Ep 252 BEST OF: Interview with Motivational Speaker and Author – Patrick Sweeney

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Episode Notes: Join me today as I share a “best of” replay from a conversation with motivational speaker and author Patrick Sweeney. Patrick is the author of Fear As Fuel and

This book has so many of the concepts we talk about here – but with an extra layer of Neuroscience.  I could’ve talked to him all night – I find it so fascinating, and I hope you do as well.  Enjoy!


  • Two Wars of Decisions to make
  • Fear vs opportunity 
  • Free energy
  • Taking responsibility for your life
  • Using Fear as fuel
  • Curiousity
  • Blame and judgement 

    Patrick Sweeney Contact info:

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    Episode Notes: 

    You are listening to the Its Your Time podcast and I’m your host certified life coach Michelle Arnold Bourque. In today’s episode I am sharing a best of replay interview with the author of fear is fuel, Patrick Sweeney. Welcome to the richer time Podcast, the podcast where busy professionals like you get the practical solutions and support you need to gain control of your schedule. So you can strive to be the best in your career, but without the stress and overwhelm. If you’re looking to increase your energy and decrease your stress, you are in the right place. Hello, hello. Hello. Welcome back to the podcast friends. How are you doing today we’re getting towards the end of summer is everyone kind of getting ready to get back into routines and schedules and all of the goodness of fall? Don’t worry, I am not pushing it. I’m not a crazy pumpkin person I enjoy the summer. But I also can see what the calendar is doing to us. So what I wanted to do today is something I have actually never done before I am sharing a best of replay. The thing is I am finding myself over the past couple of weeks going back rereading a couple of books that I just love. And I thought wouldn’t it be fun to read share an interview for folks who maybe have just joined recently, and maybe missed the episode, Episode 80, it was where I had a conversation with Patrick Sweeney, he is the author of fear is fuel the surprising power to help you find purpose, passion and performance. And it just felt so fitting because I have been working with a bunch of folks recently who are interviewing and looking at new jobs and trying to figure out like what the process is and how to go about it. And some of the feedback that I’ve heard is, I don’t know if this was a couple of months ago if I would have actually gone for this. And what I want to say to that is don’t listen to your brain, go for what you want in life. This is what Patrick talks about using fear as a way to really accelerate and live your life and using fear as fuel. Fear is fuel. It is such an interesting conversation. And it’s not just a woowoo type of conversation, we talked about brain science, and he talked about really having facts to back up what he talks about in the book. So without further ado, I will say please enjoy and take a listen. Thank you so much. Because I did I love this book. I feel like there are so many concepts that I talked about on the podcast. I was like, yes, underlying, yes. Underlying, before you released the book, how were you able to get the information that you have about neuroscience out there? Speaker 2 2:49 Well, the biggest thing I was doing, I spent six years researching and I started doing it started talking to neuroscientists just for myself, because I was wondering how in my life I went from being like the world’s biggest wimp, to all of a sudden Captain courageous. And I’m wondering what what happened and how the structure of my brain changed at 35 years old. And so I started to you know, it, it happened just purely by luck. I was doing a charity, century bike ride, 100 mile bike ride on Mother’s Day, and almost seven years ago now. And and ended up getting in a groove, you know, after about 20 miles with a group of guys and started talking. One of them was a neuroscientist at Tufts. And so I asked him the question, you know, here’s what happened to me, here’s my story, How’d it happen? And he said, we’ll come on into my lab. And next week, we’ll have a coffee, and I’ll explain a little bit about the brain. And so he told me something, I said, Wow, this is really fascinating. I never, never knew that. And he said, Well, you know, if you liked this, you should go to Harvard, and talk to Scott or because he’s doing some amazing things around PTSD. And he’s shown how, you know, we can help veterans and people who have had trauma. So I went and talked to Scott. And and so this, this started a trail of neuroscientists recommending me to other neuroscientists, because normally their work is so you know, dull and scientific and, and it’s not accessible to most people. And what happened was, after maybe four or five of these interviews, I started really being fascinated and thinking, well, people need to know about this. So I’m part of a group, a business group called Young Presidents Organization or YPO. And, and I mentioned something to one of the leaders that YPO and they said, Well, why don’t you come talk to us about that? And so I did a JIT, you know, kind of a fireside chat. And I said, here’s, here’s the parts of your brain, here’s what they do, and here’s how you can change them. And a couple guys came up to me and said, Hey, can you come talk to my company about that? And, you know, a couple years later, I’m talking to eBay and Motorola and IBM and you know, all these all these places, who are really interested in how they can create a culture of courage how they can, you know, break the rules that might have been true Additional how they can deal with conflict. And now what I’ve been doing, you know, literally three or four times a week, Michelle is is doing just what we’re doing but 250 75 Couple 100 people to help them deal particularly now with uncertainty. Michelle Bourque 5:17 Oh my gosh, yeah, I think that is so important. Especially, I mean, I think anxiety has always been an issue. And now it’s just heightened so much. Now, when you talk about you felt it was so important to share. Like, when we talk on the podcast, we discuss, like, What’s your why, why do you think that was so important for you? Speaker 2 5:34 I think it was important for me, because I came from an entrepreneur’s background. So I started four companies. And I saw such a dramatic difference between my first company when I was afraid of everything, and I was constantly in a, in a state of stress in a state of fear. And, and, you know, therefore, my employees were as well. And it wasn’t, it was very high performing in certain aspects, but it was very dysfunctional, and others. And I thought, you know, with with one keynote speech, I could literally change the direction of a whole company, or I literally could change, certainly a lot of individuals within that company, once they understand what we can do and how we can actually reprogram our brain. So for me, it was my why is to my real why’s to create world peace. Because I think if we all learn about fear, we all understand what’s going on in our mind, we all create this, this sense of courage, and can go into anything from a negotiation to a to a conflict resolution to, you know, to voting with the idea of curiosity, not judgment, then all of a sudden, a lot of these things that that cause strife and pain within the world all go away. So my why is to help millions of people learn courage, because their life will change dramatically. And almost everything we do from a neuroscience perspective is self serving, because we’ve evolved, it’s a mechanism that is here to take care of ourselves. But the really cool thing is if we can do something altruistic, we can do something in the service of other people, we get a little kick, we get a little dopamine hit, we get a we get a surge, and that makes us better. And then our future past, which is something neuroscientists refer to, as how we can restructure our brain, then how we fall back on the subconscious decisions becomes even more powerful. So when we’re doing these things in service of other people, it feels really good. And it ends up being really good for us. Michelle Bourque 7:32 Yes, that’s so funny. I always my sister picks on me because whenever the like, you know, what do you want for Christmas, I’ll be like, Oh, peace on earth, and they’re like, we think of something, but you’re literally like, this is a good way to provide it, this will be my little ripple effect. Speaker 2 7:46 That’s it, you know, we can we can reach millions of people and, and, you know, that’s the whole point of the book, I, I spent six years writing it. And I’ve given up the the entrepreneurial and the startup stuff, and which is a lot more lucrative, but a heck of a lot less impactful. You know, I think, one book and and a bunch of these podcasts been with folks like you who are reaching a lot more people. And you know, we can change a lot of people by doing something like this, I Michelle Bourque 8:13 think, I think so for sure. And you just mentioned curiosity and not having judgment. We talked about that, as far as like, even for ourselves, like not blaming others, and not when we’re looking to make changes. Why do you think that’s so important curiosity and going into looking at your life without the judgment? Speaker 2 8:31 Well, it’s, it’s very easy for us to fall back on judgment, it’s very easy for us to say what we know is the right way. And in fact, what we know is probably the only way in a lot of people’s mind. And what that does is that that allows us having having that sense of almost selfishness, or certainly a sense of judgment, allows our brain to be paradoxically very efficient. Because we’re always using the same neurons, we’re always using the same synapses, the same small area of the brain. And so consequently, the brain which is the most energy hungry organ in our body, it makes up less than 5% of our body, but it uses 20% of the energy. So it’s constantly looking for shortcuts, it’s constantly looking for ways to make things easier to use less energy. What that does is it preserves us as a as a organism as a human being. But what it doesn’t do is open us up to new possibilities. So our area of possibilities, our whole realm is limited when we aren’t curious and and you know, that’s the really messed up thing about the way the brain works is it’s a prediction engine. So we’re constantly trying to predict predict the outcome of a current situation and that’s why Coronavirus is so challenging. I can talk more about that in a second. But one of the things that happens is when we try to predict something subconsciously we fall back on all Have our prior beliefs and those prior beliefs or experiences we’ve had. So things that have happened in the past, oftentimes, most of those experiences were put there by someone else. Yeah, so we don’t choose where we’re born. We don’t choose the color of our skin, we don’t choose the language we speak, we don’t choose how many brothers and sisters we have, what kind of a house we live in, all of that’s chosen for us yet, all of those things go into creating our initial perspective on the world. So if we aren’t curious if we think that’s the way the world should be, that’s how people are, this is what my tribes like, then we’re very close to any possibility. And that means we’re also close to innovation, to creativity to happiness, and really, at the end end of the day, to good relationships, because that gets into parenting, it gets into love and everything else, if you do believe that your way of doing it is the only way of doing it, you’re shutting out a lot of potential and a lot of opportunity. Michelle Bourque 10:56 Right. And when you talk about new opportunities, you know, one of the things that we discuss is, like you said, who you are now and who you think you maybe want to be or try something and what I call it is that in between the river of misery, where it’s like, so uncomfortable, because it’s not what you know, it’s different. Would you say that similar to your free energy? And can you explain that? Speaker 2 11:18 Yeah, so So free energy is actually the root of all fear and free energy is, to put it in context. It’s something by one of the most brilliant neuroscientists and doctors in the world, a guy named Karl Friston from University College London, and he’s amazing guy, he was on the cover of Wired Magazine last year, and you’ve got billionaires who fly over to see him literally for half an hour, because they think he’s got the key to developing artificial intelligence that really works and into the guys who made Siri and Alexa have consulted with him. So super smart guy. And what he thinks is is what he’s proven is this thing called the free energy free energy principle, which encompasses everything that happens to us. So what it says is, basically, we have prior beliefs based on our past, those prior beliefs will predict the outcome of the of the current situation that you’re in. And they’ll give each possible outcome a weighting. So for instance, if if you walk in and you flip a switch, your brain is automatically going into prediction mode. So it’s saying that there’s a 90% chance that the light is going to come on, there’s a 10% chance that it’s not going to come on. And if you live in a house with a shag carpet, you know, maybe it’s an 8% chance, it’s not going to come on and a 2% chance of get shocked, right. So your brain goes through all these predictions. And what happens if you flick that light switch and water comes gushing down out of the out of the ceiling? That’s something you didn’t predict and and that produces a lot of free energy. And free energy is the disconnect between what’s actually happened and all the things that you predicted or that you thought were possible to happen. And so free energy is a way of describing surprise, uncertainty, that that area you said, in between where you are and where you want to be. And that’s the best area you can you can stay in. I talked to a neuroscientist. This morning on my Instagram site. We did a live chat with a neuroscientist named Beau lotto and Bose get this group called the lab of misfits and he works with Cirque du Soleil and all these other things. And then three mainstage TED Talks. So amazing guy. And what Bo says, you know, I love the way he describes it. He said, you know, a lot of people think they can go from A to B, and they see people who are going from A to B and being super creative and saying I could never be that creative. I could never go from A to B. And he’s right. And his point is that you don’t go from A to B, you go first from A to not A and then you can start to find the steps along the way. And not a is very uncomfortable, because it’s in an area of uncertainty. And this is actually what’s happening right now with the Coronavirus. Okay. One of the reasons there’s so much anxiety is we’re sitting here trying to predict this this state that everybody’s in right now. And we don’t have a reference point. There’s nothing in most of our prior beliefs, where we can fall back on and say this is the likely outcome. So because there’s there’s no reference point for that we’re producing a lot of free energy and emotion that that creates disempowerment. So when we feel disempowered, because of this uncertainty, and because we can’t do anything immediately about the uncertainty, then that feeling of disempowerment changes our personality. And in the book, you notice I, I in fear as fuel, I laid out nine different personality types, and you can have a personality and there’s a bunch of ways that you can pick those and Myers Briggs is one and the Enneagram Random is another one. And I put them in TV personalities or movie personalities to make them a little bit easier to relate to. And our personality can be great and have a lot of strengths and weaknesses. But each one of those has a dark side, a shadow side, when you become disempowered, because of uncertainty, you fall towards the shadow sides, you fall back, you default to your defense. So if you’re a conservative, you become more conservative, if you’re a liberal, you become more liberal. If you’re if you fall back into any one of those defenses, you start to think that that’s the only way to be and everybody else is wrong. And that can drive anger and frustration and everything else. And that’s where a lot of people are right now. Michelle Bourque 15:42 And is that also going back to like what you know, most solidly as your prior beliefs like that’s why you just because it’s easy. Again, it’s an unconscious, like going back easy. Speaker 2 15:51 That’s, that’s exactly right, you go back to that dark side, because you you spent the first 20 years of your life defaulting to defense. So we have that small gland in the base of your brain called the amygdala. And that amygdala is fully developed at birth. So we come out of the womb with the ability to protect ourselves to defend ourselves to have the fight flight or freeze response. So that’s what I say we default to defense. And we spend the first 20 years of our life habituating that reaction, because the prefrontal cortex, the part that has the adult supervision that allows us to make choices to plan ahead to decide what we want to do. That’s not fully developed until our early 20s. So consequently, because of that, we default to defense. Anytime we get in an uncertain or a stressful situation, if we haven’t trained the neurons in our prefrontal cortex to shut off that amygdala to shut off that survival instinct. And we hadn’t reprogrammed that 2 million year old piece of software sitting on the amygdala, then we’ve got to we fall back, we default to that defense. And it’s not pretty. Michelle Bourque 16:57 Yes, that is all the work that we work on. And it’s so funny because my sister’s like, if I hear you say, prefrontal cortex one more time, so important, you need to understand this. Now, you also talk about feeling disempowered in this time, but in the book, you talk about the importance of taking responsibility for your life and being the producer of your life. Can you talk a little bit about that? Speaker 2 17:18 Absolutely. I think, you know, one of the things we say in the book is that there’s only two ways in life that we make decisions, we either make them out of fear, or we make them out of opportunity. When you make a decision out of fear, it always leads to regret, to sadness, to shame to failure, you make a decision out of opportunity, it always leads to growth, and usually happiness and success and fulfillment. So you can recognize that by the changes in your body, you also have two ways of being that tie in very closely to that. And that can be that you’re the author of your life, or you can be a victim. And I love the way that there’s a woman named Diana Chapman, the conscious leadership group who worked with with a group of mine for about six years. And what she describes it as is the Drama Triangle, which I love. And you know, you’re on the Drama Triangle when you’re a victim. And you see this literally, Michelle, and probably 80% 90% of people in the United States, they’re victims, right? And I’m sorry, I would have been on time, but the traffic was bad. Oh, we didn’t get that deal. Because the customer was a jerk. Ah, I didn’t get the race and my boss is an ass, right. And I started Michelle Bourque 18:27 with this well, not that my boss was a part of I thought my job controlled me like I had no control of my time, it was the jobs fault. And that’s, yeah, Speaker 2 18:39 that’s the victim mindset. So if you’re a victim, if you’re sitting up here, then there’s always a villain. And the villain is someone who you’ve got to blame it on. It’s the boss, it’s the customer. It’s your coworker, it’s your husband, it’s your wife, it doesn’t matter. But there’s always a victim. And to get out of it, you need a hero to come save you, because you aren’t good enough to save yourself. So that’s the Drama Triangle. And you can hear that and it’s it’s easy to fall back on that it’s easy to become a victim and life happens to you. What we want to get to in the area of growth and Happiness is when life happens by you. And that’s when you change from being a victim to being a creator. And when you’re a creator. Now, all of a sudden, that person who’s pushing you that person who’s maybe difficult that person who isn’t maybe the way you want him to be. He’s not a villain. He’s challenging you, challenging you to learn something or she’s challenging you to get better. It doesn’t matter what it is, but they go from a villain to a challenger. And sometimes you do need help. And of course, you said it a couple of times already. When you need help, they’re not going to solve the problem. And I always tell the analogy that that they’re not going to get in the boat and row it for you. But that’s your coach and your coach can stand on the sidelines and look at what you’re doing wrong and look at what you can do better. So that changes from getting off that Drama Triangle to becoming the Creator Have your own life. And if you can catch yourself blaming other people and and finding, you know fault and other folks and looking at people judge mentally, then you’re probably on that Drama Triangle. And one of the best things you can do and it’s actually pretty fun if you end up doing it with a partner or a spouse or work, folks, is literally lay out three pieces of paper, one that says villain, one that says victim, and one that says hero, and then you tell a story about what happened. Well, I was supposed to do this podcast with Michelle, and she was like, so now you’re standing on the victim. And Michelle called me and she emailed me and she was such a jerk. So now you stand on the villain, right? And then you say, but her, you know, her dog ended up coming in and reminding her that she had this thing. So the dogs the hero. So you can you can actually do that. It’s pretty fun through kind of exaggerating the roles, but it helps you realize, yeah, I really am being a victim. And I’m not taking accountability. And I’m not writing the script of my life. I’m letting someone else write it for me. Michelle Bourque 21:01 Yeah, I think that’s so important. Oftentimes, I’ll try to ask myself, How am I responsible for this, like, no matter what it is, because then I have the power, if I’m responsible to make the changes, you know, Speaker 2 21:12 that’s, that’s a great point, Michelle. And one of the things that that I’ll often tell, especially my kids, I’ve got three teenagers. And, you know, my, my daughter just had someone on Instagram that she gotten a little, you know, spout with. And she said, Well, you’re making me feel you’re you made me feel, what was the word should use? I can’t remember was or you made me look at, right or something like that. And I said, Shannon, nobody can make you look that nobody can make you feel bad. Unless you give him permission to yes, you’re gonna if you’re gonna relinquish your power, and let them feel bad. I said, Would you feel bad if I told you, you know, you were really stupid, compared to if someone you didn’t even know who never even met, you came up and said, Hey, you’re really stupid? And you said, Well, yeah, probably because you, you know, I know you, I respect you and everything else. But But then you’re letting me Why didn’t that other person using the same words have any impact on you? And I just think like that, you know, knowing that, that if you give up the power, or you could just keep it like we were saying earlier and curiosity and say, Hmm, I wonder why that person thinks I’m stupid. Or I wonder why they think I’m selfish. Maybe there’s something to it, maybe there’s something I can learn from that. Or maybe they’re just having a bad day. Speaker 3 22:24 Right? Like, what do I make it mean? Yeah, yeah. And it just totally changes the perspective. That’s so great. Michelle Bourque 22:30 Now, you also, I think, a good place to end when you were just talking about happiness and creating your life? How about the information on smiling? And how important that is? That was so funny that we talked about it? Speaker 2 22:42 Yeah, I’ve got a pan I’ll show you. So this is, you know, a lot of people ask about what you can do now. So a lot of the companies that I’m working with him, I’m doing these virtual keynotes, and I just did one for Toyota and accurate and everything else. And, and I said, Look, there’s two things you can do immediately. And the first thing is to breathe. And I recommend if if you go on my site, or on my YouTube channel, or on Instagram, or whatever, you Michelle Bourque 23:12 know, it’s too for sure, perfect. Speaker 2 23:14 My morning routine, I’ve got five, five things that I do every morning, and it’s part of a routine. The first thing I do well, first thing I do is thank God that I woke up and I’m alive and just have a little gratitude for being there. And you can thank Buddha thank the universe, it doesn’t matter. But just having that sense of gratitude that another day is starting, and you woke up exactly. So that’s, that’s the first thing that’s the second thing I do is breathe. And I do a breathing practice in the morning, and I do one at night. And the one that I introduce in the book as part of the base method, the the platform for reprogramming reprogramming your brain is a four by four. So you breathe in. For a count of four, you hold it for a count of four, then out for a count of four, then you’ll hold it out for a count of four. And start all over again. And that breathing methodology immediately signals to your sympathetic nervous system that we’re not under threat to the amygdala was wrong, it made a mistake. We don’t have to have this fear response. That’s, that’s the first thing that happens. So just breathing. And if you practice that in the morning, even if you practice it for five minutes, a lot of people get intimidated by meditation or, or breath work because they think oh, I don’t have an hour to sit on. Michelle Bourque 24:30 That was me. But now I am such I agree with you, you it’s a necessity. Speaker 2 24:34 It’s a necessity. And it’s something you can just do for five minutes, or even two minutes. If you just do two minutes of those four by fours and only focus and only think about your breath literally in three to three days neuroscience research shows that will reprogram your brain starting in three days just from simple breathwork so that’s the first thing to do anytime you get stressed. The other thing is so simple and it’s it’s it’s blue My mind the first time I heard about it, but we’ve got 42 muscles in our face. And Emory University did this great study, where they brought in a couple 100 participants in the study, and they split the group in half, the control group sat there watching horror films, and having their brain scanned. And their cortisol level of cortisol is the stress hormone, having the cortisol level tested, and the brain scan is they watched, you know, Friday the 13th, or whatever. And they had a second group. And what they were trying to test out is the old adage of grin and Barrett and you know, smile, and you’ll get through a type of thing. But they didn’t want to tell the participant participants to smile. So they thought, well, what can we do, so they gave them all a chopstick, and, and they said, Hold the chakra deck in your mouth. Because to hold the chopstick in your mouth, you’ve got to flex those 42 muscles. And what they found was just by smiling, just by flexing those muscles, even if you didn’t mean it, you reduced your cortisol by 80%, with just that amazing thing. And now what I see, and I’ve done this a bunch of times on social media, you know, I’m here in Boston, I go out for a run or a walk after dinner, or whatever. And I see a lot of people, and a lot of people are kind of you know, like that. And if you just smile at other people, their reflexive action is to smile back. And most of the time, you’re going to produce a lot of the hormones that shut down the cortisol and that increase things like dopamine and oxytocin and all the other things that happen when we’ve got the good feelings, that community feelings, and you’re going to incite that in them as well. So smiling is a great thing to do, especially now in these times. Michelle Bourque 26:39 Yeah, it’s for sure. And I think it takes courage in these times for people to smile. Sure does. Speaker 2 26:43 Yeah. I mean, a lot of people, a lot of people are, you know, so afraid and uncertain. Like they’re falling back into that into that dark area I talked about. And they think, Well, you know, they’re their primitive brain, that 2 million year old piece of software is saying this person might be a threat. So I don’t know if I want to smile at him. But if you’ve got the courage to smile, then it definitely has a contagious effect. Michelle Bourque 27:04 I agree. And I think that the other thing is, you know, people are like, I’m afraid we’re gonna die. And like we always were, why don’t we live until that day, right? Speaker 2 27:12 Well, as you know, Michelle, in my, in my email signature, it says Memento Mori, which is remember your death. The first part of it is, you know, I always tell people live big, but remember your death, we’re gonna die someday. So spend your moments wisely. You know, use your use your happiness, use your power, use everything that you have to help other people, and it’s going to make you feel better. And it’s not just, you know, an old adage that says that it’s neuroscience that proves all of these things. And that’s the, that’s the fascinating thing about about the book and some of the things that you know, I present, it’s all based on hard science. It’s not just someone thinking, you know, this seems like a good idea. Michelle Bourque 27:49 Yeah, it was so great. And I think everyone you need to go out and get it. There are so many I could sit and talk to you for like so many more hours. There’s so much information in here. That’s so fascinating. So thank you so much. Before we go, though, how is the best way for people to like, follow you and get get in touch with you? Well, the website, Speaker 2 28:09 PJ Sweeney and.com. And we’re SW e anyway. And we’re in the process of doing a new makeover, which is pretty exciting. On Instagram, it’s the fear guru, and Facebook is Patrick Sweeney, fear guru as well. And then Twitter is just PJ Sweeney. So any of those ways people can reach me also on LinkedIn, obviously, is Patrick Sweeney, as well. And if you go to PJ sweeney.com, you can sign up for our newsletter, and we put something out, you know, usually a new blog or video once a month, and then we’ll give updates on the Instagram Live things which we’re at now. Now we’re doing about once a week with some really interesting people now that a lot of less travel out there. And a lot of people have some time available. So it’s a really great opportunity to now you know, see how we can help other people while we’re while we’re locked down and have some time on our hands. Michelle Bourque 28:57 Oh, thank you so much. I appreciate this. This has been so much fun. Speaker 2 29:01 Michelle, likewise. Thank you. It’s it’s been great talking to you. And thanks for getting me on the show. And thank you, everybody, especially appreciate you taking the time to tune in and listen to the podcast.


    Episode Transcript – Transcribed with OtterAI and minimal edits

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