The Happy Engineer Podcast

016: Personal Socrates with Marc Champagne

What questions are shaping your destiny? Do you even believe in destiny? How do you improve your mental fitness and mental health for engineers (is there a gym for that)?

In this episode, we do more than ask questions. We are going to explore questions themselves like the philosophers of old. Guest Marc Champagne has been living a personal transformation from powerful questions and mental fitness.  He recently launched an exceptional new book, “Personal Socrates” you will love.

Questions lead and answers follow. So you want to ask great questions.

Marc has been mastering the power of questions at a whole new level.  He unpacks the mental fitness practices and questions being asked by some of the most influential and brightest thinkers in the world.  He has over a decade of research behind him, but more importantly, his own life.

Despite practicing mental fitness for years, Marc hit rock bottom and learned the power of questions and personal introspection the hard way.

So press play and let’s chat… and start asking yourself, “how will this conversation change my life?”


The Happy Engineer Podcast




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What a cool conversation with Marc Champagne. Your mental fitness matters! I’m so inspired by that simple statement… at any point, that means right now – right now – as you are reading this, you are one question away from a different life.

Questions are powerful. And as engineers, I know that this is not lost on you. I know you’ve experienced it in your training, in school earning your advanced degrees, in Six Sigma, and Lean. All of the things that we go through, we are taught and trained about how questions lead and answers follow. But this is one of those moments to ask yourself, just because I know that, am I using it to my full advantage in my career and in my life right now? Five people on Marc’s team reached 87 million people around the world. I just want to touch that number again, that 86,997,014 people reached before Marc clicked delete on that app.

First of all, I can tell you right now there’s five people on my team at the time of this recording. We‘re measuring our results in the thousands, not the millions. So absolutely phenomenal accomplishment from Marc. Can you even imagine the emotion and the feeling of loss in shutting that down.

Here’s how that looks in my life, and I really connect with this… it hurts me to even think about when I quit my successful engineering career to start OACO and to become an entrepreneur and investor and coach full time. Most of the people in my life said things like “hey man, you are so courageous to do this.”

“I’m totally confident that if anybody can do it, you can.” 

“You’re going to figure this out and I can’t wait to see your success.” 

“This is incredible, good for you. Congratulations.”

 Really encouraging. Of course there were a few people who threw in the “are you crazy? What are you thinking? How could you walk away from such success to go into something totally unknown.”

But for the most part, people were really encouraging and they had a vote of confidence that I would succeed. Well, imagine me having to go back to all of those same people and say “I failed, it didn’t work. I had to shut it down. We didn’t get over the hump. We ran out of money. We weren’t able to have the impact in the world and in the lives of engineers that I so desperately wanted to make. It didn’t work.”

I failed. What would I say? How would I approach those same people? Even just talking about it right now, I feel that sense of shame or guilt wanting to come over me. And what Marc is saying here is so powerful. It is easy to slip into that depression. It is easy to slip into the wrong questions, questions like how could we fail? How could this happen to me? What have I done? How am I so stupid? How am I so ignorant? How did we make those mistakes? The fear, the loneliness within a click. Wow, the wrong questions, the questions that are going to steer your focus and energy into a space that is unproductive. And unresourceful, it’s so easy to slip into that.

So the challenge for you today is to start practicing questions that lead you toward clear thinking and positive outcomes in your life. What are the questions that are going to give you a different life in the direction you want to go? Listen, listen, listen. At any point we are one question away from a different life!

I love that Marc didn’t say at any point, you’re one question away from a better life, because the question you latch onto doesn’t guarantee better, it could be worse. Pay close attention to what questions you entertain with your focus, because you could grab on to a question that, yeah, it’ll give you a different life, one that you don’t want.

And I love that Marc called this a practice because practice means that it doesn’t have to be perfect. We step into it day by day, practicing not seeking perfection. I also want to highlight here that the magic is in the pause.

I’m guilty of spending a lot of time coaching you on protocol. And I’m guilty of that because productivity is really important when we are working. We want to make every moment count. We want to bring our full energy to each hour. And what I work with, my engineering clients on is how to leverage your time and energy at that next level.

And energy is really the X factor in our productivity, but that’s not what I want to touch on here because the magic is in the pause. Not the productivity. This is a really unique distinction. And I totally agree with what Marc is saying. Sometimes we fall into a mindset that our goal is to be able to work without stopping for 8, 10, 12, 14, straight hours with no breaks, barely even stopping to eat anything.

And to be able to crank out highly productive work that entire time. That is not the way that top performers, that legends and world-class people go after this. I really encourage you to look at Mark’s book Personal Socrates, because the studies in there of these legends and world-class performers is going to show you that the way they went about achieving those results was not simply, always on productivity.

It is finding the ways to implement strategic and intentional breaks, pausing, letting your subconscious, your intuition, your gut feeling, build its strength, learning how to trust that and learning how to dial that in and letting it make those connections a huge part of your creativity as an engineer is not about creation, but about connections.

It’s not simply creation. It’s also letting your subconscious make connections between all these different experiences and thoughts and pieces of knowledge from your entire life. That is something only the subconscious can do. The more you focus with your conscious mind, the smaller the window of what is available for you to.

Okay. You zoom in, but creativity is found in connections and that’s something you want your subconscious to do. And it’s in the pause of your life, where you’re going to strengthen that skill. So make sure that you work in a way that maximizes productivity when you’re focused on work, but includes the magic of the pause.

Hey, last thing. This is about action. Marc gave you a fantastic exercise. Grab a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle. Left side: What is that ideal life you want to create for yourself? Right side: What is life like today? Then ask yourself what questions do I need to be asking to bridge the gap. A lot of great stuff for you to put in practice here, implement the knowledge, reach out to me anytime.

If you need support, connect with Marc, grab a copy of his book Personal Socrates. I hope that you are absolutely energized by this process of digging deeper into questions and letting them change your life.


Previous Episode 15: Career Rocket Fuel with Brian Mejeur




Marc Champagne unpacks the mental fitness practices and reflective questions shaping the lives of some of the most successful and brilliant thinkers in the world. He is the host of the top 50 podcast Behind the Human with 200+ interviews and co founder of the journaling app KYO, which ended up reaching close to 90 million people around the world. He has studied mental fitness practices for over a decade and has consulted for top-rated and App Store-featured digital journals.

Despite his dedication to mental fitness, Champagne hit a mental rock bottom when he made the decision to walk away from KYO. He had to reassess his next steps and how to get there, while also remaining true to his passion and dedication to helping others.

“In my darkest days, I turned to journaling, and the detail with which I interrogated myself led to a critical realization and the foundation for this book: at any point, we are one question away from a different life.” -Marc Champagne

When we discover the questions ourselves—and the answers that follow—the results have a lasting impact on who we are and what we do.

That is the Socratic Method. That’s also the inspiration behind Personal Socrates.






Please note the full transcript is 90-95% accuracy. Reference the podcast audio to confirm exact quotations.

[00:00:00] Zach White: Welcome back. Happy engineers. It is so good to be with you and I am with Marc Champagne. What a pleasure. You just heard about him and the intro and the bio could probably go on for days with everything going on with this man. But Marc, thank you so much for making time to be with me and the engineers out there listening today.

[00:00:18] Marc Champagne: The pleasure is mine. I’m pumped to have this chat with you.

Expand to Read Full Transcript

[00:00:21] Zach White: Yeah, Marc. I want to start in a rather obscure place with a number, the number . 86,997,014. And that number has a place of significance in your story. Would you just take us to that moment where that became. Relevant for you, what was going on in your world and what changed?

[00:00:48] Sure. 

[00:00:49] Marc Champagne: You had to remind me of that number, did you? No, it’s all good. It’s interesting because that number, first of all, that 86.9 million people, those were the number of app store impressions we had in the journaling app, Kyo that I had co-founded with my brother-in-law a few years back and. I have a bit of a mixed relationship with that number because on one hand, I’m incredibly proud of.

[00:01:19] Reaching that many people with a team of regional, really five people let’s say without any type of extended contractors, but team of five people, a team that really had no experience or business being an app development. We just knew we had a vision. We had a goal of, of helping as many people possible in the wellness space.

[00:01:40] And in this particular situation, reflection through questions and. You know, I think the other thing was just showing. That anything is possible, right? Like the possibility exists for, for all of us. We had no idea that we’d be featured by apple, like hundreds of countries around the world, which generated a lot of those app store impressions.

[00:02:02] So, you know, there’s an element of, of gratitude there that, um, We did it. And we, we stuck to our own strategy. We put the best work we could out there to do that. And it seemed to pay off, paid off with views and whatnot. But then on the flip side, the, the, probably the most recent memory of that number is me sitting in a co-working space in Toronto, Canada.

[00:02:23] Uh, my laptop open that apple dashboard. Uh, in front of my eyes and I’m sitting there by myself, the team was scattered around the world and kind of essentially doing their own thing at that point. And I’m looking at that number. And my next step is to hit belief from app store and, you know, talk about questions.

[00:02:41] Like that’s where for me, all the wrong questions started showing up like, How could we fail at such a colossal level? Like how do you reach to that many people? And we have to delete the app and essentially the, the business being created for, I mean, a number of reasons, but ultimately financially it failed and, and and mentally we just, we couldn’t keep going down that path.

[00:03:04] Um, thinking, you know, what would my family think? Well, my ex colleagues thinks I left a really well paying secure job in the corporate role for 10 plus years, uh, to pursue this idea. And I remember when when I I was informing my team that say, Hey, I have this, this idea that I don’t want to regret not doing, because I was happy in my job.

[00:03:23] It wasn’t one of those scenarios of being, you know, dreading going in, um, thinking to them. You know, I remember them looking at me thinking, I have an idea like that too. Like, you’re almost like it didn’t say this, but almost you could see it in their eyes. Like you’re so courageous to go and do this.

[00:03:37] Right. And now I’m deleting this thing, you know, like what, what would I say now to those people? And, you know, that was, that was a really dark period in my life. Um, where. That number, like I said, a bit of a mixed relationship with it, but it’s, it’s who I am now. It’s, it’s why we’re even speaking right now, why we’re able to connect.

[00:03:53] So I’m, I’m ultimately very grateful for that number, that business, and the fact that it’s put me on the path that I’m on right now, 

[00:04:00] Zach White: mark, I can only imagine kind of the, the weight of that moment prior to clicking. Can you. Describe before you clicked delete and the moment immediately after, what was that like?

[00:04:15] Marc Champagne: Oh, I mean, there was the weight of, I guess the judgment, the self that judgment on myself, but also just, you know, forecasting what others would think. But then there was also the weight of the fact that we had users of this. That we’re using, you know, this, this isn’t just a, you know, another email subscription app or, or, or productivity software, something like that.

[00:04:38] we had messages coming in from new moms saying, Hey, I, you know, I’ve recorded my, all the photos and thoughts of like my first born type thing. And like people are journaling and reflecting. So there was a big weight there as well that. You know, from, from the perspective of, of giving every possible solution to those users, to export their data, because we didn’t have that feature that was next in the roadmap.

[00:04:57] So we actually took a month to hack something together, all the engineers listening. If you’re working on apps, you’d be really disappointed in what we put together, but at least we’re able to export data and people could have that, that data. So we’re proud about that. Um, but the, the, the feeling after was just this emptiness and this, this feeling of, of loneliness being, you know, even though I was in a shared space and there are other people around, I I mean, there were essentially strangers and they weren’t the team, you know, that I was, I was building this with, so from, from a team perspective, essentially by myself and that probably the biggest emotion was just fear, fear of now.

[00:05:38] And for the first time in my life, not having a really clear plan. Forward. I CA, like I said, I came out of that corporate world. Like I knew every two, three years, exactly. Essentially where I was going, where I was striving to be when I left that had a very clear plan on what we wanted to do with this, this app and business.

[00:05:51] Uh, the app was just. Part of that plan. Like we really wanted to, to create this wellness, uh, organization and help as many people as possible everything was in that plan. They had my identity, like my visions for the future, all of it. Um, and within, uh, within a click, it was gone. Right.

[00:06:08] And wow, that journey taught me though. When it comes to mental fitness, which is what I do now and what I’ve been writing about and what that app was all about. Like that was the space that I wanted to continue in, but I, I just deleted my mean, or my, my method to stay in into that. Like, I didn’t have another option at that point to stay in.

[00:06:27] And I didn’t want to go back to that past industry because it just didn’t feel like that was the type of work that, that really lit me. Having experienced this. So it was a bit of a long-winded answer to your question, but I mean, all of that was stewing in my mind. Incredible speed. Basically leading to the same thing of feeling hopeless, terrified, and not knowing what to do next 

[00:06:51] Zach White: for the engineer, listening to this.

[00:06:54] I don’t want you, I don’t want you to get lost on the idea of like, this is big and far away. Like, like what marks share. I know that there’s a part of your story where you can relate to fear and loneliness and asking that question, like now what in your world? And, keep listing, because mark has taken that moment and turned it into something really beautiful.

[00:07:14] And I can’t wait to get into this, but. Within a click, it was gone. Boom, here we are like all of that identity, all of who you were up to that point, this huge courageous action to go build this business. And by the way, for anybody who has not attempted to go connect with 90 million people around the planet, in your own business with a team of five, it is not a small accomplishment like this.

[00:07:37] That is a significant outcome. And just acknowledge you, mark. Doing something extraordinary in those those years that you built the app, but tell us then, you know, where did the journey go? I know we could spend all day in the details, but from that moment of emptiness and loneliness, bring us forward to how you fell in love with questions and, and the work that you’re doing now and mental fitness.

[00:08:01] Marc Champagne: after deleting the app, there was probably a good. Two to four weeks of just probably the closest I’ve ever been. And maybe I was flat in a full-on depression. And I remember thinking, okay, so this, this is how easy you can slip into this stuff. If you’re not really focusing on, you know, mental health and your mental fitness, because, you know, I’ve.

[00:08:26] I’m Nick. I knew I was neglecting my own practices. Basically paralyzed by fear. And it was only just reflecting back through the journey with that app and all of the people that, you know, I was fortunate enough to have interviewed for the content of the app and their practices, which included engineers like Kevin Rose and, uh, who else there was a ton of technical, uh, experts in, in, in, in the app that were sharing their practices that you wouldn’t think.

[00:08:56] Had had these things, right? Like Kevin Rose was really big on with meditation and journaling reflection and trying to still his mind, for example. Um, so I slowly started remembering those conversations and started to get back into my own. Practices, which, which allow me to drop into the present moment as much as possible so that, you know, in those, those looping thoughts to knows those anxious thoughts, let’s say, and emotions and whatnot that we all have on a day-to-day basis.

[00:09:26] These were just heightened. It was like, I poured gasoline on, on those thoughts, given the situation. So I was feeling everything. Um, but they were there and I knew enough from the practices. If I can just tap into the present moment and the fact that, yeah, you know what, I just deleted this app, but I deleted it on a laptop that most people in the world don’t have, you know, and be grateful for the fact that, oh yeah, I’m in a coworking space where, you know, there aren’t bombs being dropped on this building, or I’m not fearing my safety in some capacity.

[00:09:56] I can go get a glass of water out of this space. Like those were the thoughts, Ray, back to the basics that. Allowing me to pause that internal narrative so that I could think, because I knew enough that I could come up with a plan, but I need to. Clearly to do that, just like anyone listening, like this is an extreme situation, but I I’ve used this and I’ve learnt this from, from others.

[00:10:22] It’s not like I’m making this up, but even, even with problems in our day-to-day work, it’s really hard to get to a solution or see past the current, uh, obstacle when your mind is fogged with other thoughts and emotions. So for me, the first step in including in that example is to really get clear and blow out the mental fog.

[00:10:40] And one way that I do this and, and is the back bone of my work is through questions because the questions to me are a universal language that. All speak. We all ask questions, you know, we’re what do I want to work on? Where do I want to live? Who do I want to be with? Uh, like what’s my next move. So we’re asking the questions, but are are we we asking the best questions and are they well-timed for the situation that we’re in right now?

[00:11:09] Right? Like there’s certain questions I could have asked myself in that. In that moment, like how could we have failed or why did we fail? But that wasn’t going to get me out of the rut that I was digging, essentially. The question that pulled me out of that was what do I want for my life? And that’s a pretty high kind of question, but if you can start at something like that, then it leads to the next question.

[00:11:33] Okay, well, if I want this right, then this, this, this, and that, then you keep going and all it does, is it just, it pauses that narrative again, right. And allows you to make a plan and like take those micro steps to getting you forward. 

[00:11:48] Zach White: There’s a, there’s a lot here. And I wanna, I want to keep chasing the question piece, but I got it back up for one second, mark, because you’ve been using the word practices there’s something about that.

[00:11:57] I want to make sure. The . Listener and I are really with you, when you say practices, what do you mean? And why do we use that word instead of something else? There’s just something about a consent, some intentionality behind your shirt. And especially when you mentioned it’s so easy to even neglect my own practices.

[00:12:17] Yeah. Just tell us a little bit more about, you know, why practices and you know, this neglect. You know, the habits kind of dig into that for me a little bit. 

[00:12:25] Marc Champagne: Yeah, no, that’s a great question. I mean, you can use practices or you can interchange that word with rituals as well. Um, I like practices because to practice something is, you know, it means that you are you’re, you’re practicing it.

[00:12:35] So it removes the idea of you have to be perfect at this thing and that you’re evolving with whatever that is. I think the most important thing, and this is why we started the journaling app in the first place was to show that. I’m not just talking about meditation and not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I think there’s, there’s a lot of stereotypes out there that 

[00:12:57] Men, especially as back in, you know, five years ago and especially journaling that the people that were doing these types of practices were going on these long, like silent retreats or, you know, sitting on the top of a mountain in a robe meditating, which I, again, there’s nothing wrong with that. But if anyone sees the video or whatnot, that’s not me, you know, I’m not, I’m not doing.

[00:13:16] Things, I’m just a regular guy that was going in at the time, working in the healthcare space, crunching numbers as an analyst at one point, you know, looking at spreadsheets and figuring out how these practices could help keep my mind focused and primed and clear. So. What I had lost in that time with when, when the fear set in was the morning, the morning practices, essentially, you know, just getting up a little bit earlier than, than most.

[00:13:43] Um, and it doesn’t have to be anything crazy. It could just be as my coffee’s brewing or your T’s brain or whatever you’re doing in the morning. Most of us have some sort of routine to it, like taking that routine and adding a little bit more intentionality. So I would, I would take two, three minutes while my coffee’s brewing and just think about how I want to feel that day.

[00:14:04] One word. I want to feel motivated that just, just doing that, which takes seconds, primes your mind to look for that motivation throughout. I mean, you’ve already won a certain part of your day by just doing that one small thing. Cause we all know life’s going to happen. Things are gonna come up. We’re going to get rocked.

[00:14:23] Our emotions are going to be charged by something someone said, or we’re not going to be able to figure something out, but we’ve, we’ve already primed our mind look for motivation cues. So it’s something as small as, as that. And then you start, you start like practice stacking on top of. Then you add something else or you do that, you know, in the middle of the day where you know what, I’m going to take five minutes, just take a walk.

[00:14:47] I’m not going to jam a podcast in and an audio book. I’m just going to walk, be still quiet, the mind release that come back to whatever I’m working on. And then you crush it 

[00:14:57] Zach White: typically. Yes. And I want to highlight what you’re saying because. That we, we tend to bucket practices of mental fitness or mental health into a couple of major categories, journaling meditation, and we make them big, complex and demanding of a significant investment of time and energy.

[00:15:17] And I hear you saying mark, it can be simple. It can be short and it can be very diverse. Like there are lots of ways to bring these practices to life that may work for you. It’s. Narrow in terms of how you, how this looks in your life as an engineer. And I think that’s, that’s huge. It creates some freedom to look at this through a different and broader lens.

[00:15:41] Marc Champagne: Well, and it gives you, it gives you the pod. The magic is in, in this pause that most of us, and I’m guilty of this as well, because you know, I’m operating in the same society as everyone listening. And our society is not set up for the pause. It’s set up for productivity and, you know, just work as fast as possible and get as much done.

[00:16:00] Whereas the pause, you know, allows for question like, or a question can, can stimulate this pause. Like, does this make sense? I remember that was the, probably the most significant question. I, I would ask myself, especially when crunching numbers and like looking at these hundred million dollar forecasts, like what I just set up mathematically, all these sheets, the software.

[00:16:24] Does this make sense? You know, and can you like, can you cross triangulate that with a few different things and you can use a question like that for really anything in your life, but if you don’t ask the question. Then all of a sudden you’re at the end of the process and maybe it doesn’t make sense. And then now you’re really trying to figure out a serious situation right 

[00:16:45] Zach White: That’s so true. And so now we connect the dots here. You’re recovering from a period of, dark, challenging, mental state, emotional state that was just rocked. Questions and digging back into these practices started to help you spiral upward. Again, tell us about, you know, how do questions lead to the meaningful change that you’ve ultimately experienced and are now helping so many other people to experience?

[00:17:14] Marc Champagne: It was out of necessity for, for my situation. as I mentioned, when I lost all of the. That hope and the optimism they drive and didn’t feel like I had a plan, what was able to reverse that and then bring back hope and excitement was that question of, you know, what do I want for my life?

[00:17:31] And then spending a few minutes, writing those things out and then, okay, well, if that’s what I want, you know, what do I need to do to. Getting there and, and make the steps and take the actions. And, you know, I, I w I revisited a lot of the, the podcast interviews and, and, and written interviews that we had conducted for the app.

[00:17:50] And I was collecting the questions from, from all these people. Right. And the realization that that I made was we’re always at any 0.1 question away from a completely different life. Had I not asked that question. I don’t know where I would be. I’d probably spiraling down and hopefully, you know, I, would’ve gotten a lifeline of another question again, pause that narrative and pull me out.

[00:18:15] But we’re all one question away from a different life or in a business setting, a completely different outcome. So that’s what started, spinning my mind around. Well, that’s super simple. But yet super hard at the same time, because like I said, you know, we, there’s so many questions you can be asking.

[00:18:34] And if, if, if that question for me of what do I want for my life landed at a different time. It just wouldn’t have been relevant, you know, for, for me or practical. 

[00:18:43] Zach White: you mentioned the pause that I can’t think of a more important statement to pause on the, what you just said. This is huge. So engineer, listen up your one question.

[00:18:55] From a completely different life. What does it take mark to really believe that if somebody is hearing that and they’re like, okay, that’s interesting. How do you, how do you actually kind of test, like, do I believe that’s true? Do you have to experience it yourself? Or like, how can we help the engineer listening?

[00:19:12] Realize, like what you’re saying, it’s not just, you know, philosophical, mumbo-jumbo like, this is for real. Uh, how do you deepen your conviction around what you’re 

[00:19:20] Marc Champagne: saying? Well, I would take one sheet of paper, draw a line down the middle and on one side. Right. My ideal life looks like. And list out how, how you want to live and what you want to do, the type of people you want in your life.

[00:19:37] And then on the other side of the paper, what does my current day in life look like? And you know what, there might be a really nice, uh, synergy there, which, which is great, but typically there, there isn’t myself included, but that one question of pausing to look at the autopilot of your life and what’s going on in the work that you’re doing.

[00:19:57] To compare scene comparison, compare comparing, sorry, what you want. And seeing if there’s a disconnect there, then you have a decision. Now you have data, you have insight and it’s up to you there. I mean that, the next step is on, is on all of us individually, whether we want to take that data or insight and do something about it.

[00:20:15] But. We have it. Right? So that’s, you know, that’s one thing, probably one of the hardest questions to answer. If, if you’re not in the state that you want to be, is am I happy? Yes. No, if it’s a no, I mean, that’s a scary thing. So, so now you, again, you know, you, you, because if you answer no, and you ignore that now, now you’re pretending to not know something.

[00:20:38] Right. And that’s another question that I’ll never forget. I, I interviewed this guy named Jamie Wheal from the flow research, collective working on flow states and whatnot with, uh, Stephen caller, really awesome work. And the question he left with me was, what am I pretending not to know? And I, I just, I remember I kicked back my chair and I just, I looked up and, and in reflection, cause I immediately thought, well, for me personally, I’m pretending.

[00:21:07] Pretending that I can out exercise a bad diet, like for a decade, probably like that’s a, that’s a real, I’d say a popular one for most people listening, at least in America. Um, you know, you can, you can think of the relationships in your life. Like, are there certain relationships that you’re pretending are.

[00:21:24] Not toxic, but they are right. And again, they could have been, they could have been useful and, and served a purpose down the road, but you can release those things, you know, are you pretending that you’re doing work, that lights you up, but doesn’t now I sound a bit glib here. Cause I’m just trying to show you the comparison.

[00:21:41] But I mean, this is what I mean with this type of work is that I think the reason why. It’s so hard is because it is hard to answer those questions. Right. 

[00:21:51] Zach White: Right. I feel myself in this conversation, even what you just asked, what am I pretending not to know, inspired to just start exploring that with you.

[00:22:01] And it’s opening up new areas, you know, shining in awareness in mind to things that we wouldn’t have, I would not have seen if you hadn’t asked that question and it leads into the work. You’re saying and doing now with personal Socrates and the book and everything that is happening in your world.

[00:22:18] And so I think it’s literally happening in this conversation, but can we just get a baseline really quick arc? I mean, we’re talking to engineers, they love to geek out on things. What is the Socratic method? What are we applying here when we’re talking about questions? Well, 

[00:22:33] Marc Champagne: so there’s a bit of a backstory with the title of the book, because I remember speaking with the publisher who the, the CEO of that company is, was actually a good friend, uh, someone that I had met during the app days, cause I was looking for a printer to be able to eventually export people’s journals if they wanted to do that as a feature.

[00:22:51] Um, so that’s how I met and long story short, they ended up publishing the book, but I was explaining the process that I was going through. Asking this question, and then a good question leads to another question it’s like, oh yeah, the Socratic method. And as I remember thinking, I’m like, yeah, you’re right.

[00:23:10] But that’s that’s as far as my knowledge goes, like, yeah, I’ve heard of this, this dudes, Socrates, like most of us, and that’s probably as far as it goes or Socrates asks questions. So. I actually hated the title of the book at first. Cause I am like this, this sounds bizarre. I’m not trying to write a book on philosophy.

[00:23:27] Um, and it wasn’t until we got. The combination of the main title, personal Socrates, and the subtitle questions that will upgrade your life from legends and world-class performers that I’m like, ah, that clicks, that makes sense. It’s, that’s what I’ve been studying. Um, and as it turns out, when I started doing the research into Socrates Socratic method, it just blew my mind that this method has been around for.

[00:23:52] So long, you know, almost the beginning of time, essentially. Um, but it, it seems to only be discussed in an academic setting and it’s, you know, Socrates asking his students to question the question and then question, you know, their response and keep asking questions until essentially you get past the surface level.

[00:24:12] Right. Essentially what that’s, what we’re doing. Um, So I wanted to set out to take that method because clearly it’s been proven to work. It’s not like it’s gone away, but how can we make it digestible and applicable in our modern day life? And so I paired it down into something that’s a little bit more, uh, Something that’s a little bit more memorable, I think, to, to pull up in regular thinking.

[00:24:37] And that is just in three sections, which is how the book sections work their way through the process. And that is to start with getting clear. Then when you’re clear, and . Again, this can work. We’ve been talking a lot about our personal lives, but this stuff works in your work, obviously, and your relationships, everything, um, getting clear.

[00:24:56] And then once you’re clear, then you can start designing your work and your life with intention and priming your mind to do that. There’s practices and rituals to do that in questions as well. And then ultimately when you’re doing those two things, then all of a sudden you start seeing things that you probably haven’t seen before.

[00:25:14] And that’s when this whole, this whole idea of living in, in an expanded. World or in, in a place of opportunity starts showing up. It’s because you can see it just like, you know, you can cram on a, on a, on a problem behind your computer screen for 12 hours. But if you take a walk or take the shower where the ideas come out well, what do you, think’s happening in the shower?

[00:25:40] You’ve given the . Space to clear your. Th there’s no, there’s no surprise that, you know, we, we get ideas when we’re on a run or we’re taking a shower. So the idea of the book is to provide the prompts through profiles of people that I’ve either interviewed or the legends of the past, like Picasso or Kobe Bryant.

[00:25:58] I mean, there’s a whole Stephen Hawking. Uh, he was fascinating to just, you know, dive into his thinking. The questions are, are inspired by those people. So. Anyone jumping into the book. My hope is that no matter where you’re at in your life, you are, you can, you’re ill either resonate with an individual or your resonate with their opening prompt, and then at least get you started in this type of work or this type of 

[00:26:21] Zach White: practice.

[00:26:22] mark you, you alluded. It’s something that triggered for me as an engineer, the idea that we associate Socrates with philosophy and engineers, we pride ourselves on, you know, practical application of knowledge for real results in the world. Right? Like we’re here to make a difference.

[00:26:38] And so how would you describe approaching the Socratic method from the lens of an engineer rather than the lens of a philosopher? 

[00:26:48] Marc Champagne: so I mentioned Stephen Hawking. I mean, he comes to mind right away. Cause there, you have a physicist, right? Like based in science obviously.

[00:26:55] And I mean there’s, everything is numbers and equations. And part of the, part of what I wrote about in his profile was to remember Stephen Hawking when we’re, when we’re walking around, looking down when we can actually be looking up at the stars because I, I really, I can’t prove this. I, I th you know, most people know, obviously, you know, Stephen Hawking was, was diagnosed with ALS, uh, at a really young age.

[00:27:16] Thank you. It was pretty sure it was early twenties, basically, right when he was getting going in this career. But I really think his curiosity and the idea of. Asking questions to understand, right? Like what is out there? I want to know what is out there and try to figure this out and keep stimulating his mind.

[00:27:34] I really believe is what extended his life into, you know, the, the years that, that, uh, he lived. That, that disease at that time, when he was diagnosed, I’m pretty sure the probability of, of living was under five years or something. It wasn’t very long. Um, so, you know, when I, when I think of, if someone like Stephen Hawking, that is really based in the science and analytical and whatnot, that is all very important, but the . Questions of stimulating.

[00:28:00] To question and to wonder, and to imagine what is possible, I think is what drives us and keeps us motivated with whatever work we’re doing. Like imagine if Nevine Jane a billionaire, um, uh, that’s profiled in here as well. Who’s created a few different companies right now. He’s working to eliminate, uh, chronic disease through, uh, Um, microbiome testing.

[00:28:23] He has a company called moon express, uh, w which I believe is the first company or the only company licensed to land on the moon. That’s a private company. Wow. And again, his, you know, he just, he told me here’s a guy that, that gets a ton of data, thrown his way for investments, for business decisions. And he says, I take it all.

[00:28:43] But then I take 15 minutes. I shut the door. I close my eyes and I, I imagine myself making that decision and what feels like six months down the road, if something feels off in having made that decision and in visualizing, I made the decision, this is what’s playing out. This is what’s supposed to happen.

[00:29:04] If something feels off, I don’t make the decision. And. On the surface. Again, it looks like a smart business decision. Looks like a smart move from the, from the numbers, but he’s like, I’ve saved millions of dollars by doing that next thing, you know, you know, three months down the road that that company or project blows up.

[00:29:22] Right. And for whatever reason, he tapped into his intuition and his gut. So I think, you know, we have some really sophisticated systems running for us. We’ve got our mind, we have our intuition or gut all of that. Let’s allow those things to work together. Right. And we’re not the first people to do this.

[00:29:38] It’s oh, I think, I think we just need to give ourselves the permission. Stephen Hawking can do it. Dean Jane can do it. Give yourself the permission, right? 

[00:29:45] Zach White: I hope. The engineer listening is convicted and convinced by that. And I can personally testify that, you know, this is not about sitting, uh, at the city gates with your peers and just talking.

[00:29:55] This is about real meaningful change in your life and creating an impact in the world around you. And you look at the legends and world-class performers that mark has profiled in, in this book, personal Socrates, and you’ll see how it changed their lives and how it can change yours and what you. Pure gold.

[00:30:13] I, I coached the exact same approach to my engineering clients who are seeking to make a tough decision. Maybe it’s to leave their company for a new opportunity, or I have two different roles that I could move into director of this director of that, which way should I go? And as engineers, we love those data-driven decisions.

[00:30:31] We want it to be obvious. This is the right path, but life doesn’t always serve up. Obviously. Right and wrong. It serves up a or B and you have to choose which one. And that method you just described of sitting and putting yourself in the future. Uh, I do that same thing with my clients and it’s hard sometimes to trust ourselves in that intuition and to believe that what the subconscious is capable of is, you know, a hundred times what our conscious mind can bring to the table.

[00:31:00] That’s a random number. I’m sure it’s probably even more than that, but a truly 

[00:31:04] Marc Champagne: the clarity comes in, like that’s where the consistent work in, in, in whatever mental fitness works for you. Essentially that the benefit or the outcome is this improved clarity so that when you are faced with a and B it’s, it becomes way more obvious which direction to go, because it’s just like publishing.

[00:31:22] When I w when the offer was, was given to publish the book, it, there was no decision. It was a, it was a hell. Yes, because at that time, I was either preparing it to pitch it to the regular penguin and crown, like the, like put the, put together the massive book proposals and go down that rabbit hole or just self-publish.

[00:31:39] And in this case it sits right in the middle and the journey has been fantastic. I really I’ve. I’ve loved every part of it. Um, but there’s no way I would have been a hell. Yes. If I hadn’t put in the work in, on the mental clarity side of things, if if that pride, if that, if that question was posed even six months before when I was, you know, coming out of that, uh, that phase of my life where things were just with jaded, with fear and whatnot, it probably would have been a really agonizing decision that would have taken days, if not weeks of re weighing pros and cons and just not knowing what felt right.

[00:32:10] Zach White: Hmm, that’s so good. So mark and I could go all day with you on this, but help us understand your life story. Now you got back into the practices. You, you know, you’ve been seeking clarity. Tell us how is your life today after walking that journey for your. 

[00:32:27] Marc Champagne: I mean it, in all transparency, the last four or five years have been the hardest years of my life when it comes to finances and bringing back some sort of level of security that I once had back in that life.

[00:32:43] My wife and I talk about it all the time since. We’re different people having gone through this experience. And I wouldn’t trade any of that in, I mean, I’m still very much on this journey. Uh, w the difference though, is that I couldn’t feel more aligned with the work that is being put out. I’m super excited about this book coming out to see how it does with people, if it resonates.

[00:33:06] Uh, and if it doesn’t how, how I can, you know, adjust and whatnot. Um, but I think the biggest thing is I’m excited. I’m excited and motivated about the process. I’m excited about some of the consulting work that I’m doing because of this, when it comes to mental fitness, uh, some of the speaking related to this at company, like it’s all within this realm.

[00:33:24] Five six years ago. How’d you said, Hey, you’re going to be talking about questions and you’re known as the question guy, and wrote a book called personal Socrates. You know, maybe my, maybe my best friend who has a major in philosophy would have been like, yeah, cool. But other than that, uh, that’s about it.

[00:33:44] So. I’m just, I’m excited to see where, where it all goes and, and doing my best to practice what I preach and, and just enjoy that journey. Cause I only, I’m only ever going to get one experience with this first book. I can already feel that there’ll be others and other projects, but. And not trying to figure out how to record an audio book for the first time, like dealing with cover designs and all these little nuances that come with with putting this, this project out, I’m doing everything possible to just slow down myself and, and cool.

[00:34:17] Remember right? That enjoy this. Like this is, this is where the magic 

[00:34:21] Zach White: is. Yes. The magic is right in front of you, mark. I love that. And I’ll just say, you know, to, to acknowledge and Edify you on your journey, rather, the courage you had to start your business to reach those, you know, 90 million people was immense, but the courage to walk through the darkness and then to share your story in this way, I believe is even even greater and, and awesome things.

[00:34:43] Awesome. Things ahead for you. I I’m honored to have the question guy on our podcast because mark, the engineer listening wants to be happy. They want that fulfillment. They want that dream life, the ideal side of the page from the exercise. Sure. You gave us earlier. And I believe engineering like coaching in our lives.

[00:35:01] Questions, lead answers, follow. And so for that engineer, who wants to be happy? Mark, what question would you. Lead them with, to 

[00:35:10] Marc Champagne: them. Well, we talked a lot about what, what do I want for my life? I think that’s, that’s a great way to start, but I would say tap into the body and tap into that intuition and just ask what feels right.

[00:35:22] Don’t overthink it. Just write exactly what comes to mind right off the cuff. 

[00:35:27] Zach White: What feels right? 

[00:35:30] Marc Champagne: Yeah. What feels right right now. Or what feels right in this situation or this decision, you can add detail around it, but, you know, just slowing down, pausing in the moment and asking yourself that question can go a long way.

[00:35:47] Zach White: I know a lot of engineers are going to be out of their comfort zone. With that question, we don’t always trust our feelings and our intuition. So I hope the listener takes you a to hard on that and asks the question and spend some time with that. Mark. I know people are going to want to dig into the work you’re doing to go further with this and get the book and get in touch with you and all this work around personal Socrates and changing our lives through questions.

[00:36:10] Where can they get connected and find out what. 

[00:36:13] Marc Champagne: Well, thank you. And again, thank you for having me. This was, this was fun. I, I can see, we can, we could speak for hours. Um, the . Easiest . Place. I mean, everything directs from, from the, from the website behind the is where you can find me. That’s also the title of the podcast.

[00:36:27] Um, I’m accessible, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, all the, all the socials. Shoot me a message. And let me know. I mean, let me know. Uh, a question that has really made a big impact in your life. I love to hear about it. I collect them thousands of them at this point. I’m just like some people collect baseball cards or some, or, or other things.

[00:36:48] I mean, I collect questions. Please share those with me and tag 

[00:36:52] Zach White: me. That’s awesome. Well, we will put links to all the places you can find. Mark and his book in the show [email protected]. So go check that out I’ve read the book. I love what’s in there. I cannot recommend highly enough engineers.

[00:37:07] You go out and get a copy of this for yourself, and it’s not only. You know, immersive and going to change you today, but it’s, it’s a great thing to circle back to at various points in your journey when you feel stuck or frustrated or challenged at any point, there’s just incredible value to the, to the book and the work that mark students.

[00:37:23] So mark again, I can’t thank you enough for being so generous with your time and. Your story with us today. So I hope we can do it again some time, and I wish you a ton of success with the work you’re doing. You’re you’re the question guy for sure. I love it. That’s awesome. Thank you. 

[00:37:37] Marc Champagne: Thank you so much.