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Dr. Greg Wells Podcast #39: Dr. Mike Rucker on Positive Psychology, Workplace Wellness and Building Great Habits

Published on May, 2nd 2016
By Dr. Greg Wells

Hi everyone! This week I’ve got a really interesting interview with Dr. Mike Rucker. Mike is a specialist in performance psychology and workplace wellness. He is also an endurance athlete and overall really interesting guy. Mike and I dive into topics related to positive psychology, his research on what makes successful workplace wellness programs impactful (or not), his own performance habits and lots of other ideas that I think can make a huge difference for all of us.

Check out Dr. Mike’s bio:

First off, since you’re taking the time to read this let me thank you for wanting to learn a little more about me (Michael Rucker). If you only have time for the single sentence version, here it is: I am a zealot of facilitating measurable positive increases in outcomes and performance. If you have a couple of minutes, allow me to share a little more…

I have two passions: human wellness and entrepreneurial marketing. Let’s start with the latter… My predilection for entrepreneurship surfaced in grade school fostered in part by California’s Mentally Gifted Minor Program which had some excellent rudimentary business curriculum that cultivated my entrepreneurial spirit at an early age. By seventh grade I possessed a business license and successfully published a local sport and music ‘zine’ titled ETC. My adult professional career in media started in entertainment production. A quick search for my name on IMDB reveals my early days on the television show Baywatch and my production work on the movie Life. It was a surreal time in my career path with a lot of perks.

At the turn of the millennium I began working for MXG Media, a Barry Diller convergence media start-up that centered around Gen-Y females. I coordinated a Fox Family television show called MXG Beach Countdown which was a TRL clone for “tweens”. The show had a corresponding e-commerce website and we were toying with augmented reality before this term had even been truly defined. Through serendipity I became the platform’s producer and once I got a taste for the Web and where it was heading I never looked back.

At this time, I also now had a yearning to live within an entrepreneurial culture. In 2001, I co-founded the interactive marketing agency Zugara and continued to produce websites working with brands like Sony and Redbull. My (and my team’s) efforts redesigning the Motegi Racing website were featured in the book Redesigning Web Sites: Retooling for the Changing Needs of Business.

Although this experience was quite rewarding, after a few years I found myself out of balance and overweight. I sold my stake in Zugara and began attending The Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. Obese and musing about my next entrepreneurial adventure I devised a creative way to get back in shape while funding another business (a concept restaurant). Inspired by a hometown legend, Triathlon Champion Dave Scott, I asked my USC classmates to pledge funding towards this school project start-up if, in return, I committed to completing a full distance Ironman.

It is important to note that when I ideated this challenge I was 252 pounds. The highlights are as follows: I gave the project a name — The Burrito Project, dropped sixty pounds, finished the Ironman New Zealand, and opened RockIt Burrito (there are obviously quite a few more details but condensed here for the sake of brevity… although if interested you can read an extensive recap of my Ironman New Zealand race experience here). Through this chain of events I developed an affinity for destination endurance races, and this borderline addiction has led to over twenty marathons, four iron distance events, and travel to every continent.

During this time period I also began studying the work of Charles Garfield and personally working with Redbull’s peak performance coach Dr. Mike Gervais. After learning from these two influences I was hooked on studying performance optimization. The parallels between organizational / executive / entrepreneurial peak performance and sport performance made it easy to dive into learning about both in tandem. I began absorbing as much material as I could get my hands on. I enrolled and successfully completed the University of California at Los Angeles Fitness Certificate Program. I became American College of Sports Medicine certified, a member of APA’s Division 47, as well as a charter member of the International Positive Psychology Association. Anything I could do to contribute to the conversation and growing movement of lifelogging, quantified self, and performance optimization I did it.

At the end of 2007 I was hired to externally manage the online product launch of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. Knowing this would be a long professional engagement I started the Live Life Love Project to ensure that I was able to network and learn from thought leaders in the areas of entrepreneurship & marketing, and progressive health and wellness. After Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate was officially established as a global brand (getting nominated for a Webby and winning Best Real Estate website in 2008) I was hired by the cognitive science company Scientific Brain Training SA, which provided me the opportunity to sharpen my knowledge of cognitive performance as well as furthering my mastery in Web development, digital marketing, and product management.

I have long been an avid lifelogger, as well as an early adopter of several biometric tracking devices including the first generation bodybugg, and the first generation Timex and Garmin GPS watches. However, right after the turn of the millennium my passion for tracking and improving human performance exploded. One of my early academic projects was the website Middle of the Pack which allows athletes to track their performance over time via online logging. Beginning with this first project, over the last decade, I have sustained both an academic and professional presence in wellness innovation through study and work by parlaying my extensive experience in changing consumer behavior with my passion for health and fitness.

In 2011 I was invited to join the Club One Fitness Marketing Team to assist with their online digital product strategy. Club One is now Active Sports Clubs and I can honestly say Active Sports Clubs wholeheartedly believes in what they do, which is changing people’s lives for the better and improving the overall landscape of wellness — so the position is a perfect fit for me. As Vice President of Technology for Active Sports Clubs, once again I have been blessed with the opportunity to utilize and grow my expertise in digital innovation and wellness.

I am also currently a PhD candidate at CSPP studying corporate wellness. My dissertation focus is on how motivation, particularly key differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, can help individuals and organizations improve their employee’s performance and well-being.

Through my dad’s influence, Robert Rucker, I’ve developed a passion and aptitude for ergogenic nutrition/biochemistry. When I have spare time I enjoy partaking in civil engagement and participating in social contribution. Over the years I have received several accolades for my philanthropic efforts including a Certificate of Recognition from the California State Senate as well as a Congressional Commendation from the U.S. House of Representatives.

You can connect with Mike on his blog:

http://michaelrucker.com/biography/

or on twitter:

http://www.twitter.com/performbetter

I hope you enjoyed the episode. Have a great week.

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