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How Shifting Your Perspective Can Change Your Life with John Livesay
How are you doing, Sean?
I’m doing good. Our guest taught me how to relax and breathe into my own body at times.
It’s funny you say that because he gets into talking about breathing and breath in the show. What’s interesting is he says that it can be one of these foundational elements of thriving as a human being in controlling stress in your life. It strikes me as one of those pieces of the equation that sounds silly and simple and it’s is profound even though it is simple when you slow down the breath.
It’s so simple, it’s dumb because you said to me stress. What is stress? What happens to us when we’re stressed out, when we’re nervous, when we have anxiety, when we have pain? I felt for so long you have to work through it, to beat yourself through it, but it’s not like that. It’s about relaxing and you breathe through the moment. We relax through that and the stress will leave our body if we choose it.
Oftentimes it’s simply about developing healthy practices in your life to manage stress. There’s never one right answer. What works for me is probably not going to work for you. It’s a matter of figuring out, “What do I need to do for myself at this moment to combat stress?” One of those tools is breath, but it’s not the only tool. It gets me thinking of what everyone else out in the world is doing to manage their stress. John seems to think that breath is that key for him. For anyone who doesn’t know who John is, John Livesay is “The Pitch Whisperer,” or at least that’s the moniker that he goes by. He’s known for helping people develop pitches so that when they go into a meeting, they can come out of it with the desired outcome.
He helps people to build the investor package to go raise money for their new company, which to me is so hard with any startup. The biggest thing you need is you need money to start the company. He takes that entrepreneurial team, teach them the arc of the pitch and the storyline. He’s a storyteller. He tells the story. He leaves it through and brings it around that is breathtaking. He helps them to accomplish their goal. He can help anybody with anything because he’s so grounded in that material.
I find him very insightful, very inspiring, and I’m happy we get to share him with you, the one and only John Livesay.
You’ve been good friends with Sean. I would love for our readers to know how you two first connected, how you guys know each other and we’ll go into your background, John.
I first met Sean through a mutual friend, who was involved with cryptocurrency and he thought that we should all get together. You have times in your life when you meet somebody and you’re like, “I feel like I’ve known you forever. Are you my long-lost brother?” We connected on so many different levels of passion, about life, resilience, interest in new things, connecting with people and enthusiasm. We’ve had many different kinds of connections way beyond the initial interest in blockchain technology.
Light attracts light. John has got a huge heart. We are both seeing those. We both grew up doing the same thing. He’s gotten much more experience and much more interesting journey than myself. He talked to me, I talked to him, and now we’re talking about John. John, tell us about your lifeguarding experience. I read your book. I saw your TED Talk. It’s an amazing story.
We go back many years. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. I was a competitive swimmer. One of the perks of doing that was I could pass the lifeguard test. You have to picture that I had zinc oxide on my nose, mirror sunglasses, a whistle around my neck and I thought I was pretty hot stuff. Usually, your job is to blow your whistle and tell kids not to run on the slippery pavement. There was a time when I saw a little girl flailing. She had jumped off the high dive after waiting several minutes before she found the courage to do so, which is always a warning sign for a lifeguard to go, “This person is not comfortable. Maybe this is her first time. Are they going to panic?” The unexpected experience of jumping off a high dive for the first time is how deep you go. I don’t think people realize especially a nine-year-old child that you’re going to go down pretty deep. You have to be able to hold your breath enough to get yourself back up to the top. I was on the edge of my seat watching her do that.
She made it to the top, but she was so panicked because it’s taken longer than she expected. She was swallowing water and flailing. The lifeguard training they teach you, jumping into the water is the last resort. You’re trying to throw them a buoy or a towel to pull them in. I could tell she was too panicked for that. I was not worried about her trying to drown me, which can happen if you’re saving an adult. I jumped in, pulled her to the side and calmed her down. She was coughing. I knew she was going to be okay. The lesson for me was all the training in the world, you hope it’s going to show up when you need it. You don’t panic and stay calm. That life lesson from many years ago has helped me through all the disruptions and things that I didn’t expect to happen that allowed me to not get drowned myself when I was going through something tough.
You made the perfect segue yourself to start talking into how you overcome your challenges in your life. Two of the things that hit you pretty hard was being laid off and then getting divorced for the first time. Do you want to give our readers a little bit of background on what you were doing when you got laid off? From there, we can dive into the depths of it.When we are healed, we are not healed alone. Click To Tweet
I was fortunate enough to have a career that I loved, which was selling advertising for Condé Nast. This is back in the early 2000s when life was great and people were taking money out of their house like it was an ATM machine. A luxury ad market was going up because people were suddenly buying luxury products more than they ever had before. The housing market crashed and caused luxury advertising and sales to plummet along with it. They ended up laying off all of the salespeople in the outside offices. I was living in LA at the time. I had thought that that might happen, but it’s almost like the death of a relative. I don’t think you’re ever prepared for that loss.
When that phone call came and they said, “I’m sorry, we’re going to have to lay you off along with all the other people,” my lifeguard training kicked in again. I said, “Don’t panic. Stay calm.” She goes, “I know you’ve been there for fifteen years, but we need everybody out at the end of the day.” I’m like, “How am I going to clear up my office in 24 hours? I’ve got plants, furniture, and artwork.” I still said, “Don’t you want some status reports so that you know which ads should run in which issues and they are not on the wrong page?” She said, “That would be great, but everybody is so mad because of being laid off, they’re storming out.” I said, “I’m not going to do that.” I’ve known the people too long, I’ve watched them get married and have kids. I care too much about them to do that because something happened to me. Little did I know that that one decision would impact me a couple of years later.
It’s because I had this training of not panicking and staying calm through that process. I got my sister and a friend to help me clear up my office. As I closed the door, I looked back and I thought, “What do I feel?” I go, “I feel sad. I feel like somebody kicked me in the stomach.” I realized that I might have lost my job, but it doesn’t mean that I’ve lost my identity. That’s what gave me the courage to figure out that I’ve got to learn how to do something else with my life if this chapter is closed as it exists now. It’s much like the silent movie stars in Hollywood. Some of them learned how to make the transition to talkies and some didn’t. I thought, “That’s the same thing here with print advertising and digital. I’m going to have to learn a new skill.” That willingness to reinvent myself is what I would love your readers to take away from is that’s how you cope with disruption in any form.
The thing that stood out for me in that story was you reacted so differently than anyone else normally would have reacted in that situation. Technically, you got separated but you stayed to almost finish the job anyway because of the kindness in your heart.
I go in and meet a lot with people who’s had a stroke. I go to hospitals and stuff. I’ve got to tell you I will walk into these waiting rooms, on the surgery floor or at the ICU. I’ve gone in there a couple times. I’ve seen people camped out there for weeks. I’m not kidding you. People come in from the countries and they’re there and they feel helpless. Everybody’s in panic. The first thing I say to everyone is to breathe. Your loved one lived. They lived. Our job is to get them healthy and get them on the road to recovery. If they’re paralyzed, how to get them walking again? Everyone’s going to be hurt. That’s the first thing I tell people. My injury, everyone panicked. Everyone flipped out knowing I’m on a respirator. I’m in a coma and everyone is going nuts.
My dad is an ex-surgeon. He’s retired. I lost my marriage because I wasn’t able to wake up and tell everybody, “It’s going to be okay. I’m breathing. Let’s get through this.” Part of my story in my book that we’re now writing is I tell loved ones to get out of the hospital, to go see a movie, go for a run, go do something, go do anything, get outside, get your kids outside. Get away from the hospital because there’s nothing that they can now do. That resonates with me so much that what you said is keep calm and everything will work itself out because the hardest part is done. They are now saved. That’s what resonated with me on that property of yours or that mantra. Thank you so much on that one.
What you’re describing there, Sean, is a state change. That’s the best thing you can do for somebody and yourself included if you’re stuck or scared, is don’t stay in the same state. That’s why taking a cold shower can be a shock to your system, but it’s a state change. It’s hard to be depressed and feeling sorry for yourself if your body is going, “I’m freezing,” or go take a walk. It doesn’t have to be that drastic. Make some emotional state change to hit the reset button. The irony of this story is two years after being laid off from Condé Nast, I got rehired. I would never have been rehired had I left like everybody else left. I was able to get a big account, Guess Jeans, to come back into the magazine. It caused me to win Salesperson of the Year, not just for the magazine but for the whole company.
Was that Paris Hilton at the time or no?
She’s doing the modeling for Guess at the time.
I remember watching her go from her expose of her erotic side to Marciano Guess saying, “I’m going to come to hire you as a spokesperson.”
Like being on the Zeitgeists, the pulse of what was hot at the moment.
It’s brilliant. People may disagree with me, but it was genius. The Guess sales jumped up once Paris crossed over to the mainstream.Light attracts light. Click To Tweet
You’re completely in sync with what the idea was that caused me to win this award. It was W Magazine’s 40th anniversary and Guess’ 30th anniversary. I had said to them, “There are people like Drew Barrymore who’s been a Guess model. She’s also been on the cover of W. Why don’t we show those images together in an event?” They loved it. It was a joint anniversary PR event. They ran a supplement with every page was a different guest model throughout the history of their 30 years inserted into W’s 40th anniversary. From losing an account to getting them back, to getting that big of a sale exclusive to the magazine, it got me to win the award. As I’m standing there holding this award, I thought to myself, “I’m the same person whether I’m winning an award or getting laid off.” That brought it home in a whole different way of how do I not let my job take over my identity. They hired me back but I said, “I’m not going to have one day of fear,” because my whole life I’ve been afraid of being laid off, afraid of not making my numbers, afraid of the magazine going under, afraid of what if? I said, “I’ve already been laid off and I’ve survived and thrived, so I’m coming back with no fear.” If people can hit their own reset button and look at a situation with no fear, all your creativity comes up. You’re freer and it’s a lot less stressful.
I call it showing up. That’s exactly what you did. Something else too is I had a friend, the same guy who learned to walk again based on my mantra, “I can, I shall, I will.” When he went back to work after being in this job for twenty years, working as an HR for this bank and the high-power position, he called me on the way to work panicked and screaming and crying, “I can’t do it.” I said, “You can, you shall, you will.” As soon as he showed up there, there was applause for him. There were people circling him going, “Get back in your office. We’re taking direction from you.” Not only was this guy told he’d never walk again or drive a car, but he also drives 120 miles a day and goes to the job every day since. He’s only been two years out. His wife found him on the floor dead. That’s the kind of stories that we’re telling here.
What you shared is not only resilience, it’s brilliance because you’ve given people that hope to show up. Another note on the Drew Barrymore side, I don’t know if who her godfather was. Her godfather is Steven Spielberg. He didn’t adopt her, but there was something going on with Drew where he took her in because he saw her as a child actor. She was in Firestarter. You remember that movie? What’s interesting is that Drew did an ad for Playboy magazine where she was naked. Steven took his team at Amblin and went through the magazine and covered up all of her nude shots. He sent her the magazine and said, “You keep this one. I can’t look at you ever naked ever again.” Everyone’s got their own thing, but Drew was an amazing girl.
I’m going on a tangent, but I wanted to bring that back because I thought it was interesting about how you guys used her or figured out how to do that because she’s inspirational. I don’t know where she’s gone now, but it was interesting. John, how do you tell people like myself? I’m going into a coma. I’m waking up. I look over at my dad. I go, “What happened to me?” He says, “You’re in diapers and you’re paralyzed. Your skull is in your abdomen.” I said, “My brain is in my belly?” If you would have told me to breathe and calm down, I would try to kill you. Not literally, but I was in that mental state. I get a lot of that with people. Not only myself but my mom, my ex-wife, my sister, my kids. That’s the state of panic. I don’t know if you have done scuba diving, but the first thing they taught scuba divers is if you panic, you’re going to die. That’s true to life about anything.
Breathing is everything. I’ve learned that on so many different levels. The only way we can control our panic, our heart rate, and calm ourselves down is to breathe. The key to being a great swimmer is taking efficient breaths as you’re swimming so that it doesn’t interrupt the flow of your motion. Yet you’re still giving oxygen as Taylor has said, is one of the keys to everything in your body. Letting people have their feelings and not denying that right now, it probably feels scary. You might even be angry and that’s okay. Whatever you’re feeling is okay. Panicking and being angry or scared is not going to help. Let’s express the feeling and even if you can’t speak, I’m going to guess what you’re feeling.
The more I can put my empathy hat on and not say, “I’m sorry this happened to you.” How much does life suck right now or how scared are you or are you angry that this happened? Whatever I could do to try and put myself in that situation would allow the person to say, “Okay.” My sister had surgery for ovarian cancer, so when she woke up, I said, “You are here. You made it through the surgery.” I didn’t tell her all the bad news of the stuff they found. I tried to be in the moment with her. I said, “You are in the recovery room. You’re not in ICU. You don’t have a tube down your throat. They don’t want you to talk quite yet. This is your nurse. She’ll be here until 7:00. Her name is Jackie.” My sister looked at me and she went, “There is Jackie. I’m going to get great drugs.” I started laughing and I said, “Possibly.” We were able to find a moment of joy in that very scary time.
That’s a beautiful story, John. At that moment, there were a million things going through her head, a million things going through in your head, but she was able to find that moment of light and joy within it because that was a very challenging experience for both of you. You’re totally speaking my language right now when you’re talking about deep breathing and letting people have the space to feel through their emotional pain or not even necessarily pain but feel through their emotions. When you allow that space and you get it all out there, it helps to settle it. It’s almost like it’s something in your body that you need to get out in the world to officially let go. Open up the heart Chakra, as Sean is saying.
When I got laid off and I knew I couldn’t pack my office up by myself in a day, especially if I was going to leave that status report, that’s when we have to be vulnerable and let people help us. Not this mindset, “I can do it myself.” Sometimes when you visit someone in the hospital, you’re not alone.
John, one of the biggest lessons I’ve personally learned from hanging out with Sean and being around Sean is you have to let people help you because I am the type of person who’s like, “I’ll figure it out or I’ll do it myself or this, that.” It doesn’t work as well as if you let someone help you. It’s a team. I also heard something interesting too. I forget where I heard this was maybe on a podcast I was listening to, but they said that when you allow someone to help you, it releases more happy chemicals like dopamine and serotonin in the brain than if someone offered to help and you said, “No, I’m okay.” When you let someone help you, the person you’re asking for help gets a hit of good feeling because they’re helping you.
There’s a line in something called The Course in Miracles that I love and it’s, “When we’re healed, we’re not healed alone.” It’s from The Course in Miracles, Marianne Williamson speaks about it all the time. It’s a mindset that if you let go of anger and you’ve healed that then other people in your world are healed at the same time. Once I was in a pretty bad car accident where I had to wear a neck brace, these are things around your neck so you don’t move. This was more of a Velcro thing. A friend of mine was performing. She’s a singer. I thought, “I’m going to take this off and leave it in the car.” I don’t want to pull focus from hers performing and everyone looking at me and asking me a bunch of questions about what happened, what’s wrong. It hurt not to wear it. I went and saw her sing. Afterward she goes, “Your neck looks like it hurt, you’re moving it funny.” I told her what happened. She was like, “For God’s sakes, put that on.” I had this mindset that not only did it allow anybody to help me, I thought I had to look perfect in order for anybody to even want to be around me.
That’s how insecure I was of letting people see, “You’re injured?” You don’t ask for help. You don’t let anybody see that you’re injured. You could have seriously hurt yourself by taking that off. We all have pain and sometimes it’s invisible or we think it’s invisible. It leaks out in one form or another. Because if someone’s not walking with a crutch or has a cast on, with addictions that may or may not show up instantly or whatever the issue is, everyone’s got their stuff. You realize part of the pain comes from isolating yourself. You can say, “No matter what, I’ve got love in my life and a support system that is going to love me no matter what I look like or sound like or walk like or talk like.” We get less attached to our self-worth being connected to the outcome.
You’ve touched on a big reason we’re doing the show when you said that people tend to isolate themselves. It’s a matter of not feeling like anyone relates to what they’re going through. Part of what we’re doing on the show by sharing your story, by sharing the stories of people like Sean and others is we’re trying to help bring people in as a community and say, “You’re not alone.” There’s someone who might not be going through your exact experience, but there’s someone who’s struggled in a similar way or there’s someone who’s felt the pain that you’re feeling. There’s a whole wonderful community of people with huge hearts who want to help and create this environment. As you go through the pain and you’re so stuck in your own darkness and your own crap, that’s the meat of what I want to talk about and discuss. On that point, John, you started to well up and cry about your sister. What’s going on with that and with her? How can we be of service to you? Do you mind sharing with the readers what’s going with her and with yourself?Keep calm and everything will work itself out Click To Tweet
When you get that diagnosis, ovarian cancer in her particular case. First, you thought, “I’ve got some cysts that needed to come out.” I’m like, “They might want to give you a hysterectomy at 55. I don’t think so.” I’m like, “Okay.” They go, “Yes, we’re definitely doing a hysterectomy.” They’re like, “It’s not cysts or tumors,” and you go, “Okay.” Unfortunately, with ovarian cancer, it’s not like breast cancer. There’s no test to try and catch it early. My mom wants to come out. She’s in her 80s. She’s worried about her kids. She doesn’t want to bury her kids. There’s a lot of fear, anxiety, and stress around what does that look like and sound like. I’m in the waiting room in the hospital with my mom for the six-hour surgery. We tried to stay in the moment. They come out and say, “It didn’t spread to her colon, so we don’t have to have a colonoscopy and she doesn’t have to be an ICU, which was one of the potential outcomes or we could open her up and say, “It’s so far gone, we’re not going to take anything out.” It had spread to some organs and it’s a lot.
Where is she now?
She was in a hospital for seventeen days, which is unusual. It was one complication after another. First, it was pneumonia, then there was an infection from the surgical incision. The hardest part is watching somebody you love in pain. She is finally out of the hospital and now home. It’s a long recovery. The scar goes vertically instead of horizontally when they removed that many organs besides a hysterectomy. It’s getting used to the new normal. The first time she went outside, she had to wear a mask. She was on a walker. She had sunglasses on. I thought, “Where’s my sister? Who is walking slower, my mom or my sister?” It was a lot to process. She’s gotten stronger now. She made the decision not to do chemotherapy based on the quality of life versus quantity. The doctors did not like that decision.
John, tell us about what she’s doing as an alternative.
She was always a vegetarian and now she’s become a Vegan. She went to a two-week spa down in San Diego, which deals with raw foods and trying to eliminate as much sugar from the diet, colonics, alkaline water and getting in touch with your feelings. You’re not holding onto resentment and anger.
What’s the place called?
She got a lot out of that. I went down to visit her on the weekend between the two weeks. It helped her mentally when the doctors were trying to convince her because she met other people that were able to get well without chemo. It’s a fascinating thing where even though you’re still recovering from the surgery and you’re weak, they still want to start the chemo right away. I’m like, “Oh, man.”
That sounds very heavy to get right out of surgery and they’re trying to tell you, “We’re going to start chemotherapy.” She’s alive, John?
She’s here now.
She’s alive and that’s what you got to focus in on.
You’re like acting like she’s dying every day. You’ve got to tell yourself, “I’m not saying goodbye.”
No, you have a long time for that. People with cancer, we see it all the time. They say, “I’m never supposed to live. I was supposed to be a vegetable.” You see me show up. I don’t shut up now. I don’t stop walking in. I drive. There are miracles. You’ve got to believe. You’ve got to believe in your faith. You’ve got to help heal the body. That’s why we’re talking about it because it doesn’t matter. We’re all related. I keep saying this to everybody. We all pissed, bleeding the same way, and we’re all in the same universe. All probably one big family. I don’t care what color, what race, what sexuality, and the body can heal itself. It was put into homeostasis. It’s putting their balance, especially with what she has. I know a little bit of advocate because my dad was a doctor going in, so I grew up around all these things. She’s alive and you have to celebrate her life, not celebrate her death.Who you are is bigger than one thing happening to you at one time. Click To Tweet
The name of that place is Optimum Health Institute, OHI.
John, you’ve done TED Talks. You are a keynote speaker. How do people find you? What do you do besides speaking on podcasts and you have your own podcasts? Who are you and how can people find you?
The easiest way to find me is to go to my website, JohnLivesay.com, or you can Google, The Pitch Whisperer. I have a book coming out about helping people become better salespeople through better storytelling. My passion is to help as many people as possible. Get off the self-esteem rollercoaster of only feeling good if things are going well and bad if things are going not so well.
Have you read your book, John?
Everything you’re saying is brilliant. Your sister is alive. I want to meet her. I want to talk to her. I want her on the show. This is what I do because I want to connect with her because I guarantee you, she and I can share stories and the stories are what sell.
Whoever tells the best story, gets the yes.
I had my skull in my abdomen and she’s had her insides all removed. Let’s talk about it. I don’t want to go through that again. Taylor has got a whole bunch of pointers on what he could give for advice on and help her heal at any given time if she’s open to it. I’d love to meet your sister. What you’re doing is fantastic. How can people find you?
JohnLivesay.com or google The Pitch Whisperer and I come right up.
What is your message of hope and inspiration for anyone out there?
Who you are is bigger than one thing happening to you at one time.
You’ve been a mentor and you’ve been the one who’s helped us to do this. We found Podetize with you. We thank you from the bottom of our heart. I can’t wait to get on your show next. We have decided that. Thank you. Let’s connect again about some other stuff we’re working on. Thank you so much for joining us.
It’s my pleasure.
- John Livesay
- John Livesay’s TED Talk
- The Course in Miracles
- Optimum Health Institute
- John Livesay’s podcasts
About John Livesay
John Livesay is known as “The Pitch Whisperer.” He helps brands become magnetic storytellers with the ability to make irresistible offers to their ideal clients. As a keynote speaker, John has captivated audiences in settings ranging from Coldwell Banker to Coca-Cola’s CMO Summit. He is also the author of The Successful Pitch: Conversations On Going From Invisible To Investable and host of The Successful Pitch podcast, which is heard in over 60 countries, and regularly appears on TV (CBS, FOX, and ABC). During a 20-year career in media sales with Conde Nast, John worked across all 22 brands in their corporate division and was the recipient of salesperson of the year honors.