We all have a self-image -  how we truly FEEL about ourselves. This causes us to "upper-limit" our results in our money, in our bodies, in our relationships, and in the impact we make. With the vantage point of nearly 11,000 hours on the phone with people looking to level-up their lives, Tony Lister shares some of the common patterns he’s seen and, more importantly, what you can do to shift the patterns. Tony believes in people. More than that, he believes in what people believe is possible for themselves. Whatever we declare as "true" in our lives, we will do everything possible to prove ourselves right. When we learn to change our story, possibilities open up. In this episode, discover how to identify your "ceiling" and up-level your life.

WFL 3 | Changing Our Story


Why We Sabotage, Numb Out And Play Small... And What We Can Do About It!

In this episode, we’re talking not about What The Flow, but the WTF, when life throws a curveball at us and what we do about it, how we face it, how we address it and how we adapt. For those of you who want to know, I'm in a game room. I have my suitcase on the floor. My little twin-sized bed I tucked underneath the basketball game. If you haven't read episode number one, my family had a little crisis in a family business that we've run for over 25 years or longer than that, when a bunch of them showed up for work on Monday morning and a family member had secretly sold the company and fired all the family members.

I jumped on a plane and came down here and we've been spending twenty-hour days building a new business. It's fitting as far as this topic of what you do when life hands you a situation. I told the story about the bears that climbed over the fence of my enclosure and ate one of my goats, drag it off into the woods and they enjoyed it the whole night. What do we do when life hits us like that? What do we do when things don't show up, don't end up or don't happen the way we want to? There are many areas of life where we have high expectations and we invest a lot of energy. This is when it hurts in relationships when we have made ourselves vulnerable. We've opened ourselves to another human being or we've invested a lot in another human being.

High Expectations

We find out that human being isn't who we thought they were. It's interesting because we have these high expectations for other people and they never will live up to our expectations, when we're betrayed in a significant way. I had a person that I had helped a lot, at least in my estimation for been supportive of a person. I found out that they had set things up to try and cheat me and it hurt. It hit deep and I was like, "How? That person?" This stuff happens. The idea is this concept of flow in a flow state is not that we're going to reach some Nirvana, something airy-fairy spiritual idea that we're going to not have any problems in our life. It's what we do as life changes and life adapts.

Change Is Happening

I heard this quote once from Wayne Dyer. He quoted this to some Indian guru and he said, "In my world, nothing ever goes wrong." I remember hearing that many years ago or something and I'm like, “What do you mean nobody dies and nobody gets sick? You don't even have a money problem. Your body doesn't ever feel bad or you don't ever have conflict in your relationships. What do you mean in your world nothing ever goes on? There's never like a natural disaster where you live. This is crazy talk.” It took me eighteen years to realize in his world, nothing ever went wrong because of his story about what was happening. As we move into the next decade, change is happening so fast. Change in marketplaces, in finances, in the economies, in all kinds of things that are happening in the world, and in the paradigm of humanity.

Think about how things have changed in relation to jobs that people have. Think about how the worldview has changed around sex and sexuality. Think about how the worldview has changed around how people express themselves through social media and through all these other mediums that weren't available before. It's changing fast. Generally, our response to this disruption is fight, flight or freeze. That's what people tend to do. As we move forward, one of the most important skills that I think that we need to have is the ability to adapt quickly, not just situationally. In our case, within minutes of me realizing what had happened, I had purchased a plane ticket. I started packing my bag, and headed to the airport, so that I could come to the city and support my family.

It's not because I'm getting paid to do this. It's because this is what we do in our tribe. I was talking to my seven-year-old daughter and she says, "Daddy, when are you coming home?" I said, "I don't know. I bought a one-way ticket. I'm coming home when this is done." We had a business setup within 24 hours. We had clients that were joining into that business within 24 hours. We adapted really quickly. We're working until 2:00 in the morning. We've created an office out of my parents' living room upstairs and there are some beautiful things that have come about because of the relationships that we have. People have shown up and brought business supplies. One guy that we were good friends with, he heard about this. He's like, "This is BS." He works for a business supply store and he showed up with this great big copying machine. He's like, "I got you guys hooked up."

Another guy showed up and he said, "I have 100 clients that match the profile of what you need. I'm going to recommend all of them to come to you." This happens because of the relationships that we've developed over the years. That is one way of adapting and dealing with the WTF. What I want to talk about is in this particular show is not the logistical steps of, "The crap hit the fan. What are you going to do about it? How are you going to start that business? How are you going to change your finances? How are you going to do whatever it is? How are you going to get that new job? Whatever it is you need to, how are you going to adapt in that relationship?" Those were all strategic.

Adapting Our Story About Ourselves

The thing that's most important is that we learned to adapt our story about ourselves. What does that mean? I'll give you an example. I had become a real estate investor and I started teaching seminars on how to buy and sell real estate. A lot of the driver of those seminars, for me personally, I like helping people but I also got so much validation that I was somebody important because I was up in front of the room and these people were asking me questions. I had this deep insecurity in who I was as a human being. I was raised in the place that I had a lot of shame. When someone is raised in a shame-based culture, the shame-based culture says, "You're not good enough unless you act, look, behave and perform this way."

It's always a standard that is impossible. The person that's being shamed tends to take on a belief system that says, "I don't measure up no matter how successful I get, no matter how much I achieve, it's never quite enough." That was what I had going on. When the real estate market has changed in 2008 and the seminar markets dried up, I went from having this cashflowing $50,000 a month from the speaking business. I had my real estate, hundreds of thousands of dollars in equity. I owned millions of dollars for the properties. All of a sudden, I had no cashflow and I was hundreds of thousands of dollars in the hole on these properties and I had no idea what to do next. I didn't know what I was going to do to make a living. I had four kids at that time and it was this terrifying experience, but it wasn't the logistics that were really the problem. The real problem is that my identity went into hiding.

WFL 3 | Changing Our Story
Changing Our Story: When we can adapt our story about our self, then we can move about this change and see opportunities and take them.

My inner story was like, "I always felt like I was a fraud. I didn't quite measure up. I wasn't good enough." That's that shame-based upbringing. This is no matter what you do, it's not enough. What was happening to me fit my core identity and belief that I wasn't enough, and that I didn't measure up. If you knew me and you knew all the storms, noise, chaos, behaviors, and all these different things that I shamed myself for, then you wouldn't listen and love me. That's how I felt about me. It wasn't about other people, it was I didn't measure up for me. In the midst of the crisis rather than adapt, which I could've done, I look back at it and there was 100 different directions I could have gone. Instead, I froze and I went into hiding because my inner world didn't adapt to an identity of someone with a failed business.

My inner world needed to be propped up by successful business, fancy cars, houses, toys, trips or some recognition. It’s like these external things that I thought, "If I can get those, I'll finally feel good about me." As it collapsed, what collapsed with it was my story about myself and I went into this place of an inability to perform. What I had to is I started some more businesses. I did some different things and I had business after business that I started would fail. I didn't understand why and what was going on. I have a decade to look back at that and go, "Of course." My core belief about myself was that I was unworthy, unlovable, wasn't successful or wasn't able to be successful.

The reality is I've got a lot of time since then to contemplate this enough. I've mentored thousands of people in business and help them in their businesses, setting up their marketing and setting up their teams, communication, and different challenges that they face. I don't know of a business that doesn't face all kinds of crazy circumstances. I don't know of a business owner that doesn't have more failed ideas than successful ideas. At that time, nobody had told me this. No one had explained this to me that if you want to get into this game, you're going to have to fail a lot, that's okay and there's nothing wrong with it. The thing that I want to bring to your attention in this show is what has to adapt is our story about ourselves.

We have to have a dynamic and flexible story about who we are as a human being that allows for us to screw things up when the WTF hits. When it happens, because it's going to happen on some level, there are going to be disruption, changes and all kinds of things. There's this nature of hearing something like this. When I would hear this discussed in the marketplace, I would tighten up inside and I'd be like, "I don't want there to be changed. I don't want this to happen. I don't want people to die. I don't want things in economies, markets or equities to change,” and I would freeze. What I'm suggesting to you that the skill to be in this flow state that I'm talking about, the skill that is required to thrive during chaos, to find opportunity in chaos and change because that's what's coming and happening. There's change happening all around us.

When we can adapt our story about ourself, then we can move about this change, see opportunities, take them and not make failure mean anything about us. It’s when we can approach a relationship and we know that other person may reject us, choose something else, betray us, play us, lie to us, cheat us and they can do all those things to us. When our story about ourself is that rather than saying, "I am unlovable because of this person rejected me, I made this choice that didn't honor that person, I screwed up this business where I lost this job, I invested money somewhere and it didn't work out, I'm not able to get ahead or I'm not able to make enough money." When we change that story into a story that says, "I'm a one of a kind creation of this universe. I'll only be here one time in this expression. I have this limited amount of space, time and consciousness to express who I am and how I feel that I am."

That's worth celebrating. I'm going to make good choices, ridiculously, stupid choices and I'm going to do things to try to make myself feel a certain way to try to meet a need. Sometimes those things aren't going to serve me in the long run. I'm going to do some things that are amazing. I'm going to have kindness towards other human beings and I'm going to hurt other human beings. This is the journey of being human. I'm not going to make the journey wrong. I'm going to begin to look at things and say, "In my world, nothing ever goes wrong." "This is a stretch. That one is crazy." Taking that on and believing this.

Finding Clarity

I wanted to share a message. This is years after all the real estate things. I was up in the mountains one day reading this book. I have this electrifying moment while I was in this hammock up at 10,000 feet at this high mountain lake of this knowing the certainty that there was this clarity of something I wanted to do and this message I wanted to share. I came down out of the mountains and I decided to go big with it. I hired a camera crew to go with me to the Dominican Republic.

We filmed this crazy series of videos. The first video, I'm driving through traffic in a third world country and I'm teaching sitting backwards on a motorcycle. The car with the camera followed me through the streets. In the second video, I'm driving the dune buggy through the streets. In the third video, I'm walking on the railing of this bridge 30 feet over the ocean, while I teach. I jump off at the end of the training and did all these things. One of them was on a zip line. I'm doing a training and there's a drone that's following me. I got one of those GoPro cameras. It was an intense video series. It was so fun to shoot. I got to teach a bunch of things that I was passionate about. I got back in about a month later, I got in a car accident and brain injury. I got hit by a drunk driver and I couldn't talk about this nor finish my sentences.

I couldn't read or write for months. I couldn't do math in my head for 3 or 4 months. I had to lay down all the time. I had about 90 minutes a day that I wasn't dizzy. I had five kids at that time. I was hanging on for dear life. It was so chaotic and crazy. I went to the brain doctor and he goes, "Type-A and triple-A." He's referring to me. I'm like, "What do you mean?" "These Type-A personalities don't like what I'm about to say." I'm like, "I'm ready." He says, "This is going to take you 12 to 18 months to get better. That was about eight months into it." I'm like, "That doesn't work for me." He goes, "I know, you all say the same thing to me." I'm like, "You don't understand. I have this project that I feel inspired to create. I got to get it out there. I had to create this thing and finish it." He's like, "The longer you push, the longer it's going to take you to heal." I was like, "This doesn't work. I got all these goals, dreams and ambitions." He goes, "You keep saying that. I just told you how long it's going to take."

WFL 3 | Changing Our Story
Changing Our Story: We are in a time of disruption and change. If we want to be able to thrive in this kind of chaos, we have to learn how to adapt quickly.

I ended up taking almost four years. I was sitting with a neurologist and this is about a year into it. I said, "I'm not mad at the guy that hit me. I have compassion in my life in a way that I didn't have it. I appreciate that compassion. I wouldn't have that compassion if it weren’t for this accident." I was talking, she's listening to me, let me process and I said, "The one thing that's got me is I feel like my life and this project is a year behind because of this car accident. I'm frustrated. I'm a year late in my life because of this accident." She looks at me and she goes, "It's interesting you feel like you had this purpose to share a message. It spoke to you in that moment and you were clear about it." I told her the whole story and she says, "If you can make up a story that you have something you’ve got to do, why is this hard for you not to make up a story that this accident was part of that journey, message and sharing?" I remember sitting there on her couch and going, "I can either make up a story that my life's a year behind or I can make up a story just as easily that I'm right on track. This whole journey, experience, learning process is part of that clarity and inspiration that I was creating."

I changed my story and it took me five minutes sitting there contemplating this and I'm like, "I'm going to change my story that this is right." I'm making notes for this show. It was like, "Why is it so hard to do that?" "Because it hurt so bad." “Why is it hard to change our story?” “Because we want these things. We've put our blood, sweat, tears, hopes, effort and energy into creating something. When it doesn't work, it sucks.” It's not WTF because it feels good. It's that way because it's difficult and it's challenging. It's hard to let go of something thing we've put so much into. We had the org chart for our company up on a poster. I saw it before coming down here and it has all the entire organization that we had built. These weren't people and some of them were family members like blood relatives.

The rest of them were our family. My dad and I were standing there and we're looking at the chart and it was trying not to cry as we're watching as half the staff has quit and the others are looking for jobs because of this big disruption that's happened. These are the people that we love, we spend our time and energy with. It's not easy to accept change and situations that are difficult. It’s painful. We are in a time of disruption and change. If we want to be able to thrive in this chaos, we have to learn how to adapt quickly. Here's the closing thought on this show. When you take a look at your life and what it is, you look at the parts of it that you like and don't like. You look at you within that context. There are always going to be things we don't like. We're never going to get to where our life is just right and it's the way we want it to be. This is not the nature of things and humanity in life and those things.

Our story about what we can adapt, and this is going to be a skill that you have to develop if you want to thrive in this new world that we live in, a flexible story about yourself. If you look at the things that you think aren't good enough about you, this whole idea of fill in the blanks for you. We often have things about our body that we don't like. I'm not good enough because this is how my body is in the current moment. We do this around relationships. I'm not good enough because I lost that lover, I don't have that lover, my relationships are a certain way or I'm out of choices. I'm not good enough because I screwed this thing up, I cheated this person, I did something horrible, I made a mistake or I harmed someone.

It could be about where we are in our life with this idea that I should be somewhere else. I should be further along than I am now. All the stories that we have. I'm not good enough because I haven't achieved this thing, I missed an opportunity, I wasn't raised the right way or I had some trauma that happened to me. There are all these different ways and you fill in the blanks for you and you take a look at this, I'm not good enough because of the thing. I want you to contemplate something. It’s some questions that came from this thing called The Work. It's an adaptation of some questions that the person that taught me got it from her. I wanted to give her credit and I can't even remember her name because she wasn't my teacher. It's the question of asking this.

Four Questions To Ask Yourself

It's saying, “Is it true? Is it true because my project was a year off that there was something wrong with my life?” If there's something wrong with my life, it's digging in and getting into these questions of who am I if my life is off track. What was interesting is that whole project never took off. It's got 150 views on YouTube. It put $150,000 in with all the different things that were done and all the different pieces that came together and I was unable to market it because I had it all my life. I had it all my inner world. Is it true that because that never took off that I'm not good enough? Ask yourself this question. There are these four steps I'm going to have you do. The first is you identify the story. The story is, “I'm not good enough because,” and it becomes an I am statement. In my case it was growing up, I ashamed to myself for my sexual choices because of the upbringing I had around me that said I was evil, I was bad and I was wrong.

It's like, "I am unworthy. I am unlovable. I am unclean. I am bad." This is “I am” statements. When my business failed, it was, “I'm a loser because I screwed up all this fantastic business.” I sabotaged a fantastic business or I'm a loser because it couldn't hold it together. I'm not worthy to teach, to share, or to contribute because I have these failures. Those are the stories but they became an I am statement. In my relationship with my partner, when I tried to reach out and she would reject me then I would go, "I'm not lovable. What's wrong with me? I'm this piece of crap. I'm not good enough." The first step is you identify your “I am” statement. The second step is you ask this question, “Is it true?” When I say true, I mean like gravity. If I take my notebook and I drop it, it's going to fall.

Is it true because you're not what you think you ought to be in life? Is it true because your body has too much of this and too little of that? Is it true because your bank account is only where it is? Is true because your career is where it is? Is it true because your lovers have been who they have been or haven't been who they have been? Is it true that you're not enough as a human being because of those things or is it just a story? Is it just a story that you've bought into because enough people on the outside said that you said it on the inside? Have you consider that maybe it's just a story? The next question is, what would be possible in your world if you had a different story? 

Don't try to think of what the different story be yet. Think about the possibility. Go to the place of going, “How would my body feel differently if I had a different story about it? How would my relationships feel different? How would I show up differently? What would be different in these spaces if I had a different story? How would I show up in business, in money, in risk-taking, in doing things that I love and taking the leap to do something I'm passionate about?” Contemplate that for a moment. This is the fourth question which is in order to experience those things that you detailed, that body, those relationships, that money situation, that purpose, what would my story need to be about me?

WFL 3 | Changing Our Story
Changing Our Story: We could never get our external game together enough unless we change our story.

This is where I came up with the story about me because I know I can never get my crap together. I can never manage myself in a way that I didn't have shame about some of my choices. I could never get to where my emotions were always happy, pleasant and avoid the toxic depression or anger and rage. The hatred, the despite, the envy or the jealousy. I couldn't ever get to where I didn't have that. I could never even figure out from the expression of the sexuality of a place that didn't involve places that ashamed myself around or aspects of it because of the upbringing I was brought up in this repressive upbringing. Those voices are still ringing in my head sometimes and I couldn't get to where I ever made enough money for it to be enough. Even when I made millions of dollars, it wasn't enough inside.

I realized that this external BS game, I couldn't ever get it together enough unless I could change my story and I looked at this. That was when I came up with, “I am one of a kind creation of the universe.” I have this expression this one time, and this one of a kind expression is worth celebrating. It's not like in a big ego narcissistic, "Look at me, I'm one of a kind creation of the universe." In choosing that story for myself, it caused me to start to see other people that way. Even this family member who is destroyed something that I thought was beautiful. I look at her and I go, "That's an unfortunate expression and way." This one of a kind expression of the universe who has value as a human being has decided to create so much toxicity, damage and put nightmares for so many people. That is an unfortunate thing. That human being is a one of a kind expression of the universe.

Water, Weed, Repeat

It allows me to see people in their expressions with love, kindness, and care because I start seeing myself that way. As you move forward, as you want to create more of this flow state in your world, as you want to be flexible in your ability to adapt to situations before you ever try to doing this step, to get your body in the flow, to get your mind in the flow, to get all these other things in the flow, the very first step is you've got to change your story about you. I've created a 21-day audio program. I call it Water Weed Repeat. It's the process of natural creation. In the garden we water, we weed, and we repeat. It's the same process in our brain. We have to follow these things. We've got to take the weeds, shitty ideas and these broken stories.

We’ve got to weed them out, feed it, water it, add in these new beliefs following the rules of brain science and the neuroplasticity of the brain that we can recreate neurons and neuropathways in our brain with a new story if we do this right. The first four CDs, it's an audio course but it's downloadable. The first four of these audios take you through a series of questions and visualization exercises to cause a shift in your story about you, not on a cognitive level because this is not a thinker brain thing that we change. We don't change our emotions through thinking about our emotions. We change our emotions by feeling new emotions and the brain science says, "It's through emotion that we rewrite the neuropathways in our brain." This program takes you through exercises that create the emotional shift that start to rewrite the neurons in your brain and reinforce this new story about yourself.

If it would be useful to you, I'd like to offer you a gift of the first four of the audios of this course to help you on this path of being able to start to rewrite some of these stories about you. You can start to take those steps at the ability to have a flexible story about who you are as a human being. It will give you the ability that wanted to crash down in whatever situation when there are changes in situations that you move and adapt quickly. You take the opportunity to create something even better for yourself. Thank you for sharing your time and your consciousness with me. I look forward to talking to you on the next show. In the meantime, create yourself a fantastic day.

Important Links:

Water Weed Repeat