Where Does Extremism Come From?

By LifeNo Comments

Photo credit: Joshua A. Bickel, Columbus Dispatch

My oldest passion is studying history. As a kindergarten student, I remember devouring any books I could find on history-  many of which were way above the usual kindergarten reading level. Because of my readings, when we played “cowboys and Indians”, I was always on the side of the natives. I read whatever I could find on history: non-fiction, historical fiction, facts, Time Life books. 

When I was around 12, I read about the horrors of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. This shifted my attention from general history to trying to understand how events like the Holocaust could happen. What made populations susceptible to propaganda? Why was it so easy to manipulate their fears? How could people be so complicit with evil? 

History does not really repeat itself, but it’s patterns do. Although a lifelong curiosity, history took somewhat of a back seat until 2016. In Trump’s shocking rise to power, the leftist violence in the form of Antifa and college protests, to internet trolls, I saw a repeated pattern. By combining my knowledge of history with current events, I became re-interested in answering this question:

Where does extremism come from?

Short answer: extremism is a mental illness. But there’s so much more to it than that. 

Here is a sketch I created simply called “The Extremism Loop”.

Let’s break it down …

The root of all extremism is fear. Fear is the ego-mind’s primary role. It’s designed to keep us alive. However, when this fear is exploited and stirred up by ideological and religious beliefs, the fear becomes our identity.

The fear produces a type of low consciousness. Essentially, putting the central nervous system into flight-fight-freeze mode. This creates a defensive posture where everything is a threat. This wiring is especially present for people with untreated trauma wounds. 

Low consciousness creates binary thinking. Everything is seen on a pathological level – healthy or sick. Or a moral level – good vs bad. Again, binary thinking is a feature of the ego designed to keep us alive. But when it is manipulated, it creates an us-vs-them lens. 

Binary thinking inevitability manifests as tribalism. This is us-vs-them taken to extreme levels. This is first voiced in language. On the right, the entire motivation is “owning the libs”. On the far left, it is talk of systems destruction. Your “side” becomes your identity and produces a false two-sided war – especially in a crisis.

Some additional observations …

  • If you are already a fearful, low conscious, binary thinker, you are far more likely to be attracted to tribalism in the form of either religious extremism, authoritarianism (nationalism or fascism)  or revolutionary ideology (anarchy, Marxism, etc). All of which become the beer goggles of rational thought. 
  • The Extremism Loop spins faster during a crisis. Each of the four areas are exacerbated by propaganda. Unlike some countries, most propaganda comes from the private-sector – with the two biggest influences being right wing media and evangelical leaders.  
  • Extremism produces its own echo chambers and encourages a kind of anti-intellectualism. This, in turn, creates conspiracy theories and rumors that are shared and repeated. This homogeneity of thought makes these echo chambers even more toxic. 
  • History shows that extremism does not just fade away. It comes to a fiery end as the result of two things: idolatry and violence. Evidenced by brutal beatings by leftists of people wearing MAGA hats and alt-right white supremacists committing acts of violence against counter-protestors.  Thanks to social media and extremist-based media, it’s easier than ever to worship and promote your idols and incite violence.

So what is the antidote to extremism? This is probably a good topic for another post, but I would say these three things:

  1. Practice healthy skepticism (especially of your own thoughts and feelings). 
  2. Seek to understand those that think differently than you. 
  3. Have Love be your root motivator, not fear. 

If you are interested in other readings on this topic, check out:

The Coddling of the American Mind” by Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt

The works of Erich Fromm

The works of Hannah Arendt

The #1 Life Skill

By Leadership, LifeNo Comments

Norman Rockwell “Triple Self Portrait”

Depending on what you have access to, there are millions of life skills to become good at. We can take classes, watch YouTube videos, buddy up with an expert, attend a workshop for pretty much anything. So to narrow it down to a #1 life skill may seem like a bit of hubris.

Hear me out.

This skill can be started immediately but takes years to master.

This skill has the greatest impact on all the areas of your life.

This skill is free.

Everyone has access to this skill.

It is the skill of Self-Intervention.

Self-intervention is pretty much what it sounds like. It is the ability to intervene on a thought pattern, a feeling, a behavior.

We are the only creatures that can observe our own thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Why do you think that is? Based on evolutionary theory, there must be a specific reason we are designed this way. I think it is because consciousness is at the top of the evolutionary ladder; the high point on the hierarchy of being. Consciousness reveals your authority to choose, your ability to connect with others, your power create. And higher levels of consciousness and awareness are the direct result of learning to master self-intervention.

A few examples of how self-intervention is transformative …

  • You are not your thoughts. When you think you are your thoughts, they become your identity. And when your identity is your thoughts, you listen to them. You become mentally fragile. You become obsessive. Self-intervention with your thoughts is simply learning how to witness them. You can do that right now. Once you see the space between the observer and the thoughts, you can see that you can control your thoughts. Maybe not as they arise but certainly control how you respond to them.
  • Your feelings aren’t facts. One of my favorite books is “The Coddling of the American Mind”. In the book, the authors identify what they refer to as the 3 Great Untruths — one of which is “always trust your feelings.” My version: feelings aren’t facts. Yes, they feel real. And yes, they may be a signal to pay attention to something. But assuming that your feelings are the same as reality is a recipe for lifelong suffering. A starting phrase for self-intervention with feelings is “Is that true?” By questioning the feeling you create distance with it. It allows you to trace the source. Similar to a check engine light.
  • Watch your language. Self-intervention mastery applies to all behaviors — but it starts with the language we use. Ontologically, our language informs our being. It produces the narrative loops that drive our behaviors. It brings form to how we prioritize our attention and what we value. When we over-use illusory language (either delusionary positivity or despairing negativity), we become detached from reality. Even a small change of language can lead to an entirely different, more grounded mindset. A simple one to learn is this: change from “I have to …” to “I get to …”. This is not some sort of positivity cocktail to make you feel better. It literally re-wires your brain to see things from a different perspective.

There are many other areas of self-intervention (especially related to specific situations) but these are the foundational concepts. With these three, you can build on them to greater and greater mastery of self.

As always, I’d like to hear from you. If you practice any or all of these, please comment with your insights. And if you start practicing any or all of these, please let me know the outcomes.

Everything is Obsolete

By Entrepreneurism, Leadership, LifeNo Comments


Credit: Libreshot


Your business model is obsolete.

Your leadership style is obsolete.

Your skills are obsolete. 

Your systems are obsolete.

Your marketing is obsolete.

None of these may be true for you (yet), but what if they were? What would you do? 

Kind of depressing, right? But there is hope! 

Here are some questions to arrive at some hopeful, honest insights …

What are my non-negotiables? This can be a combination of beliefs, standards, mindset, behaviors. They are the fertile soil of what you will do next. They become organizing principles for planning and taking action. For me, it’s freedom. Freedom is oxygen for my soul. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Nor would I take it from anyone. Knowing what matters most to you gives you a starting point from which to rebuild.


What is my vision? If everything is obsolete, your first task is to survive. But even in the darkest moments of survival, there needs to be a vision of the future. Not a delusion or escaping to some sort of “happy place” to deny reality. But a picture of your future world. An exercise we do with our clients is “Will/Create/Become”. The instructions are simple: craft a short paragraph describing your future state (you choose the timing). Use those three words. Be declarative and specific. Note: this exercise is one of the modules of our new course. Check it out here.

What is my mission? This is that elusive “WHY” that becomes a fuel source for purpose, systems, planning, allocation of resources. It’s what you are here to do. It’s the story you want your life to tell. In my experience of coaching hundreds of people in the finding and articulation of their mission, I’ve always found it to be in the same place: inside you. This is why having some sort of contemplative or inquiry practice is so essential. 

What do people need? Selling 101: find out what people need it and provide it for them. This is often one of the lost arts of selling. For the past 4 – 5 decades, there has been an increasing amount of selling the non-essential due to many recent innovations that are more entertainment than essential. Finding out what people need and providing it to them is the bedrock of community-level capitalism. From it springs the marketplace, the provisional storehouse, the crop grower, the craftsman.

What am I working with? Talent is the blend of natural gifts and learned skills. Your natural gifts never become obsolete. Your learned skills most certainly do. As we shared in a recent webinar (watch recording here), taking inventory of your life includes both spiritual assets and material assets. Spiritual assets are most often related to your natural gifts: ingenuity, creativity, courage, futuristic thinking, problem solving. Material assets are most often related to learned skills and existing resources: technology, know-how, your network, access to capital. 

Straight lines don’t exist in nature. Everything grows in a spiral and exists in a circle of life. The cycle of everything is order, corruption and chaos. This makes life iterative. It is a comforting illusion that what got us here will never go obsolete. All it takes is one unplanned crisis. 

How to Spot a Narcissist

By Leadership, Life, Self-WorthNo Comments

People with narcissistic tendencies are dangerous — physically, spiritually, emotionally. They are especially dangerous in a crisis where the pressure of a situation reveals the depth of their narcissism. Thus, it’s important to be able to spot them — and deal with them in a rational, thoughtful way.

First, let’s do a level-set …

Psychologically, I’m referring to Narcissistic Personality Disorder. You can do your own search on this issue, but this article has a good summation:

Narcissistic personality disorder involves a pattern of self-centered, arrogant thinking and behavior, a lack of empathy and consideration for other people, and an excessive need for admiration.

Spiritually, I’m referring to someone fully consumed by their ego-self. A metaphor I frequently use is the rind and the fruit. Picture an orange. The rind represents the external identity we’ve adopted to make it through life. The fruit represents our interior true Self. A spiritually healthy person has a fairly thin rind and lots of juicy goodness on the inside. The more the trauma or delusion, the thicker the rind — and the less the fruit. Someone fully consumed by their ego-self is comprised primarily of rind.

It’s important to note that we all have narcissistic tendencies. More on that later.

With those references in mind, here are five ways to spot a narcissist:

  1. Fragility — Narcissists are famously thin-skinned (which is ironic considering the above metaphor). They tend to become petulant, defensive, angry when confronted. This is because the rind is being pierced — which means their entire identity is threatened. This is why they are always comparing themselves to others.
  2. Forgetfulness — Because narcissists live almost completely in the world of illusion, they are forgetful of their own statements and proclamations. They don’t remember what they said, what they promised, what they threatened. They lack the recall ability of rational thought. This is why narcissists are notorious for not reading, avoiding hard data and being easily swayed by conspiracy theories.
  3. Bad at Moral Math — Narcissists have a strange way of keeping score. They will do 100 horrible things and one “good” thing. When confronted with their horribleness, they will bring up the one thing and proclaim their righteousness. This is also how a narcissist’s enablers apologize for his/her behavior. A famous version of this is in regard to the Italian dictator, Mussolini — where it was said: “At least he made the trains run on time.”
  4. Impulsiveness — Narcissists are fast at what should be slow and slow at what should be fast. They are notoriously impulsive with relationships — or staff in a working environment. They are notoriously slow at grasping facts, data, science.
  5. Destructiveness — Because narcissism is both a mental and spiritual disorder, it never ends well — unless there is some sort of intervention or awakening. If not, it inevitably ends in some sort of bunker — either a literal bunker or a mental one.

So how does one deal with a narcissist? Here are three ways:

  • Practice distancing — The thing the narcissist fears the most is being ignored. Attention in any form fuels their ego. It’s tempting to debate or argue with narcissists. But they love that shit. The best thing to do is to remove yourself from their presence.
  • Set clear boundaries — This is using declarative words and firm voice to establish a clear buffer. Imagine speaking to them as you would a child. This is useful if you have to deal with a narcissistic person in your family or an ex-partner/co-parent.
  • Be empathetic (but not an enabler): As mentioned, we all have narcissistic tendencies. We have identities, roles, views that we get very attached to. I say this because empathy is one of the most effective tools for dealing with narcissists. It’s not so much about empathy for them and more about understanding where they’re coming from as to not become like them.

It is important to remember that, ultimately, narcissists are consumed by fear. Their aggression, self-aggrandizing, reactivity, bluster are all fear responses. Fear of being found out. Fear of being ignored. Fear of being alone. The antidote for fear is Love. In this case, a deep, abiding self-love that is grounded in humility, worthiness and confidence.

Ryan Holiday shares it this way:

“When we remove ego, we’re left with what is real. What replaces ego is humility, yes — but rock-hard humility and confidence. Whereas ego is artificial, this type of confidence can hold weight. Ego is stolen. Confidence is earned. Ego is self-anointed, its swagger is artifice. One is girding yourself, the other gaslighting. It’s the difference between potent and poisonous.”

 — Ryan Holiday: “Ego is the Enemy”

5 Best Books to be Reading Right Now

By Books, Leadership, LifeNo Comments

Rockwell Kent

As a life-long reader, one of my favorite things to do for people is to provide curated customs lists of recommended books. Most of my recommendation lists have been curated based on each friend’s specific interests or topics (mindfulness, spirituality, business, leadership, etc).

Now, I’ve had several friends ask me what books that I recommend in the midst of this crisis — so I thought I’d share them with you. I’ve read every one of these books — some several times. (All links go to Amazon.)

“Biography of Silence” — Pablo D’Ors

This is the best book I’ve ever read on the power and importance of meditation in modern times.

“Man’s Search for Meaning” — Viktor Frankl

Much has been shared about this classic — but it remains the source code for finding meaning in suffering.

“Red Teaming” — Bryce Hoffman

I have been thinking about how different the reaction to the pandemic from businesses and governments would be if they’d read this book. Disclosure: Bryce is a great friend and client — but the endorsement is 100% sincere.

“Everything is F*cked” — Mark Manson

The awesomeness of this book is indescribable. It is a blend of research, satire, history, philosophy and so much. It is the perfect book to buy today and start reading right now.

“The Power of TED” — David Emerald

The only fable in this list, this is the best book I’ve ever read about getting out of a victim mindset — and for dealing with people with a victim mindset.

I’d love to hear your top 5. Please share in the comments!

Enjoy and be safe!

Processing Anger.

By LifeNo Comments

Dr. Buddy Rydell feeling pretty.

I’m hopeful. I’m resolute. I’m grateful. But I’m also angry.

I confess that I am uncomfortable with feeling angry. I believe this is because anger was not one of the “allowed” emotions of the fundamentalist church I spent years in. We were expected to be nice. And being angry isn’t being nice. (One of my first moments of detaching from church teachings was realizing that Jesus expressed his anger). I’m also uncomfortable with anger because I lived for years with latent, seething anger about life circumstances, my perceived unworthiness and defects and more. As I began to awaken in 2014, I let myself feel everything; including anger. In doing so, I often expressed my anger in ways that were hurtful to people I love, went on acerbic social media rants and otherwise used other people as a projector screen of my anger.

My relationship with anger has changed. I have learned that impulsive, flashes of anger usually mean I’m depleted spiritually, biologically or mentally. I have learned that anger is a natural emotion and its the response to anger that can be toxic; both suppressing it and expressing it in unhealthy ways. In meditating on this topic, a message came to me: “There is a place for anger, but it’s never above Love.”

In the midst of this crisis, anger is one of the emotions I feel. I can intellectualize why that is. Instead, I’ve chosen to just feel it. And try not to express it in unloving ways.

In the spirit of healthy expression, I hope you allow me to place a few things here …

I’m angry at Trump and Trump supporters. This includes the unholy alliance between conspiracy theorists who spread racist, bullshit lies and the religious right-wingers who replace science, logic and faith with cheap and phony knock-offs for all three.

I’m angry at Senators (mostly Republican) who dumped stock after getting a top-secret briefing on COVID.

I’m angry at Senators (all Republican) who are giving away too much power to the executive brand on how stimulus funds will be distributed.

I’m angry at people who spread false “cures” or alarms through cut-and-pastes, links and memes.

I’m angry at the media for reporting on Trump lying, being an asshole, self-aggrandizing, et al. This is not news. It’s his brand and he appreciates the coverage.

I’m angry at marketers who are either tone-deaf or exploitative. Stop marketing your products to people and start using your brand to be a light.

I’m angry at people that trust media yakkers over medical professionals. This includes people who take medical advice from a reality show star.

I’m angry at people that don’t think of others in a crisis. This includes hoarders, spreaders and deniers.

Phew. I think that’s it. That’s what I’m angry about.

When I asked a dear friend about processing anger, she suggested I scream and punch a pillow. Sharing these thoughts and feelings is my version of that.

I feel better. Thanks for listening.

How to Not Freak Out

By Leadership, LifeOne Comment

This is Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. A great example of not freaking out. And also of a president’s Jr that’s not a pampered man child.

This is a scary time. Less shocking than 9/11 perhaps, but more of a creeping insidiousness. So things are rightfully troubling; there’s a palpable sense of surreality. We are being confronted with the fragility of stability and routine. Unless you are a survivor of trauma, a major illness, intense physical discomfort and/or combat, your brain may not be wired to handle a crisis.

Here’s your chance to change that. 

In an actual crisis, there will be three groups of people. The first two are those full of despair or those full of delusion. Those in despair treat everything like it’s the apocalypse.  Those in the delusion group are either in denial and/or fomenting conspiracy theories. It’s tempting to dive further into the psychographic profile of the folks in these two groups (hint: both groups are full of narcissists). But I want to talk about the 3rd group: the people that know how to not freak out. Right now, we need as many people as possible in this group to get through a crisis. They are the leaders, the responders, the helpers. 

Here are some things you can do to be in this group:

  • Balance your Feeler Brain and your Thinker Brain. These are the terms that Mark Manson uses to describe the bifurcation of the human mind. Others have called them elephant (feeler brain) and rider (thinker brain). Using Manson’s metaphor, the feeler brain drives the car and the thinking brain holds the map. Most freaking out is getting these backward. To balance them requires some form of awareness or observation. This is why people with an active meditation or mindfulness practice will likely already be in Group 3. 
  • Separate problems from feelings. In freak out mode, this is hard to do. The best thing to do is to stop and ask “Where is the problem?” Until we do this self-intervention, our only source of information is how we feel about things. And while we should feel everything, feelings are faulty data points. By focusing on the actual problem, the thinker brain kicks in its well-muscled problem-solving skills. But this doesn’t work if the thinker brain only has information from the feeler brain to work with. 
  • Convert fear to positive action. Fear begets fear. It is a contagion unto itself. So rather than wallow in it, convert it to positive action. For many of us, this time is a mild inconvenience. (One of the better memes on this I saw was: Your great-grandparents went to war. You can sit on the couch for a while). But for many, this is highly disruptive – especially for people on the lower end of the economic scale that rely so much on the privileged. So give: Donate your time, services, money. Support: Local businesses, your neighborhood, your community. Connect: Take the initiative to reach out to people. 
  • Make use of suspended busy-ness. Most of us lead very hectic, over-scheduled lives. We take vacations to get away from this busy-ness but return to it; sucked repeatedly back into its vortex. With busy-ness suspended for the foreseeable future, use this time wisely. Use it to establish new practices that are such a struggle to commit to during busy-ness: creating, working out, getting organized, meditation, reading. Use it to rest. Use it to learn to be in the reality of this-ness rather than the illusion of busy-ness. 
  • Document your learnings. This is not the last crisis you will experience. So learn from it. Keep a journal of your mindset, feelings, activities. Pay attention to your react/respond/initiate cycle. Make plans for the next crisis. What will you do differently? How will you serve and lead? Observe how you feel executing on the above bullets. Did you like the feeling? Keep doing it after the crisis is over.

If you are in the 3rd group (or want to be in the 3rd group), a crisis is a recalibration opportunity. It’s an opportunity to practice what we say we believe. It’s an opportunity to test our theories about stability and predictability. We need leaders more than ever. This is your moment to lead. Even if just in the circle of people you love.


Meditation and Me

By Life, Self-WorthNo Comments


I’ve always been a thinker. As far back as I can recall, I was drawn to ideas, imagination, knowledge. I would read Trivial Pursuit cards for fun. I would read books on facts and trivia. (I still have one! “1001 Surprising Facts”). On the ranch, my favorite pastime was thinking. Feeding steers in sub-zero temperatures. Riding horseback amongst the junipers. Sitting on an open-cab tractor in 100+ degree weather. In class. In church. At home in the middle of the night. In all of it, I was thinking, dreaming, planning.

Almost 50 years in, I have a very well exercised thinking brain. It can absorb copious amounts of information. It can strategize and plan. It can problem solve. And it can be paranoid, delusional and anxiety-riddled. Conversely, I had until recent years, an under-developed feeling brain (heart). I was afraid of any emotion I couldn’t control. I felt like feelings were a distraction from getting things accomplished. I viewed emotional people as unstable and unreliable. 

In essence, I was the mental version of the guy in the gym who only does upper body workouts. My thinking brain was all yoked up but my feeling brain had chicken legs. This imbalance came into stark awareness after a spiritual awakening in 2014 and the ensuing shifting, changing (and death) of old forms and structures. Then I felt EVERYTHING. And my thinking brain didn’t know how to handle it.

In 2017, I discovered the power of meditation. My curiosity was piqued when I read Mark Divine’s book “Unbeatable Mind.” If a Navy SEAL and martial artists practiced meditation, then it must be pretty badass!  My prior perception of meditation was that it was for thinking. And I already did that. I also thought it was more for monks and Buddhists. It was fine for them, but I had shit to do. 

I began practicing meditation in fits and spurts in 2018. My bias, at that point, was that meditation was a mind-control tool; that it was to calm racing thoughts, overthinking, anxiety. And it did. Sort of. I assumed that its lack of efficacy was due to my own inconsistencies with it. In 2019, I discovered Sam Harris’ app “Waking Up”. It was then that I established a regular practice. Sam’s sessions were simple, short and non-woo woo. Through those meditations, I learned that meditation isn’t about controlling thoughts. It’s about observing them; sitting in the witness chair. I did think differently, but I didn’t feel all that different.

Then this happened … 

This past weekend, I discovered something new and beautiful about meditation. I made this discovery not by reading or thinking, but by meditating itself. I realized that I was now using meditation to do to my feelings what I used to do for my thoughts: control and/or change them. Sitting in a guided meditation on Sunday morning (30 minutes – the longest one I’d ever done!), this truth flashed to me: Meditation is about accepting feelings, not changing them. This was a game-changing discovery for me. Although I was slightly embarrassed that it took me so long to arrive at it.

Ultimately, all of meditation is about acceptance of and connecting with THIS; the hard-to-grasp presence, now, and oneness of being HERE. Observing thoughts and feelings without judgment, without trying to change them, is part of the process of connecting to THIS. And THIS is where God, Spirit, peace, love, joy, purpose are. THIS is where I am. 


PS: I have read a number of books on this topic. Message me if you’d like a list of my favorites.

A New TPQ (Thought-Provoking Question)

By Life, Self-Worth4 Comments

In a recent breakfast conversation with a dear friend, we visited about the most constant messages we each received as kids. And how those messages still influence your thinking and behavior – even if you have reached a higher level of awareness. 

We know that social conditioning creates permanent grooves in our neuropathways. And the more intense the conditioning (such as trauma or violence), the deeper the grooves. Epigenetics shows these family-oriented social conditionings can be carried in the DNA to the next generation. 

While the above is more associated with experiences, messages are the words we hear – spoken or unspoken. They become the norms and framings for what I call the 5 Relationships:

  1. God/religion (belief, non-belief, agnostic)
  2. Money/career
  3. Health/well-being
  4. Education/knowledge
  5. Sex/intimacy

These five areas (and I’m certain there are more) become relationships that influence every area of our journey through the continuum of adulthood. They also frame our actual relationships – who we partner with, who we befriend, how we raise kids, etc. 

Phrased as a thought-provoking question (TPQ), it would be …

What messages did you most constantly receive as a child? 

For me, these are some of the messages I received:

  • “Get to work.” Work ethic, quality of work, ability to work were all a premium in my family. This still influences me today; causing work to be at the top of my attention hierarchy.

  • “Manage your emotions.” In my family, the message was women are expressive with their emotions and men are not. Further, there are emotions that are acceptable and unacceptable for men.

  • “Something is wrong with me.” This one is the closest to a trauma-based message because I received much of this message through experience. Over the years, it became a voice in my head, especially after failure and conflict. 

I texted my sons, Logan (27) and Caden (21) the same question. With their permission, I’m sharing their responses. 


Seek truth, question everything, love openly, whatever you do be the best at it, there’s humor in everything


Do what you love, don’t be an asshole, Stand up for what you believe, question everything 

After a good cry of both relief and gratitude, I realized their responses were the fruit of a very intentional early strategy their mother and I had to impart the best messages we received and consciously eliminate the negative ones. 

The messages we received, we received. Either positive or negative, our choice is how we let them direct our lives. Therapy and inner work don’t eliminate the negative ones – it just helps us frame them properly. And effort and ability don’t guarantee the positive ones will bear results.


If you’re feeling brave, I would love to hear your answer to the question by commenting below.

What are You Teaching You?

By Coaching, Life, Self-WorthNo Comments

We consume books, podcasts, articles, workshops. We distill what we learn and try to apply it to our lives. We also share it with others – as parents, partners, leaders, friends. Sometimes we get paid to teach what we learn. 

The efficacy of all of this knowledge consumption is fairly low. For example, Simon Sinek’s TEDTalk has almost 49 million views – plus hundreds of thousands that have read his “Start with Why” book. Yet most businesses still start with WHAT in their marketing, culture, product offerings. This low efficacy applies to all aspects of life and business: health, personal development, psychology, leadership, business growth, finances, spirituality. 

I’m not saying to stop consuming content. Hell, I’m reading 5 different books right now and subscribe to a multitude of daily and weekly emails from thought-leaders. What I am saying is this … what are you teaching you?

Our minds, bodies and souls are tremendous teachers. Yet we often go looking for that outside guru or formula. What if we first turned to ourselves to learn? 

The mind mostly teaches through negative examples. Meaning, we learn what NOT to do from our minds. Things like distraction, habit slippage, obsession, mental noise. When we sit in the seat of the observer, we can see that the mind teaches us something every day. For example, I observed a continuum of my day. I start out contemplative, then creative and/or productive, but by 5p or so, I become quite consumptive. I will eat three tacos instead of two. I will watch multiple episodes of something on Netflix when one will suffice. I increase my screen time in the evening when I should be winding my mind down. Unto themselves, these are not necessarily “bad” things. But every unconscious behavior is teaching us where our mind is controlling us instead of the other way around.

The body is also a terrific teacher, if we listen. It will tell us exactly what it needs – either through positive or negative reinforcement. We westerners tend to treat our bodies as inanimate machinery. This makes our bodies become an abstract. Which then leads to all kinds of cravings. Recent science affirms the intelligence of the body: our hearts and our stomaches contain brain cells, somatic responses are often tied to untreated trauma, allergies and other non-pathological ailments are connected to emotional well-being.  My body is teaching me – the hard way. Since mid-January, I’ve had my third flair up of gout in less than 18 months. This one has been the most severe. It’s forcing me to eat much more clean, focus on improving my sleep patterns and recalibrating my relationship with pain. My left big toe is literally teaching me to be aware, choose what’s best for me and do what I can with what I have to work with.

Then there is the soul – the mightiest, wisest teacher of them all. To understand that the soul is a teacher will require either: a) some level of rational faith or b) at least some suspension of show-me-the-science. If the mind is the seat of consciousness and the body is the seat of matter, then the soul is the seat of Wisdom. Just as the mind and body use instincts to teach us, the soul uses intuition. This inner Knowing teaches us what to prioritize, when to rest, who to connect with, where to go. The soul has no biases, no filters, no need for form. It simply is the truth. This means when it teaches, it does so simply, concisely and directly.  My soul has been teaching me that soul/self-care is my highest priority. This is very difficult for my mind to grasp. I went through a time of great selfishness and hardness towards others. I remember that and mistake putting myself first as a returning to that dark place. My soul teaches me this is not true. That I must put my soul/self first so that I can do the work I’ve been sent to do. 

The best part of learning from ourselves is that each day contains lessons, tests, resources from and for mind, body and soul. We don’t need to wait until that mythical tomorrow or next week. Or the next book, podcast or webinar. We can learn from ourselves right now. We just need to be good students.