Many factors contribute to one person having problems with their mental health, but the one thing all these factors share is that you have to take ownership of these factors and these issues. Taking responsibility for your own mental health is an essential step in the maintenance it takes to ensure that you can bolster your mental wellness, even when things around you go south. James Purpura is the Co-Founder and CEO of Powerful U. He joins Timothy J. Hayes to dive into the ways in which you should be taking responsibility for your own mental health. Together, they uncover and demystify techniques that you can build up over time to get you through tricky or tough spots down the line. The journey to mental wellness begins here!
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Stepping Up To The Plate Of Responsibility With James Purpura
My guest is James Purpura. Only two years removed from solitary confinement in jail, James Purpura began his journey into the tech world. In 2007, he took a chance on a small construction software startup called PlanSwift. He quickly ascended to Vice President of Sales and then a year later, took over as President and became an equity partner in the company. Under James’ leadership, PlanSwift grew from $8,000 a month in volume to over $1 million a month in volume and over 50,000 customers in 24 countries, becoming one of the most well-known and largest technology companies in the construction industry.
In 2013, James led the M&A process to sell PlanSwift to a firm outside of Chicago called Textura. Shortly after joining Textura, James helped the company go public. Over the next few years, James ran four different business units at Textura and played an instrumental role in facilitating a $650 million exit of Textura to Oracle. James spent six months working as a Vice President at Oracle before negotiating the purchase of his original business, PlanSwift, back from Oracle. At the helm of PlanSwift, James quickly led the company to generate sufficient revenue to repay the purchasing costs, positioning PlanSwift as an attractive acquisition target. With PlanSwift firmly established, James negotiated a lucrative sale to a large competitor, allowing him to exit and pursue his dream of creating the world’s first personal evolution company. Several years earlier, James had hit rock bottom, beaten down by life, with shattered self-esteem. His addictions had resulted in jail time. He was financially, emotionally and spiritually bankrupt.
At the lowest point in his life, he met his future wife and business partner, Steph, and together they pursued a vision of becoming more. Shortly after meeting James, Steph wrote his first résumé and taught him how to send an email because, despite the fact that James had started and sold several tech companies, he still struggled, and still struggles with email. Along their journey of personal growth and self-improvement, James and Steph saw an opportunity to disrupt an industry, which ironically appeared to be perpetually stuck in the dark ages, the personal development industry. As rags to riches, a non-formally educated, successful tech founder with a serious interest in philosophy, James recognized the uniqueness of his position to disrupt the personal development industry for the better.
Together, James and Steph felt an urgency to pursue their life mission, to inspire individuals to tap into their unlimited potential and push humanity forward through a personalized combination of philosophy, science, technology and community. They agreed it was time to launch their next venture. Powerful U, the world’s first personal evolution company. James and Steph and their team have published a book, produced an award-winning movie, developed a game-changing personal perception assessment, and launched The Powerful Universe, a global platform for teaching and learning personal evolution. James has built strong international partnerships and an influencer network that already reaches over 50 million followers. On stage and on camera, James is compelling, authentic, riveting and has enriched audiences around the world.
Tim, thank you so much. I’m glad to be here. I love the work that you are doing over at Journey’s Dream.
It’s an honor to have you here. I wanted to start off with a question because you’re a person who’s made quite a bit of money in business. What makes you want to work in the mental health field?
For me, it’s not just about mental health, it’s about the evolution of the species, helping people wherever they’re at, move their lives forward. The answer to that question is when we sold our technology company, my wife and I had a conversation and it was, “Should we retire? Should we move to Hawaii, call it quits and check out or what else should we do?” The questioning we had to ask ourselves was, is this the world that we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in? The answer to that question was no. I believe if you have the means to do something about it, you have the responsibility.
I’m grateful for people like you reaching that conclusion.
The other thing is I went to a mental health symposium first and it was this idea of a bunch of mental health professionals and they were all sitting around talking about the suicide epidemic and all of these problems facing us as a society. A couple of interesting questions got asked. The first one was what they identified. They very clearly stated that no matter what, the one thing we do know is there’s not enough mental health professionals to be able to address the size of this problem. Afterward, I caught a couple of the panelists and we were having a discussion. One of them was a big donor to this facility and they go every week and they meet with the board members over there and they ask the same question. The same question is, why is it increasing quickly? Why is mental health crisis increasing? They never have an answer for that question but I do know the answer to that.
There are some simple things that we can do as a society to get in and have a profound change or the ability to impact people on a deep level. In my mind, that’s the whole package. You have to start with the awareness of what the problem is, how it came to fruition, what it’s looking like and what’s the solution. When you take the personal development space, oftentimes you go to a seminar or something and they don’t tell you why you should do something. They just tell you what to do. “Here’s what you need to do. The top of this mindset or do this or do that.”
The problem with that is I always want to know why something works and how something works. Unless I know why then I won’t fully understand the cost of not doing it or engaging in it. In my mind, if you take the whole population and you think about if mental health or ability is from 1 to 10. It’s a lot easier to take somebody from 5 to 10 than it is to take somebody from 1 to 2 in that scenario. What we’re trying to do is to take the pressure off professionals like you by giving everyday people who may not have had as much trauma as some other people, the tools they need to understand what’s going on and to move their lives forward.
Having read your book and watched the movie at Powerful U, you and your wife both had significant trauma. If these tools that you’re presenting in the book have worked for you, then they’re going to be effective for people who’ve had half as intense a trauma or a little bit more nurturing lifestyle.
It’s interesting because one of my best friends in the world had significant trauma as well in his childhood. He’s a therapist. We have something called the emotional integration technique, which is similar to things like CBT and different things. When we’ve developed this technique, I called them and I said, “I want to explain this technique to you over the phone because I want to see if you can get it by a simple explanation. I’m not going to go into it deep, I’m going to give you the framework and you try to apply it to your life and see if it works.” Because of this guy’s trauma, he became a therapist. He wanted to learn how to heal his own trauma. He’d been through EMDR, CBT, every type of therapy. When he started doing the emotional integration technique, his life jumped. His development jumped in a way that he couldn’t possibly imagine having been in the industry. The question is why.
The answer we came up with is this. If I’m doing CBT or if I’m doing EMDR or any of these other processes, generally that means I need somebody to facilitate that for me. When you need somebody to facilitate it for you, you’re still dependent on somebody else for your growth. When he took off and started using the emotional integration technique, he grew more in a shorter period of time than he ever had ever done with those other tools. What it is, whether it’s in an aftercare situation or it’s somebody who isn’t to the point where they need therapy, these tools give the ability for people to understand principles, ideas, concepts and tools that will move their lives forward. It will create a sense of well-being inside of them that they could never possibly imagine before.
One of the keys in your book that you talked about was having heard about how important meditation was and doing it because you were told it was important to do and getting limited results. You stepped into the big key, which was instead of doing the mind meditation, incorporating the energies and feelings in your body. Can you tell a little bit about what that did for your growth?
I’m going to back up a little bit because I think there’s an interesting story that goes along with that. I made a big statement which is I know what’s causing a mental health crisis. I want to talk about that because it’s the answer to your question. Essentially, I had this friend call me up. This friend, he had probably the most traumatic childhood that he’d ever experienced and that I’d ever heard of at that point. I was talking to him and he said, “James, my life is going back to hell. I’m in my addiction. I’m drinking in my car. Things are terrible again. I know that everything’s getting ready to fall apart. Can you help me?” As we were talking through what he was experiencing, he asked me a question. He goes, “I had five good years.” I’m like, “What do you mean you have five good years?” He goes, “I had five years where none of the trauma for my past impacted me at all.”Working in mental health is about helping people, wherever they are, move their lives forward. Click To Tweet
I had been talking to him about the autonomic nervous system and the fight or flight system and things like that and it hit me. I knew the guy was a marathon runner. I said to him, “Are you still running?” He said, “No.” I said, “How long has it been since you ran?” He said, “It’s been three years.” I said, “How did that five-year period of time correlate with you running marathons?” He said, “It was the exact same period of time. When I started running marathons, everything in my life shifted and changed. When I stopped, it started to digress.”
I explained to him about this idea of being fight or flight in the autonomic nervous system and how in fact that breathing is the key to switching back out of fight or flight into a state of homeostasis, rest and digest. He said, “That’s interesting because I used to do breathwork, breathing exercises to improve my time when I was running.” Here’s what we find in going back to the answer to your question is this. The challenge I think that we’re facing as a species is that the reason that human being is the apex predator, the reason we survived was actually the development of our perception. Because we learned to project our fear into the future to get ready for an attack that wasn’t there yet is what gave us an edge over the other predators.
All other animals only go into fight or flight when the threat presents itself. Human beings are the lone animals that can project fear into the future in order to move themself into a heightened state of awareness. That’s the reason we survived as a species, but that’s also the reason we’re now dying. That’s where the mental health crisis is coming. Even though we’re living in the safest time in known history, recorded history, most people go, “What? We are?” They don’t even realize it. We feel the most unsafe. When we look at the suicide rates, the highest rate of suicide is girls between 10 and 14 years old. I don’t know what you were doing at 10 or 14 years old, but I wasn’t thinking about suicide. The question is why? There are hints when you look at it, and the hints are this. Let me ask you a question. How many overweight kids were there in your elementary school?
A few and they stood out for that reason.
There was only one in mine. I still remember her name because it was unusual. I don’t know about you, but I grew up in the ‘70s, I ate Lucky Charms for breakfast, the Kool-Aid for lunch, Pop-Tarts, Wonder Bread. My diet was horrific. You can imagine, but nobody was overweight and we were all eating that way. Why are kids overweight now? That’s the clue that clued us in. We feel unsafe as adults because the globalization of news is bringing all the bad news to our phones every second.
We have adopted this feeling of being unsafe, insecure and we’ve imposed that feeling on our kids. They’re getting these phones at young ages and they’re reading about things like school shootings. When I was a kid, there was the Nightly News and we didn’t even watch it because it was super boring. My parents watched it but we were outside playing. As a society, we’re being inundated with negativity and bad news all day long, the concentration of the worst of the worst from around the globe constantly and second to second. It’s triggered us to be in a fight or flight system that was only made to be in periodically. What does it do? It slows down your digestion. Your intestines don’t work as well. You lose the connection with the part of your brain that can process this.
Essentially, here’s what I discovered, and this is the long answer to your question. You know that 70% or 80% of the most successful people in the world do one thing every day and that is they meditate. What is the benefit of meditation? Here’s what most people fail to realize is meditation was never about cleaning your head. It was always about the breathwork and what the breath does for you. Here’s the explanation. When you move into fight or flight mode, you lose connection with your brain essentially and you move into a lower state of consciousness. Your brain does not have the ability to go in and turn that off. That has to be generated from the body. What is the signal that the body uses to signal that it’s time to move back into homeostasis?
If you think about the fact that we’re running from a predator, the first thing you have to do when you stop is you have to catch your breath. It’s that deep, heart-based breathing. When you get into deep heart-based breathing, what it does is the signal signals your brain to reconnect, to take back control, and you move into a higher state of consciousness. Here’s what the most successful people in the world are doing. Unbeknownst to them, they’re literally taking control of their physiology. As you can imagine, it’s a lot easier to go from 50% trigger to 100% trigger than it is to go from 0% to 25%.
People who are doing a practice of breathing every day are essentially reversing the effects of physiology through our evolution by taking control of that, even if they’re not aware of that. That’s where the mental health crisis comes in. That’s where, for me, the meditation took off is as I moved my meditation and my body and started breathing deeper, what I began to understand is that your body is your subconscious mind. Even though memories are stored in your brain, emotions are stored in your body, and those unprocessed emotions are what’s keeping you stuck and creating all this trauma that you’re constantly experiencing.
You’ve incorporated and your book mentions of people like Peter Levine and his work with trauma, which is powerful and gentle. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been drawn to it over the years. As I remember in your book, you said when you got that piece to start figuring out what’s going on in the body and releasing those energies, your work progressed exponentially. Is that correct?
It did. Here’s the story. We haven’t talked about my story a little bit, but I had a lot of trauma in my life and I ended up in solitary confinement. From the time I left solitary confinement, my wife and I met shortly thereafter and we started working hard, talking about perceptions, emotions, ideas and concepts. We had no idea what we were doing, but from that time, it took me from jail to my first million dollars was nine years. People hear that and they go, “That’s amazing.” I think that was the longest period of time in my life because we spent every night working. When we reached our first million dollars, I looked at my wife and I said, “Are you happy?” She said, “No.” I said, “Me neither.”
We figured we needed more money and we went to two. It still wasn’t the case. We had to turn around and figure out what creates happiness. Essentially what we discovered through this process is that what it takes to create happiness and well-being are not the same things, but they are two sides of the same coin that we call perception. Creating money and things on the outside world is all about shifting your perception of the meaning after it comes out as an assumption in your mind, changing your perception of the outside world. Creating happiness is all about shifting your perception of the inside world. What we figured out is that when you have an experience, especially when you’re a kid, you don’t have the mental or physical capacity to defend yourself, so you stand up and fear to do it. That fear basically has an emotion attached to it and that emotion gets repressed in your body.
What happens from a perception point of view is every time that you have an experience, your mind does something similar to a Google search. Because you don’t see reality, it’s going in. It’s finding situations that are similar to the situation that you’re now having and it applies that meaning. Where most people get messed up is they don’t understand that the meaning of the old memory it used also has an emotion tied to it. Memories that have unprocessed emotions tied to are more readily available for your brain to access. It’s like something happens and you have a level of emotion that doesn’t seem to fit the situation. What happened? It’s because there’s an unprocessed emotion that’s trapped in your body that needs to be processed. That’s why emotions are the indicators of what’s going on inside of you. They’re stored in the body.
What we discovered is you think about it like defragging your computer or going and cleaning something up. We’re going to our past experiences. We’re processing the old emotion. We’re imprinting a new emotion of love and gratitude there. The next time unbeknownst to us that my mind grabs that memory to dictate what’s going to happen next, it will come with a different emotional response. People often wonder why they’re on these emotional roller coasters. Everything’s like, “It’s up, it’s down.” It’s because your body and your mind are so full of unprocessed emotions that are caught in your system, that are tied to memories that your mind is constantly accessing to predict what’s going to happen next. That’s where the emotional roller coaster comes in. This is interesting. It’s like I feel like we’ve been made to choose. Do you want money and all the things that come along with that or do you want well-being? We don’t think we can have both.
What we do is we choose and it’s like, “What does that get us?” It gets us a bunch of rich people that are miserable and it gets us a bunch of spiritual people who are broke. That doesn’t seem to be optimal for us. What we had to do was go out and figure out what it is that creates happiness. What we had to do was clean out our past of all those unprocessed emotions so that our perception was no longer accessing those as a part of living.Practicing breathing to calm yourself will help you build muscle memory. Click To Tweet
I think one of the keys there is, and sometimes I run into this with people where they say, “I can’t change the past.” What you’re talking about is the powerful truth that while I may not be able to change the past in terms of what happened, I can certainly change the meaning I’m giving it and the interpretation that I place on it. One of the powerful things about the process that you have in your book is that I’m not going to detach the negative emotions from my memories of a past event. I’m stepping into this space of gratitude for the learning that that event can provide.
That’s the emotion that you print into it. Not only do you have gratitude for the fear that you chose to adopt, but you also have the gratitude for the version of you that chose to adopt that fear because I think we spend so much time beating ourselves up.
One of the quotes from the movie was, “Freewill lives in the past in order to change the future.” I changed the history of my past meanings. When I do that, then when I create a meaning now, it’s happening from a different foundation, a different place of the recognition of the strengths that I had that helped me survive those difficult situations in the past. Rather than beating myself up for not responding in a way that is more like the picture of the superhero who blasts his or her way through something.”
I think there’s an interesting thought around that. Human beings have an operating system and here’s the core foundation of our operating system. We can only act in accordance with our beliefs based on our current physiological state. “Do I have free will?” The answer is yes, but not in the way that you think that you do. Based on that statement, you’re only ever acting in accordance with your beliefs. We like to tell people, “If your life isn’t what you want it to be, it’s not because you’ve done something wrong. It’s because you made the only decision you could with the information you had available to you.” That is exciting because you’ve only ever been doing the best you can. It’s not you. We all make decisions the same way. We take all the information and we make the best decision we can. It’s not a decision, it’s not a ‘you’ problem. It’s an information problem. That’s where people get caught up. They’re constantly beating themselves up for the decisions that they botched or made, when in fact you did the best you could. It’s an information problem. You’re wasting your time beating yourself up.
When you think about that, human beings can only act in accordance with a belief based on the current physiological state. What does that mean? Do you have freewill? The answer is yes and no. Here’s the first thing. At the moment, as you’re experiencing something, you can only act according to your beliefs in your current physiology state. You don’t have free will at that moment because your beliefs are driving your behavior. Here’s where we have free will. It’s exactly what you read in the book. It’s like, “I can go and change my beliefs so the next time I faced that same situation, I can respond differently because there’s a different belief driving my behavior.” Here’s something that our mutual friend, Mark, and I have been talking a lot about, I’ve been thinking a lot about, and it’s this. This is why I added the last part of that based on your current physiological state. I want anybody to think about if you have ever had an addictive behavior or if you’re making a decision that you’re unsure about. That decision is tied to fear. I’ve been tossing around this concept of what is healing. How can we heal?
Here’s what the process looks like for me. You have three components to fear. There’s the perception or psychology, there’s the physiology, and then there’s biology. I know nothing about biology, so I’m not going to speak to that part. We’re going to talk about perception and physiology. You have a perception of fear and, and then you have the physiology of fear. When those two things are attached, you don’t have the cognitive ability at that moment to process that perception. If you attempt to, it will loop back because you didn’t get the physiology piece. In order to process trauma, what you have to do is separate or create space between the perception of fear and the physiology of fear. If you walk down and detach or create space between the perception and the physiology, essentially coming out of fight or flight through things like breathing, walking in nature, there’s a whole host of things you can do. Your brain takes back control, you move to a higher state of awareness in it then and only then do you have the option of processing the physiology or the perception of it. You can’t do it when the physiology is still attached.
Mark and I were having a conversation and it was like there’s always a pause. I realized this and that’s where the key is. Let’s say that you’re an addict. What is an addict? I talk to Alex all the time because I used to be there and it’s like, “Why did you use?” “What do you mean why do I use? I’m an addict.” “It’s not why you use. You use because you’re trying to escape something. What are you trying to escape?” The things that we were trying to escape get triggered. That’s when we go into our addictive behavior. There’s always a pause. Essentially what happens is that your mind goes into fear and your body joins and then you move into the behavior of action, whether that be an addiction or playing out some pattern in your life.
There is a pause that happens between those two things. It’s like the perception comes up, the physiology comes up and you pause. That is your moment. What is that pause for? We don’t understand that pause. That pause is being created by your mind recognizing a contradiction between what you want and what you’re getting ready to do and the massive contradiction that’s in that causes you to pause. That pause is your opportunity to walk down the physiology. It’s like fear gets triggered, the physiology attaches. I have a pause because I’m getting ready to act in a way that’s not congruent with what I want. At that moment, I can walk down the physiology or I can act in the behavior. I don’t have the ability to process it then because I’m not attached to my mind.
We need to understand that the first step is awareness. What happens is if you recognize that process, when you’re thrown into fear and you recognize the pause and you recognize the fact that you’re going to choose the fear. You’re not going to breathe at that moment, but you know that you have the option to. If you could learn to recognize what happens is that this trigger gets attached to whatever happens next. As you watch your behavior unfold, whether it be addiction or anything else, you start to realize there was a cost to this. When your mind starts to calculate the cost, because we learn through pain, at some point that is not going to be the most conducive way. At some point, the pain is going to become unsustainable. You’re going to be like, “It’s not worth it.”
Only then will you have the option in that pause to use the tool of breathing and walking down the physiology. The big key is not to beat yourself up. These patterns have been in place for a long time. The first key is the awareness that they’re playing out. In that pause, realize that your best tool and your only tool is to start taking deep breaths. As you start to take deep breaths, you will create that space between perception and physiology. Once your mind shifts into a higher state of awareness, then you’re at the point that you have a choice again because you can choose to process that thought or behavior. If you stay in the physiology fear, you don’t have a choice. That’s literally what Albert Einstein meant by you can’t solve a problem at the level of consciousness it was created because problems are created here. Solving the problem has created a higher state of consciousness.
The thing that I talk to people about is that if I can get myself to practice that deep breath, the pause that refreshes, comfortably fill my lungs, hold for 2 or 3 seconds at the top and then resist the exhale. It’s nice and slow. I’m not doing that when the bear is chasing me. I’m doing that in my calm moment. If I do that, it’s like developing this muscle memory. Most people understand muscle memory. People can be away from riding a bicycle for 10 or 15 years and somebody brings a bicycle along and they can get on it. The body remembers how to do that.
I coach people that if they can do what you’re recommending and practice that breathing, it will build muscle memory. When they get to that pause that you’re talking about and they’ve been training themselves to recognize it and the cost-benefit analysis comes up, “I don’t want to drink again because it costs me too much.” When they stop and take that breath in, a whole cascade of changes in the body to disrupt that physiology happens. One of the first things that happen on the fight or flight response is less blood goes to the brain. That extra blood stops going to my internal organs to digest food and all that blood is already from my back and my legs to run or fight for my life. The first thing I want to do, if it’s not an actual life and death situation, is getting that breathing going and restore the blood flow to the brain.
You asked the question and I skirted around it and I wanted to touch on it because I think it’s an important point. What you said was that people often say to you, “I can’t go back and change the past.” I was sitting in my jail cell and shortly after getting there, I realized I wanted to change my life. I started reading a lot of books. I used to write these long lists of people who I felt like they harmed me. The idea was that I would go into a prayer meditation, I would offer them forgiveness, but my current understanding of forgiveness was the one I learned as a child. It didn’t resonate with me. One day, I was looking at this long list of people who had harmed me and I had this epiphany. I looked down and I thought that the only common denominator between all of those situations is me. What if I’m somehow the creator of all this? I’m never to that point because I’d lived a terrible life, never considered the fact that I might be the creator of my experiences. I thought about what it meant on both sides of that coin. I thought, “If I’m not the creator of my experience, what does that mean?” I had a tough life.
It means the world is a terrible place and I probably don’t want to play anymore. If I was in fact the creator of my experiences, what did that mean for me? Here’s where I got to. It meant that I would have to take responsibility for all the things that had happened to me. It also meant that if I could figure out the mechanism by which I created those experiences, then I could create something new and magical in its place. That’s where my journey started off with a question because I needed to figure it out. I’ve chosen that day to take responsibility for everything that ever happened to me. That was the ownership piece. I decided that I was going to figure out what it was how we created our lives. The next question I asked myself was because I had some traumatic situations in my childhood, I thought to myself, “Does my trauma define me?”
I looked at that and I was like, “If my trauma defines me, that means I’m stuck forever because I can’t go back and change the trauma.” The next question I asked myself was, “Has everybody who’s ever experienced trauma allowed it to destroy them?” The answer to that question was no. Therefore, it couldn’t have been my trauma that defines me. What was the defining thing that created this life that I didn’t like so much? What I chose to believe about myself having lived through the trauma is what I got to. Forgiveness for me, to be clear, has nothing to do with the other person. I leave their actions and behaviors to them. It’s not about letting the other person off the hook. It’s about letting myself off that. What am I letting myself off the hook and what am I taking responsibility for?
This is an important piece because people fail to take responsibility. It’s like, “Why would I take responsibility for something if I didn’t know what to do with it? That would cause me more trauma because now I’m blaming myself.” The answer is that you take responsibility for the things you chose to believe. My traumatic situation was when I was five years old. I was in kindergarten, my teacher called me up in front of the room and called me stupid and retarded every day and made the whole class call me stupid and retarded when I was on my way out to special ed. My mom refused to intervene and told me the world was a cruel place, so I was going to have to get used to it. It happened every day. What created my life? It wasn’t the abuse. It was the fact that I chose to believe that I was stupid, that I was not good enough, that I was never going to be good enough. Those are the thoughts and ideas that have created my life that people were cruel.
When I tell that story, it’s interesting, I’ll have people go, “Don’t do that to yourself. Don’t blame yourself.” I’m like, “What?” “You were only five years old.” I’m like, “Please stop trying to take away my power.” I was only five years old and I will give the fact that I did make the best decision I could with the information available, but it was my decision to make. That is where we have our power because I can’t go back and change the abuse, but I can go back and change what that abuse meant to me and the emotions attached to it. That’s where we have our power. We have the choice in what it is we choose to believe about ourselves, about the world. The reason we talk about perception is that the underlying principle around perception is what you believe and feel on the inside is what creates what you experience on the outside. People don’t get that even if they get that because everything that’s happening outside of them feels real. The mind works quickly, they think that they see reality when it couldn’t be further from the truth. That’s where people get caught up. The second piece where they get caught up is our book and our movie are all about perception and emotions. It’s like why perception and emotions because perception dictates everything that you are and everything that you experience.
Emotions give your life the only meaning they have. It’s like, “If those are the two things that dictate our lives, why don’t we fully understand them? Why aren’t we experts in them?” It’s like the rule books to life. We started what we’re doing because there are insights into the principles that dictate your experience. Those insights are secrets. In our book, you read it, it’s written on a fifth-grade level because that’s where my education stopped. The other reason it’s written on that level was that I didn’t want anybody to get lost in words. I wanted it to be in a language so simple that anybody could understand it. That’s it. Those are the fundamentals. Emotions are interesting because we’ve been touching on them all day.When you have a negative emotional response, there's a contradiction between your conscious and unconscious mind. Click To Tweet
Here’s the problem with our relationship with emotions. People are constantly making their emotions about other people and other people’s emotions about them. In other words, like, “You made me mad.” Nobody can make you anything. It’s like, “They’re mad at me. It must mean something about me.” It doesn’t have anything to do with you. This is the thing I like to hit home with people. Your emotions aren’t there to tell you there’s something wrong on the outside. They’re there to tell you that there’s something wrong on the inside. What are they there to tell you? It’s interesting because I was on a radio show and I was talking about these concepts and you can only see what you believe to be possible.
This lady comes on and goes, “That’s not true because I think that I’m great and no men are interested in me.” I said, “It means you don’t think that you’re great.” She goes, “How can you say that? I know what I think.” I said, “You know what you think you know. Here’s the deal. Ninety-five percent of your mental cognition is in your subconscious and unconscious mind. Everything that your perception is sourcing is from that space. Five percent of that happens to be in your conscious mind in fact probably believes what you think you believe. People ask me all the time, “How do I know what I believe?” I’m like, “Look at your life. It’s a direct reflection.” I can sit down with somebody and we can have a discussion about their current money situation. I can tell you what they believe about money, relationships, health, fitness. There is no mystery to life and that’s where people get caught up. They think that life is a mystery. I’m shocked when people are appalled or shocked by the results. It’s like, “You drank, smoked and ate terribly for 30 years and now you’re surprised? Do you think God’s punishing you because you have a heart attack? Open your eyes and look at what’s going on.”
Where it comes down to is that your emotions are literally pointing out one thing for you. When you have a negative emotional response, it means there is a contradiction between what’s happening in your conscious mind and your subconscious and unconscious mind. The key is figuring out what that contradiction is trying to tell you. It means that you have a belief in your subconscious or unconscious mind that isn’t congruent with what you think you want or what you think you are in your conscious mind. It gives you an opportunity to go back and look. It’s valuable information, but because we spent much time either repressing or projecting our emotions onto others, we lose our only feedback mechanism. It’s not our only one, but it’s our main one. These are the fundamental principles that dictate our lives and people are so lost and confused. It’s like, “It’s a mystery. Life is a mystery.” It’s not a mystery once you understand the fundamentals.
Yet we live in our culture that teaches us the opposite of that. That’s why I’m grateful to run across a book like yours. It speaks to people in a very direct way about complex issues. I want to go back to something you said because I know you’ve been at this long enough to know you might get a little pushback from time to time when you tell people that they created their experience. The thing I like about what you and Steph have done with the book is made it clear that what I created is my experience and the meaning I took from those events. I didn’t necessarily create the person who was ridiculing me. Yet when I’m willing to step into taking full responsibility for what I made it mean for me, that’s what I’m carrying with me all those years. That’s what’s rippling out energetically in my words and behaviors and affecting my life. It’s a complex thought process and it’s simple to apply the solution.
Your book and many of those that we work with say, “If I’m in mental and emotional pain, what that means is that’s the wakeup call for me.” Tim, your thoughts are off the mark. You have two wonderful questions I ask people to step into. Whenever they notice they don’t like what they’re feeling, take a breath, get centered and ask themselves, “How am I creating this emotion?” That’s one good one. The other one is, “What am I making this situation mean?” If you add that to your emotional integration technique and practice it, there’s a powerful set of tools that you made available for people in this book, the title of which is Perception: Seeing is Not Believing. You’ve also got a rather magnificent website up at Powerful-U.com. What is it that we might not have gotten to yet that you want to make sure we give our readers look at?
I touched on this, but I want to go a little bit deeper into it. There may be people that are reading this and they’re considering taking their lives. They’re depressed, they feel like they don’t have any hope. What I would say to those people is there’s always hope. There’s a narrative in the book and it’s that you’ve never made a bad decision. I tell people that and they go, “No, James. I’ve made a lot of bad decisions.” They’re like, “How can you even say that you were in jail?” I’m saying, “Because you’re not even capable of making a bad decision unless you’re mentally ill.” That confuses people. They said, “What’s the punchline?” The punchline is you’ve only ever made a decision with that information. They’re like, “That’s phonetics.” I’m like, “No.” There’s an important distinction that you need to understand and here’s the distinction. The reason you’ve never made a bad decision is that we all make decisions the same way. We look at the available information and we make the best decision we can with that information. A bad decision would be, “I’m going to make a decision I know is against my beliefs and in my best interest,” but that’s not the way we do it.
That’s where the confusion sets in. It’s no secret. Good information leads to good decisions, leads to a good outcome. Faulty information leads to faulty decisions, leads to faulty outcomes. The reason that’s important is you can stop beating yourself up. This isn’t a ‘you’ problem. There’s nothing wrong with you. It’s an information problem, plain and simple. Your mind is full of information that’s holding you back. That’s why it’s important. You can stop beating yourself up. If you think that my life is better than yours or I have things that you want that you currently don’t have. It’s not because I’m smarter. It’s not because of any other reason than the fact that I had better information by which to make my decisions. What is the source of our information?
That’s where perception and emotions come in. They are our source and our way of interacting with the world. We have to understand the source of information, the mechanism by which we receive that information so we can go back to the source, which is our beliefs and understandings. An author said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look change.” It’s such a beautiful thing because people don’t understand that. We’re all caught in this world. We’re running around trying to fix things. It’s like trying to fix this and it’s like, “Why are you trying to fix things on the outside?” What’s on the outside is only a reflection on what’s on the inside.
That’s like trying to change things at the level of effect. It’s like going to a movie and slapping the screen and expecting to change what’s on the projector. If you want to change what you’re experiencing on the outside, you have to change what you believe on the inside. If you’re running around trying to fix things on the outside or blame things and do things like that, then you’re wasting your time. Essentially life is like a video game. When you think about a video game, you’re inserting yourself into a world and you’re playing against a program. Basically, what’s happening with perception is that your beliefs are being projected on the screen of the world and that’s what you’re interacting with. Once you understand that principle, it’s like, “Where do I start?”
Here’s where you start. It’s always with a question. Start with this. Understand that you’re wrong. You think, “What am I wrong about?” It turns out about everything. That’s the best news. Because life was never ever about finding answers. Life is about asking the right questions. When you ask the right questions, answers come. You can never start a question off with knowing. A question dictates that you don’t know. If you know everything and you refuse to challenge your current set of beliefs, then your life right now is the best it’s ever going to be.
You have to learn how to question everything, all of your thoughts, all of your feelings, all of your perceptions, “Where’s this going on? How am I feeling?” When you get into the mode of questioning, then your life starts to shift and change rapidly. All of this information I’m talking about came from a single question, and then another one, and then another one. I didn’t read books on perception or psychology to come up with these ideas or concepts. Thankfully at the beginning of this conversation you said everything that’s written in this book is based on sound principles. You know that because you studied those principles. I didn’t study those principles. I asked a lot of questions about myself and my experience. That’s why I think that the book and the movie are valuable because it will open you up to a new set of information, a new idea. It’s like walking into a room and flipping on a light switch. You can’t go back into the dark.
I have to say that there’s so much good stuff in it that I want people to know if they get the book, Perception: Seeing is Not Believing. The first read is the beginning. I recommend reading it multiple times within the first year you get it and you’ll see something different every time. To whatever degree you can, if you can start applying some of the exercises, you can transform your life.
Awareness is the first step. That’s the thing people don’t understand. Once you become aware of it, that’s the first step because it’s like people are living in the dark. When you read it through the first time, you’re like, “There’s a lot more going on here than I thought.” It’s like, “I can’t unknow that.” Start with the awareness and then move into the exercise. Start becoming aware of everything that’s going on around you, your perception, your emotions, how it ties, tying that physiology of fear with the perception of fear, and look at your current life and the results. It will open your eyes.
I appreciate your taking the time to be with us. I look forward to the time I can interview you again and find out what you’ve been up to. Thank you for all you do. It’s been a pleasure.
Thank you, Tim. I appreciate it.
I look forward to talking to you soon. Take care.
About James Purpura
Only two years removed from solitary confinement in jail, James Purpura began his journey into the tech world. In 2007, he took a chance on a small construction software startup called PlanSwift. He quickly ascended to Vice President of Sales and then, a year later, took over as President and became an equity partner is the company. Under James’ leadership, PlanSwift grew from $8,000 a month in volume to over $1,000,000 a month in volume and over 50,000 customers in 24 countries, becoming one of the most well-known and largest technology companies in the construction industry. In 2013, James lead the M & A process to sell PlanSwift to a firm outside of Chicago called Textura. Shortly after joining Textura, James helped the company go public. Over the next few years, James ran four different business units at Textura and played an instrumental role in facilitating a $650 million exit of Textura to Oracle. James spent six months working as a Vice President at Oracle before negotiating the purchase of his original business, PlanSwift, back from Oracle. Again at the helm of PlanSwift, James quickly led the company to generate sufficient revenue to repay the purchasing costs, positioning PlanSwift as an attractive acquisition target. With PlanSwift firmly established, James negotiated a lucrative sale to a large competitor, allowing him to exit and pursue his dream of creating the world’s first personal evolution company. Just 15 years earlier, James had hit rock bottom—beaten down by life, Just 15 years earlier, James had hit rock bottom—beaten down by life, with shattered self-esteem. His addictions had resulted in jail time. He was financially, emotionally, and spiritually bankrupt. At the lowest point in his life, he met his future wife and business partner, Steph, and together they pursued a vision of becoming more. Shortly after meeting James, Steph wrote his first resume and taught him how to send an email because, despite the fact that James had started and sold several tech companies, he still struggled, and still struggles, with email. At the lowest point in his life, he met his future wife and business partner, Steph. Along their journey of personal growth and self improvement, James and Steph saw an opportunity to disrupt an industry which ironically appeared to be perpetually stuck in the dark ages — the personal development industry. As a rags to riches, non-formally educated, successful tech founder with a serious interest in philosophy, James recognized the uniqueness of his position to disrupt the personal development industry for the better.
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