APiD Ep. 041 | Behind the Mic
The Way I See It
Today's guest is none other than yours truly, thanks to the creativity and generosity of my guest on episode 38, Natalie Niksa. It was Natalie's idea to turn the mic around, so to speak, and interview me. I was excited about the idea right away. I'm not actually 100% clear on why I was excited, but I try to follow my energy closely, and when excitement shows up, I do my best to pay attention to it and act on it. So I took Natalie up on her offer, and today's episode is the result.
In this conversation, through the lens of my own story, we discuss curiosity as a superpower, recapturing childhood dreams, how to use Mortality as a motivator in daily life, how to address foreboding joy when it shows up, how to use this podcast to get after it in life, my dreams of being a drummer-surfer-documentarian, and more.
Along the way, I'm more open and vulnerable than I've ever been before in any public forum. The emotions at the end of our conversation surprised me. And though I had a bit of a vulnerability hangover after we recorded, I'm glad to share honestly from my story because I know it will be useful and meaningful to someone else out there.
I want to acknowledge Natalie's courage in taking on the role of interviewer. She's a wiz in the culinary world, but the podcast interviewer world is new territory altogether. If you tune in to the full episode, I think you'll agree that she does a great job.
Here is a sampling of highlights from the conversation, organized according to 4 of Natalie’s 7 (awesome!) questions and excerpts from my responses.
Q: Share with us a bit of your own process of curiosity and what tools help you remain creatively free to produce what you are sharing with so many?
A: For me, curiosity is not a process, it's an innate impulse that, having identified it, I now use as sort of a superpower.
I follow my curiosity. My curiosity leads me to good places. My curiosity leads me to people sensing that I have a genuine interest in who they are, and I do.
And it leads me to ask whatever question comes up next, which when I am myself, I do well. When I'm in my head I don't do it very well--I get kind of clutchy and clinchy. When I let my curiosity guide me, it goes to good places, whether it's in my personal life or professional life...So the process, if there is any, is to major on it...
Curiosity creates dialog, and dialog tends to generate insight, and insight is a precursor to transformation.
So curiosity is maybe the catalyst that allows some of that to occur. And of course it works really well for me in my chosen path professionally, and relationally as well...
Q: What dreams are you recapturing lately?
A: Childlikeness...It's a very personal journey, too, because when Anxiety became debilitating in my early 20s...it was maybe the final nail in the coffin at that point in my life of childlikeness because it became a desperate struggle to stay alive because the Anxiety was so bad that I did at one point say in my mind if this doesn't stop soon, then I can't live any longer. Jordan Peterson talks about...new things showing up in our lives unexpectedly--especially ones that are unwelcome--is an intense and difficult form of chaos to deal with. And it deconstructs the whole framework we had put in place to understand how we navigate life.
And that's what happened to me when Anxiety showed up because I literally thought I was going to die any moment. And so it really put the final nail in the coffin of childlikeness for a time...
And as I've first done battle with the anxiety and then, more recently, accepted it and allowed it to come along, I have begun to really attempt to recapture childlikeness and to learn to want things with abandon and without judgment or censorship…
I still feel as if the real Andrew isn't known yet to me and to the world, and the parts of the real Andrew that are within me that aren't yet made known to the world are the drummer, the surfer, the guitar player, the artist, the documentarian...
Those are all dreams that capture my imagination, and I can inhabit those dreams in my heart and my mind and see myself living that way and it feels like me. So there are ways in which the life that I currently live in some ways still doesn't feel quite like me. But that isn't the same as to say that I'm living an inauthentic or counterfeit life because I think the process of putting ourselves together over the course of our adulthood--if we're willing to become more and more consciously engaged in it--is to uncover who we truly are...
Q: What are a few ways that you consciously and perhaps even uncomfortably use mortality as a motivator on a daily and/or weekly basis?
A: I do live with awareness of mortality most days, but it's not for the reasons you might suspect. That's largely derived from the kind of anxiety that I experience. So the awareness of Death comes part and parcel with the kind of anxiety I more typically experience than others. And that's actually, again, part of why this podcast exists, part of why the Graveyard Group masterminds exist is because my hyper-awareness of mortality led me to believe that maybe there are others who don't think about it enough and in thinking about it more would find greater freedom to become the people they were made to be and live the lives they were made to live. And it turns out, it works that way...
As I've engaged in this practice of the podcast and the Graveyard Group, [I’ve learned that] you can approximate the pressure of a crisis...through intentional practice.
The way it translates into my own life is in decision-making--am I gonna do this or that. Maybe it's about am I gonna spend another half hour working on my computer or am I gonna take a walk, because my son just came in and asked if I wanted to go on a hike. It's not as if every time I'll choose to go on a walk with my son because there's a time for work and a time for play, but I at least pause more than I think I might have in the past and ask myself, when I'm that elderly gentleman, for example, in the retirement community and I'm thinking about the way I spent my time, what will I remember most?
And it's gonna be the walks with my son, it's not gonna be the extra half-hour on my computer. It's not gonna be what I accomplish professionally.
It's gonna be the quality of the relationships I made and the investments I made in them. It's going to be the courage with which I lived my life. So that's another way that it informs me...
I've been on a new professional journey for 5 or 6 years now, and it's been tremendously challenging, and it still is tremendously challenging. And when I sometimes want to throw in the towel or question myself too much, I do play the tape forward and from that old man vantage point look back and go, "Petty, how do you want to have lived this portion of your life?" And every time I ask myself that question, I go,
"I want to remember myself as courageous, all-in, and just going for it--whatever that meant in that moment"...
Q: Brene Brown discusses “Foreboding Joy.” This feeling of, ‘ uh, oh. This feels too good, something bad must be around the corner’ What sort of questions would you ask one of your clients who might be experiencing this?
A: Foreboding joy is certainly a thing, and there are a lot of sources for it. Sometimes foreboding joy comes from people's story, because often it WAS too good to be true. And so it's important in my opinion not to dismiss anything that someone would bring up because if they brought it up it's important to them. But it's also important not to dismiss that as a lack of courage or the presence of timidity because foreboding joy can be real for someone, because maybe in their childhood good things were promised to them and then regularly not delivered upon. So they don't know what to count on, what is solid, what is real, what can I actually hope for and go for...
When I was about to get married to my wonderful wife, Charis, I was in many ways a wreck because I was afraid I was making a mistake, not because of her...but because I was always afraid that I was making mistakes. I was afraid to strike out on my own. And this was the biggest striking out on my own that I had ever undertaken, and I was kind of wrapped around the axle about it.
And in my mind's eye, I had this vivid vision of me as a little boy--this didn't actually occur, but it was as if it had--running, pumping my fists as hard as I could and running as hard as I could and looking over my shoulder and asking my dad, "is this ok, is this ok?"
So there was an element deep within me of suspicion that it was ok to make choices on my own and to pursue and break away and live the life that I wanted to live. And that's just been part and parcel of the putting back together that I've had to do as an adult is to continue to affirm that yes, it is ok to strike out, it is ok to pave your own way, it is ok to use the sweeping permission of adulthood to become who you'd like to be...
All that to say that foreboding joy is not to be taken lightly, and also it sometimes is a representation of Resistance, which is a word that I borrow from Stephen Pressfield, capital R Resistance, that shows up almost the very moment we decide to do something that #1 is exciting to us and is in some way more vulnerable and more exposing of our real dreams and desires than something has been before. So it can be a clever way of our psychology tricking us into not taking the next step...
Q: Who would you be and what becomes available in the absence of all your concerns? (a Peter Crone question)
A: I think I'd be quite a bit more fun than I often am. I think my family finds me to be fun and occasionally others find me to be fun. But because of the complexity of my psychology--and I'm not saying that my psychology is any more complex than anyone else's--but just the complexity I find in my own psychology and relating to myself and the anxiety I experience, it can limit my availability. It limits the availability of the Andrew within because there's a multi-tasking occurring.
So, when you say "without my concerns," I immediately think without the presence of anxiety just sort of lurking and doing what it does, which is compromise me. It takes resources away that would otherwise be available.
I think I'd be more carefree, I'd be more fun, I'd be sillier more often. I would be less careful. I would trust myself more completely. I would trust that I've got this, I can do it. That's a common thing for me, to not trust that I've got it or can do it...
The thing that strikes me most is the silliness, the childlikeness, the carefreeness that occasionally I experience and very often I don't. That's sad to me, and I grieve that actually, and want very badly to make more of that available for my own enjoyment and for the enjoyment of others. I have a good sense of humor when it's available. I have a quick wit when it's available. Those that are closest to me know it best and others don't. And also, I think there would be more drumming, more surfing, more documentary creation. It's one of the pains of being a solopreneur trying to do stuff on my own and having more ideas than I'm able to execute on. And so one of my deep longings is to figure out how to assemble a team with me and around me who can bring to life more of the ideas and creativity that I have--and not only that I have but complement and supplement what I have to make it something even better…
Without the concern that literally consumes hours of resources just in the management of it--because there's a cycle for me of darkness and light, darkness and light, shrinking and expanding, shrinking and expanding. I think many can relate to that on some level. It's just an especially painful and compromising cycle for me. And maybe folks like me who work on their own and create on their own experience that more than others. I think Stephen Pressfield would certainly say that's the case. It's part of the artist's journey. And I think I am an artist and a creative person at heart, more than maybe just about anything else...
Tune in to the full episode for the whole conversation, including my answers to Natalie’s other 3 questions:
Your professional landscape is an ecosystem of sorts. Would you explain this process a bit of how one feeds the other and vice versa.
Where would you suggest people to start in terms of getting after their life and living the way they are meant to live today?
How would you like to be remembered? (This was the emotional part for me!)
Let the 95-year-old You Weigh In
Insight + Action = Transformation. It's a simple formula for human change. Put it to work in your own life right now.
What's one insight you gained about yourself from this episode? What's one thing you'd be willing to do with that insight today, before the magical window of opportunity closes?
Imagine yourself at 95, rocking on the porch of your final home, reflecting on the life you've lived--aware that Mortality is no longer just an abstraction but a very present reality.
And imagine that from the moment you listened to this episode until that day on your porch, you committed to taking courageous and decisive action whenever you gained a new insight. And imagine that all those individual actions conspired over time to create a life you are immensely proud of with few if any lingering regrets. What does that feel like? How badly do you want that future?
Now, imagine the opposite scenario. Instead of taking courageous and decisive action, you may have reveled in the insights but shrunk away when the moment of action came. Your life's story is riddled with what could have been, unfulfilled dreams, and half-hearted desires. Relationships suffered when you avoided the hard conversations or decided to bang out more emails, and who you could have been will now never really be known. What does that future feel like? How badly do you want to avoid that future?
Those are two extremes to make the point, but there's a point to be made here nonetheless. TODAY is the day. Tomorrow never comes, but Death most certainly does.
Let the inevitability of your Mortality fill your sails with wind and your hearts with courage to be who you were made to be and live the life you were made to live.
Remember, you ARE going to die. But you’re not dead yet. So get after it!
To learn more about the Graveyard Group--where we tap into the power of our Mortality to become the people we were made to be and live the lives we were made to live on a weekly basis--visit digdeepwinbig.com/thegraveyardgroup.
If this episode helped you, I'd love to know. Find me on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, visit my website, or email me.
Here are links to other episodes mentioned in this one:
Ep. 036 | The Global Fish Pond Crisis: What It Is, Why It Matters, and What to Do About It
Ep. 018 | Life's 3 Big Questions: A Conversation with the Coroner
Ep. 038 | Natalie's Story: Unconventional Answers to Life's 3 Big Questions
Ep. 031 | How's the Conversation Going? Improving Your Most Important Relationships One Conversation at a Time
Ep. 013 | Two Death Sentences and Still Surfing: An Assumption-busting Conversation About Letting Go, the Sneaky Downside of Hope, and Embracing Life's Necessary "Little Deaths"
Ep. 018 | Life's 3 Big Questions: A Conversation with the Coroner
Connect with Tim Wohlberg and Valerie McTavish, the dynamic duo behind Podcast Performance Coach and a big reason why this podcast exists!
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Check out Jordan Peterson, my favorite "distance mentor" right now:
Discovering Personality (8-Module Online Course)
Self-Authoring (online guide to understanding your Story and authoring your future)
Understand Myself (personality assessment)