Challenge Yourself — Challenge yourself on a daily or weekly basis to remember that you can be a savage. Train BJJ, say the necessary things that need to be said, go for a cold swim or take a cold shower, put yourself in a position that’s uncomfortable. Doing these things will remind you that you’re more capable than what you give yourself credit for.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Itamar Marani.
Itamar Marani is an Israeli ex-special forces, was the youngest air marshal in Israel’s history and a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt (ranked top 10 in the world at an amateur level). He now leads elite performance accelerators around mindset for 6–8 figure entrepreneurs. Itamar is a loving husband and devoted father to his 1 year old son and dog.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
My name is Itamar Marani. I was born in Israel, but spent 7 years of my childhood in the US. I served in the Israeli special forces, was the youngest air marshal in the country’s history, am a BJJ black (was ranked top ten in the world at the amateur level) and I now lead an elite performance accelerator focused on conquering fear and mental blocks for 6–8 figure entrepreneurs with online businesses.
I’ve lived in the USA, Brazil, Thailand, Germany, Israel, Vietnam and also spent 1.5 years working on a mega yacht as the chief of security. I’m also a devoted husband and father.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
After giving a talk at a conference for entrepreneurs at the end of 2019 I was encouraged to launch a mindset coaching business.
A couple months in, COVID hit shattering my marketing plans and the nearly dozen speaking opportunities I had lined up across the US and Europe.
As soon as it happened I recognized that from a business standpoint, this was the biggest blessing I could ask for.
I realized that there would be a time of turbulence where people would need to have their head on straight to take advantage of the new opportunities that would emerge.
I transitioned to a fully online vehicle and aggressively put myself out there. I created a free 5-week Covid Crisis Mastermind that consisted of 11 groups of 6–8 figure entrepreneurs, gave many virtual talks and offered as much value as I could to as many entrepreneurs as possible.
Within 5 months of the business launching it hit 6 figures in profit which was a great relief as my wife and I had just discovered that we’d soon be expecting our first born.
The main lesson is that if you’re trying to grow, chaos can be your friend. Even if the pie as a whole will shrink, there will be even less people focused enough to keep their seat at the table… and that’s your opportunity.
The second key lesson is to not expect things to be fair. Most of the effort I put out during March and April of 2020 got me nothing in return. Talks that I stayed up late to give, masterminds groups I led, one-on-one consultations that didn’t create any sales for the business.
If I had cared about what was “fair” or not that would have frustrated me and I probably would’ve stopped. However fair wasn’t on my radar. The only thing I cared about providing for my growing family so providing outsized value to get what I wanted was something I was entirely at peace with.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Most performance accelerators or high performance coaches in the civilian world focus on motivation. They try to pump people up with mantras, tricks and various routines to get them motivated and hopefully achieve peak performance.
While it might work for a week it never lasts. It’s a motivational bandaid that eventually falls off. People fall back to their baseline soon after the motivational high wears off.
What we do differently is that we focus on addition through subtraction. Instead of motivating people, we focus on resolving their internal fears, doubts, mental blocks and insecurities — the internal friction that people usually have to get really motivated to push through.
That way, even when they have normal day-to-day “mediocre” motivation they can still take massive action because the internal friction isn’t there to stop them.
This approach allows people to achieve sustainable elite performance that lasts.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Glen Cohen. The former head of psychology of the Mosad and head hostage negotiator for the IDF. When I survived an attempted kidnapping by Al-Qaeda as an operative he helped me make sense of the fears and social issues it created.
Since that he’s helped me in many ways. He’s been a mentor and teacher I greatly appreciate.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I would define resilience as the ability to overcome necessary hardships on your path to success.
This might be very different than the common answers of “discipline, toughness or grit” but the main characteristic I’ve found truly resilient people to have is purpose.
Nietzsche said “He who was a why to live by, can bear almost any how” and I’ve found that to be very true. Both for myself and others.
I’ve pushed through many hardships, but there have been times I didn’t. The only factor that was different was whether there was a purpose behind the challenge… And I see that across the board with other high achievers.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Resilience is more passive and courage is more active. Resilience is what you have to embrace when the world throws a challenge your way and you need to deal with it. Courage is different. With courage you’re actively seeking out challenges. If you really want to succeed in life, you have to be an active player. You must intentionally put yourself in scary situations that will force you to grow. For that you need courage.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Viktor Frankl, the author of “Man’s Search for Meaning.”
My grandparents were Holocaust survivors so his stories about the horrors of the holocaust deeply moved me. What really left a mark was the perspective he shared in his writing. That we can’t avoid suffering, but we can chose how to deal with it. That if we choose to find purpose or utility in it and understand how it can make us better individuals we can view hardships as an opportunity, not just a burden.
His perspective allowed me to view situations where I had to muster up and display resiliency not as a necessary evil, but an opportunity to grow into the person I want to become.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
No. I’m very fortunate to have grown up in an environment where I was never told that. My parents allowed me to go for things, stumble, fail, get up and come to my own conclusions about limits. I’m very grateful for them and am trying to raise my son in the same way.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
When I was 18 I was fortunate enough to get accepted and drafted into the most elite unit in the IDF special forces. It was just 12 of us from the entire draft class and I was very proud to have gotten my foot in the door.
Months 4–6 of the training are called Advanced Unit Bootcamp and are mentally and physically, the toughest part of the training. Imagine 2 months of constant fog, sleep deprivation, endless physical activity and exhaustion..
During the last week heavy rain started to come down just after the sun had set. Our officer told us to get our gear on and to prepare for a run. We never knew how long these runs would be.
Long runs have always been my weakness and after a while I found myself at the back of the pack. My officer came to me and asked if I was ok. I managed to get out “Yes, I’m fine,” between gasps of air. After a couple seconds he asked me again if I want to take a break for a second on the truck and I said ok.
The moment I sat on the truck was the moment I got kicked out of the unit.
It was a heartbreaking and devastating blow to my 18 year old ego.
I managed to go onto a different special forces unit, but what I’m really proud of is what I did afterwards.
After my military service ended I graduated from the Israeli Federal Agents program as the youngest air marshal in the country’s history.
I had a lot of cards stacked against me and despite all the challenges, I graduated with honors and went on to be well respected by my peers in the service.
All because I wasn’t willing to feel that painful feeling of regret after I gave up in the first unit. As my older brother later told me “pain is temporary, but pride is forever.“ Graduating as the youngest federal agent in Israel’s history is something I’m still proud of to this day.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I’ve constantly tried to push beyond my abilities and I intentionally put myself in situations where everyone is better than me. I’ve done this in business and athletics.
When I came to the decision that I wanted to become a BJJ world champion I moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
I looked for the gym with the toughest guys because my belief is that if you want to be the best you have to surround yourself with the best.
Sparring with black belts who are much better than you can be painful, both physically and for you ego.
Everyday I was there I dealt with nagging injuries, feelings of incompetence and even slept on gym mats, but I never thought about stopping. It taught me that it’s much easier to be resilient when you have an internal purpose to pull you through tough times.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Purpose — If there’s no reason to overcome a hardship then why do it? The more you can be in sync with the reward, the less difficult it will feel.
- Face The Core Human Fears — It’s much harder to face an obstacle when we attach emotional meaning to it. We think “If I don’t succeed then people will judge me because it’ll prove that I’m not good enough or worthy.”
The moment we can understand the irrational fears that hinder our performance, things feel less turbulent. When we practice detaching emotions from a situation displaying resilience becomes infinitely easier because the situation doesn’t seem as turbulent anymore.
- Practice Perspective — If I’m just living in the here and now a hardship on my path will simply be an inconvenient deterrent. If I have a long term vision of the person I want to be, then a hardship is an opportunity to grow into that resilient, stronger and more capable individual.
- Challenge Yourself — Challenge yourself on a daily or weekly basis to remember that you can be a savage. Train BJJ, say the necessary things that need to be said, go for a cold swim or take a cold shower, put yourself in a position that’s uncomfortable. Doing these things will remind you that you’re more capable than what you give yourself credit for.
- Rinse & Repeat — Those are the 4 main pillars to create more resilience. If you consistently practice these 4 pillars you will quickly become a much more resilient individual.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Without emotional resilience people will never have true resilience. Determination, grit and discipline will take them 95% of the way up the mountain, but the last 5% where the stakes are highest and the stress is at its peak is when emotional baggage is the heaviest and causes people to fall short.
It’s why so many talented and hard working people sell themselves short, hesitate and simply don’t reach their full potential.
My mission is to give high achievers the tools to conquer that last 5%. To get honest about their doubts, fears and insecurities so that when the pressure is on those mental blocks don’t stop them.
Everyone wants to be courageous, but no one wants to be vulnerable. Yet to get past that final 5% getting vulnerable and dealing with fear is crucial.
As Ray Dalio put it “Accepting your weaknesses isn’t surrendering to them. It’s the first step in overcoming them.”
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Ray Dalio and Naval Ravikant have both been massive influences on me and I would be honored to sit with them.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Go to www.itamarmarani.com and download the 9-step Blueprint to Elite Performance and join the mailing list for a weekly email with 3 quick ideas about conquering your mind (it’s a 2 minute high impact read to upgrade your mindset and win)
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!