Mel Schwartz, LCSW

#106 The Science of Success

In this episode, I’m interviewed by Matt Bodnar on The Science of Success Podcast.

Matt, a truly gifted interviewer, prompts me to share the evolution of my thinking and how I came to distill some principles of quantum physics into a guide for living with resilience and self-empowerment.

How is it possible that the laws of physics hold lessons that could help us redefine our relationship with anxiety and suffering and open the door to possibility?

We talk about the implications of this new worldview and how profoundly it can benefit our lives.

This episode is chock full of really unique opportunities to engage our transformative process. Give it a listen! And be sure to leave a comment!

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Transcript of The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz #106

MEL: Hello everybody and welcome to The Possibility Podcast. I’m your host, Mel Schwartz. I practice psychotherapy, marriage counseling, and I am the author of the book, The Possibility Principle, the companion to this podcast. I hope to be your thought provocateur and I’ll be introducing you to new ways of thinking and a new game plan for life.

MEL: In this episode, I’m going to be sharing with you a great interview that Matt Bodnar conducted with me. Matt’s podcast is called The Science of Success and it’s been downloaded more than 2 million times. During this interview, Matt is going to ask me a whole range of really intriguing questions. We have a really lively, insightful discussion about how I developed the principles that have informed my work and my approach toward connecting in our relationships, building self-esteem, mastering our thinking in our lives. All the premises from my book, The Possibility Principle.

MEL: I hope you enjoy the show. Let’s get started.

MATT: Today we have another great guest on the show, Mel Schwartz. Mel is a psychotherapist, marriage counselor, author, and speaker. He’s one of the first contemporary practicing psychotherapists to distill the basic premises of quantum theory into therapeutic approaches. He’s the author of the book, The Possibility Principle, how quantum physics can improve the way you think, live, and love. And it’s been featured in Psychology Today, TED, and much more. Mel, welcome to The Science of Success.

MEL: Thank you, Matt. It’s exciting to be with you.

MATT: Well, we’re very excited to have you on the show today. And you know, it’s funny, obviously science is kind of a big theme of our show, even in the title of the show, The Science of Success. But in many ways, I feel like you’ve created a really unique perspective on kind of integrating some science that we typically don’t really dig into or talk about on the show, specifically this kind of notion of the quantum worldview and applying it to life, stress, anxiety, all kinds of different things. I’d love to kind of dig into that and really hear about how you kind of came to this approach that perhaps quantum physics could hold some answers for living better lives.

MEL: Well, I’ll look right at this field of inquiry, Matt. I’ll go back about 25 years ago. I had recently divorced. I woke up one beautiful spring morning thinking it’s a great day to take a bike ride. My young children was their mom for that day. So I went out and enjoyed myself. In the middle of that bike ride, I experienced what I guess we’d call a panic attack. My mind started to race with fear about my future, what it would be like. Bike around and headed back home. And upon arriving home, I absentmindedly pulled a book off the shelf, which was called The Turning Point by a physicist named Frijof Capra. And I started to read about this fascinating shift of paradigm, this worldview shift, taking us away from Newtonian reality of 17th century quantum worldview. After reading about 10 or 15 minutes, I noticed that I wasn’t feeling anxious any longer. I continued reading and I found that I became fascinated in this new worldview. It excited me, frankly, it enthralled me. It’s 25 years later and I’ve never stopped.

MEL: I began to look at the core principles of quantum physics, which are reality is not certain or deterministic as we had been trained to think by Newton. It’s not predictable. It’s uncertain. And I began to realize that uncertainty equals possibility, whereas determinism shuts off the door to possibility. As a therapist, I’ve come to see that the disorder, the epidemic of anxiety we experience has to do with our relationship with uncertainty.
When we ward off uncertainty, when we need to know the future in advance, it creates distress and anxiety. Paradoxically, if we learn to embrace uncertainty, we can ride the waves of change. Furthermore, I saw that quantum theory held that reality is literally one inseparable whole, just as Eastern mystical traditions had always taught us. But now science was confirming that mysticism, at least on the quantum level.

MEL: Well, over the last couple of decades, science has indicated this inseparability that appears on the quantum level, appears on our everyday macro level as well. What does that do? It means that we are no longer separate, disconnected cogs in Newton’s machine-like universe, where there’s no meaning and purpose and change is hard and we are inert. But if we are all thoroughly interconnected, meaning and purpose are our birthright. What I am participates in the creation of reality. It’s more like a reality-making process. And in this interconnection, compassion and empathy make perfect sense because if I tend to the other and care for the other, that improves my lot in life. We’re not alienated, separated individuals. I think so much of what else our modern culture comes from excessive competition and greed born of Newton’s worldview of individualism, of separation. I refer to it as the myth of separation. So I began to employ inseparability, uncertainty, and potentiality into my work as a therapist. And I found that the results were often starkly the same issues. Month after month and year after year, we were able, by we I mean my therapy clients and myself, to foster an approach which would help people have turning points. Just as I had that turning point in reading that book, it was not a slow, gradual process of getting it. I don’t believe that self-improvement, enlightenment needs to conform to gradualism. Finding one’s life when we have an aha, we look at something differently and we start to write a new script for our lives. So that’s what brought me to this work.

My approach is that I read quantum physics. And by the way, for the listeners, I am not a scientist. I was a C student in science. I’m not reading math and formulas. I’m simply reading principles and asking, if this is so, then how can I reorganize how I live my life to benefit from this powerful new worldview? And I find it effective in overcoming fear and anxiety and becoming the master of your thinking. I use some of these techniques to enhance our communication and our relationships, Matt. That’s a broad overview of what has brought me to this work.

MATT: The interesting thing that I find with this quantum worldview that you’ve applied to psychology and self-improvement is that this is a conclusion that is based in the fundamental principles of the hard sciences. It’s not something that is from social science or psychology studies where it’s often easier to kind of turn over, disrupt the results, or maybe the sample sizes can be so small that you can get kind of an erroneous conclusion. These are some of the major fundamental ideas from physics, biology, et cetera. And they have some really monumental takeaways for the way that we live and exist in the world.

MATT: Moreover, to that very point, there’s a chapter in my book, The Possibility Principle, in which I suggest that arguably the most important scientific discovery that has ever occurred goes unknown to most of us because we’d have to radically reconsider reality. When I speak of inseparability, this had to do with a thought experiment between Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. The experiment was if you take two photons, they exist in what’s called an entangled state, which means they have an affinity for each other. And as entangled particles, they have a spin, but they have opposite spins. One spins negative, one spins positive. The thought experiment was if we take these photons and separate them by a great distance, let’s think half a universe, how long will the signal take from one to the other in regard to alternating their spin? So we change the spin of one, the other particle must change its spin. How long will it take? Einstein argues that the signal will be sent and it cannot travel as fast as the speed of light. Niels Bohr said no signal will be sent. It won’t be necessary. They are as one, no matter the distance between them. This caused Einstein to make his famous statements of, you know, God doesn’t play dice with the universe, and if this is true, I’d rather be a cobbler than a physicist. And the debate rages on for decades. After Einstein’s death, the technology is finally available to test this theorem. And the results conclusively show that Niels Bohr was correct. No signal is sent. Now, this has been retested with increasingly more sophisticated technology over the decades. And the result is always the same. Now, in our everyday lives, we experience inseparability. We can call it ESP or intuition. I talk in my book about the fact that if we have a pair of twins and she lives in San Francisco and he lives in Paris and she falls down and breaks her ankle, and exactly at that moment, she feels a pain in her ankle. And the skeptic says, well, they have shared DNA. But this occurs increasingly without the shared DNA. There are ways of knowing that are not applicable to the rational analytical modality of science. And what we do, and it’s bad science, is we discard it as an anomaly. Placebo effect is an example. Medicine accepts placebo effect, but we should look at the placebo effect and say, well, wait a minute. If my mind can be as efficacious in healing what I need to treat as the medicine, I need to look at that. Therefore, I propose there is no mind-body connection because there is no mind-body separation. They are as one. So you see, our thinking has been trained to separate things up, to create compartments and divisions where none exists. And then our thought does not think and operate in wholeness, which contributes to so much of the disaster we encounter in our world. We need to learn to think in wholeness. So as you said, this is hard science. I do not come at this from New Age or from spiritual traditions, but in this case, quantum physics as a hard science is affirming and corresponding with many fields of deep spiritualism. Mind-body appear to be as one.

MATT: You know, it’s funny, we’ve had that theme and that idea recur in a couple of conversations on the show. One of the most recently, our interview with Stephen Kotler, we kind of looked at he studies flow and the science and the psychology behind that. And what they found is that even the kind of perception in your brain that you are separate from everything else in the world, there’s a specific part of the brain that kind of generates that essentially controlled illusion that you are separate. And when they study people who meditate really deeply, whether they’re, you know, Buddhist monks or nuns, or even people who are in extreme flow states, that part of the brain shuts down and that creates that sort of sense of that feeling that everything is one and that you are not disconnected in any way from everything else.

MEL: And the way I look at it, that phenomenon with regard to the brain is I do not believe that the brain produces thought. My belief is that thought leaves its mark on the brain. So imagine that you’re walking at the beach. If you look behind you and you see your footprint in the sand, we wouldn’t think the sand produced the footprint. Your foot lift its mark on the brain. I believe that thoughts and feelings leave their mark on the brain, which is actually good news because it means we are not hardwired and we are not at the mercy of brain chemistry. Again, terms like hardwired, or I think I have a screw loose, these are terminologies that come from Newton’s machine-like universe. So we have to look at our language. Our language is so important here in depicting how we picture reality. I’ll be giving a TEDx talk in a couple of weeks in Fenway Park around language. When we use the two be verbs, is, am, were, was, be, these are all inert verbs that preclude movement or change and speak of objective realities. They are remnants from Newton’s worldview. And they turn us into passive victims in how we picture ourselves and our relationships. So language plays a large part in this shift of paradigm.

MEL: I’ve wondered why has it taken us nearly 100 years to enjoy the benefits of this worldview shift? And it occurred to me that our thoughts are comprised of words. And if our words, like to be verbs, are rooted in the inert objective reality of Newton’s worldview, then the shift gets perturbed. We don’t break through. So speaking without using, and writing without using to be verbs, completely changes our notion of how we communicate. It allows us to speak and think in perceptive ways, where we are the perceiver, we are participating in the creating of our thought and our perceptions. It is an intersubjective based reality, rather than the reality of Newton’s objective perspective, where we are separate and discreet in observing what is. So based upon the insights of quantum physics, objectivity cannot and does not exist. And I regard that as good news, because if objectivity exists, we become the objects. It leads to a malaise that creates enormous amounts of depression. Depression comes from the sense of alienation and aloneness of Newton’s worldview. So when we begin to consider that our thoughts and our thinking participate in the constructing of our personal reality and our perceptions of others, everything opens up. Now I am not going to the extreme of the nonsense of fake news. I’m not arguing that there aren’t things we can’t all agree on, as having happened is real. I’m not moving to that extreme. And I’m talking about in our perceptions and experiences as human beings, we can begin to shift from a human being to what I call human becoming.

MEL: You see, the question, who am I, is an often asked question. And I wrote an article called, Who Am I? And in this article, I propose it’s the wrong question. Who am I is looking for a fixed, finite, specific, inert response. What we should be doing is asking ourselves, how would I like to experience my life? I like to see myself as a human in the process of becoming, not being, to move out of that stalled, fixed, inert state of mind that creates the construct and the belief that change is hard. Change needn’t be hard. But if we’re operating from this old worldview, then change is the exception and is hard.

MATT: I want to come back and dig into this and just sort of extrapolate this concept a little bit for listeners so that they can have a better understanding of it.When you talk about this idea of kind of the Newtonian worldview, I think you’ve done a really good job kind of explaining this notion of how quantum physics can reshape our perceptions of the world. But when we think about the kind of Newtonian worldview, tell me what is that so listeners can kind of spot that thinking in their own lives and be aware when they’re kind of using that frame of reference or using that language to sort of perceive reality?

MEL: Certainly. So Newton described reality as a giant machine, became known as a mechanistic worldview or a machine-like worldview. And the giant machine was comprised of separate, discrete parts. We of course became separate parts in Newton’s machine. One of the fundamental tenets of Newton’s worldview was determinism. If you have enough information, today we’ll call it data, you can reasonably predict the future. Well, that mindset, this need to predict the future, completely frustrates and thwarts our ability to be present and to engage in a flowing participatory reality. Instead of actually engaging in life, so many people sit back and live life as though you’re playing a chess match. You’re looking and calculating and contemplating, should I make this move or that? What will be the consequences? We’re playing it all out in a deterministic way. And in so doing, we succumb to anxiety and fear, the fear of making the wrong moves, the fear of making the wrong choice. The other tenet of Newton’s worldview is of course separation. So if we are all separate from one another, it leaves us without meaning and purpose. Compassion and empathy are the exception. We compete and individualism takes hold to the point of greed running rampant, which we see so much of in our world. On a smaller personal level, this is what I see occurring in relationships. Relationships fall apart when we can’t be empathic and compassionate. It’s easy to say I love you, but it becomes challenging to act lovingly. So when I look at epidemics of anxiety and depression, and they are at epidemic levels, I consider that they are the natural outcome of Newton’s machine-like universe. Because as human beings, if we’re living under the template of a machine, that is dehumanizing. It doesn’t inspire. There is no wonder and awe and connectivity in imagination.

MEL: Let’s look at an expression like that’s immaterial. A legal term, but we use it in our everyday lives. That’s immaterial. What does that suggest? It suggests that something that is not material is less than. It isn’t important.
We need to measure everything. I recently was in a session when one of my clients would propose that everything is measurable. I asked him if he could measure his love for his wife. How would he quantify it? So we became the objects of our own measurement. And as I propose, it leads to so much of the illness that we experience on so many levels. And I find the solutions lie in the quantum worldview, which suggests that reality isn’t fixed. It’s a reality making process is completely stirring and unfolding every nanosecond. So I took that belief that quantum reality is in a state of potential, always waiting to occur. And I considered that we too are in a state of pure potential. In the nanosecond before we have our next thought, we are in a state of pure potential. Because if we keep having the same old thoughts, we don’t experience our potential. So I’ve devised methods to be able to see your thought and experience that nanosecond as actually a second or two. And when you can see your thought, you’re thinking. And that’s when you can access new possibility and new change in your life.

MATT: I love this idea that the reality is not fixed. And you know, from obviously from sort of a physical and a quantum perspective, that’s a fundamentally true law of physics. But I want to dig into the kind of broader concept of uncertainty. And what happens when we try to avoid uncertainty? And why do so many people live their lives in kind of a mode of uncertainty minimization?

MEL: We’re trained to seek certainty. Let’s take a look at the role certainty and uncertainty have in our lives. Uncertainty fuels the gross domestic product. Sports are based on uncertainty. Movies, thrillers, books. We seek uncertainty in our lives. But on a more personal level, we become choked by certainty. Why? It’s the operating world view that we need to avoid making a mistake. We need to make the right decisions. And we can best be assured of doing that by collecting enough information so that we can predict a future event. So people become afraid of making the wrong decision. They become afraid of the consequences of their decisions. But so many people then become stalled out in anxiety and fear and don’t make a decision. Well, Matt, we need to concern ourselves with the consequences of our inactions as much as our actions. I work with so many people in which I see the fear of the consequence of a decision stalls them out. And I see this in the corporate arena too where I do consulting with corporations. The fear of the uncertain constrains us in our relationship with the known. And what happens if we change the relationship with the unknown? If we learn to embrace the unknown, again, unknown equals possibility.

MEL: So think of it this way. And I did this exercise with a client and it’s part of a recent TEDx talk I gave on overcoming anxiety. Picture you’re on the bank of a river and the river is flowing. And I explained to you that metaphorically that river is the flow of your life. And I entice you to go into that river. But you know, you’re stuck with this fear of uncertainty. But you get into the river and in the middle of the river, the current picks up and you grab a hold of a boulder. And I say to you, why are you holding on to the boulder? And you say, well, the river bends to the right up ahead. And I need to know where it’s going. I don’t know where it’s going. My response is, we’re not supposed to know where it’s going. You need to get into the flow of life. But once you’re in the flow, you’re free to navigate. You can shift direction, but we have to get into the flow. So the fear of making a mistake has become such a powerful tenet and meme in our lives. We need to unravel this notion of mistake. A mistake is an event that occurs we wish hadn’t occurred. But mistakes need to be experienced because by experiencing them, we grow, we evolve. We need to take the concept of mistake and start to limit it and not exalt the sphere of a mistake because it creates a tremendous amount of anxiety and stress. Life is awful of experiences. If we label them mistakes, we live in fear.

MEL: This is my second career. When I was 40 years old, I had a defining moment and decided to close my business and pursue an area I thought I could be passionate about. If I succumbed to the fear of would that be a mistake, I wouldn’t be sitting here having this conversation with you today. Now, it might not have worked out the way I planned, but that’s okay. I’d be in the flow of life and I’d navigate in some other direction. We need to get into the flow and to do that, we must welcome uncertainty, not avoid it.

MATT: So how does the fear of mistakes and the fear of uncertainty fuel anxiety?

MEL: Direct correlation that I see between anxiety and avoidance of uncertainty. Now, what is it that avoids the uncertainty? It’s our thought. You see, thought becomes addicted to seeking certainty. When thought becomes addicted to seeking certainty and there is no certainty, what’s the result? We’re anxious. We’re afraid. I have found it in my work as a therapist when I can help people see how their thought is addicted to seeking certainty and rethink it so that they can embrace uncertainty, anxiety and fear retreats. If reality appears uncertain and we seek certainty, the conclusion is dysfunction. We can’t exist that way, can we? Reality is uncertain, but we need certainty. How well is that going to play out? So the way to break it down is search for your thought that is demanding certainty and seeking certainty and change your relationship with that kind of thinking. When you change your relationship with uncertainty and see it as your ally so that if you have a thought that says, this is making me feel uncomfortable, then that should be a signal that you’re on the right path. Don’t avoid it. Embrace the discomfort. When we go to the gym and work out, we embrace discomfort. We know we’re creating new muscle. We must embrace discomfort psychologically and cognitively to grow. So if you’re feeling uncomfortable, take it as a good signal, as a guidepost and take the next step in that discomfort in regard to bring on some more uncertainty.

MATT: You know, it’s funny, if you look at the science and the research and the studies of people who are some of the top performers in nearly any field, that theme, that idea of discomfort and embracing discomfort, both psychologically, cognitively, physically, etc. is one of the core themes of human performance. So I think it’s such a really good point. And I want to give you credit as well. Even before the interview got started, which in the pre-show discussion, the listeners obviously don’t know this and aren’t going to hear this, but you even said, Matt, you can ask me anything you want, any question you want about anything. And I just… It’s funny because some people, before they come to the show, will get a list from them or their assistant or whatever. It’s like, these are the only things I’ll talk about or don’t ask me about these things. And it’s funny because you have such a healthy relationship to discomfort and uncertainty that it really shines through. And that was just kind of a small anecdote that you’re living these principles, but they’re also really important principles to be living.

MEL: Well, when I’m asked a question I’ve never been asked before, and I don’t have an immediate answer, that’s exciting for me. That’s authentic. When I read books, if I understand everything I’ve read, that book was a waste of my time. I embrace confusion because if I can be confused, somewhere down the road, I will be breaking through. So it’s kind of like embracing vulnerability. And Matt, by vulnerability, I don’t mean weakness. By vulnerability, I mean my transparent, authentic self where I’m not concerned about what you think of me. I hope you like me. I hope you’re impressed. But if you’re not, that’s okay. That’s authentic self-esteem. So asking any question allows me to go places I have never been before when I get asked new questions. Otherwise, it’s all rote. And as a culture, we don’t inculcate or develop authentic self-esteem. What we do is pursue what I call other esteem. Other esteem means if I think that you’re impressed or you like me, then I temporarily feel good about myself.

MEL: But what people do is they alter and shape themselves to elicit approval and recognition. But when we’re doing that, we’re betraying any developing sense of authentic self. And if we taught this to children in school, it would be an altogether different world that we live in. So I welcome that ask a question I’ve never heard before. And I have found if I go on stage and I’m preparing for a talk, like when I give TED Talks, TEDx Talks, I do some preparation because it’s a short talk. I want to nail it. But when I get on stage and I just freewheel and I just let it flow and come out, it feels so much more authentic. It’s so much better. It’s trusting that whatever comes up and whatever you share is what needs to come up and not to judge yourself. You see, it’s critical, fearful thought that does the judging of us. And that’s the kind of thought we need to see and we can learn to release. You can learn to become the master of your thinking when you learn to see your thoughts and not become your thought.

MEL: I’d love to show you my appreciation for your subscribing to and rating this podcast by offering you a gift to one of the following, The Power of Mind, a live talk that I gave, or one of my digital eBooks, Creating Authentic Self-Esteem, Overcoming Anxiety, or Raising Resilient Children, and lastly, Cultivating Resilient Relationships. Once you have subscribed, please send an email to mel at and just let me know which gift you’d prefer. Thanks.

MATT: I want to dig into that and I also want to dig into self-esteem, but before we get into kind of either of those topics, I want to come back and touch a little bit more on discomfort and uncertainty. How do we, you know, sort of from a practical sense, go about actually changing our relationship with uncertainty? How do we go about kind of redefining the way that we experience it or think about it?

MEL: Once you grasp the concept that we’ve been playing from the wrong game plan, so the concept is seeking certainty, bad thing, limiting, fear-inducing. So you get the concept. Now the question is, okay, I buy the concept, how do I do it? We do it by shifting our relationship with our thoughts. So this doves down into my work around thought. Thought tricks us in that thought tells us the truth. That’s called literal thought. So thought tells us, I don’t want to make a mistake. Thought tells us I’m concerned about what they’ll think of me. We don’t even see the thought operating. We buy it and we become the thought. I introduced the notion of what I call participatory thinking. Actually I won’t have credit.

MEL: The great late quantum physicist David Bohm called it participatory thinking. That would sound like this. Instead of saying I need to know the future, literal thought, participatory thinking sounds like this. I’m having a thought, same old thought. My thought is telling me I need to know the future. Now you see what happens when I think that way? I can see the thought and disassemble it. Ah, that’s the thought that tricks me. That’s the thought that leads me down the wrong path. There’s a me who has embraced this new world view and I’m now seeing the thought that limits and constrains me. So thought becomes like a knock at the door. You hear the knock but you can decide whether to get up and answer that door or not. So we can develop a muscle memory whereby we can see the thought. Now when I can see my thought, not only am I thinking, there’s a sense of me that is larger and more sovereign and powerful than just my thought. This allows me an intellectual wisdom, a deep intuitive wisdom. Otherwise we have millions of thoughts throughout our lives. They tell us the truth, put the word truth in quotes in your mind, and these millions of thoughts direct and embellish how we experience our lives or we are imprisoned by our thoughts. And those thoughts summon up accompanying feelings and emotions. So we’re trapped in this cycle of old thought and old feeling and that’s why it’s hard to change. The way to break through, and I delineate this in great detail in my new book, is we can develop a method to create a muscle memory whereby we see the thought, we don’t have to become the thought, we are the thinker of the thought, and then we can carve new territory. So with uncertainty, we start with the meta view, uncertainty equals possibility, that’s good. Addiction to certainty equals fear, distress, anxiety, that’s bad. What do I have to do to break free? I have to start to master my thinking. I have to be able to see old thought that is addicted to certainty and learn to release it. And this is achievable. It requires some effort.

MEL: So for many of the listeners who may be saying to themselves now, that’s hard to do, look at your thought. You just have a thought that said that’s hard to do. You don’t know, arguably you’ve never tried to do this. So capture that picture. I’m proposing it isn’t hard to do. No one’s ever taught you how to do it.

MATT: So are kind of tools or strategies like meditation some of the methods that you would recommend or what are kind of some specific ways to start to see and understand our own thinking?

MEL: Well, meditation is, as we all come to understand, meditation is universal benefits. And in my own authenticity in this particular moment, I don’t want to sound commercial and like I am self-promoting like a book. So I have a dilemma in this moment because I’ve developed a methodology through my work over many, many years as a therapist to teach people how to do this. And it’s all laid out in the book. Other than reading this, I’m a bit at a loss as to tell your listener how to go after it because I haven’t quite seen it out there.

MEL: But you can try some simple exercises. Ask yourself, what is my thought telling me? How do I know it’s true? How often do I have these kinds of thoughts? And practice this technique of seeing the difference between literal thought and participatory thinking. Literal thought defends its territory. It doesn’t go easy and it tricks us into this telling us the truth. Participatory thought sees the role the thought is telling you. See that role and then you rise above the thought and you can tap into profound sense of wisdom and insight when you can rise above and not submit to simply being your thought. You see, thought is reactive. Feelings are reactive. When you can see your feeling or see your thought and express it, that is contemplative. So saying to someone, you know, when you said that to me, I felt myself becoming really angry. Let me explain why. That’s a healthy communication. You can see the anger and communicate it. If I can’t see the anger, if I can’t see the thought, I am the thought, I am the emotion and then I’m lost. There’s nowhere to go with it.

MATT: I think that’s a really insightful distinction that if you can’t see the thought or see the emotion, you become the emotion. I really like that. I haven’t conceived of it that way, but I think it’s a great kind of tool for thinking really clearly about why strategies, you know, and personally for me, I’ve meditated every day for years and I’ve found meditation is a really effective strategy if for nothing else, just giving you the awareness of what thoughts are sort of littering through your head so that you can kind of catch them and say, hold on, is this thought really true? Is this thought really, is it actually real or is it just something that’s kind of floating by and is it kind of a limiting belief that could be holding me back or could be stopping me from, you know, achieving the things that I want to achieve.

MEL: And then to take that and use it in our communication with others, that is so essential and it’s so rare to see it. It’s so rare to hear someone say to someone else, I was having a thought or I was having a feeling, let me share with you what it was. See that’s representative, that’s participatory. And we just dive into the thought or feeling and we exchange it as our truth. And that’s why we see so little breakthrough in communication because communication is not generative that way. We’re arguing our objective truths against one another. I mean, certainly in the political realm today, we see an altogether absence of participatory dialogue.

MATT: I want to circle back to the kind of notion of self-esteem and authentic self-esteem. Tell me a little bit more about that and how that ties into the whole sort of quantum framework that we’ve been exploring today.

MEL: Self-esteem I believe is, the way we use it, it’s a misnomer. I mean, if you ask educators or parents what gives children self-esteem, they might likely say good grades, excelling in sports, having a lot of friends. My perspective, none of that is self-esteem because it means that the moment that my child didn’t have good grades or wasn’t good at the sport or didn’t have a lot of friends, what would happen to the self-esteem? Well, if it was self, it’s still retained. So self-esteem is if you remove all of that, what is my core relationship with myself? Are my thoughts my best ally or are they my antagonist? Am I at peace and in harmony with myself? That’s authentic self-esteem. But as a culture, we are not taught to pursue authentic self-esteem. We’re taught to go after other esteem.

MEL: So in my work, so often I will see people who we might call people pleasers. They want people to be happy with them. There are people who camouflage and hide and disguise aspects of themselves because they want to be well thought of. That’s a pursuit of other esteem and it’s not genuine. So in conversations between people, it is the exception when people are being genuine. Now vulnerability has a lot to do with this. We’re taught as a culture, and this is more so for men, men are taught to act strong. Well, acting strong is acting and that’s sweet. What is it to really be strong? And again, even more so for men. To really be strong is to be vulnerable. Now by vulnerable, I don’t mean crying and feeling weak. By vulnerable, I mean sharing your insecurities, your self-doubts, your fears. You see, when you share them, that means you’re not setting up anyone else to be the judge of you. You’re not worried. Your relationship with yourself is intact. That is authentic self-esteem. Now someone else may disappoint you. So be it, but your core relationship there is with self. You’re not worried about judgment.

MEL: Let’s look at the concept of the word judgment. If you have authentic self-esteem, there’s only one person who can be your judge and they reside in the courtroom and they wear long black robes. If you appear in front of them, they are the judge. But in human relations, people have opinions. If we elevate someone’s opinion and confer upon them the status of being a judge, we’ve done that. It’s because we’re judging ourself based upon what we think you think of me. So authentic self-esteem requires a complete shift in how we view ourselves. Now when you come across a person who operates in deep authenticity, they stand out. They are illuminated. They have a confidence, a way of being that’s singular. And it’s because they have authentic self-esteem. You’re coming back to the concept of mistake. It means if I make a mistake, okay, I made a mistake. I make mistakes, so be it. I can have an embarrassing moment, a foolish moment. I am okay with that. I’m a human being. Other question here, Matt, is how does this correlate to the whole quantum worldview I’m
talking about? Well, here’s a moment. I’ve never been asked a question about how this relates to self-esteem. So I’m embracing uncertainty because I don’t at first know my answer. But here’s a thought that comes up for me. The quantum worldview is a matter of perception. It is a subjectively created reality. It is my thoughts and feelings that are the paintbrush on the canvas of my life. And so if I’m to develop authentic self-esteem, I need to focus on my perceptions, on my thoughts and my feelings, and understand how they script my life, instead of simply focusing on what I think you think of me, which is other-esteem. So now that I’m immersed in responding to your question, I say it is the quantum subjective reality of perception. And the perception here needs to focus on my perception of me, rather than my concerns about what I think you think of me, that would deliver authentic self-esteem. And just like embracing uncertainty, we need to embrace transparent vulnerability.

MATT: Coming back to kind of the core theme that we’ve been talking about today, you know, this whole idea that the fundamental principles of the hard sciences of quantum physics, these ideas of possibility, uncertainty, and interconnectedness, and how everything kind of is one, have profound implications for the way that we live our lives, deal with stress and anxiety, and connect with other people. And I think it’s a really important conclusion that this is not something that it sounds very kind of woo-woo and spiritual, but it really is an implication of a deep, hard, physical science.

MEL: This hard science is the underpinning for all of the day-to-day practical aspects of our lives, anywhere from your core relationships, which require compassion and empathy, which means that they require connectivity, losing some of our individuality, and opening to the needs and feelings of the other, and learning to language it in that way. As I said before, speaking without the to-be verbs is a quantum language, it’s a participatory language, and it invites generative discussion. In our emotional well-being, in psychological well-being, it is absolutely required that we not think of ourselves, again, as having, being hardwired, or having screws loose. We are not machines that debases what it means to be human.

MEL: Think about it this way. Which worldview would benefit us as human beings? Newton’s machine-like universe comprised of things separate and disconnected and inert, without any meaning and purpose, cold and austere, a machine. Well, the quantum worldview of a thoroughly interconnected, unfolding tapestry of reality-making process in which everything participates with everything else, and you are an integral part of that participation. Which worldview invites you to thrive in your life? There it is. You see, the way we picture reality is the way we experience reality. This is not a theoretical supposition about science or philosophy. It’s the filter through which we see life. Nothing could be more important.

MATT: And Mel, for listeners who want to concretely apply some of the themes and ideas that we’ve talked about today, what would be kind of one action item or piece of homework that you would give them as kind of a concrete step towards implementing some of these ideas?

MEL: In the course of your day, try to capture the themes of your thoughts, and ask yourself what are they telling you? As I expressed before, are they your ally? Are they your worst critic? Also ask yourself some large questions, which is, how do I view life? Do I think it’s a dog-eat-dog-God-helps-dogs competitive reality? Also perhaps the most important question you can ask yourself about anything is when you look at your core beliefs, ask yourself, has I come to this belief? What informs my belief? I think arguably, at this moment in my life, my belief is that’s the most important question we can ask ourselves. Because when we ask, how did I come to this belief, very often we see the belief really stands on very tenuous ground, and it should require some reexamination.

MATT: And for listeners who want to dig in and learn more, where can people find you, your book, and your work online?

MEL: My website is my name,, that’s M-E-L-S-C-H-W-A-R-T-Z, I have hundreds of articles I’ve written, videos, TEDx talks, everything you’d like to know about my work, you can find at my website.

MATT: Well, Mel, thank you so much for coming on the show. We’ll throw all of those in the show notes as well, so listeners can go right there and find everything. It’s been a fascinating conversation. I love the integration of quantum physics into our worldview and the profound implications from that. So thank you so much for coming on here and sharing all of this knowledge.

MEL Thanks Matt, your show and the questions you ask are of a higher level, and I certainly appreciate that.

MEL Thanks for joining in and listening to this great interview with the Science of Success podcast today. I hope you enjoyed today’s episode and got a lot out of it. Until next time, see you then.

MEL: I hope you enjoyed this episode of The Possibility Podcast. I welcome your feedback on this and any episode. Please send me an email at or leave a comment in the show notes for this episode at If you like what you’re hearing, please take a moment to rate and review the show at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Your reviews really help boost the visibility for the show, and it’s a great way for you to show your support. Finally, please make sure to subscribe to the Possibility Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts, and that way you’ll never miss an episode. Thanks again, and please remember to always welcome uncertainty into your life and embrace new possibilities.

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