In this episode of HR on the Mat, Courtney and Peggy chat with Max Yoder, CEO of Lessonly. They talk about lessons learned in 2020, being vulnerable at work, wholeness versus perfection, and the importance of practice.
This transcript was created using an automated transcription service and may contain errors.
Welcome back to HR on the Mat, where we talk about the lessons that we’ve learned about people, business, and the workplace. Today, we’re joined by Max Yoder, CEO of Lessonly. Welcome, Max, we’re excited to have you with us today.
I am pumped to be here. Thank you, Courtney. Thank you, Peggy. This is gonna be fun.
It is. We’re really excited.
So tell us, Max, and give us some perspective now that we’re sitting here in the spring of 2021, what 2020 has been for you, and if you’ve got any kind of nuggets, in terms of lessons you’ve learned and correlated it back to your team there at Lessonly.
Yeah, thank you for asking. I have some lessons I learned the hard way. So, I think the way I reacted to the pandemic, I found that I was a lot less emotionally stable than I thought I was. I think what I thought emotional stableness was just the world kind of going normally, you know, and I can cope with the world going normally, I got pretty used to that. Right? When it stopped going normally, I found that I didn’t have the tools that I thought I had. So my therapist pointed out to me, before COVID…or actually, right when COVID was ramping up, that I really appreciate stimulation, and that I value stimulation, and that a lack of stimulation is something that I almost consider not good. So he asked, like, “Hey, Max, do you kind of equate stimulation to good and a lack of stimulation to bad?” And nobody really pointed that out to me before, so I responded to him, like, “Yeah, absolutely, I do.” And he’s like, you know, it might be worth…he goes, “I wonder what might happen if you looked at them differently, where they both have value. You know, we need stimulation, and we need a lack of stimulation.” And what I found was, he was spot on. And so I developed some practices around calming and encouraging myself, and I kind of think of them as three R’s. And I like to say these three R’s give me roots. So it’s like triple R roots. And those roots are Rituals, Resources and Reappraisal. So, what are the rituals that I do that calm and encourage myself? What are the resources that I use to calm and encourage myself, those relationships in my life…. I don’t call them relationships directly, because I think of a resource differently than a relationship. I can have a relationship with a lot of people. The resources are the relationships that I use for calm and encouragement. Right? They’re the ones that are active. You know, I can have a relationship that I’ve not tapped into for five years. I do not consider that a resource, because resources are active. And the big reason, it’s important to make that distinguished…to distinguish, in the opinion of myself, but I learned this from a gentleman named Rolf Holmquist, who was in the Air Force, and he was a chaplain in the Air Force. And he’s like, “If you don’t get your resources together when you’re strong, they might not do it when you’re weak.” And he sees that a lot with people in the Air Force, they have one significant other as a resource. Combat, and, you know, the life that is being an Air Force infantry person is tough. And if that resource gets too much strain on it, they lose that one resource and they have no other, no backup. And he’s like, and I don’t see people in that moment go and call, you know, distant relationships to build resources when they’re in the hole. He’s like, they got to be ready. They already have to be there. So that was a good message for me. How do I develop my own resources? First rituals, then resources, and then reappraisals. And this is the one that I think is the biggest tongue twister, but it’s a pretty simple idea. Reappraising is this idea of when I initially have an experience, I appraised that experience. You know, I basically…something happens, an event happens, I have an emotional reaction to it. I’m excited, or I’m sad, or I’m frustrated. Reappraisal is going back to that at a later date and finding the gift in it. You know, that thing happened. I was frustrated. Where is the gift? And it’s hard to see the gift in that immediate moment. I can get better at doing so. But, you know, what I can do almost all the time is go back and reappraise something. And you know, that kind of helps me release it, release the experience and find the gift in it. And ultimately, I can reappraise faster the more I do it. You know, I can get bad news yesterday, and by that night, be like, “okay, there’s gonna be a gift here,” you know, because everything…I can find a gift in whatever I want. So those are my three R’s: Rituals, Resources, and Reappraisals. And they give me routes so that when I get beat to hell by a big wind or big storm, you know, I’m like a tree that doesn’t get blown over by that kind of stuff.
That is great. You’re actually saving people money from having to go to the therapist right now.
Heck, yeah. Good.
You just gave some great tools to everybody.
Good. Well, thanks for listening. Thanks for listening. I’m really pumped to dig into those and write about them further.
Yeah, well, and it correlates so much to what happens in a yoga practice. And we talked before we got on on this call, about kind of the root of this HR on the Mat, which is that Peggy and I, as yoga practitioners, saw so many correlations, what was happening on the mat and in the community of a yoga practice, if it’s virtual, or it’s actually in studio, and correlations to personal life and professional growth. And so we’re talking about resources, and we’ve had some other guests on talking about the importance of community and having that different aspects of those resources in their practice as their kind of, quote unquote, “yoga tribe” to help build them up and provide that safe spot where you can be vulnerable.
And I encourage…. You know, I’m so excited that you shared – one, that you were vulnerable enough with us and our listeners around going to a therapist, because one of the things we talk about in yoga all the time is this mindfulness practice, and more often than not, we have to sneak it in. People don’t really want it, you know, don’t…some folks don’t actively seek out that meditation or mindfulness practice. So do you mind sharing a little bit more? Because you…this whole piece about going back and to…your reappraisals and re-evaluating situations. Do you mind sharing a little bit more about kind of how you do that, techniques that you use when you’re doing that reappraisal for yourself? And then how do you share that with the rest of your organization? Because those are such amazing gifts, to be able to reappraise your initial emotional reactions, and something I think we’re all working for.
Yeah, it’s… and it’s something that, again and again, you know, if you…. This doesn’t need to be scientifically proven, that if I can find the gift in something, you know, it lightens my day, but it continues to get scientifically proven, you know, like, over and over again. People with an aptitude for positive reappraisal are healthier. So it’s…and it’s a skill we can all develop. Not as easy for everybody, right? If I have a ton of trauma growing up, which I fortunately did not, it’s tougher to to positively appraise. So I don’t want to go around saying like, “Hey, this is easy, and everybody should do it.” I do think everybody should do it. I don’t think it’s easy for everybody. You know, I think I have a natural proclivity to finding gifts in stuff, just because I’ve had a lot of gifts myself, right? A lot of gifts have been given to me, myself. When it comes to how I share this with the team, I shared that exact breakdown, the roots breakdown of rituals, resources, reappraisals, with the team, saying, like, “Hey, you might have a 2021 that looks like 2020, and I don’t want to get my ass kicked again. You know? Like, I…and I don’t want you to either.” And, you know, my…my goal there was simply to share things that have worked for me, not to tell somebody what to do, just say, hey, this works for me. And if you want to try a part of it, great. If you don’t, great. You know, I find that the Taoist philosophy of, you know, not pushing is super important. If you want people to hear you, you know, like, me going, “everybody needs to do this” just…it shuts out a lot of folks.
In yoga, we talk a lot about self compassion, and that self compassion is often a share…. Compassion at its root is a shared experience. And so a lot of times, those folks who are already expressing self compassion and practicing that way to share it first and be vulnerable. And I know being vulnerable is one of the first nuggets of knowledge in your book. Can you share more about that and how you’ve given vulnerability and how you’ve received it as well?
Sure, yeah. So I don’t think there’s a whole lot of potential on a team if people are unwilling to be vulnerable. And when I say “be vulnerable,” I think some people hear this, like, “Alright, does that mean people have to cry at work?” It…not necessarily. That could be a part of it, though, right? I’m not against it, but it’s not the definition of being vulnerable. Right? The way I define being vulnerable is acknowledging reality. So it’s basically expressing whatever my inner vibe is. So if my inner vibe is…and I like to keep my vibe to I words like “I feel x,” and actually stating feelings, not thoughts, right? Because then they can turn into judgments pretty quickly. So what does vulnerability mean? Well, if I’m sad about something, and I feel that inside of myself, and then I say, “I’m sad,” out loud to somebody when they ask me about that experience, that’s me being vulnerable. I’m in sync with what’s happening inside of me. If I’m excited about something, maybe there’s a new project at work, maybe there’s a new venture, and I tell somebody that I don’t really care, that’s a lack of vulnerability, right? Because I’m not acknowledging my reality. But if I say, “Hey, I’m pumped about that.” So what I find is vulnerability is not just important on the stuff like nervousness or being scared or being sad. It’s also just as hard on the… on excitement. And we see this a lot with men, right? Who don’t want to say that something excites them, or stimulates them, or they…even that they love something, because it’s…the reason is vulnerability, right? And it’s not just a man thing, but you know, I think I see it more in men, of being uncomfortable saying they love stuff, right? Which is almost the opposite of the spectrum, like, saying, “I’m really sad about something” and “I love something,” like, both of them are hard. And so being vulnerable is just saying what’s happening. So if I’m frustrated, I say “I’m frustrated.” If I’m pumped, I say “I’m pumped.” If I say “I’m confused”…if I am confused, I say, “I’m confused.” You get the idea. And if people don’t do that at work, well, then we’re constantly putting on this front. We’re not really getting to what’s happening, right? And if we all kind of understand what’s happening, we can support one another. We probably want to just understand one another better. Probably communicate more clearly. And the book, “Do Better Work,” is all about clarity and camaraderie. Being clear, you know, seeking clarity. Each of us is gonna leave out background information, pertinent details, because we’re gonna assume other people know stuff that they don’t. Right? It’s just the curse of knowledge. So it’s my job to ask clarifying questions, knowing that. I know that every person does that, myself included, so I should ask clarifying question. That’s how we get to clarity. I should be vulnerable. That’s how we get to clarity. And then camaraderie, you know, this idea of mutual trust and respect between two people. How do we develop that? Well, we certainly can’t if I’m unwilling to share with you what’s going on, right? I don’t trust you. And that camaraderie is mutual trust and respect. And if I trust and respect you, I can say, “Hey, I’m nervous about this thing over here, can we talk about it?” And we can potentially avoid a big problem. Or “I’m pumped about this thing over here, can we talk about it?” We can actually find a big opportunity, right? So vulnerability is the throughline for the entire book. It is not possible to do any of the behaviors if you’re unwilling to be vulnerable. So I think it’s, like, the linchpin of what matters at work.
One of the things I think of when I talk about vulnerability, or when I hear people, is really kind of showing something that’s not perfect about themselves.
Yeah, and showing… and when I think of the the yoga mat, you know, it might be that tree pose that ends up falling over a little bit. But when you see the instructor doing that, and that happening to, or them trying something, pushing themselves beyond but maybe failing at it, I think that is a great parallel to as a leader as well, kind of sometimes admitting “I don’t have this” or “I’m not sure where this is going.”
Like, I love that you’re talking about the emotional part, too, that kind of not knowing. Like, as a leader and CEO, do you sometimes feel like, “gosh, I’m supposed to be the one with the answers”?
Well, I preach…. I say again and again that leaders learn the answer. So I feel very comfortable showing that, you know, and the opposite is “leaders know the answer”. Now, have I felt that way in the past? Oh, yes. Will there be moments where I have to catch myself and not do it again? Oh, yes. Right? Like, this is a practice, not a light switch. You know, I could… I don’t just, like, become somebody who can be vulnerable and then it stays that way, right? It’s a continuous practice, like a muscle, I got to keep building it and keep it built.
Which is very yoga-esque as well, right?
Well, that’s why we talk about, it’s a practice not a perfect, right?
There’s always opportunities to escalate, de-escalate, based on what’s happening in your body physically, emotionally, mentally, and it all comes down to the yoga mat, and it comes holistically when you present yourself for your practice. So.
You’re absolutely…you’re onto it. This is the stuff that matters. Like, this is…yoga gets to the root of stuff, right? It’s not kind of concerned with the branches. It gets to the root of a person’s ability to self-regulate, ability to care for themselves and have compassion for themselves. Like, what is more deep into the root than that, right? If I can self-regulate and have compassion for myself, that’s going to pervade every other behavior that I have. That’s going to influence every other behavior that I have. So I mean, I’m…we couldn’t be more in agreement. And to the to the question of like, hey, am I comfortable saying I don’t know or, you know, I don’t know the answer. That’s what I get asked a lot. “Hey, how will my teammates interpret my vulnerability? I worry they won’t want to follow me,” right? And so at that point, it becomes a reminder to folks that it’s not all or nothing. If I say I’m…I don’t know something, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have confidence at the very same time that we can figure it out. So in the exact same moment, saying, “I’m uncertain what to do next, but I’m certain we’ll figure it out.” Same sentence, right? Certainty and uncertainty at the same time. And that’s what people need. They need you to not be completely uncertain about everything – that’s not going to work. And also, completely certain about everything also doesn’t work. Because who wants to hang out with that, right? Somebody who knows every answer.
And it’s a journey, you don’t have to get there. And that’s like with the yoga practice, it’s, you might start out one day with your foot just leaned against your leg, but confident that someday I think I’m going to be able to get it up there, and might fall a few times in between, but those micro-adjustments and the fine-tuning that you do to your muscles along the way, I think it’s fun, you know, it’s just really fun to see that growth and that those incremental changes, and we can see that with people on our teams, right? I’m sure you’ve seen some people who started with you just grow like crazy over the years.
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
I think of one person in particular, who – sorry, Courtney, I’ll be real quick – who just…who just changed. Like, he just came into the business and said, like, “it’s a little uncomfortable for me, you know, all this vulnerability stuff,” and now he’s, like, a pro, you know, he’s just practiced it so much. And so it gives me a lot of encouragement that, like, you can even pop into the business and be like, “Hey, this is a little out there for me,” and then try it and get on…you know, amd keep going and have a completely different posture. And I’ve spoken to his wife and she’s just like, “this is really good for him.” You know? And I’ve seen the benefits and it just, like, what a gift, you know, like, there’s no better motivation than that.
We spend a lot of time at work, so it needs to be a positive experience for us, because it does extend our families, to what…how we show up at home, too.
Right. Yeah, it does. It does.
Especially in this virtual world, because we’ve been…those barriers have been so blurred, and I don’t know, Max, if you’ve read any of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books. He’s one of the ones that’s got several different books, but he spends a lot of his time talking about the duality, and you can’t have…experience true joy if you don’t experience true sorrow, and you can’t have certainty if you haven’t experienced uncertainty, and that you really need that those dualities in order to fully experience life and your resources and everything else that’s happening in the world. So as we think about, you know, the blurred barriers between work life and kind of…and personal life, there were…there used to be, you know, the nine to five, right? That’s been gone now. And you think about this duality – as you look forward to 2021, what’s something that you’re really excited about, and then also something that’s maybe the silent challenge that no one’s yet talking about, in your mind, from a leadership perspective?
Yeah, I actually think the answer is the same for both of those questions. The idea that I’m really excited about, and I think I will be till I die, is wholeness versus perfection. And wholeness recognizes the duality of life, that it is not…it is not possible to have joy without sorrow, it is not possible to have emptiness without…without walls, right? Like, we put up a wall, and then we have our…. Let me say that a little differently. It’s not possible to have light without dark. You get the idea. Very yin yang stuff, right? It’s not possible to be good at something without being bad at something, right? And as I get good at one thing, I might lose muscles in another thing. Like, this is constantly happening. It’s a big trade off. And there’s nothing wrong with that, or bad about that. But the Western world – and this is something that Alan Watts pointed out to me in his book, “The Watercourse Way,” which is all about Taoism. He’s like, the Western world is obsessed with, basically, progress as though there is no decline. It is not a give and get, right? It’s just a get. They just want to find…we just want to find the gets, right? And that’s why we’re…perfectionism is such a problem, right? Because people think “I’m just gonna get better, I’m just gonna get better at stuff,” or “I’m just gonna be great at it, or I’m trash,” right? They think in a binary term of, I’m great or I’m trash. So I’m either awesome at this thing or it’s terrible. Wholeness takes on a whole different perspective. Wholeness says, I am…probably have some strength in some areas, some qualities that maybe are above average, based on the normal population of my peers; probably have some qualities that are just perfectly average; and I probably have a bunch of qualities that are also below average. And that’s just because I’m a human. Right? It accepts the whole human experience, is what wholeness does. And if I accept the whole human experience, which includes things like being greedy, which people struggle to say out loud, “I’m greedy,” but guess what? Who freakin isn’t? Right? And if we don’t look that in the eye…. And who isn’t envious? I mean, envy might be the core thing that makes the world go round. And we don’t…and we’re uncomfortable saying that it’s happening, right? But it is. It’s a natural reaction to things, right? And if we deny it, then we have to deny a part of ourselves. So, wholeness doesn’t let us deny any part of ourselves. If it’s happening, it’s happening. And if we look it in the eye, I bet we can mediate it. I bet we can…. What’s the word for it? I think we can temper it. Temper it doesn’t mean squash it, right? It means kind of use it more in a controlled way than that, you know, out of control way. But if I don’t look it in the eye, I can’t see it. And I’m a lot more scared of things I can’t see than the things I can see. So it’s my job to see myself. You know?
That’s a great point. I really like that.
Thanks for listening. Yeah, wholeness over perfection, baby. That’s what I’m thinking about.
Well, that’s an easy one. I can accept that. So. Well, so, at Purple Ink, where I work, we are really big on CliftonStrengths, so you’re talking our language with the fact that, you know, some people have been really given talents.
And, likewise, they’ve got some things that are really…they really struggle with, and you have to work harder, and they drain you more, the more and more you have to do those things. They really drain you, because you’re not designed and maybe given those talents, but talents can’t just sit here. And if you don’t work and practice and work harder and harder on those talents, you’re not going to develop strengths. And usually, if you’re good at something, you want to keep practicing it. You know, people look at Monet’s painting of the water lilies and they think, you know, he’s just talented. And he painted it like 260 times or something.
Hell yeah. Hell yeah.
So yes, you’re talking my language with the strengths and gifts and everything.
Well, in the strength is a weakness, right? Like, just like the duality of things, like, I have a…every one of my strengths, I’ve seen the other side of it, right? I’ve seen how I can take it to an extreme or I get myself in trouble by overplaying my hand. You know, like, my…that’s another thing my therapist says, he’s like, our strengths can overplay their hands. They can, you know, they can push it too far. Something works, works, works, just keeps pushing, and then it gets to an extreme state where we’ve gone too far, you know. And so, understanding that I can take a strength and turn it into weakness in a heartbeat, in a moment. Over here, it’s a strength, over there, it’s a weakness. Yeah, that’s the duality of the whole thing. You mentioned Monet. If you’ve heard of Josef Albers. Let me…let me show these to you. I make these little…these little squares and these, Josef Albers…
Oh, that’s cool!
Yeah, Josef Albers is a color theory guy. He’s a painter and he studied at Bauhaus and he loved color. And he made 2,000 of these squares, but he painted them instead of making them out of Legos. And he did 2,000 of them over 20 years. And they’re amazing, you know, these amazing pieces of art that if you stand in front of one, you know, I’ve actually, unfortunately, never seen a real one in my life, I’ve only seen duplicates, but I can get lost in the colors. And he did these when he was 60 years old, and he was a good painter before that, but he, you know, practiced his ass off for 20 years making 2,000 of these things. And we just don’t talk enough about practice. We don’t talk enough about we’re either good at it or not, and if we’re not good at it, and we spend…we try and we learn we’re not good at something, then it’s really easy to just be like, well, it’s just not for me. It’s like, you got to freakin practice, you gotta…
You have to practice. And we always talk about in yoga, that, you know, the part of the practice is the joy and the learning of the journey. Right?
There’s so much to be gained from the journey and not necessarily the destination and how big that is, not only, you know, certainly on your mat, when you’re trying to move from one modification to an advancement in a posture. But what that actually means from a mindfulness perspective, to be present, to understand how the mind body is connecting in the practice, to physically move your leg up, or balance, or whatever you’re trying to do. But taking that idea of being really present to understand how there is connectivity between the mind body muscle motions, and that all plays in to how you show up on your mat. Every day is different. Every single day you show up.
And then being able to, with that presence, being able to mindfully make the shift and move the way that you want to move that is aligned with your purpose.
Do you mind sharing with us, like, any practices, or how do you stay present with everything going on? Congratulations on your new daughter.
That’s so exciting, but that’s…
You know, that’s…that in and of itself is…it’s such a life changing moment. And so how do you stay present with all of the stuff that’s happening? Awesome, amazing things in your personal life and awesome, amazing things happening in your professional life. How do you stay present in the moment to make that connectivity of everything that’s happening around you?
Yeah, I struggle with it greatly. And, you know, I think the important thing to mention here is everything that I’ve talked about here, I struggle with greatly. None of the things that are super duper important to me kind of down to the…down to the roots of things, right? The rituals, the resources, the reappraisals, all of them take me a tremendous amount of work, right? I said reappraisals comes more naturally to me, it does, but there’s gonna be moments when I just totally don’t do it. Right? And I have to remind myself to get back. So I say that out loud, just because I don’t want to ever have anybody hear this idea of perfectionism in any way. I just think it’s so corrosive, right? If this is a practice, this is a practice that I’m going to struggle with. And then other days, I’m going to do well. One of the things that helps me in that practice is being my own witness, the idea of watching myself and following what I do. And so when I say following what I do, an example that I’ve used in the past is, if I drink a Red Bull, being my own witness, watching myself, like, as though I’m outside of myself would be, “there I am drinking Red Bull. And then there I am, after I drink the Red Bull, feeling energetic. And then there I am, after I drink the Red Bull and feeling energetic, feeling irritable.” So I’m following what’s happening, right? I do the thing, and then I feel stuff, maybe I do something else, and I feel stuff. And if that’s a pattern, which as I observe myself, I might find patterns, I might begin to conclude less Red Bull might mean less irritability, right? And it might not be worth the energetic moment in between. And so by being my own witness, I can come to those conclusions without judging myself. Right? Without…without being like, “you’re an idiot for drinking that Red Bull, because now you feel irritable,” right? It’s not about that. It’s just about following the behavior and finding patterns. And when I see patterns I like, that, you know, that bring me closer to what I care about, I’ll double down on them. And when I don’t, and I continue, when I find patterns I don’t like and I keep doing them, and that tells me something, right? Like, and that’s what I learned over quarantine. Patterns I didn’t like, it wasn’t like I was my own witness and then I just stopped doing them. It took a lot more effort than that. Okay, well, what am I gonna replace this pattern with, right? Oh my gosh, how much am I going to go back to that pattern again and again, like, these patterns are patterns because they probably soothe me in ways that are quick and easy, right? So being my own witness is not enough. Action has to follow. And, you know, being compassionate with myself when I go back to that pattern, and asking myself, what happened before that, you know, what happened today that I’m going back to this pattern that I know does not serve me tomorrow, you know, like, those are the conversations I have to have with myself, because then I can find out, oh, there’s parts of my day that, you know, might not be healthy for me, and that might be why I’m doing this unhealthy pattern at night. So just watching myself, right? And observing and not judging, and then deciding what I want to do based on the patterns that I see is, I think, a compassionate way to go about it.
I want to ask you something. We didn’t really talk about this specifically, but I do know, you know, from your company, like, you guys have some great employee benefits, and I think you have a meditation room, right? And maybe yoga. And since yoga is something that we all share a passion about, too, like, how has that become a part of how you deal with things, and how does that fit in your life?
Yeah, so I’ll speak for, like, the Calm a Llama room, which is a place you can either nap or just, you know, be quiet in a dark space, or the or the yoga room, which is, you know, kind of a padded floor where we have different yoga instructors at Lessonly who, you know, they’re teammates and they also are certified in yoga, and they’ll give lessons. I don’t do a lot of the group stuff. I don’t…I will come to those events, but I’m not, like, there every week. More for me, I’ve got my…kind of my rituals. Like, I take a hot bath. That is a ritual for me. I take a nap every day. That’s a ritual for me. I will meditate. I won’t meditate every day, but the more I do it, the better I feel. You know, these are things I can go back to. And so as I observe myself, I’m finding what are the things that when I do them, I tend to feel energized or clear-minded, you know, walking being one of them, that’s my greatest gift. It’s getting outside, walking, sometimes I’ll be on the phone, sometimes I’ll be doing nothing, sometimes I have my baby on my back, you know, and she’ll be in my backpack and she just looks around, you know, and there’s a wonder the whole time. So I don’t know if that’s what you’re asking. I’ll pause to see.
Yeah, no, that’s great. Max, we certainly appreciate all the time that you’ve given us. We’ve got one last question for you. Which is…
If there was a piece of advice that you could give young Max Yoder, what would it be, and why?
And it changes the course of my life if I give it?
I don’t know if I’d give it then. Because I like where I went. You know, like, I like where I’m at. But, like, just to play the game, to like, you know, to say, like, something that really matters to me, which I think is the heart of the question.
Yeah, and it doesn’t really have to change your life. Just maybe a nugget, a word of wisdom, that either maybe would have made it easier or maybe you would have gone deeper into something that was a learning that maybe you’re…I know for me that my one of my tendencies when things get hard is I’m an escape artist. And so I just leave, right? And that’s something I’ve discovered about myself, that happens, certainly on the yoga mat, as soon as a position feels uncomfortable, I’m like, okay, when do I get to get out of this. And that’s sometimes how I also experience life outside of my mat. And so it’s one of those things that if I go back and talk to a younger version of myself, I’d be like, there’s so much to learn when it gets uncomfortable. That’s when you root in, right? And that’s what learning is. And so I wish I could have given myself that nugget of knowledge, because I think that while it probably wouldn’t change the trajectory, I probably could have learned a lot more and experienced life in a richer format than I did, because I was always trying to escape when it got hard.
It might be, Max, but maybe it’s not to your younger self, but younger people out there. You know, do you have anything that you think…because, you know, as a mom, I know my kids don’t listen to me even though I have, like, just mounds of wisdom and experience.
Sure. Yeah, I hear you.
But that somehow another kid might listen to me. Right? You know, you’ve got kind of that platform where people will look at you and they’re like, Hey, he’s, you know, a leader and he’s cool and he’s very evolved. Like, I should listen to Max.
Well, thank you. Thank you, I…two things come to mind, and I would…. Two things come to mind that have just changed my life. Emotional liberation, this idea that I am not a slave to other people’s feelings. And most of my life I’ve believed that I was responsible for other people’s feelings, so if the people around me had feelings, you know, they were struggling, I carried those struggles as if they were my own. I thought it was my duty, but it was really my sickness. And I can be compassionate for individuals and care about their feelings, but not carry them. That’s going from emotional slavery to emotional liberation. And that is…there’s…I don’t know if there’s been a more important arc in my life than getting closer to emotional liberation. Am I there, like, I’m fully liberated? No, no, it’s gonna take me a very long time, because I’ve learned how to be emotional slave for most of my life. Other people’s feelings are not my responsibility. What is my responsibility is what I say, what I do, my intentions, you know, and how those come through. So taking responsibility for my own actions. I got so lost in what other people were doing that I lost my way for myself. So that’s my second one, which is, you know, emotional liberation is a ticket. If you Google “emotional liberation” or “emotional slavery to emotional liberation,” there’s some great literature out there that teaches the three stages. The first one is emotional slavery. The next one, disavowing other people’s feelings. Like, we get so fed up with being slaved that we’re like, “screw everybody’s feelings,” you know, just “no more feelings.” And then the third stage, which is actually the place where the…you know, ideally I end up is the liberated state of I care about other people’s feelings, but I don’t carry them. And so what’s the other thing? Well, to see it be it is the other thing, which is this idea of – and I’ll be quick on this – but I think this is, like, I don’t know, if there’s, you know, outside of emotional liberation, a more important thing to be. It’s really easy to care a lot about what other people are doing, and to spend a ton of time being like, “Well, look at all these people over here, not doing this thing. Look at all those people over here, messing this thing up.” And then not doing that, not worrying about our own actions. But the only thing I control is my actions. First time I ever held my daughter, I was holding her in my arms and the nurse came over, and she pushed my shoulders down gently and…because I was tense. I was, like, wearing my shoulders like earrings up here. And she’s…and because my daughter, you know, was, you know, she was trying to get comfortable in my arms, and I was responding with my own discomfort, like, with my own tenseness. So she said, the easiest way for baby to relax is if you relax, right? Like, that’s the surest route, is you relaxing. Doesn’t mean it’s going to work, right? But that’s my number one job, soothe myself if I want her to be soothed. How beautiful is that? Right? If somebody is coming at me agitated, and I come back at them with agitation, because I want them to be calm, and they’re not, so I come back with agitation, that’s super confusing, right? super confusing, because I want them to be calm. So my job is to exhibit calmness, which is really freaking hard when somebody is agitated right in front of me. But it’s what I want them to be, right? I want them to be calm. So show them what it looks like, not to make them feel dumb, or to shame them, or to guilt them, simply because that’s what I want in the experience, right? That’s how I want people to show up. So if I want to see it, I need to be it. And I might not change anything about the other person’s behavior, but I’m still doing my damn job, right? And if I’m unwilling to do the thing that I want somebody else to do, well, then I should probably give up. Like, I shouldn’t let that go. If I’m unwilling to do it myself, I should probably not hold them accountable to it, right? It’s not fair. But if I’m willing to do it, that then I’ve already solved the problem for myself, right? I’m doing the thing that I want to see other people do. I’m living in alignment with my values. Beautiful. And I stop worrying about what other people are doing, because I realize all I can do is focus on what I’m doing. And maybe I’ll influence somebody in the process or maybe I won’t, but at least I’m living my values. Right? So two answers.
That’s my…that reminds me of my favorite phrase, which is, and I’ve said this before, on this, I think that’s a repeat, but “you can’t change the wind, but you can adjust your sails.”
I’ve had that problem, where I’ve tried to change…you know, you want your child to do something, and they don’t and…
…other people in your life. And the only thing you can really do is adjust your own reaction and kind of control yourself. So…. And we talk, I know, in yoga a lot, too, about holding space.
And that’s exactly what you’re doing is allowing others to experience and feel it the way that they…to honor their own feelings and to allow them to experience it, and holding that space without taking on that burden yourself. But allowing…
…those experiences. So…
It’s beautiful. The lines in the apology because you’re right, it’s not easy to do, and to show that trait as a leader is highly commendable.
And I like that you notice, too, that you’re not trying to make fun of them, you know, like…
If someone’s coming at you, you sort of expect a reaction back. So, like, having that self-awareness that you have to do it in a way that isn’t, like, patronizing or…
No, this is a human. It’s a human, right? Like, what do I want to see other people treat humans like? Like humans, you know, not patronizing, not judgmental. So it goes back to every part of my behavior. I don’t want to see somebody making somebody feel foolish. I’m not going to make somebody feel fool…or I’m not going to intend to make somebody feel foolish, right? It just doesn’t make sense. Doesn’t make any sense. It’s not how I want people to treat my daughter. It’s not how I want people to treat me. Now…. And guess what? When I do it poorly, when I respond with agitation to somebody’s agitation, the cool thing about modeling and to see it be it is, what do I want to see somebody do when maybe they do something that they wish they wouldn’t have done? I want to see them apologize. So then I just get back on the horse and I apologize and now I’m doing it again, right? So even when I don’t do it, I can keep doing it by, you know, when I…when I fall short of my own values, I get back on the horse by apologizing, because that’s a value of mine. And so this becomes…it’s, like, impossible for me to mess it up if I just follow those, you know, blueprints and when they’re doing it well, hell yeah.
Yes. Yeah. Doing it.
It’s gonna be a practice as a parent too, because believe me, you…
You got no idea, my friend, but we’re excited for you!
Let’s do this during terrible twos and…
Yeah, I hear you, I hear you. I will…I’m gonna need a lot of help. That’ll be a whole new muscle.
Well, you’re already a step ahead of where I was, because believe me, we weren’t thinking about emotions at all when we were parenting our first. So anyway, but thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate it, and I think there’s a lot to learn. I know I’m going to share this with several people, because you just got a lot of great insights to help people feel better about themselves and about, you know, I love this last part about not taking on other people’s emotions, too. That’s a great lesson, and your three R’s. I think there’s some really good nuggets here.
Thanks for making time. I loved it.
Yeah, well, we will end in the way that we end our traditional yoga practice.
So we’ll end with a closing breath together. So inhale, arms up, fill up the belly, the heart, open the throat, palms come to kiss. Exhale down to heart center, bowing the head. Thank you, Max, for sharing all of your lessons with us and our listeners today. Collectively, we honor you and everyone in our community. Together we say namaste.
Namaste. Thank you. It was awesome.