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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Petty

008 More Alive Than Ever

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

How Pain Points the Way to Purpose


In the prime of his life, Phil Kohn was suddenly forced to wrestle with issues of physical pain, emotional anguish, and the reality of his Mortality. Today--because of his trial--he is more alive than ever.

How do you relate to discomfort, challenges, and suffering?

Our relationship to those things determines what they will produce in our lives. In Phil’s case, courageous vulnerability has allowed him to turn his pain into a deeper understanding and deployment of his unique purpose in life. Phil’s story can help you learn to do that, too.

Phil’s ensuing health saga wasn't something you'd wish on your worst enemy, but remarkably, it kicked off a complete life renovation for Phil. Today, Phil defines what it means to be alive very differently. When I listened to the recording after the interview to prepare it for release, I was so impressed with Phil's depth and breadth and authenticity. He's the sort of guy that you realize might have some of that genius quality about him, and he's got a really cool humility to go along with it.

This episode is loaded with insight and application for life that Phil has mined from the past seven years of struggle. It's a lesson in personal courage, resilience, mastering pain, and discovering your unique purpose in life. Some of you may even be able to relate to the specifics of Phil's health battle, and if so, I know you'll be encouraged and inspired to press on. I hope you get as much out of it as I did.

Meet Phil Kohn

Phil Kohn worked as an investment banker on Wall Street and Sydney, Australia. Then he traveled the world building international lottery partnerships for a publicly-traded lottery ticket and gaming business. His fast-paced life in finance hit a brick wall in 2013 when a battery of complex chronic illnesses took hold. His life flipped on its head, Phil decided to become an entrepreneur--with his first business launching out of his Beijing apartment. Phil has since transformed into a Mandarin-speaking, ultra-health-conscious individual who is currently training in Neurodynamic breathwork while co-hosting a new podcast on breathwork called The Breath Circle. He also just wrapped up the pilot season of StratosCast - a podcast highlighting changemakers on the frontiers of health and wellness (click here for the soon-to-be-released season finale episode discussing tools to hack resilience and promote creativity and curiosity in life). During the day, he advises and coaches business founders while also building a conscious media business called Myndful. He and his partner Miranda currently live in New Mexico.

From Brick Wall to On-ramp

In 2013, Phil was based in China--living the dream, as they say, a young man making his way in the world adventurously and with plenty of financial reward. Then a sudden bout of food and water poisoning put him on his heels and in the hospital and kicked off what has now become a seven-year health saga that includes chronic Lyme disease, mold and heavy metal poisoning, and significant mental health challenges. It has been a really rough road, to say the very least. Over time, though, the proverbial “brick wall” has become an unlikely on-ramp to a vastly evolved perspective on life and what matters most.

Where the On-ramp Has Taken Him

There’s no way to sum up Phil’s seven-year journey of suffering and renewal in these shownotes. The full episode itself can’t even do that. But we can tease out some of the major transformational points that have emerged so far for Phil so that we can learn from his story.

The three most powerful transformational points that jumped out to me from my conversation with Phil are his new relationships with vulnerability, pain, and control.

Vulnerability: Finding Strength in Weakness

His physical plight forced him to demonstrate a level of vulnerability that he’d never experienced before as he sought understanding and solutions from a myriad of medical and alternative sources. And he found himself dependent on family and friends for care and encouragement in a way he never had before. It opened him up to deeper relationships with other conscious men and an unprecedented level of commitment to personal growth. For Phil, vulnerability has now become a valuable and trusted approach to living his best life.

How many of us view vulnerability this way? The prevailing culture doesn’t. But Phil’s story turns the conventional wisdom of the prevailing culture on its head, and shows us that vulnerability can be a source of strength and a tool for transformational healing. What he was forced to discover because of his health saga, we can choose to discover ourselves to live an even more impactful life--starting today.

Pain: From Enemy to Companion

Phil’s physical and emotional pain was and still is significant. For a while, he looked for ways to numb or eliminate the pain altogether. As option after option disappointed, he slowly came to grips with the fact that pain was now his companion--albeit an unwelcome one. This acceptance led Phil to discover that by leaning into and exploring the pain non-judgmentally and with curiosity and a TINY bit of love and appreciation--”Thank you, body, for communicating with me so clearly”--the pain actually faded into the background of his life rather than being a big glaring blip on his radar screen. His choice to stop fighting has--paradoxically--led to a substantial measure of relief from the pain.

What is your relationship with pain--whether it’s physical, mental, both, or something else altogether?

My experience with life-long anxiety has taught me a lesson very similar to the one Phil has learned: Acceptance rather than Resistance is the way forward.

Control: It’s Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Phil tells a great story about hurtling down the road in a newly-leased, chartreuse BMW M4--feeling in control at the wheel of the ultimate driving machine going well over the speed limit...and simultaneously realizing that he was truly out of control as a man. That led to an overall reconsideration of what he was and what he wasn’t in control of in life. The ironic destination of his road trip was his first Men’s Circle experience, where he became the unwitting focus of the group’s attention and was first introduced to the healing power of deeper relationships with conscious men. The following day he participated in his first breath circle, followed by two days of 1-1 breathwork sessions — the beginning of a deep exploration into the power of transformational breathwork, a whole new world beyond yoga and pranayama.

Control really is an illusion. There is precious little, if anything, that we can truly, 100% control. We insulate ourselves from that terrifying truth in myriad creative ways. Phil shows us that relinquishing “control” is actually a path to freedom. And for him, breathwork was the starting point for retraining his mind and body to embrace this incredibly simple but very elusive idea.

Phil’s New Path

It’s no exaggeration to say that Phil is a very different man today than he was seven years ago. Still suffering the effects of his long-standing, complex health issues, for sure--but strangely more alive than ever. Today he seeks to beautify the world through his life rather than (and this is a slight overstatement for contrast) use or consume the world for his benefit. Meditation, breathwork, coaching, podcasting, and creative collaborations with others similarly orientated have become his new focus. His substantial innate gifts and accumulated experience and expertise are being brought to bear on projects that create deeper human connections and enrich the world. Links and info about some of those projects and ways to connect with Phil can be found at the end of these shownotes.

A Challenge, Should You Choose to Accept It

If you are a regular listener to Andrew Petty is Dying, then you are already taking the road less traveled and growing in your resolve to be the person you were made to be and live the life you were made to live. Awesome. You're changing the world one day at a time because of that commitment. And even if this is your first episode, there's something in you that knows that you've got more to give.

I've got a simple formula for human change:

Insight + Action = Transformation.

Insight on its own is energizing and enlightening. But without Action--without actually DOING something differently--we can't achieve the full Transformation that the Insight has to offer us.

So I want to challenge you: What's your biggest takeaway from Phil's story? And what's one thing--just one thing--that you will actually DO differently as a result of that insight?

Let's add a little pressure to the equation:

If you knew with 100% certainty that you would die 5 years from today, what would you do differently today? Whatever it is, DO THAT THING.

Get More Gold for Living With Phil Kohn!

I’ve got a really cool opportunity for six lucky listeners: The first six listeners to email me will get to participate in an exclusive, live follow-up conversation with Phil on Wednesday, June 17, at 4:30pm Mountain Time, via Zoom. So email me, and if you’re one of the first six, I’ll send you info for how to join this exclusive conversation.

The Graveyard Group: Optimizing Life by Remembering Death

Andrew Petty is Dying is a one-of-a-kind production of The Graveyard Group. The Graveyard Group is all about waking up to the reality of our Mortality so we find motivation to live with guts and gusto and abandon right NOW. It will evolve over time, and right now, The Graveyard Group primarily exists in the form of small group masterminds--where with five of your peers, you carve out time each week to do the most important work of your life. The work that we know needs to be done but is so easy to put off for days, weeks, and years--and then it's too late. You'll eliminate deathbed regrets and show up better than ever to the relationships and responsibilities that matter most to you. Go here to learn more about The Graveyard Group and how you can join a Mastermind. My purpose as a coach is to help you deploy your unique purpose in the world. Connect with me on Facebook or email me. I'll help you create the life you know you were made to live.

Connect with Phil

People and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

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Remember: You ARE going to die, but you're not dead yet. So live an incredible life!

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