Derek Doepker went from broke valet parker to 7 bestselling author on topics like fitness, personal development, business, and authorship. He’s been featured on Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Doepker award-winning book The Healthy Habit Revolution reveals how to create habits that stick for good in just 5 minutes a day.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?

I grew up in Evansville, Indiana. 

When I wanted to start playing guitar at 12 years old, my best friend told me I’d fail. He said it was too hard and I didn’t have the discipline for it. I was so angry he didn’t believe in me it actually helped me practice extra hard to prove him wrong. 

When I wanted to become a professional musician, my parents supported my dreams to get a degree in music. 

I think the combination of my anger being told I couldn’t do something and my parents encouraging me inspired me to want to help others achieve their dreams. These days, encourage people to shift from “I can’t” to “How can I?”

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

Everyone is wounded. We’ve all had trauma. So the people who act like they have it all together really don’t. 

If I recognized this earlier, I wouldn’t have put people on a pedestal. It would have allowed me to take the pressure off myself. I could have also been more empathetic to the hardships others may be secretly going through. 

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

While I hear some blatantly bad recommendations, often it’s not that something is inherently bad. Rather, it’s just not a good fit for someone. 

Telling someone to “breathe” could be bad advice if that person’s head is under water. Even good advice can be bad if it’s done at the wrong time. 

So the ultimate “bad advice” is really just someone saying “this is what worked for me, so it’s what you should do too.” In other words, bad recommendations = one-size-fits-all advice. Instead, we need to filter all the recommendations through a lens of whether it’s ideal at this point in time for the individual. 

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

In 2013, after I had a #1 bestselling book, I went into a depression. It seemed like nothing I did matter. I’m just one person, not enough to make a difference with all the pain and suffering in the world. I could write another book, but so what? It just didn’t seem like it would matter. I couldn’t set goals because all the goals seemed pointless. 

The first shift that got me out of that state was realizing it wasn’t “wrong” for me to feel bad and be stuck. I thought, “Maybe I’m going through this so I can help others who are going through something similar.” I realized, “It’s okay to not be okay.”

Then I recognized that I may be just one person, but one person can create a ripple effect. The shift from “What can I do?” to “What can WE do?” helped me realize that we all have the capacity to make a world-changing impact when it ripples through others. So it’s not just up to me to change the world. I may be one piece of the puzzle, as you may be one piece, yet we’re all essential to the whole. 

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

Mentors. I can’t imagine being where I’m at if I didn’t have mentors and wise people who shared their insights with me. I could never say I’m totally self-made because who I am is a product of those who came before me. 

What is your morning routine?

My wake-up time varies between 7 am – 8:30 am depending on whether I’m sleeping in or not. I do about 5 minutes of meditation, get coffee, and then usually write an email for my audience. After that, it’s whatever I have scheduled for the day.  

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Meditation. I’m calmer and able to think more objectively about my challenges. Tied into meditation is the awareness that you can change your own emotional state. So whether that’s meditation, breathing, or even something like dancing, state management empowers you to be in control of your own emotions. Getting into a peak emotional state before taking on any other task is key for optimal performance. 

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

While I have a lot of strategies, if I could only give one, it would be the “3 magic words technique.” 

The three magic words are “Can I just…?” followed by a micro-commitment. 

If I don’t feel like writing, I’ll ask, “Can I just open my word processor?” “Can I just write one sentence?” “Can I just write a little more?”

If I don’t feel like cleaning, I’ll ask, “Can I just clean the corner of my desk?”

“Momentum generates motivation.”

So if you ever find yourself procrastinating, just pick a target so small you’re guaranteed to say yes. Then you may automatically do more when you ask “Can I just do a little more?”

This takes off the pressure and allows you to enjoy doing more rather than feeling like you’re forcing yourself to do more. I may not have accomplished half the things I’ve accomplished if I didn’t have this technique. Or if I did, it would have been with a lot more effort rather than ease and joy. 

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

The first book I remember having a big influence on me is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Being a shy kid, I didn’t have good people skills. A lightbulb went off when I finally got that it was more about being interested in others than trying to get them interested in you. This helped me realize I don’t always have to have something clever to say, rather I can use my natural curiosity to ask about others. 

Another book that had a big impact is The Wrinkle Cure by Nicholas Perricone which I read in High School. It showed me the effect junk food was having on my body. Since I read that book, I became a health nut and never went back to my old ways of eating fast food every night. 

Since then, countless books have changed my life. These two were just the first that got me into personal development. 

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” – Jim Rohn

This quote inspires me to do what’s uncomfortable because I’d regret it a lot more down the road if I didn’t.