The first thing you should do is commit to an inquiry. 1) What would it mean to truly love myself? To be clear, to find the inherent love and goodness that you are, with absolutely nothing to do with performance, looks, or anything outside. 2) How would my life be different if loved myself deeply? That’s the what and the why. From there, will next come the how.
As a part of my series about “Connecting With Yourself To Live With Better Relationships” I had the pleasure to interview Don Scott. Don is The Business Leader Coach, working with business owners, executives, high-net-worth families, and their adult children. For more than 35 years, Don has advised clients, first through his role as an Arthur Andersen partner and then as a leader of a major trust company. Unique is the combination of his robust business and financial experience, combined with a master’s degree in psychology. He has worked with millionaires, billionaires, and many others to transform their lives and everything they touch.
Thank you so much for joining us! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.
I grew up poor, in a place where expectations were low. I didn’t enroll in college until I was 20, but then completed my four-year degree in two years flat. I was driven. My personal boundaries were tight and confining. I worked, struggled, succeeded, fell down, and got back up. I was an artist at doing it the hard way. If the school of hard knocks gave a diploma, mine would reach from ceiling to floor.
When I was about 50, I had a major epiphany. I had always thought I would succeed my way out of my problems. Then, I would contemplate the meaning of life. It hit me like a ton of bricks, standing in front of my very nice desk, in my very nice study, in my very nice home, that I was going to run out of time. And that none of that “stuff” meant didley squat. The trajectory of my life changed in ways I could not have imagined.
I discovered how to help others create that same magic in their lives. I help business leaders and their families escape the trap of moderate success. Moderate success may already include a balance sheet with lots of zeros. True wealth is more than money. It is living in absolute bliss. From that place, leaders can lead!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you hope that they might help people along their path to self-understanding or a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships?
I am writing a book for young adults, and their families. The 26-year-old who hasn’t found his or her path, as an easy example. My book gets to the core of what hasn’t worked. What needs to change. And, importantly, not only with the “kid”, but with the family. Those loving parents who support him and who have agonized over his struggles. It is all about healing relationships, primarily with Self, and moving forward.
Do you have a personal story that you can share with our readers about your struggles or successes along your journey of self-understanding and self-love? Was there ever a tipping point that triggered a change regarding your feelings of self-acceptance?
I grew up in pain and struggle precisely because I didn’t love myself. I was working with a therapist at age 25. It came to light the keyword 5-year-old-Don had been carrying around inside was “worthless”. As far from the love of Self as one could get. I was 100% destined for pain and struggle. Through the therapy, I got rid of much of the pain. Tucked it away. Unfortunately, I didn’t begin to truly heal it all until another 25 years had passed. Yes, there was a tipping point. Around age 50, I began my real journey. I knew there had to be a better way to live.
According to a recent study cited in Cosmopolitan, in the US, only about 28 percent of men and 26 percent of women are “very satisfied with their appearance.” Could you talk about what some of the causes might be, as well as the consequences?
This is actually very simple. It is not debatable. The lack of satisfaction is about looking for love in all of the wrong places. Of course, we like to look our best and all of those things. That’s all good. But, if you don’t love yourself, inherently, you have a hole. A big, deep, powerful hole. You don’t know how to fill that hole. You get this idea that if you can look good. If you can be perceived as good looking. If you can find the other good looking one for your arm. You will have that hole filled up. You aren’t thinking that. But that is exactly what is going on. Been there. It will not work.
I can promise you this. The outside you is always going to reflect the inside. Think about that! Go learn to love yourself first!
As cheesy as it might sound to truly understand and “love yourself,” can you share with our readers a few reasons why it’s so important?
Do not think of this as cheesy. I have learned (still learning) to love myself. I meet a lot of people, and work with many wealthy people, executives, business owners, and others. I always joke a bit and say things like “I am this weird accountant who asks you questions like How much do you love yourself?” (Well, I used to be an accountant.)
I find that people are OK with that question. It is not particularly awkward. But virtually always they answer me in a way that tells me they don’t even understand the question. It is almost like they have never considered their own love for themselves.
So, everyone and I mean everyone, is operating under one of the most powerful forces in the universe every minute of every day. Everything they are experiencing and creating in their lives is shaped by the answer to a question. And, they don’t even understand the question. That is not a criticism. I didn’t either. This misunderstanding of love, and any lack of self-love, is a massive opportunity to turn life on its head. In a very good way!
For those who have children, I usually make the point this way. I ask you: Do you remember when you held that little one-minute baby in your hands for the first time? The most powerful single event I could ever imagine and every parent sinks into it immediately. We tear up. We know. That is love. That is perfection. I was that, and you were that. We still are. But our young ego-selves were trying to interpret things we were too young to interpret. We created and bought into lies. We concluded that we needed to love ourselves based on our performance at work, our balance sheet, or how our clothes fit. That’s all bullshit.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
When I work with clients, we start with three distinct “Stages”. The first is to learn to live in absolute peace and joy wherever you are. The second is to create what you want, as much as you can, in what you already have. The third is the stay or go decision. We can apply that to relationships, jobs, and everything else.
People stay in bad relationships for a whole bunch of complicated reasons. I meet people in bad relationships, and they are thinking about how to fix it. Or, how to get out. What that is going to look like. They have the cart before the horse. I ask them to give themselves permission to stay in Stage I.
Stop trying to fix it. Stop trying to figure out if you should go, or how. How much can you do at one time anyway? You aren’t ready for that. What if you could just stay in Stage I and “fix” you? (I don’t like that word fix, but it works.) What if you could find peace, joy, and love right where you are? What if you could learn to truly love yourself? Could you invest intensely in transforming on the inside for three months? Do you suppose that might have a positive impact on your relationship? Do you suppose you’d be better equipped to chart a course for yourself from a place of love and clarity? As opposed to a place of confusion, hurt, self-criticism, and the rest.
When I talk about self-love and understanding I don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times, self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but our relationships. What are some of those tough questions that will cut through the safe space of comfort we like to maintain, that our readers might want to ask themselves? Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?
The love I am talking about is blindly loving who we are. It is knowing that we are love. That we are inherently good. I am talking about learning to love ourselves intensely like what we experience in the presence of that one-minute-old perfect child. That is game over!
From that place, do we have a chance to grow, to learn, to heal, to change? Yep. If I, Don Scott, love myself truly, am I more empowered to workout and take care of myself? Am I more joyful around myself and others? Yep. My belief is simple. You cannot fill the hole from the outside. As you learn to love yourself, the hole simply goes away. The outside, including things like relationships, money, and waistline, will begin to conform. Do you make changes and “do the work”? Sure. That’s the whole point. But it’s all about where you are coming from.
So many don’t really know how to be alone, or are afraid of it. How important is it for us to have, and practice, that capacity to truly be with ourselves and be alone (literally or metaphorically)?
To the extent you can learn to truly love yourself, the problem starts to go away. The opportunity is inside. Yes, learn how to be with yourself. Learn how to love yourself inherently. Everything you want that is outside of you becomes just that. A “want” rather than a “need”. From that place, you are ready to have it all show up for you.
How does achieving a certain level of self-understanding and self-love then affect your ability to connect with and deepen your relationships with others?
This is THE magic sauce. Knowing yourself and loving yourself deeply makes you compelling. We are talking about walking through life differently. With two people there are always three spaces. There is you, me, and space in between. The problem is he wants to fix his wife, and she wants to fix her husband. Even if they say they don’t, they do. What I know is that if I can be this really clear and aligned person. That is who I bring into space in between. Bringing my best energy into space in between is all I need to do. The relationship has to shift to a higher place, and it will.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
It has taken me a lot of years. Read, study, there are tons of resources out there. The first thing you should do is commit to an inquiry. 1) What would it mean to truly love myself? To be clear, to find the inherent love and goodness that you are, with absolutely nothing to do with performance, looks, or anything outside. 2) How would my life be different if loved myself deeply? That’s the what and the why. From there, will next come the how.
What are 5 strategies that you implement to maintain your connection with and love for yourself, that our readers might learn from? Could you please give a story or example for each?
· A rich daily process. I spend around 30 minutes each morning taping into some combination of reading, meditating, journaling and/or other practices.
· Self-counseling. A process where I can have a conversation with my inner-self. Sort of like therapy with the therapist who knows me best.
· A 33-day process. At one point, in particular, I took myself right back to that little white house we lived in when I was 5 years old. I held little Don on my lap and talked with him. I loved him and comforted him. Every evening for 33 continuous days.
· A picture. I carry in my planner, to this day, a picture of myself at age 5. Helps me be in touch with that part of me.
· Love of my daughters. I used to say: “I only I could love myself as much as I love the girls (daughters). Now, that would be something.” I love them so much I can probably never get there. But it’s a noble goal! Just to feel that love for them, and then transfer those feelings to myself. That’s powerful. That starts to stick.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources for self-psychology, intimacy, or relationships? What do you love about each one and how does it resonate with you?
Loyalty to Your Soul, by Ron and Mary Hulnick, is a great place to start. The Relationship Handbook, by George Pransky, is another good one.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it…
“The work” is all work of love and healing. Man, women, rich, poor, young or old. If we can all learn to love ourselves intensely, as I describe, love for all others becomes a given. Nothing can change the relationships between all of us more than changing the relationship we each have with ourself.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?
Everything we create and experience on the outside is a direct reflection of what we hold on the inside. As we clean up and rise up on the inside, the same must hold true in our outside world.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!