Self-help author Sean Stephenson on The Prison Of Your Mind at TEDxIronwoodStatePrison – Transcript
Full speaker bio:
Sean Stephenson – Self-help author
I’m trying to compose my blog post for tonight, and I’m thinking it sounds really believable that I went to prison and hugged a bunch of really nice prisoners, while I DJed busy, threw on some records, and Richard Branson told me where I can score some free heroin.
Lesson number 1: Never believe a prediction that doesn’t empower you.
When I was born, the doctors told my parents that I would be dead within the first 24 hours of my life.
35 years later, all those doctors are dead and I am the only doctor that remains.
Never believe a prediction that doesn’t empower you. How many predictions have been thrown at you your whole life? If you believe predictions that do not empower you, you will wither away and die, either physically die or your spirit will die as you just walk around the world like a carcass that is just following the masses.
You will be given a lot of titles in your life. You will be told so many different things. You must only listen to that which empowers you. I have a belief that has served me in my life, and that is that everyone is rooting for me to win, even those that do not know it.
And I’m not here today to tell you that I’ve had adversity in my life and so therefore, I know what you are going through. I don’t have a clue what any of you are going through in your lives. I did not grow up in your neighborhoods more than likely. I did not have your set of parents, nor do I live in your body. I’ve not had the events that you’ve had happened to you.
I can tell you I am only an expert on one thing, and that’s how to be me, and I do it well. But it’s not come easily.
I’ve gone through things that I don’t wish upon anyone in this room. I’ve had metal rods pulled out of bone marrow while I was awake. I’ve had jaw infections where teeth had to be extracted and I can no longer chew my own food. I have to get up every day and be showered and cared for physically by another human being. Fortunately, she is a gorgeous woman that I married.
I get stared at everywhere I go, and the moment people meet me, if they don’t know a thing about my résumé, they automatically, just by the human nature, think to themselves: “Oh, it must be so difficult to be that man!”
If somebody pities me, they’re wasting their time, because I have chosen a life of strength, and I am here to help you choose a life of strength, but I’m going to tell you, we’ve talked about drugs here. You know what the worst drug that ever hit the human race is? Pity.
The moment you feel sorry for another person, or the moment you feel sorry for yourself, you’re hosed. You’re totally, completely frozen in potential.
We cannot pity ourselves, we cannot pity you. Yes, I get to go home today. Yes, I get to have what many would call freedom, but I’m going to talk to you about freedom, about what I really choose to see freedom as. Because like I said, you cannot believe predictions that do not empower you.
The second lesson today is: you are not your condition. You’re not. I’m not disabled.
Sure, I’ll take the handicapped parking privileges but that does not define me as a man. Not able? I’ve been looked at and treated my whole life as if I am not able. I have had to rise above and show people that the only disability is one’s refusal to adapt. You have to adapt to whatever environment you’re in, even if it’s prison.
And what does adaption look like? I think it looks like celebration. Because when you meet people that are celebrating their life, you want to be around them, you want to learn from them, you want to do business with them, you want to hire them. Look! If you do not want to be seen as a prisoner or a convict when you get out of this, or even while you’re in this, that is an attitude — it is a belief in yourself that you bring value to the human race, no matter what your current condition, title, or stature is.
Because if I believe that I am disabled, I would wither up, I would be shy, I would be insecure, I would be afraid, I would act like I need your help. And the rest of humanity would be OK with that.
But I choose something else. I choose to be strong, I choose to be a leader, I choose to have words to move this planet. I’ll tell you why I was born. And I hope it inspires you to find out why you were born.
I was born to rid this world of insecurity. Because when a human being is insecure, they do stupid stuff. When we feel like we’re not enough, we chase external validation, and external objects to try to tell us we’re enough.
You are enough. I’ll tell you I’ve made a pledge as a therapist to love all human beings, no matter what they’ve done. Because deep down inside, I’ve found that every human being just wants to be loved, even if they’re tough, even if they’re scary, even if they’re viscous. You get them in the right position, at the right time, they’ll tell you the truth. They just want to be loved.
Do you know who they want the love from the most? Not their moms, not their dads, not their wardens. None of these people. They want to be able to look in the mirror and love themselves. And if you can figure that out, then you’re going somewhere.
But you cannot feel sorry for yourself. When you feel sorry for yourself, you will wither. But there’s a contradiction to feeling sorry for yourself, it’s the opposite of extreme, it’s what I call ‘bullying yourself, beating yourself up, being your own enemy and telling yourself that all those predictions, those negative opinions, they’re true, they’re right, you’re washed up, failure. You’re not going to amount to anything.
Bullying yourself is the most dangerous thing that you could do. You cannot afford to pity yourself, you cannot afford to bully yourself, you have to love yourself, because the last lesson that I’m going to share with you today, that is I’m going to teach you what the real prison is.
It’s not surrounded by barbed wire, or electrical fences, the real prisons do not have guards. The real prison’s up here. And we all got it. We all have a mind that chatters, so often won’t stop chattering.
Do you know where your salvation is? It’s not outside these walls. I’ve met so many people that are so extremely successful and famous, that are in prison, because they’re stuck in their minds, bullying themselves, pitying themselves.
True freedom is dropping down out of that mind. And what my wife has taught me is to drop into your hearts, into mastering this beating thing that is more than just sending blood to the extremities.
What is it doing? It’s sending emotional possibilities, infinite possibilities of choice in our behavior, in our life, in our attitude. When you love yourself, whether you’re sleeping on a prison cot, or in a mansion, whether you have food in your belly, or you don’t know when your next meal is coming, when you love yourself, when you learn to master your emotions, then and only then are you free.
I love you, each and every one of you, and I wish you freedom within these walls.