The Podcast Jam With Marc Champagne
Do you want to attain mental fitness and fortitude but you don’t know how? Then this is just the right episode for you! Marc Champagne shares how he keeps himself mentally fit. It actually started with just a simple thing he does every morning, which is to wake up 10 -15 minutes earlier and just consume positive content from different materials such as blog posts, magazines, and books. In this episode, he dives deep into how a simple change can make a big impact in your life and why feeding your mind with positivity is the ultimate goal.
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The Podcast Jam With Marc Champagne
A Conversation About Mental Fitness And Why We Are Only One Question Away From A Different Life
Welcome to the Coca-Cola Compassion Lab. Together, we will explore all the many ways we can live more connected and compassionate lives. We call it a lab because we are all learning, so why not go on this journey together? Thanks for joining me. I hope you’ll enjoy all the conversations. Let’s get started.
I am so excited about what we are going to do in this episode. I want to set the stage, and I know you are going to add to this but we are innovating in the podcast space. Maybe we are not. Maybe other people have been doing this, and I haven’t heard it but we met a little while ago, which was a true gift because I feel like you are a kindred spirit. There’s so much that we share in our life passions and what we are trying to do in the world. We got to talking about being podcast guests. I’m like, “You should come on the show.” We then said, “Let’s do an all-in-one show jam conversation and have one conversation and see what happens.
I love this experimentation we are doing, and I will tell everyone who is reading. We have no idea what’s going to happen because we are dancing together, and we are both used to, “When do we lead and when do we follow?” We are going to let it happen, learn and play through the process. I’m going to pass it back to you. That’s how I want to launch our conversation.
We can already tell even in the back and forth before we hit record that we could probably go for hours riffing off each other’s comments and whatnot. We both felt that in the first conversation. From the book, I’m trying to be present as much as possible and learn from the people in the book or are people that I’ve interviewed. You mentioned Cal Fussman at one point but the idea of doing preparation, whether it’s this show or anything in life, and then coming in fully present and letting the magic take over. I’m excited to see what happens.
This idea of presence for both of us working in this space, mindfulness, is overused a lot but raising levels of consciousness and awareness. Some people call it human flourishing. How do we be our best and highest selves? We work in this space, and when you talk to a lot of people and we’ve both interviewed a lot of different people, there are nuances to how the individuals come into that space but there are themes that are always there. I would say the number one common theme for everyone I have ever spoken with is this idea of presence. You feel it when someone is with you versus in their head.
I have to tell you from podcasting, you want to do diligence, and I’m sure you can relate to this with, “What questions am I going to ask? I have done my homework. This was an amazing thing this person did. I want to make sure to bring this up.” Yet, if you are too in your head, you are not in the conversation, and it’s a real art. How do you do that?
I felt it on the other side, especially during the book launches. There were a lot of podcasts, and I’m grateful for every interview but you start to see the differences and you can see the different levels. You could chalk it up as experience as a host but I could feel when it was just a rapid-fire of questions. The next one that would come up, essentially, I’ve already answered that 4 or 5 questions ago but it’s different, so it threw off the pace of the questioning.
It’s not an enjoyable experience, and the people on the other side can hear that and feel that. For me, I chalk it up to if you are at a conference or in a meeting, we’ve all had this where someone is looking over your shoulder for the next conversation. It doesn’t feel good. I feel like you are not only robbing the person on the other side of your presence and being there and holding space for them but then also your experience of being there and seeing what happens. That’s the fun stuff.
The Big Unlock
Marc, isn’t there a level of trust in life, and what will emerge? When you think of athletes, they practice, train, and prepare. This isn’t fly by the seat of your pants through life. You have discipline, and you have your practices but when the day comes for them to take the stage or go out and perform or do, all the preparation they’ve spent their entire life flows into that moment. That’s where that magic is.
That’s where the training is, and I haven’t talked about athletes as well because people can relate to them. Many people are aware of athletes visualizing or mentally rehearsing their downhill ski run or whatever their event is but when it comes to the biggest event or race of all, which is life, a lot of us don’t do that. You do the prep. This is for everyone reading. It’s not that you and I showed up, hit record, and didn’t do anything beforehand.
We’ve done some work, and we have some general ideas of topics to discuss but the difference is we are both trusting our minds to surface the next question or topic based on where the conversation is going. I learned this from Cal Fussman. For me, at least, that was the big unlock, and it comes back to yourself on trusting that your mind is smart enough to do that. We are intelligent human beings. We’ve all done a lot of great things that we can celebrate. It’s a matter of letting go and letting the mind do its thing.
You are also trusting your skill. This is what’s going to happen with us. We already dove into the details but I want to set the stage a little bit, even before the show, because I share your bio, so people will have some grounding on who you are. The bio is a bio but the story is different. The story is a lived experience of how you got to be where you are.
We talked before hitting the record that we both have this passion for the curation of knowledge because there’s so much out there. Sometimes I can’t believe I’ve lived so many years on this Earth. I’ve read so many things and you are like, “There’s more that I don’t even know.” Would you do me a favor and set the stage a little bit on what brought you to where you are now?
Before that, to add to your comment, because I feel the same thing, the other realization for me was that there’s more and that none of this stuff is new other than science and a lot of advancements there. A lot of the stuff I’m talking about when it comes to reflection, journaling, meditation, and breathwork has been around since the beginning of time. It’s taking that knowledge and then applying it to make sense for you.
It’s a bit of a segue into how I got started in this work, and it was almost by accident but I guess not because I was intentional in starting it. What the accident was, I had no intention or no desire ever to be doing this kind of work full-time. I was using it for what I needed at the moment. The story is I started in the pharmaceutical world and healthcare space straight out of university in sales. In those times, the way the hiring was done was people were usually hired. I’m sure you’ve lived through several of these rounds. People were hired in batches almost.
I was living outside of Toronto, Canada, and they flew us all to Montreal, which is where the Canadian office was. We are there for four weeks. That’s unheard of now. I remember thinking because, for the most part, in that role, you were either coming with a background in business, which was my education or you were coming with a background in science. You were trained up based on where you need to fill the gaps.Let go and let the mind do its thing. Click To Tweet
I remember thinking, if we are all going through essentially the same training and this is a sales role, how possibly am I going to stand out from the pack if we are all doing the same thing? Kathy, this is the only part I don’t understand why this intuitively came up but for whatever reason, the idea came up to get up 10 or 15 minutes earlier in the morning and consume positive content. That’s where the learning started.
In those days, I wished there was a podcast but it was blog posts, magazines, books, and whatnot. It did not take very long to realize that it didn’t matter who I was studying or who was being profiled. They were all asking very powerful questions. What I would do is I would grab those questions. I would write them down and either journal or reflect on them on the spot or I would write them down for the next morning essentially.
I almost would wake up excited for the next day. I’m like, “I have that big question that I know is going to unlock some good insight and thought, whether it’s personally or professionally.” I did that for a good decade until I eventually got to the point of being frustrated with the journaling options on a digital front that were available at the time in the marketplace. That was the launch into what I alluded to. That now, I’m in this space of what I call mental fitness but it was essential after a decade of practice and living and feeling how useful this stuff was before the presentation.
I moved to the US, and at one point, I was so close to moving to San Francisco. The movers were called in. It was that close, and long story short, the company wasn’t able to get the visas. I remember thinking at that moment because it proves the point of mental fitness. I was in Boston when I got that news. I was a Brand Manager at that time, and the whole team was there. It was a motivating meeting-type thing like, “Here’s a strategy. Let’s go” I’m in my hotel room, and I’m essentially mentally checked out of that company about to move.
They are assessing how much staff we have to move from Canada to the US, and I get the call that’s not going to happen. In twenty minutes, I have to stand in front of the team and be on my A-game. I remember, again, it was at a Hyatt, and I had a little Hyatt notepad on the table. I wrote out how I was feeling and then ripped the page up and was able to reset. That was from the years of the practice.
Going For That Extra 10 To 15 Minutes
What’s funny, Marc, is you have to be a believer first. I don’t know about you but when we started launching Compassion Lab within Coke, you would have different reactions. Some people would show up very enthusiastic, very open, and then other folks are like, “What is this?” It gets to a space of discomfort, especially in the business domain, because we all want to show up looking like we got it all together, confident and figured out, because what if someone knew that you had self-doubt? What if someone knew that you didn’t totally know what you were doing but that’s everybody’s experience?
As people have gone through the journey, occasionally, I’ve gotten the comments, and at first, I was like, “What is this woo-woo thing? What is this warm fuzzy thing? What’s she doing?” I’ve had people go like, “I get it because once I tried some of the practices, they’ve helped me. I often tell people this isn’t the light warm fuzzy journey. It’s the hardest work you’ll ever do to become awake to all parts of yourself. To accept them, to embrace them, to work with them because we are in school to learn. If we don’t have something to work with, what is there?
To me, it’s the highest work to do, and as these practices have hit the mainstream more and more, everyone has their own perceptions of what they are. I know this works. It’s so interesting like, “Why did you decide? Let me do this, take this content and for that extra 10 to 15 minutes,” which like in Kaizen, you take little steps. That practice is little baby steps. You didn’t say, “I’m going to wake up an hour earlier and run a marathon.” You said, “I’m going to take this little bit of time, and it added up to such powerful stuff.” Isn’t it amazing? Why did you do that, and everyone else is hitting the snooze button three times?
I wish I knew the answer to that question because it’s such a defining moment in my life. The only thing I can think of is I remember I have an uncle that lives in the Toronto area. I grew up in a small town about four hours outside of the city, and I used to visit my aunt and uncle. My aunt was an executive over at Sharp Electronics, and they were in the city life.
I would go in the summer, and they would take me into the office. I would see this whole other world, which 100% sparked my curiosity to take the Business at university. The other thing is that my uncle always got up early, and he would have coffee. He would bring me, and I was a kid, so he probably would buy a hot chocolate but he always asked me questions like, “Have you called your grandmother lately? What’s going on in your life? What are you excited about?”
It was always these questions at the godly hour of the morning. He was ready to go. That’s the only thing I can draw that jumped to me because I would see that behavior and how motivated he was to start the day in a way like that. When I wasn’t there, he would be meeting with friends for coffee. It’s like the pre-day, essentially. That’s what I call all these practices like, “What’s your pre-day routine, whether it’s 10 minutes or 1 hour?” Those minutes set up the whole day and dictate the next 23 hours essentially, including how well you are sleeping or not.
That’s where it came from, and regardless, I am so grateful that a decision was made because it’s launched into the work that I feel passionate about, and I couldn’t have predicted the path but enough about me. I need to intro you to the readers of Behind The Human, especially after your last thoughts. I think it’s a perfect moment to ask if you put the job titles aside and your work for the last 33 years at the same company, which is unbelievable. It’s almost unheard of these days. I want to know who you are. Who is Kathy?
Who Am I?
Isn’t that the million-dollar question, and certainly so many of our spiritual practices asked that question, “Who am I?” There’s the ego side of who we are, and then there’s the essence of who we are. The reason I always ask about people’s origin stories in my show is that there are all these clues to the emergence and the becoming of who we are by what happens like when you were asked those early morning questions as a kid, and that translated into that. For me, it was always being an observer. I always felt like I was watching and trying to make sense of things, even as a kid. I was asking questions too, which is probably why I feel so kindred to you.
I grew up in a beautiful, wonderful middle-class experience in the South. I’m from Florida originally with a loving and amazing family but what I would say was you go to school, join the dance team and do this. It’s all the things you are supposed to do in life. I hit 29 years old, got sick, and almost didn’t make it. I’m on the edge of exiting the planet at 29, and that’s a whole long story that I won’t go into the details because it’s what that catalyzed.
After that experience, and I had already started working for Coke at the time. The company was incredibly supportive of whatever I needed. The people at the Coca-Cola company are some of the most beautiful and wonderful people I have ever encountered. They are amazing. After that, I started diving deep into questions of, “Why did this happen? What was I not paying attention to? How do I prevent it from happening again?” I started reading about the mind-body. These things lead us onto a path we never planned. At that point, I’m like, “I’m going to leave Corporate America, and I’m going to go become a meditation or yoga teacher and do this.”
I soon learned that it’s not about going into those domains but how you bring that conscious awareness into anything you do. For me, it has been bringing it into the way that I lead. The people on my team know that their ability to thrive as humans to take care of themselves and understand how to manage their energy and how to be their highest is job one.
It’s become a hallmark of like my passion for leadership, “How do we do this?” Here we are, two people who’ve lived, you in Canada and me in Florida. It’s certainly different climates in very different parts of the world, and here we are in 2022, having a conversation about how we both found our way into mental fitness and understanding that these practices are so powerful in life. That’s me at one level, and there’s always all these nuances of ourselves but that’s how I got to be here now talking to you.
What I’m hearing is it all comes back to curiosity for you, asking those questions and pulling on the strings. I’m curious, though, especially around that time, when you came to some of those realizations and where you were contemplating leaving the corporate world and doing your own thing on the wellness side of mindfulness, whatever you want to call it. How long did it take because at that time or even now, it’s not the easiest topic to bring up?
We stopped the dance for a little bit of a topic. I’ve felt a shift from that things isn’t just linked to retention or turnover. That was definitely a phase at one point where you would bring any of this work, and you would have to sell it for that. I feel like now we are shifting, for the most part, to understanding that if the minds aren’t functioning, the business isn’t either. Everything has to work well together. I’m curious about how do you get into setting up these leadership summits and even the show that we are speaking on? How did that come to be?
You are so right about the evolution of this space. Early on, you had to ground it in data, research, and science, which is good because it’s all there. There’s unbelievable data in research around this, and all of our minds work differently. Some of us need evidence, we need science, and others are ready to jump in for the adventure of it all. Everyone is different. It’s funny. As we go through our lives, we have to find our authentic voice. This sounds a little bit cliche, but it’s super true. For years and I think this has been very true in business. I would be in these meetings and these conversations, and there would be like, “Let’s talk about the business. Now, let’s talk about the people.”
People Plan Versus Business Plan
We are divided into two groups, “What’s your people plan? How are you going to that people now, let’s get back to the business? I had feedback at one time during my career like, “Kathy, you focus a little too much on the people. I need you to focus on the business and not the people,” and I would scratch my head. I would say, “They are the same. The people are the business.” Their ability to thrive, to feel seen, heard, valued, and to be invested in is what is going to create this amazing business that we have.
I understood to some degree what they were talking about with the various components but I was always perplexed by that. Over time, I got a little bolder and said, “Let me speak the truth that I feel and try some of this out.” The feedback was always very positive. Through all of that, I kept doing more and more of that. As life finds us, the CMO Summit was the brainchild of one of my former Managers. His name is Brad Taylor. He’s an incredible human. He’s retired now from the company but he came to me and said, “I have this idea. What if we did this? What if we brought all these people together?”
He gave the concept to me and said, “What can you do with it?” It became this amazing, beautiful emergence. Sometimes, Marc, as I think about this talking to you, it’s how we play this sweet spot between being visionary and intentional about what we want to create but also being in the flow of what comes to us and letting it emerge and create from there. That’s part of it. How do we surf it?
I like the surfing part because even in my own work with teams, once people feel it or experience any type of mindfulness, mental fitness or whatever. I did it ironically with my old company, Novartis. I led them through very basic breathwork. I was like, “This might be a little bit of a stretch,” but in the end, I was like, “That breathwork was grounding.” We are going to do more of that but I feel like had I come in pitching, “We are going to do breathwork. We’re going to do some journaling on these prompts,” it might have been a harder sell or harder to get any clients like, “I don’t know.” It’s a bit sneaky but basically coming into it like, “We are going to think of some good questions. Everyone’s minds are so overwhelmed.”
I heard a great quote from Quincy Jones in a new book he’s got out called 12 Notes. He called it mental pollution. We blow out some of that mental pollution and then, on my side, replace it with some priming practices and get people in a state where, “Now, we can think about some of those questions where are we playing it safe if you want to link it back to the business or what are we pretending not to know because then we can see the answers.
Marc, I have to take this moment to pivot into your book because we talked before we hit record, and I have this stack of books on my nightstand. I want to read them all but then I have all these back-to-back Zoom meetings and taking care of my boys and life. You sent me your book, and I dug into it. Thank you for this book because you do this beautiful job of taking the profiles of these amazing people that you’ve either directly interviewed or learned about.
You create profiles on how they did what they did, and you create the essence of the final thought like what they actually do. The book covers so many different pieces of wisdom. I honestly believe you could read your book and gain the wisdom of a lot of the books that I have stacked up on my nightstand. It’s a beautiful book. The name Personal Socrates, how did that come about?
There’s a bit of story behind that one. I remember talking to the now publisher Baronfig, the Owner of the company, Joey. I had known him before when I left the corporate world and started a journaling app, essentially. That’s how the relationship was formed. We were on the phone catching up, and I explained this concept for the book. I was right to the point where the next step was to put together a whole book publishing proposal and start shopping it around or make the decision to go full-on self-publishing.
What I ended up doing was going right in the middle with Baronfig. As we talked about it and the flow of questions, I said, “I have been studying these questions for years.” For me, I pull the questions from the knowledge and so forth. I asked for the follow-ups. Joey was like, “The Socratic method.” I know of the Socratic method. Everyone else does at probably more of a surface level unless you went to law school. What I have now found out is we are tortured with the Socratic method.
We continued the conversation, and I remember Joey saying, “You should call this because it’s like having Socrates with you but you are your own Socrates. It should be Personal Socrates.” My response was, “Absolutely not.” I’m not writing a philosophy book. I am not a philosopher. My best friend went to law school. I was on the receiving end of that Socratic question many times while he was going through it. I was like, “It doesn’t work,” until I started to research Socrates and the Socratic method.Stuff like reflection, journaling, meditation and breathwork have been around since the beginning of time. Take that knowledge and then apply it in a way that makes sense for you right now. Click To Tweet
My mind was blown because what surfaced for me was that here were some philosophers that were around at the beginning of time almost, and this method is still here to this day. For sure, it’s being used in more detail, except for lawyers for the most part but every one of us has some sort of Socratic method playing out day-in and day-out. We are just not intentional about it for the most part. We are not thinking about it.
That’s when I became curious. Clearly, the method works stood the test of time like, “How can we modernize this so that we don’t have to give it too much thought but we can apply it in life without having to think of all the different question types and things like that?” That’s how it all came to be. Again, I’m grateful for these serendipitous moments because I was a strong no on that title for some time, but now, it feels right.
It feels perfect for the way the book unfolds because, at the heart of it, it’s about asking questions. For our readers, it’s like, “I ask questions all the time,” but one of the things when I was reading your backstory that made the difference for you was the journaling to let the questions go deeper and go down the trails. It’s not just the yes-no media but the voyage of discovery. Journaling was the whole essence of why you wanted to move that to the digital platform but why do you think journaling is so powerful?
It’s because even in the business context, if you think about when you are going through big strategy phases or whatever you call it in your organization, there are, in normal times, and offsite. They pull you out of the regular environment so that things are a bit different and do everything possible to create more space for thought.
When you think of journaling, at least for me, the first step is to let go of any past definitions that you have of what journaling is because I used to get all kinds of things like, “I’m not writing about the boy or the girl at school or whatever.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that but that’s not how I was using it. The practice behind journaling is reflection. We all reflect but we often reflect that the surface, and it’s not our fault. Walking out of your house, everything is on autopilot and we are moving so fast.
Even for a new project like, “I’ve got to open the PO or do this or that.” There’s a sequence of steps that we’ve trained ourselves to do. What has been lost that I find is the moment of slowing down and thinking. That’s where the questions help because the questions give us the luxury of the pause. If you continue down the Socratic method of, “I started there. I asked the big question. Let’s use the biggest one of them all, who am I? This is who I am now. Is that the person I’m striving to be? Where’s the gap?” Usually, we are always trying to progress in some cases.
It’s not about self-judgment or anything like that, but then, “If I want to be at this place, what do I need to do next? Do my actions and behavior support the person I’m trying to be? Am I climbing the right mountain?” There are a million different questions, obviously but we don’t get to that clarity unless we slow down or hit a massive wall.
I hit some of those walls, and like you, I have interviewed a ton of people that have hit those big life pivotal moments. There’s value in there but at the same time, it doesn’t have to be so crazy of a wall. If we slowly take some time to think and ask some of these questions, whether personally or professionally because the answers are there.
I want to talk about slowing down and here’s my question for you that I think has been very hard to reconcile in all the time that I have been diving into this type of work. We have various speakers come to the Compassion Lab and talk about mental fitness dynamics. Everything from resilience to presence to managing overwhelm, managing your energy, and all these things. People come to the call, and it’s the same thing where they are like, “I know, but I don’t do it.”
We already talked about the fact that we had to sell this work at the beginning with data, numbers, and what happens in the neuroscience in your brain when you do all that. People can see neuroscience. People can know what they can see from you and your practices, from the people you outline in your book and see like, “If I do X, Y is going to happen.” It’s cause and effect. There’s a linkage here, yet they don’t do it. Why do you think that is?
It’s because either we set ourselves up to fail in the sense that we try to go too big like, “This is great. I can do this. I’m going to do an hour each morning for the next week.” You are going to feel those benefits but then life is going to happen again. All of a sudden, the consistency drops, and then it’s gone. You are bringing this out of me. I never reflected on this before but thinking of how my practice even started almost many years ago, it was ten minutes. The reason it was ten minutes was like, “I can do ten minutes.” Tony Robbins says, “If you don’t have ten minutes, you don’t have a life.” He’s quite harsh with it, especially if those ten minutes literally can predict the rest of your day.
Start small. The other big thing and this is what I try to help teams with or individuals, is to think about, especially at the beginning, not to completely rock your routine. From the moment you wake up to the moment your head hits the pillow to go to sleep, do an assessment of what that day on average looks like and see where the moments are where you can stack in whether it’s a little bit of journaling or even just take two breaths.
I interviewed Michael Gervais. He’s a sports psychologist working with the Seattle Seahawks, Microsoft, and these different organizations. He has a 90-second morning routine but it sets the course. All it is are two big deep, slow breaths, and then he dives into one thing that he’s grateful for, but not just the surface level like, “I’m grateful for my family, my safety, and my house.” It’s easy to fall into that loop. He picks one thing, and then he feels. He closes his eyes and goes to the emotion.
The point I’m trying to share is to take a look at what you are already doing and seeing like when your coffee is brewing or your tea is steeping. Maybe that’s where you can take a couple of breaths and be present with yourself or ask some questions like, “How do I feel now?” If it’s stressed or overwhelmed, “Where do I feel that? Is it in my chest?” Usually, there’s the why. What’s sparking that?
The thing is, whether you ask the question or not, that emotion is coming with you during the day. It’s going to affect the whole day, how you are thinking, and the people around you. Why not take a few seconds to check in and acknowledge how we are feeling. It releases that emotion. It, at least, helps us diagnose what might be causing some stress, and then we can decide, “How do I want to show up? The small things.
I love you because I do think a lot of us, whether it’s exercise or our body we think, “It’s got to be an hour. If I don’t have an hour, I’m going to do nothing.” Being able to do it in increments is a very powerful thing that we should all do because it is overwhelming. I was laughing with someone. I was like, “Who’s got time to work? I got to meditate, exercise, and walk the dog. It’s unbelievable but our emotions are also like triggers and hints.
If you ask yourself, “How am I feeling,” and what comes up is, “I’m feeling sad, depressed or anxious.” It’s like, “Where’s that coming from?” Go a little bit deeper into that inquiry of, “Why am I feeling that way,” because there might be something that needs your attention. Our society is so busy, numbing out like, “I feel anxiety. Let me go eat something. Let me go turn on YouTube. Let me do something so that I don’t feel what I feel,” versus, “Why might I feel this way and what might I learn going back into what you live into the inquiry of what’s going on?”
We numb out until we can’t numb out anymore because then there comes a point, and that’s where those walls are hit or physical disease starts to show up. The easiest way to think about this without going to a severe chronic illness of some sort is when your shoulders, all of a sudden, start to feel tight or your neck is tight. Usually, the conversation is like, “I need a massage. I need to stretch or something.”
Usually, that is some mental tension that has been building up, and we don’t even notice it because we are going all out. This is where I would love to know what you are doing for some of your non-negotiable practices, but for me, this is where mental fitness gives us the self-awareness to feel that for one thing like, “I’m back-to-back with meetings. I have no pauses in between or I do, and I’m cramming through emails until the next conversation.” These are all real stuff. I do it as well but if you can catch yourself and then come to the realization that, “Maybe I will just block some time to do that kind of work.”
Instead of going back to back, have some time there to process because now you start seeing, “There’s the idea. There’s the next step?” You are not blocked anymore because you’ve allowed your mind to work some magic. These practices, at least for me, help pull me off the autopilot and reset or refocus or come back to, “This is why I’m doing this,” for example. What are some of your staples? Back in the day, when we used to travel, and you were in a hotel room, what were you for sure doing before you are going down to the meeting?
I mentioned my health scare at 29, and that launched me into some different physical practices, more yoga, more breath, and things like that but I didn’t start the meditation practice. It has been about a few years that I’ve done that, and that is definitely an evolution. People try it and they are like, “I can’t do it. My mind is too busy.” You have to learn that it is about becoming the observer. You are not going to sit down and quiet your mind. Your mind does what it does but when you watch it, it’s like, “That’s interesting. Where did that come from,” and not attach to those things.
What I had to learn over time was to take my meditation off the cushion and into life because I could be totally relaxed and peaceful, and then I would start the day. Something would happen, whether it was through my kids or something at work would happen, and I would get triggered. We all get triggered, and it would be like, “How do I create space at that moment?” A lot of teachers talk about that. That space between trigger and response is where all of your power and agency is. For me, the actual time in meditation is equipping me for all the time of the cushion to be in my life.
It’s because we are human. I have times when that space between trigger and reaction is really short, and I react versus respond. I don’t handle it the way I wanted to, and there are all kinds of reasons, stress levels or whatever but I always revisit that like, “What happened there? What was going on with me? What do I need to take a look at? I have been pushing too hard, and it’s showing up in my interaction.” For me, it’s constant observation but compassionately, and I talk about this in the Lab. You cannot handle something well. We all have those days, and your self-taught can be like, “What was that about? I’m curious. How did I spin out so quickly? What’s going on?” That’s one way to react?
What do most of us do? “I’m such an idiot. Why did I do that? You feel bad about yourself but the compassion for yourself and others is to know that we are all trying to do our best. Some days our best is better than other days but if we are learning from it and owning it, that’s the whole point. Those are my practices. It’s meditation and certainly physical exercise.
I believe your physicality and how you take care of your body are all interlinked with your emotions. I’m always trying to build energy release through exercise and somatic work but then being that observer all the time. There’s something that I tell people all the time at work that is one of my core practices, and it’s setting your compass.
I share this with my team. What are the three core values that you want to live by? There are a lot of different values but what are the things that are front and center for you? What’s funny about this is I established this years ago, and I established three values. Mine are equanimity, presence, and truth. Within 2021, whenever I’m like, “Let me think about my values,” I could always remember equanimity and presence but I was always forgetting, “What’s the third one?” I thought, “If I can’t remember it, I’m not doing a very good job.” I realized not that truth isn’t important to me but the third one was curiosity and wonder because that’s what kept coming up more than truth, even though the truth is a big part of it.
I mentioned the compass because after every interaction I will say, “Was I present? Did I practice equanimity, which is this acceptance of whatever the interaction brings? Sometimes it’s bad news. Sometimes it’s a difficult thing. Sometimes it’s joyful. Was I even and curious?” If you do that through journaling or you can do that in your head, that has been wonderful as a way to actually be that observer but give more texture to the observation to say, “Am I showing up the way I’d like to show up?” Those are the things that I keep going back to.
Now, I also know why we are vibing so well together because my three, if I had to list them out, would be curious, joyful, and choosing to default on a smile, joy or happy, and then presence.
You live that joy because from the first time meeting you, you are so upbeat. If you do live, and I always tell people, when you choose those, go to not only of what you want to be but the essence of who you feel like you truly are. When we decide how we want to show up, it’s being more of who we are. It’s not manufacturing something. It’s not like, “I want to be who Marc is.” Marc says, “I want to be Kathy.”Be in the space of mental fitness. Click To Tweet
No, you want to be more of who Marc is, and I want to be more of who I am. Everyone is developing that essence but it’s so amazing when you are out of your center and you see it but there’s so much gold there when you make your mistakes, and you react in your humanist, it’s super messy, and you are mad or whatever happened.
Trusting The Process
That’s awesome because no one wants to be around someone who is totally perfect, in control, and chill all the time because it’s almost annoying. You have to remember that we are human. When we do lose it is like, “I would tell everyone reading this.” There’s so much there to work with to figure out what’s causing that and what you need to nurture and look at. It’s a beautiful process. Trust the process.
I love what you are saying about that because, to me, it’s taking a different perspective on life and the journey. To your point, the trust the journey and the process but also, I’m not always this bundle of energy, joyful, happy, and whatnot. I definitely work at it and feel the extremes when I slip out of that. Thankfully, because of the practices, there are immediate tools that I know I can flip back into more of a state of joy and creation.
It’s not masking emotions. Acknowledge that they are there and processing them but then come out of that so that I can do my work. I have a quick question for you. I have to ask you this one. You yourself have been an incredible leader over the years. You have worked and interviewed so many. For you, what makes a mentally fit leader?
I have two comments on it. One is to set the tone for my answer. One of my missions, my passions in this life, is what I would call conscious leaders, conscious leadership, not only in my own practice but in how we cultivate that across the leadership domain. We are all leaders. We are an ecosystem, and we impact each other through our choices. It doesn’t matter if you are a leader by title or an influencer within your friendship group, everybody is leading but you have a ripple effect. If you are a leader in business and creating a culture, you have an impact that radiates out.
Again, everyone does it. From a business lens, the CEO of your company or the leader of your group has an absolute effect on what’s happening there. There’s all this inner work. A mentally fit leader is a leader that is willing and has the courage to be relentless about their inner work. It is not perfection, and it is not having all the answers ever. A narcissistic leader might look more that way. A mentally fit leader consistently asks the questions themselves and is leading with compassion for themselves and others so that when they are wrong, they admit it. They learn from it.
They are also working to cultivate the consciousness of those they work with. You and I have already covered the fact that this can get a little weird with people when you start talking about these spaces but here are the facts. We come into our work, our relationships as whole beings with everything that has ever happened to us like our traumas, fears, strengths, and belief systems. When you talked about your four-week training, we were indoctrinated into systems. We go to school, and we are told, “This is how you behave, and you get trained.” Think about what being trained means.
We understand the reasons for all that. This is the way we do it. There’s a process and a practice that we all need to follow so that there’s not complete chaos but beyond that, we have to keep staying in inquiry. That is the fundamental of our conversation is the idea of asking questions and being in inquiry. If you stay an inquiry with your own self, growth, and vulnerability, then you are modeling that for others like you modeled the morning questions. We are modeling for our kids, our teams, our friends, and that’s the work, and you never arrive. These practices are to help us on the road but hopefully, we will be learning and having a-ha moments our whole lives.
I resonate with that. There’s an excitement to it. There was a moment in my life where I pivoted because it wasn’t always like this of actually being excited for the unknown versus fearing the unknown. Once that flip can be made, and everyone has different experiences of getting there, it lightens mental pressure. It lightens life in general. It allows myself to be a little bit more joyful and excited about, “Let’s see where this goes.” It could be nothing or it could be the greatest opportunity of a lifetime. One thing I do know is I will never know if I don’t try.
I wish we could all adopt that thinking as much as possible because it rewards. It’s a beautiful loop that continues to reward as long as you are learning. Again, I’m on a bit of a Tony Robbins kick because I wrote a bonus chapter on him. By the time people read this, it will be out. A lot of what he says as well is happiness equals progress. When we feel like we are making progress, that’s the true definition of feeling good, joyful, happy, and whatnot. That makes sense to me.
I mentioned a little while ago about trusting the process. Progress is a process, and it means we are going to fail, have times when we are out of sorts, and also going to have times where we feel super aligned and in our power. All of it is welcome but you said something important. You talked about this whole idea of fear. The fear that stops so many of us from taking action. We’ve touched on that there are common themes and presence as a theme but the other theme I’ve heard, whether it’s spiritual teachers or whether it’s somebody else, it’s talking about mental fitness. It’s that you get to choose every minute between love and fear.
Fear is powerful in shutting down our creativity because we are creators. We are here to create, and creation is messy. You have to allow it to emerge and maybe go down different trails before you arrive but it’s a part of it. If you never started writing your book, if you said, “What if it’s not accepted? What if people don’t like it? This has all been said before,” then it wouldn’t exist, and I will tell you, it needs to exist because it’s amazing. It’s such an important choice.
This is why this is what lights me up so much about this kind of work, especially on my side with the questions, and you probably saw the line on the back of the book. We are all one question away from a completely different life at any point. That’s grandiose but we are always one question away from a different mood or mindset, especially when fear comes up. All you need is a quick gratitude question to pause that loop to reset. That’s what lights me up about the work because it’s so accessible. If you meet people at where they are at with the right narrative that like, “I get that. I can try that.”
The A-ha Moment
We could talk for hours and hours on end but I want to be mindful of your time. I want to ask you one other kind of closing question, and you will probably have a closing question for me. You have curated amazing stuff, and you’ve talked to all these powerful, accomplished people. Is there a moment in these conversations that was a real game-changer for you that we could share like an a-ha, “This was a big one for me?” I know there’s a lot but what comes to mind about the wisdom you’ve gained?
What immediately surfaces and it’s linked to presence but it’s that 100% of the people that I’ve interviewed is do something that works for them to still their minds. Maybe it’s not this crazy a-ha moment but for me, it has been a constant reminder of even when the day is busy and there’s a lot going on, I’m going to take a ten-minute walk after lunch with nothing in my ears, and that’s the stillness of my mind. If that’s all I can get, then that’s great.
That ten-minute is going to go exponential in terms of the benefits. For me, it’s always being constantly reminded that it’s where the magic is. That’s where the answer surface and, most importantly, the other questions surface as well. We settle the fog in stillness, and it’s a beautiful thing once you start to experience that day-in and day-out.
It’s spaces and space.
My last question for you, Kathy, is what makes you smile each day?
That one is easy. From all the people we’ve talked to, gratitude practice is huge. I know people have heard about gratitude practice but what I would answer that question with is the simple joys. We love planning the big vacations, moments or achievements. I love spring. I’m walking the dog, and the flowers are everywhere. There are so many flowers. I live in California. It’s so beautiful. These two butterflies flew right in front of me and were dancing together. I’m not in Hawaii. I’m not winning an award. It was beautiful.
When you are present, and we’ve talked about being present a lot, you can see like, “Look at that. Look at the flowers, the butterflies, and the sun on my shoulders. What a beautiful day.” That brings me joy. It is moments with my kids where we connect. There are so many little things like my morning coffee. It’s not big stuff. It’s simple joys that add up to a lot, especially when we are living in the heaviness that we live in these days. We have to remember that there are lots to be grateful for in between.
Thank you. I would love to do this again if you are game. I know there’s more to talk about, and I appreciate your joy and gift to the world with your book. It is a gift, and I’ve gotten so much out of it. Thank you for the work that you do and for helping us all remember that we are only one question away from changing our lives. I’m grateful to you.
Right back at you, Kathy. We definitely have to do this again, pick a topic and run with it. I would like to send out a thank you as well for making the time for this conversation. Also, for your many years in the corporate world and bringing these concepts, modalities, and different ways of thought, not just to the people at Coke but the ripple effect that’s had on their families and other companies. That is a beautiful thing. Thank you for showing up and living the authentic you.
I was talking to a friend and a teacher. She said something to me that stuck, “We are all a part of a group. We are all connected.” The question we need to ask ourselves is, “Am I pulling my weight?” You don’t have to single-handedly change the world, and that’s the question we can all ask ourselves every day and show up to be the best that we can be. Thank you for showing up, Marc, and to be continued, for sure.
Until next time.
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