May 23, 2022

E309: Purpose, Courage, Faith and Will after childhood trauma with Brandon Smith | Trauma Healing Coach

In the episode, I spoke with Brandon Smith, also known as the workplace therapist, who is incredible at helping us decipher and understand the power of those four words – purpose, faith, courage, and will.
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In the episode, I spoke with Brandon Smith, also known as the workplace therapist, who is incredible at helping us decipher and understand the power of those four words – purpose, faith, courage, and will.

In this conversation, Brandon will talk about his own journey and story, from having a brother who took his own life to develop a student middle school to becoming a world-renowned leadership coach and advocate for giving people tools to create massive change in their lives.

We're going to talk about everything ranging from what it means to take the first step in this healing journey to talking about comfort and pushing ourselves and whether or not David Goggins is right and his assumption of the forty percent rule, and a lot of other beautiful things.

This conversation was enjoyable to have Brandon, and I've been on his podcast before if you check out the workplace therapist.

So, it was an honor to have him come over to Think Unbroken and share his knowledge, his vision, and his information because the truth about it is we all need more tools. One of the best things that I get personally out of this show is learning from incredibly intelligent people, who are vastly mature in age and time, and experience, but most importantly, people have created massive change in their own personal on life and the world. I would say Brandon is one hundred percent one of those people.

So, if you're in your life right now and you feel stuck, you feel complacent, you feel comfortable, you feel like you cannot seem to get to what's next in your life… hang out with us today.

Listen to Brandon, and I promise you this episode will give you some incredibly practical tools that will help you go from where you are to where you want to be.

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Michael: Hey! What's up, Unbroken Nation! Hope that you're doing well wherever you are in the world today. I'm very excited to be back with you with another episode with my guest and friend Brandon Smith the workplace therapist. Brandon, my friend, how are you today? What is going on in your world?

Brandon: Michael, I'm great today. I'm thrilled to Friday it's the end of the week, an exciting week, got to do a lot more in person kinds of things this week which was new for me. I was a little rusty, I gotta be honest.

Michael: Yeah. You know, it's funny like, same thing happens me like on this show if I don't record for even a week, I feel rusty and that's when we decided to do three hundred and sixty-five shows I said I'm not gonna be rusty anymore so, I totally get that. For those who don't know you tell us a little bit about your backstory and how you got to where you are today?

Brandon: Yeah. So, my handle is the workplace therapist, I take takes lots of form. One of my parts, I'm an executive coach so, I work with leaders all across the world on helping them become better leaders, I work with teams it's almost like marriage counseling but teams to help teams perform better and then overall just teach and facilitate in write books to just help us be better in the workplace. So, my entire passion and purpose in life is one single we're saying and that's to eliminate all workplace dysfunction everywhere forever. So, I didn't like wake up one day and say, this is what I'm gonna do, I sort of did but I didn't have that as a dream early on in my life. I was the youngest of three boys, I had two older brothers who were both adopted, so, my parents were told they couldn't have kids and so they adopted my two brothers and then surprise I showed up little later so they were twelve and eleven years older than me so, I always tell people having older brothers that much older than you, I know what the inside of a dryer looks like, I know it's like that somebody say, don't ask questions just drink it. I rode on the back of motorcycles without helmets going way faster than I probably should've that, was just kind of what you did as a low kid. I sit back and say well, my childhood was so, okay, but to be honest it was actually pretty dysfunctional. My oldest brother was in and out of jail or rehab centers and when he was home, he would steal stuff from the house and go sell it pawn shop and my mom would find it later and it was just a whole big scene so, those lot of yelling and screaming in my house growing up. And then when I was ten, my older brother there Chris he was in a rehab center in Florida and he had run away from there, he hit hitch checked back to her house, he was staying with us and one night he just decided life is too hard he took his own life and commit to suicide and that was really traumatic for my family. And traumatic for me in a way I didn't expect so, I quickly after that came down with an uncontrollable stutter so, I couldn't speak in public at all. So, I was going into the middle school which I do not recommend a stutter in middle school not the best time to have one. I was a skinny little kid too, so every day before school I go in and I'd see my speech therapist and I'd work on my B's and work on my peas and work on my T's because those were the letters that I would always get tripped up on. So, ordering a pepperoni pizza Michael was like my nightmare because I would never get past the first P, I would just kinda couldn't do it. So, between my brother's death and all the kind of dysfunction he brought into my house and then how kids with stutter were treated in middle school, I just decided, hey! people are way too messy, I really don't have anything to do with them, I'm done, I'm out.

So, I just became a world class wall flower, I just kept to myself and was like, I don't want to do anything to do with people because they're messy crew. And that went on all the way into the college ironically enough I'm major in communications, I'm not quite sure how that happened and like most good communication majors, I was unemployed at graduation wondering what am I gonna do with this thing. And so, I ended up getting his job with a retail store, was a small chain of family-owned retail stores, fifteen stores and they hired me as an assistant manager at one of those stores, this is my first real job about of college. I had some other part time jobs to pay for all the life stuff that I needed but this is my first real full-time job and I show up on the first day of that job and I remember vividly and my boss was the son of owner of who owns the business.

So, her daughter married this guy, he is my boss, he greets me at the door and he says, hey, Brandon really to have you here, you're gonna be the assistant manager of the store but before you get started you gotta go in the back room and waiting for you to back is the current assistant manager but he doesn't know you're coming. So, you go back there, you fire him and then you get his job and that was my first task on my first real day of full-time employment. Go to the back room, I tell this guy he's no longer having this job and now I've got his job. And that was how my boss rolled he did everything you shouldn't do as a manager or leader. He loves surprises, its trying catch people doing something wrong, he'd come in and he degraded, I don't like what Susan's wearing a front, go fire her, I had to lay off more people in that job in the first six months of that job and then I've had to in any other time in my life. And that experience like, woke me up and maybe realized three really important things about my life, so first and then you realize, man, works should gonna have to be this way it should be like a source of fulfillment and meaning and purpose not a source of anxiety and stress, pain and depression and all that other stuff. I mean, we can't always control the families that we're dealt but we have a lot more control over our workplaces, we can leave or we can shape it in a way that's healthy, sounds my first realization. My second realization was, if this dude who's my boss is any reflection on the current state of leadership today, we've got a problem like, I really wanna fix that and third that was where my purpose was born, I said, man I'm gonna eliminate all workplace dysfunction everywhere having no idea what I'd signed up for. So, I went off pursued a clinical therapy degree because back then there really wasn't certifications for executive coaching so, I practice in a clinical world for a number of years and actually one of the places I worked at was one of the mini facilities that my brother Chris had been at. And then I went into the corporate world to just learn how corporations and kind of companies work and then often got my MBA and when I finished with my MBA I said, alright time to set sail with this journey. I had another child offer to do traditional consulting but I didn't wanna do that so, I just said, you know what, my ships not perfect there's holes on the bottom of the ship but now it's there's never a better time to set sail than now I'll figure it out and that was in two thousand five, so, yeah, we're not quite the twenty years but I've been doing this a little while and every day is a new adventure and surprises me a little bit so, that's the story of how I got here, Michael.

Michael: That's amazing man. There are so many different places to go in that and thinking about the kind of the first thing that comes to mind is your boss winning you to fire that person makes me go, yeah, that's a person who should never be in a leadership role because they don't know how to handle a conflict and they don't know how to communicate and they don't know how to speak. You know, I would have to imagine this where my brain goes, there was always a way to circumvent conflict in his life and so he doesn't know how to face it, right? And I think that holds true for so many people and that's a big catalyst and why I even created this show four years ago was because I was looking at making meaning and assessing for myself that like, oh, I'm a good leader but I'm not a great leader and so, I need to bring on people in mindset and personal development and leadership and coaching and therapy and all of these arenas and learn from them like, all anyone who says that like, they have a podcast and they're not somehow selfish is a liar so, I always that this is a very selfish endeavor that moves me towards my goal of ending generational trauma through education and information. But there's something to be said about looking at people who are avoid of the very thing that they know they need to do to change their life. And so, where I really wanna start this conversation is in that arena Brandon because I believe that the true catalyst to change is by facing your reality and doing the hard difficult and uncomfortable things that you need to do.

Brandon:Yeah, totally yes, I'm all on board where would you like to take it?

Michael: Yeah. Let's go to your thoughts because here's where I sit with it. I'll give you a framework and we'll go from there so, when I was twenty-seven coming off of being three hundred and fifty pounds, smoking two bucks, drinking myself to sleep, write that whole thing, I realized had no confidence, none, zero because I was unwilling to face so many of the things that I knew I needed to face and one day it really kinda hit me, I was like actually the way that you build confidence is to continually doing incredibly uncomfortable things consistently. And so, in that what I'm wondering is when people are faced whether it's in the workplace or life or whatever now having clinical experience and an MBA so you see both sides of this world, how do we get people to face the truth of the reality of the things that they need to do to change their lives?

Brandon: So, that's tough because the unknown is always scarier than the known it's like, I'll sit here and deal with what I've got it's a horrible situation but the unknown could even worse so, I think that's a real big challenge because readiness to hear and you tell that story Michael for you there was a moment where you said, I was ready so, I think the first part is people have to have a place of readiness, they've got to be in a place where they'd either hit rock bottom or they're hearing it from someone that they really respect or it's delivered in just that right moment but sometimes that's not enough so, I think there's two parts to this there's readiness but then there's also how do you move forward into that scary space into that unknown. So, I'm gonna offer you kind of what I think is the rarest jewels in the world but they're super cool jewels because anybody can have them so they're kinda of fully democrat, anybody listening to this, anywhere in the world can have these and when you think about people that have done the most amazing things in the world that have changed the world, they all possess these jewels.

So, let me share with you kind of the three jewels and then the thing that like lights the whole thing up…


You have to have some kind of a north star; you have a reason for why am I doing this? What's that north star that kind drives me forward? I think purpose is important figuring that out for you and that can be purpose with a big “P” like, you wanna stop the generations of all this trauma and from continuing that's a big P. Sometimes a purpose can be a little P, so Victor Frank talked about sometimes purpose can just come with you know, I'm a parent and I wanna be there for my kid or I wanna be the friend to people around me. So, it can be little P too but purpose is first.

Second, it's the COURAGE to take that first step.

It's the courage to be able to step into that unknown.

So, almost imagine yourself on a forest, it's pitch-black purpose like, that star that you can see that you wanna move towards. You can't see much in front of you well, courage gives you that and that's a second jewel gives you that drive to just take that first step.


The third is FAITH.

Faith is what gives you the drive to take the second step and the third and the fourth. So, FAITH kinda of begins when data ends. So, if we've got all three of those, we're gonna be moving through that dark forest in the middle of the night, we've got that purpose, we've got courage take per step in faith to take the second.

Now what the rarest one the rarest element that I still haven't quite figure out how you get into people because we can help people with those three but there's something about someone's will that sparks the whole thing because not everybody gets in a place of kind a black hole and pulls himself out of it some people just stay there and that's the end. I don't know what that spark is but there's something about will that ignites the whole thing. So, when you strip on that log in the forest will says, get back up you're not defeated, I don't, it's super cool thing rare thing, I don't know how you put that in somebody but I think that is definitely a factor in all this two.

So, purpose, courage, faith and will that fire in the belly that liked the whole thing up. So, a long winded did answer to your question but I think there's readiness and then some of those elements can really help people transform into who were really meant to be.

Michael: Yeah. As you were talking out tripping in the woods my brain because this how I operate immediately went to horror movie and I'm like the one thing that pushes people harder than anything is the will to survive and then you're running through those woods, your tripping, you know, Michael Myers behind you with the giant you know machete and you look behind you like, shit he's right there, I gotta keep going, I gotta keep going, I gotta keep going. What I often think to myself is you there something in the truth about the willingness to push yourself for survival when we live in a world that is so easy to navigate that you've gotta to find something that you're aligned with that feels damn impossible so that you can have momentum towards that on a long enough timeline which I'm trying to break this down in a way that I think is important if you're willing to face the reality that life is incredibly easy and the only way that you create massive change is by actually doing incredibly different things and associating your survival with the will to accomplish it or move towards it,I should say knowing that the accomplishment will not fulfill you but in said will become a plateau and a marker for understanding what you're capable of then in turn you now have new evidence to support that you can do anything. And I think that part of the problem and I'd love for you to speak to this in your opinion, I think part of the problem that people have when they're stuck, where they're in this place where they can't take that first up because Brandon, they're hearing us, they're like, got it, alright purpose, courage, faith, I'm gonna play video games all day. And what I think about that north star and I'm gonna use a weird word here my mission is to end generational trauma in my lifetime. Your mission is incredibly important in leadership both of those things are very far-fetched, right? We think about it like, dude the reality of me actually doing this is fucking impossible is that ain't gonna stop me. Do you think here's where the question is this where it really lies because like I see the markers like go forward, I get this idea about pushing towards something great you do; do you think part of the reason why people stay stuck is because they're not dreaming big enough?

Brandon: It could be. Comfort is having got such a g gravitational pull my friend, I mean comfort it's just like, this is great, just play your games like, I don't pushing yourself to stretch and try new things, it's hard work and there's has to be a reason why. So, I like your image maybe the reason why is I'm chasing after something or maybe the reason why it's somebody's chasing after me but there's gotta be some reason to move in the forest otherwise you're just there, you're just hanging out and hanging out is easy there's gravitational to pull to that. I think an easy place for most everyone who's listening this right now easy place to start change your workout routine, change a workout routine, if you don't already work out, go workout or if you're already doing a routine, join a CrossFit or join a high intensity training class group or something do something different and then commit to that because if you're like me, so I work out now probably five or six times a week, I don't like to work out, I mean and it's at night I'm tired, that's time I can really work out as an evening and every time I'm like man, I could just chill out here, how a glass a wine or whatever and not you know but I make myself go and then that’s challenges me and then I grow and I get better and I learned and I do things I didn't think I could do before. You know, purpose, courage and faith sound like all these big idealistic things it can be simply starting with make yourself uncomfortable by changing up your workout routine and see what that does for you, see how that changes you and then you realize you can do other things and who knows what you might change after that so that's my thought on it.

Michael: Yeah. And I don't think that you can have mental health without physical health and I realized like there are people who don't have the capability and the ability that many of us have to physically move our body and so not trying to like pigeon and hold everyone into that, so, it's a generalized statement like, I believe that you have to move your body physically to be mentally and emotionally healthy. And there's so much science in research and evidence that proves that we won't go in that today but just something I wanted to marker. One of the things I do wanna go into is so, I wanna go back just a moment and talk about this word faith. I heard Doctor Caroline Leaf say that, the despair of hope is the number one leading cause of death. And I think people just do not have faith in themselves in society and each other. I wanna extrapolate what faith means to you, Brandon?

Brandon: I'm gonna go back to the loose definition I gave earlier faith begins when data ends. And so, that can be lots of things, that can be you've got faith in yourself, it can be belief in yourself that I can do this, I can accomplish this. As a mentor of mine shared with me years ago, he showed with me several beautiful statements but this is one of them when we're at very best we believe it, we believe this about ourselves, I'm enough in my limited, I'm enough, I'm not perfect nobody is but I can figure this thing out, I'm enough in my limited. So, faith can take the form of faith in ourself, faith can take the form of more optimism like this is gonna work out, you know, I'm not gonna die, the American psychological association talks about ways for us to build resilience and that's one of them is viewing things as not an insurmountable crisis but something I can learn from and get through more of a growth mindset and then of course faith we naturally associated it with our kind spiritual faith and where we anchor whether it's our spiritual practices or religious practices because that's also part of the unknown and how the mystery of the world and the universe. So, I think we can find faith in lots of different places but I think it's an important component because there is so much about the world we don't know and if we wait for the perfect information, we're not gonna move forward. Example that everyone can relate to think about the pandemic over the last two years, we're still scratching our hands on what exactly is this covid thing and how does this work and why do some people get it and some people don't? There's so much lack of data around this and yet we've still got to find ways to move things forward. So, faith place a lot into that so, I think we see faith in lots of ways but that when I think of faith those are some of the things that kinda kick around of this noggin.

Michael: Yeah. I just the way that I kinda look at it is I just simply say has anyone ever done the thing I'm trying to do like that that becomes a marker for me because I believe the capability of what you can accomplish often is marker by those who have accomplished it before youand with freaking eight billion people on planet earth chances are somebody's tried to do the thing that you wanna do. Now if they haven't there's a very high likelihood that that thing that you wanna try to do is just not going to work and I kinda resonate with that in these interesting way, it's not as a way to be like no don't try but instead going you know we've been around for a very long time where a lot of people have tried some shit, maybe don't try it, you know it's like, you got the guy who went you know wingsuit gliding for the first time and I'm like, alright you know but you look at somebody and I know Roger Banning the reference point people go to about the four minute mile so often but here's what's so interesting about him breaking the four minute mile. Everyone said it was impossible, he believed he could do it, he did it the next week, three people broke it in one event the four-minute mile, they're thought be impossible. And I think faith comes into having the courage to find out, right? And I think courage unfortunately and I know that you agree with this, I assume you will agree with because I'm not in your brain, I don't know what you know. I assume that you agree with this that most people will find themselves stuck because of having the fear to face what they need to do. How do you build courage? How do you find courage? What is courage mean? How does that play a role in your life like just go into courage for us for a minute?

Brandon: So, courage is not the absence of fear and I didn't say this is famous Nelson Mandela said this but there's lots of other folks have said similar things. Courage is not the absence of fear it's moving forward in the face of fear knowing it's there. So, it's still taking that step and often the fears in our head what's gonna happen to me here, what's this person gonna do to me, right? If I ask this person for this thing, they're gonna reject me so, I'm just not gonna ask or if I try this thing, I'm gonna fail and was gonna make fun of me so, I'm just not gonna try.

So, I think it's pushing ourselves when I know it's pushing ourselves into that discomfort and doing it anyway and looking you at it as a beta test and a fun experiment and learning about ourselves and growing and stretching versus a life or death all or nothing kind of event. It's a workout in itself; it's just like lifting weights or trying to run faster, it's stretching those muscles so then you become more pliable and then things become less scary. I'll give you a great example because I also wanna be clear like, while there's something things I feel like, I'm pretty courageous just about, there's a lot stuff I could do way better at like by no means perfect at this, in fact I'm less than perfect at this. So, I’ll give you a great example, I don't like to ask for stuff if I don't think I'm gonna get it like, I don't like sales processes, I don't like walking up to somebody and say well you know can you give this to me because I don't like that feeling of rejection. I got enough of that growing up, I really don't want any more taste to that. So, I'm taking my youngest kiddo era and he's fifteen we go to Disney world this spring and I like to do just kind of one-on-one trips with my kids it's just fun and Aaron doesn't have that fear he's a bold kid, he's a theater kid, he's got no problem. So, one of the things you wanted to do was just build your lightsaber experience it's in the Star Wars land and at least in Hollywood studios at least Florida and you try and book that thing and it's like ninety days out it's already booked out for ninety days, I'm like, Aaron but we tried, like it's booked they've got no availability, he's like what's it her to just gonna ask? So, we go ask him and they said well here we'll put you on a wait list and if you know if somebody your fourth or fifth on the weight list but if somebody cancels or enough people cancel we'll text you, said, okay, was hurt puts us on the wait list, I keep you not forty five minutes later I get a text and they say your spots available. I would not and if we got to do this on some experience and I was just committed that no, it can't happen for us, he didn't have that fear or that issue. Now even I'm in situation like, what would Aaron do? I wanna channel on my fifteen-year-old, he's a lot more courageous. So, I think there's so much of it is in our head and it's finding people that you see do it well and challenge yourself, any have small ways like that, just to stretch a little bit.

Michael: Yeah. I agree and I know it's all in our head. You know, even in the midst right now, my body is where I challenge myself the most because I feel like, I've really wrapped my head around business and you know being able to podcast and things like that but it's the physical movement of recognizing, you know, David Goggins said you know he believes that people quit at forty percent of what they're capable of. I sat with me and it felt uncomfortable to hear that because physical movement for me has always been my limiting belief and people will hear this and if you follow me on social long enough you know that I've done CrossFit for years, I've had six pack like, I've been physically fit at times of my life but I've never actually this is what dawned on me Brandon, I've never actually really pushed myself despite that and I was like well what's something really fucking hard I could do? Oh, I know, I'll run a marathon and looking at that and saying, okay, cool, let's find out what forty percent is? I don't have the answer yet because it hasn't happened, it's on its way but even in the day to day, I think what's fascinating about the growth and the willingness to find who you are to have the courage to do that comes in a process. And what I mean by that I'll give you a perfect example so, I start training for this damn thing, the goal is not to accomplish the marathon, the goal is to put myself in a position to participate, that's it, that's the goal, that's the mission. I know who I am as a person when they hand me that medal my brain is immediately gonna go okay, great, next, right? That's just who I am but it is the journey that I aligned myself with, that builds my character, my confidence and who I am. I noticed something really interesting, day one could not finish three quarters of a mile without stopping, exhausted just like oh, my god, just suck wind and it's where like cross fit for years, I've done Mua Thai for years, I'm fit air quotes and then you start doing this activity something uncomfortable, something unknown, something you've never done before. You start to learn something about yourself and then on my long run last night it was four and a half miles straight, not a single break, why? It wasn't about anything other than building capacity and I look at that as everything that we do in our lives is we build capacity to create success in our life through doing again incredibly uncomfortable things consistently.

Dude, I don't wanna run, I don't wanna eat well, I don't wanna wake up at five thirty in the morning, I fucking hate all of those things. You said something the reason I'm processing like this is because you said something I think really important. When your brother took his life, it led you to this place where you're in this massive stutter, you're in this place where and then you're going in the middle school which I agree like going in a middle school in general like the worst three years of your life but going in it as an outsider which was my scenario, I'm overweight, I'm homeless on the poorest kid in the whole school, you learn how to adapt to that but you have to find your way through it. What I would love for you to talk about is just your experience of overcoming those obstacles and if you think it held true that you went through it in an iterative process?

Brandon: It's a really good question. I think it's actually is a continuous journey for me so, you know, I do a lot TED talk, I do a lot of speaking engagements, I get there into keynotes, I did some this week, I told you I little rusty well meant by rusty I was nervous and I could feel myself anything up a little bit in the beginning because I don't like to speak in front of people, I do a lot of that for a living and people say, I'm okay at it but I always worry like when my start coming back. I think it's this constant pushing me myself to get better at it and get further away from that place and almost feeling like, if I stop, I'm gonna fall back into it. So, in that way I think it is iterative. I can't necessarily point to a moment when it stopped my starter at least on regular basis but there still times I know it's like, I'm get really tired, I'm gonna stutter, it just happens this kinda comes back so, that's be my answer to it. It’s a constant kind of pushing yourself, to keep yourself uncomfortable.

Now something you mentioned earlier though I wanna go back to, I love that idea of forty percent most people could forty percent. I think we just figured out what comfort is compared of forty percent fortunately. I can mail it bit at forty percent, I can mail it in. So, I think I'm gonna go back to something you said flip it back to you Michael you know, I think it's about how we keep ourselves in a constant state of discomfort. One of the both stresses but I'm unhappy for it in my life is that I don't have a salary, I stopped getting a salary a long time ago. So, there is no nailing it in for me ever on a given day, every day I'm on performing whether it's with a client or I’m getting paid to do what I do every day so I kinda eat what I kill, I can't just mail it in. And so, there's probably some level of pressure and anxiety that comes along with that feeling of needing to be pretty on it on all the time but it also keeps me from just getting forty percent, I'm not gonna pay the bills and take care of my family forty percent. So, there's also this like situation that it’s the motivation there and when I have had like contracts like, I part time faculty stuff when I was teaching a little more, I actually turned some of those because they're making me too comfortable. I was like, you know what? I don't like this feeling. You guys can just keep your money, I'll go back to just eating what I kill.

So, I'm gonna flip back to you when you think about how we keep ourselves uncomfortable and how we avoid comfort what are some things that you try and do or that you think would be really helpful for people listening to this?

Michael:Yeah. Well, I think that's a great question for you to ask and I'm gonna ask you it as well then. For me, I look at my life and I sit here and I go where am I? What do I want? What do I want accomplish? I find myself in complacency in moments of just being uninspired, being uninspired not motivated because look, I don't believe in motivation; motivation will get you started, it's a great spark but it's not gonna get you to where you need to go. The only thing that's gonna get you to where you need to go is fucking determination, like a dog will to see it come to fruition, discipline and showing up every day. And I think people hang their hat on motivation they're like, oh, I don't finish this project because I'm not motivated and I'm like, oh, you probably actually didn't care because to me it's like I'm gonna show up every single day and so in these moments in which I am just feeling like uninspired like get it done, I force it, that's a weird thing especially like look we're talking on a mental health podcast right now, we live in a society where everyone says self-care, self-care, self-care don't force it, take it easy on yourself. Brandon, I think we take it too easy on our cells, I think part of the reason so many people are stuck we take it too easy on we don't push ourselves, we don't see what we're capable of, I don't mean breaking your own spirit, I don't mean destroying yourself but I mean putting yourself in a position to find out what you're made of because for many people like, I look at my life twenty five years old like look outside of comfort, I do not know how you get to this, three hundred fifty pounds, smoking, drinking, playing video games, there was a video game I logged like four thousand hours on; almost ten thousand hours you were almost, Brandon think about this even more so how many people watch football all day on Sundays, Monday night, Thursday, I think they added a Wednesday now and then they have Saturdays all of that time not creating the life that you want to have. So, the way that I step into discomfort I just allow myself the simple pleasures of life that are not moving me towards my goal. And people will hear that like that's crazy, why would you not enjoy life? I love my life; I love it but I would much rather be moving towards something than stuck in a moment of nothingness. There's a zero percent chance, there's probably even a negative chance that playing video games all day long will ever move me towards my gials. And so, I think about pushing myself and it comes from that place of the willingness to recognize that the only way you're gonna have success in life is to drive towards something.

Brandon: Dude, I love that. I love the fact you said, I think we're too easy on ourselves, I do think I'm a mental health professional, I'm a big believer in acknowledging it and doing the necessary steps but we have gone a little too far, we tend to give people passes when there's some work that needs to be done to make us healthier. You're not gonna get yourself out of a mental health funk by defaulting to comfort every time there's other healthy routines that have to be put in place to get us to get us there. So, I don't know if I told you this but every year I like to pick a word like my favorite word of the year and I actually took the same word I used last year is my word this year, so, I'm taking it two years in a row and the word is agency, I love the word agency, it's kind of everything that you just said it's like when I've got agency it's like, I can do this, I can take this on, I'm enough and I'm gonna flip it a little bit. I think the biggest culprits of taking things too easy right now at least in the United States are parents, they are not pushing their kiddo enough and they're rescuing too quickly, they see their kiddo do any kind of struggle and they jump in and they talk to the teacher for them or for some money at it or wherever they do and when you do that, when you rescue other people in that way, you're not helping them out what you're really signaling to them is, you're not enough. There's no way you can get through life without me and my help, no surprise, we have this huge spike in anxiety amongst kiddo and you can't get anxiety man because everybody's getting them and if you wanted a therapist for anybody under eighteen good lucks trying to find one, they're all booked solid. So, I think this translates to not only how we approach our own selves and challenge our own selves and you know lean a little bit more into discomfort but find ways to not rescue others or our life either I mean there's good things from discomfort. See somebody over there in the wake floor and they're struggling with that weight, you know, we don't go over there take it away from them we wait until they're really, really in trouble and then we might you know take the bar off of them but you know that's where you get stronger through the struggleand that's where you got stronger.

I think it's recognizing there's power and struggle we get stronger through struggle and not rescuing others when we see them struggle and that's as a parent. Let me tell you man, that's hard because I can't tell you how many times I've heard my kiddo just squealing and crying in the room and I've got the resources I could fix that problem but man they're not gonna get strong and now I've got some now the good news I've got some really independent strong kids makes it hard when you're trying to give them advice and they're like no, I'm not listening to you but at least they're wrong so, I think there's something about that and I love that you kind of talked about that.

Michael: Yeah. And I think about, you know, growing up playing sports you didn't get a gold medal if you got fifth place and I think that it's so detrimental to society as a whole it's that old adage right easy times build weak men weak men and becomes strong, right? And I think that unfortunately we're in that cycle of life right now and it's not to say that you shouldn't have moments of compassion and care and grace for yourself because I do, I cleared my whole schedule the other day, I was like mentally exhausted, I'm physically exhausted, I cannot possibly be of service to people in a practical way and I cleared the day, I don't ever clear the day and unless I absolutely have to clear the day. Like, to your point about agency, that's agency for me looking at my life and going what do I really need to do today? And often what I will come to is I will ask myself is today the day I need to take off or am I trying to take it easy on myself? Ninety nine percent of the time I'm just trying to take it easy on myself and I have to force myself through it but that one percent man like, I hit the wall, slept for two hours, had coach like six people the day before, did a bunch of podcast blah, blah, blah, I was like, I over where I cannot of effective service to anyone I need to serve so, I cleared it and that's agency that's making the declaration of what do you need today. Like in keeping it real with yourself, being massively honest with yourself and I think we lie to ourselves so much. I wanna stay in this comfort conversation for a minute because I believe it's important looking at this and you talked about not giving your children the thing that you want to give them in that moment because that's you thing Brandon that's nothing be with your kids, right?

Brandon: Because feeling this pain and I know what it's like that they're feeling and I don't like this feeling and I don't want them to feel that because it hurts but that's not necessarily a bad thing that it hurts a little bit.

Michael: I believe you use the word struggle, I often go to the word suffering, right? I believe to an extent that as human beings we need to go through a certain amount of suffering in order to create change like think about the definition of the word suffer it's to experience undergo or feel something unpleasant, that's definition of suffer then I believe that through that suffering you figure out who you are and in that even though we want to we want to like salvage people's emotional capacity in real time. One of the things I always teach all my clients as I go, I'm not here to be your friend, I'm here to be your coach and that means I do remove to an extent this literally on an entirety this idea of cuddling, right? Doesn’t mean I can't be compassionate or grace field or empathetic with you but it does mean that I'm not gonna pat you on the back and say, oh, it's okay, I mean yes, it's context, right? Yes, it's okay but what are you willing to do? How do we get you to where you want to go? What are your thoughts? Do you think people are just so comfortable in the comfort that it's actually a detriment to their life?

Brandon: Well, it's absolutely amen, yes. I mean everybody listening to this you, me included probably have some elements in my life where I'm comfortable that I should challenge myself on. But I think when we get to a place where we are so just mailing it in, we're just doing the routine eating the same thing for once every day, going to the same routine every day and here's a big sign you know you're in this place we are just simply counting down the days till retirement, that's when you're really not challenging yourself, you're just mailing it and waiting until you can retire and then you're gonna what? Sitting on an island? That's not challenging yourself either, and not that I'm opposed to vacations and rest but I just think we do take things to easily and we don't challenge ourselves enough and stretch ourselves enough. And maybe even those around us we may even select people around us that are in the same place so we can reinforce the fact we're all just hanging out being comfortable. So, you know it goes back to the whole adage of you are the five people who surround yourself with, so that could be something else as people are listening to this, do you surround yourself with people who are like you, Michael that are challenging themselves, stretching themselves or do you just surround yourself the people that are comfortable? Because we don't grow through comfort.Well, we do, we grow on the couch but we grow the wrong way, we have don't control the way we're talking about you today.

Michael: Yeah, I’m a testament to that I promise you; you grow the wrong way it's not fine. And my hope is that people aren't hearing this and like, oh, these guys have figured it out they're shitting on me because that's not what's happening here, we’ve been comfortable, we've both been complacent, we both had to pull ourselves up out of the bullshit of our lives and go and trade our life and that's the hope is that you'll be willing to like face the truth that you're lying to yourself, that you're bullshit yourself, you want to be successful but the only way you're gonna find success is through the challenge of the narrative of the person that you believe you are while understanding that you're capable of being the person that you want to be if you're willing to go through the suffering or struggle.

Brandon: Yeah. I’m a mentor mine years ago and he came from a clinical therapy background and when someone was really resistant to take on this thing this hard conversation or starting an exercise routine or starting a new job or whatever it was. He'd lean across the table, he looks him in the eye and he'd say, I promise you're not going to die. And I think that's a great starting place for everybody listening to this you know you're not gonna die, just try something new just challenge yourself and see how it changes you or changes your perspective so, amen brother.

Michael: Yeah, I actually I love that because you're probably not gonna die probably not, could you? Sure, I mean I could die right now.

Brandon: And there are some things like if you're the first person who's gonna be hand glider, but most things in our life we're not gonna die that we're talking that you and I are talking about here today, you know we're talking about just trying new things; doing things that challenge the fear that's in your head.

Michael: How much of that not doing it and maybe the practicality in saying, I'm probably not going to die, probably comes from the autonomic response to stress of growing up in a traumatic state in which your brain makes meaning of your dangers and environments and say don't move towards that and then because of those experiences effectively what happens is you actually don't even get the opportunity to start because your brain has circumvent any possibility of taking that first step because it's measuring the data of the past and going but don't you remember last time you tried something? Is there a correlation there?

Brandon: Yes, there is, you make a really good point. I think we developed these defensive self-protective defensive mechanisms that were useful when we were seven probably not useful when we're thirty seven or forty seven and so, I'll give you a great example just not doing a lot of detail but my wife grew up in a pretty traumatic household and her step father was by bipolar and unmedicated and really criticized her a lot so when she's feeling really stressed out Michael she just takes off, she's gone, she's just gone like, I can't find her or she just leave the house and go for a walk, won't even tell anybody where she goes not as helpful for me or as her husband who's trying to help her out but I can totally see where that came from, her defense mechanism was disappear just get to a place where he can't see you and then he can't go after you. So, I think when we particularly from dramatic households and traumatic life experiences you've developed some self-protective things that were helpful when you were seven but not gonna serve you well now, so how do you recognize those and when you see yourself doing it you know change that script, I think that's an important perspective for everyone who has had something in their life and by the way that's probably pretty much everybody. At some version of trauma and their life, some trauma is bigger than other trauma or different than other trauma but trauma trauma. I think Victor Frank had a saying that I'm gonna butcher this but it was something like depression and trauma it's like a gas, it fills whatever void you have so even like a small trauma it's still gonna fill that up just like a big trauma will. Everyone's got their thing acknowledging it and then figuring out a way to do it differently.

Michael: Yeah, I love what you said about acknowledging it because that's the truth of it, and I think you would agree you've probably seen this in patients as well. The more that I hid from the truth the more that it consumed my life again that filling of the void. And my hope is that people will go through this process of having a purpose aligned and I want to heal, having the courage to do it and finding the faith to follow through because like ultimately, I can tell you right now and I've been an alignment those three words for a very long time they've held very, very well in my life. Brandon, my friend this conversation has been absolutely incredible before I ask you my last question can you tell everyone where they can find you?

Brandon: Simple place to find me is just google the workplacetherapistI'm the only one. So, you'll find me really easily so the workplace therapist and that site has got links to blog post over the years, my podcast the workplace therapists show and a whole host of helpful free resources for folks and then they can also purchase a copy of my most recent book “the hot sauce principle how to live and lead in a world where everything is urgent all the timewhich I'm sure we can all relate to so that's best place to go the workplace therapist.

Michael: Brilliant and of course we'll put all the links in the show notes. Brandon, my friend my last question what does it mean to you to be unbroken?

Brandon: First thing that comes to mind for me unbroken is forward momentum, you're still moving forward and I think it all comes back to those three jewels, we've got those in our pocket, we've got since of purpose in our pocket, we've got some courage on our pocket, we've got faith in on our pocket and we've got this steely will that tells us to get back up. It's kinda like a rocky movie, you fall down, you get back up, you know it's telling us to get back up and keep moving, if you've got those nothing's gonna break you.

Michael: Brilliantly said my friend, thank you so much for being here.

Unbroken Nation, thank you so much for listening.

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And Until Next Time.

My friends, Be Unbroken.

I'll see you.

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Brandon Smith

The Workplace Therapist

Brandon Smith is a leading expert in leadership communication and curer of workplace dysfunction. Known as “The Workplace Therapist,” Brandon is a sought-after executive coach, TEDx speaker, author and award- winning business school instructor. He has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, CNN, Fox, NPR, Forbes and many others for his expertise. His book The Hot Sauce Principle: How to Live and Lead in a World Where Everything Is Urgent All of the Time helps readers to master urgency so they can more effectively lead others, manage others’ unrealistic expectations, and prevent burnout at home.

Michael UnbrokenProfile Photo

Michael Unbroken


Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.