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  • Writer's pictureMichael Pietrzak

How to Become Self Aware (Podcast)

What is self-awareness? Why is it important? And how can you develop it?

This is an interview I recorded with Will Penney at the Be Better Stupid podcast. Listen (or read the transcript below) to find out why you're not where you want to be in life, stop struggling, and let go of the fears, beliefs, and habits that are holding you back. Enjoy!

*** Podcast transcript follows ***

Will Penney: Hello, and welcome to the Be Better Stupid podcast, your home for self-help from a helpless idiot. I'm your host, the creator of all content to and your helpless idiot Will Penney.

Today's episode is all about self-awareness. What is that exactly? Why is it important? How can you foster self-awareness in your life? This is important stuff. I mean, think of the people in your life who really lacks self-awareness. Your obnoxious in-law who thinks they're totally fun or your sister's friend who thinks she's telling it like it is, but it's just an asshole of baseless opinions, or the coworker who browse Reddit for nine hours a day, then posts to Pinterest with horseshit hashtags, like work hard, play hard. Think of how insufferable all these people are then consider this.

On some level, you're like kind of also them. And the only way to be less like them is to foster more self-awareness. So to talk about that, I brought in a guy who has studied the hell out of this stuff. Mindset and habits coach Mike Pietrzak. Let's get started. So, my guest today is Mike Pietrzak.

Mike Pietrzak: Thanks Will, I appreciate being here. And you nailed the last name so I appreciate that. My background is, you know what; I kind of started life as a normal person. I guess I still am, but you know, did the whole go to school and get a job thing, and did that on and off for 10 years and had a great career in government, but decided I was pretty unhappy in a lot of ways.

And despite the nice paycheck and the benefits and the security, I really wanted something different. So, I knew I was a writer, so I left my government job to do that for a while and wrote a book for a little bit, you know, connected with good people in publishing. And built a business as an entrepreneur training writers how to improve their work and get published.

And I also realized in 2017 that I just love helping people with their problems one-on-one, so I started coaching after working myself with many, many coaches for years and therapists and all that good stuff. And I still work with coaches to this day, but now I coach other people myself and specifically on mindset and habits, which I think are, you know, mindset being 80% of the battle and growing and improving your life and habits being at 20%. So, now I'm doing this stuff full-time and loving life, and I'm a new dad, so I got a little baby girl at home.

Will Penney: Awesome, great, congratulations.

Mike Pietrzak: Thank you. Thank you, yeah, and a beautiful wife who really supports me, so life is pretty good right now.

Will Penney: Awesome, yeah. So take me through, like, what is coaching someone in mindset and habits look like? Like, how's it starts like, how do you work with people who are off based on where they are in terms of that stuff? Like, tell me about that.

Mike Pietrzak: So, what this coaching looks like is, you know, in part is my writing and I publish a couple of articles a month on Success, Magazine, about how to be a better person, you know, whether that's learning how to improve your charisma or you know, dealing with problems, better, becoming a leader, installing good habits.

I kind of love this stuff. It's kind of my crack, you know, I don't know how I really fell into this, but I guess I saw all right, I can improve myself in little ways. And that really adds up to some massive progress and improvement over time. And, you know, frankly makes you happier too.

And then, the other aspect of coaching is I sit one-on-one, you know, it's all zoom-based now, but I talk to people about their challenges, which is, you know, something as simple as you know, well, I guess nothing is simple, but it's relationship issues. It's how to deal with, you know, letting go of these beliefs with my partner, X was an, messed me up and, or it's like helped me build my business.

You know, I have people I work with that want to become coaches themselves. And so I helped walk them through that process and help them get clients. And you know, it's the whole range of human, messy experiences that I help people with. And I just love doing that in a talk based setting and we apply a lot of tools that come from great people like Tony Robbins and from, you know, Jim Rohn and all the greats.

Will Penney: Awesome. So I guess, I guess I'm also wondering like if somebody has to have a specific mindset, they need to change, like you obviously give them insight, but are there like assignments that you give?

Mike Pietrzak: Yeah. So, I mean, there's extreme value in, in the talk stuff, right? I mean, whether you're in therapy, therapy is more for past stuff, you know, relate to past trauma and in coaching is more for where we're going in the future, you know, how do we hit goals and all that.

But invariably, you're always talking about helping people with their beliefs, essentially their mental beliefs; their limiting beliefs. What do you believe about money or about relationships and helping people just see, you know, I'm a bit of a mirror in some ways you help people to see their blind spots or the beliefs that aren't serving them. Yeah. I'm really in a lot of ways, just a mirror, but then of course, we don't want to just talk about it.

We want to act, right? The action should follow the beliefs and the talking stuff. So yeah, I do give assignments like, all right, let's do a visioning exercise. Where do you see yourself in one year? And in five years, let's write a letter to the parent that died that you're angry at and then go and burn that, you know, simple stuff sometimes, but extremely powerful and effective. And it really depends on who I'm working with, but I collected a lot of great tools over the years. So I tailor the approach to the person.

Will Penney: Awesome. It seems really rudimentary, right, to say like, Oh, like making people kind of like aware of what their beliefs are, but the truth is, I think we often are not aware of what our beliefs are.

Mike Pietrzak: Exactly.

Will Penney: And so, it's useful to just get somebody to just say like, so if you believe X, Y, and Z, that means that what you're really believing is 'A', and that kind of leads us into the greater topic of this, which is self-awareness. I wanted to talk about this because I think self-awareness is kind of pretty foundational to happiness, to basically like any kind of, whatever you want to identify as thriving, any kind of like internal peace.

It just covers all these different areas because it's just... if you know who you are; that's like the first thing you need to know in order to know like how to get better at something or what exactly you need to improve. None of that happens if you don't understand yourself and kind of why you're doing what you're doing and what steps you need to take to improve things, so I think that's really important for sure.

Mike Pietrzak: Well, I hundred percent agree with you and I want to preface this by saying I know people, you know, close people to me, family members who, they're not really pursuing any kind of personal growth, and they claim to be very happy with their life. They're happy just to go to work every day, and spend time with their family and, you know, maybe sleep in on Sunday and that's enough for them. And for some people that's fine.

But I'll tell you, or I'll use an analogy to help kind of illustrate this point. So, imagine you're dropped in the wilderness, you know, you look around you don't know how you got there. You wake up one day, you don't see any signs of civilization, no other people; you see, you know, woods and a stream and a bit of a mountain in the distance. You basically, you have two choices. The first choice that most people make is hunker down and just wait for someone to rescue, right?

Will Penney: Yeah.

Mike Pietrzak: Just, you know, sit around, maybe you're going to build a little makeshift shack and try to survive the winter. Or other people with more of a growth mindset would say, all right, let's figure out how the heck we got here, what it all means, and maybe, you know, what's over the hill, so let's climb the higher ground and go take a look. I kind of think that's what personal growth is all about. And I totally agree with you, like, I personally couldn't be happy to sitting on my ass and like waiting for someone to rescue me. Hope is not a strategy like Tony Robbins says. Let's take control of our lives, and let's like give ourselves permission to keep growing because it's a never ending process.

Will Penney: Yes, absolutely. And I think the people you talked about who aren't necessarily as interested in that process and like you said, like that's fine for them to some degree. I think, you know, not everybody needs to be always looking to improve themselves and all that kind of stuff. I do think that pursuing some kind of self-awareness is more universally important.

Mike Pietrzak: Yeah, I agree.

Will Penney: I think that's something that everybody needs some level of really understanding who they are and it really understanding what they want and really understanding like how they can get it in their life. And even if you're happy with what you have, like, it's, it's beneficial to understand why you're happy with it and how to maintain that, no matter what the scenario finding ways to obtain and hold on to self-awareness is extremely important.

Mike Pietrzak: And I know like everyone has their personal experience, right. And you of course, you watch other people, but you know yourself best. And so in my experience, like I had everything figured out I was 24, right? And I was dating this woman who I was in love with desperately. We were living together, I went to Europe and I was like, you know, at the time looking for wedding rings while she was at home sleeping with her coworker.

So you know, that broke my heart for a couple of years. And it was more painful, I think, because I thought I had everything figured out. I really didn't, you know who does at 24? Even, you know, I'm 38 now and I still don't have hardly anything figured out. But you know, you learn things and you start to pick up more resilience and you start to grow in a lot of ways.

You know, letting go is a big piece to growth. And you did become happy. Like, I was freaking miserable after that breakup. And it was because I didn't have a very good sense of who I was. I would define myself by that relationship. And so when I lost it, it was extremely devastating. I think, you know, by comparison, I lost my dad last month, and it was, you know, there was a lot more acceptance involved.

You know, he was sick for a long time and he had a good full life, but it was much less devastating to me than like losing my mom even, six years before that. So, you know, this personal growth stuff, yeah it is. One of the things you can really do is to try and be teachable and the idea that... we're born this way actually. As kids, we don't know hardly anything. And we look to everybody else to learn, right.

I have this 10 month old daughter right now, and it's just amazing to watch her. I watch her hours, like learn how to just, you know, stand up against the couch or like crawl across the room. And unfortunately, by 14 we kind of know everything already, right?

Will Penney: Yeah, totally.

Mike Pietrzak: You know, we get knocked down by life, it's inevitable, all the way into adulthood, but we still kind of think we know how the world works. We develop these, these archetypes or these schemas that say, all right, this is how the world works. And you can tell yourself either, you know, it's a terrible place or it's a wonderful place, but really the key is just be teachable because you're going to learn. You're going to learn something from anybody you meet everybody is your teacher.

Will Penney: Yeah. That leads us perfectly into the next section.

Mike Pietrzak: Yeah. So, I mean, like I said, like you know, reality is often a lot different than what we think it is. You know, everyone thinks they know what the world is like. We feel like our emotions are perfect messengers of telling us how the world is. They're not. Like, emotions are not reality, so unfortunately it's why we suffer sometimes; we give situations meaning. You know, my girlfriend dumped me. "It means it's the end of the world. It means, I think I'll never find someone again. It means I'm useless." That's why we suffer. So, being teachable is kind of the antidote to that, keeps us in this thing called beginner's mindset.

Will Penney: Yes. I was just going to say, like, I mean, I think what I was trying to get at with your experience with the breakup versus the passing of your father; I think really key to being teachable is going into, I guess, everything in life with humility. You go into assuming that you're wrong about things, assuming that you don't know about things, assuming that, you know, this could go this way or this way. I don't really know. But, the only thing I do know is that I'm going to find a way to respond to whatever it is. I think it starts really crucially with that humility that you have going, going into any experience in life.

Mike Pietrzak: Yeah. Humility is an excellent, excellent concept here. And actually after the breakup, that was like my buzzword for a while is, you know, be humble. Because I got knocked down so hard and so fast... this was 20 years ago, but I still remember it vividly and all that. I just remember telling people that, yeah, humility is so important. And I think a lot of people see humility as a kind of negative thing. We see someone who's humble as being like that kind of a submissive person, like that peasant that's coming to the Lord of the castle... you're humble.

Will Penney: Especially in the self-improvement world, I think...

Mike Pietrzak: We hold these people up as gurus, right, the people in the field, but really, like, I know, from my personal, I know, I see inside my own world, I'm messed up too. I've got all these problems and challenges and nobody has it figured out, absolutely. So if you're humble, it simply means knowing that there's a lot you don't know. Right. That there's actually a really good quote by Richard Feynman, "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool," right?

Will Penney: Yeah.

Mike Pietrzak: So, humility is in a way just not fooling yourself, you know, realizing that, hey, I've got tons to learn. And so, if I can keep learning from people; that's how you improve, right.

Will Penney: Yeah, absolutely. We're kind of basing this podcast off of a piece that's kind of like your kind of guide to self-awareness.

Mike Pietrzak: Oh, yeah.

Will Penney: And you talk about both internal and external self-Awareness; talk about like the differences between those and how they're kind of fostered differently.

Mike Pietrzak: In order to write that, I did a lot of research about like, what does the science say? Scientists kind of break these into internal and external awareness. And the internal is just what it sounds like. It's like it's a vast, neverending landscape inside of us. It's, you know, called a subconscious, whatever you want to call it, but it's our values. It's our passions. Like, what gets you excited? What are your likes and dislikes, you know?

Knowing your strengths and your weaknesses; these are really the components of internal self-awareness. It can also mean like being physically aware of your body, right. Emotional, it comes from like energy in motion. So when you feel a burning in your chest, what is that? Can we give it a label because that can help you to understand what's going on inside yourself and then you can kind of handle it better. You can handle anger better. You can handle sadness better. And that's really like internal self-awareness is correlated to self-acceptance as well. There's external awareness too, which is, you know, I personally think is less important, but still very important.

Will Penney: I agree. Yeah, I agree on both accounts.

Mike Pietrzak: I think the research kind of finds out when I was more like seeing the outside reality clearly, like how do people view you? Can you read their body language and their cues? But I think it's also like being honest with yourself in how you're interacting with the world, so they're both important.

Will Penney: The higher priority is on internal self-awareness. I mean, think that's kind of the key to feeling pride and contented with yourself which is kind of the opposite of everything else. Because without knowledge of what your core values are and what you're going for, you can't really like, you can't like feel better because you can't... and you can't make your life better because you're building a house on a weak foundation essentially.

Mike Pietrzak: Yeah, you got it.

Will Penney: I mean, the world in general is really murky and it's really... like we were just saying, it's full of things that you don't really know, and that that's just kind of reality. So, the best thing that you can do is try to get as crystal clear as you can, and you can only get so clear, but get as clear as you can on exactly who you are. And I think that's more than anything, just something that has to be a priority for people

Mike Pietrzak: It's not easy, and I've been delving into a little bit of Carl Jung last year, famous psychologist or psychiatrist, I guess. And he did a lot of work on subconscious, you know, like what's living in your brain, which, you know, your subconscious mind and some people say is like 90% of your mental activity, which is by definition we can't access it. It's subconscious. We can help tease things out of it into the consciousness, but there's a vast world; it's fascinating to me.

Will Penney: The truth is, yes, like you said, like a lot of what's going on in your head is subconscious and that's really hard to access. But, a lot of our actions are based off of those subconscious feelings and thoughts that we're having. And other people can see those and other people can identify those better than we can a lot of the time. And that's why that's so important to kind of talk to people about who you are, and of course, do likewise with them.

But like, that's so crucial to fostering self-Awareness just to be like... like you said earlier, like how you're a mirror for people. You showed people who they are by reflecting exactly what they've said, back to them. But then, I guess when you hear it from an outside source, your subconscious is like shooting these things out into the world, but you need something to bounce back at you to bounce those things back at you in order to be like, "Oh, I did that; that's what that means." So, that's really the importance of talking to people like you.

Mike Pietrzak: Well, I think everyone is a mirror to you; everyone is a mirror to everyone else, whether you know it consciously or not. In coaching, you know, the coach's job is in part to do that actively, to become a mirror actively. But I mean, every time you run into someone, there's all kinds of data coming at you in the form body language, and how far they're standing from you, et cetera, which is great because we all have those blind spots.

You know, I heard this amazingly hilarious thing that... everyone has this one thing that people talk about when you leave the room. I'm still trying to get people to tell me what mine is, but we know this, right? Like, you know, I have one friend, he talks a lot and everyone knows that he talks a lot and people kind of know that and joke about it.

But I don't think he knows that. He maybe does, but we're not sure. I've got that thing too somewhere in there. I don't know what it is. My wife won't even tell me, but anyway, you know, it's like, let's try to uncover those things and then we can develop even better problems.

Will Penney: Yeah, absolutely. What is the significance to you of the phrase "What if the opposite were true".

Mike Pietrzak: That's a good check-in with yourself.

Will Penney: Yeah.

Mike Pietrzak: I think it probably breaks your brain in the very best way. It's a great way to kind of exercise. Well, actually to avoid groupthink. You know, there's this concept of groupthink where we're raised in a family, a tribe, a society, or with a political party, and we kind of pick up what they're telling us and we start to think of like, right.

Like, one of the most driving human needs is to be accepted in a group. This is how we survived in the caveman days, was being in a tribe. You couldn't survive in the wild on your own, it was really hard anyway. So, you know, one of the two fears we're born with, there's loud noises; I believe it is, and the other one is being kicked out of the group. So, we exercise what's called the groupthink.

And you know, I think probably asking what if the opposite were true breaks that groupthink. And I think, you know we're talking in Greek philosophers here. Another quote I love is from Aristotle, "It's the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it".

Will Penney: Yeah, absolutely.

Mike Pietrzak: A lot of people are afraid of thinking things. You know, I remember when I was single I lived with this friend of mine. We came home from the bar and we're both drinking a little bit. And I'm there on the computer; I'm researching Scientology because I just didn't know. I mean, you hear a lot about it, especially, you know, years ago. I didn't know what the first premise of it. And then he went into the bathroom and it's very loud in there and you can hear everything, it's an echo chamber.

Will Penney: Was he a Scientologist, was that why...?

Mike Pietrzak: No, no. I have no idea why I was going down the rabbit hole.

Will Penney: Was it the thought in your head?

Mike Pietrzak: A late Friday night rabbit hole. But I heard him in the bathroom talking to himself. He said sarcastically, "Yeah, let's get drunk and join a cult". And I'm like, "Well, man, you know", to research this or anything, it doesn't mean you're going to start adopting its tenets or something like that. You can entertain that thought, so you know, I guess asking “what if the opposite were true” is a form of doing that, it's holding an idea without adopting it. And people are scared to do that, but it's so valuable.

Will Penney: Yeah, it absolutely is. I think it's just good for your brain, if nothing else. I mean, like you said, it breaks your brain in a positive way where you're able to kind of see the world through a new lense, because if you can think about stuff well enough, like you can convince yourself, like you can convince yourself that any kind of reality is true basically. And again, like you said, it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to like adopt that as like your new form of thought, but that's good because it helps you think in a new way.

And it's also good because it helps you to get a perspective from other people in a new way. Maybe that evening you understood like why people join Scientology. And maybe even though you're probably not ever going to, like, you can understand like, okay, well, if I ever talked to somebody like this, whether it's Scientology or something else, like I would understand more of where they're coming from. And I think that helps a lot with relating to people and it helps a lot with, I think the external self-awareness that we were talking about.

So I guess a lot, a lot of what we're talking about here, a lot of what, obviously you kind of have an expertise in a way is just changing your habits. Yeah, because like you ultimately, you are what you do true. And in terms of self-awareness, like how you see yourself is going to therefore be drastically impacted by what you do. And so, I think that's really important to know going into this kind of journey towards being more self-aware

Mike Pietrzak: Yes, there is an amazing quote; I'm just trying to find it here in my Evernote. It goes "How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives". What we do at this hour and that one is what we are doing. It goes on, so basically it's like, yeah, what you do now stacks up to become your life. So if you don't change where you're going, you're actually might end up getting there, which you will not be happy with that.

Will Penney: Yeah, mindfulness inevitably comes up when we talk about stuff in terms of self-awareness and I think that's... I've always been at the belief that mindfulness is very important and I'm completely on board with it, but I also think it's kind of a first step because mindfulness gets you to like a level of awareness, but unless you can, like... that's only so beneficial unless you can apply that awareness to like the actual way you're living.

Like if you just realize like all these things that are true about myself and then you just do nothing to fix them or nothing to improve upon them, then I mean, it makes you feel better in the moment, but otherwise it doesn't have that much of a positive long-term effect. And so, I think the Holy Grail is kind of like, I kind of referred to it as, as living consciously, where it's like you're applying your mindfulness and you're applying what you discover about yourself to everyday life.

Mike Pietrzak: It's one of these things I call a foundational habit, you know, I think there are basically four. But mindfulness is one, and it's simply just, all it means is just paying attention in another way to say that. You know, a lot of people are walking through life on autopilot. And especially, you know, with their thoughts, there's this term call the "monkey mind" where your mind is just endlessly chattering.

And you know what; I hate to break is everybody, but that never ever stops. Even then masters up in the caves and Tibet, their mind is still going all the time. And the point of becoming mindful is not to shut off those thoughts. The point is to be aware of them and to see that they're not reality. Our thoughts are not reality. Our thoughts can create a reality, but that's why it's so important to be able to like program our own thoughts into our mind, choose which thoughts we're using.

When I was 19, I think I read a book about meditation and I've been meditating almost every weekday for the last well, 20 years, I guess, and it's had massive benefits in my life. That's why I call it a foundational habit, because when you're more mindful, you're less angry. You're more focused on your work. You're more efficient time-wise. You're better in relationships. You're better at sex, right, you know, if you're more mindful. It's the benefits spill over to all these other areas of your life, so that's such an important one for me to know yourself.

Will Penney: Yeah. And I mean, you talk about like the kind of four basics of looking inside. Let's go through those one by one and why didn't matter? What would you say is the first one?

Mike Pietrzak: Well, I would call it that mindfulness or you know, the physical habit is meditation for me. Now, that scares some people who've never done it. I know there's a lot of talk about what it is and what it isn't, but essentially it's just paying attention.

Another foundational habit is journaling, and I'm a writer, so I'm biased, I've chosen journaling. But for me, that's like a daily habit as well. I actually wrote three pages a day for two years in a row once. I had like nine notebooks stacked up, maybe more. And for me, that's just a way to organize your thoughts. You know, every morning I would sit down and write for 30 minutes or so.

And it gets all the garbage out of your head, you know, that monkey mind chatter, you get it on the page, you can see it clearly, you can organize it, and then if you write the same bullshit for like a few days in a row, you can't not change your activity. You got to do something to change your complaints.

Will Penney: Yeah.

Mike Pietrzak: Yeah, so I would say for me, like another foundational habit is physical activity, and that can be just walking. Walking is a writer's best friend they say, because when you're walking... and by the way, not checking your phone and walking, not listening to a podcast and walking, but just walking, you know? And when you move your body like that, your mind starts to move in different way as well, and you start to be able to kind of watch your thoughts.

Walking itself is a mindfulness practice, but you watch your thoughts, you can hear what your heart has to say to you because that's important or your guts. It's a physical exercise, you know, like lifting weights or running or things like; that's another doorway to, to mindfulness. And it's a foundational habit because when you're healthy, you've got more energy, you've got more vitality, and that provides so many benefits in every area of your life.

And then, I would say the last one for me is solitude. And this was such a disrespected practice in our society because there's so many distractions and there's a premium placed on getting shit done, but solitude is a productivity habit. If you can't find some quiet time in your life, real life is really... I'm sorry for you. I feel sorry for you because you need quiet to hear your subconscious, to hear your heart, to know what is your purpose in life, to process the day, and this can be just lying in bed at night and thinking, you know, that is solitude.

But it could be, you know, go into the woods, go for a walk. Like nature is an excellent place to find solitude because no distractions and there's a good vibes around you and inspiring scenery. So yeah, those are the four mindfulness journaling, you know, physical activity and solitude. Those are really foundational habits for me that provide benefits in all areas of your life.

Will Penney: Yeah. And I think, I mean, when you talked about hanging out with your friends and of course, you know, all the requisite disclaimers about COVID and all kind of stuff, but I also think it's important to like, look at how you're spending your time with your friends and what that's providing for you.

I've been experiences with friends, where like, we go over there and everybody just looks at their phone while the TV's on in the background for three hours, and then somebody leaves. Like, where it's just like, this brought nothing to anybody's life. This was just having another person, like another like beating heart eight feet away from you.

Mike Pietrzak: Beating in the same room.

Will Penney: Yeah, like this did nothing. I think it's important to look at what you're getting at out of these situations and not necessarily to like, if you're not getting anything, like, fuck those people, but to actively look to create better self-awareness and create all these positive aspects that you can have of interacting with people. And I think that's good to consciously look for when you're going into any kind of social interaction.

Mike Pietrzak: Jim Rohn, you know, the self-help legend who passed away recently, I think it was recently. He had the saying that you are the average of the five people you hang out with the most.

Will Penney: Yeah.

Mike Pietrzak: And I love that because it's so true. If you want to become rich and you're hanging out with broke people all the time, you're in for a disappointment, right?

Will Penney: Yeah.

Mike Pietrzak: If you're hanging out with people that you've known since grade school and all they do is sit around and watch TV; you're going to be a person who watches TV. So, look, I've got friends that I've known since first day of junior kindergarten, you know, first from around the world, from first day of high school, from college you know, from work, from et cetera. They're all part of my life to some degree, but I'm trying, and I'm getting better at this.

I'm trying to spend time with people who really challenge me and who maybe are ideally better than me in some ways, and a lot of ways. You know, maybe they make more money, they're more happy, their relationships are better, you know, people that are better at... you know, email marketing.

I'm trying to associate with some of these people, because I know it's going to rub off on me. People rub off on you and look, it's not to say you can't, you have to stop hanging out with those other people, but just be aware of what you're going to become if you hang out with certain people.

Will Penney: What are the basics of, and what do you kind of mean by making friends with yourself?

Mike Pietrzak: So I went to see Tony Robbins at “Unleash The Power Within” San Jose, 2017. I think it was 16, 17. And Tony's there and he asks everyone on day one, "How many people of you in the audience..." it was 10,000 people there, "How many people think you're not enough? You're not good enough?" Well, 95% of hands shot up. And these people have paid, like, I think it was 800 bucks for the ticket. Some people have flown in, their Airbnb to stay here, and they're mostly like, well, a lot of them are successful people.

They are CEOs, some of them are billionaires in this certain audience, and still 95% of people think they're like a piece of shit. So, that kind of... that's very instructive and it illustrates a lot about how many people are not friends with themselves.

So I think part of the problem, the reason that happens is we're comparing ourselves to others. Like, we look at Instagram as the usual suspect here that, you know, we're looking at Instagram and, oh, everyone's a prettier than me, smarter, more successful, more intelligent than me.

It's not true. And even if it were true, it doesn't matter, whatsoever. It's you're only in a race with yourself. If you can become better than yourself, boom, that's how you grow. You don't grow by comparing yourself to other people; you really don't.

Will Penney: I completely agree. To want success because somebody else has, it makes no sense at all. To feel worse about yourself because somebody else is successful as if like that's the first time you were made aware that a person can be successful. That doesn't make any sense. And of course, there's also the element that you talked about Instagram of just like, you're essentially, you know, what Instagram is for a large swath of the population is... they're like advertisement of themselves.

You're essentially comparing yourself to a commercial, whether it's comparing to somebody who's heavily filtered photo or somebody who's... like, there are influencers who post next to cars that they're renting, or just a car that they saw in the street and they act like they own it, and then like, just to feel like shit about that. It's a bullshit factory, absolutely. I was just talking all kinds of about how dumb it is that we compare ourselves. I also think it's extremely natural for us to do it. That's a primal instinctual thing that's happening.

Mike Pietrzak: We're social creatures.

Will Penney: Yeah. I just think the only way to really combat that is just kind of like, it's like reminding yourself, first of all, that like a lot of your comparisons are bullshit. They're based off of you know, comparisons to things that you think people are rather than what they actually are. And also, you have to just kind of keep hammering this idea into yourself that like, "I'm on my own path, what's happening with them doesn't matter." And I don't know of any other way to just really get off that path, because like we said, it's very instinctual, but...

Mike Pietrzak: Yeah, there's a simple, simple technique I have. And, you know, I tell this as a story. So, back in the times of the Roman Empire, these conquering generals would return home and they'd have all these people following around. But one person in particular would follow them around, and their job was just to whisper in their ear, "Memento Mori", which in Latin means, "remember that you will die" or something like that.

So, you know, it's actually such a simple but powerful process, "remember that you will die." When you're on your deathbed, you think you're going to give a shit what Susan thought about your lifestyle, or Chris thought about how much money you make? Like, honestly, you're not. No, you're not going to remember that stuff.

If you want to laugh, like, look at your old journals and what you were concerned about at the time. And I'm lucky to have journals going back to when I was like 22, I think. And I look at that stuff and I'm like, "Oh my gosh, I forgot that I dated her." I was so like, concerned about whatever the high school drama was happening at that time, and it doesn't matter. It really doesn't.

And then the next thing you can do… okay, sure, remember you're going to die. Also remember, not only that, but like everyone you know will die and the human race will probably die as well, and the sun will supernova in a couple of billion years. And we've also only just got here, and the universe has been doing this thing for 13.7 billion years and the planet is like 4 point something billion years old. It's not a big deal. There's nothing you can do or not do that really matters that much.

Yes, the world is wonderful and important and valuable while we're here, but if you kind of remember all that stuff in the back of your mind or in the front of your mind, even better; you start to realize that it doesn't matter what your family thinks about your religious beliefs or the things you're doing that they care you're quitting this good stable job; it doesn't matter. You're going to care at the end of your life when you look back and say, "Shit, I wish I had done what I wanted to do." So remember that you're dying, memento mori, that's the best advice I can give you.

Will Penney: It's like this, like strategically enforced indifference, which is like, it's tough because there are certain things that are good to care about in life, and if you applied that to everything, you just be like, well, why even put the work in because I guess I'm going to die someday. So, it's a really good tool that you need to use at like very kind of strategic times.

Like, when something is having a debilitating impact on you and you know internally like this shouldn't actually matter, but why am I making it matter as much in my head? That's what I think, like, you kind of break out of like, okay, well, the universe is going to explode.

Mike Pietrzak: And it's not like we throw our hands up where we could become nihilists and we don't believe in anything. It's just that we realize all the beliefs and opinions of others shouldn't matter. You can absolutely look at others, see what they're doing with curiosity; you can compare yourself, just don't compare yourself in a way that influences you unduly. Be the captain of your own ship. Don't look to have someone else managing your life.

Will Penney: Awesome. So here's my final word. I think maybe the ultimate form of self-awareness is not in studying this past set-in-stone idea of yourself and breaking down what exactly that is, and being able to identify it perfectly. The more you try to do that, the more time it will take, and the more that version of you will become outdated and inaccurate anyway. The reality is that you are ever changing, and the best way to understand that and where that change is going and therefore to know your current self, in my estimation is to harken back to a point that Mike and I discussed earlier in this episode about humility.

Humility is crucial in knowing yourself because when we get locked into an idea of who we are, and we think that that that is self-awareness, we attach our ego to that version of ourselves. We tell ourselves that this is the way to be, because now we can. If that's who we're going to be forever, then we can get as secure as we want in that person and we can convince ourselves that that person is awesome.

The problem is that attaching ourselves to this idea of ourselves is total horseshit. I mean, you change all the time. And the only way to actually be self-aware is to be in tune with who you are right now. And the only way to be in touch with who you are right now is to be eternally humble, to be open to the change, to be open to the fact that you're constantly changing, because you're not so obsessed with any idea of who you are.

And this all brings me back to one of Mike's main points in developing self-awareness "being teachable". You as an entity exist within reality, and the best version of you exists within the most clear, real objective reality.

In other words, the version of you that can live within and respond to everything that's actually happening in the world is the one that's going to thrive in every way. This is the ideal version of you. And you can create this by being open to who you are in the context of all of that, all of that actual reality.

So all of that to say, this remain teachable and humble. Remain open to change, open to the parts of you that live in your subconscious, that you don't see right away. This is the key to understanding who you are and what you really are by being open to and admitting that maybe you don't know that right now, but you'd like to figure it out.

Mike Pietrzak: If anyone wants to kind of read more or learn more, they can go to a and just type in "why self-awareness is important, how to develop it". That's a mouthful, but you know, I wrote a pretty long form article on this, and there was really good feedback with comments. So, you know, if you want to go deeper, there's some stuff there.

And then you can find me on Twitter. And if you want to book a consultation with me, I'll, we'll do a free hour. I'll do a free hour with everybody that wants one and I'll coach you.

Will Penney: Awesome. Awesome. Thank you so much.

Mike Pietrzak: Thank you, Will.

Will Penney: Really appreciate it.

Will Penney: So that is our show. Make sure to leave a nice rating and a review. And if you'd like any advice, make sure to reach out to me by DM-ing me on Instagram at Be better Stupid, or emailing me at

Also be sure to sign up for my email list, you can get a free ebook out of it, and you can find a link for where to do that in the show notes. And if you like this song, you're listening to it's called Yon by Nick Dorian, make sure to check it out. And for Mike Pietrzak, I'm Will Penney reminding you to be better stupid.

Ready to become more self-aware? Book a free 1-hr coaching deep dive with me.
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