Colby Shytle was struggling with dark thoughts and anxiety like he’d never experienced before. He reached out for help, looking for tools to change the way he was walking through the world. And because he was open to it, his experience with The Human Element enabled him to transform in a moment. Just as a ship captain decides to change the course in a moment, a human can transform in a moment, so that every step forward after that moment is in a new direction.
Intro: Hello everybody! So first of all, I am recording this here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We’ve been talking about the year abroad, and this is the first recording I’m doing since leaving the States. Before I left, I recorded several interviews with people in my network, and we will be producing and releasing those throughout the year, while also recording new episodes from each location. So full disclosure, and you’ll hear about this towards the end, this interview was recorded in Orlando, Florida. In this episode, I interview Colby Shytle. Colby worked with me for about a year as an intern in 2015 when he wanted to see if Organizational Psychology was part of his future. And he learned that, uh… it was not…
Colby: Yeah and then I worked with you, uh, in the beginning
Laura: Mm hmm.
Colby: That was exciting. Found out a lot about myself.
Colby: In that I do not want to do consulting work, so–
Colby: –so thank you.
Laura: You’re welcome.
But more seriously, I care so much about creating an intentional culture and an environment where people on the team are continuously growing their own self-awareness. The team is so focused on supporting one another and creating a space that is psychologically safe
Colby: You all were just super warm and welcoming and, uh, you taught me a lot about honesty and how to be honest with myself. And then, like, absolutely honest with those around me. So, it was really cool.
So Colby learned a lot about himself, and he used the tools that we gave him to cope with everything from day-to-day conflict in the workplace to some deeper personal hardships like depression and anxiety.
Colby: After I, I left, um, for Oregon I kind of went through like a depression and I had to use those tools that you gave me to kind of sift through it and find myself again. It was pretty intense.
Colby: But I am just constantly thinking these negative things about myself that I have never experienced before. And it was terrifying. And then I remember, like, my vision went out of focus and I almost disassociated myself from my body. And I’m driving at 75 miles an hour down I-95 so–
Colby: –this is like, “Whoa. What’s going on?” And I’m shaking and I don’t want to worry her because I’m trying to deal with this all myself.
I invited Colby to come to The Human Element, which is not specifically designed for any diagnosable mental health condition, but rather a foundational workshop that helps people become more aware of their thoughts and feelings that drive their behavior.
Colby: I remember coming to that meeting that night, um, and just it all coming out of me, I remember just tears running down my face; and it was just like anger, and just frustration, and it was all just coming out of me. And I was yelling and there were a lot of “colorful words” used.
His openness to the experience and his desire to change how he was walking through the world enabled him to transform in a moment.
We talk about this, and more, including Milgram’s studies of obedience and how Rick and Morty spout some wisdom related to choice. I hope you enjoy listening to our conversation as much as I enjoyed having it.
Laura: Okay. So, Colby, thank you so much for being on the show.
Colby: You’re welcome.
Laura: Would you please introduce yourself to our listeners?
Colby: Hi. I’m Colby Shytle*. I’ve known Laura for, what, three years now? Kind of. Two years?
Laura: I don’t know. When did we meet?
Colby: I think, I think we met–
Laura: At to that panel, right? At UCF?
Colby: Yeah. So, that was before I graduated. It was like March–
Laura: Yeah. Probably.
Colby: –of 2015. So, like two and a half years.
Laura: Really? March of 2015. Okay.
Colby: Yeah, but I believe–
Laura: Yeah, that sounds right.
Laura: Sounds right.
Colby: So, yeah–
Laura: So, yeah. Coming up on three years.
Colby: Yeah and then I worked with you, uh, in the beginning
Laura: Mm hmm.
Colby: That was exciting. Found out a lot about myself.
Colby: In that I do not want to do consulting work, so–
Colby: –so thank you.
Laura: You’re welcome. Yeah, I remember when I met you. So, you were getting your psychology degree and you were curious about organizational psychology–
Colby: Mm hmm.
Laura: –really just wanted to learn more about it and what would it be like and that kind of stuff, so–
Colby: Yeah. I had a professor (Who I really need to reach out to. I love that guy.). His name was Don Modianos and, um, I met him in my Org Psych class but we ended up just talking about movies all the time.
Laura: I remember–
Laura: –you telling me that.
Colby: He did– uh, super awesome guy but I don’t think I learned anything about–
Colby: –org psych in that class. But I learned a lot about Lawrence of Arabia–
Colby: –and just awesome old-school films.
Colby: Um, but no. He– I remember hanging out in his office one day after lunch and he told me, ’cause I was kicking around the idea of going to the UCF master’s program, and he dropped some truth on me and said, “How, how do you expect to be a master in anything if you don’t have any real world experience?” He’s like, “You should get an internship if this is something you’re serious about.” And I said, “Yeah. You’re totally right.” And, uh, yeah. And then I found you at the panel—
Laura: Mm hmm.
Colby: –and, uh, just got the ball rolling.
Laura: Yeah. And I think Palak* also introduced us, cause she was already working with me.
Colby: Yeah. We had a few classes together. That’s how we met.
Laura: Mm hmm.
Colby: It’s all a blur.
Laura: Oh. So you said you learned a lot about yourself and one of the things you learned is that you didn’t wanna do consulting work. Did you learn anything else about yourself?
Colby: Um, yeah. A lot.
Colby: So, I would say super overwhelming. Um, one you do, I think at our first meeting, uh, super nervous. I’d never met any of you guys before and, uh, if I recall, I’m pretty sure by the end of it I, like, broke down crying. I was going through a lot, emotionally, at the time.
Colby: I’m sitting there, bawling my eyes out in front of six strangers. You all were just super warm and welcoming and, uh, you taught me a lot about honesty and how to be honest with myself. And then, like, absolutely honest with those around me. So it was really cool.
Colby: And, yeah. Honestly, those six months or so that I– it was a year–
Colby: –that I worked with you.
Laura: Mm hmm.
Colby: Um, I still carry that with me to, like, this day in terms of how I show up in the world and then how I choose to, you know, present myself–
Laura: Mm hm.
Colby: –and how I interact with other people.
Laura: So, can you give me an example of something that you feel like, okay, you show up differently in this way now whereas before you would have done it differently?
Colby: Um, so I think differently I– how do I put this?
Colby: So, differently, I would say that I was living like day-to-day not really understanding my motives. And then after unders– like, one, you, like, you guys really got me to open up to myself and explore, like, kind of the feelings that I guess I would have been ignoring. It’s very hard to articulate because that’s exactly what it was. There were feelings that I just wasn’t understanding.
Laura: Mm hmm.
Colby: And through your teachings and just us being in that tight knit group together and being 100% vulnerable and open with each other, I finally became aware, um, which is kind of terrifying. It was almost like a, you know in the Matrix? When the guy’s like “Ignorance is bliss?”
Colby: I, I– there were times where, after I became aware of my own thoughts, that I almost kind of wish I could go back. Just be like, “Whoa. This is a lot. All at once.”
Colby: And it kind of took me a while to really sift through all that and kind of find me again. Um, yeah. After I, I left, um, for Oregon I’ve kind of went through like a depression and I had to use those tools that you gave me to kind of sift through it and find myself again. It was pretty intense.
Laura: Can you say more about that? Like, what were the tools? Or what were you doing for yourself to change your state?
Colby: Um, so when I moved to Oregon, I started developing these constant anxious thoughts. Um, you know, fretting about work or, you know, I was going out there doing the Wildland firefighting and we weren’t getting work. Like, we were supposed to go out in early July and we didn’t go out until mid-August. And that entire month and a half, I’m dwindling what little cash that I brought out there with me. Ended up donating plasma twice a week just to–
Laura: That’s intense.
Colby: Yeah. Great money though. If you’re looking for cash…
Colby: Yeah. Um, yeah it was like, it was like a block down the street from our house. We’d get our bikes, my best friend and I, we would go donate plasma, and come back with a band aid on our arm and have fifty bucks in our pocket.
Laura: Yeah, see, last time I had blood drawn, just for normal bloodwork, I literally fainted. I passed out.
Laura: Which has never happened to me before.
Laura: Yeah. So I don’t know that I would want to donate plasma. I don’t think I’m maybe cut out for that.
Colby: Yeah. It’s very different than donating blood. I mean, they circulate it and then they, like, they separate the plasma out and then put your blood back in and then they give you like a saline solution. So, you come out kind of okay. Like–
Colby: –you’re not queasy like donating blood but you’re still, like, they just took–
Laura: Oh, god. I feel dizzy just listening to you talk about it.
Colby: Change the subject.
Colby: So, back to– so, I would have these nagging thoughts about money. I’d just started my rela– my new relationship at the time. Um, and I think I was still dealing with a lot of unresolved issues that I had from my past relationship that, again, those are the, kind of those thoughts that I wasn’t really awaare of until I was in a new relationship and then it goes, “Whoa. Well, this is unresolved.” And then, granted, starting a relationship 3,000 miles away for four months was–
Colby: –you know, an added stressor.
Laura: That’s brutal.
Colby: Um, so I remember specifically, like, I came back in October, late October, and super excited to be back and I figure that all these anxious thoughts would go away. But they didn’t. Like, I had developed a habit of high anxiety, uh, thinking. So, I remember vividly we, uh, my girlfriend and I were coming back from a trip that we did up the east coast. We went up to North Carolina and back. And I’m driving through Jacksonville, she’s taking a nap, it’s late at night, and these thoughts are swirling around in my head. Nothing to cause it. I mean, we had an awesome time. But I am just constantly thinking these negative things about myself that I have never experienced before. And it was terrifying. And then I remember, like, my vision went out of focus and I almost disassociated myself from my body. And I’m driving at 75 miles an hour down I-95 so–
Colby: –this is like, “Whoa. What’s going on?” And I’m shaking and I don’t want to worry her because I’m trying to deal with this all myself. Um, and probably for a few months, I think my favorite time of the day was going to sleep–
Laura: Mm hmm.
Colby: –and, uh, you know, like going through the, you know, the psychology and undergrad at UCF, like you learn about depression and anxiety. But it was nothing that I’ve ever experienced. And when you listen to other people’s portrayal of it, you don’t really understand what it is until you experience it. And then, granted, I don’t even know if that’s what they experience. This is my own–
Colby: –personal experience.
Colby: I would label it depression, anxiety. But I’ve never felt it before so that’s just the best way I can describe what that was, so, um, you invited me to Human Element.
Laura: Mm hmm.
Colby: Thank you so much. I remember coming to you and saying, like, “Hey. I, I think I’m depressed.” I, I’m, like I broke down crying to you that first day.
Colby: Like, just had 30 minutes during lunch to kind of get my thoughts out. We hadn’t really spoken personally in a while and I just started shaking ’cause I was like, I don’t know what the problem is. I’ve never felt this. I don’t know how to– I, I just felt like I was going crazy. So, um, that experience at Human Element helped me so much because you kind of brought back the lessons that you taught me of just, you know, being open and honest and sifting through, you know, what were the real problems? What were the root issues that I was dealing with? And then, too, you tell me that you choose the way that you show up in this world every day. Like, and I just started, you know, talking to myself. You know, I would sit in my room and just be like, “Hey. We’re not doing this today. I’m not gonna let you–” I mean like, there were things that I, I couldn’t enjoy, like, my life anymore. I couldn’t go out in the social setting with Rachel because I would just have these thoughts, I’d go, “Oh, she’s gonna cheat on me.” “Oh, she’s talking to this guy. What is she doing?” Just crazy like thoughts. And it wasn’t that I didn’t not trust her, it was that I didn’t find myself worthy of–
Colby: –like, that relationship.
Laura: That is so profound. That awareness. Right? That it’s actually not about, not about her, anything about her, but rather part of you was questioning your own worthiness of having her commitment.
Laura: And that triggered the fear. Wow.
Laura: So, and so, what do you remember coming up for you about your own worthiness when you went through that Human Element program in that week with us?
Colby: Um, I, well I remember specifically we hung out afterwards one night and it just all came out. You know, past insecurities from an ex and, you know, where I was at my life in terms of, you know, career wise and comparing myself to others and it was, it was a great quote. I think it was FDR, Theodore Roosevelt, but, I’m gonna butcher it anyways so who cares where it’s from. But it was like, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I think that’s–
Laura: The thief of happiness.
Colby: The thief of happiness.
Laura: I, I say that all the time. Comparison is the thief of happiness.
Colby: Yeah, and that—
Laura: Comparison is the thief of happiness. So true.
Colby: That’s when I came into—that first day when I came intoThe Human Element. Um, yea, I’m in a room with incredibly successful people, and uh, you know, I was just talking myself down, like, despite having plans to go back down to the school and to you know have just coming back from Oregon and having this awesome, incredible experience where I was a wildland firefighter for four months. Never, ever, imagined I would do, ever.
Laura: Yea that’s pretty cool!
Colby: Or like getting in my 2001 Toyota Corolla which was at like 150,000 miles. Just a beat up old car, had all my possessions in it. Stacked to the roof in the backseat and driving across the country. Like these were the things that I just weren’t giving myself enough credit for. So, I remember walking in and being like “oh, I’m just a server.” “I’m just a nobody, in a room full of somebody’s.” And uh, yea, I mean, it all came down to just, you know—like I said, my insecurities of an ex. My insecurities of where I was at in the world, and a, I remember talking to you and Gabriela and Stephanie and just finally feeling the love and support from you guys that was honestly exactly what I needed at the time—to kind of hammer through that.
Laura: There was a really incredible moment of transformation because I remember we were—I remember—that it came back to worthiness.
Laura: And we were talking about that, and I asked you to stand up and say something. I wanted you to say words and you just would not, you wouldn’t do it.
Colby: Um hum
Laura: You wouldn’t, or couldn’t, and that moment just wasn’t happening. But, then there was a moment where something shifted for you, and not only did you just stand up and say it but it was like it just—
Colby: Just raw—
Laura: Just everything about your energy.
Colby: It’s like primal. Yeah.
Laura: It was, just like everything shifted and it was like “holy shit!”.
Laura: Who is this guy?
Laura: Oh my God, I have pictures that—
Colby: Well, yeah no in that moment I – that was probably the most Colby I have felt in like three months. It was surreal, like a, when I came back to Orlando you know going through all that anxiety and depression I started to isolate myself. I told Rachel, I was like “I don’t want to live in Orlando anymore. I think I want to move back home. I kind of wanna get like school set up.” And that was just a way for me to like, get myself away from her. I had a shit ton of friends in Orlando. And I had a, you know, a couple friends from high school back home but there wasn’t –it was really just to hang out with my family, work. Kind of just like going home and just isolating myself.
Colby: And um, I think in a way I am glad that I did that. Cuz it kind of allowed me to sit in solitude for a while where I am like “Why am I doing this?” I kind of needed to do the wrong thing to realize what the right thing was. And um, but no—I remember coming to that meeting that night, um, and just it all coming out of me, I remember just tears running down my face; and it was just like anger, and just frustration, and it was all just coming out of me. I was yelling and there were a lot of “colorful words” used.
Colby: That I will not repeat here.
Laura: I do remember us being like “I wonder if my neighbors are scared right now?”
Colby: Oh my gosh, yea –
Colby: We were like in an apartment building.
Laura: But, I live in a concrete box. Yea.
Colby: Its cement —
Laura: It’s fine, it’s fine.
Colby: That its concrete. I hope the window wasn’t open?
Laura: No, it was closed.
Colby: Can you imagine living on the street and it just scaring—
Laura: The things that you were saying…
Colby: Oh my gosh!
Laura: But it was so great. So, what I would want to say about that is…So we all experience those types of emotions. And you know, I think my story about what was happening for you is—You didn’t want to be feeling those things, you had a story in your head that you shouldn’t be feeling those things either because it had been a certain amount of time or it’s just not ok to feel angry, or whatever and so I feel like you weren’t allowing yourself to fully express them. And so you had been like repressing them and keeping them in and they were kind of like eating you from the inside out. And there is a metaphor that um my colleague Celeste uses. Remember Celeste from Radical Collaboration?
Laura: So, she describes it as like trying to hold a beach ball underwater…
Laura: You know and it’s so much effort and so much energy that at a certain point that ball pops up and it’s not in your control and so that’s when we start to show up in the world in a way that we don’t want to.
Laura: It’s not aligned, it’s not consistent.
Colby: Now, I remember once I really…you know, after that trip back from North Carolina and I’m just really feeling the effects of this depression. I just remember… “Well I’m not going to talk about it. I’m just going to wait, I’ve never felt like this before”. And when I did feel even remotely similar to this it went away. So, I was just going to hold out. That was my thoughts. And all that time was detrimental, like it was—if I can get one thing out from us doing this interview, its like “Go talk to someone!”. It doesn’t have to be a therapist. I didn’t go, I mean you guys were kind of my therapists.
Laura: Not therapists…but we’re not though.
Colby: You’re not, you’re not, but…but…just talk to a friend.
Colby: Talk to someone that you can be open with and tell them everything. Just get it out! What ever you are feeling because at the end of the day its, its, your mind is just playing tricks on you. Like—well—that’s what it was. I mean like all those feelings, like, I, I know that I am not worthless. I know that I’m not insignificant, these are all things that I know. But there was a part of my mind that was saying “No, you are those things.”
Colby: You don’t deserve happiness.
Colby: You don’t deserve friendships or emotion. Like, yeah.
Colby: And it’s bullshit.
Colby: Yeah, it’s all bullshit.
Laura: I like how you are saying it thought, its like a “part of you” or a “part of your mind”. Because I think that’s always the case for us that we have a part of us that fears X and there is a part of us that knows Y, right? Like, there is this internal conflict and so it’s a question of which voice am I going to listen too? Which voice do I want to give a megaphone too?
Laura: Which one do I want to trust, and feed, and really choose to believe? Like this becomes the really really dominant voice and then—I’m using my hands but they can’t see me do that…
Laura: Right and then there is the other voice that is filled with the fear and the doubt and it just gets quieter and quieter. Still pops up maybe?
Laura: But its easier in the moment to say “You know what? Shhh…no, no, thank you, you can go now”. Right?
Laura: Just like peacefully, like “No, no, Shhh…go away”.
Colby: Get a box.
Laura: Yeah [Laughter 19:54] So um, so, the night that you are talking about where you stayed late with us — um — so that was the Tuesday night?
Laura: Of the five days, so you had been to the second day, and going into the third day in The Human Element is when we really focus on the self.
Laura: There are three instruments that we use in the Human Element program, and day three is the FIRO element S for “Self”. And so, you took that, and we did the wall chart so we put everybody’s numbers up on the wall. And not everyone speaks every time their numbers are up because there are too many people and not enough time to do that. But you did speak up, you know, about your numbers, do you remember what you said?
Colby: Specifically? No.
Laura: Or any of it? Like you had an opening line that really cracked me up.
Colby: I well, I mean, if you recall the opening line…by all means…I can’t. I just remember seeing my numbers on the board and they were, you know, night and day from the day before.
Colby: It was an overnight transformation. And I wasn’t complete. I still had a long way to go in terms of rebuilding, like, myself. But I just remember seeing those numbers and being like, “This feels great!”.
Colby: This is cool, I’m—I remember taking that test and being like, “You’re the best, you’re awesome.” Just like going thought and filling out, and I felt great.
Colby: And specifically, do I recall how I started the night off? Or that interview? I mean, no.
Laura: I just remember that you said—your raised your hand and you were like “Well, I kind of feel like I cheated.”
Colby: Oh…yeah, no, I remember this because I felt—because I totally had like a, like a…
Laura: Like a break though.
Colby: Like a one on one, well I had a one on one.
Laura: You had three on one.
Colby: Yeah, I had three on one.
Colby: It was intense, you all were like coming at me like “Just let it go!” You guys were like Gabriela’s arm is like digging in my skin and your just like “Let it go, it’s fine, just get it out.”.
Laura: Yeah, feel! Go on say it! Do it! Yeah.
Colby: Gabriela really was awesome.
Laura: She is amazing.
Colby: If you’re listening “I love you, you are the best!”.
Laura: She is incredible.
Colby: Yeah no, and so, yeah no, I remember feeling that way because we literally spent like what two and a half hours?
Laura: I think so.
Colby: We all had dinner and then you know went back and hammered it out, and yeah, and so yeah. I felt that way.
Colby: It was like-
Laura: You were “I feel like I cheated.”
Colby: I don’t know
Laura: Cause last night just sort of had a break through.
Colby: Kind of had a solo moment, sorry you guys weren’t here. Um, yea, and, honestly and another cool thing about Human Element is that, uh, you get to see everyone else have their breakthroughs. And like I said, when I came in, I felt like a nobody in a room of somebody’s. And then you realize that everyone has doubts.
Colby: We are all in the same plane…
Laura: Yes we are all..
Colby: at the end of the day.
Laura: human. It’s a shared human experience, it really is.
Colby: It’s like a human element or something.
Laura: Right? Yeah.
Colby: Wow you guys should capitalize on that…
Colby: It’s a really…
Laura: That’s a really good idea, thanks Colby.
Colby: But um, no yeah, I just, like I said at the beginning I didn’t really feel a connection with anyone and by the end of those five days like we all felt like…You know, not like ‘Kumbaya” but like brothers and sisters like we had all gone through a lot together.
Laura: Yeah, well I want to expand on something that you mentioned. Which is that everybody learns from watching other people have their breakthroughs. And that’s so true! One of the things that truly astounds me, and I’m not sure why I still feel surprised by it, is…the level of engagement that everybody has about one individual’s experience. And its because it is so real and it’s so raw, and so I think everybody finds something about that person’s experience that they relate to.
Laura: And it resonates! I’ve never been in a workshop like this where we are spending dedicated time talking to one person in front of the whole group about something going on for them and somebody is like bored or disengaged.
Laura: It just doesn’t happen, everybody is just, like, metaphorically on the edge of their seats just like hanging on every word, every moment. You know, even the long pauses everybody is just like there, because everything is so real. And, and everybody too, and my sense is that there is a feeling of like support that everybody is, like, rooting for everybody.
Laura: You know, to like, have that moment.
Colby: Yeah, you know, you wanna see them break through.
Colby: You can, you can feel it. I mean everyone—it’s almost like—I don’t know—you know how people say that horses sense? You know—like the humans uh..
Colby: Emotions and like a direction, and you feel it. You are literally feeling this raw in the room, where you are like…we are all watching you, and you are right there on the edge and we are all sitting there like saying “Do it! Do it, just let go.”
Laura: Yeah, yeah.
Laura: Yeah, and some people are like, they are going ‘I want to find out what happens for this person, and what insight that they have because that might be that same insight for me’.
Laura: Like what, yea, ‘Like what you’re saying that’s my experience too…like what is that? What is going on for you?’. Right, and it is so compelling and it’s so amazing. I love to ask the question just to hammer out how I am going to have to redo those types of experiences like you know, like. “Raise your hand for me if you feel like you learned something about yourself by watching somebody else go though their numbers.”
Laura: And everybody does. Every time.
Colby: Well, it’s like—you know—a hero. You know, seeing someone do something incredible, something courageous, and going ‘I could be like that.’. Yea, it’s something that we have passed down through generations and generations of storytelling, I mean it’s…
Colby: I mean even if we want to get Biblical. I mean look at like Jesus Christ, he is the architect for the hero.
Colby: Like a Zeus, Hercules, these are all stories that we have told each other over and over again and it allows us to kind of tap into a lot of this neural network of, like..
Colby: Of like…we can be that!
Colby: Strive to be a hero. Strive to be courageous. Strive to let it go.
Laura: And there is so much courage. Like you said even when you first started working with me ‘cause, you know self-awareness is always been huge.
Laura: With me, and openness, and vulnerability has always been huge and so when you worked with me—this is just context for the listeners. I think we were a team of about eight at the time and um, it was, and so we were all in the org-psych or at least psych field. Right, you were sort of feeling things out and so I was very, very intentional about cultivating the culture that I wanted to have. Which was so built around openness and self-awareness. And so you did the five day Human Element in March of 2017 and you also went through lots of pieces of it. Because I brought Gabriela in and she was our consultant, our coach. And went through that, and so we did it in pieces and chunks as a team. Because I just believed whole-heartedly that I want to practice what I preach that I want to have the same type of environment with my team that I want other teams to have for themselves. And so with that actually, so, Colby, we talked a lot about your experience and I am so loving your openness by the way. Thank you! I am loving it.
Colby: It’s good.
Laura: Yep Um, I’m wondering if you can bring this back around to like a professional context. Because I think that some people listening to this might be like ‘alright, well this still…this sounds like group therapy’ or something. So, like first all, its not, let’s be really clear that it’s not.
Laura: But let’s be very clear, what would you say? Think about your own transformative experiences. How do you think that it effects the way that somebody show up in a professional environment even though a lot of what you have focused on so far has been more on the personal side?
Colby: So, experiencing, you know, those individuals are a five day, um, you can see, you know I remember vividly a few people who in the first couple days showed up and they were very blocked off. Um, were unwilling to change. Unwilling to open up. And, I see that every day at work. I see people who are kind of blocked off from making a change or really following though with um, you know, a different procedure. I’m trying to like word this. But no, yeah, I mean, go, go to any workplace…any workplace at all and you will see people who are unwilling to communicate with others well. Unwilling to take responsibility, you know and it all stems down to how they choose to show up. And, I mean, and, honestly, you learning about yourself and how you should present yourself to the world. How you choose to show up allows you to have different dialogue with these people, I mean you can open up a whole new conversation with them because you understand how your feeling in the moment and you can be completely honest with them. And say ‘in this moment you make me feel’ or no ‘I feel that I am…’ there we go…
Colby: I’m remembering.
Colby: It’s like I feel that I am, you know, insignificant to you.
Colby: Because of you know, such and such.
Laura: Mm-hmm, yep.
Colby: Whatever example but, I don’t know, I think that the…I feel like the ability to communicate with other people is a huge staple of Human Element.
Laura: Yeah, absolutely.
Colby: And it really comes down to you understanding yourself. How you choose to show up and using that to kind of reach other people. Um, it’s kind of weird, I have an idea in my head of how I am trying to like to portray this, but it is almost as if you are taping into a new set of dialogue. Like alright, let’s say you are playing a video game. And you know, its like Sky Rim. For anyone who plays Sky Room for anyone who plays Sky Room, or Fall Out. Basically, for this video game there is dialogue options with different characters. Right. Let’s say you go through the game and there is a simple affirmative or a negative response that you can give this person. Going through Human Element you get to that person and there is like six or seven different responses that open up six or seven different conversations that you can now have with this person and progress your relationship with this person in a different direction. It’s no longer just yes or no its ‘No, how do we feel about this’, ‘Yes, but you know can we do something differently’. There is just so much more that you can add to it.
Laura: So much more to explore.
Laura: So, I really like what you are saying and the way that I capture openness, you know the Human Element definition of it, there’s two components. And I summarize at first by saying I can not be more open with you than I am with myself. So, the more self-aware that I am which is that’s being open with myself.
Laura: The more open I can be with you and so that is exactly what it is. As I grow my self-awareness I am taping into a whole new world of truth about me and my experience that I can now share with you. If I don’t know those things, if I am not aware of the stories in my head, if I am not fully aware of the feelings and I’m not letting myself feel the feelings, I certainly can’t tell you about it.
Laura: All I know in the moment is that you’re pissing me off. Right? Or something like that an I’m not going to tell you that you are pissing me off because we will just get into a fight. And so I’m just gonna…
Laura: …pout in the corner.
Laura: Right? And that stuff happens in the work place all the time even though they are not literally pouting in the corner but they are closed off. You know, ‘I’m not gonna talk to you’, ‘I’m gonna look away’, ‘I’m not going to engage.’ Like…
Laura: That behavior happens all the time.
Colby: Oh, it happened to me last week!
Colby: I mean..I..I’m working at Longhorn and, granted I don’t know what the atmosphere really facilitates, um, you know like in an office building; but in a restaurant its kind of dirty. I mean you are dealing with you know just like the conversation that you are having with your co-workers in the back. I mean its definitely not you know ‘workplace conversations’, but in a restaurant, it is so high intense and high stress like there are all sorts of crazy conversations. But that also leaves room for a lot of heated argument. And anyone who has worked for a restaurant can tell you, we are not all like perverts or anything.
Colby: It’s just banter.
Laura: I used to be a server too.
Laura: I worked for Applebee’s. Hey…
Colby: I’m sure you totally understand what kinds of conversations go on in the kitchen.
Colby: So, you know, just to give a quick experience. I was closing and one of my coworkers, he had finished his side work and I had to check his section. I just got sat a five top or whatever it’s nine o’clock at night and we have an hour till close and I have a lot to do. I realize that I am stressed. I’m getting these drinks set up, and this is the second time that he has approached me and said “Hey, can you check my section?” And the first time I was busy, the second time I am now getting drinks and bread for this table and I said, “I can’t, I can’t right now” and I was visibly agitated. Um, I probably came off, I know I came off you know a little stricter than I wanted too. Um, so he walks away and he starts mumbling something under his breath.
Colby: And I just lash out on him I was like “If you have something to say to me say it to my face.”. And he rounds the corner and he comes at me “I’ll say it right now.” And that was the peak, after that, I’m like, we are not, nothings going to happen, we both are just tired we have been here all day and we are trying to go home. I just grabbed my drinks and I went out to the table. And if I hadn’t been more aware of how I chose to act in that situation I would have just let it go. And it, and a lot of times nothing would have happened from that. We would have had that experience and we would have not really looked at each other differently but sometimes it does it effects your workplace relationships if you…so I realized…you know that I came out aggressively, defensively, and I don’t know if I…what was I saying? I’m sorry.
Colby: I’m sorry, I was stressed and I, you know, just got this table sat and I know you are trying to leave and I apologize. He apologized too, and you know we hugged it out, shook hands.
Laura: See that’s, it’s about, it’s like recovery too. I think I want people to understand that as well, like going through Human Element and just being on a journey of self-awareness doesn’t mean that we never experience anger.
Laura: That we never show up in a way where we are just like “oh shit”. Like…
Colby: You’re right.
Laura: It’s like how quickly can I recover. Yea, I mean we are human.
Colby: You are allowed to be human.
Laura: Its, that’s why one of the core values that I with the company is progress over perfection. Not perfection, just progress.
Laura: So, I would imagine that that example for you represents progress over how you might have handled it a couple of years ago?
Colby: Yea, just choosing to apologize. Like if you can just realize that you were in the wrong.
Colby: You know I mean for just a fraction of a second, you know, I was wrong.
Laura: And that actually takes like a genuine level of self confidence and self esteem to like be willing to be self-accountable. And go ‘Yeah, and I’m sorry’. Because you like that doesn’t make you a bad person, right, because you snapped at them or whatever.
Laura: Or whatever because you had an edge to your voice or whatever. Because like that happens so the question is “How can I, yeah, just own up to it and make it better?”. And like, it’s little things it is the little things like that because you said like maybe nothing would have changed in the relationship. But maybe it would have. Maybe the next time you guys are working a shift together he would see that there was an opportunity where he could have helped you out which would have ultimately created a better experience for the guest. But he was still feeling sort of “mer” towards you so he wouldn’t help you. Which then actually means that it’s not creating a better experience for the guest which means that it is harming the company.
Laura: So, like these really small kind of personally inner dynamics…
Colby: Butterfly effect.
Laura: That happen between any two individuals in any, ANY organization; restaurant, office, I don’t care where. It has an effect, it effects then ultimately how much value the company can deliver to its customers which that is why companies exist. So, I always want people to understand that this work does get very personal because organizations are just groups of people.
Laura: And so yeah, I mean it literally is about the humans and the human element of productivity in organizations. And a lot of us would like to think that it just “should”. I always want to use air quotes like “should” be easier, or people just “should” do things a certain way. But you know what we are complex creatures and so the more we understand ourselves and each other as complex creatures, the better we can work together and the better problems we can solve and the more we can get done and the more fulfilled we can feel and the happier we can be and it’s just this beautiful perpetuating upward cycle.
Colby: Yea, like I said I the beginning you know with my ignorance is bliss comment, like it’s a completely different world. It is eye-opening. Being able to just sift through who you are and realize why you are choosing to show up this way. Why? Why, that what he said triggered me. Why I got upset in traffic on the way home. It’s just little things and you finally start to like, it’s like a book that presents itself before you. You go, “Oh crap! This is the book of my life.”
Laura: Yeah, now, you are mentioning the phrase “Ignorance is Bliss”, do you believe that?
Colby: Well, I mean, I think it’s nice to think that. But it’s also, I mean it’s a cop out, you are like stepping back, if you believe that ignorance is bliss you are talking about stepping backwards in terms of your own personal growth.
Laura: I would say that…
Colby: It’s a fear.
Laura: Ignorance is bliss maybe in the short term.
Laura: [38:00] Which means that maybe you have perpetuated ignorance in order to continue to feel bliss. So, if I am, so I believe that all situations are co-created, every human being that’s involved in a situation had some part in it through their action or inaction. If I choose to ignore and be ignorant of my own contribution to any kind of situation then my payoff in that moment is that I get to feel superior.
Laura: And I don’t have to do the work to change anything about myself. I just get to sit back and blame everybody. The issue with that is that with me blaming somebody almost never does anything to actually solve the problem.
Laura: Because most of us don’t handle being blamed very well. Um, and it just puts us in a defensive posture where we blame back. And then very little changes and nothing really gets better and nothing gets done.
Laura: So, my bliss is incredibly short lived because its that moment of “I get to blame you this is your fault. I didn’t do anything wrong.”. Or, “You did more wrong than me and so there for you change I don’t want to.”. So, that moment of bliss in the picture of life is so tiny and so minuscule that if I don’t continue to blame you and everybody else in the world then I don’t have bliss at all right? So, it’s like I have to stay in this very rigid, “blamey” state of mind. Or maybe I’m the victim and I just choose to be the victim and believe that all this stuff just happens to me and that there is nothing that I can do about it. But then nothing actually changes.
Laura: I’m not actually making my life better, I’m not actually solving any problems. So, yea, I think in this context like ignorance is bliss, in this super, super short term, maybe.
Colby: Yeah. Well, I remember before I left for Oregon and that year I had just graduated. I really was just working and saving up money before I moved, and I was living an ignorant lifestyle. And like what you have mentioned earlier I was ego driven. My ego was out of control I don’t know how anyone hung out with me. [Laughter 40:06] I had an awful haircut though and I thought it was so cool.
Laura: Sorry, did I know you then?
Colby: I don’t know, but I have a picture, like it’s bad. [Laughter 40:11] Like I’m looking at it like…
Laura: Send me the picture and we will put it on the website with the..
Colby: Jesus, please no! [Laughter 40:15] I’m not giving anyone that picture. But back then I was like “Damn, you’re fine…look at that!’ That guy! But yea, now I, I think that in our, we mentioned—um—I came to you—in that first meeting with Key Talent Solutions, kind of broken, and I used the tools that you guys gave me to kind of build myself up but I wasn’t using them how they are supposed to be used.
Colby: I used them to short term fix my problems. I was like “Oh, I’m on top of this…cool.” Let’s ride it out let’s—and then for so long I was just like on this Ego high. I had to—afterwards—when that crash came—the depression. I had to go like crap, you know, I was kind of a dick to a lot of people during that time in my life. I would, you know, justify it by saying I was honest with them.
Colby: I was honest. You know I put, you know listed my intentions beforehand. But uh, at the end of the day that is not how I wanted to portray myself. That is not how I want to be remembered by someone.
Laura: Well it’s not really authentic.
Colby: It’s not authentic at all.
Colby: Um, a concept that I learned, I learned about it in my undergrad, but just recently. Not just recently probably about six months ago. Came back into my life, but a, its Carl Jung. And like the concept of the “Dark Self.” Are you familiar with that?
Colby: Um, I’m probably going to butcher this but it’s essentially that there is not evil, but just negative energy, like, suppressed within us. And um, for us to become fully functioning humans that we have to accept that inside of ourselves. And that was a hard thing for me to do was to accept that you know I had done bad things, but that doesn’t mean that I am a bad person.
Colby: That’s not who I am.
Colby: But there – I had the capability.
Colby: – of being a bad person. I mean if you know is it good to go off the extremes you know. a lot of people want to make Nazis Solders out to be these inhuman people.
Colby: But at the end of the day, you and I have the ability to do that. To follow orders.
Laura: Oh my god, we just talked about this in Radical Collaboration.
Laura: Oh my God, we had such interesting conversation. Um, about one of the exercises around obedience and people noticing what happens when they choose to believe that the authority figure is, um, right, or that I’m going to do what this authority figure is telling me to do. And in Milgram’s studies for obedience, I mean that’s Psych 101, I mean that shit’s amazing to learn about. Milgram’s whole thing is that he wanted to prove that Germans were, like, bad people or like more evil humans that those of us in the United States. And he, over and over again showed that that wasn’t true and he actually, so the, if you’re not familiar with his studies in short. He would have two people come into the study. One was a real participant and the other was a confederate (so, somebody secretly working with the study). One was the teacher, the participant was of the teachings capacity, and the person secretly working with the study would go into a room where they couldn’t be seen and the teacher would give them… “When I say this word, you say that word” and so it was like a memorization test, supposedly. So, the real participant was told “If the person gets this wrong, deliver them electric shock.”
Laura: And they actually even had them feel what the electric shock felt like at the lowest levels. Um, so they had an idea of what they were doing to this person. And it was like raise it up, every time they get it wrong raise up the shock, shock them again. And he was amazed, Milgram was amazed how many people went all the way to the end in terms of delivering the shock because it was a structured environment and because this person in a lab coat would tell them “The experiment must go on. The experiment must continue.” And he kept raising the stakes, I mean he would have these confederates these people secretly working for the study, screaming, banging on the door, “Let me out of here, oh, I have a heart condition, my health!” And then yes, literally go silent! And he was still shocked how many people would go all the way.
Colby: Yeah like “hit him again.”.
Laura: Yea, the experiment must go on, they must continue. And how few people would say “No, it doesn’t have to go on and no, I don’t have to do anything.”
Laura: People lose their sense of ‘I have choice’, they lose their sense of ‘self-accountability and self-responsibility’. And so that, I think Milgram’s studies of obedience—and so we were talking about it in Radical Collaboration and I mentioned this, and somebody was like “Oh my god, you are saying that we are like ‘those people’.” And then like I kind of let that comment go for like 20 minutes and I was like I want to come back to this. Somebody said, “You are saying that we are like those people”. I mentioned Milgram’s studies of obedience because that’s just people. Like what I wanted you to get from that is its not just “those people” its not like “evil people.” It’s that, that’s HUMANS. That’s most humans do this. And its not like, it’s exactly your point Colby, like we are not evil human beings at our core, its that we have the compacity to do bad things. We can do behavior that is harmful to others. All of us have that inside of us. So, as soon as we start to relinquish self-accountability and we start to blame the world we are a lot more likely to continue to engage in that “bad behavior”. Which, I don’t like good and bad, but for our purposes.
Colby: I don’t really like duality. But yeah.
Laura: So, so yeah, so yeah, I think that’s so true and one of the things that I love to say too is that “I am more than my behavior.” So, the way that I show up in any moment in time does not define who I am. And when I look at it that way it is so much easier for me to be accountable for that and to apologies for it. Because just because I might have done something mean doesn’t mean that I AM a mean person.
Laura: Or because I did something stupid, doesn’t mean I AM a stupid person.
Laura: I mean like we all make mistakes, we all do those things sometimes and its really all in the recovery. That’s what matters.
Colby: Yeah, that line of thinking is so awful. It’s just, you know, if you did something stupid and you have a bad day, and it’s bad to just belittle yourself. You are a bad person…
Colby: You are neither good or bad. We are all just great people. And for anyone, I’m pretty sure they recorded the Milgram study if you want to go watch it on .
Colby: I haven’t seen it.
Laura: There’s a, there is a movie that was made that captures a lot of Milgram’s work. He did some really fascinating studies. And I told the Radical Collaboration workshop a few weeks ago, that we are not allowed as psychologists to do those kinds of studies anymore. Um, they are so protective now of the human experience of being in a study. Like they were concerned that people would be traumatized. That sense of like, because right after he said he was done they would ask them, they would talk to them, they would be like Why did you do that? Why did you do that? “Well, you said the experiment must go on, like…” “Ok, but you believed you were hurting them, like why did you keep doing it?” I mean they probably weren’t saying it like a bitch, like I am saying it like right now but..
Colby: I know, I’m like whoa! That is super aggressive.
Laura: But they were, they like wanted to know. “Why did you keep doing that?” And so these people would then have this moment of like ‘Oh my god, like I’m a horrible person, how could I have done that?’
Laura: And so, and that is such a good tie back to the, a huge tenant of self-awareness within The Human Element, which is – when we beat ourselves up, when we judge ourselves, when we say negative things about ourselves to ourselves, we are shutting down the opportunity to learn and understand. So, if I’m one of those participants and Milgram or his research assistants are asking me “Why did I do that?” If I’m judging myself for it and I feel like shit about it then I am going to want to defend, or shut down, or I’m gonna be like: “I don’t know, I don’t know.” I’m just going to like blame, rather than just being like ok, well this is a thing that happened. Let me take a moment to figure this out for myself. I want to understand this. When I am self-compassionate I open up so many channels to then really be curious and then find out yeah “What was driving that?”, WWhat is going on for me?”, “What is the thought process that I had in my head?”, WWhere did I get the story along the way that its ok to hurt somebody if somebody else is telling me to do this thing?” “Where did I get the story that I don’t actually have control or choice in any moment?”.
Laura: And, you know, we do exercises like that in the Human Element and Radical Collaboration to draw people attention too choice, and how we make choices all the time. And so what happens? What would happen in this world, Colby, if everybody became even a little bit more self-accountable? It would be awesome right?
Colby: Yea, I can’t imagine what. I can’t imagine.
Laura: I mean –
Colby: I can’t imagine what the world would be like if everyone we knew were just a little more self-aware.
Laura: Even just a little bit more self-aware and just a little bit more self-accountable. I feel like the whole world could just like completely elevate in terms of like existence.
Colby: Oh yea, it would definitely be a more positive place.
Laura: Yea, more productive, more positive, more fulfilling…
Colby: Um hum…
Laura: It would be amazing. Like I want to work on a team filled with self-accountable individuals. And I want to live in a world filled with self-accountable individuals. Like, that is why I am here, that’s what I am doing.
Colby: Yea, yea.
Colby: Change the world around.
Laura: One person at a time. Or however many people are listening to this at a time.
Colby: You got me, so…
Laura: Yeah, well and that was a team effort.
Colby: Pulling teeth.
Laura: No, no not at all…just
Colby: Just kidding, just kidding.
Laura: How awesome Gabriela and Stephanie are as well.
Colby: Oh yeah.
Laura: Amazing people to work with.
Laura: So, you gave, already, earlier in our conversation a really useful tip which was you know for people out there to talk to somebody. Just talk and be open and tell them everything. Um, and I think that was really great and I wanna ask. Because that is usually one of my closing questions is: “What is one thing that you would want to recommend to our listeners? Something that they could do right now, today, completely independent of doing any type of work with me or the team, what is something that they can do right now that can move them along in their journey of self-awareness and self-improvement?”.
Colby: Well that’s a great question. Um, I would just ask you to take a few extra seconds and explore why you are upset. If you get in a fight with your spouse or you know some dude cuts you off on the road, just take a second and explore those feelings and like. Why am I so upset right now? At the end of the day if some dude cuts me off, my car is fine, his car is fine, at the end of the day, like, we’re like fine. Nothing really happened, why am I so angry right now? What, am I late for work, am I unhappy with my fitness, my health? You know, what is allowing you to snap so quickly?
Laura: Why do I choose to give my power away?
Laura: Why do I give this random person on the street power over my emotion? Why did I do that?
Colby: And to stem from there and so yea—so one – explore your emotions, explore your feelings. But if there was another number one…a, it would be, realize that you do have choice in everything that you do. Every single thing you do, you have choice. Why didn’t I go running today? Well, you chose to sleep in another 30 min. You chose to sit on the phone and browse Reddit or Facebook or Instagram or you know maybe you spent 30 extra minutes talking to your mom on the phone. Whatever it is, you could have made that choice to go running so at the end of the day when you are getting ready for bed and you go, Ah man I feel like crap I should have went running today. Its like, well, you had plenty of time. It could be anything, why didn’t I get that email sent out? Why didn’t I pay my phone bill? You know, just stupid stuff.
Laura: Um hum
Colby: To do all these things and people will continually tell you… “Oh I didn’t have time.” You know, or whatever.
Laura: Time is a choice.
Colby: Time is a choice.
Laura: I choose what to do with my time. So what happens if I own my choices?
Colby: I chose to show up 10 min early today.
Laura: You did. I appreciated that.
Colby: I know. I’m not normally on time.
Colby: And I was like I’m going to get up and get there on time today.
Laura: I have to say, I laughed out loud when Kayla said “We will see you at 10am.”, and he goes “See you bright and early.”.
Colby: Honestly, I thought about that–
Laura: I mean like really?
Colby: –and I was like, I shouldn’t have said that. These people are always getting up at like—
Colby: –yea I’m like
Laura: Oh man…
Colby: I don’t know. Dude emailing with Kaya, man she is super sweet, at least as far as I can tell though the emails but I’m like I don’t know this girl, I’m just gonna try and be like structured. “Bright and early see you there!”
Laura: Which goes back to what we were talking about before, right? It’s noticing around what type of person, around which people are I not actually myself?
Laura: And what happens if I just be myself?
Colby: I know, for what I, I feel like super–
Laura: Kaya would love you. Be you, man.
Colby: Well, I’m sure, like, I’m sure she is awesome, I have loved every person you have ever worked with. But you have a great eye for, like, awesome people.
Laura: Like you?
Colby: Well, I mean, I wasn’t going there but…
Colby: We can take it there.
Laura: Own it. Own it man.
Colby: I mean…
Laura: Genuine self-confidence, not ego bullshit but like real self-love.
Colby: Real self-confidence. Self-love.
Colby: Get ouuta here, you go.
Laura: Well this was awesome.
Colby: I had a blast.
Laura: Thank you so much for sharing your openness and everything. I admire that in you.
Colby: Yea, I would like to, I wish I could have explained more how beneficial Human Element is to the workplace. Um, and I think just in my personal experience when I did Human Element I wasn’t coming from a workplace situation so it’s kind of hard for me to delve into that. I mean I use it every day at the work place. But in that moment for those five days I wasn’t coming to you from a business. I was coming to you from like.
Laura: Just a human.
Colby: I was just asking you for help.
Colby: Just so a…
Laura: I think it helped.
Colby: Oh 100%.
Colby: Yes, easy, yea.
Laura: Yea Colby on Wednesday Thursday Friday was a different Colby than Monday and Tuesday Colby.
Colby: Night and day.
Laura: Um hum.
Colby: Night and day, and for that, for anyone who has gone through depression or anxiety or are going through it currently – it’s something—you know—I had a great start with you guys getting me on my feet and helping me stand up, but it was a long journey to, like, get to a place where I was like you know, full of self-love. Not just that smidge where I could like taste it. Where I was like ok, that’s what I want I am going to go drive for that. Like it takes time. There is a show, it’s called Rick and Morty. I don’t know if you have seen it.
Laura: I’ve heard about it.
Colby: It’s super funny, super funny.
Laura: Yeah, I think people have told me that I would like it.
Colby: But uh, there is this scene where they are doing family counseling. They are talking to a family counselor and she is talking about dealing with their issues. And she says it’s like taking a shit or brushing your teeth, it’s just work.
Colby: At the end of the day, like I don’t have to do those things but I’m going to because.
Colby: It helps me. Like.
Laura: I’m going to choose to.
Laura: Well, please do, we will link it to–
Colby: don’t cartoon-
Laura: Because this whole transcript is on the website too.
Colby: Oh cool.
Laura: Yea. Alright—
Colby: So, do you like cut out parts where I pause or is that like in the transcript? Like “Colby takes a breath”.
Laura: Colby takes an awkward pause. Yeah no, we cut that out.
Laura: I’ll make you sound, good don’t worry about it.
Colby: Oh I know I sound great…
Laura : It will take a lot of work, but. I’m just kidding.
Colby: Alright well.
Colby: And then last thing, a, for anyone who plans on doing a podcast with you in the next month before you leave.
Colby: This sound booth is super small. It’s very intimate, I’m pretty sure this is, I mean I couldn’t like. I don’t think I could lay down in here.
Laura: That’s, that’s probably true.
Colby: This is a 5’x4’ room.
Colby: Its made for a squatter on the highway, like. Super nice though. I, I thank you so much for allowing me to be here.
Laura: Thank you so much for your time in my intimate, small, sound booth.
Colby: Like I can stand up.
Laura: You can stand up, you don’t have to duck in here.
Colby: My brother, like he’s a lot taller than I am. He might be uncomfortable.
Laura: Yeah, he might – well, he could sit. That might help.
Colby: What if he wants to stand?
Laura: That would be hard. Alright, thank you Colby this was awesome.
Colby: Yeah thank you so much.
Outro: Like I said, The Human Element is not specifically designed around any kind of diagnosable conditions, but rather is a giant toolbox that allows people to become more self-aware – more aware of thoughts, feelings, and the impact that those thoughts and feelings have on behavior. I know that Colby’s experience is not unique, and please do pay attention to his words – if you find yourself struggling, reach out and talk to others. I promise you’re not alone. Take care of yourself and each other and we’ll talk again soon!