Dr. Kelly Flanagan Thinks You Are Loveable: Embracing What Is Truest about You, So You Can Truly Embrace Your Life | PoP 359

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Dr. Kelly Flanagan Thinks You Are Loveable: Embracing What Is Truest about You, So You Can Truly Embrace Your Life

Do you ever experience feelings of self-doubt? Are you feeling out of touch with your true self? Do you make time for your passions and things that light you up?

In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks with Dr. Kelly Flanagan about egos, what we do to build it up, how to break through it and the things that stand in the way of us loving ourselves.

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Meet Dr. Kelly Flanagan

Dr. Kelly Flanagan is an author, speaker, podcaster, licensed clinical psychologist, and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He blogs regularly at drkellyflanagan.com. His writing has been featured in Reader’s Digest, and he has appeared on the TODAY Show and in The Huffington Post. 

Find out more about Dr. Kelly on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

Dr. Kelly Flanagan’s Story

In 2017, Kelly published Loveable: Embracing What Is Truest About You, So You Can Truly Embrace Your Lifeand it debuted as the #1 New Release in Interpersonal Relations on Amazon. He is the host of The Loveable Podcast. Kelly is married to another clinical psychologist named Kelly, and they have three children who are in the ninth, fifth, and third grades.

In This Podcast


In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks with Dr. Kelly Flanagan about embracing what is truest about you, so you can truly embrace your life.

True Self

The way I see it we all come into this world with a true self. It’s good enough, it’s sufficient, it’s worthy of love and belonging. But at some point we all begin to doubt that.

Shame eventually starts to creep in and this is the message that your true self is not good enough. Because of this, you then start to build a false self.

The Ego Castle

Our false self or our egos are like a castle, and our true self resides hidden away, protected within this courtyard of the ego castle.

Over the course of life we add 3 components to the ego castle:

  1. Ego walls – hide our true selves away so that nobody can see who we truly are
  2. Ego canons – the more aggressive, angry, relationally and even physically violent ways that we keep people at bay
  3. The ego throne – power, possession, and prestige

The more effective way to shift from living with your ego back to your true self is to have compassion for the reasons you needed an ego in the first place.

Switching from Clinical Work to the Big Idea

In early 2011 one of Dr. Kelly’s client’s suggested that he spread the word about the services he was providing. He realized that he had been wanting to write for a while and got down to blogging. He wrote 2 viral posts and after appearing on The Today Show he was connected with a great literary agent and started thinking about book ideas.

Publishing a Book

Before you’re trying to publish a book, you pitch yourself to an agent.

These days publishers don’t look at content first, they look at platforms first. You need to be careful about building a platform that gives you access to the email inboxes of people who are going to be interested to buy the words that you want to share with them.

Finding Balance

For me it’s all about the scheduling, it’s all about the discipline.

Dr.Kelly notes that he won’t write unless it’s blocked in his calendar like any other activity in his day to day schedule. Family time is also scheduled.

Practicing Passions

I noticed a number of years ago that all the therapists that I knew who were happiest, were practicing a passion on the side. They all had a side gig and it wasn’t necessarily making money for them.

Making time for your passions is so important, it’s a time and space that will allow you to do something new.

Dr. Kelly Flanagan’s Book

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Meet Joe Sanok

private practice consultant

Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.

Thanks For Listening!

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Podcast Transcription

[JOE SANOK]: When it comes to keeping your practice organized, you want software that’s not only simple but the best. I recommend Therapy Notes. Their platform lets you manage notes, claims, scheduling, and more. Plus, they offer amazing unlimited phone and email support, so when you have a question, they’re there to help. To get two months free of Therapy Notes today, just use promo code [JOE]. That’s “Joe” when you sign up for a free trial at therapynotes.com. Again, that’s promo code [JOE}, when you sign up for a free trial at therapynotes.com.
This is the Practice of the Practice podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 359.
Well, welcome. I am so glad that you are here. We’re doing awesome. Hey, in a couple of weeks, I’m going to be hosting a free Webinar that is all about what do you do to get to $100,000 within two years. I’m going to take you month by month, quarter by quarter and week by week through the exact numbers of what you should expect. I’m part of it. I say, you know, it’s realistic in your first quarter of a practice to bring in this many clients, this much money. And then that adds up to this much in the first quarter. And I walk through kind of what years one and two can look like if you do it right, if you have the right systems, if you have the right way of approaching it, the right way of networking and blogging and Google. And what’s realistic, what’s conservative, not these kind of, you know, selling you million-dollar practices right away kind of thing. You know, we teach people how to grow $1 million practices, but we want to be realistic with you.
And so, I’ve got a webinar coming up. It’s over at practiceofthepractice.com/webinar. If you’re listening to this in the future, that’ll just redirect you to our webinar page. But we do have one coming up in mid-March. Also, Killin’It Camp tickets are on sale. The early bird tickets are going to stop being early birds in April. So, if you want to come out to Colorado, hang out with us and, it’s going to be October 20th through 23rd, we’re doing this gigantic meetup conference retreat. It’s going to have a lot of different elements. We’ve got 12 or 13 speakers at the time of this recording about things like networking, about making your business rank higher in Google. How do you use public speaking to get more clients?
We’re really trying to find speakers that are doing a great job in a specific area, but that also can give you actions. I hate going to a conference where you end up kind of learning and then you go home with this giant to-do list and nothing done. It’s just not worth the time. That’s why we made the price for the lodging and the food and the conference super cheap. It’s 650 bucks. You know, it’s going to cost you a couple hundred dollars to get to Denver and then about $75 to get to Estes Park from there on the bus, and then you’re taken care of. It’s going to be amazing.
So, head on over to www.killinitcamp.com, that’s open now, and those tickets are going to be closing and go to the regular price, what I want to say it’s 750 for the regular price tickets. So, you’re going to want to get those if you’re on the fence. And then, lastly, we also in mid-March have an awesome program called Next Level Practice. That’s a program that’s just for people starting a practice. And we’d love for you to check that out. Those tickets open on March, I should probably have looked at this before now. It’s always on a Monday that that opens. We’ve got it on March 11th, and so right around the corner here. So, over at practiceofthepractice.com/invite, you’ll get all the details for that. You can join us.
And this group is limited to a hundred people and so we want to really make sure that we can help these cohorts be strong, but they’re a tight-knit community. It’s great to see people say, “I’m in cohort three or I’m in cohort four.” And then we’re doing a lot to help develop the small groups and grow the ecourses and we have these live events called ‘What’s working’, where you get put into small groups and you get facilitated questions to really talk about what’s working in private practice when you’re launching it. It’s what I wish that I had had when I first started a practice.
Well today on the Practice of the Practice podcast, we’ve got Dr. Kelly Flanagan. He has an amazing book called Loveable. We’re going to talk all about that. I met him at the Front Row Dads retreat and he was the keynote speaker there. Just an awesome guy that I got to hang out with, and I know it’s the beginning of a great friendship and he’s going to talk about a lot of things that have to do with us that also kind of relate to your clients. And so, he’s talking about our egos and what we do to build that up and how to break through that and the things that stand in the way of us really finding, just loving ourselves to be able to help the world even more. So, I know you’re going to really like this. My conversation with him was so fun. So, without any further ado, I give you Dr. Kelly Flanagan.
Well, today on the Practice of the Practice podcast, we have Dr. Kelly Flanagan. Kelly is an author, speaker, podcaster, licensed clinical psychologist, and cofounder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, Illinois. He blogs regularly at drkellyflanagan.com. His writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest and he’s appeared on the Today Show, and in the Huffington Post. In 2017, Kelly published Loveable, embracing what is truest about you so you can truly embrace your life. Kelly, welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast.
[DR. KELLY]: Joe, it’s good to be here. Thanks for having me.
[JOE]: Yes, you know, we met down at the Front Row Dads retreat down in Florida that Jon Vroman put on and, you know, we just happened to be chatting kind of that first night and right away I’m like, “I like this guy.” And then I didn’t even connect it like you’re the one that was our keynote speaker. So, —
[DR. KELLY]: Yes, I was sort of under the radar for the first 16 hours of the retreat and then I got up and spoke.
[JOE]: Yeah, yeah. Well, it was awesome. And to just see, you know, a clinician and I got to say I was a little skeptical going into it when John said, I’m bringing in a psychologist to talk about emotional intelligence, I was like, “Oh, I want to,” not that I know everything, but I just thought, “Oh my gosh.” And I actually went out with my father for lunch, who is also a clinical psychologist and was telling him about your speech and kind of what you’re talking about. And he’s like, “How did it go? Like sometimes that’s tough when there’s someone from your own field.” And I was like, the way he framed out kind of the ego and the way that we find our truest self, it was just such a great way of framing it out. So, why don’t we just start there, because I feel like that’s something that so many people resonated with and, I think Jon Vroman may have even talked about it on the podcast with him, but hey, it’s worth repeating. So, —
[DR. KELLY]: Yes, absolutely. And thank you for those kind words. I remember like early in my career I didn’t have too much trouble going and speaking to like, you know, lay people. But I’d get so anxious going and talking to other psychologists because they know —
[JOE]: They’re like, “That’s not accurate.”
[DR. KELLY]: Exactly. Like you can’t get away with anything. And so that is high praise. I really appreciate it. Yeah, so I think, you know, John asked me to come in and to talk about emotional mastery and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to talk about emotional mastery if I didn’t talk about my understanding of how human beings work and the difference between our true self and our false self or what I call it, the ego and what a lot of people call the ego. And, so yeah, I think over the course of that conversation, we just, we spent some time flushing that out.
And to backtrack just a bit from the ego piece, you know, I think it’s important to understand in terms of the way that I talk about it, that the way I see it, we all come into the world with the true self. It’s good enough, it’s sufficient, it’s worthy of love and belonging. But at some point, we all begin to doubt that, we experience something that we therapists call shane, which is the message that your true self is not good enough. It’s not worthy of love and belonging. You’re not good enough, you’re not strong enough, you’re not smart enough, you’re not pretty enough, you’re not thin enough, you’re not influential enough. You know, I mean, there are so many varieties of it. I think I shared at the retreat that my particular variety, my primary form of shane is I’m not interesting enough, which is a particularly vulnerable one to have for a public speaker.
And so, we develop that concept, that idea, that experience, a core belief that we’re not good enough and we do the natural thing then, which is if my true self isn’t good enough for love and belonging and then the acceptance, I so badly long for it. I’m going to have to build another self. I’m going to have to build a false self. And so, most kids are setting about already building a false self. Even if things are going really well in life, they’re experiencing some shane and starting to figure out what to do with it by third, fourth grade. We’re building this ego to protect our true self. And I think the thing that I shared at the retreat is that, you know, as therapists, we have to come up with metaphors.
It’s our trade to come up with ways to articulate abstract inner experiences in a way that is workable for people. And I’ve tried a lot of metaphors over the years to articulate this concept of the false self or the ego, and the one that by far has been most helpful for people and for me, and it’s the one that I talk about most in my book, Loveable. It’s this concept of the ego castle. That our false self, our egos are like a castle. And our true self sort of resides hidden away, protected within the courtyard of this ego castle. And then over the course of life, we almost all of us add three sort of components to the ego castle. And again, third, fourth grade is about when it starts, you know, it’s when you start to see kids trying to blend in rather than being themselves, they want to be just like another friend or something like that.
And that’s the point at which we begin forming ego walls. And the ego walls are the things we sort of do to hide our true self away so that nobody can see who we actually are. Because if they can’t see who we actually are they can’t shame us for it. And, you know, blending in, you see like people start to take on the interest of other people. I saw my own kids do this, you know, my oldest all of a sudden wanted to be sort of a jock when he had formerly no interest in it, and unfortunately, no skill at it either, which it didn’t work out for him. It was not an effective ego wall. But you see this sort of blending in and then sometime around middle school, and I think this is why middle school can be such a brutal time for so many kids.
You see young people start to add a second component of that ego castle, another layer of protection, which are the ego cannons. And these are the sort of more aggressive, angry, relationally, and even physically violent ways that we sort of keep people at bay. You know, like the best defense is a good offense. I’ll hurt you before you can hurt me, I’ll shane you before you can shane me. My wife says that ego cannons is a particularly masculine metaphor and that women put ego archers on their walls, precision strikes that get close to the bone.
[JOE]: I like that.
[DR. KELLY]: Yeah, I know.
[JOE]: So, I actually don’t like it, but I mean, it’s accurate.
[DR. KELLY]: Yeah, exactly. [crosstalk] when we talk about the mean girls in middle school and high school. Like that’s the sort of mean they are, there’s ego archers they’re hurting each other in really sort of precise ways but that really hurt.
[JOE]: When you think about even just like cannons, like thinking about the typical middle school boy whose just kind of like fromping and has no sense of like where their body is in space. The cannon just kind of like shoots it stuff whereas an archer definitely has that precision.
[DR. KELLY]: Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly right. We aren’t terribly precise about who we’re going to hurt. We just want to make sure it’s not us, whereas, you know, in the research, actually the terms for those are, you know, in many ways like physical bullying and then relational bullying are the two different ways those are distinguished. So, and boys do more of the physical and girls do more of the relational bullying. So, that’s happening. Like, again, this is normal development. Like if your kid’s doing it, if your clients are doing it, if you did it, it’s not abnormal. It’s how it works.
And then somewhere, for many of us, probably most of us, in early adulthood, you’re getting out into the world. You’re having hopefully some career success or you’re having some relational success and you add this third component of the ego castle, which is the ego throne. And this is sort of a place where you are feeling like you’ve arrived. You’ve proven you’re good enough, right? So, no one can question that anymore. And the three, I think the three elements of the ego thrown that I often, kind of helps me sort of organize it is power, possessions, and prestige. Any place where you feel like you’re in control, any place where you feel like you’ve demonstrated your enoughness through having enough stuff or any way that you’ve demonstrated that you are well respected and that you have that sort of prestige in a particular circle, those can be ego thrones.
And, you know, I don’t want to go on too long, but you know, one of the things we did talk about, the keys that I think is so important is that when people begin to realize that they have an ego castle, that they’ve been sort of spending most of their life actually in protection mode rather than showing up mode with their true self, the initial reaction a lot of times is that they really begin to dislike or even hate their ego. But one of the things we talked about was that, that that’s not an effective way to deal with the ego. Like you started attacking your own ego. That’s what it’s built for, it’s attack, right? That’s what the castle is made for. And so, actually, the more effective ways to begin to shift your, the center of your living from your ego back to your true self is to actually have compassion for the reasons you needed an ego in the first place, to have empathy for the little kid who felt unsafe in the world and needed protection, gratitude for the ways that it did protect you and very painful situations that would have been exponentially more painful if you didn’t have a little bit of protection on.
So, if we can relate to it in that way, we actually in that moment begin to return to our true self and live from our true self. And then as we talked about in the dad’s retreat, every castle has a drawbridge, a place of vulnerability that you can sort of exit the castle through. It’s controlled from the inside. It’s up to you to decide when to be vulnerable. But if you’re willing, you can start to lower that ego drawbridge and your true self can walk out and actually connect with people again. And that’s a pretty exciting thing when that starts to happen.
[JOE]: Yeah. You know, that idea of integration, I think we often live in such binary terms of, “Okay, my true self and then my ego self. Like I have to kill the ego self and get rid of it.” And like, but there’s reasons why that was built. There are dangerous people in the world, so there are times you need to kind of raise that drawbridge and hang out inside for a bit. And it kind of reminds me of are you familiar with spiral dynamic or Integral theory.
[DR. KELLY]: Not intimately familiar but I’m familiar with spiral dynamics from that.
[JOE]: Yes. The spiral dynamics kind of walks people pull through, they’ve looked at all these developmental things society-wise, spiritually and kind of help people make decisions. So, tier one you kind of walk through where do you get your power from? Is it from an individual that would be red, and then if it’s blue, it’s a text. So, like the constitution or the Bible and then it moves into kind of what can we prove. And so that’s orange, which is like science and then green is this kind of all encompassing. I mean usually people are like, that was so stupid that I used to think that way.
I just looked up to that one person or I looked at that one text. But then tier two of spiral dynamics is where you start to integrate the best of each of those phases. And so, yeah, there are people you should look up to you. There are texts we should like look to for wisdom, but those things aren’t necessarily the end-all be-all. And so, the idea of integration I think is so important in our own personal development, but then also how we as business owners, but then also as family people or you know, in our situation as dads, how we talk to our family about that individual development and say, “We aren’t just throwing it all out, we’re going to actually say, well, what was good from that? Why was that, you know, partially a good decision?”
[DR. KELLY]: Right, exactly. I think a phrase that, maybe it’s Richard Rohr has used in regards to spiral dynamics is Transcend and Include. You know, this idea that if we can be inclusive of our ego, recognize that it had value and at moments still does have value, then we get out of the ego game. You know, if you can’t accept your own ego, good luck accepting the ego in anyone else, right?
[JOE]: Seriously, yeah.
[DR. KELLY]: And if you can’t accept the ego in others, your ego will just be in the business of attacking theirs, and we all know how that goes. So, yes, transcend the ego, return to the true self, but certainly be inclusive of it.
[JOE]: Well, and it’s interesting, it’s like in my own going to therapy to just work through the things that I really loved about; how my parents parented me and the things that I want to kind of leave behind. As I grow in empathy, especially as a parent, like there’s days that I have really bad days and I just have a bad day at work and I’d probably say something to my daughters that for them that could be one of those, like she-never-forgets type moments, whereas I may not remember that ever. Because it was just a little kind of blip on the radar. So, when you think about being a parent of a child that’s just starting to build those ego walls, so, my oldest is seven in second grade. So, about to be in that third and fourth grade picturing her not being her true, amazing, just bold self and just saying I’m going to be like everyone else. That’s just sad for me to think of. As a parent, what do you recommend? What should I do next year?
[DR. KELLY]: Yeah, right. have a couple of thoughts, I mean, I think, you know, one of the key concepts that arises from this way of seeing things is that we, you know, a lot of times we get to adulthood and we think now I have to build an identity, right? And the reality is that you came into the world with an identity and so you don’t have to build it. You have to sort of excavate it. Actually, you have to be able to walk back through all that ego stuff and reconnect with your true self. And I think in terms of orienting us as parents, one of the most important things we can be thinking about is my kid is going to build an ego, their ego castle that’s going to happen.
And I need to learn how to relate to that process in a way that doesn’t exacerbate it. It doesn’t actually encourage more walls. But amidst all of that, my job is to, while they’re building their ego castle and they are forgetting a little bit about who they are, my job is to hold as much as possible, keep that sense of memory of their identity, their true self, that sense of connection open to that. And any ways that they can be doing that and affirming who they really are as they’re going out into the world and protecting, that’s a win. Personally, I think kids can talk about this stuff, by the time they’re in middle school. We made a big move as a family right at the beginning of my older son, eight and sixth grade year and, you know, new culture, new school, new friends.
First day of middle school he didn’t really know anybody. And it’s hard enough in middle school if you have friends. Well, I got to watch it happen as he quickly started to add ego cannons and what he did, and this is an important piece of it too, that the ego is always built from the best parts of our true self. That’s the building blocks. So, what Aiden did is he took the best parts of this true self, his wisdom and his wittiness. And instead of using them for connection with people, he started to use them for protection. And what he did is he started to become sort of the class clown, right? To get respect from his peers. He started to cut people down with his humor, right? In order to, sort of to hurt before he could be hurt.
And we spent a lot of like sixth grade through seventh grade in that dialogue with him about, “Dude, we get it. We know you got to add these pieces of protection to you. It means you’re scared. It means you’re feeling vulnerable, but you know, you’re doing it in all the wrong ways and it’s hurting you as much as it’s hurting anybody.” And we actually got to, it was like the week before eighth grade and Aiden and I were with one of my buddies and my buddy said to him, “Hey, Aiden, you know, eighth grade is starting. You’re going to be the most popular kid in the school.” And Aiden goes, “Oh no, I’m never going to be one of the most popular kids in the school.” And my buddy goes, “Oh, you know, I’m sure that’s not true. I’m sure you’re going to,” and Aiden goes, “No, it’s true. And it’s okay. Like being popular wouldn’t make me happy and joyous.” And I was like, “Oh, he’s getting it.” Like, ego throne. “It’s not going to make you happy. It’s going to make you lonely.”
[JOE]: Right. And it’s like, I think about the guy that was most popular in eighth grade and in ninth grade he got a girl pregnant and then dropped out of school. And like, I mean, he’s like an empty nester now. And I have like a seven-year-old. And so, it’s like, you know, and so and not that that always happens to the most popular kid in eighth grade, but you know, for your son to have that identity of, “You know, what? Like that’s okay. I’m who I am. People don’t have to accept it. And the things that it takes to be accepted, like I don’t necessarily want to do those things.”
[DR. KELLY]: Exactly. My, my task as much as possible is to stay who I am to become more and more who I’ve been from the beginning and just to notice those moments where I start to engage my protections in my castle and hopefully those moments can get shorter and less frequent.
[JOE]: I want to go back to when you started to develop these ideas around Loveable because there’s so many clinicians that I meet and maybe they do EMDR so they work on trauma or they work with couples or kids or whatever their kind of thing is. And they have these things they repeat over and over in sessions and at a certain point they have a light bulb where they’re like, “I think the broader world could act with this. I’m not sure if I should write a book or do an ecourse or webinars.” And then most of them will just kind of be paralyzed by perfection and just won’t do anything with it. When did you start to realize, you know, “There’s something here that I want to develop in a book.” And then I know that’s led into speaking and other things. Tell us about that kind of switch from just clinical work to the big idea.
[DR. KELLY]: Yeah. I haven’t thought about this in a while, but for me it was early 2011 and actually credited a client with it. I was working in therapy with a very successful gentleman like sea level sort of guy and, helping him through some of his own issues around, you know, worthiness and achievement and all of that. And I remember he said to me one day, he goes, “You know, you share these ideas with only 30 people a week. Like you could probably make a lot more money if you found a way to get the word out.” And I go, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.” And then the next week he came in and said the same thing. Like it was about two or three weeks later. He comes in and he’s got this like twinkle in his eye and he goes, “You know, you could help a lot more people if you got the word out.” And I was like, “Now you’re talking my language.” And I actually started to think about it at that point. Not that —
[JOE]: He is like the business coach hat on, but he’s like, “I got to speak in Kelly’s language.” Like —
[DR. KELLY]: Speak his language. Yes, exactly.
[JOE]: It’s like your true self wants to help more people.
[DR. KELLY]: That’s exactly it. Exactly. And so, yeah. So, in 2011, I started to think about what would this look like? And as I was reconnecting, I mean at that point really doing a lot of work to reconnect with my own true self. At that point I had started to realize like, have you been wanting to write your entire life? You know, you’ve got three half-finished novels off on an old hard drive somewhere from graduate school. Every time you had free time you’d start to write and people are blogging now and therapists aren’t really supposed to blog about personal things too much, but you know, as long as you’re careful and thoughtful about it, like, why not me? Why not push that a little bit? And so, I started blogging at the beginning of 2012 as a way to, you know, get to exercise one of my passions in the service of getting the word out about my services. And that box has been checked, but then it also gave rise to this whole other vocation of mine, which is writing and speaking.
[JOE]: Now, when you had the blog post about the makeup aisle really go viral, was that before the book or after the book?
[DR. KELLY]: That was before the book. So, I started blogging in early 2012. I had my first sort of viral blog post with a blog post called Marriage is for Losers. And so, my email list started to build at that point. And then it was almost a year later in early 2013, I wrote the first letter to my daughter that went really viral. I shared it as the most personal thing I’d ever shared on my blog. And then a year after that in early 2014 is when the second letter I wrote to her from the makeup aisle about her inner beauty. That went really viral. And it was actually that appearance on the Today Show related to that letter that got me connected with a great literary agent, and we got to start, got to think about book ideas.
I remember she’s like, “Hey, all these people are really responding to your parenting letters. Maybe you should write a parenting book. And I told my wife that, my wife’s a child clinical psychologist, and was like, “You have no business writing a parenting book, dude.”
[JOE]: Yeah, I think it’s Rob Bell who said something like, parents shouldn’t write a book about like parenting until their kids are gone, or something like that. So, instead he wrote Observations of Parenting when he wrote Launching Rockets. And it was just observations. Like, it’s not advice, it’s just, you know, my observations.
[DR. KELLY]: Actually, Rob Bell said, probably the most helpful thing I’ve ever heard about parenting. He was one of, he was either on Pete Holmes podcast or Pete Holmes is on his. And Pete Holmes said, “I want to read a parenting book from you.” And Rob goes, “Oh, parenting? That’s easy. It’s just about managing your own anxiety.” I was like [crosstalk] that is so helpful.
[JOE]: Yeah. Rob was on the podcast a while back when we had this, how to be here tour, and talked about that. But —
[JOE]: Hey, practitioners, I want to take a second to tell you about the Killin’It Camp retreat. If you would value connecting with a community of like-minded and like hearted practice owners who want to deepen their sense of purpose and meaning as business owners and to talk about and share the best practices and strategies for ultimate business and life success, then this event might be for you.
If you’d value being around high performing practitioners without the big egos, clinicians that believe in living life to the fullest while also growing an amazing practice, you might enjoy Killin’It Camp. Once a year, we’re getting together in person, in small groups with the best guest experts and so much more in Estes Park Colorado. We’ve done these focus retreats multiple times. They’ve sold out every single time. If you’re excited about it, make sure to check it out at killingitcamp.com where you can sign up for the next Killin’It Camp therapists’ retreat.
One of the things you might be wondering is, is leaving my business actually going to make me a better business owner? For many of you, you work really hard, but at this retreat we’ll be helping you to know exactly where to spend your time and where to say no. To speed up, you have to slow down. You have to learn from experts and grow a community of like-minded supporters.
We have to step back so we can go back into our practices to rock it out. This is the same concept as going to therapy, a weekend intensive, or a church retreat. You take a moment to reconnect with what really matters. You plan, you strategize, you work on your business so you can be better in your business. If that all sounds good, check it out at killingitcamp.com.
Hey, practitioners, I want to take a second to tell you about the Killin’It Camp retreat. If you would value connecting with a community of like-minded and like hearted practice owners who want to deepen their sense of purpose and meaning as business owners and to talk about and share the best practices and strategies for ultimate business and life success, then this event might be for you.
If you’d value being around high performing practitioners without the big egos, clinicians that believe in living life to the fullest while also growing an amazing practice, you might enjoy Killin’It Camp. Once a year, we’re getting together in person, in small groups with the best guest experts and so much more in Estes Park Colorado. We’ve done these focus retreats multiple times. They’ve sold out every single time. If you’re excited about it, make sure to check it out at killingitcamp.com where you can sign up for the next Killin’It Camp therapists’ retreat.
One of the things you might be wondering is, is leaving my business actually going to make me a better business owner? For many of you, you work really hard, but at this retreat we’ll be helping you to know exactly where to spend your time and where to say no. To speed up, you have to slow down. You have to learn from experts and grow a community of like-minded supporters.
We have to step back so we can go back into our practices to rock it out. This is the same concept as going to therapy, a weekend intensive, or a church retreat. You take a moment to reconnect with what really matters. You plan, you strategize, you work on your business so you can be better in your business. If that all sounds good, check it out at killingitcamp.com.
[JOE]: Well, so, the literary agent then helps you kind of get the book out there for people that don’t get to be on the Today Show, which is most of us. If they have a book inside of them, any tips that you’ve picked up and maybe because your story was a little different, maybe not, but, any tips in regards to finding a literary agent, getting your name out there if you want to write a book?
[DR. KELLY]: Yeah. So, I think the first thing is that people these days who are thinking about, have a passion for writing a book, they have a real choice to make between do they go the traditional publishing route or do they go the self-publishing route? It used to be that self-publishing then you had a lesser product. That’s not necessarily the case anymore. So, but if someone really has a passion for publishing traditionally with a publishing house, you know, there’s different, I didn’t know this at the time, so I’m happy to pass on this info. Like if they’re thinking about writing a nonfiction book, you have to have that book finished, and you have to be sending that manuscript off to agents in the field. And basically, the agents are the gatekeepers. Like, they’re the ones who, you know, publishers don’t want to have to sift through a thousand manuscripts, so agents do that on their behalf.
And so, before you try to publish a book, you’re trying to pitch yourself to an agent more than anything. And so, you know, that’s the route to go if you want to publish traditionally. If it’s fiction, you have to write the whole manuscript and send it to agents. If it’s nonfiction, you have to write an annotated outline down to the chapter level and have probably three or four sample chapters. And that has to go off to agents. So, that’s sort of where you start.
But what I’ll tell most people who are listening, and my agent just told me this, she said, these days publishers are, they don’t look at content first. They look platform first. And so, you need to be really careful about building a platform that gives you access to the, essentially to the email inboxes of people who are going to be interested in buying the words that you want to share with them. And so, building a platform, actually starting to create your book and get it out there to agents, those are the ways to go. And if it’s not working out, I would encourage everybody listening if it’s not working out, self-publishing is a very viable way to go these days.
[JOE]: Yeah. Is there any major kind of pro to going the traditional publishing route at this point?
[DR. KELLY]: Hmm, yeah. That’s like an ongoing debate. So, I would say that the, when you go through a traditional publishing house, you are getting the experience and wisdom of folks who have been at this a long time. Like when I think about the form that I would have published Loveable in, you know, when I thought it was finished versus the form it was actually finished in once it went through the editorial process of the copy editing and everything like that. I have a personal passion for making things as excellent as I can make them.
And I do think traditional publishing houses are, they’re really good at that. I also had someone telling me recently what, because I said, “But you could also hire, you know, you can hire editors, you can hire copy editors.” And his response, he was actually in the publishing industry is, “Yeah. But then those people work for you and they want to please you. Nobody, at a publishing house wants to please you. They want the best product that they can get out on the market because their reputation depends upon it.’
[JOE]: Sure.
[DR. KELLY]: And, so, there’s that, and publishers still provide access to bookstores which I actually think are going to make a little bit of a comeback here in the years to come. And you know, and they provide access to media, which is huge. The publishers have had media channels that they’ve been cultivating and developing for decades and so, easy access to those media channels, to some influencers that are already in their list, those sorts of things. So, there’s pluses, but it’s no longer the end-all and be-all. And the important thing for anybody is that you are practicing your passion for writing.
[JOE]: Sure. So, after Loveable comes out, what did it look like in regards to finding that balance between clinical time and being asked to speak and doing interviews? Like, I imagine it’s a much different life than just showing up and doing that 30 sessions a week.
[DR. KELLY]: Right.
[JOE]: So, how did that go? What advice do you have from that phase?
[DR. KELLY]: Yeah. I guess another huge plus of a traditional publishing is that you get an advance, which for me, I use that advance to really transition into a hybrid sort of career where once I, it was about any four or five months after I signed the contract for Loveable, I opened up my own therapy practice. At that point I wasn’t actually practicing on my own. I was with a group, but the idea was that if I can open up my own therapy practice and grow that, that some of the passive revenue that I’ll generate in the practice will free up some of my time to really focus in on writing and speaking and, and this sort of thing. So, and that’s how it’s played out. I am busier than ever.
I do two very long clinical days in my office, and then I do a lot of managing the practice from home the other three days a week. But then also all the rest of the writing and platform building and speaking and everything. I am far busier than I was when I was seeing 30 clients a week. But I’m spreading that energy across a range of activities that to me give my true self like the full opportunity to be what it is. So, yeah. So, that’s where I find myself right now. And I think for me, practice building is a passion in and by itself and it’s also enabling the other passions that I have.
[JOE]: Yeah. So, when you think about your life as a husband, as a dad, as just Kelly, like how do you find that balance with this really exciting work? Because I think that a lot of people that are listening, they may not be thrilled with their practice or they might be working at a group practice and they haven’t made that jump. But there’s a certain point when you just start to really like your work. Like, I feel like I’m fortunate that every day I show up, I’m like, “I can’t believe I get to podcast and make money when I do this stuff.” And I could do it all the time, I have to set clear boundaries as to when I’m going to leave, when enough work is enough, when enough like email sequences written is enough. And then, you know, go hang out with my family and friends and do things that aren’t going to make me money. How do you find that balance?
[DR. KELLY]: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think one of the surprises for me, because I knew that so much of my achievement drive was connected to my shane. You know, if I can just do more and prove myself more than I’ll be good enough. But as my shane started to dissipate a little bit, what I noticed was that most of my achievement drive didn’t like, I’m sort of like you. I love doing this. I love almost everything I do and I could wake up and then do it till bedtime. But to recognize that I also have passions for being connected with my family and my kids, and those passions actually, like you don’t get to experience the return on investment so quickly. And so, I think that’s why they’re a little bit harder.
You have, it requires a little bit more discipline and intentionality. And I think that they are less important to me. I think it’s just that there’s not a ton of immediate gratification especially when you are a teenager. So, I think for me it’s all about scheduling. It’s all about the discipline. You know, I won’t, write. I will never write unless it’s blocked in my calendar like any other activity in my day to day schedule. So, tomorrow for instance, from 8:00 A.M. to noon is blocked off. It says writing, right?
And the family time, time for connection with your people, that needs to, I would put that on a calendar, like anything else. And because if you don’t, if there’s this blank space on your calendar, you’re going to give that blank space to what is most immediately gratifying. So, that’s, you know, the discipline of schedule and calendar and really sticking to what you committed to and not letting anything impinge upon those times.
[JOE]: I’m totally with you on that. Like this morning is a perfect example. So, after the Front Row Dads retreat, you know, so many of those guys are working out on a regular basis and taking their health very seriously. Almost to the point that I’m like, damn! Like, what else do we do? Like one of the guys, he does a mini triathlon four days a week. Like that’s his workout routine, it’s to do a mini try four days a week. I’m just like, “Whoa!” So, —
[DR. KELLY]: You’ve really got to be competent around.
[JOE]: Yeah, I know. Well, I’m a terrible swimmer and that’s what my new goals, is to like be better at swimming, just not that I’m going to do a mini try anytime soon, but maybe. But it’s like, so, I said, okay, I need to at least take a step in that direction that’s reasonable for me and so, when I got back, I looked at my schedule and it was just packed out. And so, starting in December, I started just blocking out times to work out. Well, last night I looked at my schedule for today and I was like, “Oh shoot, I put an hour and a half in for working out.” Like I can’t like no-show on myself.
So, it’s amazing like when it’s in your calendar. It’s like I’ve blocked this out and I chose not to take consulting clients and not to do podcast interviews. I’m not going to just sit around and like I have to do what I put it like in there. And it’s interesting the psychological exercise, whereas if it was just blank, I would have been like, “Oh, I have a blank. What can I do?” Versus just putting workout, there’s like this kind of sense of I don’t want to disappoint past Joe. You know.
[DR. KELLY]: Yeah, exactly. Well, there was a sense that when you left the retreat, like you were really residing in a place of value within yourself. I really value this and, and now if I don’t honor that time, that’s a reminder to me that I value it. I know I’m not living centered on my values and that, you know. So, yeah, to me that calendar reminder you’ve got in there is huge. It’s just like, “Hey, yeah, this is what matters to you even in this moment.
[JOE]: Well, I think also just the act of a bunch of us flying into like Miami and then driving a couple hours down to aisle Miranda and the expense of going and the time to go, that if you did all that and then you didn’t take action, it’s like, well then why did I spend all that money and time doing that? And I see that with Slowdown School too where, you know, people will take a whole week off and come flying into northern Michigan to go hang out on the beaches and work on their business.
And one exercise we do there is, I have everyone at the end of the week write themselves a postcard and I just sent them out right after thanksgiving so it kind of hits them right before the new year. And I get a bunch of texts from people saying, “Oh my gosh, my past self was so wise. And it was nice to have myself kind of hold myself accountable.” And I think that’s just that idea of like when we invest in ourselves, uh, we kind of push ourselves to become a better version even just by paying a little bit of money to do something.
[DR. KELLY]: Absolutely. And every time it’s on the calendar and every time you do it becomes a little bit more of a habit, you know, and now, like you said, I love that past off all of a sudden and how it presents itself. And that’s a pretty good thing.
[JOE]: Yeah. I always joke with my wife like, “Oh, I’m so glad that past Joe was smarter than current Joe. So, do think my keys are in the right spot if I like do something?” And she’s like, “Oh, that’s great. I didn’t even remember doing that.” Or —
[DR. KELLY]: It reminds you of the Seinfeld, like a night guy always beats morning guy. Because the night guy, you know, he stays up late and then morning guys always tired and there’s no way morning guy can get back at night guy. So, if you’d get past you wanting good things here, you’re set man.
[JOE]: Yeah. Well just give us a couple more bullet points on if people are doing clinical work and they have big ideas, what would just be a couple things that you would want them to consider or to look at doing if they wanted to level up their career outside of the clinical work?
[DR. KELLY]: I noticed a number of years ago that all of the therapists that I knew who were happiest they were all practicing a passion on the side. They all had a side gig and it wasn’t necessarily making money for them, but it was giving them, you know, it’s a way of sort of like saying, “All day long, I help people figure out what they want to do with their life, you know, what they’re most passionate about, how they can live into that and um, and maybe helping other people is part of my passion, but it’s probably not all of it. And so, I often I looked around and therapists were bodybuilding. They were playing in bands, they were writing books, they were painting water, you know, in watercolors, and having their first show.
And so, I actually think it’s essential to the balance of any therapists that they are also practicing their passions for the rest of life on the outside of that. And in the same way that we just talked about building in space for physical health and building in space in our calendar for our families. Building in space for the practicing of your other passions I think is so important for me. That started back in late 2011. For me it just started out Friday mornings for three hours. I would write a blog post and I would set that side time aside and now that three hours is expanded to three days of my week. But you’ve got to start somewhere. So, setting aside a little bit of time to practice a passion that’s sort of been poking at you and nudging you for a while, it’s there, you know you want to do it but you’ve avoided it, you know, start to make some space for that.
[JOE]: I love that idea and especially that it’s not just the, like how am I going to make money out of that? You’re doing something that is allowing you the time and space to just explore something new. For me, the last year and a half that’s been curling, you know, I signed up for a curling league because I thought it was a super weird sport and a friend of mine get it and I thought, how cool would it be to like learn to curl and to throw the rocks into sweep it. And last night I skipped for the second time this season. And we won for the second time that I skipped. And it’s like how weird that I am a curler now, but it’s so fun you know, on Tuesday nights go do that. So, yeah.
[DR. KELLY]: Yeah. And I think that’s the order to put it in. It’s not how do I monetize doing something or how do I monetize this thing, this practice thing that I’m doing? It’s how do I identify the passions that I have? And then how might I explore monetizing those at some point. And the reason I think it’s so important to do it in that order is that it may not go well monetizing it. So, you better enjoy what you’re doing while you’re failing at monetizing it. So, start in that order, begin to give yourself space for your passions in your life and then and then start to think about, “Okay, how can I offer this in a way that people will be interested in paying a little bit of money for it?”
[JOE]: Yeah. Well, the last question I always ask is, if every practice owner in the world were listening right now, what would you want them to know?
[DR. KELLY]: Every practice owner. Huh? Well, okay. So, this arises out of my passion and one of the things I’ve realized is because people have asked me, “Okay, so you own a practice, you’re a therapist, you’re a business owner, you’re a father, you’re a writer, you’re a husband. Which one is your passion?” And what I’ve discerned over time is that all of them are part of my passion because my passion isn’t what I do. It’s how I do things. And so, the passion that I have identified is speaking to people in the caring voice of the father, such that they know they’re worthy. And that I can do that as a dad, as a husband, as a therapist, as a practice owner, and as an author. And, so, I would say my encouragement would be to begin to identify that passion, that desire for the way you want to be in the world and integrate that into the way that you run your practice.
Now for me, that doesn’t mean, you know, I think the impression could be, “Oh, you speak in the tender voice of a father. People must be able to get, your employees must be able to get away with murder, right? And that’s not how I see being a father at all. I see being a father as being a leader, saying the hard things, holding people accountable, but doing it in way that they know that they’re worthy even when they’re making mistakes or fallen short of where they want to. So, decide how you want to be. Decide what you’re passionate about bringing to the world and make sure you’re integrating it with the way you run your practice. Your practice itself can become a passion in that way.
[JOE]: I love it. Well Dr. Kelly Flanagan, if people want to connect with you and your work, I know you’ve got some free gifts also to giveaway, what can they do to connect with you?
[DR. KELLY]: Yeah, you can go to drkellyflanagan.com. It’s ‘Dr Kelly Flanagan.com’ and when you’re there, if you want, you can sign up for my email list. I send out one email every Wednesday, with links to my podcast episodes and a blog post when I write them. And then when you sign up for my email list, you get a free copy of my short eBook, the Marriage Manifesto, and it actually has that original viral blog post, the Marriage is for Losers post. It’s one of the chapters in that book. And you also get free sample chapters of Loveable in case you’re interested in that. And so, you can get those in that way, but I think Joe, we’re going to make those available to folks here as well. Is that right?
[JOE]: Yeah, we sure are. So, we’ll have links to all that in the show notes for you guys.
[DR. KELLY]: Yeah, so, if you want to join the email list, go there and check it out. I’ve got seven years’ worth of blog posts that could be helpful to you. And, of course, there’s Loveable, you can find it anywhere and if you’ve got a local bookseller go help him out.
[JOE]: Awesome. Well thank you so much for being on the Practice of the Practice podcast.
[DR. KELLY]: Jealous is a blast. Thank you.
[JOE]: So, what was it from this that you connected with that Kelly was talking about? Yeah, I really want to know, I would love for you to tag me on Facebook, Instagram, if you’re on Twitter. Drop me an email at [email protected]. I always love hearing what actions you’re going to take from what you’re learning because so often we consume information and just like eating, if we consume all the time and we never move, things don’t really kind of operate like they’re supposed to.
And so, I want you to go take some action today and in fact this masterclass coming out, if you aren’t at that $100,000 a year, go register for it. We’re going to be walking through all those things that it’s going to take for you to get to $100,000 a year. Just practical things that I’ve observed from helping hundreds of people start growing and scale their private practices. And they’d be people that paid me thousands if we count the people that listen to the podcast and I want to be your guide, I want to help walk you through that and even if you just go through all of our free stuff, I know that it’s going to help you structure out where to spend your time, how to focus in, and what to expect out of yourself.
Because sometimes people think, “Oh my gosh, I need to have like 20 people a week right away.” And you set yourself up for a lot of disappointment when that happens. So, just knowing the regular, like what is it that I should be doing is really helpful. Also, another helpful thing is we have a 28-step checklist that’s going to help you start a private practice. If you’re just getting going, that’s at Practice of the practice.com/start. There’s lots of resources that we have that you can check out. We’d love to help you out more to really start and grow a practice because your community needs it. These clients are out there and they need good quality counselors.
So, we also definitely want to thank Therapy Notes. Therapy Notes is one of our big sponsors this year. They’re amazing. They have such great electronic medical health records. They just do it right and their customer service, actually I got to go find this email from somebody that emailed me. I always love getting these. Let me just pause the recording real quick. I usually don’t do this and the person, I asked if I could send this to their head of marketing because it was just such a cool email and this guy Joseph, he sent me an email that said ‘Just to give a bit of supportive feedback for Therapy Notes. I already used them and they’re great. I started with a small local biller who helped credential me with Blue Cross Blue Shield which was so helpful and they (but I had to correct a number of mistakes) and decided they weren’t worth the cost. I actually started to send them the claims myself. I did a couple on paper, one client, two claims before switching to a very cheap EHR. I forgot their name. That was so confusing and then I switched to Therapy Notes. Within a few months, it is far easier to use, but I still sometimes get confused about claims or billing issues that are out of the norm and I found that Therapy Notes customer service can walk through fixing anything. The best customer service I’ve ever seen, I think you can feel confident recommending them.’
I mean, I just love to hear that from people that are using Therapy Notes, that love it. It’s just great to have these emails come through. So, if you want to have great electronic health records, head on over to therapynotes.com, use promo code Joe to sign up to give it a try. You’ll get two months for free.
Thanks so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have an awesome day.
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