What happens when we lean all the way in and meet life on life’s terms? I discuss this question with coach Michael Fall and we wander into some interesting territory, contemplating the role of action in our lives and what we do when life presents challenges.
Michael Fall is the President and founder of Insight Based Coaching. Since 2007 he has inspired greatness in executives, professionals, first responders, and pro and amateur athletes in various capacities, including taking on greater responsibilities, key projects, challenging issues, career changes, and performance.
As a student of coaching, Michael loves to hone his craft continually. He is always seeking opportunities to expand his coaching skills and deepen his understanding and impact.
You can find Michael Fall at InsightBasedCoaching.com.
- How we’re ‘making it all up’
- Realizing our experienced of life comes from within, not from our circumstances
- Transformational change of unwanted habits with drugs and alcohol
- How do we live the life we love, and love the life we live?
- Learning to trust the universal intelligence that is available to us at all times
- On building a business without effort
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
Transcript of Interview with Michael Fall
Alexandra: Michael Fall, welcome to Unbroken.
Michael: Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here. I really appreciate the invite Alexandra, it’s good to see you again.
Alexandra: Yeah, it’s good to see you again, too.
Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to find the three principles.
Michael: We’ll do the background really quick. I am a professionally certified coach through the International Coaching Federation. I’m also a three P coach through the 3PGC. I’ve got a couple of children; one boy, one girl. A great relationship. That’s kind of the not so exciting stuff. But very exciting to me.
How I came to the three principles is, is an interesting story. What happened was, I was at the lowest point I’ve ever been in my life when I came across the principles. I had a relationship that was falling apart, I had a business that was trending away from me. And, I was spending a lot of time abusing my body with drugs and alcohol is the truth of this.
It still amazes me to this day how evident our resilience is that that I could have been so abusive to myself and still ran a business and raised two amazing children. But the tertiary story, so how I came to the principles was, I used to own a gym. And one night, I think it was September 18 2015, I got a Facebook message from a young man who I knew from the neighborhood who I trained in my gym for a long time, always for free. Neighborhood kid.
He sent me this rather cryptic message saying, “I think you might like this. This will be as payment for all of those years you trained me for free at the gym.” Okay, this sounds cool. This is cool. What he sent me was with three of Sydney Banks’ recordings. He sent me the Long Beach lectures, the Washington lectures, and for some reason, the other one escapes me now but but and then a couple of book recommendations.
A few days later, actually, one of Michael Neill’s books showed up on my doorstep from him as well, and one of Jack Pranskey’s books. So for whatever reason, I was at home alone, sober. And I was listening to the Long Beach lectures. And that’s misleading, because I was five minutes into the Long Beach lectures when everything changed.
That language gets used somewhat regularly everything changed, but everything stayed the same. Well, everything changed. Not everything stayed the same. And yet, everything stayed the same. So what’s funny about it is I’ve gone over the Long Beach lectures I don’t know how many times since then in eight years, there’s nothing in the first five minutes. And there’s nothing there where it’s like, oh, my god, that was so profound.
There was something that I heard within the first minutes of this audio that that had me crying and laughing.
My suspicion is, if someone had been witnessing what was occurring for me, it wouldn’t have been too much of a stretch to be describing it as a psychotic break of some kind, maybe on the lower end a bell curving that. But, yes, so it was a fluke. I’ve always been interested. I mean, as long as I can remember and through my family as well, this exploration in the direction of what more is out there has always intrigued me. And then one of my coping mechanisms again, without too much detail, led me away from that exploration for quite a few decades. And then, yeah, it’s it’s all of a sudden, things changed and what I heard and we got the disclaimer out of the way early what I heard in that moment was holy bleep.
I’ve been making it all up.
That’s that I remember. So clearly sitting in my bed or lying in my bed just sobbing maniacally. And what ran through my head in that split second was, I’ve been making it up and the world changed.
I could go on about this, but I have this articulation of it that are a view of my life now. That is my life before. And my life after. And without being overly dramatic about it, I feel fairly comfortable saying that, if whatever happened doesn’t happen I don’t, at the very least, I don’t find the relationship that I have now with Julie, whom you met. My guess is my son had shortly after that came to live with me full time. My guess is that if this occurrence, if this, I don’t know what the language is for what I experienced, but if that doesn’t happen, we’re not having this conversation. A lot of things were trending not in a good direction at that point.
So yeah, it was mind blowing how significantly and how effortlessly and easily everything can just suddenly be different than how you’ve known it.
This might be moving away from the question a little bit, but it probably bears saying, in the aftermath of the experience, which lasted for ages, I was on a high for like eight months. It was wonderful. Wow. But yeah, it was significant. But one of the interesting things to be confronted with was the truth of the creation of my own victimhood.
All of a sudden, I had to confront the fact, and I won’t say it as a large F fact, that is a fact for me, that I’ve been making it up. And what does that actually mean? It means that the suffering that I’ve been enduring I made up. And coming to terms with that afterwards was a really steep learning curve, if you will.
To come to a place where I saw with absolute clarity that it wasn’t my relationship or it wasn’t my dad, or wasn’t the money in the bank. It was an all of these things that I have habitually looked towards, for my experience, to be now suddenly confronted with the fact that it has nothing to do with out there. And in fact, the way it looks out there has everything to do with how it looks in here.
So putting these pieces together afterwards was really interesting. And of course, led to, and I suspect this as with many people who have an awakening of some kind, is you double down on it. So for me, that doubling down meant, let’s read everything I can, let’s talk to everything, everyone I can. Let’s interview all of them.
That intellectual pursuit is actually not helpful. So for anyone out there listening to this around the three P world, you’ve got it already. You don’t need to chase it. And in fact chasing it will keep it at arm’s length from you. So save yourself the trouble.
Alexandra: A slight digression here then, one of the things we talk about a lot on this show and what I talk about in my work is unwanted habits.
How did that experience affect your unwanted habits with drugs and alcohol?
Michael: It transformed them. Escaping through drugs and alcohol started if I’m being honest, probably at the age of 15 at the very latest by 18. So it’s decade’s worth. And it stopped. I went from being an addict to not being at an addict.
That’s not to say that I don’t drink. I still do occasionally drink. But my relationship with drugs and alcohol just it just changed. So that’s pretty cool. And it’s pretty cool that it can happen without all the effort that it’s supposed to take. I shouldn’t say supposed to take but that society kind of suggests that it’s hard work, that you’ve got to work at these things that you want to change or to move away move towards what’s wanted from what is unwanted is somehow effort. And one of the big learnings for me, particularly with the addiction piece, is that, no, it doesn’t have to be effort.
There’s an effortlessness that I think is inherent in life and innate to us that once we clue into a little bit, really makes life really opens up the potential to life to be quite enjoyable most of the time, if not really enjoyable all of the time, but yeah we remember and forget.
Alexandra: Exactly. One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you was because of a Facebook post that you made recently.
You talked about living the life we love and loving the life we live. So can you tell us a bit about that?
Michael: Muddy Waters. It’s interesting. As I was reflecting on our conversation, I realized that a lot of what I wrote came in inspiration. It’s not necessarily something I’ve thought about, so I had to go back to the post. Like, what did I actually say here?
Living the life we love and loving the life we live. It speaks for me to a harmony, it speaks to an acceptance of oneself in one’s totality, not just as an individual, but as a participant in life, but also as life. So living the life we love living the life we live stems from the realization, at least for me that all I desire is to be happy, I just desire to be satisfied. And that are not the best of synonyms, but I mean, them synonymously.
So there’s something in acceptance of who you are your role in life, accepting your warts. We all get angry, we all say silly things sometimes. And there’s something about loving the life you live, living the life you love, that allows one to have characteristics within oneself that we might not choose to live from there. Being okay with the fact that we are also that and not having to do anything about them.
And that’s not an excuse to be in a-hole. It’s just that that is there’s an answer. There’s something encompassing about that, that quote from Muddy.
The other big piece of that, for me, anyway, is, again, back to this idea that we’re the creators. So living the life we love, loving the life we live is something that we’re responsible for. And maybe responsible isn’t quite right. We’re the creators of that possibility.
It’s an interesting one. I’ve read the post a few times in anticipation of [this conversation] and I think it’s still a work in progress is the absolute truth for me of what that really means. It flowed through me. I’m still not 100% sure what it means. But there was something that that felt like, yes, of course, this is the way it should be. Yes, of course, this is what we all aspire to.
There’s probably an undercurrent of celebrating the fact that you’re here. Okay, I’m here. That’s pretty big. And if I can realize that I’m here. That’s a pretty cool thing to celebrate. So you’re halfway to living a life you love already just in your acceptance of being here.
And maybe that’s part of accepting yourself in your own time. It, you know that you’re not trying to work on something we’re trying to deny an aspect of you. So that I know that’s a lot of words there. Alexandra, as you can see, I’m still working on it a little bit.
Alexandra: Let’s explore it a little bit further. It’s the opposite of victimhood. You didn’t say it that way just now. But that’s what struck me as well. Let’s look at what if someone’s having a circumstance in their life that they don’t like how could they you talked in the post to about leaning into life?
How can we lean in when things are looking like we don’t want them to look?
Michael: That’s a good question. How can we do it when things are not how we want them to be? Because it’s easy to lean in when things are good.
I’ll just start with this, we’ll see what happens. There’s something in that quote that, to me, speaks of being completely satisfied and eager for more. So leaning into life, again, embracing all that is, but there’s something more nuanced there. It’s about embracing what is minus your story that you’re making up. So fully accepting your existence in partnership with life.
How do you lean in when things aren’t going? That’s a good question. I would say the trap of that is trying to do something in order to, right, so I don’t feel good in this particular moment. Of course, our natural desire is to do something about it, we typically approach that from an intellectual perspective of solving for a problem. Well, I will say from my own experience, once we understand that we’re making up the problem, it’s a lot easier to lean into it, there’s less to do then.
I think the way to begin – and I like how you asked about unwanted – the way to lean towards what is wanted begins with being gentle with oneself. So there’s something when I’m feeling off or away from home or out of center out of alignment, whatever language we want to use there, what is incredibly helpful to lean into is twofold a) the understanding that I am creating that experience and accepting that okay, I’m doing this. That’s a challenging one at times.
And then allowing some gentleness there. So not being too hard on myself when things aren’t looking how I want them to look, which happens. So I would say that the first step I think is to step back from the desire to get in there and metal to try to make it the way you want it to be.
We spoke about Michael Neill before we started. He talks about holding a beach ball underwater. It takes effort to hold a beach ball underwater and we’ll experience resistance and the bigger the ball the deeper we hold it the harder it is to hold it there. So what do we have to do to get back to center to let the ball float is we have to let go and I think the at least from my experience, trusting that letting go was all you needed to do took some time it took practice.
I hate to say that, especially in the 3P world. I don’t mean practice. It took the creation of new habits. It took an intention. It took attention to okay how do I feel right now? This doesn’t feel how I want to feel. What am I going to do about it? The old default the panic or worse, blame everything around you? Well if I can just solve externally everything will be fine.
What do you do? The short answer is nothing.
What do you mean? Anything you try and do is going to likely have the opposite effect, although in a superficial way it might look like moving the blocks externally is going to make a difference. I think I think leaning into life is words like trust come up. Words like appreciation come up acceptance, stuff like that. Allowing comes up. And gentleness that we all have, all of us have years of experience with things working out. Even at their worst, even at the very worst of my experience in my life, I can point to things working.
We have evidence within our own lives that things work out work out when we take our foot off the accelerator a little bit when we stopped trying to do it all. Now, that’s hard to remember when things aren’t going well, that what you really need to do is step away from it.
A practical piece of advice. And this is a bit of a segue, but I keep an appreciation journal. I’m a coach, and I keep an appreciation journal of all the testimonials I’ve ever gotten. And recently, I was kind of like, Ah, man, I don’t know, I’m terrible at this. And my wife Julie looked at me, and she said, have you looked at your appreciation journal recently? And no, I haven’t.
So there’s something about being able to in times of crisis, enable yourself to remember that you’ve come through things like this in the past, and you have a lifetime’s worth of experience to prove that. It’s just being able to see it.
Alexandra: I love what you said about trust, because for me, that was such a big piece of it. My brain was so busy, and working so hard to fix everything all the time that it took a while for me to build that muscle of stepping back.
When something happens, I can trust that this is going to work itself out. There’s a greater intelligence at play.
Michael: It’s challenging to come from ‘everything is broken’ to ‘nothing is ever broken’. To how is my perception in any given moment? And how is my ability to remember those two things?
I like how you put that: it is building the muscle. It’s not something that you’re necessarily trying to do, but it’s helpful to be conscious. Or to be conscientious in your desire to look towards what is preferable to what feels better. And maybe that’s all it is. Maybe the simple answer is just having the ability to look towards something that feels a little tiny bit better, doesn’t have to feel a lot better.
So things are down. I can look out the window, and oh, yeah it’s sunny, maybe that’s enough of a sliver to interrupt that momentum of thought that has us feeling low, when without interruption, like give space for new thinking to come. and then as we allow more space. I’m a big fan of appreciation. So as I appreciate, oh, it’s green out, it’s sunny, it’s and I can it just it feeds a wellness it feeds in a liveness into, and that’s kind of and I might be jumping ahead and our question, but that kind of feels to me where life leans back.
Life leans back at the intersection of, that’s not even an intersection, but life starts to lean back. The more fully you accept how it works and your role in your experience. So it feels to me that the more deeply I make my focus and my commitment to feeling good, not only does it ripple outward to everyone around me, but life seems to reward that.
There’s something intrinsic to the interplay between an actualized or becoming actualized individual and how life rewards that I’m not articulating that quite right. But there’s some kind of a convergence between me at my best. And seeing the fullness of life at its best. It’s almost like in those moments, the separation disappears. So there’s a full immersion not of me as an individual anymore, but me as life, not an aspect of life.
It’s almost like when you lean in with some intention, life leans back and in that coming together, one leaning in, one leaning back, there’s no longer two things. Appearance of distinction or separation kind of vanishes. So that to me is kind of like life leaning back. There’s a, dare I say this, a partnership with God. And I mean, God as in universal energy formulas, whatever language we want to use, but there’s something.
I feel like I don’t know if this is going to be on video or not. But I can feel the energy in my fingers. I think that’s what it feels like when we lean in. And when life leans back, it opens up. What it does is removes barriers. So when life leans back, it’s almost reminds you that it’s trustworthy, that I can lean further. I can keep leaning further, I can keep leaning into what feels really good. And I’m going to keep getting more and more evidence that I should keep leaning and leaning and leaning.
The possibility that becomes available. It is just mind boggling. There’s something quite incredible about what’s possible when you’re no longer a victim of life. But when you’re partnered with and then even further, when you’re no longer partnered with you just are what becomes possible. It’s just amazing.
It’s astounding how it’s really tipped in our favor, if we can see it. It’s really, truly tipped in our favor. And again, maybe that’s what I was trying to articulate with leaning back, that we see that it is tipped in our favor. This has already been very thought provoking. There might be another post in here somewhere like Alexandra. So thanks in advance for that.
Alexandra: Oh, you’re welcome. I tend to like to use the analogy of either treading water, feeling like we have to work really hard to stay on the surface, or when we float learn to float on our backs when we’re learning to swim. And when we learn to float on our back, I remember, as a kid, it was really hard to trust that the water would hold me up, and that it wouldn’t come up over my face. That’s the thing I really remember. Because it does come up quite high. But it always holds you there.
Michael: I like that a lot. And something that popped up for me is there’s a stillness. So when you’re lying back in the water, and the water is like here you have to be still and if you’re not still, the water comes over your face and it ends up in your nose and your mouth and your nose sputtering and you can’t see. So yeah, I like that. That’s cool. I like that. That’s a great metaphor.
Alexandra: You’re completely right.
It’s when we really relax and get completely still. That’s what makes it really easy to float on your back.
Michael: I don’t want to trivialize anyone’s effort or work but it’s when you realize that doing less very often is a good thing. I’ve certainly never found my keys when I’ve been running around like an idiot looking to find them. It’s always when I stopped. Okay, hold on. Oh, there they are or worse, they’re in my pocket or we whatever it is.
When we’re treading water, when we’re trying to stay afloat, when we’re trying to do it’s just it’s so effortful. There’s so much work and the payoff is I mean, it’s a bit of a segue, but I built my gym business with hard work and effort. It’s not how I built my coaching business, let me tell you. I’m going to build anything ever again. So there’s I like that image of the floating something very peaceful about that something very easy and effortless and okay, and gentle.
Alexandra: Say more about the difference between building those two businesses.
Michael: I used to run a martial arts club in the early and mid 2000s. And then in 2006, 2007, I started experimenting with this thing called CrossFit, who brought it into our martial art studio, I brought it into, and then I opened up a boutique gym, we went from there.
The difference was that when I was building the gym, and I mean, it was successful, I got a house. But it took effort. It was hard work, and reflecting back on it now. And when I think about it, it was always at its most successful when I was the least involved.
Now, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t doing things. But my involvement in the things that I was doing was coming from a place of inspiration, rather than a place of necessity or thinking that this had to be done. And every time I fell into ‘I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do that’ is when business lagged and not just that business lag, but my own well-being lagged.
The difference now is that my coaching business is being built from the perspective that I’m actually partnering with God. I’m not doing it on my own. So it’s been effortless. I joke when I started the business unofficially in 2015. In 2015, I was done with the gym, it took me four years to get out. So officially, my coaching business started in 2019. I laugh about it now. I started it on my deck over the summer, sitting in the sun every day. And my reminder when I’m trying too hard at it is to go and sit back up on the deck and lounge and sit and read or be on the computer.
The fundamental difference is that I’m no longer trying to move pieces to give me something to make me happy. Well, I mean, that’s my ultimate goal is just happiness. It’s all about being happy. It’s all about becoming more of who I am. I used to think that I could do that by manipulating the pieces that are external to me. And that just evaporated rather quickly in September, 2015.
The difference is one of effort versus effortles. Trying versus allowing, and seeing that. And I’m not sure this will be quite accurate, but the truer I can be to what I believe I am, the easier the things that I desire appear in my life.
A simple example is this cottage we have now. Julie and I have been talking about this and get a cottage and they are expensive. It’s expensive to buy a cottage. I don’t know, we held it really, really loosely. Didn’t really talk about it for well, probably well over a year. And then actually, this is funny because Julie’s father came to visit when we were out over Christmas, and he says, You know what? We’ve got the guest cottage that we’re renting out. We don’t want to rent it out anymore. We want you to have it.
Michael: So you’re giving us waterfront property? So you asked about how the business building was different. It’s been about allowing a true desire to come through without chasing it. So allowing the expression of what we wanted. We wanted a cottage. How are we going to get it? No idea. No stress about it. No trying, no plan. We held it let it go and it turns out that Julie’s dad was the shortest distance or what we wanted.
The difference was is one of trusting and allowing that that things will work out versus thinking I’m the one who has to do anything. I built the gym and it was successful and I did it. And now the coaching business is growing, it’s successful. And I don’t feel like I did anything.
I’m a participant in this thing that’s coming into creation. I’m a role player. I’m not the one who’s trying to do it to make it happen. So I feel I’ve said this a few times now, though, I feel like the coaching business has grown in partnership with life. Not by me trying to manipulate life. I hope that answers your question.
Alexandra: You mentioned allowing things to happen a couple of times. Does that include some action?
Michael: Yes. It does. The distinction for me is that action, then pre 2015 action was a means to an end. It was something that I thought of that needed to be done. And I did it in the hopes that there would be a particular outcome for me.
Action now, from this place, feels inspired. It feels like the action itself is worth doing, but not because there’s an outcome attached to it, just simply because I can feel that there’s an action that wants to express itself.
I think what has tripped me up in the past was denying this inspired action to express itself. So I get this. Back then it was planned. I got to do this, this, this. And now it’s like, oh, that’s a good idea. Let’s see what happens. The difference there in the action is that action now feels like it’s coming through me that it feels like I’m the expression. I’m the person that supports the expression of the action, rather than the doer of it.
I mean, I am doing it. So this is this might be a good example of the post that I wrote. Well, that was an action. No idea where it came from. Yeah, all of a sudden, I was writing. And I was like, Oh, my God, look what I’ve got. And this is kind of cool. Where did this come from? No idea. But I know that had I not put pen to paper, which is how I first write these things, I would have felt something I would have felt the resistance of the lack of that expression.
Action just feels different. Now it feels like I can tell the difference between Whoo, this feels good. This is juicy. This is coming from more than me thinking, well, I want to get more clients into the gym. So I have to do a B and C. So yeah, it’s an interesting question.
And it’s not something that I that I have fully hashed out yet. It just seems that action just kind of happens now. And I think the key, at least for me, is that and this might capture it, I’m so comfortable. The majority of the time, I am supremely comfortable with who and what I am these days. So action is really easy. It just happens. I think inspired action comes when you’re at home, when you’re in partnership, when you’re centered, when you’re in a state of love or appreciation.
Action is the obvious thing that has to happen. It part of life kind of saying okay, yeah, things are good, awesome. This is what you’re doing next. This is what’s happening next. This is what’s happening next. And the word that comes to mind now is that the difference is that one is contrived in the hopes of. And this as there’s nothing about there’s nothing contrived there is just action for the sake of action. It’s it’s I mean, it’s the cliche of enjoying the journey. I mean cliches have value because they’re often true. But yeah, gosh, I could just go on and on couldn’t I?
Alexandra: The difference I see you use the word contrived. I really liked that because we tend to do things “if I do this, then this, that and the other thing will happen.” I’m doing it for a reason. And what you’re saying is, that’s not the way it is.
Now you just do the thing because it feels good. And it feels like the right thing to do.
Michael: Yeah. It’s almost like I do the thing, because not doing the thing isn’t going to feel good,
Michael: I did this experiment on myself and it was around action. And the thing that I set, the first experiment was call my mom. Now I have a good relationship with my mom, we talk regularly. But I wanted to test this inspired action thing.
So every time the thought came up, call your mom, I would call my mom. And I started to notice that when I didn’t, when I had the thought call your mom, and I didn’t, it didn’t feel good. So the lesson there was that somehow the action that wanted to express itself already knew it was going to feel good in its expression.
Alexandra: I love hearing that you did that experiment because that can be kind of a fun way to go. And going back to what we were saying earlier to learning how to lean into what’s what life has to offer.
Michael: I offer something now, one of the programs I run is called The Joyful Life Project. There are six experiments, all of which came after 2015. And were, in a way, my way of testing the experience that I had. So there’s six of them, they all start with A’s. It’s kind of cool, actually allow I’ve used some of those words. But anyway, I digress.
Alexandra: Oh, that’s great. We’re starting to run out of time.
Is there anything we haven’t touched on that you’d like to share before we wind up?
Michael: So much! No, no, no, no, that’s cheeky, um, for anyone listening, who hears this. There’s a one and 28 trillion odds that you as yourself are here on this planet. And that’s a miracle as far as I’m concerned. And that is worth noticing and paying attention to the like, you’re here.
Depending on how old you were, either sooner or later, you’re not going to be here. And right now you have every capacity, potential, and possibility available to you. If you, gosh, I hate to say this, if you get out of your own way. So I don’t know that that would be my I guess that’s a closer for me you’re a miracle.
Alexandra: I love it. Thank you. Thank you for sharing that.
Michael, where can we find out more about you and your work?
Michael: The easiest is through my website, which is insightbasedcoaching.com There is a rework happening but should be done imminently. Actually, we’re right there. So through the contact pages there, you can also get me on Facebook. Michael Fall. I have a group on Facebook. It’s a private group called the roundtable coaching life in the three principles. And otherwise email at Michael@insigntbasedcoaching.com.
Alexandra: You mentioned The Joyful Life Project. Does that run periodically?
Michael: Yeah, we were we’re getting all the details hashed out. I’ve been running it for young adults, actually, for barrier young adults, which has been really, really interesting. Very cool. So we’re launching this the joyful life project as an eight-week program soon as well, and it’ll run three times a year. Right is the plan for and all the details are on the website as well.
Alexandra: Okay, awesome. Well, thank you so much for being with me here today it’s been great chatting with you again.
Michael: Thank you Alexandra I really appreciate the invite.
Alexandra: My pleasure. Take care.