top of page

NYT Bestselling Author of "Positive Intelligence" and Faculty at Stanford and Yale Business Schools, Shirzad Charmine, talks about his research on the inner saboteurs within our minds, and shares tips and suggestions on how to improve our performance and realize our full potential.

Shirzad was previously CEO of the largest coach-training organization in the world, having trained coaches and managers in most of the Fortune 500 companies. A preeminent C-suite advisor, Shirzad has coached hundreds of CEOs and their executive teams. His background includes PhD studies in neuroscience in addition to a BA in psychology, an MS in electrical engineering, and an MBA from Stanford.


Check out the podcast below to listen to the complete discussion! 


Some of the areas that Shirzad touches upon in this episode:

1. The positive and negative forces inside our minds
2. The fateful day at his own company many years ago that transformed Shirzad and led to him doing this research
3. Exercises that each of us can do to take our minds to a more positive state, in as few as just a few minutes.
4. How to think about realizing your full potential

Detailed discussion transcript:

[LED]  01:16

Can you please give us a little bit of an introduction to your research and “Positive Intelligence”


[Shirzad] 01:53

Positive Intelligence, that is the body of my research that basically looks at the fact that inside each of us, we have the power and brilliance of the Jedi. But we also have the ugliness and the sabotage of Darth Vader and that inside every human mind, there are two forces constantly fighting for domination, our Jedi and our Darth Vader and the balance of power between those two parts of us. I call that your level of Positive Intelligence and your Positive Intelligence is what in our research we show is the biggest predictor of how happy you will be in life. And also, for many of your listeners, it’s important to know that it also correlates with how much of their potential they will really achieve. So if you really want to reach your true potential in life, you want to make sure your positive intelligence level is the highest it can be. Meaning you want to strengthen your Jedi mind inside and weaken your Darth Vader.


[LED]  03:00

I think it's a very apt message for this audience. Can you take us back to when you were at your own company, and the events that happened which actually led you to start thinking about this.


[Shirzad] 03:15

I think what you're referring to is my own first venture backed software company. I started it several years after I finished being a student at Stanford Business School. And I had been an engineer prior to that. I created this prototype for a software that would help employees in the company manage their own career, sort of a self coaching software. And I cold called some fortune 100 CEOs and well known luminaries in the field. And to my amazement, they all found the presentation compelling, they were drawn to the company. 

I got 10 very famous angel investors, and later on $20 million in venture financing. And then I also attracted world class employees to my company. One of my buddies from business school came to be the president of the company. And everything was awesome. 

As I started the company, everything was positive and beautiful. Our office was in downtown Palo Alto. Two years later - one day, I went out for lunch, came back to our offices on the second floor of this downtown Palo Alto place. And my heart sank when I walked in, because I noticed that my chairman of the board was sitting in the boardroom, along with my president with my most senior director, my most senior VP, and basically they were waiting to have intervention on me. 

What was going on is that this was a palace coup. Because I had become such a horrible manager in these two years that they couldn't stand working for me anymore. And I was listening to nobody. So they had to go to the board to push me aside. And in that moment, what I realized is that I had gone from this incredibly positive magnetic visionary leader, to such a horrible leader, and nobody wants to work for me. And the question that came to me was what has happened? What happened here? Who was the real me? Where was that brilliant visionary? Or was I this horrible leader? How have they changed from one to the other? And answering all of these questions, which took many years, kept me busy and eventually led to Positive Intelligence work.


[LED]  05:53

I think this is a very hard experience for anyone to go through. And I think you've mentioned in the past that for a long time, it was very hard for you to keep going back to office again, and again, because you were constantly reminded of how these people had not treated you in a very fair manner. Or at least that was your impression. And, then slowly, you managed to turn that experience around. How did you get out of that experience, and turn it into a positive one?


[Shirzad] 06:32

You're right, what had happened is now after this experience, I lost some of my power in the company, but I couldn't walk away. Because I had brought in all the investors, I brought in all the clients, everybody had come in, because they trusted me and I couldn't just abandon them and walk away. So I had no choice but to keep coming back into work every day with people that I thought had betrayed my trust. Because I had no choice. And that was an extraordinarily painful thing. 

And in order to make sense of it, I started challenging that part of me that kept saying that these guys were terrible. And start wondering if there was another explanation. What I eventually understood was that actually, these people are fighting for my vision, they were fighting for the reason we had all started the company. And what had happened is that the true visionary that I was, was no longer the person they were interacting with. They were initially coming, attracted to the company, because they were interacting with my inner Jedi. And what had emerged upon the incredible stresses of running the company was that they were now interacting with my darkness, my Darth Vader, and there was nothing beautiful about my Darth Vader. 

And I had to take accountability and responsibility for that and realize that actually, these people are fighting for my vision. And I came to eventually trust them even more deeply than ever before. And they are today to this date, they are very close friends. So what I really ended up realizing is all these dark parts of my own psyche. And eventually, as I discovered those in myself, I started also discovering that everybody has some variation of these dark characters inside them, I call them your Saboteurs, the agents of your self-sabotage, that became a big part of my research work.


[LED]  08:48

How did you realize that this was the problem that was happening? And the reason I ask is that if you take the example of anyone who is in a similarly miserable position, maybe they're not doing well in their job or they're not happy or they're in a bad relationship - how can they try and think about that situation in a different way, which can help them change it into a positive one?


[Shirzad] 09:50

My work on Positive Intelligence ultimately results in one taking complete accountability for our own actions, our experience of work and life, which means that at the end of the day, when I coach a CEO, and I coach executives, I look them in the eye and I say - you know what, you're completely accountable and responsible for how you're experiencing life, moment to moment. Meaning that anytime you're feeling negative emotions of any sort, whether it's stress, anger, shame, guilt, disappointment - any of these negative emotions are being produced by your own Darth Vader inside your brain, which again, I call your Saboteurs. 

You're not experiencing these difficult things because people are bad, or because experiences are bad, or events are stressful, you're experiencing life this way, because the characters running your brain right now are the dark characters inside your mind. And at any given moment, you have the choice to shift your brain activation, and shift to the Jedi inside and you will experience instantly that the entire situation is transformed to a situation where you can do some positive thinking, acting and moving things to a very different place based on the fact that you're looking at it quite differently. 

And what I ultimately arrived at for myself and teach others, is a stance of complete accountability for the experience you're having. And that's the reason I call this more a kind of Jedi Mind Training, is that think about when the Jedi is in the middle of war, even if the Jedi is being attacked by five different enemies from five different directions. When you think about the Jedi - he or she is not feeling upset or stressed or getting all angry at the person attacking from the left or right or whatever. The Jedi is completely centered, very clear headed so that they can take decisive action. 

And instead of wasting any energy and emotion and figuring out who is the bad person and who is this and who is it that they are just in a commanding place where they can take precise laser focused action to do what it is that needs to get done. No time and energy is wasted on blaming others and shaming others and feeling upset, all laser focused on action on what needs to get done. That's command mastery over one's own mind. Taking complete accountability for what's happening right now and what you're gonna do about it.


[LED]  12:31

That's obviously not very easy to do! Can you share examples of these Saboteurs that you refer to, the dark forces in our minds?


[Shirzad] 12:41

By the way, you just said it's not easy to do and you’re absolutely right. And the Jedi doesn't become Jedi because she read a book on Jedi hood one day, or she said, Oh my God, that sounds like a great idea. The Jedi, basically is about building muscles of self command over your own mind. And literally in your brain. It's about building gray matter in areas of your brain that are about self command, and about having these powers. So it absolutely is about having enough passion about this world to say - you know what, I am going to build my mental emotional fitness by building these muscles and maintaining these muscles. It is not automatically done. It's more of a fitness model where you want to build up these muscles every day. So in that sense, it takes work. But it also is joyful work. Because if you do this work, it releases endorphins in your brain that become almost addictive. I just love maintaining my muscles. Not because I have to, but because it feels so good when I do it. And it produces all these results.


[LED]  13:49

How long did it take for you to go through this transition and get to where you are today?


[Shirzad] 14:10

Well, I've been at this work for about 20 years now! What may be of interest to your audience may be how long will it take them to get some palpable, tangible results. And what we now know from neuroscience research is that within just eight weeks of activating these regions of your brain, where your energy dial is, for a minimum of 12 minutes a day, within eight weeks of practicing 12 minutes a day, you actually can see increased gray matter under an MRI imaging with your naked eye you, can actually see increased gray matter in the regions of the brain where the Jedi leaves and very powerful part of the research is that actually you also will see decreased gray matter, decreased muscle power in areas of your brain that lead to all your negative emotions, or all your Saboteurs and where the so called Darth Vader lives. 

So within eight weeks of daily practice, you absolutely feel a very palpable shift in how you feel, and how you handle the challenges in your life. You will not be a Jedi Level Master, I'm not a Jedi level mastery either, even after all these years of work, but you will absolutely get a lot closer to that with some practice.


[LED]  15:40

But that sounds very doable. Eight weeks and just 12 minutes a day, something which I think any of us who's interested in this kind of thing should be easily able to commit. So what do you recommend? How do you do this?


[Shirzad] 15:55

Online, my website there are some resources. One - there's an assessment of saboteurs. So if you go there and click on the tab that says assessment, you get a saboteurs assessment and in five minutes, you get a bar chart that shows you which kind of saboteurs do you have, who are the agents of your self sabotage. 

And their names are things like the judge, controller, stickler, avoider, victim, etc there are 10 of these. So agents of sabotage, most people have a few of them, no person I have ever worked with, in any culture (and the book is translated to 16 different languages),  I've never been to any country in any culture, where somebody has said - what the heck are you talking about, we don't have the saboteurs.

So first, you want to find out who the enemies inside are. Because the problem is that these enemies inside are currently masquerading as your friends. Your judge has been telling you all your life, I need to keep beating the crap out of you and keep beating you up for what's wrong with you, you idiot. Why can't you improve more? Why can't you be better? Why did you make that stupid mistake, I need to keep doing that you idiot so that you get better and better and better. That's the tone of the judge. That control or the high power achiever. All these characters have pretended they're your friend in pushing you to more and more success. So first, you want to really expose the enemy inside so that they lose their credibility, they get weaker, you weaken the enemy that way. So you're basically going to be weakening Darth Vader inside. 

Then on the other side, you want to increase the power of the Jedi inside. And one of the ways to do that, and there are several ways I described in the book, but one of the ways to do that is do these 12 minutes a day exercises that activate that region of your brain, there are guided audio sessions on my website that actually guide you to doing those exercises. So you build up the brain muscle.


[LED]  18:14

So are these 12 minute exercises? Or are these similar to meditation?


[Shrizad] 18:20

Great question. Meditation is a specialized form of what I do. So the ancient way of activating and building up strength in that region of your brain has been meditation and mindfulness practices. The problem is that about 15 years ago, I started requiring my clients to actually meditate 20 minutes a day or whatever, and everybody promised but within a month, only about 10-15% of them are able to keep up. So what I realize is that meditation, even though it works, most people who start meditating, don't sustain meditating, for whatever reason. 

And I went back to MRI studies and tried to figure out is there another way we can build those muscles in the brain that's more accessible and easier for the Type A personality in our busy culture. And what I came up with was this thing I call a PQ rep - PQ stands for Positive Intelligence Quotient, so I abbreviate a lot of what I do to the word to PQ. And a rep comes from in the gym, if you take in a dumbbell and you do a lot of reps with it. Each dumbbell rep strengthens your let's say, bicep muscle just a tiny bit. And if you do a bunch of these reps every day, then your muscles absolutely grow. 

So similarly, the PQ rep is the equivalent of a dumbbell rep for that positive region of your brain and it takes only 10 seconds and I just want you to do a bunch of these reps every day. And what a PQ Rep is for 10 seconds, you want to bring your attention as much as possible to one of your senses, one of your physical senses. So whether it's your sense of touch or sense of hearing or sense of taste, or, or visual sense, you want to bring your attention as much as possible to one of these senses, and make everything else background rather than foreground. And let go of thoughts as they come. 

And if we can do it right now, actually, for our listeners, I would love if everybody now as you're listening to us, begin to bring as much of your attention as possible to your sense of touch. And go ahead and rub two fingertips against each other, take two fingertips around them gently against each other, with such attention that you can feel the fingertip ridges on both fingers. So if you rub two fingertips against each other right now, with such exquisite attention, that you can feel the fingertip ridges on both fingers. And as you do this for about 10 seconds. If we had your brain under MRI, we would see that the positive regions of the brain got slightly more activated. And the negative regions of the brain where your Vader lives, if you do this a lot, you will actually see gray matter build in the PQ region and gray matter decrease in the other region. 

Let's do one more. So you have been hearing this podcast, but now really begin to hear nuances to my voice that you haven't heard until now. So begin to hear more exquisitely. First, I'm focusing on my voice even more than you have until now and begin to hear perhaps, other songs. So are there any ambient sounds you haven't been hearing until now? Any other sounds that you might not have heard until now. And as you become more exquisitely focused on hearing, and let go of thoughts as they come, then you're again activating that region of your brain you just did. 

The beauty of the PQ rep method is you can do it with your eyes open, you can do it in the middle of a meeting, you can do it when you really need it. In the middle of the day, a lot of longtime meditators that have started working with the site have found it life changing, when they started doing this work, because they realized that in their meditation practice, they had only learned to get themselves all relaxed and centered in their meditation room with their eyes closed with their mantra. But with this practice, they could do it while they were taking a shower while they were walking the dog while they were commuting into the traffic, while they were in an important meeting, and their boss was barking at them. While they were, you know, you know, being introduced to go on stage and give a presentation with their eyes open, that this is what I do all the time before my major presentations with my eyes open, waiting to be introduced, I'm doing a bunch of these big drops to shift my brain to the part that will deliver the best presentation.

[LED]  23:44

So, in my case, I just touched my thumb to my index finger. And does that like really quickly get you into an at least slightly more positive frame of mind in just 15 seconds? 


[Shirzad] 24:12

Yes, Absolutely. So using again, the metaphor of the muscle. The reason you want to do about 12 minutes cumulative work per day, is because the research that shows you need the minimum about 12 minutes per day so that these muscles you're building won't atrophy and you begin to see the new gray matter in those regions of the brain. So that builds muscle mass. And it's hard to do but what happens is if you're sitting in the middle of a meeting and some shit happens and things get really difficult, and you start saying oh my god, I'm beginning to go negative I'm beginning to panic. I'm beginning to you know, lose my confidence - do a few PQ Reps, then what happens is that it activates these strong muscles that you've already built, and brings them to, and charges them up to come and deal with the situation. That's almost like you have gone to the gym, you have built muscles, and now you warm up those muscles so that they push the heavyweight that's against you. So you want to go to the gym to build up the muscle strength and these PQ reps, activate that muscle. Both are important.


[LED]  25:29

So I want to go back to the saboteurs and learn a little bit about your findings there. So let's say I take the assessment on your website, and I find out that I have, let's say, three, four of these. What do I do next?


[Shirzad] 25:51

Then the most important thing in fighting an enemy is to create a real sense of that enemy, their lies and strategies and tactics against you. The single most important thing you need to actually do is to look these guys in the eye and say, You're not my friend. You've been lying to me all these years. And that's, you know, such a big deal because initially the reaction people have when I start coaching a CEO and say, hey, it sounds like you've got the controller saboteur and the hyper achiever avatar, they say, you know what I get called controller a lot. I've been achievement oriented like this all my life. What's the big deal? Haven't they made me successful?

So the most important thing to take away from this, is this lie. Most people, saboteurs can accurately tell them that they have been pushing that person to their current level of success. So your judge can say, if I hadn't beaten you up so much, you wouldn't have improved yourself so much. And the controller can say, if I didn't take control of every meeting, that nothing gets done, you know, shit doesn't get done. So part of my success is because of it. 

Now, they are telling you half the truth. Half the truth is that what they have been doing is indeed pushing you and others to the current level of success. The problem is that this push has been all based on negative emotions than the way we know as saboteurs running you is when negative emotions are present. So all saboteurs run on some variation of fear. So underneath all saboteurs primarily is fear, fear of failure, fear of losing face, fear of looking bad, fear of, you know, hunger and starvation and fate and all of those kinds of things like so. And have they been pushing you to your current level of success? Absolutely. Yes, that's true. 

The lie is that they don't tell you that there could have been another way for you to improve yourself, make sure things get done, which would have been instead of being pushed by fear, you would have been pulled by your Sage as positive emotions. So there's a push, but there's also the alternative, the pull, and your Sage really, underneath every impulse of the sage is also another primary emotion. If the primary emotion underneath all saboteurs is fear, the primary emotion underneath all sage is love. When you think about it, life really is made possible through the two primal forces of fear and love. And what do I mean by love? I don't mean just Kumbaya, touchy, feely kind of thing. Jedi is a fierce warrior when they need to be. But so what we mean by love is, the Jedi is being pulled by all of the positive emotions such as empathy, which is love for yourself and others. 

Explore, which is love for discovery, Innovate, which is love for breakthrough, out of the box thinking, you know, Navigate which is love for a sense of purpose and meaning. These are all powers of the Jedi activated. The Jedi is always being pulled by these positive energies of the mind and your soul. And so the question is, if you have your current level of success by being beaten up by all your Saboteurs through their threatened fears, imagine how much more successful would you have been if you had been constantly pulled by the love of the sage for empathy for yourself and others and discovery and invention and meaning and purpose and kick ass action? How much more successful could you have been if you had been being pulled by love rather than pushed by fear or your life? And right now I want to ask each of our listeners, are you primarily pushing yourself through fear of saboteurs or are you primarily being pulled by the positive energies of sage - that's a choice that you have. 

And that choice determines not only how much success you're gonna achieve, but also how happy you will be along the way. Because many of the CEOs I coach are already on top of their career. Some of them are billionaires, but they are not happy people. Because so long as you're being pushed by the fear based saboteurs, you just don't have any peace in your heart. You don't have any lasting happiness, you have these temporary moments of celebration as you reach the summit. And then the question is, what's the next thing.


[LED]  31:19

I'm glad that you bring this up. Because I did want to ask you, there is a case to be made for saying that a lot of these negative forces are the ones that really push you to just keep on going and going and going. But it sounds like there's scientific evidence to say that the positive forces can help you do more, as opposed to the negative forces.


[Shirzad] 31:42

And the evidence is that the survival part of your brain, where all your Saboteurs and all your negativity lives, really specializes in threat, and danger and what's wrong, what can go wrong. So when, when you're in the survival brain, you're really just good at finding out what's wrong and what could go wrong. And the brain really is not wired, for the most important thing you need for success, which is creativity, resourcefulness, empathy, being able to connect to yourself and others being able to inspire yourself and others, those positive things just live in a different part of your brain. 

So what I talk about is that the value of the negative emotion is only in giving you a wake up call to - Oh shit, there's something here to pay attention to, there is a tiger behind the street, there is an enemy coming at you. That's feeling fear, feeling upset, feeling angry, feeling disappointed. 

But the moment you get that warning that something needs tending to, then that part of your brain that lives in fear is no longer the part of the brain that's useful, to get you to take action, to take the best action, to be resourceful, to be creative, to be thoughtful. That's why people who are able to shift to the positive part of the brain in all of the research that of my own and others that I cite, they perform better, because they're not wasting their mental emotional energy on continually feeling negative about what's happening. What has happened has happened, what are you gonna do about it now? Yeah, that's where the positive part of the brain comes from.


[LED]  33:38

And another thing which I found really powerful in your talk was how you take anonymous examples from your coaching sessions with CEOs and that it evidently came out that even though they were at the pinnacle of their success and their careers, they still had a lot of insecurity around themselves and their success. So maybe you can share just a few to give an example of how bad it can get if you're primarily driven by your Saboteurs.


[Shirzad] 34:08

I think what you're referring to is that I gave a leadership development seminar to more than 100 CEOs a while back. And some of them are kind of household names, famous people, some of them are billionaires, and some of them I was coaching already before the seminar. 

And so in the beginning of the seminar, I saw them going around, you know, puffing their chest, peacock feathers out, looking all great and confident, and introducing themselves to each other. And then when we started, I said, You know what, I've been coaching some of you I know that facade is not the truth that your life isn't as perfectly put together as you pretended. 

Let's tell the troops about what it really is like and I gave them these cards. And I asked them to put down how they're really feeling. They don't have to put their name on it so that it can be anonymous. And they send the cards to the front of the room and I started reading them out. And I want to read out some of these for our listeners. This is a random selection of the 100 Plus cards of the CEOs, how they're really feeling about their life. This is what they wrote. I'm terrified of failing as the leader of my business. My air of confidence is false. I have no plan in life. I'm rarely at peace with myself as I’m constantly comparing myself with others. And as you listen to these cards, notice the saboteurs messing with these people, how can people with such level of success still have these thoughts in their head? 

I fear dying of an early age from overwork, and stress. I have no idea how to truly connect with my only son. I often feel like I'm a fraud. And this is such a common problem with high achieving individuals, we even have a name for it. We call it the imposter syndrome. So many high achieving individuals think that their success is just a fluke, and accident, and that any day now they're gonna be discovered for the imposter that they are. I've been abusing drugs and alcohol to deal with stress. I battle with constantly ranking and judging everyone around me in all settings all the time. This particular one is what I call the judge sabotage, judging yourself and others constantly. I lack strength in resisting temptations and desires. I'm feeling very sad and lonely. And the antidepressants I'm on don't seem to be helping. I worry, my materialism is hurting my children. This one broke my heart when I first read it. It's all in capital letters. I don't love myself very much. It breaks your heart that people feel this way, even though, you know a lot of people around them would say, You know what, why do you feel like this, you're a wonderful person. I wish I could run away for one year, just be alone.  

[LED]  37:41

This paints such a vivid picture. And I’m sure this connects with many of us, myself included.

So is there something like a sage assessment? Can I figure out what are the positive things I’m good at?


[Shirzad] 38:22

What I'd say to that is that unfortunately, there is a lie there that, you know, people do some assessments and come away saying, you know, what, I'm not the creative type, you know, I am the activator type. This actually does more damage than good, because what we show in our research is that anybody who activates that Positive Intelligence region of their brain, with enough of these PQ reps I just showed you will absolutely activate circuitry in the brain that can give them access to these five great sage powers, which are explore, innovate, empathize, navigate and activate. 

And what we show is that, you know, just like in painting, you only need three colors, three primary colors, and the three primary colors if you combine them in the right order, you get any color you want, what we have, what our research shows, when it came to leadership competencies, and competencies you need for success is that there really are only five primary powers that if you get access to them in the proper region of your brain, if you combine these primary powers, you get anything that you need, you get all the emotional intelligence competencies, you need all the leadership components you need, by just the combination of these five powers And everybody has access to these five powers if they learn to activate the positive region of your brain. 

So the long answer to your questions now is I would love everybody to say, I can be deeply empathic. I can be deeply, you know, awesome in being curious and I can be awesome. And being inventive and an innovator I can be absolutely values driven, and purpose driven. And I can be kick ass activator, all Jedi powers, all sage powers, if I activate and build up muscle strength in that PQ region on my brain accessible to all, I don't want you to be typecast yourself as Oh, I'm the creative type, but not for this type, that sort of thing.


[LED]  40:43

I heard you talk about how there's a lot of anxiety around what is my true calling. And what am I meant to do. How do I realize my full potential? And you had some interesting thoughts on that - how it's not a destination, but more about figuring out what the next best step is. Can you talk a little bit about that.


[Shirzad] 41:22

The young people I just recently gave this talk to at Stanford, they are all so anxious about, oh my god, do I know my calling? Am I taking the right first job? And am I on the right path to self actualize? And what I told them is, that's an insane level of pressure they're putting on themselves, because the biggest mistake about self actualization and kind of reaching your potential and doing what it is you're intended to do in life, is to think that there is a one destination answer to that question. 

If you're smart enough, and work hard enough, you're going to figure out who you are supposed to be, and then go do that and reach that destination. But in my experience, that's not how it works at all. And the metaphor I use to describe how it really works, is that I say, Well imagine that self actualization is like reaching this lighthouse, this big, beautiful lighthouse. And the problem is that there is a thickly wooded forest between you and the lighthouse. And this thickly wooded forest is also it's night, and it's foggy. So you're standing in this place now, and there's a thickly wooded forest, on this foggy dark night. And all the way to the other side is the lighthouse, your self actualization, your full self actualization.


The question is, how the heck do you get yourself to the lighthouse? And you don't have a roadmap. And the answer really is using this metaphor as well. At any given step, the only thing you can really decide what's the next step you're gonna take, and how do you decide which next step to take, take the next step that has the most light in it. And as you take that next step, and only after you take that next step a little, there'll be even more light to illuminate the next step that you want to take. And then the next step and the next step. And as you go, you'll get closer and closer to the source of the lighthouse, there will be more and more light illuminating every step of the path. And you start running into other people who are kind of motivated to get to the same kind of purpose in life. And they might help you help you go faster and go better in this. 

And the final, you know, interesting thing about this metaphor is that none of us actually ever get to the lighthouse. There is no full final destination. The reason is one of the most self actualized people and I think in the world was Nelson Mandela, and even Nelson Mandela I can look at I can tell you the 15 things he could have done in his life, to do even better and more for the world that he didn't do. So he didn't quite do 100% of actualization, but boy, did he get close. And so what I would say is, don't freak out so much about the final thing, ask yourself, What's the next step? And now let's talk a little bit about what do we mean by this step that has more lightness? And in order to figure out what step has more light in it. That's one of the reasons you want to deeply pay attention to your Sage versus saboteurs. The reason is, some of these Saboteurs like the hyper achiever for example, or the judge, they will tell you what step to take based on completely the wrong criteria. And the criteria might be you know what the world wants you to do what your parents want you to do what they want. A part of your brain is saying you're supposed to do to be a good person, whatever.  But your Sage might have a very different answer. And so the way you know what step has more light in it is by deeply paying attention to the energy and emotion underneath the messages in your head to see which one has more positivity to it. So light has positivity and passion, and love and all those energies to it. 

If the step is all irrational, and is all based on some criteria imposed on you by others, it's not the stuff with light. So you need to be self guided by the subtle energies of your Jedi inside that whisper in your ear, what stuff has more light in it? The best way to tell is pay attention to the energy and emotion underneath it. Is it positive energy? Does it feel more like saboteurs? That's how you can tell.


[LED]  45:57

I think this is such an important message.  For many of us, a lot of times when you have to make a choice, it's almost as if you have to ask yourself, Am I running away from something? Or am I running towards something. And I think this requires a lot of self awareness, it's not easy to figure out.


[Shirzad] 46:27

Yes, and the biggest mistake people make. And I was just having this talk again, at Stanford Business School, one of the MBA students, second year MBA students, was stuck in making a decision between two choices and asked me about it. And he said, one of the choices is about this, and this and this and builds my career in the following ways and builds up these skills and these skills or whatever. And as he was talking about it, all I was paying attention to was emotion. And what I helped him see is that the rational mind is actually not your wisest part, the rational mind which so many of us worship, our education, all that stuff is a part that makes us smart, but does not make us wise.


And the rational mind doesn't have an emotion to it, it's kind of emotionally numb. So when your rational mind says you got to do this next step, because of the following five reasons, that actually is not stuff with light in it. That’s because the other choice this person had in front of them as he started talking about that other choice as I was paying attention to emotional energy. What I was picking up on is passion, love, the pulll that you're talking about. And everything I know about how careers turnout is that pull, that light is what would have that person do extraordinarily well in that next step. Even though rationally that next step would not have been as prestigious, or build up a resume quite the same way as the first step that was a more rational choice. And it ends up leading to the next step and the next step, and the next step that eventually gets some absolutely a lot closer to the self actualization. 

So do these PQ Reps so that you begin to pay attention to which part of you is talking to you, if it's just the the whole the rational part or even worse, the hyper achiever or the controller or the judge all of those telling you this is this that you should do? Don't trust that information. That's not where your wisdom lives.

If you have any questions for Shirzad or for us, you can email us at or tweet at us @led_curator 

bottom of page