It’s good to be alive, but are you living courageous and changing the world for the better? From his starting point is a gas station attendant fighting his way out of a dysfunctional childhood, to his rise and starting and running a multimillion-dollar financial services business, Ken Foster has experienced a transformation and courageous living first-hand. Ken is a visionary, a business strategist and the radio show host of Voices of Courage, a media outlet with a message of truth, courage, and love. On today’s show, he joins Adam Markel to talk about how he’s living courageously, the importance of contemplation in relationships, showing up better and making someone else’s life better, and so much more.
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Living Courageous Living With Ken Foster
Ken Foster is my guest. He’s a visionary business strategist, radio show host of Voices of Courage, which is syndicated in over a hundred countries. Ken Foster is courageous living around the world with his courage clubs, designed to generate a million acts of courage and inspire courageous living to change the world for the better. From his starting point as a gas station attendant, fighting his way out of a dysfunctional childhood to his rise and starting and running a multimillion-dollar financial services business, Ken has experienced a transformation and courageous living firsthand. Ken resides like I do in Southern California with his wife of many years. He practices the discipline of a balanced life through meditation, yoga, healthy eating and daily personal improvement. Ken, what a pleasure to have you on the show, welcome.
Adam, it’s great to be here. It’s good to be alive. Things are happening and I don’t know much about you, but I’m dreaming of a new dream. I think you are too. I’m starting with the end in mind. I’m thinking, “What do I want to be in awe about? What do I want to wonder to take me on that ride?” The future creates our present moment. If we’re visualizing that future, we start to take those present moment actions. I’m thinking about that a lot and contemplating what’s next. There are certain dreams that didn’t happen. There are other dreams I brought in that were nightmares. I was like, “It isn’t my dream.” I’m not bringing that dream into this dream. I’ve been thinking about what I have to let go of, what kind of thinking do I need to embrace? What people do I want to have in my life and those relationships that I have that just aren’t working anymore? They have great relationships when we started out, sometimes you only have to let them go. I used to get upset losing the pencil, let alone losing a relationship. We’ve grown through this. It’s time to move on.
You and I have both been around the block once or twice. This is not our first rodeo and in business and certainly not talking about our own personal paths both the paths that have led to great things. We’d be happy to share with people and the paths that we often share that we wouldn’t have shared maybe many years ago because it wasn’t as safe. I’ll speak for myself. I wouldn’t have appreciated the value of being transparent, vulnerable and risking the shame of admitting the mistakes, errors and judgment and even admitting the loss as you referred to. There’s nothing worse than the loss of a relationship. Even health can be looked at on some level of relationship between ourselves and our body.
When there’s a betrayal of our bodies, like a relationship, it’s something to examine. Sometimes these things we have to let go of and there are times when we make a stand. Coming to the end of 2019, I remember it was around the middle of the month, our oldest daughter, Chelsea, called me up and said, “Dad, it’s the last full moon of the month. It’s a great time.” If there are things you want to release and invite in, this is a great opportunity to do that. I spent a good half-hour writing down some things I wanted to let go of and release, things I even thought I’d let go of before pretty sure I had. Still, there was a residue of some resentment or some angst about something. It gave me a fresh opportunity to let go of some things and also to invite some things in. Did you take any opportunity or spend time doing something like that or creating a vision board?
Every year since 1992, I have done that released work. I used to do it once a quarter. I do it now usually once or twice a year, but always at the end of the year. In fact, I wrote a book called Release – Renew – Evolve. In that book, I’ve become an expert at asking the right questions. That probably came from my father. He was a Los Angeles police detective for 48 years. He was very good at interrogating and asking questions. I picked that up and I like to ask questions that take us into the subconscious mind so that we can pull out somethings. They’re running our lives, but we’re not aware of it.
That book that I do and I do the work every year, we had tasked people to inventory their mind to take a peek and look at any regrets or any places we felt that we were disempowered, we hurt others, hurt ourselves. Any kind of shame, blame, guilt or any failures that we perceive that we didn’t accomplish what we wanted. It’s important to do that. I’m glad you’re doing it. I know for me, I don’t want to bring any of that stuff. It’s a conscious choice to grow and let go. I do that every year. The next part is the glass is all filled up. You pour the water out, now it’s empty. What’s next? That’s an invitation to re-dream your life because this is a dream. If you’re either living nightmares or you’re living nightmares and good dreams. Maybe you’re living cool dreams and you’re going from one dream to the next. You’re generating what you want in your life, whether it be in business, relationship, career, health and vitality. It all starts with energy.
I was going to say it all starts with those questions. What’s one of the best questions you’ve either ever asked yourself that’s historical or maybe it’s one that you ask yourself repeatedly?
It’s the basis of my book, The Courage to Change Everything. The question is, “If I were courageous, what would I do? If I was courageous, what are the three steps I might take? If I was courageous, who would I talk to? If I was courageous, what would I invent?” It always starts with that question. Courage is the bridge between fear and empowerment. If you’re in fear, you go to courage. If I was courageous, what would I do? What do I let go of if I was courageous? Who would I talk to if I was courageous? What would I admit to myself if I was courageous? What would I do differently if I was courageous? It all starts with courage.If it's not working for you, it's not working for the other person. Click To Tweet
I go back to the time when I was pivoting and it’s based on the book, PIVOT, and that’s based on real-life experiences of people who pivoted like the guy sitting that spent eighteen years in the practice, the work and the job of law. Much of that time, I was feeling like it was the wrong calling. It wasn’t my right livelihood. The important question itself is, what is my right livelihood? I couldn’t answer that question in the affirmative based on what I was doing. Back to my lawyer training, it begs the question, how do you define courage? That’s profound and what would I do if I was more courageous?
A lot of people ask me that and I want to say this. If I were to ask you, “Can you define fear? Can you define what fear feels like? Can you define what fear does to you? How do you think when you are fearful?” We all know it. Courage is a lost art. Courage is also a feeling. It’s an energy. It comes from the Latin word, cor, which means to speak one’s heart. I would plus that it’s to live one’s heart. What is our heart? It is that guiding intuitive, conscious part of ourselves that’s leading us where we need to go. When you feel courageous, all of a sudden you feel this expanse. By asking that question, “If I was courageous, what would I do next?” It evokes courage in our being and in our mind. We start to feel empowered. We start to feel like, “I was courageous, I could do this.” Some people’s minds might go a little different, “I don’t have any courage,” but that’s not true.
The contemplation is courage as well.
I have a practice that I do every day. I tried to do it in the evening, but sometimes I do it in the morning and that is I ask myself what’s working, what’s not working and what do I need to improve. Sometimes what’s not working is a big list. Sometimes I want to go, “I’ll never get this.” The truth is, for me, it’s daily. One step every day, 365 days. I do this every year. I’m looking to improve just one little thing. Somethings I do well by that. Other things are chronic challenges I’ve had. Patience is a good one.
I’m finding that challenge myself. There are relationships that sometimes have run their course.
It’s hard to let go of those.
It takes a tremendous amount of courage. When you find it, there are signs of when asking that tough question, has something run its course. Meaning it’s not in your highest interest and your highest good you or the other person potentially anymore. When you ask that question, it’s a tough one. Part of what is a signpost of that is patience. To me, Randi, my wife and I were married for 30 plus years. We know each other longer than that from college days. Kindness when people ask us about relationships. We do some training for people in the relationship area. We do quite a bit of speaker training individualized and things like that.
What comes up often is people will say, “What has sustained you in the pivot post-law, in the professional speaking world? What sustained the relationship you’ve had with your wife so long?” This ability to be patient. Having patience with the process is something we often will say to people. You’ve got to trust the process and be patient. In the relationship space, that patience also translates into kindness. It’s something to pay attention to when you’ve lost your patience with something or someone. Not that it’s the end of it in the moment. I’m not coming at it from an emotional and ‘make a decision in an instance’ standpoint. Patience is important.
Here’s what I found along with that and what you’re saying is very important. The piece that I found is that if it’s not working for you, it’s not working for the other person. If we get that concept and be with it for a while. It’s like you’re in a business relationship and you’re going, “This partner. I can’t believe they’re doing this.” The truth is it’s not working for them either. It’s the same thing in our relationship, I know when my wife and I are off-key, which happens in relationships lots of times because that’s how we grow. It’s like, “If it’s not working for me and for her, why would we want to keep doing this? Why not figure out how it can work for both people or maybe we have to leave the relationship?” In some instances, we do. People have grown apart or people don’t share the values together. People are mentally unstable or this whole bunch of reasons. We have to be able to understand that if it’s not working for us, it’s not working for them.
Every morning, I start with a statement. Most people know one of the statements that I’ve said it so many times, but it’s not that statement that people are familiar with. This statement that I’ve added to the other things I’ll say. This one I got from a woman by the name of Judy Whitcraft, where she’s this magnificent woman in her late 70s. Every day she wakes up, she says, “I wonder what miracles are coming.” You use that word, wonder. This is a wondering. It’s contemplating. The idea that there’s truly a miracle that’s possible in this moment and in what’s dramatically feeling. The reason you and I came together on this show is to have this conversation around, what do you have the courage to contemplate from a relationship standpoint at the start of a brand-new decade?
Contemplate whether, “What’s working for me? What’s not working for me? What could be done differently?” No judgment. It’s ironic. We use that exact feedback loop when speakers analyze their performance or have them deliver a message. We use it intentionally because it’s not a judgment thing. It’s a perception at best. If my perception is part of some aspect of the relationship isn’t working for me, it doesn’t make it true. It’s my perception. As you brought up, it’s also likely that it’s not working for the other person either. Energetically, if it’s not working for you, how can it be working for them?
It’s not. It’s interesting because I taught that concept to a lot of business owners. They feel like they can’t let go of an employee, but they’re just not doing their job. It’s not working for them either. They’ve stopped showing up. They’ve stopped doing what they want to do. They’re probably stuck in a situation and they don’t want to be here. You trying to enable them to stay is a disservice in many instances.
What do you think the positive aspects of releasing someone from a relationship are? That’s tough for a business owner to let go.
It feels adage. If you release a butterfly, maybe it will come back. This is the work I’ve done in our relationship over the years. Sometimes, our relationship has gotten to a point where I don’t like it anymore. It’s not working. Dispassionately being able to look and say, “What’s my part in this?” How can I recreate that relationship in a way that works? Dispassionately standing back and giving yourself that feedback of asking yourself, “What’s my part in this? How can I change? What can I do energetically to show up differently?” With a relationship, as you’ve been married for many years, the question I asked myself a lot almost every day is, “What can I do to make my wife’s life better every day?” That adds up. I’m not perfect. When we’re at 5 or 6 six in our relationship, what has to happen to take it to a ten? What’s the missing link?
Those questions you asked are very powerful tools. I want to reflect those back for people to not just take note of, but maybe even write down because what’s my part for one thing? What’s mine to own in any situation where it’s “not working?” We’re talking relationship, which is interesting because it can be a relationship with yourself, the first relationship. We have a relationship with your body, with another person, with somebody in business. We both do some consulting in the business space so often that’s an issue. That question, first of all, “What’s mine to own?” Secondly, “Is there something I can do to make it better?” If you asked that question routinely, there’s a compounding effect to asking how is it not only you show up better, but how you make someone else’s life better.
There’s another piece to that. It’s what are we projecting in the relationship? Are we walking in the room projecting joy and happiness? Are we walking in the room excited? Are we walking in the room going with blame, shame, guilt or carrying baggage? For me, that little tweak when I catch and I become conscious, I go, “What is it I want to project to the world?” I want to project happiness, love, bliss or kindness. That’s an intentional awareness that I show up and I practice that day. What happens is everybody changes around me. I had a client come in and she was depressed. She wasn’t having a good experience in her life.The mind is the cause of our bondage as well as our liberation. Click To Tweet
Her husband and her children weren’t treating her well. The neighbor and the grocery store clerks weren’t treating her well. It was all about them. I said, “Why don’t you do this? Think about what you love for the next seven days and write it down, journal about it, project love, wherever you go, be happy. Fake it until you can make it. Put a smile on your face.” She came back that week and she said to me, “Ken, I don’t care for kids much, but I had little children growing up and trying to connect with me at the grocery store.” It’s about what do we project at.
What we project is what we attract. It’s another way to look at that off sided Law of Attraction. I’m curious if you ever read Emmet Fox?
Emmet Fox reminds me of The 7 Day Mental Diet.
We’d love for people if you haven’t checked this out, it’s a tiny little pamphlet. I think it’s 16 or 17 pages.
It’s the toughest thing I ever did.
It’s the most brutal, ridiculous diet you will ever be on.
It took me a year to complete his seven-day mental diet. The day I did, I woke up in the morning and literally, it was like taking a dark pair of sunglasses off that I didn’t know I had on. Everything in life for three days was fluorescent. The colors were brighter than I’ve ever seen. My hearing has more sense, and my senses were heightened. I wasn’t taking drugs or doing anything. It was awareness and consciousness of what I had been missing my whole life because I had a mindset that I was a critical thinker. I was a negative thinker. I was a person that looked at what was wrong with everything. That’s how I was taught. My father was LAPD for 48 years, so he has some good qualities. He’s taught me how to interview and go deep into questioning, but also there are some other ways of looking at life from that point of view that I experienced. You’re always aware of what’s going to go wrong. You have to be aware of what might happen. I lived that life, but I used that diet to change and I changed permanently as a result of that.
It’s like the psychedelics without the psilocybin.
It’s crazy what we could do with our minds. The mind is the cause of our bondage. The mind is the cause of our liberation. A great Yogi once said that, and I’ve always remembered that, “Everything looks real from the point of view that I see it, but as soon as I could shift my mind into another state, everything changes.”
It is almost like taking on and off a pair of glasses. It’s a lens. We’re not forced. It’s not like we’re born at whatever age we are that someone forces us to wear those glasses, whatever the shade they are. We do have that capacity. To me, it’s the only true freedom we’ve got. You address the root cause of everything that shows up in our lives at the level that truly is the cause of causes. I haven’t yet, and I’m still looking and maybe there will be a deeper level at which something is the catalyst for everything else. I haven’t read it yet. Haven’t heard anybody talk about anything that goes to a grounding level before that.
I found it being still. I tried to find it reading books, doing workshops, doing counseling, therapy, and coaching. Anything you can imagine. I’m a lifelong learner, so I’m always looking to learn. I wanted to feel a sense of fulfillment, joy, peace and happiness all the time. Not here and there. I tried doing the here and there thing, I buy a new car and I’d be happy for ten minutes. It was that place where I had to get still. Two people that I know have said this quote. One is Leonardo da Vinci and the other one is Paramahansa Yogananda. They both said, “Isolation is the price of greatness.” I had to think about that. “What are they talking about?” Einstein said it too. He said, “All I want to know is the thoughts of God. The rest are details.” I thought, “These people might know something more than me. Let me tune in and let me learn how to be still.” I practice that every day. I knew you were going to ask me that, what are some of the practices you do? I wake up in the morning.
First of all, at night, I set my intention to wake up in the morning joyful, happy and powerful. I wake up in the morning and I tell myself, “I’m awake and alert.” I give my mind to command. Some days I wake up saying, “I’m going to be a cat. I’m going to lie in bed with joy.” I wake up alert, awake and alive. For me, I like to meditate and go within a least an hour to two hours a day, every day. I’ve been doing it for many years to a couple of decades. What I’ve found is everything I was searching for is all inside. It’s not anywhere outside. It never was outside of me and anybody else. It’s all inside. We have to learn how to get there. That’s been my experience.
Making time for stillness is saving. They say if you don’t pay yourself first at the end of the month, there’s usually nothing left to pay yourself. You’ve got to take care of that first. Making the time for stillness or being alone. Regardless of whether you’re meditating or you’re praying, I’m a God guy, so I pray and I love to do that. I called myself out in a public forum where I said, “I’m just a crappy meditator.” I’m not a crappy meditator anymore. I dig it. It’s not just peaceful, it’s like getting some sleep for the parts of my brain that don’t always rest even when I’m sleeping.
It’s a funky thing, but while conscious to be able to actually rest is a big deal because resilience and creating resilience both physically and more mentally than anything else is a big part of how solving problems. It’s where we get inspired. You said dream a new dream or what’s your dream for this new decade? Maybe the thing that if you’ve overlooked doing this is to take some time to be alone to get quiet, get out of the noise. That means your cell phone and all the noise around. Maybe do find something where as Einstein said, “All the rest become details.” Did you get driven into stillness? Sometimes for a lot of people, and this has been the case for me too, it’s getting driven to your knees from some life event where it causes you to do something different to pivot.
In 1992, I was living in Sacramento. I had divorced my wife. I was working in a job that I spent a bunch of money. I was spending every dime I had. I surrounded myself by individuals that are called lower companions. I was 50 pounds overweight. I hadn’t exercised in years and had collected junk everywhere. I had clutter everywhere. I was afraid to let go of anything. I was seeing a therapist and I started hearing this little voice said, “You’ve got to feel the pain and make the change.” I walked to the therapist that day and I said, “Doc, we’ve been seeing each other a year. I’ve been hearing this little voice and it says, ‘You’ve got to feel the pain to make the change.’” The doctor looked at me with still blue eyes, silver hair sitting in his chair look like Carl Jung. He says, “I can’t do anything more for you, Ken. You need to follow that voice. Thank you so much for being here with me.” I closed the door and walked out of the office down the street.
I was thinking, “Is this going to crazy or am I crazy? I came here because I’m hearing and there aren’t good voices.” That was the voice that walks me in at about three days later into a recovery center so that I could start recovering from the addiction I had to alcohol at the time and drugs. I was able to find myself again. It was hard. It wasn’t something that I wanted to do. It’s not something I talk about, but it’s something that I needed to do. I needed to get real, vulnerable, and I needed to have the courage to do what I didn’t want to do. I tried it many times. I tried quitting on my own. I tried doing everything on my own. What happened is that my greatest thinking got me right where I was, which was in a place of destitution and desperation. I know better. I asked a lady that owns a homeless center down here in San Diego. She helps people so that they don’t go homeless.If we're honest with ourselves, we can change anything. Click To Tweet
I said, “What’s the number one reason of homelessness? Most people think it’s drugs and alcohol.” She’s said, “It’s not.” I said, “What is it?” She said, “They’ve given up all of their connections. They have no connections with the spiritual path. They have no friends. They have no home. They have no social connections.” They’ve tried to do life all alone on their own terms like being on an island. We can get to places and our mind is very tricky and boxes in. It gets us to places where we think we’re okay, but if you look at the results, that’s all you’ve got to do. How am I doing in my relationships? How is my health? How’s my fitness? How are my finances? How’s my spiritual life? If we’re honest with ourselves, you can change anything.
There’s that slogan Nike has, “Just do it.” When you were saying, even I was thinking about this IT, the thing that you don’t want to do, the thing you have to do, forced to do or have the courage ultimately to do. It’d be cool. Someday, not maybe in a parallel life or universe. You and I will create IT Therapy. What’s that IT factor? It’s a big deal. My last question for you has to do with your rituals for resilience because having come through and making as far as you’ve made it. This is not judging the results. We’ve all lived a life filled with things that we are proud of and filled with things that we’re not proud of. It’s good, bad and ugly. I haven’t met anybody yet that that’s not the case regardless of position, power or money. We’re here like we started the show. We get to start this new decade. We start this new day. It’s a blessing and a gift. I believe it’s for a reason as well and I attribute a lot of the reason why I’m here and others to this word, resilience. What can you tell me about resilience and share with our audience, maybe even a ritual that you’ve got that has kept you or created resilience for yourself?
I gave you a couple of them. The first one is how I wake up in the morning. That’s a success habit that I’ve gotten into. It’s the same thing as meditation. The other thing that I do is I make time for myself. I make time to be alone. I make time for planning in my day. I have spaces in my day. Those spaces are for a reason. In 1992, when I told you that story, the truth was I had forgotten who I was. I didn’t have a clue who I was at that time. I didn’t realize that I was an infinite being, I was powerful beyond measure, I could overcome any obstacle, that I could manifest a life of joy, happiness and bliss.
It doesn’t mean there’s not crap along the way, but I could overcome anything. I could become fearless. I could become courageous. I could step into parts of myself that they’re either atrophied or are pretty much nonexistent. I didn’t realize who I was and I didn’t realize from a non-ego point of view. A place of being the observer of my life and being the chooser of which direction I could go. By allowing myself that distance between my thoughts, that distance between my physicality, the distance between my environment, I could be in choice. I could do things differently. Every day I take time in the day to read something empowering like this book that I created that has daily astute wisdom that I’ve studied from the East. Also cutting-edge strategies from the West that I read every day. I journal and exercise every day. I project joy every time I think about it.
It’s a great distinction between rituals and habits. Habits are things we are already doing unconsciously. The way we brush our teeth or how we drive home or where we sit at the dinner table. Whereas rituals are things when we know that maybe not everything’s working exactly how we’d like. I don’t know anybody. I haven’t met anybody yet that would say, “Everything’s working exactly how I like it.” We’ve all got those improvements to make. What’s great is that when we consciously choose to change something to create some new result, we can ritualize it. Sometimes, we ritualize it to habitualize it. Reading is a big part of that.
I will leave everybody as we have entered into this new decade. This will be the first time I’m officially reminding myself and everybody else that’s reading. We have a profound choice to make every single day. What lens we’re going to put on, the glasses we wear for the day. At the very instant that we wake up, the instant that we become conscious of the fact that we are actually breathing and it’s a brand-new day. There is no guarantee. When you went to sleep, you set an intention. I do the same thing. I set an intention I got from an old book of Og Mandino, The Greatest Salesman in the World. There’s a tenet in the book that says, “I will greet this day with love in my heart.” That’s an intention at night before I go to bed. I agreed to stay. I greet the new day with love in my heart. Even at the making of that intention, there’s no guarantee we’re going to wake up the next day. Ken, you’ve got to wake up.
That’s what counts. I’m in the moment.
Three parts of these rituals for everybody, you wake up. That’s the first piece of it. At the moment that you’re taking that first breath, first aware, awake, conscious breath, recognize the fact that there are people in that same exact moment who are taking their last breath. That makes that moment sacred. It’s special. To be aware of the reality, that’s very pragmatic. It’s realistic, it’s a fact. That same moment where you’ve got that realism right in your face, it’s also just as evident that that means you can be grateful for your life. The way that I express my gratitude for being alive is by saying these four words that are the title of the TED Talk I gave. It’s the message I share as often as I can with as many people, and that is, “I love my life. I love my life.” What are the words, Ken?
I love my life, no matter what.
It’s been a pleasure, Ken. Thanks for being on the show.
Adam, thank you so much for having me. This has been a blast.
We’ll see you on the flip side.
- Voices of Courage
- Release – Renew – Evolve
- The Courage to Change Everything
- The 7 Day Mental Diet
- The Greatest Salesman in the World
About Ken Foster
Ken D Foster is a visionary, business strategist, best-selling author, and the radio show host of “Voices of Courage, syndicated in over 100 countries.” From CEOs and entrepreneurs to fellow authors and changemakers, Ken specializes in working with people who are committed to leveling up their lives and maximizing their highest potential. His new book (number 7) is called, “The Courage to Change Everything: Daily Strategies & Essential Wisdom to Awaken Your Inner Genius” (October 20, 2019). Ken is fostering courageous living around the world with his “Courage Clubs” designed to generate “A Million Acts of Courage” and inspire courageous living to change the world for the better.
From his starting point as a gas station attendant and fighting his way out of a dysfunctional childhood to his rise in starting and running a 200-million-dollar per year financial services business, Ken has experienced a transformation and courageous living firsthand. He went on to become a serial entrepreneur, and servant leader studying and working with mentors all over the globe, learning specific wisdom and wealth principles which he has taught to thousands.
As a provocative and highly captivating speaker and thought leader, Ken brings passion, great stories and fun to every talk. He is the best-selling author of several transformational books. Also, he is also a triathlete who was on Team USA in 2017, competed in the ITU World Triathlon Championship and placed in the top 10 in the world in Aqua Bike. Ken practices the discipline of a balanced life through meditation, yoga, healthy eating, and daily personal improvement. He holds coaching certifications from the Coach for Life Institute, and Life Purpose Institute Inc., and has coached and mentored thousands over the last 24 years.
Ken resides in Southern California with his wife of 20 years, Judy. When not traveling and teaching, Ken can be found meditating, writing, hiking and cherishing time with his large family. It is no coincidence he loves working with Change Makers, Conscious Entrepreneurs and Olympic athletes as he himself enjoys pushing the limits. Ken participates in a variety of sports including running, swimming, biking, and snow skiing.