Love over Defense — Master Class Series #9

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:


Pema Chödrön:

Empower over Power — Master Class Series #8

The accumulation of power seems like a good idea at first. Then we see how deeply insecure some billionaires and leaders of countries can be. What if no amount of power could ever make you feel safe? What if it was just another thing that could be taken away from you? What if being empowered is the key to the only security that truly sets you free?

"Power is control over other people and empowered means that you are not looking for control of others. You are just being you despite the consequences."

The accumulation of power seems like a good idea at first. Then we see how deeply insecure some billionaires and leaders of countries can be. What if no amount of power could ever make you feel safe? What if it was just another thing that could be taken away from you? What if being empowered is the key to the only security that truly sets you free? 

Brett: Joe, what makes this distinction so important?

Joe: The empowered overpower distinction. I think there's a deep confusion in us as a people and internally between the two and that confusion is what creates the subjugation that we feel both in the relationship to ourselves and the relationship with the outside world. To clarify that confusion, to actually see that we are always a choice and that choice is always empowered, whether we want to admit it or not is a way to set us free from that subjugation.

Brett: Power is real. There are people who really do have power over us and there are situations in which we have limited control. That must be partially responsible for our situation.

Joe: Yes and no. The thing is, that we're all interdependent, everything is interdependent. It's like a gigantic machine if you will or a gigantic ecosystem. Who has the power, the ants or the mountain lion or the rabbits? If any of them go, the whole system changes. The whole system is dependent on all the other parts of the system. In that way, yes, there are things that have power over us. If you're a deer, deer ticks have power over you and mountain lions have power over you, but if you're a mountain lion, deer have power over you because if the deer disappear, you're screwed, you're not eating. There's a way of looking at it that says, "Oh, wow, everything that I'm interdependent on has power over me." You can look at it that way and it's absolutely true. 

The other way to look at it is that, our choice is ours. We get to choose and we might not like the consequences. We don't always have control over the consequences. I think when we don't have control over the consequences, that's when the mind wants to say, "Oh, somebody has power over me." But there's nobody on this planet that isn't dependent on somebody else or something else.

Take the most powerful person in the world, if people stop buying their product or if people rebel against them or if the price of oil goes to $20 a barrel and all of a sudden, their money to control their society goes away. Everybody has something like that. It's something that I think about oftentimes when I'm thinking about CEOs and my experience in working with them is that they have more bosses than anybody. They have their key employees who they need to keep happy, their customers they need to keep happy, their shareholders they need to keep happy. They have Board of Directors they need to keep happy. There are so many people who they are dependent on or they need their approval or they need them to buy into their vision in some way. 

There's nobody in this system that isn't dependent on other people. There's nobody in this system that isn't scared to change the system because of consequences. As one person is sitting there and saying, "Hey, if I stand up for myself, I'll lose my job." There's a CEO that says, "Hey, if I don't give my quarterly numbers, I'll lose my job. If I don't get to the quarterly numbers, I'll lose my job." There's a billionaire that's like, "Wow, if I don't keep on finding more oil, I'm going to lose my fortune." 

There's something everywhere, everybody's got something. In that aspect, absolutely, everybody has somebody who has power over them. I think we often think about the people who diversified, like lots of customers or lots of people as more powerful, meaning that they're not dependent on one person. They're not dependent on one customer. They feel more powerful on our system but, everybody's dependent.

Brett: It sounds like what you're pointing at in terms of power, when something has power over us, it's setting the constraints of our environment. If we have power over someone else, we have the power to set the constraints for the system in some way, but that doesn't tell the whole story. There's what we do within the constraints and which constraints we buy into or don't.

Joe: That's it. Inside of the constraints, you're completely empowered. The way that you show up inside the constraints, the constraints have to adjust. Meaning, if you are scared of losing your job and you say, "Forget it, I'm going to show up the way that feels right for me and if I get fired, I get fired." You will change the system. There's no way for it not to change, even if you get fired. There's no way for the system not to change. There's no way that the way you interact with the system doesn't affect it.

Brett: Even the structure of a company or even the interpersonal relations in your team will change if you're not being the same cog in the ecosystem that was existing before.

Joe: That's right. You see this. Working with CEOs and working with billionaires, you see this all the time, that there's a whole bunch of things that they want to affect change on that they can't. They don't know how to or that nobody knows how to or it's just beyond their control. It's not like anybody in any situation doesn't have something that they're not able to affect the change on. There're billionaires that I know that if they could control everything, they would have more billions and there're billionaires I know, that if they could control everything, everybody would have social and economic equality but they can't, just like we can't, you can't, I can't, nobody can. As long as you need to control a situation to feel empowered, then you are subjugated.

Brett: That's not real empowerment.

Joe: That's right.

Brett: Where does this come from? Where does this yearning for power arise from if not empowerment?

Joe: Fear. If we're making the distinction between power and empowered and I think that even in our language, oftentimes, when someone says, "I feel powerful," they mean empowered. As far as the semantics we're going to use, that means empowered. Then some people are like, "I feel powerful, meaning I have control over you." People who want to feel powerful control over situations just fear. They are scared. On some level, we all are scared when we are looking to find power. Now, power might come to us and just because I have power doesn't mean I'm scared, but if I'm looking for it, then I'm scared.

Brett: How does achieving some sense of power actually satiate or affect that fear, or does it?

Joe: It doesn't. It's like any addiction. There's a short-term high that you get and then it's over. I remember when I was in one of my poorest times in my life when I had the least amount of resources and my attitude towards money and power was changing. I was driving in my car and I was thinking, "Oh, I don't have enough." As it turned out at that time, I knew several billionaires and I went through the list and I'm like, "Oh, they're driving around right now thinking they don't have enough either." Like, "Oh my God, I'm a billionaire." My situation, their situation is no different. They can affect some change in a way that I can't, but I can affect some change in the way that they can't.

Brett: I could imagine a situation where a billionaire even feels more powerless, because they realize they have all this money and they're actually not able to change the world. So they don't get to believe that money would solve that problem for them.

Joe: That's right. That's the thing is, one of the best investors I ever met said that if you see somebody who thinks that money is going to solve their problems, don't invest. They're dead right. Capitalization doesn't solve problems. It makes them bigger often.

Brett: You throw money at problems and you end up with bigger problems that require money to sustain.

Joe: Yes, that's right. It's like this illusion, once you have the power, then you got to worry about holding on to it. Another billionaire guy told me at one point, he said, “Everybody works, Joe. Everybody works.” If you have a billion dollars, you got to work to maintain it. Everybody works.

Brett: If you're going for social capital, you have the billion dollars. You still have to work to maintain social capital and connections.

Joe: Yes, or you've got $54 billion and you can't affect an election. One guy with maybe a billion dollars can beat another guy with 54 billion. Both of them can be beaten with somebody with less than a million. Power isn’t accumulated by more power. It makes it easier in some forms of power, but sometimes having large amounts of power actually make it harder to accumulate power.

Brett: In the current election cycle, trying to get elected as a billionaire takes you down a whole bunch of notches already.

Joe: Right, or being a really big shot investor with a lot of power. On some level, there's some benefits to it and on other levels, a lot of people follow you, which creates complications as far as liquidity and other things. It's the same thing with somebody who has the power of leadership in a small community. On one level, there's certain things that they can affect change around that other people can't and in another level, there are certain things they can't.

There's a certain balance that is struck in any leadership position and some things can be taken away from you more readily and some things you can't affect change on. It's something that I realized when I was in Boards of Directors. Sometimes in certain Boards of Directors, I had more power being off the board than I did being on the board. Being on the board, I was part of the dynamic and I couldn't help the leadership see through the dynamic. My capacity to help people see through the dynamic was more powerful than having a vote.

Brett: Everything unseen and behind the curtain kind of thing.

Joe: The way that I define power is, that power is the thing that can be taken away from you. Empowerment can't be taken away from you. Power is control over other people and empowered means that you're not looking for control of others. You're just being you despite the consequences. Power is looking to find safety. It's an expression of fear. Empowered is standing in the face of that fear and being truthful to yourself.

If you think about every story that we've ever heard, it's always the story of the person who goes against the consequences for their truth. This is what we long for in ourselves is that, “I'm going to be empowered in a way that I will do the right thing despite the consequences whether I'm saving somebody from a burning building or whether I'm risking my job to be authentic.” That's what empowered is.

Brett: Yes, burning building was a good example because, running into a burning building to save somebody, the fire has power over you. There's nothing anybody's going to do to change that, but you are going into the burning building to do your truth, to try to save somebody regardless of the consequences. You're willing to experience and feel the consequences of coming up against something with much greater power than you.

Joe: Yes, that's right. There's the material power, like money or gun or fire and then there's also just the power of influence over you or other people. What I noticed is that when people act empowered, eight times out of 10, maybe seven times out of 10, the consequence that they're scared of doesn't come to pass. Even though the moment before they take that action, they're pretty sure it's inevitable. If I'm saying I'm going to be true to my wife even though I might lose her, eight times out of 10, I'm not going to lose her. If I'm saying I'm going to be true to myself even if I might get fired, eight out of 10 times, I don't get fired.

If you're actually going into a burning building, I don't know what the odds are. It is not something that I have enough experience with. I will say, the other part of that is that even when you act empowered and things don't go the way you want them to go, they end up going the way you want them to go eventually. Meaning, yes, maybe your wife leaves you but eventually, you get in a relationship that works for you. Meaning that as you act empowered, as you act in your truth, the world that can handle your truth surrounds you and that becomes your reality bubble. 

We're all in these echo chambers. If I believe one political thing, I'm going to be in an echo chamber of verification of that. If I believe something else, I'll be in an echo chamber that verifies that. It's how our consciousness works and if we're true to ourselves, we end up in an echo chamber that is true to ourselves.

Brett: It seems there's a difference between the actual constraints that our environment places on us and then the predictive constraints that we are simulating, that we are actually acting on, which are not exactly the real constraints of the environment. If we start operating in a way that doesn't fit the constraints of our immediate environment, we may end up losing a partnership, we may end up losing a job. If we stick with operating as though the world had the constraints that we want, eventually, we will only end up fitting into a system that fits those constraints.

Joe: That's right. You see this in great leadership. I would say that one of the ways that you know that you're empowered is that you're acting in a way as if your reality is already true, that your vision is already true. If you're a civil rights leader, you're acting as if you are already equal and free. You're being that example for everybody to follow and you're assuming that everybody will treat you that way. It starts bending the world into that way of treating you. If you feel like you're less than, then your civil rights movement by its nature will have more friction in it. More people will treat you as you're less than.

It’s the same with anything-- if you're acting as a leader of a CEO and you're like, “Of course, we're going to be successful,” and you’re acting like you're successful. When you're in the negotiations, you're acting like you're successful, then the world wants to bend towards that. It doesn't mean it bends towards it all the time, but it wants to bend towards that. That's what being a visionary is and that is, if you're empowered, then that visionary nature starts becoming more and more obvious to you. It just becomes something that starts happening.

Brett: That brings up an interesting subtlety, the idea of acting as though you're already successful. It seems like there could be ways of performing success that are not beneficial, but the actual belief that you are successful. How would you distinguish between those two things?

Joe: The way I would distinguish between those two things is, that there's a great story. It was an admiral in the Navy who got into a POW camp in Vietnam and he was asked who made it, who didn't make it? He said, “Well, who didn't make it was easy. That was the optimist.” The interviewer is like, “What do you mean optimist?” He said, “It means that they thought they were going to get out by Christmas or by the next season or whatever it was. They didn't make it, because when that came, that timetable came and left, they became defeated and they didn't make it.” He said, “Well, who did make it?” He said, “Well, that's clear, it's the people who thought that they would get out. The people who maintained that vision of their own freedom.”

Brett: In that sense, if we find ourselves performing successfulness and then, signs of failure come, then that can just completely break down and we'll actually just believe our failure and that'll be the end, whereas realizing that this business can entirely fail and I still feel empowered as the person who can be successful.

Joe: Correct and will be. It might be the next business. You see this all the time when people are transforming. When they're changing, they have this massive breakthrough and then they go, “Oh!” then, they feel disempowered because of the power of the pattern and they’re like, "How do I keep it? How do I keep this breakthrough?" As soon as you see that, as soon as you see somebody start wrestling with how do I keep it, you know that it's going to be in flux. You know that it's going to pendulate back and forth for a while.

But when the person sees it so clearly that they're like, "Of course, this is what's happening," then it's over. Even if it comes back a little bit, it's over. The whole process is quicker. If somebody has been getting angry a ton in their world and then all of a sudden they have this breakthrough of like, "Oh my gosh, it's not that I'm angry. It's that I'm hurt." They start crying and they see this new reality.  They're like, "Yes." Of course, they don't need to hold on to it. Then you know that that change is going to be smooth and quick. If they are like, "Oh my God, I see it. How do I keep it?" Then you know that they're not fully empowered.

Brett: That's a belief that's fragile then and that they don't really have it.

Joe: Exactly. In that belief system, they still feel like this thing has power over them, this influence. What's interesting is, of course, it has power over you, of course and it's exactly that that you need to enter into. It's exactly that helplessness that helps us become empowered. What I mean by that specifically, because that can be incredibly confusing is, that going through the feeling of helplessness is what creates, oftentimes, that sense of empowerment.

Brett: Yes, that's important, because what you were just saying earlier is that the power itself or the seeking of power as a deep expression of fear and it seems like that would be the fear of feeling the helplessness, the fear of being helpless. If you just move through that helplessness, then you end up on the other side feeling empowered.

Joe: That's it. You just said it better than I could.

Brett: Is there anything else you want to add to the definition of empowered?

Joe: Yes. Empowered really is a feeling. It's a state. It's not a life condition. Meaning, you can be a billionaire and feel empowered and you can be in poverty and feel empowered. It's not really about how many resources you have. It's about your resourcefulness. It's knowing that you have the courage to do what's true for you. 

The other thing about empoweredness is that you can't really love without it. If you look at all the people who we see as beacons of love, there is a deep sense of empowerment to them. If you close your eyes and you go inside and you feel what it is to be unconditionally loving and then you feel what it is to be unconditionally empowered, you'll notice that they're two sides of the same mountain and you can't get to the peak without both sides of the mountain.

Brett: I'm curious about what some of the different ways are that we allow ourselves to have power taking over us. What are some of the types of power? There can be economic power, there could be emotional power. I think a lot of this could allude to the victim-savior-bully stuff that we've discussed in some of the other episodes.

Joe: When we're in fear, which is often when we're seeking power over another person, we're often in a victim, savior or a bully role. That is a good sign that you're in the power over. You can have power over somebody by being a bully. That role we know really well. Our society agrees with that one. They're like, "Oh yes, that person's a bully. They want power over." 

But you can get power over people as a victim too. I was watching a television show about magic and for whatever reason, they had this group of moms and they were all talking about guilt. They were all laughing and smiling over how guilt was a good way to control their kids. It's like, "Right, that is how people can control through the victim." Like, I'm so fragile that you can't tell me your truth. If there is somebody in your life that you can't tell your truth to because you're scared of hurting them, then you're being somebody who's controlling through victimhood. 

It's the same way with a savior. You can control people by saving them. You see this in very wealthy families all the time. They maintain control over their children by making sure that their money is there to save them. Or the Al-Anon saving the alcoholic. It happens all the time. There's all sorts of ways in which we are trying to have power over people. They mostly fit in the three categories, which is victim, savior and bully.

Brett: The example with the rich people with the money doing the savior thing, I think there's many ways that that could apply to philanthropy as well.

Joe: Yes, absolutely.

Brett: Philanthropy can be done in a way that is entirely disempowering and that it can be done in a way that is empowering and I think a lot of that would come from the mindset of the people involved on all sides of it in the system.

Joe: That's right. When I did a lot of philanthropy with schools and with kids, I would stay away from working with anybody who was coming from a place of guilt, that they were doing it because they felt guilty because their philanthropy just didn't work. If they were trying to help people, I would also stay away from it. If they were working with people so that both they and the people they were there to serve were being helped, then those were effective.

Brett: What's an example of how that would work? Philanthropy failing, because it came from a place of guilt.

Joe: I was in Nicaragua at one point and there was a group of Canadians there that had brought a whole bunch of clothing for this village. They all felt really great about themselves. When I asked them why they did it, they were all like, "Oh, I just feel bad that we have so much and I want to spread it." There's nothing wrong with it, but it just isn't successful. I remember sitting with them and saying, "Hey, there's all these turtles here that are going extinct." All these people could be saving the turtles. What if they earned their clothing by helping the turtles? How does that change this whole system?

What it does change is, it makes people have an equal exchange and so they feel empowered. If somebody's just giving them stuff without an exchange, then it's actually quite disempowering because now you have power over them because they need you to give them stuff. In the '70s in Africa, you saw where food drops would happen. Then when the people who had the walkie talkies that helped the food drops happen went away, the native people tried to build fake walkie talkies and act like the person with the walkie talkies to get the food to drop.

It's like you're not teaching that person how to fish. You're giving them fish. When people act out of guilt, that's usually how it works, because they feel like they have to give. Good philanthropy is an exchange. It's not a gift. It's a recognition that you're getting as much from it as you're giving.

Brett: That segues to another interesting thing from earlier in the conversation about your empowerment is something that you have to give up. You choose to give up your empowerment. Let's talk a little more about that.

Joe: There's a choice that you make and every time that you feel like you've been disempowered or that someone has power over you and you can't be true to yourself, then what's actually happening is that you are choosing to avoid a potential bad consequence. That's a choice that you're making. You have to choose that for it to be the case. 

Mandela had everything taken from him except his life. He was crushing rocks. He was beaten. It was not pretty for him and yet he stayed empowered. He continued to make choices and knew the choices that he was making despite the consequences.

Brett: How does that work in daily life? Like with a job or perhaps with a receiver of philanthropy, trying to become empowered, but finding that the moment they become empowered, they stop receiving gifts and so, it's easier not to.

Joe: Yes, it's really true. It's harder to raise money for something that's deeply empowered too, it's interesting that way. But then again, the people who truly feel empowered don't need to raise as much money. They have other ways of making things happen. Yes, it's a good question. How does it happen in daily life? 

One of the ways that I work with my clients on this often that makes it really acute is-- and I mentioned it a bit in the beginning, but I'll use a different example. It's like a husband that's deeply unhappy in his marriage. I'll ask the question, what if you act exactly how you want to act and see if they leave you, see if the divorce occurs. That's an empowered act. It's like, "Oh, I'm not going to compromise my authenticity, my truth to keep your love. I'm not going to compromise my authenticity and my truth to keep the job. I'm not going to compromise my authenticity and my truth to avoid the conflict and that's when people feel disempowered is, when they don't make that choice. That's when people complain about somebody having power over them.

Brett: Right? Like believing that we're not going to be able to find another job, if we leave this job or believing we're never going to find another partner, if things don't work out with this one and we don't conform to this structure we're in.

Joe: Yes. Then that becomes pretty obvious pretty quickly when you're dealing with one-on-one relationships, but then when it comes to being in a company or being in a country or being part of a geopolitical system, it becomes a little bit harder to see, because the change that you're creating is just less palpable. It's because it's a numbers game and so it becomes harder for people to see in that way.

But that's an intellectual thing. On an emotional and a gut level, you feel it right away, you know it right away when you are acting empowered in those situations, say, "Oh, I'm going to be this way," and I see it all the time. It's like if you look at the people who are breaking the social norms in a way that is liberating for them, that are the front runners or the trailblazers, if you look at those folks, they are the ones who are not buying into the consequences.

Brett: It's contagious then like, if you're looking for a social change, it requires empowerment on a population level. It might feel from a disempowered place that if you're the only person who becomes empowered, you're just going to get steamrolled by the system. Yet, you look at examples like MLK and it's, one person was empowered enough to have like a halo around them, creating more empowerment.

Joe: Yes and he died. Right. There was somebody who had a gun and that's real power and it affected change. He had real power and it affected change. Both of the men who shot and the man who got shot in this particular case, both affected massive change in the world. The difference between the two is one felt empowered and one felt disempowered. The change that we affect when we feel disempowered usually doesn't serve ourselves or humanity.

Brett: Yes, that reminds me of the archetype of the rebel, somebody who feeling what they think is power, ends up destroying their life and others in the name of their truth. Whoever shot MLK felt like they were following their truth and you see this all the time. Let's talk about that.

Joe: Yes. It's really hard to see the difference sometimes, especially when you're in the middle of it and it's subtle until you see it and when you see it, it's clear. If you are in blame for another person or shame for yourself, then you are disempowered and you are trying to accumulate power. If you are not in blame or for others or shame for yourself, then that is empowered. That's the emotional way to know where you're at.

Brett: Or guilt I guess, guilt and shame can be distinguished as well a little bit.

Joe: Yes, guilt and shame. We'll put them together. Those are such-- semantically, that's a very interesting thing and it's very culturally based, but yes, guilt, shame, blame, all that stuff is a good indicator that you're disempowered.

Brett: Earlier we were talking about the drama triangle with the bully and the victim and the savior and how that's based in fear. Can you relate that to blame and shame?

Joe: Yes, so oftentimes, that fear is based on the sense of helplessness. That sense of helplessness is because we believe the story of blame and shame in our head. When you feel like someone else's making your life X, Y and Z way, then you're in blame and there's a helplessness and there's a fear that you will lose complete control and therefore, you need to have control over. Or, there's a shame, like, “I'm inherently bad.” There's no way out of that. It's a deep feeling of helplessness and we're scared of feeling that helplessness, so we then move into the drama triangle or the fear triangle. That's how it works. It's that helplessness is the feeling of that blame and shame felt all the way through, that we don't want to feel. 

That's the amazing thing about feeling helplessness. Feeling helplessness doesn't make you more helpless. Feeling helpless makes you more capable. It's so counterintuitive, but if you do it, you know it, right, because so much of our decision-making process is based on trying to avoid an emotional state. The emotional state of helplessness is one of the ones underlying most of our avoidance.

Brett: What are some of the indicators for each of these particular roles? If all of them are fear state being set into place with blame and shame and we need to feel helplessness to get through them, what are some of the indicators for some of these particular roles of victim, bully and savior?

Joe: The reason I don't call the drama triangle very often and I'm more prone to call it the fear triangle is because, the victim, bully and savior correspond with fight, flight or freeze, which are the states of fear. Fight is pretty obviously bully. Right? It's like, when I'm scared, I fight. When I'm scared, I freeze, that's more victim. When I'm scared, I fly, that's savior and that's the harder one to understand. But what happens is, I run away from myself in my own experience and I try to fix you, so that I can feel safe. If I can make it so you don't get drunk, I'll feel safe. If I can make it, that you're happy, then I'll feel safe.

I'm running away from myself going into you to try to fix my issues and so, that's why I call it the fear triangle. There's a feeling for each one of them, right? It's kind of the indicator. The indicator is, if I am feeling all alone in it, that's the bully. If I feel obligation, that's the savior and if I feel stuck, that's the victim. In actuality, we'll feel all three of these things if you really slow it down for a minute and you'll notice that you'll feel all three of these things in a moment of fear. 

My wife comes home, she's in a horrible mood and I feel helpless that now my mood is going to be screwed up and the house is going to be screwed up and the kids are going to be screwed like, “I can't do anything.” I might feel alone, like, "Oh, God, I can't. I'm the only one who has to fix this thing." Then I feel, "Oh my God, I got to do something for her so that she feels better and then I'm stuck with this thing." It's like all three of them can happen slowly or quickly. But there's one that usually we dominate in situations that are dominating us in situations. Most people tend towards fight, flight or freeze most of the time.

Brett: Yes, I personally tend towards the savior.

Joe: Yes, I have tended towards both savior and bully. Those are the two places I'll go depending on the circumstance. Yes and often in quick succession.

Brett: Let's talk a little bit more about how this works in companies and in teams.

Joe: It works in a number of ways. The first is, you see this happening all the time in companies and teams, that somebody is acting like the victim or some group is acting like the victim. Some are acting as the savior. There's different ways that they're trying to create control. The less empowered the team feels, the more drama and that's a great-- as soon as you walk into a team, if it's super political, it's just like everybody feels disempowered. You just know it. Where everybody feels empowered and they feel like they can affect change, there's so little politics that are going on. It's a great litmus test.

Brett: Right, because politics is a control mechanism.

Joe: Correct. Yes, it's that fear. Drama. That's the thing that you see in politics everywhere. I don't mean politics as in people running countries. I mean politics. It might be people running countries.

Brett: People being political. 

Joe: Being political, right. It's a deep expression of fear and people trying to capture power. Exactly. It's because everybody feels helpless and feels like they're not actually able to affect change in a way that's meaningful.

Brett: How do you affect this kind of change in a company, whether you're leading the company or you're within the company or at the bottom of some ladder?

Joe: Yes. Well, this is the tricky bit, because as a leader of a company, you want your people to be empowered. You also, often out of fear, want to limit their capacity to affect change. I don't want the new mail clerk to decide what my initial public offering price is going to be. It's this constant balance of people feeling empowered. You wanting people to feel empowered and at the same time, a fear of having that power runaway or this lack of control. This is the balance and the subtle war that's happening oftentimes with leaders.

You'll hear it all the time because they'll say something like, "I wish everybody would act like the owner of the company." They mean that to a point, meaning they want everyone to take responsibility like that, but they don't want everybody to have all the benefits and they don't want everybody to have all the choice that they have. There's this very interesting balance that happens. What's happening in those companies is that the empowerment and the roles have gotten confused.

If everybody can feel empowered in their role and their role is defined and how decisions are made is defined, then people feeling deeply empowered is incredibly good for a company. As soon as those roles aren't defined well, as soon as people don't know what they have to do to be successful, then a whole bunch of empowered people just creates a lot of mess. 

Brett: It sounds like there's a bit of a paradox here, where having well-defined roles and well-defined processes is structure and that could be something that people feel has power over them. Then also what you want is them to feel empowered to push back and change that structure or work fully within the structure and also perhaps challenge it. If you don't have structure like clear goals, criteria for success, loving accountability, transparency, then what happens there? There's a powerlessness in having no structure.

Joe: That's right. Yes, if there's no way to affect change or make decisions, then what you'll have is this crazy politics with people trying to get power so that they can feel safe. Yes, you want to have some sort of structure that allows itself to change and a structure that doesn't change without very specific things happening, so that people can feel safe that they know what to do, that they know what success means. 

This doesn't matter if it's AA or Enron. In AA, there's a very particular structure that has to happen. There's 12 steps. There's the way that the meetings get run and that structure happens. It's important or people can't feel safe in those environments. In Uber, there's very particular structures in place. There's, "I'm going to rate you five stars or not," and there's another structure of making sure that drivers don't rip other people off by tracking them on maps. Those structures are really incredibly critical or people don't feel safe. 

Will those structures need to change over time? Absolutely. But, you need the structure for people to feel safe and know what their roles are. Then you need to be able to make room for people to grow and change their roles. The Constitution of the United States does a pretty good job of it, too.

Brett: Yes, sets a structure. 

Joe: Yes. That's the balance that you're constantly looking for is, “How I create the amount of structure that makes people feel safe but also gives them autonomy and gives them the capacity to feel as empowered as possible.” 

Brett: Includes mechanisms for that structure itself to be updated to match reality.

Joe: Absolutely. Right, that's it. That's how looking at company-- and what you see typically is, the more transparency and the less structure that creates safety, the more elegant the structure is that creates safety, then the more successful the company. Taxi cabs becoming Uber is an example of this, less structure, less infrastructure, but it creates actually more safety. 

It's the same thing that happened with GM and Toyota. Toyota became more decentralized than GM, which was at the time, the most centralized company. That decentralization, but still maintaining the structure, is what usually gives those companies a competitive advantage. The reason is, because it creates more empowerment with the employees.

Brett: It seems like this would also promote scalability for a company, because if you have 100 empowered decision-makers instead of three, then more decisions can be made and more information can be processed.

Joe: That's exactly right. Yes. You saw that there was a-- I can't remember, it was one of the Malcolm Gladwell books talked about, how in this war game that the Pentagon does, this small band of people beat the US Army, because their decision-making was happening at the bottom. There was some set of principles, some set of structure that they could all operate within. That's basically how you do it. It was in David and Goliath, was I think his book. You see that all the time and you see it in business books as well, like Reinventing Organizations, where the same principle is there. 

Brett: Yes, another war game example, just war example, would be when Rommel first encountered US troops in Northern Africa. He was like, "Oh, these guys are totally green and completely disorganized. It'll be a cinch." Then, not long after, he was writing letters back to Germany like, "Wait, don't underestimate these people. You can cut off an entire unit from their command and somehow, they'll still figure out how to fight."

Joe: But this isn't just an external thing. This is an internal thing as well. When you become more empowered, you start operating on a set of principles and that set of principles, you're going to operate on whether it's comfortable or not. If I have a principle that basically says, "I am not going to work with assholes," and somebody says, "Here's a billion dollars to work with an asshole," I'm going to say, "No." It's a set of principles.  I'm not going to operate any differently than that. If I have a set of principles and it's like, I'm going to be transparent with people and tell them my truth despite the consequences, that's my set of principles. I'm going to do it no matter what. 

That's when all the drama in me starts disappearing. That's when I feel empowered is, I've given myself a structure that it doesn't change very readily. It takes some time to change that set of principles, but I'm going to operate in that way no matter what. That helps me feel deeply empowered, which is strange. It's like a set of criteria that I live by  that actually makes me feel empowered.

Brett: Yes, as though this entire process of inquiry into values is to create a more and more consolidated, elegant structure by which we live our lives, so that we don't have to think about the complicated consequences and how the consequences are going to play out of, “What if I say this to my boss? Or speak my truth here or leave this job?” It's just, this is simply how I want to live and I'll accept the consequences if that's what it takes.

Joe: That's exactly right. Yes, that set of principles is what frees us. If you look around at the people who you just saw like,  “Holy crap, they didn't have resources, but they were empowered and they changed the world.” That's something else they all have in common. They were living by a set of principles internally and externally. Not perfectly,  obviously. We're humans. We are not made perfect, but it's generally how one lives their life. When you see somebody who's living by a set of principles, you'll also notice that they never are blaming other folks. They're never worried about somebody's power over them. They're addressing it. 

Brett: That also will affect your opportunities as well. When I'm hiring, I'm much more interested in the resourcefulness and the ownership, the self-ownership of the person rather than the skills listed on their resume. People really detect that in any counterpart that they might work with.

Joe: That's right, I'd rather pick the right mentality than the right skillset, for sure. I obviously like to pick both when I can, but yes, that's right. This is what happens internally, like I said, as well as externally, the drama internally goes away when we feel empowered internally, when we don't feel that we will make the choice even if it's uncomfortable. Even if I have to feel helpless, I'm going to make that choice. Even if I have to-- I'm not going to have power over somebody else or try to have power over myself. 

I will rather feel the discomfort of the fear and the helplessness. I'll rather enter into the shame. I would rather allow my own destruction as far as the destruction of my identity, my identity as one who's put upon or my identity as one who's valuable. I'd rather allow that to be destroyed, rather than move into fear and act from fear and try to have control over somebody. It's an internal and an external thing. When you figure it out internally, you have no choice but to act externally. If you feel like you are subjugated by something externally, then you also feel like you're subjugated by something internally.

Brett: That sounds like a great point to wrap this up on. Thank you very much, Joe.

Joe: Yes. Pleasure, Brett. Thank you very much.

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:


Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations,

Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants

Authenticity over Improvement — Master Class Series #7

When we consider how we want life to be in the future we often create a list of things that we have to improve about ourselves. Yet we rarely consider that we could succeed in “improving” every aspect of our lives, and by doing so, completely lose touch with who we are and what we want. What if learning who we are creates a future far better than what we think we want? What if it creates a future better than we could imagine?

"I will watch people and if they are just following their intuition, they will just pick the next thing. This is what we do, when we are just following our nature. My nature, my authenticity improved me in ways I didn't even know were happening."

When we consider how we want life to be in the future, we often create a list of things that we have to improve about ourselves. Yet, we rarely consider that we can succeed in improving every aspect of our lives and by doing so, completely lose touch with who we are and what we want. What if learning who we are creates a future far better than what we think we want? What if it creates a future better than what we could imagine? Today's episode is about valuing authenticity over improvement. 

Brett: Joe, let's talk about authenticity. What is authenticity?

Joe: Authenticity is an endless spiral in one way and the fact that it's evolutionary by nature. We think that there is an authentic self and it is the solid thing, but it's not. It's as we discover ourselves, there's always more to discover. As we discover ourselves, we transform. Authenticity is really a path more than a destination. The way that you can identify when you're on that path of authenticity is, it's always about the process. It's never about the reward. It's never like a means to an end. It's like a river. It's very much like a river in the fact that there's a way that a river wants to run and that's the natural flow of the river.

Next year, you'll come back and that river will run a different way. Authenticity is constantly changing, but there's just this natural flow to it. In Daoism, they call it the way. It's a very natural course. They call it self-discovery. They don't call it self-building. We're not building ourselves, we're discovering ourselves. That's why ultimately the path of authenticity is a path of self-realization. It is finding out the truth of who you are. Somehow, for some reason, the more we discover who we are, the more that we evolve, the more that we change, the more that we show up in a way that is far more gentle, or loving, competent, capable and strong.

Brett: Can you talk a little bit more about self-realization?

Joe: Yes, self-realization. There's a story of, I think it's in the Upanishads. I can't remember which tradition. So many times traditions have really similar parables. There's another parable very much like this about a tiger, but this one's about a musk deer. This musk deer is moving along one day. There's a smell and it's like, "What is that smell?" It just feels like a memory. It feels like a calling. It's like something gets opened up in this musk deer. His impulse is like, "I need to follow this thing. I need to follow it."

It goes searching for the place where the scent emerges. It wants to find the origin of that scent. It looks and looks and looks and looks and it's almost upon its death, still looking for the scent and falls off of a cliff and punctures its stomach. It realizes, at that moment of death that, "Oh, the thing that I've been searching for comes from me. That scent emanates from me." That is the movement of self-realization. The thing that we're looking for in all the self-improvement, what we're actually looking for, is ourselves.

Brett: How can you relate the story of the deer following its own scent to our path of self-realization? 

Joe: The search of the deer looking for the scent is the self-improvement. It's like, "Once I eat the right diet, then I'll be good enough, or I'll be awake, or then I'll be loved. Once I look pretty, then I'll be good enough and then I'll be loved. Once I lose enough weight, once I meditate enough, once I have no more negative thoughts, once I stop thinking," whatever it is that you think you have to do, become rich enough. Then you'll have it and you'll find the scent that you're looking for. The scent you're actually looking for is you, it is to understand yourself.

It's the only thing that really solves the issue. It's why you see so many executives and I've worked with so many executives who are at the top of their game. They've made a successful billion-dollar company and they're miserable. They did everything that they thought they needed to do to improve themselves, so that they will be loved or that they would accept themselves and nothing's really changed. As soon as they start on that path of self-realization, as soon as they are looking for their own authenticity and they no longer are willing to sell that authenticity or bargain that authenticity for a result, when it stops becoming a means to an end-- it just is like, "This is my authentic expression." Then their life starts unfolding in happiness and joy.

Brett: Let's talk a little bit more about that scent trail then. How would you define improvement?

Joe: Yes. Improvement is basically,  “If this, then this”, in terms of the self. It's like, "If I get sexy enough, then I will have the lover that I want. If I lose enough weight, then people will like me. If I have enough money, then I'll feel secure." Improvement is thinking that you're going to get a result from it. Authenticity is the opposite. It's, "This is what I'm going to do despite the consequences, because it's my authentic truth." That's basically what improvement comes. It comes from the idea of ways that we don't want to be who we are. The other way to look at all the ways we think we need to improve is all the ways that we don't love ourselves just as we are.

Any point where you can't unconditionally love yourself, whether that is because you yell, because you don't work hard enough, because you're lazy, because you're a pessimist, whatever it is that you are telling yourself that you have to change, they're just ways that you're not loving yourself. They don't typically change. We just keep on telling ourselves that we don't love that about ourselves and we keep on telling ourselves that we have to improve it. When we actually accept our authenticity, those things just naturally move. They just shift.

Brett: Reminds me of a quote that I've heard before, where somebody is speaking to somebody as though they were a child. They ask the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Instead of thinking to ask, "How do you want to be when you grow up?"

Joe: I have never heard that. That's beautiful. How do you want to be when you grow up? The other way to think about self-realization I think it's a Pema Chödrön quote. It's basically to constantly offer yourself up to annihilation, so you can find out what's the part of you that can't be annihilated.

Brett: What are we annihilating, these built up ideas of who we are?

Joe: That's exactly it. The things that we think we are that we have to defend, you can tell them because you're defending them. It's like when someone's like, "You didn't do that very well," and you go, "er." Then you are defining yourself as somebody who's competent. You're not able to love the incompetent part of yourself. Authenticity is, "This is how I'm competent. This is how I'm incompetent." Being able to own that. Then in the owning of the lack of competence becomes more competence. 

It's this thing where, oftentimes, with executives, helplessness is this big thing where they feel it. Authentically, they feel helpless, but to allow themselves to feel helpless is incredibly difficult because the fear is, "If I allow myself to feel helpless, then I will become more helpless." But if they authentically own their helplessness, then they become less helpless. 

Brett: I think there's also a fear of being seen.

Joe: Yes. That's right.

Brett: Fearing that there will be consequences to that.

Joe: Yes. That's how you know that part of yourself that needs, wants, to be destroyed. It's the part of yourself that doesn't want to be seen in that way, whatever that way is. "I don't want to be seen as blank, a hypocrite. I don't want to be seen as helpless. I don't want to be seen as greedy." Whatever it is that you don't want to be seen. "I don't want to be seen as weak." 

Brett: How would you separate improvement from growth? Even in this process of finding your authenticity, you can get better at it. What is that if not improvement? Don't we need some form of improvement, whether we're tracking our growth in some way to see where the trajectory is going?

Joe: The question is, what would make you need it? What will happen if you don't have it? I think that's where the key is. Does growth happen? Absolutely. I always use this metaphor of an oak tree because when I look out my window, there is an oak tree. The oak tree grows. The growth happens. Does it need to? No. Is it looking to improve itself? No. It's nature. 

Another way to think of our authenticity is our nature. Our nature is to grow, our nature is to improve, our nature is to learn. If you take a little kid when they're babies, they can't even walk. One of the things that they smile most at is when a face comes at them sideways, not when a face comes at them straight up and down. Straight up and down face is the face that they see right before they feed. That doesn't make them smile as much as a sideways face, which means, "Oh, we're here to play." Play for a kid is learning and we have this natural desire to learn. It is authentic in us. We have a natural desire to grow. It's authentic in us. 

This just all happens very, very naturally, but it's when you think you have to improve to be good enough or when it's not just the nature of your life. You look at a six-year old kid, they're constantly wanting to learn and grow and it doesn't stop. It doesn't stop unless someone has kicked the love of learning out of us, it just keeps going. I don't think we have a need to do it. I think the thing is, that improvement is just happening naturally and that's authenticity. But if you are looking to improve yourself, then you are putting the brakes on the process and you're often going in the opposite direction of the river.

Brett: How do we address that fear of becoming stagnant if we don't improve or just to be measuring? Measuring where we're at and then measuring that according to some scale of value that we've created.

Joe: That's a great question. First of all, question your scale. That's the ultimate thing. It's easy to play a game when you have a measurement. It's hard to play a game when you don't. If your measurement for life is how much money I have in the bank, then you can play. If the measurement is how kind I am to people, then you can play. Then you have something to measure to. 

If you start really questioning those measurements, what do you mean by kind? Do you mean having the most positive impact? How do you measure positive impact? What's the difference between kind and nice? What if I was deeply truthful, but I wasn't kind? Why is kind more important than truth? These questions, as soon as you start really looking at the end, if you really deeply look at the end, then it gets really scary. 

That's when the stagnation fear really shows up and you're like, "Oh, all the progress that I thought I was making might not have been to the right end. Maybe there's no end." This fear sets in and it's almost like this fear, like it's going to be nihilistic or something like that. Even the idea that it's nihilistic is just another way of trying to create meaning out of a situation, but the nature of life doesn't really require meaning. There's no other part of life that requires meaning except for humans. 

Life wants to evolve, it wants to grow, it wants to improve. It seems, as it turns out, most humans, when they understand themselves more and more, there's a deeper and deeper compassion that shows up. There is a deeper, deeper amount of empowerment that shows up. What you find is, the things that you think are opposite, such as love and being empowered, they turn out to be the same thing. That the pinnacle of loving is empowerment, that the pinnacle of empowerment is loving. You can feel this. If you just stop for a second and close your eyes and you feel what it would be like to unconditionally love the world. You just let that settle in your body for a moment. Your love is so big and so great that it expands everywhere. It's not weak love, it's not love like I'm going to let people abuse me. It is the kind of love that a mother has, that's a great mother. They have boundaries. 

Then you let that go for a second and then feel what it's like to be completely empowered. Feel what it would be like to not have to worry at all about the future, to not have to prepare, to not have to plan, to just know that you are capable of handling any situation, to be like Superman on a mountaintop with no Kryptonite in the world, or Superwoman on the mountaintop with no Kryptonite in the world. Nothing can touch you. That feeling of empowerment. 

Then just feel the two next to each other. How are they different, if at all, this full empowerment, this full love? That's how it moves. The fear of stagnation, the fear of, "Oh, there's no meaning. There's no place to go and therefore I'll stop moving," it hits the human psyche for sure. It's definitely a part of this human psyche, at least in the modern world, but life doesn't require any of that stuff. Life can't stop moving. Try to not improve for a week. Take two weeks and do your best to not improve. Don't learn anything, don't grow, don't have any realizations, don't have any recognitions. Try that for two weeks. 

[laughs] I told someone to do that once and they were like, "Oh my God, so many recognitions, so much realization," because they stopped trying. We feel this all the time when we're on holiday. You have two weeks off and then you come back and you perform better. It's smoother. The whole thing works better. You make better calls because you weren't actively trying to improve for two weeks. It's just the nature of life. We, by our nature, learn and want to grow.

Brett: Something that came up for me in the exercise that we just did, was that both in the unconditional loving the world state and the feeling fully-empowered state, there wasn't any fear. But the concern of stagnating is just fear. The fear of stagnating is the thing that I know for me, in my life, I have spent a lot of time in the fear of stagnation. That has constricted me in those times and led to-

Joe: Stagnation. 

Brett: -stagnation.

Joe: Exactly. That's how it works. We invite the things that we're scared of, that's our nature. Our nature is to invite. If we have a fear of something, we're inviting it in, because we want to. We want to learn and grow from that experience, we want to face that fear. The fear of stagnation invites stagnation, the fear of loss invites loss, the fear of abandonment invites abandonment.

Brett: Let's try to bring this back into more concrete examples to make this real.

Joe: Yes. I'll do a couple of them. One way to look at it, is kids and their learning. Kids, we were just talking about, their nature is to learn, they're curious, that's what they're genetically programmed to do. All humans are. Somehow or another, we can put them into a school system, tell them that they have to improve and get A’s and then they stop wanting to learn. It actually happens to something like 47% of highly intelligent kids fail high school.

Brett: Yes, I did really great in school up until I got an IQ test that told me I was smart and then I got my first B+. This was like fourth grade. Then it was just like, "Screw it."

Joe: Yes, you stopped trying.

Brett: To hell with this whole thing.

Joe: There's a great psychological test on this, that basically if you tell a kid they're smart and then they try and they don't succeed, they'll stop trying because then they will prove that they're not smart. They'll just stop trying, so they can maintain the identity of smart. It's some fascinating work. That's an example of it. Now if you take kids who've been unschooled, I think it's called non-schooling or unschooling or something like that, where kids have been somewhat traumatized in their school situation, so their parents pull them out. They say, "You can't watch television. You can't do things that are destructive, but you can not do any work until you're ready."

They often times don't do any work for three months or six months. Then all of a sudden, they're like, "I want to work." Those kids, when they want to learn math, they can learn basically fractions to calculus in something insane, like three months or five months or something like that. You can read the studies on it, because they want to learn, because it is their desire to learn in that direction and they want to do it and they will do it. It's like one is moving with the authenticity of the situation and one is telling the kids that they have to improve to be good enough. It's like a punishment and reward situation, so that's one aspect.

Another way is a personal story from my life. I was in high school and I started smoking cigarettes. I was socially awkward at the time. I had issues. My upbringing had some turmoil in it. I was constantly telling myself I should improve by not smoking. I was constantly telling something that I needed to improve in. Then just by nature, I got drawn into hacky sacking. I just started to hacky sack all the time and I just really enjoyed hacky sacking. It just became this thing. 

Then about 10 years ago, I was with one of my daughters. My daughter's having some problems in school and this occupational therapist came to us. Then said like, "Your daughter has something called sensory processing disorder." It just basically means that the neurology isn't really melding the way it would with other kids and it makes you very sensitive to stimulus through your senses. I said, "How do we solve this thing?" She was like, "The way you solve it is through doing exercises across the midline that require coordination," et cetera, et cetera. Hacky sacking would have been a perfect example of that. If you look at me, before hacky sacking and after hacky sacking, I became socially more fluid. I became less sensitive.

When you have sensory processing, it's a bit of like a nerd’s disease, more likely to wear glasses, you're awkward and clumsy, you don't do as well socially, that kind of stuff. All that changed with me hacky sacking. My nature knew what I needed, knew what was needed next and did it without anybody telling me to, without anything happening. I watched this happen all the time with clients. I watched clients all the time. I know basically the dance steps of transformation. Everybody does them a little bit differently.

Sometimes chapter three comes before chapter one or whatever, but I will watch people. If they're just following their intuition, man, they will just pick the next thing and I would be like, "Oh my God, they picked it perfectly again." This is what we do when we're just following our nature. Then smoking, for me, on the other hand lasted until I was in my 30’s, as a perpetual habit into my 30’s and that was all the ways I was supposed to improve. My nature, my authenticity improved me in ways that I didn't even know were happening.

Brett: That's fascinating. I can think of a lot of experiences in my life that are a lot like that. One of them being joining a 18-month course where I felt like an intuition. It felt like a lot of money at the time. In retrospect, it was very little. It was just like, "Man, this seems like my kind of thing." I don't even know what it is and I didn't. When I got there, I was like, "Wait, this isn't really all that."

Joe: Yet, it transformed your business too, which is the insane part. That's the other thing.

Brett: Yes, but more than that in my life.

Joe: Exactly. That's the insane part. That's a great example of it as well. It's when people come, because they often come to me, because they want to transform their business and we transform their life by them taking their natural steps and their business naturally transforms. If they would have just focused on their improvement, their business may or may not have transformed. 

In this way, the reason I use this methodology of working on personal stuff is because that always transforms the business. It has a hundred percent success rate as the person transforms their attitude towards, their business will transform and so will their business. 

Brett: Let's relate all this back into the concept you were talking earlier about self-realization and self-discovery.

Joe: That's good. If you look back to my journey, let's hear it from my journey for a second. For the early part, I got really deeply into awakening, enlightenment in the non-dual sense of the word, not like woke culture. I'm talking about like the Christ consciousness or enlightenment, whatever religious tradition you have, has a word for it. At the beginning of that journey, I thought it was improvement that would get me there. Once I ate the right diet, or once I did the right exercises, or meditated hard enough or blah, blah, I would become enlightened. 

That was the improvement side of things. It's a slow, arduous, painful process. It luckily moved enough for me to realize that it wasn't about improvement. It was just about the recognition of who I am. When that happened, this question appeared to me, it was, "What am I?" I asked that question for 10 years, maybe 10 times a day, I would ask that question. That is really what transformed everything for me. Just being in that question for that long with that level of wonder transformed everything. 

It was funny. I was seeing a guy at the time. I was reading every non-dual teacher I could find. The only guy that I had met personally, who I thought, "Wow, this is a person I would want to learn from," was a guy named Adia Shantay. I got up and asked him a question once in front of this big auditorium of people. I said, I keep on asking this question, "What am I?" All I get is silence. Some dude in the back just started laughing and I was like, "That's not funny?" Adia smiled and I can't remember what else happened. 

I remember about three years later, I was at a meditation retreat when that question, what am I, faded away. The question never gets answered. It just expires and then it expires like a firecracker, but it expires. I was in the back and somebody got up in the front and asked the question, "What am I and nothing." I just started laughing hysterically, as if that nothing wasn't the answer and that's what it turns into. That recognition of self is something that just unfolds into nothingness. That nothingness is incredibly free and incredibly potent and capable.

Brett: So, who are you now?

Joe: [laughs] Yes, that question has expired. There's an exercise on this, just to go back and forth and ask somebody, "What are you?" Over and over again, "What are you? What are you? What are you?" See what happens as all your answers expire. But if I had to put, what am I, in words right now, which is an exciting thought process, I would say, "What am I? I am infinitely you. I am everything and nothing in the silent vastness that everything arises in and so are you."

Brett: Then what happens once that question expires? It sounds like there could be a trap here in thinking that, "This question of who I am has expired. Now I don't have to prove myself and there's just nothing to do." What am I going to do to just stay in that cave and meditate until-- ?

Joe: Yes, there's a thought that says that that might be the case. In fact, some people go through that for a while. I think it's because they're like those kids, who needed to be unschooled for a while, when they have that recognition of their essential self in that way, that there is this need to just sit there for a while and do nothing. It becomes a bit dissociative. Eventually, it's no longer satisfying. We just become more and more human. We like to play. We like to learn. We like to grow. It's our nature. It's our authenticity. Once we have been let out of school, we realize there's nothing that we have to do to improve ourselves, because our essence is unbelievably beautiful, miraculous, a dream that we never thought even possible coming true, that we couldn't even have thought of coming true. 

There's this natural desire to rest for a while, potentially. But eventually, you want to move, you want to dance, you want to play, you want to be alive. Then the journey turns into, "How do I be alive? How does my authenticity really want to be alive? How fully can I embrace this life?" There's a book called The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which I don't even know what it's about, but the title is amazing. That's what it is. Life becomes, "How do I allow myself to be more and more vulnerable to the unbearable lightness of being?"

Brett: I love that. Both of us are the kind of person who would recommend a book or reference a book that we haven't read just because of its title.

Joe: [chuckles] The title. I highly recommend that title. 

Brett: [chuckles] The title.

It seems like there could be another trap here where we have somewhere where we want to go and we're like, "Maybe improving myself along the particular metrics that I have in mind right now, maybe that's not the best way to get there, because authenticity is the best way to get there. If I just get more authentic, then I'll become this thing that I want to be and get to where I want to go."

Joe: Yes, that's right. That is a real trap. It's like, you'll see this happen oftentime in tools. You get this tool that you start working with and in the realm of self discovery and you get this tool, it works really well for a while and then it stops working. Some of the times, it stops working, because you're using the tool to change yourself instead of loving yourself, so it stops working. Some of the time, that tool stops working, because you've co-opted it into improvement, instead of recognition. It's really the same thing, to improve yourself isn't to love yourself as you are. To find the authentic expression of you, is to love yourself as you are and to know that that authentic expression will naturally change you, just like the natural flow of a river changes the river.

Brett: That could mean your goals will shift.

Joe: Will shift. Yes. I've seen a lot of things not change as people go through this journey and I've seen a lot of things change, but I've never seen the goals of a person not change through the journey. That always changes. What's often interesting is, the goals that they used to have, just get met naturally without any effort or thought process, because they become just a step in what's necessary for them to evolve into their authenticity. I had a goal for years of having enough money to blah, blah blah. Somewhere along the line, I just didn't care at all about money. Then money just started rushing in. That's a really typical story. Not always, but it's a very, very typical story.

Brett: We've talked about how wanting something is good. We just had a whole episode on what you want, how wanting itself is critical. Then we're just talking now about how wanting something from ourselves or wanting something in our future can lead towards this constant improvement process and away from our authenticity. What do you have to say about that?

Joe: Wanting is critical, what you want is really inconsequential. What you want is directionally correct, but it is not the end all be all of anything. That wanting is what pulls you. That wanting is the natural pull of evolution, of authenticity. That's what it is. What you want is a strategy to get there. There's 10 or 20 strategies. What you want is inconsequential and there's no reason to attach to it. It is to follow your wanting and then to watch how you're wanting changes and watch how what you want changes. 

Brett: What happens if you're going through this process and the things that you want just change so rapidly that your life starts to feel disconnected or disorienting?

Joe: You're very fortunate. You might feel disturbed depending on your personality type. Some folks will find that to be a beautiful free ride and some people will feel like-- there's that quote, that sometimes falling feels like flying for a little while. People will be like, "I'm flying, which means I must be falling." In actuality, as they say, the bad news is you're falling, the good news is there's no bottom. That is part of it. Rumi called it, a Sufi poet, he calls it a holy confusion, that not knowing. It's called the mystery for a reason.

It's absolutely what happens and the goals shift and then the goals disappear. Then there's like no goals for a while. Then after there's no goals for a while, there's very specific goals and then there's just this movement that's like-- how did I describe it? The goal is to live principled, because you know, that living principled will make you happier than any goal that you could ever achieve. 

Brett: That's something that's entirely within your power too?

Joe: Yes, it becomes choice-less at a point, it becomes outside of your power. At some point it's like, "I just can't not live with principled, because it's too damn painful."

Brett: Give us another concrete example of how that works, when what you want is inconsequential, but the wanting itself isn't. 

Joe: I can give you a funny one. I'm sitting with my godson and his father and he has been a friend since high school. This story is going to be one of those stories that lets you know, maybe you don't want to have me as a friend. We're sitting there and we're having lunch together at this restaurant and my friend tells me about how his son stole $50 from him, bought a vape pen and was vaping in the classroom. I'm just listening. Son is in those teenage years. 

All of a sudden, five minutes later he's like, “The problem with my son is that he just doesn't have ambition. He just doesn't want to do anything.” I was like, “What? Of course he wants to do something. Do you know how hard it is to do what he did? Stealing $50, he planned that stuff out. That's ambition. Then he went and did it. Then with the knowledge that he could have gotten caught, which is totally ambition and then he figured out a way to go buy the vape pen. Then he had so much ambition to do it that he did it in a classroom and got caught. That is some CEO level ambition. What are you talking about?” [laughs]

At this point my friend is just looking at me like, "Shut up, Joe, shut up." His son is looking at me like a smile, "Oh, wow, I didn't know. I should have visited my godfather more often." I was just saying, “There’s clearly ambition, it's just that you want him to be ambitious in one way, but he's ambitious in another. Let's look at how he's ambitious.”  

I started talking to him. "What is it that you want to do?" He wants to play this particular sport that requires some money and you got to get these guns or whatever. It's like a laser tag type thing, the next version of a laser tag. He's telling me about it and I'm getting into it with him.

Then I’m like, “How are you going to afford this?” He's like, “Maybe I have to get a job.” “What kind of job do you want to get? This kind? You don't make a lot of money.” Then, “How are you going to get there?” We just went through this whole thing and he was clearly eager to do all this stuff, so that he could do the thing that he wanted to do. I was like, “How can your dad help?” He is telling his father what his father can do, to help him be ambitious and get things done. That's the difference between,  “You should improve”, to  “What is the authentic expression?”

The thing is, that we do that internally as well as externally, meaning we're usually like the father in that story, rather than the godfather in that story to ourselves. We're telling ourselves what we have to improve, what we need to do, blah, blah, blah, blah, instead of just paying attention to what the natural thing is. If we follow that thread far enough down, it has far better results and moves much quicker.

Brett: It's fascinating. By that measure, I was extremely ambitious and barely passing any of my high school.

Joe: Exactly. It's because it couldn't hook on to your authentic-- most schooling doesn't hook on to a child's authentic desire to learn.

Brett: In my case, that presented a lot of different tracks and opportunities all of which just didn't quite hook.

Joe: It's really hard to hook, when you're grading people and say you need to improve. That's not hook-worthy.

Brett: It's like a culture of constant improvement.

Joe: We don't listen to songs that tell us that we need to improve. "Wow, a triple platinum song by Jay-Z called, “Boy, You Better Workout More." It just doesn't happen.

Brett: Let's talk a little bit more about how this works in companies and in a more general sense, in cultures of self-improvement or just not even self improvement, just cultures of everybody needs to improve to get better.

Joe: The constant improvement culture. It's not assuming that people want to improve by nature is what happens here. A great example of this is in that book, Reinventing Organizations, there's a nursing company in there called Herzog. Basically what happened, it was in Holland, what happened is, there's these community nurses and they got privatized. It just became all about efficiency. It all became: improve, improve, improve, improve and it was like, "This is how long it should take you to get there, this is how long it should take you to administer the shot. This is how long it should take you to get back. That's how much time you have. That's how much payment you're going to get."

Everybody was going for the improved nursing efficiency. This company came along and it did a lot of really cool things. One of the things it did is it said, "You know what, our job isn’t to be as quick as possible. Our job is not to improve our process in that way. It's to make it, so that we help people become self-reliant." Through figuring out how to get to that home and make the person self-reliant, instead of administering the shot, they became 60% more efficient than their competition or something like that. Maybe it's 40%. I don't remember the numbers exactly, but it was a tremendous amount more efficient.

One had that natural hook, because we naturally want to help people. That is part of our nature. All mammals, that are community-based mammals, have altruism as part of us. They hooked on to that natural thing and then that led to natural improvement, but they weren't trying to improve in some unnatural way. The interesting thing is, as soon as I say, it's our nature to be altruistic, somebody will say something like, "It's our nature to be self-interested." I say, "I agree, it is." It's our nature to be altruistic and it's our nature to be self-interested and it's our nature to want to be rewarded and it's our nature to want our team to win and it's in our nature for us to win. 

Companies that are really becoming the most efficient companies, are hooking on to all of that. If you think about that nursing company, their team won and they had individual reward for the performance. As it turned out, people got to decide their own reward. Also, they got to help. They're hooking onto all of these natural things in us.

If you look at the great products of our day and the great nonprofits of our day, they hook into a natural, authentic desire in people. Sometimes it's drug-like, like Facebook or coffee and sometimes it is not drug-like. Sometimes it is just our nature to want to communicate. That's what it means. Not only does your product-- but your culture needs to--if you want to be highly efficient, it needs to hook into that nature of people, our authenticity.

Brett: Another one of our ESF group was recently telling me about a company that they're applying for. It's a debt collections agency that operates on transparency. Instead of trying to be as efficient as they can, milking the most money from people as possible and buying the debt for the cheapest possible whatever, they're optimizing for really being in connection with people. They purchase debt and then they're transparent. They're like, "Hey, we bought your debt for this much. We have this much of it. We expect to get a certain percentage of it paid back from various places. What can we do to get this paid off?" 

With that transparency and working closer to their customers, their debtors, they actually get across this sense of actually caring. They're able to come up with much more creative solutions which actually results in-- this is a new company, but it seems like it's resulting in getting much better results for them. Also they're getting just swathes of testimonials from customers that are like, "Wow, I wish all of my debt had been bought by this company. This is amazing. They're actually people and they talk to me like a human."

Joe: You can see this in sales processes are more effective, when there's a real relationship, real connection going on and that authenticity is there. People think they have to compartmentalize themselves to do business and that compartmentalization, that inauthenticity, it absolutely makes you less efficient. It might make things easier to do in the short-term, but absolutely harder to do in the long-term. It makes you less efficient, because you're basically asking anybody you interact with to compartmentalize themselves that same way. A debt collector compartmentalizes their heart and they go in hard. Then their customer compartmentalizes their heart and they respond hard, or they respond like a victim or whatever it is, but they're going to match that more on average.

Brett: If we focus on finding the authentic movement, then--

Joe: How do I collect debt in a way that feels good in my system? How do I nurse in a way that feels good in my system? How do I produce a social media app that feels good in my system? All of those will be a more efficient product.

Brett: Then with that continual asking, "What am I?" Like, "What am I? Am I an efficient debt collector or am I a human?"

Joe: That's right. "If I am them and they are me, then how do I want to behave here? If I feel my natural authenticity and my desire to learn and my desire to be of service to people, how do I collect debt in a way that's of service to people?" It feels horrible to not pay your debt. To help people feel that they are standing on their own two feet and have achieved paying off debt, that can be a real deep service for humans.

Brett: I wonder how many other industries can be rethought that way.

Joe: Every one of them. It's endless. It's just like there's always more money to be made. There's always a way to become more authentic and each one is an efficiency.

Brett: It sounds like there's a lot of faith in this process because with each layer of authenticity you find, you really have to let go of what you valued or what you thought was important, entirely to find what's beneath it.

Joe: Yes, that's true. It feels like faith, until you get used to reading the river in some way. It's the same faith that maybe a basketball player would have that's going into a game. It's like you can't plan out the whole game. You can't plan out everything. You're basically choosing,  “I am going to plan out my entire basketball game”, or “I'm going to learn how to read a river” and “Learn how to read the field, learn how to read my opponents and so that I am competent in every situation where I'm in that basketball game.” Then you start having faith in your capacity to handle situations.

You become excited, but you can't handle them, because it means you're getting to learn something and it makes you more capable next time. It's the same thing. It's like if you've learned to read a river to go down that river and get to the mouth of the river, it's not an act of faith anymore. It's just what you do. You're watching other people build canals and that makes them feel secure. Like, "I will just take a canal the whole way, but I have to build the whole canal." It's a lot more effort. It's very much like that. 

Once you start realizing, that your authenticity naturally brings you to the next level over and over again and that improving yourself is like building a canal. It's like this idea of safety, that it takes a tremendous amount of effort and is really not that safe, because lots of people die building canals. That's how it works. It feels constantly, like you're taking faith, that you're taking the risk. Then at some point, you're like, "Oh, no. It's more risky to do the other thing. It's more risky to be 60 years old and all my dreams have come true and I'm miserable," which is where that typically leads.

Brett: I think we often over-index on the cost, the perceived cost of stopping doing things the way that we're doing them, but forget about the opportunity cost of continuing to do the same thing.

Joe: What's interesting is, that's also part of our nature. It's also part of our nature to stay with something that feels safe.

Brett: Predictable is safe.

Joe: Yes, that's right. That's exactly right. Luckily, as authenticity matures us, as we evolve being authentic, we become more and more sensitive. That stuff becomes more and more painful, where we're naturally kicked out of those cycles because we just can't handle them anymore, because they're just too painful.

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:


Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations,

Want over Should — Master Class Series #6

If you look at all the bad habits that you’ve been trying to stop for a decade they all have one thing in common: They are all things you’re telling yourself you SHOULD stop doing. What if thinking you “should” is what keeps you stuck? And what if getting in touch with your wants, in a deep way, is the quickest way to get you unstuck?

"The want is that very simple impulse that is moving us, that moves us to have a closer relationship with our loved ones. It is a constant pull that leads us all the way down the developmental line. If we allow it, it will take us all the way to freedom."

If you look at all of the bad habits you have been trying to stop for a decade, you will find they all have one thing in common. They are all things you are telling yourself you should stop doing. The same is likely true for the things you tell yourself you should be doing more of, finishing a project, going to the gym, calling your mom. 

What if thinking you should is what keeps you stuck? What if getting in touch with your wants in a deep way is the quickest way to get unstuck? Let's get to the bottom of this. 

Brett: Joe, I would think this is pretty obvious, but you usually have a unique definition of things. What exactly do you mean by should?

Joe: Should is really a mechanism of shame. It is. There's a saying that says that shame is the locks that keep the chains of bad habits in place. Should is like a really bad management technique. Energetically, it's oppressive. Intellectually, it's control-based. Emotionally, it's rigidity and neurologically, it's a threat. If you say to somebody, "You should really do that," there is a threat in that. 

What's interesting is, that same energy really doesn't happen in certain cultures. When you see, particularly, more indigenous cultures that I've been a part of and seeing that whole should telling people thing just doesn't happen, at least energetically, it doesn't happen. When I mean energetically, I don't mean energetically in a spiritual new age way. I just literally mean the energy in which you are talking to the person. 

That's what I think it is. You're right. They are the things that keep your bad habits in place. Shoulds are just really ineffective. I'll tell you the story where I learned this. I was like 26 years old and I decided I was going to be brutally honest with myself. I wrote down a list of everything about myself that I didn't want to admit to myself. Then I folded it away and I put it away and I found it like six months, maybe a year later. I went through the list  and I was like, "How many of these things have changed?" Remarkably, most of them had. I was like, "Wow, that's amazing. I did nothing and they just changed," just the recognition of them changed, awareness changed them.

Then I looked through all the ones that hadn't changed and to a tee, each single one of them had a very heavy should attached to it. That's when I started to realize that this way of managing ourselves by telling ourselves we should do things is just really ineffective.

Brett: To keep it simple around the definition of should, we're talking about the moment that we tell ourselves that we should do something.

Joe: Well-- the voice in the head will tell you that you should do something and that's the most obvious thing, but there's also an energetic should that happens. It's almost a muscular response or a neurological response to something and it doesn't always have to have the verbal, "You should do this." You could just reach for the double flourless chocolate cake and you'll just feel that "er" inside of you and that is just a nonverbal should. I think it's really important to see it as both.

Brett: What's wrong with controlling ourselves in this way? If these shoulds are pointing us towards the things that we want or don't want to be doing, what's causing that to get in the way?

Joe: It's because you've put an extra layer on it. If you're just in the wants, it's an amazing fluid thing. Then when it gets into the shoulds, it creates the threat, like I said and a rigidity. As an example, if I try to control a two-year-old and I have that energy of like "rah", “You will do this, you should do this”. There's one of two responses that happen in any human. If I did it to you right now, "Hey, you should speak differently on this podcast." It immediately creates one of two things in you. Let's do it for the audience here. "You should be listening to this podcast better. You are not paying close enough attention."

If I'm treating you like that, there's one of two responses. One of those responses is going to be rebellion. There's just something innate that's like "er". No response. That's not a really effective way to create anything. It's just creating no’s. The other thing that it does is you're like, "Oh, you're right, I should." It's this submission. It's not surrender. It's submission. It's like, "I am weak and I will just do what you say." Then you've got a whole bunch of disempowered people and that doesn't really help much either. Especially if you're in a company, you want a company full of empowered people or you want a community full of empowered people, or you want yourself to feel empowered. 

Every time you're using the should, what's happening is that you are either creating your own internal rebellion, which is why you haven't done the things you've been telling yourself you should do for decades, because you're rebelling against it. Or you're creating a disempowered situation inside yourself. You're creating more of a victim mentality to this voice in your head that's being abusive.

Brett: Interesting. What I notice about myself is, that when I think about not telling myself what I should do or shouldn't do anymore, there becomes this fear that I'll just become lazy or some couch potato and I just won't do the things that I should do as I use that word.

Joe: [chuckles] Totally, exactly.

Brett: What's your response to that? What happens if we stop doing the should, if we stop setting out a path for what we want from ourselves from a perspective of being conscious of the risks and the threats?

Joe: Great questions. This is that inherent goodness thing that we've spoken about before, which is basically-- the idea is that you are a lazy slob, piece of shit, just going to pick your ass and live off of other people unless you tell yourself you should do something. You know what I mean? Could you imagine if you thought about somebody else that way? Unless I tell Joe that he should do a podcast, he's just never going to fricking do it. I got to tell him he should do it. It's a nonsensical thing to really think like, "Here I am doing this podcast. Nobody told me I should do it. I wanted to do it." 

If you think about kids from zero to eight years old, there's no internal should. They're doing all sorts, they're developing crazy amounts compared to any other time in life. They're learning all sorts of things. It's all just because they're following their wants. On one level, that's a really important thing to note. On the other hand, you actually may become a couch potato for a while, which sounds a little weird. The thing is, if you have been under threat for an extended period of time, there's going to be a need to relax. There's going to be a need to recover. If you're going cold turkey on your shoulds, you might actually just need to slow down for a bit. It's not going to be a couch potato. 

The couch potato thing happens when you burn out and then you tell yourself you shouldn't be burning out. You should stop playing video games. You should stop laying on the couch. You should stop. You should stop. You should stop. Then you really will go into full couch potato mode. If the natural burnout happens with the should, then it looks like depression. There might be a time where you need some more rest, where you need to recover. You see this happen in schools all the time, when there's this thing called unlearning or un-schooling or something like that, where kids are taken out of the school that have burnt out. They take like five or six months and do very little. Then all of a sudden, they learn three or four times as quickly as they were in school. There's lots of studies on this. 

You're basically saying, "If I don't put myself under threat of a should, if I don't tell myself that I'm bad if I don't, then I won't." It's just not my experience at all. My experience is that the people who are most generative in their life are people who want to do shit, not who feel like they should do.

Brett: It sounds like it takes time to shift paradigms of thinking. This reminds me a little bit of a thought experiment--

Joe: Hold on a second. That may be true. That may not be true. Don't assume that one though, at least for people listening. For me, turning off the shoulds in the voice in my head was very quick. It didn't take a tremendous amount of time. Once I really just understood, "Oh, this shit doesn't work." If you know that you have a screw gun and every time you use the screw gun it strips screws, you're pretty much not going to use that screw gun. It's not going to take a lot of time to figure that out. If you start telling yourself you should stop using shoulds, it could take years.

Brett: That makes sense. This reminds me of the thought experiment of having the voice in your head be a roommate. If you were to go to talk to somebody like a roommate or a friend and they were the person that's just going to tell you what you should do, versus the kind of person that helps you find what you want, then you might either stop going to that person, because it doesn't feel like you're really getting helped, or you might become dependent on them telling what you should do.

Joe: Most humans would just move out. Some of us are engineered or programmed to give up our own empowerment for a person like that. That's right. Most of us who had a boss who spoke to us like that should voice in our head, we would quit or we would be miserable. If that “should voice” in your head is really strong and really loud, there is a strong case that you're miserable, whether you see it or not.

Brett: As we release ourselves from the oppression of these shoulds and we start listening to what we want and trusting that our wants are inherently good and healthy for us-- let's get into the wants side of this then. How would you define wants?

Joe: The want is just that impulse that moves through you, that animates your actions. That is what the want is. The should is just this egoic layer on top of it that slows the whole thing down. Let me explain. You're sitting and you think to yourself, "I should exercise." What's actually happening is there's an impulse and a want to exercise and it shows up. Instead of just like, "Oh, cool," and doing 10 jumping jacks, you say to yourself, "I should go to the gym." Then that just destroys your chances of actually working out or at least very much lowers your chances of working out.

The want is just that very simple impulse that's moving us, that moves that eight-year-old, that five-year-old, that three-year-old. It moves the toddler to walk better. It moves the crawler to toddle. It moves us to speak. It moves us to have a closer relationship with our loved ones. It is a constant pull that leads us all the way down the developmental line. If we allow it, it'll take us all the way to awakenings and freedom.

Brett: What if I'm listening to my want and my want is to have a big piece of chocolate cake?

Joe: That's a really good question. There's one other piece that I think is really important to explain. The thing is that wants are somatically expansive. They're intellectually empowering. The want is very different, if you attach to it or if you don't attach to it. If you attach to, let’s say, having that girlfriend Jennifer, then you're in craving, which is different than want. The want is just that impulse. It's just that empowering expansive impulse. If you look at the cake and you're in that empowering expansive place, that's very different, than the way most people want a cake, what they think is wanting a cake, which either this struggle, "I want it, but I don't want it. I want it. I don't want it. I want it. I don't want it." That's not a clean want. 

There's still some refinement that needs to go there or there's just that unconscious shoving the cake in their mouth and calling it a want. The want is something that feels very expansive. If you look at something like a chocolate cake and it feels very expansive to sit and eat that thing, then yes, follow the want. Because the thing about the wants in general is that you have to follow them to deepen into them. What that means is you want to follow the chocolate cake because you want to have this sense of pleasure. Great, have the sense of pleasure. Then you start finding out what the deeper sense pleasures are.

You follow that want home and you find out it has seven more beautiful siblings. If the want is clean, it doesn't matter if it's a short-term or a long-term-- healthy in your mind and your superego, it's far more about allowing that movement, so you can find the next step. You can't want to run unless you've wanted to learn how to walk. You have to actually get to the walking point to have an effective  next level of want. That's how it works is that the wants move us. A toddler, they just want to walk and walk well. Maybe as a toddler, you want to run, but then you can want to play baseball and then you can want to play basketball and then you can want to play basketball really, really well.

It's the same thing with our wants. When we start really getting in touch with our wants, then they really transform. For example, the want is, “I want a million dollars” and there's some shame with that and so it's not a clear impulse. Then we're like, "What is that clear impulse?" It's like, "Oh, I want to be empowered."

Brett: That sounds very relevant to a career path as well. I heard a story recently from a friend who's a lawyer. Halfway through their first semester, they were like, "Okay, I'm not going to do this. I don't want to be a lawyer. This sucks." The experience was they were like, "These are all the things that I have to do to get to where this path is supposed to put me and it doesn't look fun at all." This person described that they simply stopped caring about what they were supposed to be doing and they started paying attention to what they actually wanted. They were like, "Actually, there's all things that I want to be doing that I could do if I was enabled with this law degree."

They started just making it theirs. They took all the classes they wanted, that nobody else was taking and ended up on some trends that they were ahead of their game on or ahead of the trend on as a result of following the way they wanted to be a lawyer and they ended up really loving their career. 

Joe: That's exactly right. If you're doing your shoulds and you're basically following rigidity, you're following a tightness and you're going to have that kind of tight life. You're going to have a very rigid life. If you're following your wants, your life becomes much more expansive.

Brett: I liked what you had been saying about craving as well. It sounds like craving is distinct from wants. Craving is a want that you don't want. It feels like a want, but you really don't want it.

Joe: [laughs] Yes, there's a thing about the want. If you just take the want viscerally and you don't try to get there, you don't try to get to the end, if you just take the want viscerally, you can feel it. Let's do this for a second. If you close your eyes and you feel a really deep want inside of you, you have a deep one, not a superficial one, but a very deep one, maybe a want for a deeper form of intimacy or a want for a more expansive consciousness, or a want for more love in your life. You feel that want and you take it in and you don't worry about whether you can get it or not. You don't even think about how to get it. You just feel what it is to want.

Wanting is just a feeling like anger or sadness. Just allow that feeling in your system without trying to get to the goal. That experience is really pleasant. It's really quite lovely. To me, the way it works in my system is, it is one of the closest feelings to love, to allow a desire deeply inside of you. I think it's why so many of the the Sufi poets, they talk about desire in this way that they just love desire. This longing-- because that longing is so close to love. It's so close to that expansive acceptance of everything. That's what wanting is. “Now I got to get it. How do I get it? Why can't I get it?” That's craving and that's painful as shit.

Brett: This reminds me of a lot of different spiritual traditions that tell us, that craving is a hindrance to freedom. For example, Buddhism's principle of non-attachment or Christianity's warnings about the desires of the flesh. Is that what they mean?

Joe: There's those spiritual traditions and then there's the tantric spiritual traditions. People think that they're at odds, but they're really not at odds at all. What's happening there is that people have been beaten out of their wants and so they start turning cravings into an excuse not to want to not allow themselves to want anymore. If you're really deeply closely looking into your own personal experience, the craving is the thing that they're talking about and the wanting, the desire that the Sufis are talking about, the tantric people are talking about, is, there are two different things that are happening inside of your system.

Brett: It's interesting. The exercise that we just did about the wanting-- for myself, I was thinking about having a healthy body and being fit and having strength. In feeling the wanting, I was imagining moving my body and having range of motion, flexibility and strength. The moment I started trying to figure out how I was going to get there, then all of a sudden it turned into "Oh, but I'd have to work out." Suddenly, the working out feels like a chore. The actual wanting of being healthy, the way that I was imagining that was actually working out, was the equivalent of moving and using my body.

Joe: Exactly. If you just stick with that as a daily practice, how do I want to be in my body right now? Thirty minutes of how do I want to be in my body right now would get you exactly where you want to be in your body. How much more appealing is that? I have to work out today or, “How do I want to be in my body for 30 minutes?” It seems like it's almost no different and it's like worlds and worlds apart.

Brett: Let's get this into the context of business and achievement. A tremendous amount of successful executives are deeply attached to winning and succeeding and it seems to be working well for them in many regards. How would you factor that into this?

Joe: There's people who tell themselves they should do stuff. Apparently they're pretty successful at it or they're deeply attached. They have a deep craving and they're successful at getting their cravings met. For me, it's pretty simple. There is the intention which is critical. I'm not suggesting to drop all intention in life. We have our intention, we have that want, we have the impulse and that's a really, really important thing. It gives us a north star. It gives us a heading that we move down. To hold that intention is absolutely completely important to getting stuff done in the world of accomplishing stuff in the world. 

Being attached to succeeding is absolutely a fine way to succeed. It's not the most efficient way to succeed. It is not the most enjoyable way to succeed, but it is absolutely a fine way to succeed. You can really, really get attached to something. You can work at it and you can get there. In fact, it's really important to have some of that if you're going to get anywhere in life and that's the intention. You can have that intention without that craving, without that deep attachment. If you don't have it, you're lucky to get anywhere. That intention is really quite important. 

If you're going to put attachment on top of that intention, on top of that want, then you are dragging. Then you are like throwing an anchor out and sailing across the ocean with your anchor out. It is not going to be the most effective. The real thing is that intention, like, "What is the context of it? What's the way that you make it most enjoyable? 

Let me give you an example. If I look at every single CEO that I know who has been very, very successful, their intention wasn't to make money. They weren't attached to making money. What they were attached to was being the best or beating their competition, or reducing carbon in the world, or being the best at customer service. They had some intention, that was past this intention of just succeeding. Their attachment was beyond succeeding. 

Because if you're just attached to the succeeding part, it's a lot more difficult. If succeeding is something that you have to do to get to the part that you're attached to, then it's easier. The attachment isn't the most efficient way to get to where you want to go, to have that strong attachment. It's definitely not the most enjoyable way to get to where you want to go, but the intention, absolutely critical. Does that make sense?

Brett: Yes, totally. It seems like having the intention versus having the attachment to success, the intention makes it easier to pivot. If your intention is to build a company or build a product that reduces carbon in the world, there are many ways to do that. You could start out with one idea of doing it and discover that there's different ways of doing it. One of them just isn't working in the market. 

It seems like it would be easier to get out of the local optimum or maybe you just have to let go of what you are doing and start something new, which is just really common in any any business endeavor, this idea of pivoting and flowing with reality. If you're really attached to the particular success, then you might be more resistant to make changes, that seem in the short-term to lead away from your goal of success.

Joe: That's right. You have your intention out there. That's where you know which way you're going. We'll call that like the goal or the want. That intention is what's moving you in the direction. Then you can have different attitudes towards that goal, towards that want. The attitude could become a should, the attitude could be, "I'm scared of getting to the goal. I'm angry that I don't haven't gotten to the goal. I have absolute faith that I will be there." All of those ways are different attitudes towards having that goal. 

You're not going to get there without the goal. The most efficient attitude to get to the goal is to be in the want of it, not the should of it. It is to be in the enjoyment of it, not the rigidity of it. That's the more efficient way to get there and to be beyond the goal itself. It's that the goal of succeeding is really just a necessary step to get to your deeper goal.

Brett: Give me some more examples of holding an intention without the should.

Joe: You're running a company and you have a revenue goal of $100 million. You can hold that as, "I should get to $100 million". You can hold that goal as, "I want to get to $100 million." You can hold that goal as, "I will get to $100 million." You can hold that goal as, "I can't wait until I get to $100 million." The way you hold that goal is going to affect how much energy you have. It's going to affect how rigid you are in it. It's going to affect your ability to be flexible. 

Then the second level of it is choosing that goal as far as whether you're going to make that the easy goal or the long-term goal. Are you saying, "I want to get a $100 million, just to get a $100 million?" Are you saying, "I want to get a $100 million, so that I can build a spaceship to get to Mars"? Are you saying, "I want to get a $100 million, so I can beat the competition"? All of those things are important. It's not the intention or the goal. It is how you approach the goal, how you attach to the goal, the relationship you have with the goal. That's the important piece for efficiency and enjoyment.

Brett: Feeling like you should be doing this prescriptive path towards the goal is controlling yourself with threat, essentially.

Joe: Correct, that's right. It could work short-term, but it's definitely not going to work long-term.

Brett: What makes it that we don't see the inefficiency of our shoulds when we're in them? If it is the case that everything that we don't do in life that we want to do and everything that we do do that we want to stop doing is all locked in place by these shoulds, what makes it so opaque to us?

Joe: It's a shame situation. The way that you can look at it is even if you take it up a level for a second, what's the important thing about having the intention? What's the important thing about having the goal? It tells you what questions to ask. If I say to you, "You need to start a company and that company needs to sell widgets to 10 people," then you're going to ask questions to get to that goal. But if I say, "You need to sell widgets to a hundred million people, you're going to ask different questions." You're going to say, "Maybe I have to think about venture capital. Maybe I have to think about private equity. Maybe I have to think about distribution at that scale," that you're not going to have to think about it if you're selling 10 widgets.

The goal is important, because it very, very much helps us determine what questions to ask. That's why goals are so important, but what most people do is they put some shame into those goals, tell them they should reach the goals, not that they want to, not that they can, but that they should reach the goals and then all of a sudden those goals become a burden. They become like, "Oh, if I don't do that, I'm bad." That's what makes it hard for us to see the shoulds is, that it makes us think that we're bad. The should makes us think that we're bad and if we think that we're bad, it's very hard to see what actually motivates us. 

It's the same thing like in wars. If two countries are warring with each other and that whole war has to depend on people thinking the other side is bad. If people look up and say, "You know what, they're just people. We're just people. We're just both trying to get along," the war's going to stop. To have that internal war of should means that you have to think you're bad and that's what makes it so hard to see through the should, to see through the war. 

What's really strange about it is, that you can see it from a manager 10 miles away. You're sitting there and you see a manager like "You should, you should, you should." You're like, "Oh my God, that's not going to work." That's horribly ineffective. There's been hundreds of management books saying, "Don't do that because it doesn't fricking work," and psychological studies, but we'll do it to ourselves all fricking day long. We will recognize it outside, but we won't recognize it inside.

Brett: It's as if the moment we say we should be doing something, the structure of that should is to flatten all of our wants to go do that one thing, because we've prioritized it. If we are routinely doing that thing where we're suppressing our wants to do the thing we should do, then we can't hear or feel our wants anymore.

Joe: That's right. The wants, for many of us, are very scary. It's a very scary thing to have a want, because we were taught at a young age not to have wants. We don't have that want because mom won't be happy. You don't have that want because you won't be codependent with that. You don't have that want because blah, blah, blah. A lot of people are told to disassociate from their wants. They're not taught that their wants are amazingly beautiful things, that can guide them in their entire life.

Brett: Let's talk more about that. What makes wanting so vilified in our society?

Joe: My experience is, that there's a pain that we feel from being rejected in our wants. It's like a deep level of rejection. We're all kind of school kids that got deeply rejected when we asked someone out on a date and so we're hesitant to do it again. Because our wants are this deeply intimate thing, this very vulnerable thing. They are at the core of us. If they've been rejected, we don't want to feel that rejection again. I think that's the internal process. 

Externally, if you have a whole bunch of people who are codependent or a whole bunch of people, who were told that they were selfish as kids, which really, if you're told that you were selfish as a kid, that really just means that you weren't doing what your mom and dad wanted you to do. If you were told that, then having somebody own their wants is very uncomfortable for you. 

There's this external world that is uncomfortable with people owning their wants. There's also this external world of people who just can't wait for that person to be owning their wants some more. It's like rock and roll. Back in the day, rock and roll was there. There's these people who shut up and they're like, "I'm going to get whatever I want. I want to do this and do that." There was this group of people were like, "Yes." There was a group of people like, "Devil." That's how it works when you're really owning your wants, especially the earlier wants. The later wants start to refine and start to become more and more beautiful. Then it's a little bit less likely to happen. 

We all start with the early wants and to own them gets a certain level of rejection, because other people would have to feel their own wants. The thing about wants in general is that it's our human nature to want. You can play this game with friends and after every sentence, just say what it is that you wanted to get out of that sentence.  You will find a want in every single sentence that you speak. Right now, I want to have you guys understand what I'm saying. Right now, I want you to taste the deep pleasure of wanting. There's always this conscious want behind almost every sentence we have, it’s such a part of our human nature. We cannot get away from it. All we can do is own it or we can sublimate it. Should is just a way of sublimating it, which is why it doesn't work as effectively.

Brett: I'm going to say something right now because I want to participate in this podcast and feel relevant.

Joe: [laughs] I want to respond so that you know that I love you and I care for you.

Brett: I want to end the pregnant pause. [both laugh] A lot of what you were saying about the societal aspect is that it's uncomfortable for people to feel their wants. Part of what it is, is people have a problem seeing other people want what they want, because that makes them feel the pain of their own wants. The pain of our own wants seems to be linked to something we've discussed on some other episodes, the consequences of wanting, the potential consequence. If I want something, I might not get it, I might have to feel disappointment. I might be judged. I might break this cozy structure of this job that I'm in or this relationship that I'm in, because my wants feel incongruent with that.

Joe: The interesting thing about that in general is, that not getting our wants met is not actually as scary as we want or pop psychology would say that it is, because we all have a dozen wants that we haven't had met. It doesn't devastate us all the time. How many people listening to this podcast want to have $10 million more in the bank? it hasn't happened. Didn't devastate any of us. I think it's the exposure, the vulnerability of showing your want and having it rejected. That's the deeper scare.

Brett: Admitting that you want $10 million in the bank and people judging you for that, greedy.

Joe: Exactly. The amazing thing is when you totally own a want, oftentimes the want goes away almost immediately. I really want $10 million in the bank. If you fully feel that all the way and you're just like, "Oh, yes, $10 million," just feel that want. Oftentimes, it just starts shifting. It's just like, "Oh, what I want is security." Then it's like, "Oh, what I really want is to feel empowered in every situation." If you don't allow yourself to have the want, it can't move through you. It's just like, if you don't allow yourself to get angry, it can't move through you. If you don't allow yourself to get sad, it can't move through you. It's just another emotion that needs to move through you and is so pleasant when it does.

Brett: It sounds like on one level, you're saying that it is an impulse and on another level, you're saying it's an emotion. Can you get into that distinction a little bit more?

Joe: That's a great question. Let me feel inside for a moment and really see what the distinction is there. It seems like there's this impulse that moves. The way it's working in my system is, there's this impulse to move, to say these words, to be in front of my computer right now, to answer your question. There's this natural impulse. If that impulse meets any friction, then this emotional experience of wanting starts to occur. As this emotional experience of wanting starts to occur, that becomes the feeling. That's the feeling that's there.

If I fully feel the feeling, the friction starts to fade. There's the impulse side of the wanting and then there's also the emotional side of the wanting. It's what distinguishes,  “I'm just going to walk to the bathroom right now” and there's no experience of wanting in that process, because there's no friction met. As soon as that impulse meets any level of friction, then there's this experience of wanting. If you fully feel that experience, it turns deeply into a loving expansive experience and then that friction starts to go away.

Brett: I want to hear one more story from you, a personal story relevant to how you arrived at all of this.

Joe: I'd be happy to share a story, Brett. It's a story of shoulds and wants. When I was earlier in my venture capital career, I had this idea that I really should be making money. It was foreign to me because it wasn't something that was really ever important to me before. It was a combination of a feeling of indebtedness to the investors and also doing a good job and being valuable, but the shoulds started appearing in my life at that point. 

Then I was sitting in a hammock and I read this news at some point. I remember the time specifically. I read this news, that this company that was formed with almost no money sold for multi billions of dollars and it felt like just an absolute kick in my stomach, just like a whack in my stomach. I stopped and I went, "Oh, where did I feel that for the first time?" I traced it back, not intellectually, but like my entire body traced back that feeling to the first time I felt it. The first time I felt it was trying to please my father as a kid and it was like, "Oh," and it was not pleasable at that time. To please him, at least from my point of view, wasn't possible. 

I saw that this whole money making activity had nothing to do with actually making money and the should behind it had nothing to do with it. It was this very early should that I had of I should be pleasing my father. That was a very ingrained should. It was at that moment that I was like, "Okay, hold on a second. This doesn't have anything to do with money and it's a should. What do I want? What I really want to do here?" 

What I realized is, I just wanted to create great cultures for people. I want it to be a part of creating great cultures for people to work in. That changed everything. It changed my approach. It changed my ability to be effective. It just changed everything as soon as I just moved from the should that was driven by an early feeling to a want, which was very present and it was just very immediate. All of a sudden, everything started to open up and flourish in my life in a new way.

Brett: Wow, thank you. How do you want to end this?

Joe: I want to express a deep gratitude for everybody who's listening, who's dedicated to understanding themselves, who honors me by choosing to be here as part of this experience. My deepest want is a very deep bow to everybody who's listening and to say that I wouldn't be here without people who were bowing to me. I am grateful to be bowing to you. My deep hope is, that you will bow to the people who appear before you.

Brett: Joe, thank you for taking the time to help all of us build our culture internally and in our companies.

Joe: Thanks for doing the work, man. 

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:

Feel over Figure — Master Class Series #5

We often try to figure out solutions to our problems intellectually. But modern neuroscience tells us that, if you removed the emotional centers of your brain, you would be unable to make even the simplest decision regardless of how much intellect you had. What if there were emotional practices you could do to clarify every decision? What if emotions were the key to finding whole new kinds of solutions?

"The reason that somebody gets angry at somebody else is because they haven't gotten angry by themselves. It takes a while to build that kind of anger, so go release your anger and then talk to the person. Go get really, really scared and then talk to your boss about the raise that you want. You have the emotional experience and then go and take the action."

Brett: Joe, many of us are taught to manage our feelings and to be logical, especially when it comes to important or complex matters. What makes feelings so important?

Joe: That is a great question. I think it was a 2012 book called Descartes' Error, a neuroscientists talks about what happens to people if they lose the emotional center of their brain. It's a little more complex than this, but just to simplify it, if I took the emotional center of your brain out, you would cease to make decisions. It would take you half an hour to decide what color pen to use. It would take you four hours to decide where to have lunch. 

Your IQ would maintain the same. In fact, in the book, there's somebody whose IQ remains the same, very high level IQ, so incredibly intelligent, but their business falls apart. Their marriage falls apart. Everything falls apart because they can't make decisions. What it indicates to us is that we are thinking we're making rational decisions, but there's really no such thing. There's only emotional decisions. 

You can think about this in terms of your own life. Really simply, just think about how many decisions of your life were made because you didn't want to feel like a failure or how many decisions were made so that you could feel loved. How many decisions were made so that you could feel like you were seen by your friends and how many decisions were made so that you wouldn't be rejected?

It's like tremendous amounts, huge swaths of our decision making, you can immediately see, are very emotional. The intellect is really good at trying to figure out how to get to an end, but the end that you're trying to get to is always an emotional end. Clarity doesn't come from being logical, because it doesn't work. You can't do it in your decision making. It comes from being okay with whatever emotional state arises.

If you all of a sudden are completely excited to deal with sadness and you're completely excited to deal with joy and you're completely excited to deal with anger. It's not even deal with it, it's like you get to live that, then all of a sudden, you have incredibly clear decision making. That's why it's important. If you're in those thoughts that are recursive and they're just coming in over and over and over and over again, guaranteed there's an emotional reality, that if you felt it, it would clear up.

Brett: Can you give me an example of what you're talking about?

Joe: Yes, absolutely. For instance, I work with a lot of married couples and what happens in a lot of marriages is that people stop being true to themselves because they're scared of some result that'll happen if they do and eventually the marriage becomes not palatable because they're not themselves in the marriage. What I tell people in that situation is, hey, go mourn the heck out of your marriage. Your marriage is over. Just assume it and go more in the heck out of it, like feel all the grief of being left, feel all the grief of 20 years down the tubes, feel all the grief that your kids are going to not have two parents, like go through all of that stuff. 

At the end of that, then let's find out what you need to do. What they do is they're basically living through the result that they don't want to feel so that they can act with clarity. It's that feeling of loss that they don't want to deal with and since they don't want to deal with it, they're not speaking their truth and therefore, they're not in a marriage that accepts their truth. Eighty percent of the time, they then speak their truth and the other person is like, great. Or they're like, what the hell and then three months later, they're like, great. Twenty percent of the time their partners, like, no, that's not what I want.

They leave and they break up, but it's definitely a much higher chance of success, if somebody has already felt the thing they're trying to avoid because then their actions don't come from trying to avoid the feeling, their actions come from what they want. This is something that you learn in even like The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, the samurai did this, I think it was the Sufis who did this-- many traditions have done this thing, where they basically visualize their own death to get over the fear of death. They've lived that fear so many times that they no longer fear death. It's confronting the emotional reality that you don't want to handle, that you don't want to feel and then immediately your decision making can clear up.

Brett: Recognizing that there is life on the other side of that emotion.

Joe: Yes, exactly, or that emotion is a deep friend. There's no emotion I've run into that hasn't been a benefit to me.

Brett: What do you mean by feeling these emotions? If something hasn't happened yet, for example, how do you actually feel the emotion associated with it to mourn the loss?

Joe: The first thing you need to do is just recognize that there's always an emotional movement in your body, it is constant. There's no moment of consciousness where there isn't an emotional reality happening. We might not want to admit it. We might've been taught at a young age not to feel it, but it's constantly occurring and it's very muscular in nature. You can really feel it through constriction of muscles.

If somebody has been told never to get angry, their body contorts. I can literally look at somebody and recognize if there's repressed anger. You can recognize and I'm not the only one there's tons of people who can. You can recognize who had the critical parent, who was beaten, who's holding back their authenticity all based on muscular structure. The muscles and the emotions are tightly, tightly correlated. That's the most important thing to know that it's constantly happening and that there's a muscular component to it. 

How do you feel these emotions? You're feeling them. The question isn't how do you, the question is how do you bring your awareness into it? Oftentimes what happens is we're feeling the emotion, but we're spending a lot of energy compressing that emotion. It's making it a different version of itself.

The way I think about this is like, there's this emotionless called the emotion of anger and it's flowing like a garden hose. If you kink it one way, the anger looks like this, “No, I'm not angry.” If you kink another way, it looks like this, “That's fine”. If you're going to be a prick and if you kink another way, it sounds like this, “You son of blah, blah, blah, you goddamn blah, blah, blah.”

All of those are kinks in the garden hose. When there's no kinks in that garden house, when it's fully allowed, there's no reason to resist the anger. It sounds like the anger of a Gandhi or Martin Luther King. It's clear. It's determined. We will not put up with this. We will be equal. That's also anger, but that's anger unresisted. The trick isn't to feel it in the way that it's like, you have to go and conjure it because it's there. It's really to stop restricting it. It's really to stop holding it down.

Brett: It sounds like one of the things you were saying is that the first thing that people might feel is actually the resistance to the anger. This body tension, for example, might be the first thing you notice and be like, oh, I'm feeling a lot of tension in my body right now. Then maybe the secondary thing you might feel is like, I'm holding back this emotion.

Joe: Right. It's the resistance that's actually painful. When people are like, “I don't want to feel sadness.” There's this way in which people talk about each of the emotions and there's this common fear of each of them to let them fully ride. If I allow my anger, I will destroy people. I will hurt myself. I will hurt others. If I allow my sadness, it will go on forever and I will be enveloped in sadness for the rest of my life. If I allow fear, I will be frozen and I won't be able to act. 

These are the traditional thought processes that people have about why these emotions aren't safe. The reason that they feel that way is because that's how the resistance is, when you're resisting anger, you do destroy shit. When you are resisting sadness, it does last forever. It looks like depression. When you're resisting fear, then you're anxious all the time and you are frozen. You're not doing stuff. People have confused the resistance with the emotion.

Brett: Or with the feeling of being overtaken by the feelings.

Joe: Exactly. You never are overtaken by the feelings, you're overtaken by the resistance to the feelings. If you're scared of an emotion, you are currently being overtaken by the resistance of the feeling.

Brett: Right. Because the resistance is itself a feeling. It's like a secondary feeling that loops back and then fights the first feeling, which is just a massive waste of energy.

Joe: Correct. It's really important to recognize that it is a waste of energy. It's also really important to recognize that in itself, it also isn't bad and it is there to be loved. I have a saying that says, “If you can't love the emotion, love the resistance to the emotion.” If you make the resistance the next evil thing that you have to overcome, that's another form of resistance. You are just adding a triple layer of resistance on it.

Brett: Well, what about the danger of, if you have, for example, you have anger and it's deeply resisted and you remove the first layer of resistance and you start to let the anger through, but there's still enough resistance around it, that it comes out as an attack. It can be dangerous to be overtaken by-- to let ourselves be partially overtaken by a feeling and still have it constricted in that way, right?

Joe: Yes, it absolutely can. You're playing a short game and a long game here. The short game is how do I start getting in touch with these emotions in a way that isn't destructive. Then there's a long game, which is, “If I don't do it now, then what am I going to do? Continue to constrict it for the rest of my life?” Like there's a risk involved. You have to risk a little destruction now to get to a place where the anger is clear and moves easily and is fluid and enjoyable.

There's some tricks to it. The first trick is don't believe the emotion. Don't not believe it either. It's like when you're having the emotion, the important thing is to see yourself as an actor playing the part of you having an emotional experience. An actor always knows it's not their emotion. Even if they get caught up in it for a while, they know there's some part of their consciousness that knows that the story is a story. It's not true.

It's about keeping that aspect of your awareness awake, so that you just know like, oh, this emotion is just moving through me. It's not personal. But it's also allowing that emotional experience in and that requires letting the emotion be garbly. Intellect speaks like this. It's like A plus B equals C and B equals D, therefore, A plus D equals C. That's how logic talks. The way anger talks is “ [makes sounds]...Oh, right. That's it. I got it.” That's how anger speaks.

If you believe all the garbly gobbly glue of anger, like, “That person's an asshole and that person did this to me, blah, blah, blah, blah”, then you're never going to get to that clarity. If you don't allow all that garbly glue, you also won't get to the clarity. It's this interesting thing of listening to emotions in a different way than you listen to logic. If you start repressing it and say, “Well, I know it's really not them. It's really me. I know that they're trying their best”, or blah, blah, blah, all that kind of stuff doesn't allow the full  expression of the emotion so you don't get to the clarity.

The trick is, not to listen to the story, to see it as non-personal, to see yourself as an actor, just having it move through. It's like going to the bathroom. It's not a personal thing. It's just happening. Then the last part is to just not do it at anybody. This is the most critical thing is, don't do it at people. Most people think of anger like, don't get angry at the person. I'm speaking to that, but I'm also speaking to sadness. People get sad at people all the time, to try to create manipulation or guilt or whatever it is. I'm going to get sad at you, to make it so that you change your thing. You're never using your emotions to try to get someone else to change.

Brett: Or afraid at people.

Joe: Yes, exactly.

Brett: This isn't safe.

Joe: That's exactly it.

Brett: You were speaking to feeling these emotions coming up within us and then viewing it as we are an actor, acting out the emotion that's coming up within us. It sounded like that could apply also interpersonally. Or if our partner is coming at us with a lot of anger, recognizing like, oh, they are playing the part of their anger right now and I don't need to take everything they say personally. I could actually hold space for this to occur so that they can find their clarity behind it.

Joe: Absolutely. That's a lot easier if you are good with your anger. If you're like, “I love my anger. I can't wait for my anger to arise because every time it does, I find out some boundary that I haven't been drawing. I find out some way I haven't been being clear. I love my anger.” Then you see somebody else get angry. You're like, “Oh, I love that too.”

When somebody sees you love their anger, man, that anger changes, they're like-- it happens with me and people are like, “Goddamnit,  Joe, you da, da, da”, I'm like, “Oh yes, you're angry, come on. Tell me about it.” I want to hear this. I see that you feel alone and I see that you feel rejected and I don't want that. Let me hear what's going on with you. That changes their anger. It just changes it.

Brett: You were speaking to the short and the long game that's being played. I think a lot of fear of letting our emotions fly is that we'll become worthless or unproductive or just the last straw will happen if we're deep in a relationship. We're just like, “Oh, man, one more outburst, then they're just done with me. I've got to suppress this.” What happens if we just let our emotions fly all the time?

Joe: Again, just not at people, to put your emotion at somebody, to try to get them to change with your emotions subconsciously or consciously, it's emotional abuse. It's not healthy for them. If it's happening to you, draw a boundary and say, “I don't want that. I'm happy to listen to your emotions if I give you permission, but otherwise, I don't want the emotion at me.”

I just say, don't do that without permission. If you are getting your emotions out by yourself or with a close friend and you're doing it, then they're not going to leak. The reason that somebody gets angry at somebody else's because they haven't gotten angry by themselves. It takes them a while to build that anger. There's lots of time before that, so you can release it. Go release your anger and then talk to the person. Go mourn and then talk to your wife about what you need from the relationship. Go get really, really scared and then talk to your boss about the raise that you want. Do the thing that you have the emotional experience and then go take the action.

Brett: Just feel it. How do you recognize, in the moment, when you're in this like a spin cycle and you're like, “Oh God, this da, da, da,...This person did this or whatever? What should I do here? I don't know what to do!” How do you recognize that? What's the hook to get you out of that loop to remember this and to get into the emotions.

Joe: Exactly what you said. If you are doing one of three things, you mentioned two of them. If you notice that you keep on looping on the same thought, it means there's an emotion that you're not feeling. If you are not clear about a decision you need to make, then there's emotion you're not feeling. If you are judgmental towards another person, there's an emotion you're not feeling.

Brett: Can you dig into that one a little bit more?

Joe: If I judge you for being angry, I don't want to feel out of control. Or if I judge you for being angry, it's because I don't want to feel the potential that I have to lose you, so loss. If I judge you for being uptight, it's because I don't want to feel controlled, or I don't want to feel rigid. Every time we have a judgement, it's just a way to suppress an emotion, which is what makes our decision making really screwed up because if you're judging, very different than discernment. 

Discernment is just a knowing of distinction. If it's judgment, then you're not clear. You're not looking at the data clearly. You have preconceived notions of the data and then you can't make great decisions.

Brett: Or preconceived notions of intent on behalf of the other.

Joe: Correct. That's right. Then the last one, another cool trick is, whenever you see your mind in binary thinking, "I either have to buy the car or not buy the car." Instead of, "I could buy that car. I could buy that car from 10 different people. I could buy that car with different packages. I can buy that car in different colors. I could buy that car in six months." Whenever you're in that binary black or white thinking, then you know that there's some fear there that's not being felt.

Brett: Let's get into a little bit deeper. We've been talking a lot about the feeling side of this, what do you mean by figuring it out? What are some other ways that that can happen and that we can get caught in that loop?

Joe: Figuring it out at its most essential is just your intellect. It's to strategize. It's to try to solve the puzzle. It's like, "This is the outcome that I want, how do I get there?" That is the intellect and it is really good at that. That's what it means when you're figuring, when you're intellectualizing. Some people say it's in your head. Some people call it being tactical and there's some really great uses for that. It's not a bad thing. It's just a lot better when you're not avoiding an emotion using it.

Brett: It sounds like the purpose of the intellect here is to take a very narrowly framed context of assumptions and goals and then figure out the path from A to B, but then the emotions are what is creating those assumptions to begin with and the goals.

Joe: Correct and the risk profile.

Brett: Elaborate on that.

Joe: If you really, really, really don't want to lose your girlfriend, then your risk tolerance is really low. If you're like, "I could do it under certain circumstances." Then you're more likely to be yourself, right? How madly you don't want to feel the emotion really affects your risk profile.

Brett: Yes, that makes sense. We should figure some things out. Wouldn't it be silly to just shut that part of us off and never use that part of our intelligence?

Joe: Absolutely. I wouldn't want to build a bridge without the intellect. I wouldn't want to have this conversation without the intellect. I would assume that would be horrible to listen to. Intellect is a beautiful, amazing thing. It's just recognizing its incompleteness. There's Girdle's theory of mathematical incompleteness, which is basically a logical proof that all sets of logic are either incomplete or they are based on a postulate. Basically it proves logic can't be logical. 

Brett: My favorite part of that is that he proved it with logic. He actually used logic to prove the incompleteness of logic and it couldn't have been done without logic.

Joe: Right. Aristotle did it earlier in a different thing, but he didn't do it with the same logic without the math. It's a beautiful thing and our postulates are emotions. That's what our postulates are in our logical way of thinking. That's why people can logically justify absolute opposite things. It's not because their rationale is good or bad. It's because they have different postulates behind the rationale.

Figuring stuff out is great and the intellect is beautiful. Even in the spiritual journey or the transformative journey, the intellect is beautiful. It's great for deconstructing itself, very good at hanging out in a way that allows you to describe what's happened. Usually after you've gone through it, right? What I notice is that it's not like, "Here's the description of it and now I go through it."

It's more like "Here's a description of it that can give me some framework that I can rest on that I don't completely understand." Then I go through it. Then maybe like a month later, I can describe it. The intellect is really good for that as well. I love the intellect. I love watching great minds at work.

Brett: At the same time, it can become the trap again too. You can have this major emotional movement or transformative experience or whatnot and then your intellect will step in and be like, "Okay, so what actually happened? Let me make sense of that." Like, "This was the childhood thing that happened to me and then that was what I felt in this meeting and then all that interacts and then this way." Then like, "Cool, now I have a model for understanding myself." Then once again, you've created this limited system that may be more useful than the previous one but then eventually will reach its limits of understanding and prediction.

Joe: That's right. My words for that are every epiphany is the innocent beginning of a rut. Every epiphany-- it’s so important to have these epiphanies, but what's really important about them is that it blows everything up. Then we reconstruct it and then a new constraint is found and we need to have that new epiphany to deconstruct or to destroy the old epiphany and the old rut. 

That's how transformation works. That's how evolution works. It's a beautiful thing and yes, there comes a point in this development where you can see that every single thought that you have is both true and not true. There comes a point in development where you can't believe any one of your thoughts.

If you have emotional clarity when that development point hits, you become incredibly clear. If you don't have emotional clarity, you can use that same beauty of seeing both sides of every coin as a way to become indecisive, as a way to beat yourself up, as a way to limit yourself, as a way to continue to constrict emotions. Logic is a beautiful thing. It's just really important to know what it's good at and what it's not good at.

Brett: Right. Now, what we've been talking about has been very much about the personal development journey, but I think we could actually apply this very easily to business, for example, product iterations. Every epiphany from your product research or your market research to come up with a new direction could easily become the new rut that you find yourself spending six months in $1 million investing in.

Joe: Right. Or a government that had a great epiphany about a police force and then now that police force epiphany is a rut, that needs to be recreated and a new epiphany for is an example, right? There's a thousand examples of how the solution of yesterday is the rut of today. We villainize it and we make it bad, instead of just being like, "We need a new iteration. That's it."

Brett: Okay, maybe we don't need one president with a lot of power.

Joe: Right. Or maybe we need a financial democracy instead of a voting democracy. Thousands of new epiphanies.

Brett: Somebody argued we already have that and it's a bad thing.

Joe: Right, exactly. That's another one, right? It's like every one of our epiphanies, everything that locks us down was an epiphany at one point, was somebody's realization at one point.

The CEO of Netflix, in his first business, he claims that he made everything idiot proof and then only idiots would come and work for him. In Netflix, he keeps a certain amount of chaos, a certain amount of creativity, a certain amount of risk involved, so that people who want smart challenges, people who want to be cutting edge, who want to have more freedom, show up and work for him. That's more important than having things idiot proof for him. It's that same thought process of, what's more important is, that we're constantly iterating that we are seeing through the logic that we used and relied on.

Brett: That's a great example of how a leader's personal journey can then show up in their company, because for a CEO to get to the point where they can just say, “Hey, you know what? Let's just let some chaos happen.” They have to learn to feel that loss of control and welcome it.

Joe: This is everything, right? Let me give a really sharp example. Almost every high powered CEO I know has an issue of, A, feeling alone and B, having this deep feeling of self-reliance that they need to rely on themselves. At the bottom of that emotional slide is this deep sense of helplessness that they didn't want to feel. You don't learn to be self-reliant unless there was a point when you had this deep sense of helplessness that you didn't want to feel.

Maybe it was an alcoholic dad or maybe it was getting really poor, or whatever it was. That sense of helplessness and saying, I am not going to feel that again is what propels them into this incredible place in their life. It's also the thing that needs to be destroyed if they're going to be great leaders. They need to feel that helplessness, they need to go into that complete helplessness. I don't think it's any mistake that the CEO of Netflix had to go through the helplessness of losing a company to get to the place of allowing that feeling of helplessness all the time, because somewhere in that journey, he found out that that helplessness was just a feeling and it had an incredible intelligence behind it. It was trying to tell him something and it no longer needed to be avoided. It needed to be looked for and to be excited when it shows up.

Brett: What's an example of that happening in your life?

Joe: [laughs] I have children. Having children is like getting a deep tissue massage. If you resist, you are screwed, right? You have to constantly feel your own helplessness in your children. As an example of that, you have to feel that helplessness. 

For me, I think the first journey of it was abandonment. It was feeling emotionally abandoned. I was recreating that experience over and over again until I felt it, which is a really important part of this emotional journey. I'll use that as an example, I felt, for whatever reason in my childhood, emotionally abandoned and I didn't want to feel it. I created a whole world to not feel that, but in the way I created that whole world, like everybody, I reintroduced it over and over and over again. 

This is why we all have that friend who's been dating the same person six times in a row. It's not the same person as in-- it's like the same person in a different body with a different background, but wow. You just picked seven different men who all cheated on you. How did you ever do that? Right? I recreated people who would emotionally abandon me over and over again until I fell in love with the abandonment.

Once I fell in love with it, my system didn't need to recreate it. I had found homeostasis. If there's an emotion that I wasn't allowed to feel, I recreate that feeling over and over again, until I fully allow that feeling and then I don't need to recreate it. The other way to say this is the things that we are most scared of are the things that we're subtly inviting into our life. If we're most scared of feeling helpless, we will invite helplessness unconsciously into our life so that we have that opportunity too.

Brett: I've got a great example for that, growing up, I always felt I was being tightly controlled by school and society. That control made me feel helpless and I just didn't want to feel helpless anymore. I developed exactly what you described, that self-reliance complex and that self-reliance complex then made me feel like I had to be in control of everything that I was doing and made it difficult sometimes to cooperate or collaborate on something that I wasn't going to have the full reins over, which wouldn't often lead me to feel alone and helpless.

Joe: That's right. That's exactly, beautiful. That's exactly how it works. Then once we're cool helplessness, then all of a sudden, we don't recreate the conditions, because our body has just found that homeostasis. It's like, okay, I'm back to balance.

Brett: I think addiction has a lot to do with that as well, that feeling of avoiding helplessness, feeling like you can control something. For example, a gambling addiction, a lot of what I've heard about slot machine addiction is, it's not necessarily that those addicted think that they're going to be winning any money. They know they're not.  They know the math. They're not stupid, but the feeling of just hitting the buttons and experiencing the spin occur, they're just in a very tight loop system, where the rules are almost like they're designed to look like they're almost figure outable, but they're not.

Joe: I think there's definitely a lot of emotional avoidance in addiction. Oftentimes it's shame. I've heard a saying that says shame is the locks of the chains of bad habits. Shame seems to be a big part of an addiction cycle and there's others as well, but definitely, there's a big emotional component to addiction cycles. There's also some physical and neurological components as well, but emotional avoidance is a huge part of it. If you could just lift the shame out of people, then most of the addictions would fall away.

Brett: As we move through our lives and start feeling more and more of these emotions that we've been repressing, what does that development look like?

Joe: Emotional development looks pretty clearly the same way for different people, but the starting points are different. The earliest starting point that you can get to is just recognizing the emotions you have. It's just knowing that you are constantly in an emotional state as long as you're conscious. People think, some of them, especially if there's been more emotional abuse or emotional repression in the home, will have a very specific experience of not being able to feel their emotions.

This is similar to somebody who's been physically abused. If you have been physically abused and I put a quarter in your hand or a key in your hand, you won't actually know which one you're holding, because you've learned to cut off your sensations of your body. Emotionally, you might also have learned how to cut off this sensation. The first thing is to feel that sensation and that is just to identify that the emotional experience is happening at every given moment, because the way that we feel right now is slightly different than the way we feel right now, which is slightly different than the way we feel right now.

Identifying those emotions is a really good thing and it's a great epiphany. It will also become a rut later on, but it's a really great first stage. Then the second stage is an expression of that emotion. To really allow those emotions to be expressed through the body, through words, in a way that is not at anybody. It's just having that full expression of emotion.

Then that moves into an emotional inquiry, which is how does it feel in your body? What color is it and where is it in my body and how dense is it? It's a literal-- what is the physicality of my emotions? Having a deep inquiry into that and then also having a deep inquiry of when I relate to my emotions differently, how do they work? When I'm angry at my emotions, what does that do? When I'm in love with my emotions, what does that do? When I am trying to get rid of my emotions, what does that do? When I am tickling my emotions, what does that do?

You're literally playing with different relationships you can have with your emotions. Then there comes this place where you're just deeply in love with your emotions and then emotions become very fluid. It becomes just like this beautiful flow of life. It's so exciting and so pleasurable to feel your emotional fluidity. It allows for just very crisp decision-making and it allows for very decisive action to have that emotional flow.

To give you a great example of this epiphany rut thing, I did not have a lot of emotional awareness when I started this work at all in my 20's and I got into this point where I realized, “Oh, I'm having emotions.” One day, I don't know, a decade later, or something I was saying to somebody, I'm like, “I'm feeling angry right now”. They said, “No, you're not.” I said, “Excuse me?” The person replied, “You're naming an emotion, so you don't have to feel it.” They were so right. I was like, son of a gun. Shit, I've named it so I don't have to feel it. 

The thing that was once freeing, to be able to see it and name it, had become the new constraint. Then I realized, oh, the feeling of it is a completely different thing. When you feel the emotion, it's all about letting the body just move. It's like dancing without being self-conscious. It's just your emotions know how to move your body. Your emotions know what to do. If they don't fake it and they'll figure it out. 

Don't judge them. Don't tell them how they're supposed to look. That's not crying. That's not fear. So many people who aren't good at crying when I see them cry for the first time, they think they're like that can't be real tears because it doesn't feel like that one time I cried, but there's 20 different ways of crying. You can cry of joy, you can cry of sadness, you can cry of grief, you can cry in a way like when you're yawning. There's so many different ways that sadness expresses and it's not your job to judge them. It's your job to just watch it like you would watch the Grand Canyon.

Brett: Right. It seems each stage here is a meta awareness, a new level of meta awareness around our emotions. The first level being, just recognizing that there is emotions here and that we are not just a logical machine figuring things out and that there is always an emotional context that exists for us. Then we get deeper into that and we start to be in the emotional context, not just recognizing that one's there, but we flow in it and with it.

Then another level seems to be the meta awareness around the emotion being wow, okay, as I'm letting this anger move through me, I'm actually clarifying my boundary. Or as I'm letting the sadness move through me, I'm grieving the loss of something tangible, or even just an idea. That this whole process of letting these emotions move through us is actually changing the assumptions, goals and the context and the risk profile of all of our future logical thoughts.

Joe: Exactly. We are limited. Everybody talks about limited thoughts but in reality, the limited thoughts have a deep correlation with the way we limit our emotional reality.

Brett: It's almost as though the thoughts are just the tip of the emotional iceberg. They are actually a part of the emotions. They are emotions that are most finally, the part of the emotion that is working in the finest detail.

Joe: It depends on the perspective, which is the tip of the iceberg and which is the underside of the iceberg. What I do know is that they are in an intricate dance and when one side isn't working, the other side definitely helps.

Brett: It sounds like what you've been saying all along is that the intellect is very useful and we do want to use it to figure stuff out, but first we want to get our emotional context right and allow our emotions to shift us into the place that is most aligned with our reality in our moment. Then in that space, figure stuff out.

Joe: I wouldn't use the word right, but generally, directionally, that feels very right. [laughs] I would say it's when your emotions are blocked or when you're trying to deeply avoid an emotion, then your decision making can't be clear. It's just as simple as that. Feel the emotion whenever you can. That allows for clarity and it doesn't need to be any more complicated than that and see it as a process that maybe at the beginning, when you realize that you're not clear on something and there's emotion involved, it's going to take a while to get through it.

Pretty soon as you get older in the journey, then the emotions flow so quickly. The recognition of it can just make the whole thing really, really clear, really quick. It's common for me on a daily basis to have a cry or shake or get angry. It's relieving of stress. It changes my neurochemistry. It clarifies my decision. It doesn't take but five minutes and it's just moves.

Brett: It's almost like you could do a daily, emotional yoga.

Joe: Indeed. I did for years. Indeed. I don't think I ever did it daily, but maybe like five times a week, I would take 20 to 30 minutes to do literally emotional yoga, where I would feel everything that I was not feeling and teach my body how to feel it and how to accept it and how to unlock. Because as the emotions start to be felt, then the musculature unlocks and then you can feel it deeper.

Brett: Your cortisol levels will shift and your metabolism will update and start releasing an amount of energy into your body that is appropriate for the moment.

Joe: That's right. The other thing to know is that each of these emotional streams that I talked about, like anger-- so there's anger that's constricted is constricted in a lot of ways and the unrestricted anger is that clarity and determination. The unrestricted sadness is a deep joy and the unconstricted fear is excitement, right? There's a saying that says, excitement is fear with the breath, or fear is excitement without the breath. It's from an acting school. Each of these things, when they're not resisted, become something very, very different.

Brett: Right. Grief is a celebration of what you've had.

Joe: Absolutely. Grief is this anger, sadness, fear altogether wrapped up in one. The feelings of these things coming through you when they're unresisted change deeply. You don't even-- can't even recognize them and they start blending all into one emotional state. It's like one stream that's happening. 

Brett: This all seems to really tie into something that we were working on a lot in your courses, which is this phenomenon where we can understand something intellectually, something about our story or about our traumas, or somebody could be listening to this podcast and understand it intellectually. We can still not get it all the way until we've had the emotional movement to consolidate it.

Joe: This is really something that happens in coaching all the time. You get somebody who intellectually understands that, yes, okay. My boss is managing me and I'm angry, but I intellectually really, really understand that they're trying to get me to do my best work, but I'm feeling it as criticism. Intellectually, they understand that their boss wants the best for them, but emotionally it's just criticism. It's just what dad was doing, when the person I'm coaching was 13 or whatever it is. 

Then once they get it emotionally, when they grok it in their whole body, then all of a sudden it's like, thanks so much for the feedback. I appreciate it. I really appreciate you wanting me to do my best work here. It's on so many levels. It's even grokking complex ideas in your body completely, which has an emotional component to it.

If somebody sees, here's this really complex marketing thought process and they don't fully understand it. They can intellectually get it, but it's not second nature. It's not just what they do. It means that there's some emotional component of that marketing. Some thing like, “Oh my God, I'm going to be asking people for stuff.” Or, “Oh my God, marketing is bad and dirty.” There's some emotional component of it that when that emotional component is fully felt, then it's understood. It might not be used. It might be used, but it can't even be fully understood until that emotional component has been felt.

Brett: Until your emotions align with it. It reminds me of Einstein where for him, the theory of relativity was a spiritual experience to be working in. Many scientists, prominent scientists have said similar things. Simon, for example.

Joe: Absolutely. You cannot have certain ideas without certain emotional clarity. You cannot have certain ideas or certain epiphanies without an experiential understanding of what's going on. You can't do the theory of relativity until you see through your own limited perception of time that society has taught you.

Brett: Right. Or even your senses, your physical body has taught you.

Joe: That's right.

Brett: Right. How do we then stop resisting these emotions? What are some takeaways from all of this, that are some concrete practices? 

Joe: First of all, if you are resisting emotions and you try to stop, that's more resistance as we've already talked about. Love the resistance, that's the most important thing. Fake it till you make it. My personal story was I looked in a photo album when I was, I don't know what I was, like 20 something years old. I saw a picture of me crying and I realized that my parents were uncomfortable with the emotions I was having, because they were taught to be uncomfortable with their own emotions.

One of the ways to make sure that I didn't make everybody uncomfortable was to tease me around my emotions. At one point, they took a picture of me and then they put it in the photo album. I found this picture. It was a picture of me crying. This picture you could see me crying and you could see me dumbfounded that I was having a picture taken of me. I was like, it's probably why I haven't cried in 14 years. I put a picture of it on my desk and I was okay, I'm going to learn how to cry but a year later, I hadn't cried. Then I was okay, I'm determined. I need to go and really give this thing a go and cry. I went out into the woods. I went to a faraway trail. Then I went off trail for three miles so that nobody could see me cry. I had that much shame around it. Then I would just fake crying. I did that for three months. I would just fake it. Then all of a sudden, it just happened. It started happening for real.

When it happened, it was such a relief that I'd let it happen for four days. I could have stopped it, but I was crying when I was brushing my teeth. It's like my body was just like years of tension just evaporating in days. Then all of a sudden, I had a deeper access to my tears and then that led to deeper and deeper access to my tears. Then that led to, oh, every single heartbreak of mine increases my capacity to love. I cannot wait for more heartbreak. Even just saying that, just that in itself makes me want to cry, how blessed I am for loving heartbreak and for seeing how much freedom to love that gives me. 

Brett: That's beautiful. This has been a great episode. Thank you very much, Joe. We'll catch you again next week.

Joe: Yes, man. What a pleasure to be with you.

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:


Antonio Damasio, Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain,

Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying,

Enjoy over Manage — Master Class Series #4

The problem with getting good at managing your life is that you end up with a life that has to be managed. What would happen if you found out that focusing on enjoying your life could make you more productive and happier than managing your life? We know most of the greats enjoyed what they did. What if enjoyment is an essential part of what makes us great?

"Imagine that you are on a boat and you are going down a river. Management is when you are fighting against the river, but when you are in that effortless flow of the river, there's an enjoyment to it. What you have to do is,  you have to be listening to that river deeply. You have to be listening to that impulse."

We're told all of our lives that if we want results, we have to manage ourselves and the world around us in order to get what we want. What if that isn't true? What if intention and determination are critical, but managing life gets in the way? What if the way to get the life we want is to focus on enjoying our life, not only by doing what we enjoy, but also by learning to enjoy whatever is happening? This is what Joe and I will be getting into today.

Brett: Joe, what makes this an important topic for you?

Joe: There's a personal story behind it. When I was really young in my career, I did international stock lending for a while. I was still sorting through so much of my personal issues at the time. I decided in my head what I really wanted was to have a creative career. That was something that I decided, which was far out there that I had to attain, instead of realizing that it was really available, if I had the right perspective. 

I quit this great job as far as money goes and as far as career path goes. I went for seven years trying to have a creative career. There was this place where I had basically reached it. I was working on this TV show and I had written something. I was being brought in to train, to direct the show. I did this two-week stint on the show and I realized it was the same thing that international stock lending was, meaning that everything that I had run away from in international stock lending, I was running to in this creative career. 

One person had all the power. Everybody was working long, hard hours. They were unhappy. I remember the actor of the TV show saying to me, "Every time I come into work, it's like having a piece of my soul ripped out." Everybody wanted to be doing something else and not the thing that they were doing. They had some dream of the next level of their career. Most people weren't leaving because of the money. 

I said, wow, that's exactly the thing I was running away from and running to. I had spent all these years of my life trying to manage this outcome. I had finally achieved it, but I didn't have any idea that it wasn't the thing that I wanted. At that moment, the revelation came on me and I said, "Wow, you know what I'm going to do instead, what I'm going to do is I'm just going to say yes to whatever shows up. If I enjoy it, I'll keep on saying yes. If I don't enjoy it, I'll say no."

Then all of a sudden, there was more and more stuff to say yes to and so I got to keep on picking the things that were more enjoyable. As that happened, everything took off; my money, my happiness, my career, everything in ways that I couldn't even have expected. It was like I had surrendered and I allowed that surrender into my own enjoyment to lead my life. All of a sudden, I was surrounded by a life that I enjoyed.

I neither enjoyed stock lending, nor did I enjoy trying to become an artist nor did I enjoy being the artist, but I ended up enjoying my life, not by managing it, but by focusing on the enjoyment. That's why it's important to me. I think why it's important to talk about in general is, because it's the biggest misconception that a lot of people have is they think that if they're going to manage their life, they're going to end up with a life that makes them happy. In actuality, if you learn to manage your life, you end up with a life that you need to manage and that is not happiness.

Brett: What does it mean to manage your life in the way that you're describing?

Joe: One way to think about it is, intellectually, you're trying to assure an outcome. When I was directing films, one of the things that I really realized in that process was that, if I had a very specific outcome in mind of how the actors were going to do their thing, it was horrible. The result was horrible. Everything was horrible. The process was horrible. If instead, I gave the actor's direction and then I just waited until it felt right and I just allowed that impulse to carry us and go, "That's it. That's going to work," without the idea specifically of how it was going to be, the results were far better.

That's one way to think about the difference between management and non-management is that you're not holding really specific future outcomes. You're holding the intention of the scene is going to be great and it's going to be emotional. You're holding the intention. The actors are holding the intention of whatever it is for them, getting the person to say they love them and getting out of the room, whatever their intentions are. Everybody's holding their intentions, but the outcome is something that you are recognizing when it's right. It's not something that you're being specific and controlling about.

There's this implicit feeling of trying that happens when you are doing management and trying is very different than doing. Doing is just the action. It's like in mental waves, you think about doing as alpha. There's this flow state that happens and it's just everything's happening and there's not a lot of tension in it. Managing life is when you feel like you have to bring tension into the process to get it your way.

Another great example of this, I think, that's really palpable is I see this with clients all the time is they're thinking about a big conversation they have to have. Maybe it's with their husband, maybe it's with their boss, maybe it's with a good friend. They're trying to figure out how they're going to say it in such a way that they're going to get the outcome that they want, instead of thinking about, what's the authentic way for them to say, what's their deepest truth that they're trying to share and let the chips fall where they may. If they're in the first, then they're in management and if they're in the second, then they are not in management.

Brett: I think that film example is actually a great one, because in filmmaking, in production, you often have an art department that's trying to make exactly the igloo that's in the treatment for the director, when maybe they could make any number of igloos that fit the theme and that would work great in the scene. Many other parts of the scene are likely to drift through the course of production from the treatment. There are ways to flow with that and there are ways to try to manage every single detail, which you just ended up having the entire crew fighting reality for a while.

Joe: It's something that I've realized. When I'm running businesses and I want something a specific way where it's creative or someone's doing something creative, like copy editing or some visual aspect or building slides, I've realized that if I just give them three adjectives, just I want it to be reliable, grounded and empowering, then the results are far better than if I start thinking I know how to design something. I'm like, well, it should be a little more blue and turn this a little bit this way. That broad stroke thing. 

We know that people in general, in the management of people, respond a lot better and are a lot more motivated, if they feel like they have autonomy. That doesn't mean that they don't want direction. It means they don't want management in the way that I'm talking about management.

Brett: Right. I see that a lot in design as well. Micromanagement of design is a great way to get terrible work from a good artist.

Joe: Exactly. That's everything. There's a way of looking at every person's role as an artistry. You're going to get bad work out of everybody's artistry in that. The other way to look at it is to imagine that you're on a boat and you are going down a river. Management is when you're fighting against the river. When you are in the flow of the river, even if your paddle's in the water every once in a while and you're doing that stuff, but when you're in that effortless flow of the river, there's an enjoyment to it and there's a non-management. When you're fighting against the river, then you're in the management.

For that to happen, you have to not be managing a river, which obviously never really works. What you have to do is, you have to be listening to that river deeply. You have to be listening to that impulse. When people are in management mode, they usually are not listening to their internal impulse, or the impulse of the people around them.

Brett: It sounds like a distinction to be made here is, management is to try to fight reality to conform to your results and enjoyment in this concept is more combining your intention with the randomness of reality and seeing what happens.

Joe: Yes, that's right. I work with a lot of executives and this is one of the hardest things for the executives to really catch on to because they have all made a living in being able to have this determination and drive to get the results. Many of them have used management to get there. That determination and drive, that utter unacceptance of a result that's different than the one that you want, is really critical, but you need to be very general about the result that you want. It can be general like I want a company that's super successful. I want a product that sells better than all the competition. That's great.

When you start managing that process and want it to be this specific way. You want it to have this kind of sales technique. You want to have, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, then that's when it goes south. You have to keep all that determination. You have to keep all that fortitude. You have to keep all that utter unacceptance of a reality that you don't envision and there is also reading the river and letting the river flow and paying attention to that river and following it to get there.

Brett: A lot of this seems to happen by buying in the moment like, "Oh, no, this has to happen because if this doesn't happen this particular way, then the entire plan is ruined." Without this 30,000-foot view that we're discussing right now, how would you know in the moment, if you are managing rather than following your intention? What are some ways to mindfully recognize this in the process?

Joe: One of the things that I see managers do, since we're on management, specifically, one of the things that I see managers do is they don't ask this question. They don't say, "What speaks against that?" Let's say I come into a room and I say I want to sell in question-based selling and then we're talking to the sales team. I'm like, "Let's do question-based selling." I might try to convince everybody and push everybody into it, motivate everybody and give a good speech. Everybody's like, "Yes, let's do question-based selling."

What is usually far more effective and that tells you that you're not in the management of that experience is to say, "Let me give a good case for question-based selling. Here it is. Now, tell me what speaks against it?" People will tell you, "Here are the things that we don't think will work about it." That tells you the things that you have to address. Then you address them and then you're in the flow of the situation. Then you're like, "Okay." Most likely, you're going to get a much better solution because the things that they want you to address are important to address. 

If you can't address them, then you don't have real buy-in. Without real buy-in, they're not going to do as good of work. Without real buy-in, it probably means that there's a better solution out there. That's one of the ways to know is, if you're trying to push people into a result instead of being eager to find out what speaks against it. When you're listening to what speaks against it, your results are going to be far better. That's one way to know it.

Brett: There's a delicious irony there, the idea of trying to sell a sales team on a sales process about question-based selling without asking any questions.

Joe: I hadn't thought of that in my example. Yes, exactly. That would be incredibly ironic. Yes, exactly. It's why question-based selling works is, because you're not managing the customer. You're actually empathizing with, following the customer. You're following the river instead of trying to manage the river. That's one way to know it.

Other ways are, when you're more listening to the outcome than you are to the impulse. Right now if you listen for the impulse, as to what to say next, that's a very particular somatic experience. You can still have determination in this experience. You can still be feeling like, "Oh, we're going to get to a resolution and I can be listening," and waiting for the impulse to speak. That's all a very possible situation. But when I want your next sentence to be something or I want my sentence to do something to you, to get to a particular place, then I'm in management.

Brett: That adds another filter in the process of what you're going to say when you have to think about how you think it's going to be received.

Joe: Exactly.

Brett: Which then builds in all of your projections into the conversation.

Joe: Yes, totally. It also builds a tremendous amount of inefficiency. When you're managing stuff, what you are always doing is not looking at the root cause. As an example, which is a more enjoyable car to own? Is it an MG or is it a Lexus? Most people who don't like fixing cars would say a Lexus is a far more enjoyable car to own than an MG, because you know with an MG, every 500 miles, you have the thing up on blocks and you have to do something.

When you are in management, you're just constantly trying to figure out how to fix the MG with the least amount of money and as quickly as possible. When you're in enjoyment, you're looking at the core issue. If you are looking at the core issue, everything becomes far more efficient. You're not trying to patch the boat as it's sinking. Instead, you're thinking, "What's the right boat to build?"

Brett: Getting out of context to the bigger question.

Joe: Exactly.

Brett: We have learned to manage things for a reason, many would propose. Don't you have to manage some level of things for anything to get done? If so, where is that line?

Joe: It's not where you think it is, that's for sure. What I mean to say is, if you ask the people at Hyatt, "Hey, man, do you have to manage your properties?" They'd say, absolutely. If you ask the people at Airbnb, "Do you have to manage your properties?" They'd say no. If you ask SK Telecom and all those telecom companies that tried apps before Apple, "Did you have to manage your apps, the building of the apps?" They'd say, "Yes, absolutely. We need to manage it," but Apple said, "No, we don't. As long as they hit a minimum requirement, they can be on the App Store." If you think about all your great employees, how much management do they actually require? It's the people that you're managing that are not usually your great employees.

Brett: Maybe because you're managing them so hard.

Joe: Indeed. Do you have to manage and what's the boundary? The answer is that the better your system is in place, the better you have the mechanism working, the less management is necessary. Every place that you are managing is basically a way to look at an inefficiency that you have. If you build a really good machine, say like an iPhone, you don't have to manage the iPhone. You and I have never said the word, "Well, I really had to manage my iPhone yesterday." It's because it works.

Brett: We might have to manage our iPhone use and that arises from inefficiencies in our attention.

Joe: Exactly. That's right. Even that, that's the self-management part, which is you can say, "I need to manage my cell phone use," or you can turn off all your notifications. You can turn your phone into black and white and don't allow for color usage on your phone. Or you can turn on the sleep mode. There's all things that you can do, so that you don't actually even have to manage your cell phone usage, so that it's all done systematically.

Brett: Or I can find out what it is in my emotions that makes me want to go to Instagram and start scrolling.

Joe: Yes, exactly. All different levels of it. Even managing your own state is ineffective. In fact, that's the thing about meditation generally, is that most people call sitting still and trying to manage your state of mind meditation. It's not meditation. It's torture. Enjoyment of sitting there is meditation. 

Yes, management is going to happen. This isn't something that you get upset about. Is it something that you're going to never have to do in your whole life? No, but every time you're managing something, you can absolutely see it as a chance to become more efficient and the way that you find that efficiency is through enjoyment.

Brett: That's great.

Joe: The other thing that happens here, oftentimes when people are talking about they're like, "Yes, but I got to manage my company. I got to tell people what to do." Then you look at other companies. There's this company called Valve. There's this Valve Handbook, which is just amazing. The way they manage what they do, is they figured out how to choose really good people. They have a whole thing about that and then when you get to Valve, you have a desk that's on wheels. Where you push your desk is what projects they do. There's not even somebody saying, "Okay, these are the projects we're going to do. Here's our big initiatives." They literally just have people roll their desks to what they want to do and those are the initiatives that get done in the company.

If you look at our entire economy. We have four tools to manage our economy and we don't do it very well. There's just interest rates and how constraining the laws are for businesses, et cetera. Our whole economy doesn't have a manager and yet, we're the biggest economy in the world. So far, we have been the most resilient economy in the world. 

Is there really a need for management? Is there really a need for that level of centralization? There may be in certain circumstances but guaranteed there is a more efficient system out there and when somebody finds it, they will be the winner of that business and their life will be more enjoyable.

Brett: It sounds like, if somebody wants to start experimenting with loosening management and finding more enjoyment, there seems to be a requirement for a certain amount of slack in the system. If you're running a company that's just barely making payroll month after month after month and you imagine that if you just stopped managing people in the way that you're currently managing them and you even have one or two hiccups then everything is all over. Or imagine in a life, where somebody's like, "Well, I'm working three jobs right now to make ends meet. If I just started focusing on enjoyments, then if I left one of those jobs, then I'm not going to feed my family." 

How would you respond to there being a feeling for a need for slack or people's fear that they don't have enough slack to try an experiment in this way?

Joe: I would say that they're looking at enjoyment in a backwards way, meaning there's one way to look at enjoyment, which is, "Here are the things that my head says that I will enjoy when I do it, like me having a creative career." Your head doesn't really know what you're going to enjoy. You can try to organize a life where everything you do is enjoyable, meaning that you've chosen things to do that you enjoy, that you think you enjoy, or you can learn to enjoy the things that you're doing.

I'll give you an example of this. When I was 27 years old or something like that, I did this experiment where I said, "I'm not going to do anything I don't enjoy for a month and see how that goes." After the first three or four days, it was everything that I enjoyed. I took a nap when I wanted to take a nap, I did everything I wanted, then the trash started smelling. I was like, "Well, I'm not enjoying living with no trash and I don't enjoy taking out the trash. What the hell am I going to do?" I learned, "Wow, how do I take out the trash and enjoy myself? How do I write emails and enjoy myself? How do I pay bills and enjoy myself." I don't enjoy not having bills unpaid or having a bad credit rating. That's not enjoyable for me.

The only way to really get to a life that you enjoy is to not avoid the intensity. It's not to run away from difficult things. It's finding the pleasure in whatever you're doing. It has to be a major part of the equation. If you have three jobs and you need the three jobs to get by, then learn to enjoy the jobs that you have. Learn how to do them with more enjoyment and watch, when you do your job with more enjoyment, your job changes pretty darn quickly. People want to be around people who are enjoying themselves. People want to work with people who are enjoying themselves and people will be attracted to you, people will give you more opportunities.

It's the same thing in your business. Maybe you don't have the ability to reinvent your organization, where the management is so low that people are deciding their own payroll and people on the bottom line of a company like the manufacturing line of a company are deciding what $3 million pieces of equipment to buy. Those are companies that are run like that and maybe you can't get there tomorrow. Maybe it's not even smart for your company to get there, but the question that you can always ask is, "What's making this so unenjoyable and how do I enjoy this process?" That is going to build efficiency in your company.

The thing is that there's somebody in mind right now when they're listening to me and they're saying, "This isn't necessary. I can be successful without enjoying myself." That is so true. You can be successful financially. You can accumulate a lot of power. You can have a good looking mate on your side. You can have all the toys that you want and not enjoy yourself. That's absolutely 100% the case. They're not actually being correlated-- that success and enjoyment. There's a lot of people that are successful who don't enjoy themselves and there's a lot of people that are successful who do enjoy themselves. What I am saying is that you can have both. If you are having both, you're finding efficiencies.

Brett: Yes. Let's define enjoyment then. A lot of people think of enjoyment as there is a sense of control. People have the freedom to do what they want to do, but a lot of what it seems like you're describing with enjoyment is that it doesn't really require freedom. For example, you could be working three jobs and be micromanaged and potentially find enjoyment in what you're doing. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Joe: Yes, absolutely I can. There are people in jail right now enjoying themselves. There are people on this earth right now, who are sitting in three by three cells who haven't lied down in two years, two months and a day who are doing it to learn how to enjoy themselves. That's part of the Lama tradition. The enjoyment is available to you right now. Right now I can say to everybody who's listening to this, "Hey, enjoy yourself just a little bit more right now. Just a little. Just allow a little more enjoyment in this moment."

Brett: My entire body just relaxed a little bit.

Joe: Right. Exactly. What did that take? Your conditions did not change at all. You're in the same space. You have the same bank account. You have the same girlfriend. Nothing has changed and you just enjoyed yourself a little bit more. Enjoyment doesn't cost anything. Enjoyment is just a perspective. It's just an allowing. It's just a receiving. It's visceral. It requires us to be a little more present. That's it. It requires us, maybe to be a little bit more in our body, but it's not something that is ever inaccessible to us.

Brett: It sounds like this is definitely an internal thing as well. We've been talking a lot about enjoyment in our environment, in our circumstances, in our businesses, in our organizations. How does this management and enjoyment dynamic work internally in the way that we just experienced?

Joe: Yes, it's a bit of a mystery exactly how it works. What I've seen is that, internally, there is a capacity to feel pleasure that is almost like a muscle. It's a nervous system thing, but it feels like it's a muscle in the fact that you can build it. You can build the capacity for this feeling of enjoyment in your life and this feeling of pleasure. There's a certain amount of overwhelm that happens when you feel too much of it. Your level of too much is going to be different than my level of too much, which is going to be different than person C's level of too much.

Brett: What makes it be too much?

Joe: I'll tell you what I think it is. If you put your hands together, put your hands like your thumb and your fingers all together and then intertwine your fingers. Now, intertwine your fingers in the opposite way so that your hand looks the same but your pinkies have switched positions. You'll notice that one of those ways is comfortable. The first way is comfortable and the second way is uncomfortable.

Brett: Yes, interesting.

Joe: Pleasure being too much is very much like that. It's just what you're used to. It's very much a level of comfort based on what you're used to and based on what your nervous system feels safe handling. If your nervous system had to be on high alert to feel safe as a child, then there's a low level of pleasure that you are going to allow yourself an enjoyment that you're going to allow yourself because you're going to feel unsafe. If you were deeply nurtured as a child, then that level of pleasure and enjoyment is going to be much higher. We can train our nervous systems to start accepting higher and higher levels of pleasure.

Brett: It seems like there's an inverse relationship between enjoyment and letting our guard down. The more enjoyment we're experiencing, the more down our guard must be and there's some baseline level of guard that we must viscerally believe is required to be safe. Does that make sense?

Joe: Yes, that's right. That's exactly right. What you're basically saying there is, that you have to believe that a certain level of defense is necessary, to be able to protect yourself, which also means that you don't believe that you can respond in the moment, that you have to be prepared. That is one of the main things that creates us not listening to our impulse, not watching the river, is that idea that we have to be prepared so we're not in the present moment handling the thing that's in front of us. Or that we're in the future in a way that's very hard. We're not in the future in a soft way.

You can be in the future and be like, "I'm dreaming the future and have intentions in the future," but most of the time when we're in the future, we're trying to control the future. That's like the perfect example of management. We do this internally all the time. We're literally having conversations in our heads to control the future. Have you noticed that the conversations that you've had about how you want the future to go, they have never worked out specifically as you planned? You think about how you're going to have the conversation 10 different ways and it never happens that way. It always happens differently.

We're thinking about our thoughts. We're trying to manage our future. It never works out and it's definitely not enjoyable. That's called spin. We're just spinning. Now, I imagine that you're in that conversation with that person and you're just listening to the impulse and focused on enjoying the conversation.

Brett: Which results in a lot more listening to what they're saying as well.

Joe: Exactly and it helps them feel connected with you. You feel more heard and they feel more heard. The conversation goes better. It's the same thing internally. Internally, we're trying to manage ourselves all the time. "Hey, lose weight. Hey, get more in shape. Hey, you should listen more. Hey, you should stop managing." Whatever it is that your brain is constantly telling yourself you should manage and it doesn't work very well. It's not the most efficient way by any stretch.

We do this in meditation and we do this in yoga. Now, what is it like to meditate and focus on enjoyment? Not just doing something that you enjoy, but also enjoying what you're doing. Now, what is it like to do yoga and focus on enjoyment or crossfit for that matter? What's the internal thing that you do when you're managing and how effective is it compared to enjoyment?

The amazing thing is, I could say to somebody, "Hey, look, whatever internal exercise you do, just focus on enjoyment. Just enjoy that exercise. That's your number one thing to do." Most people won't, because they're like, "Enjoyment is scary," subconsciously, but if they do it, what they notice is that they do it a lot more, because it's more enjoyable. If meditation isn't enjoyable, you don't keep on meditating. If working out isn't enjoyable, you don't keep on working out.

The enjoyment propels the practice. Telling yourself you should do it and you really have to do it and you have to do better and stronger da-da-da, it's not very enjoyable and so you stop doing it. The other thing that's important here to say is, that the reason you think you have to manage yourself is, because you don't see that you're inherently good. You don't believe in your inherent goodness. You believe that you're like some lazy gluttonous asshole, if you were left to your own devices and that you need to be whipped into shape.

If you believe that about yourself, then that's who you're going to end up being. If you believe that you are inherently good, you want what's best for you and for the people around you and that you want to have an active, enjoyable, fulfilling life, then why on earth would you need to be managed for? If you want that stuff, what would make it, that you wouldn't just naturally do it?

Brett: It seems that that would also show up in the way that you manage or treat your employees or expect to be managed or treated by a boss.

Joe: Yes. Any boss you've ever had who is a micromanager, I guarantee you they micromanage themselves horribly. If they're not depressed now, they will be. If they don't have major anger issues, they will have. Any boss that you have, that is constantly in fear of how you are behaving is constantly in fear about how they're behaving. It's just the nature of it. The self-development-work works so well in companies, is because you are projecting your internal relationship externally.

Brett: Yes, let's dig into more about how this management enjoyment dynamic shows up in relationships.

Joe: Yes. Here's the story that I think freaks everybody out and it's very apropos. I have two girls. I don't think there's any time I punish them and I don't think my wife ever punished them. We got angry from time to time. That absolutely happened. I'm sure they felt ashamed from time to time, though we did our very best not to ever shame them. The thought process then is that, well, your kids must be spoiled and that your kids must not do what they're told and your kids must not behave well.

If you get into my home, what you find out is that my kids are amazing kids. It's so palpable that when people come they're like, "Wow, you have amazing children. How did you raise them?" That question gets asked all the time. Even after they see our kids, most people are dumbfounded that that's how we did it. 

We trusted that they wanted to be connected with us. We trusted that they wanted to be connected with themselves. When they were connected with themselves, they would show up thoughtfully and lovingly and with care. That's what they did. That's how it worked out. We never said to them, "Hey you're a bad person. Hey, you're naughty and we need to control that naughtiness." That never happened. They never believed that they were naughty. They just saw that we saw them as good and they ended up as good.

Obviously, some adults, that would take years and years and years of treating them that way for them to act that way. I'm not suggesting that you go around and go into a maximum security prison and treat all of them like they're amazing people who are inherently good, because unless they believe that, there's going to be friction to get to that point. In general, that's the way that you walk around in a relationship. The way you walk around is that you find out what's motivating them, find out what's moving them, find out what they want to do and follow that flow instead of saying, "This is what I want you to do and do that."

You see this happen all the time. One person convinces another person to join a project. If I'm hiring somebody for a project, I basically say, "What's your dream job?" If they're not really close to the job that I have in mind, it's not a good fit. I'd rather have somebody whose dream job it is, to do the job that I have in mind than to convince someone to do something because, eventually, I'm going to have to manage them. 

It's something that I learned in making investments. What I realized was that the amount of management that it took to make a deal happen was the same amount of management that I would have to consistently provide to make the deal work. Then that's really inefficient investing. I've learned that if I had to manage to get a deal done, I just would not do the deal. It was the deals that happened with a certain amount of flow and ease that then continued with that same amount of flow and ease. Obviously, there's ups and downs with everything, but generally, that flow and ease was far more likely.

Brett: There's also that disempowering factor of managing. If you invest in somebody's company and then you manage them, you're really saying that you don't trust their idea, unless it's done the way you think it should be done.

Joe: Yes, that's right.

Brett: That brings me back to that prison example, as well. You could go to a maximum-security prison and yes, on one hand, you can't just relax all the restrictions and behave as though everybody knows their inherent goodness, but we could actually stop doing a lot of the things that we do that reinforce the, "I am bad belief." There's a lot of talk about how the system reinforces itself.

Joe: Absolutely. You can go in and treat every single person in a maximum-security prison like they are good people. That absolutely will help them. There's a great video documentary called Being Human. If you look it up online, Leonard, Being Human, you will see an example of somebody who has killed a woman and her child. The grandmother of that woman and the child showed him a certain amount of love that changed his life and you can see it. It's absolutely doable and that's how it works in relationships.

The other thing is when you're trying to be managing a relationship, you don't want to be in the damn relationship. There's some part of you, whether it is you are getting sold a car and the person is trying to manage you into buying the car, you don't want to be in the relationship. That salesperson isn't as successful. They know that the best car salesmen are the ones who focus on having a good relationship and that don't try to sell the car and they outperform the ones trying to sell the car, usually, four or five to one.

It's the same thing we see in our love life; our husbands, our wives, our girlfriends/boyfriends, that when we are trying to manage the other person's mood, there is less love. When we are trying to manage the other person's reaction, there is less love, there's less enjoyment in the relationship. If you are enjoying the person, there's a lot less management. If you're enjoying the moment, there's a lot less management.

Brett: In the prison example, you can have boundaries.

Joe: You can have boundaries without having to manage anything. A boundary is following an impulse. That's a great point. Having a boundary is basically the deepest act of non management on some level. The reason it is is because what you're saying is, "Here's what I'm going to do," and then you allow the other person to do what they are going to do, which is like, "Hey, what I know is that interacting in this kind of relationship isn't working for me. If I'm going to continue to act in this relationship, then what I want is to not have a lot of yelling and I want it to be respectful and kind." 

Now, that person can leave and they might leave you. It's really non management. It's just saying, "This is what I'm game for, this is what I'm willing to do in this world." That's what non management is to a large degree. That's what creates an enjoyable life even if it's scary to get there.

Brett: It sounds like what you've been saying would be also if a partner is going to leave you and then you're going to have a lot of uncomfortable feelings, because of that and sadness, then that is also something to be enjoyed.

Joe: Absolutely.

Brett: Or we're going to be trapped by it.

Joe: Right, that's another way. Most of what we are trying to manage in our life is an emotional reality. We're trying to manage emotions, trying to not feel heartbreak when our lover leaves us, trying to not feel like a failure if our boss gets angry at us. The non management of those emotional states and when I say non management, I don't mean that now you're like a puddle on the floor throwing temper tantrums and throwing tennis rackets around your house.

I'm not saying non management in that way. I'm saying allowing yourself to feel the emotions fully, not act out on them, but allowing the non management of emotions so that you can actually feel them fully and you're not trying to push them down and repress them and hold your muscles to not feel them or judge other people not to feel them. That is a far more productive way of changing patterns in your life, than all the management of telling yourself you should do this or do that. 

You even mentioned it at the beginning of the podcast. You talked about, “...or I could just look at emotionally what's happening when I scroll on Instagram and what I'm trying to avoid.”

Brett: How can we cultivate the enjoyment of those feelings that we are trying to avoid by managing?

Joe: Well, stop resisting them. Half of the lack of enjoyment is the management itself. Stop trying to manage them and they'll all of a sudden become a lot more enjoyable. Stop resisting them.

A lot of the things about emotional states that we find out is that it is the resistance to them that's painful, not the actual emotion itself. It's the fear of them that's painful, not the actual emotion itself. All of it is a physical sensation in your body. It has different intensities, but once it's unresisted they change rapidly, the sensation of them changes rapidly. No one's ever really been killed by an emotion or maimed by an emotion internally. Maybe an angry person maimed somebody else, but if you internally are feeling your emotions, you're not going to be wounded.

Brett: Through the process of managing and suppressing our emotions, we can slowly kill ourselves with stress. That's true and depression.

Joe: Yes, that's exactly it. Generally, that's the thing about management, we think we need it. What it actually is, is just a constant signal that we can find a more efficient way and a more enjoyable way. Just dropping the management itself can be enjoyment. Just to say, it's just about taking your hand of control away from it slowly.

Some people, after listening to this, are like, "Okay, I'm just not going to manage any of my employees ever again." Then everything goes to shit and then they'll be like, "Yes that's right. I needed to manage it and I've proven that. I do need to manage it." What I'm saying is, see what the next level of enjoyment is, see what the next level is, because you have to find the new ways of being without management.

An example that's really critical is, you're sitting with a bunch of employees or people that you work with and you need a job done. Let's say you need the car cleaned. One way to do it is to say, "I need the car cleaned." That would be maybe the least amount of management. The least amount of management is to see if anybody cleans the car, which may happen. If they have the right to defined roles and everything like that, reinventing organization style, somebody might just come and clean the car because they see it needs to get done.

There's, "Hey, I need the car cleaned". Then there's like, "I need to get the car cleaned in this way, this way, this way and then make sure you detail this and do this and dah, dah, dah." Then there's car cleans just like, "Hey, I need the car cleaned and I need it to look like it looks when you get off of a new car lot. I need it to be done for less than $150 and I need you to enjoy yourself doing it." Where you give people the parameters of what a good job is but you don't tell them how to do it. You just tell them how to win.

You don't see a lot of people doing it that way. You don't see that interim step, the interim step of letting people discover how to do it in a way that lets them win. Most people want to know how to win. If you keep determination and you keep intention and you keep boundaries and you keep maintaining and mandating the results that you want, then how necessary is management? The management is just the fear, that you're not going to get there. The management is just the fear, that people are going to hurt you, that people aren't going to show up.

Brett: What you have been saying then in this entire episode is that in order to stop managing, we need to be willing to feel and enjoy feeling these emotions that we're trying to avoid like fear. That sounds like a really interesting topic to get into on another episode.

Joe: Yes, indeed. That is a great way to think about that which is, we often try to figure stuff out before we actually allow the feeling of stuff. If we really let that feeling happen and learn how to enjoy that feeling, then most of what we're trying to figure out doesn't need to be figured out anymore.

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:


Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations,

Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Human,

Connection over Perfection — Master Class Series #3

We are taught from a very young age that doing things perfectly will get us where we want to go in life. But what if doing things in connection is far more effective? What if being in connection with your customers gets better results than trying to make a perfect product? Or being in connection with your spouse makes a better marriage than trying to make it perfect?

"If you close your ideas and you think of the things that you feel are most perfect in the world, those are also things that are deeply connected. We think of a flower. We think of a scene. We think of God. We think of an amazing product. What the human population sees as perfection, they are all deep expressions of connection."

What is perfectionism? If having clear goals can be so helpful in life, how could it be that the simple act of measuring ourselves up to them so often holds us back? Today we are going to explore why our quest for perfection never seems to satisfy us and often only slows or impedes productivity, while seeking connection tends to result in better output, better products and a better life. 

Brett: Joe, what makes this such an important topic? 

Joe: Oh man. That's a great question. There's so many reasons why it's important to me. The one that comes to mind right away is an experiment they did. It's the dried spaghetti experiment. It's basically you give a group of people 25 or so hard pieces of spaghetti and a marshmallow and some masking tape and you say, "Build the highest structure you can build."

It turns out that kindergartners, a group of five kindergartners, will beat a group of five CEOs on a regular basis. The reason that the people who are doing the experiment say that that's the case is, because the young kids are iterating. They're just trying stuff out, trying stuff out, trying stuff out. 

Then when the time's up, they've tried like three or four models and they've got something. Whereas the CEO's are trying to make it absolutely perfect. Then they'll put that marshmallow on at the last minute, the whole thing will collapse. They didn't iterate. They didn't try. They tried to make it perfect and so it didn't work.

One of the things about this experiment, which is so cool, is that if you get those same five CEOs and you add an administrative assistant, they will outperform the kindergarteners. Just somebody who can connect them together will immediately change it. On that level, that's a great example of how just connection, connecting with the tools that you have experimenting, iterating, that's a form of connection. Connecting with each other, like with the admin, all of that produces better results. 

That's one of the main reasons why it's so much more important. The other more important thing is that our neurochemicals do not propel us to be perfect. They propel us to connect. It's in our nature. Connection is in our nature. When you're working with humanity, prioritizing connection makes it better for you and everybody you're working with. That's part of the reason you get better results is that people don't want you to be perfect. The idea of you being perfect is going to be different from person to person. What they want is to feel connected with you. What you want is to feel connected to them.

That's what we are genetically programmed to do, is to have this sense of connection. You get a deeper level of results and you get deeper satisfaction in your life. This is everywhere, even in the places where you don't expect it. For example, sales. There's one way of selling, which is the way most people sell. They try to write the perfect pitch and then present the perfect pitch in a perfect way. That just doesn't work as well as asking a whole bunch of questions, whether that's question-based selling or whether that's challenger-based selling. 

It's just asking a whole bunch of questions and talking to the person and finding out what's important to them. There's a great book on this called Ready, Fire, Aim. Is it Fire, Ready, Aim? Aim, Ready, Fire. It's basically saying that the job isn't to get a perfect product and put it out there. The job is to sell the thing before you build it so that you know what people will buy, which means that you're more connected with your customer.

Brett: Then you're building what people will buy rather than what you planned or what you thought they would buy.

Joe: That's one way to look at it. The other way to look at it is that you're prioritizing connection. You are saying, "I am going to connect with my customer and see what they really want, to see what it is that I can really serve them by providing," instead of, "I have this cool idea. What will make you buy it?"

Brett: Let's define our terms here to discriminate between what is perfection and connection. Let's start by defining what is perfection.

Joe: The critical parent's voice in your head is what it is for most people. We have this exercise in one of the workshops that I do, which is a triggering exercise, where people are to trigger one another and people hesitate to do it. We don't do it because we want to see people triggered. We do it, because we want people to figure out how to handle it when they are triggered. There's a group of people I can just walk up to and I can trigger people really easily because I can read what will trigger them pretty quickly. One of the things I can do is--

Brett: Yes, you are great at that.

Joe: [chuckles] One of the ways that I'll do it, I can just like, see who the perfectionist in the room is and I'll say, "You're a perfectionist." It'll trigger them because they're immediately in this headlock with themselves, because part of being perfect is to not be a perfectionist. It just messes with them all ways.

The way I pick those people out is because I can see which ones of them had supercritical parents and you can see it in everything that they do. At some level, perfectionism is just trying to make the critical parent pleased. Since the critical parent could never really be pleased, it wasn't about you. It could be the critical teacher or the critical grandparent or whatever.

Brett: How does that perfectionism show up? What do you see in people in their lives or the way they carry themselves, or even just briefly in a workshop when you've just met them?

Joe: How do you see that? It's the amount of rigidity in the musculature, the amount of precision that they operate with, how much they're second-guessing themselves, how stunted their tones are, the way that they speak. Basically, all it really results to, is rigidity and hesitation inside the person when they're trying to be perfect.

Brett: That hesitation part is really interesting. Because for me, I've always had identified or been diagnosed as ADD or ADHD. If I really pay attention to it, the moments where I get Teflon brain and it skips off of my task. If I really look at what happens often, it arises from a perfectionist pessimism.

I sit down to write an email and I'm like, "Oh, I'm just never going to get this right. I'm not going to get it right. At least not right now, so why even bother?" Maybe some other time the conditions will be perfect and I'll know what to do. Let's go see what's in the fridge right now.

Joe: They call it attention deficit disorder. The idea in the label is that your capacity to pay attention. If you reverse it a little bit, it's like how much attention was paid to you. It's the attention deficit disorder. Does that mean that you can't pay attention or does that mean that there was a limited amount of connection that you got? That's what actually creates it.

I've noticed that. That's on the other side is that connection feeling, that the idea that you can do it perfectly is also just simply inane in the fact that what I think is perfect is different, than what you think is perfect. There's always someone thinking that you're not doing it perfectly, including you, always.

The other thing you said, what is perfection? It's something that doesn't exist. It's just the point of view. If you are being absolutely perfect, somebody is seeing you as being rigid or imperfect or hesitant or whatever it is. That's how I describe it. If there's no such thing as that, the only way to describe it is trying to satisfy some critical voice in your head that is never and can never be satisfied.

Brett: Having goals and vision and striving for perfection is good, right? It allows us to structure ourselves and structure our minds so that we can achieve something. How does that interact with this idea of perfectionism? 

Joe: Having goals and intentions, those are fantastic. Obviously, it allows us to focus. It allows us to decide which way we're going to walk. We have thousands of decisions to make a day. If we make them based on a goal, then we are far more coherent and unified, especially if that goal is coherent and unified.

I don't know if that has anything to do with perfection. I don't see that as being perfect. None of our goals are perfect even. As long as you don't believe that there is some perfection you can get to, then the goals are really useful. As soon as you think there is a perfection that you can live up to, then the goals become less useful.

To be specific about that, that doesn't mean that you're not 100% confident you're going to get to the goal. It's just the belief that there's some level of perfection at the end of the rainbow. That just doesn't happen. The other thing is that the best way to get to what we think is perfection-- I'd even say, if you close your eyes and you think of the things that you feel are most perfect in the world, those are also things that are deeply connected. We think of a flower. We think of a scene. We think of God. We think of an amazing product. We think of a person who inspires us. Then an ecosystem.

Brett: An ecosystem, a metabolism. 

Joe: It's all also far more an expression of connection than it is a perfection. Even what the human population sees as perfection, they are all deep expressions of connection.

Brett: It seems related to the idea of utopia being a dangerous idea. The idea of iterating towards better than what we have now is just the natural state.

Joe: Which is the coolest thing too, because iteration is far more connected than perfection. If I'm just iterating and I'm learning and growing, that is a connected experience. That's what life does. It evolves. It doesn't evolve to a perfect end. If you see yourself as trying to evolve to a perfect end, then you're no longer in the flow of life. You're not using all the natural energy, all the natural ways of being that we were designed with to be productive.

Brett: This is all reminding me of the book Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse. Have you--?

Joe: I haven't. What is it?

Brett: It's a fascinating and quite short read actually. It's quite poetic. It just describes this one very broad concept across a bunch of different domains and short prose about how there are games that are finite, where you achieve something and you get the title. You get the diploma. You get the trophy. You get the money. Then there are games that they're not meant to be won. The goal is not to win and end the game, but the goal is just to keep playing.

Joe: Yes, which is right. I think that's a beautiful way to describe why connection and perfection work the way they work in our systems is that life is the game that you just keep on playing. Therefore, connection is what works. When you have a game that has a finite end or you've created an imagined finite end to it, then perfection is there.

That's the other thing about it, is that fear creates a finite end in people. The idea of perfection is really a fear-based idea. The idea that you have to be perfect, that you have a right answer, that there's the right way to do it, that's all fear-based. Fear does not make great decisions.

Brett: That's interesting. A lot of ideals of perfection are this belief that we can get rid of everything bad and that we can reduce all error. There's a fear of like, "Oh my God, what if this happened? What if this still exists in the world? What if there's still imperfection? What if I still have to feel whatever this is that I don't want to feel? What if I could just cut all that out? That would be perfect."

Joe: The CEO of Netflix has a great example of this where he talks about his first company. He basically made it idiot-proof so it couldn't be broken and then he only had idiots working for him as he describes it. Then they couldn't really adjust their company to the new times. In his company now--

Brett: Rigidity.

Joe: Exactly. He has a system that's in place to create a certain amount of chaos so that he can create an environment where smart people love to be and where it's far more flexible.

Brett: Where flexible people like to be.

Joe: Exactly. That's where connection happens. In one, he prioritized getting it right and perfecting. The other one he prioritized being connected with these people.

Brett: Then let's get into the definition of connection then. How specifically would you define that as relative to this idea of perfection?

Joe: It's a measure of capacity for you or for anybody, anything to meet and accept things as they are in the moment. If I'm connecting with you, I'm not asking you to be any different right now. The more I ask you to be different, the less connected we're going to feel. If I'm looking at a landscape and trying to adjust it, telling myself this is the good part and this is the bad part and comparing it to other landscapes, I am in less connection than if I am in just full acceptance of what the landscape is at this moment.

Connection basically is like the surface area of our awareness. We take away surface area, when we start looking for things that can be better or things that are different or any way in which we're calculating creates distances to that connection. If you are a CEO and you want your customer to be different, you are not in connection. If you are a product manager trying to get a different answer from your customer, then you're not in connection. If you are a husband wanting your wife to not nag as much, or a wife wanting your husband to not nag as much, then you are not in connection. Connection is the acceptance of people and things as they are. That's what it is.

Neurochemically, it is oxytocin and serotonin. Mostly it's oxytocin, which is the drug that is felt when we're in deep connection, mothers feel when they're breastfeeding and we feel it when we're hugging and we feel it during sex. That's oxytocin. Serotonin is more of a pride, proud of each other drug and something that you would feel like if you were watching a friend have a great moment. You had a lot of pride in what they just accomplished. Those are our connection neurochemicals. That's the other way to say what connection is.

Brett: One thing just pried, it seems serotonin is also involved in meaning and satiety.

Joe: Yes. That's right. Exactly. The way to think about our ability to have connection, it's really our ability to love ourselves and accept ourselves as we are. The more I can love every aspect of myself, the more I can love every person I come across as they are. You can hear there's somebody's mind out there listening to this right now and they're like, "If I accept myself as I am, I will be horrible. I will drink beer on the couch, or I'll just say the same as I am right now."

What's interesting is, that doesn't actually happen. If you look at any system that is deeply connected and change is inherent, it's natural. Evolution is part of it. It's when people get rigid, when people try to do it perfectly, that change stops happening. It's just that you don't get to control the change. It's just that you have to trust the deeper intelligence in yourself, your deeper intelligence, your nonintellectual intelligence to drive the change.

Brett: It seems like this comes up pretty frequently in so many other aspects of the work that you do, or that we've been doing. For example, the victim story that people have around client relationships. It's like, "Oh, man, all these clients, there's so much wrong with them. If only they would see things the way we see it, we'd be able to do great work."

Joe: Yes, or fathers or mothers or girlfriends. Exactly. That's right. The way to think about it too, is just like think about the people who really make it so that you feel seen, that really make it so that you feel understood. Feel that. That is connection. Those people are seeing you for what you are. They're not trying to fix you or manage you. If you think about what's so important about connection, what makes it important is, think of what you would do for those people. Think of the people who make you feel most seen and most understood in this world. What would you do for them? What would you do for yourself, if you really saw and understood yourself deeply? If you really felt understood by yourself.

There's people listening to this who haven't quit eating sugar or haven't quit smoking. What would you do? There's a way in which you're disconnected with yourself. If you felt deeply connected with yourself and you weren't trying to change yourself, the things that you would do for yourself are far more outstanding than things you're actually doing for yourself right now. You tell yourself you should do them, but you're not doing them.

Brett: Yes. That brings me back to that ADD example I described earlier. It's like the difference between sitting down to write an email and being like, "Oh God, I'm just so procrastinating today. I'm just never going to get this done. Oh, I suck." That's telling myself how I should be. Then the connection version would be like, "Oh, wow. I really want to get this right because this is important to me. Oh, man. Whatever I do it's never going to be. There's always going to be something I could have done better. Wow. Okay."

Joe: Yes. How about just be authentic, do it the way that I want to do it and then look at it and see if that works? Exactly. That connection is staying. I talk about what it means and I say that it's like accepting how things are in the moment. The moment changes. So you just keep on accepting, because it keeps on moving. It keeps on changing.

Brett: Yes, because the moment you accept something, you can also then turn that acceptance into a new model of perfection.

 Joe: [laughs] Yes. I'm going to connect to you perfectly. It's so amazing. It's like, "Hey, I want to connect with you." You can just feel that in your system. "Hey, I want to connect with you. Hey, I want to connect with you perfectly." It just immediately takes the connection out.

Brett: I've experienced that in relationships so many times, where suddenly I'll have a new idea of like, "Oh, wow, this is connection. I wasn't doing connection before. Now I know what connection is." Then suddenly that can become a new perfectionism, where I'm like, "Oh, man, I could call my brother and reach out and talk right now, but I haven't talked in so long and that's been-- Oh." Then just find ways to make it not okay somehow and then procrastinate it.

Joe: Exactly. That's the amazing thing too, is that we have all these impulses inside of us that are just popping up like, "Oh, I want to work out or I want to exercise or I want to move my body." Then that impulse, which is the deep connection, immediately gets turned into a perfection of, "I should work out." Then it's completely unmotivating.

Brett: Then here's my workout plan that I'm going to hold myself to and shame myself and judge myself when I miss a day.

Joe: Exactly. You watch the little kids and they just follow that impulse and there's no idea of perfection. As they get older, the bigger the perfection, the more they're stilted, the more they're stunted. If you look at the people who have the deepest level of depression that feel most stagnant in life, their brain is telling them that they're not perfect and they need to be perfect all the time.

Brett: Yes. They're just experiencing that delta between them and their model of what they want to be.

Joe: Yes. I'll give you a little trick that I do with people. The most recent is with my guy who cuts my hair, a great guy. He's an artist and I love his art. It's good work. He was just having a hard time getting people to buy and represent him and everything that. I'm "Hey man, I've got a job for you. If you do it, if you do this job successfully, I'll give you whatever 1,000 bucks," or whatever it was. He's like, "Okay, well, what's the job?"

And I said, "I need you to get 30 rejections. I need you to go out there and get 30 people to turn you down. If you can prove to me you've got 30 people to turn you down in a year, I'll give you 1,000 bucks." I came back two months later, I don't get my haircut that often, or I had one and we didn't talk about it. Then I was like, "How's it going? He's like, "I've got three representations and I've sold 12 pieces." It was the difference between trying to get sold and trying to get rejected because his mindset moved from perfection to connection.

Brett: Speaking of moving that mindset, how can we consciously shift from a mindset of measuring ourselves up to some perfect ideal and rather focus on cultivating connection? What is the practice here?

Joe: That question in itself implies perfectionism. It's like how do I perfect myself in this way? Even that question becomes a little bit less effective than another question. The other thing to say is that there's also no such thing as perfect connection. It's asymptotic, meaning that you get closer and closer, but you can never actually arrive.

There's no place to get to, that you're going to ever get to. There's just proximity and feeling more and more and more and more and more, more connected. I think it's important to say that if you choose that, if you say, "Hey, what I'm after in life--" Every company has a bottom line. For most of them, it's the financial bottom line, but there's other kinds of bottom lines that people have.

What I've noticed is when people change their life to having a bottom line of connection, they have incredibly happy and productive lives. If they can measure their level of connection on a daily basis and their job is just to feel more and more connected every day, that visceral sense of connection, it has a very, very deep effect on people. I just think it's really important to say that, but the trick is not to try to get there because trying to get there is a form of disconnection.

Brett: There's no there to get. It's an iteration.

Joe: Right. It's really more of an allowing. Connection is more of an allowing. If I'm not trying to change anything, if the definition of connection is not trying to change anything, not wanting-- It's not quite that. It's not wanting things to be different. You might want to change stuff. That's fine. It's important to change stuff, obviously. It's more about accepting it for what it is even if you are trying to change it.

Brett: Which is in a sense allowing imperfection? Allowing the error signal, allowing the pain of things not being as good as you could imagine them being, which breaks through denial. Because what is denial other than just having this vision of how things are and no, it has to be perfect, so this information that is inconvenient?

Joe: Yes. Also, it's your imagination. It's imaginary. Perfection is again. Yes, exactly. That's beautifully said. How do you have deeper levels of connection in your life and how do you, I would say, allow deeper levels of connection in your life? It's interesting. One of the things that's a really important principle behind it is, to go into difficulty is one of the ways that you get into-- when I say difficulty, I mean discomfort or vulnerability.

That really creates a sense of connection in folks. If you've ever seen people who fought together in a war, it doesn't matter if they haven't seen each other in 20 years, their bond is ridiculous. It's such a strong level of connection and they've just gone through the shit together. I build my courses so that there's difficult moments so that people can start feeling bonded to one another.

There's something about going through difficult things together that creates a bond. Same with yourself. If I have my little kids and I have them do tasks that are hard for them and challenging for them, they feel more connected with themselves and more connected with me. They talk about how to build self-esteem. One of the ways you build self-esteem is by giving hard things to do. Then that's how they build self-esteem. It's not to take that away from them or to try to make it so they're successful. It's the same thing internally and externally. 

Then the other main way that I talk about this is VIEW. I talk about something that I termed as VIEW, which is how we relate to ourselves and how we relate to other people. That's very operational, so that if you practice this state of mind, it just leads to deeper and deeper levels of connection internally and externally.

Brett: Can you explain VIEW?

Joe: Yes. The most important thing is, it is a state of mind. It's almost even beyond a state of mind. I think it is a state that's beneath all states of mind is another way to think about it.

Brett: Metastate.

Joe: Yes. It's a metastate. A stateless state, I've heard people call it. It's good for internal and external practices. It's basically V stands for vulnerability, I stands for impartiality, E stands for empathy and W stands for wonder. It's walking around the world willing and feeling vulnerable, impartial, empathetic and full of wonder.

This is not just like how I interact with you. As you know, we have these conversations that are in VIEW and we do a lot of work in here. It's also meditative, like if you're sitting and being with yourself quietly, how can you be more vulnerable with yourself in that moment? How can you be more impartial with yourself? How can you have more empathy? How can you have more wonder?

We're constantly telling ourselves, "I should lose weight," but we're never really going, "What is making it so that I've been saying that to myself for 20 years and nothing's happened?" We're constantly telling ourselves how we should feel or how we should not feel or how to avoid them, but we're not really actually just being empathetic with ourselves and being with the feeling.

We're constantly telling ourselves how to do shit, what to do. We're editing ourselves all the time, but we're very rarely just ever being impartial with ourselves like, "What's actually happening? Let's just look at this thing with a watcher's eye, an observer's eye instead of a manager's eye."

Impartiality is amazing because people often say, "If I don't manage it, it's not going to turn out right," which is clearly not true when you just think about most of the major decisions that have changed your life are not things that you decided. Like did you really decide to meet your wife on a Tuesday at a bar or did you really decide to even take that job or apply for that job or did you just apply for 20 jobs?

The decisions that actually make our lives are often ones that we don't have any control over anyway. More importantly, it's like the best change agent for things is awareness. It's not management. Just being aware of stuff can change things dramatically. We put a whole bunch of management on it, thinking that that's necessary, but it usually slows down the progress.

Brett: Relationships are a really great example, because you certainly can't connect the dots in advance how you're going to meet a person or a client, or you can try to arrange your life so that that thing happens with higher frequency. Really, there's a state of mind of being open to it, of allowing it, of allowing those synchronicities.

Joe: The more that you recognize them and allow them, the more that they happen. I'm not in any way speaking out against, "Hey." Sometimes it's important to say, "We're going to get to this goal." I think goals are fantastic. I love them. The question is, can you hold that with an impartiality as well as a determination? It's incredibly easy to do when you look at nature, like an oak tree that grows to be 5 feet wide and 40 feet tall. That's determination and it's also very impartial. It's just in the flow of things.

Impartiality is the hardest one for business people, particularly to really grok and understand. One of the metaphors I use for impartiality is you're on a boat going down a river. It's important to row the boat, but it is more important to read the river. If you are partial and reading the river, you're not reading the river. That's the impartiality part. Then vulnerability, obviously, is doing the things that are just a little bit scary, to let the little parts of yourself that you judge out into the world to find out that nobody else is judging them. They're just you.

Brett: Or to find that they might be judged and that's okay.

Joe: Yes and to find that they might be judged and that's okay, right. The thing is we don't really care what people are judging us. All the things that you're proud of about yourself, all those things that you think are just fricking awesome about yourself, I guarantee you there's people judging you for them. I guarantee you and you don't care. The things you care about are the things that you're judging yourself for. Exactly.

Brett: We've got vulnerability, impartiality, empathy and wonder. We've talked about impartiality quite a bit. We've talked about vulnerability. Let's talk a little bit more about wonder. 

Joe: Wonder is curiosity without looking for a solution. Wonder is curiosity with awe. It has a certain level of awe to it. It has a certain amount of amazement to it and it is in the question. We think that being in the answer is more productive than being in the question. Being in the question is incredibly important. Just as an example, you can have three different questions arise. One question is, how do I have the perfect relationship? The second question could be, how do I have the most connected relationship? The third question could be, how do I have a relationship that lasts 40 years?

Brett: Then ends exactly at 41.

[both chuckle]

Joe: Probably. Those are going to lead to three different relationships. What the question is, is far more important than what the answer is. Living in the question is an amazing experience, to be in the question without needing that resolution, to just be in the wonder of life. It just provides answer after answer after answer, but to be in the knowing, you only get one answer. I'd much rather have many answers than one.

Brett: It's like seeing an animal be like, "Whoa, that's a giraffe. Cool, giraffe," or being like, "Whoa, look at the spots on that thing. How tall it is? The little eyelashes, Oh."

Joe: What? It has the same amount of neck vertebrae as I do? What? What? How on earth? Exactly. It's that feeling of just question after question. Answer after answer. 

One thing about vulnerability that I'm not sure if I hit is, that everybody's vulnerability is different. It's like, I see people often say like, "Oh, that guy's not vulnerable." You have no idea if that person is being vulnerable or not because vulnerable for you and vulnerable for me is different. I could tell you all about my childhood and all the mishaps and drama and you'd be like, "Wow, man that was super vulnerable. Your dad did what? Your mom did huh?" I would be like, "Yes, that's not vulnerable."

To me, I've said it 1000 times. I've been in rooms and Al-Anon meetings and groups for years of hashing through that stuff. There's nothing vulnerable about it for me. That's the path of vulnerability, is that you're constantly showing up with that thing, that's a little scary and all of a sudden, it's not scary anymore. Then you show up with the next thing and you show up with the next thing. Then it ends up leading you into authenticity, because all those vulnerabilities are really just ways that you're judging yourself and preventing yourself from being what you actually are.

Brett: Vulnerability could even depend on role as well, like an overbearing manager screaming is like that's somebody not being vulnerable. An employee showing their anger to a manager that they've been hiding for so long and just resenting, there's something really vulnerable in that.

Joe: I would say something vulnerable in both actually. Basically, the manager who's yelling and is basically saying, "I feel out of control. I feel alone. I feel out of control. I'm going to go and beat myself up for yelling in a couple minutes. I feel ashamed and I don't know what to do to actually fix this situation. I'm yelling, because I hope that it'll make me feel like I'm in control for 20 minutes."

Brett: To a third party observer, as you were saying, like our idea of what is vulnerable is different. A third party observer might observe the manager as being invulnerable and their anger in the employees as being vulnerable. I see this in movies, for example. There's so many examples where finally that person stood up for themselves. That was such a vulnerable thing to do.

Joe: The important part is, are you being consciously vulnerable? Yes, if you're getting angry all the time and yelling at people, obviously that level of vulnerability, though it's vulnerable for you, you probably don't recognize it. Other people don't recognize it. It's not really going to have the same effect as being vulnerable in a way of like, "Oh, I'm going to go stretch myself here." What is very useful is when somebody is yelling like that to see it as a vulnerability.

Brett: Or, "I'm sorry. I keep yelling at you and I don't want to be yelling at you. I apologize."

Joe: Yes. That's the vulnerability that the person yelling it's going to really benefit them. To see them as vulnerable when they're yelling just to be able to look at them and say, "Hey, you're not alone in this. This whole team wants to be successful with you." It will immediately change the yell. It just will, because if you can see it as vulnerability, that's great. For that person to have the benefit and this modality of VIEW, the important thing is that you're choosing vulnerability. You're choosing the thing that's vulnerable to you.

I think that the one piece that we haven't quite talked about is empathy and I think it's an important thing. Empathy is just allowing yourself to feel the other person. It doesn't mean losing yourself in the other person. It doesn't mean going into the other person. It doesn't mean confusing your emotional state with their emotional state. It just means allowing yourself to be with the person while they are feeling stuff, to be there with them in it. That's just an important piece on the empathy. 

Brett: Again, vulnerability, impartiality, empathy, wonder, VIEW. How does one practice VIEW or cultivate this state of mind or meta state?

Joe: You can do it internally and you can do it externally. If you're a meditator, if you just  contemplate quietly, just do some experiments. See what it's like to be vulnerable with yourself and then see what it's like to be non vulnerable with yourself. See what it's like to be partial with yourself. Have a really strong agenda for yourself and see what it's like to be impartial with yourself.

Brett: What about an agenda creeping into meditation? Like I'm going to meditate into this particular state of mind that I want to be in and that would be perfect.

Joe: Exactly. That would be very partial and so would be saying I want to be impartial right now. This is the thing about true meditation is having no agenda, having no management. It's more like sitting on the beach and enjoying the wind across your face. Oftentimes, when I'm talking to people about how to meditate, I talk about, it's just non-management.

The level of management is also asymptotic. It gets finer and finer and finer and finer. Maybe you start with just a simple agenda, which is to be agendaless. Maybe you start with a really simple agenda of being aware of your body. The idea is that eventually, the agenda goes away and you become the passenger. You are being taken for a ride. You're not driving.

Brett: How do you bring that into your life when you're in a meeting or an argument or working on a podcast?

Joe: That's actually a little bit easier for VIEW. Wonder means you're asking open-ended questions. If you're really curious, you're asking questions that are going to give you lots of data. How, what, where, when questions. Not can do, is questions and why questions are usually judgmental. Wonder is just asking questions. Empathy is not trying to fix people's emotional states, not trying to change their emotional state and to let them know that you're with them.

Brett: That sounds like impartiality.

Joe: It is and it's on the emotional level. They all are the same thing. When you start really getting into them, they're all the same thing. Impartiality, I use that more on the logical level and the empathy is more on the emotional level. It's to call it out because I think that most people don't recognize or it takes them a long time to recognize, that they are constantly wanting their emotional state to be different, that they're constantly trying to get to some state or trying to get away from another state.

Brett: We've all been taught in some way or another that happy is good. Some parents are like, "Oh, I will love you if you're successful." Other parents are like, "I will love you if you're happy," and that's almost as just as bad in some cases.

Joe: Yes. It's not loving them for what they are. It's not loving your kid for what they are. The crazy thing is, is this idea is like, "Hey, if I love you for throwing temper tantrums," and you're going to just keep on throwing temper tantrums, that's just not true. It's like once you love that part of yourself, it changes.

Just like if you put awareness into something that changes. There's this principle in business, it says how do you fix a problem? The thing you do is you put attention towards it. Just the simple act of putting attention towards a change is the situation and creates a solution. It's the same thing that awareness just changes things and so does love. 

Love just changes. If you can love every emotional state that you have, they change. The friction of most emotional states is your resistance to them, not the state themselves. If you're resistant to bliss, which oddly most people are. Bliss is very overwhelming. There's this great quote that says fear is excitement without the breath.

It's just saying that excitement, if you forget to breathe because you're resisting it, is fear. That's what empathy is all about. We're using different parts of the brain and empathy and impartiality too. One is mirror neurons and one is opening our heart. The feeling of opening a heart and the other one, impartiality is dropping the strategies, dropping the agenda.

Brett: Another thing about fear and excitement, in base jumping through the phrase similar to this was just excitement is the other side of fear. Getting into it more subtly, fear is when you feel something is off and inauthentic and excitement is when you feel like you're ready for it. Whatever cliff you're about to jump off of, if you feel like your equipment is in line and your mindset is in the right place and the conditions are right, then it comes through as excitement.

If there's a part of you that knows something's wrong, you know that you feel peer-pressured into this to be cool, or you know that the conditions are off but you're just avoiding hiking down because that would be annoying, then there's a constriction there that turns into fear. Listening to what kind of fear you're feeling can be a really good indicator.

Joe: Yes. Absolutely, that's a beautiful thing. I think what it all requires, fear, excitement, breath, no breath, is to feel it. It's to actually feel which is what empathy is saying. It's to actually allow the emotional state to move through you and to flow without resistance, because you're never going to get the intelligence of the emotion while trying to control it. You're not going to get the intelligence of your people in a business if you're trying to control it.

Brett: It seems like a form of being receptive to information rather than just drawing a conclusion.

Joe: That's exactly right. That's the whole thing. That's the VIEW. If you're practicing it out in the world, it's like wonder is asking questions. Empathy is being with people's emotions. Impartiality is not trying to drive them to a place.

We had this great experience, where we did these workshops, where it was these two day practicing VIEW. That's all we did. Just practice VIEW for two days. This is like deep stuff. People will call me two or three years later. I remember one guy and it's more than one guy. There's multiple people where this happened, where they basically at some point in the two days looked at me and said, "Wow, I've never asked an impartial question in my whole life." All my questions, everything I'm saying is trying to get somebody to do something.

The people who are going to have that recognition the most are the people who are most disconnected, are the people who feel most lonely, who feel most disconnected is because they have this incredibly strong agenda for themselves or for others.

Brett: Perfectionism.

Joe: Yes, exactly. Vulnerability is just saying things that are vulnerable or asking vulnerable questions or asking the question that might get you fired or asking the question that might make your boss angry at you, but it's your truth. That's the thing about vulnerability.

Vulnerability is you don't do the scary thing because it's scary, you do the scary thing because it's your truth. You ask the question because it's your truth or you say the thing. Even the work that I do, when people see me do one-on-one work, they're like, "Holy shit, how did you ask those questions?" It happens to me too. I'll feel it. I'll be like, "Oh my god, I'm going to ask that question. Oh shit." You've seen it happen. Those are usually the most powerful, most impactful questions are the ones that are really scary.

Brett: That's when my sphincter is clenching hearing you start to ask the question.

Joe: Exactly. Mine, too. It's like, "Whoo." That's when life just becomes really alive and opens up. That's where the most important stuff comes. Maybe some people are going to join you. Maybe some people aren't. That vulnerability really makes it so that you get the life that you want to live, because you're showing up as yourself in your truth, no matter the consequences, no matter what someone thinks.

That just drives the people who want you for you into your life and drives the people who don't want you for you out of your life. It's a lot easier. Then we have this whole technique of asking questions and having how to have you VIEW question and answers and all that stuff will be explicit in other materials.

There's all sorts of ways of using this to do sales and you're doing this to do management of people, or doing VIEW to do product development or doing VIEW to talk to your father who you haven't spoken to in 20 years. When you hear people have these conversations, it's amazing to see. We'd give these homework assignments and VIEW. They would in the VIEW course and they would go out and talk to their dad and then parents, siblings haven't spoken, getting back together. Husbands and wives realizing, that they have the same thing. All beautiful things happen. Bosses and employees changing the way that they work together. Co-workers changing the way they work together from 15-minute conversations, because you do this with executives.

I do this with executives and typically the executive is like, "Wait. I need to be partial. That's how I've made my living and I can't be vulnerable." I'm like, "It's just an experiment. Let's do this for 15 minutes." Then at the end of the 15 minutes, I always say the same thing. I'm always like, "Hey, so have you ever had a more productive 15-minute conversation?" The answer is almost always no, because when you're that way, it's an incredible form of productivity, because you get to see and learn and grow so much. CEOs start to learn like, "Oh, I could--"

There's this great in the book that I love Reinventing Organizations. There's this example of a CEO going to his people and say, "Hey, we just lost the biggest contract. We do not have enough money. Tell me what we should do." The whole organization said, "You know what, we're all going to take a pay cut and we're going to try to get another customer." The people who are trying to get the other customer, obviously, we're completely motivated because they saw everybody do this pay cut. They themselves had a pay cut and the CEO didn't dictate a pay cut, but people decided this is what we're going to do.

That's an expression of vulnerability in a business and there's thousands of those expressions. There's a Harvard Business Review case of a woman who basically had no money. She had a company and she had no money to keep on going and her employees stayed with her. It was all about her vulnerability with the employees.

It's so incredibly apparent when you get out of the mindset that people do things for money. Some people do things for money, for sure. We all do some things for money for sure, but most of what we do in life is not for money.

Brett: Getting beyond carrots and sticks.

Joe: Yes. Getting beyond carrots and sticks and having some faith that most people and the people that you should have hired and the people hopefully that you're married to, are people who want what's best for them. They want to contribute. They want to be a part of things. They're motivated. If there's no money, people wouldn't just all sit around and go, "Okay. I'm done. No more money. I'm finished." If everybody had food and shelter, then everyone's like, "I'm finished. I'm done."

Brett: This example of the CEO reminds me of something that you've said before where the position of the CEO often feels like the most lonely position in the company.

Joe: Yes, for sure.

Brett: What would you have to say just to wrap this episode up neatly into a perfect conclusion, cherry on top? What would you have to say to that CEO that feels that distance and wants that connection but feels like, "No, no, everything would fall apart"?

Joe: I would say, I know you had to be resourceful and you had to be self-reliant. You were alone as a kid but you're not alone now. If you're looking for evidence, look around at all the people who are trying to make you successful. They might not be able to live up to every one of your expectations, but it's probably impossible to find anybody who's not trying to live up to your expectations, who's not trying to make it work for you and for them. Take a look at that and then apologize to them for not recognizing it. That would be the vulnerable act. Then see how much more inspired they are to be there with you and to show up with you because they see your humaneness instead of being scared of you.

Brett: Beautiful. Joe, thank you for a perfectly imperfect episode.

Joe: That it was. 

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:


Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations,

James Carse, Finite and Infinite Games,

Michael Masterson, Ready, Fire, Aim: Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat,

Embarking on the Journey — Master Class Series #2

When we are ready to embark on the journey of self-transformation we want to make the most of our time in an effective and progressive way. For this, as with all journeys, it helps to have a compass and a clear map.

A clear map tells us four things about the journey: the necessary conditions, the best approach, what to expect along the way, and impediments where we might get lost. The compass that keeps us on track—our constant reference along the path—is enjoyment.

"There is no way of getting it right. There is no complete. There is no finish line, no done, there is no “I’m going to get it.” There is just “What’s the next experiment?” “What’s the next adventure?” “What can I learn from what just happened?” There is just play."

Brett: Today we're going to talk about everything you need to know about embarking on a personal transformative journey, conditions for transformation, what happens on the journey, what we can get excited about and what will get on our way. Joe, tell me what does someone need to know about embarking on a transformative journey?

Joe: There's a way to look at it that we can dissect it into all the parts of it and let's do that. Before I even start there, the most important thing that someone should know about in deciding lik, "Hey, I want to do something that transforms my life," is that it's a process to be enjoyed. Not only is it a process to be enjoyed because that's nice, but it's because it's more effective.

The only thing to tweak about that is that enjoying yourself is a little bit different than maybe how you're thinking of it. Most people think or a lot of people think, if someone says, "Hey, go enjoy yourself." They think, "What am I going to do?" For example, I'll go play golf or I'll go and have a conversation with a friend or I'll go get high on heroin, whatever their idea of enjoying themselves is. That's not what I'm speaking to. What I'm speaking to is how do you allow yourself more enjoyment in everything that you're doing. That's what I mean by enjoy yourself.

If it means that you're in a satsang listening to a guru, how do you enjoy yourself in that? If it means that you are listening to this digital recording, even if you notice that you're criticizing yourself, how do you enjoy criticizing yourself? That's the question. The question isn't how do I do the things that I enjoy? The question is how do I enjoy the things that I'm doing. That's the golden mean of the journey, that's where you guide your footsteps by and then everything else is a technicality that revolves around that sun. It's like the gravitation, how do you enjoy yourself?

As far as the details, I think you can clump them into four parts. One part is, what are the conditions that need to be set for transformation? There's an acupuncturist who once taught me this idea of conditions for healing. I was like, "What do you need to do just so that somebody can potentially heal if you're treating them."

It's the conditions that need to be there for transformation to be possible. Then there's a question of approach, how do you approach it because at the end of the day, you're responsible and your approach is going to make a big difference in the alacrity, the enjoyment and the depth of transformation.

Then I think you can also talk about what to expect on the journey, because when you really got to get into it there's certain things that happen over and over again and they can fool you and they can also, when you see them in a slightly different light, they can really propel you. Then I think then you can also talk about what gets in the way? What are the impediments of the journey? That's how I would break it down.

Brett: Let's get started on it. What are the conditions that we would set in place for us to enjoy our transformation?

Joe: The most important thing is you need to feel safe. And safe is misused often in today's world. We've got a lot of times people use safety as a way to control. Like, “I don't feel safe.” It's not actually a lack of safety, it's a way that they can control their environment, but you have to feel safe. Fear reduces your capacity to learn. Here's something that you've never seen before.

You've never seen two people in a yelling match, where one person going, "You son of a pa-pa-pa-pa and you mother, ba-ba-ba-ba." The other person say, "Oh yes, you're right. You've got a point there." It doesn't happen because it's neurologically impossible. Feeling safe is really critical to being able to learn. That's important and it's really important also to understand the difference between whether you feel unsafe or whether you feel defensive.

There's a great trick to doing that. Take a moment, pause this or whatever, but feel in your body what it feels like to feel unsafe. When you really felt like your life was threatened or that you were threatened and then feel what it's like when you were really defensive. Your body has two different signals for that defensiveness and safety and they get confused sometimes. To know the difference is really important.

Brett: What are some examples of what that might feel like in the body? I remember early on going through your courses, a lot of the instruction were like: “How does that feel in your body?” A lot of times it would just be dissociation. I couldn't quite feel, like, "What do you mean in my body? I'm thinking. This is a thought.” 

Joe: [laughs] Oftentimes safety is felt more electrically in the body. It can be felt in the shoulders and in the belly often, but it's different for everybody and it's really based on, when you feel unsafe, if you go to fight, flight, or freeze. Your body's literally going to feel one of those ways. Defense is a hardening. It's usually like a more increased rigidity in some way.

Brett: Muscles tightening.

Joe: Tightening, yes. It doesn't always have to be that. It's very different for each person. Those are some of the signals to look for, such as how much electricity is moving through, what feels like electricity or energy is moving through your body. How rigid your body is, what part of your body lights up? These are the ways to know the difference for you between safety and resistance. Great question. Then, another thing that's the condition needs to be set, there needs to be trust. If you don't believe that you are going to transform, you are at a severe disadvantage.

Trusting a teacher if you choose to have one is really important. Trusting yourself is so critical. Trust is a really important thing. The belief that it's possible to really know that that transformation is there-- there's this thing called the placebo effect. The interesting thing is, that it's always seen like it's a glitch of science. We can't really test it, because some people just think that they will get better and so they do. [chuckles] In this work, the placebo effect is a feature. It's not a glitch, it's not a bug. It's really important that you think that it's possible.

I don't mean to do it in a namby-pamby kind of way. [chuckles] I'm talking about doing the research, do what you have to do to find out that it's possible. Talk to people who've been in the course or know that it's possible. The truth is we have a great success rate in our courses. We've had great studies done and we have a consistent shift that's measurable, but the main part is the belief that that's possible.

The other thing to see is that some people don't change. Occasionally, you get someone who goes through who doesn't change. One of the things that you can always know about that person is they never came in with the confidence that they could change. They were resistant right from the start to the whole thing. If you're that, just don't do it. It's a waste of your time and it hurts the other people that you're on the journey with. That's really important.

Another really important thing is seeing beyond your intellect and knowing that your thoughts are only part of the way the transformation happens. Do your research if you need to, to know that there are things like mirror neurons and mirror neurons don't register in the intellect of the brain. They're just some way in which we know that our body has an intelligence that if you move differently, your thoughts will be different.

Research things like Sensory Processing Disorder where we know that kids who do not get to inhabit their body in a full way have a different brain function than kids who have inhabited their body in a full way, who have an understanding of where they are in space, they have appropriate perception issues. We know that the way that we move changes.

Our body has an intelligence, our emotions have an intelligence, our intellect have an intelligence. If you are trying to do all of your change through the intellect, you're going to be screwed. It's going to be slow. You're going to be able to describe everything that's wrong with you, but very little is going to have changed.

Brett: I've experienced that myself.


It took some time to realize that, while I could logically create a framework around everything that I was experiencing, I wasn't able to actually transform until I let the fuzzier logic of emotions and the body make movements that I didn't have to intellectually understand.

Joe: Yes. For me the journey was similar. It was slightly different, I just deconstruct it. I spent almost 10 years deconstructing all my thoughts so that I could be free enough of them to trust the other ways of knowing. It's so apparent, it's just to ask somebody who's a great gymnast, how they did it and they're not going to give you an intellectual explanation. There's knowledge that happens that the intellect can't describe, muscle memories, examples like emotional memory.

Brett: The endocrine system has its own memory.

Joe: Exactly, hormone systems. Right. Exactly. Nervous system. All of that is very hard to describe. Another really important thing is vulnerability. It's really hard to have a transformational journey if you're like, "Yes, I got it. It's cool. I'm good. Yes. It's not that bad. Yes. There's some something that could be done there, but, it's not that big of a deal."

If you're coming at it with that approach, you are not going to have that much transformation. It doesn't mean that you have to think there's something wrong with me either. It doesn't mean that you have to say, "I'm broken. Fix me. I'm broken. I have to fix myself. I need to be healed." You don't have to have that attitude either.

Brett: You could create that entire model of yourself and stay in that for years too. [chuckles]

Joe: Exactly, but if you can't explore the depths of your pain and your constriction and express it to other people, then you're not going to be able to approach it. You're not going to be able to do anything about it. You're not going to be able to understand it better. You know? It's like unless your attention can go to the discomfort, then your system can't do anything about the discomfort.

A lot of people have learned how to just not go to the discomfort. Obviously, it builds up. Other things happen. It's a painful life. That's a really important thing. I'd say finally and I think I've stated it before which is just, if you're not willing to take full responsibility for your journey, if you start blaming the teacher, if you start blaming your wife, if you start blaming your mom and dad, you have to take full responsibility for the journey.

It doesn't mean that you shame yourself, it doesn't mean that you blame yourself, but it just means you don't shame or blame anybody else. You have to just say something like, "I am exactly where I need to be. I am responsible for this." That is incredibly important in the journey, because every time you blame somebody else for where you are, including blaming yourself. Anytime you are blaming anything for where you are, you are slowing the process down tremendously.

Brett: It seems like each of these is, there's a catch-22 because they're both conditions and also the effects. For example, with trust, many people might approach personal development, because starting with a position of that they don't trust themselves, they don't trust their own goodness or they don't trust teachers or they don't trust the process and that's something th at they're working with. What advice would you have for somebody who wants to embark on a personal transformation journey but is worried about being manipulated or controlled by a guru or ending up in some woo-woo backwater?

Joe: I would say maybe two or three things there. The first thing is I get back to the first principle, right? It's enjoying yourself. If you are not trusting somebody, how do you enjoy that movement of non-trust? It's clear that if you feel safe, there's a deeper level of enjoyment. If you feel trust, there's a deeper enjoyment in being vulnerable than there is in being protected.

Brett: Do you have any tips or exercises for anybody who's embarking on this and finding that they're having that difficulty with say, trust or vulnerability? Some way to help them just enjoy feeling what they're feeling rather than trying to change it?

Joe: Yes. Let's say you are with a teacher and you're not trusting them or you know that you want to sign up for the course, but you know you're going to have trust issues; the best thing you can do is just go to the person and say, "I don't trust teachers and I want to. How can we work together so that this isn't a burden for you and this isn't a burden for me." That would be taking responsibility, being vulnerable and trusting.

Even in saying that, you're trusting yourself, which is the more important thing than trusting the teacher. In saying all this to your teacher, you're giving them trust in that moment. If they react in a way that's just like, "Well, if you don't trust me, motherfucker," [laugh] then you pretty much know it's not the right teacher. Or if they go, "This is all about just letting go into my words," then you know you don't have a great teacher there and that maybe that you shouldn't be trusting them.

Brett: It's a good litmus test. A teacher should be able to receive that mistrust. [chuckles]

Joe: Yes, should be able to receive that mistrust, especially if you're taking ownership; and if you're not taking ownership and they point to the ownership, then also a teacher worth trusting. Yes. That's an easy way to look at it. Yes, you're right that to some degree, all of these things are the things you're working on as well as the things that you need to be successful at it, so then it's just an order of operations thing. It's make trust your first thing to work on. Don't make your mommy issues the first thing. Make trust the first thing. It's probably relates to your mom issues or your dad issues, but make trust the first thing and really focus there. Yes.

Brett: Another feature of this is that it creates a positive feedback loop. The safety, trust and vulnerability and seeing beyond the intellect, maybe are the things that are initially holding you back, but then as you work on them more and more, the speed of your development increases.

Joe: Yes, that's exactly right and it becomes more enjoyable, which is the speed, it becomes far less important than the enjoyment. If you enjoy your entire developmental journey deeply, who cares how fast you're going and who cares when you're going to get there, you know?

Brett: Yes. You start to get to that point where you feel that restriction: "Oh, I'm interviewing Joe, I'm feeling restriction now." Then you're like, "Oh good. This is something to work on." Instead of, “No, I want to go away." [chuckles]

Joe: Yes. That's a beautiful pointing. That's a great way to think about all of this stuff is, that there is a point in that path, where everything that's uncomfortable, you trust. That uncomfortable thing approaches and you say, "Oh, I can trust this thing because it's going to teach me something. I just have to be vulnerable in it and take full responsibility." Yes. Beautiful.

Brett: Tell me more about how to approach this?

Joe: How to approach [crosstalk]?

Brett: How to first set those conditions and the spiritual path in general.

Joe: Approaching the spiritual path-- what I mean by that is, what's the best way to be on the path, right? If those are the conditions that are important for you, make sure they are met before you even are packing your bag. That's the tent and the food stores. This is about, how do you walk down the path? When I say, "The approach to a path," that's what I mean. It's like, how do you walk down it? How you walk down the path is-- you know some of this stuff, because of the 18-month course you did, but I have it as to five principles of how to be on the path.

One is loving accountability, which basically means that you're honest with who you are and what you've done without shame. It means that you can apologize to somebody, that you can take an honest inventory of yourself, without shame. That you can look at yourself directly and not feel like you have to be any different. That's loving accountability and it's approaching life in that same way. It's asking those around you to meet you in that place.

An example of that would be to say to the teacher, "I'm having trust issues and I don't want to be having trust issues." It's kind of loving the accountability to say I have trust issues because that might be making them responsible. That full loving accountability is that I have trust issues and I don't want to have them. I want to be able to trust life, I want to be able to trust people. That's full loving accountability. Then embrace intensity is, it's not creating intensity, which I think some people mistake it far often, but it's embracing intensity.

It's a business theory as well. It's like being a great CEO, one of the biggest things about it is just making sure the right amount of attention from the organization is going to the right parts of the organization. Are we being attentive to our problems? Are we being attentive to being proactive? Are we being attentive to our culture? Are we being attentive to our customer? How much attention is going where and the most--

Brett: And where there's intensity, that's generally where that attention needs to go. [chuckles]

Joe: Correct. That's right. Just like in the body, if there's pain, it's that pain is telling you, "Hey, this is where you pay attention." If you want to take care of yourself, pay attention to the pain. It's the same thing. I call it intensity because it's not all pain because it can be pleasure. Often what we avoid more than pain is pleasure. People have a hard time seeing that, until they see it and then they're: "Whoa." I always say it's subtle till you see it. In that moment when you actually notice: "Oh, it's more intense for me to be in deep pleasure than it is for me to be in pain," that's a moment. That's embracing intensity.

The other principle is everything is an iteration. It just means that there's no way of getting it right, there's no complete, there's no finish line, there's no done, there's no I'm going to get it, there's just what's the next experiment? What's the next adventure? How do I learn? What can I learn from what just happened? There's no blame, there's no shame, there's just play.

There's just moments of, "Let's do it this way, okay now let's do it this way." There's just a trust that you're going to keep on iterating and it's going to keep on getting better and you're going to learn and there's no need to think of anything that you've done as right or wrong." I can hear the brains out there already going, "But if you kill somebody that's wrong." I would agree that killing somebody is not how we want to behave.

If there is a person out there, who has killed somebody and they're not going to be caught, my hope for them would be that their mindset is that of iteration. That their mindset is for example, "Okay, well that felt shitty in my body and I feel horrible and I'm still thinking about this thing and my guilt is creeping up on me and my life has gotten worse and it didn't make me any happier and it didn't solve my problems, so let's do a different iteration next time I have a problem with somebody." That's what I would hope that they would do. 

Brett: That brings up a great point because a lot of what happens and soldiers that come back from war with PTSD, a lot of the PTSD isn't around what happened to them personally but it's perhaps around the fact that they killed somebody and they did it in anger or rage in the intensity of the moment and that they actually enjoyed it or just something about having done it makes them feel like a monster. They think that that's just some core part of themselves that's unchangeable and makes them bad. Then holding that core belief, just causes so much more suffering and pain in their lives and the lives of those around them.

Joe: Yes, that's right. That's exactly it. We are never finished. There is no moment of perfection; and we are reacting to an environment and we’re iterating-- that same person-- never going to Iraq or Iran or wherever people are fighting these days, that same soldier, if they hadn't hit that environment, what would they be thinking about their core selves? It's a very iterative thing and I think it's really important to have that mindset and that change not only can happen, it's the only thing that you know will happen. Yes, so that's it.

I would think being curious is really important as well, that's the other way of approaching the path that's really important is being curious. This is one of the most enjoyable ones. Let's take that person as an example who feels like, "I'm a bad person because I killed people." What if you're curious about that? What are the questions that actually come up? Instead of knowing that you're a bad person, what would be the most curious questions about it?

Brett: What was I feeling, that led me to take that action?

Joe: Yes. What makes me not want to kill everybody right now? If that's who I am, what's stopping that in me right now? If that's who I am, what's making me keep on beating myself up over it? What's the part of me that's beating myself up over it, if it's essentially who I am? If it's essentially who I am, what makes me not go to the grocery store and kill a whole bunch of people? There's just curiosity and it frees it up because your fear and curiosity can't exist at the same time.

If you imagine yourself running from a tiger. Really, close your eyes for a moment. You're running from a tiger, this tiger is fast and it is hungry and you are running and feel the fear coursing through your system and you're moving as quick as you can and it's catching up on you and you can hear its breath and it's going to get you. You can feel that fear in your system and now wonder how much does the tiger weigh? [Brett chuckles] All the fear goes away. You can't operate from fear if you're curious.

It doesn't just operate in the way that I can be curious if I'm not scared. It's why safety is so important from earlier right, because you can't learn, when you’re scared. You can also just turn on curiosity and it just reduces fear, just like if you turn on fear it reduces curiosity. That's a cool one. Then the last one and I'd say the most important one is connection. That it's really important to stay in connection, in connection with each other, in connection with yourself, in connection with your body.

Brett: What does that mean?

Joe: It means being in contact with. It's being in contact. Like you were saying earlier that before when you're thinking about emotions, you're like, "Well, I don't know how to be in my body, all I have is disassociation." A contact means literally like touching. It's to have that point of contact.

Can I just touch into the emotion? Can I just touch into the pain? Can I just touch into you? Can I just touch into me? Can I touch into that part of me that I don't want to see? Can I touch into that part of me I'm not proud of? Can I touch into that part of me that is proud?

It's connection. It is what allows the tree to evolve, it's what allows us to evolve, is a connection.

Brett: Tell me more about how embracing intensity or being curious about the lion that is about to eat you, how is that enjoying yourself? [chuckles] How does that help you get away from the lion?

Joe: Yes, that's a great question. On the lion part. Obviously, I'm not suggesting that you should wonder how much a lion weighs or a tiger weighs if they're chasing you. Our system isn't curious when we're in fear for a reason. If you are in fear over something else, like what color of car you should buy or if you're going to get fired, yes, being curious is far more enjoyable than that. Being curious about being fired is far more enjoyable than worrying about being fired.

The curiosity is-- you can just feel that in your system. If you just take a moment and you can pause here; and just feel what it's like to know shit and you say "I know, I know what you are, I know what I am," and then to be curious about who you are. You can just feel there's more enjoyment in the body.

Embracing intensity is a little bit more complicated as far as enjoyment goes. It's the embrace part of it that makes it enjoyable. Intensity happens, you can't stop it. The Buddhists talk about it and they say, "Pain occurs, suffering is the choice." It's the embracing of the pain that prevents the suffering. The enjoyment is embracing something that you can't avoid or that if you avoid, it's less enjoyable.

Meaning if you're a heroin addict, you can avoid the detoxes, you can avoid withdrawals, but it's not going to make an enjoyable life. At that moment, you want to embrace the intensity of the withdrawals. Part of it is the embracing of it when it needs to be done or when it's unavoidable or when it's just better to face the intensity than not, which is almost always. Sometimes we create intensity which is not necessary, but if we're not creating it in a conscious way, then embracing it is great. In fact, embracing intensity is one of the great ways to stop intensity from happening in our lives.

Brett: Got it. In a way you let it move through you and change you. Then you learn the lesson in the intensity.

Joe: Exactly. Yes, that's exactly it.

Brett: Tell me more about what happens on this journey? What are some of the pitfalls, or some of the things that might be surprisingly enjoyable?

Joe: Being on the journey, the pitfalls in my mind are slightly different but the being on the journey is there's just some things to know about it. One of the things to know about it is that the way human beings learn is a back and forth nature. It's a pendulation, is the word. I don't even know if it's a word, but it's the word I made up or I'm using depending on whether you can find it in a dictionary. There's a back and forth nature to it.

If you look at a baby and a baby learns to walk, they don't just crawl, then one day stand up and walk and then never crawl again. That's not how we learn. We don't learn all at once. We learn by going back and forth. In fact, what they know is that when that back and forth doesn't happen, particularly in babies crawling, that their brain develops differently and it's not a good thing. If you pull a butterfly out of the cocoon, it won't be able to fly. What we think to be struggle or friction, that pendulation of going back and forth, is really a necessary part of the learning process.

What you'd normally hear people talking about when they're on the journey, they say for example, "Man, it was doing so good and now it's all gone." Or something like, "Man, I was feeling so blissed out and now all that's gone. How do I get it back?" The other way to look at it is to say, "Oh, cool, that's gone. I'm in the learning process. This is how learning goes." There's a way of looking at it that says, "Oh, cool, it's gone away," which means that I am as much in the learning process as when it's there and I am getting closer; because it's gone, I'm getting closer to a life where that's fully understood and fully recognized. That's a really important thing.

Brett: That relates to something else I've seen when somebody starts going through this journey and then all of a sudden they start feeling more emotions that they label as negative and they're like, "Oh, no, I had done all of this work and now all that work is undone and I'm a total mess." 


Joe: Right, which is not. That's beautiful. It's not at all the case. One of the things that could be happening is they're just recognizing that they're having the emotions instead of just taking them out on people when they didn't recognize it before. That's common. The other thing is that they're able to handle them now. One of the things that I'll talk about often, is that we'll do a lot of exercises, where people really increase their love and you'll just notice this happiness.

It's like when people can love themselves, then every part of themselves that was unlovable, comes to the surface to be loved, or the next wave of them. It's like shining a light in the water at night to attract cuttlefish. The more work we do, the more attuned we get. If I make an album, which I did in my 20s, I made a Rock 'n' Roll album, I can't listen to songs the same way before and after, I'm so much more sensitive to it, but that allows me to understand and enjoy music in deeper and deeper ways. That's the same thing. There's that sensitivity. That's a beautiful point.

Another thing to understand is that when you have big jumps in development, when these big moments happen, there's a natural step that happens which is, things go from unclear to clear to being able to affect the change. Easy way to look at this is with kids. The first thing infants-- they don't even know it's their hand, it's hitting them, it's scratching them, they don't even know it's theirs, then they recognize it's theirs, but they can't control it and then they can control their hand.

Piaget calls this primary, secondary and tertiary circular reaction I think is the terminology for it. That doesn't happen just for the use of our hands, it happens when people fully access for the first time, let's say, their emotional intelligence or their somatic intelligence or their awareness. If they're finding that moment of seeing that they are their awareness. Oftentimes, they can't even talk. They're say, "What's going on?" They try to reconstruct their life, because they're like, "Everything I believe is gone, what the hell is going on?" That's the way it works.

It's as if they've walked into this new world that they can't control and they can't even identify the parts of. Slowly, you just hang out in the world and everything takes care of itself, just like it does with an infant. If you don't get scared about it, then you're just, "Okay, yes, I don't know anything and I don't have to reconstruct anything." Pretty soon you're talking from that place. That's another thing to know.

Development moves like a corkscrew, that's really important. If you think about a corkscrew or stock market, you're moving up into the right, in human development, just like a stock market, you're moving ahead. It's like a corkscrew. Every time you're at the bottom of that corkscrew, it's like daddy issues and every time you're at the top, it's mommy issues. Then you can have abandonment issues or whatever.

You have these core things going through your life and you're refining them and they're becoming more and more subtle and more and more different as you become more and more sensitive, that you can notice more and more of the pain and agitation that you're feeling. What people often say is, "I thought I dealt with all my dad issues." It's like before awakening dad issues, after awakening to dad issues.

Brett: I was just going to say there's that one meme, where it's like before awakening and there's a child with a boot on his face. Then after awakening, it's the child with the boot on his face, but you can see it's zoomed out and he's holding the boot to his face.


Joe: I haven't seen that. That's funny.

Brett: That's great.

Joe: I would say after awakening, he's loving the fact that he's putting his own boot on his face.

Brett: It's the unclear to clear part saying, "Oh, I'm putting the same boot on my face." Then the corkscrew is like, "Oh, these are all the different ways I put the boot on my face." It's the same way each time around, but I just keep finding more and more subtle ways to heal it.

Joe: Yes, that's exactly--

Brett: That comes back to that pendulation, which is, "Wait, I thought I dealt with all this before. How am I--" Sometimes you're just seeing a new spin, the new turn on the corkscrew. 

Joe: Right, a television show isn't enjoyable if it's just everybody's celebrating the whole show. If you can enjoy being in the not clear as well as the clear, if you can enjoy the corkscrew-- there's this great metaphor and truth, it's not a metaphor in a way. They know that if two people are on a roller coaster and they're going down, same exact experience and one of them is like, "Woohoo," and one of them is, "Oh my God, I'm so scared."

You go into their neurochemistry, what they know is that the one, that is scared, is releasing carcinogenic chemicals into their body and the other one is releasing anti-carcinogenic chemicals into their body. The exact same experience can be used to destroy somebody or to heal somebody.

Brett: It's the same as learning neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.

Joe: Yes, that's right. The cortisol is carcinogenic if I recall correctly. That's what it is. It's, you're going to be on the roller coaster ride. How do you enjoy it? That's the question. How do you allow enjoyment to happen? That's the real question. The last thing to think about on this is, that we have our three brains. We can call them the head, the heart and the gut, or the human, the mammalian and the reptilian, or the nervous system and the emotional and the intellectual. They limit each other.

Even though they're really all one, if you're really developed on your intellectual side and you're not developed on your emotional side, it's like having three pencils attached by rubber bands. One can get only so high if one is so low. The most bang you're going to get for your buck is to move the low one higher because it gives everything else the most flexibility. It's just important to know that, if the path that you're working on has stopped working, you probably neglected one of the sides of yourself, one of the parts of yourself, so that's a really important thing to know.

Brett: Tell me about enjoying those things? Because this process we've just discussed is that there's going to be pendulation, you're just going to go from, "Oh, I'm healed to I'm still a total wreck." Of course, going through the same problems over and over in different ways, spending a lot of time feeling unclear and then playing whack-a-mole with these three [chuckles] parts of our nervous system. How do we enjoy this process?

Joe: A good story from my life was that there's this time when we got kicked out of the house for and at the time I felt like very unjust reasons in retrospect, it wasn't a match. It was a long time ago. Every time I saw the people involved or the house, it just like this knot in my stomach just was so there. It would come and go, as all emotions do, they come in waves. At some point, I'm: "Oh, cool. There's something there that I get to learn from."

It got to the point where I would literally drive by the house to hope that that feeling would come back so I could be with it and I could love it and I could spend time with that, I get to attend to it. That's what I did. I learned how to enjoy the thing that I felt was uncomfortable. That's critical and that's what it is, it is to not buy in--

Even this story is a way to help you enjoy it because if you buy into the pendulation that you've lost it, then it's very hard to enjoy. If you realize it's a learning process, then it's very easy to enjoy. If you are enjoying it, the learning happens quicker. It's like a virtuous loop. The more we enjoy it, the more we want to approach it and the easier the whole situation gets.

Brett: A feedback loop that we were talking about earlier.

Joe: Yes, that feedback there. Exactly. Clear to unclear is another great example of it. It's really easy to enjoy not knowing. [chuckles] It's really easy to enjoy being taken. Get in a car with somebody and ask them to drive you somewhere, but not to tell you where they're driving you and not to tell you how long and just see, that can be just as enjoyable, if not more enjoyable. It's really how do you let the enjoyment in, is the question in all of this stuff. That's really the key to preparing for the spiritual journey.

Brett: That's great, something to be curious about the entire way.

Joe: The entire time, yes.

Brett: Now, before we run out of time, I would like to get back to touching on these impediments and pitfalls. What kind of things can happen that can block this whole process?

Joe: There's so many little ones that I'm thinking about categorizing them in big ones. One of the pitfalls is thinking that you should do anything. That's a pitfall. It's like finding the wants behind your shoulds and letting your wants motivate you instead of your shoulds motivate you. In essence, the journey of self-development is the discovering of the self.

It is self-realization, it is self-awareness and a should in its nature is saying that you need to be controlled, that who you are in general needs to be managed, controlled, modified. Your wants are there is a general trust in who you are. If you think about it in a developmental perspective, an infant from zero years old until seven, they don't have any shoulds, there is no should in their brain. I don't know for sure, but I bet there's a culture where there might not ever be shoulds ever.

In that time period, they develop more than any other time period in life. They just follow their wants. Following your wants is really the most effective way to transform and following your shoulds is the least effective way and to make it a should is really just a doubt of trust of who you are.

The other crazy thing about wants that I think is really important is you take a five-year-old and they want something, they shout, "No. No. Yes. No," and they throw a temper tantrum.

Obviously, when we get older, we don't want to throw temper tantrums, so we say we shouldn't throw a temper tantrum instead of getting in touch with the fact that we don't want to throw-- we have iterated, we have evolved, we now want something different, but we turn that into a should, we change that natural impetus inside us into something that we should do.

Resisting resistance is another big one. People don't embrace the resistance, they don't embrace that intensity of resistance. There's a great phrase that just says, "If you can't love it, love the resistance to not loving it." That's really an important thing, is that don't fight the resistance, that's just more resistance. Another one is--

Brett: How do you not resist that resistance without creating a new resistance around that? [chuckles]

Joe: Yes. Right, exactly. In a war with yourself, who's going to lose? Exactly, yes. There's no way to do it, but to drop it. You just have to just stop. It's the only way. I remember that, I think it was the first time, I was about 24 years old, I went out into the woods to fast. I was looking over this ridgeline and I was noticing that I was fighting myself. Then I was noticing that I was fighting myself to stop fighting myself. Then I was noticing I was fighting myself to stop fighting myself to stop fighting myself. I was just ending up saying, "Yes, this isn't going to work."


Joe: I just stopped. That was the first moment that I realized that it's not a matter of effort, it's a matter of acceptance, it's a matter of not efforting, it's the stopping of the trying, it is the trust. That's important. Another piece that's important is skepticism. There's two forms of skepticism. One is important, one sucks for the spiritual journey.

The important one is, hey, if it's not true for you, you should know it's not true for you and you shouldn't think that it's true for you because some guru said it or because some Bible said it. If there is a truth, then that truth will be apparent in you and it will resonate in you and you will know it. Being skeptical of truth until you understand it and fully feel it, is important. 

Being skeptical prevents you from trying, preventing you from experimenting, preventing you from being open enough to see a truth, that level of skepticism, it's getting kneecapped. It's like getting your legs cut off in a race. Then spreading that to other people is violent. That's that. Another important one is just notice when you're future or past living.

One of the biggest impediments is somebody who's either future living by state-seeking like, "Oh, I want to be in that experience of state again. Oh, I want to enjoy again. Oh, I want to be awakened." The opposite of that future living, which is, "This is going to be so hard. Oh, my God, I don't want to have to do this work. Oh, I have to feel my emotions again. This sucks." Like that. Oh, boy, both of those things, it's not enjoyable. [laughs] It is not enjoyable.

Brett: Just having an idea of what you're going to look like, who you're going to be once you've transformed.

Joe: Yes, exactly. Not enjoyable.

Brett: Projecting your current self onto your future self, "Oh, if only I was perfect in all of the ways that I currently think I should be, then I'll be done." [chuckles]

Joe: Yes, exactly. [chuckles] Not enjoyable. It is like the moment is far less enjoyable when you're thinking about how you're going to end up than [laughs] enjoying this moment. If you think about the moments that you've enjoyed yourself most, you probably weren't thinking about your conclusion. [chuckles] Some of the times we enjoy ourselves most is when the proposed conclusion just happened and so there's just nothing to strive for in that moment. Then, you come to the conclusion, "Ah," and then you create something to strive for and then you don't enjoy yourself anymore.

Then there's the future and past living in the past. Comparative mind is a form of this, of who's better and who's worse, it's like that requires future and past living to be able to do that. Anything like that it's also, they're big pitfalls, they're stalls in the journey. Then, the last thing about the journey that I think is really important--

This is the one that gets the most is that there's this natural cycle that happens that people go through and I'm sure you can recognize it. It's, you think to yourself, "Oh, I really want to--" I don't know, we'll pick anything. "I really want to stop smoking." We'll pick an easy one, "I really want to stop smoking." Then, "Okay, I got to do it. I got to really do it. You should do that. You should do that. You should do that. Why aren't you doing it? Why aren't you doing it? Okay, I'm good." Then, you do it.

Then as soon as you do it you're like, "Oh, okay. I hope this lasts. I hope this lasts. I hope this lasts." Then it's, "Oh, it's already going away. I already noticed that I'm wanting cigarettes again. Oh, shit, I had a cigarette. Oh, it's all over, I'm going back into-- Oh, crap, fuck, now I'm smoking again. I got to quit smoking. I got to quit smoking." That's the routine.

All of them rely on each other and you can cut it off at any other point but one of the easiest places to cut it off is when that moment when you actually have quit smoking or you have stopped yelling at your wife or you have stopped being a victim, is to appreciate it, is to actually just appreciate that moment and to keep on appreciating it. Instead of trying to hold on to it.

Brett: Right.

Joe: The idea that it's going to go away, it is the thing that creates it going away. The only thing that's really there to do is just to enjoy this moment. Enjoy that it's gone and the same thing can be said when you're smoking. If you're in the middle of smoking a pack a day, how do you enjoy each cigarette? How do you enjoy the hell out of yelling at your wife if you're going to do it? Because nobody really enjoys yelling at their wife. If you can really enjoy yelling at your wife, I bet the way you yell at your wife will change. It's not going away.

Brett: That circles back to a lot of the goal isn't for things to go away, it's to just watch how they shift and how they change. What is the impulse behind the behavior? Trying to be, rather than what our resistance changes it into. All of these impediments that you've just listed, all seem like different forms of resistance and so to wrap this up, since we're running out of time, I just want to ask you, how can you enjoy resistance? [chuckles]

Joe: You just pointed to something which is really great, which is if you want yourself to change, it slows down the process. Want is the wrong word. If you're getting angry and you are trying to change the fact that you get angry, that is a slower process, than if you love your anger and you invite your anger in and you welcome your anger. That is a far quicker process.

Brett: How can we do that without hurting people?

Joe: Wait. Unless you start doing it to try to make it go away, for example “I'm going to welcome my anger to make it go away”, then it doesn't work anymore. I'm not saying welcome your anger at people, I'm just saying welcome the experience of anger that one feels when they're angry. I'm not suggesting to go and be angry at people, but to welcome your anger, to accept it and to love it. To express it in a way that's safe, it doesn't create more shame.

I just want to point that, what you said was brilliant and then I think your question was, how do you enjoy resistance? That goes back to that statement of, if you can't love the thing, if you can't love the anger, love your resistance to the anger. How do you enjoy resistance? How do you love your resistance? This is the whole question of the spiritual search and the whole way to prepare, is how do you enjoy this process?

Brett: That's great. This has been amazing. I think we're running out of time now.

Joe: What a pleasure.

Brett: Yes, this has been amazing.

Joe: Awesome. Well, I look forward to the next time and it was good talking to you. More to come.

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:

The Art of Accomplishment — Master Class Series #1

The premise of The Art of Accomplishment is simple: it is our heart’s capacity that determines our success and happiness in life. Emotional intelligence is the bottleneck to the change we want to see in ourselves and the world. Tapping into our heart’s potential opens up the possibility of fulfilling our greatest ambitions without sacrificing our sense of joy and authenticity.

We are taught early on that if we accomplish enough stuff we will have the life of our dreams, only to find it is a life that fails to make us happy and fulfill our hopes. In this 9-part series, you will discover that how you get things done is what makes your life far more fulfilling.

Not only because you will enjoy the process of an authentic life but because enjoyment and self-awareness are critical tools in making what you accomplish more meaningful and effortless.

The Art of Accomplishment podcast series accompanies the online course led by Joe Hudson. More more info, visit

"When you’re self aware, it means there is a full expression of you happening. It’s why with the great artists, you see their full expression. And they can only get to that self expression, they can only get to that level of ease, by having more and more self awareness."

Brett: A lot of people have a sense that self-development and accomplishment are mutually exclusive, that in order to be maximumly productive it's necessary to sacrifice parts of who we are, or to back-burner our own personal evolution. We focus on creating systems for setting and achieving goals. We imagine that by doing this, we'll somehow arrive at our fully developed self without examining where these goals came from in the first place. A question I often hear asked is how will self inquiry help me be productive and lead to more accomplishment?

Joe: It's an amazing thing about the human brain, that we really like to create false distinctions. It's something that we do. I think it's because the brain in general its job is to create distinction, it likes to create false distinction. It's very much to me like the way it was in the 1970s when you could either be a businessman or you could be an environmentalist but you couldn't be both, that they were at odds.

Then somewhere in the '90s, they figured out, "No, you can do both, that's possible." It's the same thing with this. In fact, they really drive each other. The personal development focus, that course if you will, gets tested in business and gets tested in projects, gets tested in getting things done. You get to learn a lot from where that rubber meets the road and vice-versa; that as you learn how to understand yourself better and other people better, which is the whole point of personal development.

Then obviously you get better tools in business and you do better at getting things done. It's why I always use the phrase, art of accomplishment. It's speaking about the fact that accomplishing stuff is more about the how, than it is about what you get done. You can accomplish something and your focus could be like, my job is to earn a million dollars but in actuality you're going to be less likely to earn that million dollars, if you're not focused on the how you're going about it.

I'll give you an example of this. My girlfriend in college, her name was Cate and she was a really good tennis player. With her coach, she would serve and try to hit like a basket, one of those baskets that you pick up the balls with. She was good, so she would hit it two or three out of five times. Then one day the coach took the basket off the ground and put a quarter right in the middle where that basket was sitting and said, "Serve and hit the quarter."

She didn't hit the quarter once, but she would have hit the basket every single time if it was still sitting on top of that quarter. It's the thing that we see in business all the time which is focusing through the goal is one of the ways to make sure you accomplish your goals.

Whether it be being the best company in the world, or whether it means beating the competition, or whether it means trying to change the world for the better through environmental solutions, or whether it means great customer service, whatever it is, having a goal that's beyond the goal that you have, makes the goal more likely to be gotten. It makes the goal more likely to be gotten.

Brett: Tell me what makes this an art.

Joe: You think about art. Think about it like this, there's accomplishment and accomplishment basically means that you've achieved something successfully. Successful is the first question that you have to ask. What does successfully mean? To me, it means that the task is done holistically. Is it an accomplishment to make $10? If that's my goal, if I also like sacrificed everything I love for that $10? That doesn't make any sense at all, that doesn't feel like accomplishment. It's a holistic success.

It means that you're firing on all cylinders, that you're getting the whole thing done. Think about it like a building. Success isn't just getting the building erected. It's a quality building. It's a beautiful building. It's a useful building. That's what makes success. You're looking for the holistic thing. Then if you're thinking about it as far as an art form, then you have to move out of the tyranny of a checklist.

Which is like, "I've written something down. Now I have to do it, or I'm going to beat myself up because I haven't done it." It's going to move into how you do it. How is it that I'm going about doing it? That's what makes it an art form. There's very specific things. If you think about art in general, what art does, the artistry of something, it means that you have more ease in doing it. It's a path of self-awareness and you recognize that your consciousness is the product. 

Brett: Let's get into those further. Tell me more about the ease. There's a lot of things that we want to do that are accomplishments, that just simply are not going to ever be easy, or so we think. 

Joe: Or so we think. There's a couple of ways that go at the ease part of it. One way to go at the ease part of it is to think about it like there's an old story about a prince coming to a butcher. He says to the butcher, "How often do you sharpen your knives?" The butcher says, "I never sharpen my knives." The Prince goes, "That's impossible. The best butchers in the world have to sharpen their knives at least once a month." The Butler says, "No, no, my blade finds the space between the meat and the bone."

It's basically saying how you get things done is with the minimal amount of friction, that the master of a craft is doing it with the least moves. It's not about winning or losing anymore. They're far beyond the winning and losing of something. It's just, how do I do it with the least amount of effort? What's amazing in our society is that we think about effectiveness or efficiency in speed, as humans not as cars. Cars, it's really obvious.

The fastest car doesn't mean it's the most efficient car, but we think that if we've gotten done something quickly, then we're very efficient, but efficiency isn't measured by speed. In the human condition, it's measured by enjoyment. We are efficient when we are enjoying ourselves. It means the least amount of effort is necessary. The least amount of fuel is necessary to make something happen. If you're accomplishing something with that kind of ease, when you're accomplishing something with enjoyment, which is how we measure that ease, then you're in the artistry of it. That's what I mean by ease.

Brett: That makes a lot of sense, because the opposite of ease is that you are actually fighting yourself in some way. There's a part of you that doesn't want to do the thing, another part of you that does want to do the thing. There's dissonance there and a loss of efficiency. It's interesting to think of efficiency as ease or measured by ease.

Joe: Exactly. Which is beautifully put, because what you're saying there is that the friction is mostly caused by the lack of self-awareness. When you understand what you are, when you are aware of how you work, there's a lot less friction. That's why the second part is so important. The artistry brings you closer to yourself.

If you've ever met a great artist and there's a way, at least when they're working, at the very least when they're working, you see this self-awareness, this presence that occurs and that's what it means. That self-awareness, it brings you closer to yourself. It calls you into something deeper. It has to be a full expression of you. It's self-awareness. When you're self-aware, it means that there's a full expression of you happening. It's with the great artists, you see their full expression. They don't feel muted or stilted. They can only get to that self-expression, they can only get to that level of ease by having more and more self-awareness and the self-awareness of how they work.

Brett: That sounds similar to what might happen if somebody's looking at a to-do list of things they want to get done and they think efficiency is efficiently knocking out all the boxes, but what might be actually more efficient is asking themselves why they want to get that list done in the first place. Maybe, if there's one question they could ask themselves that removes half of that list, that is actually an increase in efficiency.

It sounds like this is the personal version of doing that, like, "Why is it that I want to be getting these things done? Why is it that I want to be successful? What does success actually bring to me?"

Joe: That's a beautiful point. That's exactly right. When I look at my list every morning, I always think about what can I do that will make this whole list irrelevant or easier? It's the same thing with the medalist in life. There's a beautiful technique that you can use, which is, "Okay, if I get that done, am I happy then?" Then my mind will usually go, "No, I'll need this," and say, "Okay, well, if I get that done, will I be happy then?" It can just go on and on.

Brett: It's like making the one decision that can eliminate 100 other decisions. Finding, perhaps in many of these cases, the one need within us that resolves 100 other secondary needs that we thought we needed to fill.

Joe: That's exactly it and that's what self-awareness does just by its nature.

Brett: Great. You mentioned that your consciousness is the product that you're working on in that case. Let's dig into that a little bit more.

Joe: That's the last part of what makes it an art form, is that, if you're looking at a piece of art, there's a way in which you can feel like a painting, you can feel how the artist was when they were painting. When the artist acknowledges that, then what the artist can do is really understand that their consciousness is what is being consumed. It doesn't matter if it's Facebook, or Ford, or Van Gogh, we're feeling the consciousness of those people who made it.

We're feeling that experience. If they were anxious and nervous, then we're perpetuating anxiousness and nervousness. If they were worried about not having enough, they're going to make sure that we are worried about not having enough, when we use that product or when we consume their consciousness.


Brett: That seems even more true these days, as a lot more consumers are thinking about products that they feel much more personally aligned with rather than just, "Oh, look, it's a jug of milk." It's like, "No, because this is a jug of milk that treats cows in the way that is more agreeable to me." Or, "This is the company that is working on making more fuel-efficient or electric cars and that's something that really speaks to me." What you're saying is that, even a company, even a product, is a piece of art and that the consciousness of its creators should come through in that.

Joe: It does. You just can't help it. There's a great quote that my friend Steve used to say to me, he said, "At the peak of a poet's career, he is a businessman and the peak of a businessman's career, he is a poet," or she is a poet or she is a businessman. It is an absolute truth, that how we get something done affects what the end product of our doing is. It's as simple as if we rush to sweep the porch, or if we enjoy sweeping the porch. We're going to get two different jobs done and it's going to look different at the end of it.

Our consciousness affects it and it's the acknowledgment that that's the case, that the real gift that we're giving to the world is in the product, that's tangible, it's the product of our consciousness that we're delivering. Acknowledging that the consciousness is part of the equation of the product, that it is in part the product that we are producing and that other people are consuming, is what makes it an art form, not just a doing.

Brett: I think another great example of that would be in software development. Any software that's developed by a team that's frenetically running around trying to finish completing their backlog, product and engineering aren't communicating with each other very well. That product is going to end up having that consciousness writ large in its implementation in bugs and missed-- like features that don't make sense, et cetera.

Joe: Exactly. That's right.

Brett: Let's talk a little bit more about our consciousness as the product of this work. A lot of people would see that as odds with business because the focus is moving away from perhaps the business itself towards yourself. What would you say to them?

Joe: Again, it's a lot like the '70s with the environmentalist. You can make money cutting down trees. You can make money planting trees. You can make money making all of your product artistic. You can make money making all of your product as cheap as possible. There's a thousand ways to make money. Just walk down the street of any city and everything you look at has got 7 or 8 or 10 people making money behind it.

There's infinite ways of making money. The idea that how we are when we make the money isn't part of that equation is just silliness. It's something that happens when people don't want to feel their whole experience and they make the excuse that, "Oh, it's just business." Or they make the excuse that I had to do this because it's business. The craziest thing is, you look at incredibly successful businessmen who are just merciless in their desire for winning competition or for quality or for customer service. They will  never allow a team to not deliver or allow a team to sacrifice the important things.

Yet, as soon as the idea is like, "Oh, we can all be growing as humans," or that we can all be having full expression here comes up, they're like, "No, I can't do that." We can out-compete. We can build a billion-dollar company. We can out-compete over-resourced competition, but we can't also do it in such a way that we really enjoy ourselves. It's a ridiculous notion and it comes from an inner thought that they have that they can't be their full selves and be successful. 

That they had to cut off a part of themselves to be successful. That normally just comes from the fact that they had to cut out a part of themselves to make mom and dad happy. That's where it's really coming from. It's just very limited thinking.

Brett: A belief that productivity and achievement requires sacrifice. If you're feeling sacrificed, that might mean you're on the right track to achievement.

Joe: Let's take a look at that one for a second. Who sacrificed more, the men who created Google or the men who created Benelli Tires? Who worked harder? Who put their family at bigger risk? It's just nonsensical to think who worked harder. It's nonsensical to think that there is that level of sacrifice needed. There's people who make millions of dollars without it, millions of dollars with it. It's what do you enjoy? It's what do you love?

If you love working 80 hours a week and you love that kind of productivity, don't tell everybody it's necessary. Just say it's what you did and you loved it. I listened to Elon Musk talk about this and he said, you have to work all the time and I thought to myself, "You had to work all the time when you had one company. Now you have three companies or four companies, or five companies and you're still working all the time, which really means that you only had to work 25% of the time to do the company that you originally did. You didn't have to work all the time. You're proving it."

Brett: That's a really good point. A lot of people say that they have to get a paycheck and so all this art sounds great, but they're not in that position or maybe they're not running their own company. Maybe they're in some hierarchy in some organization or even if they do have their own company, they're just, "Well, I have to make money. I have to make money now. I have to make money with this particular runway. I just don't have time to make this an art."

Joe: [laughs] I lived in Los Angeles for a while, I live next to this first generation from Central America family, just sweethearts. The son, when he decided it was time to go out to work, he was 18 years old and he worked at a subway. When he was working at the subway, he just did it with pizzazz. He did it with friendliness, he did it with joy. He did it with a bit of like a singing-- he was just one of those characters.

You've had the experience, you've gone into someplace and there's somebody on the other side of the counter who's enjoying themselves and they're maybe singing or they got a little pizzazz, he was one of those people. He worked there I think for three weeks until somebody walked in and was like, "Hey, I have a restaurant and I need someone." Then within another six months, he was the Sous chef. Then he just kept on going.

I don't know where he is now but that was the example to me, that it doesn't matter what you're doing. If you do it with artistry, you're creating the world that you want. The idea that you can't do that in any situation-- I mean, Mandela did it in a prison. How he wanted to be. The artistry that he was delivering to humanity was there when he was in a prison. To think that you can't do it because you're in a bureaucracy, it's just as limited of the thinking as a businessman saying, "We can't be whole humans and do business."

The crazy thing about that that I think people don't recognize is if you think you can't do it because of your situation, then you're owning the position of a victim. It's like somebody whose life is oppressing them. If you have that position, there's only two people who really want to spend time with you, other victims and people who abuse you, because that's the only people who you have that value for.

Other victims will be like, "Great, yes, we're oppressed. Let's all talk about how oppressed we are." The abusers are like, "Cool, you feel like you're oppressed? Great, I will oppress you. That's exactly what I need to get my world cranking." The mentality of that invites it, just like all of our mentalities invite the world that we see, to become real.

Brett: Right. That could be an entire episode of its own and I'm sure it will be. How does a person get to this place then?

Joe: There's three bits on how a person gets to seeing all of their accomplishment as art, to seeing that there's an art of accomplishment. The first is an intention. I don't call it a goal. I don't call it a mandate. It's just holding it in your consciousness that this is where I want to be. It's like looking at a map and saying Los Angeles is where I want to be, or San Francisco is where I want to be. It doesn't require any more weight than that.

Brett: It's like an implementation agnostic goal.

Joe: Yes, exactly. That's right. If you dig into that a little bit-- there's this story about an admiral. I can't remember his name, who it was, taken in the POW camps in Vietnam and he was asked, "Who got out of the camps?" He said, "That's easy. It was the people who knew they would get out." The interviewer asked then, “Who didn't get out of the camps?” He answered, "That's easy. It's the optimists."

The interviewer was confused and said, "Optimist? What do you mean? How is that different than your first answer?" He said, "The optimists were the ones who thought they'd get out by Christmas, or by Easter, or by the rainy season. They were the ones that didn't make it." The intention is just holding that intention out there, knowing that you're going to arrive there. That's the first bit. The second bit is take it all as an iteration. There's no failure. There's no success.

There's just I am learning by iterating and experimenting, iterating and experimenting, iterating and experimenting. I don't have to be hard on myself to learn lessons. I don't have to be hard on myself, because I had a certain timeframe. It's just a very gentle iteration, iteration, iteration, just the way you would think an artist would do after a 20-year career. They kept on playing, kept on trying and new and crazier things came out. Then the last part is to know that it's not really a doing.

You asked, how does a person get there? It's not a doing, it's an undoing. We're just basically learning to undo a whole bunch of training and be in a natural state. I'll give you a great example of it. If you put your two hands together and put it like, let's say that the palms of your hands in front of your face and try as hard as you can to pull your hands apart.

If your hands are apart right now, you're not trying, you're doing, so forget the doing and just go to the trying and try as hard as you can to pull your hands apart. Now without thinking about it, feel the exact opposite thing that you feel when you're trying. That's what it means to undo, you're undoing. That's what you do. To make all of your accomplishment artistry, to make life the art of accomplishment, then you're undoing.

Brett: It's interesting. As I did that, during the trying, there's like a sense of planning going on throughout my entire system. Imagining which muscles I would move and how to move my hands apart. I can do all of that without actually moving at all. It feels like a good metaphor for beating myself up over a to-do list.

Joe: Exactly. That's exactly it. Awesome. That's great.

Brett: Then what are we undoing exactly and what does that help us accomplish, or how does that help us to accomplish things?

Joe: The main thing that you're undoing is this misconception that you aren't inherently good. Basically, what we're undoing is a whole bunch of limiting beliefs. There's probably about seven main limiting beliefs, but they're all resting on one limiting belief. The one limiting belief is that you're not inherently good, that you have to put effort to make yourself good enough, of value, better, that it's not your natural place, that you're not there yet.

If you think about an oak tree, when is an oak tree good enough? Is the oak tree good enough when it's an acorn or when it's 2 years old or when it's 150 years old or when it's collapsing, when it's becoming dirt, when is it good enough? When is it not inherently good? That's the thing that we think about ourselves is that we have someplace to be to get inherently good and or some way of being and what's actually preventing us from acting in an inherently good way is only the idea that we're not, it's only the idea that we've done something wrong--

Brett: Right. I think that's a really good point, because there's a really big pitfall that I've experienced in personal development or trying to become more productive or work on my systems of accomplishment, where we start to see how everybody else is doing things and we're like, "Oh man. I need to get from where I am to where they are by somehow making myself better, because I'm not good enough. If only I had this person's system or that person's motivation and drive or that person's clarity. If I could get there, then I would be able to get things done," which just really does reinforce that, "Oh, I'm just not there yet. I just don't have it in me." Silently.

Joe: Exactly, which just slows down the whole system. A baby doesn't think that they're bad, because they're crawling, they're going to walk. They don't need to think that they're bad, because they're crawling. It's just a natural part of the developmental cycle and there's that form of goodness and there's also the other form of goodness, which is every time you defend something in yourself, there's some way that you're believing that you're not inherently good, that you have to defend something about yourself.

I don't mean defense like someone tries to throw a punch, you block it. I mean defense like someone accuses you of being bad and you think you have to justify something. What would make you need to justify something? If somebody came to you and said the sky is purple at noon, the sky is purple, would you really need to defend the fact that the sky was blue? There's some inherent belief system that there's something, that there's a shame, that there's something wrong with us and that's part of the inherent goodness that once you understand that that is your natural state, there's so much less to be doing, so much less.

I'll give you an example for a second about how it works. Let's say one of the limiting beliefs that I see people do all the time is that perfection is more important than connection. They think that they need to be perfect because they think that they're not good enough or their thing needs to be perfect or their presentation needs to be perfect or their product needs to be perfect or the date needs to go perfect or whatever it is.

They focus on that trying to make it perfect instead of how do I connect. They choose perfection over connection. If they choose connection, they're far more successful and they will choose it naturally if they don't think that they have to be perfect to be good enough or to be good. Specifically, how this works is, you can try to create the perfect product or you can try to create a product that's in connection with your customer and to stay in connection with your customer. The second is going to do much better than the perfect product. If you have a first date and you're trying to be perfect, that's not going to go so well.

Even if they happen to have a second date for you, you've been trying to be perfect so they're not dating you, they're dating some idealized version of yourself and eventually that shit's going to go sideways. Whereas, if you just go for the connection, if you say, "Oh, how do I connect with this person? Let's see if it's a match." Then it's a far more productive stance. The place where it's most articulated is in meditation where people try to have the perfect experience of meditating instead of being in connection with themselves. It's the difference between torture and meditation. Meditation is connection. Managing yourself is torture.

Brett: I spent a long time in meditation doing maybe an hour practice every day just because I was really stressed out about work and beating myself up over to-do list, the usual. I would meditate more and more and find that it would call my mind, but my goal in meditation was to call my mind not to feel what I needed to feel. That really just pulled me away from the emotions that were trying to help me update to my situation.

Joe: I find that if you're trying to manage your experience, it's pulling you away from yourself instead of being with what you are and enjoying it.

Brett: Tell me some more of those limiting beliefs.

Joe: There's a couple others that I can think about. There is improvement instead of being authentic. That's the one that you mentioned earlier in the podcast, where you were talking about wanting to be better at this or better than that, instead of wanting to know what you actually are. I want to be enlightened instead of wanting to know what I am. Wanting to be enlightened path is a far slower path than wanting to know what I am.

I want to work successfully 60 hours a week is far less effective than understanding what your natural rhythm is and what your natural way of being most productive is. It's that constant question of like trying to improve yourself instead of find out what your authenticity is.

Brett: Or I want a hundred million users versus I want this to improve people's lives.

Joe: Right. If it's authentic that you want a hundred million users, if that's really the thing that's going to charge you, then that might be your authenticity, but then the question is, what do you have to do that is authentic to you to get them, instead of how do I make my podcasts so great that they get them, that I get the users?

Brett: What are some others?

Joe: Other ones is shoulds before wants. I find people always are trying to motivate themselves with their shoulds instead of with their wants and wants are far more motivating and far more effective at getting us places. If you think about the first seven years of your life, you couldn't even have shoulds and then all of a sudden, shoulds show up and all your development slows down. You get more development in the first seven years of your life than you do pretty much at any other time of your life.

It's when you stop following your wants and you start following your shoulds that everything gets slowed down. Again, like with both of these, the only way you would think, oh, I need to improve, instead of, I need to be authentic, is if you think that you're not inherently good. The only way you would think I should do that, instead of, I want to do that is because you think that you aren't inherently good.

There's seven of them but the other one that's just coming to mind right now is the one we spoke about, defense versus love. That most of us immediately move to defend ourselves rather than love the person. The quintessential example of this is the boss tells you what you need to do to improve and most people get defensive, instead of saying to themselves, "Oh my goodness, my boss just took a social risk on me. Potentially risked our relationship, because he cared or she cared enough to help me be successful." We don't think, "Oh well, thanks. Thanks for taking the risk of telling me that."

Brett: That's quite a flip on the usual script.

Joe: Right, because we move from defense instead of love. These are all the ways and we only have to do that if we think we're not inherently good. That's what they are.

Brett: How does seeing your inherent goodness tie into the art part of this art of accomplishment?

Joe: If you see that you're inherently good, then obviously things become more enjoyable and more easy because there's less fight that you have with yourself. That's just simple. The more that you focus on your enjoyment, the more you stop having to fight with yourself. There is this quote that, "In a war with yourself, you're always going to lose." That enjoyment comes to a large degree because you're fighting with yourself has ceased or has slowed down. That happens when you see your inherent goodness. That's part of how that works.

Then when you fully realize, that your consciousness is what is coming through whatever product you're creating, then the question is what's the consciousness that you want to give to other folks. If you're coming from a place of understanding your inherent goodness, then that's the product that you're going to be creating. It's one that ties people into their inherent goodness. It's not so limiting as one might think. Meaning, take a look at some of the great artists of our day. I'll use a comedian because it's the--

Brett: For example?

Joe: I'll give us an example because some people might not call him an artist but Jim Carrey. If you listen to his story and this is so much the case, it's like they were going about their career. It wasn't going so well. Then all of a sudden they just were like, "I am going all the way. I am not going to hold back. I am going to take the big risk of my full expression. I'm going to basically trust that if I just go all the way with myself, things are going to work out. I'm going to trust that goodness." All of a sudden, bolder and bolder things come out of the artist. Jim Carrey is an example of this.

When we watch it, we think it's confidence. We're like, "Oh my God, that guy could do all that crazy stuff. How confident must he be?" It's really a confidence in something that's beyond them. It's a confidence in their inherent goodness. When you see that in people, we just naturally want to follow it. We just naturally want to be a part of that. It's why we see so much of that in some of the greatest movers and shakers of our time. People who've accomplished just amazing things in their lives is that full trust. I guess one of the ways to look at it, is to see it as it's like channeling. You can only channel if you trust what's coming through you.

That channeling is what it starts to feel like when you're deeply in the art of accomplishment. A way to look at the art of accomplishment is like in some traditions they would call it channeling. They would call it cleaning out your tube so that you could have greater access to the thing that's moving through all of us. The animator of all life. Neurology would call it alpha waves but it's not flow state. Being in that flow state can only come when you can rely on your inherent goodness. If you're judging yourself, you're questioning yourself and you're in a fight with yourself, you can't be an alpha. You can't be in flow state.

Brett: Another good way to describe that I think is just something, this idea of channeling is acting from something that's coming from outside of your identity of yourself. A lot of artists-- we were talking about artistry here. A lot of musicians have talked about how when they were in the flow and they were writing some of their biggest hits, they felt like it wasn't them doing the writing. It was just the words were coming through them. 

Joe: We've all had this experience. We've all had the experience of playing music without having to think about it or just channeling the emails and just knowing exactly what to write. We've all had the experience of being in that flow state and that only comes when we can trust our inherent goodness.

Brett: I think that's the feeling people are trying to get at, when they're knocking out a to-do list, finding themselves in that flow. I think a lot of this is just it's not about the to-do list, it's about what it is that you actually want to be doing.

Joe: It's about allowing the lack of fight to be in your system. Our system by nature doesn't want to fight with itself. To allow that to happen really allows the flow state to occur. The final bit is as I think you already mentioned it, it's the self-awareness, which is the only way that we're ever going to see that we're inherently good is for us to see what we inherently are. It requires us to drop the stories of ourselves and the ideas of ourselves and it requires us to love the ego right into oblivion.

That self-awareness is what allows us to see that we're not just channeling it, we are it. That we thought we were small, but what we really are is part of everything. When we see ourselves as everything, when our identity switches from the little me to the whole, then the inherent goodness is all. Everything is in that inherent goodness. There's just a piece that comes with it. That's why, when you see those artists who have 50 years at the carving table and you see just this piece in them, the piece of artistry, of a deep artistry, that's where it comes from.

Brett: As we start to view accomplishment more as an art, what is going to change about the way that we do things and how do we address that fear that might exist, that getting into this personal development stuff is going to make us even for a period of time, less productive? If we have a 18-hour Workday right now and that's the thing that we're doing and it just feels like the whole house of cards is going to collapse if we just take one day off from that, what's the step forward?

Joe: That's a great question. They did this great study in the US Army. The study was that they took two tests that were the same test, but different reliable and whatnot. They took a group of soldiers in boot camp and they just worked them to death and had them sleep-deprived. Then they put them in front of the test and they did the test and then they let them rest for a couple of days, RNR and then they came back. They weren't sleep-deprived and they did the test.

They asked the soldiers of these two tests, which one did you think you scored better at and which one do you think you did quicker? 80% of the people thought that they had done quicker work and more accurate work on the first test when they were sleep-deprived. In actuality, 100% of them did better when they had rest and they were not being rushed through the whole situation. It tells us that we have a mental illusion that happens, like an optical illusion. We think that when we're busy and we were sleep-deprived and we're running around checking off boxes, we think we're more efficient when in actuality we're not. 

Brett: The multitasking studies as well, where they proved that people really do not multitask. They just think they multitask, but their performance actually degrades.

Joe: Exactly. It's exactly the same principle. The first thing is to acknowledge that situation. Then to start to disassociate the idea of ease with productivity. Some people, because they're only productive when they're in friction, they think that productivity is friction. To see, to really find real ways of measuring, "Are you getting the stuff done and not working as hard or enjoying yourself more?" They really find that out.

It's interesting. This culture, it's, "You didn't work 60 hours, why are you lazy?" In other cultures that have been doing particularly Southern Europe, they're like, "You had to work 60 hours to get your job done? Why are you so incompetent?" It's just a completely different way to take a look at it. That's the first thing to know. The second part of your question is how do things change? Well, you get bigger things done. You get things that are more aligned in your system done. You don't sacrifice your well-being from the accomplishment of your career or your money but you don't sacrifice your career and your money, so that you can have better well-being.

The dichotomy starts to go away and you see that your work is a means to an end of your well-being. That the well-being is a means and an end to your work. That they become the same thing. They stop becoming separate in your system. The nervous system starts to relax. You start doing things like, "Oh, I can move this lever here and I just have to wait for a couple of months and everything will fall into place." Or, "I could put two weeks in and I will have it done in one month instead of two."

You start to see these little leverage points. You start to see the world more as a system. The way the artist talk about it is-- like carving artists, they'll talk about, that they see the work in the wood, before they even get started. It's not about, "I have an idea of what I want it to look like and I'm going to carve it into the wood." It's like the wood is telling me what it wants to be carved into. What it wants to be made into.

That's the experience of life in general. Is that you're following. The Daoists talk about it as the way of water. Water doesn't require any effort to get to the ocean. It just follows. It just goes to the lowest point. It is effortless in its way. It is more powerful than any sword. Try to fight water with a sword and you'll know. That's the way that it starts to feel. That life starts to feel.

Brett: So, what you were saying earlier, is that a lot of this work is actually an undoing. An undoing of the limiting misconceptions of self?

Joe: If you look at the martial arts, they really subscribe a lot of the same theory to what I'm talking about. One of the ways is that your whole body is relaxed until the moment of impact. If I was going to tense the whole time and hit you, my punch is a lot less powerful than if I'm relaxed the whole time and then tense right before I hit you. It's conserving your energy and making you stronger at the same time. Making your movement have more impact. We somehow think walking around tense all the time is going to make us more effective. It's just ridiculous.

Brett: Right. Also keep us narrowed and focused too. If we're walking around tense about all the things that we're thinking about getting done, we're not asking the bigger questions, that really help us find that one decision that can eliminate a hundred decisions. A lot of what you're talking about, this idea of breaking down these misconceptions of the self and trusting and leaning back into our inherent goodness. Letting go of the trying and just being in the doing.

A lot of that allows us, our entire nervous system and our minds to relax and see outside of the boxes of any of the shorter-term tasks of thinking that we're doing which, really helps us to really guide our lives out of grander scale and then drive our businesses. Kids spend several months working on go, go, go. Getting one particular project done. Pushing one feature, that part way through the process we could have easily, if we had a big enough view, determined the landscape had changed and that this is becoming a waste of effort.

Joe: It happens on fractal levels. It happens on, "Wow, I've just spent 20 years creating a life that I don't want." It happens on, "I just spent two months doing a project, that my boss really didn't give a shit if I did and I just spent the last two minutes worrying about something that I could have spent creating something."

Brett: I think that's one of the things that makes this so counterintuitive is that often it's just much easier to think, "Oh, I'm almost there. I just need to do this, that and the other things, that are in line with my past 20 years of plan and that would get me there," which is a much easier thing to experience for many, than the recognition that maybe 20 years of my life has been spent further and further away from my authenticity.

Joe: Right and getting me there is the crux. That's the bit, the idea that where you are right now isn't good enough. You see this all the time in business where you see somebody who's been successful talking to somebody who's trying to be successful. The person who's trying to be successful is like, "Well, you're able to be so confident, so being able to say yes or no to things, so nonchalant about opportunities, because you already have success." There's some truth to that. There's no doubt about it, but what I've seen is that the people who hold that position, invite the success, more than they get it.

What I notice in my business is that the more that I became picky, the more that I decided it just wasn't worth it if I didn't do the thing that I wanted to do. I started rejecting clients, or I started rejecting investments, or I started rejecting really good deals, then all of a sudden, more and more good deals, more and more good clients started showing up. That comes when you aren't in that place of fear that you need to prove something. To be good enough, to be loved, it comes when you can trust your inherent goodness.

Brett: I think that speaks a lot to this reciprocal nature of accomplishment versus personal development, where it seems that, many of us think that accomplishment is going to give us the confidence and so if we just go for accomplishment first, then we'll have the confidence. What you're saying is that we can build the confidence. We can build not just a false sense of confidence, but if we are confident in who we actually are, then that will lead to the accomplishment, which then can feedback-- because there is a little bit of feedback loop.

Like you said, once you've been successful doing something, it definitely helps you feel that way. We can actually work on that personal side directly and everything else is downstream of there.

Joe: I wouldn't even call it confidence. It's like the closest word that our society knows to put on it, because confidence feels like-- at least the way it's interpreted is "I'm good enough or da, da, da." It's not really I'm good enough. It's just, I know what I am. I just know what I am. I know what I like. I know what I want and I am committed to being a full expression of that.

That's the key thing and that knowing who you are and really finding out, that's what the real cool part about the whole journey is, right? Because to do that, you have to see that you're inherently good. Then to do that, you have to see what you inherently are and then that requires us to drop these stories and our ideas of ourselves and it requires us to just allow the ego to be loved into oblivion. 

Brett: That transforms us into an artist.

Joe: Yes and the artist transforms us into that. To see ourselves as everything, allows us to have that energy when we move in the world instead of to see ourselves as this limited thing.

Brett: Great. Well, thanks again for your time.

Joe: Thank you. A pleasure.

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