Welcome to episode 115 of The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz! This time around, I look forward with you to the subject and topics to come in my next book, Uncommon Sense: How to Live a Fearless Life.
To understand the book to come, it’s important to review how I came to the wisdom I’ll present in Uncommon Sense. Let’s travel back to before my last book, The Possibility Principle, and before my first book, The Art of Intimacy, The Pleasure of Passion… back before I had even considered becoming a psychotherapist!
What inspired me to leap off the conveyor belt of life and change my own script?
Listen, and discover the key piece of advice I gave myself that helped me eventually embrace uncertainty and find my calling.
Let me know what you think! Be sure to leave a comment!
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Transcript of The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz #115
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.
Hello everyone. I’ve been working on an upcoming book for some time and I thought it would be good to share with you some of my initial thoughts and drafts about what’s coming your way down the road. The title for the book at this moment is Uncommon Sense, How to Live a Fearless Life.
So here are my thoughts.
As a psychotherapist, there are times when people might ask me, where were you trained? You know, I can be provocative, even a wise guy, and I might say, I wasn’t trained. I like to keep my mind as open as possible. You see, for me, the word training is suggesting narrowing of my mind and my thoughts. So you think and see from a very focused singular perspective, like the small end of a funnel or tunnel vision.
Think as you’ve been trained to think. Boy, I hate that.
I’ve resisted this doctrination professionally and personally, and I think we’d all be better to do so, to resist the training of our thinking. I can remember instinctively resisting, corralling my beliefs and thoughts into that never nding funnel of consensual reality making. Keeping my mind open, for me, feels like freedom. The freedom to navigate my own path, to come out of consensual reality, not playing by the rules, the mandated rules of the rules of engagement. You know, when we mindlessly conform to a singular way of thinking and communicating and relating, it feels dehumanizing to me, robotic and mindless, but that’s where we go. That’s how culture corrals us into everybody thinking and acting the same way.
So from this vantage point, many questions arise for me. I’ve asked myself, why do we struggle so terribly in reaching and sustaining happiness? And why do anxiety, depression, distress, and fear, why do they all dominate our lives? Why do our relationships become a source of conflict and pain rather than joy and love? Why do we do battle with self-worth, meaning, and purpose? Why is there such a gap between what we say we value and how we end up living our life?
I look for the larger influences that have derailed the heart and soul of our human experience. And so I’m simply asking, why? The belief that I’ve come to is that it’s the operating rule book for life that we follow. Without any consideration or awareness of it, it fails us. I’m referring to the deeper, invisible forces that script how we live. We’ve become indentured servants to a template that we’re unaware of that tells us how to think, how to live, and how to love, and it misguides us. This unwritten but pervasive philosophy for living, it riddles us with fear. In this fear, obviously, it decimates our lives.
Here’s the lead up to my thinking. I’ll share a bit of personal biography, and many of you may be familiar with this, but for those of you who aren’t, it’s important to hear it. I had a life-altering, defining moment when I was about 40 years old. My identity was really shaped during my college years in the early 70s. I found great calling and passion as an anti-war activist, and the excitement of participating in this emerging counterculture, man, was it exciting.
And what an identity. I believed that we could change the world, and I was playing a part in this adventure, and I was having the time of my life. I even managed to delay graduating college for as long as I could so I wouldn’t disrupt this fun, wondrous time. Thankfully, tuition was really nominal at that time, so I thought another semester or two wouldn’t be too onerous on my parents, or at least I rationalized that. I will confess that I stretched out my indulgences by taking several incompletes so I could extend college. But you know, as George Harrison sang, all things must pass, and it reached the point where I had to pay the piper, and I couldn’t stay in school any longer. But I hadn’t given any thought to what my next step would be. So I applied to law school, more from default than from intention.
I was admitted, but within a month or so, it became evident to me that the law was not my calling, and I withdrew. Now the question was, what was I going to do with my life? I didn’t have any clear path forward. I reluctantly accepted my father’s offer to join him in this business. I was grateful for his generosity, but I didn’t feel inspired. My father was a clothing manufacturer, something I had no interest in. But with sadness, I cut my long hair. I transitioned into a suit, a job, and life in New York City. I had stepped onto the conveyor belt that we call life.
But when I did, I made myself a promise. Every so often, I would jump off the conveyor belt and ask myself, how’s it going? I’d remind myself to think about whether I needed to make any adjustments. I had an image of a piece of luggage on the conveyor belt at the airport going around and around ad nauseum until someone retrieved the baggage. I was fearful that my conveyor metaphor might resemble my future life. My fear simply was I’d make a few major decisions, blink my eyes a few times, and half a lifetime would pass. I dreaded becoming a character in this life script without an opportunity to edit or rethink my life. This turned out to be a really fruitful promise for me.
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 melschwartz.com and just let me know which gift you’d prefer. Thanks.
As the years went by, I acclimated to this new identity, and I progressed in learning the craft of apparel manufacturing. I eventually started my own business, doing well enough financially, but not really aware that something vitally important was missing. I spent the coming years following the path toward what I thought success and happiness would look like.
At 40, I was married with two young children, living the life I was supposed to be, at least I thought so. I vividly recall the moment in which my change process ignited.
I was driving from my office in Manhattan to my home in Aranoth in Westchester County. During that car ride, I had been reflecting on my life, and in particular, my passionless career. In one singular moment, with one new thought, a seismic wave overcame me. Everything shifted, and my insight crystallized into this single thought. Is that all there is? Am I going to spend my life making clothing? I came to see myself as the character in that script that I fearfully presaged many years earlier. I was well along on that conveyor belt’s ride of life.
My earlier vision of living my best life was one that was bubbling with meaning. It was now feeling corrupted by simply making a good living. Creating and producing clothing was falling way short of my ideal of living a life with purpose. My business, although providing me with a really generous income and a great home and lifestyle, it still left me feeling shallow and uninspired. I was longing for the deeper values that I felt in those earlier years. I felt revolted by the idea of just surrendering to a purposeless life, one that provided financial reward but left me feeling empty and vacuous.
This dispirited feeling really evaporated in a few moments, and it was transformed by the time I reached my house. I felt this stirring proclamation beginning to percolate within me. As I entered my house, I said to my future former wife, I know that’s a funny term, my future former wife, I said, sit down, we need to talk. She probably thought I was going to share some divorce news, but that wasn’t yet on the horizon. I said, I had an epiphany during the drive home. I realized I need to find a new career path, something that can inspire me with more meaning and purpose. She looked at me like I was from the moon. She asked me what I was planning. I told her I had no idea.
I didn’t feel worried, but I felt really alive. I spent the night sleepless.
My mind pulsing with excitement. Everything seemed possible. But now, how could I envision a new career direction? As I was ruminating, I recalled the question a friend had asked me some years earlier. He had said to me, he asked me, what do you like to do? What makes you feel good? My answer, which was out of the blue, was, I really love to help people think differently, to have insights. So I thought, what could that look like? How could that help me inform my decision about my next career path? Well, by the time morning arrived, I had my answer. I applied to graduate school to pursue a career as a psychotherapist.
I thought this profession might align me with that deeper calling. Maybe I could write books, give talks, podcasts weren’t invented yet, and whatever else came my way. Bear in mind, I had very little familiarity with the field of psychotherapy, but the idea was romantic and it was pulling me. A deep intuitive knowing that this might be my passionate path, it began to resonate with me.
Still, I had significant concerns. How would this new direction impact my family’s lifestyle? I could anticipate earning far, far less income, at least for quite some time, maybe forever. Were we prepared for this downshift economically? Would we have to sell the house? Could we even live in the same town? Was this fair to my children and to my wife? And more fundamentally, would I be able to earn enough to financially support them? Friends and family surely would have urged me caution, be cautious, slow down, think more deeply about this. If only I had chosen to consult with them. But perhaps that’s the very reason I chose not to share.
Was my decision impetuous? Well, rational common sense would have me analyze the downside and weigh my risks. This led to a breakthrough in my thinking. Let’s call it new thinking. Words like be reasonable, be prudent, be sensible, they were all over my mental radar. People in my circumstances encumbered with such financial responsibilities didn’t just make such radical changes unless you’re in the midlife crisis. But I was seeing this as a midlife opportunity, not a crisis. You see, not making this transition might assault my well-being at a slow but irreversible pace. I might end up falling into depression. My internal monologue was clash of opposing thoughts. Why I can’t versus why can’t I? I began to see myself dueling with the conformity of normal behavior, which would have me focus on the negative consequences that might occur. Those thoughts grappled with uncertainty and would fire up fear.
Instinctively, I knew that I did not want to surrender to this fear. That in turn ushered in a new way of thinking for me. I welcomed in the dissonance I experienced. I felt this surging desire to break free from the grip of limiting and fearful beliefs and thoughts. So instead of simply focusing on my fears, on the negative consequences that might happen, my revelation was, why not consider the consequences of not making a change?
Wow did that open new thinking. We worry about what will happen if I do this, what will happen if I say this. Do we ever think about what happens if we don’t do this or say this? I realized that this new way of thinking for me was very atypical. But I felt convinced that we only look at one side of the coin. What will happen if I do something? The other side, what will happen if I don’t? Something started to shift within me and I began to just strip away traditional ways of thinking and invite in what I now call uncommon sense. I was embracing uncertainty to supercharge my change process and I was choosing not to live in fear. I took the leap and here we are.
In my next episode, next week, I’ll be providing you with some of the basic principles of uncommon sense.
I hope you enjoyed this episode. Please send me emails, leave comments, let me know what you’re thinking, what you’d like to hear, what you’re enjoying and what you’re not. And until next time, I wish you uncommon sense. Bye for now.
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 email@example.com or leave a comment in the show notes for this episode at melschwartz.com. 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.