Johnny Cash Was Wrong

Zippy Turtle is a newsletter by Nick Kennedy, offering practical tools to overthrow the dictator in your mind so you can live an audacious life. If you were forwarded this email and you like it, get the next issue delivered to your inbox.

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In this issue of Zippy Turtle, I am going to teach you the STEAP method that I created for my clients. In 5 minutes, you will learn a tool that you can use for the rest of your life in your business and personal life.

Read Time: 5 Minutes

Johnny Cash Was Wrong

Three months after I entered the world, I learned how to sleep through the night.

When I became CEO, I forgot how to sleep through the night.

Tossing and turning, grasping for my phone, and popping Excedrin PM like tic tacs to get a couple of hours of sleep before I woke up in a cold sweat worrying about payroll, investors, or the need to fire an employee.

Not every night was like this.

Most were.

I don’t care what Johhny Cash says; the worst blues don’t come from the Folsom County Prison. They come from between your ears.

And they often start at 3 a.m.

Prison has nothing on my ability to replay a conversation that may or may not have happened in my mind. Over and over. And over.

It gets worse with each retelling.

And I am not just talking about Nick before he did “the work.” I am talking about this week, Nick.

It happened this morning as I sat down to write this essay. “What could you possibly have to say that is of any value? Another story about when you were the CEO? Please spare us.”

I named this voice DJ Richard.

He is the DJ of a playlist that is the perfect mix of the classics sprinkled with some new hits. One song, a classic rock tune, reminds me of a news article written about me and how great I am (was). The next song, a rap song, tries to convince me to stop writing and watch a movie. The third, a reggae banger, reminds me of that stupid thing I said to the person I love dearly.

Richard plays song after song. Day after day.

My neuropathways are engrained deeper than the Chunnel. Well-worn, unflinching, harassing me, and vacillating between self-aggrandizement and self-loathing. And on and on.

The playlist is loud and consistent.

I wanted to stay in bed. But I know where that leads. And I am not a fan of that outcome. So I ask myself, what would I tell my clients?

Ahh. Now I know.

I would tell them that a bias toward action is a habit worth cultivating. 

That perfection is used more as an excuse than a goal. 

And, when something is good enough, it is good enough. 

I would tell them that, and they would listen to me, and their lives would improve. And so I gulped a dose of my own medicine and got out of bed.

So here I am. Writing in the dark. Excavating truth for you and me.

Constructing a time-traveling machine. By taking ideas out of my mind this cold March morning and offering them to you, dear reader, wherever and whenever you happen to be reading this.

DJ Richard is muted at this moment.

Hello, this is 911. What is your emergency?

Most new clients call me when they are at the corner of, “I think everything is about to blow up” and “Everything has blown up.”

They are often searching for an identity.

Who are they apart from their title?

So, we begin the life-giving exercise of uncovering an identity that can be their true north. It is often a long journey and one that they will continue till they take their last breath.

When we have a session together, we carefully carve new truths into their neuropathways by applying the STEAP method:

1) Process The Situation

We create a space to get the story out of their mind and into the real world. This allows us to process the cognitive dissonance that is in their mind by naming the situation verbally.

This first step is used to shake the sleeping self.

2) The Story I Am Telling Myself

Have you ever found yourself saying, “Now that I said this out loud, it sounds stupid”?

The reason for this is that the voice in our mind has three main characteristics: it is unkind, it is inaccurate, and it is loud.

Verbalizing your thoughts to a safe person removes the sting because it shines truth on a lie.

3) My Emotion Is

Naming your emotions grounds you and gives you space to process and understand what is happening in your mind and body.

Each of the eight basic emotions has a gift to give. But you only get to enjoy the gift if you can name the emotion you are feeling.

When you know your emotions, you can take agency over the situation. This allows you to control the narrative instead of the narrative controlling you.

The graph below shows the emotions, their gifts, and how they manifest in your body.

4) The Action Is

Remember when I told you that I forced myself out of bed this morning? That was me physically moving into a different situation. I moved my body first, and then my mind followed.

I took a simple action and changed my trajectory.

Having a bias toward action is one of the best habits that you can implement in your life. It gives you the gift of reframing your situation.

My clients have already taken action by hiring me. I have done the same by hiring a coach for myself. If you can’t afford to hire a coach, ask a friend to help you.

Whatever you do, remember that a bias toward action is a habit worth cultivating. 

5) The Plan Is

Once we get to step five, all we have to do is figure out how to move forward with this newly excavated truth. If you have told the truth in the previous four steps, this is easy because the plan often reveals itself to you.


After every session, I give my clients homework. I do this so they can integrate their new learning into their life. This is the beginning step of beating back thousands of years of evolution, whispering, “Get back in the cave; it’s dangerous out there.”

Our goal is not survival; our goal is audacity.

In Conclusion

Debating in your mind instead of actually making a decision is the main reason people fail to reach their potential. This is true whether you are a college student, an out-of-work manager, or a CEO.

There are 80-year-olds who are still debating what to do with their lives. Don’t be like them. Make a decision today and move forward. 

That’s the beauty of the game. You don’t get to be wrong until the end.

When my mind isn’t playing prison guard, it can be benevolent, full of vigor, and barely contained. And then, it can become audaciously creative.

Our bodies don’t lie, but our minds do.

The STEAP Method is the framework that can free you from the prison in your mind. Use it generously in your own life and in the lives of those you care about

Resources for your journey:

1) A book to read to help you understand the connection between your emotions and your physiology:

In The Body Keeps The Score, Bessel Van Der Kolk, who spent 30 years researching the connection between our emotions and physiology, describes the complex and beautiful way that our bodies are directly connected to our emotions. Among other things that came out of the landmark study, Van Der Kolk clearly articulates how our bodies have the capability to tell us what we feel before we even know it.

Van Der Kolk writes:

“The central function of the amygdala, which I call the brain’s smoke detector, is to identify whether incoming input is relevant for our survival… If the amygdala senses a threat — a potential collision with an oncoming vehicle, a person on the street who looks threatening — it sends an instant message down to the hypothalamus and the brain stem…By the time we realize what is happening, our body may already be on the move… This system reaches down below the diaphragm to the stomach, kidneys, and intestines and drastically reduces metabolism throughout the body. Heart rate plunges (we feel our heart “drop”), we can’t breathe, and our gut stops working or empties (literally “scaring the s**t out of” us). This is the point at which we disengage, collapse, and freeze.”

2) A podcast episode discussing the power of creativity in our life through the lense of one my favorite authors, Wendell Berry:

Nick Offerman - Working with Wood, and the Meaning of Life

My favorite quote so far:

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

Wendell Berry

3) A challenging piece of writing from Steven Pressfield:

Reminder: Sharing Is Caring

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As a thank you, the reader with the highest number of referrers for the month will get to choose one of the following:

  • One-hour coaching session with Nick

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I provide audacious coaching for courageous leaders. When you are ready, there are five ways I can help you grow:

  1. Connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter, or just hit reply to this email if you have questions or want to continue the discussion.

  2. Check out Nick’s Good Books for a free list of books to help you create a new lens in your life.

  3. Online courses through The Good Entrepreneur Institute (Releasing six new courses in 2023, including the 7-Day Audacity Challenge.)

  4. Group coaching through the Kennedy Leadership Program (Full, but please add your name to the waitlist to be notified when enrollment opens again.)

  5. Private coaching as a Platinum Coaching Client (Full, but add your name to the waitlist to be notified of openings in the future.)

Talk soon,