Patrick: Hi, everybody. I’m Pat V. and thank you for listening to another episode of the Rise Above Your Best podcast. Where I’m not only obsessed with interviewing people that have achieved great success and finding out their habits, but also an understanding and uncovering the research that proves to all of us that we’re all capable of the same success and it all starts with believing in your ability to rise above your best.
Patrick: I’m really excited for today’s episode. It’s something that I’ve coached on for a number of years now, as well as one that I’ve had to continue to remind myself the importance of. And the topic of it is your past is your power. So often I think we spend our times trying to avoid our past and look in the other way and certainly, we’ve all done things that probably if the light was shined on us or if the book was opened up, we wouldn’t be real proud of them. But I think oftentimes those are the things that if we look at it in the right light, the right frame of mind, that we really can leverage those things.
Patrick: And I think our past really should be less about learning to live with it and more about trying to find ways to leverage it. That challenging time we went through or the disappointment or the loss that we had. Whatever that might be. There’s always an opportunity to go forward and say, “What can I take forward from this?” And that’s really what this episode is about. It’s about a few examples. There are things that are around us every day, a GPS, antique furniture or the Patina on antique furniture, a broken smoke detector or a malfunctioning smoke detector, and also the example of Chinese bamboo.
Patrick: All things that are certainly around us that I think we can draw analogies from in terms of how we can go about leveraging our own past and it’s a talk that I do for youth in terms of helping them to learn to look at their past as their power and more and more I seem to use it in coaching with adults too. So I hope you enjoy it and you’ll gain the benefit of this because your past is your power and it truly is there to help us rise above our best. I hope you enjoy it. Let’s jump into it.
Patrick: The first example I mentioned to you earlier in the introduction was this idea of the GPS and we all either have a GPS on her phone or one in our cars and I’ll often ask, “Let’s pretend that we have just punched in into our GPS a destination that we’re going to go to, and we’re driving down the street and we get distracted as I’m sure we all have and we missed that street.” Well, what happens? Some type of voice comes on and simply says, “Recalculating,” and it quickly does a calculation and gives us the next street that we’re going to go down. Now, if we were to drive past that street, the same thing would happen. It would simply recalculate and if we went past the next street that we were supposed to go down and missed that one, it would simply recalculate. Even though I’m in Maine, I could do this all the way to Florida.
Patrick: I could continue driving and my GPS will just continue to recalculate and all it’s doing is telling me that my destination is further and further away, but at no point does my GPS or any that I know of at this point say to me, “You know what? Just go home. You’re not smart enough to get where you want to go. You don’t have what it takes. You’re stupid. I don’t know why you thought you could go here in the first place.” Or, “Just pull over and park.” At no point along the way does the GPS to that. It is always telling me where to go, how to get back on track. Yet think about our own lives that we don’t do this. We’ve got this faulty GPS and us that a mistake that we make we begin to doubt ourselves. “Wow. I guess I should just pack it in and go home,” or, “I couldn’t do it in the first place,” or somebody else plays with the GPS on us and they tell us we can’t do something so we want to turn around because they said we can’t do it.
Patrick: The challenge for us is to treat ourselves like the GPS in our car or on our phone is that we always have the ability to recalculate. It’s at our discretion and our ability, but it’s always there for us regardless of what the challenges or the loss we always have that in us. My own personal experience, I lost both my parents about a year and a half apart. One when I was 17 and the other one I was 18 and I look back on those now and those really are about my past being my power and not that it was easy or that I would wish going back to experiencing that again, but I know that my ability to recalculate and certainly not right after that, it was many years later but still recalculating. Having the ability to get back on track.
Patrick: I was able to do that and we all have that ability. So when we move on from there, the next analogy really is around the antique furniture and specifically with antique furniture is what’s called Patina and actually that’s just a fancy name for the dirt that’s on Patina that and the other things that happened to it over a period of time that gives it its value.
Patrick: I was once watching the Antiques Road Show and somebody had brought on a chest of drawers and they were going on about how it had been in their family for so many years and they had finally taken the time to refinish this piece and the auctioneer was telling them basically what the value was. He said, “You know, in its current condition it’s probably worth about $5,000.” And he said, “Had you not refinished it and left it in its original condition, it would probably be worth 10 times that,” and the couple, their faces just went white almost as they thought about how they’re cleaning this thing up, had actually taken the value away from it.
Patrick: And it’s often the struggles in our own lives that create the true value of what we are and what we have to offer others, it’s really that dirt, that Patina in us and too often we try and do the same thing. We try and get rid of it. Again, we try and live with our past at best as opposed to how do we leverage this? There was a great quote that was by an auctioneer and he was talking about a gentleman, Israel sack, and he said about Patina. “That Patina is everything that happens to an object over the course of time.” He said, “It’s the nick in the leg of the table. It’s a scratch on the table top. It’s the loss of moisture in the paint.” He went on to say, “That really Patina is built from all the effects, natural and manmade,” and when you think about it, that’s no different than our lives.
Patrick: That we have natural things that we do to ourselves and then things that just happen, that we make happen ourselves because of our choices. Things that we can’t control, the natural things that we can control, the manmade, but our lives are made up of both of those. I couldn’t control losing my parents when I did, but I could certainly control the natural components of what I did as a result of that and he goes on to say that, “Really, that’s what creates a true antique. It’s Patina that oftentimes gives a piece of furniture or an artifact its value,” the process by which people attempt to remove the Patina from the furniture, or “restore the artifact,” has the unintended consequences of reducing the value of the piece.
Patrick: And again, we think about that in our own lives. How many times do those things that really if we just looked at them differently, the struggles, the failing grade, the relationship that went sour, the disappointment that my behavior had on, on somebody else? That if we just looked at those things differently, that, that’s really, that’s the value in us and not to try and restore that or gloss over it or paint over it, but to leverage it.
Patrick: Well, once we understand about our GPS and that we have the ability to recalculate and then we can take a look at those mistakes that we made and leverage them and say, “That’s really where our value comes in.” There’s going to be that part of us that’s going to say, “You still can’t do this. You’ve made too many mistakes, Patrick, you’ll never get to where you want to go,” and that really gets us to this third example, which is the smoke detector and the smoke detector really is representative of our brain and that portion of our brain, that’s the amygdala.
Patrick: And the amygdala is set up for us to do one of three things. It’s fight, flight, or freeze. It’s the primitive part of our brain that really if it didn’t work as well as it did, we wouldn’t be here today. Unfortunately. Now, it overreacts. It looks at all things that are not necessarily a threat, but it tries to put us in a self-preservation mode and it really holds us back if we allow it to and it’s no different than a smoke detector in our house and I’m sure most of us can think of a time where there was food that burnt on the stove and what happened?
Patrick: The smoke detector goes off and all we need to do is we go over to the smoke detector and we waive something in front of it to make it stop or maybe at worse, we’ve got unplug it for a little bit. At no point does a sane person with smoke simply from burnt food on the table as long as there’s no fire moving up the side of the house or the side of the wall, at no point do you run out of the house with your phone calling 911 saying, “We have an emergency, the smoke detectors just went off,” because you know that it’s just burned food and that it’s not a real emergency.
Patrick: It’s the same thing with the amygdala. That part of our brain, it’s oftentimes the smoke detector that’s going off simply for burned food. It’s me saying, “It’s me saying I’m going to attempt something new,” and that part of my brain saying, “What are you thinking about? You can’t do that,” or somebody says something to me in a way that I perceive it to be offensive and that part of my brain, the amygdala looks at this and says, “It feels like a threat, self-preservation mode time to activate. Do I fight? Do I flee or do I freeze?”
Patrick: When in reality, maybe it just takes a pause to say, “Is what that person said to me really what I think they said, maybe there’s something else. Maybe I’m reading into this too much.” I give myself that space and realize that, “You know what? This is just like burned food on the stove. This isn’t a real emergency. I’m not going to get worked up over this. I’m not going to let this sort of hijack me.” Unfortunately, what happens when we don’t take that time as we have already called the fire station, the trucks are on their way and were fully engulfed in whatever made up thing we have created in our mind in terms of the threat that is probably not even real that’s in front of us.
Patrick: So while we’ve talked about the GPS and we’ve talked about the Patina and the value coming from the mistakes we’ve made and now we’ve talked about realizing that our Amygdala is almost like a smoke detector and really not to just take off every time we smell smoke, but to realize that it’s probably not a real emergency.
Patrick: That to do this takes practice. It takes changing behaviors and I realize that, that’s not always easy for us because it’s taken us a long time to get where we are. The behaviors that we have now, they’ve served us. That’s why we continue to do them, but if we really want to see change, if we want to be able to leverage our past and not just live with it, then it’s going to take work and no more than reading about exercises in Muscle and Fitness magazine. I will never get any stronger by reading about those exercises in there. The only way I’m going to get stronger is by getting down on the ground and actually doing the work, doing the pushups. Then when I do that, I’m going to get stronger. My life is going to be, it’s going to be better. I’m going to be healthier.
Patrick: Now, in this sense, it will be physically I will be healthier, but in this work that we’re talking about here, mentally, spiritually, and probably even physically will be healthier, but it’s going to take getting down on the ground in a sense and doing the work. Not just intellectually understanding that, “Yeah, I get how the GPS relates and I get the idea of Patina and the value is in our, the struggles that we’ve had and I get the smoke detector.” Well, that’s great that you get it intellectually, but it’s not until we start doing that we change and I know that for myself that I think intellectually I understood a lot of this stuff and there are times that I still do today and it’s not until I do the hard work that after I do it, I realized it was completely worth it. The strength that I got from it has been worth that little discomfort that I felt along the way.
Patrick: So the last part of this is the Chinese bamboo, and the idea here is that even doing the work and understanding all of this about the GPS and the value, that they’re still going to be struggles. You’re still going to look at this and think, “Well, I’ve tried so many different ways and I’m not seeing the results are as fast as I want.” So the example that I will leave with is the Chinese bamboo and this is a story that’s been retold many times, but it’s an important one. And it says that in year one we can water, fertilize and give this potential tree all those things. And it doesn’t grow, and in year two, the same thing, nothing happens. In year three, the same thing, nothing happens. Year four again, nothing happens and that it’s not until year five, that in a period of only six weeks, this grows between 60 and 80 feet. In six weeks it grows 60 to 80 feet. It’s almost unbelievable.
Patrick: The question really comes in is when did it start growing? Was it in year five? Really it started growing the day we started watering it because if any point along the way we stopped doing that, giving it the water, the sun or the fertilizer that it needed, it probably would have died and it’s very similar to the changes that we’re trying to make within ourselves. That we’re giving it the things that it needs to make that change happen, but we may not see it right off. You may try some things that don’t work out and you have to have faith and belief that internally you’re changing and that at some point along the way, those internal changes will reflect themselves on the outside. And that’s really what we’re what we’re about here. That’s really what this whole process is, is to make that happen and when that does happen, we really are able to leverage our past, our past really does become our power if we allow it to and when we’re able to do that, we truly do rise above our best.
Patrick: So I hope as you’re out there and maybe the next mistake that you make or difficulty that you’re under, that you realize or remember the GPS and that you simply recalculate and that if it’s something that you’re embarrassed about or uncomfortable about or ashamed about, is that you find a way to leverage that. To have that be more value in you. How do you go forward from there? If it’s at the very least to say, “I know that, that’s not a direction I’m going to go in the future,” and as long as you’ve done the proper things to try and repair those mistakes that you’ve made, then you move forward and that if you’re telling yourself you’re going to make a change and inside saying, “Don’t bother. You’ve been this way for too long. You can’t change.”
Patrick: Don’t listen to it, realize that it’s just protecting yourself or trying to do what it thinks it’s supposed to do, but it’s not, that’s burnt food on the stove. Recognize that and move through and move on and push yourself because you can do it, and then lastly, give yourself the patience to know that you are growing inside, that things will change. Just like with the Chinese bamboo tree.
Patrick: I hope you found this helpful, or maybe you know somebody else that’s in this journey right now and you think that this might be valuable to them. I’d ask that you forward this on to them. Allow them to listen and hopefully gain value from this. I thank you so much for taking the time to listen to this. If you have found this helpful and valuable, I would ask that it would mean so much to me, in the work that I’m doing. If you would leave a rating or a comment on iTunes or simply to forward this along and until our next episode, I hope you’re able to go out there and rise above your best.
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