Aaron Taylor — Feel Your Way to Freedom: Growing Up Fatherless, Becoming a Father, and Winning a Super Bowl Along the Way

“Never rob a man of his pain or his gold because both will serve him equally well.”

Super Bowl champion Aaron Taylor reflects on a journey to emotional freedom that continues far beyond his accomplished career in the NFL. For every feeling he'd been pushing away, Aaron came to find that “on the other side is infinite possibility.”

Join Aaron, Brett, and Joe as they talk about performance anxiety, feelings in the locker room, and how faith affects decision-making. They touch on the nature of accomplishment, how to raise children who hear their own voices of approval, and the value of having our identity shattered to pieces. Aaron shares a tearful moment with his absent father that produced an unexpected gem of gratitude. The episode closes with the story of a critical choice Aaron made at age 15 that changed his life.

“At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what we do, it’s about who and what we become in that process.”

Links and references from the episode:

  1. Mentalhealthbestpractices.com
  2. Check back in 16 years for a follow-up interview with feedback from Aaron on the referenced conversation with his son.

About Aaron:

CBS Sports Analyst and College Football Hall of Fame inductee, Aaron Taylor, has a "larger than life" personality, but its roots may surprise you: the former Super Bowl Champion credits his success to the principles of Gratitude, Service, and Teamwork.

Instilled from an early age, these principles became the inspiring foundation for the creation of college football’s only non-individual award, the Joe Moore Award, annually recognizing the Most Outstanding Offensive Line Unit in College Football. Through the Joe Moore Award, Aaron set out to not only preserve the legacy of his coach but also to shift the focus from a “Hey, look at me!” mentality to a culture of teamwork, of putting the greater good above ourselves in society at large.

Aaron was a decorated offensive lineman at the University of Notre Dame from 1990-1993, earning unanimous All-American honors both his junior and senior years. In his final season in South Bend, he won the prestigious Lombardi Award, annually given to the best interior lineman in the country.

In an incredible culmination of his childhood dream, Aaron was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the first round of the 1994 NFL Draft and was a member of the Packers’ Super Bowl XXXI championship team. After a two-year stint with the San Diego Chargers, Aaron was forced to retire due to injuries after the 1999 season.

Off the field, Aaron is a moving and inspirational speaker. His candid approach and sense of humor make him an effective storyteller who is able to weave a powerful message of resilience, perseverance, and the importance of having a championship mindset.

Behind the winning smile and accolades, Aaron finds meaning and feels “most alive” when being of service or bringing value to others. Shortly after retiring from the NFL, Aaron established the Aaron Taylor Impact Fund and recently co-founded The Foundation for Teamwork, dedicated to fostering the most essential aspect of all societal endeavors: Teamwork.

Aaron currently resides in Southern California and New York with his wife and three children.

Emile DeWeaver — Life After Murder: On Fear, Freedom, and Identity

At the age of eighteen — just before the birth of his child — Emile began serving a life sentence for murder. In this episode, Emile tells us how he came to face the fear that drove him to kill a man, and which followed him into prison. He shares how he learned to love himself and see through an identity that might have otherwise imprisoned him in yet another manner. After finding inner freedom, Emile eventually wrote his way out from behind bars as well: his sentence was commuted in 2017 after serving twenty-one years, a testament to his journey and transformation.

"I am under no illusions, right? I cannot make amends to the man I killed. I cannot make amends to his family. I still need to be a north star, right? In my world, in my life. So I can spend my time hating myself, [or] I could spend my time helping to create a world where little kids don't kill other little kids."

About Emile:

Emile is a queer, African-American activist whose life sentence in prison was commuted by California’s Governor Brown after 21 years for his accomplishments while in prison. While in prison, he was a culture writer for Easy Street Magazine; he co-founded Prison Renaissance, and despite the criminalization of organizing in California prisons, he covertly organized in prison to pass legislation that changed the way California treats juveniles in its criminal legal system. Emile is a widely published journalist, essayist, and literary writer. His credits include pieces in San Francisco Chronicle, TruthOut, Colorlines, and the Brennan Center. Emile is available for talks, panels, and workshops on the following topics:

• Power in the Criminal Legal System
• Media in the Criminal Legal System
• Three Principles of Creating Miracles

What We Discuss in Episode 53:

03:51   Emile’s relationship to fear — rooted in a culture of hyper-masculinity and violence — throughout his childhood and early adolescence.

14:53   How Emile came to the decision to write his way out of prison.

19:13   Finding self-forgiveness after murder and redirecting energy to make a positive impact.

25:51  The psychological experience of solitary confinement and how what happens in prison is mirrored in society at large.

31:00  The freedom and power of choice in the face of fear.

41:58   Why welcoming all emotions and aspects of yourself creates the path to an overarching sense of peace and joy.

**Full transcript coming soon! Check back HERE for the link.**

Follow us on Instagram at @artofaccomplishment to learn more about our guests and share your own experiences.

Will Chesney — Reintegrating as a Combat Veteran, Surviving a Traumatic Brain Injury and Transcending an Old Identity

Will Chesney found identity and purpose as a Navy SEAL, one of the military’s most elite teams, where he was required to perform calmly and effectively under the most extreme circumstances. However, years of neurological and psychological trauma left Will in a very dark place. Unable to do what he loved most or connect effectively with others, he turned to drinking and isolation. After hitting rock bottom, a friend reached out and invited Will to join him on a journey of self-discovery that allowed him to tap into his resilience and get himself back on his feet. Tune in as we learn what Will did to find healing and meaning in life after war.

Will served in the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group as an operator and a dog handler in the Osama Bin Laden raid. He was awarded a Silver Star and Purple Heart for his bravery.

"I woke up and it was me again at one point during the weekend. I know I was a SEAL and everybody always says, “Oh, we can't relate to what you've gone through.” But everybody has trauma. Every life is good but life’s hard sometimes. Everybody deals with trauma no matter what."


What We Discuss in Episode 51:

02:41   The challenges of reintegrating into civilian life as a combat veteran.

05:51   The mindset and techniques that Navy SEALs use to remain calm and effective in any situation.

13:25   Navigating the depression and hardships that come with losing a core identity.

20:26   How humility is essential for executing any successful mission.

24:44   The reflection that put Will firmly on the path to recovery.


**Full transcript coming soon! Check back HERE for the link.**

Follow us on Instagram at @artofaccomplishment to learn more about our guests and share your own experiences.

Joe Sanok — Living on the Road, Opening to Heartbreak and Parenting as a Single Dad

In Episode 49, Brett interviews Joe Sanok, a business consultant and productivity researcher who, until recently, lived full-time in a camper with his wife and children. When he and his wife decided to uncouple, it changed both Joe’s and his children’s lives in a big way. Learn how Joe used his meditation practice and other self-exploration tools to allow his world to unfold beautifully through surrender to reality as it was rather than clinging to what he thought it should be.

Joe’s latest book is "Thursday is the New Friday,” a book about the four-day work week. He’s also the host of the Practice of the Practice podcast.

"As soon as the sun came up at 5:30, I was wide awake. And so to say, I'm awake, what can I do to ground myself to be the dad I want to be? To be the person I want to be? To be the business owner I want to be? My strongest meditation practice started then and it came from a place of need rather than a place of, 'I should be doing this.'" 

What We Discuss in Episode 49:

2:48   The pivotal moment that changed the direction of Joe’s life.

9:40   Finding an internal locus of control and how it allows things to naturally unfold.

12:22   Parenting as a single dad in the midst of a major life transition.

18:46   Teaching nuance, healthy rewards and handling difficult emotions to children.

24:59   Boosting creativity and productivity by adopting a 32 hour-or-less work week.

29:09   Why slowing down is the first step to productivity.

32:06   Showing children how to find their own purpose without pattern matching to their parents.

**Full transcript coming soon! Check back HERE for the link.**

Follow us on Instagram at @artofaccomplishment to learn more about our guests and share your own experiences.

Heather Falenski — Navigating Conflict Zones, Recovering from Chronic Illness, and Being Your Own Light

In today’s episode, Brett interviews Heather Falenski, documentary filmmaker, adventure athlete and humanitarian worker. Her early career included several years of working on the African continent with refugees and others displaced by war. She is the founder of One World Media, a film production company based in Boulder, Colorado.

Heather led a fast-paced life working in some of the world’s most remote and challenging environments. Although her work was fulfilling, it was also physically and mentally taxing. It culminated into a severe chronic illness that left her bedridden for over a year. Heather discusses an epiphany that she had after hitting rock bottom that allowed her to move beyond impossible circumstances to regain health and stability.

“The greatest power that we have is to say: I AM that. And whatever “that” is, it’s what we’re defining ourselves to be. It’s what our concept of self is. We can define ourselves in any way that we want. We can say, I’m a filmmaker. I am healthy. I am respected. And once we hold that state as our dominant state of consciousness over a period of time, the outer world will start to conform and reflect that back to us.”

What we discuss in Episode 43:

07:30     The urge to control outer conditions and why it often leads to failure.

10:30     Stabilizing your inner landscape as a way of getting consistent results in the outer world.

14:09     Unconditioned consciousness as your natural state beneath all of the things that you identify with.

19:00     How to consciously shift into a desired self-concept, rather than allowing it to be dictated by outer circumstances.

29:11     Gratitude as a state of allowing a process to unfold, even if it takes some unexpected turns.

32:04     How hitting rock bottom can lead you to the necessary conditions to completely recreate yourself.


**Full transcript coming soon! Check back HERE for the link.**

Follow us on Instagram at @artofaccomplishment to learn more about our guests and share your own experiences.

Jaime Waydo — Taking Care of Yourself First, Fearlessly Owning Your Desires, Speaking Your Truth and Designing Systems to Support You

In Episode 41, Brett interviews Jaime Waydo, Chief Technology Officer for Cavnue. Previously, Jaime led systems engineering at Waymo, Google’s Self Driving Car program, and collaborated with NASA on the Mars Rover Curiosity.

Jaime came from a mindset passed down generationally that, especially as a woman, it was important to place everyone’s needs — children, spouse, employees — before her own. She quickly realized that this way of being led her to chronically running on empty, which neither benefited her nor her community. She pivoted to putting herself first: speaking her needs vulnerably, organizing systems to support her and designing a schedule that worked for her, transforming her work culture and her home life, while giving her the energy she needed to live life on her terms.

Tune in to this episode to find out how she made it all happen.

“Let’s just look at this like a patient on the table. What are the symptoms? And then, what’s the next step in treatment? And so, solving problems like that and not worrying about whose fault is something, I think is a really good way to keep the shame from cropping up in people and then they can stay much more in the problem-solving mode.”


What we discuss in Episode 40:

1:41   Why it’s okay and important to be selfish.

6:06   How being a chronic people pleaser can result in "chameleon leadership” and create anxiety within a team.

9:23   Generational expectations placed on women to constantly give without having support systems to replenish their own energy.

11:13   The turning point where Jaime realized that prioritizing herself would also allow her to better serve others.

16:00   How Jaime showing up vulnerably allowed her to improve team culture and cohesion during the pandemic.

20:00  Jaime’s techniques for speaking her truth within the context of challenging interpersonal dynamics.

26:26   How Jaime brought more peace and joy into her household by relating authentically with her children.

33:28   Shame as a root emotion behind micromanaging and people-pleasing behavior. 


**Full transcript can be found here: https://artofaccomplishment.com/2022/01/28/episode-41-jaime-waydo-taking-care-of-yourself-first-fearlessly-owning-your-desires-speaking-your-truth-and-designing-systems-to-support-you/

Follow us on Instagram at @artofaccomplishment to learn more about our guests and share your own experiences.

Sam Altman — Leading with Crippling Anxiety, Discovering Meditation, and Building Intelligence with Self-Awareness

In this episode, Brett and Joe interview Sam Altman on how self-awareness gained through meditation can be combined with intelligence in business. Sam is an entrepreneur, investor and programmer. He is the CEO of OpenAI and the former president of Y Combinator. 

Sam discusses his experiences with meditation and how it has transformed his decision making and resulted in a much calmer, more joyous default state of being. He explains some of the most profound realizations that he has had about himself and humanity in general through his work with AI. Join us to hear more about how Sam arrived at a place of calm detachment that allowed him to respond to challenging and stressful situations with ease.

“Intelligence and awareness, to me, seem like that have to go together.”


What we discuss in Episode 39:

1:30  A realization that completely changed the way that Sam operates in business, the way he thinks about AI, and his life.

5:04  The moment Sam realized his old way of operating, from a place of stress and anxiety, needed to change.

8:00  How to really care about something while remaining detached from the outcome at the same time.

11:03  The most transformative aspect of meditation according to Sam.

14:40  The experience of non-duality — how it shifts perspective and provides clarity on self, passions and priorities.

22:22  Whether human emotions are possible for artificial intelligence to experience.

29:38  How intelligence needs self-awareness to reach its full capacity.

32:50  How meditation shifted Sam’s relationship to anger and joy.

35:55  How the work that Sam has done on himself has evolved his work culture.

**Full transcript can be found here: https://artofaccomplishment.com/2022/01/15/episode-39-sam-altman-leading-with-crippling-anxiety-discovering-meditation-and-building-intelligence-with-self-awareness/

Follow us on Instagram at @artofaccomplishment to learn more about our guests and share your own experiences.

Carla Piñeyro Sublett on Finding Compassion in Self-Indulgence

In Episode 35, Brett interviews Carla Piñeyro Sublett, Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President of IBM on a heart-opening experience that radically altered the dynamic of her business and personal relationships. Carla came from a mindset that doing self work was self-indulgent. Stemming from that belief, she took on the role of being a manager of herself, her emotions and others around her. Through a sequence of transformative self-discoveries, she uncovered a greater capacity for love that was immediately felt and reflected back to her by her family and colleagues. In this episode, we follow Carla on an exploration of how making space to allow her own feelings to be felt invited others to do the same, thereby shifting the dynamics of her relationships both to herself and others into profound alignment.

"As I was going up on stage, one of my peers grabbed me and he said hey Carla, I am going to tell you something. I said what. He said I love you. That just doesn’t happen. It is wild but since doing this work, not only have I felt differently, somehow it has given people the permission to be their authentic selves and be open with me."

**Full transcript can be found here: https://artofaccomplishment.com/2021/12/03/episode-35-carla-pineyro-sublett-on-finding-compassion-in-self-indulgence/

Follow us on Instagram at @artofaccomplishment to learn more about our guests and share your own experiences.

Stacy Brown-Philpot on Reclaiming Abandonment

Brett and Joe interview Stacy Brown-Philpot, former CEO of Task Rabbit and founding member of the Softbank Opportunity Fund, on her journey through childhood abandonment to self discovery. Stacy identified that by choosing the path of self-exploration, she was able to feel through difficult emotions of fear and anger to find deeper love and joy. We will learn how her willingness to confront her past traumas has helped her become a more honest and empathetic business woman.

"You want to really work on yourself that deeply to process emotions like fear and anger, and on the other side of it is love and joy. How does that happen? The answer is it is a journey, and my journey is very different than what someone else’s journey might be. But the important thing is to be willing to take a step, one step."

**Full transcript can be found here: https://artofaccomplishment.com/2021/11/12/episode-33-stacy-brown-philpot-on-reclaiming-abandonment/

Follow us on Instagram at @artofaccomplishment to learn more about our guests and share your own experiences.

Ant Taylor on Embracing Emotions

Brett interviews Ant Taylor, founder and CEO of Lyte, on a profound self-reflection that changed his life and business. Ant discovered that shifting from living largely in his head to operating from a more intuitive and embodied space allows him to tap into the wisdom of his emotions. We will learn more about how he now embraces the ebb and flow of emotional intensity, resulting in the uncovering of deeper truths.

"This moment, when he called out the anxiety, I didn’t know it at the time. It just triggered a different kind of, I guess, leadership style that was a little bit more like I am going to jump into that pit over there, guys. I’m pretty sure it is filled with snakes. I’m pretty sure I’m going to get my ass handed to me. It’s going to be at least funny, possibly dangerous, but if I live, come with me." 

**Full transcript can be found here: https://artofaccomplishment.com/2021/10/15/episode-30-ant-taylor-on-embracing-emotions/

Follow us on Instagram at @artofaccomplishment to learn more about our guests and share your own experiences.