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336. Embracing Positivity: Anthony Iannarino's Journey of Transformation

the daily helping podcast Nov 20, 2023


Anthony Iannarino, a renowned author and expert in sales and leadership, recently shared his profound journey and insights on "The Daily Helping" podcast. His story is not just about professional success; it's a testament to the power of positivity and resilience in the face of adversity. 

Raised by a single mother, Anthony's early life was marked by challenges. His pursuit of rock and roll during his teenage years was abruptly halted by a health scare - a grand mal seizure, which led to the diagnosis of an arteriovenous malformation. This experience was a turning point, shifting his focus toward academic and professional pursuits. He graduated summa cum laude, attended Harvard Business School, and later, transitioned to building a family business, writing, and public speaking.

Anthony's latest work, "The Negativity Fast," is rooted in his personal transformation. The book emphasizes the importance of eliminating negativity, including avoiding negative media and influences. This approach isn't just philosophical; it's backed by science. Anthony cites studies demonstrating the myriad benefits of gratitude on physical and mental health, including reduced stress and enhanced immune function. He practices and recommends Martin Seligman's "three blessings" exercise, reflecting on positive events daily to foster a healthier, more optimistic mindset.

Handling negative influences, especially in unavoidable situations, is a challenge many face. Anthony's advice? Avoid divisive topics and focus on positive interactions. He stresses the significance of shifting our attention from self-oriented to other-oriented actions. His personal anecdotes about helping animals and the homeless underline the psychological benefits of altruism, often referred to as "Helper's High." 

Anthony's message is clear: practicing gratitude and helping others are not just noble acts; they are pathways to personal growth and happiness. He encourages everyone to start small, either by practicing gratitude or by helping those in need. These actions have a ripple effect, benefiting not just the individual but society as a whole.

In a world often clouded by negativity and divisiveness, Anthony Iannarino's insights offer a beacon of hope and a practical roadmap to a more positive, fulfilling life. His story and advice resonate with anyone looking to overcome negativity and embrace a journey of growth and transformation.


The Biggest Helping: Today’s Most Important Takeaway

“Do one of two things: Start the three blessings exercise, that will help you feel a whole lot better. But at the same time, if you can go help somebody else, that will be a great contribution.”




Thank you for joining us on The Daily Helping with Dr. Shuster. Subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Google Podcasts to download more food for the brain, knowledge from the experts, and tools to win at life.



Produced by NOVA Media



Download Transcript Here


Anthony Iannarino: 

I'm very, very intent on trying to get people to leave Fox News and MSNBC because of the divisiveness. And if you read like The Economist or something like that, they're not trying to divide America into two warring tribes. And so those are the things that I will read because it's not something that I think is damaging people and damaging our relationships in the United States.

Dr. Richard Shuster: 

Hello and welcome to The Daily Helping with Dr. Richard Shuster, food for the brain, knowledge from the experts, tools to win at life. I'm your host, Dr. Richard. Whoever you are, wherever you're from, and whatever you do, this is the show that is going to help you become the best version of yourself. Each episode, you will hear from some of the most amazing, talented and successful people on the planet who followed their passions and strive to help others. Join our movement to get a million people each day to commit acts of kindness for others. Together we're going to make the world a better place. Are you ready? Because it's time for your daily helping.

Thanks for tuning into this episode of The Daily Helping podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Richard. And our guest today is awesome. Anthony Iannarino has 20 years of experience selling and leading sales forces in the staffing industry, but that's not what we're here to talk about today. He is a prolific writer and publisher of the sales blog, and he's been featured in some of the biggest media outlets, such as Inc, Fast Company, Chief executive and many others, but he's here to talk to us today about his book, which is so important. It's called The Negativity Fast. His story is amazing, and I can't wait for him to share all of his wisdom with us today. Anthony, welcome to The Daily Helping. It is so good to have you with us today. 

Anthony Iannarino: 

Thank you for having me on. It's very good to meet you too. 

Dr. Richard Shuster: 

Absolutely. I think this one is really important. And I will see somebody on my recording calendar that gets me so excited because I know what they have to talk about is so needed in the world today, and you exemplify that. But before we talk about the book, I want to jump in the Anthony Iannarino time machine and let's go back in time and talk to us, tell us your story, tell us what puts you on the path you're on today. 

Anthony Iannarino: 

Okay. When I was a kid, I was raised by a single mom who was raised by a single mom. My dad left when I was about 6 years old. That probably was some sort of trauma for me. But by about 12, I had, let's say I liberated myself and I was doing whatever I wanted to do, including working and

skipping school to go wash dishes because they fed me prime rib every day. 

And what I really wanted to do by the time I was 15, I was playing rock and roll and that became what I was going to do. So I started a band. The band did really well, and I moved out to Los Angeles. And I was fronting a hair metal band. I know it's hard to believe that now, but there was a time where my hair would touch my belt. So I was there. I had a really nice life. I had a good band. We started doing well. Everybody left me in L.A. 

And one day walking up to my Brentwood apartment, I had a grandma seizure. And that grandma seizure changed the trajectory of my life and you've had the same sort of experience at some point at same young age and it does something to you. So I would say a lot of people think that something like that is negative, but one of the ways that I thought about it was the first thing that they told me after they gave me a CAT scan and an MRI, they said, you have cancer on your brain, and we're going to need to remove one lobe so that it doesn't give cancer to the other lobe. And that was a really, really shocking thing for me. 

And I said, what if it's not cancer? I was trying to figure out how to say that. Like, what's the opposite of cancer, not cancer, right? So that's what I said. He said it could be an arterial venous malformation, but it would be the largest ones we've ever seen. And they gave me a procedure where they took a tube all the way up to my brain and they squirted through an ink so they could see what was going on there. And I was awake while they were doing that and they told me it would look like somebody took a map of the United States and made it into a ball. And I saw that show up on the screen and I said, I got an AVM and they said, yeah, it's a big one. 

There was a guy in Cincinnati that I was referred to. His name's Dr. John too. And the difference between a God and John too is that God doesn't think he's John too. So very -- not going to give you very much information. I asked him a couple questions. Like, how many have you done? He said 3000. That's a lot of opening up somebody's skull and doing something inside there. So I was confident with him. 

I lost part of my temporal, the back right temporal lobe because it was bruised. And after that, I was angry, but I also overreacted and I had tried to drop out of high school, but I went to college. And in college, I was allowed to do a lot of things that I wanted to do myself. So reading and things like that. I graduated summa cum laude. I got the dean's academic scholarship to law school. And then I went to Harvard Business School all in a row, nine years of education, all because I was Dorothy's scarecrow. And I thought if I only had a brain, I had enough of one, I guess. And then I built a family business and then I started doing other things like this. 

Dr. Richard Shuster: 

And you're primarily in an incredible story. And there are parallels to some of the things that I went through, which we talked about before this episode, started with my car accident. But my goodness, well, thankfully, you didn't have cancer. Thankfully, you're able to ask the question, because most people just assume the first doctor is always right. And sometimes they're not. 

But what I find so interesting and why I'm excited to talk about what we're going to talk about is you've been in the sales world for two decades. And I don't really do episodes about sales on this show, right? This is a show about helping people live their best lives. So this book you've written, The Negativity Fast, why did you write that book after writing so many books about sales and leadership? 

Anthony Iannarino: 

I had to write it. And when I moved from one publisher to another publisher, it was one of the things that I negotiated very early on because I'd wanted to do this for a long time. I got angry. Part of that I think was physiological after the brain surgery. I think some of it was also emotional. 

And at some point, I was sitting down across from a law school professor who was a mentor to me. His name was Mike Distelhorst and he said, you're angry, and you're always upset about politics and geopolitics, things you can do nothing about. So the government is not going to have the same impact on your children as you are. So go figure out what you want to do with your kids and how you're going to bring them up. And don't worry about all this stuff. Just let it go. That's really good advice. But it's the kind that you can't take. Like, just let it go. How do you do that? How do you just go like, I'm not going to think about these things anymore after you've been thinking about them for a long time. 

And I realized about six months after he gave me that advice that I needed to do something for me. So what I decided to do was to spend 30 days with no politics, no television, no radio, nothing negative. Negative people too, I stayed away from negative people. And after the end of the 30 days, I felt quite a bit better because I just removed so much of the negative sources in my life. Other people might have different sources that they have to work on that are a little bit harder, but I was able to do that. I liked it so much that I did it for another 30 days. And I thought this is pretty good. 

At the end of that 30 days -- so now I've done 60 days with no television, no media, no negative people, and I felt really good. But then I realized I didn't do anything about being positive. All I did was remove the negative. So then I started listening to Stephen Covey and Anthony Robbins and Les Brown and Zig Ziglar, a whole bunch of people, anybody who was just positive. And then it started to even feel better than that. 

And so when I tell you this, this has been many, many years that I have not watched any television news at all. And I've not listened to it. And one of the things that people complain about which is not a good thing to do to complain, but they complain, how am I going to know if something happens? You don't have to worry about that. Everybody is going to tell you that something happened and they're going to want you to know that. You don't have to watch TV to do that. 

And I'm very, very intent on trying to get people to leave Fox News and MSNBC because of the divisiveness. And if you read like The Economist or something like that, they're not trying to divide America into two warring tribes. And so those are the things that I will read because it's not something that I think is damaging people and damaging our relationships in the United States. 

Dr. Richard Shuster: 

Everything you're saying is making me smile for a lot of reasons. I have gone on many, many platforms and said exactly what you just said. Back in the day, I did my doctoral dissertation on what happens to us emotionally when we engage in this technology that drives negativity to us. And so you're exactly right. And regardless of what side of the political aisle a person might said, the media today and media isn't just TV anymore. Media is an algorithm that sits on the phone that you hold in your hand for five hours a day and are looking at a thousand times a day.

And so it used to be before we had the Internet and before we had this technology, it was easier because it wasn't so pervasive. It wasn't a 24-hour customized information cycle, but today, it's everywhere. And if it's not the news media, you bet it's going to be your circle of friends on their social media, or just parroting whatever they saw in a certain article, which now in an age of AI might not even be true anyway, right? So this is really, really great stuff. 

And so I'm wondering -- what I -- the scientist in me is like, did you -- I'm thinking, well, Anthony, did you do any blood work or lab work or study your physiology before and after? Were there any changes that you tracked or things that you saw outside of feeling better emotionally?

Anthony Iannarino: 

I will tell you probably one of the most important things that I did was started to do what I would say practicing gratitude. And in the book, I cited everything. And the reason I cited everything, I didn't have any intention of citing every single claim that I made, but then I read about gratitude. And if you've never read the Science About Gratitude, you will say no possible way. No possible way lowers your blood pressure, increases your immune system, gives you better cognitive functions. It will reduce your inflammation. It will prevent you from having -- have heart attacks. And you're reading these things and you're like, this is too many things. Nobody's going to believe that this is true about gratitude, but it also gets rid of stress, anxiety, depression, and the list just keeps going. And you're like gratitude's doing a lot of work if you would do it, right. 

And my favorite person to look for some practical things, Martin Seligman. And his idea, I'll share this because if somebody wants to feel better very quickly, I can tell them how to do this with just gratitude. He does an exercise. He had about 3 million people do this exercise. It's called three blessings. And all you do is at the end of your day, you write down three good things that happened to you and why. That's what all you do. You do it for two weeks. And you will not have any anxiety, stress or depression for six months. That's what they knew at that particular time. 

And Seligman said it's probably more powerful than psychoanalysts or pharmaceuticals. Just doing that. But we don't teach children this when they're in grade school or middle school. We don't teach it in college. And these things are so healthy for us, but nobody knows about it. So one of the things that I like about this book is I think I'm giving people something that we should have all had long before now. It should be something that everybody knows how to do because it would make things a lot better for them and for the rest of us. 

Dr. Richard Shuster: 

One of the things -- and Seligman is known as the legendary father of positive psychology. One of the things that he spoke about was that you can't exist in two opposite emotional states at the same time. Yeah. So it's like you feel pain or you don't feel pain, right? You're angry or you're happy. You can't be angry and happy. 

And so, by choosing gratitude -- so I think this is terrific. By choosing gratitude, you're setting the table for yourself to be happy all the time. Because when you're in a state of being grateful, the little things -- if you're constantly mindful of all the great things in your life, when bad things happen, you have that to rely on. Where otherwise, if you start off the day in an angry state, you watch the news, you're riled up about what some politician said or did, it spirals. So this is great stuff. 

And again, you said you were pretty lucky you were able to get rid of the people in your life who were negative. You got rid of all your media. There are some instances where it's harder to get rid of negative people. They might be your family. They may be your coworkers. They may be people that it's harder to just get rid of. What's your advice? What have you found in those scenarios? 

Anthony Iannarino: 

Well, you're going to have in laws, right? And you're -- do you have those? 

Dr. Richard Shuster:

I do. 

Anthony Iannarino: 

Yeah. Okay. So you know. You're going to have cousins and lots of other people that show up at work or at home. One of the things that I would tell people -- let me just go back a little bit. The pandemic's going on. I was on Facebook because I'm a creator, but I'm not much of a consumer. But I watched a friend of mine unfriend his mom and dad over politics. And I'm thinking those people brought you into this world and now over politics, you're removing them. 

I think the worst thing that we've learned from Fox News and MSNBC is that this group gets one set of talking tracks and the other people get the other talk tracks and then they argue, and they'll say something like this. I've done the research. No, you have not. You've not done the research. You listen to what Fox or MSNBC said, and now you're arguing with your parents and your friends for no reason, because there's no reason to try to, unless you want to take somebody from being a Lutheran to a Satanist. Like that's about the difficulty of changing somebody's politics, right? So there's just no reason. 

I think the easiest thing to do is when people start to trigger you on something like that, and really, you're triggering yourself most of the time. The easiest thing to do is to say, Dr. Richard, you know way more about this than I do. And I'll take your word for this, I'll try to do some research, but I don't really have anything to say. I don't know enough about it. And then just try to stay away from those things as much as you can. 

Thanksgiving is difficult because if you have what I would call Uncle Enrico, that's just my name for everybody who's a conspiracy theorist who will try to help you understand that the world is flat or there's a conspiracy, all kinds of conspiracies all the time. And that's what happens at your Thanksgiving dinner that causes most of the people like me to go to the children's table where it's safer. 

Dr. Richard Shuster: 

It is safer at the children's table, but you bring up something interesting, right? And in some ways, it's almost dichotomous because on one hand, we're saying, let's get these negative voices out of our lives, right, for our wellbeing, for our mental and physiological health. On the other hand, we're acknowledging that a pattern of removing anybody with an opinion that's dissenting from our own has caused this problem where we are so ideologically divided as a society. 

So how do you rectify that? Where's the balance between getting rid of negative people and being so close minded that you won't tolerate anybody whose viewpoint differs slightly from your own?

Anthony Iannarino: 

That's what our challenge is right now is how to do that. I have tried to make a suggestion in the book under divisive politics, where I'm asking people to take on a new political identity as post political. I mean, that's what you should try to be, is post political. If you can say I'm just going to be objective about these things, I'm going to spend maybe a few hours before the election in November, and I'm going to study what the things are, and I'm going to vote, and then I'm going to not worry about it anymore for the next couple years. And if people would do that, they would feel a lot better. Especially as we have so much of this. Everything is political now, for some reason, 

Dr. Richard Shuster: 

I love this because you're so spot on, Anthony. Whether you watch CSPAN, 1, 2 to 74 and every news media outlet and read every newspaper and magazine, at the end of the day, as a citizen, you got an opportunity in November, every couple of years to go fill out a little card and push a button and you're done. And so whether you spend zero minutes or a million minutes between that time, you still have the same amount of impact. So I've never heard the term post political, but I'm going to use it, and I love it, and I'm going to credit you for it, because I think that's brilliant.

Anthony Iannarino: 

I've got a number of friends that said, why didn't you tell me about being post political earlier? And I thought, well, I didn't see you as that political. But I've got a bunch of friends now who are like all claiming I'm now post political, I don't have to deal with this anymore. I'm going to vote. And then that's it. And you get a vote, I get a vote, and --

Dr. Richard Shuster: 

Everybody gets a vote, right? 

Anthony Iannarino: 

Yeah, everybody gets a vote. 

Dr. Richard Shuster: 

Like Oprah handing it. I want to ask you a question about chapter 11, and I can't help but think of the song from the Jungle Book, Bare Necessities, with this title, How to Forget About Your Problems and Concerns. So talk to us about that, because I fully get, let's unplug from the media, let's get out of the news cycle, let's remove that negativity. But we also can't bury our heads in the sand fully and pretend that life doesn't exist, right? There are problems. But what's your approach to managing them so that they don't take over our lives? 

Anthony Iannarino: 

I will tell you why I wrote this. And I've had a number of very interesting things happen. I am, on occasion, a bails bondsman for dogs. So I will go into the Delaware Humane Society and I will buy all of the dogs, all of them, however many there are. Normally, there's like 9 or 10. So I walk in, and I give them the money that they need for these dogs. 

The last time I did this was last Christmas. I went in and I bought all the dogs and they said, please, can we just have the money? And I said, sure, you can have the money. All I was trying to do is make sure that they were paid for. So if somebody wanted the dog, they could get the dog. They said, we have some dogs that are in trouble here and we need to do something different for them. They need training and they're going to need a lot of attention. And I said, I don't care what you use the money for, that's fine. 

And then they took a picture of me with this giant white Pitbull. I mean, this is a scary dog, but it was sitting next to me, and it was fine. They posted it on their Facebook page. And eventually, I saw it and then they put an update that a woman that saw that story that I bought all the dogs, she went in, and she bought All of the cats. She paid for all of them. I don't know how many cats that is. It's like a thousand. It has to be. Like the whole place is full of cats, and she went in and bought all of them. 

And then I thought, wow, that was amazing. And then two of my friends saw that on Facebook and they said, you can just buy the dogs and you don't have to take them. I'm like, yeah, of course, they need the money. They're trying to get help. So then on Christmas, they went and bought a couple of dogs, both of them, and they bought more dogs. And so just it went on. You can do this with a homeless shelter. You can go to a pantry and buy groceries. 

All I will tell you is if you decide that you're going to help some other sentient being, you will forget about yourself because you're worried about trying to help somebody else. It changes your focus from being self-oriented to other oriented, and it will make you feel really good. And there's something that happens. It's called Helper's High. Have you ever heard of that? 

Dr. Richard Shuster:

I have. 

Anthony Iannarino: 

Yeah. Okay. So yeah, you're a doctor so you would know that. The rest of you might not know that. You don't have to have a marijuana card to do this. It's this feeling that you get when you're helping other people that allows you to just get rid of this thing that you're always worried about and then focus on that other person. So I think that's -- I hope that I have more people do that. 

The second story I can tell you about that is we were driving of dinner and when we got to the stoplight, there was a homeless guy standing outside of my wife's side of the car. And it was hard to even see him. That's how dirty he was. And I asked my daughter to give me my wallet. And I had like $80 with me in cash. So I gave him the $80 and I watched him like turn around cause he wanted to see how much money he got, but he didn't want us to see him counting the money, even though we already gave it to him.

And when he turned around, he was crying and he said, I can go home, I can go home. And then he took off running. And then my daughter who was really young said, how do you know that he's not going to use that for alcohol or drugs? And I said, I don't. And she said, then why did you give it to him? And I said, because we can, and that's it. Like I could do it. I can't -- I'm not trying to control him, but I'm going to try to make this better. 

So I wrote this in a newsletter and one of my clients read it. This is the kind of thing that just happens when you do things like this. This guy would never give a homeless person any money at all. And we were on a call with 50 people and it was him and 49 of his peers. And I asked them what they learned in all the training that I gave them. 

And he said, I don't want to talk about the training. I want to tell you what happened. And I said, what happened? He said, I stopped at a truck stop, and there was a homeless guy with his dog, and I could tell he was in trouble. So I went up and I said, listen, I want to give you some money so that you can go in and get a shower and get something to eat. And the homeless guy said, I can't leave my dog out here. And he said, I'll sit with your dog. And he said, I can't leave my dog with a stranger. And so he's trying really hard. 

So he eventually gets the guy to go in and get his shower and get his food. And then the guy came out and the dog was still there. Everything was fine. But as he told me this story, he started crying because he said, do you know how many times I walk past these people without even giving them a second thought? Because until I read that, I didn't know that I could do this. And now that he does this -- and then like the rest of the people, all men, they're all tearing up at the same time because we know that we have a responsibility to help others. And none of us here go without help. Like all of the time, we're always having other people help us. So I think it's an important lesson. I hope that if people get that close to the end of that, and they do something about that, they'll feel a lot better too. 

Dr. Richard Shuster: 

Amen to that. It's something I talk about all the time. So I love those stories. It's wonderful.

Anthony Iannarino: 

If we have a few minutes, I'll tell you just the other thing, there is some things that are more difficult. So a trauma, like the trauma that you had when you were 23 and when I was 25, those are something that you have to process. So I think you can reframe them because if I said this on a stage that I was speaking at, that people who have cancer and survive it, they say cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me. 

And you're like, did you ever have a birthday party? Like, did you get married? Do you have children? Like, no, they're like, it's cancer. And why? Because the trajectory of their life and their understanding of how precious it is changes so much. Probably for you at 23 and me at 25. I think that that's something that people have to do some work on, but there's always something positive from something negative. It's a yin yang kind of thing. 

So the bad thing changes your trajectory for some reason. And what it does, I don't know what the magic is behind it, but it seems like you're stronger after you have something like that, like you adapt to it. And if I write another book like this one, which I want to, it will probably be post traumatic growth syndrome, which there's very little scientific evidence, but they can prove that it exists, but I would like to figure out how do we help more people get through that trauma by having, instead of a post traumatic syndrome, you would have post growth. That would be a better way for us to try to process those things. Did you experience that, post traumatic growth syndrome? 

Dr. Richard Shuster: 

Absolutely. I have said many, many times the breaking my back in that car accident was the best thing that ever happened to me because it totally shifted, to use your word, the trajectory of my entire life. And then in 2020 when I had that stroke that was very unexpected, that shifted me again. And because of it, my life is infinitely better than it was before because of the changes that I made after that. So there's two data points for your next book you can talk about, but for sure, I've experienced that. 

Anthony, I have loved every minute of our discussion today. Our time has flown by expectedly. And as you know, I wrap up every episode by asking my guests a single question, and that is, what is your biggest helping, that one most important piece of information you'd like somebody to walk away with after hearing our conversation today?

Anthony Iannarino: 

I would want them to do one of two things. Either one, start the three-blessing exercise, because that will help you feel a whole lot better. But at the same time, if you can go help somebody else, that will be a great contribution. And I think we'd both be happy if people did that, right? 

Dr. Richard Shuster: 

Well, you're going to like my show closing then, for sure. Anthony, this was awesome. Tell us where people can find out more about you online, and get their hands on The Negativity Fast, which is available now?

Anthony Iannarino: 

Yeah. So you can get The Negativity Fast at I understand that it's going to be in 150 Barnes and Nobles, but we just don't know which ones. Be nice to know. You can find me at or LinkedIn is a great place to find me, but you have to know how to spell my name. So it starts with an I. So it's Anthony Iannarino, I-A-N-N-A-R-I-N-O. You'll probably have a link to that, right? 

Dr. Richard Shuster: 

We're going to have a link to that and everything Anthony Iannarino in the show notes at so we got you covered. Anthony, thank you again. This has been such an amazing discussion. I loved it. 

Anthony Iannarino: 

Too bad they all missed the football conversation that we had before. 

Dr. Richard Shuster: 

Yeah, that was pretty good. We might have angered some people, but it was pretty good. But no, in all seriousness, this was great. Thank you again. And I want to also thank each and every one of you who took time out of your day to listen to this conversation. 

If you liked it, if you're excited, if you're inspired, if you're going to do the three blessings right after you finish listening to this, go give us a follow and a five-star review on your podcast app of choice, because that is what helps other people find the show. But most importantly, go out there today and do something nice for somebody else, even if you don't know who they are, and post it in your social media feeds using the hashtag #MyDailyHelping because the happiest people are those that help others.


There is incredible potential that lies within each and every one of us to create positive change in our lives (and the lives of others) while achieving our dreams.

This is the Power of You!