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Uncovering The Truth Behind The Masks Philip McKernan
I am honored to have Philip McKernan on the show. Philip is the author of One Last Talk: Why Your Truth Matters and How to Speak It and the Founder of the One Last Talk Movement. I had the privilege of hearing Philip speak at MMT and I was blown away. He and his book provided me one of the greatest a-ha moments in my life. I am truly grateful to Philip for his impact and for joining me on the show. Philip, welcome.
Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. I’m delighted to be here.
I want to give a little context about One Last Talk of why the truth came out in your life and how you’re sharing it because it’s so important.
I’d love to have the Hollywood story, but the truth is I spend probably most of my life hiding, pretending to be, and trying to be anybody but myself. I have a degree of compassion rather than pure judgment. I was doing the best I could. What I honestly told I needed to do is try to be strong, to try to be confident, to try to make money doing things I didn’t want to do necessarily, and the pain eventually as it always does catch up with me. It became too exhausting wearing all those masks. I started this journey of removing them. I continue to do that to this day and will for the rest of my life.
This channeling of the pain, not many people seem to be doing that. How did the pain come out that you needed to channel it? We’re getting into the business leaders. If everyone does that, they can have much more happiness. You say, “The greatest gift lies next to your greatest pain,” which is so powerful. Share how that happened.
For me, there was this consistent pattern that many entrepreneurs and leaders recognize within themselves when they hear it. At the time, I wasn’t aware of it. The story I was telling myself is when I build this business, I’ll have the freedom to go and do what I want. I’ll be able to start living to some extent, even though I didn’t use that language at the time. What was happening is I’d achieved something. I was a great goal setter. I was a great achiever of those goals. The problem was I was setting goals and intellectually I thought I wanted and I did want. They weren’t things that were deeply aligned to who I was. The metaphor I use is I get to the top of a mountain and I would achieve something.
I don’t mean mountain as in running my own airline. I’m talking like modest things, some significant things, writing a book, building a business, whatever. I would get to that mountain, I would look around, but the overwhelming feeling that would hit me as opposed to appreciation, gratitude, love, joy or whatever it would be. I thought it’d be different. I thought I’d feel better about myself, the world and who I am. The reality is I didn’t. What I did like many people is I created a new goal. In other words, look across the horizon and go, “I just climbed the wrong mountain. When I climbed that mountain, I’ll be happy,” and it never stops. Finally, I had the courage, the fortitude and also the pain to say, “This is not working.” What I found was I was out of alignment with who I was as a man, as a person, as a husband, and as a father in this earth.
For people that don’t know you that well, how did this come about? You realized this then, what was the change you made?
I don’t want to say I realized this in an ashram in India or whatever. It was a moment, but it was a continuation, maybe I’m a really slow learner, and I kept getting hit over the head very slowly by the universe. Finally, the universe is going to take you out on the knees. I got there before that. I’ll tell you the time that it dawned on me. I’m still chasing this idea of when I make enough money, I’ll go and do what I want to do. I’m sitting in my mother’s kitchen in Ireland. We’ve come back from Canada. We spent two and a half to almost three years investing every dollar we had into new real estate business to attract a lot of ambassadors from Ireland into Canadian real estate.People often avoid clarity because it requires them to do something different and admit that what they've been doing is not working. Click To Tweet
We have tons of money lined up like big money. This was going to be the home run. We had spent two and a half years investing in legal structure, the financing, you name it. You know how much those bills can be. We were ready to open the doors for business and the Irish economy as indeed the US economy or whatever. The Irish economy didn’t go up the hill. It went off the edge of a cliff. We were left with our brand, our identity, our company, our business structure, our legal structure and all the bills associated with that. It was over before it started. This is not a story I share a lot maybe because I’m still embarrassed about it. I remember sitting in the kitchen, my mother saw my wife looking at me and says, “I’m not going back to Canada.” I said, “Why?” She said, “It’s not working.” I can feel literally the emotion of that.
She wasn’t having to go with me. She wasn’t saying, “You have failed.” She said, “This is not working for us.” At that point, we had $200 in the bank account. I can still feel the shame of that. That I put my family, my life and my wife in that predicament. I’ll never forget it. I looked at her and I said, “I’m going to do this coaching thing.” It got so bad that I realized I have nothing left to lose. I certainly didn’t do coaching for money because I didn’t make money in this business for years. This is what I always wanted to do deep down. I never felt qualified personally or academically to do what I do now. I got desperate and I said, “Screw it.” I waited about four minutes and I know I’m exaggerating entirely, but maybe 30 minutes to an hour, I got an email back because I sent an email out to twenty people that says, “I’m doing this coaching thing.” This guy wrote back and said three words, “It’s about time.” I went back to him and said, “What do you mean?” He said, “From the moment I met you, this is what you were meant to do. I’ll be your first client.” That’s how it started.
What were you coaching?
I hadn’t got a clue. All I knew was I’m able to see the world in a way I’m able to see people navigate the world. They simply come out and see for themselves. I’ve got an innate ability which comes with a burden and a cost. I can see what’s possible for people when they’re unwilling to see it for themselves or unable to see it for themselves. I can feel energetically how gifted they can be and where they can bring it. I don’t tell them what they should do. If I had to describe, it is I help them come back to themselves and I help them understand themselves at the core. They do the work and ultimately, therefore, what they need to do in this world to honor the essence of who they are. That is my skill set. That’s what I was born to do. It’s taken me many years to be able to say that to you. For some, it may not make sense, but for me, it makes complete sense.
You almost have to see it. I wasn’t aware of you. I didn’t know of you until I sat in that small little room at MMT and suddenly, I was like, “Who is this guy?” You were getting to the core of someone sitting right next to me. I was in the seat right next to the person and within seconds, he was emotionally crying, and you got to the root. It seems like so many people are so afraid to get there. That’s when you have the real awakening. For me, when I heard that and read your book within those two days there, I changed my speech at a keynote.
I went to Nashville, gave a keynote, told the truth and the challenges I had as a child. I was alone, my parents divorced, the drug problems and everything, and how that’s brought me to the highest clarity I’ve had in my life. That’s why I do what I do. That’s why I love it, that bringing people together and clarity, Philip. It seems like so few people have, but the only way to really get it to is if you know the root of what gets you going. Is that what you found?
It’s really important as you and I met through Jason. Whether it’s me or anybody else, the fact that Jason has created that space in that event because a lot of events, it’s all about business, it’s about Facebook ads, it’s about marketing, it’s about scaling, it’s about all incredibly valuable things. Jason has insisted over the years in making sure that we’re at least having this dialogue to make sure that we don’t just build businesses that come at the detriment to our personal lives, that we are successful in both areas. There’s a lot of resistance to what I do and how I do it. Ultimately, the resistance is not coming because people are neither resisting themselves. They’re afraid to ask very simple questions of themselves because they already know the answers. I’ll give you a quick example I shared. I was at a workshop for an entrepreneur. I’m with a group of entrepreneurs and this lady came in. She had this story that she needed everyone to know.
The story was that she had her heart broken by this man. We kicked off and I said, “Anybody wants to share why you’re here?” She put her hand up immediately and said, “I had my heart ripped open. I don’t know where I am in life and everything else.” You could see the energy in the room. She’d obviously gotten to everybody before we kicked off. I’ve eventually looked at her and I said, “Great. Quick question, did you see it coming?” She was like, “He absolutely blindsided me. No one saw it coming. It cut my whole legs from under me.” I said, “With respect, I don’t believe you.” She started to look at me as if she wanted to rip my face off. She got so angry. I said, “Bear with me. I know you want to kill me right now. Let go of the anger. You are way too smart and way too intuitive to tell me you did not see something coming.” She dropped her head. She was vibrating. She lifted her head with tears pouring down her face. She said, “I knew it the day I met him. I knew it the day I walked down the aisle.” Everyone in the room up to that point was looking at me going, “Will you leave her alone? She’s hurt. She’s in pain. She’s in trauma. She’s been hurt, back off.” I knew I could feel it from her that she was telling herself a story that allowed her to stay in that narrative, to stay in that conversation.
The thing about it is, do I get joy from exposing that? No, but I do know that when we identify the pattern, it will never reemerge. I do the same with money. People talk about money. We talk about money in some of our workshops and our relationship to money, and I asked people like, “Can we go deeper on the relationship with money? Do you understand how they really hold money?” Not just intellectually but emotionally because I can completely conflict that they understand why sabotage comes in. They understand why they create businesses. They don’t ever achieve the financial results that they often say they desire. It’s about going deeper, which is scary for some people. I can guarantee you one thing it is not even as close to painful as it is navigating this world having never asked the questions that might seem painful in the beginning. There’s no greater pain than living an unlived life. That’s what happens when you don’t go deep enough and understand who you are.
You have to go into the tensions. You talk about if you want growth, you have to have tension. You’re providing that tension. You’re getting people to ask questions that they never asked before. “Why are you here?” is such a great question to ask anybody at any point. Why are they here? Not the first answer they say. One thing you talk about in the book and it comes down a lot to loving yourself. I’m sure there’s probably one common thread that you may see, it’s in the theme of the show. It’s loving your customers more than you love your product, love your employees more than of your customers, but that all doesn’t matter if you don’t love yourself.
This is the essence because we give ourselves what we feel we deserve and you nailed it. If you’ve told me this ten years ago, five years ago, I would’ve said, “Who are you? You’re a fruitcake because it meant so little to me and it felt so fluffy and intangible.” If you don’t have a healthy degree of self-respect and self-love, what’s going to happen is you’re going to look to business and you’re going to look to external relationships for those things to validate who you are and to bring your happiness. Here’s the problem. I believe that our happiness or fulfillment is derived by three relationships: relationship to self, relationship to others and the relationship to the work we do, which I feel should be an extension of who we are.
Here’s the problem, if you don’t have genuine self-love and respect for self, you can’t help but put an inordinate amount of expectations on those other two areas to fill the gap within you. Your wife then has to be perfect. Your husband has to be perfect. That cash has got to be perfect and the work you do has to succeed. That energy of having to make it successful actually has the desired opposite results sometimes because you’re approaching it from a scarcity. When you create a degree of self-respect and self-love, which requires you to do deep interior work on yourself, what ends up happening is everything starts to flow a little bit easier or in some cases a lot easier.
How do we get over the fact that everyone sees it as fluff? When I speak, I change. I go into loving yourself as the third piece of a lot of my keynotes. I can see there are eyes that roll. It’s that thought process. I’m like, “Are you kidding me? If I’m not the best for myself, good luck leading everyone else.” How do we make this where it’s not just fluff where people can actually measure and understand? Is there a way to teach this to other business leaders? Others would say, “I don’t want to talk about this. Give me an exact science on how to be successful in business.” What do you suggest?
I’m not here to wake up the people who don’t want to be woken up. I’m not here to do that. Not that I don’t care about those people, it’s not that there’s not a place in my work for those people or in life. What I’m saying is that those people unfortunately sometimes need to fall or hit a wall or hit some wakeup call before they realize, and there are two types of people that come to me. The people who want to be historically reactive. In other words, they finally hit a wall. They’ve achieved everything they thought they achieved in business and it’s still not enough. The person hits a wall emotionally or mentally or the person who has some breakdown in relationships, their kids becomes estranged from them. They become estranged from their partnership and finally they go, “Where’s his number? I better give him a call.”
Now, what’s happening is a whole new wave of people are saying, “I don’t want to wait for that. I want to know I’m on the right path. I want to know I’m making the right decisions. I want to make sure that I’m cultivating that internal dialogue, that intuitiveness. I want to make sure that I have self-respect so I can allow people to respect me and I can love them in ways that I could never do before.” What’s happening is people are being productive. Here’s the thing. When I focus on those people that didn’t want to wake up, that was defined, that was looking for holes in my work, and they’re sitting there with their arms crossed, I was pouring my life into these people if they could see how amazing they could be. I go, “With respect, I see that you’re not ready. That’s okay. Maybe it’s me or maybe it’s my work. If you could stand aside, there are 25 people behind you with their hands up saying I want to learn, and I don’t have it all figured out.”
I don’t want to wait until that darkness comes, I want to be proactive. What ends up happening is when you let that other person go, that’s the very time that they go back and go, “I don’t want to miss out here,” but I’ve had to let them go. I would say, “How’s it working for you?” If it’s working amazing and you’ve got great peace of mind, you’ve got success in business, you’ve got success in life and everyone else gives you that back, and deep down you’re on the right path, brilliant. If you’re sitting there and knowing that you’re not, and your antidote to escape is busyness and your avoidance, good luck because it will always come out. The disconnectedness would always appear physically, mentally or emotionally. It’s always going to come out.
Simon Sinek was asked, “Have you ever had a bad speaking engagement?” He goes, “No,” and they’re like, “What do you mean? No? Never once?” He goes, “No, I only speak to groups that believe in what I believe and I get in front of the people that are the people that I want to be there. Many of us have tried to make those people that already don’t believe in us happy as opposed to the people that are already with us.” That makes so much sense. I love the letting go. You talk about that a lot in the book, One Last Talk, but I want to go simply into uncovering your truth because if you can simplify going into this One Last Talk, it’s how to uncover your truth. I know it happened for me in just 30 minutes with you, but how can someone do that right now?
We all know what our truth is. One of the biggest stumbling blocks is the idea that we have to present that to anybody, including ourselves. I feel that’s the biggest challenge. People often avoid clarity because the clarity requires them to change, requires them to do something different, requires them to admit that what they’ve been doing is not working. It’s not necessarily the subject matter of truth, it’s what it represents. It’s like speaking. People say the biggest fear in the world is speaking and I never liked that. It never sat with me. I went away and I do what I do. I take what are either things that are given, things that have been researched and proved technically or intellectually are things that are complex. I sit with them, I navigate them, I mess with them, I massage them and I experiment.People say the biggest fear in the world is speaking; it’s not. It’s the fear of making a mistake. Click To Tweet
I came out the other side and went, “It is not the fear.” The fear goes beyond speaking. The speaking represents it is the gateway into the fear. The fear ultimately is that I’ll make a mistake, which means people may not like me and if people don’t like me, maybe they won’t love me. It’s about acceptance. I’m working with a sports team, and they’ve asked me to do a talk with the players ahead of their opening game in this premier soccer league. One of the things I want to talk about is fear. What are you afraid of in front of the audience?
The biggest crowd many of these players have ever played in. What are you ultimately afraid of? One of them, the goalkeeper is going to say, “What if I spill the ball?” The guys will say, “What if I give away a penalty? What if I miss the goal? What if I score an own goal against my own team?” What I’m going to do is help them navigate beyond what would that mean to them, help them name the fear. What happens is the fear doesn’t go away, it loosens its grip on you, it lets you go. The problem now is we’re all too busy trying to eradicate fear, kill it and squash it. It’s impossible. It should be something that is embraced, get to know it, understand it, name the fear so it loosens its grip, and you can therefore live and it doesn’t influence you the way it did previously.
For me, I know it’s that fear of I felt alone, I didn’t feel loved a lot and now, I try to get more of that love, probably validation, try to get that support, and try to make more people feel that because I didn’t get that. It will always be a part of me if we’re going direct here because this will be good for the business leaders. If that is direct with me, understand it and maybe understand that’s probably why I’m doing this. That’s probably why that’s influenced his actions as opposed to being not confronting it.
There are too many people I met that go, “I read your book and I realize I was alone as a kid. I went to therapy for six sessions. I’ve done that work and it was great, very beneficial.” I go, “I knew you’d done the work.” They go, “I’m over that now,” and I go, “No, you’re not over it.” The most dangerous person in the world is the person that thinks they’re beyond it. What you’re saying beautifully and poetically, and from a humanistic standpoint is you’re saying that it’s a part of who I am and while identifying it maybe lessens the emotion or the charge on letting you understand who you are and why you do what you do. It’s the acceptance and to realize that it’s a part of who I am, it has been a part of who I am and therefore, would always be a part of who I am.
The problem is other people are denying that. Think about what they’re doing. Let’s say we’ve all done something we realized we’re ashamed of. What a lot of instances we go to denying of that thing. We try to reject it out of our bodies or squash it into a part of the bodies that we don’t need to examine. What happens is you start to deny a part literally of who you are and therefore, then, people wonder why they don’t live from a place of peace or they don’t trust their intuition. Why don’t you trust your intuition? It’s because you don’t trust yourself.
Self-trust is this thing that we never think about. We always think about trust as something external. I asked a group of people, “Do you trust yourself?” Almost everyone went, “Absolutely.” I said, “That’s way too fast.” Let’s examine what does it mean to trust and do you trust yourself and with tears in some of their eyes and anger in others, and neutrality in the rest. Most of them said, one, “I never thought about it,” and two, “I thought trust is something my wife, my kids, it’s something external.” I honestly thought when I asked the question, the answer would be no. How do we get ourselves to a point where we truly trust ourselves? That’s a magical place to be in.
Oprah has done a lot of talks and one of her main things is to be yourself. If you don’t know who you are, what does that mean? You have to get to it to understand. “Be yourself. That sounds great. I want to be me, but I don’t know who I am.” Once you can finally find that, and I know this is so off-kilter of what a normal show for me as Business Done Differently, but it’s so important that people understand what drives them, who they are if they’re true, and they start sharing it. I’ll share this with you, Philip. After I shared with my team the challenges I went through, a few of them started crying. It got an emotional hearing that. It was definitely uncomfortable for, not just me but the group, but they started coming to me and sharing more.
I remember the owner of the first team that I had that I was so close with. He married my wife and I. I shared that with him twelve years after I got to know him, and he started sharing me his childhood and what he went through. This was twelve years of being one of my closest confidant, mentor, friend, and we didn’t know all that about each other. You’re talking about success from any facet of life. It’s the closeness, that togetherness, and the realness, the truth. I want to stress this. That’s why this is so deep, more than any conversation I’ve had, but people need to do it. I’m going to break up the deepness with a game here, and we’re going to get back into it, Philip. If you’re mentally prepared, we’re going to do a game. This is what we do at our ballpark. It’s called Sing in the Blank. We’ll go into that. I’m going to do truth and a dare. What do you want? Truth first or dare?
We’ll start with the truth. What’s one thing that’s still holding you back? You know what the challenge is to a lot of people.
It is allowing myself to be as successful as I know deep down I can be. I mean successful in terms of the impact I could make in the world.
You’re almost thinking you don’t deserve it at this point.
The other thing that I’ve realized is I love my parents so much that there is a part of me that doesn’t want to supersede my parents in terms of success or monetary success because I don’t want them to see me differently.
Are you ready for your dare? Sing in the blank, we do this in our ballpark. It’s 2,000 fans singing in. I’m going to play the song. When it stops, you have to finish that song lyric. “Look out because here I come in the marching off to the beat of drum. I’m not scared to be seen. I make no apologies.”
The lyric is, “This is me.”
That song, This is Me, is about coming out for not being seen, for not being heard and for being who you are. It’s in The Greatest Showman. It’s where all the misfits come out and say, “This is me.”
One of the things you often hear when people are about to do a speech, “Be yourself.” That sounds great, but in theory, people have no clue what that is. The mistake that people make is they think that who they are is what they’ve done. They think that who they are is what they do. They think that who they are is what they’ve been told and who they are is the environment in which we’re brought in, and we as human beings are so much more than that. For example, in Ireland, when you grow up, you don’t get a choice about what religion you want to believe in. You’re told you’re a Catholic primarily, and that’s it. I’m told about this and told about that. The example I use is when I walked down through the corridors of my traditional school, hundreds of doors in geography, history and biology in Irish and everything else.
There was one door that said, “Come on in and get to know who you are.” It is a tragic thing that most people identify themselves primarily through the work or the businesses that we create. The problem is when that goes away or you sell those things, you’re lost. Parents, particularly mothers who say goodbye to their kids when they’re going to college, close the door, look in the mirror and they go, “Who are you now?” They turn around and see their husbands who may or may not be in the house and go, “I recognize your face even though it looks older, but I don’t know who you are either.” It’s a huge issue for people when it comes to identity. What happens is we don’t realize how we lose ourselves, whether it’s in sports, whether it’s in business, and it’s something that we should be thinking about sooner rather than later.Name the fear so it loosens its grip on you and you can therefore live in a way that it doesn't influence you the way it did previously. Click To Tweet
That song was so perfectly picked because it’s not about what they did and it wasn’t about their jobs. It was about who they are, how they were built and that’s it. I think about a lot of retirees die pretty soon after. The stats are unbelievable because basically their identity, who they were was linked to this job that they no longer have. Let’s go hopeful now. Let’s go into the positive aspect. What do we do? We know we all have problems. We know we all have challenges. We know we’re scared to face them.
That’s where One Last Talk comes in.
We also run it as an organization. Somebody who’s barely hanging on to his entity goes, “Hang on, where’s the business stuff? When does the business stuff going to kick in?” The business stuff kicked in the minute you and I started speaking because this is all about business. Many entrepreneurs and leaders that I’ve worked with in the past and worked with right now whose businesses are going like this, but they’re going like this, not to the detriment of their own mental health, that they never felt more aligned. We brought One Last Talk into an organization. It doesn’t matter what the details, but four speakers spoke in front of their entire team.
What ended up happening was it opened everybody up because there’s a whole body of research that did a deep dive into what people are looking for in a workplace, in an environment, in a company, and they’re looking for three essential things. They’re looking to feel competent at what they do, they’re looking to feel authentic in their own lives, and they’re looking to feel connected to themselves and other people in the organization. I don’t believe, I think indirectly we can help with competence, but that’s not a core skill set of ours. We can definitely help with authenticity and connection and whether we like it or not, the ability to connect, particularly the world right now as many organizations are having a more remote element to them, like you’re working remotely or whatever. A lot of people’s lives and social lives evolve in the workplace. They don’t have lots of friends.
In the United States, people move into Boulder, they come from Chicago, and the people they know are their work colleagues, and they want this dialogue beyond, “How’s your dog? What’s the local dentist that you recommend I use?” It’s not every day, but they want to have an opportunity. What we have found is that we can deliver two out of those three through the lens of One Last Talk and it’s working. We even did it in a prison where one of the men spoke. An inmate stood out with tears pouring down his face and said, “I’ve known you for fifteen years inside. I never realized how lonely you are and how lonely I am because of what you shared.” The two of them embraced and hugged each other.
We’re talking about it at a different level of connection. Some people say, “That’s not my responsibility. When I go to work in the morning, that’s not my responsibility. I get the whole element. It’s not for me. My job is to pay them, create a good environment, to put a pool table in the corner, make sure that they got fresh coffee, and give them good health benefits, and that’s great.” It may not be your responsibility, but I promise you one thing, it is your problem because it is also massively weighing on things like attrition, loyalty and productivity. What we’re finding is that companies that connect like that. You don’t have to watch each other. You don’t have to check to see if they’re doing the work. They have each other’s backs. Attrition goes down because you’re not losing as many people. You’re not turning over staff. Therefore, you don’t have to recruit as many people to train them. The other thing is people become more productive and supportive in the organization. We call it team deepening. We literally trademark team deepening because we believe the future is not team buildings but team deepening.
Often, I say to create moments that show people that they matter and that will provide deeper meaning, moments matter meaning. However, if you don’t know your people, if you don’t know what really provides meaning to them and what moments matter, then how are you going to do that? You have to understand your people. Can you explain the One Last Talk? What is it?
Think about TEDx for emotions because you get ten to fifteen minutes or less as you stand on the stage and share the One Last Talk you never gave to the world, assuming that you were about to die. It sounds morbid or sounds negative, but what it does is it opens the heart and focuses the mind. You don’t have to deliver in front a live audience, but what we encourage everybody to go through the process of the book, extract their own One Last Talk for their benefit to understand who you are, to begin to uncover the essence of who you are. We also encourage those people to deliver that talk to at least one other person, maybe their organization, maybe their community, and maybe the world.
I’m guessing what’s holding back a lot of leaders, even myself that I didn’t share the whole One Last Talk. I shared my challenges and what I went through is the fear, maybe of acceptance of what people will think because I think right now that’s such a deep level for our organization. We’re so having fun and that’s at a whole deep level. What are you finding the fear of why people won’t do this with their organization? Is it similar to what I’m saying?
One thing though is you don’t have to rip the bandage off. We encourage people to go to an edge and maybe slightly beyond it, but sometimes people jumped off the edge and tried to deliver something or shared something that they themselves haven’t processed or sat with long enough or it’s fresh within them. We don’t want people to be disrespectful to themselves or an audience. That’s not the purpose of this. It’s not about downloading. It’s about sharing something that you have identified. You understand in yourself partly or a narrative that perhaps people don’t know about you. Here is the irony of this. People are afraid of judgment. People are afraid of not being accepted. The thing is you’re not being accepted anyway because you haven’t shared all of you. You’re being accepted to the level in which you are allowing people to see you. That’s the only way people can accept you.
We have found is when you go all in, people can see all of you and therefore, choose to accept you. Here’s what’s happened is everyone accepts you because they see you for who you are. They choose to accept you and to honor you. Also, they see who you are within themselves. They see the challenge that they themselves are holding back. This is the mechanism that we believe, and I really mean this, this is not just advertising. I believe this is probably one of the greatest ways, mechanisms and methodologies to connect people in humanity. I experimented, we brought people to India. We brought parent and child to orphanages. That’s incredibly powerful to watch your parent and your child watch each other, connect with orphans, street kids and people with mental disabilities. You learn a lot about each other, but One Last Talk is brought to a different level.
I loved all the examples you gave in your book. One was Matthew and part of his talk was, “I don’t make as much money as most of you in here, but I’ll tell you what I do make. I make my wife laugh every day. I make sure each one of my kids knows that I love them unconditionally. I’m now making sure I’m a little truer to myself, a little kinder to myself, a little more compassionate to myself. I believe that myself and all of you, everyone on this planet, we’re all put here to make a difference in this world in our own unique way. I believe that’s what I now make,” so powerfully said. It’s not about all those things that business leaders think about constantly and that is unbelievable truth that resonated with me. I was like, “How can you not accept, love and respect Matthew for who he is?? All of us aspire to be like that and it’s very unique. I think the self-diagnosis is so important, Philip. Would you suggest these leaders try to go through this? Other than getting the book and going through it, and they self-diagnose, and say, “Here’s my challenge,” what do you suggest?
The book is designed, it’s not a to-do, even though it is, it is why too. A lot of it is about why you should deliver your One Last Talk and I would go as far to say with respect to anybody that sits on the fence because one of the biggest things that happen that are triggered when somebody is even contemplating the idea of One Last Talk. If they go, “I don’t have One Last Talk,” or “I do maybe, I’m sure everyone has one, but it’s not as cool as John’s. You should talk to John.” I’ve encouraged people to ignore that dialogue, which is always intellectual come from your brain and I would encourage them to go through the book because the book is designed to bring you to the One Last Talk process. That’s number one.
Number two is if something comes up through that process that you feel needs some attention. I do a lot of other deeper coaching work or you go to a therapist, you go to a friend, share with, etc., but there’s nothing more powerful than cathartic and therapeutic than sharing that truth with your team, with your organization. For some people, not to stretch some people that’s not a fish, but for those who actually go all out as you did and share a good part of your One Last Talk or what came up for you, all it does is create a connection. It doesn’t undermine you. It doesn’t undermine your organization. It has the opposite effect and what we’re going to be doing is adding other components into this in the future and not too far away where we’re going to be able to create some leadership stuff where we want companies to be able to do this into their organization so that it doesn’t rely on me coming in or whatever. We’re going to be offering additional support as well down the line as we grow this.
What it teaches more than anything you say what you want and people say what they want about them, but Gary Vaynerchuk says his one biggest thing for success. It’s not necessarily hustling, it’s self-awareness. This is a masterclass in self-awareness further than anyone else can get. It’s through this exercise. I think that’s what’s so powerful. Philip, when I heard you speak, you got aggressive, you got combative in a good way. I wonder about that from a leadership standpoint. Why do you do that? Maybe us as leaders, we’re too scared to challenge our people in a way that cares for them because I could feel you care for everyone in that room even though it was uncomfortable because no one said those type of questions and that type of aggression.
I appreciate you saying that. That’s something that’s deeply misunderstood, me and this world. Often people think that I’m aggressive. There’s a charge and it comes from a place of this absolute deep desire and love for humanity. This belief that a lot of us are surrounded by people who tap us on the shoulder and go, “Jesse, it’s going to be okay.” Typically, it’s your mothers or whoever, but they mean best. My little son came home. He was eight at the time, he came along with a painting from school. He walked in and he said, “Mom, what do you think?” His mother, my wife said, “Charlie, it’s just amazing.” Charlie looked at her and went, “I don’t believe you.” My wife is devastated. She went, “What do you mean?” “Mom, everything I show you are amazing.” “It’s because you’re amazing. I love everything you do. Everything you are.” I don’t turn on and say, “It’s crap.” I have a slightly different relationship with him.
We played soccer and he asked me my honest opinion. I always hear it from him first, but I’ll tell him the truth. He may not always like it, but he knows he’s going to get the unfiltered, unapologetic truth. We need that in our lives. A lot of leaders make this critical mistake. They say things like, “I’ll write an open door policy. My door is open, anyone can walk in and give me feedback,” because they love feedback as long as the feedback validates what they think or what they feel about themselves or their life. If it pushes an edge a little bit, if someone hears feedback that they don’t want to hear, most leaders passively, aggressively dismiss that.It's so important that people understand what drives them, who they are if they're true, and start sharing it. Click To Tweet
I don’t like it because I’m like everyone else. I want to be liked, but I’m willing for one of my clients to hate me temporarily hopefully, or even long-term in order to get them to see a part of their truth that they’re hiding from so they can be a better person. Far beyond the work they do with me because I didn’t want them to come lying to me. I don’t think enough is how that ever lies. We don’t have that person that comes from a deep compassionate place that’s willing to challenge you.
It comes down to fear why we don’t do that. You wrote, “Your fear is the assassin of dreams, the ultimate destination of fear is regret.” We have a fear of doing this, how it will make us feel and what people will think. I love what you did with your children. You speak the truth to them. You said, “Speak your truth and keep speaking for the rest of your life.” It would be so not you if you’re telling everyone to speak your truth and you’re saying, “It’s a beautiful painting you did.” You have to be honest, but it makes probably all decisions, no filters, just real. It’s not exhausting. It makes so much sense and every leader should do this. My question to you, “Is there any questions that we can ask ourselves?” I always have this, I believe if you want better answers in life, you’ve got to ask better questions. What are the best questions you’re asking?
Do you show up at home and show up in business the same person? If you ask those questions and the answer is no and you’re picking your battles subtly, there’s an absolute misalignment. I don’t want to be dramatic and say you are totally misaligned because you’re not. If you show up in business, in other words, the conversation I sometimes have is this, “How’s your confidence?” Some people will say, “When I’m on the pitch, in sport, when I’m on the track, when I’m in the pool or I’m in the office, I feel super confident. When I get home, I doubt,” or vice versa. Who you are in the bedroom and the boardroom should be exactly the same person. There should be no discrepancies. If you can’t ask that question, I would encourage you to go deeper on that.
Another question that I spent six months initially crafting because they’re trying to design a question that got people to speak, to identify their truth, but without the urgency to execute. We do an exercise, which I think everyone should do. Write your one last letter, the last letter you’ll ever write. Take a piece of paper and write that one last letter. People say, “Who am I running into?” “Whoever you want.” “What am I going to say?” “Whatever you want.” I would encourage you to do that. I would encourage you to write your one last letter, who do you want to write it to, and what do you want to say? If I told 100 people to do that, 100 people will do it but if I said before that, “When you do it, we’re all going to share,” you won’t go as deep.
That’s why I designed this question, which has created some of the greatest dialogue with some of my coaching clients. What do you know deep down you need to do, but for whatever reason, you’re not ready to do it right now? That’s okay because a lot of people are afraid to identify their truth because they think they, therefore, have to act upon it. This allows you to identify your truth where you might be out of the line before you know you need to show up more or differently in life. It’s giving you permission not to have to do it. It’s asking you not to judge because when the judgment’s present, there is zero growth. Assuming we’re working on ourselves and doing some good in our work, I find that if we could go back and listen to how do we speak about ourselves, or to ourselves, and to ourselves years from now, we could go back to and you will be appalled in the way in which you think about yourself or maybe even speak about yourself privately or maybe sometimes even in public. We are the greatest bullies, and when that judgment is there, there’s no room for growth. It’s not possible to grow.
It’s interesting because years ago I started writing every morning. That was part of my ritual. I was writing to myself. I wasn’t expecting anyone to read it that’s why I got real pretty quickly. I’ve done it since I wrote a letter to my children before they were born. I wrote a letter to myself a year later and started doing this, not into the depth of One Last Talk but teaching people to start writing a little bit is to get to clarity. Everything we all need in life is clarity. If we can get clear on who we are and what we need to do, it’s everything. People don’t put the time in focusing on their self and their own clarity. That right there, that one last letter, everyone can do that. The question is who would it be to is interesting because are you writing to yourself? Are you writing to your parents? Are you writing to your kids? Have you seen this whole wide range?
I see the spectrum. We encourage people not to do is to write a letter to the Trump administration, talking about the things they love or are frustrated with. That’s not a one last letter. It can be one last letter, but we’re talking about going deeper, going within yourself. I find that there’s a little anecdotal story that’s a true story of the gentleman, who went to the hospital and said goodbye to his father. His father is dying. The doctor comes out and he says, “It’s time.” He goes, “He’s passing away.” The doctor goes, “No, probably another 24 or 48 hours. It’s time for the conversation.” The son looks at the doctor and asks, “What conversation?” The doctor answers, “The conversation you probably should have had twenty years ago.” What we’re trying to do is not create the urgency because I’m not a big fan of urgency, but we’re trying to create intention.
We’re trying to create influence for people to consider, what are the conversations? What are the truths? What are the things they want to say to themselves now? Other people are now rather than waiting. If we’re fortunate, we’ll have an opportunity to share them on our deathbed. Many of us wait when we’re almost dying to say sorry. We wait until we’re dying to name a regret and to forgive ourselves. We wait until we’re almost dying to allow our family and our kids, and the people we know closest to us how much they mean to us. I don’t want to waste. That’s what they called aggression, but I actually call it complete care of why I’m so determined with people. Maybe it’s practiced by the speed in which I can navigate and help somebody in the reason that I said, we don’t have the time to spend five years working on this.
There are so many great things we can be doing. Even if it’s sitting on a park bench with a loved one or sitting on a park bench on our own. We don’t have the luxury. I assume leaving whatever spiritual beliefs you have, I hope I’m wrong, but I’m assuming this is it. There are too many people who are using spirituality, religion as a way to go, “I’m going to come back as a unicorn, a cliff jumper or an entrepreneur. I’m going to come back in some capacity.” There’s not that intentionality that’s required to live every second. I assume that I’m not coming back. If I come back as a snake, a worm or a cow, it’s all a bonus but that’s how I live my life.
If you were to write, what will you regret? Even starting with looking at regrets, what could you potentially regret? It gets to the root because regret is such a terrible feeling that no one wants to have and everyone now is having it on a daily basis because of the fear of missing out. It’s these little tiny regrets, but we’re talking real deep big regret. This scares me. Philip, flip the script. You’re now the host. You can ask me one question here. Based on the questions I’ve heard you ask, this scares the crap out of me, but you can ask one question.
What if I ask you what is the one thing you know deep down you need to do before for whatever reason you’re not ready to do it right now? It seems like maybe too big a question, but I’m just curious.
I’m obsessed with what I do. I love it, a passion. It can sometimes take me away from my focus on my family and I love my family to death, but I get so focused on that. I want to find a way that I can be so in love with being with my family as I am with the business. I need to continue to work that because obviously, I still need that love from others. That feeling of 4,000 people, that feeling that I feel alive because when I was a kid, I didn’t have that. I’m still trying to make my dad proud every day. I’m 35 years old, trying to make my dad proud. The one thing I need to do is continue to get closer to having that marriage between everything. I don’t know the answer. I went through this One Last Talk, I understand it, but what are those next steps?
I appreciate your honesty. What ends up happening is energetically a lot of us end up creating businesses, creating movements because it is driven by this thing that we often didn’t have as kids. There’s an energy that a lot of us have is that we end up creating, running from what we don’t want, our sprints into what we think we need. There are a time and an opportunity in life to take a step back. For example, when I work with athletes, I don’t do a lot of work with athletes, but I do some. I went to the Olympic Games. I remember talking to two parents and I was intrigued. I said, “What’s it like to watch your son compete for his country?” The first father said, “It’s like every other race.” This giant of a man, this athlete, who’s dedicated his entire life to this, I could have punched him in the stomach and he would’ve had the same reaction, he was deflated. I went to the next father as I was intrigued to see, “Is this an anomaly or what’s going on? The next father said, “He could have gone faster, couldn’t he?”
It dawned on me. These two men would tell you the story that they’re doing it for the love of the sport or their country. It’s not that they hated the sport or hated the country, but they were doing it because they still yearned for their fathers to turn around and say, “I love you.” Let’s say I talked to a sportsperson who was denying this. I said, “You get to the playoffs, you win the cup. There are 70,000 people in the stadium. You’re in the home base and when you pivot, you want to catch eye contact with one person in the audience in the entire stadium.” He says, “My mom,” and yet up to that point, he was denying that he was doing anything to please his mom. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but where it doesn’t serve you is when you’re not aware of it. Therefore, our motivations, we think are ours, but they’re not the kind of external. It’s finding that balance. When you understand that, what happens is we can let go of our grip in terms of what we do and our identity around it. It doesn’t mean we’re not as connected. It doesn’t mean that in your case, the team’s going to fall apart. It means that it will actually flourish and grow, but we can create a little bit more balance over here.
It’s so powerful in letting go. That’s so key. I bet you that you’ve done it so long. There are so many parallels probably between people wanting love, feeling alone. There are probably lots of challenges trying to make their parents proud. There are so many of those correlations. It’s why it’s driving a lot of people. I’m aware of that. I’ve never shared it that deep on here but that’s fine.
I deeply admire that. I do. To have the courage, to have the community and to allow them to see you alive is amazing. I imagine the type of community that you attract is going to appreciate that. That’s my assumption.
Thank you. It goes into sharing the whole truth. I usually finish with a few questions, but I’ll go here because it might go a different route. Is there one thing that you’ve done to stand out in business and in life?
I have never ever or if I have, I’ve never given the world or our clients what they want. I’ve never followed trends. I’ve never created experiences I feel people want and will pay for. I’ve always looked at what people need. Therefore, the world is not always responded to initially. Over the long-term, it’s now beginning to respond. For example, One Last Talk is not something that people would walk around thinking they need, but they want other things. We created One Last Talk because we feel that’s what the world desperately needs to create a connection in a world that we’re supposedly connected more than ever through the lens of the media. I feel loneliness is the greatest pandemic in the world right now. The one thing I’m proud of, and I don’t say that lightly, I don’t use that word proud or pride in the context of my name often, is that I have stayed true to what I feel the world needs. That comes at a price and it has stunted our financial growth and stuff like that, but I’m very proud of that.Be deeply curious about who you are, who you can be, and what you can do in this world. Click To Tweet
If you were to tell your younger self something, what would you tell him?
I would ask him to stop giving himself a hard time and stop being so cruel, that life is going to beat you up to some extent. You don’t have to beat yourself up to more than anybody else and that you’re going to be safe.
Being your biggest critic, is that why you’re cruel with yourself?
It’s horrendous. The way I would speak to myself, I can feel the emotion coming up right now as opposed to the judgment about the way I speak to myself. The way I would feel about myself was horrendous when I look back.
This may parlay into One Last Talk, but if you could simply say, how do you want to be remembered? What would you say?
I want to be remembered as the guy, the catalyst to introduce many people to themselves for the first time ever. That’s less about me and more about them. I want to be remembered for somebody who dedicated his entire life to better make humanity forward a little bit. I’ve never ever used that term before. As the guy, the catalyst, who created the space for you to find and meet yourself for the first time in a very long time and therefore have the opportunity to continue to live that.
You have such a huge focus on other people. I’ve heard somewhere you won’t sign people’s books because it’s not about you, it’s about them.
One Last Talk is all about other people. I believe in two things. One Last Talk is about brave and courageous men and women who have gained their One Last Talks and are going to give their One Last Talks. I’m never going to sign a copy of that book, number one. Number two is somebody said to me they were watching me work with them, and they said, “I’ve never seen anyone work the way in a coaching capacity as you do. You’re amazing.” I said, “I’m not really.” They go, “You’re being modest.” I said, “I am being to some extent, but this work comes through me and I feel that if I have a gift that’s on loan from the universe until the day I die, I may start abusing it.”
My single biggest fear is what I see in almost every other public speaker, a public figure, is this place where you start to believe your own hype and you start to get very lonely. You got pushed up onto a pedestal and right here, we’re all equal. We’re all shoulder to shoulder. Suddenly, as you get more successful, society is determined because of their lack of self-worth, they start to put you on a pedestal. You got up in society. You allow it to happen. What happens is you get up here and you’re on top of that pyramid, and you look left and right, there’s no one around you. You start to believe all your own stuff and you believe you’re invincible. There’s only one way from that pyramid down and that is one ugly, horrible fall from grace. I always say to my clients, “Respect me if this is going to work but don’t you dare put me on a pedestal because I’m not that good.”
What would be some last word or some last words, something hopeful for the group?
The one thing that drives me beyond anything is this notion of what’s possible. I believe that we hold on so tight to the things around us and the things we are on, the things that we do, the places we live in, and the relationships that we’re in and our identities. I want to encourage you to let go of that, which is not negative at all. It might feel a little scary because what’s possible for you lies beyond that. What’s possible is this thing that even now feels like bubbling inside me. When I sit in front of a human being who is stepping into my work, I’m looking at them and thinking, “What is possible for you that you cannot see in yourself or do not want to see in yourself?” For some, that frightens them. I would say, “Please don’t be frightened by that.”
Be intrigued by that and be curious. Curiosity is that thing that is, for some reason we get a text, fax or an email to say at 30, 50 years old, curiosity is something that we should begin to let go of. It’s nonsense. Go back and be deeply curious about who you are, who you can be, and what you can do in this world. I’ve been very privileged and fortunate to witness people reimagine parts of their lives. Therefore, impact even more people in their lives and that is incredible. I believe that when we think about what’s possible, you have no idea how amazing, stunning and beautiful you can be in this world.
One of my biggest mentors is Walt Disney and not only about reimagining the world but reimagining your lives. Reimagine your life where it is now and where it can be in. Philip, you did that for me. One Last Talk, one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. Your speaking blew me away. Where can people learn more and connect with you? Everyone, this is one of the biggest impacts I’ve had ever. I’ve read hundreds of books. Where can they go?
Thank you for that, OneLastTalk.com and PhilipMcKernan.com as well. The OneLastTalk.com is the place where we’re beginning to create content and the podcast, One Last Talk Podcast, and the book is there.
Philip, thank you so much.
Pleasure is all mine. I appreciate it.
- One Last Talk: Why Your Truth Matters and How to Speak It
- One Last Talk Movement
- One Last Talk Podcast
About Philip McKernan
Philip works with entrepreneurs and business leaders all over the world. When people are seeking clarity about their future or want to move through roadblocks, seen and unseen, they call Philip. As a speaker, he has inspired and challenged the Canadian Olympic Team and The Pentagon to name a few. He is also the founder and is spearheading the One Last Talk™ movement.
He helps people get clear on who they are and where they need to go. He helps them transition in their personal and professional lives so people feel aligned in all areas of life. Philip believes who and what we do ‘off the ice’ has a huge impact on our results ‘on the ice’. His groundbreaking Team Deepening™ work with organizations gives teams a refreshing way to connect and build real and collective resilience.
What separates Philip from a lot of coaches, speakers and gurus is originality. He brings new conversations to the table and spends an obscene amount of time thinking and challenging the status quo, instead of simply repackaging business & life hacking strategies. Philip McKernan is a philosopher, a modern day philosopher of the human experience. His pioneering philosophy around SoulSet™ equips and empowers people to uncover their gifts and impact the world.