Jeff Riddle has created a new style of podcasting aimed at creating lasting change.
photo by: Skeptiko
We’re Always in the Middle.
Jeff Riddle: I’ve talked about this before, that “we’re in the middle”… in 400 years people in the future are going to look at us and just think how stupid and silly we were for the things we did and believed. There’s a humility in that, in that we are moving towards something and yet we don’t know where, and so there’s this idea that we’re always in the middle. So, we’re always in motion but we don’t really know where we’re going to get to and we’re going to die without ever having gotten there, at least as far as we know here in the physical sense…
Alex Tsakiris: I absolutely love this idea of we’re always in the middle… [history is one example] but obviously you’re also tapping into the deeper personal spiritual understanding of, “Hey man, we’re never going to get there. We never really are away from where we came. We’re always in the middle.” So, I think that’s really cool.
Alex Tsakiris: So, for me, step one of that process is to follow the data. I always say, “Follow the data wherever it leads,” kind of thing. But, in preparing for this episode and listening to what you’ve put together, I actually had a slightly different take on this and I love where it took me because what I realized, and this may seem really obvious, but we all have our own data. So, following the data is both, you know, the real part of following the data that’s out there, but we have our own data and not in a, kind of fake, “Every snowflake is unique,” kind of way, but in a way that, “I have some real stuff that I’ve figured out in my life experience that I bring to the table as my data and I can share that with you and you probably don’t know it and let me tell it to you,” kind of thing.
So, I thought we might talk a minute or you might talk a minute about what’s your data. You mentioned the baseball thing. That’s part of your data. You know some stuff from that. Tell us about that data and then tell us what other data you have.
Jeff Riddle: There’s a paradox here in that the position, the professional stance in the work that I do, and even in trying to produce these transcend episodes, is to remove myself as much as I can from it. It’s one of my beefs with the industry, is that people come in and say, “Look what I’ve done. Look at me, I’m great. I have a private jet or a fancy car,” they get on Facebook and take pictures of themselves in that way and then they use that to shame people into feeling like they don’t have what they have and that’s what gets them to buy.
We’ll get into this, but I have a huge issue with that approach. I actually think it reinforces the problem. It literally, the industry that I’m in actually recreates more of the problems so that they can continue to sustain.
So, there’s a dilemma there in the data, in the sense that, my life experience and what I’ve learned actually is irrelevant in the work. But as far as someone feeling comfortable or safe or feeling like, “Hey, this guy has something to say,” certainly, there’s a background and there’s some history there.
So obviously baseball, in a pursuit of professional baseball through college, and I ended up getting injured. I actually share that in the first episode as you heard in my story, and that was a huge part. I was a catcher, it’s a really heady position, you’re controlling the pitcher, you’re dealing with the umpire and then I was also asked to be a hitter for the team. You know, you’re constantly failing, that is your experience in baseball, is you fail three out of four times and then you’re considered great and having to learn to deal with failure and also be a student and pursuing this dream and all of these other things, it kind of grew me up quickly.
Then, the real story, and it took me a long time to figure this out and it’s what I told in the first episode, was that, after that, I kind of went on this renaissance man mission where, when baseball didn’t work out I joined a band and toured and then I started some businesses and had some successes and failures and I kept jumping from thing to thing. For a long time I thought I was just a renaissance man who was liberated and who was like, “I’m not following convention.”
What I really had realized, it took me a while, was that I was just running from a lot of pain that was in my past. I lost my mom when I was 19 and it had been a long journey ever since I was a kid, she had cancer. So, I was a witness to that and I just got into this loop of trying to stay in… it was this complex thing but I was trying to stay in suffering or struggle to kind of stay connected to her and it took me a long time to be able to move beyond that and get comfortable making an alternative choice where I was no longer going to try to struggle to be in connection with my mom and just in connection to life.
So, that journey really brought me to where I am today and informs a lot of my work, but again, that data is helpful in that there’s life experience there and yet it’s actually kind of irrelevant when you’re actually helping somebody or working with somebody or trying to help somebody be in a transformative state. My experience actually is irrelevant to their wellbeing in that situation and we can expand on that a bit.
Alex Tsakiris: I can’t challenge that because that’s your take on it and it’s your thing that you do. I guess, where I’m coming at it from, like from a Skeptiko perspective and the show and that, is that, what your first two episodes helped me see and the way that you were just very, kind of honest there about diving deep into yourself, is that you do have a perspective that you’re bringing that is based on something more than just experience in the bad sense, experience in the sense of the way that people hide from any analysis or any criticism about their beliefs, like, “Hey man, you can’t challenge me, this is my experience.” I’m not here to challenge anyone about their experience, but on the other hand, from a Skeptiko perspective, I’m going to say, well, I’m interested in your experience as it fits in with the broader set of experiences that I might look at.
So, let’s say we’re going to take near-death experience and we have somebody who says, “My experience is, there’s Satan down there and the flames are going lick your feet when you get down there,” I’m like, “Hey, that is your experience.” It doesn’t fit in with the broader experience that I went and studied and looked up, so let’s have both of those on the table.
I guess, to reel that back to the transcend moment is, I feel like you’re bringing something in a way, in terms of saying, “Now look, I have a perspective on this and here is my perspective and here is the way we’re going to tackle this thing.”
The other part of that, that I mentioned, that I really thought was great and I want to commend you on is because you are this baseball guy, you are this successful guy who has a successful family, has a successful career and yet, here you are talking about love and talking about connection and all of this stuff, but you’re not doing it in a, “Oh, I’m in touch with my feminine side,” kind of way. You’re not denying that you might be in touch with your feminine side, but you’re not leading with that in some kind of a cartoonish way. You’re just saying, to me you’re saying, “This is my data. My data is, this is what it takes to be successful over in this part of life and this is what it takes to be successful in figuring out these wounds that I have, that we all have, and how to move forward with them.”
Alex Tsakiris: I think, implied in what you’re saying is a question that I keep banging against and it is implied, and I love making it explicit here in this show and in a couple of other shows which I have and that is, for you and I, we’re all about keeping score. Coaches keep score. Players keep score. People who are of that mindset keep score and what that means is, what works, what doesn’t? What’s effective? What propels us forward and being brave enough? When we really contrast it, you’re kind of maybe getting on the coaching, life coaching industry.
Hey, I talk to all sorts of transformational people. I just spoke with a woman, the last episode, I should have been in total sync with this person. She is so into yoga, I’m so into yoga, she’s so into psychology and its crossover with yoga, which I think is awesome. I couldn’t… I don’t want to say I couldn’t stand it, but I couldn’t stand it, I was so frustrated, it was such a frustrating interview because she’s not really interested in what works and what doesn’t. She was like, “Well, everyone has their own thing,” and this relativism that just washes everything away to the point where we can’t get down and say, “Okay, yeah. I can’t definitively say this is better than this, but I do want to know what works in whatever sense I can measure it with whatever limitations there are to measuring it.”
So, with that, I thought we’d have some real fun. You and I kind of fun, stuff that we can do. I’ve mentioned Tony Robbins on this show a couple of times and that is like death mail, because you mention Tony Robbins, you’re in the Tony Robbins cult, you know? You can say like I did that, hey man, I was into self-improvement. I read 200 books. I was doing everything I could to be successful. No, no, no, people do not hear that, they hear Tony Robbins, Tony Robbins, you’re in a cult. That’s all people can hear.
I just had an interview, conversation, just a couple of episodes ago and it went exactly like that and the Tony Robbins thing comes up and this guy goes, “Oh mate, I know all about Tony Robbins, it’s goal setting, right? It’s goal setting, right?” I go, “But you really don’t know anything about it.” “It’s goal setting, right?” I’m like, “You know, you don’t really know what you’re talking about.”
What I want to tee up for people who don’t know I’ll dive deeper into the Tony Robbins thing, just to tee up this coaching thing and this thing of what works.
Here’s Tony Robbins’ amazing video. It kind of explains itself, but it’s him doing one session with a guy who struggled with stuttering for 30 years. Here, I’ll let you listen.
Rechaud Bell: My name is Rechaud Bell. I’ve stuttered for as long as I can remember. My freshman year of college, one of the first courses I took was a speech class and I froze. The grade I received was an F. I went from a fulltime course doing my scholarship to stocking shelves.
Tony Robbins: What’s the sound that comes to you? Make the sound. Make the sound of the warrior.
Rechaud Bell: [Scream]
Tony Robbins: The warrior does not stutter, ever. Own the warrior.
Rechaud Bell: [Scream]
Tony Robbins: Tell me what the warrior says now.
Rechaud Bell: The warrior says, “I am free.”
Tony Robbins: The warrior says…
Rechaud Bell: The warrior says, “I am brilliant.”
Tony Robbins: That’s right. The warrior says…
Rechaud Bell: The warrior says that I am electric.
Tony Robbins: The warrior says…
Rechaud Bell: “I am awesome.”
Tony Robbins: Ask the warrior, do you need to stutter anymore?
Rechaud Bell: No. That was awesome.
Tony Robbins: You’re awesome.
Rechaud Bell: Thank you, thank you. Wow! So, what’s next coach?
So, I’ve got to hold back the tears every time I see that clip, but it ends, I didn’t play it, but he stands up in front of these 5000 people and gives a speech and all the rest of this stuff.
So, we ought to note a couple of things, one is that, people are skeptical. I don’t know what they’ll say, but this guy tried everything. He went to all sorts of psychologists to see what his deep underlying pain was. He went to speech therapists for years and years. The guy is a successful guy. The guy chose a career in sales, which I mean, how bold is this human being to say, “Despite this obstacle I have that’s what I’m going to choose,” but that’s what he chose.
Here is a guy with a very specific set of techniques, that is Tony Robbins. If you read his work, if you go to his seminars, if you learn, it’s not just getting people to scream therapy or anything like that, it’s very precise what he does, and it seems to be extremely effective. I don’t know who else in the world could transform somebody’s life in one session of ten minutes, but he did it. He’s to be commended for that.
The other part of that, that I really loved equally as much as all of that, is what we just talked about. What does the guy say at the end? What does he say? “What’s next coach?” This guy is a winner man, I’m telling you. I would bet on that guy, I’d just bet on him for life. It’s like, “I just overcame the biggest challenge, obstacle in my life. What’s next coach?”
So, I just wanted to juxtapose that with all the dissing you’ve been doing on coaching, because man, coaching has a place. We don’t need less coaching, we need more coaching from better coaches.
Jeff Riddle: We need better coaching.
Alex Tsakiris: Well, when I contrast that with the interview I did last week, or like so many interviews I’ve done, where people are not willing to step up and say, “What I’m offering is effective, it’s more effective than these other things for this reason and they’re not going in this [unclear 00:34:51],” whatever works for you, kind of thing, which is fine. Hey, it is about whatever works for you, but it’s also about being willing to say, “I’m going to step into the arena and measure what I think works against what you think works.”
So, I’ve kind of thrown a lot on the table there, tell me what you think.
Jeff Riddle: Tony Robbins and I actually have a similar background. He’s using what’s called neuro-linguistic programming in that video. The belief by those of us that come from that lineage is actually that you can help somebody in ten minutes or an hour, that that is possible. It’s not a presupposition of psychologists or therapists.
We could walk through everything he’s doing in there. I can tell you exactly what he’s doing, how he’s doing it, the neurological impact that he’s making, why it’s working.
Earlier in the video he brought in, if you’re familiar with the video, the kid or the young man, he remembered back to being two in front of Rocky and Bullwinkle and his father started beating his mom. So, there was an association. Basically it’s a simple association that the kid makes that, “I am the problem and therefore I can become the solution.”
So, he associates, I think Bullwinkle stutters in that, but he assumed stuttering as a strategy to effectively feel safe in an environment that was incredibly unsafe. So, what he’s essentially doing is creating a way for him to have an alternative opportunity when he feels unsafe or when he’s trying to exist in the world, it’s giving him more options through using this thing called NLP.
The thing is, most coaching is not that. Most coaching is, “Okay, what do you want kid?” If they even ask you that question. It’s like, “I don’t want to stutter,” it’s like, “Cool. Okay, you’re not going to stutter, I’m going to hold you accountable and you’re going to pay me how many thousands of dollars and I’m going to basically yell at you and make you feel shitty for stuttering.”
That is literally what the coaching industry is and that doesn’t work, it’s not effective. Something like what Tony Robbins is doing is effective. I have questions about it in how I might approach that but what he’s doing is very effective.
If you go back and look at NLP and you go and look at the work of Wikipedia pages of that, it’s going to look just like looking up Dean Radin on Wikipedia. It’s like the parapsychology of the psychology industry. It’s this bastardized version that’s been picked apart and said it can’t work because it’s too easy. The path of least resistance is not okay for us as human beings, to accept that there’s a possibility that there’s things out there that are better than others and the traditional academic path is the only way.
So, there is this kind of interesting juxtaposition here between what he’s doing, what Tony Robbins is doing, using a technology that’s very effective. What the industry as a whole will say about it, and there’s all of these studies that will say that it doesn’t work and if you go back and look at the studies, the research is poorly done and then everybody references the researchers, kind of like a lot of things you run into on this show.
Does the Truth Matter?
Alex Tsakiris: Does the truth matter? Are we compelled to constantly be looking for that evidence-based truth beyond our personal truth? Contrasting that with, “Oh this is my experience thing,” saying, “Well, here’s what the data tells us.” You get a sense of what I’m saying.
Jeff Riddle: Yeah, and I think that’s the important thing to focus on. I’s not really about the truth it’s about how do we move people to think in a way that enables them to move towards the truth and I think there’s a distinction there and are we focused on the end game or are we focused on the journey of how do we get them there?
It’s really funny because the first time I listened to Skeptiko it was a Joe Atwell episode and I was like, “I can’t listen to this.” I’m not Christian but I was like, “What is this guy talking about?” and I turned it off.
It took me a while to come back to it and when I did I started at episode one and I got to go on the Skeptiko journey, so that when I listen to an episode now, I haven’t listened to the most recent one with Chris Knowles, but when I listen to that I’m not going to be like, “This guy, what is he talking?” because I’ve been on the journey. There’s been a transformation for me to see and go through the process of all of those moments of like, “How can this be? How can this be?” Pull back, “How can this be?” Pull back, so that I could get to where I am now and I’m probably still well on my way on that journey and that’s what happens.
I tell people about Skeptiko all the time, but I always tell them, with this huge caveat, “You cannot start at the latest episode, you’ve got to go back to the beginning, because if you listen to that episode, the recent ones, you’re not going to be able to handle it. You’re just not there. You need to go on that journey so that you can open yourself up to that possibility, what it means to be skeptical, what it means to change your perspective, what it means to feel the discomfort and survive it and go through the discomfort of having those nights where you can’t sleep because you’re going, “What is reality? What does it mean to be a member of this country, what does that even mean anymore?”
These questions that come up through that process, each step gets you a little bit closer to the possibility of being in that state of being okay in the middle and being okay in the journey without a destination, without knowing what the answer is and moving towards it.
I think, to me at least, the more important thing is not the truth, even though I think you and I personally both enjoy the truth. That to me is a fun journey, but in terms of the larger question, it’s not about the truth it’s about, how do we move people towards that? How do we help them feel comfortable identifying or thinking in a way that enables them to find it?
Alex Tsakiris: I really like that, and I think it’s a great way to maybe come back to this project that you’re working on, Transcend, and maybe talking some more about how all of this stuff relates, because I think you just did. So I’m kind of struggling with, what more is there to add? But I want to check and see if there is more to add.
One of the things that is pretty unique about your show and your approach is, it’s this two-part thing where you engage people in a story telling component, where they’re just basically telling their story, and then a second part where you’re… and I love this. You’re engaging, right? You’re doing what I guess I wanted to hear and what I was advocating before is, you’re engaging them and poking them, not in a confrontational way but just in a way of saying, “Hey, how does this really relate?” You’re engaging them in the process that they went through. You’re not leaving it at story, because I think we do that too much. We so want to say, “Your experience. Your experience,” and part of that is a very appropriate response to this biological robot, meaningless universe thing that says, “You have no experience. Well, that’s not even real. Really, when we get down to it, you don’t really have an experience.” So, we need to celebrate the fact that we do have experience.
But then, I like where you’re at which is coming around it at the end and saying, “Okay, let’s dive in and let’s put a whole process,” which you do in the weeks beyond the story, in terms of deconstructing that story and what the lessons are and how we move forward from it.
So, can you talk to all of that and what you’re trying to do and how you see that going?
Jeff Riddle: Yeah, it really follows a lot of the things that I believe and form my work and I’ve tried to translate in the media.
So, we start with the story because I want people to feel what that person went through but nobody will deny someone’s experience, right? Like, if someone has a near-death experience and you hear the story and it’s a compelling story, you’re not going to say, “That didn’t happen.” You’re just going to say, if you’re skeptical or you’re a materialist, you might say, “Well, I’m going to try to explain how this happened,” but you might still engage with the story.
By doing that, what we’re doing is we’re disarming people from immediately rejecting the content outright. We’re bringing them on a journey. We’re having them feel what it feels like by identifying with the character in the story, who’s a real person, and going on that journey. So, in a sense, the story enables the initial transformation through emotion.
The follow-up interview is to then inform some of the process, some of the how, some of the details there, some of the more tangible stuff, so that people can then not only feel it but then have something to walk away with.
Then of course, every week thereafter, we send follow-up content and we’re always deconstructing over the course of the month because we want to keep that process going, keep expanding those avenues and opening people up.
So, it is very thought-out. Is it going to work? I don’t know, it’s still too early. It will probably look different in the future but that’s kind of the goal, is how do we use media in a way that can help somebody actually go on a transformative experience? How can I get somebody in an episode, over the course of the month to go from Skeptiko episode 1 to Skeptiko episode 400 and feel okay about that?
So, some of those topics I want to be getting into are some of these bigger topics, things like near-death experience, mediumship, the reincarnation stuff. Some of these things I find are really fascinating, like philosophy, Bernau [unclear 01:01:34] work. I want to bring that into an environment where we can deconstruct it through our stories so people have reference, they won’t deny it, they won’t say, “This is not true,” they can make their determination about it but I’m trying to kind of find that way of helping them take a step forward without it being an immediate rejection, that this is BS or it’s just not possible.
Alex Tsakiris: That’s awesome, it really is, and it shines through just brilliantly in the first two episodes which are terrific, and I really encourage people to check out Transcend Experience. It’s pretty easy to find, you’ll find it in the show notes.
So, Jeff, in the time that we have left, tell us more about… You did kind of tee up where you’re going with this. Tell us how it’s going so far. You said it kind of has gotten off to a really good start, which is great news, so how is it going?
Jeff Riddle: It’s a process. I’m treating this like a startup company, in the sense of how I’m approaching it. It’s a lot of learning, a lot of failing as quickly as I can and that means that there’s some tough days working on it, but every day at the end I walk away grateful that I get to do this and it’s something I’m really proud of and excited about and it’s something I’m happy to talk about. When someone asks me, “What do you do?” I actually have something I can share now that feels good and my wife won’t get mad at me for being creepy.
I don’t know where it’s going to go. What is it going to look like in 10 years? I don’t know, but I have a ten-year time rise and I’m not going to give up on this project. I think it’s worthwhile and I think there’s some really exciting opportunities to explore, people’s experience, but do it in a way that takes that next step.
So, I’ll keep chugging along and being right there and having my own transformation through the process and continue to be curious about that question of, what is the meaning of transcend? We’ll see where it goes.
Alex Tsakiris: Awesome Jeff. Thanks for being here on Skeptiko.
Jeff Riddle: Thanks Alex.