How to Be Real – Stop NOT Being Who You Are

People say, be who you are! But WTF does that mean?

How do I know how to be who I am if I don’t know who I am?

To be who you are is not to to be who you were yesterday or any other day, but to be who you are today. To be who you truly are today means that you embrace your ever evolving self – that you accept the ever changing you.

To be who you are is to be who you are becoming.

Think of the word authenticity. It’s root is the word author. To author is to create. Authenticity is a continual form of creation.

If you are being who you have been – being who I call your yesterself which is who you were yesterday – then that is NOT authentic…that is you being consistent.

John, You are 30 years old, why are you dressed like a teenager? Because its who I AM. No it isn’t you dumb ass. It’s who you were..15 years ago.

You don’t want to be consistent. Rocks are consistent…at least for a human lifetime. You are not a rock. That is you not changing. Not evolving. When you are who you were yesterday, exactly the same, you are actually resisting your authenticity.

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. – ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ – Is it so bad then to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘Self Reliance’

Don’t be your yesterself. Don’t be a rock. That’s not authentic. That’s not real. Stop doing that.

Instead be who you are becoming. This is how you be who you are – by being who you are becoming.

But what does that mean? It means to act in that new way below the surface of your fears. That thing you fear to say, fear to do, that is the change you resist.

And when you succumb to that fear, when you aren’t vulnerable, when you aren’t strong and you limit the expression of your heart’s desire, when you stifle your intuitive impulse – you are being consistent instead of real.

And you can feel that afterwards. You always can.

“I should have said this.”
“I should have done that.”
“Oops.  Instead I was a consistent rock. A consistent, dead, never-changing, never-evolving, inauthentic piece of volcano shite.”

W. T. F.

Why does everyone want to be so goddamn consistent?!

Because it is fucking SCARY to change! If I change, I might not get what I want or even worse, I might lose what I have!


I might not get the job. I might not make the sale. She might not like me. He might leave me.

What if when you die, if you were authentic in life you go to heaven and if you were not you get turned into a rock. Picture all those rocks along the sea shore with salt water lapping up against them for thousands of years are all the souls of the those people who were too scared to be who the were becoming. Ice cold fishy salty water just lapping up there against your face…the hot sun beating down on your bald grey head. You deserve it you consistent son of a bitch.

And how do I know this, you ask? Where did I discover the depth of truth here? How did I uncover this worlds wisdom?

Because, I, my friend have an arguably unhealthy addiction to change AND it scares the shit out of me to lose what I have, mostly in the form of love of others. So I’m constantly banging up against this thing. Getting a hard-on for change and then 1 billion butterflies fly straight down my throat and into my gut whenever I face the thing.

But I’ve learned to see the butterflies coming. Here they come, you over-appreciated insects, I see you. As soon as a few of them start down my throat and I start to feel them down there, it’s like BAM BAM…signal straight to my brain that there is some change here I am afraid of. There is me wanting to say or do something that I’m not saying or doing.

Those butterflies are like an inauthenticity alarm system.

The only way to get them out of there and to stop the rest from coming is to just say the thing, to do the thing. So I do it quick, like pulling the bandaid off. And I have hairy arms.

And then SNAP, DING! Truth spoken. Truth acted on. Butterflies gone. Free. Authentic. Real. Inconsistent. Not a rock. Not going to spend eternity with cold salty fishy water lapping up against my face.

Stop NOT being who you are.

Be authentic.

Be who you are becoming. 

Say NO to Everything

We were sat on the roof terrace of a small hotel in a village in Northern Africa. The sun was setting into the flat, dusty landscape.

My client had just flown in that morning.

He was stirring uncomfortably in his seat, looking away from me and then back again.

I’d just asked him a confronting question.

“How do you expect to know what it is you want when you spend all your time doing things other people want you to do?”

When the silence got too heavy, he spoke.

“I don’t know.” 

“‘I don’t know’ is not an answer,” I responded.

“I guess I can’t.”

“That’s right,” I said. “As long as you are filling your head and your life with things born from the desires of others, all that noise will keep you from knowing your own desires.”

More silence.

“When is the last time you said ‘NO’ to somebody?” I asked.

He looked up at me, confused. I then explained the power of saying ‘NO’.

I showed him how all the things he was doing in his life, both personal and professional, were things asked of him by others. That his life had essentially become a response to the world’s desire of him.

I explained that his own desires were not only unexpressed, but they were also so oppressed that he had completely lost his connection to them.

“What is one thing you have recently said ‘YES’ to, but which deep-down, you really wanted to say ‘NO’ to?”

He stirred a bit, letting the silence creep back in, and then looked straight at me. I could see in his eyes that he’d found something. But would he be willing to say it, I wondered?

“Well…there is one thing…”

I held the space.

“I took on this client that I didn’t want to work for.”

“Why did you say YES to them?” 

“They really needed the help.”

“OK, but why did you say ‘YES’?”

“I didn’t want them to think I didn’t want to help them.”

“Didn’t you just say you didn’t want to help them?”

“Well, yeah…but…”

“But nothing! Do you see your lack of integrity? Does that really serve people…to say ‘YES’ to them when really you want to say ‘NO’?”

“No, I guess not…”

We talked for awhile longer, dancing around a number of things he was currently doing in his life which, deep down, he wanted to say ‘NO’ to, but wasn’t willing to.

Finally, at one point, I just laid into him.

“Look, you’ve reached out to me, you’ve invested a lot of money, you’ve flown halfway around the fucking world to be here all because YOU want more out of life. And from every single conversation we have had over the past two months and throughout today, it has become perfectly clear. You know as well as I do that the ONLY thing that needs to change is for you to STOP NOT SAYING NO. You are here because you want to be a man of integrity. You are here because you want to live with truth. And so I am not going to sit here and watch you continue to diminish yourself and suffocate your truth without holding you to the one single point that you are not willing to face! I won’t do it. I can NOT fucking do it.”

Out the corner of my eye, I saw the hotel staff person turn around with our tea and go back down the stairs. My heart was racing.

It is moments like these that simultaneously scare the shit out of me and remind me why I love the power of a coaching relationship.

I was there to serve him, not please him. 

As a coach, I don’t work for the part of my clients that are scared. I work for the part of them that want something more.

“Stand up”, I said. “I’m going to ask you one more time and then I’m going to leave it forever. If your answer is the same, then we can go on and talk about something else. We’ll spend the rest of the weekend chatting about superficial nonsense, I’ll go home with a tan and you’ll go home on the same exact life trajectory you came here on. But before that…I’m going to give you one more chance to change everything.”

He was obviously a bit shocked at my sudden hike in intensity; though not as much as I was.

Finally he nodded, cautiously.

For the past hour he had been pussy-footing around firing a client that he didn’t want to work with – coming up with excuses and different ways of avoiding telling them ‘NO’.

“Feel your feet on the ground….make fists with your hands…raise your chin up a bit. Do you feel that?”

He nodded, silently agreeing again.

“Good…now…what are you going to do?”, I asked.

Without skipping a beat, almost as if he’d been waiting for his chance, he spoke in a deeper tone.

“I’m going to fire them on Monday.”

I sat there.

He stood there.

We watched each other.

A warm, dry breeze, carrying a scent of incense, came over the roof and brushed between us.

Two weeks later, I got this email from him:

“I fired the client on Monday. Not only them though, I fired another one too. I realised after I fired the first one that they weren’t right for me either.

And I’ve been saying no a lot more. Not all of them have been big things. The little things feel good to say no to too.

What really strikes me though is that nothing bad has happened. I was always so worried that by saying no people would be upset. But nobody seems to care! 🙂

And most importantly, I feel so much lighter…and my mind is so much quieter.”

I responded reminding him: A quiet mind is exactly what will serve you in reconnecting to your own true desires.

What are YOU not saying ‘NO’ to?

Is Commitment a Trap?

When I met Lauren, her head was in a knot around things she wanted to do, but felt like were too big of a commitment.

I asked Lauren what the word ‘commitment’ meant to her.

“It’s a trap”, she blurted.

I knew what she meant.

After 3 years of living out of a backpack and only buying one way airfare, the idea of commitment had once freaked me out too.

Lauren then told me how she had a “commitment phobia” and that she knew she had to “deal with it”.

But when I settled in London, it didn’t take any therapy to change things for me.

In fact, today commitment is one of the most powerful tools I have – and I use it often.

Fearlessly too, I might add.

Like me, Lauren was afraid to make a commitment because she thought that it meant she would be stuck living a particular life.

Like a 55 year old accountant who hates his job and has hated it for the past 30 years and is only doing it because he’s been doing it since he decided to…at 18 years of age.

(Dude…at 55, do you really want to trust an 18 year old with decisions about how to live your life? WTF!?)

Lauren thought that once she had decided on one thing, then she would be ‘stuck in a commitment trap’.

So I told her:

The commitment trap is an illusion.

Commitment is not about being trapped in anything, especially in a particular way of living your life.

Commitment is the decision to stop considering alternative options.

It is the willingness to choose a particular direction and move towards it, despite external influences to the contrary.

Commitment is NOT the abandonment of your heart. It is a tool which liberates your deepest truth.

When you commit, you may at some point choose to change your heading, but the winds will not change it for you.

In commitment, there is no trap.

Instead there is freedom that comes from following the heading of your heart’s desire – your true north.

Lauren got it.

Fearlessly, she then made a decision that changed the course of her life forever.

Just a few degrees can change everything…when you are willing to truly commit.

Explore the Unknown – Your Path to a More Passionate Life

In this one hour talk I share an updated perspective on how to find your purpose and follow your passion in life.

It’s a follow up to my 2011 talk How to Live a Passionate Life, which has over 60K views on YouTube.

Recorded live at Interesting Talks London in July 2012.

Listen to or download the full-length version here:


Love Your Life by Leaving a Legacy

If you don’t love your life, then maybe you’re not leaving a legacy.

Let me share a way of living I’ve had since I was a little kid and that still serves myself and my clients today…

When I was about 8 years old, I’d spend lots of time out in the woods behind my house. I’d go all the way down the path, over the stream I wasn’t supposed to cross, to the small pond where I would stand at the edge of the water and throw stones into it. 

I loved the plopping sound the stones made and all the ripples that flowed out from there. I loved how the ripples glided out to the rim of the pond, moving things, shaking things up and making a subtle difference to the world of insects and plant life along the edge. 

Before I’d head back home, I’d always search for the most perfect throwing stone. When I’d found it, I’d grip it just right, lean way back and with an ‘umph’ I’d throw the stone as far and high as I  could. 

This time though, immediately after releasing it, I’d turn my back to the pond and quickly run up the path. The stone would still be arching through the sky as my feet thumped on the dirt and the pond hid itself in the woods behind me.

I’d be gone before it landed. 

Leaving a Legacy

What I loved then was knowing that even though I was gone – even though I couldn’t see it and I couldn’t hear it – the stone would most certainly be hitting the surface of the water and the ripples would still be flowing out from it.

I knew that even though I was gone, my having been there was still moving things.

What I was doing as a kid, out at that pond in the woods behind my house, was leaving a legacy. 

There is an even deeper and important insight here too. It is a distinction that allows ‘leaving a legacy‘ to to come not from ego, but from the heart.

Being Remembered vs Having Mattered

At the pond, I wasn’t doing it so that I would be remembered

It wasn’t about me or who I was or what I did. There was nobody there to remember me.

I was doing it so that I mattered

I loved knowing that even when I was gone, I’d be moving things, shaking things up and making a difference.

I loved knowing that I mattered – that I had impact.

It wasn’t about what the world thought of me, it was about about what I did to the world.

Leaving a Legacy Fills You With Love & Passion

As a child, even in the seemingly meaningless form of throwing a stone into a pond, knowing I was doing something to the world filled me with spirit and passion.

The same applies for us as adults, but somehow we forget it. Somehow we forget how simple it can be to feel passionate and alive.

Knowing that you mattered, even when you’re gone – from a conversation, from a relationship from your life – is the key to the deepest experience of living.

Leave a Legacy Today

Leave a legacy..not just from your life, but from every moment of engagement or interaction you have.

In every moment of your engagement with the world, with every person you communicate, with everything you touch or create – is an opportunity for you to have impact.

Every moment is a choice to either stand on the shore or throw a stone.

You can make ripples.

So get out there. Go throw some stones. And start loving your life.

This is also why I coach Heroes – people who create impact and make ripples in the world.  

My clients are my throwing stones. I love you all. 

What You Fear is What You Want

Do you, from time to time, experience the fear of robbing a bank?

How about when you consider it now? Does fear rise up from your belly?

No. Of course it doesn’t.

And why not? Why aren’t you feeling fear?

Wouldn’t you worry about getting caught or shot? Isn’t that scary?

You don’t feel fear, because you don’t actually have any desire to rob a bank.

Even if you pretend, in the back of your mind and in your heart, you know that you have no real desire to do it, therefore no fear arises.

You can only experience fear for things you have desire for.

You fear public speaking, because deep down a part of you wants to do it.
You fear talking to that man or woman, because deep down you want him or her to like you.
You fear that job interview, because you want the job.
You fear getting on an airplane, because you want to live.

You don’t have to feel fear.

Of course you don’t have to experience fear for every desire you have.

Maybe you want to live and you do NOT fear getting on an airplane.
Maybe you want that job and you do NOT fear the interview.
Maybe you want that man or woman to like you and you do NOT fear talking to him or her.
Maybe you want to be a public speaker and you do NOT fear doing it.

Fear & Desire are two sides of the same coin.

Imagine in the palm of your hand you hold a coin. At any moment, either the heads or tails can be facing up at you.

In this same way, at any moment, you experience fear or desire based on which you focus on.

You feel fear or desire based only what you think about.

But can you fear things you don’t want?

Just as you can have desire without experiencing any fear, you can have fear without experiencing any desire.

Maybe you fear public speaking, but you think it doesn’t matter, because you don’t even want to.
Maybe you fear going for a new job, but you say you don’t even want it.
Maybe you fear getting on a plane, but say it doesn’t matter because you don’t want to travel.
Maybe you fear talking to that man or woman, but you tell yourself that you don’t care to anyway.

It’s BS though.

You can have fear without experiencing desire, but you can NOT have fear without there being desire.

That which you most fear is what you most desire.

What is that thing that scares you the most? What is your reoccurring fear?

In the face of such fear, have you ever told yourself, “Oh no, I don’t want to do that!”

It’s as if you are holding a coin in your clenched fist and most of the time you just ignore that it is there. But sometimes you forget and you open your hand, looking down at your palm, and you see that’s its tails – you feel the fear.

Every single time you open your hand – you feel the fear. After awhile it seems as if that is all there is. You become sure fear is the only way you can experience it.

But really, you have just never bothered to turn over the coin.

Reverse engineer your deepest desires from your greatest fears.

In the same way that you do not fear robbing a bank because you don’t really have any desire to do so – you have your greatest fear, because on the other side, you have a deepest desire.

If you don’t know what it is you most want – if you don’t know what is you must do – then consider what it is you experience the most fear around.

Face your fear, flip over the coin, indulge in imagination and allow yourself to be raptured by desire.

How to Choose the Right Path in Life (Hint: It’s Left)

Most of the people who come to me for coaching on finding their purpose and having more passion in their life, are stuck because they are trying to choose the RIGHT path. If this is true for you too, then let me let you off the hook:

There is no RIGHT path.

Your purpose is not predetermined. Your path to a more passionate life is not something you need to locate or uncover.

As I say in my public talks:

Purpose is created, not found.
Passion is grown, not discovered. 

I know that part of you doesn’t believe this though. Part of you still wants to believe there is something out there and that when you find it, you will be able to step into like a spaceship and it will whisk you away, angels singing haleluija, filling you with inspiration and making every task on the journey an effortless pleasure and your astronomical success inevitable.

That’s not how it works though.

What keeps most people from creating a purpose and a passionate life is their unwillingness to let go of the idea that it is out there waiting for them.

There is no spaceship.

There is only a large bucket of Legos.

And there is no instruction booklet showing you how to build the spaceship.

When you see that the bucket of Legos is all there is, what do you do?

Do you go on searching for a spaceship?

Or do you dump them out, use your imagination and get creating?

Let go of the idea that there is a right path for you to take, or even that there is a right way to do it. Stop believing that if you just get it right, then you’ll be totally fulfilled. You will never get it right. 

Where does the ‘right’ path come from then?

Your purpose and your more passionate life results from the interplay of your genetic/spiritual predispositions, psychological imprints, environment, relationships, other random happenings, fears, desires and your acts of will.

If you want to be empowered and enjoy your life, then spend your time focused on the only one of these you have any control over:

Your Acts of Will

Your choice of what to act on is all you really have.

Back to the Beginning

Assuming you are with me now – that you are willing to let go of choosing the right path – let’s go back to where we began.

The real reason you wanted to choose the right path is so that you could, as Joseph Campbell says, “experience the rapture of being alive”. When you are experiencing this, it certainly can feel like the right path. Here is the paradox:

The experience of being on the right path happens only when you stop believing there is a right path and allow yourself to do what you love in each moment.

When you do what you love, your imagination activates and you give birth to a purpose. The pursuit of this purpose creates a positive feedback loop, filling you with passion.

Free yourself from the fictional chains of predeterminism – forget finding the right path.

Stop searching for the spaceship.

Instead, utilise your acts of will to create your purpose and to grow your passion.

After all, without finding the right path, to create & grow is the only path you have left.

How to Choose Between Two Paths in Life

“How do I know which path to choose when there are two (or more) paths that I want to take in life?”

Imagine you are hiking without a map and come to a fork in the trail. How do you decide which way to go?

In his poem ‘The Road Not Taken‘, Robert Frost suggests you should take the one less travelled:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

He was almost right. But not quite.

What if I want to go BOTH ways?

How do you decide which way to go when both directions seem equally appealing? What do you do when both life paths are equally desired? Here is an answer that may seem obvious, but evades most people:

Walk straight between the two paths, creating a third path. 

When you want to do two (or more) different things in life, the solution is simple: combine them.

One coaching client wanted to be a painter and a hypnotherapist. Together we created the idea of Art-Hypnotherapy.

Another client wanted to remain a lawyer and own an eco-village. We created the idea of being an attorney who owns an eco-village where important negotiations are made.

I wanted to coach powerful leaders AND travel AND take people on adventures AND make a difference in the world. It was by combining these things that I created the idea for Hero Journeys.

How do I combine my different paths?

If there were an answer out there already, then it wouldn’t be a unique path – it wouldn’t be your path.

Combining is a process of creation.

The only tool you need is imagination. Or to use Walt Disney’s term: Imagineering

This is how both the iPhone and the Great Pyramids got made. They each started in someone’s imagination.

Your unique life can be created in this same way.

What if combining my paths is difficult?

“But what if when I get to the fork, there is a mountain in between the two paths?”

Then climb the freaking mountain!

Creating your own path is simple, but it won’t be easy.

How you will accomplish the task of climbing the mountain is unknown. This is how creation works; you  cross a threshold into the unknown and go on a journey of discovery and manifestation.

The only thing you can be certain of about your path is that it will be riddled with uncertainty.

When you create the third path, you will create the life that is most true, and unique, to you.

What if I don’t succeed?

In the end, it won’t matter how far you made it up the mountain. You won’t care where you got to.

What you will care about is which way you chose to travel. What will truly matter is whether you followed a path or whether you went straight ahead, lead by your heart, climbed the mountain and created your own way.

The path less travelled is still someone else’s path.

Don’t be Robert Frost. Be who YOU are.

What Makes a Hero? – Matthew Winkler

View full lesson:

What trials unite not only Harry Potter or Frodo Baggins but many of literature’s most interesting heroes? And what do ordinary people have in common with these literary heroes? Matthew Winkler takes us step-by-step through the crucial events that make or break a hero.

Lesson by Matthew Winkler, animation by Kirill Yeretsky.

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