Jack Barsky is a German-American author, IT specialist, and former sleeper agent of the KGB who spied on the United States from 1978–88. His autobiography, Deep Undercover, was published in 2017, and he frequently speaks on his experiences and as an expert on espionage.

What advice would you give to a younger self?

I studied chemistry and I wasn’t always very careful with the experiments. When I was 20 I almost killed myself in a chemical lab.

If I could give myself advice, I would tell young Jack: “Don’t be so full of yourself. You’re not as smart as you think.

You know you’re pretty clever and you are outdoing almost everybody but once you go out to the real world you’ll find that you’re not such a big deal after all.”

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?

It’s out of the Bible and it goes: “Be still and know that I am God.” Every time I think about it I know that I’m not as big of a deal as I thought I was.

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?

This happened 12 years ago.

I was doing really really well my corporate career with Pinnacle. I was close to making half a million dollars including bonus. I told my wife I that I didn’t know what to do with all that money and then things started falling apart.

The reason is that we stayed together for a long time was to make a home to bring up the children. Once the children were gone, things had escalated to a point where there was no other choice but divorce.

At this point,  I lost my will to live.

I was suicidal but I was telling people that I don’t have a reason to get up anymore. You know there’s nothing left in my life. I started drinking. I never missed a day at work but I did miss some weekends and it was all blah blah blah and I didn’t know what life had in store for me if anything.

It took me a while to climb out of that hole.

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

Think.

I answered your unusual question with a somewhat unusual answer but is it true.

What is your morning routine?

I wake up around 5 to 5:30 am and eat weird breakfast that people make fun of me. My breakfast consists of three raw carrots, one banana and two slices of toasted bread without anything on it.

I wake up around 5 to 5:30 am and eat weird breakfast that people make fun of me. My breakfast consists of three raw carrots, one banana and two slices of toasted bread without anything on it.

Nowadays I sit down at my computer and start easy, handle emails and so forth and then I write or work on my presentations.

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

Discipline.

The bottom line is if you want to go places you want to achieve you need to get things done and tnd that is not done with your mouth.

Do you feel like people don’t take enough time to think?

I think there is not enough thinking in today’s world. We are extremely shallow. We don’t even double-check on ourselves. We often do things very robotically.

Can we combat ego?

You need to manage ego. You will not be successful unless you have an ego. Ego means that you have self-confidence but it needs to be managed so that it doesn’t run away with you.

The moment you think that you are the smartest person in the room, you are on your way down. It doesn’t happen to everybody but I’ve seen it happen with so many people.

In one case, a very level executive who was very successful eventually lost his job because he just didn’t listen and made a bunch of decisions that caused his company several hundred million dollars.

How did you get out of this alive?

The primary answer is that I found my spiritual self which came to me sort of as a gift. You know I wasn’t looking for it but through a person who I hired sort of evangelized.

I slowly made my way from being an atheist to an agnostic to somebody who would understand that there is a God. That came rather intellectually through Christian philosophy and so forth.

At one point I just you know I took the plunge I became a Christian which literally brought me to a home that I didn’t have before and that again allowed me to start life all over again and I’m now happily remarried.

It’s been eight years and I have a seven-year-old daughter. So finally I got to a point where I’m able to both give and receive love the way God meant us to do it.

Do you have any regrets?

We all have regrets and some of them are not that important but the biggest one I have is that I once broke the biggest promise a person can make to another person that is my marriage vows to my German wife.

There are reasons and explanations for this, but it doesn’t matter because I’m not in the habit of breaking promises. I promised that I would be with her for the rest of our lives and I broke that promise and until the end of my days, I will not feel I cannot feel good about that.

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

In my younger years, I read almost everything I could get my hands on it was written by a French writer Honoré de Balzac.

In my middle years, I read a lot of science fiction particularly Isaac Asimov and Frank Harbord. Nowadays I read a lot of history and philosophy and there is not just one book there are many of them.

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

I claim credit for one and the quote goes: “It always takes longer and it always costs more than it does.”