DAVID LAROCHE: Hello Achievers! Today, I am in a new place, in San Diego. You can see the sea just next to me and I am with an awesome guest. He's Brian Alman, the CEO of TruSage and the bestselling author of the bestselling book called “The Voice.”
He will answer my questions about self-help and a lot of things, and you will enjoy …
BRIAN ALMAN: Hello!
DAVID LAROCHE: How are you?
BRIAN ALMAN: Very well, thank you. Très bien…
DAVID LAROCHE: Thank you very much for being here. Before I will ask some specific questions, I would like to cover your story. I would like to … especially your struggles and how you overcame them. Where did you start and how did you become a big CEO inspiring people to do an interview by the sea?
BRIAN ALMAN: It's not a very long story. It's a story about before born missing part of my back, L4 and L5. I had chronic back pain as a child.
I grew up in Mother Nature. I had a lot of woods and trees; I had the ocean. It was a great teacher but I was still in chronic pain, and anybody who has chronic pain knows it's a full-time job.
You're focused on it. It affects everything. You don't eat as well. You're not as active. You're always filtering “Can you do it? Will the pain stop you?”
So that was challenging. I was about to get surgery that was recommended by the orthopedic surgeon; and that was going to be a body cast, a surgery, and no guarantee that I'd get rid of the pain.
Somebody suggested that I try mind-body healing, medical hypnosis, and meditation. And I just couldn't understand how that could possibly help even though I was a student of Psychology and Sociology. I understood the power of the mind, but I didn't see how it could help something that you could see in the x-ray was out of line and all the nerves are being pinched. That's what's causing the pain. It was such a physical problem.
But I tried it, anyway, because I didn't want to get the surgery. I had to do something. I couldn't be in pain my whole life.
It helped. I went to a doctor four times. He did sort of a guided imagery relaxation type of technique. It helped but not that much, but enough that I was curious.
I went back to my orthopedic surgeon and told him what happened. He said, “All that stuff is a bunch of crap. Don't believe in any of that stuff. Mind-body, meditation, hypnosis—it's all a bunch of crap. If you don't get the surgery, you'll be crippled the rest of life. You need to get the surgery now. If you don't, I'm firing you as a patient.”
He’d known me for ten years. So that was really shocking. I said, “Give me one more month. Let me learn what I could learn about mind-body healing, meditation, hypnosis, and self-hypnosis. Let me find out more.”
He said, “No.”
On that fateful day, I decided I would learn everything I could about how the mind can help the body and the rest of us in our lives; and that was the beginning of my journey.
I kept running into Milton Erickson’s name, a most prolific writer and the most amazing teacher. So I wrote to Milton Erickson and told him what I just told you and asked him if he would take me on as a student to learn how to control my own pain and help other people.
He wrote back in his own writing, purple pen, “If you get an M.D. degree or a PhD in Psychology, I will train you.”
I wrote him back and said, “I don't really want to get an M.D. or a PhD. I just want to learn to help myself and help other people. Will you train me?”
He wrote me back again in his own writing, “If you get a PhD in Psychology or an M.D. degree, I will train you.”
So I moved from Massachusetts to San Diego and spent four years getting a PhD in Clinical Psychology; and I got four years of training directly one on one with Milton Erickson.
He got into the field because of his own pain so he could relate to me, and he trained me, firstly, as a student and then as a patient because I went through a lot of struggles. My mother died at that time. I got ill with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
I had kind of a very challenging situation because we had a baby. I was married at the time the baby was born, and then my wife at the time went into a psychotic break and sort of evaporated from the parenting and the relationship. I was going through all that.
So I became a patient and spent probably a good couple of years as a patient. And then, I became a co-therapist. I started seeing patients with him—his patients, my patients. I had a very full four years.
He also helped me write my PhD dissertation, thank goodness! He helped me write my first book.
DAVID LAROCHE: Why did he want you to have this four years training?
BRIAN ALMAN: He felt that in order to really help people (not too much yourself but help other people), you have to have a deep understanding of psychology and medicine, either or both. And he was a student as well as a teacher.
It turned out he was right. I had a lot to learn. He helped me learn it. I would take a class and we’d have to read these many books and after sharing with him what I was doing, he’d want me to read these many books. In every language, he really made me study a lot harder than I wanted to.
He felt it was essential in order to help people and, looking back, he was right.
DAVID LAROCHE: And what did you learn from Milton Erickson?
BRIAN ALMAN: What I learned from Milton Erickson was, number one, how to do my sessions outdoors. I do all my private sessions at the beach. He did many private sessions at Squaw Peak, outside in the garden, outside in Mother Nature. And it shows one thing.
DAVID LAROCHE: For what reason?
BRIAN ALMAN: The power of Mother Nature. Mother Nature heals. The amazing qualities in Mother Nature—to be able to pick up millions of grains of sand, to be able to go in the ocean and feel the release of “letting go” in the waves. Mother Nature is full of surprises, full of uniqueness, and full of training sessions.
DAVID LAROCHE: So you learned to reconnect with the power of this world.
BRIAN ALMAN: And learned the way everything comes back, the way that, even from the worst of conditions, things can grow. A flower can grow in the middle of the sidewalk; what happens after droughts and rains—just the sort of “never give up on the great thing power of Mother Nature.”
My sessions where I work with people one on one are usually all day, and he did that as well—all day sessions with one person or a small group, very intense; and also a lot of follow ups.
For years and years, I learned to follow up everybody I see. He taught me that as well. I actually built a business called “TruSage” which is a follow-up business, and I got the seeds of that from Milton Erickson.
DAVID LAROCHE: Great! How do you develop wellness? You had some training about that. Do you have some advice for people who are listening to us to do self-help to develop wellness in this life?
BRIAN ALMAN: Wellness itself is learning how to have a healthy relationship with yourself—mind, body, heart, and soul. It's really, again, very similar to the ocean. People go deep.
You don't want to stop yourself from being negative and from feeling bad. You actually want to learn how to go deeper into the negative or feeling bad. If you're struggling with an illness or struggling with anxiety or depression, you'll get much more from diving down deep into it because at the very depth of the pain (which is what I learned), at the very depth of the health problems, the very depth of your own challenges emotionally from your childhood or whatever it is, at the very base of it, the root of it are, oftentimes, the best answers.
So wellness isn’t about fixing yourself, changing yourself, making yourself better, or making yourself different. It's really about being more totally who you are mind, body, heart, and soul and learning how (really with exact how-to’s) to go deep into who you are mentally, who you are emotionally, who you are physically, and who you are spiritually.
So it's a journey that begins as soon as you're open to say “yes,” and it lasts your whole life. You work on it your whole life, too.
DAVID LAROCHE: So you said “Yes”?
BRIAN ALMAN: Yes.
DAVID LAROCHE: And you help people to say “yes” also?
BRIAN ALMAN: To themselves emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually, definitely!
DAVID LAROCHE: Do you do some individual coaching? I also do coaching. What is the best thing you can share on how to be a good coach (I don't know the word in English) and help someone?
BRIAN ALMAN: What I would say is that most people (particularly in France, the French especially, plenty of Americans and everywhere I teach and travel in the world) get stuck with how they feel emotionally. They try not to feel what they really do feel. That's never going to work.
And then, they try to not be judgmental. This is the real key. You want to take this back to Europe, for sure, that everybody’s judgmental; everybody’s critical. I call it the “15th row perspective.”
So if you're sitting in the theater and you're watching the David movie and the movie is all about you, when you step back out of the movie to the 15th row and watch your own movie, that's your inner judge, your inner critic, your perfectionist, the part of you that's never satisfied and the part of you that thinks you're never going to be good enough. People also try to get rid of that whether it's through NLP or hypnosis or therapy or journaling or meditation or yoga.
People try to stop being negative. They try to stop being critical and judgmental.
And if you're coaching somebody, you actually want to coach people to do the opposite—to learn how to be more judgmental, to be more critical, to be more negative—because as you go deep into that, you'll automatically transport yourself to what I call your “last row perspective” which is your intuition, your creativity, the true authentic you.
So the best coaching is encouraging people to be who they are and even more so but realize that even with a lobotomy, you're not going to get rid of your inner critic; and no matter what you do, you're still going to feel what you feel. That's the sensitive, beautiful part of you.
But you have to learn how to really move through those and use those as bridges to get to your intuition, your creativity, your inner artist, your inner healer, and your inner doctor.
Those are the most important lessons.
DAVID LAROCHE: Great! According to you, why is Milton Erickson so impactful? I learned that he is very good to make … with his clients. Do you think it's … we have to develop when you help someone?
BRIAN ALMAN: In order to be a healer, in order to be a coach…
DAVID LAROCHE: What is your first… I would love to know.
BRIAN ALMAN: Oh, yes, no question about that. Did I experience Milton Erickson’s acceptance in taking people as they are whether they're a big fat truck driver or a famous doctor or a CEO of a big company? He accepted everybody as they are. I definitely felt that and saw that every day with him.
And what I started to say is that as a coach or as a healer, you have to learn to do that for yourself. Because people have to trust you, you have to trust yourself before you can do that with other people. People have to feel accepted by you so you have to know how to accept yourself. You can't really give acceptance or trust if you don't have that on your own.
So coaches, healers, therapists, and doctors need to do their own inner work, their deep inner work in order to be able to give another person the experience of feeling accepted and feeling loved or cared about.
He was able to do that because he unconditionally accepted himself as he is—with polio, with pain, with all of his own challenges and difficulties of which he had many. He was supposed to have died of polio as a teenager. When I met him, he was 75. He outfoxed everybody.
You have to be able to give yourself that kind of support and encouragement before you can give it to other people. He definitely did that.
DAVID LAROCHE: That's awesome. How do you stop a limiting behavior?
BRIAN ALMAN: Give me an example. What are you thinking?
DAVID LAROCHE: For example, smoking.
BRIAN ALMAN: As we know with smoking, it's a very effective stress management and anger management technique so it's a problem and a solution. I mean, nobody smokes to get lung cancer. They smoke to manage their stress and anger. So you really have to go to the roots of it—the person himself.
It would be like if there was a fire in the house. You don't want to hurry to the fire and just put out the smoke. You have to put out the fire. And so, with smoking or weight or any of the behavioral issues, you really have to get to the person himself and find out the anger he's trying to manage or why food is so important to him.
For example, I worked with a guy who smoked five packs of cigarettes a day. Obviously, he tried to quit smoking many times over the decades. He, finally, did quit the five packs of cigarettes he was smoking from the time he woke up to the time he went to bed.
As it turned out, he was smoking to handle his anger because the few times he quit, he became a very angry and violent person. His father raised him to be a tough guy by beating him up and hitting him on a daily basis. His father made him a tough guy. He was a real tough guy. He never lost a fight and he smoked to manage his anger.
So when he quit, his anger came out like crazy. So he had to, at the beach, spend a few days getting to that anger about his dad, about his life, about his childhood, and about his upbringing.
And he got through it. He got to the root causes and he was able to quit smoking.
DAVID LAROCHE: How did you help him do that?
BRIAN ALMAN: By him getting to the reason he was smoking which was the anger management, to keep it down.
DAVID LAROCHE: So you helped him to learn how to manage his anger?
BRIAN ALMAN: I brought him deep into the anger he had felt for his dad and for himself by going to the deepest part of the sand or the deepest part of the ocean in a way that's very safe, with some safeguards, with some relaxing techniques. We took him deep into the anger.
He cried like a baby. He was really angry about his dad and he got it all out. He was ashamed of himself and so many of his behaviors over the years.
In two days, he got it all out. Then, quitting smoking was easy.
DAVID LAROCHE: It's very interesting because you are saying that the cigarette was not the problem. It was a consequence of something that he had to manage and something he had to speak about. And then, he was able to manage the cigarettes.
BRIAN ALMAN: And I'm taking that even one step further in saying that the smoking was part of the solution, not just the problem. It was helping him solve problems by managing his anger. You don't want to take away somebody’s solution.
DAVID LAROCHE: It was his best way to manage his anger.
BRIAN ALMAN: That he had figured over his 45 years up until that moment.
DAVID LAROCHE: A lot of people who are following me have fears and stress. Do you some advice to overcome fears?
BRIAN ALMAN: Yes, definitely. Fears are a very important way for us to protect ourselves. Basically, fears are “how can I be safe? I don't want to die and I don't want bad things to happen.”
So fears are a way of protecting ourselves. It's a little bit like putting the Great Wall of China around ourselves. People overdo it, but the intention is good and the intention is right which is to be safe and to not get harmed.
Very similar to the smoking example, I have a lot of examples with fears. You actually have to go deep down into the feelings of being afraid.
DAVID LAROCHE: Can we do that alone?
BRIAN ALMAN: People usually won't. They could but they usually need a guide. They usually need somebody to help them. I've written books that show people how they do it but most people will do better with another person facilitating it. They'll go through it faster.
DAVID LAROCHE: Why do they need people to change that?
BRIAN ALMAN: The first thing is that before you go deep into the fear, you actually have to set up a very safe place.
So if it gets to be too much during the process, you can always get to that safe, comfortable, relaxed place sort of that meditative, whole, relaxing, beautiful, natural place. You have to set that up.
And then, the actual process of going deep down into the fear can take (if you do it all at once) five, six, seven, eight hours if you're dealing with a lifetime habit or a very long-term habit.
If you do it with somebody else like an expert, it will get through in five, six, seven, or eight hours. If you do it on your own, you'll probably do it for a half-hour at a time or an hour at a time, and it will probably take months; it could even take a couple of years.
I like to do things more quickly and get it all done all at once, and then do the follow up after that.
You can do it on your own. You just have to have a lot of patience and perseverance. Most people will start it, and then they'll stop. It's like quitting smoking or losing weight. People are good for a month or two or three, but then they go back to their old habits.
Fear is the same way. They’ll make some progress then go back to their old fears.
So to really get to the deep parts where the answers are…
DAVID LAROCHE: Currently for you, do you a coach also?
BRIAN ALMAN: Yes, I do. I've some great people who work with me that I've trained. They do this kind of work. They do the coaching and then I mentor with them.
DAVID LAROCHE: Do you think that all your life, you will have someone to take care of you?
BRIAN ALMAN: No. What I would say is that coaches should help you do what I call the “heavy lifting” for three days or three months, whatever it takes you to really move forward. And then, the coach can stay with you once a week or once a month or once every three months or once every six months depending on what you need.
But I think that, with athletes, it's always great to have coaches with you for as long as you're competing. And then, it can be really helpful to have coaches as long as you're growing and expanding your life.
How much and how often, I think, depends on the individual person. I don't think there's a formula or a public path.
I, typically, follow people up two or three times a week with a text or an email or a video asking them how they're doing. So after they do the deep work, I do a lot of follow up with them and I do less and less.
Ultimately, your point is well taken. You need to learn how to become your own coach. You just want to do that when you're really ready and you know that you're really there.
No hurry. Life can last a long time.
DAVID LAROCHE: Do you have some advice to help people unleash that one potential?
BRIAN ALMAN: Definitely! Everybody finds their own best answers inside. You're not going to find them from anybody else. You can travel to the four corners of the earth but, ultimately, your best answers will come from inside yourself.
So my advice is to learn how to very comfortably go deep inside yourself, deeper than you've ever gone, and find your own best answers; and if you need a coach to do that for a few days, however it's set up, that's fine.
But, ultimately, to really get well, stay well, you have to really go inside. And that includes finding your own power, finding your own potential. It's inside of all of us all the time.
We can't get out of our own way. So you have to learn how to get out of your own way emotionally, get out of your own way mentally so that you can really find what's already there. It's like looking for gold. It's already there, but you have to go find it.
It's inside of you. It's inside of everybody. I've worked with Nazis. It's even inside of them. I've worked with concentration camp survivors. It's inside of them. I've worked with incest survivors, perpetrators, priests who have molested kids, kids who have been molested by priests.
Everybody has incredible potential inside of them as long as they can get out of their own way, get through their pain, and get through the issues that have been holding them back.
DAVID LAROCHE: I have short questions for you… short answers also. What is your favorite book?
BRIAN ALMAN: Advanced Techniques by Milton Erickson.
DAVID LAROCHE: I have to read that.
BRIAN ALMAN: It's a fantastic book.
DAVID LAROCHE: What is your favorite audio book, if you listen to them?
BRIAN ALMAN: I would say Psychobiology of Mind-Body Healing by Ernest Rossi.
DAVID LAROCHE: What is your favorite movie, the most influential and inspirational?
BRIAN ALMAN: I love the pop movie, Back to the Future, because it is about age regression and age progression. It's about going back in time and going ahead in time and then making your present more effective. It's very hypnotic, very creative, and very playful.
DAVID LAROCHE: Do you like the movie, Inception?
BRIAN ALMAN: Yes. It's a very good movie.
DAVID LAROCHE: It's kind of hypnosis.
BRIAN ALMAN: It's very similar. It would really make you figure things out for yourself. I like it.
DAVID LAROCHE: What is your favorite quote?
BRIAN ALMAN: Again, I'd have to go back to Milton Erickson.
DAVID LAROCHE: Let's do that.
BRIAN ALMAN: The primary task is to help people discover their own conscious potential.
DAVID LAROCHE: What is your favorite commitment to yourself?
BRIAN ALMAN: Unconditional acceptance of other people and myself.
DAVID LAROCHE: Great! I love that. It's amazing. Do you have some life lessons you would like to share to the youth?
BRIAN ALMAN: I have six kids.
DAVID LAROCHE: How old are they?
BRIAN ALMAN: From twenties to ten, five girls and a boy. I say the same thing to them all the time which is, “Your purpose is to develop yourself as a person and to help the world be a better place.” So I always come back to that.
One of my favorite life lessons is that acceptance is transcendence. When you really accept, you can really move to a much bigger picture and be more effective with yourself and other people.
DAVID LAROCHE: Great, I love that. I have a weird question for you. I have to explain what it is. The goal is to make a funny video. I ask this to each interviewee. The question is, how can I become unhappy in this life?
Brian, I have a very serious question for you. How can I help myself and other people to become unhappy in this life and become a loser?
BRIAN ALMAN: Easy! It's so easy. People are experts at it already. Be very judgmental towards yourself. And that's the shortcut.
DAVID LAROCHE: I have to judge myself every time.
BRIAN ALMAN: About everything, and you will be the most unhappy person you know.
DAVID LAROCHE: Wow!
BRIAN ALMAN: It's very easy. And many people are experts at it. They're doing it right now and almost all the time.
DAVID LAROCHE: Do you have another one?
BRIAN ALMAN: To be unhappy?
DAVID LAROCHE: Yes.
BRIAN ALMAN: To judge your emotions, how you feel and what you're experiencing inside emotionally. Be judgmental and be critical of that all the time. You'll be one of the unhappiest people you know.
DAVID LAROCHE: And maybe another one to become the unhappiest people of the world. Do you have a third step?
BRIAN ALMAN: Those two would do it. You'd be the unhappiest person you know. If you could do both of those, then, you're the king and queen of unhappiness. Those two would do it. You probably wouldn't have time to get to a third. You'd be busy.
DAVID LAROCHE: Thank you very much for this key.
BRIAN ALMAN: You're welcome, David.
DAVID LAROCHE: I'll let Julie come and I'll come back for my last question. It will be without me.
BRIAN ALMAN: Okay.
JULIE: I ask this question to hundreds of people. According to you, what can we do to improve education?
BRIAN ALMAN: I've been working in education with charter schools and inter-cities in the United States for 15 years; and I've taught at all of my kids’ schools on self-confidence and leadership from kindergarten all the way through college. So I'm very invested in helping students be healthy, happy, and productive people who contribute to the world to make it a better place.
I would say that the most important thing in education is to teach people how to be effective socially, how to be effective with other people, from bullies to wonderful people to their teachers, and to really be able to develop social confidence so they really know deep inside that they can handle any situation or any kind of person.
That would be what I would say is the most important thing to teach students. It's that ability to really feel confident socially because that will have a lot of wonderful ripple effects in their everyday life forever and ever.
JULIE: I think it's a good advice. My second question is about your vision of the world. What are three actions human beings can do to make this world a better place to live in?
BRIAN ALMAN: One is to realize that we live in a very judgmental world, that people are judging each other all the time. Cultures are judging each other; religions are judging each other (politicians and companies) that we have to realize that we're in a very judgmental world. We're not going to be able to change people’s minds.
So in order to have cooperation in the world which is essential, in order for the world to grow to be a safe place for future generations, we have to learn and remember that we're dealing with a lot of judgment. We have to work with that judgment so we don't waste decades or a lifetime trying to change people but to understand how judgmental they are and be able to work with that reality so that we can transcend it and be able to come up with solutions that acknowledge that that's not changing and that will continue.
That would be the first thing that I would say.
Clearly, we need to learn how to work with each other in a small base level like in our schools, in our families, in our communities, in our cities, and in our states.
People, including myself, really need to be very proactive about contributing to the world to make it a better place. So from ourselves as individuals, to our relationships, to our families, to the people we work with, we really need to develop a much more cooperative and all-inclusive attitude and approach so that even if people are really different, even if people are impossible to deal with, even if people are stuck, we have to be able to cooperate with one another from the very base root of small lives all the way to our bigger lives.
I raise my kids with the word “cooperation.” That's the most important thing. If we cooperate, we can do all the things we want to do like go to the park and play. But if we're not cooperating and we're fighting—“I don't want to be parent, please, so I don't really want to do that.” So we wait until… and they would be able to cooperate pretty quickly in order for that to happen.
At a very small or kind of home level, cooperation is essential.
If I was going to pick a third… I'm very focused on the environment like probably most people—keeping the world clean, recycling for the water and for the air.
I know that's probably going to take 50 to 100 years to get it right, but I would really want to get everybody contributing to realize for their future generations to be alive and be well. We all have to do everything we can to make the world greener, healthier, and more life-giving.
That would be the third and I'd probably go on but those would be the top three.
JULIE: Thank you very much.
BRIAN ALMAN: You're very welcome.
DAVID LAROCHE: This is my last question. It's a short question. According to you, what are the key factors of success? The goal is to do a video of less than two minutes.
BRIAN ALMAN: That's easy. First, things happen on the inside and then they happen on the outside. So, number one, you want to be able to go deep inside yourself, find your own inner success—mind, body, heart, and soul—and when you're able to do that with specific exact how-to’s that are tailored to fit you as an individual person, find all the resources you can, take all the trainings, do all the lessons, get all the coaching, and learn how to be successful inside in all those areas, then, the external will definitely happen.
If you want to do both at the same time, that's great, but you really have to be successful on the inside. A lot of very successful people, billionaires, owners of very large companies, and probably some of the richest people in the world can feel really empty. So the outside stuff doesn't really give you everything you want.
In India, I've met enlightened gurus, many, many gurus, and it's isn’t just about the inside either. You want to be successful on the inside and the outside—not either/or but both. It's just that first things really happen on the inside, and then they happen on the outside.
DAVID LAROCHE: Great! I love that. Can I have a testimonial from you? Would you prefer that I ask you something or I can just let you say what you think about David Laroche and why you’d recommend him?
BRIAN ALMAN: Like a lot of the things I do, it was all intuition. David contacted me and reached out. I said “yes” right away which is crazy because I'm super busy. I travel a lot. There are a lot of people who want my time and energy and a lot of people I want to give my time and energy to.
But I allowed my intuition, what I call my “last row perspective” to be my guide in life.
And so, when David reached out the way that he did it, like a gentleman, respectful, very curious, and very open, I said “yes” and, of course, as you can see, it was a big “yes.”
That's the truth. That's it! Thank you for coming to my office.
DAVID LAROCHE: How can I help you…
BRIAN ALMAN: Just share with as many people as you can. I can help you promote your website when you get it out, but it's really about sharing and getting as many people as we can to realize that they do have a lot of power inside.
That's the main thing for me. That's all. It's very simple.