People get forever stuck because they live in discomfort. You need to know how to hunt your discomfort down. Find the source of your pain. Because once you do, it’ll loosen its grip on you, and you’ll start to feel free. The only way is through. Stop living in your discomfort. This is what the guest today did, and it changed his life forever.
Join Dr. Patty Ann Tublin as she talks to Sterling Hawkins about dealing with your discomfort. Sterling is an author, investor, and entrepreneur. He is also a keynote speaker and founder of the #NoMatterWhat movement. He shows people how to achieve the results they want regardless of the circumstances.
He developed the system working on a multi-billion dollar startup from collapse and back to launch, investing, and growing over 50 companies. He has taken that experience to work with C-level teams and speak on stages around the world. He has even been seen in fancy magazines like Inc. Magazine, Fast Company, The New York Times, and Forbes.
It turns out that getting results comes down to pushing past your comfort zone and limiting beliefs. Something Sterling practices regularly by pushing his own boundaries through skydiving, century bike riding, shark diving, and even trekking the Sahara.
But this movement isn’t about me.
It’s about the hundreds of thousands I’ve delivered the message to that are now able to face whatever stands in their way. It’s about the audiences that walk out of keynotes with 5 practices that unlock their inherent human potential to make a difference for their companies, their communities, and their families. I do what I do for them.
Sterling is based in Colorado, but chances are you’ll find him on the road somewhere or diving into adventure with the #NoMatterWhat Community.
● Author, investor, keynote speaker & entrepreneur
● Founder of the #NoMatterWhat movement – (to push past limiting beliefs)
● Hunting Discomfort – Released June 2022
● TEDx – Discomfort is Necessary for Innovation
● His experience comes from investing and growing over 50 companies
● Worked on a multi-billion dollar from collapse and back to launch
● Featured in Inc. Magazine, Fast Company, The NYT and Forbes
● Loves: Skydiving, shark diving, century bike riding and trekking the Sahara
Learn how to hunt for discomfort today so that you will be free from it.
Listen to the podcast here
Stop Living In Discomfort, Start Hunting It With Sterling Hawkins
We have an amazing, incredible, and unbelievable guest for you but before I introduce you, make sure you like, share, comment, and subscribe to this show. This guest is a man that gets it done #NoMatterWhat. He is an author, investor, entrepreneur, and internationally renowned keynote speaker. He goes around the world helping people achieve their dreams by pushing them outside their limits, by pushing them above what they believe they can do outside their limited beliefs. Buckle up because Sterling Hawkins is about to take us for a ride. Welcome, Sterling. Thank you so much for being our guest.
Patty, thank you for having me. Thank you for such a generous introduction. It is great to be with you.
You give me the material. All I am doing is sharing it.
Reading it back, I am like, “It sounds great. It does not feel that great every day doing it.” Such is life.
Let’s go right into that because it sounds great when people say all the great things they want to accomplish but it is not feeling so great when you have to push yourself outside your comfort zone to achieve that. Let the readers read words of wisdom from what not only you say but you do because anybody can say it. You actually do it, Mr. Extreme Sport, pushing, getting comfortable, and being uncomfortable.
It is a mountain with no top. We never reach a point where we are no longer uncomfortable with anything. Maybe a couple of people throughout history have gotten there but certainly not me. It is ironic.
Those guys must have died young. I am thinking of Alexander the Great. He conquered the world before he was 30, and then he died of syphilis young.
It is ironic because I got to this place from a place of not wanting to go outside my own comfort zone. A lot of people are in my line of work writing and speaking because they have taken a company public at some astronomical valuation or they have climbed Everest on their hands and knees or some incredible human feet. I got into this and started pushing past my own comfort zone because I have been incredibly humbled in my career. I started an entrepreneur, still an entrepreneur to this day but started a company with my father back in the early 2000s. We sold it to a group in Silicon Valley.
The family businesses get complicated.
That is a whole other story but we ended up selling it and joining.
I do a lot of work with business partners and family businesses because of all the relationship stuff. If you think it is hard to run a business with a partner, try running one with your family and throw all that specialness into the mix.
I grew up a fifth-generation retailer. Five generations of my family were in the supermarket business.
You were off the boat. Everybody says that they came over on the Mayflower, your family really did. I am doing the math.
Despite having failed and being thrown into the unknown, do something about it no matter what.
My dad’s side of the family has been in the US since the beginning. We did some of those family trees back when I was in second grade. It goes back almost to the Mayflower.
Where is your family from?
My family is mostly English.
Did you come over right after the revolution-ish timeframe?
Somewhere in there, it is very early. On my mom’s side, I have got a little bit of Ukrainian, Polish, Italian, and French.
You are a classic American. You are a mutt like most of us. We get the best of everything.
I was growing up in that family business. My dad and I got together.
Did they own grocery stores or work in them?
We owned a grocery store.
What is the store?
It was called Green Hills. It is still in upstate New York. It is still owned, not by my immediate family but by extended family members. It was a phenomenal place to grow up because there was food everywhere, and the store was a fun place to be until I turned fifteen. My dad was like, “You are going to learn what it is like to run this store. Welcome to the night crew.”
I would be up at 10:00 PM going into work as everybody else was leaving and the store shut down. There is this saying in retail that, “Retail has got to be in your blood.” I do not know if it was born into my blood but my parents certainly made sure that it was pushed into my blood through some of that early work.
When your family comes over being in the supermarket business, we take it for granted but the food is essential. Many people early on in the states died because there was no food or crops. You were an essential part of the community. People do not realize that now because we have 27 grocery stores. Back then, not so much. My guess is your dad had you cleaning the floors like nothing glamorous that nobody sees.
I was brought up in a way where I had to do the jobs that nobody wanted to do to show that just because we are part of the family doesn’t mean you get off lightly. You have to work harder. It is funny because prior to the grocery store, they were in the farming business. They were raising cattle, milking cows, and farming corn.
You come from tough stock.
Around the pandemic, grocery stores, especially in the beginning, once again became the center of their neighborhood. People started to realize again, “This is an important component of my life. We all need food to live.” That was the background that I grew up in, being very food-oriented, community-oriented, and people-oriented. It’s nothing but serving business.
I am in Connecticut. I am a native New Yorker. I gave a speech somewhere in Westchester and there was a family there called the Chico’s. They are a high-end grocery store but they are family-run and family-owned. They are very much an integral part of the community. It still exists out there is my point.
Being a young guy right out of college, this is right as grocery stores are getting more into technology. My dad and I got together and built a software company that we sold.
What was the timeframe?
This was the mid-2000s or early 2000s. I graduated in 2004, and it was right around that. We built some software and sold it to the group in Silicon Valley, where it became part of an Apple Pay before Apple Pay. There was a fingerprint sensor that sat next to all the credit card terminals. It worked just like Apple Pay, except that you did not need your phone. You put your finger down, and all your credit cards and loyalty cards would come up.
I do think I remember using that. I am ancient. I am as old as dirt.
We did get big. People looked at this thing and said, “Biometrics is the future. We would like to invest. We would like to roll this out.” We went on to raise $550 million, a multibillion-dollar valuation, 700 employees, and offices all over the world. It felt like this meteoric success. As a young guy, mid-twenties at the time, I am living the dream like this business thing is easy, “I am going to buy an island. I am going to get a private jet.”
Can you say what the company was called?
It was called Solidus Networks.
Give it a shout-out even if it has been sold a gazillion times over.
It is not a very good ending. It was a blast for a while. I am on this trajectory. It is nothing but up, and then there were some missteps. The housing market collapsed in 2008 and 2010 somewhere in there. Our funding dried up, and we didn’t have enough organic growth to sustain it. It is a sad story of the whole company falling apart.
Stop living in discomfort; hunt it instead.
All half a billion dollars that were invested into it is gone. We have licensed and sold a few patents for pennies on the dollar but what I didn’t realize is how much of my identity was wrapped up in that company and how comfortable I was living that life. I know who I am, what success looks like, and how successful I am going to be. When it crashed, I totally crashed as well.
Give us more detail on that because that could mean so many different things to different people. What did that look like, if you do not mind sharing?
I wasn’t looking for discomfort at the time. It found me. When the company went bankrupt, I no longer had a job but eventually, I ran out of cash. I go from this big, beautiful penthouse in Downtown San Francisco, floor to ceiling windows and looking out over the Bay Ridge, it was an iconic place, to my parents’ house, which is not a good look in your 30s.
Was it the basement? Was it that bad?
It was even worse. They no longer lived in the house that I grew up in. They had a new home. I was in this empty guest room. I remember pulling in with my suitcases and a couple of boxes. It was around then that my girlfriend broke up with me as well to make sure I was fully living out the sad story. I’m like, “What else could happen to me?” It was that first night lying in bed. I am staring at the ceiling and in six figures of personal debt.
I make this personal declaration to myself, “Despite this failure, despite what I am up against, despite the unknown that I have been thrown into, and despite all of this discomfort, I am going to do something. I do not know what yet, but I am going to do something with three words that have become very special to me, No Matter What.” That started my journey back.
You did reference a book. For the readers, the book is Hunting Discomfort. I want to ask you a question. You said, and I have heard this before, people will say, “I am lying in bed. The world is collapsing around me. Something clicks, and I make that promise.” To you, it is No Matter What. Tell us more about that. What was it about you in the past? Were you an unbelievable athlete or a musician? What was it in you were you able to fall back on and pull forward? I am not saying that you are not telling the truth, I know you are but you don’t just decide, “No Matter What. My whole world is collapsing. My girl left me. I thought she was the love of my life.”
There are two aspects of it. One is I have got roots in very hardworking people. They have got a lot of grit and get things done. I am sure, subconsciously, I have said, they have said many times over like, “Go do it, no matter what. Clean the floor, work all night, whatever it is, you have got to do it.”
You said your family did farming. No matter what the weather is, you have got to figure it out. That generational thing, which I do believe, we carry with us.
The second component is that it wasn’t a hashtag. It wasn’t something people were wearing on T-shirts. It wasn’t like, “Now I am going to share this with the world.” It became a very personal mantra, frankly, to get myself out of bed in the morning. It wasn’t something like, “I am going to build this brand. I am going to create this movement.”
It was, “Sterling, tomorrow, you are going to get out of bed when your alarm goes off at 7:00 AM, no matter what. You are going to make that phone call to the people you are supposed to send money to, no matter what. You are going to send that email.” It was something that I used, not even big things but to put one foot in front of the other to keep me going.
It was a lifesaver for you. You are putting one foot in front of the other. You are getting up and out. How did you get down? What was the road?
My mom said this thing when I was a kid, and it came back to me in the weeks and months that I was at her house, “The way out is through.” I do not know if you have heard it. It is Robert Frost but to me, it’s always my mom.
“When you are going through hell, you just keep going.” That was Winston Churchill. It is the same thing.
I said, “If that is true, let me test this out. What do I have to lose? I have no money. I am living at my parents’ house. I am single. Let’s go for it.” The thing that I was most scared to do at the time, believe it or not, was public speaking. Speaking in general, having a conversation with a couple of people would have been intimidating to me, not to mention on a stage somewhere. I was so caught up with my company identity when things were successful. I was embarrassed of everything that I lost and felt a lot of shame about, “Who was I supposed to be now?” I wasn’t all those things that I had at one time.
You define yourself by your work, as opposed to who you really are.
I did, at the time. It was like the stars aligned or the heavens opened up. I do not know what it was but then my email dings, and I get a junk email from a conference in Singapore. One that you received hundreds of a day, it wasn’t inviting me specifically. It was saying, “Come to our conference in Singapore.” I said, “If the way out is through,” I hit reply and said, “Why don’t you have me speak? Best, Sterling.” I ended up getting on the phone with the conference director. In a series of conversations, I tell him, “Here is the experience that I have been through. I would like to share some of the missteps that we made from your stage.”
I kid you not. He hired me as the keynote speaker of their conference. I don’t know how it happened with no website and no credentials of any sort, other than the experience that I had. It was one of those things when you had got nothing to lose, and you have got everything to gain. I am like, “Let’s go after this.”
“What if he says no, so what? Everybody else said no. Who cares?”
It wasn’t like I was responding to a lot of emails. It was just this one. I talked to them, and it felt almost a little bit like it was meant to be. I signed the paperwork. As soon as I signed it, I was like, “Sterling, what did you do? You have no right to get on a plane and speak in front of those people. You don’t know what you are talking about. You have had a massive failure. What do they want to hear from you?”
What was the time lag between when you signed that? How much time did you have to prep?
3 or 4 months. It was a significant amount of time. Having not much else to do, I obsessed about this and wrote the speech over and over again and practiced, I wouldn’t be kidding to say, thousands of times, adjusting things and reworking the deck. There is a saying that a lot of people adhere to, “The more you practice, the less nervous you are going to be.” That did not work for me. I was terrified. Days before the conference, my heart is beating out of my chest. I remember walking on the plane, sweating profusely. I am so scared.
Are they flying you in business class or first class?
Yes, business class. I was on the plane reviewing my notes and going through them again in my head. I was obsessed with this thing. I am sure over the top. It is a good thing I practiced so much because when they called me up to the stage, I am sure I blacked out. The world started spinning, and I got really hot. I delivered something for the 35 minutes or so I talked. I got off the stage and thought I bombed. I did. I thought they were going to ask for the money back. I am covering my eyes as I get off the stage, and the conference director is making a beeline for me. I am like, “Here it comes.”
He looks at me. It is one of the most surreal things that have ever happened to me. He looks at me and he goes, “Sterling, that is the greatest talk I have seen in my seventeen years of doing this.” To this day, I do not think he actually was in the talk that I gave. I feel like there is no way. He went on to put me in touch with all of his conference director friends. I had these speaking engagements all over the world. I was like, “No way, my mom is right. The way out is through. I need to commit to going through, no matter what. What I am looking for is on the other side.”
I know this is not where you are going but I will tell you where I went to my brain when you said that. It’s because you practice so much, it is like anything else. You had that muscle memory. Even though you were blacked out, you were on automatic. Not being uptight about it though, it was even more natural because if you were present, you might have held yourself back. Not that you were not present but it is like you are holding on too tight. You loosen up a little bit. Whenever my notes get blacked out, I crush them because I am real.
The only way out is through, so go through no matter what.
There is something to the discomfort of it. The more you go into that discomfort, the more you let go of your grip on how you want things to go, how you think things should go, and how you need things to go. That is incredibly powerful because it creates space for something new to arise, either new potential in yourself, new possibilities in the world or new kinds of relationships. I found this research early on. It is at the University of Michigan, and they were studying discomfort specifically. They were looking at different kinds of discomfort that people were experiencing, and they were scanning their brains.
They looked at physical discomfort like you breaking a leg, for example. They scan that person’s brain and say, “Here is what their brain map looks like.” They look at emotional discomfort, “This person lost their job or went through a tough breakup.” They would scan their brain. What they found is mind-blowing. No matter what kind of discomfort people were feeling, the brain and body processed it almost identically, so much that they found that if you take Advil, it will help your emotions feel better. Do you believe that? I am not recommending that, by the way.
You are singing my song, the mind-body connection, the base of the brain is connected to the top of the spinal cord. It is only the AMA within the last 100 years that has separated it and functional MRIs now.
If our body and mind are processing discomfort about the same way everywhere, that means we can build our capacity to handle it by finding discomfort anywhere. I think about like you going to the gym if you want to build your biceps. If you want to build your resilience, you want to build your ability to create breakthrough results, you hunt discomfort. That is the way to do it.
You said something before that I want you to repeat. What did you say?
The more you are able to deal with discomfort anywhere, the more you find it anywhere, the more you open yourself to it anywhere, and the better you can handle it everywhere. It is a muscle in this very uncertain world that we live in, especially these days. We have got a pandemic, tech disruption, supply chain issues, people that are dealing with staffing problems, and the war in Europe. It is an insane world. Our capacity to deal with discomfort is the only thing that is going to get us through. Do you want to future-proof yourself? Do you want to future-proof your business? You better future-proof yourself by acclimating to discomfort. It is the only way.
I stay away from politics. However, we have done children a huge disservice because we don’t let them fail. The first time a kid experiences discomfort is when they don’t get into the college of their choice. All hell breaks loose. They collapse. The parents collapse like, “You mean my son is not the best thing since sliced bread.” No, he is a little moldy but nobody wants to admit that. You have that but we are in a society where not only are we not exposed to discomfort.
What is education for? Two things, 1) is to learn to think critically. That’s it. 2) It is to learn that you do not know everything, which makes you uncomfortable. Our educational system doesn’t create discomfort. You then have social media that has allowed for the propping up of what you believe your truth to be. If somebody even thinks about penetrating it, you need a safe space. What is going on?
We have forgotten how important discomfort is for each of us as human beings. I do not know how I came across this research but I found some stuff from the 1870s. This guy’s name was GA Hanson. The research was about leprosy. Most people know it is a very terrible disease, and it can be lethal in certain cases where your skin deteriorates. In the worst cases, people lose limbs. It is not so much something we worry about but in the 1870s, it was front and center.
It is like a pandemic.
It was certainly something people were worried about catching. That is why they made those leper camps and everything else. People thought, “If you caught it, that is what happened to you.” This guy must have been super courageous because he started researching it. He found that there was a bacteria but the bacteria itself was not causing the body to deteriorate. It eliminated the person’s ability to feel pain and discomfort. When they can’t feel bumping their arm or getting a scratch, it will get infected. They wouldn’t tend to it. That would eventually lead to their skin or limb loss or all these terrible things.
Discomfort is not something to be afraid of. It is something that orients us in the world, and it is absolutely necessary. Where we get in trouble is that we all have miscalibrated discomfort mechanisms. What is dangerous to us is not always associated with the appropriate discomfort. We feel discomfort for things that are not dangerous at all to us.
Somebody posts something on our Instagram account that we do not like, we might feel massive discomfort but it is not correlated to a real risk to our body. Until we, as individuals, as cultures, as business cultures, which is part of what I do, properly orient to where you feel that discomfort to what is, you are lost without it.
It is also part of road rage but that is a little different. Somebody cuts you off, and you freak out. You are not freaking out about being cut off but you are dissociated from the source of the discomfort.
When you are dissociated, you are not interacting with reality and then wonder why you don’t get results. It is clear to me.
How did you discover that, and how do you help people with that? When you say it, it is like, “Captain Obvious,” but most of us experience it. It is almost like the secondary that referred to pain like, “My back is hurting me but it has got nothing to do with my back. It could be that I gained 50 pounds or something is going on with my knee, and I am compensating for it. It shows up in my back.” The secondary pain happens all the time in the body.
It happens in our lives and business too. It is exactly the same.
How does that show up, and how do you help with that?
Most often, people come to me, and I am talking about hunting discomfort and being in your discomfort zone. People are like, “Sterling, you do not know me. My business is doing this, and it has all these problems. Here are my issues in my relationships. Here are my money issues. Here is all the discomfort that I am dealing with.” My answer is very simple. It is the same for everyone. You are not hunting discomfort. You are living with it. That is how most people spend their lives. That is how most people run their businesses.
Differentiate that for the readers. You know what you are talking about but that is very profound. “You are not hunting discomfort. You are living it.” What does that look like? What is that difference?
Hunting it would be to go after the source of this discomfort and find what it is that is causing you that physical, mental, emotional, and arguably, even spiritual pain and get to the source, the root of what that is. Once you find that, use my mom’s advice, “The way out is through.” Open yourself to that. As you do, you start to loosen discomfort’s grip on you, and you become free of it.
When you hunt discomfort, you no longer feel discomfort. You are free. Most people do not do that, though. They will rationalize. They will placate. They will look for ways to medicate that discomfort because they will explain way things like, “That’s my personality. That is my luck. I had that calming. It is a pandemic.” We are dealing with those competitors but what they do not realize is when they are triggered by those things and rationalize them, that is living with discomfort. You will be forever stuck if you live that way.
It is interesting because, as I said earlier, talking about high-performing athletes. People think they are not afraid. They are like, “We are afraid like everybody else.” Also, part of everybody being a little off-kilter, to put it nicely, you see this in your work, is that we get emotion and do everything on God’s green Earth to avoid it and not acknowledge it. What I tell people all the time is when you have a feeling, go into it because as long as you avoid it, it owns you. It controls you. You are building your life around, “I am not going there.”
First of all, you have to know what it is. You have to label it. You have to give it a name. You go into it, and then counterintuitively, it dissipates. It no longer holds on you. How do you do that? How do you help people with that in business? I work with that, with the relationship piece but how do you do that?
All of the business is a make-up of people’s mindsets, beliefs, views, and actions. We start to look at things the same way and, “These things are okay to do in our business, and these things are not okay.” That is what determines people’s results. When we are going to work on a business, we are going to work on the leadership of that business.
Maybe I should say, “We go to work on developing the leadership in that business.” If the way out is through, the way through is to surrender. Surrender to some of those deeper, darker, maybe more unpleasant emotions. Most people, at least that I am interacting with, want to achieve their ultimate potential.
The more you’re able to deal with discomfort anywhere, the better you can handle it everywhere.
You could say that personally, professionally, or in any sense of the word, they want to achieve a greater potential. If you deny discomfort and whatever flavor that may come, call it pain, grief or anxiety, if you deny that discomfort, you ultimately deny a piece of yourself, and there is no way that you can achieve your potential unless you are using all of yourself.
It is like trying to win a race with one hand tied behind your back.
You think about it like this, and it doesn’t make any sense but when you are triggered by something, your grief has stricken or whatever it might be, it’s a lot of your work. It is so easy to turn away from that discomfort because it is not pleasant, “I am going to go have a drink. I am going to zone out on Netflix or I am going to order food.” Do not get me wrong. I do it myself sometimes but whenever you are turning away from that discomfort, you are turning away from yourself. Inside the book, we have got five steps to walk people through exactly the same steps we do with companies. Do you want to go through them?
Would you please? The readers are waiting with bated breath, and so am I.
The first step is the namesake of the book, it’s to hunt discomfort. Many of us live our lives and operate our businesses in ways that are very cleverly contrived to avoid discomfort.
We are smart when it comes to protecting ourselves.
We might be doing it unconsciously. It does take some hunting to unpack, “Where is that discomfort?” You get to the source of, “Where did that discomfort originate, and why do you feel it? What happened to you in the past?”
It is a trauma, not a huge trauma but something that is not in sync with how you want to see yourself.
It is just discomfort denied in the past. If you deny it in the past, it is going to stick with you. What is that? That is the first step of hunting discomfort. The second step is something that I call getting a tattoo. “Commit so deeply. There is no going back.” You can commit to a lot of things. There are two kinds of things to commit to. This is the German American theologian and philosopher Paul Tillich’s work. There are two kinds of things that people can commit to or that they are concerned with. The first is finite, “I want to open up this many locations. I need this much money. I have got to pay rent on these days.”
It is very specific things that happen at specific times. We need to commit to those things but what I suggest you commit to as part of the book is the second human concern that Paul Tillich talks about, which is your ultimate concern. Things like love, joy, gratitude, and peace. It is things that, no matter what happens, they cannot be taken away from you.
It sounds like it is the things that really matter.
When you look at your life, those are the things that matter. When you bring those things that matter into your discomfort, you start to alchemize it. You start to get free of it but it doesn’t stop there because we need some help. Doing this is a very difficult thing. If you are doing it right, it can feel almost like you are dismantling pieces of yourself.
My identity was so tied up in that company. When the company crashed, I fell apart because I did not know who I was. As you are doing this work, you might come across situations like that where you are like, “If that is not true about me, about the world, what is even true?” We need people on our side to help. I call it building a street gang, not because I am suggesting somebody do anything unlawful here. I am not. There are several things that this street gang is going to do for you but most importantly, they are going to hold you accountable.
It is interesting what you said earlier. You need the accountability piece, and that is because you cannot ask a blind person to see.
In our minds, if our identity is being broken apart because we have chosen it or because it happens to us, we need somebody to guide us through and keep us true to what we say we want to achieve because there comes the point when things get hard, and you cannot see it anymore. There is every justification in the world of why you should not keep going great except for this person. When you are personally accountable, there is research in the book. I cited it. You are 95% more likely to achieve whatever it is that you are committed to. If you want to get something done truly in your heart, you better be personally accountable because it is the only way to achieve it.
If you want to change your behavior, that is a whole other conversation but if somebody who wants to stop smoking or somebody wants to go to the gym, tell everybody and anybody you know. The day you feel like having that cigarette or not getting your butt out of bed to go to the gym, chances are you are going to run into somebody that is going to say, “How is that going?” All of a sudden, you are whistling past the graveyard. It holds you accountable when you, for whatever reason, because we are only human, can hold ourselves accountable if you want the people to be personally accountable? Much of coaching is accountability too.
Personal accountability is important but if you are looking to grow, you need outside accountability or you won’t be able to do it. If you want to sustain, improve a little bit, and keep yourself on exactly the trajectory around, self-accountability is fantastic. Growth requires an outsider. To your point, I don’t think that is a totally different conversation.
Take smoking, for example. Likely, some habits like that are because you are numbing some underlying discomfort. As you can get to the core of that, you would use the same steps there in the books, and I have worked with companies, you do it at a personal level. You get to the core of what that discomfort is, then it is no longer trying to stop smoking. You have gotten rid of the discomfort, so there’s nothing to cover up. There’s nothing to placate.
For the record, Sterling is in Colorado, it’s all about cigarette smoking nicotine.
It makes me also say that I am not a doctor. This is only my personal experience.
I am a doctor, and I do play one on TV but none of that will go to a doctor. The correlation is so much of my coaching, even with consulting, people will ask me a question. After years of doing something, you pick up a couple of things are, “Maybe you are on the wrong line of business,” but I will say to them, “What is the real question?” The first question we ask is the easy question.
When I say that, they stop and have to think, I don’t know how you feel about this, I am science-based. I am a neuro-science but I also believe in energy. When you say that, you feel a shift. I feel like that shift is some type of uncovering but you could spend your whole time talking about what the person wants to talk about. Why? It’s because it might be a little uncomfortable but not uncomfortable enough to avoid it.
We all fall into this trap of looking at ourselves and the world around us thinking, “I have got this figured out. I got a camera here. I am talking to Dr. Patty Ann. I have got a TV over here. Some monitors there, I have got this figured out. I have got this book. I know what I am doing.” I am constantly humbled by the idea that when we look at the subconscious mind versus the conscious mind, we are consciously aware of the things that we think, feel, and interact with. It is something like 0.000000045% conscious. That is humbling. What I see now looks real. I can see however you are, Patty, on the screen. I see these things in my book.
When it comes down to it, I am seeing a very small, almost nothing of what you are. I see almost next to nothing of the potential inside of yourself. By that same token, I see almost nothing of the potential that is in me. As we let go and as we go into that discomfort, you get into that space of letting go of the easy answer into something that is greater than yourself, and you let that emerge.
Let’s go a little bit deeper. I am a clinical psychologist, so I have read Freud. There are two things that he was right about. We had never heard about the unconscious before him. He thought that long ago. The saying is, “Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious.” What happens is part of all our protections, and our defenses are sunsetted when we sleep. To your point, and I absolutely believe this, all behavior has unconscious motivation. Most of what we are seeing is not really what’s there. That’s why you have to dig deeper.
When you are in the state of what you are committed to in the ultimate sense, love, joy, and gratitude, it opens up your mind. More importantly, it opens up your heart to other things that could be, other ways of being about yourself, and to see the world that you are otherwise blinded to. Step four is what I call flip it. We all run into challenges, obstacles, and roadblocks, and there are all these problems in the world, especially these days.
All business is a make-up of people’s mindsets, beliefs, views, and actions.
There is inherent strength in all of those things if, and only if, we take the time to find it. I will use a personal example. Back with that company, one of the things I was most embarrassed about was the failure itself. Instead of talking in a way, pretending it didn’t happen, running from it, and trying to go somewhere else. I slowed down. I started to confront it.
What I shared from that stage were some of the missteps that we made. It was the failure itself. In a very ironic way, sharing those stories and the things that I was most scared to talk about have become a piece or a foundational component of any success that I might be seeing. It is taking the problems and the obstacles that I thought I had, they became the reason or a strength point when I never thought they were. There are tons of stories about that in the book.
Give us one.
I do not know if you know William Hung. I had the pleasure of speaking with him at TEDx several years back to pre-pandemic. You might know him when I tell you the story. He was on American Idol. He sang Ricky Martin’s She Bangs so terribly that he went viral overnight. Does it ring any bells?
I think I know who you mean. Was he a pudgy-looking guy?
He is. He is of Chinese descent.
I don’t want to offend anybody.
We don’t want to get canceled here. I got to know him a little bit behind the scenes, getting ready for the TED Talk.
I didn’t mention in the introduction that Sterling is a TED Talk speaker but when we are done, you will google him and find out everything there is to know.
We are preparing for this talk, and I am getting to know him a little bit. I recall all these places on social media, even on the news, where they are making fun of this poor guy and how poorly he screwed up this song. He was saying in those first couple of days after it happened that he wanted to crawl into a hole. I am like, “The whole world is making fun of you. Of course, you want to curl up in a ball and go home. Do whatever you do to get away from it.”
He had a turning point that he talked about. He has got several great TED Talks. I’m getting into some of it. He embraced it. He opened himself up to it and became a caricature of himself. He made a record. He started selling out, singing engagements around the world, believe it or not. He headlined a Vegas show with Ricky Martin.
Was he really a singer and just froze?
I would not call him a singer by any means. If you were to look at his singing objectively, most people with any singing background would be like, “Not that good.” He embraced it and ran with it. He is selling thousands of records and has got all these views on TED Talk.
Who’s got the last laugh?
I am like, “That is unreal. You took the thing that felt like your biggest failure. The whole world is laughing at you, and that has become your success. How cool was that?” We all can do that on a personal level or at a professional level. It takes looking for it and, more likely than not, letting go of some of your discomfort around it to do it.
I am curious. Was he able to do that similar to you when you said you had nothing to lose? Why not try? Did he feel like, “It is already out there? I have nothing to lose?” What allowed him to embrace the failure, own it, and then turn it around? Flip it, as you said.
If I recall correctly, it was a conversation with his mom where she was just like, “Go for it. What do you have to lose at this point? You can live in my house if you need but you are here. You might as well keep going.” I am sure he has got more stuff online about it but he has always been a person that I have really looked to, to be like, “If he can do it, news channels around the world were making fun of this guy and has come back to create the success, I can certainly do it.”
It is similar to that if you make a mistake or something goes wrong, it is more egregious to cover it up or not admit it. Own it, and you can get past it because people are good at heart. We all know we all make mistakes. What do we have in common? We are all not perfect. We all make mistakes.
As you own those things, that is a method for flipping them. There are 10 or 12 things in the book specifically you can do. Owning it is absolutely key. He is a great example. We have done a lot here. We have hunted discomfort, gotten a tattoo, built a street gang, and flipped it. Now the last step, the fifth step, maybe the most important step is, if the way out is through, the way through is to surrender. Surrender is the fifth step. I mean surrender in two ways. The first is to surrender the time, materials, money, resources, and whatever it is to achieve what it is that you are looking to achieve.
Most people would know that. The second piece of surrender is maybe even more important or is more important, which is to give up your resistance to any of that and the way things are exactly how they are and exactly as they are not. I love this quote from Carl Jung. I feel like everybody knows Carl Jung these days. He said, “Condemnation does not liberate. It oppresses. We cannot change anything until we accept it.” I found that to be totally true. Until we can open ourselves up to accepting what is, it is very difficult to change it.
Otherwise, you are trying to change what is not reality. If you are not dealing with reality, what are you doing?
It goes hand in hand with discomfort because when you feel discomfort, the productive way to handle it would be to surrender to it, open to it, and feel whatever it is. As you do that, you are free of it. As you go through those five steps over and over again, it is not a mountain that you summited. It is like a mountain with no top. You continually go through it, and you end up in a place where you are living with less and less discomfort. You become actually free.
You still have to hunt it.
I don’t want to use a pejorative term like lazy but I feel like we have gotten lazy. We don’t want to be uncomfortable. As I hear myself say that like, “What are you, a sadist? A masochist? You want to be uncomfortable.” If you want to grow, all growth is in the discomfort. Otherwise, you are reinforcing what you are already good at. I would like to know what you think about this. I believe this, this might sound harsh but when we stop growing, we start dying. If you are not embracing the discomfort, you are accelerating your dying process.
I would absolutely agree with that. You are perpetuating the status quo. Where we started, many people and companies naturally push away discomfort. Even if they are in very uncomfortable situations, they don’t want to feel it. They don’t want to go through it. It requires exactly that to change results. I am sure people are familiar with the idea of the Phoenix rising, rising from the ashes. I hear it a lot, especially with a lot of the entrepreneurs that I work with. They are like, “I am going to be the Phoenix rising from the ashes.”
Condemnation does not liberate. It oppresses.
Mostly, what they are talking about is, “I am going to not stop doing what I am doing.” Important, but more important is the burning part, which is burning the values, ethics, and beliefs about your identity, about the company, how you see others, and how you see the world that is no longer working. Unless you are willing to sacrifice those, you cannot rise.
When people start a journey, they become committed or married to the outcome. That can be an obstacle.
Not just the outcome but married to who they are to achieve that outcome. Not realizing that to achieve that, they have to become a different person. They are going to see themselves and others and maybe even the world in different ways. It is necessary to achieve that next level. The big changes in the world don’t come from the actions. They come from a change in viewpoints. When you change your viewpoint, it is always about 1 of 3 things, about yourself, others or the world. New actions automatically flow from that. That is where the real power is.
What about how you relate to others and you relate to the world? It is how change comes about yourself, others, and the world. What about adding in that interaction piece?
That is totally a component of it. I think about our beliefs or our perspectives, like lenses and glasses. I wear glasses. When I put my glasses on, it changes what I see for the better. If you put my glasses on, you couldn’t see anything because they are Coke bottles. Like lenses, beliefs change what you see. The other component of it is that I am not taking off my glasses regularly to examine the lens itself. I assume, “What I see is what I see, and that is correct.”
That is the power of getting into the beliefs where you step back from the actions you are taking, the views you have, and you examine the underlying views, perspectives, and beliefs that you have. When you change those, it is like changing the prescription of your glasses where it is like, “All of a sudden, how I see you and how I relate to you is naturally totally different because I am looking at you differently.”
Truth is not objective. It is subjective based upon your life experiences and the perspective from which you are view viewing something. We get so committed, and identity is to the truth as we know it now. We cannot even see somebody else’s truth. That accounts for a lot of the noise in the world, and a lot of people want to not face the discomfort. You have a whole conversation about mindset, “Let’s double down on what I am good with. I am born this way. I got the fixed mindset.” That is great, and then what are you going to do? You go to the growth mindset, and now a whole new world opens up. What is the role of curiosity play in this journey?
If we stick with the lens analogy, it is wondering if there is another lens out there, like how else could something be.
What do you do if somebody doesn’t even want to entertain that? There, that’s where you go in. You are going to be uncomfortable. You might as be uncomfortable going forward.
There is a very fine line because somebody has to want the results and go through this process. You cannot force it on somebody. I certainly would not force it on somebody. They have to say, “I want to achieve this in my life, business or whatever it is.” Only then can you start to push into that discomfort of people starting to change those lenses. They might not want to change those lenses in a particular session or within a series of weeks or months. What they have committed to is that commitment and accountability component that is so important. That is going to carry them through being able to do it.
What is the last book you reread, and why?
It is called The Presence Process by Michael Brown. I have been through it. It is a phenomenal book. It is half talking about meditation and the power of presence, hence the title. The second half is a series of ten weeks of a specific meditation that he has you go through. I go through it regularly. I have been through it 5 or 6 times now. I have reread the book 5 or 6 times now because every time I go through it, I discover something new.
I discover something that I have been rejecting or discomfort in myself. I find something every single time. It is the most profound thing. His book has been very helpful in terms of me getting through the pandemic and opening myself or maybe, as you would say, imagining other ways for me to be in the world.
What’s the one most important thing you have learned about life that you want all the readers to know?
The most important thing I learned from my grandmother was when I was thirteen years old. She was a smoker, ironically enough. She had cancer and was passing away. She was in our family room on hospice. I will never forget the conversations with her about how much he loved us, how important her experiences were, and the things that she learned and wanted to give us.
The way that she showed me to love and let go at the same time is the most important lesson that I have learned in my life. People could grab onto it and use it on their own. When you can love and let go at the same time, not only do you have all the fulfillment in life but you are not attached to the way things go. It is a great way to live. I owe that all to my grandmother.
That is so poignant. Sterling, how can people find out more about you? How can they get your book? Everybody is chomping at the bit to get into it to hunt their discomfort.
The book is on sale on June 21st, 2022. You can find it anywhere great books are sold. You can also check it out on HuntingDiscomfort.com. If you are looking for me or anything about what I am up to with speaking and working with clients, it is SterlingHawkins.com. Everything you need will be right there.
I personally think it is a movie star name.
It was my mom. When I lived in Los Angeles, people were like, “Did you change your name?” It was my mom. I grew up with that name.
Sterling, thank you so much.
Patty Ann, thank you.
You are welcome. That concludes this episode of The Trust Doctor: Restoring Trust & Enriching Significant Relationships. As promised, Sterling took you for a ride, so make sure you like, comment, share, and subscribe to this show. Until next time, be well.
- Sterling Hawkins
- Hunting Discomfort
- The Presence Process
About Sterling Hawkins
I’m an author, investor and entrepreneur, but most importantly I’m a keynote speaker and founder of the #NoMatterWhat movement. That’s a lot to say: I show people how to achieve the results they want regardless of the circumstances.
I know it works because I’ve used the system myself. From multi-billion dollar startup to collapse and coming back to launch, invest and grow over 50 companies, I’ve taken that experience to work with C-level teams and speak on stages around the world. I’ve even been seen in fancy magazines like Inc. Magazine, Fast Company, The New York Times and Forbes.
It turns out that getting results comes down to pushing past your comfort zone and limiting beliefs. Something I practice regularly by pushing my own boundaries through skydiving, century bike riding, shark diving and even trekking the Sahara.
But this movement isn’t about me.
It’s about the hundreds of thousands I’ve delivered the message to that are now able to face whatever stands in their way. It’s about the audiences that walk out of keynotes with 5 practices that unlock their inherent human potential to make a difference for their companies, their communities and their families. I do what I do for them.
If you’re looking for me, I’m based in Colorado. But chances are I’m on the road somewhere or diving into adventure with the #NoMatterWhat Community. If I’m not immediately available, someone on my team always is.
If you’re ready to make THE difference for your audience, I’m ready, #NoMatterWhat.
Check my availability