It’s a constant in the universe that everything changes. There are changes that we welcome. There are changes that come out of nowhere and catch us off guard. And, there are also changes that we’re consciously creating. How do you deal with change – both the unexpected and the planned – AND continue to live in harmony and enjoy our lives? Author, speaker and executive coach Dr. Ken Druck says all these changes and things that we discover about ourselves are opportunities for us to become our “resilient self”. This requires cultivating the ability re-imagine the future and move into a new space. Learn how you can embrace change and utilize it to experience joy in your life.
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How To Deal With Change And Embrace The New Space with Dr. Ken Druck
I feel incredibly blessed in this moment to be here with you. I feel great just to be alive. I feel wonderful being here with you. This community is growing in such magical ways and in this moment, what I’m called to express is how deeply grateful I am. I’m not necessarily a grateful person by nature. It’s funny to say that but I can lean on the side of things not being right at times or complaining even in my own mind that tend to not do that out loud because I know how deadly that can be. I certainly did it in my earlier years more than I do now, but I can lean toward the side of sometimes what’s missing or what’s wrong or what needs fixing.
It’s not like I just wake up every day feeling like everything is perfect with the world. It’s been a practice and the practice has paid such great dividends, especially in the face of challenges to realize for me. This is just my experience of it to have some awareness that everything that’s happening in my life is valid and everything that’s happening in my life is therefore required. I don’t necessarily know what the requirement is or why something’s happening. I know that old expression of everything happens for a reason. I never bought too much into that. I always thought that’s total bullshit, like if everything happens for a reason, just do me a favor and explain the reason.
People will say that they can’t explain the reason. They want you to know it will all be all right and that’s wonderful. Then it occurred to me at some point that everything’s happening for a reason and that reason is there to serve. The statement is not complete. It’s everything’s happening for a reason, and then instead of a period, there’s a comma and that reason is there to serve. When I started to feel more that it was truthful, that it was true, that that everything was going on in my life was required in order to help me to evolve to some higher level of consciousness or humility at times, or awareness or gratitude. I started to appreciate that more and more and to be grateful for everything. As this day is ebbing on and wherever you are now, maybe it’s ending.
There’s never a moment in the day where we don’t benefit so profoundly from gratitude. I am sitting in that right now. I feel incredibly lucky to have met an amazing man. A person that I’ve only come to know and know a little bit but I’m so curious about this guy. It’s so funny the way our paths have crossed because several people had mentioned his name to me and I botched his name at the very beginning. One of those mind things where I was thinking his name was Fred when his name is Ken, just like my dad. My dad’s name is Ken. Dr. Ken Druck is the gentleman that’s going to join us on the podcast. You guys are going to just absolutely adore him. I already am in adoration myself, as is my wife, as is our oldest daughter, Chelsea, who met him as well when we were at a retreat in Hawaii.
This will be a magical period of time. Wherever you are right now, buckle up your seatbelt, get a comfortable spot. Enjoy this incredible conversation that I get to have with Dr. Ken Druck. He’s been one of the nation’s top thought leaders and innovators for the past 40 years. As an author, speaker, executive coach and organizational consultant, he’s helped countless individuals, families, organizations and communities, turned their greatest challenges into opportunities and realize their highest potential. He’s the recipient of the prestigious Distinguished Contribution to Psychology and Visionary Leadership Awards.
Ken’s pioneering work and courageous living has inspired and guided countless readers, audiences, clients and the general public. His book, Courageous Aging: Your Best Years Ever Reimagined has won high praise from Dr. Andrew Weil, Alan Horn, the Chairman of Walt Disney Studios and John Gray, famous from his book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. It’s been a bestseller since it came out. Ken’s work has been featured regularly in the New York Times, CNN, PBS, Larry King Live, and on Oprah. You’ve got an amazing history, a CV of not just the accomplishments but important work that you’ve been doing in the world for a long time. It’s exhausting just to think of all those things that you’ve done. I’d love for you to fill in the blank if you will. Is there something that’s not in that bio that you’d love for our audience to know about you in the present moment?
First of all, Adam, it’s a joy to be with you. It’s a joy to meet you and your family. I’m so glad that we have an opportunity to play together now and I look forward to all the ways that that’s going to unfold. As you get to know me and I get to know you, I could ask you the same question. I love the context in which you’ve created this and convened this learning for them. That is of conscious pivots and I would say that if there were pieces missing from the description of my journey, it would be all the pivot points. Those turning points, those moments of truth in my life where something chose me or I chose it. It’s been a combination of both and where I either elected to pivot because I was awake and aware of choices and opportunities and I went for the gold ring or where something in life happened. Something that changed the entire course of my life and presented me with unwelcome, unexpected changes and choices and that was also a moment of truth. I would say all the seasons of my life were characterized by pivot points. That’s why one of the reasons I was really looking forward to spending time with you.
Thank you, Ken, and welcome. This is an ongoing conversation about how people deal with change, handle change. It’s one of those things which I don’t know if it’s an oxymoron, but it’s a constant in the universe that everything changes. That change is a constant. It brings up so many things for all of us, when things change because there are changes that we welcome, there are changes that we’re creating, that we’re being creative about. There are changes that come out of the clear blue, out of nowhere and catch us off guard as well. Changes in our health and in a status of our employment and sometimes the people in our lives that we love that are not always there with us.
Thank you so much for being a part of this conversation and bringing your special recipe for not only how do you approach change, how are you resilient, which is such a key ingredient in how it is that we live in harmony and enjoy our lives. Let alone be happy. I don’t know what that is, but we have some joy in our lives as a result of this ability to body embrace change and utilize it. Thank you for joining us on the show. You’ve done a lot of things. I’d love to, if you would, take us back some period of time. The audience would love to get a sense of the history. Why is it that you’ve gotten into the work that you’ve gotten into? What’s driven you purpose wise? Was there a pivot or pivotal moment that revealed your purpose in a clearer way?
When all of us try to construct a story, a narrative of, “Who am I? Where did this start? When did I start waking up? When did I open my eyes for the first time? What environment caused me to do that? Was it an inspiration? Was it the music, the symphony, music of the masters playing in my childhood in the living room, beaming over the speakers making my heart sing? Was it the tension in the living room because I had parents who were constantly fighting, who had come out of an era in history and we’re trying to find their footing as individuals as a culture?” and so on. For me, the story, we can start way back. Being the grandchild of Holocaust survivors and growing up on the East Coast of New York and the first generation of people who are trying to settle into this country and trying to find a place for themselves, trying to create abundance for their families out of an absolutely unspeakable and horrific time in history, they were always looking over their shoulders.
Weren’t sure it was quite a safe place. Trying to create an elevated status for themselves where they weren’t living in fear of being put in a box as Jews, as this, as that. I’m sure everybody can think about the box that you grew up fearing you would be put in as a female, as a male, as somebody who was taller than the kids your age and shorter or heavier or lighter or whatever, gay, straight, all the things that differentiate us. For me, growing up in a household with a mother, especially who sought social justice, my mother was aware and tuned into what was happening in the world. She embraced people of different persuasions, religions, ethnicity, backgrounds from all over the world. Growing up in that culture, that instilled in me a sense of social justice.
When I started taking those first steps out into the world and noticing that not everybody felt like the way I felt. As I grew up and eventually had the honor of marching on Washington, being part of the Civil Rights movement, being part of the Anti-war movement back in the ‘60s where we were standing up and saying, my friends were going to Vietnam and getting their legs blown off or dying, and we were all saying, “This is not right.” Here we are now in 2018, jumping out of our skin saying, “This is not right.” When I look back to my origins and the foundation of what I did, it was that. Having a sensitivity to human suffering, to people not being happy or people being afraid predisposed me to going into psychology.
That was for me, the gate that I had to pass through. I eventually got my doctorate in psychology and my interest was in who are we as men? You and I talked earlier about the whole thing of being a guy. What does it mean to be a guy? What part of that programming and that basic training has been a gift to us, has favored us, has elevated us? What part of it has been a block to our joy, to our true success, to authentic self-esteem?
What part represents truth and what is some fiction that we’ve been programmed to adopt?
My first pivot was to face in. We either get to face in or we get to avoid and live in denial and it was to face into the first frontier, which was gender and to face into who I was as a guy. I wrote my doctoral thesis and I wrote my first book, which ended up on shows like Oprah and Donahue and CNN called The Secrets Men Keep. That was a pivot point for me to face into and to seek out the ways that I could be the highest and best expression of myself as a man, as a father, as a friend, as a sincere, authentic friend, as a partner to the women in my life and as an abiding son to my mother and father and siblings. That was the first pivot point. That was the first major awakening and as I was discovering them, bringing them out into the world in the form of writing and speaking and doing my life’s work.
I think it’s a book by Dan Millman, The Life You Were Born To Live, where he points out something I thought was interesting. It’s great. The thing that intrigued me was the idea that our challenges are somehow signposts to our true purpose. I’m looking at the places in my own life where there have been challenges that in the resolution of those things or in the pursuit of resolving or integrating those things.
You’re describing the alchemy of resilience, how we ripen as human beings. On the spectrum, on this continuum from things that happen because sometimes our sense of mission in this life is born out of our deepest wounds. On one side, we have those early wounds, those betrayals, that abandonment, that sense of being alone in the world or forgotten or being hurt and injured. On the other sense, we have those things that make our hearts sing. Those awakenings, that music playing in the background, going out to the world, walking in nature, the sense of wonder that we had from nature.
Those things create both the adversity that we have the challenge of turning into opportunity, as well as the gifts and miracles of this life that we just sit, and we behold. It changes something in us. It inspires us, it lifts some part of us up to meet it. Those are the things that help define and turn us in different directions where we’ll look as pivot points in our lives in different directions. M sense often has been a mix, it’s been the things that I saw as the highest expressions of who we are as people. People standing up, Martin Luther King, Gandhi was a hero of mine. I had a chance to visit his home in India.
Looking at people who were icons, Mother Teresa, who also had the honor of meeting. Looking at people like that who just were the highest and best expression of who we are. Their compassion was unspeakable and their understanding of what it meant to be a good human being and then also having gone through the adversities of my life. I was wired in such a way that I had serious learning disability or I call them learning differences and having to go to summer school every year and feeling for the first twenty years of my life like maybe I was not smart. All those adversities or things that are there for us and challenges that are there for us to turn into opportunities to become the better, smarter, stronger, more effective, more humble version of ourselves. You’re absolutely spot on.
I’ve got two things that I’m tracking inside that I want to follow the thread on. One is the idea that a lot of what we deal with in our lives throughout our adult lives on an emotional level stems from childhood and it seems that you’re of that same experience or mindset about it. Let’s say within the first seven, eight years of our lives, there are things that we learn on an emotional level. We learn what love is, for example, and that definition of love may in fact be guiding us the rest of our lives until we have some greater awakening, as you said earlier, or awareness.
This idea that maybe love is conditional. Our backgrounds are quite similar. I also grew up in the East Coast and there was a lot of music in my home, which I still to this day. It’s one of the greatest influences was the music that my dad would play when he was writing. He was a fiction writer and he would type and write at night and edit and things. I have that soundtrack with me always. At the same time, my parents, who were married 25 years, we’re fighting for probably the better part of 25 years. Through my early childhood, I remember some pretty nasty fights and a lot of loud sounds and other things I couldn’t explain. When you’re a child, we make up our story of the world as everything revolves around us because it’s how we’re built.
When things are wrong and things are off, it’s usually because of us or at least it’s probably how we interpret it, that this is my fault somehow. I think that in our childhood, when we learn things about love, for example, that love is not unconditional. That when you behave, you’re loved and when you’re getting poor grades and when you don’t do what I say, or you don’t follow directions that your loved less, you get less attention. This has a way of creeping in to all of our relations throughout our lives, business relationships, personal relationships, all kinds of things. In my own experience, I am looking back at my life, I can see places where I’ve had self-sabotage, places where things have gone wrong, inexplicably things have happened, et cetera, whether it’s been financially or it’s been personally or some other thing, or partnerships, for example. I have questioned how much of those occurrences were random or how many of them were really tied back to childhood, tied back to a message. I don’t want to use the word healing because I honestly don’t prefer that word, but rather this resolution or an integration of this imprint from childhood that I couldn’t make sense of.
My child self, the self that can’t even put into words because it’s a bit of a pre-cognitive thing but on a feeling level, on an emotional level, I can feel what it feels like to feel abandoned. I can feel what it feels like to feel grief or feel unsafe, for example. That fear and I track the places in my life where things have gone wrong and that same resonance, that same feeling of that imprint is there, and that’s the common denominator between these seemingly random things that were challenges of what went wrong. The thing I’ve been playing with, and I want to get your opinion on this, is the idea that we can still resolve some of that childhood trauma or those imprints of childhood, these things we didn’t understand but defined our definition of love, for example. Is it your experience that those things can be resolved later on in life so that the messages that show up in these challenges don’t necessarily have to continue to repeat themselves for people?
One of the great things we look at the founders and fathers of modern psychology, and I’m going to invoke a name that hasn’t been spoken in decades, Sigmund Freud. A lot of Freud stuff has been thrown on the wayside but there’s one enduring concept and you’re reflecting on your comments, and that is repetition compulsion. We keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. We bang our head against the same wall. We tell ourselves we’re not enough, we’re not doing enough, we’re not lovable enough. We try to please people into loving us. We try to placate people. We try to over adapt and do too much.
We become type Es, everything to everybody else, without taking care of ourselves. We sabotage. We do all these things and having a roadmap and being able to honestly evaluate ourselves like what are my insecurities that drive me? What are my blind spots? What are my patterns? What do I keep having to learn over and over again that I repeat expecting to get blood out of an orange? Where do I keep banging my head against? What are the mistakes I am making over and over again that might have been born in the unmet needs of my childhood and here I am trying to do the same thing in the same way and expecting a different result? Einstein picked up where Freud left off and he said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.” The question on a grounded level that all of us need to ask ourselves, as we look in the mirror and take an honest inventory, is what are my insecurities?
What are the insecurities? What are the places that I get scared and confused? What are the rough edges in me that I need to firm up? Where is my inner work? Unless we do that inner work, we are destined to go over and over and over again because our systems operate that way. It’s almost like having a shard of glass under our skin. Our bodies are going to keep throwing it up and up and up, and we keep pushing it down. It’s not going to come through. We have this brilliant emotional system that is functional to our survival as our respiratory system, our neuro psychology. Every system, our digestive system, our emotional system sends us feeling. We have this incredible internal radar that sends us feelings. Our pain avoidance system. It’s tied into so many things, but what do we do, especially us guys, is to feel is to fail. Our feeling is the enemy.
We have to kill the enemy because anything other than anger is a sign of weakness and we get demoted on the male scale to a lesser of a man status. If we’re feeling scared or confused, we’re not comported the way we’re supposed to be as guys. It’s important for us to realize that our emotional systems, our radar systems picking up signals is not so that we can become prisoners to the feelings that bubble up, but that we can pay attention to those things. We can pay attention to the things that make us scared and we can face into those things and process our way through to the other side.
I believe absolutely that we have an opportunity all the time to reprogram, to recalibrate, to redo, and to address directly some of our fears, our insecurities, our blind spots, our patterns that are not proving helpful. They slow us down, they rob us of time and of joy and of loving relationships. That’s our inner work. I think we need a work ethic that’s strong, that says, I’m a work in progress. I need to be working, doing this work for the rest of my life. That’s an asset. That’s a strength. It’s not a deficiency or a weakness because I’ve got a problem. It’s an opportunity.
It’s a vigilance too, isn’t it?
It’s paying attention, but without becoming hypervigilant. You and I both know people who are constantly checking themselves in the mirror every ten seconds, “How am I doing?” We’re watching ourselves and we’re not living. We’re so hypervigilant. We’re so distrusting of ourselves. We’re so hungry for approval. One of my mentors, Meyer Friedman, who wrote Type A Behavior and Your Heart. Meyer used to talk about status insecurity. Some of us are status insecure as a primary cornerstone of type A behavior. It’s people who are status insecure, always worrying, “Am I imposter? Do I belong? Do I fit? Am I worthy and conscious?” Being hypervigilant isn’t the answer either. It’s a calm, accepting vigilance that has at the core, self-compassion, kindness, encouragement, a gentleness and ease. A permission to be a work in progress. We don’t have to be perfect. We can be a work in progress and that is the core of a continuous self-improvement, ripening process where we get to be continuously the better version of ourselves.
You’re defining self-actualization. It’s a process of not reaching, it seems some place on the mountain where you get to sit and bask in some warmer sun, but on a moment to moment level, are we the best we’re capable of being? Are we cultivating the best thought in the moment? In fact, I love reminding myself and I’ll share this with the community time to time as well, that this is just my opinion, but that the only thing that we have to do, the only duty, the only work we have is to get this moment right. Imagine that the only responsibility that we have is to get this moment right, to be present in this moment. Cultivate a compassionate thought, a kind thought, a self-care thought, a truly unconditionally loving thought in this moment, we’ve got the moment right.
We have done a disservice in psychology. Modern psychology and positive think psychology has often done people a disservice by saying, getting it right in this moment might mean acknowledging that you feel so messed up and turned inside out and so lost and so alone and so empty. You’re being asked to stand in that moment of lostness or of sorrow and with a faith, with an organic faith, not an external faith. With the organic faith that if I can summon the strength and the courage and the patience and the faith to stand in this moment and breathe and to hold myself and to allow myself to be held, that I am going to emerge. That there is a fullness behind the emptiness. There is a healing or a foundness behind the lostness.
There’s going to be a fullness in my life. There’s going to be a knowingness that comes from behind the unknowingness. I’ve had the courage to stand in and to be patient, to have a work ethic and to have that organic faith in ourselves and to know sometimes it’s okay that it’s not okay. It’s okay, but it’s not okay and to realize that sometimes life will ask us to stand in those moments. It doesn’t mean something’s wrong with us, we’re not trying hard enough or we’re not in the most positive attitude. It just means we’re being human and we need to stay with it and keep the faith.
It’s not necessarily about feeling better. I love this beautiful book called The Presence Process by Michael Brown where he says, “It’s not about feeling better, it’s about getting better at feeling.” It sounds like in the moment that ability to feel whatever it is that’s real, that’s a truthful moment. When we talk about getting it right, how could you get it any more right than what’s true for you in that moment. For people that might be listening, guys or women who are listening, saying, “Okay great so what do I do with that?” I’m here and I go, “I feel like shit and I’m okay with that because it’s real.” What do I do with it?
Part standing in that moment and saying our “oh shits” and being able to say flat out “this sucks” and being held in that moment, being met in that moment by somebody who isn’t going to run away, who isn’t going to try to fix you or figure you out or put a big psychological or spiritual or religious spin on you, results in you having one of the most powerful experiences you can have. That is the feeling of being understood. The feeling of being understood is at the core. When you look into somebody else’s eyes and they say, “you really get it. I’m not alone. I’m alone but you’re with me.” You’re walking with me, you’re standing with me, you’re hanging with me. You’re meeting me at the very place that I am in my truth. That’s where relationships kick in. Because if we’re not standing in our own truth, how do we expect intimacy? How do we expect other people to get close to us?
How do we expect to feel loved and supported and given in return? It’s critical that there’s nothing to change the narrative. It may be counterintuitive for a lot of people who are so damn resourceful and so constitutionally strong that you’re able to figure out and fix everything. As a matter of fact, you’re arrogant about it. You are an entrepreneur, your entrepreneurially arrogant. You think you can figure out and fix everything until you hit a wall and you find out that there are some things you can’t fix. There’s some brokenness that never becomes better. It becomes different, but never better. That you understand paradox. One of the highest forms of understanding life and dealing with adversity is grasping paradox. Somebody you love is gone. When you suffer a deep loss of somebody who’s life you cherish, they’re gone and they’re right here always and forever with you. That you are broken.
Some part of your heart was ripped out. You went through a living lost like a divorce or a bad diagnosis or an accident or an illness that debilitated you or a setback financially, where you’re working in a company, you started circling the bowl. You’re suffering a living loss or a life loss and it hurts and it hurts like hell. You saying, “This sucks,” and declaring that and voicing an objection, even though it might be impotent rage, clears the path. It makes space here, rather than you contracting around the pain and becoming smaller. You vent it in a constructive and healthy way and you create breath and space for something good to come in there. You make room for resilience. That’s what resilience is, an organic neuro psychological level. That’s how we achieve it. Sometimes it’s by allowing life to be what it is on life’s terms. Life has its own terms and you’re not trying to resist it, fight it, deny it or hide it, repress it, outrun it, out numb it, outwork it. You’re going to stand in and you’re going to face it down.
Talk about insanity. If Einstein was going to define insanity, he defined it as trying to outrun life. I’m sorry I interrupted you before, I wanted you to say again how you define resilience because we didn’t discuss to this point. I do want our folks to know some of the work that you’ve done because you’re no stranger to adversity and to heartache and loss. You become one of the nation’s experts in that arena and worked with survivors and people that had lost loved ones in 9/11 and Sandy Hook and a number of other situations that there’s no making any sense out of it. When you talk about the paradox, you’ve worked with people that are deep in the paradox and don’t know how to make what out of that. I’d love for you to speak a little bit about that and about resilience too, so that we all get a visceral sense of what it is.
You know me, and you know enough about my backstory to know that my oldest daughter, Jenna, died at age 21. My phone rang at 10:00 PM. It’s a phone call that is the terrifying horror and fear, the unspeakable fear that every parent has when the phone rings. When you can’t figure out, we all go through a moment of worries, “What time is it? How come she’s not home? How come he’s not home?” These kinds of things. We all go through these moments of unspeakable terror where all of time stops. It stopped in my life in 1996. My journey since then has been defined and you talk about pivot points, when you have your heart ripped out and somebody whose life is more important to you than your own dies, especially one of your kids.
My daughters are the light of my life, truly. It put me in on a journey through grief, through light, through dark. The ancients used to call it the dark night of the soul. My litmus test for whether something’s real, whether I can really say something to somebody, is could I say that to a grieving parent, or a wife or a husband who watched their loved one be incinerated in the World Trade Center. I was asked to lead the first town hall meetings in New York after 9/11. I’ve worked with the families whose five and six and seven-year-old children were murdered at Sandy Hook. Could I say this to them or would that not be something that would be respectful or true?
I have a dear and loved friend who was very involved in the Law of Attraction work, which is wonderful work. He said something to me in a message, in a phone message, I picked up the message as I was leaving the cemetery, having just helped a family whose daughter had been kidnapped and raped and murdered. I help them say goodbye to their daughter much the way I had to say goodbye to my daughter many years ago. This person’s message was, “Remember, it’s your choice to have a nice day.”
I said to myself, “Could I say that to this family? Tell them it’s their choice to have a nice day? Are you freaking kidding me?” My litmus test has been learned from dealing with people who are dealing with the worst possible adversity. Understanding resilience and the formula for resilience is something I call the five honorings, because these are the ways that we honor what we’ve lost. Whether it’s a living loss. We’ve lost millions of dollars in the stock market. We have an estranged family member. We’re raising a son or daughter who’s become strung out on drugs. It could be we’ve gone through a terrible divorce. Whatever it is that’s grief for living loss or life loss and the five honoring are this. Number one, the first honoring is our own survival.
The first honoring has to do with self-care. It’s advanced level self-care. It’s not you pampering yourself by getting a mani or pedi or taking five minutes when you get home. It’s true professional level self-care. Most of us have not downloaded the new operating system or software for high level self-care. The second thing is, once we’ve survived, to do something good in the name of what we’ve lost. They sound crazy but do something good. For me, I started the Jenna Drug Center and for eighteen years, I ran a nonprofit organization helping families who lost a child. That’s how I got involved with somebody with the tragedies that I’ve been involved with.
The other side of the Jenna Drug Center was carrying on the life and spirit of my daughter through a leadership program she created at age sixteen. We had 18,000 girls go through that. The third honoring is to embody some element of their essence. To be more like they were when we grow up. It could be their kindness, their sense of humor, their audacity and irreverence. It could be their passion for something or it could be something, some form of compassion and kindness that they showed in the world. The fourth honoring is to begin to develop, especially if it’s been a life loss, a spiritual relationship with them.
They asked us a plan A. We realized we’re never going to get a phone call. There’s not going to be any visit. We don’t get to go through the part of life we had been so excited about; watching a child graduate, watching them have their first loser boyfriend, watching and find a great guy and falling in love with him as a son in law, which I’ve had the honor of doing with my earth daughter, Steffi. We realized that and what do we do? We develop a spiritual relationship because the love that never dies needs to be carried on. We need to feel it and receive it and we need to give it. Even if we don’t know for certain what the true nature of life and death are. We can bet our faith and we can cultivate a spiritual relationship. Finally, for anyone who’s gone through any kind of a loss, the fifth honoring takes the greatest amount of courage.
We need to summon the courage to write new chapters of life. To put ourselves and our hearts on the line all over again. Even if we feel like we had our heart decimated and shattered and ripped out. Even if we’ve grieved, we need to somehow live forward and figure out what it means to live forward. One breath at a time. One day at a time, we gathered our strength, we gather our courage to live forward. That’s what resilience is. It’s what we pull from within ourselves and it’s the love and encouragement that we absorb from outside. Now, some of us have more trouble doing that than others. I’m one of them because I realized years ago and we talked before about taking inventory. When I took inventory of myself, I realized my receiver was broken.
You helped a lot of people. So many other times people will try to give me their love and their gratitude and their appreciation, where I didn’t know how to assimilate it, how to breathe it in, how to turn it into something good for myself. Why was that?
Sometimes we get on a path of being the giver, go-to guy. We’re cast into a role that we’re the figure-out and fix-it guy. We’re the go-to guy and that’s what our job is. In so doing, if that’s the whole pattern we take, we’re the patriarch or the matriarch of the family, we’re the boss, we’re the guy in charge, we’ve taken on our shoulders enormous responsibility and what we haven’t done is we’ve allowed those muscles inside of us that open the opening of our hearts to receive. We’ve allowed them to atrophy.
That, too, is a box. The way you just described those roles, those responsibilities, that’s also a box. It’s one that is even again, self-imposed. It could be that it’s another people’s way of seeing us but we also do own that. At certain point we have to own that.
I had an awakening. Month before my mom passed about a year and a half ago, we had a beautiful lunch. I used to go and take her to lunch. I take her to the symphony. We go on the beach. We go to Moonlight Beach Encinitas and watch the sunset. I had very special moments with mom and I was her caregiver for many years. Sometimes we get into a caregiver role and my mother stopped me. It was about time where I had to leave because I had appointments that afternoon.
We had a beautiful lunch and she stopped me and she looked me in the eye and she said, “Will you please just listen to me? Do you have any idea how much it has meant to me for you to take such good care of me, to love me the way you have all these years since dad died? Do you have any idea how much that is meant to me and to my life? I love you Ken.” She said this to me and it’s probably what most of us done, a lifetime would wish to be told, and I breathed it in as best as I could. We spend a few more minutes and I got in my car to drive home and to get back to work. I turned on the radio and I realized, “What am I doing?”
I turned on the radio. What am I trying to obliterate and block out? What’s overwhelming me? Why do we turn to a cigarette, a television show or any diversion or escape, a video game, our smartphone at a moment of truth where we’re being asked to breathe something in. I turned off the radio and I realized my receiver is broken. My mother just gave me this love. Am I going to breathe it in? Am I going to take it in and allow it to be a part of me to receive her love, to make space inside of me? I thought, “How many other times have I disallowed people’s love and affection and appreciation?” After a keynote speech, I’ll run off the stage and get onto the next thing. I’ve stopped and I’ve taught myself to put my hand on my heart before I leave the stage and to allow myself to receive and to make space inside.
All these things that we discover about ourselves are opportunities for us to become that resilient self. I’m not destined to have a broken receiver for the rest of my life. Nobody’s destined to live with insecurities or fears. I wrote the Courageous Aging book because one of the greatest adversities we face in this life is the adversity we experienced with fear and dread of getting older. What time is it? We watched the hour glass empty and we get terrified. Is there any wonder we spend $1 trillion a year on anti-aging products? What is the opportunity of becoming the more resilient self when it comes to turning 45 or 50 or 55 or 70 or 90? How do we become the more resilient side of ourselves as we go on this journey through time as we face into all the adversities?
Randi reminds me of that quite a bit. She points out such a pivotal question, and I love how you’ve reflected back pivot point. She says, “What’s the creative opportunity?” In every situation, there’s creative opportunity. Women are so much wiser than men. Our wives, we’re both blessed to have amazing women in our lives. The incredible question is, is that your greatest insecurity at this point? Is it age? Did you write the book to deal with your own insecurity about age?
I wrote the book as I was facing into and summoning the courage to deal with all the elements of getting older, to learn how to embrace the older version of Ken, to learn how to grieve the loss of the younger Ken and what he was able to do. That guy who played in the senior Olympics and soccer until he was 50, ran like the wind, was able to do things physically. To embrace the older version of me and to say, “How is the older version to me, ten times better in so many ways.”
I love this guy and he’s not the same guy and I love him, too.
I love him and I’ve written down affirmations. I have all these positive affirmations because we have to move into this space. We don’t just automatically flip a switch and suddenly we’re looking in the mirror differently. We have to cultivate. We have to make room for ourselves to reimagine the future, to also move into a new space in which I’m embracing. I look in the mirror and I go, “Look at you, you look beautiful today.” If you want to grieve the way your hair line used to be over here, I can grieve that with you. I’m with you.
It’s accepting myself in where I am and seeing the opportunity side of what’s ahead of me. I wrote a blog post called Facing Down the Biggest Fear of All, and that’s the fear of dying, of withering and dying. We get to not to move out of denial and avoidance of the fact that this is a lease. We’re on a lease program. This doesn’t go on forever. We may change forms. Who knows what happens after this. What these pivots into. What eternity is. Facing down and dealing with our aging are the fact that we’re getting older and dealing with our own impermanence is one of the most powerful and important things. Not that we have the whole thing figured out. I don’t, but facing into it, I have diminished my fear of these things from up here where they were. I was a little bit underwater to all the way down here.
They feel workable. They’re not taking up space in my life. I am living in the gratitude that we started this conversation talking about and here’s the most powerful point about aging gracefully. Once we’ve come to terms with life’s package deal, once we’ve made peace with life’s terms, the natural thing that flows into us is the desire to pay the good in our lives forward out of gratitude. To make sure that our kids and our grandkids and their kids and future generations are sitting in the shade of a giving tree that we helped plant or in the warm sunlight that comes through the branches of those trees. Instead of kicking and screaming as we go and leaving a legacy of chaos and clutter and unfinished business, we get to leave a legacy of love that’s born of our sensitivity, our compassion, our consideration, our love, our generosity of heart, and our strength. Our acceptance that this is the way of life. This is what happens. It’s the cycle of life. I’m a part of it. I surrender to it. I’m blessed to have this ride and I go forward into the great beyond.
It is a peace that passes all understanding, isn’t it? It’s a peace that creates peace like no other. I love so much how you gave that peace a purpose as well. When we feel that peace, we have that peace, we can actually use it to serve in a way that is fuller, that’s more authentic because for the most part, so many people spend so much of their time, their precious, limited time. Now I believe in eternity so much, too, on that level. I don’t think we have to worry too much on at least from the standpoint, if you believe that this is not the only chapter in the book, then we place so much importance on this chapter and therefore so much of our time is wasted in protecting ourselves from pain, from the feeling of pain, from protecting ourselves even from death.
I don’t even know that it’s fear of death so much for me is the greatest fear. I’m thinking to myself, “It’s fear of disappearing. It’s this annihilation of ourselves. What is death?” I’m not a poet, these beautiful poems that have been written. Wordsworth wrote a poem and Meredith wrote a poem. All these poems about death, but if you take it, what is death? If there is no annihilation of us, if the soul is not annihilated, if we don’t disappear, in essence, why fear death? In the few moments we’ve got remaining, I’d love to ask you about your conscious practices, which I refer to as rituals. Not in a religious sense. Definitely it could be on a spiritual level, but I refer to these rituals as a conscious practice. As something we do not habitually because we brush our teeth with our left hand, but something that we consciously choose to do, like a master habit of sorts. At this stage in your life, what’s a ritual? What are the rituals that add juice to the experience of living for you each day, Ken? What does that look like?
The blessings and the richness of my life was remarkable. The work that I’ve done and the people that I reach out to and that I have the privilege and opportunity to help and work or speak to. I had the honor of speaking to a 1,100 people in Balboa Theater, the entire district attorney’s office, every staff member of the district attorney’s office in our city, about self-care, about grief literacy and the honor and privilege of being able to speak and touch hearts and touch lives and to give what I’ve learned and what I’m going through. To share and be transparent about what I’m going through, to be able to walk with people who are going through unspeakable losses in our community or other communities around the country, to be able to go on TV with Don Lemon on CNN, who I get to work with on a regular basis, those are the blessings of my life.
If I take care of this moment and if I show up in this moment with my heart, with compassion, with strength, the strength to say no, the strength to say yes, I’m giving myself the time I need to make good decisions about what’s right for me, especially as I enter a season that I’m defining as ease. A new season of life where there’s going to be greater ease for me. I think those are the practices and while I do that, it so helps me support on everything I wanted to do. I jumped into a swimming pool and I flop around and I strengthen and lengthen the muscles in my body and I move. That I’m blessed, at least Lisette, always has a healthy nourishing meal or that I make one for us. I’m blessed that I have a dog who rescued us eight years ago named Bean and who teaches me, unconditional love, unconditional forgiveness on a daily basis and that I get to walk and hike every day that I can.
Those are the practices and the blessings and I try not to configure them in any form. For me, being on your show is a meditation and being present. It’s a talking meditation. Walking up Torrey Pines, the hiking trails, that’s a walking meditation. Sitting around watching the world turn a flipping back and forth from MSNBC to Fox News to see how polarized or how much the world might be coming together on what’s happening and whether we’re achieving civility or savagery. All of those things are meditations and I try to hold them in a calm place. When I need to vent in a healthy and constructive way, I try to do that. I don’t hesitate to make sounds that I need to make when I need to scream. Just as when I’ve suffered losses, I don’t hesitate to wail and make those sounds of sorrow.
Giving myself constructive outlets, the expression of all those things, including joy, explosion of joy in my life and the blessings is part of my daily practice and the rituals. I love rituals. I love to stop everything, to hold precious what’s happening in this very moment. It’s not happening anywhere else. It’s like you said it so beautifully. The way you introduced our time together. You said, “This moment is a blessing.” You are able to feel and sense and experience and drink in the preciousness of this moment. Not that there isn’t suffering in the world, there is but there’s also beauty and blessings.
I’m going to gather myself. I’m just drinking in this moment and I thank you so dearly for your sharing your heart with us, your thoughts, just your presence in this moment, which is spectacular and I thank you for that.
I thank you right back for being the kind of person and visionary leader who brings out the very best from the people that you share with your audience. I thank you for sharing your audience and your living room with me.
I want to say the information about the work that Ken is doing now, where his work is focused and refocused the work he’s done in the past, access to his website and books and other resources will be made available. Ken mentioned a number of things including the five honorings. All of that will be available for all of you, which is a treat and a blessing. We’ll wrap up as we began with gratitude. If this is a show that you’ve loved, please feel free to leave a review. We’re getting so many beautiful comments, incredible feedback. You can leave a review on iTunes. You can leave a review for us in the blog because all of these shows get turned into some beautiful blogs as well. You can go to AdamMarkel.com to do that. You can join our pivot community, which is so incredibly rich with people who are vulnerable in their pivots being authentic and sharing what they’re learning and where it is.
They’re still seeking guidance. They’re incredible on the side of both the giving and on the receiving. Ken, you said it so well earlier. It’s one of these is wonderful discoveries for me in the latter ten years or so that I started doing this work and pivoted out of being a full-time practicing attorney. That in working with people around the world, I found that there is something that we all have in common. We’re all pretty shitty receivers. You said your receiver was broken and you’re not alone, a lot of us that have had broken receivers from time to time. There’s a beautiful piece of writing that is contained in A Course in Miracles, which I absolutely adore. This section 30 that’s called the New Beginning. There’s a place in that writing that talks about the importance of receiving that which we want most. To have the day that we want to have and that in the having of it, in the receiving of it, so shall we give.
This was a profound distinction for me that as we receive, so shall we give. As we receive peace, peace becomes our offering. As we receive love, unconditional love for ourselves, self-care, it becomes our offering that we can make to the world. We cannot make an offering of something we don’t possess. We can’t give what we don’t have. It is this really interesting and paradoxical and ironic interplay of these things. Certainly, it’s been taught for thousands of years and in the Bible too that somehow, it’s better to give than to receive. It’s more blessed, but they are two sides of the same coin. Therefore, I don’t know that we can make one more important than the other. It really is both. Thank you, Ken for bringing that up and pointing it out.
As we do conclude, what I want to do, and I get to do, and this is the privilege and the joy for me in having this microphone and knowing that there’s a community of people who are interested in the things that we’re chatting about and the things we’re exploring and the vulnerabilities that were willing to share. What a joy it is for me to be able to express a wish of faith and a wish and a prayer for all of us. For all of us that tomorrow we wake up, that we get to wake up again tomorrow as we got to today because that is such a blessing as we get to wake up our consciousness, wake up our minds, our bodies, our spirits. That itself is so profound because as we take that first deep breath, as we’re waking up ourselves just a little more tomorrow than today, we are creating such a trajectory, such as moving forward.
As you said, Ken, living forward. What could be more a representation of living forward than our ability to grow a little bit more tomorrow, to be a little more awake and alive and aware tomorrow than we were even today? My wish, my prayer is that we wake up tomorrow and that in that waking breath, as we take that breath that we realized there are people in that moment who will be taking their very last breath and there will also be people being born, who will be taking their very first breath in that moment. That makes that moment holy as we said, special. With that gratitude, if you’re willing in your bed or when you put your feet on the floor to declare out loud these words, they’ve changed my life.
I have had such a great honor to share them with a lot of people. If you’re willing to say these words when you wake up tomorrow and you have that breath and you’re in gratitude that you say, “I love my life, I love my life, I love my life.” I wish that for all of you and so much more. Ken, thank you so much for being a guest on the show. Everybody, we’ll see you. We’ll hear from you. We’ll be engaged in this act of living together and I look forward to that. Until we have that opportunity again. Ciao for now.
- Dr. Ken Druck
- Courageous Aging: Your Best Years Ever Reimagined
- Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus
- The Secrets Men Keep
- The Life You Were Born To Live
- Type A Behavior and Your Heart
- The Presence Process
- Facing Down the Biggest Fear of All
- Conscious Pivot Podcast on iTunes
- A Course in Miracles
About Dr. Ken Druck
Dr. Ken Druck has been one of the nation’s top thought leaders/innovators for the past 40 years. As an author, speaker, (the original) Executive Coach and organizational consultant, he has helped countless individuals, families, organizations and communities turn their greatest challenges into opportunities — and realize their highest potential.
Recipient of the prestigious Distinguished Contribution to Psychology and Visionary Leadership awards, Ken Druck’s pioneering work in Courageous Living has inspired and guided countless readers, audiences, clients and the general public. His expertise in the psychology of men, relationships, resilience, healing after loss, parenting, and aging have shaped our world view of what it means to live honorably, fully, and with integrity. His most recent book, Courageous Aging: Your Best Years Ever Reimagined, has not only won high praise from Dr. Andrew Weil, Alan Horn, Chairman of Walt Disney Studios John Gray, of Men and Venus fame, and Natasha Josefowitz of the Stein Center for Aging, it’s been on the Amazon Best Seller’s List since it came out in October.
Ken Druck’s personal journey took a radical turn in 1996 after losing his 21-year-old daughter, Jenna. To honor her life and spirit, he founded the Jenna Druck Center. The Center’s award-winning Families Helping Families and Young Women’s Leadership programs provided assistance at no cost to bereaved families, including those who lost loved ones in 9-11, Columbine and Sandy Hook Elementary, and leadership training to over 18,000 young women.
Ken’s work is featured regularly in The New York Times, CNN, PBS, Larry King Live and Oprah.
Having shared a stage with Suze Orman, Tony Robbins, Ken Blanchard and Jack Canfield to name a few, he delivers powerful and inspiring talks on Transforming Adversity into Opportunity, The Art of Self-Care, and Living Courageously. Dr. Druck gratefully counts Arianna Huffington, Don Lemon, Joan Lunden, and Maria Shriver among his many supporters.
Living by the ocean in Del Mar, California with his beloved, Lisette, and their four-legged son, Bean (a boxer who rescued them), he writes, maintains a coaching/consulting practice, gives keynote speeches, trainings and media interviews, volunteers for several community projects and counts the many blessings of his life.