Episode 31: Reduce Your Stress & Increase Your Wealth


Find out how stress impacts the human body & mind, and how it can impede your ability to make good financial decisions. Tom records this episode from Romania with John MacGregor & J.W. Wilson.


02:48 – How Does Stress Lead To Financial Problems?

04:43 – What Does Stress Do To The Human Body?

05:44 – Why Does Stress Impact The Wealthy, Middle Class & Poor?

11:46 – How Do We Successfully Manage Stress?

18:23 – How Does Purpose Combat Stress?


Announcer: This is The WealthAbility™ Show with Tom Wheelwright. Way more money, way less taxes.

Tom Wheelwright: Welcome to The WealthAbility™ Show, where we're always learning how to make way more money and pay way less taxes. Hi, this is Tom Wheelwright, your host, founder, and CEO of WealthAbility™. Very excited for today's show. We are actually recording this is Bucharest, Romania, and I have two very special guests with me. Good friends of mine that we've been working in and around Rich Dad for many, many years together.

Tom Wheelwright: But what if… Here's the question today. What if you never ever had to worry about money? So when we think about it, we all know that our biggest stresses in life are money. A lot of times it's not enough money. Sometimes it's too much money. And then there are sometimes of what do we even do with money? Okay? And we all know money doesn't create happiness, but we also that the lack of money can create misery.

Tom Wheelwright: So I've got John MacGregor, who has been a financial planner for many years to very, very wealthy people, and J.W. Wilson, who has been studying how the mind works and the brain works. And JW and I have had long conversations about this, about how the brain works. What we're going to let them help us with today is what do we do actually about the belief systems that keep us from… that actually create the stress over money. So, John, if you could just quickly introduce yourself and then we'll have JW introduce himself and then we'll go from there.

John MacGregor: Thanks Tom. I tell you, it's a real honor to be on your show. I've been a long term listener, and the information you're providing is just invaluable. What I've seen over the last 25 years as a financial planner is that more and more people are really suffering. They're struggling with their financial situation. Think about it, 78% of people are living paycheck to paycheck. 78%. That's a lot of people, and only a couple years ago it was 73%. So you can only imagine the stress level in society as a result of that. As you said, money is the number one cause of stress. Stress is the number one cause of our health problems. So there's a direct correlation between money and health.
John MacGregor: So this is an epidemic I say is greater than most diseases combined. So I'm glad you're having this conversation.

Tom Wheelwright: Thanks, John. JW, give us a little bit about what you've been studying over the years, and really why is it that stress creates so much health problems, and particularly money stress.

J.W. Wilson: Thanks so much, Tom. You know what? What you're doing with this podcast is really valuable to the world. Somebody out there giving people a different view of how to transform their relationship with money and taxes. The way you do it is just fantastic because you take a broad holistic approach bringing people in like us and other people to really take care of the audience. And a lot of people are trying to sell something, what you're trying to do is support people to transform their lives. And the reason I think John and I are here is because we appreciate that so much.

Tom Wheelwright: Thank you.

J.W. Wilson: It's really a gift what you're giving to people. In additional to working with John on how we help transform people's relationship with money by using neuroscience, I am the Executive Director of The Learning Code Institute, where for 30 years we've been doing neurological and genetic research on the basis of learning, motivation, and behavior change. And what we found is pretty fascinating. The typical way that we try to get people to change their behaviors and learn really hasn't worked as well as we'd like it to.

J.W. Wilson: Think of all the things you memorized in school and can't remember. Think of all the times you took tests and were stressed out. You freaked out. You got your degree finally. You get out and you still don't know what you want to do with your life. So our mission is to transform people's relationship to learning, motivation, behavior change, and money.

J.W. Wilson: Just real quickly, at the institute, we researched the six thousand genes that control neurological function and reverse engineered how to turn those genes on. I'm being very metaphorical here. It's a little more complex than that. But we reverse engineered how to turn those genes on, so we change your brain structures so your beliefs and your behaviors can change.

Tom Wheelwright: That's fantastic. So when we talk about money stress, because that's a-

J.W. Wilson: Biggest stressor there is. It's the number one stress in the world for everyone.

Tom Wheelwright: Everybody gets that, right? Number one reason for divorce.

J.W. Wilson: Yep.

Tom Wheelwright: Right? So what does stress do to us?

J.W. Wilson: Oh, god. Well, you know-

Tom Wheelwright: Briefly.

J.W. Wilson: Yeah. So, I'll just give you an idea. Stress is driven by a hormone called cortisol from your adrenal gland. If I take a cell of your body, and I put it in a Petri dish and I sprinkle this cortisol, the stress hormone, on it. Do you know what it does to that cell? It eats it. It literally eats it. Stress is like acid to your brain and your body.

Tom Wheelwright: Well that doesn't sound fun.

J.W. Wilson: You wanted it short.

Tom Wheelwright: That's vivid there, JW. So, John, you know it's interesting to me that you made this your mission because you've been working… you don't work with poor people. You've spent 25 years working with very wealthy investors, people who are very successful over the years. Why are you concerned about money beliefs and stress over money when you've been dealing with all these people with all this money?

John MacGregor: Well, you'd think the rich have it all made. They don't. They make the same mistakes that the poor do, they just do it on a much bigger level. They crash a lot harder. That's really the reason behind my book. I'm coming out with a book soon called The Top 10 Reasons the Rich Go Broke. And what we realized doing the research with JW, my partner, is that the number one reason people are suffering financially, rich or poor, is because they have an unhealthy relationship with money. It really boils down to the relationship.

John MacGregor: And what does relationship mean? In most cases, people are using money to dull their pain and not fulfill their purpose.

Tom Wheelwright: So, JW, what do you do to change that kind of a belief system? If what we've got is a relationship with money that is less than stellar, what do we do about that?

J.W. Wilson: First of all, we've got to start at the beginning. What we tend to do, this is fascinating, what people think is money is going to make them happy. I get a bigger house, a bigger car, better clothes, the Rolex watch, whatever it happens to be, we think that will make us happy. What we found from the research is, purpose and meaning is what makes you happy. And money is a byproduct of going after what's most meaningful and purposeful to you. And what happens is people do it the other way around.

J.W. Wilson: John and I talk about above the line and below the line. Above the line is your mindset. Visualize the line, and above is your brain. Above the line is your mindset. Below the line are the stocks, the bonds, the real estate, all that stuff. Your savings account. So what we found was that most people jump in and start working below the line. How do I make more money in stocks? How do I make more money in bonds? How do I make more money in real estate? How do I get more houses?

J.W. Wilson: And what they failed to look at is the purpose and the meaning that's driving them to want what's below the line. Below the line are the systems and the results. Above the line is what is it that I really want in life that can help me transform my life? And really, embedded in our biology, we just don't want to transform our lives, we want to transform other people's lives. That's why people give charity. And what people don't take the time to do is find out what's most meaningful to them.

J.W. Wilson: Here's what really happens. When you figure out what's most meaningful to you in your life at a deep level, what your purpose is, this comes from quantum physics, you vibrate at a different frigging frequency. And you start attracting things that resonate with that, and your life becomes much more joyful, much easier. It's like putting oil on the gears. And what we're able to do once we get into that space, literally the blood flow shifts to a part of your brain that's the most evolved part of your brain that lets you come up with solutions and creativity and innovations that you would have never come up with before.

Tom Wheelwright: That's fascinating. So when you look at, John, you're looking at rich people who are going broke, what is it that you found… have you found some commonalities here? Some things that kind of… are they trying to get rid of it? What is it? We hear JW talking about meaning. They've got this money. Why do they go broke?

John MacGregor: That's an excellent question, and I'll just back up just a little bit. The genesis behind our company that we founded together with myself and JW, it's called ThrivePath, and genesis behind that is really… has to do with the frustration I've had with my clients not following the agreed upon plan that we mapped out. I'd show them the charts, the graphs. I'd give them the information, the advice, the guidance, the strategies, all of that stuff, and as soon as they left my office, they were back to making the same old mistakes. Back to the same old habits that got them in the mess in the first place.

John MacGregor: And they were back to spiraling out of control financially and back to a place I call they're living on pain island. I think a lot of people can relate to living on pain island. But the problem is, and what I later discovered, is it wasn't their fault. It wasn't their fault at all. These people had been programmed to fail financially from birth. And what you're getting at in your question, Tom, and again, this is rich or poor. And I talk about the rich because everyone likes the story of the rich going poor, but the underlying issue and where we start in ThrivePath really deals with people's beliefs.

John MacGregor: And when you think about somebody's beliefs, beliefs are really the foundation of who we are in the world. Our beliefs dictate who we are, what we do, how we act, how we behave and, ultimately, how we end up. The problem is the reason so many people are suffering today is that their belief system may have worked in the past, but it doesn't work in today's… in their adult decision making life.

John MacGregor: And so these beliefs that they've carried with them, for example, I can't afford it. Robert talks about your house as an asset. I will take care of it later. You've probably heard that before, Tom. Or I don't have time to take care of it. Money is the root of all evil. I trust my financial advisor. I need an image to impress others. I could just go on and on and on and on and on.

Tom Wheelwright: My guy takes care of that.

John MacGregor: I always say the four most dangerous words is do it for me. Right? That always ends in a disaster. So it's these beliefs. Most people have these harmful beliefs that are driving their outcome. And I talk about it in the book, a concept called the BEAR trap. And it's an acronym, B-E-A-R, and it really starts with people's beliefs. It's these harmful beliefs, which from there leads to excuses, which then turns into actions, and then ends in results. Hence, the BEAR trap.

Tom Wheelwright: Got it. So okay, JW, so I think this is probably where you come in. So what do you do about the BEAR trap? So what's the conclusion? Take us to the end of the book. We want to know the end here. Take us down the road. What is it that we have to do to change that whole belief system?

J.W. Wilson: Well, this is a fascinating thing. What we've been told is you got to work harder, work smarter, work tougher, be more aggressive. It's kind of the way that our society has taught us how to succeed. The fascinating thing… and a guy won a Nobel Prize for this, Daniel Kahneman, about a philosophy that he had, fast versus slow thinking. He's not a scientist, but what he found was that when we think fast, you follow the market. When the market is going up, you buy at the top of the market, and then it crashes and then you sell and then it goes back up again. And you do it over and over again, and you don't really make money the way you thought you would.

J.W. Wilson: So what he found was, and same thing happens, fast thinking is if I use my credit card to get the car so I look good, I'll feel good and everything will be okay. But then you end up with liabilities, and you have no assets to pay for the liabilities. What fast thinking does is egoic. What thinking does is it gives me immediate gratification right away. And really, when you use egoic thinking, it really comes from the least evolved part of your brain. And when you're using egoic thinking, when I'm doing it for me, me, mine, mine, mine, to look good, not because of my purpose or my meaning, which may be bigger than myself, literally your IQ drops anywhere from 12 to 20 points.

J.W. Wilson: So whatever you engage in out of ego, it's really almost spiritual. When you engage out of ego to take care of me, me, me, mine, mine, mine because I want to look good, you literally end up dumber than you would.

Tom Wheelwright: I don't know if you've seen this, John, but I actually find people that… and I actually have done it, okay? So I say I find people, but I'm one of these people who actually give it away. In other words, how many times do see entrepreneurs especially lose money, and big money, multiple times. I can tell you I've… lawsuit. I can tell you I've had… we were talking the other day, John, about a customer that pulled out unrelated to us, but pulled out, and it was a big crash. So what is it that's… what's going on there?

J.W. Wilson: Well, you're demonstrating it right now. People listening to you can tell how jacked up you are about getting this knowledge out to the world. You have a purpose higher than yourself. Yeah, you're going to make money as an accountant because people can hear this podcast and trust you and like you because of the people you bring in and what you do for them. But you're doing this for something deeper than just the ego. You're not doing this so you can get a Ferrari. That may be second, but first, you're doing this to add value to people's lives. When you go to that place, literally the blood flow shifts in your brain from the lower least evolved part of your brain to the most evolved part of your brain, this is a little technical, but it's where your third eye is. Right in the middle of your forehead. It's called the ventral medial prefrontal cortex.

J.W. Wilson: And when your blood flow goes there, literally you can make connection not only within your own head, but connections that are outside of you in much more innovative and creative way. So you're much more resourceful, much more powerful. Really when you take a more spiritual approach. I researched the research of Dalai Lama and Columbia University that studies these kind of meditative mindfulness approaches, and when you can get into that state, everything changes. And this is the state that literally you're coming from and why you're doing the podcast. When we sat down, you said, “Look, the reason I'm doing this podcast is to help people transform their lives.” That's powerful stuff, Tom. And the problem is most everybody else is coming from how do I get more money? How do I make myself look better? Those kind of spaces. And the problem is you're just dumber from that space biologically.

Tom Wheelwright: So let me say, you guys are both athletes, I know, Rugby athletes, primarily, right? So baseball is kind of my sport that I love. And we have a term when a hitter is not doing very well, that at he's pressing. He's really trying too hard, basically, and then he doesn't see the ball as well. And then when he kind of steps back and relaxes… Is this an appropriate analogy with that we're talking about?

J.W. Wilson: Dude, you're right on it. You're right on it. So here's what happens. The higher the stress, the lower the learning. That's why you don't remember anything you took on a test.

Tom Wheelwright: And so the higher the stress, the lower the IQ.

J.W. Wilson: Yeah. Exactly. Yeah. And more important, yeah your IQ is lower, but the higher the stress, the least the long term memory, it's a complex term called long term potentiation, the less the neurons can grow in your brain. So what happens is you don't learn from your mistakes. So if I'm chasing the money or if I'm chasing the car or whatever else it is, I literally am not allowing my neurobiology to allow me to learn from my mistakes, or even from my successes.

Tom Wheelwright: So what I'm hearing is, is that when we're really understand what our purpose is, I'm mean when we're really looking at what's meaningful to us, to use your word, when we actually dig deep and find out what's meaningful, and sometimes that's through meditation or personal development or whatever, and we find that meaning and we start focusing on that meaning, then it opens up our lives to more information, more learning, more things available to us. And we allow, actually, this is my experience, we actually allow things to come into us. And so when you talk about the attraction, we actually can attract things that otherwise we're repelling.

J.W. Wilson: Yeah, so you've probably seen that tape or that, what was it, the law of attraction. It was a big YouTube video. That's a little different. I got a little issue with that because they're always talking about money at the end. But that's exactly right. We know from quantum physics, you hang around happy people and you feel…

Tom Wheelwright: Happy.

J.W. Wilson: Depressed people and you feel…

Tom Wheelwright: Depressed.

J.W. Wilson: They don't even have to talk. Why is that?

Tom Wheelwright: You feel their energy.

J.W. Wilson: They're vibrating their frequency.

Tom Wheelwright: For sure.

J.W. Wilson: You take a tuning fork and you bang it, and you put on next to it, they both start to resonate.

Tom Wheelwright: Tell me, I was married to a bipolar woman for years. So I had the high highs and it was great, then you had the really low lows and you just go oh my heavens, get me out of here.

John MacGregor: We don't need to go there, Tom. We don't want to get into my relationships, either.

Tom Wheelwright: Exactly.

John MacGregor: No, but from standpoint, like you said, Tom, once you uncover what's deeply meaningful to you, those harmful beliefs that you've been carrying with you, what's really at the end of the day are just your opinions and what you think are true. They're not true. That's just your opinions of things… start to dissolve. And what we're really talking about, what JW's talking about is awareness because what you're aware of you can control. What you're not aware of controls you.

John MacGregor: So when you're aware of these beliefs that are holding you back, the aha moment starts to open up. And then when you drill deep on what's deeply meaningful to you, that's when the world opens. When that happens, all your daily activities, whether it's taking a phone call, sending an email, spending time with somebody, and in our case, spending money, time on social media, all those daily activities now are loaded with purpose. And they're in line with what's meaningful to you. It's a game changer. It really is.

Tom Wheelwright: What I'm hearing is this is the slow thinking. [crosstalk 00:19:25] So now what we're doing is is we're relaxing. And I'm going back to my baseball player, right?

J.W. Wilson: That's right.

Tom Wheelwright: So he's relaxing. He's going you know what? It's okay. It's like the basketball coach. You know when Steph Curry, the Warriors, right? One of the best shooters of all times and he has an off night, and what does Steph Curry tell him? He says, “Keep shooting. Keep shooting. Don't worry about it. Keep shooting. We'll take care of it. You just need to keep shooting.” Because what he wants to do is take the stress off and say, “Let it open up.” And then you see that basketball hoop just like-

J.W. Wilson: It's wider. It's wider. It literally gets wider.

Tom Wheelwright: It gets wider. Or the hole on the golf course that gets bigger, right?

J.W. Wilson: The ball slows down.

Tom Wheelwright: The ball slows down. Everything you see it and it's slow motion, right? As we heard people say maybe in like the gold zone where just see it, and you can feel it. And you guys are athletes, so I know you totally get this, that when you can see something… I played basketball when every… seriously, there was no question in my mind, every shot was going in. It just felt… we called it in the zone, right? But to me what I'm hearing is some of it is just stepping back. So when we talk about money, when we talk about the stress of money, that taking the time… what I'm hearing is taking the time to sit back, getting some, maybe even some-

J.W. Wilson: Slow think.

Tom Wheelwright: Slow think, but actually a little personal development.

J.W. Wilson: Oh big time.

Tom Wheelwright: Maybe some help with some personal development.

J.W. Wilson: Above the line, what we're talking about.

Tom Wheelwright: Exactly.

J.W. Wilson: Shift your mindset.

Tom Wheelwright: It's what we would say in business is working on your business instead of in your business, right? You're stepping back and looking at, okay, what's the big picture here? So let me see if I'm on track here. So here's what I found interesting. I make more money when I'm not in the office, without exception.

J.W. Wilson: That's great.

Tom Wheelwright: My team wants me to leave and what happens is is it's… things just happen. Either I meet people or things just happen. When I'm in the office, I'm so… I'm pressing, right? Because I'm so focused on let's get this done and let's get this done. But when I take a trip like this, we've been in… I started in Paris and then London and Poland, Romania here, and then what happens then is you see different cultures and all of a sudden your whole mind-

Tom Wheelwright: But I think it's more than that because I know this is a little woo woo, but-

John MacGregor: Go for it, dude.

Tom Wheelwright: But literally I can tell you that our revenues in our office will increase just because I'm out here.

J.W. Wilson: Yeah.

Tom Wheelwright: Does that make any sense whatsoever?

J.W. Wilson: Yes. So here's what happens, without being rude. You've got a belief system that you need to go in the office and may not be crack the whip, but it's we got to get focused, we got to get this done, we got to go, go, go. And what happens is you raise everybody's stress hormones. And you know what you're probably best at? Doing what you're doing right here. I'm really amazed at how wonderful this… I never knew you were an interviewer. You're as good as anybody I've ever heard. You know? You're really wonderful. So we've got our gifts, but we've accepted a belief system.

J.W. Wilson: I had this when I ran television stations. I was a dork. I was an asshole. And I would come in there and say, “Guys, we got to do it this.” Or, “You're doing it this way. You're out the frigging door.” And as I got more spiritual, I shifted my blood flow to this third eye part of myself with mindfulness and awareness and meditation, I began to see that really the transformation came in the formless. Creating in a way less form the things that could transform than from the tight, tight, tight form that I was making happen.

Tom Wheelwright: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

J.W. Wilson: And so what happens when you leave the office is you get to be more joyful because you do what you love to do like this and travel around the world, and your office gets to love more what they do doing what they frigging love to do, which is making things work.

Tom Wheelwright: No, it's true.

J.W. Wilson: We don't know that.

Tom Wheelwright: A while back I actually decided to only go in the office once a week for essential meetings, and that was part of it. But it's even beyond that. So even when I'm not in the office, I find that when I'm out in the world, I'm just like opening up the space. And that's what I'm feeling is that… What I'm hearing from you guys is we really have to stop worrying about money, and just open up the space and allow ourselves… And I know it sounds a little woo woo, especially from an accountant, right? It doesn't mean you don't pay attention. I look at my email every day. I'm paying attention and I get my reports. Okay? I'm looking at my cashflow on a daily basis when I'm traveling, right? But what's going on is, I feel, is that the energy that's available, we're expanding the message to the world and by doing that, we're actually bringing more things in-

J.W. Wilson: I call it green energy. It's green energy. The more you add value to the world around you, the more the universe gives you positive energy back, and I call it green energy and money. My experience has been the more that I go out and serve and be of service from not the space of trying to get something from the service, but doing something that it flows out of me, then incredible things come back into my life. Like on this trip, we've done how many television shows, how many podcasts? I could have sat in my office all day long, and I don't even care if they pay me on this trip. It's what I love doing, talking to these audiences and sharing this and helping them transform their lives. But the byproduct, quite frankly, is money.

Tom Wheelwright: Right, right. So okay, so this has been fantastic. Thank you guys. So when does your book come out? How do we find you guys?

John MacGregor: Thanks so much, Tom. The book will be out in June, and again it's called The Top 10 Reasons the Rich Go Broke. The foreword is by Robert Kiyosaki. And the website that we just launched is yourthrivepath.com. And we have an assessment on there. It's a good place for people to start to kind of really understand where they are on the paradigm of all of this thinking that we've talked about. This process of transformation, where their beliefs are, where their meaning is. And I would highly recommend people take a little time and take that assessment. It will be very revealing.

Tom Wheelwright: That sounds terrific. So thank you guys. John-

J.W. Wilson: Thank you very much.

Tom Wheelwright: John MacGregor. J.W. Wilson. Just remember, when we can lower our stress about money by slow thinking and really taking a step back, we're always going to make way more money and pay way less taxes. See you next time.

Announcer: You've been listening to The WealthAbility™ Show with Tom Wheelwright. Way more money, way less taxes. To learn more, go to WealthAbility.com.