Shawn Wells, MPH, LDN, RD, CISSN, FISSN, AKA The World’s Greatest Formulator is a product formulator and expert in the fields of performance nutrition, longevity, fitness, and supplementation. He is a Registered Dietitian with a decade of experience as a Chief Clinical Dietitian in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. Shawn also a Certified Sports Nutritionist and has worked with celebrity clients and professional athletes.
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 the small town of Lenox, Massachusetts, as the son of a divorced mother and an enlisted Navy father. I was bullied and made fun of for my weight as a kid and was never the most popular though I was funny and smart. I struggled with self-worth and deep down lived with pain, medicating with junk food and video games.
During my junior year of college, I saw my physician in Boston for a required, routine physical. When I got there, I told him all about the supplements I had been using and how they had been helping. He quietly turned away, grabbed a piece of paper, and drew a line on it with two hash marks on each end, one at 20 (my age at the time) and one at 80. “Why not be happy between here and here?” he said, referring to the 60-year span, or “dash” between those two points. I was looking towards a future when my passion would be appreciated, but Dr. Johnson was suggesting something radical: why not work towards pursuing my passion right now, day in and day out? I was dumbfounded. Did he just give me permission to pursue my dream?
At that time, no one around me was encouraging me to “chase my dreams.” Yet here was my doctor, telling me I could be happy right now. I could embrace the “dash” between birth and death which is where life is lived. That day radically changed my career path; a formerly fat-reared, the bullied kid began to dream of becoming the best supplement formulator in the world. I dreamt of creating the world’s most effective, cutting-edge, talked-about supplements that were not only rooted in good science but that more importantly, changed lives. For some reason, Dr. Johnson’s opinion and encouragement were all that mattered and all I needed to start pursuing my dream. What he shared with me that day and the way he shared it made sense. My brain and heart would not let it go—and I would experiment as much as I had to to make that dream a reality.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
The impact that nutrition and supplements can have on your life. Also, that you can’t “grind your way to happiness.” Granting yourself grace and the ability to make mistakes is the ultimate path to success.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
To do STRICT keto continuously and that carbs are “evil.”
Don’t be vulnerable, and get tough when it comes to emotions or mental health.
The use of supplements with any proprietary blends.
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?
After earning my double major in Marketing and Information Technology at Babson College, I decided to pursue my Master’s in nutrition as my next step. My parents had moved from Massachusetts to North Carolina while I was at Babson, and I knew that if I believed in this dream, I would have to fund it and achieve it myself.
My top choice was UNC-Chapel Hill, the best of the best. To be accepted there, I would need two straight years of sciences as prerequisites, which led me to UNC-Greensboro, where I visited a guidance counselor. Let’s call him Mr. Smith (I have honestly blocked his name out, but not his face). I told him with unrepressed zeal about my dream of becoming a sports nutritionist, a clinical dietitian, and a supplement formulator. But before I even finished saying Chapel Hill, he stopped me. “You would need 26 credit hours of straight sciences a semester—with labs,” he said dismissively. “This is not doable, especially for a business student. Why don’t you pick something more realistic? You’re not even that fit if I am being honest.”
I couldn’t believe what I heard—after all the progress I’d made, it seemed I was still the person I feared I’d always be. Devastated, hurt and angry, I stormed out of his office with tears streaming down my face.
For two days straight, I contemplated suicide. I looked at bottles of Tylenol and aspirin and thought, “I’ll just take all of this, wash it down with some Pepe Lopez tequila, and slip out of this world. No one will miss me. I am the fat-ass with a stupid, unrealistic dream.”
I was in a new city with no family, no friends, and certainly no girlfriends. But at that moment, I heard Dr. Johnson’s voice again in the back of my mind: Why not be happy between here and here? I decided I didn’t care what the counselor said. I would try. If I failed, I would revisit the idea of ending my life—but in the meantime, I decided to take the risk. I would try to be happy.
The next morning, I went into the office at UNC-Greensboro and put an additional full semester’s worth of classes on my credit card: Chemistry 1 & 2, Biology 1 & 2, Human Biochemistry, Plant Biochemistry, Nutrition, Genetics, and more. For most students in those days, that was more like three or four semesters’ worth of classes. The prerequisites to get into Chapel Hill were lengthy and the difficulty curve was steep. I didn’t just need to take the classes; I needed to ace them.
In 1999, I made good on my promise to myself. I finished at UNC-Greensboro with exemplary grades and got accepted at Chapel Hill.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
I never stop learning or growing. Through all the struggles I’ve faced, I’ve never given up even though at times I have wanted to. I’ve done 10 facilitated plant medicine journeys in the past year and it has profoundly changed the way I think and approach life.
What is your morning routine?
5:00 am – Wake up, Breathwork, Affirmations
5:10 am – Light stretching, Gratitude, Plan Day
5:20 am – MCTs/Collagen/Decaf Coffee
5:25 am – Walk my dog Maya + Drink Coffee
6:00 am – Cold Shower + Get to Work
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Meditation, gratitude, affirmations, and journaling.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
No checking email first thing in the morning. Prioritize my morning routine, and then do the biggest task of the day first. (I go into details about this in my book, “The ENERGY Formula.”)
After that, I batch phone calls together and use the Pomodoro method. I take breaks for movement and take walks outside.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz – The agreement: “don’t take anything personally,” changed my perspective markedly.
Building A Story Brand by Donald Miller – anything compelling is driven by a story and the hero’s journey is the ultimate story.
Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss – to get quick summaries of the most successful and brilliant people in the world is invaluable.
Start With Why by Simon Sinek – figuring out your purpose in life will give you your passion.
My book, The ENERGY Formula – was a massive amount of work and energy and has taught me discipline in honing my own craft and knowledge – distilling 20 years of knowledge and speaking into one book.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
“Life doesn’t happen to you; it happens for you.”
“There is no such thing as failure; you win or you learn.”
“If anyone talked to you like you talked to you, you wouldn’t be their friend.”