Tom Bilyeu | Impact Theory (Episode 667)

Tom Bilyeu (@TomBilyeu) is a co-founder of Quest Nutrition, co-founder of media company Impact Theory, and host of the accompanying Impact Theory podcast.

The Cheat Sheet:

  • Why the fastest way to learn is to teach.
  • Developing a growth mindset (per previous guest Carol Dweck) to avoid getting stuck doing one thing forever.
  • Escaping the depression of feeling like a talentless hack.
  • Why limiting his prospects made Tom feel better about himself in the short run — and how he broke away from being “The King of Remedial Jobs.”
  • How do we preserve a positive belief system in the face of what looks like contrary evidence?
  • And so much more…


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Tom Bilyeu has lived life and realized success on what most would consider to be a circuitous route. Beginning as an aspiring (but, according to him, talentless) filmmaker, he fell into copywriting for shady-sounding entrepreneurs who turned out to be legitimate, and went into business with them as a co-founder of Quest Nutrition so he could “look like Wolverine.”

Within five years, that company would be valued at over a billion dollars. After an amicable parting of ways with Quest Nutrition, he founded media company Impact Theory with his wife and hosts its accompanying podcast. Join us while Tom gives us a tour of his unique path, why he made certain choices along the way, and what he sees for his future. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

More About This Show

When Tom Bilyeu co-founded protein bar company Quest Nutrition, there was no way he could have anticipated its growth by 57,000 percent in its first three years. It’s a number that’s hard to wrap the brain around, and the work involved with adapting to such rapid growth is equally difficult to imagine — until faced with the reality of it.

“For us it was going from renting a commercial kitchen by the hour to, at the end of it, we had just in one of our facilities, 300,000 square feet. It was absolute madness,” says Tom. “You can fit multiple football fields in one of our facilities.”

To the consternation of aspiring entrepreneurs among our listeners, Tom actually didn’t set out to become a wildly successful nutrition mogul. Though there’s no doubt he worked hard to achieve such success, he began his journey as — of all things — a filmmaker.

“I so wish that I had been clever about this,” Tom says, “and that has not at all been my trajectory. I fell in love with filmmaking when I was twelve years old and just knew, ‘I’m going to be a filmmaker.'”

After what seemed a promising stint in film school, Tom crashed and burned when it came time for his senior thesis. And no longer having the structure of film school to back him up, he spiraled into a depression because he couldn’t see a way forward. He’d failed at his dream.

“And so I just felt lost,” says Tom. “Thankfully, the thing that I ended up getting into was teaching filmmaking and in teaching filmmaking, I realized to be able to teach, I need to start learning more about this. And they say the fastest way to learn something is to teach it. That is so true.

“So, in the process of teaching it, I really start to feel like, ‘Whoa, I’m actually understanding where I went wrong in film school, what I had done wrong, I can now explain it to other people,’ and so then it became, ‘Well, if I can explain it to other people, can I begin to fix it in my own life?’ And that began — I didn’t have the words at the time because Carol Dweck had not yet written her seminal book Mindset, but I begin to develop a growth mindset, sort of accidentally, as a way to escape the depression of feeling like I’m a talentless hack.

“I needed a new mindset that was going to let me feel like I could get good, and teaching gave me that little in, that thread, that then did become me developing my mindset, seeing that, ‘Whoa, I was actually able to make these students better.’

“I really understood why their films, their scripts, weren’t working. I could actually help them. That gave me the insights into my own stuff, and so I felt like, ‘Okay, I can do this,’ and then these two entrepreneurs saw me give a lecture on the power of media and storytelling to influence behavior. So, they’re looking at it from the perspective of influence buying behavior. Long story short, they’re like, ‘Hey, we need a copywriter. Why don’t you come join us?’ They said, ‘You’re coming to the world right now with your hand out. You want to be a filmmaker, but you’re begging for money. You don’t control your art; that’s always going to be a frustrating experience. So come get rich.’ My, how simple that sounded at the time…”

Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm in its entirety to learn more about where Tom’s journey went next, how he and his partners went from selling something practical but uninspiring to something they truly believed would make the world a better place, how they set their company apart from the other protein bar companies on the market, why people who set audacious goals are more likely to achieve those goals, how Tom got out of the habits that made him “King of the Remedial Jobs,” how The Matrix changed Tom’s life, Tom’s view of the dual pandemics of the body and the mind, what Walt Disney understood that every other studio has ignored, and lots more.


If you enjoyed this session with Tom Bilyeu, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:

Click here to thank Tom Bilyeu at Twitter!

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AJ Harbinger - author of 1048 posts on The Art of Charm

AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality. Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.

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