in Q4, Q1. So Thanksgiving, gifting, because it’s a nice, thoughtful gift that… Because even it’s celebrities gifting to each other, and it’s like we had instances where a big, say, movie star will be like, “My other costar on my TV show gifted this to me,” and they have like 15, 10 million followers and they’re gifting it to each other. So I’m seeing this happening at that level. It also happens at the lower level, but the also reason I bring it up is because to many people who, you’re like, “What do you get somebody who has everything?”

Caneel Joyce:

Right.

Alex Ikonn:

And many times, especially you live out in LA as well, you know kind of that world, life can lose a lot of meaning once you have everything. A lot of people need these reminders, these tools and exercises to just remind them, “Hey, my life is great.” And just in general, what are you complaining about and why are you focusing on the negative when in reality you have so many things to really be grateful for?

Caneel Joyce:

Yes, I love it so much. I love it so much. One of the things about this podcast that I think has been really surprisingly to me how resonant it has been for our listeners and to my joy, has really been understanding also the person behind the idea, and I’ve found that often the things that we create in our lives are expressions of our own growth trajectory. The things I’ve been most challenged by in my life I’ve spent so much of my career trying to address them and understand them, and eventually this becomes a piece of my work, my work product. I don’t know anything about how that lines up with you, but I’m guessing that there’s a story behind who you became and how you became that person before you even created these products that is connected to the product in some way.

Alex Ikonn:

Oh, I think it’s huge, and one of the things I always recommend to people is how important it is to be your own customer. I think even for us, on all of our businesses we’ve always been our own customers first. Of course we had a different business, which was in beauty. That was not related to me, it was more related to my wife, so she was the customer. However, with The Five Minute Journal it was the same thing. More importantly, it was that idea of growth mindset and just mindset in general has been a big, pivotal thing in my life, a cornerstone of why I have the life that I have, and-

Caneel Joyce:

Pivotal.

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah, huge.

Caneel Joyce:

So there was a time when you did not have a growth mindset?

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah, I think many of us, people think, “Oh, if you created The Productivity Planner, you must be productive all the time,” or, “if you create The Five Minute Journal, you just must be all the time grateful and happy,” but in reality, we create these tools because we need to work on something.

Caneel Joyce:

Right.

Alex Ikonn:

And I think most importantly is also how gratitude has shifted my whole life, and now to a certain degree it’s a pet peeve of mine when people are not appreciative or grateful for maybe what you do or what they may have in their life. I want to just shake them up sometimes. I’m like, “Wow, you have so many things to be grateful for.” And of course for me, that pivotal moment really did come from having a very challenged childhood. I’m an immigrant from Russian parents, we moved to Canada when I was about 9, turning 10. My parents shortly divorced because being immigrant is very difficult just in general, especially moving to a place that they’ve never been, selling your whole life away and just moving over, it was a big risk that they took.

 

I think with that, then not having really a father around and then my father then passing away when I was around 16, 17, around that age, and I had a stepfather as well pass away a year before, so it was a lot of actually grief and death that happened around when I was kind of a late teenager, and at the same time put in that stuff of being a teenager and really in a way being a victim of the circumstances. I think growing up, especially when you grow up in not abundant surroundings, you start thinking, “Why is my life so difficult?” And when you see other people from what it seems like have a better life than you or easier than you, you’re like, “How come their parents have money and my parents have no money? I don’t have any allowance or that ability if I want to go to a movie. I can’t ask my mom for money because she doesn’t have it and I understand that.”

 

But you do start, when you have scarcity in your life of some sort, whether it be, like I said, from things that are happening in your family or maybe career or school or relationships, you can get into that trap of really playing down on yourself and saying, “Why poor me?” And things like that. I had that, and I had a big… I will say things don’t change right away. It takes a few bottoms to really bottom out when you can go forward, and for me it was really first of course being an early teenager just walking home alone to a home where I might know I’m going to be alone because my mom was working factory jobs and commuting a few hours a day and working 12 hours shift and night shifts and things like that. My sister was out and I know I’m going to go home, make myself some pasta with maybe some sort of sunflower oil or butter if we’re lucky, and that’s going to be my dinner and poor me. But at the same time, that first instance and why I bring it up, I just had that moment like, “No one cares. No one cares about you.”

 

It seems like even more of a victimhood thing, but it was a big realization in regards to that. If you want to make any difference in your life, you got to take responsibility. You can’t blame your upbringing or the situation you’re currently in or the stereotypes maybe you’ve been dealt with or anything. You got to take responsibility for your life. It’s not your parents, it’s not the government, it’s not God, it’s not anybody. It’s your life. It’s your responsibility.

Caneel Joyce:

So incredible that you’re mentioning this and describing it in the way that you are. Right before I hopped on to record this today, Alayna and I had a different session a couple hours ago with a woman who’s doing a research study around what it’s like to be a parent, and specifically a mother, during COVID. After we did the recording, and there are many, many challenges to parenting right now as you know, and unfortunately in most situations… Well, there’s an inequity in how that’s balanced in society as well as in most households, and so it tends to fall more with the mother than the father just on statistically speaking. So Alayna and I were unpacking it, and Alayna’s my producer, and I was like, I really want to be able to point out how even though on this show we talk so much about how much suffering we bring upon ourselves when we see ourselves as victims and how important it is for us to recognize when we’re doing that and question our stories and all that.

 

Even though that’s all what we stand for, it’s equally true that our stories and the feeling of poor me and the reality that some of us do face more challenges, some of us do face more scarcity, some of us are set up to see that’s true as well, because everything around us seems to reinforce that story, some of us do have these challenges and these stories are real and they create real suffering. As I hear that that was a thought that you had going home to that house of, “Nobody cares,” yes, there is a victim piece of that and that doesn’t make the suffering any less. It’s real.

Alex Ikonn:

Oh, for sure. It’s

Caneel Joyce:

It’s so real.

Alex Ikonn:

It’s very real, but I think I guess for me, my personal experience, what I realize is that being a victim, it just magnifies my suffering.

Caneel Joyce:

Absolutely. It’s the source of suffering.

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah, and that’s why it was my early, first realization that how important your mindset is and what you focus on, you really cultivate and then create in your life. You’re really planting seeds to your reality with your everyday thoughts. It may seem like, “Oh, it’s nothing,” to watch some news or do some gossip here or pay attention to that thought or go down this rabbit hole. In reality, those are habits and as we all know, habits create your reality. You are a creature of your habits. There’s certain things that you automatically do, and when you build years of certain behaviors and then people think like, “Why is it so hard to change?” Or a story we’re discussing actually, our customer service team is like, “Hey, I got this entry. How do we deal with it?” Somebody was like, “Hey, I’ve used your journal for like a year now and I don’t see a difference,” and they just describe how… We get crazy emails of life-changing stuff, of dark stuff, but he was just saying, “I love what you guys do and what you support, but it’s just not helping me.”

Caneel Joyce:

Wow.

Alex Ikonn:

And we were just discussing it, I was just talking about it, and that’s kind of how I’m tying in, is that we expect to a certain degree that, and especially I think in America, everyone’s trying to sell you the pill. “You take this pill, and miraculously you’re going to become happier, you’re going to lose weight, and all that stuff.” The thing is, depending on your age and cases in your history, it may take you a long time to really uncover a lot of the stuff that you may have been building over time to then create a new trajectory for yourself and to change your mindset. How can you expect to change your mindset even over a day, a few weeks, even a few months or even a year if you have, let’s say, this person was older so it was like 50 plus, if you have history, decades where you’re cultivating a certain mindset, it’s going to take you time to relearn. I really believe in the power of genetics and how you can truly change your DNA and your mindset, and that’s been proven as well, but it will take time. I guess a long story to your question –

Caneel Joyce:

That’s great.

Alex Ikonn:

… how to tie in the question to the product was created is really that idea of you need to have a tool that you have every day to help you cultivate that mindset. The example that really stood out to me is that how we can create a toothbrush for the mind? You brush your teeth every morning and night on a regular basis, and that’s a habit most of us hopefully cultivated to be able to have that mental hygiene.

Caneel Joyce:

Yeah.

Alex Ikonn:

Say taking a shower, right? I think it was Zig Ziglar who said like, “Motivation doesn’t last, so doesn’t taking a shower,” see?

Caneel Joyce:

Right.

Alex Ikonn:

You have to do those daily.

Caneel Joyce:

Completely.

Alex Ikonn:

How do we create something that I personally can use daily to cultivate a mindset of gratitude, a mindset of looking towards the good, a mindset of who am I becoming? Who am I? Who’s the person I want to show up as in that daily affirmation question of I am? And so that’s really how it was born. It was also with The Five Minute Journal and Intelligent Change, I co-founded it with one of my best friends, UJ, and we did it together. He kind of approached me to a certain degree because he wanted to have a lifestyle business. At that time, that’s what we had. We had a really great lifestyle business and he’s like, “I want to-“

Caneel Joyce:

And for our listeners, can you describe what a lifestyle business is for those who don’t know that term?

Alex Ikonn:

Sure, yeah. I think in some circles it’s frowned down upon, in some circles it’s very looked up upon. Frowned down upon I would say toward private equity, Silicon Valley, they don’t like lifestyle entrepreneurs because you’re not focusing on full potential and growth of the business and you’re more tailoring and designing the business towards lifestyle design and towards yourself. That idea is also born out of I think, not born out of, but I think a person that has really made this more well known and who I was inspired by as well was Tim Ferriss and the 4-Hour Workweek. I think that’s really the Bible for the lifestyle design, and I remember reading that book and saying, “Wow.” The whole life that I was building towards,” in regards to the regular of like go to a school, graduate, get a job, career, and at some point retire and kind of do it, the usual American awesome, American dream lifestyle.

 

Then learning that you, especially when you’re younger, you have your best years. You have the most energy, you have the most years, how can you still utilize that time and energy and have that time to be able to live the most life, not save it? And I’ve seen this, I think we’ve all seen it so often, when people wait until they retire to start traveling or to start experiencing the things or take off things on the bucket list. [inaudible] talked about how you can just take those mini retirements throughout your life where you take maybe a month off or three months off and be able to experience something, and that was really tantalizing. So same thing, like I said, my friend wanted to create that business and we would just go on these long walks, and exactly how I started telling you before, I said, “Hey,” especially at that point , creating a business just for the sake of accumulating wealth or generating money, it was very exciting to me because I came from nothing and that was my goal at the beginning of my first business.

 

I quickly realized once we obtained financial and lifestyle freedom for ourselves at our level, that it’s fairly meaningless unless you’re doing something with purpose, with passion, with something that you’re really aligned with. I told him right away, “Regardless what we do, you have to do something that you’re really passionate about and something that at least you have interest in.” He was an avid journaler. He would journal two hours a day and meditate and all this before it was super popular, as it is now, but even then I said, “Okay, here’s the thing. You’re in your early twenties, you’re single, you don’t really have a job. You have all this time. That’s a luxury.” Maybe I could have the time to journal for two hours a day, meditate for an hour, but it’s not that efficient at learning along those lines of Pareto’s law and 80/20. It was really, “Okay, how can I get the most effect with doing the least possible?” It was really the idea, “Okay, instead of journaling for all these hours, how can you do this effectively?

 

What’s the minimum dose that you can do to really have that effect of toothbrush for the mind?” You only brush your teeth for two minutes in the morning, two minutes at night, give or take it’s five minutes a day before you’re flossing and you’re done. So how can we have this for your mindset and self development? Another great book that really inspired us was called Happiness Advantage. This was actually a book that we were discussing as well by Shawn Achor. He’s a Harvard student but later on a TA in the famous happiness course, what was described, course at Harvard. In that book, he really brought a lot of research in regards to gratitude and journaling and mindfulness and how all of these things actually work and they’re proven to work scientifically.

 

The idea for the journal, for The Five Minute Journal, really came from us discussing it, and then also one of the things that I learned is that most people don’t read self development books. We might be in this bubble with maybe even people listening and you are where you think, “Oh, everybody knows Pareto’s law and Tim Ferriss and Brene Brown or any of these other people,” but in reality, a majority of the public, especially in America, don’t. They don’t consume that information.

Caneel Joyce:

Right.

Alex Ikonn:

The other realization is that, look, most people don’t really work on themselves in regards to they want to change their lives, but they don’t even use the tools required to actually change-

Caneel Joyce:

That have been proven to actually be effective.

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah, so if you do that, there’s so much information that is out there, whether it be podcasts or books or audiobooks or YouTube videos that are there to help you, but a lot of people, a majority of people aren’t even exposed to it. Especially they’ll say with these great books like the one we were discussing, there’s so much amazing information here how here’s the simple, little things that you can do every day like journaling, like practicing gratitude, that can significantly improve your life. Even if you’re one of those rare people that have, say, so the realization was most people don’t read those books. Most people who even pick them up and read them don’t finish them, and even if you’re one of that tiny minority who has bought a book and fully finished it, absorbed it, most likely you will just close it and say, “Hey, that was a terrific book. I learned so much on how gratitude and practicing gratitude can change your life. I’m going to start doing that.”

Caneel Joyce:

Yeah. Yeah. “I feel better just thinking to myself that I’m going to change myself by thinking about this,” and then we don’t apply it.

Alex Ikonn:

And even with absorbing information it can be like that. You’re listening to this podcast, you get this insight, you’re like, “Yeah, I’m going to implement this.”

Caneel Joyce:

Yeah, yeah.

Alex Ikonn:

And then you don’t. So the idea, and this is where kind of we spearheaded the so-called movement of guided journaling, because at that point it didn’t really exist as much, but I thought, “Okay, in order to actually make change,” so for myself, and this is one of the things that anybody can do listening to this, that I implemented at that point that had tremendous benefits in my life, was that at the moment when the second or the third bottom, I had many, especially around the age of 17. From the same time around that age kind of being arrested, almost going to jail, being on a very dark path. Drinking and things like that, smoking up, I was not the polished Alex Ikonn that people see on social media and think of the white privilege that I was raised in, you know?

Caneel Joyce:

Yeah, yeah.

Alex Ikonn:

It’s like, “He comes from money.” No, it was a very not terrific, especially that time when I was being brought up. In that moment, what I then did to change my life, I actually was fortunate that my mom’s boss at her retail job then gave her a box of Tony Robbins tapes.

Caneel Joyce:

Yes. The tapes.

Alex Ikonn:

They put it in cassette…

Caneel Joyce:

In the big plastic case that opened up like…

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah. It was Personal Power Two, it was cassette tapes, 30 days, and there was the cassette player and I would play those when I was around that age of 17. I would play those when I would go to sleep, and it was my first introduction towards this world of you can change your mind, and no matter where you come from, you can change it around. One of the things that Tony Robbins introduced in those tapes that was beneficial to me was this thing he would talk about, hour of power. How in the morning when you wake up you need to have an hour of power. When you have this routine of gratitude, as soon as you wake up, motion creates motion or something like that, but you got to move right away and start, go outside and…

Caneel Joyce:

Do the breathing, the visualizations, the affirmation, all of the things.

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And we do that, me and my wife, but we at that point lived in Canada and once winter comes around it’s negative Fahrenheit or especially Celsius, [inaudible 00:34:50], you don’t want to go outside and do all those stuff, so I got a little lazy and creative and I said, “Hey, what I’ll do instead of doing the whole hour of power is I’ll just think of one thing I’m grateful for as soon as I wake up.” And even if I forget to do it when I wake up, I’ll remember to do it in the shower. Creating that simple habit of training myself to have the first thought of when I wake up to be gratitude, it actually took me about six months. So with any habit, “Okay, I want to do this,” and then you kind of forget it for weeks at a time and you’re like, “oh wait, I was supposed to be doing this gratitude thing.”

 

But it took me about six months to create this habit of gratitude, of just doing one or a few simple things that I’m grateful for. That technique and exercise totally transformed my life, especially from that place where all sorts of bad was happening. I was being a real victim. By starting to focus on the good that I have or has happened, because I all of a sudden realized, I’m like, “Hey, I’m actually young and healthy.” Instead of looking like I’m this poor, no father, broke, no girlfriend loser, instead I’m thinking, “I’m 18. This is incredible.” A billionaire 80-year-old would trade all of his billions to be in my place right now.

Caneel Joyce:

Yeah.

Alex Ikonn:

And that happened really in that focus and understanding of looking at what do I have in my life?

Caneel Joyce:

I think that’s where the little leap of faith happens, is okay, both are true. On the one hand, I can look at my peers all around me and I can look at my socioeconomic status compared to their and I can easily argue that I’m poor, I can easily argue that I lost my father, because I did, he’s passed away. I can focus on that and then I can make this choice to focus on the things I do have and to value them. I think that choice is what scares so many people away from choosing a life of gratitude and a mindset of gratitude, because we are letting those stories define us and we’re letting the stories happen to us and get written for us. And yet while we’re so fixated on that, we are choosing not to pick up that pen, the metaphorical pen, and say, “I am going to now write my own story.”

 

But how it begins is I need to choose where to aim the camera and what we’re going to be focusing on, but it’s the willingness. On the show we talk about the change formula a lot, so the idea that if you multiple vision and discomfort, that will give you how willing to change you are. If either of those things is zero, I’m not uncomfortable at all, it doesn’t matter how much vision I have, I’m not willing to change and mess up what I’ve got going right now. If I’m also not, I have no vision whatsoever but I’m really, really uncomfortable, I could just stay uncomfortable forever because I don’t have any sense of where I’m trying to go.

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah.

Caneel Joyce:

But then once I’ve got both those things going, I get to add support, and that’s the category that I put your products into, is now I have support. What’s brilliant about it is, is that this very form of support is very, very simple, brilliantly easy to use tool, which I understand for those of you who have not picked it up and started using it yet and who are listening to this show right now, you might be thinking like, “How can she be so fanatic about a book of any kind?” This is a journal that literally asks five questions. That’s it. There’s also a fantastic intro chapter, by the way.

Alex Ikonn:

Oh, thank you. Yeah.

Caneel Joyce:

Here’s why, because it is so hard to make something simple that’s effective, and it’s so easy to make things complicated. It’s so easy and you could spend so much time going and buying things and thinking that that’s my solution, but if you’re not the one who’s willing to actually make a change in your mindset, which is a daily practice as you’re point out and you support, you’re not going to change. There’s a willingness piece of this. So I love how this tool that you’ve designed, it boosts my vision and it boosts my discomfort and it gives me support each and every day because I’m not a morning person, so I know that it’s so simple for me. All I need to do is wake up and find my journal. I keep it in a bag with a pen and that’s all that’s in there, and I sit down and drink coffee and I do this. It’s the simplest thing in the world, but it’s that encouragement to shift into the things I’m grateful for.

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah.

Caneel Joyce:

And the discomfort piece comes, by the way, spoiler, the last question you ask at night is, “How could I have made today even better?” That one sometimes I don’t want to answer.

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah, that’s totally fine. We can talk about that, why it’s such a quick question.

Caneel Joyce:

But I do it.

Alex Ikonn:

Even myself included, I skip that question sometimes, so I totally understand the discomfort. At the same time, we’ve even toyed around with the idea of changing that last question, but sometimes you even, let’s say with The Five Minute Journal, was that you understand with the way it is, there’s some sort of magic plan there and you just don’t want to mess up with it.

Caneel Joyce:

Right, right. I’m scared.

Alex Ikonn:

It’s honest. People are connecting with it. It may not be perfect, but let it be. There are so many things to unpack with what you just said, and I’d love to kind of go through some of those things. Just to touch on that piece, I think even with let’s say creating The Five Minute Journal, I really love Elizabeth Gilbert and what she speaks about in her book, I believe it’s Big Magic, and just these ideas are an ether and it’s up to you to catch them and to be able to present it to the world. Who’s able to deliver those ideas gets it. I never feel in a way of like, “Oh, I’m this genius who created this product and made it so whatever,” it just came to be. I remember we had a very special moment with my wife, Mimi, where serendipitously, we got invited to have dinner with Paul Coelho, the writer of The Alchemist

Caneel Joyce:

Oh, wow.

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s in his home in Geneva, Switzerland. Crazy happening, but it happened and I remember being there at dinner and Mimi asking him, “How did you create The Alchemist?” It was her favorite book and so many people like Will Smith, we’re having this serendipitous moment of being with the creative alchemist. He was like, “[inaudible 00:41:43].” He didn’t have any special story. When you hang out with him you’re like, “Yeah, he is just a normal dude.” He’s not this thing. That’s what I’ve tried to even speak about here, even myself, is that all of us have this ability to be able to create certain magic or to manifest certain things in our life, but as you said, you have to have a certain vision and be ready to face and to be in discomfort and go through that and be able to understand that the reason why so many people can’t change and they have difficulties changing is because even if you’re becoming this new person who you have the vision of becoming, you still have to understand there’ll be that discomfort of losing your current or old self. That’s a sense of ego loss that keeps people like, “My life is not good right now, but at least I know what this is.”

Caneel Joyce:

Yeah.

Alex Ikonn:

It’s a human nature to be afraid of the thing that they don’t know about, it’s the fear of the unknown.

Caneel Joyce:

It’s also the responsibility piece. As soon as I say those stories don’t define me, I’m the one left holding the pen and now it is my responsibility to create the story. The way that I have protected myself is I say, “This is not my fault because this story, this thing happened.” But as soon as I’m like, “That’s not going to define me,” guess who’s responsible? Me. That can be really scary, especially when you feel disempowered.

Alex Ikonn:

No, I think this is the reason why I always try to intervene that story of responsibility. Whenever I speak about that, many people including my mom says, “You’re very luck to have discovered that at such a young age.”

Caneel Joyce:

Yes.

Alex Ikonn:

To discover that you’re the only one responsible. The thing is, no one can really make me unhappy.

Caneel Joyce:

Yep.

Alex Ikonn:

Once you take responsibility in your life, it’s your responsibility and you take responsibility for whatever things are happening for you. The power in this, and of course in our society and people I can see how many of us are clinging on to the blaming of somebody else and we can see this especially in the news and the politics how it’s always somebody else’s fault. Even with people who have the desire to do good… One of the biggest examples that I always bring out, before all this stuff you would have these big protests on environmentalism and people blaming the big corporations and how they’re all evil. Mimi and I would have these discussions and I would say, “Okay, here’s the reality. We, each one of us individually, have the greatest power.”

Caneel Joyce:

Yes. The only power.

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah. And people think that if I… And that can work sometimes, but I think the biggest power that people have is when individuals stand up and take responsibility and start making different choices.

Caneel Joyce:

We can only control what we can control, and the only thing we can actually control is ourselves so there is no power if our focus is out there. There is no power. And you’re totally right, I think a lot of activism comes from this more below the line stance of villain. “You should do this, they should do this, I should do that.” It should be different is one of the most useless arguments, so the empowerment really comes from recognizing that responsibility equals freedom. Responsibility is my span of control, it is my choice. I’m always hungry to find out, I wonder what else I have been controlling and I didn’t even recognize it. How did I create this current situation that I’m claiming I don’t want? Because then, if I can go back and unpack that, which I think is what this last question in your journal is actually helpful for for me personally, is what did I create that I would like to create differently next time? And what could I learn about my own power by looking at what I can take responsibility for that I didn’t previously think I was responsible for?

Alex Ikonn:

And the key to that question as well, which we put out in the instructions is actually when you write it, it’s not like you’re going hard on yourself like, “Oh, I’m such a,” whatever, “for doing this,” you’re writing in a tense that you are already making that change. So the example is let’s say you always go to sleep late. You say, “I go to sleep at 10:00 PM.”

Caneel Joyce:

Yep.

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah. You write it as it’s already real, and that’s the thing. Even with The Five Minute Journal, it may seem like it’s five simple questions, and sometimes people write into us, they’re like, “Oh, this is how I’m writing.” I’m like, “Here’s the thing. The way you’re putting things together, you may not be, the way you’re speaking to yourself-“

Caneel Joyce:

Yes.

Alex Ikonn:

“You’re manifesting or creating things differently.”

Caneel Joyce:

Yeah.

Alex Ikonn:

So the second question is what would make today great? In that question, that’s the section where you can put those things. You can already write it in a way that has already happened. So for example, you know you’re going to have a certain lunch meeting or a date, whatever it may be, you can write in there, “I had great, thoughtful conversations with friend over lunch.”

Caneel Joyce:

Yeah. And so you’re manifesting it. I remember, I’ve told our listeners about this a couple of times, but when I realize that the higher I aimed in that section the more likely it was to happen, that was such a big epiphany for me, because it is manifesting and you get what you ask for to a certain extent. There were a few weeks in a row where almost every single day everything I wrote under what would make today great, by the evening it was listed again under three amazing things that happened to me today. I would just draw a line, like that happened.

Alex Ikonn:

Oh, wow.

Caneel Joyce:

Yeah. And I think that’s a pretty good representation of what can happen when we really pay such close attention to our words, our thoughts and we take that leap of faith and say, “I’m willing to jump into imagining that something way bigger than I expect could ever happen to me.”

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah. I think to many it may seem like, “Yeah right.”

Caneel Joyce:

Yeah. Right. Totally.

Alex Ikonn:

It’s like, “Okay, yeah-“

Caneel Joyce:

So woo-woo.

Alex Ikonn:

Here’s the thing that I’ve seen manifest in my own life and I think so many, is that we have to, and this is one of the quotes we have in the beginning of the journal, I don’t know if you know it, by Roald Dahl, is, “If you don’t believe in magic, it kind of-“

Caneel Joyce:

It doesn’t exist.

Alex Ikonn:

It doesn’t really exist. The reality is we forget how magical life itself is. The reality of just life, it’s you being alive right now, all of us in this imperfect world as it may seem, it is full of magic and is miraculous, however, you have to see it because over time we as humans get used to things. I believe there’s some sort of a scientific term for it, hedonic adaptation, but we just get used to the improvements and it just becomes normal. I think one of the communities had a great take when today we have wifi on the airplane. It’s like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” everyone’s cheering, and then five minutes later it breaks and they’re already upset that it broke.

Caneel Joyce:

Boo, boo.

Alex Ikonn:

It was something that didn’t exist five minutes ago and you were excited for it, and all of a sudden because it’s not working-

Caneel Joyce:

Or try turning off your kid’s cartoon shows. You can see how that works.

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah, all these things. So in these circumstances, it’s very important to, and that’s why even I think we still like to have these examples of these other people and shows, like I say, even your podcast or podcasts like the Tim Ferriss, people like to get that insight of what do these top performers or maybe these celebrities or top business people do? And you find that many of them have these practices of visualization, of if they didn’t believe in themselves to a certain degree or go, like you said, to, “Hey, I’m going to do it. I’m going to go for that role,” whether it be an acting role or for a certain position. And even let’s say we’ve also had of course the pleasure of running businesses and hiring people, and you still see that the people who maybe even get the position or the people who rise in their careers are the ones who have that vision as you said before, are willing to go to that discomfort, but also have that belief in their ability, not that they’re confident and cocky that they’re going to do it, but-

Caneel Joyce:

Different from confidence, yes.

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah, but they have that belief that, “I’m capable of it and I know I may not fully succeed, but I’m going to go after it anyway.” So I hope really everybody takes that shot, because that’s one of the reasons why we created the tools that we do, whether it be for ourselves or for other people, or even why do I come on this podcast and share this with you or why do you even record the podcast? It’s for you listening right now that we believe in you. I was communicating whenever I would make a video in the past or I’ll, say, get on a podcast and we do it, we do it for the reason that I know that that boy like myself who wasn’t exposed to this type of information at that age, I know we can help them shift and change their lives. It may be even listening to these type of things all the time, but at one moment it’ll just click.

Caneel Joyce:

Yes.

Alex Ikonn:

And you’re like, “Whoa. I can change. I can make this difference in my life by even doing a simple thing.” You don’t even need The Five Minute Journal. Like I said, that example, what shifted my life was getting in that habit of saying one thing, it’s the smallest, little thing you do. The listener on this podcast right now, what you can do is without even buying any products or doing anything, is starting right now of course, you can say one thing that you’re grateful for you in your life. But if you can make this a habit on a daily basis and you can have a blank journal to do that that you can buy at a Dollar Store or whatever you can do it, or you have The Five Minute Journal or if you have that ability to train yourself to do that in your mind, I believe if you do that continuously for at least six months, 6 to 12 months, and you actually… That’s another thing, what we said to that person we were speaking about that wasn’t having that difference. I’m like, “You also have to take that pause to actually feel.”

Caneel Joyce:

Feel it.

Alex Ikonn:

You know? So when you’re saying, you’re not just writing, “Oh, I’m grateful that I’m healthy.” Actually feel and just take that pause to begrateful for your body, that you have arms that move. I was that same age of 17. I broke my hand really and damaged my nerve where doctors told me I wasn’t going to move my left hand. It was like this, it was no movement. I had no movement in my left hand for almost a year.

Caneel Joyce:

Wow.

Alex Ikonn:

It took me almost a year of physiotherapy to have one little movement in my thumb.

Caneel Joyce:

Oh my gosh.

Alex Ikonn:

And so that’s what I’m saying. I had a lot of hardcore stuff happen in between those times, but even now, I have so much appreciation for even having my little thumb move. This is what many of us do have, and we have to focus on these things that we do have. Once we do, we just have an incredible appreciation for life. It does take practice, and that’s why I say once you have that practice of practicing gratitude and feeling it, that even that idea of thinking of the word gratitude, to many even listening right now it’d be like, “Okay, gratitude, gratitude. All these people talk about gratitude and in science we talk about gratitude,” but the reason for it, once you actually get to that point of practicing it, for a long time it doesn’t [inaudible] I didn’t feel authentic. But at one moment, when it clicks and when you actually spontaneously start having these feelings of thankfulness and gratitude towards random things, you know you’re on the right path. That’s when I think also, I think one of my wife’s favorite books is actually measure the different vibrations from different emotions.

Caneel Joyce:

Power Versus Force.

Alex Ikonn:

Oh, by…

Caneel Joyce:

Richard Dawkins.

Alex Ikonn:

There you go. So yeah.

Caneel Joyce:

Yeah.

Alex Ikonn:

I’ve actually dived into that book. It’s one of Mimi’s favorite books of all time. He speaks about those different feelings and emotions and how they have different energies and frequency that things vibrate. So maybe you can tell us more about that and how gratitude actually is such a powerful frequency.

Caneel Joyce:

Yes. More powerful frequency than joy. And these things, it literally impacts our bodies. Even if I walk into a room and I feel gratitude and you don’t even see my face or see my body and your eyes are closed and your ears are closed, your muscles will be stronger in my presence because I have that vibration. I thought that this vibe word was a hippy-dippy word that actually was just a conceptual, it was kind of new age-y, but it literally is a true energetic vibration that is measurable.

Alex Ikonn:

And I think right now, we can all… 2020 has been a funky year, and at the same time, no matter I think what city you are, we both see how unmasked, the vibrations can significantly change and affect you as well, and that’s why more than ever now, you have to do the work to keep your frequency high, right?

Caneel Joyce:

Yeah.

Alex Ikonn:

And especially if you’re intuitive or whatever, I think all of us are as human beings. You may be listening right now or watching, how we’re in reality, most of our interaction is actually body language and intuitive.

Caneel Joyce:

If you’re a helper type, I’ve heard some people who are very strong helper types who have resisted sometimes taking the time for a morning routine or doing any self-care in the evening, and it’s often, “Well, I need to make sure that everybody else is taken care of.” It’s very easy to fall into that, but I think what you’re underscoring is even if you’re not doing it for yourself, you doing it for yourself is good for others.

Alex Ikonn:

Oh, everything.

Caneel Joyce:

So I want you to do it for you, but do it for others if nothing else.

Alex Ikonn:

I think everything you do, and that speaks to that example of what we were talking about about activism and environmentalism, things like that, is it’s really about the biggest change you will make. It may seem like it’s not a big change, it’s by making that difference yourself by your purchasing power, by your decision. You may think, “Oh, it’s just me,” but the way we influence each other and the way it really ripples makes a big difference. I think there’s also a great story as well, my wife, Mimi, loves and that she shares that I recall as well, is that there’s a boy on the beach, but there’s all these starfish that came on shore. Did you hear this story?

Caneel Joyce:

No.

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah, so there’s all the starfish that came on shore, and they’re going to die because they’re going to dry out and the tide hasn’t gone away, and this boy is running along the shore and he was throwing these stars back in the water. A man comes up to him and he’s like, “Boy, what you’re doing is useless because there’s hundreds of thousands of them on the shore. Do you really think this is going to make a difference?” And he takes another one and he throws it in the water. “It just did for that one.” It really even touches me now because a lot of us right now, because there’s so many times we may think, “It’s too much. I can’t do anything,” but what you can do is, as we just said, even if you’re taking care of yourself, and that’s where it all starts, with that love and taking care of yourself, if you take care of that one being that you can be responsible for and start there, you’re making such a big change because it’s going to be a ripple effect because people are going to feel that energy. They’re going to rub it off and then you’re going to inspire others. It’s how you live your life, not what you say. It’s your actions, not your fronting that you’re a certain time of person. That’s when people see and feel like, “Wow, I love your energy. I love your being. You’re such a kind person.”

Caneel Joyce:

Well, and your way of being, too, I think is a piece of that, too. You just walking around being a loving person.

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah. We get a different feeling, we get a different vibration, and that’s the power we all have, which is incredible.

Caneel Joyce:

Well, this has been such a fun conversation.

Alex Ikonn:

We didn’t talk about business.

Caneel Joyce:

Maybe you can… Oh no, this is business, baby. Maybe you can come back on another time. I really would love to talk more about The Productivity Planner. I have other questions, but I wanted to share with you before we wrap a little piece of the magic that happens when you make these small choices that are taking that leap of, “I’m going to express my gratitude.” So I don’t know, however long ago, I moved from being too shy to tag people I didn’t know in social media posts and I stopped being so shy. So I tagged Five Minute Journal somehow somewhere. I’m guessing somehow that is what landed you at that Dinner for Conscious Leaders that I had in Los Angeles. You were there, right?

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah, of course I was there. No, no, it was such a great evening.

Caneel Joyce:

And that’s a place where, talk about vibration, I remember the feeling in the room at the end of the night and how magical it felt there. We did an exercise where we each were offering, “There’s something I need and there’s something that I can give.” I believe that is how you got connected with one of my former clients.

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah. We worked together.

Caneel Joyce:

Who ended up moving out to London to work with you for a number of months before COVID hit.

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah.

Caneel Joyce:

And then I actually said, “Well, since you’re closer, would you mind reconnecting me so that I can invite Alex to be on the podcast?” And now everybody’s who’s listening to this podcast is getting to have the experience of your firsthand testimonial of the power of gratitude and how it totally changed your life, which I imagine is going to have a ripple effect. That happened because of a series of what seemed like really small decisions that were in the direction of, “I’m not too shy to have gratitude and I’m going to give the gifts I can,” which for me was gathering people and facilitating an evening. And here you are.

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah. The power of once you make a certain choice, how it can have those ripple effects into, in a way that butterfly to change so many people’s lives. So with The Five Minute Journal, when we were creating it, at the beginning we didn’t have this idea of like, “Oh, we’re going to sell a million copies and we’re going to be these bestsellers,” and things like that. It was the idea of, “We just want to put it out there in the world because I want to have this, something that I want to have, and if somebody else wants this gift, I want to share it, too.” So even with the story, as you I think said, but it all started with that, I think most importantly that shift of me taking responsibility. I really want to go back to that, because without me or you or anybody listening right now having that first decision to say, “I am responsible,” and even that word, able to respond to a certain situation that you’re going through in your life, to take that next step of action, whatever it may be. Once you do that, things start aligning in a magical way. And even for me, seeing you here, us chatting and you listening, going through your Five Minute Journal and me seeing your entries in full, it’s you sharing with your listeners here or with other people or whoever gifted it to you, this is a magical force of once you put out something in the world, and as you said if you’re not, you overcome that shyness or whatever too, but be afraid to do that, and things just start happening. Also The Five Minute Journal, it took time to put it out because also my friend who I wanted to help out for a long time, was also afraid, too, like, “Am I a good enough person?” Because he wrote a lot of the intro piece. “Am I good enough even to do that? Who are we to do this?”

Caneel Joyce:

Imposter syndrome stuff, yeah.

Alex Ikonn:

Imposter syndrome is huge. We were in our early twenties when we worked on this, and now thinking the hands and people and the lives that I’ve changed because we took that chance, and in a way we said, “Hey, let’s put it out there,” and as you said, you can call it beautiful, simple, well thought out, at the same time it started with a simple idea, and the reason I want to communicate is I think in the same way where you’re trying to communicate, and this is really I think both of our intention here with the people listening is to help and empower the listeners, you right now, to make that change that you want to create and take that action in your life, because I believe if even one person makes a certain action, and it may be you listening right now, maybe I’ll be the one or you can, we’ll be using your product to help us improve our life or the lives of many other people in whatever industry they may be working in. That is the most incredible, magical thing.

 

I also want to, of course, thank you so much for having me on and also for you creating all the work that you do with your clients, and of course putting together such events that you did. Especially now in this current times, those times of connection, of bringing people together, we realize how special it is, especially to have that exchange and what things could happen. And the story you can say, Cassandra, who we connected that evening with, in that question, and thank you so much for putting together those questions. I would actually love for you, if we’re wrapping up, to leave us with some sort of a challenge or ask or anything. I think you do a fabulous job with that.

Caneel Joyce:

Thank you. Okay. My question for you, listener, is who would be most surprised to hear you reach out and thank them for something? And then my challenge for you is to do it and to notice, notice magic after that. I want you to be particularly hunting for magic. We often say-

Alex Ikonn:

No expectation zone.

Caneel Joyce:

We don’t say we don’t-

Alex Ikonn:

Unconditional.

Caneel Joyce:

Unconditional. We don’t control the timeline. We don’t control it. So look for it, allow yourself to be fooled into thinking things are magic, and surely you will find it. Thank you so much, Alex, for being here. It was fantastic. We will link to Alex’s Insta profile and ways for you to get in touch with him. We are going to share links to the journal and where you can purchase that and read more about it as well as a couple of really great videos that you can watch of Alex sharing more about growth mindset and his own story. Is there anything you’d like to share before we part?

Alex Ikonn:

I just really want to once again thank you for the opportunity and I want to thank anybody who’s gotten to this point now, and if you’re still listening or watching, you’re amazing. If you got to this point, make sure to screenshot, if you’re listening to this on some sort of podcast platform, share it on your Instagram or wherever you want to share it and tag us, I’m @AlexIkonn and Caneel, I’m sure, what’s your Instagram?

Caneel Joyce:

I’m @Caneel.is.

Alex Ikonn:

Yeah, there you go. Tag us and say, “Hey, I listened to the whole thing.” Thank you so much, amazing, and share with others. And I would love to then… As you said, don’t be afraid to tag other people and then I often feature people as well that tag us by viewing the product or listening to the podcast or anything, and this also gives a possible opportunity for even us to connect, how we can connect. So definitely do that and I think it’ll be incredible. Thank you so much for putting me on and thank you to the listener for listening.

Caneel Joyce:

Oh, cool. Thank you. Have a great week, see you guys all next week. Bye-bye.

 

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