Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 144 - Dr. Stan Beecham - The Antidote for a Better Life

We think the problem is one thing, but it’s actually something else. So it’s really helping people get some insight and some understanding of that. So once I understand what it is, it’s getting in my way, then in a position to address that.
Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 144 - Dr. Stan Beecham - The Antidote for a Better Life

[00:00:00] We think the problem is one thing, but it’s actually something else. So it’s really helping people get some insight and some understanding of that. So once I understand what it is, it’s getting in my way, then in a position to address that. And if you think about that just kind of psychology in general, I would say that, when people have a problem, they do one of two things right? The majority of people, they just simply try to push it out of their mind and get it behind them. Okay. So let’s don’t talk about this because it makes me uncomfortable or it bothers me or it upsets me.

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Jesse: [00:01:27] Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host Jesse Funk. My guest today is a performance psychology consultant who works with athletes and business people, people basically who want to compete. He can help you. He’s the director and founding member of the Leadership Resource Center in Atlanta, Georgia, the author of Elite Minds How Winners Think Differently to Create a Competitive Edge and Maximize Success available on Amazon and a number of other places. You can also find him at Dr. Stan It’s in the description. If you’re on the audio version or the YouTube version, I’m sure it’s on the screen. Welcome to the show, Dr. Stan Beecham.

Dr. Stan: [00:02:05] Thanks, Jesse. It’s good to be with you.

Jesse: [00:02:08] Thanks for taking time out of your day. I know any time I talk to consultants, I know it’s always like meeting, meeting, meeting like your day is pretty much packed with things you’ve got to do, people you’ve got to talk to. So I appreciate you taking a —

Dr. Stan: [00:02:24] Lot of Zoom calls like everybody else.

Jesse: [00:02:26] Yes. So given that. I guess maybe my first question is, is that the main mode of working with you? Like we get on, we get on Zoom, it’s like our own private confession. I tell you about all the mental problems I’m having, not necessarily like diagnosable psychological problems, but like I’m having a tough time with this and then you help talk me through it. Or how does the process work?

Dr. Stan: [00:02:55] Yeah. It’s it’s a conversation. And, and generally the people that are reaching out to me, especially athletes, they they realize that they’re not performing to their full potential. And they realize that they’re doing pretty much everything or most everything right physically. But there’s something that’s holding them back. And so then it’s really a matter of helping them discover what that is and how it manifests. Because usually we think the problem is one thing, but it’s actually something else. So it’s really helping people get some insight and some understanding of that.

[00:03:35] So once I understand what it is that’s getting in my way, I’m then in a position to address that. And if you think about that just kind of psychology in general, I would say that, when people have a problem, they do one of two things right? The majority of people, they just simply try to push it out of their mind and get it behind them. Okay. So let’s don’t talk about this because it makes me uncomfortable or it bothers me or it upsets me.

[00:04:06] The other approach is let’s talk about this thing because it’s upsetting and it bothers me and it won’t you know, it won’t leave me alone. And we have a lot of research on this, right? I mean, starting with Freud over 120 years ago, and we’ve known for a long time that the way that you deal with your issues and your problems is you walk straight ahead into them and you go to war with them.

[00:04:29] And if you take that approach, you’ll almost always get some relief or some improvement. At the same time, the problem that you avoid, you don’t actually avoid it, right? Because it follows you around wherever you go. And in fact, it actually oftentimes gets worse. So it’s really I mean, everybody has their thing. The question is, how do you respond to it? Do you have kind of a fear response where you move away from it? Or do you have more of a courageous response where you walk straight into the burning building, right?

[00:05:00] And so that’s the main thing. And I see this as a when you start thinking about different factors and variables that lead to people be successful or not, I would say this is a huge one, which is basically how do you deal with the things that bother you? Do you confront them head on or do you just try to push it aside and avoid it?

Jesse: [00:05:24] I don’t know if I consciously spend time doing this. I used to have a rule or practice, so to speak, of which you know how many things are you going to do every day. But just I used to have a rule of practice of like I have to do something that scares me every single day. And sometimes that maybe it’s just a matter of like a little thing.

Like I used to, like many people of my generation, for whatever reason, used to have like a lot of anxiety about using the phone, just calling somebody on the phone, maybe somebody I even already know, especially strangers. But just talking on the phone, it’s there’s no there’s no logical sense in it, you know what I mean? Like, what’s the worst case scenario? —

Dr. Stan: [00:06:08] Well a lot of fear and anxiety is irrational by nature, right?

Jesse: [00:06:11] Right! Right.

Dr. Stan: [00:06:12] It doesn’t make sense.

Jesse: [00:06:15] But so is it — Do you work through that process of of taking on those fears instead of pushing them away by working on little ones and working your way up? Or do you show this is the big meaty one right here? Let’s just just dove straight in.

Dr. Stan: [00:06:34] I like to go after the big, meaty one.

Jesse: [00:06:36] Okay.

Dr. Stan: [00:06:37] Yeah. And go after that. I mean, essentially what the way I think about it is, is that everyone has fear, everyone has anxiety, different levels. But that’s pretty much a given. The question is, do you have courage? In other words, how do you respond to your fear or anxiety? And you have to learn courage. Courage is a skill, as a set of behaviors that is developed through practice. So what I’m suggesting is we all have anxiety or fear, but we don’t all have courage. We encourage is not the absence of the fear. Courage is the response to the fear.

[00:07:22] So being courageous, I think it was old John Wayne, quote, with courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway, right? So what I want people to understand is, is don’t expect that you’re going to get to a point of time where you have no fear or anxiety in your life. You’re always going to have some fear and anxiety in your life. The question is, what is your anecdote for that? And courage and bravery and resolution. That’s the antidote. And you can and you can teach yourself that or you can learn that from other people, right?

[00:07:57] In other words, you can get to a point where you may have some anxiety. Say, for example, flying. There are people who are anxious about flying and they don’t ever fly. There’s other people who are anxious about fly, but they fly anyway, you know? I mean, I’ve worked with a number of athletes, have a real fear of flying. But the problem is, once you get to the professional level, if you can’t get on the plane, you can’t compete, right? So —

Jesse: [00:08:25] Guys got to learn to deal with it.

Dr. Stan: [00:08:28] Right. 

Jesse: [00:08:29] I often compare mental skills to muscles since I think sometimes – I’d love your opinion on this. I think people often have a much easier time dealing with like, oh, let’s, let’s do another rep, let’s do another set. Like the physicality of like what’s work hard but don’t necessarily know how or have the skills to try to work on that mental muscle. So my question is two part. One, is that an accurate metaphor? And two, does do mental skills atrophy like muscles do if you don’t practice them?

Dr. Stan: [00:09:11] Yeah, I think they do. I think whatever you do habitually is really important, whether it’s physical or mental. I mean, one of the things I want people to really think about or become aware of is just their own thinking. So for most of us, when we think we’re actually having a conversation with ourselves, right? So you’re thinking you generally think in words most of it. Now, if you’re a musician, you might think in terms of sound or music or lyric, which would be words. If you’re an artist, you might think more in terms of images and structure.

[00:09:49] But for the average person, when we think what we’re actually doing is having a conversation with ourselves, right? And which can be really helpful, especially when you find yourself in a place when you’re stuck, is just talk out loud to yourself. So instead of just thinking quietly, say it out loud or even write it down. Those things can be tremendously helpful because it just allows you to kind of like blow it up and see it more clearly. And I’ll do this like when I’ll be in the car and I’ll find myself fixated on something that I need to let go.

[00:10:26] I’ll literally say to myself, as I’m driving down the road, I go stand. Of all the things that you could pick to think about right now, isn’t it interesting that you pick this one? And all I’m doing is acknowledging to myself that I have some choice as to what I’m focusing my mind on. And if I’m focused on something that’s not going to be very productive, I want to give myself the option of leaving that and moving to something else. Or thinking about that in a different way of instead of what’s wrong with it. What’s good about it?

Jesse: [00:11:02] I think you —

Dr. Stan: [00:11:04] Study that shift.

Jesse: [00:11:05] Yeah. You mentioned writing those thoughts down. I had seen this suggestion not only years ago and use it from time to time. I think I even talked about it in one of my running videos the other day. There’s something you know. Have you seen research on this? Because I haven’t looked it up. But just I know personally there’s something about. You know, the physicality of like coalescing that thought into the written word that.

It distills it so much more accurately than just allowing the fuzzy thought to roam around your brain in this kind of ephemeral space. Like, I don’t know why. Which is why. I’m curious if you’ve seen, like, maybe fMRI research or like what’s going on with that, that connection with writing?

Dr. Stan: [00:11:57] Well, when you when you when you write something down, let’s say there’s say there’s a problem. You’re trying to understand or just a topic that you’re trying to understand. If you write down your thoughts and now you can see them, it really helps you. Refine it. So you think something. And then you write it down and then you read it. And as you read it, you’re actually thinking about your own faults, right? Which is what metacognition is. And you’ll see things differently. And you just go back and forth with that process of writing something down and then rewriting it, clarifying it, being very specific and careful with the words that you use.

[00:12:38] And this is one of the things I find myself when I work with people, I pay very close attention to the words that they use. And I’ll sometimes say to them, what would be another word to describe that, right? Or I’ll I’ll say. A person will say to me, I’m afraid of X. And I go, I don’t think you’re afraid of that. So, for example, here’s a classic one with athletes. The fear of losing my pat response on that is you’re not afraid of losing.

You’re not afraid of failure. “Okay. Then what am I afraid of?” You’re afraid of the embarrassment and the shame that comes from failure or losing. All right. That’s very different. So what I’m proposing is there is no fear of failure. There absolutely is a fear of embarrassment. Shame looking bad, losing status because we had this huge concern, many of us do of what other people think about us.

[00:13:39] So imagine getting to the point where you’re much more concerned about your own opinion of yourself than other people’s opinion yourself. And for a competitive athlete, that’s a huge thing. Like the person that you want to be most concerned about letting down is yourself, right? Do it for yourself. You mean do this because it’s important to you and you want to do it because it brings great enjoyment. Or it’s just your whole process of developing, becoming a full and complete person, which I think competition does. You know, I talk in the book about what does the word compete mean? And if you take it back to the Latin it means to seek with the common part is with and defeat part is seek.

[00:14:23] And I talk about in the book Harry Potter in the Harry Potter movies, when they play this game Quidditch, you know, what position does Harry play? He’s a seeker.

Jesse: [00:14:32] Right.

Dr. Stan: [00:14:32] Which is just another way of saying competitor. So I ask the athletes that I work with is is what is it that you’re seeking? In other words, whatever your sport is, running, swimming, triathlon, whatever it is, think of your sport as your own process of seeking or becoming aware of something. In terms of who you are as a person or the person you want to become. Like you use that metaphor. Think of your sport, and the day to day practice is a seeking in the same sense that a Buddhist monk might seek enlightenment.

[00:15:10] But think about that as you are seeking something. And it’s not to beat other people. Right. That’s not it. It’s not that I need to win so I can feel good about myself. That’ll never get you there. I mean, this is the thing that we’re seeing in our society right now, where we have people who are succeeding at very high levels, right? And we have more abundance and wealth than we ever have, right? But at the same time, we have more anxiety, depression, suicide, substance abuse than we ever had.

[00:15:41] So the winning, the success, the getting more stuff, it’s not working. It’s not going to make you happier. It will for a minute. It’s like I tell people, it’s like a good meal. Imagine, Jesse, you and I, we go to the best restaurant in Kansas City, right? And we just ordered a whole menu, and we just sleigh this thing, and we look across the table and go, Oh, my gosh, that was the best meal I ever had, right? Okay. How long is it going to last? In other words, when are we going to be hungry again? You know it eight, 9:00 the next morning. So, I mean, it’s temporary. And this is the truth about around all achievement is you need to understand that it’s temporary. Winning and getting the trophy. Yeah, it feels good, but for a little while. So the question is, is there is there something about competition or your sport that can sustain you past when you jump off the award stand?

Jesse: [00:16:32] This is actually something I wanted to ask you about. I saw you talk about in a video on the Facebook page for the book from a while ago, the — so first, you’re talking just a minute ago in our conversation, talking about the hedonic treadmill continually more, whether it’s material possessions or achievements or whatever, you’re needing more the next level, always upgrading.

And you talked about this a little bit in the video I watched about the need for continual self-improvement and never being content. I don’t think you use the word content, but so I wanted to talk about or ask you about the dichotomy of contentment versus self-improvement. Is it possible to be content, be happy and also continue to want to self-improve? Or is by nature the desire to change oneself mean that there is a lack of contentment still present?

Dr. Stan: [00:17:44] Well, let me let me answer it this way. So when you talk about self-improvement, I want you to think in terms of growth. So the question is, would it be normal or healthy for a human being to want to continue to grow and develop? And I would say, yes, it is. Now, as a child, your physical body is doing that whether you want it to or not. When you get into adulthood and now you kind of have the body that you have, you can do things to make that body become the best physical body it can be. And you can also do that with your mind and your spirit and your life in general.

[00:18:20] What I would suggest is I think it is normal and healthy for us to want to continue to grow and evolve as a as a being. And there’s a number of things to do that. I say that because when I look at depression, which we have quite a bit in this country, and you really and I really try to think about what what do I see going on with people who are depressed?

Frequently, what I see is a people who essentially they feel stuck. So one of the things that you’ll hear a depressed person say if you listen closely is it’s kind of like I’m living the same day, week, month and year, over and over and over again, right? Like there’s this boredom and complacency with my life.

[00:19:02] There’s nothing interesting and exciting about it, the joyful about it, right? So there’s this sense of being stuck. And so we saw a lot of that during COVID where people were trapped inside and two things happened. They didn’t feel like they were growing and developing in. The second piece of that is they felt isolated from others. So I believe we as human beings, we are social animals. And if you take a social animal and you isolate that animal, it doesn’t do well, right? So this is what happened with COVID, right? Is that we got we isolated ourselves some more so than others. And people felt the sense of stuff like, I got to wait for COVID to be over for my life to start back again, right?

[00:19:49] So what I’m saying is, is this combination of feeling like you’re in the ditch where you’re stuck, where you’re not growing, where your life is kind of on hold and then losing this sense of connection to other people. Which is interesting because leaders and high-performing people feel more lonely and isolated than average folks do. Let me repeat that. There’s really good science inside survey data suggests if you are a high performer, if you are a striver, if you’re kind of perfectionists and you need to be the best at what you do, there’s also a very good chance that you feel detached and disconnected from other people.

[00:20:25] Lonely, right? And that’s not a good thing, because when you’re lonely, it has a number of negative effects. In fact, there’s research suggests that that that being lonely is more detrimental to your health than being obese or more detrimental to your health than, say, being a smoker or a heavy drinker. So let me think about that. So what we what we what we need to do is we need to live a life where we feel like we’re growing and advancing to the next stage, right? So we don’t feel stagnant. And we need to live a life where we feel a deep connection to at least a handful of people.

[00:21:05] In other words, they’re important to you and you’re important to them. I think those are absolutes for us. I think we really need those things. And what’s interesting is that sport can do that, right? So, I mean, if if you’re a runner, this is a great chance to continue to challenge yourself physically. And if you run with other people, you know, those can be some of your more significant relationships. The other thing about exercise that doesn’t really get talked about is that and again, there’s really good research on this is that people who exercise and exercise regularly, rigorously as they age.

[00:21:44] I’m 60 as they we know that your brain optimizes about age 25. And just terms of the raw mental horsepower that you have and from 25 down, it’s a slow decline. And so what’s happening now is we have an aging population and there’s all these people trying to sell you different gimmicks of keeping your brain sharp, right? Like doing puzzles and stuff. We don’t have any any any good data suggest any of that works. What we do know is that people who exercise and exercise rigorously, that’s like the number one thing you can do to push back, you know, mental fog or decline y because when you do that, you’re getting more blood and more oxygen in your brain, right?

[00:22:26] So so that’s the other piece. I mean, if you want to keep a sharp mind, keep moving physically. So doing that, doing something where you feel like you’re advancing and growing and stay connected to other people, those are really important things. And. Again, going back to the literature on this, you know, for the people who are listened to that are lawyers and doctors, these are the two professions where the highest levels of loneliness are. Okay. Attorneys and doctors. And there’s a lot of people that are competitive athletes, and they do that in their high striving people, but they’re isolated all the time. The other thing is, is that if you’re a leader in the company, the more senior, the higher up you go up towards the CEO, the more isolated you are.

[00:23:14] So these these. So when you start thinking about just quality of life and feeling good and developing and growing, you know, you need two things. You need to do something back to your point about doing something that’s scarier, challenging, right? You need to do that. And I do that personally. I try to do one scariest thing every year and I’m getting ready to do my this year. Later this month, I’m I’m going over to France and I’m walking for 30 days doing about 470 miles on what’s called the Camino de Santiago, which is a network of footpaths that go all over Europe.

[00:23:50] And so I’ve done that most years where I go and walk for several weeks and pretty rigorously, you know, 25, 30 kilometers a day. And, and it’s challenging, but I love it and it’s exhausting, but we need to do those kinds of things. In other words, do people talk about goal setting? Most people, what their really their goal is is to not fail. Okay. What I want you to think about is setting a goal where there’s a pretty good chance that you might fail like a 50-50 would be, to me, the ideal goal. Right? You know, I got a 50% chance of achieving this and I got a 50% chance of failure.

[00:24:31] Those are the kind of goals that wake you up in the morning and get your full attention. You know, versus, well, I’ve done six marathons. I think I’ll do a seventh one. That’s probably not going to do it, right? So we need we need that sense of challenge. And the other thing is, when you age, you know, as we as we age, we still have really good endurance. You know, like people well into their seventies, can can can still cover a lot of miles in a day, whether they’re running or walking. So I think those kinds of things are really important.

[00:25:07] So to answer your question, yes, we need to not be stagnant. We need to be challenged. We need to do things that are difficult. We should take on as much difficulty and challenge as we can tolerate. That’s that’s the life you want to live. You don’t want an easy life, right? You want as difficult a life as you can manage. Now you’re fully alive. And you’ll hear people say that, right? That they’ll basically say, I wish my life was easier. They haven’t really thought about it. You don’t want your life to be easier. You want your life to be as full of challenge and responsibility and difficulty as you can manage. That’s being fully awake.

Jesse: [00:25:47] For a long time, I’ve said as a personal philosophy because, I don’t work in a field like you do where I get to see and talk to people and really get a sense of their other experiences. The greatest sense I had of that is this podcast talking to people about their experiences. But I’ve said for myself for a long time. Progress is happiness. It seems like you’re saying that applies more broadly than just to people like me.

Dr. Stan: [00:26:19] I would say happiness is I got what I want and unhappy is I don’t have what I want, right? So happiness as things are going my way. I’m not a big fan of happiness. I think we need to dig much deeper. I don’t think we should pursue happiness. I think we should pursue meaning and purpose. Okay, I want you to. I want you to wake up and feel like your life matters. Which is very different than wanting to be happy.

Jesse: [00:26:51] Right.

Dr. Stan: [00:26:51] Because here’s the fact of the matter is, things are not going to go your way and they’re going to be times when you’re not happy and there’s still a reason to go on even when you’re not happy. I can tell you, I’ve had extended periods of my life where I was not happy. But I didn’t want to end my life because I still felt like there was something that needed to be done. And so having a sense of meaning and purpose, I think, is really what we should be pursuing. Not not happiness. Happiness is like the weather, you know. It’s fleeting.

Jesse: [00:27:22] Right. So how should I how should I change my phrase? You talked about in the earlier part of this conversation really paying attention to people’s words. And I agree with you that that’s why I often try to work towards the thought of contentment rather than happiness, since happiness is here and it’s gone. But I guess I’m trying to find a pithy way to say that, like when I’m making progress that is working on things that I find fulfilling and meaningful, that I’m generally more content. Obviously, that’s a mouthful. So how would I truncated that down to like if I wanted to put it on a t shirt and wear it around? How do I how should I phrase that?

Dr. Stan: [00:28:13] Well, let me let me try to help you say it, and maybe the two of us together can figure it out. Here’s what I’ve noticed in my life. Okay? My best days here are my best days. I get up and I have a lot to do. Right. And I go from one meeting, one appointment to the next. And it’s pretty full, you know. And I find 5 minutes somewhere in there to shove something in my mouth and keep going. Right. And. And I’m so busy doing what I’m doing with you right now. I don’t think about Stan Beecham. I don’t even consider him. He’s a total non-issue all-day long, it’s these activities and these things that I’m doing. But I think they’re important.

[00:28:54] And then five or six or 7:00 comes, right. And I take a breath and then I go, Oh, yeah, there’s a beach. And how’s he doing? And for the first time, I think about me, like, how am I doing? Those are my best days where I don’t think about me. My worst days I wake up, there’s not a lot going on. I start thinking about my life. Well, have I done enough? I should do more. What about all the things I haven’t done yet? Right. I need to be more successful. I need to be more of this. I need to make more money. Go buy this, whatever it is. And so I spend my whole day thinking about what I need to do or haven’t done yet or how I’m not enough.

[00:29:32] In other words, when I think about myself in my life, that generally is not a good sign. And I think that’s true for most people, is that you’re at your best when you’re doing things that are important and a value and sitting around thinking about your own self-esteem and all that, right? It doesn’t happen. I mean, I think about like our grandparents and our great grandparents, you know, there was no self-esteem movement. I think the terrible experiment in the seventies, you know, where we told kids that they’re all special, right?

[00:30:03] And we believe that if we just raise their self-esteem, they would somehow do better. Then we found out that was a miserable failure, that the kid who’s unhappy because he can’t ride his bike and all of his friends can, there’s only one thing that’s going to solve that, and that’s that kid has to learn to ride the bike or the kid who can’t read and feels really bad telling that kid, Oh, you’re okay, you’re special, it’s going to be okay. Doesn’t work because a kid knows you’re full of shit, right? What you got to do is teach a kid to read, right./ And this is this is how our grandparents grew up is nobody asked them how they you’re feeling. What they’re saying is, what are you doing? Did you do your homework? Did you play nice with the other children, right?

[00:30:45] Were you respectful to your elders? You know? You know, did you keep your promises like that was the focus. The focus is on what you did, not how you feel. And what’s happened is, is we’ve shifted the focus to how do you feel, honey? And what I’m saying is we really need to think about what if you don’t like your life and you’re unhappy, don’t get fixated on your emotional state.

[00:31:05] Think about what you’re doing. What are the task of your day? Maybe you need to find more meaningful work. Maybe you need to find some more people to care about. So.

Jesse: [00:31:19] So — 

Dr. Stan: [00:31:19] When I’m when I’m working with like elite distance runners and I’m working with a few right now, you know, the thing I imagine you’re the top 1015 in the US, right? Whatever your event is. I talk about looking for seconds and inches.

Jesse: [00:31:35] Right.

Dr. Stan: [00:31:36] Right. Like that’s how you’re going to get better is a second at a time. You know, there’s a point in your career where you’re looking for minutes and miles, but when you get at the elite level, you’re looking for seconds, right? I mean, I’ve got an athlete I’m working with, and she just missed an American record by 1 second. She broke an American record, and a couple of weeks later, she missed one by 1 second. And it’s like. It doesn’t matter. Like, you’re you’re you’re you’re going to find that second because that’s how you’re living your life.

Jesse: [00:32:10] So. Several things you give a lot. There’s a lot there’s always a lot to try to unpack here. You talk about your happiest days are basically when you’re you’re busy, you forget about staying, right?

Dr. Stan: [00:32:27] Yes.

Jesse: [00:32:28] It seems to me I don’t know whether we want to go forward in language to say it’s a lack of ego, a lack of sense of self, or whether it’s we want to say we want to go with the Buddhists and be. It’s mindfulness. It’s being present in the moment. But it does seem like, as you described it, stands, stops existing. It’s a dissolution of self for at least a period of time and you become present. Is that an accurate way to describe that situation?

Dr. Stan: [00:32:58] Yes. And I’m trying to think about your T-shirt, because I think there’s a t shirt here. And and so the things that come to mind is, is that you’re not important. What you do is important, but like get out, get over yourself, you’re not important and let yourself quit trying to be so important as a person. But that’s different than the work that you do and how you treat people like let that be important. So that’s one of the things I tell. I tell athletes like the runners I’m working with right now is take running seriously.

[00:33:31] To take your training seriously, take your diet seriously. Don’t take yourself seriously. But take your sports seriously. Like take your relationship seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously. Take your work seriously. But don’t take yourself seriously. That’s the secret. And to your point that that is a that is a kind of an ego dissolution, right? I mean, to think about that, can my life being important in my life be really important without me being important? The answer is yes. And you should pursue that.

Jesse: [00:34:06] It almost seems like what you’re advocating is basically not quite. So you say it’s. It’s somewhat anathema to many of the things that I think our culture suggests that we do and focus on about who we are. I think you touched on this in that video I watched talking about the story that we tell ourselves about who we are. And it seems like you’re pointing towards the idea of a lack of a sense of self, but rather. A movement towards action and action and presence rather than storytelling.

Dr. Stan: [00:34:58] Yeah. I’m saying the doing the doing the behavior is really important. Right? I mean, when you think about certain things, we refer to it as a practice. If you’re a doctor, you practice medicine. You know, if you participate in yoga, you practice yoga. What does it mean to have a practice? Well, there’s meditation is a practice. So the practice is the repetitive doing of something over and over again. And there’s real value in that.

[00:35:27] You can if you’re an avid runner, you can think of your running as a practice know, when I go on these long walks, I think of it as a is an extended meditation because when I walk, I’m either by myself, but if I’m on a trip with other people, I don’t walk with them. Like if you and I were walking, I wouldn’t be walking beside you talking to you. You would be ten or 20 or 50 yards in front of me or vice versa. And I would say to you, Hey, look, Jesse, I’m glad to be here with you, but I’m not going to just have mundane conversation all day. Both be quiet for 2 hours, and then when we take a stop up here, we can share about something that we had some insight into. So.

Jesse: [00:36:15] So let’s let’s say let’s work through this. So let’s say I am entirely focused on myself and how I feel. I’m not doing anything. I’m just I’m at home all day or maybe I have a job, but not really engaged in it. How do I go from there to what you’re prescribing is a more like fulfilling life? What are my steps? What’s my first action to, to get out of that kind of doldrums?

Dr. Stan: [00:36:46] Well, generally, when people are in that mindset, they feel like they need to become more successful or more important. What I’m saying is don’t take that path. Take the path. I need to do something that’s meaningful and relevant. And and generally that has to do with other people, not yourself. I mean, there’s a there’s a classic experiment where they look at Western people versus non Westerners, right? People who don’t live in really the US. But I think they expand it to North America. But the question is, is if you could do one thing to make yourself happy, what would you do? Americans generally answer that question.

[00:37:30] Well, I go buy myself a new pair of running shoes or I go buy myself something or I would I do some purchase or some experience. I go to Hawaii because I’ve never been to Hawaii kind of thing. Right? They do that. That’s the Western response. The other response is, is that I would do something for another person. I would cook a meal and take it to a friend. And what I’m saying is, is put those kinds of activities into your day to day lifestyle if you want to live a fulfilled life. Like, I cook a lot, you know? And so when I make soup, I make it three gallons at a time and I jar it up. And I have people like my parents and other friends and I take them soup.

[00:38:20] Now they enjoy the soup, but I also understand I need to do that. Okay. I need to feed more people than myself, because when I do that, then I feel like I’m at my best. Or the next time you’re in the grocery store and you know, you see a mom there with three or four small kids and she looks like she’s struggling to pay for her groceries. Okay. It’s going to cost you 100 bucks, but you can swing it. But do it and don’t tell anybody that you did it. Just do it, right?

[00:38:51] And and remember when she looks you in the eye and says, thank you. Remember that expression on her face like, hold on to that. Because she’s going to remember that. And you need to remember that. And so it’s doing those kinds of things. But I think we again, we spend way too much energy trying to pursue our own success in trying to make our lives better. And I’m saying that’s only going to take you so far. You know, I know of a number of people who’ve enjoyed being a coach much more than they enjoyed being an athlete. Right. I’ve had the joy of working with some really good coaches and they’re great coaches, but they were just pretty good athletes. You know.

Jesse: [00:39:39] This is a little bit of a tangent, but it is related. Your your thought about the idea of helping other people help yourself reminds me of a question. One of my psychology professors had an undergrad and it’s the idea of. Does altruism exist? Because because of that effect, right? When you help other people, you help yourself. So is it possible that altruism exists at all? And then my follow up to that would be, does it matter?

Dr. Stan: [00:40:16] Mm hmm. Yeah. Ayn Rand, right. That was her whole thing, is that she thought that there was no altruism, right? Right. It’s an interesting. It’s an interesting thing to think about. And what I would say is, is do you believe fundamentally that you’re connected to others or do you believe that you’re isolated and separated from others? Okay. Like when you when people.

Generally, kind of go down more of a spirituality route. They come to this belief that we’re kind of all one organism, right? Kind of like, you know, these these large areas where the aspen trees are. Right. And they used to believe that they were thousands of separate trees. And they realized in these aspen groves that the roots connect. And it’s all actually one root system.

[00:41:14] So they went from thinking that the aspens were individual trees to now it’s one organism. And I would say if you think of yourself as an individual tree. How does that impact you versus if you think of yourself as one piece of this larger organism called humanity? And you could look you can argue that either way. Now you can get into the God argument, right? 

Jesse: [00:41:40] Right.

Dr. Stan: [00:41:41] So there’s no there’s no right or wrong answer. But what I want people to think about is, is that whatever you hold is true. Like, whatever you believe, then that’s your truth. And there’s no doubt and everybody knows this, that you run into people who have a belief system that’s harming them. Right? Like there are people who believe things that is harmful to them. Like, if I believe that my life doesn’t matter and my belief my belief is that nobody else’s life matters, then it’s easy to kill myself or kill other people because it’s all insignificant anyway.

[00:42:12] So you do have a belief system about yourself and how you are connected or not connected to other people. The question is, is what is the impact of that belief system is having on you? And so some of us have a belief system that’s detrimental to ourselves. And you get to have it that way. Nobody can make you believe anything that you don’t want to believe. But it’s interesting to me that people hold on to beliefs that are destructive to themselves.

Jesse: [00:42:43] Sometimes I think about the idea. I actually have to remember which guest we are. I made the suggestion of humanity as a superorganism, thinking about the idea of us —

Dr. Stan: [00:42:57] The Aspen grove?

Jesse: [00:42:57] Right as an aspen grove. And. I. Although I tend towards that. Idea. I also sometimes shy away from it. Maybe because of. You know, the incidents of, as you’re mentioning, but people holding beliefs that are harmful to themselves that maybe negatively affect me. So I have difficulty digesting both the idea of being interconnected with all of humanity and not being. Swayed or affected negatively by those sometimes harmful beliefs that other people hold. Would you have a suggestion for me? I guess.

Dr. Stan: [00:43:52] Well. I think the number one is be really clear and intentional about what it is that you believe in and be honest with yourself about how is your belief system affecting your life? And if you have a belief that’s causing you harm, I would suggest you take a look at it. It’s possible that you’re wrong. I would say that we all are wrong about something. What I mean by wrong I mean is you’re holding on something that’s damaging you. Okay.

[00:44:26] If you grabbed a hold of a pot and the pot was burning hot. You would turn loose a bit quickly, wouldn’t you? But if you were hanging on to that, I might say to you, your life would probably be better if you turn loose of that hot thing, because your hand is really severely burned now. And the longer you hold on to it, the worse it’s going to be. But yet, it’s interesting that human beings don’t like admitting that they’re wrong. But I would say we’re probably all wrong about something. Right? And so we know this. I mean, when you look at the psychology of success, we know that people will put much more energy into avoiding a failure than they will in pursuing a success. This is really interesting. I mean, this is we know this to be true about our species. Okay.

[00:45:15] And so you can see it, for example, with how people invest money. Okay. So we have really good historical data about investments and what you should expect. But there are people who who’ve amassed a pretty substantial amount of money, but they won’t invest it because they’re afraid they’re going to lose it. All right. And so they leave it in cash or CDs or those kinds of things because they’re they’re afraid of losing their money. Mm hmm. And so they don’t lose their money, but they don’t grow their money the way that someone who invests wisely. A

[00:45:46] nd so I’ve worked a lot with financial advisors and financial services company, and this is what we know is that when you hire someone to do this and make this decision objectively, you do much better. Right? Your investment output is significantly better because you’re hiring someone who’s going to make investments based upon objective data, not your own emotions or your own fear of losing your money. Right? That’s the number one reason why you should hire somebody like that is that you’re not going to do it yourself. You’re going to be afraid and you’re going to actually not take enough risk, which means you won’t grow your money at the rate that you could because you’re afraid of losing it.

[00:46:28] So, yes. So we know that that we are much more interested in avoiding failure than we are pursuing success with our belief system. We’re much we’re way too concerned about. Being wrong and we’re not willing to change our mind. And I ask people this all the time that I work with. It’s like, when was the last time you made a significant change in terms of around something that you believe are held is true? Right? Like, give me something that you’ve done in the past. Give me a give me an example of something that you’ve done in the last year where you significantly changed your mind on something. Maybe on diet of what you eat. Or maybe. You know, your work or relationships.

[00:47:22] If you’re not making significant shifts on that, then you’re probably stuck. But we know this that people don’t write. So the average American, whatever religious beliefs you had as a kid, you have as a 60 year old, whatever political social beliefs that you had as a teenager, you have as a 60 year old. Like people don’t change their minds because they don’t want to admit that they’re wrong. And what I’m saying is start there, admit that you’re wrong about something, but you don’t know what it is. And then take off.

Jesse: [00:48:00] Dr. Stan. I don’t want to run you out of time. So I have a question that I ask each season. I have a singular question. I ask every single guest. Okay, so hopefully this is a good place for us to end.

Dr. Stan: [00:48:13] I hope I get it right.

Jesse: [00:48:15] Well, as you mentioned.

Dr. Stan: [00:48:16] It’s not going to be like, what’s the square root of something is?

Jesse: [00:48:18] Yeah, no, we’re not doing we’re not doing math questions.

Dr. Stan: [00:48:21] Okay. All right, good.

Jesse: [00:48:22] This one should hopefully be in your wheelhouse. And maybe you’ll tell me why this is a good or bad question. But the question this season is because I don’t think people do this enough. It was suggested to me by an entrepreneur friend is how do you celebrate your wins?

Dr. Stan: [00:48:40] So yesterday I had a colonoscopy. And I got good news. So I celebrated by having dinner with some family and friends, and I celebrated by giving a gift to a stranger.

Jesse: [00:49:04] So I guess the follow up is, is that a good question to ask people?

Dr. Stan: [00:49:08] Yeah, I think it’s a perfectly fine question. I mean, we should celebrate our wins, and at the same time, we should learn from our failures. Look, here’s here’s the problem, Jesse, is we think of success and failure as two separate things. I want you to think of it as one thing. It’s two sides to the same coin. Okay. So when you have a success or you have a win. What that outcome is telling you is keep doing that the way you’re doing, that’s working for you. Okay.

[00:49:39] So as a runner, if you run a PR, let that win. Let that PR say your training regimen is working for you like your own point. Go forward. At the same time, if you experience a loss or a failure. All that is saying is, is that’s not working. We need to make a shift, but they’re both useful information. So knowing to stay on the path I’m on, that’s useful information to know that I need to change paths. That’s useful information. So it’s not that one’s good and one’s bad. The problem is, is we see our failures are our losses as bad things. If you see it as this is a lesson you haven’t learned to let yet, right?

[00:50:21] And if you keep staying on that path, you’re going to have more failure. Right. So, yes, you celebrate your win, but you also understand that the wind is telling you that you’re on the right path. Stay forward with that. Right? And you should acknowledge these little things. I mean, one of the things that I’m really trying to appreciate is just the simple joys of life. You know, I mean, to have to sit at a table with people that you love like that should be a big deal. Like, let that be a big deal. You know, to, you know, maybe you get an email from someone who’s listening to this conversation and they say, Hey, Jesse, you know, your conversation with Stan was really helpful for me. That’s great. I mean, that’s the reason why I’m giving you an hour of my time is if one or two people, it really helped them get out of the ditch or pursue another path. Then it’s worth an hour of my time, even if I never meet the person.

Jesse: [00:51:18] Right. Right. 

Dr. Stan: [00:51:18] And I know that. And I’m willing to do that. And obviously you are, too.

Jesse: [00:51:24] Yeah. And that’s I mean that is part of the hope is even though not not like the biggest podcast on the planet by any stretch is that you make some kind of impact to somebody and help them. And that’s why I love to talk to people like you. Dr. Stan we mentioned it at the top of the podcast, but again, where can people get in touch with you if they want to get in touch, pick with the book, all those kind of things?

Dr. Stan: [00:51:49] Yeah, just drstanbeecham.ccom is a website. You can track me down, you can email me, you can call me from there, but. Yeah.

Jesse: [00:51:59] Sounds good! Stan, thanks for hanging out with me today.

Dr. Stan: [00:52:02] Yeah, thanks, Jesse. I really enjoyed it.

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