As most of our readers know, I rarely recommend products or services on the blog. Exceptions include Mercer & Sons shirts, Allen Edmonds shoes, and J Press for miscellaneous men’s clothing.
The reasons for my reluctance are numerous: this blog is a sanctuary from ‘the sales pitch’. The internet allows almost anyone to find almost anything, anywhere. There are tens of thousands of influencers promoting millions of products.
And I ask people to buy my books, which is probably quite enough.
But I recently came across a book that I think warrants mention and consideration.
A couple of months ago, I was introduced to Richard Friesen. A mutual acquaintance suggested that we connect. When we did, Richard kindly offered me a copy of his book, entitled A Private Conversation with Money: Experience The 10 Keys to Financial Freedom.
As I started reading the book, I found it engaging, enlightening, and thought-provoking. With the demands of work and the realities of time zones, it took a moment for Richard and me to connect, but we finally did.
What follows is part of the conversation we had. Enjoy…
Whenever I look at a book or a program that promises to help me improve my financial situation, I always want to know more about the guy (or gal) who’s promoting it. So can you tell us a little about your background?
I’ve been a floor trader, built my own trading firm–which I sold–and ended up on the board of directors of the Pacific Stock Exchange. I started a financial software company. I’ve got a few trading interface patents in my name–
So you’ve made money.
And you trained the traders in your firm, so you’ve helped other people make money…?
But your education wasn’t the typical MBA, business kind of–
No, no. I’ve got a master’s degree in clinical psychology and a certification in Neurolinguistic Programming. This gives me a different perspective and um–
A different toolbox…?
Yes. Absolutely. It’s the process vs. outcome approach. I help people with a process that includes not just their knowledge, skills, and behaviors, but their beliefs and even their core identity.
What people really think and feel about money…
And how they see themselves. In my private practice, I invite my clients to engage in a continual process of creating rapport with themselves, with their relationships, and with the marketplace.
By the marketplace, you’re talking about financial markets…
Yes, when my clients are traders. But this process can work for anybody. Anyway, this rapport frees up previously constrained energy which results in improved financial outcomes.
And in your book, we read a parable about ‘Joe’–an underperforming writer–and go through this process with him. Is that right?
Yes. What were you going to ask?
I wanted to address context. That was the transformative part of the book for me. Not to be tangential. So feel free to spill the beans on that aspect of your work, how it developed, whatever you think is relevant…
Good. Right. So, most of my clients come to me with repeated behaviors that no longer serve them. The common and obvious solution is to just “try harder, be disciplined, use more willpower and commit to new behaviors.” This approach is helpful when we are on the verge of shifting our internal context and this “push” can take us to a new context that serves us better. However, for most of us, the “willpower” approach fails us leading to self-incrimination and feelings of hopeless failure.
I can relate…
No! (laughs) Working through the lens of “context” that includes our identity, beliefs, behaviors, skill, and knowledge, we have the ability to reframe the behavioral issue as having a positive intent. Once established as a positive intent, we can then build on this contribution and expand it in more effective ways without the need for “shoulds.”
The rationales, excuses, or self-sabotage–
Sometimes it’s that, but let’s get back to the toolbox analogy. Neurolinguistic programming is a toolbox of solutions that were developed empirically. They mirror the neurology of how our brain works. Combing NLP with advances in neuroscience gives us the opportunity to shortcut a lot of “analysis” and create an experience that not only feels better in the moment, but honors our values and gets us to our goals.
I love that you circled back to values.
I knew you would. If our choices are in line with our values, we’re much more motivated, much more efficient, much more productive, and much more profitable.
Back to the book now, you decided to present your ideas in the form of a parable. The underpaid writer who is visited by a mysterious, shrouded figure. It’s very Dickens, and very effective, but why did you choose that format?
I replayed all the discussions I have had with clients, students, and friends over the years. It was clear that “stories” people play in their heads do not change, or are difficult to change on a rational level. Our values are emotional values and loosely connected to rational discourse. If I wrote a book with rational arguments, the reader would think… “yes but…” So I gave Joe a voice to say “yes…but…” and allow him to represent the emotional voice of my readers so they could feel heard and then do the exercises that give them a frame that feels better and, again, still honors their values.
In addition to the book, readers get access to the ‘program’ part of the Mind Muscles Academy–which I think is a great way to describe it. Do you really see the brain as a muscle, and the habits or thought patterns we each hold as ‘muscle groups’ that have been trained a certain way? Like a child learning how to walk, then muscle memory allows us as adults to walk without even thinking about it? Is that an accurate comparison? Even though the brain is an organ?
Exactly. Let’s look at my current model of therapeutic change. Creating a new context, even if it feels better, honors our values and gets us to our goals–if we haven’t experienced that context of identity, beliefs, and behavior–the neural connections don’t exist. Our established wiring kicks off, reverting back to the old connections because they are physically available and fast. But, as we learn to repeat new rewarding patterns, we create new neural pathways which when fired together, wire together on more complex “muscle groups.”
Back to context. Can you give us some detail and insight about what you call ‘the context’ that we each live in? I found this fascinating, and I really want to hear your thoughts about how important this is, and how people can understand it.
We all have different external contexts we live in. If I go to church for an event, I know how to behave in that context. (My father was an evangelical preacher.) When I was a trader on the floors of major exchanges, I knew how to operate in that context. There was no problem with one context bleeding into the other. My brain handled both extremes, (and I do mean extremes) very well.
Our brains are set up so that when we are in context “A”, context “B” is not available to us. This is why in the context of “eating too much dessert” and feeling ill, we will swear never to do that again. That experience isn’t available to us when our spouse brings an apple pie fresh from the oven. This is why we repeat behaviors that no longer serve us time and time again.
How do we shift contexts? At that moment we have a few seconds to experience two different futures…and make a choice before we are absorbed by a context that no longer serves us.
Are there predictable reactions to the MMA exercises that you’ve seen in the traders you’ve worked with and the everyday people you’ve worked with as they work their way through the program? Or is everyone’s response and progress unique? I’m specifically thinking of a parallel to the ‘stages of grief’ that people go through when a loved one dies or the ‘stages of love’ that couples go through as they date, get engaged, get married, and start a family. Is there anything similar happening here that you can track, articulate, and predict?
Fascinating question. When a client comes to me with their painful experiences, I listen and notice the meta-programs underlying the language and complaints. After this step, I then ask, “So, what would you like instead?” The response is usually more issues that produce negative experiences.
The next step is to create the desired outcome that they can visualize in detail. This often takes some time to move from the unpleasant current experience to stepping into a described better future experience.
Once we have the future experience that not only feels better but gets them to their goals, we then have an opportunity to hear the objections they have long held. These objections can come in the form of their survival mechanism, critical voices, worthiness, fears, anger, and anxiety. I invite the client to hear and accept the voices that object and more importantly, to learn about their positive intent.
So clients have internal objections to becoming more successful…?
Oh, yes. But once we appreciate the objections to the new context, we can then create a “values board.” Much like the new age “vision board” this board brings to life the value we are going to create for others. Once these services are clarified, we can then look to processes that bring these values to others. They can be knowledge, skills, and behaviors.
I have an online application, “Money Metrics” that gives the client or student the ability to journal with simple clicks that turn into colored cells of their experience on a regular basis. We can then review in groups or privately the outcome of their processes.
How much of an impact has an individual’s family and cultural background had on their relationship with money? Is this an occasional driver? or a frequent, dominating factor?
We embed our spoken, unspoken and subtle family of origin beliefs. Often the “voices” remain with us and sabotage our results under the radar.
Our current culture is at war with itself around money, success, values, wealth, and political systems. Many of my clients have absorbed this war that creates internal conflicts that are an energy drain.
With the availability of 24/7 information, we gravitate to information sources that support our current world-view. We need to then defend that worldview (no matter how flawed) that limits our creativity and thoughtful analysis.
How do you change it? It seems so ingrained.
This is the most difficult question that can be asked. But it is the RIGHT hard question. How do we as humans progress both personally and culturally? I think there is a book or two written for this question. My simple answer to a very complex human experience is what I call the “Golden Keys.”
I remember reading about those. Can you recount them for our readers?
Awareness. Acceptance. Agency. And then Asking…now what do we want?
So briefly discuss the SET exercises. Sensations, emotions, and thoughts…
Are we able to face with honesty and an open heart the awareness of our sensations in our physiology, our emotions, and our thoughts? The book and online course have a simple exercise to expand our awareness using our S.E.T. scores system.
As we increase our internal awareness, we can then accept what we discover as is without judgment.
The process of awareness and acceptance creates a new set of neural connections that are the birth of Agency. First, we are aware in real time of our internal states, then that awareness births the ability to make decisions from that higher state. This interrupts our pre-programmed reactions with intentional behaviors.
As we build an “Agency” we can then ask…what we want now from this new context. This clear vision, supported by “agency” rather than reaction, opens the door to more creativity and completion of our desires.
You discuss ‘certificates of appreciation’ and how we should look at each financial transaction as a way of expressing gratitude for either getting money from somebody or giving it to them. Where did that concept originate? I know a lot of people usually just think, “Here’s two dollars. Please give me my coffee. I need it badly. I need it now.” You’re saying something very different.
Actually, it is now four dollars!
Walter Williams, an economist, was being interviewed on radio maybe two decades ago and used the term “Certificates of Appreciation” rather than dollars. It was a rare reframe that shook me up to my roots. Once accepted, a lot of internal conflicts around money, meaning, and wealth evaporated.
This reframe invites everyone to appreciate the services we render and the appreciations we receive in the form of money. Seen as an appreciation, it radically changes the old messages about money as the root of all evil. It is now the root of our services to others.
Taking it a step further, the more “Certificates of Appreciation” we collect honestly, the more value we have delivered.
What’s the biggest success story you’ve experienced so far with the people you’ve coached?
In monetary terms, it is the professional money managers and traders. This is because we have hard data that reveals the results of our softer and more elusive mindset changes. When my clients are attached to outcomes (mansions, cars, trophy spouses) they feel the pressure to “win” which drives bad behaviors. As money managers and traders step into their mindset processes and observe outcomes, they can tap their creativity, energy, and persuasion.
What’s the biggest, most common obstacle that people face when they contemplate changing their attitude toward money? And how do you help them overcome it?
Family beliefs, worthiness, peer pressure, and cultural beliefs that we find deeply engrained, neural programming. This is why we all repeat behaviors that no longer serve us. Even if we “know better,” in the heat of the moment, the old neural patterns fire and we feel like victims. In my current model, we only shift to a new behavior when it feels better in the moment, honors our core values, and gets us to our goals. Thus my job is to create an experience that satisfies those criteria in our sessions and in the book exercises. Once experienced for a moment, we realize we can expand that moment to hours, days, weeks, years, and for the rest of our lives.
I talk a lot about the importance of education as people embrace the “Old Money” culture. Good schools, financial literacy, etc. You seem to be ‘educating’ people in a different way with the Mind Muscles Academy. You’re asking them to not just manage money more wisely but to relate to it in a completely fresh–and maybe a little scary–new way. Isn’t that more difficult?
Progress can be made on a lot of different levels. Knowledge, the ability to look beyond our biases to understand the human ecology. Skills, the ability to use our knowledge to deliver value. Behaviors, actions that deliver value because of our skills and knowledge combined. Beliefs about the world and how it works that invite increased creativity and confidence. Identity, understanding that we deserve to walk on this earth with dignity and are worthy of all the goodness we create.
So how would you summarize your work? What’s the one thing it does?
The Mind Muscles Academy focuses on the driver of our behaviors. Yes, it is scarier, to answer your earlier question. Do you have the courage to end the conflicts and step into confidence? For the people who want it–better choices that reflect their values and get them to their goals–we support them with our book, online courses, live group meetings, and private coaching. Whatever works for that individual.
Thanks, Richard. Much appreciated.