I sat down with Patrick McKinney for a 30-minute chat that he suggested I make at least an hour for. He also asked that I wear comfortable shoes because he can’t sit down for very long when he’s asked to talk about himself. “Not that I don’t find it to be a compelling subject, it just isn’t very interesting.”
Patrick is the younger of two sons, born in Northern Ireland to a protestant mother and catholic father. “My dad had seen enough of the world by the time he was 20 to realize you find an amazing wife and move quickly. The family moved to the south or away from the north when I was 2 or 3, I don’t remember which or when and forgot to remember when I asked. My first memory is hazy and about a wall and bees. The next is of me and my brother happily running to meet my aunt and cousins. The bees were in the north, the running was in the south. I bring this up because these made me who I am.”
“Lets be fair here, I don’t belong anywhere, and that’s why I’ve done so many different things. I love everyone and everything, and have very few close friends because of who I am. I’ve been a very manipulative person for all of my life and others find this to be kind of alienating, but only those who let it happen, right?” Before I could answer he said “that feeling you’re getting in your stomach right now, the way your foot twitched and your shifting, it means I’m in there” pointing to his head. “I’m good at this not because I just went in there, but because I was already in there. Been there all along. Do you feel like walking?”
The family moved to Canada when Patrick was 9 and his brother Desmond was 11. “Desmond has played the bigger role my socialization than anyone else. My folks provided most of what was needed to survive, Des provided the rest.”
“Do you see that man standing there?” asked while pointing at a group of 4 businessmen. “Which one?” “There’s only one of them standing, the rest are leaning on him” was the grinning reply. “Breath 3 times, you’re starting to become a little unhinged again.”
“I didn’t really fit in when we moved to Canada. I selected the very people who would help me feel like I didn’t belong. It’s wonderful looking back on because if they had been any different, I would have been average.”
“When you feel like you don’t belong, when all you have to lean on is your brother and parents, you don’t really get settled with anything. I love with all of my heart, with all of my being, but I would engineer the end of every relationship and friendship that wasn’t with someone who was able to feel and put up with what I was doing. I didn’t have children with any of the wonderful women I was in relationships with, and that left me with a huge amount of unconditional love to share.”
Patrick attended 3 universities to get a pass degree, making and leaving behind many wonderful friends. He cites the death of a girl friend during this time as being a changing point in his life. After graduating, he worked as a manager for a company his brother had created. This gave him a chance to excel at something, and enough money to afford to get out of his head on drink and other compulsive behaviors. About this he said “you can write all this self abuse stuff down if you like, it’s my past and I love it, but it’s more important that you capture the need for the journey than the way the journey took place.” Context is important, and you can feel it when you talk to Patrick. Time with him is a roller coaster and it’s easier if you try not to hold on because he’s not going to let you fall off.
He found himself working for GoodLife Fitness as a sales person, then a manager and then a personal trainer. “But I was still running. I quit the PT job and took a month vacation to the east coast with Deb, one of my oldest and dearest friends. I rode my bike and rotted, and didn’t find what I was looking for.”
I coasted for a few months until I got sick and a doctor told me that there was protein in my urine. I thought my kidneys were shot and my life flashed before my eyes. I was going to die much sooner than I had thought and it was going to be a life on dialysis and maybe a transplant, and I realized that I hadn’t done much living. The test wasn’t accurate and I was spared the future that I had bought into as a dreadful thing. That was another moment in my life.
I told myself a story and ran to the edge of the earth with it. When the story died, I felt alive again, and reborn. It’s all a load of meaningless crap that I was able to manufacture, believe, feel and run with. “I’d like to clarify something here because it can be confusing to some to hear that without the proper context. Things do happen, they are real things, and there is a real organic emotional response to them. Real pain. But we also get emotional responses to things that don’t happen. The reality was that I didn’t have protein in my urine but I told myself that I did and that created an emotional response. Human beings do this a lot – create suffering out of nothing. This is why cognitive behavioral therapy is so effective.”
“Things changed slightly after this, I began to do more of the things that I wanted to do. My jobs, relationships and actions helped me to express my strong traits – a love for all things, an analytical mind and an ability to manipulate. I became a strength coach / personal trainer, a life coach, and I began writing. Things continued along this path until two very critical things happen, I feel in love and my father died. The girl was amazing and it didn’t work out. During our short relationship I began to see that my compulsive behaviors were not working for me anymore; our relationship was one of those behaviors. When my dad got sick and died, I made the decision to just stop them.”
“On February 29, 2012 I killed the person who had been living act one of my life and I started act two with a clean mind, body and a recreated spirit.”
The conversation changed at this point, an already enthusiastic chat became an almost frenzied assault on the English language in terms to pace, and loaded meaning.
“Patrick William McKinney is what I call myself now, not because it’s my name, but because it’s what I was labeled. What were you labeled and how did that shape you?” There was a pause and before I could answer “I’ve never been good with names because I think they are silly. Sure they have purpose, but how often do we use a name when we are speaking directly to someone we love? Only when we’re trying to control the other person.”
“Some people didn’t like my parenting book, they called me smug and ballsey to write it given that I don’t have any children. I liked those names more because it tells me about their state of mind.” PWM’s view was that parents are too busy being parents – either exactly like their folks or the complete opposite – to fully appreciate what is going on. “Too involved in the creation and building of adults to have the time to see that the goal is to cultivate the child into an adult child.” Some of the things adult parents said to me about the book had me crying inside because their children were not getting the best upbringing possible.”
“My “Atheists Guide To Spirituality” was blast to write. A former client clued me into it during lent of 2012 when my spirit was catching-up to my physical body. A lot of faithful and non-faithful people dismiss outright the views of the other simply because they think it matters. We’re all part of the same things, we’re all the same thing so the view that we’re separate is both a nonstarter and inaccurate.”
Describing himself as a General in the battle for human potential, there’s a glow that flows out of him. He does seem older than time in a way, his eyes are engaging, but you get the very real sense that you are not special when you talk to PWM. It isn’t that you are ordinary, it’s that he has known you a lot longer than you have known yourself. It’s almost creepy, but when you give into the possibility that it is true, it is freeing.
“Do you have a personality disorder, are you ADD or something?” “Goodness yes. Most people do. How long have you realize you have one?” “About a second or two, how long have you known?”
“I just assume it to be the case because our up-bring paints us with them. Our purity is clouded with a notion that we are the center of the universe because it’s our point of reference. Parents tend not to feel comfortable telling their children the truth in matters like this because they feel ill equipped to articulate the possibilities it creates. They are scared of the damage it will do so they continue to damage their children by validating the notion that they are unique. Complete nonsense. The greatest people who have ever lived killed the notion of this identity in order to serve some higher purpose. It’s only in death that we are free.”
PWM admits that he would have made a lot more money had he pushed forward with serving himself directly, but seems completely content in the moment knowing that his coaching, training and speaking business, coupled with his writing impact a smaller group of people who end-up impact more people than he could on his own. He thinks his charity work is fairly effective too although he doesn’t really speak about it much. “Charity is a funny thing, there’s a fine line between charity and self indulgence. I’ll battle for them, but if someone wants to know anything about the numbers they can talk to the critics. I’ve never been arrested, charged or investigated. I’ve done very well out of them not because I take money, but because they’ve have helped me remain humble and the people we work for teach me more than most other human beings can. They’ve learned more about life than those who come from privilege.”
We chat a little longer while walking and picking-up litter, garbage and saying hello to various people who walk by.
We straighten things that are out of alignment and effectively float down the street doing whatever needs to be done but wouldn’t have been done in that moment had we not been there. It was pleasant and I had forgotten to notice that it has started to rain a little.
I’m not sure I will ever interview PWM again, and I’m fine with that. I’m not sure I interviewed him in the first place. It was slightly careless of me to believe that it would be easy and I’d sooner have him interview me. I have a feeling it would be a lot more interesting because there’s so much about myself that I don’t know and it’s clear that he would bring it out. But maybe he already has….