Do you feel lost, overwhelmed, or burnt out? Are you ready to stop living to satisfy the demands and expectations of others? Do you long to truly feel the vibrancy of life again? If this is you, then this episode is a must! Listen as host Ellie Shefi chats with Sean Smith, master neuro-transformational results coach, best-selling author, multiple TEDx speaker, and founder of Elite Success Systems, as Sean shares actionable tools and strategies you can use to slow down and be present so you can tap into your thoughts, feelings, dreams, and desires and live life on your own terms. If you're ready to access presence and embrace your sacred song, don't miss this episode!
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Accessing Presence And Embracing Your Sacred Song With Sean Smith
Today's guest is a husband, father, author, sought-after international speaker, trainer, actor, poet, songwriter, and Master Results Coach. He is the Owner of Elite Success Systems, a personal development and human healing company that has transformed hundreds of thousands of lives around the world. Having survived a tragic accident, he has dedicated his life's work to creating neuro-transformation. Hailed as North America's next greatest speaker, he's one of the few people to deliver two spoken word TEDx performances, Dear Racism: A Break-Up Letter From a White Man and The Power Of Vulnerability In Men.
He is passionate about helping men heal their masculine wounds. He wrote and performed, I Do, Mom, a powerful one-man show about his mommy issues. Committed to creating conscious conversations to heal the racial divide, he co-wrote, produced, and starred with Lisa Nichols and David Bianchi in the award-winning spoken word short film Let's Grow.
Please welcome Sean Smith.
Welcome, Sean. It's great to have you here.
It is fantastic to be with you.
You have had quite a journey. You do so many things. How did you get started in personal development?
It was neat to hear you list a lot of those things because it took me back through so much of my journey. You mentioned the near-death accident. When I was thirteen years old, I was almost killed by a car as I was riding my bicycle. If you read the police report and all the details of the accident, I shouldn't have survived. I had this huge epiphany in the hospital room that night as this thirteen-year-old kid. I had seen the world through these immortal lenses like a lot of us do, and then just like that, I was high on life but I could have died. I realized that no matter where we are, no matter how amazing our life is, and no matter what our circumstances are, we're not promised our next breath.
That fundamentally changed everything for me. It changed the way I looked at the world. It changed my thoughts on success. I made a promise to myself that if I didn't know when my life was going to end, then I won't settle for mediocrity. I changed lanes literally and figuratively that day. I started hanging out with different people and so forth. That started my journey into the whole world of success, studying goal setting, thinking about different things, and talking about different things. Fast forward twenty years. I was newly married. We had a couple of kids at the time. I was fumbling around, trying to find myself, and bouncing around from place to place.
I had been a probation officer right out of college, then I was a teacher for several years. Once we had my daughter, who was our first child, I didn't want to work. I wanted to keep working, but I didn't want to have to peel her off of me in the mornings and go to school on somebody else's schedule. That's what got me into the whole world of personal development, self-employment, and so forth. I was still toiling around for several years until I landed in a man you know very well, Jack Canfield's seminar. When I went to Jack's seminar called Breakthrough To Success back in 2005, it was the first time anybody had talked to me about purpose and values, and how we are in control of a lot more things in our lives than I thought we were in control of.
Over the course of those seven days, I started to touch goals that I hadn't touched in a while, dreams, emotions, and a sense of purpose. I had this profound and deep experience where I realized that I’m here for more. I've got something in my DNA that needs to come out of me. That's what drove me to this idea that I might want to do this work, be a speaker and write books, and maybe make a difference in people's lives. That was the origin of me saying, "I want to do this thing."
I find it fascinating that at thirteen, when you had your accident, you got clear on the fact that time is not promised. The immortality of youth dissipated. You got intentional about who you were hanging out with and how you were going to spend your time. I find it fascinating that it led to teaching and working with the criminal justice system, and yet it was the birth of your daughter and not wanting to be on someone else's schedule that truly shifted things.
That's a profound full-circle moment. Going back to this notion of time is the one thing you can't get more of. You don't know how much time you have, and you want to spend that time with your daughter. You want to be the one to be able to take her to school. You want to be the one to dictate how your time is spent. I love that full-circle moment and that tug that ultimately led you to Jack Canfield and knowing that you wanted more.
I love how you dissected that and put those together. It is so true. Time is the thing that for all of us is going to continue ticking, no matter what we do or how we try to resist or avoid it. I was doing this too. I still fall into this pattern and I'm sure most people do. We tend to want to skip over whatever pieces of time we're not enjoying, whether that's Monday through Friday if somebody has a job, difficult situations in the family, or things that go on in our lives that we're not liking the experience of. We tend to want to get out of this moment in time and get to that moment in time, whatever that moment is, whether it's the weekend or a better place, or when I lose 30 pounds or whatever it is.
That causes us to fall into a cycle of not being present. If we're trying to get out of this moment for whatever reason, even if we hit that moment, we're in a cycle of not being in the moment anyway. When the moment is "right" for us to experience, we don't experience it at a deep level because we're constantly trying to get out of the moment. We're basically running from ourselves. I know you believe this. That's not the way I want to live life.
Life doesn't give us any particular experiences; it gives us access to all of them. It's up to us to pick and choose how much we're going to engage in life.
What life is it if you're constantly running from yourself, right? The beauty is in the journey. It's in those magical moments, the good and the bad. Our dear friend, Lisa Nichols, likes to say that sometimes the greatest gifts come wrapped in sandpaper. To your point, sometimes it's not comfortable. Sometimes you don't love where you are now. How do you help people find the magic in those moments, embrace the sandpaper, and stay present? How do you help them do that?
First of all, we have to understand what life offers us. Nothing is a guarantee. Life doesn't give us any particular experiences, but it gives us access to all of them. It's up to us to pick and choose how much we're going to engage in life. It's the idea that we have access, but we're still in control to a large degree. We have circumstances around us, whether good or bad, but if we don't want to engage, we have all kinds of ways to disengage.
Especially nowadays with smartphones, computers, social media, the internet, technology, and all that, we have a million ways to disengage from the circumstances of life. If we have limiting beliefs and don't believe that we are made for the positive stuff or deserve it, then we can disengage or resist and not receive what's available to us.
There are two things coming to me as you ask the question. 1) We have to understand the concept that we are in control of what we can touch and access. 2) What do we want? Why are we here?
We throw the word purpose around a lot. A lot of us don't fully understand or we don't stay plugged into the depth of that word purpose. What's the point of waking up? What's the point of having food? What's the point of communicating with people you love or have some conflict with? At a big level, what's the point of life? A lot of people might have some idea of what the grand purpose of their life is, but a lot of us don't focus on what the granular purpose of our life is.
For me, what I've learned is that part of life is to feel. What makes this human experience sacred is our ability to feel, process, assess, and do all the things our brain has evolved to do, and yet so many of our behavior patterns are detaching us from our human experience.
When I was thirteen years old and had this huge epiphany in the hospital room, I imagined myself looking back on my life. I imagined what it would feel like to look back with regret. I imagined looking back and going, "What if I wouldn't have gotten addicted to drugs? What if I wouldn't have become addicted to alcohol? What if I wouldn't have joined the gangs? What if I wouldn't have sabotaged myself? What if I had given my all? What could I have become?"
It was almost like visiting the future and imagining a life that didn't go well but then taking responsibility and ownership at that moment when it was too late. That's why I made the promise to myself that I would never have that conversation with myself. It's not that I haven't done a lot of things that I regret or have operated at 100% capacity all the time, but at least I have with regard to the big decisions.
One of the promises I made to myself was I wanted to live while I was alive. Part of living is feeling. The beautiful thing about our abilities as humans is that we also get to relate to our feelings.
What most of us are trying to do is we're trying to avoid negative feelings. We think there's a way to only turn off the negative feelings but turn on the positive feelings. That's not possible. Your feelings are like a single switch. They're either all on or all off. When we understand that, if we want to feel the depth of sacredness in life, then we have to feel. That is a moment-by-moment decision.
What I've found is when things are getting tough, when I feel whatever the challenges are coming up and bubbling up, and my tears are starting to flow, I've learned to value the human experience at that moment. I've not learned nor do I try to teach anybody how to enjoy negative feelings, but we can value them. That's where some of my biggest breakthroughs have come from. It's sitting in the discomfort of humanity, but that's where the joy can be found.
That's where the contemplation happens. That's where the reflection happens. That's where we can step in and choose. You mentioned, "What would you love? What do you want? How do you want it to be?" It's in that moment sometimes in the valley where we look around and say, "How did I get here? Is this all there is? I don't want to live like this anymore. These feelings or experiences that I'm having, or the circumstances I am experiencing are not the life I desire. They're not what I want."
Sometimes you've got to hit that rock bottom to get that fire in your belly to step forward. I love the framework of, "It's not about enjoying the feelings. It's about being present with them and embracing the journey, the human experience, the feelings, and the sensations of being alive." I love that framework. How you describe it is powerful.
I wrote a poem with a couple of stanzas that speak to this. I would love to share them. This isn't the full poem, but there are a couple of stanzas here. I write, "It's time to pay all your emotional bills, to release all the guilts, release all the ills, find peace in the valleys, and pride in the hills. Or maybe it's the opposite. Maybe the hills give us peace, but the valleys yield pride. Theirs are tales you shouldn't dare to hide because the climb back up is what makes you strong. Those lyrics give more meaning to your sacred song."
It's everything that you were talking about. Not only do we have more presence in the valleys when things aren't going well, but we have access to presence. That's what makes us reflect. That's what makes us ask questions. That's what causes us to touch something that when we're riding high, we generally don't touch. When we have to answer certain questions and learn certain lessons about how we got here and what kind of life we want to live, adversity is the only thing that causes us to ask those questions.
The answers to those questions are the ones that give us the biggest breakthroughs going forward. It ultimately gives us the joy that we feel is missing in those moments when we're in the valleys. If we learn to just embrace that human journey, it's insane what we have access to. It saddens me that so many of us are programmed to do the opposite. Many of us are programmed to avoid all feelings and adversity and pretend everything is great because then we miss out on all the things that we talked about.
You dive into this, particularly with the work that you do with men and healing their masculine pain. Talk to us a little bit about that.
Even when you bring that up, I feel the resonance of that in my body. You mentioned the one-man play that I did a few years back. It's called, I Do, Mom. It's about my relationship with my own mother, and what I learned in the process of going in and doing my own research for that play.
To give you a real quick backstory, I had a terrible relationship with my mom growing up. She was the bad guy in my story. I decided that she didn't love me. She wasn't the mom that I was supposed to have. I pushed her away. I did that for multiple decades.
When I got into the personal development work, I still had so much of the residue built up that even though I wanted to change, I didn't know how. I couldn't just flip the switch and all of a sudden be loving, even though I know this woman gave birth to me, she's my mom and the only one that I'll ever have. I knew all that stuff, but I couldn't make the shift until I went inside. I explored why I chose her as the bad guy in my story. Why did I demonize her? Why did I pull away?
What I ultimately found is what I now call the masculine wound. What that means is the energy of masculinity - which is not only male - women have it as well; and men have femininity too. The energy of masculinity is extremely insecure in its wounded state. In its pure sacred state, masculinity protects everything that it loves and everything that loves it. It doesn't try to hurt anybody. It is this really rigid form of protection.
In its wounded state, when it has been hurt, usually by the masculine, the insecurity of the masculine wound tends to try to hurt somebody else. It's this pass-on trauma, "You took something for me, so I need to take something from somebody else. You made me feel inadequate, so in order to restore that, I'm going to make somebody else feel inadequate."
That is what is programmed in a lot of our men's societies, where we tend to try to feel better about ourselves by pulling other people down. This becomes a cycle. That's one of the reasons why there's not a whole lot of intimacy within men, man and man, or men and anybody else in our lives. We're afraid of vulnerability because, at some point in time, we were vulnerable and got taken advantage of, whether we're talking about abuse, somebody bullying us, or somebody laughing at us. We learned through our programming that vulnerability is not okay because somebody is going to take advantage of it. That's what I call this masculine wound.
I realized I was using my masculine wound to hurt this woman, my mother. I knew on some level that she wouldn't proverbially punch back, which made it safe for me to lash out at her. It's sickening as I say this. It's disgusting for me to say it out loud, but it's the truth that I learned about myself. She was the perfect proverbial punching bag for the insecure wound that I had because insecurity doesn't want a fair fight. Like bullies - they don't fight against the people that have black belts in karate. Bullies fight against the people they perceive won't fight back because they perceive a weakness. That's the way this wound operates.
Going through the valley is where the contemplation and the reflection happen. Sometimes you have to hit that rock bottom to get that fire in your belly to step forward.
That's what I was doing with my mom. It was only through deep work, exploration, and reflection that I recognized that the ammo I was using on my mom was my own pain, shame, and insecurity. That gave me an invitation to do the work with myself. It also allowed me to invite a conversation with her, where we connected at a level that we had never connected before.
The beautiful part about that is in this conversation, I was able to see her pain and her humanity for the first time instead of just seeing her as my bad guy. I wouldn't have ever used the word abuser back then because she never really did anything to me. It was all one-way verbal abuse, me to her, but she was the bad guy. Now I can look back and realize that I decided she didn't nurture me, but that was all my projection.
Once I did that work, and we had this conversation, I saw her as the human that she is. I allowed myself to feel her strength. I allowed myself to feel her unconditional love. I can now look back and realize I was terrified of unconditional love because it didn't feel safe to me. It's not only with my mom but with a lot of other women in my life. I pushed them away because I was afraid of that masculinity. The process of me going in and doing this one-man show gave me a deeper understanding of this masculine wound and our fear of vulnerability.
What I want men to understand - and not that this doesn't apply a lot to women because masculine programming applies, but specifically to men, because of the way we operate with ourselves in our circles, what we do and don't do with our sons, what we do and don't do with our male friends on the sports field - there's a programming that needs to embrace vulnerability and authenticity if we're ever going to feel stable in our masculinity. It's not easy work for any of us that have held up these walls of protection and pretending that we are strong, have no fear, and don't have any emotions. It's not easy to allow or create the space for somebody to drop those walls, but we have to because we're hurting people when we don't.
One of the things that I want all men to consider is, "Who am I hurting through my protection?" This was the biggest shift for me. I'll speak for myself. I realized that, without intending it, I was hurting my wife. I was hurting my daughter. I was giving her an experience that I didn't want her to see. I was hurting my son. I was hurting people in my life. I was hurting friendships that I had. Ultimately, I was hurting myself. We can then put down the walls and recognize that there's this sacred masculinity that we can fall into that truly has the strength of the world. There's nothing that can overpower rooted, sacred masculinity, but we need to fall into that.
That is about removing all the layers of protection, insecurity, programs, and all that stuff that we've had. The beautiful thing is when we can do that with our masculinity, then sacred masculinity and pure femininity can work together like the yin-yang symbol without threatening each other. That's when the union, whether we're talking about inside an individual body, with two people in a romantic relationship, or across the globe, then the union can work for the betterment of everybody. It's the masculine wound that needs to heal for that to take place.
I love the question you invite men to consider, "Who am I hurting?" What is another step that someone who is early in their journey, who is reading this for the first time and is starting to feel that awakening and have that light bulb go on like, "I am wounded. I would like to heal through this." Once they've asked themselves, "Who am I hurting with this?", what can they do next?
I love constantly giving some tangible steps of what's the next thing. I would say to ask the opposite question, "Who do I want to be?" For me, I ask, "What lessons do I want to give my children?" I have two kids, a boy and a girl. My son is watching me as a model. My daughter is watching me as a model but in a different way. My son is looking at me and wondering who he can be as a man and who he wants to be because he resonates with me as a man. My daughter is watching who I am in my marriage as a model for who she deserves and what kind of love is safe.
I'll give you an example. I had this program of a lot of repressed anger. Because I didn't want to let my anger out on my family, which I didn't, I chose to bottle it in. What I had the pattern of doing for a long time was once I started to get angry, I would leave. At the moment, I felt that leaving was better than erupting and yelling at my wife or kids. Maybe it is. Who cares? I was showing them that when things get tough, dad runs.
My son said that to my wife one time. There was something that I was frustrated with. We had a little verbal awkwardness, and I left. It was in a supermarket, and I walked away and went to another lane because I didn't want to blow up on whatever it was. Later, my wife told me that, when I left and went to the other lane, my son said, "Dad left like he always does.'" I feel the pain in that, "Like he always does." It caused me to ask a different question, "What do I want to show him?"
A lot of times, we don't know what actions to take. This goes back to the purpose idea because we don't know what we want to do, how we want to be, or what we want to teach. This is an easy one for people that have children or anybody that's in your family looking up to you. What do you want to teach them? The only way to teach is to show. This is one of the things that I fully believe.
A theme that goes into all of my work with parents is that your kids are not listening to the lecture; they're watching the show. The only thing that matters is what we show them with our behavior.
If somebody doesn't have children of any kind or anyone looking up at you, we all have a child inside that's watching us. A lot of times, our most valuable audience member is the child inside of us that's watching everything we do. Wherever that source of leverage can come from, recognize that you're showing somebody something.
You are putting energy out that is then attracting whatever it is that's coming back to you. If somebody is in business or if somebody wants to be a speaker or a coach, the energy we put out in the magnet is going to be what comes back to us. A lot of us get frustrated. This is something that I learned relatively early on in my career. It was a huge shift. I was putting out energy of blame, shame, frustration, and all this stuff that was a factor of me not doing my own personal work and not confronting these things. I am just energetically projecting it out. People don't want that. People don't run toward the shame magnet. We need to understand that energy is being projected if we're not working with it.
To try to recap your question, get extremely clear. It's okay if you don't believe this is even possible for you yet, but get clear as though you were writing a script for a screenplay or a scene in a movie. Get clear on what you want this scene to look like. What do you want to have the capacity for? It's like opening up your phone and the GPS system but not telling it where you want to go. It can't give you directions unless you tell it where you want to go. It also can't give you directions unless you tell it where you currently are. Pay attention to the moments that you "fail yourself." Meaning you don't act the way you want to act. You don't show what you want to show.
Take a little inventory of where you are now, where you want to be, and that right there, you've now got two starting points. Depending on what you come up with, which is going to be individual to the person, chunk it down and work on whatever it is that's on that bridge between where you are and where you want to be.
For most men, it's going to be in the vein of what I was saying earlier. It's going to be, "Who hurt us?" It's usually a man in our lives, our father, a father figure, a sports coach, a teacher, or somebody we saw on TV.
Somebody hurt us and told us that we need to be always strong, always win, always conquer women, and whatever the journey is, and we need to be warriors. If we're not, we're deemed not valuable. To a man or to this masculine male programming, the worst thing is to be not valuable. When we don't feel valuable, we have no point. If we recognize, "How did we learn that we're not valuable? What were we taught that we need to do to get value in the eyes of other men?" That will be a good starting place.
That's so powerful to look at through the lens of, "When we were taught that we weren't valuable if we didn't do these things or we didn't show up in these ways" and then to be able to reframe that. For women, we come from the place of not feeling worthy. I love the parallels between masculine valuable and feminine worthiness. They are the same.
They are. They come from the same source. It's usually this masculine patriarchal, "I make the rules, and you follow the rules." I'm glad you put that parallel that these are the rules that the masculine has put down. If I'm a man and don't follow the rules, then I'm not valuable. You're a woman, so under patriarchy, you don't even get a say in the rules because you're not worthy. What happens on either side of that line is different for the masculine and the feminine, and men and women. The wound comes from the same place. I love that similarity there.
We've talked a lot about being able to heal those wounds. You've talked about purpose and getting clear on where you are and where you want to be. We know that life happens. Stuff is going to come up. Stuff is going to get in the way. When you know where you are, where you want to be, and what your purpose is, how do you stay aligned?
The simple answer that I've learned is to get quiet. Life happens, as you said. The way that our brain operates is to understand what happened to us and protect us from that ever happening again and for us to retain our status. And the way our ego works, we get loud and complicated. We tell ourselves stories.
The way a story works, like a belief inside of a human, is like the way a lie works. If you tell a lie, at some point in time, you're going to have to tell another lie to support the lie that you started. You're then going to have to tell another lie to support those two.
Some of our biggest breakthroughs come from sitting in the discomfort of humanity. If we learn to embrace that human journey, it's insane what we have access to.
In our lives, when we make stories up about what it means to be a man, to be a woman, the danger of vulnerability, or any of those stories that are all based on some kind of painful experience we had, at some point in time, we have to tell another story because the story that we created isn't the truth. It's just based on how we feel and we want to protect ourselves. We start telling stories, tell another story, and then tell another story.
Pretty soon, we've created this massively complicated human ecosystem in our brains. We've got so many stories. It’s like the balloons are up in the air and they are coming down. Our job feels like not to let any of them hit the ground, but there are hundreds, so we're constantly chasing balloons. We're constantly swimming in the complication of human protection.
The answer to that is to not chase the complication. The answer to that is to get quiet. Get still. Sometimes it means just listening to the stories. If you listen to the stories that you tell yourself as an audience member without trying to agree or not, or trying to justify or not, pretty soon, they'll start to melt. You'll recognize that it's just a story. That's not the truth.
The beautiful part of human transformation is that it happens with unlearning. It doesn't happen with learning. We need to let go of the layers that we've put on. We need to let go of the stories that we've been telling.
When we stop telling those stories and let go of some of those layers, we then settle into who we really are. I believe that this journey is a journey back. It's not a journey forward toward anything. This journey of self-development is about undevelopment. It's about a journey back to authenticity and back to who we once were before we started telling these stories. The best way to do that is to get quiet. That could be meditating. That could be spending more time on your own.
One of the reasons that a lot of people get swept up in the complication of human existence in society is because we don't know who we are. If we don't know who we are, we don't have a strong self-concept. We can't know where we fit, and we can't know what fits us. We can't have anything to align with. Align is a relative term. In order to be aligned, you have to be aligned with something. In order for your goals, beliefs, dreams, the network of people, and all those things to be aligned with your authenticity, you need to know what your authenticity is.
They need to be aligned with something. The best way to find out what that something is or what that someone is, is to be quiet.
In all of my studies over many years now, all across the board and with people talking about success, the only common denominator I've found is meditation. Almost everybody who is successful or at least living the life they want to live has some kind of meditative practice. It doesn't look the same for everybody. If you think about affirmations, goal posters, nutrition, or what have you, a lot of those are ingredients in a lot of people's recipes, but meditation is the only one I've found. It's not every single person, but it's by far the most common denominator.
The reason is because of the stillness. Let's get real. Let's look inward. Let's start listening to our own radio station, which has a lot to say if we listen to it, rather than everybody else's thoughts on podcasts, YouTube videos, and books. All that stuff is good, but it's still somebody else's thoughts. We need to start listening to our own thoughts. That's going to be how we reconnect, reintegrate, and realign with ourselves.
I love what you're talking about. It’s shedding the external and stripping away all of those layers of the programming that we've picked up along the way. It’s the things that our teachers told us, “You are this or you should be this or success looks like this,” our parents told us, our religion told us, what social media told us, or what the bully told us. It’s all these little bits of programming that we have absorbed along the way that is then compounded by our day-to-day experiences and the stimuli. It’s what we see in advertising and on television, and what we hear on the radio and on podcasts.
I love the point of getting clear. It's about getting still, coming home to yourself, stripping away all of the external, listening to yourself, and asking yourself what you want, who you are, and what you value. I love your point earlier about how you want to show up, what you want to demonstrate, what you want to model. Come home to yourself. To your point, we know when we are still and quiet, the answers are within.
I know so many in the audience are going to say, "That sounds scary. What do you mean be still? What do you mean meditate? What do you mean feel the feelings? All of that sounds scary." What is a tip that you have for navigating that fear and uncertainty? What's the most important lesson that you personally have learned about overcoming fear?
You said a lot there in a relatively small amount of words. It is scary for most of us to even think about going into the vulnerable void or going into that place of who we are. We constantly get told who we are through a lot of the sources that you mentioned. More than that, we get told who we're not. I use the term self-concept, which is an important term. That becomes a familiar self-concept. What happens is it morphs into this idea that we don't even know who we are, but we know who we're not. Even if we were able to dissolve the idea of who we're not, that still doesn't answer the question of who we are.
The good news is that's not anything we need to figure out. As you said, it's just about coming back home. When we start to dissolve and challenge all of the programming about who we're not, we are slipping back into who we are. One of the key components to understanding personal development of any kind is how our brain operates in forming the behavior that we have. In the context of this conversation, you mentioned fear, the fear of vulnerability, fear of speaking, fear of relationships, fear of being hurt again, and fear of betrayal. We need to understand how our brain creates fear.
One of the biggest misconceptions that I used to have is that fear is a bad thing. If we want to do anything in our lives, we need to get over that fear or dissolve the fear. We need to somehow reduce the effect of fear in our lives. This will be a huge shift for a lot of people if you haven't dissected this concept of fear that I'm going to talk about.
Fear is a protective mechanism. Something in our past, at some point in time, happened, and we don't want it to happen again. In order to protect from that happening again, we create fear. If you get bitten by a dog, your mind, which wasn't afraid of dogs before that, creates a fear of dogs now because you don't want to get bitten again. We create fear in order to protect ourselves.
Here's the mindblowing shift that I had. We only protect that which we love. Fear is created from and with love. The reason this is important to understand is that most of us try to fight fear with everything but love. We try to fight it with anger, shame, urgency, or irritation like, "If I could get over this thing. Why are you so afraid?" None of that is going to dissolve what's dissolvable or embrace what's embraceable because only love can do that. This might sound like a little woo-woo to some people, but we have to change the way we relate to fear. When we change the way we relate to fear, it can become a teammate of ours rather than an opponent of ours.
Most of us think that fear is an opponent that we've got to fight against. I have done this for most of my life. We will never get rid of the human capacity or the human brain's desire to create fear. Trying to fight against your fears is a useless thing to try to sign up for. You're never going to be able to do it. You're never going to be able to get rid of fear, but you can make peace with it. You can become partners with your fear. Fear is a phenomenal copilot. It's just a terrible lead pilot. When we start taking action and get more aligned, we have to listen to the fears that come up because they will come up.
It's impossible for us to try to break through our comfort zone without fears showing up at the door like, "Are you sure about this? We don't know what's behind those walls over there. You told us that everything back there is scary. I'm going to do everything I can to keep you inside your safety zone." That's how fear works. It's trying to keep us safe. It's not trying to keep us losing. It's not trying to keep us settling. It's trying to keep us safe.
The only way to create a teammate from fear is to embrace its desire to keep us safe and then recognize that as the person who's growing, you no longer need the protection that it once created for you because the thing that the fear showed up to protect isn't relevant anymore. It isn't even you. It was a story that was created anyway once upon a time. Because we don't understand how fear shows up, we don't challenge it. The stories that started when we were four years old, we let those stories evolve until we were 40, 60, and 80. We never sit, turn around and go, "What if I've outgrown the thing that the early story was designed to protect me from? What if I do that?"
When we can relate to fear differently, then we have a chance to operate with it powerfully. One final thing, we have this simple surface-level way to deal with fear in this meme world we live in. I'm sure most people have heard False Evidence Appearing Real. That's what FEAR stands for. I despise that acronym because it's not true. Fear is not false evidence. It might be a false story, but the fear that your body feels is not false. It's real. If you take something real and try to say it's false and power through it, you're not listening to your body.
Fear is trapped in our bodies. Don't pretend it's not there. That's what a lot of us are trying to do by just dismissing it. If you have a child that has something to say and they're screaming at you, trying to get your attention, and you dismiss them, turn around and try to avoid them, they're only going to scream louder. Your fears are not going to go away if you avoid them. It's about feeling them. The other thing is, like all emotions, fear can't last forever. The reason fear gets trapped in our bodies is because we don't feel it.
If we want to feel the depth of sacredness in life, then we have to feel, and that is a moment-by-moment decision.
The best thing we can do with our fear is to feel it, explore it, play with it, and turn it into that child like you're trying to figure out how Play-Doh works. Turn into that child and go, "I thought this and felt this. I did that and felt this. It's over here." The more we explore the real feelings, the more we can become a vessel of emotional expression. Fear is no different than any other emotion. It has a shelf life in our bodies. If we allow ourselves to feel it and we are not afraid of the fear, then it can flow through us. We can learn from it. It can strengthen us, but because most of us are afraid of our fear, it controls us.
One of the things that I love about what you're talking about is making friends with it, feeling it, processing the fear, blame, shame, judgment, and self-doubt, and questioning yourself, or whatever the feelings might be. I love that you're tying it back to that inner child that you mentioned earlier, and that childlike curiosity, and saying to play with it.
I love that you used the word play. Let's look at all the experiences in our lives, the circumstances, the feelings, the actions, and the activities with that childlike curiosity, with that exploration, and with that purposeful play as our framework so that we can experience it and navigate through it. Let it flow through, and to your point, not get trapped.
We don't have time to go into all the science, but you are a master at all of this. There are physiological and biochemical reactions and responses when we are in these different emotions. Each emotion releases its own chemical cocktail that is in our body. I love how you also said, "It's not false evidence. It is a real physiological reaction that's happening in your body."
It is a real experience you are having, whether or not it's based on a false narrative. It's no different than putting on 3D virtual goggles. It feels real. You feel like you're there. You're experiencing it as it's there. I love that you're validating that and saying, "Don't discount it. These are your experiences, and they are real."
You have spent a lot of time in the personal development world. You have helped hundreds of thousands of people navigate through these. You serve incredibly powerfully, whether working with your speakers, entrepreneurial clients, the men, or the broad spectrum of your clients. Along your journey, you've been privileged to be mentored by some of the best. What has been the most powerful piece of advice you have learned from one of your mentors that you now embody, model, and pass along to the people you serve?
It's tough to try to boil it down but I'll give you what's on my mind as you ask that question. The main concept that I believe is powerful is high intention and low attachment. I learned this from Jack Canfield. I don't know if he created it or learned it from somebody else. High intention, low attachment is when you have an intention of achieving and feeling something. Whatever your purpose is, you have an intention and attachment to that much bigger game plan, but then you have low attachment to how you're going to get there. Most of us have the opposite. Most of us have a high attachment to how we're going to get there. If anything shows up differently than what we had previously hoped it would look like, then we get scared.
We don't like the way we feel. We're afraid of our feelings, and all these things we've been talking about kick in. We try to find our stability in the process. If you have somewhere to go that's 5 miles away, and there are 30-car wrecks on the freeway that otherwise would be the way to go, would you just sit there? Let's say you have to be at a wedding that starts at a certain time. Are you going to sit there and wait for the cars to be pulled off the road? No. You're going to find a detour because you have a commitment to get to the wedding. You're more committed to getting to the wedding than you are to going on this freeway.
In life, we tend not to do that. We're committed to the freeway. We're committed to what's on that path. That causes us to be rigid. It causes us to not trust ourselves. Going back to this whole conversation of fear, we're so rigid with the rules that we're not supposed to be afraid. When fear does show up, we don't know what to do with it, and then we stay stuck. I mentioned the acronym False Evidence Appearing Real. My acronym is Face, Embrace, Ask and Release. It goes back to what you said about curiosity. Ask the voice, "What do we have to be afraid of?"
When you ask yourself and when you challenge the internal voices that you have, you'll be able to discern between them. You'll be able to tell that some voices are designed to be afraid of everything that moves. Some voices are designed to be afraid of settling. Some voices are designed to say, "I'm not telling you not to go there, but don't go there in that lane because this lane is better." We need to be able to discern who we are and our own voices.
Back to this high intention low attachment idea, what happens is most of us get the idea that this is the way to succeed, whatever this way is. Whether we're talking about losing weight, romantic relationships, being successful as a coach or speaker, making money or whatever, we get so rigid with the path. The problem is we only trust the path.
That's one of the reasons why so many people, especially in the personal development world, ask how-to questions, "How do I get over my fear of speaking?" I'm one and I'm sure you're like this, Ellie. It's like, "What's your fear of speaking?" There's no such thing as a one size fits all approach to removing an individual issue. I need to know how you tied your knot in order to help you untie it.
Too many people are asking universal questions, "As a human, how do we do this?" What that does is it creates trust only in the terrain. Meaning that if you'll tell me exactly what's in the terrain, what's on the path, or what's on the road, then I can pack for it properly. I can make sure I'm prepared for it. I can put in my backpack everything I'm going to need. If you tell me where the potholes are, then I can go around. What that does actually is it decreases trust in self. What most of us are doing is we're trusting the terrain instead of trusting the traveler.
The more that we can take this high intention, low attachment concept and apply our external attachments to internal attachments, instead of trusting all the things and everybody out there, we trust ourselves. I always like to say, "If you know you've got to go around the corner, you can't see what's around the corner, but you know you will be there." What if your trust was in yourself?
What if you trusted your resiliency? I believe that your getting back up muscle is way more powerful and important than your never getting knocked down muscle. As you said earlier, life is going to knock you down. If you're afraid of getting knocked down, you're going to walk differently in the world. You're always going to be concerned about what might knock you down, and then everything becomes dangerous.
If you walk in the world knowing that your attachment is out there, what you want, your purpose, alignment, and vision, and you start going, those things won't be able to knock you down because of the way you're walking in the world. Even if they knock you down, you trust yourself to get back up, and then they don't become scary.
Ellie, I know you travel a lot. Have you ever been to the airport and seen that your gate is 500 feet away or something? If you look up at your gate and focus on the gate, you have your bags behind you and you're looking above people, almost nobody bumps into you because there's this energy like, "I know where I'm going." People can see that and they naturally move. If you see your gate is way over there but take your eyes off of it and look at all the people that are in your way, you'll bump into almost all of them. You're trying to avoid the people instead of focusing on where you're going. That's a really powerful visualization of high intention, low attachment versus low intention, full attachment to all the things that are in our way.
For any of you, the next time you're in the airport, do that. I've had so many clients do that. I say, "Look at your gate and go and see what happens." Even if people bump into you, it's no big deal because you're going to keep going. If we could change that energy in life and apply it to all of our endeavors, it's almost unfathomable what we can not only achieve but enjoy along the way.
I love your point about trusting yourself, not the directions, not the steps or the process that somebody gives you. When you become dependent on the, "How do I do this? What's the first step? What's the second step? What's the third step? When do I go right? When do I go left? How far down the road?" You become so dependent on each of those things, as opposed to developing your resiliency muscle and intuition, developing your ability to get still, to be present, to feel and navigate, and all the things that we've talked about in this discussion. I love that you brought it all home to develop the skills within you.
Your kids are not listening to the lecture. They're watching the show. The only thing that matters is what we show them with our behavior.
That's so powerful. As we wrap up here, let's imagine that you have come to the end of your life best lived. Let's take this full circle. You started in that hospital, deciding you didn't want to ever live with regret. You didn't want to ever look back. You have done that. You have lived every day to the fullest in your purpose and passion and serving. There are no regrets. What do you want them to say about you?
First, when you say they, I immediately imagine my children. What do I want them to say about me? I want my children to say that while I was alive, I lived. I want them to watch a man who's not afraid of falling, crying, or admitting that he screwed something up or was wrong. I want them to have learned the beauty of and the power of humanity. I want them to see what radical vulnerability looks like. I want them to be radically vulnerable, authentic, human and real, and feel what it's like so that they don't do something that you alluded to earlier, and so that they don't spend all of their life avoiding themselves and never meeting themselves.
I want to re-introduce me to me every day because that is a daily process for me. Every day, re-introduce me to me and let's walk another day together in as much of an aligned way as we possibly can. It's not easy. We're going to fall prey to some of these patterns. Our fears are going to get to us. We're going to "fail” ourselves from time to time, but can we keep getting back up? Can we get back in line? I want people to say about me that I kept going.
And so it is. How can people get in touch with you? How can they learn more about your programs? How can they work with you? Where can they find you?
Everywhere online, I am @CoachSeanSmith. That's my YouTube channel. It's my Instagram and Facebook. My website is CoachSeanSmith.com. If anybody wants a little bit more about the masculinity stuff, I have a page with a bunch of free resources for masculinity at CoachSeanSmith.com/Masculinity. If you're on the main page, you'll be able to navigate there, or you can go straight there. It has the spoken word poem that you mentioned. It's got another video that is a love letter to my son about, "This is what life tells you being a man is about. This is what I want to tell you, being a man is about." That's the most tender page I've ever put up on the internet. I'm easy to get ahold of. People can send messages. DM me. Email me at Sean@CoachSeanSmith. I would love to continue any conversations.
Get in touch with Coach Sean Smith.
I'm going to say one more thing. I'm releasing a new book. It's based on so much of what we talked about, especially masculinity. I spent fifteen years coaching only women. What I learned is that women's self-esteem and worthiness that you brought up earlier is first created and then generally sustained or not by their relationship with their father. More specifically, women need to know whether their father was proud of them. As men, we are not taught that. We grew up as little boys, and people are not telling us that they're proud of us unless we're finishing first in the race and getting A's on report cards.
We're usually taught performance pride. That's what we generally give to our children. What I've learned is that the self-esteem of a little girl and young woman cannot be based on performance, especially masculine definitions of performance. So I wrote a book. It's called Daddy, Are You Proud of Me? It's designed to be a reporting to men that I've been coaching women all these years. For those of you that have daughters, this is what they need us to tell them. This is what you need to understand, because we didn't learn this. I want to report to fathers specifically what our little girls need.
The book has taken on a life of its own because a lot of women are reading it. It's serving as almost a way for them to watch a coaching session between their dad and me. Because they're not in it, they are pulling so much out of it and having realizations. A lot of women have said that the book has fundamentally healed their relationship with their dad and themselves. This is my most sacred work that's about to be birthed into the world. Many of it is based on my journey with my own daughter. On our website, you can get the first chapter. You can navigate to it and ask questions. This is the conversation that needs to be had. It will help us on both sides of the aisle.
They can get more information on your website at CoachSeanSmith.com. I have no doubt it will be released across all channels. They will be able to also look on Amazon and all the places where they can purchase books. Definitely pick up a copy! This book is sure to be powerful!
Before we end today, Sean, any parting words you'd like to share?
We need to start listening to our own thoughts. That's how we reconnect, reintegrate, and realign with ourselves.
I'm going to share my father's parting words to me. He passed away many years ago. In our final conversation, I asked him what wisdom he could pass on and how could I live his legacy and my legacy. He was all drugged up at the time. He had pancreatic cancer, and so his body was failing him. Even through all of the drugs and the circumstances, with no hesitation, he said, "Seanie, be who you can be, do what you can do, and live a good life." With that, he essentially dropped the mic and passed away the next day. It's the final words that were delivered with such beautiful and powerful wisdom. Every day, I try to live up to them in some way. To everyone reading this, be who you can be, do what you can do, and live a good life.
Thank you so much for being here. Thank you for all of the good that you do in the world, for how you show up, for all of the things that you model, for your presence, power, grace, vulnerability, and the tens of thousands of people that you serve on a regular basis, and to the millions of people that you serve around the world. We thank you.
Thank you, Ellie. It's an honor.
Until next time.
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- Dear Racism: A Break-Up Letter From a White Man
- The Power Of Vulnerability In Men
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- Daddy, Are You Proud of Me?
About Sean Smith
Sean Smith is a husband, father, author, sought-after international speaker and trainer, actor, poet, songwriter, master results coach, and the owner of Elite Success Systems, a personal development and human healing company that has transformed hundreds of thousands of lives around the world. Having survived a tragic accident, he has dedicated his life’s work to creating “neuro-transformation.” Hailed as North America’s Next Greatest Speaker, he is one of the very few people to deliver 2 spoken word TEDx performances… “Dear Racism: A Break-Up Letter From a White Man” and “The Power of Vulnerability in Men.”
He is passionate about helping men heal their masculine wounds, and he wrote and performed, “I Do, Mom” - a powerful one-man-show about his mommy issues. Committed to creating conscious conversations to help heal the racial divide, he co-wrote, produced and starred with Lisa Nichols and David Bianchi in the award-winning spoken-word film “Let’s Grow”. His latest book, "Daddy, Are You Proud of Me?" is available for pre-order now, and will soon be available worldwide.