The ultimate learner delivers maximum impact

Tom Bilyeu has the potential to turn a lot of heads when he walks into a room. The creator of wildly successful brand Quest Nutrition and co-founder of Impact Theory, Bilyeu’s focus through the years has been on health for body, mind and soul.  

Bilyeu has learned that success isn’t all about money, but rather, matching his mindset to his well-rounded approach to health and work. In fact, while he has seen his teenage dream of acquiring wealth come to fruition, Bilyeu is now less focused on money than ever before.  

“The code that I live by is you always do that which moves you toward your goals,” Bilyeu told Jay Shetty in a recent episode of On Purpose with Jay Shetty.

Bilyeu’s journey is one for the books. It’s a story of humble beginnings, deep growth, and hard work that has paid off in more fulfilling ways than he ever thought possible.  

I’m the Learner

Early in Tom Bilyeu’s life, he realized his lofty dreams were not going to just magically come true. He was not the smartest or the most skilled, but he was highly motivated and determined to find other ways to stand out. He reflects on when he reasoned through what that would look like.

“I could choose to build my self-esteem around not being right, but finding the right answer,” he explained to Jay Shetty. “I didn’t have to be smart – I just had to work hard to learn. So that became the core of my existence. I decided I'm going to start valuing myself for how rapidly I can admit when I'm wrong, how much I learned, and how much time and energy I put into learning.” 

Bilyeu opened up to Jay Shetty about how this posture of learning has permeated every aspect of his life and has come to define him.  

“I switched my identity and my behaviors around to being the learner. Then, all of a sudden, everything changed.”   

Growing in Self – Awareness

“I feel that you are constantly working on yourself, whether it's health, relationships, or impact,” Jay Shetty remarked as he pointed out Tom Bilyeu’s knack for healthy self awareness. “You're constantly working on yourself. What I want to know is, how did you build that mindset?”

“I believe that this is the root of everyone's biggest challenge,” Bilyeu told Jay Shetty. “The biggest thing is if you're trying to march down a path of self-improvement without clarity, without a terrifying level of clarity, you're never gonna make it. So start there. What skill, trait, ability, or belief are you trying to make yours?”

Bilyeu further explained that giving himself grace when he is struggling has been a huge part of being self-aware. Not only does grace drive him to be honest with his feelings, it gives him the freedom to sit with them, process through them, and then move on.  Stuffing is not an option.

Change is Good

“I really want to be the poster child for changeability,” Tom Bilyeu admitted to his friend Jay Shetty. From the outside, it seems like he has conquered that feat. However, Bilyeu is referring to change at a deeper level than just company creation, growth, and movement.   

Bilyeu was going through a particularly low time in his life when this kind of change really sunk in for him.

“I was feeling down and stuck,” he told Jay Shetty. “I didn't know where I was going to go. Propensity towards action kicked in, and I started reading. I learned about the brain, figuring out how much of this can I change. I realized I can change it, and then that change felt so good.”

Bilyeu explained that although some of the changes he made seemed inconsequential at the time, mastering the positive output through intentional change brought huge results. 

“People are always looking for, ‘How do I have the energy? I'm depressed, I'm down on myself. How do I get the energy to push through?’” Bilyeu explained. “You've got to find a way to find energy in the fact that you can change. Whatever position you're in right now, you can change. No matter what it is, no matter how horrific, no matter what you've been through, no matter what you've done. There is a way out from under it.”  

“Part of it is allowing a sense of lightness to be there,” he continued to Jay Shetty. “So I allowed it. It began to lift off my shoulders, which then encouraged me to take more action, to read more, to get better. I started my obsession with gaining skills. Reading isn't about checking a box. It's about actually getting better at something that lets you do something.”

Bilyeu practiced everywhere on everyday activities like controlling his facial expressions when he received news he didn’t appreciate, having Lisa read him a letter that reminded him of mindset, and reading all he could about change and the effects it has on the brain.  

The world of possibility opened up for Bilyeu once he began to master effective change.

New Skills Open Up New Worlds

“You can get good at anything you set your mind to – but, do you actually set your mind to it? Do you have that inhuman level of follow-through? Do you keep pushing and fighting long after it stopped being fun, deep into boredom, because you have a why?”

These were the questions that haunted Tom Bilyeu as he navigated life and business. While he kept coming back to the dream of filmmaking, he hadn’t graduated top of his class and found himself lacking the skills needed to move forward.

Because of his dogged determination to seek change when needed, Tom began to look for skills that would propel him forward.  

“It's not circumstance, it's cause and effect,” he said. “It's how much energy you put into actually gaining the skills. And did you gain them, or did you just put in the energy and the effort thinking that should be enough to gain it, but you didn't actually gain them?”

Bilyeu stepped up to the plate. 

He learned where his filmmaking was lacking and acquired the skills needed to make up for that deficiency. He likens it to an athlete who sees their skills as the catalyst for a major life change or improvement. 

Skills propel people forward, and Bilyeu is a strong advocate for not just settling into where life seems to have placed you, but getting out there and learning the skills that can move you forward. 

Turn That Frown Upside Down

One of the most effective things Tom has learned over the years is to be a pattern-interrupting ninja. While he acknowledged that developing skills and self-awareness is vital, addressing negative thoughts or self-talk is at the core of health and self improvement. Negative self-talk and discouragement affects productivity, self confidence, and mental health. 

“You should be spending at least four times more time thinking about all the things you're doing well; all the good things you're bringing into this world; the things you're grateful for,” he told Jay Shetty.

Positive thinking is nice, but Bilyeu urged listeners to remember it doesn’t always come naturally. He’s committed to making the shift from negative to positive as soon as he catches it. This exercise in gratitude is a constant training for his brain to see goodness in disappointment. It takes work, he admitted, but the results are worth it. 

“If I have a negative thought that's recurring, I just tell myself, ‘Nope, you can't think this anymore,’” he told Jay Shetty. “I can't stop it popping up into my conscious mind, but I absolutely can control how the next thought goes.” 

He encouraged Jay Shetty’s listeners to use this exercise as a trigger to gratefulness. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

“At first it feels so awkward, and it's like the negative thought just keeps coming back,” he said to Jay Shetty, “But if you're diligent, suddenly negative thoughts become a habit loop trigger to gratitude.”

For Bilyeu, focusing on changing the negative habit loop has been life-changing.  

Relationship Goals

No aspect of Tom Bilyeu’s life has been untouched by his passion and commitment to learning.  His 18-year marriage is yet another testament to his steadfast pursuit of what’s better and truer. 

Bilyeu and wife Lisa take their relationship seriously, and that, Bilyeu admitted, is what makes it so fun.  

“What do you think are the top three things that people in relationships struggle with?” asked Jay Shetty.  

“Communication,” Bilyeu responded without a moment of hesitation. “Yes. Communication, communication, communication.”  

Bilyeu went on to say that true communication goes beyond just talking about things people may not even consider, like setting expectations. Communicating what each person’s expectations are is key.   

“We all come to a relationship with expectations about how we think people should act,” said Bilyeu to Jay Shetty. “Unfortunately, we don't recognize our expectations as expectations. We recognize them as truth.” 

When expectations are unmet, hurt or resentment can grow. Bilyeu urged listeners to be clear about expectations in their relationships and work together to establish common ground.  

Bilyeu also explained that defining the meaning of certain words has been instrumental in more effective communication for his wife and him. For example, the word “important” holds deep weight in their relationship and is one that is used seriously. 

“So if I say, ‘Hey baby, it's important to me that you leave that glass of water on the table,’ then she just wouldn't move it, period,” he told Jay Shetty. In their house, the word “important” comes in all caps with exclamation points, glowing red.

This focus on communication and respect has carried the Bilyeus through some rocky terrain in their marriage. Navigating job changes, company growth and upheaval, sickness, personal growth, and inevitable conflict has not been easy. Staying on the same page communication-wise has been the glue that has kept them together.  

Their respect for each other as individuals and how they have honored that has also played a key role in their relationship’s success.

“We set up early on in the relationship to be aggressively ourselves,” he told Jay Shetty. “We have learned to just be honest, even when it sucks. We are so careful. For 18 years, we have been earning trust with each other.” 

The payoff of trust is immense.  

“There's nothing more beautiful than being in a relationship with somebody who makes you feel like you’re their number one, and that you totally trust them,” he concluded to Jay Shetty.  

There’s comfort in the commitment they have, and it comes from living as themselves and trusting each other, something they’ve worked on since the beginning. 

“Let me introduce you to this magical word called commitment,” he said to Jay Shetty, replaying the conversation he and Lisa had early on. “I'm with you because I love you and because I respect you, but I'm also with you because I'm committed to you. We have shared an experience. We've shared a life. We've built this around each other, and commitment means something to me.” 

The Bilyeus provide invaluable wisdom for those seeking to build healthy relationships. Their hit show, Relationship Theory, dives deep into these meaningful conversations every week.  

Future Impact

The Bilyeus have made the dive into the creative world of self-development, comics, and movie and TV production with their digital production company, Impact Theory. Impact Theory is a long-time dream for both of them, and it’s become the culmination of their skills and passions.  

Impact Theory’s purpose is facilitating and encouraging growth in skillset, personal development, and relationships. Impact Theory uses comics and TV/movies to take content to the next level.  

Bilyeu has always been creative at heart. Learning how to turn his creativity into a viable business took skills and dedication, but after years of growth, he has finally made it. Drawing inspiration from reading, meditation, and artistic outlets such as ComicCon keeps Tom’s brain in maximum creative working order.  

Sights Set High

“When people look at me, what they’re seeing is my identity, my values, my beliefs, my rules, my habits, and my routines,” Bilyeu explained to Jay Shetty. “It’s all come together to form a set of behavior, skills, and hard work. I want to create impact, touch lives, and to be a good partner to my wife and all of that. That's what you see.” 

Bilyeu has found success not because he set his sights on it, but because self-awareness and self-improvement have been his focus and have led him there. Bilyeu shines as a beacon for others on this journey of self-awareness and strength.  His posture has humbled and strengthened him to be a voice of truth in a loud world.  

More From Jay Shetty and Tom Bilyeu

Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “Breaking Thought Patterns & Stop Being Lazy About Your Growth” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.