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More Questions To Ask You Future Personal Trainers

I get questions from people who wonder how they would go about finding a good personal trainer. In the post Fitness Professional Smell I outlined a few important considerations. I have been asked to create a more refined list for people who may not have the experience in the industry or with people who stand to benefit from selling you something to put those tips to work.

The goal of this post is to help you interview your future trainer to unpack what they are all about and how they might be able to help you if there is agreement that you’ll work together. The tips will be broke down in two ways. The first is a list of things to ignore the second is a list of things to consider or ask. The ignore list is more important because the things that appear on the list take advantage of shortcuts we’ve created to help with problem solving or decision making. The term heuristic is used to describe these rules of thumb and they leave us vulnerable when someone uses one of them to circumvent logical thought. The list of things to consider or ask is only possible when we are thinking logically, or at all, so triggering a heuristics will fire an automatic response that will see us respond in a way that doesn’t necessarily represent our best interests or desires.

Things to ignore:

Social proof in terms of positive recommendations - how often do we see bad recommendations or testimonials? It is very rare that we’d read a testimonial that says “trainer was constantly late, and didn’t seem to value my time” or “trainer was verbally abusive, but there was an element of truth in what they said” or “coach knew everything and responded poorly to feedback. Their painful insecurity prevented them for hearing my questions as anything other than a personal criticism” or “I trained with them for 2 years and nothing ever happened. Apparently it’s my thyroid although my doctor says the blood tests show levels in normal ranges.” People who are seeking to grow their business will not use these types of customer testimonials to help enroll new clients. They use good or glowing ones so they are for all intents and purposes meaningless. You can put them to use for you by asking specific questions about about the person who gave the testimonial and then connect with them to find out if what was said by the trainer was true.

Beautiful things in the office or gym. This one is a little tougher to overlook. Multiple studies have drawn the conclusion that “what is beautiful is good.” Blond pretty women will get more tips than women who are less striking with darker coloured hair when the level of service rendered is controlled for. More attractive defendants will receive shorter prison sentence and those with greater physical beauty will be automatically viewed as having higher skill levels in other areas even before there is any information to judge. The two barbers puzzle is an example of the beautiful is good heuristic can lead us to the wrong conclusion. This doesn’t mean that you should seek out gyms with nothing but unhealthy people, but you should be aware that you’ll form an impression in the first 15 feet of a building and within 10 seconds of meeting someone and that this impression can be easily influenced. I suggest you ignore the first impression because sellers know how to manipulate it.

Things to ask:

  • If you are having a consultation with a company, ask about the turn over rate for their trainers. Good trainers tend to stay with good companies and they tend to work for good leaders. If the staff are relatively new and no one has worked there for longer than a couple of years there may be a problem.
  • Ask the seller, if they are not the person doing the training, why people leave the company and how many of them are still working as trainers. Negative experiences with a company are a key reason why people leave the fitness industry. If the leadership of a company doesn’t know what the people are doing now, that is also a big red flag that the workers left on bad terms. This does not mean that they are not skilled trainers, they just may not be very good at relationships with their staff.
  • Ask how much the trainer will get paid if someone other than the trainer is selling you the sessions. Good trainers know their value and will seek out and stay working for companies that pay them what they are worth. If you are paying $75 per session and the trainer isn’t getting $45 to $50 of that, you are not likely to get full value for your money. A company does have a right to profit from the labour of their staff BUT the payment needs to be fair. If it isn’t, the staff will do sub par work.
  • Ask the seller about the some of the mistakes they have made in the past and what they would do differently now. Intelligent people know that they are fallible and will readily admit these mistakes. They’ll accept that they know very little in the grand scheme of things and will rely on evidence to move their understandings forward. Be very aware of the trainers who know too much or lack the humility to learn from their mistakes.
  • Ask the seller about the other ways they make an income, ask them if they recommend supplements and, if the answer is “yes”, ask directly do they sell supplements? ANYONE who sells the things they recommend CANNOT be trusted to offer objective advice about those things. Evidence based practitioners know about this conflict of interest and take appropriate steps to avoid it.

Do not be afraid to be very blunt or to challenge people about what they know and what they believe. Effective trainers know that there are a lot of under-qualified people in the industry and accept that potential clients should be skeptical. They’ll rise to occasion and give concise and honest answers to your questions. IF anything you say does the relationship in, it wasn’t going to be much of a relationship anyway.

Regression To The Mean - How to Sell BullShit

A few years ago I was getting a cold, or at least I had some of the symptoms that I thought were indicative of getting a cold. And it was a reasonable conclusion because I hadn’t been sleeping very well and was working a lot. I mentioned that I though I was getting sick to a peer and he asked “do you have a cold now or do you think you might be getting one?”

I replied with “I think I might be getting one.”

“Okay, take this” and he handed me a small bottle of pills, 15 of them with the instructions take 2 now and 2 every 2 hours until they are gone. I wondered why there was an odd number of pills but did as he instructed. And they worked. I never got a cold. This was amazing, I didn’t get sick and it only cost me $16 - I got the friend price, other people were buying the cold prevent for $26.

The next day I asked him what he would have recommended had a cold already taken hold and he showed me a different pill bottle. It was the same size and had the same instructions but a different name. This was a cold cure.

You can imagine just how grateful I was, a month later, when I started to feel sick again, that he was willing to sell me more. This time the cold took hold in-spite of me consuming another bottle of the cold prevent. So I bought a bottle of the cold cure, it was more expensive but I got the friend price. I remained sick. The $16 prevent and the $20 cure didn’t do anything.

So what had happened, why did it work the first time and nothing worked the second time?

The explanation is very interesting and it reveals as much about human psychology and as it does about the tricks charlatans use to take your money.

Three things were at play. First off, I trusted my friend. We had been friends for more than 10 years and I believed that he knew things. Even though I know better, I valued his opinion and believed that he wouldn’t take advantage of our friendship to help sell supplements. Next, I saw a pattern between taking the cold prevent pills and getting better. Human beings evolved to notice patterns and well find them even when they do not exist. Considering that I did other things on the same day that I took the first bottle of cold prevent pills that may have impacted my internal environment - ate more vegetables, ate more fruit, went to bed earlier, watched some funny cat videos on youtube, etc…. - I made a conscious decision to link the pills with the outcome. Finally, maybe I wasn’t getting a cold in the first place. Maybe I was having an allergic reaction to something in the air, maybe I ate some food that caused cold like symptoms. Or maybe my body was able to fight off the cold on its own and I wasn’t ever going to get sick.

It’s the final thing that is most important here. The human body is an amazing thing and it is fantastic at fighting off infections, illness and the things that cause disease. We’ve evolved to be self healers and our immune system just does its job, without us asking it to do so and without much outside influence. In most cases and with most people, the body fights off illness / sickness and disease and returns to normal. The further away your state happens to be from your normal state, the more likely it is to return to its normal state in the near and immediate future.

This tendency for things to return to normal is called regression to the mean, when paired with our tendency to see patterns that don’t exist, contributes to the formation of erroneous connection between two unrelated things. The cure my friend sold me was worthless. I was going to feel better the following day anyway. I could have taken sugar pills or nothing at all and the impact would have been the same. I know this because the cure didn’t work the second time and in the months that followed, many of the other people who were sold the cold prevent got sick.

Just because two things happen around the same time does not mean that they are connected in any way whatsoever. The people were going to get better anyway, that is the nature of a regression towards the mean. And it is why anecdotal reports are not considered evidence.

They Sell What They Have To Sell

I’m finding it harder and harder to not be cynical when I talk to new people these days because everyone seems to be selling something. The collection of stuff they are selling ranges from the extremely useful to the useless to the dangerous. I don’t remember it being this way before; although that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been this way all along. It could just be that I’ve woken-up after indulging myself in the Landmark philosophy of infinite possibility and collective synergy once I began to experience what was being sold by some of their leadership people.

I suppose it isn’t anyone’s fault. Be it ourselves, our story, our skills, our companies products or the latest MLM supplement, we’re all selling something. I have less of an issue when it is ourselves that we are selling - it’s nice to be liked, you could say that it is a social imperative, and being lonely or hated isn’t much fun. And when it comes to ourselves, we generally have a good idea of what we are all about. Others may know more about us than we know ourselves, but we’ve spend enough time being ourselves to we are kind of experts on it. Generally speaking, we know what we bring to the table.

The challenge I’m having is with the stuff people are selling as most people seem to be clueless about it. At best they are honestly ignorant but more and more common are they actively ignorant who are selling out to make a buck. They deliberately avoid objective information about their products and instead focus on the anecdotal stories as evidence or proof.

For example, MLM products tend to be of very low quality and sell that a highly inflated process. True, the business model needs to be this way - revenue needs to be handed off to those who are higher-up in the company - but those caught-up in the collective delusion tend to be very irresponsible when it comes to the claims they make about the product line. Very few of the people involved with selling MLM supplements know anything about what they are selling. They present themselves as knowing, their products as a God send for whatever ails you and are eager to enroll you as a reseller but will always defer to a website or their company expert for the hard questions. Evidence comes from in-house sources and objective scientific evidence does not gain entry into their collective consciousness.

This is EVERYWHERE! Go to a dentist, let them know that you have benefits and notice just how bad your teeth are. Call them up later and say that you don’t have coverage and only want the necessary work done, notice the change in recommendation. There are a bunch of “concerns” in my mouth that haven’t turned into the cavities the dentist said were coming.

Take your car to the dealership for some repairs, then take it to your brother-in-law and notice the difference in what needs to be fixed. When someone is getting paid $110 / hour for labor, there’s going to be more wrong with your car than when they are already married to your sister.

Go to a chiropractor and then go to an osteopath and then to an athletic therapist. Notice how the duration for your treatment will differ and how there is little consensus on what is wrong with you. Although the treatment plan will be different, all three should make the same diagnosis.

Make no mistake about it, if someone is selling something their product / service is for you. It doesn’t need to be surreptitious, many peoples have such positive experiences with something that they believe that everyone will benefit from it.

I used to believe that everyone would benefit from personal training, taking-up cycling or eating well. While there are undeniable benefits from exercising properly and eating appropriate amounts of good quality whole foods, I no longer believe that everyone should do this. Once I realized that some people identify themselves as inactive, unhealthy and over weight, I stopped believing that active and healthy was a natural state for them. In fact, I believe intervening in these cases is wrong. Selling fitness improvement services, and active lifestyle and dietary habits is NOT in the best interests of people who do not identify themselves as worthy of that way of being.

How do you avoid being sold to?

Assume that people are always selling and observe them objectively or critically as though they are a teacher. Their sincerity and honesty may be real and they may believe that they are simply distributing advice - it may not be their fault that what they are selling is garbage.

Keep your money in your wallet / pocket and don’t buy from them when on the first encounter. If what they are selling is of high quality, it’ll still be available is a day or week or month when you have made an educated decision to buy.

Ask a lot of questions and get the people to explain their answers. Avoid buying from people who get defensive when you ask product knowledge questions or question their authority. Experts know their subject matter and, when money is on the line, they expect people to question their authority.

Know as much as you can about the thing you are inquiring about BEFORE you engage the seller. The more you know, the less of an expert the other person becomes.

Ask the question “who would not benefit from your service or product?” and then ask “why would they not benefit?” Experts will know who their services / products are not suitable for. E.g when I asked an exceptional personal trainer friend who would not want to buy their training services they replied with “people who don’t mind risking getting injured when they workout, those who don’t want to learn how to train more effectively and those who aren’t interested in transforming their body and life.” Someone who has less skill would have replied “everyone would want to buy my services” which is false.

100 Tips To Have An Extraordinary Life

I found this list of 100 tips to live an extraordinary life by Dr. Sukhi and felt it was worth sharing.

4. Develop a Routine and Rituals.

5. Exercise Everyday.

6. Start Your Day With Visualization.

7. Laugh and Play.

8. Create Short and Long Term Goals.

18. See Challenges as Opportunities.

19. Get a Mentor.

20. Know What You Value.

21. Be Somebody Others Respect.

29. Be Enthusiastic.

30. Plan Your Days, Weeks and Months.

31. Create Extraordinary Experiences for Those You Love.

32. Cultivate the Kid in You.

54. Always Tell the Truth.

55. Be Persistent and Patient.

56. Don’t Judge Others.

There are a number of things on the list that have been posted on this blog before, some that are part of the common experience of our culture and others that are new, uncomfortable and outside the normal way of being. But always keep in mind that an extraordinary life requires extraordinary actions so don’t count on remaining comfortable as being one of those things.

Distance from the consequences

I don’t know were my food comes from other than the store, and before that a factory or a farm. Some of the food I eat is pretty good quality, some of it is nominal and the rest of it is “food like products”. From a geographic point of view, there is a lot of distance from the consequence from how my food comes to become food.

I don’t know the impact of how my words land on others. Occasionally they’ll do what I want them to do, but a lot of the time the impact is unknown and seemingly random. From an emotional point of view, there is a lot of distance from the consequences how my words effect others.

I don’t know the impact of my destructive actions on my future. Smoking causes cancer, too much stress will diminish immune functioning and too much sugar can cause obesity, but there is a long time between the action and the disease, so the things do not seem related. From a temporal point of view, there is a lot of distance from the consequence.

Living in the here and now, it can be a real challenge to predict or see the outcome of action. Logically there is a story to tell - that this will lead to that - but emotionally that story doesn’t feel like anything - cancer, disease and obesity are words more than experiences; in-spite of my experiences with cancer and obesity, they don’t have an experiential meaning to me as I have been an observer of their ravages. There is a great distance from the consequence.

This is the biggest road block faced by most trainers and coaches and one has creativity and laser focused communication as the only real workarounds. It is also the reason why an alarmingly small number of people ever make the life transformations that they are capable of; which is sad because many people suffer needlessly for most of their adult lives with issues that would be addressed with simple behavioral changes.

It’s also why pointing out the consequences of reduced blood circulation (skin and hair problems for women, erectile issues for men, and cognitive impairments for both) often goes a lot further than discussing cancer, diabetes, or heart disease risks. Most people have some notion of what difficulties in these areas are like, or can at least consider the impact of blood circulation issues.

You Are A Tourist - Favorite Cool Down Song

You Are A Tourist by Death Cab for Cutie remains my favorite cool down song.

I’ve never been certain what it means and that doesn’t matter because I’m growing more confident that I don’t know what anything means.

For as long as I have had the ability to move along, I’ve just moved along. I don’t really see myself anywhere, my internal voice is enthusiastic about getting me going and there have been only a few moments when I actually left like I belonged where I was.

Since the beginning of March I have spend a lot of time examining my life and have a lot more clarity about it, about what I like, what I don’t like and what I’m willing to do to create the life that I want and deserve.

I am a tourist in almost everything I do. My dad hoped that I would find something that I would be able to stick at but he also knew that I am a lot like him and that digging in and setting-up life may not be what I do.

(This… Fire… Grows… Higher…)
(This… Fire… Grows… Higher…)
(This… Fire… Grows… Higher…)
(This… Fire… Grows… Higher…)

When there’s a burning in your heart
An endless fury in your heart
Build it bigger than the sun
Let it grow
Let it grow
And there’s a burning in your heart
Don’t be alarmed(This… Fire… Grows… Higher…)

When there’s a doubt in your mind
‘Cause you think it all the time
Framin’ rights into wrongs
Move along
Move along
When there’s a doubt within your mind

When there’s a burning in your heart
And you think it’ll burst apart
Oh, there’s nothing to fear
Save the tears
Save the tears When there’s a burning in your heart

and if you feel just like a tourist in the city you were born
Then, it’s time to go
And you find your destination with so many different places to call home
‘Cause when you find yourself a villain,
In the story you have written
It’s plain to see
That sometimes the best intentions
Are in need of redemption
Would you agree
If so, please show me
(This… Fire… Grows… Higher…)

When there’s a burning in your heart,
When there’s a burning in your heart, (This… Fire… Grows… Higher…)
When there’s a burning in your heart, (This… Fire… Grows… Higher…)
(This… Fire… Grows… Higher…)
When there’s a burning in your heart, (This… Fire… Grows… Higher…)
(This… Fire… Grows… Higher…)
When there’s a burning in your heart.

10 Things That Will Boost Your Progress

Intelligent people want to be living a life that is moving forward, growing towards something greater than that which  already is. It could be a part of human nature, part of how we were raised or part of our specific genetic code, but intelligent people are on the move, forward and upward. Progress is the unit of measurement, the currency of driven people, and we like to fill our banks with lot of it!

Below are ten things that will speed-up your progress; not just your body transformation or your athletic pursuits, but in all areas of your life.

  1. Realize that effort alone doesn’t work. Many business owners perform all the roles of their company and their business say small because of this. The 20 hour days don’t yield the same results as a well thought out 10 hour day at enrolls other people in doing some of the work. Effort is kind, up until a certain point, then it becomes a joker.
  2. Know your motivation. Be moving towards something very important or leave something behind that needs to be left behind. Or both! There needs to be a compelling reason for WHY you are trying to progress. Progress for its own sake is good, progress for a higher purpose is GREAT. Focus on this purpose and enjoy the boost in efficiency. Most people do not know their motivation for doing things and this is a huge limiting factor with their progress. Have a compelling MUST have reason and notice what happens in your life to help you get it.
  3. Learn from EVERYTHING and EVERYONE. We learn from experiences, not from sitting around. Be open and wise to the fact that you don’t know everything. Progressing forward is about acquiring new knowledge and converting it into wisdom, and this will only happen when stuff goes in. This applies to both the things to do and the things to NOT do - there is a reason why someone lost their job which is usually not the inverse reason why someone keeps their job. Learn from both and maximize your progress.
  4. Choose proof over theory. Some things look great on paper but don’t pan out as predicted while other things seem doomed from the beginning but turnout to be not just the best way to accomplish a task but the ONLY way to accomplish it. When you are looking for progress, go with what works. When you are looking to innovate, go with theory.
  5. Take a few small actions each day. Success is made-up of 1000’s of small things. Progress is about attrition against the odds. While it is unlikely that the small thing you do today will lead you to the victory you are looking for, not doing the small things is usually the reason for a lack of progress. If it takes a few minutes and you have a few minutes, just do it. It will get it out of the way and make action your method of operating.
  6. Set many small and achievable tasks. 10’s or 100’s of these tasks will make-up a goal. Setting-up goals as being the combination of many small things makes achieving them more likely as they won’t overwhelm or discourage you. This way you will always be making progress, everyday and with almost every action.
  7. Find someone to be accountable to who you WILL be accountable to. Sadly, many people get into the habit of not being accountable to themselves as there is a temporal processing issue with it - how do you be accountable to the you of the past? The finest way to overcome this is to enroll someone else to help you stay on track. Engage someone who will be dogmatic about your objectives and who will press you hard when you present excuse as reason.
  8. Track your results to make sure you are staying on track. Consider enrolling someone else as the tracker of your progress - ideally your accountability person. When you do not achieve your results, you need to uncover the cause of your breakdown and eliminate the offending behavior. The objective opinion of an outsider can be the difference between a slow or light speed progress. They only have a vested interest in your results, not your emotional reasons for not acting in a goal achieving way.
  9. Focus on behaviors, not outcomes. Being progressive is about acting in a progressive way, not about achieving a progressive thing. If you do the right things for long enough, the outcome is an inevitability.
  10. Become part of a success orientated group. Successful people need to be surrounded by other successful people and there can be a magnificent synergy between group members. It is usually true that many minds are better than one when it comes to seeing solutions so engage others and enroll them in your journey. This will boost your accountability and it can dramatically increase the intellectual resources that work on an issue, problem or task. You never know what or who other people know, so connect with others and share unconditionally; both your quest and your wisdom.

Why Are You Sitting In Front Of Us - Your Purpose

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING will get you to the life you want faster than knowing your purpose. Goals are important, but not nearly as important as having a clear understanding of who you are and what your core values are. Once you know these things, and create a purpose that is aligned with them, it will open-up a way of being that allows you to live them in a meaningful way.

For example, effective trainers and performance coaches tend to be empathy driven - that is, they would sooner help people achieve potential than make a bunch of money. They value money as a means to an end - to buy food, shelter, clothing, and save for retirement - but what gives them the biggest boost in life satisfaction is making a positive impact in someones life or helping to facilitate meaningful change in the life of someone else. Money driven trainers tend not to last in the industry because to get to a level where the money is meaningful can take a very long time. It is possible, but there are not that many of them. For them to bridge the gap between the “not enough pay” period and the “enough pay” period there will need to be something tangible and very often being a partner in someones life transformation is not sufficient to make this happen.
What does this mean to you? It’s very simple, if you align your actions with your purpose, you will be more inclined to put in the hard work needed to achieve them. You may be open enough to free your mind of the thoughts that hold you back, that slow your progress and may instead embrace the unfamiliar way, the road traveled only by the successful and the road that lead you to everything you have ever wanted.

At a moment to think about it. Goals are not easy to achieve. They require you to do unfamiliar actions, step outside of the box and become something you are not already doing. This is both unnatural and counter to our genetic code which runs a program that is aimed at having us continue to do the same things we done before because they require the least amount of energy and have proven to be effective at keeping us alive. The life we know is less risky than the life we haven’t lived so there is a lot of inertia holding us in place. Having and knowing your purpose will go a long way in getting life moving forward. And it will keep the fire going when you are presented with challenges, breakdowns or when your progress seems to be blocked by circumstances.

Of most importance from a success point of view is that purpose-aligned goals will make you righteous and unstoppable. Take dieting for example. If there isn’t aspect of your purpose that has you living a life of modeling integrity and sustainable behaviors, a diet is something that you will only be on for a short period of time. At best, it’ll be a means to an end and it will be an inconvenient endeavor. You will only NOT be eating certain foods because you want to lose weight. The changes of anything getting in your way is fairly high - the pizza at work, the company birthday cake, the drinks with friends, etc…. But if your purpose does include being integrity and an element of role-modeling, a diet isn’t something you will ever be on because you will just eat right and look the way a human being should. You’ll have cake occasionally, celebrate with the occasional treat meal and maybe have a drink every now and then, but these behaviors will not be the norm because they are not the norm for those whose purpose is established being a fully functioning and model human being.

If you do not know your purpose on the planet, consider taking some time to uncover it. It could be the missing link in creating a sustainable lifestyle of effective behaviors that move your towards ALL of your goals. The fact remains though, if you are sitting across from a performance or strength coach, something isn’t playing out spontaneously. Something is misaligned and it is preventing your from achieving your goals and success.

Interview With Patrick William McKinney sometime in the spring of 2022

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….

Reasons To Not Be Afraid

I’ve got a lot, but I am. I have been for years.

Sure, I can continue to wrack my brain, analyzing the hell out of my memories and ripping apart my actions looking for meaning, but that hasn’t gotten me any closer to the truth, happiness or to a level of satisfaction with who I am, my place in the universe and even a reason to keep going. It can’t, I’ve been lying to myself for a long time. I didn’t really realize it. When I was small I told myself a lie, a story, and I went with it. Then life became it, and finally I did too.

That isn’t good enough for me anymore. There is more to this world than these distractions I’ve been seeking and compulsively indulging.

My therapist suggested that I make 2 lists, one of the why’s and one of the what if I stop. I thought it would be tough, and it was kind of, I crumbled and cried and the self-loathing seemed to grow exponentially. But I had a lot to write and the ease at which it flowed out of me help me see that I have been ready for a sometime, but just afraid to step off the cliff and drop to my death. I liked the old me, but he was selfish, scared and offered only conditional everything. Those who knew me saw that things weren’t right, those who knew me really well would leave. My family and close friends were the only constants, and of the friends, only those who engaged me like an Adult, without judgement remain. And that was key unlocking the gate and convincing me to take the leap. I AM an Adult and it is okay to forgive myself for my past actions. Further self-judgment here is pointless.

The why’s of my compulsive behavior:

  • Predictable outcome - good or bad, I knew what would happen and there is some sense of security in that
  • It created a false me / them dynamic that helped me feel like I was different
  • It closed me off from other people, which helped me feel like I didn’t belong
  • It is wildly isolating, alienating and paradoxically not the person I presented myself to be
  • Being isolated allowed me to indulge my thoughts without outside perspective to balance them
  • It helped me feel different and deviant so not as good as anyone else
  • Doing it helped me feel a sense of shame that I could wear and feel inferior to others
  • It altered my emotional state temporarily so there was some escape for the emptiness / insecurity that I felt
  • It was childish and was a calling for some sort of love that I didn’t think I was getting
  • It was proof that I wasn’t okay and therefore not worthy of the things that others may enjoy
  • It helped me get a very nice body that I thought would compensate for my lack of confidence
  • It was easier to keep doing what I was doing vs. put the effort in to change

The what if I stop my compulsive behavior:

  • I will save money
  • My teeth, skin, and body will look better
  • I will feel my baseline, whatever that is, and be able to get the help I need to adjust that
  • I will improve my spiritual health as I become reconnected with the universe and the people on the planet
  • I will save a lot of time
  • I will feel my emotions clearly and in a timely fashion allowing me to properly engage and parse them for the information they are revealing
  • I will be free of the anxiety and guild associated with indulging compulsive thoughts
  • I will be able to recover from my fathers death more effectively
  • I will be acting with self-love and treating my body, mind and spirit with compassion
  • I will be acting more like my mentors
  • I will not be harming myself
  • I will have removed the monkey from my back and will have stopped doing something I am ashamed of
  • I will have gain the knowledge of just what these compulsive behaviors have been doing to me
  • I will be acting responsibly, I will be acting like an Adult
  • I will no longer be acting in a hypocritical way and this will restore my integrity
  • I will be thinking more clearly, my body will be functioning more clearly and I will be reducing a number of very serious health risks
  • I will be in a position for find a partner who complements my life but does not give it purpose
  • I will have a better idea of my actual worth and be able to take more effective actions to help me achieve my goals
  • My public self will match my private self and any dissonance between the two will be eliminated
  • I will not need to be living and managing two separate and incomparable lives

I looked at the lists when I was feeling absolutely crap over the last few weeks, picked an item and mediated on it. It didn’t take long for my chest to puff-up and for the fighter in me to come up to scratch. My actions are my choice so stopping is as easy as just not doing it anymore.

However, there is something going on inside my brain that this exercise was supposed to bring to light and my therapist was happy that it came out. I’m not necessarily afraid, but I am anxious.