My Wake-Up Call With Dr. Mark Goulston

18 Jul , 2022 podcasts

My Wake-Up Call With Dr. Mark Goulston

CMO Dr. Mark Goulston | Wake-up Call


We all have our inner demons. We let it ruin our relationships and run away with our dreams. And in this highly competitive world, it’s easy to lose ourselves in the thought of wanting to be someone else. If you’re still in the nightmare that you are never going to enough, this is your wake-up call! In this episode of The Coca-Cola Compassion Lab, Dr. Mark Goulston shares his journey of self-doubt, finding his inner strength, and using psychiatry to help people become the best versions of themselves.

Listen to the podcast here


My Wake-Up Call With Dr. Mark Goulston

Finding Our Way To Our Best Selves

It is my honor and pleasure to bring to the show, Dr. Mark Goulston. Dr. Mark is an incredible human being. There’s no way I will do justice to his bio but let me tell you a little bit about him. He is a Marshall Goldsmith Top 100 Coach and provides his very wise counsel to entrepreneurs and CEOs alike, helping them become the very best version of themselves. He’s also an international keynote speaker, helping audiences do the same.

He originally started out as a UCLA Professor of Psychiatry for over 25 years. However, he’s also a former FBI and police hostage negotiation trainer. His expertise has been forged and proven in the crucible of real-life high-stakes situations. He’s the author or co-author of nine books, with his book, Just Listen, being translated into 28 languages and becoming the top book on listening in the world.

He is the host of the highly-rated podcast, My Wakeup Call, and the co-host of Out of Our Minds and Into Your Space on Twitter spaces, which is a mash-up for creatives and thinkers, and a great place to listen in. Beyond his bio, you are going to notice in our conversation that Mark is a deeply compassionate leader. He’s driven by a sense of purpose to be of service to others in so many different ways. He shares his personal journey to provide insight for all of us as we find our way forward in a wild world. Without any delay, please enjoy my conversation with the very passionate and authentic, Dr. Mark Goulston.

Dr. Mark, it is such an honor and a joy to see you again. I know we were speaking not that long ago, and we agreed to do a flip-flop. You were going to talk to me, and I’m interviewing you. I have been looking forward to this because there is so much richness every single time that I speak with you. Thank you so much for being here.

It’s always a pleasure, thrill, and uplifting to have an excuse to have a conversation with you.

How He Came To Be

We are going to start at the very beginning. I have already shared your bio, which is rich and amazing but there’s way more to us than our biographies. We have our stories. There’s how did we get to where we are and who we are now. Can you share with us a little bit about your origin story and how that shapes you?

Absolutely. Something that people know if they’ve listened to my podcast or heard me speak, one of my greatest personal accomplishments is I dropped out of medical school twice and finished. I don’t know too many people who dropped out two non-consecutive times and finished. As I was thinking about the origin story, I remember when I had to tell my father that I was dropping out for the first time. My father was a pretty tough cookie. He wasn’t the CEO of the company but the CEO turned to him to do the firing and the hiring because the CEO was a larger-than-life likable person who didn’t like to get into those. My father could be fairly critical and direct.

I have two older brothers who flunked out of college as an act of rebellion. When they got away from the house in high school to go to college, they flunked out. They did eventually finish and went to commuter schools. It was when they felt released from that pressure. My father was not a happy camper about that. I remember when I was telling him I was leaving medical school. The first thing he said to me was, “What did you do? Flunk out like your brothers?” I said, “No. I’m passing everything.” He looked at me and said, “You are passing everything, and you are not going back? What’s the story?” I said, “I’m reading every book, and I’m highlighting. I can’t hold onto the information. I’m not learning it.” He said, “You are passing everything. We can get you a tutor. We can get you whatever.” I said, “I’m not learning. They will tutor me but I won’t hold on to it,” and then he ramped up because he was that kind of personality.

Here’s what I learned. Parents do not like to hear excuses from their children but they may respond if a child is honest, raw, and vulnerable. He starts talking about why I’m going to go back. I’m passing everything, so it’s not a big deal. He was like, “Who cares if you learn anything? You are passing everything.” I remember looking and thinking, “If I go back, something bad is going to happen, and I wasn’t going to hurt anyone else.” Let’s put it that way.

Everyone was afraid of my dad because he was the guy who fired people. Imagine this. It was like a David and Goliath moment. He said, “We have agreed. You are going to go back. We will get tutors.” I looked up at him and said, “You don’t seem to understand. I’m afraid.” It took a chance because he would have said, “Stop being a wuss.” I stared at him, and my eyes were pouring down. I grabbed onto his eyes with raw vulnerability and no excuses.

I didn’t even know if I had the right to be afraid. He looked away, clenched his fists, looked down, and said, “Do what you need to do. Your mom and I will try and help you.” It really was like a David and Goliath moment. Things changed after that with him and me because he respected the courage it took for me to do that.

I’m sharing that with you and the audience because it might be taking a chance if you are that raw, open, and vulnerable with a parent. You are having a rough time, and they are saying, “What’s going on?” The conversation escalates, and then rather than showing that you are afraid, which is what’s going on underneath all your anger, I don’t want to get into it but show me someone who sadly and tragically is a school shooter, and I will show you someone who months to years before was frightened by something. Maybe they were abused by something, and the fear crossed over into anger, outrage, and enrage. If we nip it in the bud, I do believe that we are all born innocent, and then stuff happens. That was a turning point.

All It Takes Is Someone Who Believes In You: The Lifeline

I want to also share a famous experiment by Curt Richter. It’s called the Hope Experiment. The Hope Experiment was a little bit cruel. It was done in the 1950s. They took a certain number of rats and put them in a bucket of water. At about fifteen minutes, the rats drowned. The experiment was to put another group of rats in the water, and when they are grasping and feel like they are going to drown, you pull them all out. You let them rest, and you put them back in the bucket. How long do you think they were able to swim knowing that there’s some hope? That’s why they call it the Hope Experiment. What would you guess? How long do you think they would be able to swim after only being able to swim for fifteen minutes before they drowned?

I have no idea. Maybe twice as long. Did they swim much longer?

It’s 60 hours.

When you give people hope that there's some way out, they grab onto it, and they become resilient. Click To Tweet

Did they leave them in there for 60 hours?

They were able to swim. They weren’t drowning. The idea is that when you give people hope that there’s some way out, they grab onto it and become resilient. What happened is I dropped out of medical school. I worked in a blue-collar job, which I loved because it was so simple. I needed to rest my brain. I romanticized that job because I worked during the day, and at 5:00 PM, I would be free. They gave me a van to run errands. Life was simple.

They didn’t feel the immense pressure of that intensity, performance, and curriculum.

What happened is I rested my brain but I didn’t solve anything because I probably had untreated depression. I come back because medical schools will give you a leave of absence. Six months later, it hits me again. I asked for another leave of absence, and this is where the Hope Experiment comes in. The medical school wanted to kick me out because they lost matching funds. I met with the head of the school. I don’t even remember it. By that time, my father threw his hands up and was like, “The kid is afraid. I don’t want him to hurt himself. He’s dropping out and dropping in.”

I don’t even remember the second time. What happened was the dean of the school sensed, “This guy is dropping out for the second time. I don’t want him to do anything destructive.” He sends a note over to the dean of students. The dean of students calls me and says, “I have a letter from the head of dean. You better come in.” I go in, and I can see and feel it. I’m really down. He said, “Read this letter.” It was from the main dean. They lose matching funds when people take a leave of absence. I can understand what the letter said. It said, “I met with Mr. Goulston. We talked about alternate careers. I’m advising the promotions committee that he be asked to withdraw,” because I wasn’t flunking. I was passing somehow miraculously.

I said, “What does this mean?” He said, “You have been kicked out.” It was my good fortune. I even see it as a miracle. I cratered in front of him a little differently than with my dad. When he said it, I remember bending over as if I was shot in the abdomen, and I know what that’s like because about a couple of years ago, I had a perforated colon and almost died. It was like that.

When he said, “You have been kicked out.” He looked at me and said, “You didn’t mess up because you are passing but you are messed up. If you got unmessed up, this school would be glad they gave you a second chance.” I started tearing up with compassion. When he said that, what happened was my cheekbones were wet. When he said, “You have been kicked out,” I looked at my fingers because I thought I was bleeding from my eyes. I didn’t know what it was. When he said that, the compassion hit me. I started sobbing. I was like, “What’s he doing?” You know what my dad was like but he’s hitting me with this compassion.

He says, “Even if you don’t get unmessed up, even if you don’t become a doctor or don’t do anything the rest of your life, I would be proud to know you because you have a streak of goodness and kindness in you that we don’t grade in medical school. We assume it’s there but we don’t grade it, and you have no idea how much the world needs that.” He then said, “You won’t know how much the world needs it until you are 35 but you have to make it until you are 35.” I was crying more. He points at me and says, “Look at me. You deserve to be on this planet. You are going to let me help you.”

If he had said, “Call me if you need help,” I would’ve gone back to my apartment, and in all possibilities, I wouldn’t be here now but he stood up for me and hit me with the trifecta of hope. He saw value in me for who I was without doing anything, whereas my value system was you are only worth what you do. He saw value in something in me. He saw a future for me that I didn’t see. The capper was he went to bat for me at his own expense. He was a PhD. He had to go to the promotions committee and say, “We are going to give them a second chance.”

I had to defend myself. They brought me in, and I was able to do that but here’s where we get back to the Hope Experiment. During that time off, I didn’t know what to do. I grew up in Boston. I went to college in Berkeley, California but went back to medical school in Boston. I needed to get away from what the world was telling me I should do, so I went to Topeka, Kansas. There was a psychiatric institution called the Menninger Foundation, which is still around. It’s in Houston now.

It was this esteemed place. They had a private state hospital. Given my mind, I didn’t want to go to Europe. I didn’t want to go somewhere for a vacation because I was broken down. It was interesting because I didn’t know what psychiatry was but I thought, “If I go there and freak out, they will hospitalize me. I will either learn something or they will hospitalize me.”

CMO Dr. Mark Goulston | Wake-up Call

Wake-up Call: Parents do not like to hear excuses from their children, but they may respond if a child is honest, raw, and vulnerable.


There I was at Topeka State Hospital. I grew up in a suburb of Boston, and I didn’t know anything about farms, schizophrenia, and Topeka, Kansas. I will share an anecdote that I’ve never shared in a podcast. I would work occasionally with patients, and way back then, some of them could be catatonic. They could stand in the day room area, open area or outside their bedroom in 1 position for 8 hours. It’s what you see in the books about the history of mental illness.

I was assigned to one of them. We would go on walks. It was the middle of winter. He didn’t talk. I talked. He was very compliant. He was cooperative. I don’t think I’ve ever shared this but I’m sharing it with you. I had this crazy idea. I see him in one of the consulting rooms. There’s something about state psychiatric hospitals. They have the hardest linoleum you can ever imagine. I don’t know if maybe they want to make them vomit-proof or blood-proof but they are harder than concrete.

He was cooperative. He was just catatonic. I said, “I want you to stand up in front of me and turn your back to me. You are going to fall and I’m going to catch you by the shoulders.” He went along with the instructions. He stood up, fell back, and I caught him by the shoulders. I said, “That’s good. You are going to fall even further and I’m going to catch you by the shoulders.” He fell further. He’s stiff as a board. We did it a third time and I caught him. He fell where if I hadn’t caught him, he would’ve hurt himself. I said to myself, “I’m screwed because now, I’m going to do it with him catching me.”

How did that work out?

It seemed natural at the time. I remember I was there, and he was behind me. He’s catatonic. His arms are by his side. I was thinking, “I’m going to fall back, and I’m going to crack my skull open on the linoleum. I’m dead.”

I’m still trying to understand how you started doing the trust fall with him.

It was crazy. It was interesting because I was so certain I was going to die. I closed my eyes. I remember leaning back and falling. I was thinking, “I’m going to die.” I probably fell maybe 6 inches. He lifts his arms up and pulls my shoulders. I opened my eyes and looked at him. I looked into his eyes, and I see life. We made a connection. Can you picture that?

I did other crazy things like that but I go back to the rat experiment because I would go to the psychiatrist and say, “Is this a legitimate specialty?” They said, “What do you mean?” I said, “It’s different than anything else I know in medical school. We medicate them but we talk to them. We spend time with them. We go on walks. It’s not rushed. We try to help them to open up.” I remember one psychiatrist said to me, “It’s legitimate. You’ve got something between a knack and a gift.” When he said that, it triggered something. I was like, “I have a knack or a gift? I’m a two-time medical school dropout. What do you mean I have a knack or a gift?”

It was like the drowning rat experiment. Knowing that there was something there, I said to myself, “Finish your year off, go back to medical school, and become a psychiatrist.” I went from medical school to UCLA in Psychiatry. I was so spooked that if I took a medical day off, I would drop out because in my mind, even though I saw I had a knack, I thought, “You are a drop-out.”

After I finished that second year off, I finished med school and my internship and residency. I went ten years without taking a medical day off. I would work with a 104 temperature. I would follow up between patients because I was convinced if I took a day off for medical reasons, I was going to drop out. It took me ten years. We get sick from things but it didn’t matter how sick I was. I remember there was one point when I said, “I’m going to take a medical day off.”

Raw And Vulnerable

I hope there are lessons in that story. Since this is about compassion, the lessons that I hope people will get from it is one of the ways to find the compassion in people who you have conflicts with but way down deep, you feel they care about you is you might need to take the chance to be raw and vulnerable. I can tell that a lot of parents, when they are dealing with their teenagers and their teenagers are making excuses, the parents will say, “You have enough time to play video games. What do you mean you can’t do your work? You have enough time to do such and such.” Imagine if your child said to you, “You don’t seem to get it. I am stupid. When I try to study, I can’t study. I try and try, and it doesn’t work.”

You learn, earn, and then return. Click To Tweet

I will share another anecdote, and this gets us into the business world. This is in one of my books. A CEO of a company who I was working for called me. He said, “Dr. Goulston, could you call me at your earliest convenience?” He sounded shook up. I said, “What’s going on?” He said to me, “You might’ve saved my life. I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Remember in our last conversation, I brought up my son? He isn’t trying hard. He’s not working hard. His mom and I are on his back, and we can’t get him to do anything. He’s not motivated.” I said, “Is he a druggie? Is he on drugs?” He said, “No. He’s a good kid. He’s just unmotivated and lazy.” I said, “Is he stupid?” He was like, “No. He’s gifted but he has learning disabilities. My wife is too soft on him sometimes. He should man up.”

I said, “He’s not a bad kid. He’s gifted. He has learning disabilities.” I gave him these instructions, “I want you to apologize to him and say, “I want to apologize for coming close to breaking you because I will bet you feel neither your mom nor I know what it’s like to be told that you are very smart, even gifted, and not be able to use it. Isn’t that true?” The kid teared up. He was like, “I will bet you sometimes feel since the junior year that it’s even worse because there’s all this pressure on you with college.” The kid cried even more.

He then said, “I’m sorry I didn’t understand. I’m ashamed because I didn’t want to understand.” I said to him on the phone, “That’s good.” He said, “It gets even better. It’s pretty good now.” I said, “What happened next?” He looked at me and said, “I’m ashamed of the things I’ve done to cope with that, which I will tell you but you must never tell mom because it will scare her.” I said to him, “What are you doing?”

He was crying, and I was crying on the phone. He said, “It’s my little boy. I come home. I take my laptop and say, ‘Can I keep you company while you are trying to study? I won’t interfere. You can do whatever you want. I just don’t want you to be alone there.’ I go to his bed and have my laptop. I hang out with him. It’s getting better. You might’ve saved the life there, Dr. Goulston.”

Somewhere Between A Knack And A Gift

You are somewhere between a knack and a gift. It shows up again and again. I’m listening to your stories, which are deeply moving and full of life lessons. There are a few things that stand out for me. One of them is back to your first story about dropping out of school. The second time is in your conversation and the fact that that gentleman saw you and had the courage to stand for you. I’m thinking, and I speak for us and everyone reading this, “How many times have we taken a stand for someone else through compassionate listening and seeing?”

Look at the trajectory of these interactions, these natural gifts that you have, and the wiring of who you are. From knowing you, I see how this manifests in the most extraordinary ways. You are a creator. You are always coming up with ideas and programs. You work deep beneath the surface. We all go through these things in life. How many people power through? You certainly powered through it without taking the medical day-offs. You weren’t like, “I have to finish med school because of my father’s expectations.”

I just don’t wonder. I’m curious what you think about this because, in your journey, you’ve seen humanity from so many sides. I was having a conversation with this guest. We got into this knowledge versus wisdom and how our society and our schools are all about knowledge. They are like, “Memorize this, and achieve and go,” but humans are more complex than that. Humans have to discover and find out who they are and let these gifts emerge.

Sometimes, you don’t know. What might look like a failure on the outside is something that’s brewing deep within to be a much more beautiful contribution. With all your interactions, how do you see that dynamic? What do you believe about humanity, and how can we evolve to a better place through deeper understanding?

I will share something. It’s a tangent but at least 20% of it will be relevant to what you asked. I have a show. You have been on it, and you were wonderful. I have been blessed to have amazing guests. I had a guest named Chip Conley. Chip’s pretty well-known. He founded something called Joie de Vivre Hotels and then pivoted to Airbnb.

On my podcast, people open up. What he talked about is that he reached a point where he had all the money he needed in the world but five of his friends died by suicide, and he was depressed and suicidal. That’s when he pivoted to something called the Modern Elder Academy. They have retreats in Baja, California. He was talking about that and said, “I’m addicted to achievement but I see that achievement is empty.” You got to achieve. There’s a saying, “You learn, earn, and then return.” You give back energy to the world.

He talked about being addicted to achievement and how it’s like a fool’s gold. He then started talking about the Modern Elder Academy and started pitching me. I said, “You are doing it again. The achievement addict is in there.” He chuckled. Getting back to what you are saying, I said, “There is a possibility that you have something that I call the syndrome of Disavowed Yearning.” He said, “What is that?” I said, “I believe that before we are born, we are whole. Our wish is our mom’s command. We are in her womb. We are not hungry. We are not cold. We are understood more than empathically. We are connected.”

CMO Dr. Mark Goulston | Wake-up Call

Wake-up Call: One of the ways to find compassion in people you have conflicts with but way down deep you feel still care about you is to take the chance to be raw and vulnerable.


One of the reasons we cry when we are born is because we go from omnipotent to totally powerless. Plus, we don’t know how to communicate our needs. One of the needs is also to be connected with our parents in a certain way but what happens is they can’t read our minds and all our needs. There’s a term called the good enough parent. If it’s a good enough parent and they are not angry or frustrated with us, it’s good enough. That will help us grow and help us develop.

I said, “If you had parents with which you didn’t have an emotional connection, and it was all transactional but you wanted that connection to be whole again like you were in the womb, and they could be good parents but they were preoccupied. They could be working two jobs and don’t have time. It would make it easier if you convinced yourself that you didn’t need that connection.” You disavowed the yearning for that connection to be whole. You happened upon achievement and ran with it, and it was great.

You got patted on the head for all that achievement. Look at what you’ve achieved but then you reached a point where you don’t have to race after money. You were like, “I got enough money but I’m depressed and suicidal. What’s that about?” It may be that you disavowed needing that connection because it wasn’t to be had. You substituted but what you’ve discovered is the substitutes don’t work out.” I will segue into another anecdote.

On that note, how difficult is it if you get that need fulfilled only by achievement, and all of a sudden, the formula is, “If I don’t achieve, I’m not loved and accepted?” That’s an exhausting place to live in. I’m also envisioning you with your practice over time and conversations that you have with people that you drop these intuitive truth bombs and people stand there looking at you like, “What happened? What’s going on?” It’s amazing.

Here’s a truth bomb. This could be the big one. I was a suicide prevention specialist. I’m retired. I’m happy to teach parent groups. I did a couple of global calls with the YPO, EO, and other groups. I used to do house calls to dying patients and try to help them deal with the crisis of dying. I remember there was someone I was seeing. He was a publicly beloved, larger-than-life figure but whose personal life was a little bit of a shambles? He had multiple marriages and kids on drugs but was beloved. I can be fairly direct with my truth bombs. I don’t do it, hopefully, in a hurtful way but after I develop a rapport, I use that. I was doing house calls and said, “You look like crap but I don’t think it’s because you are dying. You have been dying as long as I’ve known you. What’s the story?”

What did he say to that?

He looked at me and said, “I don’t think I’ve ever done anything important in my life.” I said, “You are crazy. You have hospitals named after you. You’ve created tens of thousands of jobs.” He looked at me and said, “Don’t con a con man, especially when he’s dying. I’ve got all the love that money can buy, and that’s all it’s worth.” Here’s the truth bomb that he gave me. I said, “What’s the story? What are you upset about in addition to dying?” He said, “Everything I thought was important is unimportant. Everything I thought was unimportant is important, and I run out of time to fix it.”

That’s some realization right there.

I told you it would be a truth bomb.

Facing Your Truth, Stepping Out Of The Shadow

It’s provocative. It’s a provocative thing to think about for all of us. You said so much. Here’s something that is interesting to me as I get into conversations with people, whether it’s coaching, mentoring or general friends. This show is primarily around business but we have all kinds of people that come to this. We shifted the name to the Compassion Lab from the program we are doing internally because compassion is at the heart of understanding ourselves, our interconnectivity with each other, and how we evolve to be better, stronger, and more powerful as humanity.

Compassion starts with ourselves, and what I see over and over again is people in service to others do unbelievable things or achieve unbelievable things but the inside job of so many people is, “I’m a fraud. I’m not good enough,” and all these crazy things that come from experiences in our lives. Those inner critics or inner voices bring down the collective energy and go back to the rats and the hope, the hope of humanity. The more that’s the talk inside, the less of a powerful creator you can be on the outside. What’s the antidote to this inner negative voice? How do we all find that our knack and our gift that was knowing it looks different for everyone and comparing is not the way to go but we do have time to make sure we focus on the important?

Often, there is a shadow of the dark sides of our personality that we try to keep the public from knowing because we feel guilty. Click To Tweet

I was born Jewish but I’m not particularly following any religion. I’m not an atheist. I’m more agnostic. I attend a church because everybody is welcome there, whatever their belief system is. It is an experimental outreach from the Episcopal Church. It’s called Thads. It’s short for Thaddeus. You can go to You can listen to all the sermons. I love the people there, and they love me. I love the pastor, Jon Dephouse. He said, “Can you give a sermon?” I gave a sermon. You can find it online. It’s titled, Of Goodness and Mercy.

The scripture was about the Good Samaritan. My sermon was about goodness and mercy. I said, “For years, I used to struggle thinking I wasn’t good enough. What I thought it was about was that I didn’t make enough money. I didn’t perform well enough but even when I made enough money and performed well, I still didn’t feel good enough. When I realized it wasn’t the performance. It was that I didn’t feel I had enough goodness internally.” That’s when I discovered something that you and some of your readers are aware of. That is, we all have a shadow to our personality. Carl Jung is credited with it.

Often, that is a shadow of the dark sides of our personality that we try to keep the public from knowing because we feel guilty. We are afraid they will judge us the way we judge ourselves. We try to keep them out of our own unconscious because they trigger us with shame but being a therapist, psychiatrist, and student of human nature, I realized that everybody has a shadow. As long as you don’t act on it to hurt others or yourself, you are good to go.

When I realized that everybody has a shadow, I made friends with the part of me that has self-pity, a chip on my shoulder, and a grudge. Imagine. I’m a Jewish member of this Christian community. This is how I ended the sermon. Maybe this will be how we end the episode. I said, “All of you have a shadow. Everybody has a shadow. Let me tell you this story that brings it home. It’s a story about Jesus and Saint Tom. Saint Tom is taking over the pearly gates because Saint Peter is away.

Tom says to Jesus, “What do I do? How does this work in?” Jesus said, “They think a lot about me down there. Ask them what they think about me. See what you find out.” Jesus goes away and comes back three hours later. He says, “How’s it going?” Tom says, “I got it figured out.” Jesus said, “Who did you see?” Tom says, “It was an afternoon from Disney.” Jesus says, “What do you mean?” Tom was like, “The first person looked like the fairy godmother from Cinderella.” He said, “Tell me about Jesus.” “Jesus is beautiful, loved, and kind.” Jesus says, “What did you do with her?” Tom says, “I let her through.”

Jesus said, “Who else did you see?” Tom said, “The second one was like Geppetto from Pinocchio. He had a mustache and horn-rimmed glasses. I said, “Tell me about Jesus.” He said, “Jesus is strong, just, and mighty.” Jesus said, “What did you do with him?” Tom said, “I sent him through.” Jesus said, “Did you see anyone else?” Tom was like, “Yeah.” Jesus said, “What do you mean?” Tom said, “I don’t know if I want to tell you about him.” Jesus said, “Tell me about him.”

Tom said, “This was a villain. He had a pointed chin, black hat, gold teeth, and unmatched shoes. I asked him, “Tell me about Jesus.” He said, “Jesus is vindictive, petty, and malicious.” Jesus said, “What did you do with him?” Tom said, “I sent him away.” Jesus said, “That last person saw me exactly the way I am but what he failed to see is my daily effort to not be that way or act on it.” Do you get the story?

Yes, indeed. I get the story. Many of us want to deny those parts of ourselves but sometimes, there’s gold when we start to understand and shine a light on that. It’s when it’s working in the background, and we don’t understand what’s working. I love the parable of the two wolves that everyone has heard where the grandfather is talking to the grandson. There are two parts of people. There’s one side, there’s one wolf. We all have two wolves. One is kind, loving, brave, and beautiful. There’s another wolf that is selfish, hateful, and petty. The grandson says, “Which Wolf wins?” His answer is, “The one you feed.” The question is, “What are we feeding?”

It is a great place to end, but I want to ask you another question as we start to wrap up this conversation. We have been through a lot. We have been through two years of heavy collective trauma. We have our own individual challenges in life, and then there’s the collective that we have been going through this pandemic. We had many divisive issues, whether it has been racial or political, that we have been navigating. It has been prolonged. As we sit here, it’s 2022. There’s a heaviness that we all are bearing but in the heaviness, as we talk about the shadow side, there is always hope.

Acknowledging Emotions

Let’s keep the theme of hope in this conversation alive. We can have our better angels emerge and create a better, more beautiful world because this is forcing us into the work and the questioning about who we are, what we’ve done, and who we want to become. As we close our conversation, I would love your thoughts on what do you think we need to be doing to create a more beautiful world together?

There’s a program that I did after 9/11 with a lot of large companies and organizations. They said, “You’ve got to do something to help our people.” I’ve revitalized that and have been doing it with some companies on Zoom. I can share this story. I’m a coach and mentor to the CEO of Ink Global. They published 80% of the in-flight magazines. That went away because it’s all digital. People don’t want to touch those dirty magazines.

CMO Dr. Mark Goulston | Wake-up Call

Wake-up Call: “Everything I thought was important is unimportant. Everything I thought was unimportant was important, and I ran out of time to fix it.”


Their advertising was a real challenge. They have offices in Shanghai, Miami, and London. The joint CEO is a wonderful fellow named Simon Leslie. He had me do something with his people. I had done a short presentation before that went very well. I said, “Can I try something with your people? It might help.” He said, “I trust you with anything because of where you come from.”

Picture this. There were about 130 people on the Zoom call from 3 offices. I said, “I want to do an exercise with all of you. I want you to think of the worst moment you’ve had that passed.” You want to frame it that way because if someone brings up something that’s current, you often drop everything. You are like, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know that your kid died.” I was like, “I want you to think of the worst moment that has passed, and you got over it. Raise your hand when you can think of it.” They stare at me in the Zoom call like deers in the headlights. I said, “Come on. Think of it. I’m not going to ask you what it is.”

One by one, they raised their hands. You go across several Zoom screens and they are raising their hands. I said, “That’s good. In the chat area, I want you to write down which of these single words most matched that worst time.” This is something called affect labeling. When you accurately label how you feel, it calms you down. The chat area was quiet, and then it started to dribble in. I was like, “Here are the words you can select from, afraid, angry, depressed, numb, alone, ashamed, and overwhelmed.” There were a bunch of words.

It stalls, and then you look at the chat area and Nancy types, “Overwhelmed.” Frank types, “Angry.” John types, “Overwhelmed.” It starts to flood. When you look in the chat area, there are names with emotions. When you look at the Zoom call, people are crying. They are crying with relief. It goes on and on. The chat area floods. It trickles off. I said, “How many of you feel better?” It was 70%. I said, “How many of you feel worse?” It was zero. I said, “How many of you feel no change?” It was 30%. I said, “How many of you feel that you are in a group of very special people?” It was close to 100%.

I said, “You are no more special than you were an hour ago. What happened is you shared a special moment, and you joined in. The collective courage at making it through these tough times caused each of you to feel what an honor and privilege it is to be a member of this group.” Afterward, one of the people came up to the CEO and said, “That was the best exercise I’ve ever done anywhere.”

If you are reading this, go to You will see a menu. On the menu, there are Testimonials. If you scroll down, you will see Simon Leslie’s testimonial. It’s a video. They are all video testimonials. He sounds drunk but he’s not. He sends me this afterward. He said in his British accent, “Thank you. I don’t know what to say.” It was so pure and raw. I said, “Would you mind if I posted that somewhere?” He said, “It’s a little embarrassing but go with it.”

If you go to, I’ve got 30 video testimonials. That was the first one. Whenever I feel like I haven’t done enough, and I try not to beat up on myself too much, I will go look at some of the testimonials and say, “Either I fooled all of them or maybe I’ve contributed something.” I want to share an anecdote. It’s a tangent but if you will allow me, then we can call it a day.

Of course.

Since the dean of students who saved my life with that trifecta, I have had eight mentors. They’ve all died. The last one was Larry King. I used to go to breakfast with him every day. Cal Fussman was there, who is someone we both know. Before him was Warren Bennis. He was a big leadership guy. Larry is one of the funniest people you will ever meet. He wanted to be a standup comedian but then he became Larry King.

He had so many illnesses in the last year of his life. He lost his appetite. Every now and then, I would visit him and hypnotize him into trying to eat. Sometimes, it worked. Sometimes, it didn’t but it relaxed him. I have some of these skills. He had nicknames for everyone but he called me Dr. Morose. When you reach out to Cal and say, “Do you know what Dr. Morose is?” What would happen is Larry would look at me because people would be bantering about the Dodgers. I would be listening. He will say, “What are you listening for?” I say, “I don’t get into the banter.” He will say, “You are so morose.” I said, “I don’t have to show up. I don’t want to bring everyone down.” He said, “No. We need Dr. Morose. Sometimes, we banter. We don’t know what we are talking about. We get ourselves all agitated. Dr. Morose is good.”

In fact, I had him on my show twice. He was my first guest, and then I got to know him. It’s episode 81. In episode 81, I said, “We are friends with all the conversation.” He says, “I got to tell you about Dr. Morose. If you are having a conference, people are having too good of a time, people are enjoying themselves, you’ve got to hire Dr. Morose to speak. He can bring down any group of people.” That’s what the show is about. I said, “Larry, how can you say this?”

When you accurately label how you feel, it calms you down. Click To Tweet

I remember the last time I saw him when I was trying to hypnotize him. I was leaving when he woke up. In my gut, I had this feeling I wouldn’t see him again. I’m sharing it because how often do you have the chance to say this? He was lying on the bed and was waking up. I said, “Larry.” He said in his Brooklyn thing, “What?” I said, “I got something I got to tell you.” He said, “What?” I said, “I love you.” He looked at me and said, “I love you, Morose.” How often does that happen in your life?

Probably not enough.

I love you. Hopefully, we are not going to die soon.

I hope not. I have loved everything you have shared in this conversation. There’s so much to you. There’s wisdom and authenticity. The Dr. Morose thing rings so true because we don’t want to look at these things. We want to numb out on Netflix or some other addiction that makes us not want to look at the things that are driving us.

When we look, there are a lot of wondrous things that can come from it. That’s what you teach us. You teach us not to be afraid of the dark and not be afraid of these places that we go. Thank you so much. You mentioned your website and your show, which is My Wakeup Call. You are involved in many projects. Do you have any other guidance on where people can find you or resources that you want to share before we close?

I will rattle it off. LinkedIn is a moving target but the profile is getting closer and closer to what I do in the business world. If you go to @Dr.Mark Goulston, you will see the latest iteration of me trying to avoid the Impostor syndrome. is my website. My Wakeup Call is the podcast. We would love you to listen to it. It’s in the top 0.5% all by word of mouth because I don’t do any social media. I don’t have a team. It’s just me and a wounded veteran smoothing out the audio. I have a Harvard Business Review IdeaCast episode called Become a Better Listener. It has been ranked number one for seven years.

We didn’t even get into the listening conversation. You are going to have to come back because I want to dig deep into listening.

The other thing is you can go to If I didn’t drive you away and you are a masochist, you can go there. There’s an audio course called Defeat Self Defeat. My first book, Get Out of Your Own Way: Overcoming Self-Defeating Behavior was another best-seller but not out of the gate. They are like a Timex watch. They take a licking, and they keep on ticking. You can go there and subscribe and then unsubscribe. If I was more enlightening than I was alienating, and you want to hear some more, you can go and listen to that course. There are thirteen episodes. That’s about it.

Is that it?

We’ve covered the tip of the iceberg because the bottom part of the iceberg is a 100% pure impostor.

We were talking before we hit record. I said, “You have a clone, and you are not telling us,” because you do so much, and I don’t know how you do it all. Here’s how I would like to close in my gratitude. Not only do you do so much but you do it with such heart and care. You want to create and connect people who are going to do beautiful things in the world.

CMO Dr. Mark Goulston | Wake-up Call

Get out of Your Own Way: Overcoming Self-Defeating Behavior: Overcoming Self-Defeating Behavior

When we talk about making the world a better place, you’ve talked about the fact that we all have our part to play in our own unique, special, amazing way. You are playing your part beautifully. I’m honored to know you. I’m honored to know the work that you do in the world and to have this conversation and wisdom on the show. Thank you so much.

Thank you. I will leave our readers with something. I wrote a blog for Harvard Business Review called How to Give a Meaningful “Thank You”. It did pretty well when it came out. You can find that. I’m going to give you a meaningful thank you. It’s something that I tell people to do. If you want to change your culture, tell all your people when they wake up in the morning that they send a video to someone with a power of thank you. It has three parts. The first part is you thank them for what they specifically did. The second part is the effort they took to do it. The third part is what personally means to you.

You had me on your show. We’ve gone way over. You’ve given me the gift of your attention. You gave me a long leash. The second thing is you’ve entrusted your audience to me, and I know how much you care about your audience. The last thing you would want to do is waste their time. What’s most important to you is to bring them value because you want to honor their trust, confidence, respect, and love they have for you. You are pretty picky about who you introduced to them, and you’ve introduced a lot of me to them in this episode. The third thing is what it personally means to me. People could pick up that we care about each other. We have each other’s back. We can have fun with each other.

I’m hoping that maybe our exchange can serve as a role model for the kinds of relationships people want in their life with the people who are their friends, loved ones or even strangers they meet on the street that they do something kind to. I will end with another thing. I did do a TEDx talk called What Made You Smile Today? Look it up. It was a campaign we started before COVID, and we may resurrect it. People need to smile but it seems we are not there yet. Although you make me smile, so thank you.

Thank you for that very meaningful thank you and affirmation. You always make me smile every time we have a conversation. I don’t even know what more to say. I appreciate the gifts of wisdom because we’ve already talked about knowledge versus wisdom. There are a lot of things we can learn but only through our lived experience, interactions, and conversations do we learn and become better. Thank you again for the gift of time and all that you do. I appreciate it more than you know.


Important Links


About Dr. Mark Goulston

CMO Dr. Mark Goulston | Wake-up CallDr. Mark Goulston is a Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches member and coaches entrepreneurs, CEOs, Chairs, and Managing Directors to become the best version of themselves. He is also an international keynote speaker helping audiences do the same.

Originally a UCLA professor of psychiatry for over 25 years, and a former FBI and police hostage negotiation trainer, Dr. Mark Goulston’s expertise has been forged and proven in the crucible of real-life, high stakes situations. He is the author or co-author of nine books with his book, “Just Listen,” being translated into twenty-eight languages and becoming the top book on listening in the world. He is the host of the highly rated podcast, My Wakeup Call and the co-host of “Out of Our Minds and In Your Space” on Twitter Spaces which is a mashup for creatives and thinkers.


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