Courage And Gratitude On The Path Forward With Dr. Ken Druck

20 Feb , 2024 podcasts

Courage And Gratitude On The Path Forward With Dr. Ken Druck

CMO Dr. Ken Druck | Courage And Gratitude


Life’s journey isn’t always a smooth, sunlit path; at times, it leads us through the densest jungles or across stormy oceans. Embracing life’s adversities is an integral part of our growth, demanding courage and gratitude. In this episode, Dr. Ken Druck, the author of How We Go On and The Self-Care Handbook, generously shares his inspiring journey, navigating challenges with courage. He imparts invaluable insights on cultivating resilience and compassion amidst life’s trials, touching on the transformative concept of the Eight Honorings and offering guidance on navigating grief support dos and don’ts. Join us as we immerse ourselves in Dr. Ken Druck’s profound wisdom, embarking together on the onward trudge through our individual life journeys. 

Listen to the podcast here


Courage And Gratitude On The Path Forward With Dr. Ken Druck

Building Resilience And Compassion Through Life’s Adversity

Greetings friends and welcome to The Lab, today I am speaking with someone who has traveled a road of great depth and heart, we all encounter challenges and then we get to decide how it will shape our lives. My guest today is Dr. Ken Druck and he decided a long time ago that his path was going to be one of service. Ken is a leading mental health expert focused on the areas of resilience relationships and aging. He writes for the national press and is the author of several books including, Raising An Aging Parent, Courageous Aging and The Real Rules of Life. His latest book titled How We Go On addresses our willingness and ability to effectively manage life’s transitions, harvesting the opportunity, paying the good forward and leaving a legacy of love and gratitude.


He’s a recipient of the Distinguished Contribution to Psychology and Visionary Leadership Awards for his community service and lifetime achievement. Dr. Druck is widely recognized as a lifeline to the countless people, individuals, families, organizations that he has worked with over his career. His body of work includes the founding of the Jenna Druck Center to honor the life and spirit of his daughter Jenna. Set a new standard of care and healing following tragedies like 9/11, Columbine, Katrina and Sandy Hook. It was such an honor to speak with Ken as he is so committed to light the way for others in troubled times. Without further delay. I hope you will enjoy the conversation with the very compassionate Ken Druck.


I am so happy we are on the podcast because this will give our listeners not just inside the company, but those outside our company an opportunity to learn about you and to get some of the wisdom that you have been sharing with us. So, I just want to say thank you so much.


Thank you so much Kathy. It is an honor to be here. I am so glad we are having this podcast and I am really looking forward to the program later this year.


It’s going to be great. Let’s just hop right into our conversation and you probably know from listening to other episodes that I always start in the same place and that is the origin of your story and of what got you to where you are now and there’s so much texture to all of our stories. I know you won’t be able to share it all. But what are some of the highlights that you think really shaped your journey?


It is so interesting. First of all for us to be having this conversation and me not asking you that question. It is because that’s what I do. Tell me about, where does this start? How can I begin to get to know you and all good relationships begin that way with us just listening. I feel so grateful for the opportunity to talk about, “Hey, my journey. Oh my goodness. I am yeah, I am having a journey.”


I had been living such a blessed life for so many years. We live in a country that does not have missiles dropping, where things are relatively safe and things have been relatively just and we are working progress but I have lived in that world with all of its imperfections and I grew up in that world. My journey when I was a little boy, I was told, “You are named after your Uncle Kazil.” I was like, Okay, Grandpa’s brother, is he here.? “No, he died.”


The story that evolved was that he was one of the outspoken attorneys in Austria who was speaking out and saying, “This guy is going to kill all of us.” He was a Jewish man speaking out in Austria about Hitler and say, “This guy is dangerous. He’s crazy.” And unless we wake up and see what’s happening. And how many people are subscribing to what he’s saying, how many people are drinking the Kool-Aid where we are all putting our lives and our children’s lives at danger.


My Uncle Kazil was murdered. He was actually buried in a mass grave near Kiev in Ukraine, which is now Ukraine. Crazy world we live in where so much is happening and there are mass graves again in Kiev and this time as a result of Putin. Anyhow, that’s the world I came from and I came into this world like, “Okay, you are the first generation of families that are trying to assimilate.”


My grandparents spoke with heavy accents. They were from Russia and Poland and Austria and so on and integrating trying to find their place in this new world. In this completely new normal, I watched them all struggling and striving to find their place and their way and watching all that, I think at an early age and some of us know this about ourselves. We have been kind of watching the room since we were little kids.


Yes, absolutely, I totally understand what you are saying.


I am in the room. Observing what my Aunt is saying, what is my uncle saying with Mom Dad when they argue. What am I supposed to be becoming and because that’s what often we try to shape ourselves, into that shape and that tone and because we all want to be loved and approved and and valued for the good things that we know and do and the skills that we have and the gifts that we possess. Anyhow, that’s where my journey started and I was kind of watching the room and I think from an early age, when my best friends who lived a couple of houses down when his dad died. I was over there, my heart. I have learned that compassion is your pain in my heart.

Compassion is your pain in my heart. Joy is your happiness in my heart. Share on X

Just as Joy is your happiness in my heart, my ability and capacity to feel where we can sense each other. The greatest moments that make each other’s hearts sing, but also the things that are way most heavily in our hearts. I was doing that since I was a little kid and it’s no surprise that as I grew up and grew into this world that I continued doing that. Went to school and ended up going to graduate school getting my doctorate in Psychology, marching where I felt there was Injustice protesting but also advocating and more advocating than anything. Ended up getting married, having two amazing daughters.

A Good Father: Love Never Dies

For me, the last thing I’ll probably say today is telling you that the greatest accomplishment of my life is not the books. I have written or the speeches I have given or my time in the UN or God knows what else but or on CNN or anything but it’s being a dad. My greatest accomplishment in this life was being a good father and is now being a good grandpa. I will tell you about that later.


Being a good dad and going through my career. I was blessed with an opportunity. I became a speaker, my oldest daughter Jenna would love. She said, ”Daddy. Can I come with you?” and she would come with me on CNN. She would come with me when I was giving a speech to an organization like YPO or the Women’s Conference in California, and she would ask if she could be a part of it. We even started giving programs together, which was a little girl. One of the programs is called The Parent Report Card.


Oh, it sounds like trouble.


They get report cards and they get scrutinized. You got an A, B. Here’s where you could bring up your grades. Well, do we get that as parents? We are making it up as we go, right?


No, we get to say just because. Just because I said so. That’s what we get to say, right?


That’s right. But we’ve all learned that the job of being apparent is that we learned that control is an illusion besides other things. It brings the best and worst parts of us, just like being married. Just like being a leader in a company. Just like being whatever position you are in. But being that empowered individual who takes on who really insists on going for the gold, going for the bringing out the best and all of us in ourselves and each other.

We've all learned as a parent that control is an illusion. Share on X

Here I was living the life, being on stage with my daughter. Giving programs in Australia like The Parent Report Card where we help parents understand where they could bring up their grades and doing stuff like that, my daughter grew up. She was voted one of America’s Future Leaders in high school. She went into the President’s Leadership Institute and it came to be her Junior year. She was the president of her sorority.


She had infiltrated MTV because she hated the misogynistic language about women and what women were supposed to do to get loved and to get attention and to get valued for who they were. She came with me and she said, “Dad, What we teach girls, If this is the best we can do, we suck. We teach girls to be mean to themselves. Then we teach girls to be mean to each other. If we cannot do better than that, we are terrible and she started a leadership program. My daughter was this one in a billion Superstar, but a sweetheart with a great sense of humor, with a sense of irreverence but on a mission of service.


And she said, Dad, there’s this great program. I know the world is bigger than California. And even the US is this great program where you live on a boat. It is called Semester at Sea and you go on the program and you travel all over the world. I said, “That sounds like a great launching pad for your career, your future for you really getting out into that having a sense of what the world is.”


Well, three months into her semester at Sea program. My phone rang to tell me that my daughter’s life had ended. I was on the phone with President Clinton later that night and he and his wife could not have been kinder and more helpful because they said, “Please do not.”


She had died in India on her way to the Taj Mahal on a road where 1600 people die every year. And they said. “Please do not go, we are going to bring your daughter home.” We are going to bring your daughter home. This is really happening. And so that my life not only did my daughter’s life and at age 21, my precious beloved daughter. But my family’s life as we knew it ended that moment and my life as I knew it ended in that moment. I was in that unspeakable choiceless moment of Agony. They say that the worst loss is losing a child.


Well, I was now living in it on my knees, beyond tears In shock. I was in so much shock that I was able to give my daughter’s eulogy three days later but the shock wears off and the reality sets in. Then you realize, “My God, how am I possibly going to go on in my life with a hole in my heart?” That’s this large. And so it became, I am one of these kinds of people that needs to immerse himself. I am not the kind of person who’s good at running away or avoiding or hiding, denying, repressing, outrunning, outbusying. I have got my escape valves that I have had to call myself out on.


But I needed to immerse myself and I also needed to honor my daughter. Because I soon knew that there’s a love that never dies. Never dies. I was talking to my daughter. I would say, “Jenna what now?” And I would hear, “Daddy more now’s.” You are going to have to keep coming back to this moment and it’s going to be at times, it’s going to feel surreal. Because when we suffer that kind of a loss or a change or a challenge we are facing a challenge in our lives. We go back and forth from surreal, like this could not really be happening. This is a nightmare. Somebody wakes me up. To the all too real where we are emotionally flooded and overwhelmed and we are saying I cannot bear this I cannot do this. I cannot bear this amount of pain and sorrow.


Do not give me some cheap cliche. To tell me the glass is half full or to tell me she’s in a better place or any of those things. Her place is here. Living out her life. Do not tell me all those things, that I need to continue to find a way to express my love for my daughter every day for the rest of my life. To feel her love and that became the first honoring, there are now eight honorings because this is over 25 years ago Kathy, as we have shared.


I have been in a position to help countless numbers and to be a lifeline to countless numbers. Whether it was after 9/11 and New York and California after Sandy Hook. Any number, I became the guy who got called in because people said this guy knows he has an idea of what I am going through and I know some of the people on The Compassion Lab on this podcast of are great people who have gone through the same kinds of losses and tragedies and have spoken to it with their lives with the expression that their lives have become and I am one of those people, in the beginning.


I remember meeting John Walsh in Washington, DC and going my God, look at what John Walsh is doing his son was murdered. I was this guy carrying on that Candice Lightner who started Mothers Against Drunk Driving, became one of my good friends. She actually joined my Board because I started a Nonprofit Foundation to honor my daughter. There are the eight honorings which became the template for, “How do we go on?” From not only the losses, life losses where somebody we love dies and our Life as we knew it ends and we are just in that unspeakably lost, empty, brokenhearted place. And everything seems like it’s the “Dark night of the Soul” moment.


There’s No Escape, there’s no cliche. There’s no quick fix, there’s no way we are in an inconsolable and insufferable pain that we need to somehow figure out to summon. I say the word “Summon” loudly because it’s such an important word, the newfound courage and faith and strength and kindness and patience from within ourselves to begin to push the reset button. We all get asked, you and me and everybody we know is undergoing some kind of a “What now?” moment in their life.


But now and what if and how we meet that moment and whether we meet that moment determines our character and the quality of our life going forward. Will we fight our way back into life? Will we somehow summon that strength and courage and faith and patience and permission to be broken. People ask me today, “Ken, how are you doing?” And I say, “You know what, I walk with a limp in my heart because every day I think about my beautiful daughter.”


Every day I look at her up on my shelves and in front of my office and I talk with her and sometimes I feel things she would say to me, “Dad, you are not going to wear that shirt.” I sure just tossed it, because she was my advisor as well. Or she would tell me how glad she was about something or how much she loves and misses me. Do I know with any degree of 100% certainty the nature of life and death is? No.


CMO Dr. Ken Druck | Courage And Gratitude

Courage And Gratitude: How We Go On: Self-Compassion, Courage, and Gratitude on the Path Forward.

But we all bet our faith. It’s what we hope is the truth. How could we possibly know with 100% certainty? Exactly how all this works, how life works, how death works. We make our best guesses. We give ourselves things that give us comfort. We search for faith. What there is to believe in and we fight our way back in life. And that’s my story. I have been one of the guys who fought his way back and found ways to turn the rest of my time into an honoring of my daughter Jenna. I call her my angel daughter. My Earth daughter, Stephie and her twin grandsons who appear on the first page of my How We Go On book.

There I am sitting on the beach. I am thinking if anybody ever told me after Jenna died that I would be experiencing such intense joyfulness and such fullness in my life and feeling so blessed again. I would have ignored them and gone away and said, “You just do not get it. You do not have a clue.” But here I am. Holding my grandson on the beach in a towel and we are looking up. He just went into the ocean. He’s four years old. He was three and saying, “Poppy, is that cloud like a dragon or a dolphin to you?” I could not even answer it because I have got tears streaming.


It is like I am so blessed. Life goes on and whether people are that moment is a horrific, contentious divorce. Whether it is a tremendous downturn and change or a firing or a retirement or a bad diagnosis or an estranged child who or child who’s strung out? Or a wife or a husband who just says, “I am done.” It could be anything or betrayal of a dear friend. Or an existential moment where we look at our watch and we say, “This life is really a lease deal. I should better come to terms with impermanence.” That makes me feel so uncomfortable. I hate that.


I think we all do.


We all do. That is why the last chapter in my new book. I dared. I thought, “God. Are you going to write about this? Everybody hates to think about this and talk about it.” Again. I got to read it and I called it my Ken’s moonshot. That’s his remote possibility of going to the moon.  And it’s called Ken’s moonshot. How do we go on with death? How do we not spend the last part of our years as we get older or even younger dreading getting older and dreading death and we rob ourselves of years, decades of life because we are living in paralytic dread and fear. How do we both face that fear? Meet that fear, move beyond that fear and find ways that we can live on after we have passed.

We rob ourselves of years and decades of life if we're living in paralytic dread and fear. Share on X

How can we pay forward the goodness and the gifts that we have been blessed with? How can we do things now that leave a legacy of love? Not one of chaos or greed or short-sightedness. How do we leave a legacy of love? How do we use each season of this life in a way that is honorable? In a way that we feel proud of what we have done with the time we were given here. And that’s one of the honorings. I am sorry. I went so long. Journey, that’s kind of it.


No, it’s such a rich journey and you use the word honoring a lot. You really honor us in sharing your story because we all have our story and the things that have happened to us along the way that have been, I call them, “The plot twist of life“ that the moments that it’s before and after. That moment happened to you and as we are speaking of honoring I do need to honor you. For just having to be a warrior to choose life.


You are talking about choosing in the choices we have to meet what happens to us with the human spirit and what we can do to turn that tragedy and transmute that energy into something new or whether or not to let it destroy us. With those choices we have free will to decide what to do. I cannot sit here Ken and interview you and begin to say, “Oh, I understand, now I have had my own story.” Certainly my own challenges and difficulties but I do think the loss of a child is a whole different, not that we are ranking and creating hierarchies of challenge, but it is definitely on a whole nother level.


I know when I first became a parent. I was so overwhelmed. By the love you can feel for your child. It’s just you are like, “Whoa, I thought I got this whole equation of what it felt like to love.” Then it just gets hit out of the park when you become a parent. There’s a lot to unpack and I would love to unpack a few things that you said and I want to also before I get into the present and some of the wisdom that I all the story is fueling into who you are now. I think back to how you describe yourself growing up as the observer and watching what’s going on in the room. Do you consider yourself an empath in that you experience life maybe a bit underneath the surface of things? Is that something you have always felt?


Yeah. Thank you for that description. I have never thought of myself that way but as you say it, it resonates. When I ask people questions, I look for a truthful response. Some part of them goes, “Yes, that’s it.” That’s what I am feeling right now, a truth response.  When I walk into a room, I do not always say something. I do not feel compelled to do something or ask a question or save somebody or educate somebody.


But I have the ability. Because I have spent a lot of time at that level doing those deep dives with people in their darkest moment as well as in their greatest moment of opportunity. I have been with people who are at the edge of realizing their greatest dreams. But they need to manage that degree of happiness and success because they know that a lot of people at that point. They create chaos. They are so disorganized. They do not know what to do. They bring the wrong people into their lives or make the wrong choices.


So yes, I have that ability and I have exercised that in a way that I believe is honorable. I gave one of the first Town Hall meetings in New York after 9/11. I got up and they put me in a room of a thousand people who had just watched somebody they love being incinerated. They said, “Go talk with them. Go speak with them.” The reason I knew what to say was because I have been there and the reason why they trusted what I had to say. I asked the question. I said, “How many of you are feeling more turned inside out and upside down and messed up.” I didn’t use the word “messed”. I was very bold. I said, “ I am from New York. Can I speak this way?” And I said, “How many of you feel more turned inside out than you ever imagined a human being could feel?” And a thousand hands went up.


No, I am sure I could just imagine the air in that room. The level of emotion because you have an amplification over a thousand people who are having a common experience yet their very own unique experience. Because we all are unique. That is an incredible ability to hold space for that many people.  I think it’s so interesting that we talk about you as an empath and how we are all made. And of course, we are also beautifully made in our own ways, to do our own thing, the way we do it. WIe are not also supposed to be cut from the same cloth.

CMO Dr. Ken Druck | Courage And Gratitude

Courage And Gratitude: We hope for the truth. We are uncertain how life and death work, so we make our best guesses. We give ourselves things that comfort us. We search for faith to fight our way back in life.

I find it fascinating as I listen to origin stories and as I listen to yours, even where your name came from. The bold ability to observe, see and speak out. Look at that legacy of which your name was derived. I think it is so fascinating to see how you use that level of superpower and bring it fulbright into the work that you do today and the idea that you understand there’s sympathy and there’s empathy and they are very different things because I could say all day long like,”Oh that must be terrible.”

Being Present For Someone In Pain

I must try to imagine how you feel, but I cannot because it’s such a unique journey and on that point, I have a question that I think a lot of people have. Because with 9/11 and a lot of stuff with the pandemic, we had a lot of collective loss and collective trauma. In any given person’s story, there’s different levels of loss that are happening all the time and you mentioned people saying something trite like, “Oh, she is in a better place.” What would you tell people whether they are going through it or they have a close friend or family member going through something? What do you say? How do you guide people to be the greatest presence and service for someone in pain?


It’s a beautiful question. It’s a question that is so virtuous and essential to every relationship we want to make important. Every way that we want to show up as people and how we do it. I have encapsulated into a working document when I get a call from somebody who suffered a loss, I send out something. I send out something on email called The Eight Honorings that I have started sharing with you, but I also send with it something called the Do’s and Don’ts of grief support.


I also give programs at companies. I have done it 150 times, called The Compassionate Workplace. Where if a co-worker is going through a tragic loss of some kind and everybody, their coworkers who love them, their work family wants to embrace them and not say and do stupid things that make them feel even more alone. That they have not only lost somebody they love, they have lost the world. That’s the fear that a lot of people have. Walking into a world that is largely grief illiterate.


Whether it’s our company or community or synagogue or church or neighborhood or a holiday party that we end up walking out feeling like I have not only lost somebody I loved and I am trying to figure out how I am going to go on without them. I have lost the world because nobody gets it and one of the most powerful experiences we can give one another. Is the feeling of being understood?


How do we get to the point where somebody feels, “Thank you. You really get it. You are really taking the time to listen to me and to understand.” We get that because we listen. Some of us have scar tissue on our tongue because we are used to talking all the time and giving advice and we have learned to bite it. But we are learning how to do what my daughter Jenna used to call “Daddy be with.” Be with, meet somebody, listen to them walk, with them, sit with them, be with them.


Be in service to another person. Quiet your own thoughts to the point that you can really focus on what they are saying and then reflect that back to them, be like me saying, “Kathy, what I hear you saying, Help me. Help correct me if I am not right on.” Is that how important it is to be present to learn how to be present, especially if we are with somebody we care about deeply and we want to be Part of the solution. Not part of the problem. How do we show up? Learn how to be with.


The Do’s and Don’ts of grief support. On the don’ts, it’s all the ways that people say, “Thank you very much. I am not going back to that therapist or not going back to that cousin or that Aunt or Uncle or my mom or my dad or that Rabbi or priest because they just do not have a clue what I am going through.” All that I have, they operate in the mode of “Figure it out and fix it.” Not spend some time getting to know me and what I am going through.


They are in the mode of, “Hey, the impossible just takes a little longer. Let’s figure this out and fix it.” I have got the fix I have got the perfect fix. I have got a line of cliches. I have got my tough love. Things you got to get over it. You got to snap out of it. You got it, all these tough love, tough guy sayings that I have been using with people for my whole life. Those are all on the Don’t list.


Impatience, judgment, assuming that already rather than being humble and saying, “I want to better understand what you are saying” and being able to ask questions that that allow people to open up and go deeper and go further, I wrote a book many years ago How To Talk To Your Kids and I would get asked the question “What is the key to learning to talk to your kids” and I say, “It is not talking. It is shutting up.” Asking open-ended questions that are not laced with the message like, “You are going to do that? You are going to wear that? You are friends with who?”


It’s not not the way to get a good parent report card, right?


Yes. There you go. Some of us have learned we have mastered the art of disguising our messages in questions


Life coaching 24/7 from a well-intended parent.


There you go. Anyhow, that is how we show up and we do the things on the do list. We listen. We allow ourselves to empathize to feel compassion. We learn. We reflect back what we are hearing. We humble ourselves and we do not set up conditions like, “Well, I just listened to you, don’t you owe me a thank you card or some kind of special recognition?” No. It’s a moment given in service with nothing expected back.


Well, and what comes up for me as you are sharing this right now Ken, is if someone is going through just the unthinkable loss. I think there’s nothing more important than your presence, and to do exactly what you are saying and not try to fix it. But what I keep thinking about as you are talking about this is the power of doing that all the time. Are present to the people in our lives, the people in our workplace? Where we do give them the power of our active listening.


We actually just had a little segment on this the other day. I have got my leadership team going through a training program that’s really about the inner work because how we show up understand ourselves. The energy we bring into things is really affecting. It’s a ripple effect into everything we lead so we’ve been on a journey in doing some of this work. The other day in our class, we had an exercise around fully listening to each other and in sharing it was just this “Aha moment” of like, “We go, of course I listen to people you think you do.”

The energy we bring into things is affecting others. It's a ripple effect in everything we lead. Share on X

But we are always thinking in our heads. We know we have to be somewhere else. Maybe we are so scheduled that we do not have time. It’s like I would love to listen to you, but I have to go here and I have to be there. Do we create the space in our lives to listen or just walk into our child’s room and be like, “Hey, man, what’s up?” Anything you want to share with no expectation at all. I know I am challenged with that and I think about that because my schedule’s crazy.


We were talking about that at the beginning before, we started the podcast interview, like scheduling and calendaring and life and stuff.


The bandwidth to be present for anybody and including if you are a type “e” it’s for everybody else. Be there, everybody. Else. Do I even have the presence to be there for myself? I teach something in the How We Go On Book. I teach, get your foot off your throat, no impatience, no judgment, no harsh criticism, self-criticism. Put your hand in your heart, kindness, patience, understanding, support, encouragement, humility, forgiveness And tough love when I need it, but with kindness.  In this exercise, it’s like, “How do I even know that I have been talking to myself this way for years.” That’s good. Now that you are listening to me, I have been saying that to myself all these years.


No wonder I have been on a diet of harsh self-criticism. No wonder I feel under the gun. No wonder I am always pressuring myself to do more to be better that I am not something enough. Not a good president, or mom or leader or something enough. The word “Enough” factors into it. The word “Enough” appears with us and when we become aware of that,  “My god, I have been treating myself. Like I like a prosecutor in a courtroom waving an admonishing finger of blame producing evidence and guess what in that courtroom.” There’s no defense attorney. No judge or no dirt, no prosecutor. It’s only not doing right but I am not doing enough or it could be doing more of.


Prosecuting me. It is a voice of condemnation. I didn’t even know I was using that on myself all these years. No wonder I have been on a diet of that. What would it be like to catch myself up here to start becoming aware that I have my foot on my throat right now the way I am talking to myself. And to move it down here and to learn what somebody would say to themself. If it was originating in kindness, in understanding, in compassion, in patience and permission to be a work in progress.


And helping make informed decisions from this place. In which and the decisions made from this place allow us to grow from the inside out organically, naturally. It’s not synthetic, “Oh my god. I have got to read 20 more positive thinking books.” I have got to become conceptually more sophisticated. Because that kind of learning that we need to do is organic, it’s from here. We do not want more pressure. None of us needs more pressure.


From this place of kindness. How could I be the more present mom that I aspire to be? The less chatty dad that I try to be, the whatever it is that you are, the what if questions that you ask when you think about how can I become the better, more loving, more present version of myself? Version that we aspire to become. I need humility, we talked about me being an empath in some way. I am an empath but the only permission I have to be that is because I bring humility with it. I am an empath but I might be wrong. I might need some fine-tuning at what I am picking up. I need to ask, I need to let people be the authority on what they are experiencing, not me. Indeed to figure out and self correct.


And become better at it because we are all work in progress. There’s never been a perfect parent, a perfect leader, a perfect child. If we are all work in progress, the permission to be human with our hand here rather than the foot up here is a key to growing and ripening into the best version of ourselves.

The Self-Care Handbook

So beautifully said Ken and I think we are just living in a world. We have been programmed to live in our heads more than our hearts and we have talked a lot in The Lab. Not only about how do we honor ourselves to continue on the theme of honoring? How do we honor ourselves in the process? Does not mean you do not hold yourself accountable. It does it mean you do not live by a code. It does not mean you do not strive to be the best version of yourself. But there’s a much kinder voice in that journey and it’s been said a thousand times that how do you love others, If you do not love yourself?


 If you do not have that foundation from which to give to others then that giving it’s not going to translate in the same way. I think we all and I said we have talked about so much in The Lab. We all get very confused around selfish versus self-giving in order to be life-giving to those around us.


You and I talked before about the Self-Care Handbook that I wrote about those of us in those positions needing to upgrade our self-care protocol.

CMO Dr. Ken Druck | Courage And Gratitude

The Self-Care Handbook

We need to upgrade a mani and a pedi isn’t going to do it. I am sorry. I love that when I have gotten manicures and pedicures. A massage isn’t going to do it, it helps but it’s the self-care saboteurs. That we find ourselves in compassion fatigue that we find ourselves in burnout. It’s like my head’s going to fall off if I have to listen to one more person complain. How do we self-regulate? How do we set up protection in advance? How do we get ahead of the pain curve by learning to tell people early on what?


This is not a good time for me to talk to you. the times that I would be able to have in all fairness to you to be able to really listen or be here all the time or it is going to be a couple of months. Or the person that I suggest who would really be able to help you even more than I could is this. We need to get those things prepared in advance. And be able to tell people this is not a good time.


My wife told me something recently. I was on my way back from this extensive book tour and I called up and I said, I am so burned out. I am coming through the door tomorrow, but I have so little left in the tank. I want you to be prepared. Give me a day. I love you. I can’t wait to be home. I need to replenish my energy. I am so empty at this point. So to come home and to not tell you that would be a setup for you to be disappointed that it might be interpreted as I am not excited to see you home. My tank is empty. I have nothing.


Sometimes, getting ahead all of us could look at how do I get ahead of the pain curve? It is like the Doctor after surgery says, “Take these.” Please take an Aleve or whatever, every two hours because you do not want to get behind the pain curve. How do we stay ahead of the pain curve in our relationships with active forthright communication even when it means saying I am the worst person in the world to listen to something as important as what you want to talk about right now.


Could you please give me some, could we please do this tomorrow? You will have my full attention and energy. What you are telling me is so important but I am so defensive right now. We have let this go probably too long and I am so defensive. I am so afraid that we are going to get into a contentious argument with me. Just sitting here telling you that I am right and you defending yourself and telling me you are right and we are going to go nowhere.


Can we move to common ground? Can we back off of some of that defensiveness because the prize is that we get to work together. We get to appreciate all the things that we love about each other and care and respect about each other. Rather than getting into this bottomless argument that becomes contentious and breaks our relationships apart. This is what, by the way is happening, my dear friend Norman Lear died at a hundred this last year and a couple years ago.

Back off some of that defensiveness because the prize of that is we get to work together. We get to appreciate the things we love, care about, and respect each other rather than getting into this bottomless argument that becomes… Share on X

I asked Norman if I could write an article called. It’s still All In The Family about what’s happening in families across America because of political polarization, where one person in the family brings up something over Thanksgiving. It’s like, “How could you be so stupid?” How could you be and suddenly Thanksgiving has become a war zone, about whether what’s happening in this country or what’s happening in Israel and Palestine what’s happening somewhere in the world that where it could be seen from many different perspectives.


How do we not become argumentative? How do we find that to tell somebody in advance of an argument? I do not think this is a good time for me or for us. Let’s enjoy Thanksgiving. Let’s enjoy Christmas. Let us enjoy this precious time together as a family without getting into our political positions and arguing that we are right. I think that’s one of the things we all need to learn how to do better and it prevents unnecessary wasteful arguments in families, in companies, in communities, in churches, in synagogues [inaudible]  and it also prevents burnout because we can’t do it anymore. How many of us are overloaded with breaking news? We are just watching too much breaking news. That sensationalized moment.


Oh, yeah, you need to turn that stuff off.


How we unplug, how we unplug and how we do not fall prey to the seven self-care saboteurs. And we really end up taking care of ourselves is such an important question for this day and age.


I would add to this Ken and thank you for that. This is where the inner work comes in because you might know something. You are speaking this and someone might be listening, “Oh, yeah, I totally get that.” Okay, you get it. So then why do you give and give and give until you implode or explode or something really bad happens?


There’s a lot of unconscious dynamics working within us. That the only person that can really answer that is the self to go on the journey. That’s where the inner work journey is and let’s come full circle to as you described your childhood. When I am an observer, if I stay in the seat of the observer without judgment, I can be like, “That’s so interesting. Why do I feel triggered? Why is that upsetting me? Why is that person? Why is this coming?” You enter a place of curiosity, which I think is way more powerful than getting lost in the emotions and the triggers and by the time that happens you have left the building. You are gone and nothing but bad stuff is going down at that point.


I find this topic fascinating as I watch both myself and people that I know. We talk about this in the Compassion Lab about how we can show up with that level of self awareness to our side others. Yes.


Can I tell you what I do every morning?


Yes, please.


I am going to tell people about free, there’s no charge. It’s free self therapy. It’s free inner work and it’s so simple. I go on a walk every morning in nature and all of us have nature somewhere close by. It’s a park. It’s a lake. It’s a river. It’s an ocean. God knows what, trees. I go on this walk. It’s a brisk walk. I take the dog dog runs ahead of me and whatnot but I asked myself these questions.


I conduct these inquiries. I love what you said curiosity. I open myself and I say today What’s weighing most heavily on my heart is? That’s the first question I asked myself today. What’s weighing most heavily on my heart. It could be what’s happening in a part of the world. It could be the sadness. It could be the missing. It was my daughter’s birthday last Saturday. It could be the missing her I am feeling. All of her friends from all over the world wrote to say how much they love her and how alive she is in their memories and in their and their spirit.


Then I ask myself. Today what’s making your heart sing? And I get to think about the joy in me. I get to tap the joy in me. What am I happiest about? This morning, I got to be with both of my grandsons. That was before and I took my walk before but on my walk it’s like I get to be with the kids and they ask me questions, “Poppy, why do we have to die?” Oh, I am glad you asked a simple question. Okay.


I guess the apples do not fall far from the tree. They are already asking very deep questions.


They ask a question like, the other day, it was like they are twins and, “Poppy. Why does my penis go up and my brother’s penis goes down?”


You have to keep this G-rated.


No, I know but this is human you and I are having coffee, right?




This is the joy, the Innocence of being in the position that I am so blessed to be in and the third question is the promise that I make to myself today. Not for the next week or year or month or decade. It’s the promise I made today. Is it about not emotional eating? Is it about the emotional eating I now realize from my other inner work that I do? Is it about issuing an apology to somebody that’s long overdue. Or forging peace with somebody that I need to make peace with them because we are on the same team.


And the fourth question I will often ask myself is the gratitude question. It’s like today, what am I most grateful for? The gratitude that I hold today is. Often there’s a fifth question if I have worked my way through that in all those four inner work questions. It’s today what I need to let go of. The letting go that I need to do today, not forever. Just today the bite size inner work because sometimes we think our inner work has to encompass the whole universe or Neil deGrasse Tyson tells us, ”We do not just have a universe. There are universes.”


Sometimes we bite off such a big piece that we are never going to be able to enjoy it, cultivate it, conduct an inquiry about it and grow from it. That’s how I start my day and whether it’s the way you start your day or end your day. You have made a wonderful investment in your own inner work. you have caught up to the moment. It’s going to inform how you want to live that day. What you want to do, what you do not want to do.

Sometimes, we bite off such a big piece that we're never going to be able to enjoy it, cultivate it, conduct an inquiry about it, and grow from it. Share on X

You are up to the moment. You are all over it and if you do that on a regular basis, you will be amazed at how much more in touch you are with the voices that you yourself are regulating. They appear in your heart as criticism, as a kindness, as a support, as an encouragement. Are you cheering for yourself or are you admonishing yourself like that prosecuting attorney? Anyhow, I wanted to share that with you.


Thank you for sharing that, it is often as we talk about these ideas. It’s so helpful to have some tangible practices that we can do to try to shift our state and shift our awareness because so much of what you are talking about is awareness. It’s being present to our lives because when we are not present when we are so in our heads or we are so being the prosecutor and everything has to be a certain way or we have got to fix it and we have to solve it. it’s so much chaos versus yeah, all that’s there in the field.

Rapid Fire With Dr. Ken

Can we show up in a place of awareness of what I need to do? How do I need to be right now right here in this moment in time, which does not need to encompass every single universe in the galaxy of which we need to solve. So Ken are you game? I am watching our clock and I know, believe it or not. Can you believe we’ve already been at this for almost an hour? How crazy is that? I have loved that time just flies with you.


So are you game for a couple of rapid fire questions? Just a few of them. You have answered some of these but I want to see how you are going to encapsulate them. The first one is, to you what living a good life means?


Showing up every day nothing is promised, life can turn on a dime. Not being paralyzed with fear about that. Coming to terms with what life really is. It’s a lease. You have to be here for a bit. We get to be here and then we pass on into who knows what this great mystery, this vast mystery of an order of things, but we get to be here we’ve been given this divine gift of life. And the good life is showing up, harvesting every opportunity, but without greed or without desperation and urgency. And being respectful that we are in a community with other people or relationships with other people who are really trying to do the same thing. So we need to do it with a collective heart and with other people’s well-being in mind.

CMO Dr. Ken Druck | Courage And Gratitude

Courage And Gratitude: Living a good life means showing up daily. Nothing is promised. Life can turn on a dime. Don’t be paralyzed with fear.


What brings you the most peace?


What brings me the most pieces is the life that I have lived. I have arrived at a season of life and a stage of life where I get to look back across the seasons and stages and journeys, episodes. successes, failures and knowing these moments of emptiness, moments of discovery and wonder. What brings me peace is that my daughter was denied a long life. She had 21 beautiful years. I have been given all these years. I am so grateful. My gratitude gives me peace.


When I slip into it, I am human too. I am a work in progress like everybody else and when I slip into feeling like I have not done enough or I need to do more, an urgency and about more or whatever. It’s because I have lost my sense of gratitude and the goodness of people. The goodness of the people on whose shoulders I stand are grateful I am to them. How grateful I am to my daughter and her husband and my and my partner in this life Lisette.


And how grateful I am to you. You have invited me into your living room for coffee. And to and for us to do a deep dive into what this all means and and the service that you and I are giving hopefully to so many people that maybe we would have touched their hearts in a way. And said something that resonates and that’s going to lift them up in some good way.


Yeah. Well, that’s why we have these conversations. I mean there’s a lot of content in the world. But as we co-create through conversation. You just never know who finds it and at the right day and at the right time and we honor the mystery of how that happens. We put that content out in the spirit of that hope and then finally you have said so many great things about how you have stepped into your life and into your challenges to be of service. What would you say is the legacy you want to leave?


It’s a legacy of love. It’s what I work for every day of my life with things as mundane as uncluttering my file cabinets. If something happens to me tomorrow. Guess who my daughter and my wife and her husband and God knows how many other people are going to have all this chaos. I have reduced the chaos to a small amount by filtering through things that nobody is going to want by asking people what they want. It’s like my grandson asking, “Poppy, are you going to die soon?” I said, “No. I do not think so. I am hoping to be here for a long time. I want to be at your wedding,”


They do not know they are so sensitive. Because they see me uncluttering and putting things together and giving things away. I said, “No, I just want to live every moment as joyfully and as freely.” I want to leave the legacy of love. I wrote this book How We Go On if you read it, and if anybody reads it, guess what you are going to see in it. My life story is embedded in every example and every chapter to some degree. Why? Because I promised my daughter. That I would tell my story in a book that my grandsons might someday read and that would leave them feeling uplifted and understanding that, “Hey, my grandpa might not be here, but he’s here. He’s right here with us and he thought about us.”


He dedicated this to us and he fulfilled what the requested that our mommy made for him to leave things because there’s going to be a time after all of us. What will we have left the legacy of love, the legacy of chaos, the legacy of having stirred the pot or perpetuated a problem or having helped solve a problem. A legacy of peace. I am working with groups right now or helping try to bring about peace in the world. And that’s the question I asked them.


The way you honor is by leaving a legacy of peace. Let’s not leave the world in such chaos and hatred. Recycling the vicious cycle of hatred and othering people and indifference to the pain of other people. That’s what the Compassion Lab is. It’s like no, I will not choose indifference to the pain or the joy. Or what I have to learn from other people. I am going to tune in. I am going to find out I am going to cultivate that as my legacy as my life and as my legacy to leave.

CMO Dr. Ken Druck | Courage And Gratitude

Courage And Gratitude: Let’s not leave the world in such chaos and hatred, recycling the vicious cycle of hatred and othering people.


I can’t think of a better way to wrap up this beautiful conversation than with understanding the power of leaving a legacy of love and a legacy of peace that we all so desperately need to evolve to our best and brightest place. I do want to ask before we sign off, where can people find you? You have mentioned your book. I know it’s available in all the places, but people want more of your wisdom, your guidance. Where do they go?


They can go to two websites. First one is that’s my website. You will find articles from the cover story from Costco magazine to the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times. Publications everywhere with articles and interviews on almost every subject about this inner work about compassion and so on. And you also find YouTube. If you want to watch a segment of me with Princess Diana’s two sons talking about her death and what they have gone through over the years losing their mom. You can find that on my CNN spot. Well, my CNN  programs are on my website.


But if you want to find out more specifically about how we go on. You can go to You can find out about the book, where it is. The audiobook was made by a beautiful friend of mine who said, “If you do not come into my studio, I am going to kill you.” He’s a brilliant Emmy award-winning singer songwriter composer. And who said I want to produce your audiobook. People can find out there and they can find out about other books that I have written.


I have written about everything from Aging to How To Talk To Kids to Raising An Aging Parent to my original Secrets Men Keep all those things available if you go to, too.


That’s awesome. And I’ll make sure to have all of this in our show notes because there’s so much resource that you have put out into the world. Ken, I just want to say thank you for taking the time today. Thank you for your contributions to the Lab, for your contributions to the world and for saying yes to so many people who need that presence and that person to see, hear and care for them. Really really grateful.


Thank you Kathy and for the compassion lab and I look forward to more.


Important Links


About Ken Druck

CMO Dr. Ken Druck | Courage And GratitudeKen Druck, Ph.D. is a leading mental health expert focused on the areas of civility, relationships, and aging. He writes regularly for the national press and is the author of several books including, Raising an Aging Parent, Courageous Aging, and The Real Rules of Life.

Dr. Druck’s pioneering work over the past 40 years, has included Executive Coaching/Consulting, Visionary Leadership, The Psychology of Men, Parent Effectiveness, Healing After Loss, Resilience and, most recently, Courageous Aging.

Recipient of the “Distinguished Contribution to Psychology” and “Visionary Leadership” awards for his community service and lifetime achievements, Dr. Druck is widely recognized as a lifeline to the countless thousands of individuals, families, communities and organizations he’s helped. His body of work, including the founding of The Jenna Druck Center to honor the life and spirit of his daughter, Jenna, set a new standard of care and healing following tragedies like 9-11, Columbine, Katrina and Sandy Hook.

Today, Dr. Druck lives and maintains a small coaching and consulting practice on the ocean in Del Mar, California, writing and speaking prolifically on subjects he loves, working on community service and civility projects and enjoying the quiet beauty of life.


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