Matt Bodnar is an entrepreneur and angel investor focused on the restaurant technology space. He was named Forbes “30 Under 30”, called a “Rising Restaurateur Star” by the National Restaurant Association, and a “Strategy Pro” by Restaurant Hospitality Magazine.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?
I grew up moving around a bit. I was born in Alabama, grew up in Colorado, and moved to Nashville, TN when I was about 11. I was the youngest of four kids and my siblings are all much older than me, the closest one in age is about 15 years older than me.
I grew up with the best of both worlds – all the perks of being an only child, and all the perks of being the youngest. My parents were extremely laid back and let me do whatever I wanted as a kid, I had extreme amounts of freedom even at a young age.
I look back and think – I don’t even know if I would let my kids do some of the stuff my parents let me do as a child!
My parents also took me out of school for 3 months every year and homeschooled me. When we did this, we would travel and go somewhere warm, typically Florida. My mom would teach me a couple hours a day, a few days a week and I would come back to school way ahead of wherever the grade currently was.
This was an amazing experience. It also taught me to think outside the confines of the rules. It taught me that I could excel much farther and faster when working outside the system than it. It also gave me the incredible freedom to explore, be curious, play, and have fun as a child.
What are the biggest wastes of time for novices in your field?
In general, people waste time by focusing on the wrong things. People get too caught up in busy work and meaningless activities to “feel busy.” Stop doing that. Focus your time and energy on discovering the few high-leverage things that will make a big difference and make sure those get done. Ignore everything else.
A related strategy that I find extremely helpful for novices is simple – emulate what has worked for other people. Too often people get caught up in the belief that they have to reinvent the wheel. Study those before you who have achieved what you want to achieve and do what they did.
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?
I’ve gone through a few really dark periods in my life. The most recent one was when I witnessed the death of my own grandfather. It was very traumatic and I suffered from serious stress, anxiety, and depression for nearly a year after it took place.
In many ways, that event helped shape the trajectory of the guests and experts I interview on The Science of Success and gave me the tools and the strength to look at my own emotions much more deeply, accept and deal with negative emotions, and get my body and mind in a much better place.
My emotional intelligence and self-compassion grew tremendously as a result of that experience.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Carving out time for high leverage thinking and high leverage activities. Spending time reading, thinking, and journaling. Digesting ideas and thinking through tough problems. Giving myself the space to step back and see the big picture.
Doing the few things that are going to have the biggest possible impact and ignoring everything else. This sort of “high leverage thinking” or “compound time” is at the core of the routines of many of history’s most successful people.
What is your morning routine?
My morning routine is built around the neuroscience of creativity and the same principle that Einstein, Issac Newton, and many other great achievers use. It’s also very similar to the “daily architecture” that world champion martial artist Josh Waitzkin recommends.
My morning routine starts the night before. I end my day with a question or topic I want some clarity on. From there, I let go of work and spend time relaxing, having fun, and spending time with family. Don’t ignore that part. It’s a key part of the process. Then I go to sleep.
I get up in the morning and typically meditate to further focus my mind. From there, before getting sucked into the vortex of emails and tasks, carve out 20-30 mins to journal on the topic from the night before.
This high-leverage thinking activity helps me get clarity on the big challenges and issues going on in my life – and harnesses the subconscious processing power that I unleashed by planting the idea in my mind at the end of the day and then relaxing and focusing on downtime.
After journaling, I turn my attention to my “Most Important Task” (MIT) for the day. On Sunday, I review my goals, my previous week and the upcoming week and I set out 1-2 MITs for each day of the week. These are the few, key activities that I have decided are the highest leverage.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
There are several I would recommend. For starters, the morning routine explained above is a great daily structure.
Second, reading is a fantastic habit. Some of the smartest and most successful people in history spend huge amounts of time reading and learning.
Third, meditation is one of the most scientifically validated tactics on the planet for improving your thinking and emotional state.
Fourth, sleep more. Sleep is another research-backed habit that yields tremendous dividends. You’re better off sleeping more and working less, those work hours will be exponentially more productive.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
There are a few books that come to mind. These are some of the best books I’ve read on their respective topics and the ones I return to again and again, always finding fresh insights.
In no particular order:
- Mindset by Carol Dweck (Performance Psychology)
- The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin (Performance, Daily Routines)
- Seeking Wisdom by Peter Bevelin (Mental Models, High Leverage Thinking)
If you just read these books and executed on 10% of what’s in them, you would 10x what you’re currently doing.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
This is a bit of a paraphrase, but one of my favorites is a quote from Stanford research psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck.
“Instead of trying to learn from and repair their failures, people with [often] simply try to repair their self esteem…by assigning blame or making excuses…You can still be in the process of learning from your mistakes until you deny making them.” – Carol Dweck
What a beautiful quote. You cannot learn from a mistake if you don’t think you made one. Accepting your failures and mistakes is one of the cornerstones of learning and growth. Another quote that comes to mind, in a similar vein, is a quote by billionaire Ray Dalio.
“It’s a weird world that there’s a phobia about making mistakes, and there’s a phobia about knowing one’s weaknesses. Mistakes are part of the process, and everybody has weaknesses. The greatest people I know have weaknesses and have become successful because they know how to compensate for the weaknesses. They’re aware. The stupidest people I know, least successful people I know, are people who don’t own up to those weaknesses and grow.” – Ray Dalio
Where can we go to find out more?
I study strategies for evidence-based growth and high leverage thinking. If you want to start becoming a high-leverage thinker today I have a free guide called “4 Steps To Making Better Decisions” which you can get right here.