Everything Is Everything

John Wood, Founder of Rageheart

by John Wood

Spanish is jiu jitsu is ballet is gardening is knitting is building houses is programming is writing is hiking is snowboarding is cooking is overcoming anxiety and depression is nervous system work is tantric sex and full body orgasms that shake the walls of the house and make your neighbours call the cops.

The point is…

Getting good at one thing is the same thing as getting good at anything:

Find the critical levers and work them consistently 🔥

In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, one of the biggest levers is mat time.

How much time am I spending on the mats each week?

Once I’m spending enough time on the mats, the next lever is technique.

Am I learning new techniques and drilling old ones?

Am I getting better at staying calm while someone is literally trying to choke me unconscious?

Other BJJ levers include:

  • sleep
  • nutrition and diet
  • strength and fitness
  • nervous system work (ie. understand the mechanics of the fight/flight response and use it to stay calmer than your opponents, causing them to “gas out” before you do, at which point they become putty in your hands – or as my teacher likes to say, get ’em drunk before you take their money)

Find the critical levers and work them consistently 🔥

Spanish has its own set of critical levers that move the needle.

Some of these are unique to Spanish (and language learning in general):

  • quality training (whether with a course, book or teacher)
  • conversational practice
  • reading practice
  • flashcards (with complete phrases, not simply words)

Other levers are shared with BJJ and every other form of learning and growth:

  • sleep
  • diet and nutrition
  • exercise

Again, the underlying principle is the same:

Find the critical levers and work them consistently 🔥

Now suppose you don’t know what the critical levers are.

You can work harder than anyone but there’s a good chance you’ll just go in circles, spending a shit ton of energy without getting anywhere interesting.

This is typical of “mental health” issues:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • negative thoughts, imposter syndrome, self-doubt
  • a racing mind
  • anger problems (too much or too little)
  • numb, can’t feel anything

What are the critical levers here?

What moves the needle when it comes to anxiety and depression? 🤔

With Spanish and BJJ, it’s obvious.

Same with strength and fitness (sleep, nutrition and exercise).

Same with most things.

But with anxiety, what are the critical levers?

What about with depression?

Racing thoughts?

Before we can find the critical levers, we have to understand what anxiety actually is.

Is it a mental thing like most people think?

Or is it a malfunctioning of the survival response in the nervous system (and therefore, not merely mental but “system-wide” – body AND mind)?

If it’s simply a mental thing, then the critical lever is the mind. Thoughts. Stories. And if we change the mind and change the stories we keep telling ourselves, we can change anxiety (or depression, negative thoughts or anger issues).

To be fair, there IS value in this approach. Changing our thoughts can change our feelings.

But in my experience, this approach is unreliable at best and often only scratches the surface.


Because it doesn’t address the underlying survival mechanics that drive anxiety 🧬

One way to think about anxiety is that it’s simply a chronically elevated sympathetic (fight-or-flight) response in the nervous system.

In that sense, the mind is not a critical lever when it comes to dealing with anxiety, simply because the mind is not what drives the sympathetic response. More often than not, the mind is an effect of the sympathetic response.

That’s why the critical levers revolve around the nervous system as a whole, not simply the mind:

  • understanding the mechanics of the survival response (fight, flight and freeze, how and why it gets stuck and how to ease your system out of survival)
  • techniques and practices that are designed to work directly with the survival response (for example, learn how to orient to external and internal safety so that your nervous system knows that it doesn’t have to stay in survival)

This is why so much of modern self-help fails 🤷‍♂️

Because it’s not working with the critical levers. The underlying mechanics of the survival response.

Gratitude lists and journaling are great tools…

…but thinking about what you’re grateful for or writing about what’s on your mind isn’t how the nervous system regulates itself out of sympathetic survival and into parasympathetic rest-and-digest.

Think about it.

When a gazelle escapes from a cheetah, they don’t go and make a list of what they’re grateful for in order to come down from the fear and terror.

They simply run away until they feel safe and then they go back to eating grass, drinking water and swiping through Gazinder (that’s Tinder for Gazelles 📱).

So why do we keep going back to techniques that most wild animals don’t need – despite being in a fight for their life every single day?

The human nervous system works in a very similar way as most animals.

The problem is that we’ve lost touch with these instincts for regulating our nervous system 🦌

That’s where The Rageheart Academy comes in.

It’s a crash course in reactivating these long-lost instincts.

  • How to orient to safety just like animals do
  • How to stay connected to feeling and IN the body (rather than spinning out into various thought loops in the mind)
  • How to discharge old survival responses that are stored in our nervous systems and keeping us stuck in chronic sympathetic activation

Plus plenty more.

If meditation, gratitude lists and journaling aren’t cutting it for you, maybe it’s time to try something new?

Maybe it’s time to try The Rageheart Academy:



John Wood

P.S. Know anyone who needs better levers for dealing with anxiety, depression and feeling as numb as a boring grey wall?

Refer them to The Daily Growl (this email newsletter) and give them better tools and frameworks for working with themselves.

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