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Welcome to the home of the Modern Farm Business® podcast, hosted weekly by Dean Heffta. Modern Farm Business translates proven methods and best practices from the business arena to today's modern farm leadership environment. We'll be learning from forward-thinking experts and discovering how to apply time-tested techniques to make real improvements on the farm.

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Jan 11, 2018

Author David Levin joins Dean to share insights in how to manage distractions and ourselves so we can do our best work.


In 1992, David Levin was a struggling singer-songwriter whose career (and life) were going nowhere. But then he had a strange and illuminating experience that totally changed the arc of his life. Four albums, five books, and 29 years of happy marriage later, he’s condensed what he’s learned into a simple, practical guide for how to be stronger, mentally and emotionally, so that you can do your best work and live a life you’re proud of every day.

David is the co-author (with John G. Miller) of the million-selling book QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, the author of Don’t Just Talk, Be Heard! and the creator of the “Focused! Every Day” training program. He is also an award-winning songwriter and recording artist, and lives happily ever after in Viroqua, Wisconsin, with his wife and their two children. His latest book, Raise Your Inner Game, presents the world’s first system for developing the fundamental self-mastery skills of cognitive control, emotional self-regulation and impulse control—the Holy Grail of personal development which allows people to thrive in today’s distracting, fast-paced world.


QBQ! The Question Behind the Question (with John G. Miller). TarcherPerigee. 2004.

Don’t Just Talk, Be Heard! Minneapolis Press. 2009.

Raise Your Inner Game. Minneapolis Press. 2017.

CONTACT raiseyourinnergame.comTwitter @fromdavidlevinInstagram @authordavidlevin


Q: A lot of your work has been around dealing with stress and distractions. What have you found from living and working in such a distracted time as today?

A: First, we need to understand the effect that these unprecedented levels of distraction and stress are having on us and on our ability to do our best work. As humans, we don’t have the innate skills necessary to manage the constant distractions that surround us every day. The proliferation of smart phones and other Internet-connected devices and our reliance and addiction to them has hurt our ability to think clearly and deeply about things as well as our ability to relate to people and form real relationships. If there are two factors that strike to the center of any business, it’s the ability to think clearly and to relate with people; if, as the leader of a business, you can’t do those things—you’re not going to make it. It’s worth taking the time and making an effort to learn the skills it takes to manage all these distractions. The main skill we are talking about here is called Cognitive Control—the ability to manage and direct your thoughts and attention. 

Q: Tell us about your personal journey to “raise your inner game.” What challenges faced you, or what kind of revelations did you uncover?

A: In 1992, one day I was suddenly struck with an urge to weigh myself. That’s not incredibly odd, except when you realize I had already weighed myself earlier that day as well as the night before—it was part of my fitness routine. But this was in the middle of the day; it made no sense for me to have this urge, and I wondered why I was having it. That’s when I suddenly had this clarity. It was like this urge was coming from another “me” inside—and I realized that’s where many distractions and negative thoughts are generated from. Not from the “me” I think of as me, but almost from a separate entity, like the Man Behind the Curtain in The Wizard of Oz.

Q: Can you give us some ideas or tools for exercising Cognitive Control over our reactions to our environment.

A: The first thing that comes to mind when you think of distractions is all the external stuff—emails and the like—and those are a big part of it...But you could, after all, turn off your phone or your email. The problem is, you will still find yourself turning it back on to check email and see if you’ve missed anything. What really throws us off are the internal distractions—the things we are thinking about or drawn to, and the ease with which we can sate our curiosity about any whim we have, INSTANTLY. We are addicted to the novelty of bursts of information. How do we counter that? Notice the thought and recognize that you can tell it, “Nah. Not now. Maybe later.” Keep your thoughts and attention where they should be.

Q: In Raise Your Inner Game, you say “It’s not what you’re doing that matters most, but why you are doing it.” Can you explain that idea? 

A: It comes down to whether you are acting intentionally or unconsciously. Intentionality is about being in control of what you do. Otherwise you’re being pulled along by your unconscious thoughts, emotions and physical state. For example, maybe you’re tired and a little cranky. You might get impatient and be a little short with people. That’s letting your physical and emotional state dictate your actions. If you’re intentional with your behavior, you can still feel tired and cranky, but you don’t let it affect your interactions with others—you don’t have to be “Grumpy Guy.” It’s about being the boss of your behavior and being a better version of yourself. The test is this: at any given time, are you being intentional or unconscious? It’s not what you’re doing that’s important, but why you’re doing it. Who’s in charge? You, or the “other” entity that is owned by those distracting thoughts and emotions?

Q: We know when we look back on our day whether we let ourselves get distracted by our impulsive side or whether we chose to control our responses to the distractions and instead focus on what we set out to do. If you operate on habits, it’s easy to get stuck on a habit that doesn’t move us or the business forward.

A: The more you look at it, the more you start to observe how you go through your day. You look at how each hour went vs. how you intended for it to go, and you begin to see moments of distractions for what they are. This applies everywhere, too, by the way. If there’s a gap between what you think you’re capable of and what you’re doing now, this will crack that code for you. This is the key to filling the gap between the person you want to be and the person you are. It’s very empowering when you start being intentional and not letting impulses run your life. When you do what you say you’re going to do, you feel better about yourself—and more connected and alive. It really is wonderful.

Q: You mentioned a gap between how I mean to be and how I actually am. Do you recommend for people to actually sit down and write down in sort of list format, point-for-point, to get it down on paper and meet that goal head-on?

A: I don’t indicate that specifically in the book. Here’s how I handle it. I don’t have an articulated list of “How I Want To Be.” I just...sort of know how I want to be. Every morning I do a bit of minor journaling—just about what I’m working on, how I feel about it, etc., and it’s all kind of fleshed out there, really. I might write “I was a little unfocused yesterday. I got distracted and slipped up.” You know, it’s just an ongoing conversation with myself on how things are going—like having a buddy to check in with for updates. It helps you find gaps in what you’re shooting for and where you actually are.

Q: In your book you mentioned engagement. For you, what’s that mean? And why is it so powerful to understand? 

A: Engagement means your attention is fully on what you’re doing. People know what it’s like to be fully engaged; we usually find ourselves there when we are doing something we enjoy. It’s when we feel most alive and at our best. The trick is to access that feeling all the time—not just when doing what we enjoy. The reason this is so important is because the feeling of being at our best while engaged isn’t just because we’re having fun—it’s because we really are at our best. When engaged, you shut off the mental noise and distractions, think more clearly and are more creative and effective.

Q: What do you really want to make sure people know about raising their inner game so they can do their best work? 

A: If you really believe in self-empowerment and want to live and work at your highest level, Cognitive Control is the key. It’s the quickest and easiest way to make a measurable difference in your work and life...And anyone can do it—you just need to make up your mind to do it.

We always welcome your feedback at Modern Farm Business Podcast. Do you have suggestions for future episodes, or questions on something we’ve already covered? Drop Dean a line at He’ll look at each email personally and respond as quickly as possible.Thanks for listening! See you next week!