Well, if we had known that, you wouldn't have been invited.

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 liked it, get the next issue delivered to your inbox.

Thank you for your emails offering your thoughts on The Tyranny Of The Urgent. It’s nice to know that I am not alone when it comes to choosing what is important over what is urgent.

In this issue of Zippy Turtle, we are going to do a deep dive into the connection between the mind and our body. I have been studying this for half a decade, and I am still blown away 🤯 by how our bodies keep score without us even trying.

Read Time: 8 Minutes

“Well, if we had known that you weren’t going to have access to private planes, we may not have invited you to this group.”

My chest tightened.

My ears warmed.

My cheeks flushed.

Shame surged through my body. Manifesting itself in a familiar pattern that had been a trusted companion for decades.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me back up and invite you to the dinner table with me.

I was invited to Carmel, CA, a few years ago. A friend was creating a personal advisory board and invited me to join. I landed in Carmel on a chilly and foggy morning the weekend before Thanksgiving and headed straight to the address given to me.

“Nick!” my friend roared to life. “Welcome to the James House. Did you have any trouble finding it?”

“Not that bad; a few times past the door, and we finally narrowed it down,” I responded.

“Great! let me introduce you to the guys.” I shook hands and said hello to two or three guys, and we went on a tour of the estate.

Toward the end of the 15-minute tour, with ocean views from every room, the caretaker announced, “This house is where Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston had their honeymoon. In fact,” pointing at me, “you are going to be sleeping in the bed that they slept in.”

I found myself having an out-of-body experience. How had I gone from the visiting room of federal prison as a child to sleeping in the same bed that Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston had used from their honeymoon?

Was God mocking my faith at this point? “You want to know if your life is going turn out okay? Try this on for size.”

Oh, ye of little faith. I got you.

The next night, we were sitting around the dinner table, stuffed to the gills and with a couple of drinks in us, when the discussion came up about where this group would meet next. A decision was made, and planning commenced.

Then, a slightly inebriated guest at the end of the table said, “Hey Nick, how much would it be for us to fly on a private plane?”

This is a question that I had learned to answer almost as quickly as I could recite my name.

Being the CEO of a private airline guaranteed invitations to most parties.

It also guaranteed that, at some point, I would be asked for access to one of our planes. It didn’t matter if you were an up-and-coming entrepreneur, a professional athlete, or someone well-versed in private jets; there was often an ask coming soon after we met.

I didn’t blame anyone for this request; PJs were the final frontier of wealth accumulation. The symbol beyond the big house, the Porsche, or a second house in the mountains. It was the reason I was sitting at this table.

And I liked being needed. Many days, I needed to be needed.

However, at this moment, with the ocean crashing against the rocks below and the fire crackling in the fireplace, I wanted to be more than my title.

In this room of new friends, I had hoped that I was more than a guy with access to planes. I wanted to be at this table because of who I am, not because of what I had. I wanted a deeper layer of relationships beyond the transactional layer.

And yet, the truth was, I was at this table because of my accomplishments. And so the inevitable happened on this second night of our time together; I was being asked for access to our planes.

I quickly fell into CEO mode, made the calculations, added 20% to be safe, and announced the amount of the trip.

This one roundtrip flight was significantly more than the cost of our first house and only slightly less than our second.

After announcing the cost that would make most millionaires blush, I waited for the response.

The original inquisitor responded: “We know that is the retail price, but what kind of deal can you get us?”

My chest tightened.

I responded, “Well, if I still had direct access to planes,” I had just sold RISE and was a man currently without a title, “I may be able to get a better deal, but that’s the best I can do.”

I could see the disappointment rise amongst the faces, realizing for even the briefest moment, they had pictured themselves riding high above the plebians suffering on a regular commercial airline.

This was a response that I knew well.

Only this time, from the far end of the table, this man lobbed one final volley.

“Well, if we had known that you weren’t going to have access to private planes, we may not have invited you to this group.”

I was stunned.

It was said in jest by a man who had more alcohol in his system than sense.

He was not a bad man.

He was wielding words that he could not handle, like a toddler running with a knife.

That’s how words often work; they leave our lips, exponentially increasing in power until they land in the heart of the intended recipient.

Several people at the table chuckled. Several other people sat quietly, mouths ajar. And a couple moved on to make alternative plans for our transportation.

Meanwhile, I sat analyzing my fresh wound while my limbic system went into survival mode.

One second later, my ears started to warm, my cheeks began to flush, and my chest tightened.

These telltale signs were my body was telling me that I was feeling shame.

Two seconds later, my cognitive center responded with curiosity, “Wait, why do I feel shame? Oh, I know. Because my identity as a founder and CEO of an airline no longer existed.”

I stood naked, a man without a title, in front of my new friends.

I was embarrassed and ashamed; two of my closest companions for nearly two decades.

The old Nick would not have been aware of the physical senses.

The old Nick would have felt shame, not understood it, and quickly turned into anger.

I’m witty, funny, and quick on my feet; my street smarts had gotten me to where I was, and they were well-honed, tried, and true.

The old Nick would have responded across the table toward my tormentor with some turn of phrase that would have had the whole table laughing but also included a slight dagger to the speaker that he wouldn’t realize at that point was meant to deliver harm.

But at 3 a.m., he would wake up, and it would dawn on him that I was not his friend, did not want good for him, and had put him on notice.

My kingdom was my identity. Stay back!

In this fraction of a moment in time, instead of surviving, I chose to be audacious, and when the third second came, I sat there, not saying a word. I tried intently to remember my thoughts to process them later, practicing meditation by scanning my body and the changes occurring within my limbic system.

So, what does this have to do with business and our personal relationships?

Imagine if you could register the importance of that feeling in your gut before committing to hiring an employee. Imagine the hours and dollars that would’ve been saved trying to amicably part ways after months of micro negotiations that ended up being futile because the hire should have never happened.

Imagine having the ability to recognize in the middle of a critical negotiation with a supplier that all over body energy is actually your body telling you that you are angry, and so instead of lashing out and saying words that you will regret, you ask for a 15-minute break and go for a meditative walk. And when you return, clear-headed and calm, you reach a resolution that serves all parties involved.

Or, more importantly, imagine being on a business trip and realizing that the warmth you’re feeling in your heart for the person you met in the bar an hour ago is not really love but rather the perfect storm of attention sought and met. Filling partially the hole of the loneliness missing in your relationship back home. So you head back to your room by yourself, committing to address your needs directly and honestly. Courageously telling the truth instead of quietly seething inside because you are “doing more than your fair share in this relationship.”

Registering what your body is telling you can be the difference between wild success and peace or abject failure and chaos. It has everything to do with business and every other aspect of your life.

It is order in a world of chaos.

Thankfully, one of the other participants who sat around the table that night in the James House has spent several decades practicing listening intently, asking questions intentionally, and has figured out how to make you feel like you are the only human that matters. I didn’t know him before this encounter, but I would be forever changed by my encounter with him.

The next morning, he and I took a walk to an outcropping of rocks that jutted out into the sea. A path amongst the rocks crossed a small, tired bridge and took us to a slight uphill and the most beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean. We explored the rocks, and we explored my emotions. My new friend shared his own story with truth and vulnerability, and I was moved by how he had found his calling in creating and facilitating experiences that lead to the healing of thousands of humans.

I slowly ventured into unknown territory. “Last night at dinner…”. I revealed my insecurity, my three seconds into terror. He didn’t say many words with his mouth, but he spoke intensely with his eyes and his body; I was welcomed into his metaphorical living room and offered a warm cup of tea and the most comfortable chair in the whole house for my audience of one.

I spoke, and he listened. I said things that I didn’t know were inside of me, and he graciously picked them up and cradled them like precious jewels; what he didn’t say spoke volumes to me.

In that short conversation, he conveyed safety and reflected the truth of my reaction. He helped me process my thoughts, and in doing so, he helped me start to create new neuro pathways in my brain that told me the truth about who I am; my biography is not my identity. I was seen and known in someone else’s mind and heart, allowing me to calm down, heal, and grow.

I have spent the last several years on a journey of reflection, becoming a student of humans, reading copious amounts of research, and speaking with experts while simultaneously doing intentional work with the help of several guides. I have also accumulated over 8,000 hours coaching high-powered leaders as they walk on their journey.

And the thing you need to know is that you cannot walk this journey by yourself. You need a tribe that can truly see you and hear you.

Bessel van der Kolk’s best-selling book, The Body Keeps The Score, concluded, “Social support is not the same as merely being in the presence of others. The critical issue is reciprocity: being truly heard and seen by the people around us, feeling that we are held in someone else’s mind and heart. For our physiology to calm down, heal, and grow, we need a visceral feeling of safety.”

You cannot control your emotions; you can only control your response to your emotions. And the key to controlling your response is to be aware of them at the moment.

The chart below contains the eight basic emotions that every human experiences. I want you to download it and keep it with you as you go about your day. When you feel the reaction to a person or a situation, quickly glance at this chart and name the emotion you are feeling.

Then, keep a log and look for patterns over the course of 30 days. Ask yourself, who triggers you? and what triggers you? What emotion do you feel most frequently? How do they manifest themselves physically?

Every one of your feelings can be categorized into one of these eight emotions. The following three columns give additional descriptions, their gifts, and the senses that happen in our bodies when we feel these emotions.

As an example, see how the senses in shame are “Face/Neck/Upper Chest/Warm/Hot/Red.” Our body can physiologically tell us what is happening before we cognitively understand it. Our emotions are not a bug; they are a feature.

How amazing is that?

The dinner at the James house happened a long time ago, and just this last week, I had an emotion, failed to process it properly, and snapped at a good friend without even pausing to feel what I was feeling.

I confess this to you to remind you that the goal is not to be perfect; even after we learn our lessons, we will still make mistakes. This is a long journey; the goal is to be a better version of ourselves today than we were yesterday.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

Carl Jung

In conclusion

The fraction of a second between the stimuli and our response is the highest level of consciousness. Your capacity to obtain peace is directly related to your ability to be aware of that space in between.

Resources for your journey:

1) Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson

Love him or hate him, Elon Musk knows how to complete what he sets out to accomplish. I found myself aghast throughout the book at the audacity he displayed in his role at Paypal, Tesla, Solar City, SpaceX, and others. This is more of a book on human psychology than it is about business.

2) A reminder for those of you who are working on telling your story:

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

Anne Lamott

3) A podcast episode to remind you of what is important

Bonus because Kate reminds me of one of my favorite humans, my sister, April.

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 Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter, or just 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 (Including the newly published 7-Day Audacity Challenge.)

  4. Group coaching through the Kennedy Leadership Program (Add your name to the waitlist to be notified when enrollment opens for the January 2024 cohort.)

  5. Private coaching as a Platinum Coaching Client.

Talk soon,