Episode 136: An Overlooked Cure for Anxiety Discovered by Charlie Hoehn

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Charlie Hoehn Play It Away

Charlie Hoehn

Charlie Hoehn created a dream job for himself, working as Tim Ferriss’ director of special projects for three years. His super human work habits made him a rock star, but ended up leaving him deeply stuck by anxiety. Hear his unlikely, but very simple cure. 

He has a very simple message for our listeners: go outside and play! He discovered that if he had not taken a step back in his career and introduced more playtime into his life, he wouldn’t be where he is today.

Charlie is the author of Recession Proof Graduate and Play it Away. He is also the CEO of BookPop, a marketing service that helps authors promote their books. He’s still a busy guy, but now he always finds time to play.

Charlie graduated in 2008 with a marketing degree, and like many recent graduates he thought he’d be able to find a well-paying job rather quickly. He spent a lot of his time applying to jobs that he didn’t really want because he thought it was expected of him.

He realized one night that he was going down a path he didn’t like, and decided instead to focus on work that genuinely interested him. He started working with entrepreneurs like Tucker Max and Ramit Sethi. He starting working with each of them by first offering to help them for free. He wanted to demonstrate his value without them having to contribute any extra effort.

Through these connections he ultimately began working for Tim Ferriss, where he stayed for over three years. He helped Tim launch 4-Hour Body, and then ran the Opening the Kimono event for Tim.  During this event Charlie’s overworked state reached its climax. He worked all hours of the day and even took drugs during the event to deny himself sleep!

After the event ended, Tim started discussing his next project with Charlie and even offered to double his salary.  Initially Charlie took the offer, but soon explained to Tim that he was burned out and needed some time on his own.

He started  a journey of self exploration. He tried many things to figure out why he felt the way he did.  He went to see his doctor and end up throwing out the anxiety drugs prescribed to him. He tried mediating, yoga, flotation tanks, several different kinds of therapy, volunteering, exercising, fasting and different dietary habits. Each experiment helped in some small way, but none had a dramatic effect on his state of mind.

After reading Play by Stewart Brown he discovered his cure, his missing piece to his puzzle. He wasn’t allowing himself to have fun or to be happy. When he started introducing play into his life, he never felt better. His mood state changed almost immediately. He is able to be more creative, felt happier and was able to form better connections with the people around him. Now he is trying to educate people on the benefits of play and how it can have a dramatic effect on your mental health.

Key UnStuckable Takeaway

Sometimes you have to take a step back to go forward!

Charlie was working at his dream job and achieving the goals he had set out for himself. Unfortunately, he was doing so at the expense of his health.

He was overworked and constantly exhausted. He realized that if he didn’t take a step back and start taking care of himself, then he was going to destroy his health.

When you are chasing after a goal, it can be easy to become blinded to the other needs in your life. Make sure you allow yourself time to have fun and to connect with other people. Charlie now makes sure to include a healthy dose of playtime in his life, and he feels better than ever before.

Quick Action to Get Unstuck

Go play. Seriously. Simply as that! (See Charlie’s UnStuckable Lesson below)

Playing, especially with another person, can make the both of you feel better and help you form a more genuine connection. For example, instead of asking an old friend to grab a cup of coffee, Charlie suggests inviting them to play catch in a park.

You’ll be surprised by the reaction of your friends!  More often then not, they’ll be thrilled by your suggestion. If you want to get unstuck, simply find some time to go play.

UnStuckable Quotes From Charlie

“We get into this fear mentality of if we’re not on track, or keeping up with our friends, then we’re somehow all failures.”

“If I allow other people to make these decisions for me going forward, I’m never going to be able to have the life that I want.”

“I grew up around a number of adults who worked at jobs they were never crazy about.”

“I respected that they carved their own path.”

“Everyone is in a chronic state of exhaustion.”

“You have to learn to be your own doctor.”

“I had to break. I was still in denial for a long time.”

“The easiest way to change your life is to change your social circle.”

“I realized I had chronically deprived myself of play.”

“In order to do great work, you need to get away from work.”

“You cannot be laissez-faire about your health.”

“Play is about the easiest way you can make your employees happier and more productive.”

“I want to be a time billionaire.”

“If you are stuck, it’s because you have the same thought patterns and behaviors running in a constant loop.”

More Habits & Actions

  • Become aware of your current habits and how they are affecting your health, mood, relationships and mental state. Take some time to really assess your daily actions and habits. Are they helping you reach your goal, or are they distracting you from achieving it?
  • Offer to help people for free. This is a great way to get your foot in the door of any industry you want to learn more about.  Charlie ended up being Tim Ferriss’ right-hand man by first offering to work for him for free to demonstrate his value. Show someone how you can provide them value without them having to assist you in any way.
  • Get in touch with nature. Too many of us spend all of our time indoors, only going outside when it’s essential. Spend some time going outside whenever you can. It’s great for your health and helps clear your mind.
  • For those of you who are feeling depressed, Charlie suggests trying a very simply strategy. He says to write one letter of gratitude to a different person each day and read it to them in person if possible. Do this for three weeks and you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel. Connecting with other people and becoming aware of all the great things in your life is an excellent strategy for combating depression.
  • Host a “recess” for you and your friends. Charlie started getting some of his friends together once a week for several months to just go outside and play. It was a great way to socialize with friends, get some exercise, and most importantly, have fun.

Charlie’s UnStuckable Lesson

Play isn’t just for kids. Charlie discover play was a great way to relieve his anxiety. It can also be a useful activity to help get you unstuck.

As a kid you probably made up all kinds of fun rules with your friends to guide your play. Charlie has a few suggestions on how adults can make play more effective (and fun of course!)

Rule #1

Disconnect yourself from social media and the Internet. Enjoy being in the moment, instead of capturing each moment and sharing it with everyone you know.

Put your focus on the people you are playing with in the real world, instead of on people who aren’t even there. Social media has its place and can be a wonderful tool for connection, but it can also create walls that prevent us from being in the moment and enjoying real-life experiences more fully.

Rule #2

Play is about harmony. When you get a bunch of people together to play, it’s not about who is the best at the chosen activity or even who is winning. It’s about making sure everyone is having a good time.

Rule #3

Play is not just about getting exercise, it’s about having fun. Going for a run on a treadmill or doing a workout DVD at home isn’t play. You need to be having fun and preferably, interacting with other people as you play.


Charlie Hoehn’s website

Play by Stewart Brown

Outwitting The Devil by Napoleon Hill

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