In this episode, I enjoy a conversation with Brad Axelrad about so many great topics, it was hard to name the episode! We talk about topics from rejecting absolutes, tackling limiting beliefs, and codependency – to using fear to set you free. All of these topics arise as Brad shares the path he’s taken and the pivots he’s made to achieve his success, moving from a career in finance to a personal development thought leader.
Brad is a friend as well a proud founding member of the Association of Transformational Leaders. As consultant, event producer, speaker and author, Brad supports visionaries to leverage their shadow into their big purpose. He’s developed automated marketing quiz funnels designed to segment prospects effectively and break even quickly with marketing outlay. He also produces live events and hosts the Face Your Dragon Podcast where he interviews celebrity thought leaders and icons. You can learn more about Brad at faceyourdragon.com. I also encourage everyone to check out www.couragequiz.com to learn more about Brad’s mission.
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A Success Equation: Courage + Fear Utilization with Brad Axelrad
I’m thrilled to be able to share somebody who’s a great leader in the world in so many ways. He and I, we have the same barber, so that’s why I really love this guy not just because he’s a great leader in the world. By that, I mean he models. Every time I’m in his presence, I feel good. That’s how I track things, as someone makes me feel in their presence. He’s a strong guy but I never feel intimidated by his strength. I hope that’s the way people perceive me as well. In any event, I really have just affinity for him and he’s doing great things. He’s helping a lot of people break through fear. If there’s one thing that really debilitates all of us, it is fear. My own personal belief system is that there are two things we’re going through and experiencing morning, noon and night every day of our lives, either love or fear. So much of what we are challenged by sits in that channel of fear. The things that have us loving our lives and just feeling purposeful is love.
Brad Axelrad, thank you so much for being a part of our Conscious PIVOT discussion for today. If you wouldn’t mind, will you share something about yourself instead of me introducing you?
Thanks for having me. I’m honored, grateful and humbled. In personal development, that path started from massive pain when my dad passed in 2005. I know you know that one and we talked about that when you were on the Face Your Dragon podcast. I was the Orange County Hoffman graduate facilitator for a couple of years and I wanted to create a way to be in higher service, so I started a book study group. That book study group grew into 200 live events with some of the biggest though business leaders on the planet.
The Hoffman classes, that’s what you mean, right?
Yeah, the Hoffman Institute. It’s amazing, brilliant work. I wanted to be in that conversation and other conversations, so I started just a small group that morphed into hundreds of live events with thousands of people attending. Within eight weeks of the first meeting of studying the law of attraction and quantum physics and anything that came to mind, we were on NBC Nightly News and the rest is history. PBS television in front of 8 million people, USC News, LA Times, Orange County Register, attracted all these media and got on this fun trainer transformation. I’m thrust into the marketplace as an expert. That’s the short answer.
You were working on yourself all the while. I don’t know if you dig this word or not, I don’t particularly care for the word guru, but you get seen as somebody that has expertise and guru-esque and you go, “But you don’t understand. I’m a complete fuck up. Do you not know that?”
Greg Montana was on my board of advisors and he was the guy that got me to finally slow the fuck down. He said, “Brad, when are you going to finally sit in your shit?” That’s what he said. That was ten years ago and I’m like, “You’re right.”
I have a book that helps to guide my spiritual practice. It’s Around the Year with Emmet Fox. A section for today was talking about how always metaphysical in nature, power of prayer to overcome obstacles and all that kind of thing. It also said something around not waiting until we’re worthy to actually be doing the work, doing the great things because if you’re waiting to be worthy, the day will never come. You don’t give yourself worthiness. According to Emmet, it comes from source. You have to ask for it and you pray for it. When you ask for it, it’s given. To wait until you’re rich and famous to be able to teach people or mentor them in some area, you can wait forever and usually people do, versus the experience you’re talking about when you get thrown in the deep end. Even though you’re still processing through and working with your own stuff, sitting in your own shit and yet, still you have the ability to use that to impact lives, to help change lives. For us, we’re driven to create peace. Does that mean you’re peaceful all the time just because your mission is to create peace? No. It means more time than not, you’re not in peace. You’re seeking it. I’d love to know a little bit more about the path you’ve taken and the pivots along the way. I know that’s what really jazzes up our folks is to see how the person who’s had great success had those pivotal moments, and what they’ve learned, and even where it’s led you today.
Greg spoke at the center numerous times and I would stand in front of this audience of, say, 200 people at times and I would honestly come clean about where I was. I’d be like, “I’m standing in front of you. I’m nervous and scared to shit. I have no idea what I’m doing. God’s working through me. I have no idea why I’m here but evidently, we’re all supposed to be here, right? You guys get what I’m saying?” “Yes.” “Can you work with me if I’m a little nervous?” “Yes”. You’re right, jumping into the deep end, not having the answer. That was one of my biggest pivots was just saying yes even though I had no flipping idea what I was doing. Literally, when I started these groups, I had never been a speaker. I had been in sales for many years at some level, but pivoting from having a successful real estate investment and real estate finance company in Orange County, California, to pivoting to becoming thought leader guy. Granted at that point, I had already probably attended maybe 30 workshops and seminars, Hoffman and stuff, so that was another big pivot attending and actually doing the inner work not the outer work. That was one of the biggest pivots of my life, saying yes to this calling, yes to my purpose.
I remember wailing in the hallway of my condo after my dad died, in serious grief just begging the universe to have my purpose show up. I had no idea what it was. I just knew that self-indulgence wasn’t serving me anymore. I knew that drugs and alcohol and food and travel and BMWs and motorcycles and purchasing homes, it didn’t serve me anymore. There was a paradox happening as I’m being pulled in both directions. I’m opening one and shedding an old life. That was the biggest pivot, was saying yes to my highest calling, yes to my voice even if I didn’t have my voice yet. I didn’t know my voice. I didn’t know my message. I didn’t know myself at that level yet, but I said yes anyway. That’s really what you were alluding to earlier. It’s stepping in and just, “Fuck it, I’m in.” There’s that moment of saying yes. I did and that’s been the biggest blessing of my life. I’m in Costa Rica now. I live here part-time. I’m, in two months, buying a world-class Mercedes Sprinter RV to travel the US and Canada, so just pivots all over the place. That’s where the juice is.
What are you going to do in the Sprinter?
It’s a little bigger than a Sprinter. It’s a Sprinter van with a big conversion on the back. It’s really cool. The plan is to buy it in Texas, go to Boulder, visit friends there, go up to Canada, visit friends in Calgary, and then head over to Vancouver and then down to the Hoffman Institute for another leadership seminar there. Then straight from Hoffman to Burning Man in this RV, ready to rock. That’s the initial plan. I’m going to visit friends in Ojai and Boulder, all these spiritual communities and do a deep drop. I’ve noticed that one week or two weeks in a place isn’t enough, but staying somewhere as long as it feels good is what I’m really learning to do. When it feels time to move, I’ll move on. The RV will be one of my homes. That’s not my only home, that’s the second home. I’ll be living here in Costa Rica and other places too.
Give me a sense of the pivotal experiences you’ve had. Have they taught you anything? Is there a common denominator that you can detect, a thread?
Yes, there’s a theme, there’s a thread. We’ve talked about this, I shared when you were on the Face Your Dragon podcast, about the feather, the brick or the Mack Truck. If you ignore the feather, the brick comes, the Mack Truck comes. I have so many times ignored the feather. That’s the theme. Just my sheer stubbornness and strong will is the theme. Something comes and just slaps me and says, “No, you need to listen. You’re not listening. Slow down.” Broken collar bones on my neck, I’m almost a professional motocross racer, I travel the West Coast racing motocross, extreme sports guy, I’ve chased many highs in all different levels with all different sorts of drugs and travel and plant medicine and anything I can do to expand on this earthly planet and become a better messenger, I’m willing to try it.
The common theme is pushing the envelope and finding the edge. There’s that masculine core in us man and women as well, but mostly in men to push the edge, to find that level of edge. That’s when I feel most alive. That’s also when I’m not pushing the edge, when I’m in what Gay Hendricks calls your zone of confidence or your zone of excellence, that’s when I tend to manifest some smack upside the head like, “Wake up and listen. You’re not listening.”
Are you familiar with Michael Brown’s work? Have you ever checked out The Presence Process?
I recommend that one. You’ll love it, especially with the work you’ve already done. He talks about things as being requirements. It’s got me good, actually, because according to him and I’m ascribing to this, it really feels true for me, that everything that’s happening is not just happening for a reason. As I’ve said to a lot of people over the years, it’s happening for a reason. That reason is there to serve, which I do believe it’s there to serve us and our family and the world, etc., depending on your voice, depending on your vision and your mission. It’s also there because it’s required to be there.
[Tweet “Everything is always happening for us. It’s never against us.”]
It’s a requirement. Everything is always happening for us, as you said. It’s never against us. We live in a friendly or a hostile universe, Wayne Dyer, I love that. It’s a choice. I’m choosing as ugly as these shadows can be and as ugly as the dragon can be that’s facing us and burning us and threatening us. When we learn to love our shadow, we can integrate these requirements.
It was interesting because there was a theme going on at ATL because Michael was talking about the assignment, what is my assignment. In fact, I woke up this morning and that was one of the first things. I lied in bed and I went through some of my own morning practice and then I asked that question, “What is my assignment?” What a phenomenal question. Fernando Flores later in the event said, “What is my historical offering? What is our historical offering?” which is so powerful.
There’s part of me that’s not overly a stickler with language. There are a lot of folks in our space who are really, really committed to language being everything it creates. I’ve taken another stand on that but I think language creates whatever you think it does, which I believe in quantum physics at that level, if I believe that me saying maybe or I’ll try is a positive thing, so be it. I get the power of language. I just challenge a lot of the doctrine that can happen. Sometimes in our communities, I think it’s easy, the ego likes to cling on to some of these. I hold all these things loosely, astrology loosely, human design loosely, Myers-Briggs loosely. There are tendencies in every philosophy or teaching and I appreciate that, but when the ego gets clung on, I want to check that.
It’s like, again, resisting absolutes on some level. The absolutes are all around us because we all crave security and this security, this safety in absolutes, in blacks and whites. You’re right. The word integration is a big one. I’m speaking Michael Brown’s language out because it’s meaningful to me right now. It’s not about healing. It says something is sacrilegious in this community. What are we healing from? What is the need for a healer? We’re not broken. We’re not busted. There are stuff that we need to deal with and it’s our stuff. As Michael would say, it’s required stuff. How do we integrate it? Not make it wrong or bad and have to be away from it or heal it or anesthetize it or sedate it or avoid it or control it, but just integrate it. That’s as far as I’ve gotten on that path is just to be aware that’s a possibility.
[Tweet “Fear is excitement without the breath.”]
I appreciate you’re coming clean about that. It’s like you’re not there yet. We never really get there. We’re always peeling layers back. I’m with you on the integration. Forgive me if I keep looking out into the jungle. The integration piece is key. A lot of folks in the ‘conquer your fear’ space are all about that “Slay your dragon, conquer your fear.” I don’t believe in that. I think it’s a matter of integrating it and using your fear. Fear is excitement without the breath, the founder of Gestalt therapy. There is power in recognizing that these chemicals that are happening are happening for us not against us, back to that friendly or hostile universe thing. I was excited and nervous to get on this with you. It’s great. I just interviewed my dear friend, Jason Goldberg. Prison Break is his book, really cool stuff. He said, “Brad, can I put us on Facebook Live right now when we’re doing this recording?” I thought, “I’m scared as shit. No.” My first thought was, “Absolutely not. I’m going to edit this. It’s going to be perfect. It will come out as an edited high-quality product post-edit.” I said, “Go for it. I’m nervous about this and that’s exactly why we should do it.” I’ll tell you what. That nervous excitement that was there was one of the best conversations I’ve had on the Face Your Dragon podcast because I was juiced up from that little bit of fear and excitement that happened. I had to just breathe it through and really use it and channel it, but I was a no. I was an absolute no.
I was interviewing Jason Goldberg on the Face Your Dragon podcast and he said, “I do this sometimes. I’ll stream Facebook Live as I’m on an interview.” My first gut response and fear response was, “No way. I’m going to edit this thing after. It’s going to be perfect.” Then I thought, “No, it’s exactly why I should do it. I’m afraid and I’m excited. That energy can be used to our advantage.” I said, “Do it.” We did it. I told him right before we started the podcast interview that I was in a level fourteen, I was pumped. It went so well because I said yes to the fear, yes to the nervousness, yes to the excitement and integrated it and used it.
Just to bring this full circle, we’re having a discussion about what does it mean to slay your dragon? What does it mean to simply step into something that’s uncomfortable and make it a yes in that moment, and realize on some level, you’re not going to die. If this Facebook went horribly wrong, which it may be going horribly wrong in this very moment, nobody’s going to die. That’s the beauty. That’s not going any place.
We have that fight, flight or freeze response. It’s just so normal for us to be in survival mode. That lizard brain aspect of us is constantly on survival mode. If we can recognize that stimulus and response, that gap between fear and action or fear and non-action or fear and running the other way, whatever it is, that’s the gap that the beauty, the presence lies in, choice, that split second between stimulus and response. Mind the gap, I say. Stand in the gap. Be in the gap. That’s really where love is. That’s where everything is.
The distinction between fear and excitement is a breath.
Every time I’m about to interview someone on my podcast or get on somebody else’s which happens regularly, it’s like, “What am I going to say? Am I going to say the right thing?” One of the tenets of the Face Your Dragon brand is the imposter syndrome, will you be found out as an imposter or fraud? That’s the reason you don’t go out and share your message because you’re afraid you’re going to be an imposter or fraud. You don’t have all the answers.
Why don’t we both declare this? I’m going to put us both to this here and we’re going to both declare our dirty little secret. I’ll go first and decide if you want to jump off the cliff with me. You’re in Costa Rica, I know you got these beautiful waterfalls and all these great places. I’m just in dreary old San Diego. My dirty little secret is that I’m an imposter. I’m a total fraud. I’m picking off where we left off. Think about it. Is there anybody that does not harbor the limiting belief that they will be found out as an imposter or a fraud? I practiced law for eighteen years. I went into court and I had to handle things and did things for the first time. Surgeons, they operate, they cut people open for the very first time. I think this is the thing that is liberating. That’s why I’m going for it. Because to me, to the extent that we convince people or worse yet, that we convince ourselves that our ego convinces ourselves that we’re so together and we’re competent or we’re an “expert,” it’s BS. I’m going to put my hand up and go, “That’s my dirty little secret.”
I would say my most recent discovery, which is something that’s been a common theme or thread throughout my entire life and relationship, whether it be business relationship, love relationship, friendship relationship, is codependency. That’s been really, really hard to face that dragon of codependency and actually say that I had traits of codependency. Now that shows up in the codependency triad or triangle, the savior or hero, the victim and the perpetrator. I’ve seen myself go in and out of all of these three personas being confused when I’m helping someone, like “I’m almost about to cry right now, but can’t you see all the time and effort I’m putting into you?” This feels like such core wounding to me. I see it in so many friends and relatives. It’s like, “Can’t you see all this effort I’m putting into you?” Then I play victim like, “What the fuck, I’m putting all this energy into you. Don’t you see that?” Then I step into perpetrator saying, “We just roll in and everyone’s doing it at some level, just some worse than others.”
It shows up as that passive-aggressive behavior, right?
That’s exactly what happens. I’m feeling a lot of nervousness. This is the most public I’ve really shared. I may have shared it on Facebook but never at this level like we’re doing. Because I feel the sensitivity and trigger in myself, I know that this is something that’s really going to set me free. What we say at Face Your Dragon is face your dragon, take the leap and break free. What you’re most resisting and most afraid of are the very things that will set you free. They’re your moneymaker, they’re your gift to humanity, they’re your message. This might be a big part of my core message is codependency.
[Tweet “What you’re most resisting and most afraid of are the very things that will set you free.”]
We’re putting into that dirty little secret because for one thing, just to say it, just to energetically release it, it takes the charge off. I’m going to invite the listeners, if you feel inclined, maybe your dirty little secret is that you keep your love to yourself or you keep your love just to the people that are closest to you. That it would be unusual for you to walk up to a total stranger and give them a hug or ask them if you could give them a hug or tell them that you love them even though you don’t even know them but you know them. We get that. We all know each other; whatever your dirty little secret is, if you want to energetically release the charge of that. This has been inspired in a really organic way right out of a live podcast. We’re having this discussion about what it is to face your dragon. What it is to pivot to be able to make a pivot instantly, because that’s the way it works. It goes like that. We make a decision and our life can change. Whatever it is that you want to maybe challenge in yourself, challenge a fear, challenge something that you just want to be more truthful, you just want to step out and just be honest, own your shit. That’s what we were talking about. I’m working on myself. I’m a work in progress. I’m embodying the pivot as I teach it. If that makes me inauthentic or fraud or an imposter, so be it.
It makes you human. Thank you for being human. I’m so appreciating your humanity. Not everybody is playing that. They’re going to be playing in this perfection game. There’s a paradox in perfect. Everything is perfect in the spiritual communities. It’s perfect as is but there’s also this desire to be perfect. All the imperfections that we have, it’s really just about embracing all of it, the good, the bad, the ugly. It’s all fucking great. Just own it all. Stop resisting it all.
I think the message there is fuck perfect. A friend of ours would say, “We’re perfectly perfect.” To all my listeners, love you, all. Have a beautiful and a blessed day. Absolutely feel free to comment with any of those moments, those courageous moments that you might have today where you’re facing your dragon, where you were going to create a pivotal moment for yourself of truth and honesty, just something that you can feel good about, feel good in your heart that you showed up. We love you. Brad, au revoir from Costa Rica.
Blessings. Buenas tardes.
That was awesome. Well done, buddy. You had a moment of inspiration and you followed it.
Only because the space was created for that. I want to thank you for allowing and giving and everything. You’re on your way to new digs. Where can people go to find you? If they wanted to visit you and learn more about Face Your Dragon and your podcast and all that kind of thing, where do they go?
CourageQuiz.com is a one-minute quiz to help you discover the number one hidden fear stopping you from earning what you’re worth. We all have one main core thing and you’re going to discover that in this one-minute quiz, CourageQuiz.com. Of course, just FaceYourDragon.com, all the podcasts are listed on there. We got the likes of don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, Gay Hendricks, lots of other world-class folks, folks who have been on Conan O’Brien. I just did Kute Blackson. Just some of my favorite amazing humans, Barnet Bain, just such incredible humans, just beautiful, beautiful humans. They’re playing a big game and their hearts are just generous, like, “Here’s my generosity.”
Ciao and peace and safe travels.
Have a beautiful and a blessed rest of your day. Of course, when you wake up tomorrow morning, the reminder is always the same. Awake, be in gratitude and declare for yourself that you love your life tomorrow and every day after that. I love you. Ciao for now.