In Art Of Coaching Podcast, Podcasts

Positive thinking is overdone and often ineffective when applied to the messy realities of life and leadership. 

I’m not saying there isn’t a use for it but rather that we should rethink when and to whom we recommend it. Why? Positive thinking can lull us into a false sense of security, make us overconfident and keep us from taking action when we need to. 

What if instead of judging thoughts as positive or negative we measured them in terms of how productive they are? What if we embraced feelings of anxiety and nerves because it means we care and/or are pushing our limits? On today’s show we will tackle these questions and many more.

Also, we were thinking… Why is it that we look for physical asymmetries in athletes and clients, but we don’t measure them in our learning or communication? People are the ultimate performance variable so if we aren’t assessing gaps here, aren’t we missing a huge piece of the puzzle? 

The Apprenticeship, a two day interactive workshop specializing in how to deal with people, power dynamics, hard conversations and the messy realities of life and leadership is aimed at closing that gap. Check us out at one of the following cities:

We’d also like to thank our world class sponsors:

  • SAGA: the world’s first wireless BFR cuffs (Brett20 = 20% off)
  • VersaClimber: the world’s toughest low-impact workout 
  • Momentous: world’s cleanest, best tasting performance supplement (Brett15 = 15% OFF)

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Brett Bartholomew  00:07

One of my favorite quotes is we are all apprentices in a craft where we never become a master. Now that is credited to Ernest Hemingway. And he was talking about writing in that context. But for me, that is speaking directly to the fact that no matter what position you’re in as a leader, or a coach, or an educator, or however you define yourself, learning how to deal with people, power dynamics, and politics will always be a critical part of achieving success in any profession. And if you want to be proficient here, you have to have a better understanding of people communication, and persuasion, I think we’d all agree, on some level, at least about that. And these things are simple and necessary, but they’re not easy, right? People are the ultimate performance variables. So when we think about this idea, that we need to be lifelong learners, when we think about this idea that in our lives, whether it’s regarding our finances, striving for work life balance, our technical skills related to our job, there’s always going to be asymmetries, there’s going to be times a year where work gobbles up more of your time, and you’re not able to see your family as much, then the holidays come around, and perhaps your job allows you to see them and spend some time I know, there’s certain jobs that of course, don’t allow for that. But you get the context here, there’s gonna be times where you realize you need to cut back on your spending, or maybe you need to invest more. These asymmetries are rampant, and it was the world that I lived in, in performance as well, we would inevitably see athletes that didn’t move that well, that would have an issue with one hip versus another. Or maybe they wouldn’t even display power or force appropriately through both limbs, and we’d see asymmetries in how they produce or express force. 


Brett Bartholomew  01:45

But what about asymmetries in our education? Now you know where I’m going with this, if you’ve listened? Yep, I’m gonna tell you about our apprenticeship. Guys. This is why we named it the apprenticeship. And if you’re somebody that understands that dealing with people can be sticky. If you’re somebody that’s had a great idea, and you’ve tried to create some kind of initiative at work, or you’ve tried to take the next step in your career, only to find it really stuck in the mud because of agendas or workplace politics or just not being able to get your message across. This is what we do. This is what we are about at the art of coaching the messy realities of leadership. And our apprenticeship workshop is a two day, heavily interactive way for you to engage with professionals from all fields, we’ve had people from over 20 countries to help you learn more about how to deal with those power dynamics, how to deal with people, you know, there’s a lot of people that think they’re pretty good communicators, and maybe they are. But going back to that finance example. Even if we’re squared up in some areas of our financial reality, there’s always going to be other areas where we can get better. If we’re fit in certain aspects of our health and wellness. We might be able to get stronger or work on our sleep or what have you. 


Brett Bartholomew  02:54

But when people say they’re good communicators, I typically say okay, well, how are you evaluating that? What areas you strong, what areas are you weak, and they might just say, well, verbal and nonverbal. But guys, there are far more. There’s far more than that to communication. There are well over 30 different areas that you can assess and evaluate yourself. And if you don’t know where you’re strong, or you’re weak, and other people do, that creates a really big asymmetry and blind spot. So I invite you guys to come. We have a lot coming up Chicago, Illinois is the next closest event. That will be July 24th, and 25th. Again, Chicago, Illinois, you can always find all this information at We’re also going to be in Seattle on August 28th and 29th, Boston, September 11th, and 12th, Nashville, Tennessee, September 25th and 26th. We are going to Cardiff we are going to Wales, October 9th and 10th. We will be in Asheville, North Carolina, the 13th through the 14th, Toronto, Ontario next year, and we add dates all the time. Now inevitably, somebody says well, when are you coming to my city? I’m going to ask you when you’re coming to mind, we cannot go to every single city guys. But if you go to, you’re going to see the ones that we’re at, we’d love to have you I know there’s never going to be enough time and enough money and enough everything but I promise nothing will give you a better return on investment than understanding how to deal with people and how to get out of your own way. So one more time, that’s 


Brett Bartholomew  04:31

Now I also want to say a huge thank you to our sponsors. VersaClimber and VersaPulley this these people are very special in my life. They’ve been with me since day one, when I went out on my own if you guys are looking for efficient, non impact and very very difficult ways to keep yourself in shape. And you know in a world that’s now sitting on bikes constantly and that’s cool if that’s your thing, but we’re all we’re always sitting so much VersaClimber is a super intuitive fun, engaging and effective way for you to get active. Check it out at Of course, momentous, momentous carries a line of NSF certified supplements designed for anybody who wants to get the most out of what they do. Bottom line with a family history of cancer and heart disease, I am not obsessed with what I put in my body. But I am purposeful about what I put into my body. And so momentous is the only supplement that I use outside of multivitamins and the like. And you can always save 25% By using code Brett25. They also provide a lot of the swag bags at our apprenticeship. So you’ll be more familiar with them as you come out to Chicago or any of the other locations. 


Brett Bartholomew  05:43

And finally, saga, you guys know I value efficiency. I’ve said this again and again and again. And I’m training especially now working on a new book and my doctorate and being a dad, I have got to get in and get out. So I have two workouts a week, where I’m going to do my typical performance based workouts and two workouts a week where I need some kind of metabolic overload, I need something quick, I need something that’s not going to tear up my body, especially if I’m gonna get on a plane and go teach a workshop. So saga has created the world’s first wireless, upper and lower limb blood flow restriction training, cuffs. Now these things intelligently calibrate to your occlusion zone. And for those of you that aren’t nerds, guys, this means that this restriction blood flow in a very safe, purposeful and well researched way. Now why would you want to do that? Well, without giving you a science lesson, the bottom line is this when we restrict blood flow just a little bit. And of course, this is just for a small window of time. So you’re not going to pass out, you’re not going to have to worry about any kind of major health implications. Of course, always check with your doctor, make sure you’re cleared to partake in an exercise routine. But when you use these cuffs, you’re going to get a massive buildup in lactate, you’re gonna get a massive buildup and a lot of different byproducts that signal to your brain, hey, we’re under some stress here. And you will get a tremendous release of growth hormone natural, of course, and other hormones that are going to help you respond more quickly, effectively and efficiently in your workout. If you’re a cyclist, you can use it on your lower body there during a lower intensity workout. If you are just a casual strength trainer, you can use it there. I really urge you because it’s one of those things that is better seen, as opposed to me trying to tell you about it. To make sure to check them out, you can go to the page or just And you will save 20% which is a tremendous deal. You’re gonna save 20% by using our code on the partner page, so make sure to check that out. All right, without further ado, let’s knock out today’s episode


Brett Bartholomew  07:58

Welcome to the Art of coaching podcast, a show aimed at getting to the core of what it takes to change attitudes, behaviors and outcomes in the weight room, boardroom classroom and everywhere in between. I’m your host, Brett Bartholomew, I’m a performance coach, keynote speaker, and the author of the book conscious coaching. But most importantly, I’m a lifelong student interested in all aspects of human behavior, and communication. I want to thank you for joining me. And now let’s dive into today’s episode. 


Brett Bartholomew  08:30

Hey, guys, thank you so much for joining me again. Now today is going to be a little bit of a devil’s advocate episode, I want to be clear on what that means. The purpose of this is for you to take today’s topic, and this is going to be more of a rant, it’s very loose, I don’t script these things out. I’m not sitting here reading from a page. So you’re gonna have to give me some grace if I misspeak and go around a couple times. But the point will be clear. Now what I want you to get out of this is I want you to talk to your staff about this today. I’m going to take that devil’s advocate view on a pretty popular topic. And that’s positive thinking and the value of it. Now, if you don’t have a staff, and you’re just a singular entrepreneur or a coach, or whatever you do, talk about it at the dinner table. But you know, sometimes we’re so scared of dissent. We’re so scared of talking about alternative realities and things that we might not agree with. Or even if we do agree with them on the whole, we don’t ever look at the other side of the coin. And that’s the whole point of this podcast is we want to talk about the messy realities of leadership that a lot of people really sweep under the rug. So I’m not asking you to agree with me. And of course, there’s a lot of things that I’m going to say that I could easily just form rebuttals on myself about that. I’m not going to do that today. I’m going to give you the information as it comes. And I just want you to think about these things. I also want to thank Dr. Eddie O’Connor, a lot of what I’m going to talk about was inspired from him and also a lot of things that I’ve been thinking about for a number of years, because reality in reality, positive thinking kind of I got to be careful. I say this, it annoys me to a degree. And I’ll tell you why.


Brett Bartholomew  10:05

 You know, first off, if you just look at most of the leadership books out there, the list of highly touted leadership books that have followed this kind of same predictable formula is as replete as strong wind gusts accompanying a hurricane. There’s a lot of hot air, right, so we open up with a story about some famous historical figure, or a lovable loser turned entrepreneurial genius. And usually, this is a Steve Jobs type character or the like. Now, it will detail their struggle and their subsequent rise to influence or stardom or how they broke through. And if we’re lucky, it’ll break down some of the lessons of their journey into these little bite sized chunks, and the sound bites, right, they’ll talk about what they said here. And something that inspired somebody to kind of get out of their way here and how they started to build everything. And then the author will go on to convince the reader you that you too can find your own inner icon if you just follow these steps. Now, that usually finishes the book up with some long winded inspirational message, wrapping one through four, everything that I just talked about, in a bow. Now, like I said, the irony is that these books and the hurricanes that I mentioned earlier, have something in common, right? And I said hot air. And you know, they can be entertaining. Without a doubt, right? I have plenty of books that are on the classic reading list. And I love them, and I appreciate it. And I’m sure I would love to sit down and have a cup of coffee or lunch with that author, I respect these people immensely. We’re just having some fun and poking the bear here. So, are they entertaining? Sure. well-meaning Well, for some debatable Of course, there’s some people that they just write these books, so they can try to get on the yak yak circuit and get their name out there and say that their some kind of consultant and then they make the rest of us who actually do consult and work with these organizations look bad. Sometimes these types of books are an author’s attempt at a power play. So like I said, they can hitch this ride on a momentum of positivity movement, because positivity sells, it really does. You know, it’s not hard for organizations to feel like if they need to get their their staff a little booster shot, they’re going to Google inspirational speaker, they’re going to find somebody that has some kind of book title, that just seems kind of catchy, and then they’re going to come in and motivate them and great, all their problems will be solved. But I’ve always looked at these things is kind of similar to gadgets and gizmos that you see promoted in late night infomercials, the books will sell, but they’re not always going to solve our problem between being inspired by some of the Guru’s or almost scared by some of the other ones that tell you to run marathons incessantly and just do everything in life the hardest way possible. You still need to know what to do to improve your life or your business, you know, you need to think about things that are sustainable. And so that’s where we come in. And so when we look at these things, when positive thinking doesn’t work, and it’s not the only answer, what are we talking about here? 


Brett Bartholomew  13:00

Well, stating the obvious, we all worry about expectations. We all worry about failing and the worst of the worst happening, whatever that is going to be. And that’s natural. Our brains are really pre programmed to perceive and find and scan for threats. But there’s more to it than that. And like I said earlier, I’m not saying in any of this diatribe, that positive thinking doesn’t help, it can. But can you imagine going to the Olympics and not being nervous? That wouldn’t work? When I box competitively I’d love to tell you that the night that I won my first fight by knockout I just knew that was going to happen. Now. I I remember it clearly. I had DMX blaring from my headphones. And to give you guys this idea if you’re not familiar with the sport, when you’re an amateur boxer and I just did Golden Gloves, right I wasn’t a professional boxer. But I remember we go to this armory and I believe it was in Wichita but if somebody’s out there and they can fact check me, I’m not gonna lie. I can’t remember where it was. But I believe it was in Wichita, Kansas. And this was my first fight and you don’t know who you’re going to fight. This isn’t really like professional boxing where you go into it. You have all this time to prepare. You can watch film on your opponent. You go into this armory and you have this little almost like a passport. And it’ll say your height, weight, how many fights you had, and different a boxing gym owners or coaches will try to match you up. So they’ll all get together. They’ll say, Hey, I got a southpaw. He’s five, eight. He’s 175 pounds, you know, great. I got somebody that’s this. Cool, let’s match them up. And it’s really kind of crazy. Because some people will lie on their passports. There were people that said they had 10 sanctioned fights. But what they didn’t tell anybody is they had 50 to 100 fights in another country and so pretty shady practices there. But only then would you have an idea of okay, I got a fight tonight. Great. All my training wasn’t in vain. But then you’d have to go change and all the fighters are changing in the same space so they’re always eyeing you up and down. You know, what have you. So most of you, most of us put headphones in. And so I have DMX. It’s dark, and hell is hot. Yes, that’s the real. There’s an intro song that if you guys haven’t been like that was what was going through my my earphones the whole night just trying to block everything out, get amped up, you know, I didn’t have this realistic understanding of the power, both the negative and the positive of arousal. So I was way too stimulated. I’m like doing double unders. I have a hoodie on, I’m just trying to get all this energy out of me. Because you’re nervous, you don’t know what’s going to happen. I mean, even Mike Tyson, one of the greatest athletes, you know, definitely in his prime said he was terrified before getting in the ring. Now I could say, oh, I got this, I’m gonna knock this person out. It’s amazing. But I didn’t even know that person. You know, let alone if I was gonna knock them out. This was the first time I had been in a ring. In a situation that was not sparring. So, you know, just sitting there saying, Oh, I’m going to do great doesn’t necessarily help. You’re going to be nervous. 


Brett Bartholomew  16:01

Now, you could say, Yeah, Brett, but positive thinking would at least kind of calm you down. It would keep other things from distracting you. Well, sure. That’s how I’m starting off this episode. I know positive thinking does work. But you can’t do it all the time. Right? Like, you also can’t be tricked into thinking that it’s necessary all the time. Not all of us are this wake up at dawn, kind of sunshiny we’re singing as we walk out the door kind of person. And this pressure, this overwhelming pressure to be positive, can be very negative, it can be very negative as well. Yes, performance can decrease by being too positive. People self self-worth can decrease by the feeling of pressure to be positive. I mean, think about it, you open your cell phone, and you see everybody’s life on Instagram. And even if you know it’s fake, you’re gonna think, God like what am I doing? What am I doing to move the needle. And this existed before Instagram that the the phrase Keeping Up with the Joneses has existed for quite a while before there was social media. So let’s say you didn’t have social media? Well, you look at your neighbors, you hear about the vacation, they just went on. You heard what they did here. You heard about the promotion, Sally got at work. I go to Sally a lot. I don’t know why I do that. And we always are really rooted in in self comparison.


Brett Bartholomew  17:13

Now, I’m also not saying that you want to think negatively, right? It’s not about thinking positive and thinking negatively. It is about focusing on what’s essential, not getting sidetracked making sure that your bandwidth isn’t tied up in a million things. You know, for this reason, I’ve learned I never checked my email, when I first wake up, you know, I’m not going to do that. And I hope that works. For some of you. Again, none of this is an attack on anybody what you do what have you, I’m giving you something alternative to chew on. I know, for me, I get too caught up in other people’s problems. So just like positive thinking, or trying to force myself to do that, if it’s not natural to me in that moment, you know, opening up and checking my email this, this creates a distraction, it creates something that something else I have to focus on instead of the main thing. So, you know, we think about all this pressure to be positive, all this pressure to be productive, you know, but what happens when the situation is actually bad, and you have to perform anyway. You know, this whole month, we’re doing a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, where a portion of proceeds from any of our online courses, whether that’s bought in or valued any tickets from the apprenticeship sales, any sales from my book, what have you, it goes to fight cancer, I lost my grandfather to cancer. I have another family member that’s fighting pancreatic cancer right now. But speaking about positive thinking, is I remember in my, my grandpa was the quintessential wise ass. And my mom would always tell me that, you know, this nurse would come in and say, Hey, you look good. And he didn’t really like that. He said, You know, I, I appreciate it. And I know you’re trying to be nice, and I value that, but I just kind of like to deal with things as they are, you know, and, and you could look at that and say, Well, what a curmudgeon, you know, but the reality is, is I could relate to it as an athlete. And I’m sure some of you guys could as well. When I lost my second boxing match, I didn’t want somebody to just put their arm around me and say, It’s okay, you’ll get them next time. I didn’t want that that seemed patronizing. To me. What I wanted is somebody to tell me what I could focus on to get better. You know, and that’s where you have to understand, you know how positive thinking can be detrimental if somebody fails, and you just tell them about all the good things they did. That doesn’t really serve them. Now, of course, you shouldn’t sit there and tell them about all the negatives, but you need to tell it like it is, you know, you need to tell it like it is and you need to meet people where they’re at. Now of course you need to assess if that’s appropriate timing or advice for the individuals you’re working with. None of us can coach or advise on a one size fits all kind of canvas here. But don’t not try to placate somebody through positivity, right. That’s an important thing to understand. Because what happens if you’re told just to feel gratitude about everything, you’re supposed to be positive about everything. But you’re going through this really crappy situation. And for whatever reason, your life just doesn’t seem to be meeting those expectations. Well, that takes you farther down this kind of cascade of No, like, I don’t feel positive. And you know what this isn’t serving me, I want to deal with it. When I was hospitalized positive thinking wasn’t gonna get me out of the hospital. It just wasn’t, I was by myself, I couldn’t sit there. And just think about these things and be like, it’s okay. You know, I’ll get out of here someday and look up whimsically at the, at the sky. As the camera panned out. It was action and it was thinking about like, hey, what do I really need to do to get out of here and do these things? 


Brett Bartholomew  20:40

So, you know, one of the main benefits of positive thinking, at least how it’s sold to us, isn’t really the thoughts or the feelings themselves. It’s just that for some, it can be easier to focus when thinking positive. Okay, I have a crappy day, I have this and this and this. Well, what’s good about it, okay, if I think about what’s good, I’m not all gonna get a sudden get pulled into this whirlpool of negative emotions valid, for sure. Valid 100%. But when we go back to this idea of focusing on what’s essential and not positive, you know, I think about this game we play at the apprenticeship called problem solution. Now, it’s a warm up game, and I use game synonymous with exercise or activity, or what have you, right? We know that there’s countries that play war games, they’re not out there, dancing and having fun. And you know, it’s like they’re having a blast. He’s WarGames are simulations. So think of the term game when I mentioned improvisation as in a simulation or role playing exercise. And problem solution is all about one person stating a problem. So I might look at my colleague Ali and say, Hey, Ali, I have a problem. I cannot sleep. Okay, now Ali’s job in this game, and it’s a warm up exercise, is to say, Hey, Brett, I have a solution. And then give me something that in no way, shape or form has anything to do with sleep. Because the idea is in life, you’re going to be given, you’re going to be presented with problems, and you’re not always going to have the resources that you need. And you’re going to have to think laterally. So let’s say she says, okay, Brett, I have a toothbrush. And I know I’m not reaching like crazy there. I could say, Let’s get really weird. Hey, Brett, I’m sorry, you having problems sleeping? I have a solution. It’s a giraffe. So you might be thinking, and people when they come to our workshop and play this are like, wait a minute, I said I had a problem sleeping? What am I supposed to do with a giraffe? The point is not to be right. The point is not to be right. The point is to think about, Okay, I just got to go with what I got here. Great. I’ll ride, the giraffe and the motion from the giraffe will kind of rock me to sleep. Now, it’s nobody’s place to say that’s ridiculous this and this any more than at somebody’s place to say, hey, the cut that that athlete made, or the way that they improvise that play when the coverage broke down, or the way that this person did that and made basically pardon my language shit out of sugar and found a solution. But you that’s not your place, we have to make do with what we have some times, if you get pulled into an impromptu meeting, and all of a sudden, you’re being told that you have to justify why you did X, Y, or Z, or you’re being asked for your advice. And you don’t have much time to think about it, you’re going to have to present a solution. The worst thing you can do in some situations is say nothing. So when I’m telling you about to focus on what’s essential, right? If I said, Oh, I have a problem, Ali, I can’t sleep. And she said, Okay, well, I have a temperature controlled room and assert a mattress and a really great pillow. I mean, that’s positive. But what does that teach me? Right? So the idea is, you want to focus on what’s essential, and not all the time. I mean, we’re going to find ourselves in situations where your thoughts aren’t going to be positive. I mean, when I do a podcast, especially a solo podcast, I think, okay, I could write this out, and then I’ll know exactly what I’m going to say all the time. But then is it real? Now? On the other end, I don’t want to not write anything, and just ramble forever, because then that’s not purposeful. And then I think, Well, either way, is this even going to be a good episode? That’s a valid thought, it’s a valid thought to worry about that. And that means I care about you guys having a good experience. Now, it’s not a great thought, if you know, I let that consume me, and then I never do the podcasts, you know, and that’s a lot of the people that we get at art of coaching is really talented coaches and people that say, Hey, I have this idea. I want to do X, I want to make an impact. I want to do something bigger, but I don’t know where to start. And usually they have an idea of where to start. The issue is they can’t start because they keep convincing themselves. Their idea sucks, or they’re an impostor or nobody cares about their idea, or that people will judge them. Now, those are negative thoughts valid, okay, those things could happen. But remember, they’re just thoughts, move on, you know, and if we think that it’s wrong to think those things, and then we add additional pressure to be positive, that creates a stigma. And we’re gonna get more into the science of this in a minute. So just stay with me.


Brett Bartholomew  25:03

 You know, on top of this when we talk about stigma, and we talk about the pressure to think positively, and we think about how that can be negative in certain situations that might be negative. You know, I read an article the other day on Outside Magazine, and a gentleman, and I’m not gonna go into the whole thing was talking about he grew up in the mountains, and he had something cataclysmic happened to him. And it kind of threw him into a state of depression. And he said, You know, it’s really tough to talk about this, because I grew up skiing, I was very competitive skier, high level skier. But you know, you don’t talk about these things. When, when you’re this outdoorsman, or you’re this extreme athlete, you’re supposed to live. And I love the way he phrased this, you’re supposed to live in this perpetual state of being stoked, you’re just supposed to be stoked that you’re on the, you’re on the mountain, you’re supposed to be stoked that you get a chance to do this. And he’s like, but sometimes I’m not stoked, you know. And by the way, a lot of the people that buy into that mantra, they go out, and they ski all day, or they do this all day, they would party all night. And he’s like, a lot of them would just burn themselves out. And they just run themselves down. But then on the other hand, if you don’t do that, and I saw this in strength and conditioning, culture, listen, I love my roots. I’ve talked about this a lot. But if you’re a new listener, it’s very part and parcel, if you’re in the human performance realm, to just say I’m in this to serve others, I’m gonna stay in the trenches. It’s not about me, first, in last out, it’s not about the money. You know, it’s almost this kind of grooming that takes place where people take this extremist servile kind of persona, and they just pour it in there. But then there’s this ongoing joke, and it said tongue in cheek, that nobody really knows a happily married financially secure, really healthy strength coach, because so many of them burn themselves out. And we see this in law enforcement, we see this in nursing. And anytime you’re just not, I mean, you could, let’s say you won an award and you put it on Facebook, or just like, I’m thankful to have won an award, somebody in the community would kind of whisper to a friend, you know, what a jackass. It’s not about them, you know, and that’s this stigma. So the article goes on to talk about the the issue with mental health in the mountains, and some of the things that goes on with from this frame of, you’re supposed to just be positive all the time and be stoked, and how this really hurt this guy’s recovery. And he wanted to open up about talks with mental wellness and what have you. And there is this statistic. So and this might surprise you. What they found is the Rocky Mountain states. So you’re looking at like Colorado, Montana, you’re looking at Utah, a number of other states rank in the top 10 for suicide rates in the United States. This is from the CDC and data collected in 2019. They go on to say this yearly named suicide belt is home to the would be paradises that skiers and outdoor enthusiasts call home in 2016, a string of three suicides in two weeks in San Miguel County, Colorado, where Telluride is located, contributed that county suicide rate being over three times higher than the national average per year, you know, and here they are here, this individual is being like, hey, you know, there’s some things that me and some other people struggle with. But the sigma is you can’t really talk about it. And I’m not positive all the time. And if I act like I’m not positive all the time, somebody tells me something’s wrong with me. And I should just be positive, you know, and, guys, that’s just not right. You know, and so when we put this pressure on ourselves, let alone on others to just be positive or to have gratitude all the time. You know, it might be well intentioned, but it’s not always well received. It might be well intentioned, but it’s not always well received. Sometimes you have a bad day. And the last thing you want is somebody coming up there and telling you, hey, you know what, you caught a couple red lights coming home, just practice some gratitude. You know, that’s being tone deaf, that’s being tone deaf, you know. 


Brett Bartholomew  25:05

So, think about it this way, just getting back on track with this. If you’re going into a meeting or a situation that’s going to be messy, is thinking positively, always going to ensure that you’re going to be able to adapt to say, a difficult personality, or somebody with an agenda that’s trying to undercut you. Ah, hey, Steve made me look bad at work. I tried to make it look like I made this mistake when really he was the one that sent the email, but it’s alright, Steve’s a good guy, I’m sure he didn’t mean it. You know, like, no, there’s going to be negative thoughts and emotions, you’re going to want to punch Steve, and you’re gonna have to figure out how to perform despite the torrid whispers in your ear from these these inner thoughts, right? I might when we do our improv workshops, there’s plenty of people that think they’re gonna look stupid. At any point in time. I could misspeak, I could bomb a presentation. God knows I’ve jumped into some of the simulations and I bombed it. Other times, I knock it out of the park, but that’s also part of the addictive nature. That’s why we created them, because I got tired of this veil of perfection. I got tired of going to conferences, regardless of the topic and seeing people engage in this kind of like, just coach speak or presenter or speak like they have the answer and that it’s as simple as applying this five step framework, and then everybody out and like they have their stuff together and going home, you know that that wasn’t learning to me, we wanted things to be messy. 


Brett Bartholomew  30:15

Here’s some other ways positive thinking or an overemphasis on positive thinking could be harmful, give you a false sense of security. There’s a lot of times people think, yeah, I got this, and they won’t even prepare, or they’ll prepare kind of haphazardly. Now I’ve been guilty of this, I remember when I first started speaking, the very first time I really started speaking would have been around 2010 2011. And I was a nerd, for our subject matter, you know, I would spend all my waking moments that I wasn’t coaching, studying how to write programs for athletes, and, you know, just nomenclature here for the non initiated periods, how to periodized programs, how to how to increase strength, and power and all these other things. And so when I was given this speaking opportunity, I remember the company that I’d worked for at the time had these slides. And they’re great slides, you know, and they would be on these topics. And I’d be on the plane and somebody that I worked with, would say, Hey, are you going to look over these? And I’m not saying this is a good thing, by the way, I’m telling you, you know, where I made mistakes. And I’d say no, you know, the reality is, if I’m meant to be in this profession, I better know what the hell I’m talking about. And as long as those slides, you’d have a clear prompt, you know, I’ve studied this subject matter, I’m going to be good. Now, part of this was, you know, I had a fascination with self sabotage. I always wanted to put myself in these really tough situations to kind of see what I was made of, is the same reason why I wanted to just go to college in a different state, I wanted to put myself in a situation where I knew nobody, how would I react? When I took other situations or jobs, I loved that it was a high to me, because it let me know directly what I needed to work on. If I failed, you couldn’t hide from that feedback. Of course, I could kind of persuade myself, well, you gave it a go, you know, that was kind of a raw attempt. Now, let’s see what you got. If you actually prepare. And I want to be clear, it’s not like I didn’t look at anything, but I wouldn’t obsess about it. I wanted to know and, and, you know, there’s some people that think they can know it a little bit too well. So maybe I didn’t know that subject matter. But could it have been better, right? That’s where it harmed me having this false sense of security, hey, I know this stuff, I should be able to figure it out. But it wasn’t about that. Then I started kind of growing up and realizing okay, even if I don’t need to study the subject matter, I’m going to study a little bit more about the host or one time I went to Norway, I wanted to study more about Norwegian culture, I could find some way I’m not just gonna say I’m gonna figure it out. When I get there. Everything’s gonna be good. Because you know what, I’ve now traveled guys easily over half a million miles. And most of the times I go present, there’s either no Wi Fi, there’s an issue with the audio. At one time, I went to a foreign country, and they didn’t have a projector and they asked me if I brought my own just about any situation you can think of happens. So you know, you don’t want to fall into that trap. When I look at it from preparing athletes, you know, and that standpoint, overconfident athletes, and individuals don’t always plan for contingencies in their performance. What if this goes wrong? What if I get caught, you know, with a faint, and then I catch a left jab, and I wasn’t really paying attention to this, what happens if something goes wrong, or I wake up, and I don’t get that much sleep that night, and my recalls poorly. And this happened with COVID, right? People were unprepared in their businesses and their finances, and it impacts all of us. So none of this is critical. I’m just saying the realities. And we can also be overconfident in our relationship. So let’s slow it down for a moment here. How many people do you know and maybe it’s you that thought your relationship was good, or they think everything’s fine. There’s no issues, you know, you you wake up, you tell one another, you love each other. You go about your day to day, you’re good partners domestically and in other ways. But then some day, they just tell you, I’m not happy. This isn’t working. You don’t ever tell me that you appreciate me? You know what’s going on here. There have been countless people throughout history that get caught off guard in a variety of ways. And that’s because we can have this inattentional blindness that can come from positivity, you think everything’s okay. And that changes what you focus on, because your scope of vision is narrow. And we know on the other end, if you just worry all the time, that’s problematic, too, that that’s not what today’s podcast is about. It’s a devil’s advocate take on being too positive. So it stay on point here. 


Brett Bartholomew  34:28

So another time, you know, sometimes negativity and fear prompts us into a sense of urgency, which I think is one of the most valuable resources or traits that somebody can have. You have to have a sense of urgency. You have to, because when you can draw upon a sense of urgency, you understand that there’s no time to waste and you need to key in on what’s essential. Urgency can be the very result of a balance of our emotions, highs and lows, clear focus, and a tight timeline. Right. That’s a huge part of what they call Parkinson’s Law, you know, work will expand to fit the time that you have for it. If you’re writing a book or you have something going on, and you have till June 2022, and it’s January 2021, you’ll be very surprised in the amount of ways you can distract yourself and waste that time. But if all of a sudden, and I think about this, as I, as I record this, I’m going to be traveling again, for a significant amount of presentations and speaking events. Soon, I got a lot of presentations, I either got to create, alter, adapt in some way, whatever synonym or term you want to use. And the irony here is, if I start now, yeah, that’s good. But I tend to do some of my best work when I get a little bit worried. And when that timeline gets a little bit tight. Now for me, that’s because I’m such a curious person, I’ll start overthinking the project, I’ll start coming up with a wide variety of ideas I’ll look into my notebooks have so many stories and facts and statistics and things like that, that I want to add in. But all of a sudden when it gets a little bit closer. Now I know All right, there’s a real consequence here. If I don’t get this locked in, it makes me focus on the essentials of the story. 


Brett Bartholomew  36:11

So positive thinking is not always the golden rule, you think it is, our mind is not always our friend. As I said earlier, it’s built for survival, it’s not always going to move us in the direction we want to go. headline here, for those of you that have done half life, your message and our workshops, our thoughts can become threats. Now, it’s not always about what you think about but how much you let that saturate your your psyche. And this is what led to and again, giving giving credit to the individual I mentioned earlier, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or what’s called ACT. Now, this isn’t some cure all. I’m not somebody stepping out of my lane and prescribing something I’m telling you about a construct, I’m telling you about a construct, now within ACT, and it’s not going to be the purpose of this episode to go through it fully. Just giving you some some tips here. There is an approach called cognitive fusion. And fusion in this context means our thoughts dominate our behaviors. You know, they’re inseparable, I, you know, if I think I’m gonna win, therefore, I’m gonna win. Well, that doesn’t always happen. You know, I think I can make her fall in love with me or him fall in love with me. And, and by God, it’s going to happen, right? We’re determined, well, that doesn’t always shake out that way. I’m gonna make my flight 100% whoops traffic jam didn’t happen. Right? So our if our, if our thoughts dominate our behaviors, and they’re inseparable, right, but like, then what happens if you’ve had thoughts that are unhelpful? Is there somebody really in the world? You know, like, if we look at a David Goggins, which may be a really extreme example. And this guy’s just like, you know, he’s constantly telling himself this and that, and he talks about in his past that he didn’t always have helpful thoughts. But now I wonder like, what is he just confident that he can accomplish absolutely everything under the sun? Is somebody that’s climbed Mount Everest thought that, you know, if I ever climb it again, there won’t be an issue? What have you I mean, nobody’s ever just confident 100% of the time. And if they say they are, they’re full of it, because you’re not always in control of your thoughts. I mean, think about some of the twisted things that have entered your mind. Just relax a little bit of it, admit it. Think about jokes, you’ve said with friends, when in the privacy of your own home, or what have you think about things that you thought about just in the dark recesses? You know, I haven’t really, you know, sometimes I wonder if anybody thinks as dark as I think, because, you know, my mind can go some awful places. And I can go some wonderful, visionary like places to, you know, but what none of us are in control. So imagine if we all lived in this state of cognitive fusion, where our thoughts always dominated behaviors. But that’s what a lot of these positive thinking gurus app like, Hey, you have a negative thought just countered it with a positive one? No, you shouldn’t do that at all, accept the thought for what it is, accept the thought for what it is. It’s a tourist. Right? It’s just coming in, what was that thought? Oh, my God, why did I think about that, get that out of my head. But don’t sit there and all of a sudden start snapping some rubber band on your wrist, you know, and thinking, Oh, my God, I need to think positive what’s wrong with me? Because then that just goes down that whole stigma side of things again. 


Brett Bartholomew  39:18

You know, so, what researchers suggest is that what we really need is a sense of cognitive de fusion and this is spelled D, E, F, U, S, I, O, N cognitive deffusion. Now, this connotates a separation or detaching or a distancing from our thoughts. It’s critical to be able to step back and see our thoughts for what they really are. It is, you know, we ran an apprenticeship recently in Dallas, and by all accounts, it went really well. But there are some things I was not happy with. And I was in a funk the day after, and I remember telling my wife and Ali I was just like, I’m not you know, I’m not happy with this. You know, this whole thing sucks. Now Mind you, we have well over, you know, God knows how many data points and people that have come and said, this has been immensely helpful in my relationship, my life, my business, what have you. But what mattered is that I wasn’t happy with something that I experimented with and did. And so that led me to just feel like, Alright, I’m going down this, this thing is awful, and what have you. But no, a day later, I could step back and be like, You know what, man, most people would never even create something like this, let alone go and speak for 16 hours and put themselves in the center of this kind of improv scenario and kind of put their name behind it, there’s going to be good, there’s going to be bad, there’s things you’re going to be happy with, and whatever. And what that was, was just a perfectionistic, unhealthy, unhelpful thought, I let it go. I saw it for what it really was. I didn’t sit there and just start, you know, going down the positivity train the whole time. And an interesting thing about ACT is this. Okay? When you think about, and I want to think about how I want to phrase this, you know, when we’re children, when I look at my son Bronson, who’s about 19 months or so, he lives in this world of sensory experience, he feels the table, he wants to taste the apple, he smells things, he wants to grab the pine trees in the backyard. Everything is sensory based, everything is sensory based. And that’s how we all start life. He doesn’t have a ton of thoughts going on. Now, does he have synapses and an abundance of neurons, and everything’s firing all over the place. And he’s going through a tremendous amount of development? Sure. But he hasn’t really even developed theory of mind yet, this idea to understand, hey, what I think is not what everybody else thinks, and vice versa. Because he’s not really thinking a bunch right now. He’s interacting with the world as he sees it. And as he senses it. But as we develop, right, and I want to make sure I’m clear. So when we’re born, we live in a world of direct experience, very sensory oriented. But as we develop, and we get older, we develop that theory of mind, we learn how to think, and our world of language expands rapidly. And as we continue to develop cognitively more and more and more, we spend more time in this internal world of our language, our thoughts, the dialogue we have with ourselves, and it looks stupid in this, oh, I’m gonna crush this presentation. What should I have for dinner tonight? I shouldn’t do that I should work out instead, you I should do this. I should do that I should write a book. No, nobody would read the book. Oh, everybody read the book, it would be the best book ever, you know, just back and forth positive, negative. And this is a world of varying degrees of reality. Because we know our thoughts are not reality. Our thoughts are not like if they’re not, we’ve said this a million times, right? It’s we need to get back to living in a world of experience. I can read a book, I can have many thoughts about what I read in that book. But if I don’t go out and apply that, or I don’t have a real world experience, then what what good is that doing me? You know, and that’s why, again, at our workshops, we don’t want to do, hey, just watch the slides, Nope, you’re gonna get up, we’re going to normalize failure, you’re going to roleplay we’re going to put you in situations, you’re gonna have small group discussions, because we need you to experience this cascade of emotions, so that you can get better feedback. 


Brett Bartholomew  43:16

So cognitive deffusion is like, mindfulness of thinking, as Dr. Reddy O’Connor says, I’m being aware of my thoughts and what they are, I can detach, oh, man, I’m stepping into this ring. This dude looks way bigger than me, I’m gonna get my clock cleaned. Just step out and you don’t know that duty might not have any defense, you know, just step back detach from it. Take a second think why am I thinking this way? Does this thought serve me? Can it be used? Right? And how could it be used? A lot of times negative thoughts can be used to help you prepare for worst case scenarios, right? We have this balance, guys quit thinking of positive and negative. Thank you useful and not useful. That’s why listening is so impactful. You know, when you’re when we’re improvising at our workshops, when you’re listening to somebody in life, you shouldn’t be thinking about, Oh, I’m going to judge what they say. You should just be listening to what they say. Listen to what they say in the context of the moment, and what they mean. If you can just detach while being mindful. And that is possible. I’m talking about detaching these labels of positive and negative and being mindful of just what the thing is itself. Right. That’s what’s critical. So while we talk a lot about power dynamics at our workshops, oh, power, influence, persuasion, these things are the dark arts, these are bad, they are not. They are tools that are utilized every single day of your life. What makes them bad is the individual bad or good? Is how the person who wields those skills, no different than any other tool or anything like that. So I want you to consider that for a moment. Your thoughts no matter how well developed no matter how much you challenge your own biases can blind us to a reality that if we just give ourselves up to it would advance us. You know, that’s the importance of being able to be in the moment and take what you’re given make something out of nothing. You cannot act or improvise effectively, let alone make decisions. When your internal dialogue is deafening, and that internal dialogue is telling you Oh, just think positively, you’ll figure it out. What have you embrace more of a world of experience, and embrace effective action. Think could I take action on this thought? Does it serve me to take action on this thought? No. Okay. Right. And that’s the value of improv and role playing. So when we’re in a state of deffusion, we see things for what they are experiences in our head that were encoded a certain way. And I really failed, or I looked stupid there. Why do you think that that happened recently, we had a coach come to our event and felt like, he really blew up. He, you know, he’s like, Man, I didn’t do well on that activity. Why do you think that? Well, I got stuck here. Okay, but at least you did it. So work it again, go and do it again. And why did you think that was a failure? or what have you? I’m not trying to be like, you know, Pat, on the back, I started asking him questions. And I say, Do you really think that was a failure? How did everybody else perceive that? And if it was a failure, right? How are we going to leverage that? What are you gonna learn from that? That’s a useful thought. That’s not me saying you can’t fail. There’s no such thing as failing. That’s not That’s not what we’re talking about. You know, this also goes into this idea of, well, if you’re telling us not to think positively, then you know, what about worries, you know, because surely worries can’t be good for us wrong. Worries can help us, you know, if your mind scanning for danger, which it’s really good at, right? Like you need to understand that typically, you don’t worry about things you don’t care about, you know, you when when we’re worrying, we’re worried about our financial health and well being our own physical health and well being the well being of our loved ones, our reputation, you know, whatever. Now, some things might be sillier than others, you know, and certain worries can be taken, you know, way too far. But I always tell people, you know, if you’re anxious, that means you care. If you’re anxious, that means you care. If you’re super nervous, or you know, you’re on this dimensional scale that is somewhere else, you know, in terms of it’s just a crippling anxiety, well, you might be unprepared then. Right? assuming there’s no medical condition. But worrying means you care about something, you know, you’re not afraid of the dark, you’re afraid what’s in what could be in the dark, our mind is always going to warn us of what might be true, not necessarily what is true. Negative thinking can be a sign, you’re actually in the right place, putting something that we value on the line, right? That’s you just gotta have skin in the game. I just I don’t understand the logic and thinking that we can be positive all the time, if you’re really challenging yourself. Even if you think about this idea of flow state, well, don’t you get in a flow when, you know, that challenge is just, you know, right at this kind of Goldilocks zone between your current abilities and where you need to stretch your abilities. So if it’s a challenge, you might think, Alright, I got this, but there’s going to be a period of your time if that challenge is worthwhile, you’re going to think does this make sense? Is this good enough? I don’t know. So now you focus on making it better. When you worry, or you’re not quite sure if it’s there, you’re making it better. If you’re positive all the time, you might be a clinical narcissist. So, you know, change that perspective, get distance, reevaluate the way you approach problem solving, and think about the nature of your language, right? Think about the nature of the language that you’re using, whether this is good or bad. Nothing’s good or bad, really, in life, guys, I’m sorry, a lot of it’s in the gray area. And please don’t be that person that’s like, Well, what about harming children? Or whatever? Like, No, don’t, don’t be that person. When I’m talking about it, you have to understand that greatness operates in the gray area. Greatness operates in the gray area, it’s the messy reality of the world we live in. 


Brett Bartholomew  48:59

So a couple of sample exercises here. You know, you can think I am a failure. Or you could say, well, I noticed I’m having the thought that I failed. I’ll say that again. You could say I am a failure that’s making your thoughts a reality. Or you could say I noticed I’m having the thought that I am failing or that I did something bad. You know, label the difference here. You’re labeling one as an experience versus an assertion. An assertion is I am a failure. You’re making an assertion, you’re making a point. It’s emphatic. Right? I noticed I’m having the thought that I’m a failure that I failed. That’s an experiential kind of thing. Oh, all right. Well, why are you having that thought? What led to that now let’s do some critical reflection here. But our thoughts feelings and actions don’t have to go together. That takes me back to those leadership books. If you just think and you and you feel it, it’s gonna happen no, you don’t manifest stuff right out of thin air guys. Sorry. We don’t you know, and I might not be your favorite person for telling you that. I might not be but you just don’t manifest stuff. It’s gonna happen. Right? And so I you know, one thing I challenged myself as we come to the end of this episode, is I always want to say, Okay, what do you want the audience to think? And what do you want them to feel? And then what do you want them to do? What do you want them to think, feel? And do? I want you guys to think about where you can apply this. I want you to think about where positive thinking have fun with this a little bit. Where’s it not serving you? Where you may be a little overconfident? Where do you need to embrace some demons a little bit more, it’s okay, go to the dark side a little bit, it might help you wonder a little bit deeper. Okay, I feel I want you to feel challenge, I want you to feel challenged regarding your assumptions. Regarding positive thinking, I want you to feel a little bit challenged, I want you to bring it up to your staff, I want them to have a little bit of an argument with you, I want you to think twice about going to buy the next leadership book that somebody says is amazing, when it just tells you hey, you can solve it in five steps and just love people up. And, you know, tell them, they did a great job and show that you’re empathetic, and it’ll all be good. You know, think about that the world is getting increasingly more fast paced. And people we live in this attention economy, not everybody, you’re not ever going to be able to build warm, fuzzy relationships with everybody. And then what I want you to do, I want you to practice this in some respect to daily weather with a sample exercise I gave you, you know, any of those kinds of things, I want you to find some area in your life, where you can practice this, because that stuff is critical. And I want you to just be a little bit more cognizant of the terms that you’re using in general of saying, hey, is this positive? Is this negative? Is this good? Is this bad? Where are you using that kind of labeling language?


Brett Bartholomew  51:38

You know, when somebody came, I think to our Dallas apprenticeship, and we were doing an exercise where it was, it was very simple. It’s not worth explaining too much in here. But the idea is, somebody will give a word like marker, okay. And the whole idea is okay, we have a marker, and what can a marker be used for? To edit a document, right? Draw a picture, what have you? Sure, but we want to put some pretty big constraints we want people to think. So we’re saying, Hey, you have to think of uses or features or functions, or colors of marker or whatever it is. It has to start with the letter M. Right? Because that was the Word and this was the rules. Cool. Go around a circle. Maroon? Yep. Well, that could be a color marker. mov All right. That’s a different take on maroon to modify. Okay, yeah, you could edit a document to make me up. You could make a picture. We go around, and a good friend of mine that was there says, Man, this is dumb. And I said, Oh, yeah, why? And he goes, Well, this is just dependent on having a great, you know, vocabulary. I don’t have a great vocabulary. No, that’s not what this game is about at all. It’s about that you have this thing. In this case, it’s a marker. And then you have these constraints. In this case, you have to use the letter M and talk about features, functions, colors of the marker, and you got to keep the ball in the air, just like you might have this thing a deal, right, a contract. And then you might have this constraint, well, it’s got this limiting non compete, or it’s got something else. And you’re gonna have to think of a way around that. And so him and I go back and forth a little bit because it’s not about the exercise. It’s about what the exercise teaches. And eventually we turn to an individual and Kyle, if you’re listening, I appreciate you here. And Ryan, you know, I love you, too. And Kyle was a Marine, or once you’re a Marine, always a Marine, Kyle as a Marine. I said, Kyle, can you tell me about something you did while training to be a Marine that was not directly related to warfare or combat but taught a useful lesson. And Kyle talked about well, yeah, we had to deconstruct toilets. We had to clean toilets. We had to organize this, we had to do that. Oh, well. What did that teach you? Surely that’s not directly related to hand to hand combat or, or strategic techniques on the battlefield, No. what it’s related to his attention to detail. Just like improvising in the exercise with the markers related to divergent thinking. And divergent thinking is related to creativity. And it’s not very creative for you to label things in a black and white fashion. That doesn’t do anybody any good. Don’t do anybody any good. It’s as a matter of fact, it’s almost a surefire way that you will get caught up with the entanglement of your own thoughts, memories, worries, fears, self criticisms, you’ll get caught up in life draining actions, because you’re always worried about being judged. You’re going to struggle with your own feelings, and you’re going to avoid challenging situations. You are, you know, and you should think about that anyway, what situations activities, people places, what are you staying away from right now? What have you quit? What have you withdrawn from? What have you dropped out of? What are you overly skeptical of? What do you keep putting off until later? Because some of that has to do with these things getting caught up in those thoughts. So our thoughts don’t become our feelings and our actions. Why would we only focus on the positive ones? Because there’s way more useful ones out there, guys. That’s it. And I know my delivery was pretty tough to listen to today. I’m on one, you know, I’m just this stuff has impacted my life in different ways. It has, you know, I was the function of a label when I was hospitalised so sometimes I get passionate and I apologize. I know that that episode might have just sounded like a chainsaw going off the entire time. But you know what? I have many imperfections myself at least you always know where you stand with me and at least you know what I care about. And at least hopefully you know I’m not BS-ing you. I appreciate all of you who listen regularly to the art of coaching podcast. I hope if this is helping you that you would be kind enough to leave a review in the Apple podcasts app. tell five friends about it reviews are critical. If you don’t want to leave a review for that, please do so for my book conscious coaching. Our work is for everybody. We hope to see you soon. Until next time, Brett Bartholomew art coaching podcast

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