June 25, 2017

JF1027: Hack Your Brain For Financial Success #SkillSetSunday

Joan gave away everything she owned in the 1970’s and went searching for what life is all about.  What she learned on her path is an incredibly valuable skill set that EVERYONE should have to achieve financial success.  Be sure to listen to Joan’s story and how she overcame being a compulsive debtor.

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Joan Sotkin Background:
-Holistic Prosperity & Mindset Mentor
-Helping Entrepreneurs & Practitioners Succeed
-Recently released program is Rewire Your Brain for Prosperity & Financial Freedom
-Host of Prosperity Place, Inc Podcast
-Author of Build Your Money Muscles
-Based in Santa Fe, New Mexico
-Say hi to her at http://www.prosperityplace.com and http://www.prosperityplace.com/rewire

Click here for a summary of Joan’s Best Ever advice: 4-Step Process to Rewire Your Brain and Create New Success Habits


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Joan Sotkin and financial success






Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any fluff. I hope you’re having a best ever weekend.

Because it is Sunday, we’re gonna do a special segment like we usually do, and that is Skillset Sunday, where by the end of our conversation you’re going to have acquired or honed a specific skill that perhaps you didn’t have already or, in the honing example, you’re just getting better at it.

In today’s Skillset Sunday, this skill is the foundation of everything. It is brain science, as our guest says, and it’s identifying the habits that take place in our life, and making good decisions as a result of those habits. I will let our Best Ever guest, Joan Sotkin, introduce herself. How are you doing, Joan?

Joan Sotkin: Okay, it’s great to be here!

Joe Fairless: Well, nice to have you on the show. Real quick, I’ll give you a little bit more of a proper introduction. Joan has recently released a program titled “Rewire Your Brain For Prosperity And Financial Freedom.” She’s the host of the podcast Prosperity Place Inc., and she helps entrepreneurs and practitioners with holistic prosperity and mindset. She’s based in Santa Fe, New Mexico and she is the author of “Build Your Money Muscles.”

With that being said, Joan, before we dive into the topic at hand, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners just a little bit more about your background so they have some context?

Joan Sotkin: Okay, quickly… It’s a long story; I’ve been around for a long time. I had a terrible relationship with money; I came from a family where my compulsive debtor, so I learned how to be a debtor… And I had two millionaire brothers, so I asked the question why I couldn’t rub two pennies together while they were making all this money. I wanted to know why.

Actually, in the 1970s I gave away everything I owned and went wandering for quite a few years, looking for ‘the Truth’, trying to figure out what life was all about, and eventually came to realize that our life stories are really the result of the decision that we make, and I wanted to know what goes into those decisions. I’ve come to understand that it’s really our internal environment that affects our financial outcomes. All the work I’ve been doing for many years goes around that theory.

In order to change your financial position, you have to come to understand your internal environment and the habits that you’ve developed over the years, many of which start in early childhood. So that’s the quick one.

Joe Fairless: Yeah. I remember starting out as an entrepreneur, and it’s not way long ago, it’s just three years ago when I started out as an entrepreneur… And I remember coming across something; I think it was Tony Robbins who said “80% is psychology, 20% is mechanics”, and I thought “Baloney! No way. Just give me the step by step process, and I’ll run with it. I’m a hard worker and I’ll make it happen.” And again, I realize it’s only been three years, compared to the experiences that you had, but now I realize that it is psychology, because as we go through ups and downs there is a lot that we need to translate in an empowering and actionable way. Is that what you’re referring to, or is it something else?

Joan Sotkin: Yes, but what I found is that people have an aversion to really looking inside of them. They’re afraid that they’re gonna find something that’s awful. Because so many people have negative self-talk, they don’t necessarily like themselves inside, so I’ve put it in a different context. If you understand that it’s all habits, that everything about you is a habit, then you don’t have to say “There’s something wrong with me. I’ve done something wrong.” All you’ve done is what you were programmed to do, and by looking at what that program is, you can use the principles of brain science to change the habits. It’s really almost mechanical, the mechanics of psychology, because whatever you do, whatever you think, whatever you believe, however you feel as a response to life, those are all just habits that are actually these neural pathways that are built up in your brain. So if you want a different outcome, you just have to build up new neural pathways, and the principle for that is relatively easy.

Joe Fairless: What is the principle for that?

Joan Sotkin: Okay, so now I say it’s easy, but it takes a while

Joe Fairless: Easy to understand, but challenging to implement?

Joan Sotkin: Yes, because people are afraid of change, and as you change, certain things happen. But let me start with the principles that I use. The method I use is Recognize, Release, Replace and Repeat. The way you build new neural pathways in your brain is by doing something over and over again.

For example, if you move into a new house, when you move into the new house you’re actually uncomfortable and you get really stupid; you get what I call “the moving stupids” – you don’t know where anything is, you bump into walls, you lose your wallet, you lose your keys… Because you haven’t built up the neural pathways for being in that new house.

After about two months, everything feels familiar. Or if you’re learning to drive a car – when you first learn to drive a car, you have to really concentrate on what you’re doing, but eventually it becomes automatic. So the thing that makes it become automatic is building up these neural pathways in your brain.

For example, if you have a habit of being disappointed in your outcomes, your financial investment outcomes, that’s really a habit; you have a disappointment habit. So if you decide you wanna have a satisfaction habit instead, first of all you have to recognize the habit… And that’s pretty easy, because you can hear yourself thinking “Oh, I wish I had done something else” and “Every time I try to make an investment I don’t get the results I want” – so you can recognize that. Just recognizing it is part of the process, and once you say out loud “I feel so disappointed, that’s actually a part of the release.”

Then the next part which is really important – you say “What would I rather be feeling?” Let’s say the answer is satisfaction. So the question is “Do I know how to feel that?” Because some people just have endless dissatisfaction in their life. So you can actually teach yourself to feel satisfied, and make that the automatic response, and your subconscious is going to lead you in a direction that allows that to be the outcome. Does that make sense?

Joe Fairless: Yeah, I wanna go back to Recognize, because you said it’s fairly easy… But I’m thinking about — it’s easier to identify disempowering habits in other people than it is in ourselves, because we’re the closest to us than anyone else is, therefore… I don’t know how well I do personally at recognizing the habits that I have that aren’t working, otherwise I would correct them. So how do you recognize those habits that aren’t working?

Joan Sotkin: Okay, well this is one of the reasons I think it’s necessary to [unintelligible [00:10:20].05] When I work with people, I can figure it out in a second; or not a second, maybe five minutes. Yesterday I was working with someone who thought she had a money problem. No matter how hard she tries, she can’t make the money that she wants to and she’s stuck in this job… Well, first of all, when you’re looking at money stuff it’s never about money, because money is neutral; it’s not good or bad, it just is numbers on a spreadsheet. What you’re bringing to the money is what matters.

So I said to her – and this is an important question – “How do you feel about your situation?” and she was a little stumped; she doesn’t have a great feeling vocabulary. So I said, “Do you feel trapped?” because that was the sense I got. She said “Yeah.”

Then I said, “Aside from your money, where else do you feel trapped?” She said, “I feel trapped in my job, I feel trapped in my relationship, I feel trapped in my house…”

Joe Fairless: Oh, big changes are coming in her life.

Joan Sotkin: So “trapped” was the habit. Once she saw that trapped was the habit — the next question always is “When did you feel trapped as a child?” because the feeling is learned in childhood. When you’re two years old and they don’t let you do what you want, you start feeling trapped. So it’s “When did I feel this before?” and just recognizing it is often an a-ha for people. Once she saw that, then — first of all, if you’re trapped… And “trapped” is a common feeling that goes with money. If you recognize you feel trapped, how do you get yourself out of that?

You can do release techniques. I use something called [unintelligible [00:12:20].07] but visualizations… For example, one of the ones that I use that I found really helpful – I imagined myself in a cage, and I imagined that the door to the cage was open, and I had to walk myself out of the cage, and I was amazed at how difficult that was… Because on the other side of the open door is the unknown, and our amygdala – which is more brain science – does not like uncertainty of any kind. So what you’re doing that leads to uncertainty, your brain tells you it’s dangerous, so you stay in the cage. Do you see that?

Joe Fairless: I do. For a Best Ever listener who is not used to taking a deep dive in this, and they just heard that example — because I wanna ask the question they’re asking in their heads right now… Joan, you’re thinking about a cage, the door is open, you said you can’t get out… Why don’t you just pretend you just step out of there? I mean, come on, what’s the deal? I can pretend that I’m stepping out. How do you talk to someone who has that literal of a mindset?

Joan Sotkin: Great question. Very often I have to lead them out of the cage. They’re doing it by themselves. If they are determined to not feel trapped, then they have to find that strength within themselves to get out of the cage. If they can’t, then they’re going to stay stuck, and so many people just stay stuck.

Now, if you understand why you wanna stay stuck, that helps, too. If you’re always been in that cage — I saw a story the other day about someone who was rescuing lions, and there was this lion who had never been out of the cage. It was born in a cage, lived in a cage, and they were trying to get the lion out of the cage… And it took them hours to get the lion out of the cage because it was so adapted to being in the cage. When I saw that, I thought that was the perfect analogy to what people go through.

So either you need to get someone to help you out of the cage, or you have to kind of take yourself out of the cage slowly. Put one foot out of the cage, and if it’s not dangerous, then you can take the other foot. You have to try it slowly sometimes.

Some of us do things that we’re afraid of. I had a therapist who said I was counterphobic, which meant I did whatever I was afraid of. That has served me very well. A lot of people just are so afraid to try something new… You have to make the decision. Remember I said it was all about decisions? You have to make the decision that you’re willing to get out of the cage no matter what. Can you see that?

Joe Fairless: I love how you say “Can you see that?” What’s the reason why you say “Can you see that?”

Joan Sotkin: I don’t know…

Joe Fairless: Oh, really? Okay, I thought there was maybe a psychological reason why you say “Can you see that?”, maybe because you want people to visualize what you’re talking about, not just listen.

Joan Sotkin: I guess that illustrates how I learn things.

Joe Fairless: [laughs] I don’t know if you were doing some backdoor psychology on us with that… Okay, cool. That makes sense. So we recognize it, and then once we recognize something – or we have a helped who helps us recognize – then we release it. Can you quickly explain the release part again?

Joan Sotkin: Okay, there’s a number of simple releases. For example, if you recognize that you’re afraid of coming out of the cage, would that make sense?

Joe Fairless: Yeah, sure.

Joan Sotkin: Okay. So one of the things I teach people to do – because a lot of people who are into money stuff don’t have a good vocabulary with feelings… So I tell them to make the sound of the feeling, to recognize where in your body you feel that fear. There’s often a contraction, like in your chest, or the back of your neck, or in your abdomen, very often in your solar plexus, and to put your hand over that place where you’re feeling the contraction, and to make the sound of the feeling.

Now, when people try this, they usually start out with little tiny sounds like “Ugh…” They don’t wanna make big sounds. But the idea is to get to the point where you’re making the sounds robustly, like “UGHHHH!!!” In the beginning you may be afraid someone’s gonna hear you… You can do this into a towel or a pillow. I used to call it my yelling towel. Just getting that sound out of your system releases it.

Then you can say “Okay, what would I rather be feeling at this moment?” and you might wanna be feeling free, you might wanna be feeling courageous. So you pick a feeling and you ask yourself “Do I know how to feel that?” and the idea is to remember back in a time in your life when you actually felt that. Kids have a lot more courage than grown-ups, because they haven’t been knocked down by life enough times. Remember that time, and then you make it a deal with yourself that when you feel this fear of coming out of the trap, that you’re going to take a deep breath and let yourself feel courageous, or confident. Do you see that?

Joe Fairless: Yup.

Joan Sotkin: [unintelligible [00:18:18].09] I see how often I say these…

Joe Fairless: Yeah, it’s a visualization, I get it. Yeah, that makes sense.

Joan Sotkin: And then you just do that multiple times and you’re gonna build up a new neural pathway so when you’re faced with the unknown, you’re going to allow yourself to feel courageous instead of fearful.

Joe Fairless: You’ve mentioned a couple times the vocabulary of feelings, and I’ve done some studying on this stuff and one of the takeaways is that the larger our vocabulary is to describe how we feel, the more emotions we personally will experience, because then we’ll attach the word to the emotion. Is that what you found, too?

Joan Sotkin: What we’re talking about now is emotional intelligence, which fortunately a lot of people are talking about now. It’s known now that people in business who have more emotional intelligence do better, because emotions play a part in absolutely everything we do, but so many people are afraid to experience their emotions. They’ve been taught that if you’re emotional, you’re weak. Well, feeling emotions and being emotional are two different things.

There has to be a willingness to say “Okay, I understand the value of getting to know my emotions. What do I have to do to make that happen?” Now, I was brought up in a family where one of the rules was “Sotkins don’t feel.” We were the only Sotkins in the country, and my father was a little nuts and had all these rules, and one of them was “Sotkins don’t feel.” So I was coming from a place where I had zero vocabulary when it came to emotions… So what I did was I created a list of emotions and I would practice feeling them. Once you  hear the word, for example, “disappointed” or “ecstatic”, you instinctively know what those mean, you just don’t practice them.

So you can actually practice feelings and become more aware of them when they’re happening inside of you. Feelings don’t happen in your head, they happen in your body, because they happen when these neural peptides attach themselves to receptors in your cells, and that’s what allows you to feel these things in your chest and your abdomen or in other parts of your body.

Joe Fairless: I like that exercise of creating a list of emotions and practicing feeling them. So we’ve got Recognize, Release, now Replace.

Joan Sotkin: Replace – “Okay, that’s what I’d rather be feeling.” If you don’t know how to do that, look at your list of feelings and practice it.

Joe Fairless: Okay, let’s talk about practical terms though. We had a real estate deal and we’d been working on it for a year and a half; we finally get to the closing table and the deal falls apart. Yeah, I’m pissed; what would I rather be feeling? Joy, from closing the deal… So where do I go from there?

Joan Sotkin: First of all, one of the things that’s necessary to recognize is that not all deals go through. In other words, there’s a marketplace that you have to deal with as well, right?

Joe Fairless: Yup.

Joan Sotkin: It’s not up to you. It’s not as if you’re sitting in that room alone; you’ve got other people with emotional needs, and I believe you’ve drawn in the people you need to feel your habitual feelings. So if you had this deal fall through, I would ask myself “Is this the first time that a deal fell through? Or is this a pattern?” If it’s a pattern, then it’s a habit, and you have to say to yourself “Okay, I don’t want this to happen over and over again. What am I feeling? Where am I feeling it? When have I felt this before?”

If you can remember back to a time in childhood when you had high hopes for something that would happen and it fell through, that’s when you started feeling that feeling.

Joe Fairless: I was with you when “Is this the first time or is this a pattern?” because that to me is a  really smart question when something bad happens. Then we identify if it’s a pattern… Where I lost you is when you went to the childhood thing and how I wanna feel — I mean, at this point, I just left the closing table, I wanna prevent it from happening again; I don’t care about if I felt something in childhood and how I wanna feel. I wanna put some steps in place so it doesn’t happen again.

Joan Sotkin: Okay, well this is one of the steps, because you didn’t start feeling whatever you’re feeling at that closing table, you didn’t start feeling that as an adult. That habit started early in childhood, whether you like that idea or not. And if you can recognize when it started, then it’s easier to go through the process of replacing it, because that’s the hard part… What we’re asking you to do is to recognize this core feeling that has been with you for a really long time. Does that make sense?

Joe Fairless: Kinda.

Joan Sotkin: Okay, well this is why this is simple, but takes a while to get. Has that ever happened to you, where you were at the closing table and the deal fell through?

Joe Fairless: It has not, but I know it will.

Joan Sotkin: Okay. As I said, if it happens once and it’s never happened before, then it’s not a pattern. Can you see that?

Joe Fairless: Yeah, I understand that.

Joan Sotkin: We’re looking for patterns. I had someone say to me the other day “Every time I try to talk to my parents, they don’t respect me. It happens over and over again.” Well, that’s her perception of what’s happening, not what’s really happening, so she feels disrespected. This is why it’s a little hard for people to see, because they’re focusing on what happened in the minute: “I really don’t like what happened at the closing table. I don’t want it to happen again. I’d better put some mechanics in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” No, you have to say “Is this a pattern?” and “When did this pattern start?” It didn’t start at the closing table, it started when you weren’t picked for the team you wanted to be on.

Joe Fairless: Okay, let’s just go with that. So we identified it was because I wasn’t picked for the team that this deal didn’t close, which you’ve gotta sell me on this part, because you lost me at this connection… Where a deal falls through and it’s connected to me being not picked for the varsity team in baseball. I don’t get that part.

Joan Sotkin: You had high hopes of something happening that would make your life wonderful, and it fell through.

Joe Fairless: Okay.

Joan Sotkin: Do you see the similarity?

Joe Fairless: Yeah, I see the similarity there.

Joan Sotkin: Okay, if your feeling was pissed, my feeling would have been disappointed – either one. Then you say to yourself, “Okay, well how many times in my life has that happened and when did it happen?” because we’re trying to identify the habit, the pattern. And the pattern doesn’t start in adulthood, it starts in childhood. It starts when your mother didn’t bond with you.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, you’ve made that point. I’m with you on that. So let’s just say it was because we weren’t picked for varsity and we were disappointed at that time… Now how does me identifying the varsity thing help resolve future deals that don’t blow up for a technical issue.

Joan Sotkin: Now it’s a matter of learning how to perceive what has happened as actually a neutral situation. You said it was something bad that happened. It wasn’t bad, it just happened.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, true. Good point.

Joan Sotkin: Every situation is neutral. How we see it is what we bring to the table. So I think in dealing with money and dealing with life, it really helps to learn how to be detached. It may sound off, because you can recognize your emotions and still not be attached to the results.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, I agree. One of my favorite saying is “Nothing in life has meaning until we give it meaning.”

Joan Sotkin: Absolutely true. Ancient philosophy, the Hindu Bhagavad Gita – it was all about…

Joe Fairless: Yeah, those guys…

Joan Sotkin: …don’t be attached to the results. And we tend to give meaning to the results. This perfect example of what’s happening at the closing table – it’s just what happened. It’s not that you did something wrong or there’s something wrong with the situation; it just happens. I have a lot of real estate mentors and friends, and those things happen, and it’s frustrating, it’s disappointing, but it just is what happens. And that true what happens in relationships, what happens in our family… Every situation is neutral.

Now, this is not a normal way of looking at situations, because we’re taught to think things are good or bad… But they’re not. They’re just what they are.

For example, if we take something on a larger scale, like global warming – it certainly seems bad to a lot of people. It’s what is, and we can decide to take action to help ourselves feel better about what we’re doing about it. So if you recognize that at the closing table there were certain things involved, for example the people who were involved in the interaction – did you really trust them in the very beginning? Did you really look at the situation realistically before you went into it? Somewhere along the line you may have had an inkling that this wasn’t going to work out, but you ignored it. Would you agree that that’s possible?

Joe Fairless: Of course that’s possible, yeah.

Joan Sotkin: Okay. So I think it’s important to learn to recognize those inklings. What that does is it allows you to become more intuitive in making your decisions. If you have a need for disappointment because that’s your habit, you’re going to ignore those inklings. You’re going to ignore the feelings that you had about the people involved in the interaction. Once you have that experience at the closing table, you can look back at it and say “Did I really trust that this was going to go through, or I was just allowing that place in my brain to get excited about what was happening? But was there a little bit of fear of this falling apart?”

Joe Fairless: So we’ve got Recognize, Release, Replace, and then lastly Repeat.

Joan Sotkin: Repeat. Just keep doing it over and over again.

Joe Fairless: [laughs] Like “D’oh! Come on, Joe… It’s just what it says – repeat!”

Joan Sotkin: [laughs] Right, because that’s how you build the new neural pathways, so that when you’re in the situation that you described, when you’re going into a deal, before you get to the closing table, you’re going to ask yourself “Does everything feel right about this deal?” The idea is to prevent what’s happening at the closing table.

Joe Fairless: I like it. This is a way, as you said, to be more intuitive about good decision-making, whether it’s in our deals – because that’s the most relevant to the Best Ever listeners, but it’s across the board. Once we go through it and we internalize it, it’s a very practical guide for how to do so. I’m very grateful that we had this conversation and we shared some times together with the Best Ever listeners.

Where can the Best Ever listeners get in touch with you, Joan?

Joan Sotkin: The best place is ProsperityPlace.com. Everything kind of flows from there. I’ve got a link to my programs and everything.

Joe Fairless: Well, Joan, the four R’s that affect your not only financial outcomes positively, but just outcomes in general, that you talk through: Recognize, Release, Replace and Repeat… I think a very good tactical exercise for the Best Ever listeners and myself is to create a list of emotions and practice feeling them. It sounds silly, but it will be beneficial. The main takeaway I got when I went to the Tony Robbins seminar “Unleash Your Power Within” was you choose the emotions that you feel.

We’re limited by the emotions we feel on a daily basis if we can’t describe them or feel them, so we have to practice feeling emotions that we want to feel

Joan Sotkin: And that’s the Recognize piece. Whatever situation you’re in, “Do I feel contracted? Do I feel expanded? If I feel contracted, where am I feeling it and when have I felt that before?”

Joe Fairless: I really enjoyed our conversation. I knew it would be a thought-provoking conversation; I’m glad I had my little fish oil pill earlier this morning so my brain was working.” Joan, thank you for being on the show… I hope you have a best ever weekend, and we’ll talk to you soon.

Joan Sotkin: You too!


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