How to Connect With People to Fuel Your Life, with Dr. John Townsend

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

In some ways, people are like the foods you eat. Some of them are rich in nutrients, while others simply drain you of your health. In this first episode of a series with “People Fuel” author Dr. John Townsend, he and the Amens discuss how the people around you affect your life, and how you can use Dr. Townsend’s “relational nutrients” grid to define the deficiencies in your “people fuel diet” and then find ways to supplement.

Read Full Transcript

Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics Where we have been transforming lives for 30 years. Using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to
Dr. Daniel Amen: welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. We are here with our very good friend and neighbor, Dr. John Townsend. John, it's just such a joy to have you. John is a New York times bestselling author, a business consultant, leadership coach, a psychologist who's written over 30 books, selling 10 million copies, including his mega bestseller, Boundaries. And his newest book, People Fuel. We'll talk more about some of the accomplishments he's had, but John, it is just such a joy to welcome you to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast.
Tana Amen: It really is, welcome.
Dr John Townsend: Thank you guys. Glad to be here.
Tana Amen: So you mentioned that People Fuel, it was a double bestseller. Is that true? So this is like I'm really excited for you for this new book. It was a double bestseller on Amazon, it was number one in Christian and number one in which other category?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Christian leadership.
Dr John Townsend: Number one in Christian leadership and number one in Christian self-help the day it was released.
Tana Amen: Wow.
Dr John Townsend: You guys are holistic like I am. Like the personal and professional must go together. So I think the market recognized that.
Tana Amen: Fantastic. Well good for you.
Dr John Townsend: Thank you.
Tana Amen: That's wonderful.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And the book has a whole bunch of five star ratings on Amazon. So why did you write this, John?
Dr John Townsend: Most of what I do is I work with really high capacity people like CEOs and family business owners and people that have accomplished a great deal. And I started studying them to see what their secret sauce was because we always want to know what they did very well so we could emulate it. And I noticed that the ones that had longevity did great work, changed lives, changed businesses, hugely successful, is that they had a cadre of people around them that were the right people.
And the ones that had the ups and downs tended not to have great relationships. In fact, most of their relationships were giving relationships, outgo relationships. Where they're developing people, mentoring people, coaching people, growing people, but very few really high quality people for them. And I started looking at the research, in fact, that you and I've talked to about that research, Daniel, about how the meta studies say that people who don't have some very, very close vulnerable relationships, they have more emotional struggles, more health struggles and a higher mortality. So I said, "I've got to write a book about it." How do you maximize the gain people in your life and how can you minimize the drain people? Because it's a big deal.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Oh my goodness. We've had this conversation more than twice in our lives. Walk us through some practical tips that our listeners can take away. And we have almost an hour, but we're going to break this up into a four shorter podcasts. So what are some high level ideas that we can begin with?
Dr John Townsend: The number one high level idea is that we need to understand, what I call, relational nutrients. We're all into bio nutrients. I mean, you guys are really healthy and you help people be healthy. We know we need to eat right and add the right supplements, et cetera, et cetera. And if we don't have enough calcium, we get osteoporosis, we don't have enough iron, we get blood diseases. What's the blood disease? Anemia. My brain's not working.
And I took that and I went, "We also need relational nutrients." In fact, I've trademarked the term relational nutrients. Where it's not an a supplement, not on a tab, but there are nutrients we have like encouraging each other, challenging each other, really deeply listening to each other, empathize with each other, and they're not transferred by a tab.
They're transferred by my brain to your brain and your brain to my brain in a conversation, in a text, in a dinner out, lunch or whatever. And that's how we stay healthy. It corresponds so much with the work you guys are doing because you're pioneers in this area. So the number one practical thing is you've got to be able to identify what you need and where you can get it from. If you go to, it has a list of all 22 nutrients and there are four categories. Be present with each other, shut up and listen. We need people sometimes just to shut up and be with us in the well of challenge or convey the good. Sometimes we feel down, we don't believe in ourselves, we had a loss. We need somebody to kind of pep us up and say, "You're okay." So there's be present and then there's convey the good.
Then there's deliver reality. Sometimes we need somebody to say, "I need a Yoda figure here. You're a smart person. I need you to go with my why, you're my kind of a Merlin for me. Help me understand what the heck's going on in my family and my business, in my head." And the fourth one is called call to action. Sometimes you need people to kick us in the butt and say, "Okay, you understand, do something, take some action steps. Take some homework." We've got those four quadrants of 22 nutrients and you're getting those every day and you're giving those to people in your company, giving those to people in your life and your family, life goes pretty well. So it's the relational nutrients that are kind of key.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So I just went to, I love this. It's laid out really well. Tana and I, on the Brain Warrior's Way podcast, we always talk about our four circles of health and illness. There's the biology circle, which is your brain and your body. There's a psychology circle, which is your mind. There's this social circle, which is who you hang out with. And there's the spiritual circle, which is, well, why the heck do you care?
And this is more social, I suppose, although, all the circles work with each other. But it's just such a clear explanation of the social circle. And I bet there's a lot of people, like you and I, listening that's been probably more of their time caring for others. Tana is writing a new book called One Less Scared Child. It's actually about the reluctant healer. It's like when you have people in your life that need help and you don't really want to do it.
Tana Amen: Because of your own trauma.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because of your own trauma. How do you navigate that?
Dr John Townsend: Oh, my do. Tana, that's going to be a best seller. That book needs to be written today, right now.
Tana Amen: Thank you so much.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But it sounds like People Fuel is part of the solution to that, is to make sure you're balanced rather ... because I bet a lot of people listening are not very balanced in this area.
Tana Amen: Yeah, this is interesting because we talk about this a lot, actually. We do spend probably the majority of our time as the people helping, which actually feels good most of the time. But there are days I wake up and I'm like, "I'm not answering my phone today. I'm done." Like I'm just done because it's exhausting if you're not balanced. If you're not balanced and you're not refueling, you're absolutely 100% right, John. It's exhausting.
Dr John Townsend: I can tell you how you can do a test on yourself, guys. Is you go to lunch with somebody, and if you are with the right person, you go where you feel, "I can rule the world. I've got energy, I've got creativity." And then there's some people you come away from lunch and you go, "I need a nap."
Tana Amen: No, it's so true. And it's why I don't join a lot of the social circles in my area. I hate saying that. I'd rather write a check and just do my part. But I choose my social circles outside of that. It just feels draining to me. My friends are not like that, my friends are very uplifting. They care.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And do you notice, I mean, one of the things I notice is when people don't ask you how you are and they just start with the problems that they want you to solve for them, those are relationships that are in the draining category.
Tana Amen: So that's one thing we could have our listeners, if you would, anyone listening, maybe write into us, either leave a question or a comment about something you learned today. Are you one of those people? Could you do better with asking? I know I could. There are times, even with you, where I call you, when I launch into what's going on. And I actually recently have tried to be more conscious about, "How was your day, what's going on with you? What did you do today?" Because I know that it's easy when you're as busy as we are, you're my person. So it's easy for me to launch into it.
So how many of you think you could do better? Or are you on the other end of it? Are you on the receiving end of people always calling you? And could you be better at and more assertive at like, "I love you, but could you listen for a minute? Like I need to talk to you." I would love to hear what people have to say about that. And what would you say, John? How would you handle that?
Dr John Townsend: Well, that really addresses the second part of the book, guys, which is a model. When I talk about the seven C's, like the letter C of relationship. And when you all said you got to be in balance, this is about the balance. Because there's a relationship, there's nutrient rich relationships and there's nutrient draining relationships. And when you go through the seven C's, it makes sense. The highest is coaches. We need people who can like cheer us on, they've done the 10,000 hours. They know music well or they knew athletics well. I've got a coach who's my trainer. I mean, I know I need to fire him. But you've got people in our lives that they're spiritual coaches, emotional coaches.
They're very high nutrients because we pay them, right, and they're experts. Comrades, comrades are those people we go through life with. Like you talked about how your friends are so uplifting for you, Tana. Tana, Tana Banana.
Tana Amen: It's okay.
Dr John Townsend: And so the comrades are like they're in the fight together. Then you've got people who are casual, like just sort of existential, have a glass of wine and talk about life, good people. And then you've got colleagues, you've got to have good people you work with. And then you've got the people that are care and care people that are without. I mean, anything from somebody in sex trafficking, that's really awful, or developing country, to somebody young who comes to you guys and says, "Can you mentor me because you really care about people?" And then there's chronics. And you guys know I'm originally from the South and chronics are what we used to call in the South, bless their heart, I mean, they're just a mess.
They're always a hot mess. They never learn their lessons, they're always in trouble with money and family and they never learn and you get them all this advice. They never do what you say. And since the three of us are people helpers, we tend to throw all our energy in the black holes of the chronics hoping that they'll get better. It's our kids' soccer games coach and they just have a flat learning curve. And then there's contaminants. And contaminants are dangerous, toxic people and you've got to stay away from those. Most of the people that I work with will look at that list and go, "I'm bottom heavy. I don't have enough coaches and comrades, deep friends, and I've got too many care, chronics and contaminants," and you've got a right size.
Tana Amen: Yeah, I totally agree with that.
So it's interesting, though. I've got two family members, we have two family members in our lives and it's so interesting. I would say one is a chronic and one's a contaminant, for sure. But the difference, for me, is that the chronic, she definitely needs a lot, but she's always asking how we're doing. And so she cares, she cares.
Dr John Townsend: They can be nice people.
Tana Amen: She cares. And so that makes it less draining than the one that just really feels toxic. And that one, I don't have a problem drawing boundaries and saying, "I'm done." I think-
Dr John Townsend: Oh, you're the poster child for the book, Boundaries.
Tana Amen: Oh, for sure. But I learned that the hard way. There's that difference there and you have to figure out where that line is.
Dr John Townsend: Well, one, you pour into too much and the other you have to protect yourself from.
Tana Amen: Right, right.
Dr John Townsend: They're different.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Before we stop the first podcast, can you, in two paragraphs, summarize Boundaries. Because I think all of our listeners should read that book.
Dr John Townsend: Yeah, that was an amazing book. Even though it's an older book, it's just a classic. It's one everyone should have.
We rewrote it, it's new now.
Tana Amen: I love that book.
Dr John Townsend: We did an updated version because we're not talking about A-tracks anymore in the book.
Tana Amen: Yeah. My biggest sadness is someone didn't give that book to me when I was 16. So that is a book that should be read very early in life.
Dr John Townsend: Yeah. We wrote it 27 years ago. Henry and I were 20 years at the time we wrote the book.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Give a summary so people know they should go get it.
Dr John Townsend: Okay. The best way to understand it, Daniel, is a boundary is a property line. It says, this is my life, just like in my house or my apartment and my yard, everything in here, which is my time, my energy, my feelings, my gifts, everything here, I'm responsible for. And then I'm responsible to help other people, but responsible for it means this is mine. Responsible means I'll help you out but I've got to protect mine. And we get in trouble when we go to those people in our lives that say, "Oh no, my happiness is your problem. My money problem is your problem." We have to go, "I'm sorry, I'll help you. But ultimately, I'm not for that."
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr John Townsend: Territorial line, I'm a nice person but I have to draw a property line.
Tana Amen: Yeah, I could not agree with that more. And one thing I really-
Dr. Daniel Amen: Is that why you kicked me?
Tana Amen: That's why I just kicked you, yes. Because I'm very, very clear, after years of therapy and a lot of heartache, that I know where my responsibility lies and I don't want my daughter going through what I went through. And if it means saying no and turning people away to make sure she doesn't go through what I went through, say lovey, that's what's going to happen. I" will do my best to help you, but this is what I'm responsible for, first and foremost." So that's what's going to happen. The rest of you will have to come second.
Dr. Daniel Amen: All right. What one thing did you learn during this podcast? Post it on any of your social media sites. Also, if you leave us a review on, we'll enter you in for a raffle. Also, leave us your questions. Stay with us, we're going to be back with Dr. John Townsend.
Tana Amen: If you're enjoying the Brain Warrior's Way podcast, please don't forget to subscribe so you'll always know when there's a new episode. And while you're at it, feel free to give us a review or five star rating as that helps others find the podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If you're considering coming to Amen Clinics or trying some of the Brain Healthy supplements from Brain MD, you can use the code Podcast 10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at or a 10% discount on all supplements at For more information, give us a call at (855) 978-1363.