In this episode, coach Mina Lee joins Joe to explore the nature and emotional dynamics of overwhelm. They inspect how it shows up in our lives and the emotional blocks, beliefs, and nervous system responses that keep it in place.
Tune in for a fresh perspective on how to embrace the intensity of overwhelm and tap into an internal sense of safety that facilitates the real-time processing of big emotions and life challenges. Learn how overwhelm flows through a company and inhabits its culture, and how focusing less on reducing overwhelm and more on driving flow can lead to a more relaxed, productive, and fulfilled team.
Welcome to the Art of Accomplishment where we explore how deepening connection with ourselves and others leads to creating the life we want with enjoyment and ease.
Hey everybody, welcome back. Today we have another special guest for you, Mina Lee. Mina is a coach and facilitator in our community, and she is joining Joe today to explore the topic of overwhelm. I hope you enjoy it.
Mina: Hi, Joe.
Joe: Hi, Mina.
Mina: I’m really excited to talk to you about overwhelm today. It feels like a topic that’s so rampant in society. I just see so many clients create it for different reasons. I am a bit bewildered by it. Some people create it because they think if they are overwhelmed and I make a mistake, then it won’t be so bad. If I am overwhelmed, I won’t have to deal with all of the shit in my private life. If I am overwhelmed, that means I am working hard and trying my best. Even for myself, if I am overwhelmed, I don’t have to feel the meaninglessness of everything. I am super curious to talk to you today about what it is, what makes us create it, and how we move through it individually and as a group in the collective, so let’s dive in.
Joe: I want to, but nobody knows who you are. I guess some people know who you are. I want people to know who you are because I love you. Who are you? What’s going on here? Can I introduce you?
Mina: Yeah, how about you introduce me.
Joe: Mina was the first person to sign up for the first course I ever did. Mina has been working with me longer than any other person consistently, which has been really fun. She has moved into her own coaching practice and she is doing amazing work. Also, she is just a really close family friend. My daughters absolutely adore you. One of our daughters just the other day said she had a couple extra days and she wanted to know if she could go up and see Mina. I was thinking to myself she must have something she wants to talk about with Mina. Then she tells me about a new boyfriend. I knew what she wanted to talk about. It was awesome.
Mina: Those are the teachings I bring to all of my client sessions. A nine year old told me this. At fifteen she said this. I just feel so proud to call them goddaughters.
Joe: I am also super grateful for the role you play in their lives. On a personal note, thank you because you are a confidante and trusted. They look up to you. It is so beautiful. Another thing about Mina is we got to travel through China together. You introduced me around, and we got to have all these cool adventures where we got to learn and do all of these crazy things together. I will say it. I got to mentor you in a lot of ways and then to see you mentoring my girls has just been awesome.
Mina: It has been a huge journey of weaving spirituality and business and loving it.
Joe: Which brings us to this podcast on overwhelm.
Mina: Weaving, doing, and being in love and business, all of it. The first question is what is overwhelm at its essence, intellectually, emotionally. Break it down.
Joe: An easy way to talk about it is it is a form of fear. It is anxiety, but I would say that it is the moment where you think you have to get out of flow to take care of yourself. It is the moment where you think that or at least it starts there. Maybe it isn’t that exactly, but it starts there. There is this moment where you are in flow and then something happens, and you think you have to manage it. You think you have to manage your reality.
Mina: What does it mean to be in flow, in trust, in safety?
Joe: You are focused and going towards your goal. Let’s say you are focused, you are relaxed and you are going towards your goal. You are in flow. You are not wandering. You have a purpose and you are going towards it, but you are not stressed about it. You are relaxed and you are moving. You are going with the river, so to speak. Then all of a sudden, you want something or something happens or somebody says something to you that’s scary, and all of a sudden you have to manage reality. You have to row upriver. That’s the beginning of the overwhelm. That’s the beginning of the fear in the system. That’s the first moment.
Mina: You have to manage this thing but you can’t, so you have already lost. There was this one time when you said overwhelm is when you don’t feel any one emotion fully.
Joe: That’s the other piece of it, too, which is we think we are overwhelmed because of X, Y and Z. I have a call and then I also have to get to this place, but I have a big jog thing. What’s actually happening on an emotional level is there are all these big emotions and you are not feeling them. You are not allowing them to pass all the way through you, so your system is overwhelmed with the amount of emotions you have. Typically, what I see when people move through those emotional states, the overwhelm immediately goes away. Fear is a part of those emotional states that aren’t being felt all the way through.
Mina: When we are in overwhelm, is our nervous system always in that flight, fight, freeze, triggered, helpless?
Joe: Yeah. Our nervous system is activated and it is in that fight, flight or freeze. That’s right.
Mina: What do you think makes us create overwhelm?
Joe: I heard you talk about that. I want to hesitate on that phrase that we create overwhelm. I think there is some place in the journey that realizing that you are creating the overwhelm is healing because it is empowering, you get to see you have a choice, and you get to choose to move beyond that choice. But there is another place in the journey where if you think I am responsible for my own overwhelm, it just makes you more overwhelmed. It is one more thing you then have to deal with that’s on your plate, that you are scared of and that you have to manage.
It depends on where somebody is in the journey in terms of how useful that feeling of I’m creating the overwhelm and I am responsible for it. I don’t think you can see it. You are not responsible for it until you can see that you are responsible for it if that makes any sense. Once you can see it, then you have a choice but before then, you don’t. There is kind of an odd thing to that.
Mina: How do we get to see it? How do we get to see that I am creating this to avoid this or that? I just had multiple people in my life die. I am feeling overwhelmed. This is systemic. How do we see through when to create self compassion or when we want to inquire more into how it is not serving us?
Joe: It doesn’t matter to me if you are in a war zone or if multiple people in your life just died, that overwhelm always has an external component to it. It always has the internal component of not being able to process those feelings at a time that the system needs it so that it is not overwhelmed.
I will give you an example. As you know, both of our daughters went into the hospital when they were young with pretty serious issues. In both cases, I was not processing the emotional experience. I was handling doctors. Tara was, in that particular case, really able to emotionally process those things. I think it was day 7 or 10 of the first one where I was completely overwhelmed. I have to go and be emotional and do that thing, whereas Tara could continue to process the emotions more in real time, not entirely real time but more in real time. She had a more steady state that was going through that.
There is always this external piece to it. There is always a chance to look inside and say what needs to be processed. What is it that I am dealing with? In the case of those deaths, there are some big emotions. There is grief. Have that experience. It is going to heal you. It is going to help move your identity. It doesn’t matter how big it is outside or whether it is a war. Walt Whitman, as an example, and E. Cummings both had awakenings in war I would argue by reading their poetry. It doesn’t really matter. If you are feeling overwhelmed, there is an opportunity to allow yourself to feel something and process it. Anything you can’t process in real time, typically means there is more resistance to it that still can be let go, so it doesn’t really matter.
Mina: Let’s say somebody is at that first moment of recognizing they are feeling overwhelmed. How would you walk them through that process of unraveling it?
Joe: It depends on the context. That’s a great question. One context is not having space in this moment, and I do mean moment. This week doesn’t register, but in this moment. Then the best thing to do is learn really great breath exercises. There are ways of breathing, like slowing down your breath, making it equal. It doesn't matter whether it is yoga or the Navy SEALs teaching people about breath and how it calms the nervous system. The quote I heard recently, which I loved, is that we can't control our nervous system but we can control our breath and our breath controls our nervous system. If you can’t deal with it in the moment, you can breathe.
The issue with that is a lot of people use that breath to then oppress, repress the emotions. I am just going to keep on breathing and then I am never going to feel that. That can be a world of hurt. In some cases, you are in a business meeting. You are in a hospital. The breath can immediately regulate the system out of overwhelm, but once you have the space and you are feeling these emotions, the best thing to do is look at what is the thing you don’t want to have happen and then feel that.
Usually when there is overwhelm, there is a false end, just like in fear. You are scared of the emotional result of that false end. If I don’t get this job done, my boss is going to be mad at me. That’s the moment. Feel through, grieve, allow yourself to have the full emotional process of having your boss mad at you. I’m not suggesting don’t finish your work and have your boss mad at you though that may be fine. I am suggesting that you live in that reality, feel all that experience, and allow it to move through you so you know you can survive it and you are not scared of it anymore. In the case of my boss being mad at me, it is going to go beyond your boss being mad at you. It is your mom or dad mad at you. It was the critical parent who taught you you had to be productive to be loved.
Mina: When we coach someone, a lot of our role is to hold that really stable nervous system so they can explore these topics safely. What if they are in that state of overwhelm and they are by themselves? They do that breathing. What’s the next question or thing when they are already overwhelmed and they don’t have something else or somebody else to stabilize? Even when we find out in sessions that you are creating overwhelm and you are creating problems that feel really urgent so you feel needed, they get to that process after a process of discovery, but how can somebody who just notices they are overwhelmed when there is nothing to ground them?
Joe: There are so many things you said in that. The first one is that it is the job of ours to hold that really stable nervous system, yes, sometimes that is our job. I don’t want any coaches listening to this to think that’s a requirement or something that should be done all the time. The second part is if you are looking for the intellectual discovery, the emotions will bring it rather than trying to have the intellectual discovery and then that allowing for the emotions. If you feel the thing you don’t want to have happen and live through that in a very slow way that you can have all of those emotional experiences, it will become really clear to you what’s creating the overwhelm. I create the overwhelm so I don’t have to feel the absence of my parents’ love for who I was because it was only for what I did. You will get to that naturally if you allow the emotional experience.
What I notice is intellectually people can come to that experience of getting it explained to them or finding out someway that I am overwhelmed right now because I want to feel alive or I am overwhelmed right now because I want my dad’s love and I never got it, they can have those things but that can sometimes just cause weight. Oh shit, this is just about my dad’s love. I am still chasing it. I can’t get rid of it. It has been 10 years and I am still chasing my dad’s love by trying to please my boss. That’s a bit of a slippery slope whereas if they actually have the emotional experience and invite it and welcome it the same way as in the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying or the Samurai, visualizing your own death slowly through all those moments, visualizing your dad or your boss getting angry at you slowly, getting fired. All of that will really allow you to have that emotional experience, and then it becomes really clear on the other side, the intellectual reasons for it.
Mina: I’m overwhelmed. I am scared. What am I scared of feeling? Let’s feel that together.
Joe: What am I scared of feeling? For some people, what I am scared of feeling is hard, so it is: What am I scared of happening? What would I have to feel if that happened? That’s easier. It is really easy for someone to identify being scared of getting fired or of getting left or of somebody getting mad at me. Those are easier to identify than the emotions.
That’s the main thing, and I think the other thing that happens is that people think the overwhelm is productive. Most people in our society think when they are overwhelmed, they are productive. I’ve seen bosses say they are going to put some fear into people because they will work harder, they will act better and they will make better decisions. There is no psychological evidence of that at all. Obviously, a little bit of urgency can be helpful but not any kind of prolonged fear. It reduces our capacity to think. It reduces how quickly things get done. It reduces our accuracy. It reduces our capacity to learn. Anxiety is really detrimental to productivity. The weird thing is it is a bit of a mental illusion that we often think we are getting more done when we are overwhelmed.
I saw footage of a tiger or a lion who hadn’t eaten in a long time. They couldn’t sleep and they were up constantly looking for food. You could see their nervous system was all tweaked. They are probably thinking they are being more productive, but they are clearly not as good of a hunter as the one that’s relaxed, licking themselves and hanging out in the sun. It is the same thing. Our minds often trick us into thinking we are more productive when we are overwhelmed.
Mina: For the people listening, what are some somatic markers to tell when they are just in the healthy level of tension and normal level of stress versus when they are in a state of overwhelm that isn’t necessarily helping? What are some somatic markers?
Joe: For some people, intellectual markers are better, and for some people, somatically it is better. Any of the fear markers, intellectually, like black and white thinking, binary thinking, false ends, thinking you have to make a decision, having some sense of urgency over a decision that’s false urgency, those are all markers intellectually. Somatically, there is often a feeling of pushing. I have to. I got to. There is this pushing that happens. That’s really a big somatic marker. The other one is you intellectually and somatically are more likely to forget stuff. When you are leaving the house and you are calm and relaxed, you are less likely to leave the keys. If you are overwhelmed, you are more likely to have to go back into the house several times.
The Marines have this great saying, slow is steady and steady is fast. That feeling of rush is often very much an overwhelm, but it is interesting. You will see people do this. When they start to get interested in this, they think they are rushing and they think they must be overwhelmed. But then they think they have got a good reason to rush because of this, this, and this. That’s a gold mine for self-recognition, all of those this, this and this. Then, to also say what made it that I didn’t set up my world so that I didn’t have to rush.
I will give you an example. I have to rush because if I don’t rush, then I am going to be late for this job interview. The first question is if that’s true. Is it better to call the job interview place and say you have hit traffic and you are going to be 5 minutes late or is it better to come in all overwhelmed? We don’t question that. If you can look at that and ask yourself what made you think it was better to rush and get there frazzled, what’s going on there, there’s going to be a lot of juice there. Also, what made it that I set up a situation where I didn’t give myself an extra 15 minutes to this big job interview? What made me create that level of anxiety? Those are all fertile ground.
Mina: I notice in myself a sense of panic, quickening of tempo, and then also the eyeballs, literally, are going left to right so much faster. They can’t hold a steady gaze.
Joe: That’s exactly what was happening with the lion. Most cats when they are hunting are super slow, and this one was buzzing.
Mina: Let’s move into organizational, too, because one thing I am fascinated by is when an individual change ripples into larger systems. A CEO or a leader who is doing the work, trying to regulate their nervous system and trying not to create so much overwhelm in their life is interfacing with an organization where overwhelm has been empirical and rampant in the culture itself. They are in a larger culture, social culture, that also does this. How does one interact with that resistance to shifting? Because everybody also has their own thing with overwhelm, how does that one person start to shift an entire organization?
Joe: The first thing is they have to be clear in themselves. If somebody has become a CEO of a successful company, when they are clear on it themselves, the company will be clear on it. I will give you an example of this and there are so many examples of this. Apparently Bill Gates used to take one week to be by himself in a cabin every quarter as a way of getting back to whatever. You could call it his center. I’m sure he had a different word for it, but to get out of the overwhelm, to get to the greater vision, to think about things. Greenspan spent the first 30 minutes of every day in contemplation. If you talk to Jeff Bezos right before he quit being the CEO, he talked about wandering until 10 o’clock and then he works out whatever he is wandering on and he only makes decisions from 10 to 5 because his whole job is to make good decisions. That’s all his job is. He doesn’t do anything after 5.
I just want to say there are multiple people who have been very successful who have figured out that this is true. Their overwhelm doesn’t serve their company and them. Then some of those even see it inside of the company. It doesn’t serve the entire company. I think some of them don’t. Some of them know they are the decision maker so they can’t be overwhelmed, but the line worker putting the widgets on the bigger widgets should be overwhelmed because that will improve. Some people realize that actually doesn’t improve. You make more errors. You have more recalls. There are a bunch of other issues. There is a pace of getting things done that is optimal for every project.
Mina: I am going to play the devil’s advocate for a second. Those stable companies, that’s easy. They already have so much money. We are trying to survive. We have to get beyond this first customer. Everything is urgent literally. What would you say to that?
Joe: I would say I don’t want to buy from that attitude, and I sure as hell don’t want to invest money in that attitude. That’s what I would say. Your people are probably burning out or they will shortly. With something like a startup, it is easier to say that because you are making decisions and you have to get things done. They are thoughtful things. You are really trying to maximize your decision making. It becomes a harder thing to say for a company that I have 20 people who are out mowing lawns. If they moved just a little bit quicker, then I am going to make an extra $500 dollars a day, so move quicker.
I think that’s the harder place to see how slowness can be more profitable. Then it can depend on the kind of business. I think the Reinventing Organizations book had a great thing about this with nurses. At this nursing establishment in the Netherlands, there are community nurses supposed to take care of X number of blocks of city. They were told you have 20 minutes to drive and 10 minutes to give him the shot. It was all becoming nickel and dime and tighter and tighter. It was all about driving efficiency.
Some guy came in and said BS. That’s not how we are going to do it. We are going to stop and have coffee with these folks. We are going to find out what they need to be independent. That’s going to be our priority. It is not going to be how quickly we serve them. It is going to be how we get it so that we don’t have to serve them. He took over the market. He took over the market partially because nurses wanted to work for him and they didn’t work for anybody else. The second reason they took over the market is they become 20 to 30% more efficient. If you are constantly worried about that half a cent margin, you are going to miss the major opportunity. That’s another thing.
There are a lot of reasons, but it is more about don’t trust me. If you are a CEO, measure and find out what the right pace and right incentives are. Do the experiments and find out. If I am writing a novel, most great novelists work about three hours a day. They can’t write 10 hours a day, every day and be successful. They either burn out or their writing becomes crap. Programming, probably you can do for more than three hours a day. Sales, there is a certain level of sales you can do and still be productive. The job is to find out what that level is and what the mindset is instead of assuming overwhelm is it. That’s the crazy thing. It is all based on assumption.
If you are listening to this and you believe in your overwhelm, it is an assumption. You haven’t tested it. I guarantee you haven’t tested it.
Mina: I guess that goes back to the first and third. The CEO realizes it. They have decided and gotten clear on it. They want to do this in their organization. They have hundreds to thousands of people used to years of working in overwhelm. How do you concretely believe? You can’t change what’s going on in their private lives, which is their own pattern around overwhelm. How do you begin to shift that momentum in the system?
Joe: So many ways. Depending on the company, I would have a lot of answers. I will give you the generic baseline I would start with. The first thing I would do is I would try to measure how overwhelmed people actually are. This could be everything from the attrition rate of good people and bad people to asking them open ended questions about it or a good survey can tell you. Are you looking forward to coming to work on Monday? That’s probably a good indication of overwhelm. I would define the problem and find out what it is.
Then I would try to find out what it is that’s overwhelming them. I think most of the time people in companies are overwhelmed if it is not their innate pattern because they feel like they have the responsibility, but they don’t have the authority to make it work. It starts with overwhelm and ends with despondency. I would be looking really carefully at where the decision making is happening and how people feel.
If there is some place where I know that productivity is X, I would change the speed. There was a company I was reading about. I don’t remember the name, but it was a standup paddleboard company. The CEO very brilliantly said we are an online marketing company that happens to market paddleboards. He took his company to 30 hours a week. You couldn’t really work over 30 hours a week. It was looked down upon. His productivity and his sales went up consistently, more than his competition. He was out there advocating for the 30-hour work week.
For me, the bigger thing is he was driving flow in his company. I would think about it less as how I reduce overwhelm and I would think of it more as how I drive flow. How do I have people calm, relaxed, focused, on their game? That amount of tension rather than the kind of tension that takes them out of their game, that makes them run back for the keys, that makes them second guess themselves, that makes them think they have got to talk to my boss because if my boss is unhappy instead of just making the call, going up six levels of asking people for approval. Those are the things.
Then there is going to be attrition. There are going to be some people in your company that are overwhelmed by their nature and aren’t willing to do the work to become less overwhelmed. You are going to have to find those folks and get rid of them, and hopefully help them find a place where it is a better fit. Those are some of the things I would do. Mostly I would talk to people and ask them what the overwhelm is and how we reduce it.
Reduction of overwhelm is a team sport, so it’s not going to come down through a policy. It is going to come with a discussion. I would open a channel in Slack that says reduction of overwhelm, an example, and say I am seeing that overwhelm is doing this, this and this. Everybody, give me ideas on how we can reduce overwhelm in the company. Overwhelm is defined as spinning, being unproductive in our spin, and being not relaxed. Overwhelm is not defined as slacking off or wandering. I would be clear about the definition and on what it isn’t. Then I would add everybody for ways we could do it and examples of how people have beaten overwhelm. It would be part of the cultural experience.
Mina: Sometimes I see teams that are so overwhelmed that the helplessness is really loud and they are in a freeze around the overwhelm itself. When you go into the conversation, the prefrontal cortex literally can’t come up. They don’t know what to do. There is a sense of collective freeze in and of itself. When they are in that place where they are not even here to ideate, what would you suggest?
Joe: Give them a break. Get them out of the office. What you are basically saying is they are so overwhelmed that they can’t think. Maybe you don’t need them to think if they are cutting lawns or picking apples, but you need them to think for most modern jobs. Why even have them there unless they can think?
This is a great example. I go into companies, and oftentimes I will go in because the CEO has invited me in. Their EA will be the one communicating. I have found this space. We are going to do it here. Some of the EAs do that in three emails, less than five sentences each, and some EAs do it with 20 emails and each one of them are small novels. I can tell you who is overwhelmed just by that because they are trying to make sure everything is right and catching every piece. You are overwhelmed. The other ones see the least that’s required to do an excellent job.
Mina: Is there overwhelm without fear?
Joe: That’s a great question. No. At the very least, you are scared of feeling the feelings that are coming up. The last part of that, though, is just because that’s there, that doesn’t mean if you feel your fear doesn’t mean the overwhelm goes away, meaning there sometimes need to be a lot of other things that are moved. Sometimes moving the other things takes the fear away. I just don’t want people to think I am overwhelmed; therefore, I will feel fear. The question is I am overwhelmed, so how do I feel safe? That’s the more accurate question.
Overwhelm is a sign you don’t feel safe inside of yourself or outside of yourself, and knowing yourself is the only safety. There is no amount of money that can make you feel safe. There is no lover that can make you feel safe. There is no car or vaccination that can make you feel safe. The only thing that can make you feel safe is knowing yourself, feeling safe inside of yourself, knowing you have a home to go to at any time. That’s what can make you feel safe because then all of the bad things that can happen are not relevant. They are there, and they could happen. And?
Mina: When I go through the emotional movement, I realize it gives me clarity about what needs to be done. Oftentimes, there is some boundary or something I need to stop doing. Some way in which I am not taking responsibility for it, and then typically when the action comes, I think oh, okay. This is the third part that I want to talk about, transforming the overwhelm, the gift on the other side of the overwhelm.
If we see Ukraine and then I want to talk really personal, but with Ukraine, the entire country you could say is overwhelmed, and everything I read, long form articles and journalism, some many people are coming out and actively doing something. There is a huge sense of community and tying together. What differentiates when we feel overwhelmed and it turns into this empowered sense of community? That’s one example for them. With your daughter, her story.
Joe: Let’s put it right against Russia. I am sure those Russian soldiers feel very overwhelmed, and it’s not building anything. It is just disintegrating.
Mina: What determines when we as humans move through one versus the other? In the Ukraine situation, there is a common enemy so I can see how that has always united people. But in business and people, when there is that lack of common enemy, it is almost like we make each other the enemy.
Joe: It is the meaning you make of it. That’s why at the very beginning I was so precise. You know me and the fact that I am not very conscientious about the way I look or the way the website looks. I don’t say that’s the wrong font, but I am really precise about this kind of thing because it makes such a huge difference. If somebody makes the meaning of it being bad or I am bad in the overwhelm, then it’s going to be destructive. If somebody makes the meaning of it being an opportunity or here is a great way for me to change or this is something for me to learn and understand myself better, they look forward to their overwhelm. If you make that meaning of it, it is far more likely to be productive.
It is really about the meaning you make of it. That’s why for some people it is really important that the meaning is I am empowered and this is something I created, but if they are blaming themselves, then this is something I created just becomes more overwhelming. It is how you make the meaning of it. In the Ukraine, Russia thing, the meaning in Ukraine is we want to survive, we can survive and we are going to beat this enemy. In Russia, the meaning is this is a stupid war. Why are we here? We are just fodder. We are getting treated like shit, so we are going to treat everything around us like shit. It is the meaning you make of the overwhelm, and that’s where the choice is.
Mina: That’s where I want to end us on, a few stories where you have really seen breakthroughs where people have made meaning that really served. I would love to hear one story where you have done it in business. I would love to share as my story and I know she is open to the overwhelm with the math test and how that led to so much. Do you want me to start with that one?
Mina: I want to hear one from you and me, too, so we can really end on a personal transformation around the overwhelm. One of Joe’s daughters told me doing the math finals was always challenging and difficult for her. It would always take her a really long time, and she would get a grade she didn’t necessarily like. I remember this past year when she was about to go into the math final, she lost the family dog the night before. You and Tara, her parents, were on a retreat with us. There was no parent home, her with her little sister about to take a math final. The dog was lost. Her younger sister was freaking out and feeling partially responsible for the dog. It was overwhelming and challenging.
She told me she went in and was feeling so overwhelmed to the point where she thought she just had to let go of everything I can’t control because it is too much. I am trying to control everything. All that’s left is trusting myself, showing up as I am, knowing I am enough, and that’s it. It gave her incredible focus. She left the math exam an hour and a half early with the best grade she had ever gotten. Surrendering to that overwhelm actually gave her focus, trust in herself, not trying to control what she couldn’t. I was like wow.
Joe: That’s a great story. I think I could create a business one and one between me and you in the same situation. It is going to be almost an opposite one. We were in China visiting that group of people who had figured out how to build a 50 story building in three days or something because they had this special LEGO set on an industrial scale. We were sitting in their side office talking about a media conversation. There was a way in which you weren’t being respected or honored. You weren’t speaking up. It was like this is a conversation between the people who know something. I said that that was unacceptable. We were having coffee afterwards, and you asked why that was unacceptable. I said I am here for you; I am not here for this business meeting. I am here for your growth. You got overwhelmed in that moment because you were scared to let that much love in.
Mina: That was huge. You were just looking out. I remember that. You said it is not the most important thing. You are the most important thing. You were about to say your next sentence and I just burst out crying. It was loud. You looked at me so surprised. You asked what was happening. I said I had just never been loved like that. I was more important than the content, the PowerPoint, the slides or the business that was happening.
Joe: That’s a moment that overwhelm occurred and you actually allowed the emotions to move through really quite rapidly. There was that fear of being loved on that level and then you moved right through it. We entered a flow state the rest of our China travels together where everything just went beautifully, smoothly and wonderfully. I give that as an example of how to handle the overwhelm in such a way that can immediately change. From that point on, every conversation with anybody turned into somebody crying, somebody having a realization, somebody saying holy crap and asking what just happened.
Mina: When you got on the floor of that five star restaurant in Beijing because they kept apologizing. You said if you apologize to me one more time, I am going to beg you. You did. You got on the floor of that fancy duck restaurant. She almost cried just to get you off the floor and she never said I am sorry again after that.
Joe: I forgot about that one. All of those contacts that we met then paid off for you in future endeavors. That’s how it works. If you can move through the overwhelm instead of tightening down, feel the feelings and then all of a sudden that flow state comes in again. That’s the example, I would say.
Mina: Is there any last story you want to share, maybe from your own experience around overwhelm and how it is transformative?
Joe: Recently, there has been this thing happening inside of my system where I have been noticing how much the pushing creates the subtle overwhelm. I see something that needs to be done in the business, and if I turn towards it and do it or I am very sure that this needs to get done, then it just flows. Everything happens. It seems like it happens slower, but it ends up happening a lot quicker. As soon as I push and say we have to get this done and I manage it, I notice that I lose myself in the process. That’s one thing. I notice I start moving at a quicker pace. It’s another thing. I notice my enjoyment goes down, and I notice that at the end of that day I need a break, whereas if I immediately catch that moment of push and ask what’s actually needed here and how I can get back into myself and not go into the management of a situation, everything seems slower. My impatience walks in.
The other day there was a decision that needed to be made in the business. What are we going to do next year? Because we have to rent facilities and all of the facilities get rented early, you have got to make these decisions to do any event. I say we have to do this event. I noticed I was pushing and saying we have got to get this thing done. I thought about asking the slowness what it wants to do.
This is a little confusing, but part of the decision I was making was trying to figure out how not to be overwhelmed next year. It is easy to do that for me if I think I don’t want to do that right now, but if you have $50,000 dollars on a rental place for something and then you have 20 or 50 people coming, you can’t say I don’t want to do that. I feel overwhelmed. You need to show up and be there for people. You are making this decision a year in advance. You have no idea how you are going to feel.
I thought I am asking my intellect. What if I ask my slowness? What if I go to the part of me that knows that stability and calmness and ask that? What do I want to do? I did. The answer was more will be revealed. What did I expect? This is the answer and go do that right now. No. Slowness said just relax. It will come to you. More will be revealed. You are fine.
Mina: What was the decision then?
Joe: That decision hasn’t been made yet.
Mina: Literally wait to make the decision. More will be revealed.
Joe: It wasn’t wait to make a decision. The answer that came was more will be revealed. I am pushing to make this decision and the wisdom is don’t push to make it. Stay focused, be on point but don’t force yourself to make the decision. If I look back at my world, the more I have forced a situation to make a decision, usually the worse the decision. That’s an example. A silly example, but a good one. It just happened. You guys can’t see but she is laughing hopefully at me a little bit. That was right.
Mina: At, with, as, all of the above.
Joe: Mina, what a total pleasure? I am so glad we finally got to do this. I had wanted it for a while.
Mina: Me, too.
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