Love over Defense — Master Class Series #9

The Art of Accomplishment Podcast
The Art of Accomplishment Podcast
Love over Defense — Master Class Series #9
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We are taught how to defend ourselves from a very young age. But few of us are taught the pragmatic power of love. We build a series of walls we can put up whenever someone makes us uncomfortable. What if those very walls create a drag-on life that slows down our dreams? What if love is an easy-to-use tool that turns all that friction into forward momentum?

“Love can’t really exist without empowerment. You can be fond of. You can be scared of losing, but to actually love in a way that is beyond you, that is a deep welcoming, the only way you can deeply welcome, is to feel deeply empowered to not be worried of the result.”

We are taught how to defend ourselves from a very young age, but few of us are taught the pragmatic power of love. We build a series of walls we can put up whenever someone makes us uncomfortable. What if those very walls create a drag on life that slows down our dreams? What if love is an easy-to-use tool that turns all that friction into forward momentum?

Today’s topic is Love Over Defense. Joe, we’ve all heard, “All you need is love. Love will tear us apart. Love is the answer.” We get hit with these phrases all the time, but it’s hard to tell what anybody really means by love. What do you mean by love?

Joe: That’s a good question. That’s a big one. Before I say what I mean by love, let me say what is often considered when people are thinking about the definition of love. One of the things that I see is, that people think about it, they dissect it the way the Greeks did, which was there’s the love of friendship, like the love you’d have with a friend, the love you’d have that’s romantic, the love that you would have with God, the love that would be very much dissected by who you were loving and how they had different visceral experiences in the body.

For me, I think about love slightly differently. I think about love as in, there’s a love that feels a lot like peace and there’s a love that feels a lot like enjoyment and there’s a love that feels a lot like care and there’s a love that feels a lot like a deep welcoming. When I’m speaking about love, I would say that it’s closest to a deep welcoming. They’re all components of love. It’s not like one of these is a better love than the other or one of these is a separate love than the other, but that deep welcoming seems to be the biggest leverage point. It’s what seems to activate everything else the most.

Brett: What makes that the deepest leverage point?

Joe: I’m not sure if I have a great answer for that outside of experience. It’s a dance, for sure, meaning that, when I really put myself out there and deeply care for myself or care for others, then that absolutely helps me have a deeper welcoming of all life, all people, all parts of myself. What I notice is the focus on that deep welcoming towards self, towards others, towards life, that seems to have a very big influence on my sense of peace, my sense of enjoyment and my sense of care.

It just seems like it has the biggest turbo booster. In my life, what I’ve noticed is different ones at different times have bigger turbo-boosting potential, so to speak, but that deep welcoming seems to be the center of gravity for all of it.

Brett: It sounds like what you’re saying is that the deep welcoming is letting information, letting the world be seen by you and be felt by you and letting it impact you.

Joe: As it is, yes. Exactly. It’s allowing myself to be touched.

Brett: What would be the next most important leverage point?

Joe: For me, I think it’s care. It’s self-care and care of others. If you look at different religious traditions, you’ll see that they fall into these different categories. They’re focused on these categories, more or less. The Buddhist piece has a big emphasis. Daoist enjoyment has a deep emphasis and the Christianity care has a deep emphasis.

For me, the care one seems to have a big impact. There’s something about being generous and being giving that also dissolves the self in such a way that it creates a lot of peace and a deep welcoming. It’s another really influential one.

The dilemma with the care one is that all of these ways of loving, they have a dark shadow on the other side. The peace side of things, for instance, can become disassociation. The enjoyment side of things can be hedonism. The care can be codependency. A deep welcoming can become an apathy of sorts and it can become a giving up of responsibility. All of them have a way to have a shadow take over them.

Brett: It sounds like, that the deep welcoming and the dark shadow, that the apathy, a lot of that seems to relate to surrender and the way that people talk about surrender. How does this relate to surrender for you? Many traditions have surrender as an important part of the journey to love.

Joe: Yes, that’s exactly right. Surrender, it’s a path to love and it’s also the result of love. Or the other way to say that is, surrender is a path to a deep welcoming, but it’s also the result of a deep welcoming. So many traditions have surrender being the first step. The first step is to surrender to Jesus, or in Buddhist monasteries, for instance, in China in particular, the first Buddha that you see is this happy, fat Buddha who’s plenty and that gets you into the temple.

Once you’re into the temple, then it’s surrender. Then once you’ve surrendered and it’s surrender to the teacher, to Buddha, or to the teachings, or to the Dharma and then beyond that is compassion, is a deep care of self and others. They have different Buddhas or different archetypes in the different stages of the temple, depending on how far in you are allowed to be. It is a great description of how that journey works, generally.

In the Western world, however, surrender has some connotations and some issues that I don’t know whether it’s just people thought of surrendering differently then as they do now. The dilemma, generally, with surrender is that it’s been used to subjugate people. It’s been used to have people follow without their full authenticity involved. I stray away from the word for that reason.

The real key is, what are you surrendering to? If you surrender to Jesus, you’re not just surrendering to Jesus, you’re surrendering to the concept of Jesus in your head, or what you think the scripture says. Surrender is so incredibly powerful and it’s very, very much a deep welcoming, when you’re surrendering to that very quiet call inside of you, to that impulse, to that thing that is always there and always knows the right direction.

Brett: That we always have a voice in our head that shoots it down, perhaps surrendering to that. What do we lose by not emphasizing surrender, given that it’s been so useful in so many traditions, but also there’s this problematic aspect and particularly, in the way that it’s conceptualized in the west? What do we lose by you not emphasizing it in your conception of love here?

Joe: What we lose in not emphasizing it, is another way to lose our identity. In general, all of these methods, the deep care, the surrender, the silence of meditation, all of them are just ways to get past the illusion of self. It is to evaporate the identity, to see yourself beyond the small me that you think you are, to see yourself outside of your everyday cares and worries. It is to not be able to identify with the voice in your head anymore. That’s generally what all these paths are pointing to.

There’s other less known traditions, too. There’s a way of losing your identity in a group that’s healthy, unlike most of the ways people will lose identities in groups. The Quakers had some great work on that as well. There’s lots of ways to do it, but these are the big ones and love itself is that same thing. It’s an expression. That’s why, in some of the writings, you’ll see people talk about love as your inherent state, because love, as you walk down that path of love, the identity evaporates as well and you see that your identity is love. You are love and love is what you are, just as you are nothing and nothing is what you are. It is when the sense of self dissolves into the whole, if you will, then love is the result, not emptiness is the result.

Brett: It seems like a lot of people are onto this love being so healing, but there are just so many ways that you can get caught in an eddy or a backwater or in a shadow. What are some of the main misconceptions about love that we hold?

Joe: Everybody’s a little bit different here and people’s misconceptions of love are based on their childhood. If the thing that you looked for to be your role model of love beat you, then love is painful. If the role model that you looked to was critical, then love is critical. If love meant being nice, then love is nice, or if love meant not holding boundaries, then love is not holding boundaries. Whatever you experienced love to be when you were young, those are usually exactly the misconceptions you hold about love.

Societally, however, there’s some pretty big normal ones. There’s nice. Nice is a big one. If I’m nice to you, then I’m loving you, which is horribly inaccurate. That being compassionate is often a very sharp sword. Being compassionate is often saying a hard truth in a loving way with an open heart.

I remember when I was a kid, I lied all the time. I was compulsively lying. I was a freshman in high school and it was to make people like me. This guy, his name, I remember it was Alex Bellini, this was like a week before the end of school and he said, “Hey, Joe, we all know that you’re lying all the time and we would all like you so much more if you didn’t.” It was the most profound act of love that I had experienced to that date. I’m sure it was scary as shit for him to say and nobody else had said it. Nobody else had given me that information and my lying just stopped. Nothing else needed to happen. My lying just stopped at that point or reduced by 97% or something like that.

That’s an act of love, but that sure as fuck wasn’t nice. I think a lot of times people mistake being nice– because they think that if they love somebody, there’s not going to be conflict or something like that. That’s just not how love works.

The other thing that’s often the case is a lot of people are scared to be in love, because they have a conception that love doesn’t hold boundaries, as if Gandhi didn’t hold boundaries, as if Mother Teresa didn’t hold boundaries. Love is holding boundaries. Great mothers– the thing that we think as loving as mothers, they hold boundaries all the time. That’s another one I think that people really have a problem seeing, that love is holding boundaries.

I think that the other one that’s most commonly not seen, is that love can’t really exist without empowerment. You can’t really love if you’re not empowered. You can be fond of, you can be scared of losing, you can really, really, really want, you can desire, but to actually love in a way that is beyond you, that is a deep welcoming. The only way you can deeply welcome all the good and the bad and the dangerous and the unknown and the mystery is to feel deeply empowered, to not be worried of the results. 

Brett: What are some other examples of how this has shown up in your life, or just shows up in people’s lives day to day?

Joe: Wow so many– you see lovers, husbands, wives say that they deeply love each other, but they’re constantly trying to change each other or they’re scared of losing one another. That’s not love. That’s a habit. I don’t think it’s really possible to love somebody fully and want them to change. Then you’re loving them if they show up a certain way, or loving yourself that way is another example of it. Being in a job and being scared to get fired is another example of what isn’t love. There’s a famous coach who used to say, “Lead with love.” and if you’re scared of getting fired, you can’t lead with love. Then you’re leading from fear. There’s a lot of things like that.

The thing I think that people don’t really understand is, people say, “Love is the answer”, or “Love will find a way”, all those things about love, but nobody really talks about the mechanism of what makes love so powerful. What makes it, that if I love a part of myself, or if I love a part of you, I have more power over that part of you than if I don’t. What makes that happen is the question that I think a lot of people don’t fully understand. The best way to look at it is internally, which is, if I love an aspect of myself that, so far, I haven’t been able to love, it gets to move, it gets to express and it gets to evolve.

If I’m saying that that part is bad, I’m containing it, I’m holding it, so it can’t move and so it can’t evolve. That’s how the mechanism works. It’s like, if I love you unconditionally, then you don’t have to be constantly managing yourself and then evolution can double-time it. That’s how it works, is that, that loving of ourselves and others or a situation is one of the best change agents for it. The only difference is it’s not changing in the way that you want it to. It might change in the way that you want it to, but it’s going to change in a way that’s best for it and you, but that doesn’t always correspond with what you want.

The mechanism of love is that you allow for something to be able to move and therefore, it can evolve instead of holding it in place. It’s just like if you have a kid and you want them to evolve, don’t stick them in a room with no lights on. You let them play and explore and learn and grow.

Brett: So, this allowing something to move, allowing things to move feels a lot like undefendedness, which brings us to the second half of this topic of Love Over Defense. What do you mean by defense and how does that relate to this?

Joe: On the mind side, defense is any way that you’ve decided that there’s separation. “They don’t understand. I’m better than them. This course moves too slow for me.” Any way that you’re creating separation between you and other people, that they come from an inferior race. They are better than me. They come from a better race. All of it, all of that is separation and that’s the mental place.

Somatically, it’s literally like a wall, typically, in front of you, typically, somewhere from the perineum up into the top of your head and it’s stronger for different people in different places, but it’s literally, you can just feel like the “crr–” shutting down. And on a gut-level it’s a subtle fear. That’s what defense is.

Brett: Clearly, there are times in life when you need to defend yourself and we’ve talked a lot about how boundaries are a part of love and that can feel like defense.

Joe: Yes. The thing is, we mistake that defending ourselves can’t be welcoming. That’s the way that I would say it. Just because I have to draw a boundary or I want to draw a boundary, doesn’t mean that I can’t love you. Just because I am in a fight with you, if I’m literally going to say, “Okay, I can’t allow this person to throw trash all over my front lawn,” so I’m in a fight with you, it doesn’t mean that I can’t welcome you. I think that this is best in any religious book I’ve ever seen is, I think it’s the Bhagadavida and– Oh, I’m so bad with names.

Brett: Bhagavad Gita.

Joe: Yes. It starts off with a man who’s about to get into a war with his brothers, with people that he loves and he prays to, I think it’s Krishna, who has the conversation with him, which is what most of the book is about. He says, “Hey, you got to fight.” He doesn’t say, “No, don’t fight.” He says, “You got to fight.” It doesn’t mean you have to give up loving to fight. Life is tension, generally, call it a fight, call it tension. Life is tension. If I took all the tension out of your cell, it would die. If I took all the tension out of your body, you would die. Tension and life require one another, or at least life requires tension. If you give it up, then you’re dead. 

The only thing left then is how you hold it. How do you hold the fight? That’s what this book really talks about really well. It’s like, “Okay, this is the fight, but how do you hold the fight?” That’s the same thing here. Like, just because you’ve engaged in the war doesn’t mean that you have to stop loving people. That’s the confusion that I think most people feel, is, that if I am going to be in tension with you, then I have to give up my love for you, which is not at all true. 

Brett: Right. I can think of any circumstance where I feel like I have a conflict with somebody, it’s so easy to drop their humanness. To make them an other, to make them wrong, to make them an obstacle and that never helps the conflict.

Joe: Right. You can still love them and still overcome the obstacles, so to speak. They don’t have to become the obstacle.

Brett: How do we start cultivating that love, that allows us to experience the fight in a different way?

Joe: This is why I think I call it a deep welcoming more than any other reason is, because there’s a visceral experience of that. It’s like, if you close your eyes right now and you deeply welcome yourself here and love yourself just as you are right now, that’s it, that’s all there is to it.

We can make it more complex and I’m sure we will in this podcast, but that’s all there is to it. How do you deeply welcome yourself in this moment and in the next moment and the moment after that? It’s a very somatic experience to be loved.

Brett: Yes. I just did that and the first thing was I noticed tension in my body and then it just immediately relaxed.

Joe: Right. It’s literally like you have a feeling of love for something. Maybe it’s for your dog, or maybe it’s for your child, or maybe it’s for your mother, maybe it’s for a friend. How do you give yourself that same feeling that you have, that you give to them? How do you feel the same thing you feel for them for yourself?

That’s the best way to cultivate love, because our capacity to love all the bits of ourselves is directly correlated to our capacity to love everybody on the planet. The more that you learn to love all the parts of yourself, the more you’re capable of loving everybody on the planet.

Brett: What else can we do?

Joe: Well, one thing for sure is if you can’t love yourself, then love your resistance. It doesn’t really matter in the moment what it is you’re capable of loving. There’s no time when we’re incapable of love for anything. If you find yourself, like, “I just can’t love myself right now,” then love the fact that you can’t love yourself.

Also, the other thing you can do is, again, we’ve talked about this a little bit, but don’t mistake love for caretaking. Loving yourself, loving somebody else isn’t caretaking them. It’s not saying yes, even if you want to say no, it’s not going against your truth. It’s not trying to make them happier. It’s just having a deep welcoming for who they are.

Brett: What if you identify ways that you’re caretaking and you’re afraid to stop doing them and then you realize, that you’re not loving and then you get hard on yourself about that?

Joe: Oh, you’ve got lots of choices there. You can love the fact that you’re a caretaker. You can love the part that is so scared that it thinks that it needs to be a caretaker. You can love the part of yourself that thinks, that getting angry at yourself will actually change anything. You can love the part of yourself that is really wanting what’s best for them and yourself and doesn’t know how to get there. All sorts of parts to yourself to love in that circumstance.

Brett: Anything else that we can do to cultivate this love?

Joe: Yes, drawing boundaries is really good. That’s a great way to really cultivate love in yourself and in others.

Brett: Describe a boundary that you might set with yourself.

Joe: Oh, that’s a good one. First, the thing is people think about boundaries as a form of separation and I just said like, mentally, defense is separation. I think it’s important to talk about that paradox first, which is when you draw a boundary, you’re doing something that’s good both for you and for the other person and that’s really the opposite of separation. It’s the same, actually, with being compassionate. There is nothing that you can do that’s truly compassionate for you that’s also not compassionate for those around you in that circumstance. It’s the same with a boundary and that’s the important part of a boundary. The important parts of boundaries are, that, when you draw the boundary, it increases your love for the person, no matter what they’re going to say to the boundary.

I know that I’m drawing a great boundary when I’m doing that. When it opens up my heart to the person that I’m drawing the boundary with. If I’m drawing a boundary to myself, I use that same thing. It’s like, what’s the thing that actually opens my heart to myself when I’m setting a boundary?

Brett: What’s an example of a boundary you might set with yourself? 

Joe: Let’s say a boundary that I might set with myself is, if I am noticing myself getting angry, I am going to separate myself from other people, so that I don’t get angry at them. That would be a boundary that I would set with myself.

Brett: Elaborate a little bit more on how that helps you love yourself.

Joe: If I’m angry at people, then I have shame, then I have blame, then I have a whole big mess, usually, that I have to clean up. None of that stuff is really loving and it’s also making my anger wrong and making parts of myself wrong. In that boundary, I stop making myself wrong. The trick is when I’m literally thinking about drawing it, it doesn’t feel like an oppression. It feels like a gift.

Brett: That makes sense. The part of us that we are drawing a boundary against might otherwise feel defensive against us making it wrong.

Joe: I would say with, drawing a boundary with, not against.

Brett: With. Right.

Joe: That’s the subtle thing about boundaries that people think. The subtle thing about boundaries is that it’s against, because we value this idea of freedom so greatly in ourselves. That’s the other part of drawing a boundary that’s so important. The other part of drawing a boundary that is so important is, that you’re not asking them to be any different. You’re saying, “I’m going to be different.”

If I’m drawing a boundary with– this is different with children, obviously, but if I’m drawing a boundary with a friend and that person, to use the same example, has a tendency to get angry, I would say, “My boundary with you is when you get angry, I’m going to walk away and happy to re-engage with you whenever you’re not yelling at me. Or if you’re yelling at me, then I’m going to walk away and I’m happy to re-engage with you.” I’m not asking them to stop yelling at me. I’m not asking for them to stop drinking. I’m not asking for them to stop. I’m saying what I’m going to do in these circumstances.

Brett: Like creating a background of safety in connection, regardless of how they act so that they don’t have to be a certain way.

Joe: That’s exactly right. It’s the fully empowered move. It’s taking full responsibility for yourself. If you start trying to love yourself to change yourself, it won’t work, because trying to change yourself isn’t loving yourself. What happens for a lot of people is they start to feel the power of love and they start to feel how loving unconditionally starts transforming the world, they start wanting more of it and so then they start loving to transform the world and then it stops working. Because if you’re trying to love to transform the world, you’re not loving anymore. It’s a really important thing to see that the love, if it gets tainted, it just stops working.

Brett: As we were cultivating this love and the defenses that creep in taint that love, at the same time as we’re working to cultivate love, how do we work on lowering our defenses as well?

Joe: Yes. There’s a feeling when we lower our defenses, what we’re actually doing is allowing a whole bunch of emotions we don’t want to feel to be felt. Those emotions purify us. They start to dismantle that sense of self and it literally feels sometimes like it’s burning away or that it’s melting or something to that effect and so, there’s an intensity to that.

Every time we lower our defense, there’s this little thing inside of us, is like, “Oh, we’re going to be fucking destroyed. We’re going to be destroyed. Don’t do that. If I lower my defense, I’ll be destroyed. Don’t do that.” There’s an intensity with doing it.

Brett: Well, there’s a truth to that too, like a part of ourselves does get destroyed.

Joe: Exactly. There’s a great saying by Pema Chödrön, I’m going to paraphrase, it says, “Open yourself up for annihilation, because that way, you can find out what part of yourself can’t be annihilated.” That’s what you’re doing. You’re just allowing that purification to happen and you know it, because there’s an intensity to it of, oftentimes, a fear as well and to feel into that, to step into that deeply is the move to make around the defenses.

Surrender is another really good move in these moments, it’s, you’re not surrendering to the circumstances. You’re surrendering to not defending yourself. What do I mean by that? 

I had a great experience with this. There was a man and I was on the Board of Directors with this person and he was bad for the company. He also had this tendency to whatever I said, he would do the exact opposite thing. What I did was I told him, “Hey, I’m going to try to remove you from the board, I will stop trying to remove you from the board at any time that we can actually work together well and that you’re in your thought processes aren’t just against mine.

We love contrarian thinking in boards typically any board I’ve been a part of, but this was just contrary for the sake of contrarian, it wasn’t contrary because it was independent thinking.

Anyway, so every time, for like six weeks or six months, I would call him up and I would say, “This is what I’m going to do and this is what I suggest you do.” He would do the exact opposite of that the entire time. By doing exactly the opposite of what he said is how he got himself removed from the board. If at any time he would have said, “Oh, I see.” And called me up and talked to me and said, “Oh, wow, you’re really giving me the advice.” I was constantly able to give him the advice that was actually the best for him. I was constantly able to say, “This is what I think is best for you and for it to be accurate.” It is also the fact that he couldn’t do it that led to his removal from the board, which was best for the company if he couldn’t learn to work with people and be collaborative.

Brett: That’s fascinating. I’m curious, how you differentiate in that story love over defense versus knowing what’s best for him and versus controlling him through suggestions.

Joe: The main difference is what you’re feeling internally. I am welcoming him as he is and at the same time, I am making the call, that says this company is better without you. That’s my call to make, just like it’s his call to make and he was making the call that the company would be better without me, or that whatever, China should win the war, or Korea should win the war. Those are calls that people are going to make. That’s the war. You have to call what you think is best, but that doesn’t mean I ever had to close my heart to him.

The way that I could act to not close my heart to him is to constantly tell him, “This is actually what I think is the best thing to do,” and to tell him, “I’m going to keep on telling you to do this stuff and as long as you keep on– I gave him the whole map. I told him the key, I gave him everything to get out of it and he chose not to do that. It was literally me at the time, it was the first time that I was like, “Oh, I am in a war, how do I maintain an open heart?” The way I could do it was to give him every opportunity I could possibly think of. That’s the only difference.

I think the thing is from the outside it might not look different at all. From the inside, it’s a far more effective way to fight a war. You hear this from people who are fighters all the time, try to get your opponent angry, because if they get angry, they’ll be less effective. What happens if the person you’re fighting has a big open heart for you and they’re still determined to win?

Brett: How angry did this board member get?

Joe: He got pretty angry and there’s definitely multiple occasions where he called up yelling. Then, for me, that was the practice. He would call up yelling and I would just keep on opening my heart and keep on feeling the discomfort and keep on feeling my emotions and lots of heartache for me. There was a lot of heartbreak in it and that was my purification was that heartbreak.

Brett: Tell me more about that heartbreak.

Joe: I have this saying, that every time my heart breaks, it increases my capacity to love. Heartbreak is like the feeling of it breaking open to expand or the feeling of expansion of the heart. That’s the feeling. It’s interesting. I’ve obviously never given birth, but when my wife talks about birth, she goes, “I don’t know why they call them contractions when they’re really expansions,” but there’s a feeling that it’s a contraction as well as an expansion. In heartbreak, that’s the visceral feeling of it, for me, anyway. There’s this feeling of heartbreak that just totally increases my capacity to love.

Another great example of this was, I don’t know if I’ve shared the story, but there was a time when I was just totally bothered by all inane conversation. Just two people talking about going 65 miles an hour on the way to Santa Barbara, whatever it was, would just drive me nuts. There’s this day where I recognized that I shut down when this was happening and so I was like, “I’m not going to shut down, I’m going to sit there. I’m going to feel whatever there is underneath this.”

I would hang out with people, having inane conversations and I would just weep. I would just cry. Probably at times, I had some idea of why I was crying. I think at the crux of it, I was crying because I had just shut this entire part of life off. It’s like I’d cut off a part of myself and as I opened it up, there was just this pain of like, “Oh, wow, I’ve lost this for so long.”

Brett: What was it that you had lost?

Joe: The ability to connect in this fashion, that I had judged this way of connecting. One more way of connecting with people that I had separated myself from, because of my own self-definition. I just weeped. It was very awkward. Sitting there crying, they’d be like–

Brett: You did this with them in their presence?

Joe: In their presence, yes. It was awkward at times and they’d be like, “What’s wrong.” I’m like, “Yes, it’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.” I’d just keep on and then they keep on. They’re used to having those levels of conversations, so asking me about this twice wasn’t really going to happen.

Then all of a sudden, I was just completely able to enjoy the more superficial way of connecting and even found out that there’s some of that super “superficial” way of connecting that’s not superficial at all. That connecting over flowers or connecting over food, there’s a very sensual, non-heady level of connection, that is quite sweet and has a depth that deep conversations don’t have.

Brett: Something juicy in that story for me is, that you started weeping in front of people and then they asked you what was going on with you, inviting depth and then you were like, “Oh, it’s nothing.”

Joe: Yes. That’s exactly it, because I wanted to feel the heartbreak. I didn’t want to disturb the thing that was breaking my heart. Once you realize that heartbreak increases your capacity to love, then it’s like, “Man, I want it. I want that heartbreak,” because I know that at the backside of it, there’s so much more love available to me.

Yes, if I could shut it down, I’d shut it down, because I’d want to just keep on feeling the pain of a superficial conversation, so that I could feel that heartbreak. It was the same with this guy. It’s like, just to feel the heartbreak of the fact that here’s two people who want something great to happen in the world, who want this company to be successful and this is the only outcome that I know how to create. I didn’t have the capacity to really get them on board or bring them along or whatever. I don’t know if I could have ever, but that heartbreak and that incapacity to feel into that totally increased my capacity to love.

Brett: How is it that experiencing that heartbreak can be experienced as not discouraging, but as empowering?

Joe: I think you have to live through it a couple times. I don’t know if there’s another way to do it, but to just live through it a couple of times. I think that once you live through heartbreak and you realize how much it increases the love in your life, then it’s just like going into a hot sauna. If you go into the hot sauna the first time, you’re like, “What the f– are you guys doing? I’m out of here. My skin’s burning, what the hell?” I’m talking about like a real sauna, not an American sauna. There’s nothing logical about doing it, but then you do it a couple of times and you’re like, “Oh man, I can’t wait to get back to the sauna.” The same goes to the cold plunge, the exact same thing. The payoff is so great that you’re like, “Let’s do it.”

Brett: It really seems that this love thing seems to be the crux of all of this teaching.

Joe: Yes, absolutely it is. The first real week was VIEW, which is vulnerability, impartiality, empathy and wonder. That’s really unconditional love. If you put all those three things together, that’s another great pointer to unconditional love. You feel vulnerable, because you’re open and welcoming. You’re impartial, because you’re welcoming as is, not telling them how to be. Empathy means you’re open and feeling them. You’re allowing yourself to be touched and wonder is this basic nod that the universe knows more than you do, that it’s still a mystery and will always be a mystery. That really prevents you from wanting to try to change stuff, change things. 

We start off with VIEW and we end with love and they’re very much the same thing. They’re the whole thing. Everything we’ve done in this course has been to move us towards a greater state of love for ourselves and others. I think the thing about it is that it can’t be done out of order. A lot of people will move straight to love, they’ll say, “Okay, I’m just going to love everything all the time.” I think that’s great. Don’t get me wrong, but it just doesn’t seem to work as well to love everything as an escape, or to love everything as a bypass, or to love everything so that you don’t have to feel it. 

To love everything means that you’re really happy to feel everything, that you’re happy to express everything, that you’re happy to be wrong about everything, that you’re happy to be empowered and you’re happy to feel helpless. It’s a deep welcoming of life and a lot of times people will use love as a way to cut off a certain portion of it.

Brett: The question I was about to ask, but you’ve just explained it, was what makes it that you didn’t call this work the art of unconditional love?

Joe: Oh, I don’t want to answer that question. [laughs] There’s a part of me that says you answer as a business guy, but also as a coach. You meet people where they are. You meet people with the problems they think they have and most people aren’t walking around going, “I just don’t know how to love enough.”

The biggest problem I have is that my heart isn’t broken enough. I don’t get enough heartbreak. Most people aren’t walking around saying that, so you meet them where they are. Luckily, the unconditional love piece and especially with the emotional fluidity, the empowerment and seeing yourself as inherently good, which is the crux of the fulcrum that the love uses to create its leverage. 

Brett: It reminds me of where I first met you, which was a consciousness hacking talk entitled, “How to Make Better Business Decisions”. I was, “That’s what I need to do.”

Joe: Exactly. Check it out, though. Have you been making better business decisions?

Brett: Absolutely.

Joe: Yes, see. That’s the cool thing, you can actually deliver on the promise, but you can deliver on it so effectively, only because you’re speaking to the deeper truth. I think the other reason, just to say it, is that semantically everybody thinks about love very differently. If you say you’ve got 20 different viewpoints immediately, it just makes it harder to really go through the process.

Brett: I think one of the main resistances to doing some kind of group work around unconditional love is, that it’ll trip people’s cult triggers. Maybe another question is, what is the difference between doing this kind of work in a group and finding unconditional love together and a cult?

Joe: Well, this is the surrender piece. This is why I don’t use surrender. That little thing about surrender that’s in there, it’s basically I’m going to ask you to give up responsibility for yourself. Whereas everything that we do is very much pointing directly at, “Take responsibility for yourself. The wisdom is inside you.” 

If you look at how I interact with students, I’m mostly asking questions and I’m also saying, “Tell me what your instinct says, tell me what’s moving you”, because I trust that more than I trust me. I might know the terrain. I might know the map. I might know the six most likely places that you want to end up, but only you know where you are at this moment and know what the next move is and that’s the big difference.

That’s why I don’t emphasize surrender because as soon as you emphasize surrender, people think, “Surrender to what?” If I do say something like, “Hey, surrender to the ineffable part of yourself,” then all of a sudden, there’s a definition, “What is that? How do I do that?” and then that definition becomes what you surrender to instead of the thing itself.

Brett: I think a lot of that, what you’re speaking to comes from when people get into a teacher role, they end up subtly asking for people to surrender to them, because it sounds like that comes from a lack of trust in people’s internal work. What is it that makes you feel so trusting, when you are working with somebody on one of our Q&A calls, somebody who’s miles and miles away and could have just freak out and close the laptop and then go do something insane? What makes you feel so much trust for their internal compass, that you feel safe doing this work with them, without the sense of control that would lead to them surrendering to you?

Joe: That’s a great question. I’ve never been asked that question before. It’s funny what happens in my system when you ask it, is just like this deep sense of humility. The intellectual answer I want to give you is, because that thing in them is the same thing that guided me. I just wasn’t lucky enough or I wasn’t ripe enough to be able to be given someone to guide me in this way. I had to trust my own, so I just trusted in that way.

I think that’s part of it, but there’s another part of it too, which is, it’s experience. It’s just so many times, I’m like this, “I can see where the path leads,” and I can watch the person just instinctually make the next right move over and over and over again. Not just that person, almost everybody, that I–. Whenever I question it, I’m like, “Oh, that’s going to be like a backpedal.” It turns out it’s the perfect backpedal for them.

I don’t mean that in a hippy way of everything’s perfect, just the way it’s supposed to be. I mean just like roses know how to grow. They just know how to do it. Grass just knows what to do. Birds just know what to do. They just know it. I don’t have to trust them. I don’t have to trust the trees and people. There is a center of gravity just asking. All they have to really do is, just get out of the way. All my questions are literally just questions to help them see themselves. There’s no question I’m asking that’s underlying point isn’t just to have them see themselves.

Brett: Wow. Thanks, Joe. This has been another amazing episode.

Joe: Yes, what a pleasure. I’m sad that they’re done. I’m glad that they’re done because I could use a little more free time, but I’m sad that they’re done, because I’m not going to get to play with you for a couple.  

Brett: I’m excited to see what kind of playing happens again in the future.

Joe: Yes, it will for sure. What a pleasure, Brett. Thank you.

Brett: Thank you.

Joe: All right. Bye. 

Thanks for listening to The Art of Accomplishment podcast.  If you enjoyed what you heard today, please subscribe. We would love your feedback, so feel free to send us questions and comments. To reach us, join our newsletter, learn more about VIEW, or to take a course, visit: artofaccomplishment.com

Resources: 

Pema Chödrön: https://pemachodronfoundation.org/