with greg layton

The Inner Chief is for leaders, professionals and small business owners who want to accelerate their career and growth. Our guest chiefs and gurus share powerful stories and strategies so you can have more purpose, influence and impact in your career.

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In this episode of The Inner Chief podcast, we speak to Nicho Plowman, Co-Founder of the world’s number 1 meditation app, Insight Timer, on beating overwhelm and stress to think clearly everyday.

Nicho is the Co-Founder of world #1 meditation app Insight Timer. It has 22 million users, all obtained organically.

Nicho spent the best part of his 20s working at ESPN and signing major multi-million dollar media deals like the rights to the Superbowl. From there he went on to a NZ software technology company, raising millions in funding.

But amongst all of this success, he was burning the candle at both ends, suffering chronic back pain, and abusing drugs and alcohol. It was at this time that he decided to completely overhaul his life; while meditation had eased his pain and abated his vices, he soon realised that it could be the key to business success and balance.

He now teaches vedic meditation to industry leaders and CEOs and more time has been spent on Insight Timer than all the other 2,500 meditation apps combined (over the last 10 years the Insight Timer community has spent 24 billion minutes meditating, that's more than 45,000 years!).

In this episode we talk about:

  • The differences between monastic and household meditation techniques and adapting them to your lifestyle
  • Why everyone has the capacity to use meditation as a recovery weapon
  • How, as a leader of people, you can beat overwhelm and stress to think with clarity all of the time, and
  • The Insight Timer business model and what sets them apart from their competitors.

Thanks to Sam Dybac and her team at The PR Hub for introducing us to Nicho.

Connecting with Nicho Plowman

You can connect with Nicho via his website or Insight Timer.

Books and resources


“We knew that the underlying premise of meditation is attraction, not promotion. So we decided never to advertise, we never bought one user. And we have grown that user base organically since day one.”


On turning his wellbeing around

  • For any of us to maybe consider our potential in some ways, is it fear that's holding us back? Fear of, “What if I tried this and I don't succeed?” Or, “What happens if I am successful and things change?”
  • I was always open to trying something different and learning a new meditation technique, but the turning point was 13 years ago when I learned a technique called Vedic meditation, 20 minutes, twice a day. It had a very profound effect on me. I did a complete 180 in terms of health and approach to life, and then I decided to teach it.
  • We know that we can be healthy, but having done the research and maybe having hit rock bottom, we may turn around, and we're only going to be able to do it ourselves. No one can do it for us. We're basically trying to say, “I do seek reprieve.”
  • I feel that it's important to talk about it, and recognise that we're all doing our best, we're all on our journey.

On monastic and household meditation techniques

  • I put meditation into two buckets: we've got meditation techniques that, by tradition, are from monastic lineages, and meditation techniques that, by tradition, are from household techniques.
  • A lot of what we see in modern-day mindfulness are somewhat monastic techniques. They come from some of the Buddhist traditions. Monastic techniques may take a long time eg. Qigong, yoga for an hour in the morning, or we want to be somewhere very silent like on a retreat for 10 days. So it is sometimes challenging to find that technique.
  • What I'm talking about is a daily technique that means that you can come consistently back on your conscious cinema while meeting the demands of life. What could you do that instead of having to go away on a retreat for 10 days, you can go away on a retreat for 20 minutes, twice a day. And through Vedic meditation I found that technique. So in the morning, I close my eyes, my mind rests, my body follows, I release some stress and some fatigue, and I go away a little bit. And then I get up and I meet the demands of the day, and I do the same thing in the afternoon.
  • When I discovered this technique, and I was consistent with it, slowly but surely, I was moving a few rows forward into my conscious cinema, which is what everybody has capacity for. I really just adopted a technique that is appropriate to our modern lifestyle. 

On using mediation as recovery

  • I don’t say this lightly, but it is said that “there are no stressful situations, there are just stressful reactions right now.” There are things going on and they can be beautiful or challenging, but you recognise that it is just information. And because you've cultivated a certain place in this conscious cinema, we're able to be responsive appropriately to demands then we get to this beautiful place, which you say, “Okay, I'm meeting demands and I can respond appropriately, and I can recover quickly.”
  • As opposed to overreacting all the time. If we’re in fight or flight, it’s a chemical reaction and you are going to be stimulated the whole time in a way that ultimately can lead to inflammation, which leads to disease.
  • I’m not saying I’m happy all the time, or 24 hour bliss; that doesn't feel very much like a human experience. In a way, life is suffering, but what I do know is that when I meditate regularly, with my eyes closed, and when my mind rests and things get quieter, I can come to a quieter place and it can be a very creative source too.
  • It means that when I open my eyes and go into the external experience, it doesn't knock me around so much. My locus of happiness or enjoying life is internal, otherwise I have to import happiness to feel good.

On using meditation as a leader

  • Anyone in any position that requires responsibility and decision-making, if you are un-overwhelm-able in that place, you bring an enormous amount to the table.
  • For me, Vedic meditation techniques allow me on a consistent, daily basis to release stress and fatigue from my body. When I get to that quieter place, I start accessing beautiful sources of creativity and productivity, so for me there is no better technique.
  • It forces me to say to myself, “Hey, listen, get on with it. Come to your senses and make a decision.”
  • It also allows me to keep the camera rolling when there's drama. I then don't get so caught up in the drama and I don’t lose the ability to respond appropriately and I don’t run away and miss the shot of the tornado coming at me.
  • If you can't keep the camera rolling, then you've got work to do. Because we all have the capacity to keep the camera rolling all the time. If we are at a place where we are so overwhelmed by things that we turn around and we go into fight, flight or freeze, then someone else has got to help us. And then we are actually a net-taker from an already challenged society.

On finding your own technique

  • If you can find a technique that means you become self-sufficient, so you don't need to have headphones in, you don't need someone else to guide you anywhere, I think that is a great place to arrive at.
  • We may not all get there first up, so find a teacher who can actually say, “Hey, listen, I've been where you are. This is a technique. I'm going to spend some time teaching it to you. I'm well-trained.”
  • A good teacher will leave you with the technique that you feel confident doing on your own as opposed to you having to come back every week because you need to rely on them.
  • We all have it in us to have a self-sufficient technique. It’s a core human capability in terms of how we rest, heal, repair and live.

On Insight Timer’s business model

  • We would always make a conscious decision, and a commercial one second, which meant that we always came back to the purpose of what meditation was meant to be, which was free meditation for everybody.
  • We both had worked out how not to do a lot of stuff, we moved really fast, and we could make fast decisions based on experience.
  • We just knew that the underlying premise of meditation is attraction, not promotion. So we decided never to advertise, we never bought one user. And we have grown that user base organically since day one. 
  • There were moments where we had to really trust the decision a lot, but we stuck to it and didn’t deviate from the fact that when your physiology relaxes, you actually start to bring towards yourself those things that support you, and that is what one of the basics of meditation is. And so our business model needed to match that premise and as such our cost to acquire a customer is $0 above the line.
  • The minute you start outbidding each other, you are spending a hundred, $200 buying a user, so your cost to acquire a customer just goes right up. And then of course you need to have really good second year renewal rates because otherwise your lifetime value of a customer becomes intrinsic to your business model. And if you've stuck that advertising drip in your arm, you are going to chase your tail all day. The beautiful part about our business model is that someone subscribes and we have a healthy second year renewal rate.

Final message of wisdom and hope for future leaders 

  • We all have the capacity to cultivate a conscious state that means we go forward fearlessly. And then we seek things that are appealing to us, and that are charming to us, and we do it fearlessly. We don't care what anyone thinks, we don't worry about what people will say. And that's something which I think we would love to all cultivate more of.

Stay epic,