Ian Morgan Cron is "The Awakener"

addiction change your story christian enneagram parents purpose spirituality suffering transformation yoga Feb 07, 2022
Ian Morgan Cron is The Awakener

February 15th, 2022
Episode 01: Ian Morgan Cron, The Awakener

Ian Morgan Cron is a best-selling author, psychotherapist, speaker and Episcopal priest. He's obsessed with stories and how we weave them throughout our lives. He helps people change their own narrative to live with purpose and he does it through enneagram, an ancient personality typing system. 

This episode is for you if:
- You need support in reframing your story
- You like deep conversations that force you into self-awareness
- You geek out on enneagram and Ian Morgan Cron's work

What's in this episode?
Ian Morgan Cron awakens people to the truth about themselves and their lives. He uses enneagram to help people get clarity around their personality and the way they've chosen to interpret a situation. 

He also helps us understand suffering in an objective way, walking us through the transformative process of reevaluating what we've been through. "When we allow difficulties to carve out space within us," says Cron, "It can feel empty, but it leaves room for your greatest self to emerge."

Ian details the difference between accepting a situation and resigning to it, a critical difference that will allow you to move past the negativity and break through to the other side.

"Human beings are processes; we move toward wholeness," says Cron. "We ebb and flow like the tides."


📝 Show Notes 📝

- Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff (covering the inner life of the astronauts who went to the moon)
Mo Willems (children’s author who said “If you find yourself living in the wrong story, leave.”)
- Lauren’s 5 Truths of Purpose
Eugene O’Neill “Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.” 


Connect with Ian Morgan Cron
His books



0:00 - Intro 
1:04 - Why enneagram?
6:56 - Ian’s personal story
9:14 - Why am I here?
11:21 - The story of YOU
15:38 - Acceptance vs Resignation
19:46 - The power of story
25:30 - Why Lauren started AMPstigator
26:38 - How you physically feel purpose
29:35 - The goal of Ian’s books
35:08 - Best Time/Worst Time
46:24 - Ian’s purpose
52:07 - Kintsugi


[Episode transcript]

- Ian Morgan Cron was the first person I interviewed on day one of our season one shoot. It only seemed right to have him lead everything off. He's a bestselling author, speaker, psychotherapist, and Episcopal priest who helped pioneer the recent Enneagram explosion of the last six years. I kind of consider him the godfather of Enneagram. Ian's book "The Road Back to You" from 2016 continues to be a bestseller. His follow up book "The Story of You" really challenges people to change the stories they've told themselves that are no longer true. But if you ask him why he's done it, he'll tell you it was to help people find their purpose and make sense of their lives. He awakens them to possibilities and to their highest calling. This is Ian Morgan Cron, the awakener. I think we should start with Enneagram.

- Okay.

- For some people, it's almost like a way of life to know their life through Enneagram. For others, they'd probably scratch their heads and have no idea what Enneagram is. Where do you start with people who don't understand Enneagram?

- Well, first of all, I just tell them what it is, right? And the Enneagram is this wonderful ancient personality typing system. It teaches that there are nine fundamental personality styles in the world. One of which we gravitate toward and adopt in childhood as a way to cope, right? To feel safe and to navigate the new world of relationships. So that's what it is in brief, right? And then normally I'm always sort of talking people off the ledge of the Enneagram because it's so uncannily accurate in its descriptions of these nine types that people really get kind of, they dive in, they get so excited about it.

- Because they see themselves in it.

- Oh, right away, right? And to them, it seems like it explains everything, right? And I appreciate the enthusiasm, but I'm like, "Hey, listen, there's a lot more to life than the Enneagram." So I give them about six months of like grace period, and after that, I'm like, "Stop being so frothy-mouthed. You're just too-"

- You're too into it.

- It's a wonderful tool, but life is big.

- When did you first become acquainted with Enneagram? I mean, because you've made this late life career off of this system.

- Late life?

- Well, I mean, you'd think a career of like starting at 20 or 21 or 22, 23. That would be an early life career, I'd say. Would late life be 80 in your book? What would you think?

- Yes, absolutely.

- Okay. So midlife career. You've made a midlife career out of Enneagram. When were you first acquainted with it?

- I was in grad school doing a master's in counseling psychology and I went up to a retreat center in the mountains of Colorado just to take a break, right? I'm in the library of this retreat center and I just see this book called "The Enneagram" on the shelf and I'm like, "Well, I ain't got nothing to do." So I went over, I pulled it down, I started reading it and I couldn't stop. I was like, "I'm a grad student in psychology. Why has no one ever talked about this?" And I began to do a dive into it for a couple years. I dabbled after that. And then about 10 years ago, I returned to it and I was like, "I'm going in."

- Yeah, this is it.

- This is it.

- Did you always know that you could help people with it? Was a book in the front of your mind?

- No. No. I just thought I've always been a sort of a self-improvement junkie, but also on the hunt for material that I think could really help people to understand who they are and how the world works, right? I can actually tell you this story. I was getting pressure from my literary agent to write another book, this was my third book. And I was like, "I don't even know what to write about." I was kind of in a rut. I couldn't figure out-

- You couldn't find the interest anywhere.

- I was on the corner of Fifth and South Margin in Franklin, Tennessee, and I had heard a bunch of people talking about the Enneagram stuff. And I was like, "Boom." It was like an epiphany. And I went, "I'm gonna write a book on the Enneagram," because no one had really written about it for the general market in like 30 years. And I was like, "There's a big hole in the line, I'm running through."

- Well, Ian, when I've described who you are to people, I've said, "Well, he's kind of like the godfather of the modern Enneagram movement of the last five, six years." You're the don. You're one of the people. You're one of the people that many people have looked to and said, "Well, okay, this book, this book," because they've found truth and they found themselves in it. I mean, was that always the goal?

- No, it was a great surprise. It was a lovely surprise, right? I've read brilliant books that went nowhere. they sold 2,000 units and they deserved to sell two million units.

- Why does that happen?

- I'm not a genius. I mean, a lot of what happened for me was just luck, right? It was the moment the the week the book dropped. I mean, so many things went in my direction. So I try to keep that in mind that-

- Well, I mean, let me call you on that because it can't just be the week the book dropped, because now here we are five years after that landmark, buck-stopping book and people are still sharing it and they're still reading it and picking up for the first time because it's almost like the greatest way to hear about something is a testimonial. And your book is like a testimonial magnet, I feel like that book. Don't you feel that way?

- Well, I think one of the things that really helped was the first primer on the Enneagram on the market. So it was an introduction, like a lot of books on the Enneagram are like that thick and they're technical. Content rich, but sort of dry. And this book was narrative and it had stories to illustrate different personality styles. Some of them are quite funny, you know what I mean? It found the balance between giving good content and also being an entertaining read.

- And that's what I find interesting about you, I think, because you do have all of that experience as a therapist, and then also as a priest. You've spent so much time and decades of your life with people and helping people after helping yourself. So where do you wanna dive in next? You wanna dive in with your own personal journey?

- I'll go wherever you want.

- Let's start with your personal journey, 'cause I know in your twenties there was, your twenties were hard.

- Oh, I'm my gosh. Aren't twenties hard in general?

- They are, mine were hard. Mine were so hard, I'm so glad I'm past that point.

- I know. People were like, "The best time of your life." I'm like, "Really?"

- It wasn't mine.

- No, it was not mine at all, at all. So I grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, right outside of Manhattan. I grew up in a very troubled home. I had a dad who was a chronic alcoholic, died of alcoholism like at 63 and a mom who was not as involved as she should have been, you know? So I essentially raised myself. I mean, I sort of had a feral childhood. I ran among the wolves, and I just was like out there trying to find my way in the world on my own. So into my twenties, I began to have to face what happened when I grew up and what didn't happen when I grew up. Toward the end of my twenties, I had to face my own struggle with addictions and begin to take stock of my life and find my way in the world as a healthy person.

- When did you decide to become a priest?

- Yes, I decided to become an Episcopal priest in my forties.

- Wow.

- Yeah. So I actually I'm a psychotherapist, a priest, I was a songwriter here in town.

- I didn't realize that.

- Yeah, here in town. I was a speaker, an author. I sort of had this portfolio life. It's like I never landed on one thing. I landed on like five or six things that I loved.

- Well, okay, so that's what I love when you're a multi-passioned person. And I think there's a lot of people out there who are like this, who find that there's so many things that interest them, and so they're never quite sure how do you focus on one thing? I'm one of those people that I have so many things that I enjoy doing. And I do personally feel like, it's like the fallacy of how we deal with teenagers. As they're growing up, we say, "Well, what do you enjoy doing? That's what you should be 'cause that won't feel like work." Well I'm sitting over there going, "I really like talking. Can't make it a career out of that." But then here I am. That's one of many things, right? Like if I'm the middle of the wheel and everything spokes from that, how do you help people when they don't know where to focus their energy or their love or their just their time for what they really enjoy doing?

- Yeah, I think all of us have an inner architecture, right? And part of the journey of self discovery is finding out what is the errand upon which I have been sent here, right, to fulfill? And that can be a very circuitous road. And it was for me. I'm a generalist, I have an interest in so many things and I love it when I can take different disciplines and overlap and see patterns that go in new directions. And I'm like, "Whoa, that's fantastic." And I love to share it with other people. And so I oftentimes will say to people first of all, when you find something you love, just jump into the industry of whatever it is and find your way. Like, don't think to yourself, "I wanna be a, a broadcaster," right? Just go into that industry and you'll find whatever thing it is that you really want to do within it. And I've done that with my own kids and it's worked pretty well for them.

- Someone has called you the awakener. Why do you think that is?

- Well, I think because it's a passion of mine is to awaken people to really the beauty of who they are and to awaken them to live true to themselves in the world, right? To be authentically who they are. To see that we live in a universe that's brimming, right? It's enchanted. I really see it that way. And to find their way in it, and to also, it's gonna sound kind of strange, I've always been someone that wants to help people understand their suffering, right? I mean, we all suffer in this life and what does it mean and how do we leverage it for some higher good?

- Ooh, so let's dig into that because I do feel like suffering has a major role in your newest book, in "The Story of You," which I found just such an easy read. Page-turner, it's just so pleasant to read, and then so informative and enlightening, too, as you get into those stories of each of these Enneagram personality types. But suffering, we can't avoid it, right? That's part of human nature. That's part of the human experience. Where do you think we all go wrong as it deals with suffering?

- Boy, in so many ways. One would be we take it personally, as though the universe is conspiring our having to move through very difficult seasons is any personal, right? It's just the nature of life. I think also it's interesting, I think the etymology of the word suffer is to allow.

- Wow.

- And I think one of the things that people don't do is allow suffering. They push against it or they grasp onto it too tightly. And I think part of what health is is being able to live with open hands. To say, "This is what is right now. And how can I be the highest expression of myself in the midst of this suffering?"

- How old were you when you realized that?

- About three weeks ago. It's a gradual kind of realization in life. It's like so many things are gradual, very few things come as epiphanies, right? Like instantaneous. It's like one day, it's just like there's a gradual awakening to how that this is the way the world is. And so we have to figure out along the way to that epiphany. And it's a hard slog sometimes, and a beautiful slog. I saw a bumper sticker the other day and I just laughed out loud. It said, "This is life. It sucks. You're gonna love it."

- And here we are.

- And I was like, "Well, that's pretty good theology. That's pretty good psychology right there, right?"

- Yeah, you're gonna love it.

- You're gonna love it.

- The sooner you can just let go, right? I think for me, that lesson is something I've really just learned this year. Where, ah, gosh, it's just so easy to feel like you're a victim when you're going through problems. And this year, my 36th year, was the first time where I had to step back from a major, major issue and open my palms and say, "I'm ready. I know I have to get through this to get to the other side." And I believe the sooner I can just allow the suffering and be okay with it and get past that part, that's the time the lesson will come. That's the time the reward will come. At least I tell myself that. I don't know if it'll actually happen.

- I had a therapist once say to me, I was whining about something. Or is the British say, whinging. I was just whinging away in his office. And finally he just sort of leaned in and he was a very quiet man. And he leaned into me and he goes, "Ian, this is your life. These are the cards. Now what." And I was just like, just threw me back on my heels. 'Cause we have to figure out in the midst of all the difficulties of life, how to see it in context, like what does this mean in the broader story of the world and how can I leverage what I'm experiencing to become the highest expression of who I am in the world? And when we allow difficulties to carve out space within us, right, it can feel empty for a long time, but it then makes room for your greatest self to emerge. The green shoots start to come up if you give it time. If you don't push it away, if you don't hold onto tight to it, but you just live with it until it chooses to move on, and it does.

- So I wanna ask you when anyone listens to this, I mean, it sounds like you're saying acceptance, but what's the difference between accepting that and hoping for change within that suffering? Do you understand what I'm asking?

- Yeah.

- Because sometimes things get so awful and you don't wanna accept it as, "Hey, this is the way my life is and it's never gonna change." Is there a moment or a point or a line that we draw of acceptance with hope versus acceptance with defeat?

- Yeah, the thing you wanna avoid at all costs is resignation, which I think is the opposite of acceptance, right? It's just resigning yourself, right? I love the word hope. I do love the idea that in the midst of it, we pay attention, right? We do have these open hands. We pay attention to what's happening. We don't resign, which is this kind of falling back, right? With hopeful anticipation, we lean in, but with open hands to whatever it is that's happening in that moment and accepting that it perhaps is making us into somebody we couldn't be unless this moment didn't exist.

- Yeah, and it it's allegory, right, because you're a yogi, I'm a yogi. Open palms is allowing whatever is supposed to come to come.

- To come. Yeah.

- I think there's an energy there when you do that, too. And it's like it clicks with your brain. Like I'm going to accept this. Whatever it is, I'm ready for it.

- Haven't you noticed it, even in your own life, if you're striving for something and it eludes you constantly. And then you say, "All right," you throw your hands up. It's like, "I've tried so hard." And that's the moment the universe goes, "Here it is." Here it is.

- You know what, it's funny, because as a single 20 something, that's what friends would always say. "Well, you won't find a man until you stop looking." That's what they say. I don't know. I've been married a long time at this point.

- It's kinda true, isn't it?

- It is, though. When you stop looking for something, it's almost like that's the point that you're ready for it, which is kind of, it's kind of sad, really, because when you really, really want it, you really, really want it. But why are we not suitable to receive it at that time, I wonder?

- Did you ever read "The Right Stuff?"

- Mm-mm. I can't remember the astronaut, but it's a story of him in a sort of a plane that he was test flying, right, a new model of plane and the plane went into a dive and it began to augur down.

- Oh, that's scary.

- In a spin. And normally in a jet when that happens, you pull up on the stick. You start to try and force the plane to level out. And in this particular instance, he just took his hand off the yoke and the plane automatically corrects. But in our lives, we don't think let go is a great idea. Like letting go of control never appears to be a good idea in the moment. You know what I mean? And there is this kind of trust and acceptance. It's like, just let go, just let go. And in the letting go is a kind of, paradoxically, it is an action. It isn't a resignation. It's like, this is a decision.

- It's a choice you make.

- It's a choice, yeah.

- Let's talk more about "The Story of You" because the thing that really captivated me with what you were writing was something that I have articulated somewhat, but struggled to articulate fully in this last year as I've really been thinking about those words, writing the story of myself, seeing others writing the story of themselves. And you began to articulate how we are holding ourselves back in the stories that we're telling ourselves about our lives. For me, because I'm in television and I'm always reading scripts, the words I'm always finding myself saying is, "I'm reading someone else's script. It's time for me to write my own script." What does that look like? And how does that story end? I'm in control of that. So why story? Why does story hold so much power for you?

- Well, I mean, story is kind of everything, right? We see our lives as a story unfolding in real time. Think about it, we have like the cheesy old pickup line when someone says, "What's your story," right? We talk about turning the page in our lives. We talk about, oh, in this chapter of my life, this happened. Like everything is narrative, there's an everywhereness to story, right? And the reason is as little people, we do craft a story that we tell ourselves and others about who we are and how we think the world works. And it's really necessary to be able to come up with some kind of narrative to make what we're going through coherent, right? Now, that story helps you survive childhood, right? But when we bring an old script, an old story into adulthood with all of its wrong beliefs and all of these internalized messages we've picked up as little people and we drag it into adulthood, it starts to wreak havoc on our lives. Helps us as little people, undermines us as adults. And at some point we have to say, "Is this the story I wanna live?"

- Are there steps to even get to that point? Because I feel like there has to be some level of self-awareness to even ask yourself that question. 'Cause that seems like a question that's very deep and very far down the road of self-awareness.

- Well I think there are moments in life where we hit walls and we see oftentimes in the rear view mirror of our lives a debris field of broken relationships, jobs we shouldn't have taken over and over again. And these are clues. Like maybe I'm in the wrong story here. Maybe I've cast myself as the victim. Whatever it is. And it's time to find a new narrative, a new story, to make sense of who I am and how the world works. And it's so exciting when you begin to say, "I'm letting go of the story my family told me, my culture told me, my gender told me, whatever it is, and I'm going to take responsibility for my life and consciously write a new story. A story that's truer, a story that's more aligned with my values, with what I know to be true." And it's a constant journey of editing and rewriting, but to get the basic bones of that new story, fantastic. It's really exciting. And I think it happens multiple times in life, but to be aware of the narrative, to say, "What am I telling myself about who I am and how the world works? What am I telling others about who I am and how the world works? What's the underlying premise of this false story I've been living in and how can I create one that's true and authentic and life-giving, generative?' To me, that's fantastic.

- Well, that requires someone to be objective of their own life. it requires you to almost like leave your body, stand in the corner and look back in the third person at what your life is or has become and where it's going. And that takes incredible strength, awareness. It also, I think what you were saying about letting go. That requires a person to let go so much that they can truly see themselves for who they are, where they are, what they have become.

- Yeah, and of course, again, there are these pivotal moments in life that we hit. Like, for example, for me when I realized I had to get sober. Like this story is not working for me, right? And there have been other moments in my life that were similar where it is a wake up. Waking up from the trance of the old story, right, which I had just been blithely kind of banging guardrail to guardrail through life, not knowing why I wasn't hitting all these bumps. It's like, because you're in the wrong story. That's why. Do you know the author Mo Willems?

- Yeah, I've got three children. Yes, I've got lots of his books.

- Mo Willems has one of the greatest quotes ever. He says, "If you find yourself living in the wrong story, leave." That's an amazingly simple but profound statement.

- Well, and to take that even further, I do feel like so many of us get in situations that we don't like, and then we resign ourselves and we tell ourselves that there's no choice. And I feel like that's, I mean, that's the greatest error.

- Yeah, don't you feel like sometimes you look back on difficult times, let's say you have a difficult childhood and you think, "Well, I'm stuck. This is it." These are the cards I was dealt. I just gotta do the best I can, given what I was dealt, right? I find that sad. And it's really a capitulation. It's like saying, it's just not knowing that you are the narrator of this life. You get to choose how you interpret what happened back there. You have the right and the agency and the responsibility to those you love to say, "This story doesn't have to be mine anymore."

- Mm, I love that. Oh, it makes my heart so full because truly, I mean, this is the story I've been saying to myself. These are the words I've been saying to myself. It's the reason that I've started this podcast. Because I had to look at my own life and say, "What's missing here? What's missing here.?" And for me, meaning was missing. Purpose was missing. Being able to look at my children and say, "I'm doing something that's making a difference." That was so important to me because when I'd leave them and anyone who has little children at some point, your children say, "Don't go, don't go. Don't go to work. Don't go here. Don't go there, stay with me." And if you are at a point where if you cannot say, "What I'm doing gets me so excited and it makes such a difference. I'll be back soon. You're gonna be so proud of what I'm about to create." I found if that, I wasn't able to say that. And I wanted to create something that allowed me to say that to my little children, because I thought they deserve to see an adult example of someone living with purpose.

- Let me ask you a question.

- Please.

- How do you know when you're in it, when you're in the flow of that experience?

- I've tried to articulate this for a few weeks. So it's interesting that you ask me this now because I'm not quite sure, but I have this feeling, it's a physical feeling for me. I have this feeling that's about like right here, probably right underneath the sternum. I know that sounds so funny. But it's like this warmth, spark. I actually, I think it's the part of the gut. I'm trying to remember the part of the brain and the, is it the basal ganglia? Or basal ganglia, anyway, basal ganglia that has that connection to the gut. It's one of the oldest parts of the brain. So where that is connected. I feel like when I feel that sense, it's the same sense you get when a situation is wrong or dangerous. It's the same sense I get when the situation is right, Because it feels so, gosh, it just feels so clear and so true. I don't know how else. Have you heard it explained in a way that makes sense?

- Let's just for a moment think about this moment. So here we are, we're talking about these large ultimate questions of life. And I like the way I imagine it is that all of us have like a bell inside, like a bell in our chest and when it starts to vibrate and ring and then it sympathetically makes yours ring in the moment, right? And that's how I feel in this very moment. We are talking about larger questions of life and the things that really matter beyond how am I gonna pay the bills? What am I, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. All important things. But the transcendent quality of life. And suddenly my bell starts to ring, and then I realize your bell is ringing sympathetically and we're both leaning in and then I go, "For this I was made." I think that's one of the ways we know.

- Okay, have you written about the inner transcendent bell?

- No, not yet.

- Because if you haven't, I am. That's what I'll call it.

- Welcome to Nashville.

- Well, I love though that you and I share two things. We both are storytellers, self-proclaimed, and then also we both hate surface level conversations. I cannot stand surface.

- I know. I do. It's one of the reasons I don't go to parties.

- Well, you're so charming, Ian, you could go.

- I like small parties and I love to host them in my house so I don't have to go out.

- Oh, yes. Yes, I'm there. Maybe we're the same person just separated by a generation.

- Maybe we are.

- That's right. Or two.

- No, no, probably not. Probably just one. When you think about what has to happen now for "The Story of You" to have the same impact on people that your former book had, "The Road Back to You" had, what is your hope for that? Is the goal always to impact lives or what's the goal?

- It's definitely to speak into other people's lives for sure. You know what, like when I do speaking events, one of the greatest highs, it's very similar to the twin bell thing that I just mentioned is when you're in a room and you see the lights go on in people's eyes because of something you've said, and you can even feel like this, if I dare use religious language, like the room becomes humid with God, you know what I mean? And it sort of falls over the room and there's this moment of connection and people look at each other. It's like, "I'm not alone. You too." It's a me too moment. It's like, "Yeah, me too. This is how it is." And with the, with "The Story of You," that's what I'm always hoping. I hope that when people read books that I write that they don't feel as alone on the journey of life. It's like all of us are looking for a new story. All of us are trying to figure out who we are.

- We all crave connection.

- We all deeply crave connection with each other. One of the things that I missed when I was writing songs, because it's very quick, you can see it very quickly, right, that kind of impact in three minutes. But when you write a book, it goes out into the world and you don't see what it's doing. Oh, and by the way, people can listen to you. "Here's a new song." And then they can listen to it like right there. When you put out a book, it's weeks before you start to hear back from people. So you'll like of in the suspended tension. I don't know if "The Story of You" is gonna do. I mean, look, "The Road Back to You" has sold over a million copies and it's continuing to sell. It would be a unicorn if it did that well, right? And so I think back to that sort of phrase, just let go. It will do what it's gonna do. If it reaches a handful of people and changes the trajectory of their lives, fantastic, right? And I have to keep telling myself that every morning, because it's like a sophomore record and it's like- The pressure's on?

- The pressure's on, and I'm like, you know what? Just let it go and don't worry. It'll be what it is.

- I wanna ask you about, about being a vessel for a message. Do you feel that way when you write?

- Oh boy, that sounds so lofty.

- Or do you feel like you have something you have to, "I have to say this, this is what I have to say." Or does, as you're writing in that process, do things just sort of come to you in epiphanies and then they come up on the book? What's that process like, that writing process for you?

- Hellish. I hate writing. This is an old expression. I think it was Dorothy Parker. I hate writing, but I love having written. It's like writing is hard, it's so hard. And I found it very hard having a successful book in my rear view mirror to write the next one. Of course, you're a little bit like, "How am I gonna do that again?" It's like, you gotta let go of that. Just let go of that. I'm a writer, not an author. I think authors get up every day and they love writing and they sit in front of the computer and they discipline themselves. Like I don't write until I have something to write about.

- Yeah, until you're sparked?

- Yeah, until I'm really ready. And so yeah, writing. And I'm a perfectionist sometimes, which is the curse.

- It's it the worst, right, to edit yourself along the way?

- It's so terrible. It's like, you can't have a creative and an editor in the same brain at the same time. You gotta have just the writer, worry about the perfectionist later. And I'm not very good at it.

- I think that's great. I think that's great. I wanted to ask you about self-expression as you're talking about writing, because some people don't express themselves through words. Plenty of people express themselves other ways. How important do you think it is to find some level of healthy self-expression no matter what that is for any given person?

- Well, I think there are different personality types, you know what I mean? And I'm a type that just finds it so important to communicate what's happening in my inner world and to find a point of connection with other people, and also to invite them into the journey of exploring their inner terrain. Not in a way that's navel-gazing or self-absorbed, you know what I mean? That's not what I'm interested in. It's like just helping people direct their gaze enough inward that they keep developing as a human being. Now, there are certain types of people who I think are just naturally self-reflective, right?

- I'm one of those. I know I am.

- Me too. Me too. And other people, they have to burn more calories to be self reflective. You know what I mean?

- It's more work.

- It's more work for them. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't do that work. I mean, there are some people who are really great at working out in the gym. It takes me more calories to get to the gym-

- Then to actually do it?

- Yeah, right, so everybody's got certain resistances in life to different things and you just have to overcome them and do them, right?

- I wanna play a little game with you. I feel like in life, it's very easy to think that when you're going through something, you're the only one. And I think that's also the beginning of feeling like a victim, living in this like space of victimhood in your mind when there are true victims in this world. But often we aren't one, but we choose to put ourselves there. So when we're all going through things, I think it's important to make sure that people understand everyone has gone through this. Everyone has struggled. Everyone. Not everyone has gotten past those. Only the people I think who've made the choice to get past them have.

- That's why I hate, by the way, when people say "I really feel you. I mean, I don't know how you feel right now." And I'm always like, "That's not good news." You know what I'm saying?

- That doesn't help me.

- It's like, "No, I really don't want you to make my pain that unique." I wanna know that within a square mile of here, there are other people who feel precisely the way I do at this moment. And it could be joy and it could be suffering, but I really don't want you to tell me that, "Nobody really understands how you feel, but I wanna be here for you." It's like, "Well, don't tell me that."

- Yeah. Get outta here. Get outta here. So I wanna play a little game with you.

- Come on, let's go.

- This is what I call best time, worst time.

- Great.

- Are you ready?

- Mm-hmm.

- You can answer each question as long or as brief as you want. It's totally your choice.

- Careful. Careful.

- I'm in the loquacious people. You just go for it. Best time in your life.

- Right now.

- Why?

- And I know that sounds very hackneyed, it's like, well of course a self-help author would say that. This moment. But it's true. You actually did say something at the beginning of the interview that's very true. I found something later in life that is just amazing, right? It's like talk about a new chapter in life. A lot of people at my age are starting to think about how do I retire and go play golf. You know what I mean? How do I go move into a gated community and die quietly? And I'm like, "Nah, that's not exactly what I was hoping for, right?" And here am, I'm 60 years old. I wrote a book at 55 that has been meaningful for people and for me, and here I am sitting with you, it's a beautiful day outside. This really is the best time in my life. I never thought I would have this time in my life and come on, here I am, it's fantastic.

- You're so present-minded. I love that. Worst time in your life.

- Right now.

- Really? How can those coexist?

- Well, I mean, I could answer that question one of two ways. Obviously, I mentioned how I grew up and there was a lot of hard times there. It was a physically abusive family, an emotionally abusive family. There was sexual abuse. There was real hard times. It wasn't until I got to college that life began to take a turn for the better, And even after that, obviously I mentioned getting sober in my later twenties. That had bumps, too, but those are inevitable. What I mean right now is when you have something happen like what's happened for me in the last five years, all of your insecurities come roaring to the surface. Do you know what I mean? It's like people think, "Wow, you're really riding a," well you are, but you're also, you know what I mean? You realize, "God, I thought I got over that when I was about eight," And it's like, you do worry about different things. Suddenly you have more income than you used to have. And it's like, "Well, what if I lose it?" That'll keep you up at two in the morning. Or, "What if people stop liking me?" "What if I become irrelevant?" You know what I mean? And I'm almost embarrassed to say those fears out loud, but-

- They're very human emotions, though.

- Yeah, but I mean success and failure come hand-in-hand with each other and it's a little, and I'm really glad it happened at this point in my life 'cause if it had happened to me at 30, that wouldn't have been great.

- Right, well you were newly sober, essentially.

- Yeah. There was a lot. I mean, I don't know how I would've dealt with some of the things that I deal with now.

- Let's keep going, huh? Tell me a turning point, a major turning point in your life where you look back and say everything changed from that moment.

- I guess one would be when I got into college and I know that sounds strange. But here I was, I had grown up through high school and I do remember a moment in my, maybe my freshman or sophomore year in high school when I realized you're on your own kid. You either make this thing work or you don't. And I worked really hard, I was going to restaurants at night to stay away from home, but I would be doing my homework with stuff laid out in a restaurant like in a booth just 'cause I couldn't work at home. And I really took hold of my life at that moment. And I got into a great college that I'd never thought I'd get into. I got there and it was like maybe I can make something of my life despite what I've been through in the past. And so I'd say that was a major turning point for me. But I do specifically recall thinking to myself, I almost can remember where I was, in fact, when I said, "You're on your own, you gotta make this work."

- Or else, right?

- Or else, right.

- Yeah, greatest moment of clarity.

- Greatest moment of clarity. I got a call after I wrote my first book. When you write a book, you're like, "I don't know if I can write a book," and it was a novel, right? And I'm like, "I don't know." And I turned in like the first three chapters to the publisher and just, we didn't have cell phones then. I was like sitting by the phone like, "When are they gonna call and tell me the gig's up and I have to give the advance back? I had misrepresented myself." And the acquisition editor called me and said, "You know you're a writer, right?" And I went, "What?" You know how sometimes people will just say one sentence and you're like, "That just changed my whole life." Like my whole identity shifted. She said, "Oh yeah, you're a writer." The literal line she said was, "Don't ever let someone tell you that you're not a writer."

- What a gift.

- Oh my gosh. And that was a moment of clarity. Like, oh, I could do this.

- Yeah. She changed your story.

- She changed my story.

- I love that. Something about your nature you've overcome.

- Oh, something about my nature that I've overcome. Well, I'm not sure if there's anything I've overcome as much as tamed, do you know what I mean? I mean, I can't look at something and go like, "Well, it was just like quitting smoking." It wasn't like that. It was more like I've had to tame certain parts of my life. Like my ego can run riot, right? And I just have to keep my eye, there are different parts of my life I just sort of keep my eye on from time to time. I'm like, "That needs a correction." And what I mean by ego, it's not like, oh, I'm just so high on myself. Sometimes it's I'm so low on myself.

- But you're just so focused on self.

- Totally, and that's something I have to work on. I'm involved in a 12-step recovery community that has supported me for lots of years. And I have a sponsor who sort of watches over me and helps me in my own development. And whenever I go to my ego's sort of like running outta control, like its hair is on fire and it's running around the house, and it's either, I'm the best person in the world or I'm the worst person in the world. You know what I mean? And I've just learned to observe it in real time and kind of giggle at it.

- Look at me right now. Look at how crazy I am.

- There it is. And I do think that's the journey of self-awareness, of being able, and also developing unconditional self-friendship, the ability to step back from yourself and giggle a little bit and say, "Well, that's okay." That's what humans do. Everybody does this sort of thing. You just don't have to stay doing it. And community has helped me a lot in my life to maintain the perspective of not letting my ego go nutty. And we all have it and we all do it.

- We all do. We all do. No, you're totally right. What do you find yourself saying a lot lately? Is there a phrase that keeps coming out of your mouth?

- Yeah. Boy, there are so many. I'd say that that one is that compassion is, self-compassion, is the natural climate in which people heal. I do think that the enemy of growth is shame, right? This feeling of not enough. And self-compassion, which people resist, it's the strangest thing. People think, "If I just beat myself up, that'll change me." It's like, no, it won't. It'll make you worse. I've never met someone who hated themselves into becoming a more loving person. Ever. And so I think, and it's been a journey for me to cultivate self compassion. And I just kind of refer to it. It's like when my ego catches fire, starts to feel like grandiose, like I'm the best or I'm the best at being the worst. You know what I mean? It's like, I just sort of go, "Well, have a little self-compassion, this is what people do." This is gonna sound like a bummer, but I do think we're all broken, but that doesn't make us bad. And people tend to equate brokenness with being bad. It's like, no, we're all broken.

- So what's the aspiration then? Do we aspire for wholeness?

- Yes, yeah. In fact, in Latin the word wholeness is from which we get integrity, to move. And I don't don't think wholeness is an arrival. It's not a place you can actually get and go, "Ooh, here I am, whole." It's like, "Nah." Human beings are processes and we're moving toward wholeness. We get glimpses of wholeness, of being at peace with ourselves and world. And it's a little bit like the tide, it ebbs and flows. We come closer and then we go back and then maybe the next wave is further in and oop, and then this one's not as far in. And that's just part of the adventure. It's all about progress, not perfection. Progress, not perfection. If you got progress, great. But progress, not perfection.

- For those of us who like perfection, that's just a really hard-

- It's really hard.

- Hard lesson to learn.

- Perfection is the enemy.

- What's your purpose right now?

- I would say if I had a mission statement, which is a phrase I hate because for there was a season when everybody had a mission statement, but if I had a mission, I'd say it was to help people enter into deeper conversation with the mystery, maybe of God, and of who they are as human beings. To help them enter into a deeper conversation with who they are, that they might become more true to themselves and live in the world that way.

- And Enneagram does give, I feel like, it does articulate, I think, for people. It gives another way for people to describe themselves, explain themselves, don't you think?

- Yeah, I think the Enneagram gives us this beautiful low-resolution picture of ourselves, right? It's not complete clarity. I mean, it's just a tool, and there are other tools that are helpful as well. But boy, if you even get 10% more clarity about who you are, that's a giant evolutionary step forward in your development as a person. If you can get 10% more clarity about who your partner is or your children are, or the woman behind the CVS counter, who's annoying you, and you develop because the Enneagram gives you great compassion for what it is that other types of people struggle with in life, you know? I mean, it's a lovely way to begin that conversation with yourself about who you are, about what's not working and what is doing fantastic in your life.

- Last question. So I asked you what your purpose was. When did you realize what your purpose was?

- I actually know the moment.

- Let's hear it.

- I was driving across west Texas. I was on my way to a speaking date. I'd never been in west Texas. Do you know west Texas is really cool? And it's got like all these cool hills. And of course, a lot of great music came outta west Texas and now I understand why having seen the landscape. And I was always thinking to myself, "Okay, you have nothing you could put on a business card to describe what you do, nothing." It's like you're a therapist, you're an Episcopal priest, you're a songwriter, you're a speaker, you're an author. It's like, well, my poor kids, what do they say when someone says, "What does your dad do for a living?" They'd have to go like, blah, blah. And so I'm like a portfolio of different things, right? And then I realized that all of those different disciplines were, in my way, in an unconscious way, of trying to give myself training and understanding about different types of people and helping them to realize, to self-realize. And it's like, oh yeah, that's why I wrote songs. That's why I became a therapist. That's why I became a priest. You know what I mean? And it was like, oh, and that's when I wrote that statement of purpose in my mind was driving across west Texas. And that's when I said to myself, "Oh, my job, the errand upon which I've been sent here to perform, right, is to help people enter into that deeper conversation with themselves and with their higher power or whatever we wanna call God, or like that's my purpose and to help them become who they are and the highest expression of who they are." And it's not me leading them, it's me inviting them to accompany me as I go on that journey and kind of share what I'm learning along the way and hoping that they'll join me, 'cause it's really fun when you do it in community.

- Oh, I agree. What something you just said is something that I've been thinking a lot about as I've found myself so drawn to people who have purpose. I've tried to figure out what is it about purpose that's so magnetic. What is that? And I've started to develop what I think are the truths of purpose and you just named one of them, which is there's a point for anyone who has purpose. There's a point in their life where no matter the age, they decide to look back and say, "Oh my gosh, I've been doing this purpose. this work the whole time. How did I not see? I was pinballing from boom, boom, boom. From purpose to purpose. It all fit under this same umbrella."

- And some people are fortunate. I love Yo-Yo Ma the cellist, right? I just, I love his spirit. I mean, just forget his playing, which is magnificent, but I just love his spirit. Every time he talks, I'm always like, "Ugh," I just sort of melt into him. At eight years old, that guy figured out his purpose. I mean his purpose found him big way. That's a stroke of like one in a trillion people get that. You know what I mean? Whereas the rest of us do have to kind of grope around in the dark a little bit to find the switch. And so I think for many of us, hopefully at a point in your life, when you can really live into the purpose for a couple of decades, it just takes us time to find ourselves.

- Yeah, and until then we have to walk around broken and be okay broken?

- Yes and you have to be broken and beautiful. Do you like kintsugi? Do you know about kintsugi?

- Mm-mm.

- Oh well, come on. You're welcome. Here we go. Kintsugi is the Japanese word that means kin means gold and tsugi means joinery. So you've seen these before. It's broken pottery that's been mended with this sumac glue that's been dusted with gold. And so you get this piece of pottery that was broken and then put back together with gold and glue.

- That's beautiful.

- Oh, it's exquisite. I have a friend of mine who's a Japanese artist. His name is Makoto Fugimura and he's a brilliant, brilliant abstract expressionist. And he gave me a 17th century kintsugi ceramic bowl that sits on a shelf in my house to remind me that you can be broken and mended in such a way that you can become more beautiful and more whole than you will were prior to breakage. Do you see that?

- Oh, I love that.

- And so you are both broken and beautiful and you have to hold the two in tension. If you are believing you're just beautiful. That will lead to some problems. If you think you're just broken, that will lead to some problems. But if you can hold the two in tension, then I think there's this awareness of wholeness. And it's about being both broken and beautiful. It actually summarizes my philosophy of life and that one bowl on the shelf in my house is this broken 17th century bowl that's made from a repaired ceramic. Eugene O'Neill has this great quote. I think it's O'Neill. He says, "Man is born broken." This is what he wrote, "Man or woman is born broken. They need mending. Grace is the glue." And that's another one of my sort of beliefs.

- Yeah. I didn't learn grace until I had children. Truly. I didn't know how to give myself grace. I didn't know how to give others grace. I had my first child and I still sort of struggled with it. Second child. Then I was like, "Oh gosh. Can't do this. Can't do that. Gotta let that go. Gotta let this go." And then certainly by the third child, it's like, forget it. Forget it.

- Yeah, I know.

- Everybody deserves grace, especially me.

- Absolutely.

- Ian, thank you.

- Great time.

- So what'd you think? Tell me in the comments below, like it, share it with someone who needs to hear it. I'm adding new videos on all the time to help you reconnect with self and then prepare for purpose. And since you're here, I've gone ahead and linked my playlist, the episode amplified, it gives shorter clips from each episode. Still though, very much power-packed with encouragement. It's all right here. So thanks for watching and I'll see you next time.

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