Coaching Podcast: Question Roulette with John and Noelle
The Catalyst Life Coaching Podcast, featuring JRNI Coaching founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux is a deep dive into the experience and business of being a life coach. This transcript of Episode 47 of the Catalyst Life Coaching Podcast tackles the big stuff on life coaching and positive psychology.
John: How are you?
Noelle: I’m well, how are you?
John: I’m well. Ready for another round of questions roulette?
John: Okay. Man, you seem chipper this morning.
Noelle: Well it’s 11 a.m. East coast time.
John: Oh, that’s right. I just woke up, it’s 8 a.m. Pacific.
Noelle: Yeah, I already cleaned the house, worked out, did some work.
John: Wow, you’re making me feel like shit. Alright, so one of my favorite things to do is answer questions on my Instagram stories, and they expire after 24 hours, so there’s a lot of questions I don’t get to. So I use Noelle to help me answer your questions. The first question is this: How do you not take things personally?
Noelle: Oh, that’s such a good question.
John: Yeah, and common.
Noelle: Yeah I think that really—or at least I’ve learned in practice—goes back to mindfulness training.
Noelle: And understanding what a feeling feels like versus a fact. And if you have a feeling-based response to someone or something, let it exist.
Noelle: Let it be, and then let it pass.
John: Yes, and I love that. So, how do you let it pass? Because sometimes are feelings can be overwhelming and they can end up drowning us. So how do we balance that?
Noelle: So a question that I found really helpful is to do a check in—ask yourself “Will this matter one year from now?” And that really helps orient things to what’s serious, what’s not, what’s fleeting, what’s true. If what you’re experiencing right now won’t matter one year from now, chances are you can let it go with certainty.
John: This too shall pass.
Noelle: This too shall pass. And let me explain why that technique works. It’s because when you have a triggered response to something, it activates your limbic system, which is the part of your brain that stores emotions—both good and bad, and what you need in this scenario is to get your prefrontal cortex—which is your logic center—into the mix. Unfortunately, these two parts of the brain don’t work at the same time. So, by asking the question “will this matter one year from now?” you’re waking up your prefrontal cortex—because there’s almost a mathematical value to it—and your prefrontal cortex says “Oh my gosh, do we have to make a decision here?”
Noelle: So in that moment, you’re able to switch out of your emotional brain into your logical brain and give your logic center a chance to help you.
John: Mmm, I love that. I love that focus and that question “is it really gonna matter a year from now?”, and I think that we drown in feelings because we’re lost in the moment and in the trenches, and everything seems very life or death. Like when we’re in high school, everything seems so life or death, but when we look back now at our high school days, the things that were so serious are almost laughable—and I think that carries on as adults. Things will pass, and next year you’ll look back at whatever you’re going through now and realize that it didn’t ruin your life.
Noelle: Right, I mean 100%. Five years ago I was in grad school and I obsessed over my grades, I obsessed, and I put myself through abject hell. And then I left my graduate program and none of those grades mattered.
John: Yeah, I remember when I was getting my hours to be a therapist, that meant everything, and everyone was obsessed about every hour and logging in their hours, and that was the big race. Now looking back, it didn’t matter at all. I like this idea also that what other people think about you is none of your business. It’s a little cliché, but it’s a good reminder that stories that people have of you sometimes have to do more with their stories than yours—meaning how someone takes you in, the things that trigger them about you, etc., etc. is tied to the stuff they went through and their experiences, and may not have a lot to do with you.
Noelle: Oh 100%. Projection city.
Noelle: And first of all, if someone is sitting around ruminating about your life, they have way too much time on their hands. Me personally, I like to give people things to talk about.
John: Right. You like to not be invisible.
Noelle: Right. Honestly, I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I couldn’t give a fuck what other people think of me, but if you’re showing up in the world in an authentic way, make it interesting. Give people something to talk about. Make your mark. When you die will people have remembered you? And you can always think about it that way. If people are thinking about you, and they have something to say about you, and they have opinions about you either they have too much time on their hands, or you’re doing it right.
John: Yes, and my last comment is—if everyone likes you, I don’t think anyone likes you. If people don’t like you, it just means you have a voice. Alright my goal is to knock out 5 questions. That was the first question. My second question is more of a relationship question. She writes, 1.5 years in and a partner just found out he has a 5 year old. Step kids were a deal breaker, help.
John: So what do you do when you’re 1.5 years into a relationship and it seems like things are great, and then your partner just found out he’s got a 5 year old.
Noelle: I mean, that’s when you dig deep, right?
Noelle: I mean that 5 year old is a precious life, and the relationship exists between the two partners and those things can all be mutually exclusive. But man, I don’t think there’s a cookie cutter answer to that one.
John: Yeah, I think it depends on how that changes your life, and a relationship, and you being okay with that.
Noelle: Yeah, 100%, 100%. Also, evaluate the quality of the relationship. The two year mark is typically where people start to figure out whether they’re out or they’re in. And in a heterosexual relationship, that often takes place because 18-24 months is the amount of time where you’re brain chemicals adhere to all of the new relationship stuff—lowered serotonin, warm and fuzzies, higher sex drive because your bodies are trying to get pregnant—so after 24 months it’s like “eh do I even really like this person?”
John: Right. Well this is a really great question too—so for people who are approaching the two year mark, or are 1.5 years in, and things are kind of becoming routine, and a little bit stale, they’re starting to notice other people, etc.—you’re saying a lot of this is normal and the way that we’re wired. What do you do about that? How do you stay in it? Do you just keep holding on until that wave passes?
Noelle: Well, humans aren’t built to be serial monogamists, first of all. I’m not monogamous, so that’s my solution. When you look at your life, people who have children, most kids are born 2 years apart.
Noelle: For a very good reason. So a lot of our life reflexes—marriages, typically if they’re gonna end last only 2 years. So, these patterns are very prevalent in our life. And the good part about being human in today’s world is that we have biological drives, but we can overcome them. So you need to be real about the fact that your partner may not be able to meet every single last one of your needs and that’s okay. How can you take care of your own-self and your own life to make sure that you’re out there doing interesting things and not relying on a partner to do them for you.
John: Yeah, and I just did an episode about redefining beauty, and I think one of the things you can do is start to find, and discover, and explore. Redefine beauty in the relationship and your partner so it doesn’t just feel one note.
Noelle: 100%, 100%. And try new things together. You can simulate a lot of those chemicals by trying new things, independently and together as a couple.
John: Yeah, I think so many people, because of routine and the same stuff day in and day out, that their relationship starts to wilt. Partly it’s not because of the relationship itself, it’s because you guys are just doing the same things over and over—eating the same flavor of ice cream everyday.
Noelle: You know what else really helps—consistent check-ins and reorientation towards mutual life goals.
John: Like what’s important with each other?
Noelle: The applied positive psychology intervention I’m thinking about is future visioning. So to just sit with your partner and do a check-in—okay it’s been 6 months, it’s been 4 months, it’s been 8 months, it’s been 2 years—let’s sit and dream together about what we want life to look like 5 years from now so that we know and understand each other’s dreams and we can kind of refocus the compass on our mutual life satisfaction.
John: Yeah I love that one. Alright this one is gonna make you very angry. A boyfriend with primitive beliefs like “women should respect husbands”, what to do?
Noelle: Well, I don’t have a problem with that.
Noelle: I respect my husband.
Noelle: I respect the hell out of him. Why do you think that would make me mad?
John: I don’t know, it seemed very kind of old-fashioned. It seems like—and I could be reading it wrong—but it seems like controlling, old-fashioned, respect your women, make my food—that kind of thing.
Noelle: Well the key word there is primitive, right? So, if someone said that I have a belief that I should respect my husband, I’d say “that’s awesome, your husband deserves respect, sure.”
Noelle: If the key word is primitive, I’d want to know what kind of qualifications come with that. Some people like that kind of gender role dynamic, and it’s not just in binary male-female relationships.
Noelle: There’s a certain level of comfort, satisfaction, even kink in different ways of expressing gender roles.
John: Of course.
Noelle: So my sex therapist brain kicks on and I’m like, is this a sex thing? Is this a life thing? Is this a dominance thing? What are we really talking about here? Where is this coming from? How does it manifest? If someone is saying this is a primitive belief, perhaps they don’t hold it. If two people are going into a relationship and one says—for example, if my husband came home and said to me, “Where is my dinner bitch? Make my food,” how do you think that would go?
John: Yeah, of course. So, it depends on what exactly do you mean by primitive. I agree with Noelle that women should respect husbands and husbands should respect wives. I think respect in a relationship is definitely one of the legs—without it then you just have something very messy. So respect is important, but what is the primitive part? Is he telling you to make his dinner? What is he doing that doesn’t work for you? At the end of the day, whatever doesn’t work for you doesn’t work for you.
Noelle: Right, right. And I also really wanna clarify that if it does work for you, that’s totally fine.
John: Right. Just because it doesn’t work for other people, it doesn’t mean that it’s wrong.
Noelle: Exactly. If you are a man, or a woman, or you don’t define your gender that way, and you love being home, and you love being a homemaker, and you love taking care of your partner and you want to build your life that way—go do it.
John: Yeah. I agree. You just mentioned kink. I have a friend who likes to be thrown in the closet, and slapped around and all that, and other women would think that there is something wrong with her or that’s the husband or the boyfriend being abusive. But if that works for her and that’s what she likes, and the roleplay, then that’s her life and that’s what she likes.
Noelle: There’s a really great saying—“don’t yuck my yum”.
John: Mmm, I like that. It sounds like a bumper sticker.
Noelle: Yep, it could be.
John: Alright, another one: “How do single people meet when they’re in their 50’s? It’s so hard.”
Noelle: You know, I don’t know that it’s so hard. Okay, I’m not in my 50’s and I’m not single, but I’ve done a ton of relationship coaching with finding and sourcing new relationships. And I think that in order to be successful in meeting someone, you have to check your preconceived notions about what you want another person to be at the door. That’s step one.
Noelle: Because if you’re going out there with a checklist and you’re gonna meet people and you’re gonna try to measure them to your ideal, they’re human, they’re complex, they’re deep—especially in your 50’s, you’re gonna be fully formed, you’re gonna have a life, you’re gonna have an occupation, you may have children, you’re gonna have past relationships. Every body’s gonna be really super complex at this stage of the game. So, it’s not gonna be like when you’re in your 20’s and you meet someone and you have the warm fuzzies, and there are risk taking behaviors happening, and you’re obsessed with each other—it’s gonna be a little bit more of a dance, which I actually find really beautiful as I’m aging.
Noelle: I tell all my relationship clients, “You need to shop online and in the store.” So be looking for connection everywhere, and be open to non-traditional ways of meeting people—maybe a cruise that’s based on everybody’s mutual interests. I’ve been eyeing this thing called Jam Cruise—it’s for crazy hippies like me. Awesome, right.
Noelle: Go to meetups, go to book readings. Find something that you like to do with your time and then find others who enjoy it as well. So many people out there are looking for partners and you have to be open and signal that you are looking for a partner.
John: Yes, I believe in communities, I believe in retreats. I think a lot of people complain about how hard it is to meet people these days and the disconnect because of the internet, and all that—which I get. But instead of complaining—it’s all about communities now, so whether it’s fitness, or something that’s in wellness, or your passion, art, whatever—go find a community, they’re everywhere. It’s very plug and play like that.
Noelle: Yep, 100%. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to try to attract a mate?
John: The craziest thing? I went on a spree of swiping—and I mean it’s not that crazy because it’s kind of the norm now—but I think for someone my age who grew up with pagers, just swiping and meeting people. Oh you know, the craziest thing was the mindset. So, I decided that layers over the lightening in the bottle. And I told myself I’m gonna have no type—I I’m just gonna meet anyone, even if I’m not that attracted to their profile or whatever, just meet them if they’re willing to meet for coffee and conversation. So, for about 8 months I went on this crazy meet and greet dating spree.
Noelle: I think I was hanging out with you during this period of time.
John: Yeah, and I would meet people, and they would show up and I would have no interest in them romantically, but I would actually sit down and have a conversation and it was a good experience. It helped me take off the pressure of finding “the one” that the world lives with.
John: Not that crazy, but the mindset is a little but crazy, and by crazy I mean rare, meaning no one does that.
Noelle: You know what I did that was a terrible idea?
John: What did you do?
Noelle: I went to a concert, and the band was a band that attracts mostly dudes. And I wore a t-shirt that said “Single, likes good beer.”
John: Oh, I love that. I think that’s hilarious.
Noelle: Except I hate being hit on, and then I was like “oh this is the worst idea ever” and I didn’t have a backup t-shirt.
John: Where did you get that t-shirt? Someone buy it for you or something?
Noelle: I made it.
John: Oh, that’s hilarious. Didn’t you go—I mean I guess this was Halloween—but you went somewhere with an egg costume, or some kind of costume to a concert once too? But that might be easier because you’re hiding inside the costume.
Noelle: I wear an egg costume every year for Halloween, so I’ve been to—I mean Christ—the egg costume has been at Halloween concerts since 2008.
John: Alright, last question. We’re gonna get this in before in about 2 minutes. This is actually a hard question and probably the one that everyone can relate to: “How to get over the fear of failure?”
Noelle: Oh, well you know what, there’s no such thing as failure, it’s just data.
John: Yeah. But, people don’t believe that.
Noelle: No, they don’t believe that.
John: Yeah, that’s what’s hard.
Noelle: I think that fear of failure is a good driver at some point, because it allows you to dig down for grit, but you really need to know when to fold, and that’s the difference.
Noelle: If you look at the course of your life, you can change course at any time. To make a decision to do something or not to do something—they’re equally legitimate decisions. And you’re gonna die, so what are you doing with your time? If you know you can change course at any time, why not try?
John: Yeah, I love that idea that nothing is permanent, and that includes failure. It’s information, it’s growth. You know a lot of the failures in my life had to happen for me to create something that was meaningful to me.
Noelle: Mhmm, 100%.
John: So, sometimes failures are the stepping stones, you know?
Noelle: I’ll give you a great example. So, this week I kind of had an existential crisis, and I went through this whole crazy ordeal with myself and our business—“Can I really do this? Can I take it to the next level? Am I the right person for the job? Do I even want to do this?” And in my insane flurry, I checked out what it would be like to re-enroll in my doctorate program. And I discovered that I can do it in about 48 hours. If I choose at any time, I can stop being a CEO, and I can go back to being a doctor.
John: And then you mean continue where you left off?
Noelle: Yeah, and pick up and continue right where I left off.
John: And for me, that was so freeing.
Noelle: Yeah, of course.
John: And I called my dad, and I talked to him about it, and he encouraged me to keep going, which I’m going to do, but just knowing that you can change course at any time.
John: And think about that scenario. Would you call me, or should I call myself, or do you think anyone from the outside looking in would say, “Gee Noelle, you gave it two years and you decided not to be a CEO and you’re going back to being a doctor? Failure.”
Noelle: Right. No, of course.
John: Right, it’s all about perspective.
Noelle: Yeah, and also living with no regrets and knowing that you actually went and tasted something.
Noelle: Yeah. Man we really kicked the doors down, we knocked our 5 questions, I’m proud of us and I think we did a good job.
Noelle: We did not fail.
John: We did not fail.
Noelle: Thank you guys, keep asking your questions, and Noelle and I will keep answering them. Be well.
John: Have a great one.