Jerry Colonna: The Coach With the Spider Tattoo – The Tim Ferriss Show

Check out The Tim Ferriss Show Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • 4 Important Questions to Continually Ask Yourself
    • “How have I been complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want?”
    • “What am I not saying that needs to be said?”
    • “What am I saying that’s not being heard?”
    • “What’s being said that I’m not hearing?”
  • The suffering that anyone experiences can almost always be traced back to not saying something that needs to be said (or not saying it in a way that can be heard)
  • You NEED to continually evaluate your life and ask yourself:
    • “How are things going for me?”
      • If you’re constantly anxious and overwhelmed, why are you doing it?
    • “What would I like my children to feel at the same age as I am?”
      • If you’d like them to feel something other than what you’re currently feeling, now is the time to start changing the way you live your life
  • Be careful of using “busyness” as a way to distract yourself from your own unhappiness 
    • Some people use heroin, some people use coke, and some people use work… all to to distract themselves and avoid feeling things they’d rather not feel 
    • To add – Just like being busy to avoid feeling things we don’t like to feel, many people also have a tendency to maintain unhealthy relationships in order to do the same.
  • Ask yourself: “Am I a good person who’s doing the best I can?”
    • If your answer is yes – then you don’t have to feel guilty saying to somebody, “I don’t have the space to do the thing you’d like me to do”
    • You are NOT responsible for other people’s feelings
  • Pick up a damn journal. Here are some prompts you can use:
    • “Right now I’m feeling…”
    • “In what ways do I deplete myself and run myself into the ground?”
    • “Where am I running from and where am I running to?”
    • “Why have I allowed myself to be so exhausted?”
  • It’s crucial to give your monkey mind a voice – let it speak
    • One of the best ways to do so is through journaling
  • Remember – “You are not alone. And just because you feel like shit doesn’t mean you are shit.”

Books Mentioned

Intro

The Story Behind the Spider Tattoo on Jerry’s Chest

  • In 2007, Jerry went on a retreat led by a Jungian echo-psychologist
  • During the retreat, Jerry had a dream
    • Long story short – in the dream Jerry saw some mushrooms. He told the retreat leader about it, who then instructed him to search for the meaning meaning behind them. Jerry then saw those same mushrooms the next day on the ground, deep in a forest (the retreat must have been somewhere remote)
      • They spoke to him (yes – then mushrooms) and said – “Jerry, you’re too afraid”
  • Jerry continued his walk around the forest and then saw a spiderweb + spider 
    • The spider told him – “Jerry, you worry too much. You’re children are going to be fine.”
  • “A few months later, on my birthday, I got this spider tattoo above my heart so that I can never forget the fact that I worry too much and my kids are going to be alright.”

Thoughts of Suicide

  • In 2002, Jerry was working at JP Morgan, co-leading a $23 billion tech investment fund
  • Largely driven by the 9/11 attacks, Jerry had thrown himself into the Olympic bid effort, joining the campaign to bring the 2012 games to NY
    • “For me this was a profoundly important effort because MY city had been attacked… the city I love… the city where I grew up… the city that had so much meaning to me.”
  • In February, Jerry (38 at the time) left an Olympic bid committee meeting (not far from Ground Zero)
    • “I remember feeling completely overwhelmed and feeling like there were ghosts flying around that area. I wanted to die. I was obsessed with the idea of heading down to the Wall Street subway station and leaping in front of a subway.”
      • (The threat was real – when Jerry was 18, he attempted suicide, and ended up spending 3 months at a psychiatric hospital
      • Jerry, recognizing he was not mentally well, called his therapist and immediately went to her office. She convinced him to spend some time at the Arizona branch of Canyon Ranch (it’s essentially a health spa).

How was Jerry, in 2002, complicit in creating the conditions in his life that he would have said he didn’t want?

  • (Note how good this question is)
  • Frequently ask yourself: “How have I been complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want?”
    • COMPLICIT not RESPONSIBLE – you’re not responsible for all the shit going on in your life
    • “…that I say I don’t want” – Let’s expand:
      • “There is something often times about the way in which we operate and the way in which we set up the conditions of our life to be in unconscious service to us”
      • Humans repeat things
        • We always date the same type of person
        • We’re always frustrated by the same sort of situation
  • “The way I was being complicit was I wasn’t speaking… I wasn’t saying what I needed to say”
    • “The suffering that anyone encounters can almost always be rooted to not saying something that needs to be said (or not saying it in a way that can be heard)”
  • What specifically?
    • “I wasn’t happy. Despite all the outward success, I was empty and hollow inside. I wasn’t speaking truthfully and living in integrity. I was too afraid of losing the good graces and esteem of everyone around me to actually talk about how I wasn’t happy doing what I was with my life at that point.”
      • (working with JP Morgan)

On to Better Things

  • Building off the above, Jerry had fears of leaving JP Morgan, despite knowing the career path wasn’t right for him:
    • The biggest of which was – “What if I don’t matter anymore?”
  • Jerry ultimately concluded:
    • “I know things aren’t working… I don’t know what I’m going to do, but what I had been doing hurt TOO MUCH, and if I have to suffer the consequence of a loss of status or affirmation, all the external trappings, SO BE IT”
      • “My soul basically said – ‘Listen mother fucker, you better sit down and pay attention to your life, because the stakes are too high'”

3 Important Questions to Continually Ask Yourself

  • “What am I not saying that needs to be said?”
  • “What am I saying that’s not being heard?”
  • “What’s being said that I’m not hearing?”

How did Jerry find his way to coaching?

  • On the plane ride to Canyon Ranch in AZ (see above), Jerry read 3 books which he found tremendously valuable and helped him find his true calling:
  • The coaching all started here…
    • Jerry recalls meeting a young lawyer who came into his office to network
      • He asked him “What made you want to become a lawyer in the first place?”
        • This really got to the young guy – he was miserable and was largely on his career path because he wanted to please his father
        • Jerry gave him a copy of Let Your Life Speak and sent him on his way
      • Moved by this experience, Jerry knew he was on to something 
        • A few days later, he signed up for a coach training program
        • “I felt empathy…. I knew his feelings. Even though the content of the story was different, my experience was so similar. I had been so ruled by fears that I had been living in a box that was not of my making. It was somebody else’s box. It was the wrong box.”

Going Deep

  • “Even today in my worst moments, when I’m able to be with someone else’s pain… I magically feel relief from my own unbearable feelings”
    • THIS is compassion at its core
  • “I think the call to coaching was also partly to go back in time and save myself”
    • Tim comments: “By helping people who are in similar positions or experiencing similar pains to what you’ve experienced, you are healing that younger version of yourself in some capacity”
  • “There’s a universal wellspring of pain that everyone shares. In a similar fashion, there’s a universal wellspring of happiness and joy that we all share. If someone’s in a painful spot, I can tap that universal wellspring of joy and point it a little bit more at your suffering (and you can do the same for me).”

How are you?

  • This is a question Jerry likes to ask all his clients
    • He’ll often follow it up with – “No really, how are you? Don’t bullshit me.” How are you really feeling?”
    • If answered truthfully, the question is can be very powerful

Jerry’s Advice to the High Achievers

  • High achievers, in early life, figure out how to succeed in school and then translate that framework to work
    • But – “The highest achieving people, often times come to me scared… because there’s a little whispering voice in their ear that says, ‘You are a fucking fraud.'”
      • “If that resonates with you – you might also recognize the anxiety. You put your head down on the pillow at the end of the night and tell yourself, ‘My God, I don’t know if I can do it again tomorrow.'”
  • You NEED to ask yourself:
    • “How are things going for me?”
      • If you’re constantly anxious and overwhelmed, why are you doing it?
    • “What would I like my children to feel at the same age as I am?”
      • If you’d like them to feel something other than what you’re currently feeling, now is the time to start changing the way you live your life

Jerry’s Advice to the “Busy” People

  • Ask yourself: “How is “‘being busy’ serving me?”
  • “Busyness can feel fucking awesome:
    • It can feel great internally – “Look at all the great stuff I got done”
    • It can feel great externally – “Look at how busy I am, I must be important”
  • BUT – “Busyness can also serve to distract you from those voices inside that say, ‘Hey – I’m not happy.'”
  • Here’s the thing…
    • “Somewhere around 35-50 years old, the systems that got you out of childhood, that got you established, that got you to the point where you think you got it all figured out…. they all start to break down, they all start to collapse”
  • “When I see someone who’s busy in their early 20s, I see a striver trying to establish themselves. But when I see someone who’s busy who actually doesn’t need to be that way, I get really, really curious. What internal need is trying to be met by all that busyness?”

Let’s Dig into Tim’s Life

  • He currently has 618,952 unread emails, 165 + 255 unread texts (2 phones)
    • Tim says he actually only feels a minimal about of anxiety/overwhelm about this
  • Jerry advises Tim:
    • “When did you start feeling overwhelmed and how long have you been feeling that way? While feeling overwhelmed, did you take on more tasks? How familiar is that feeling and how does that feeling serve you?”
  • Tim comments:
    • The overwhelm started when Tim was an undergrad in college – “My solution to feeling anything I didn’t want to feel was adding more activities”
      • “Some people use heroin, some people use coke, some people use work… I used activities”
    • In 2004, after writing The-4-Hour Workweek, Tim largely change his life
    • But now…
      • Paraphrased: “There’s something on my shoulder that says, ‘You might need this person later on'” – In reference to any given email or text that comes in
      • “Where I think I find difficulty is when people who have been very helpful in the past, people who were supportive in the early days… when those people reach out to me asking for a favor”
        • “But if I’m listening to my body, it’s not a full body ‘yes’ – there’s a large part of me that doesn’t want to do whatever they’re asking me to do”
        • What’s the fear of ignoring these requests?
          • It more so has to do with disappointing people/hurting their feelings (social cost)
          • But it’s always important to remember – You are NOT responsible for someone else’s feelings

3 Things We All Need

  • There are 3 basic risks we’re all trying to manage, the need to:
    • Be loved – we want to love and be loved
    • Be safe – we want to feel safe (physically, emotionally, and spiritually)
    • Belong  – we want to feel that we belong

How can busy and overwhelmed people (like Tim) better establish boundaries?

  • Seth Godin has some good advice:
    • Get comfortable saying – “I wish I could, but I can’t” in response to requests
  • Jerry advises – Always take care of yourself first
  • Jerry has another analogy:
    • Picture your life surrounded by a fence with one gate, which only opens inward, and only YOU can control when the gate opens
      • To people you want to keep outside the fence – “Love them from afar”
  • Sharon Salzberg has said:
    • “All beings own their own karma (the consequences of their actions). Their happiness or unhappiness depends upon their actions, not my wishes for them (not the actions I do or don’t take).”

How to Break Up With Friends

  • Tim says he has a few Newmans (from Seinfeld) who keep asking for favors etc., despite multiple hints from Tim that he’s just not into it
  • You need to ask yourself: “Am I a good person who’s doing the best I can?”
    • If your answer is yes – then you don’t have to feel guilty saying to somebody, “I don’t have the space to do the thing you’d like me to do”
  • Just like being busy to avoid feeling things we don’t like to feel, many people also have a tendency to maintain unhealthy relationships in order to do the same (even when those unhealthy relationships make us feel other things we don’t like to feel)
  • You need to realize – “You are good just as you are, not because of the connections you’ve maintained. Those people who love you and care about you and understand the essence are going to fine, even if you say, ‘Hey, I’m sorry, I just maintain this connection.'”

Jerry’s Journaling Process

  • Jerry (55 now) has been journaling daily since age 13
    • But – he never goes back to reread what he write
    • “It’s not about figuring shit out, it’s about the experience”
  • His process:
    • The prompt: Jerry will start by writing – “Right now I’m feeling…”
      • He’ll then explore the feeling – Where is it coming from? What is it doing to me? 
    • Jerry then finishes by “blowing a kiss to himself”
      • He might write – “Easy man, you’re doing the best you can”

Journaling Prompts

  • Here are a few from Jerry’s new book
    • “In what ways do I deplete myself and run myself into the ground?”
    • “Where am I running from and where am I running to?”
    • “Why have I allowed myself to be so exhausted?”
  • As mentioned above, Jerry’s favorite is to ask – “Right now I’m feeling…”
  • Jerry will also commonly ask follow up questions, like:
    • “How long have I felt this way?” 
      • This ideally will bring him back to earlier memories, allowing himself to see certain patterns

The Crow on the Shoulder

  • This originates from Marie Ponsot – one of Jerry’s professors in college
  • Every one of us has a crow that sits on our shoulder who constantly tells us that we, and the work we do, are shit
  • While journaling, Jerry will often write with a different color pen, allowing the crow to speak
    • “The mistake a lot of people make is they try to shut the crow up, but that crow is a really interesting voice. That crow tells us all the things we’re doing wrong and the ways in which we’re not enough.”
    • The crow’s mission is to preserve your ability to be loved, to feel safe, and to ensure you belong
      • It makes you feel like shit, but it’s really doing you a favor – it’s trying to keep you safe (although it’s a little too active)
  • Similarly – Tim has found extreme value writing morning pages to start the day to give his monkey mind a voice
    • He uses The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal 
    • What are morning pages? – At the start of every day, you write down everything on your mind
      • It’s essentially a huge brain dump (fears, worries, thought, anxieties, ideas…everything)
  • Just know…
    • “When these voices are not given air time, they get really pissed off.. really, really angry. The energy they hold is really important. By giving air time to these voices, we get to lay out all the conflict that exists within us.”
    • These different voices/parts of you serve a purpose in some shape or form and were probably at one point fundamental to your survival

Jerry’s Morning Routine

  • He wakes up between 5-6 AM (usually without an alarm), showers, and then has coffee
  • He doesn’t check his phone
  • He then journals for about an hour and meditates for 30-45 min.
  • Jerry adds: “The entire period feels like one quiet meditative period”

Guilt vs Remorse

  • “Guilt is self-focused. Remorse is about the other.”
    • Remorse = “I hurt someone’s feeling and I would like to not be hurtful”
    • Guilt = “OMG, I can’t believe this” = Rumination

The Best “No” Jerry Ever Gave

  • To walk away from the venture business and stop being a professional investor when he was 37-38
    • This was extremely difficult for Jerry to do, as it was something he was pretty good at – but he just wasn’t happy
    • At first, Jerry left his position with Union Square Ventures and joined JP Morgan (he thought he just needed a job change) – but, his internal state was largely still the same
      • (This was right around the time of Jerry’s stay at Canyon Ranch after his psychological break down – see above)
      • He made a difficult decision and left shortly after starting with JP Morgan
        • “It was a feeling of utter relief and absolute terror”
  • What would Jerry’s advice be to someone in a situation like his, scared to leave a secure job for the unknown?
    • “Remember you’re not alone. There are adults, men and women, who are on the other side of that gulf and they’re just fine. You’ll be fine too… There have been other people who have done this before. You’re going to be okay.

What is a new behavior or belief that has greatly improved Jerry’s life?

  • “That I am a good man… I believe that I’m a fundamentally good person”
    • “I am good, just as I am”

What would Jerry’s billboard say?

  • “You are not alone. And just because you feel like shit doesn’t mean you are shit.”
  • A bonus – “This too shall pass”

Additional Notes

Bookmark
Facebooktwitterredditmail

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

FREE! THE TOP 10 PODCASTS OF 2018, AND WHAT WE LEARNED

You'll also get our weekly newsletter with the takeaways from our curated list of top podcasts. Unsubscribe anytime.