Michael Neill is an internationally renowned transformative teacher, author, broadcaster, and speaker, described as having the unique ability to “blend the sacred with the profane”. The inside-out understanding at the heart of his work challenges the cultural mythology that stress, pressure, and other symptoms of “seriousness” are a necessary part of adaptation and growth in business or indeed any area of life.
In his role as CEO of Genius Catalyst Inc. since its inception in the UK in 1990 to its incorporation in the USA in 2007 and beyond, Michael has spearheaded its growth from consultancy to a multi-media organization delivering services to tens of thousands of loyal customers each year through live training, online courses, and self-study programs.
He has also spent more than three decades as a coach, adviser, friend, mentor, and creative spark plug to founders, CEOs, celebrities, royalty, and those who are up to something in the world. His global client base is wide and diverse, having served clients in North America, UK, Europe, and the Middle East in the fields of investment, sales, energy, manufacturing, the entertainment and media industry, and more.
He has been consistently ranked alongside Jack Canfield, Tony Robbins, and other legends in the field as one of the top 30 coaching thought leaders in the world, and continues to run a small private practice working with high performers in their fields of expertise.
A gifted communicator, Michael has authored six best-selling books including Creating the Impossible, The Inside-Out Revolution, The Space Within, and Supercoach. His books have been translated into more than 25 languages, and his public talks, retreats and seminars have touched and transformed lives at the United Nations and in over 60 countries and on six continents. His TEDx talks, ‘Why Aren’t We Awesomer?’and ‘Can a TEDx Talk Really Change the World?’ have been viewed by over two million people around the world and his blog and podcast, Caffeine for the Soul, has been entertaining and inspiring audiences around the world for more than 20 years.
Listen to more great episodes at Next Level Soul Podcast
Follow Along with the Transcript – Episode 083
Michael Neill 0:00
Is there anyone out there? And to his own amazement, he hears this Charlton Heston the divine voice saying, I am here. Step off the edge, I will take you in my hand, and I will carry you safely.
Alex Ferrari 0:27
I like to welcome to the show Michael Neill. How're you doing Michael?
Michael Neill 0:30
I'm really well, thank you.
Alex Ferrari 0:32
Thank you so much for coming on the show. Like I was telling you before we got on I am. I've been a huge fan of yours for such a long time. I've read all of your books, like you're one of those authors, like when you pick up the first book. They're like, what else has he written? And then I'm like, Oh, good. He's got four or five other ones. And I just start, just start consuming and absorbing as much as I can. And I truly love your approach to inner work in coaching and how to help people. And that's why one of the reasons I reached out to you.
Michael Neill 0:58
No, I appreciate it. It's my favorite thing is when people bring books up after I give a talk. And they're so dog eared and beaten up and then marked. I'm like, Yes, that's it. That's what you want.
Alex Ferrari 1:10
That's exactly that this is This is Warren is is loved this. There's immense something. So first question, how did you start this line of work?
Michael Neill 1:20
Well, I started the line of work, because I was just trying to not die, which sounds very dramatic. And I guess in some ways, was like, I was a suicidal teen. And I got I had an experience that talk about in my TED Talk, why aren't we awesome? Or have where it. I just, I felt like I was being sucked out the window of my dorm room at university. And I was literally clinging to the walls. It was that strong a pole. And there was a phone this was back kids when when phones plugged into the wall.
Alex Ferrari 1:57
And as it wrote it, was it rotary or push button, sir.
Michael Neill 2:00
I'm gonna say push button. I can't honestly remember. But, you know, I phoned the suicide hotline, because I could tell this was not good. And I got a busy signal. Oh, no, but it was so funny. Like, it made me laugh. I can't imagine anybody on the other end of the phone could have said anything better than that busy signal. Because it was just like, Oh, come on. And I remember thinking what is lightning gonna strike me next. But it like it popped me out of it. I was able to phone a friend. And I woke up the next day. And I had this just utter clarity that I didn't want to kill myself. I just thought about it all the time. And it changed something for me because it just became, oh, the suicide thought it stopped being this terrifying boogeyman in my head, and was just like, oh, yeah, when I get stressed. That's the thought that comes up. But it was clear because had I actually wanted to kill myself, I could have just let go of the wall. And I would have been gone. And so I got really interested in. Okay, first off, how could that be so real in one moment, and then just gone. Just look so differently in the next moment. And so I started studying anything that I thought might help. I studied spiritual stuff. I studied psychological stuff, self helpy type stuff. And one of the guys that worked for what I studied and then worked for was a guy named stuart wilde. Oh, wow, I love Star Wars was back in the 80s. This was like at the height of his wonderful living in London. And you know, he was he was mostly working over there. And I worked at his bookshop. And then I started working for him. And one Sunday morning, and anyone who knows Stuart is not going to be upset that I'm telling this story. He was really hungover. And he just said, you do it. And I had never done public speaking, like in school, but I'd never taught or anything like that. And I'm like, what? And and I did, and something came through me that day that I now I'm very familiar with, you know, but my best friend was there with me. And he was like, What the hell is going on? Because it was amazing. Like I was hearing things coming out of my mouth and going, I don't know where this is coming from. And my friend was going Where's this coming from? And I was like, I don't know what he said, we'll keep doing it. And it was just this and I don't know if Stuart knew or not that that was there. But from that moment on, I realized Oh, apparently even though my career wasn't doing that for a while, I knew that was something that I was meant to be doing. And and so I kind of did it as a hobby. And I was I was an actor. I had a sitcom in the UK. I was we went to BAFTA for we actually voted the only in Wales Am I known, but we won a BAFTA for you we have a Welsh BAFTA for You know, we were voted the most popular English language comedy of the 20th century. I mean, it was a huge hit.
Alex Ferrari 5:05
You can't you can't walk the streets in Wales.
Michael Neill 5:07
Well, now that used to be the thing. But but so this was a hobby, you know. So I taught because I loved it, because it was a nice way for me to learn. And I loved that feeling of wisdom coming through me. Let me it was handling. It wasn't like it didn't feel like oh, an entity. But it also wasn't the way I was used to thinking in my everyday life.
Alex Ferrari 5:36
It's interesting, because, I mean, we have some, some common friends in common. And, you know, I've talked to a lot of people in the film industry and high performing people in the writing world and in the directing world and in the acting world. And I always ask them, if there's ever a moment, and I'll ask you the same question when you're writing, and specifically writing and speaking, where, after you're done writing it, or after you're done saying it, you go, who who did that? It's good stuff. I don't know where it came from.
Michael Neill 6:07
All the time. Always say you must love writing, because I write continue. I mean, I've done 1000s of blog posts and books. And, and I am honest, and I say I sometimes like writing, sometimes it feels a bit like a chore. But I always love reading what I wrote. Because it's such a surprise to me. It's like, Oh, hmm. And it's not all great. But it's all like stuff. I didn't know, I knew.
Alex Ferrari 6:35
Isn't that fascinating? And it's, I asked that question. Because, you know, we all in the art artists, world, you think of the Muse, you know, the music, you're always looking for the muse. And that's just another way of figuring out like tapping into the, into the ether, if you will, Spielberg speaks about it. So many, so many writers speak about tapping into the ether, you know, when you have not heard of anybody in regards to speaking, do that. And there are other art forms in acting obviously, in, in writing, in directing, and other art forms, painting, things like that. But in the speaking space, I've never heard anyone say like, I just didn't know what was the same.
Michael Neill 7:14
So I teach a program called Emerging voices, where, you know, I work with people in a variety of fields who just want to get better at expressing in whatever form and I make a distinction between this creative source this, this, you know, I love the architect, Gaudi said, if you want to be original, make sure your work comes from the origin. So it's finding that, that place, it's exactly the same in every craft. But the crafts are completely different. So I sometimes think of it as you know, my, my daughters are dancers, one of them, you know, she's training professionally and choreographing and doing all that. And I use dance as a metaphor that they're the first thing you want to learn is to feel the music. Later, you can learn the steps, you can learn the moves, but if you can't feel the music, you can become the technically most proficient dancer in the world, but you'll never be great. But similarly, you can be the most natural, expressive, human. But if you don't learn the craft, you'll never be great either. So there's those two elements to it. And when they come together, it is the most beautiful feeling in the world. It's really, I'm just getting old, I've been around long enough to have developed that a couple of those grafts as a writer and a speaker and a teacher. So I've gotten to experience it multiple modalities.
Alex Ferrari 8:47
Let me ask you, where do you think that what do you think that is? I mean, I mean, I know it's not channeling, I don't think there's an entity walking through you.
Michael Neill 8:54
I think, you know, depending on my mood, I will call it God or I will call it the deeper mind, or I will call it the source. Or I'll call it the well. Or I won't call it anything.
Alex Ferrari 9:09
It just It just is. It's and please everyone listening please forgive me for telling the same story about Mike. I'd love to hear Michaels I want to tell Michael their story. That one morning, three o'clock in the morning prints. The great the great late, great prints, woke up at two o'clock in the morning and called up his backup backup singers and said, Hey, I need you to come down to the studio. We got to record something. And they're like, Prince, it's two o'clock can can we wait till six at least? It's like no, if I don't record it Now Michael Jackson's gonna get it. And it was such a wonderful. It's a wonderful story because Prince knew at a certain level that ideas and concepts need to be birthed into the world and they choose certain people to come through and if you don't take advantage of it, it'll just go on to the next one. And Spielberg said things exact same thing. He's like, you know, when I have an idea, I jump on it because if I don't, it's going to go, it's just going to find another vessel to get through.
Michael Neill 10:09
It's really interesting. I think of it as they used to, I don't know if they still do this, but to increase supercomputing power, used to be able to say, yes, you can use my computer, when I'm not using my computer, the supercomputer can tap into my computer's power computing power. And I think of it like that, it's like, and if your computer's not available, it'll just go to a different node, it will just find another place to get the processing power. And it feels like that i There's a wonderful if you watched Elizabeth, Gilbert's TED talk on. Remember, she talks about the poet Ruth stone, sitting on a hill, and seeing a poem coming towards her, and running down the hill to get to her typewriter in time. And the poet she almost misses it. And she winds up having to pull it back in and she types up the poem backwards, where the last line is first, and the first line is last. And while I don't know if that was a literal experience, I get that is like that, when it's when when there is a discipline to it, you've got to keep showing up. You got to keep doing it. But you're doing that so that you're there when the bus comes. Yeah. So that when the bus comes, you are there to get on it.
Alex Ferrari 11:23
But you got to show up at the stop every day.
Michael Neill 11:26
Because you don't know where the bus is going.
Alex Ferrari 11:28
Right! Right! That's, that's very, very true. Now there's a there's a famous story that you tell online, you made a little video on YouTube for that went viral. The dragon story? Can you tell people what the dragon story is?
Michael Neill 11:41
Yeah, it was it was a story that showed up spontaneously for a client. So I had a businessman fly out to work with me from Germany. And we ostensibly to work on business stuff. And but I know the nature of the work I do is because it's at a soul level, which sounds problem, I don't know whether your
Alex Ferrari 12:03
The show is called next level soul. You're in a safe place.
Michael Neill 12:08
So but at a soul level, I know when when when somebody's soul starts waking up when they start waking up to that all sorts of all boats rise with the tide. So so he we had what I thought was a really nice first session. And then when he came for the second session, he was like, What the hell did you do to me? And I was like, What do you mean? And he said, I have for 20 years, had this habit of biting my nails, and I've tried everything to stop. I've tried therapies, I've tried drugs, I've tried putting stuff on my nails, and nothing has work. And I haven't even been able to bite my nails for the last two weeks. And now he never mentioned that to me. So I knew it wasn't. Well, it was that brilliant intervention. I did like and I said I you know, I don't know exactly, but I can tell you what happened. And he said, okay, and that was where the dragon starts. So if I, if you may, please, sir, yes, yeah. So what I said to him was I said, Imagine you live in a world filled with scary dragons. And like not the Disney Pete the dragon dragons like scary Game of Thrones, dragons. And if you're under constant threat from dragons, job one is protect yourself from the dragon. So you build castles, and some people build their castles out of money. If I can just get enough money, the dragon took me some people build them out of out of love. If I can get find somebody who loves me enough, the dragons won't be able to get me or if I can find enough people to love me a little fame, then the dragons won't be able to get me, right. If I get enough power, I'll build my castle out of power. And then the dragons wouldn't dare come get me. And so we build these castles. And then some people have given up on castle building because it didn't work out for them. And so at their point, they're just trying to cope with the scratches the the poisonous toxic scratches of the dragon. And they do that by drinking and they do that with drugs and they do that with sex and they do that with whatever they found helps them cope. And then imagine one day you wake up and you realize unmistakably, there are no dragons. That what you thought were dragons were just the shadows of thought. They were just they looked so real until they didn't. Well, you're still in this world where everybody is building castles to protect themselves from dragons and doing things to cope with Dragon bites. You suddenly it would make no sense to do what you do for that reason. If you're not drinking poison, you don't need the antidote. So his habit of biting nails made perfect sense when this toxic fear and stress was running through it. But when he wasn't scared anymore, he didn't need whatever he'd found to cope with it anymore. And the funny thing is people think, Oh, well, I know I want to keep my fear because it's my edge. And without that I won't. And it turns out, that's just utter crap. That actually, when you lose your edginess, you create from such a solid, beautiful place, that it's just fun. And that's what happened to him. And that story. I shared it once on my radio show when I had a Hay House Radio Show. And it did it just it went absolutely viral. And I met so many people over the years, from the addiction community who came and say, you know, I heard this story that you told, and I stopped that drinking. And I stopped that. And I even got approached by a TV producer about doing a show because the daughter of somebody that he knew had stop throwing up the limit, she had bulimia. And he had met them to other women who said one with anorexia, one with bulimia who said they'd stopped because of me. And I said to him, like I got I would love to be able to tell you, yeah, let's do it. But honestly, I don't know what's going to happen. When I do what I do when I share what I share. I just know good things happen. But it's not targeted. It's just, it's just true. If you're not in pain, you don't do things to relieve the pain. And since so much of our pain and suffering comes from our own, on unseen thinking, when that settles, the habits we've developed to kind of cope fall away.
Alex Ferrari 16:42
That's why you don't see many Yogi's drinking.
Michael Neill 16:47
You know, in fairness, I did have a great lunch with a Zen master, where he really did show up on a Harley and leathers muscle shirt, and flirted with the waitress and like he was just like this dude. And then we went to his monastery, and 12 foot pictures of him in full monks robes, and he was like, exactly what you want a Zen master to be, he could move between the Harley and the monastery effortlessly.
Alex Ferrari 17:16
Right! Because that's that when you when you meet a master like that, that's an approachable, Masha, when you see when you're literally seeing someone at the top of the Himalayas, it's hard to connect with that you need someone who can do both. So you can feel like there's a connection.
Michael Neill 17:31
And like all of my, you know, the reason that that my podcast is called caffeine for the soul, is because, to me, it's where the sacred and the profane meet. It's where the spiritual and the secular meet, it's where humanity and divinity collide, that the good stuff happens. I don't want to be stuck in either world. I want both.
Alex Ferrari 17:54
Because we are both right now.
Michael Neill 17:55
Well, that Yeah. And so you may as well,
Alex Ferrari 18:01
I mean, while we're here we are of both.
Michael Neill 18:04
As long as you're going to incarnate, you may as well enjoy the Incarnation, not just the origin, right. But if you if you try and do humanity without divinity, it's really hard. And if you try and do divinity without humanity, you wind up being a new story at some point, because it comes out but you didn't pull it off. And you were sleeping with somebody or doing something supposed to be doing. And so for me, like in, in induction Buddhism, they talk about radiant mind. And radiant mind is not pure spirit. It's where spirit comes through the human mind. And it's like light coming through a prism and it explodes into a rainbow of possibility. So living that radiant mind living in that intersection of the spiritual and the secular of the humanity and divinity to me, is just the sweet spot for
Alex Ferrari 19:00
life. You want said in an interview that nature is, is guided and controlled by an intelligence. But many of us don't believe that we as humans, as souls are guided by the same intelligence. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Michael Neill 19:20
Yeah, like I think I first really kind of got that. We went to Sequoia National Park with the with the kids wonderful. And we there was an exhibition on forest fires. And it turned out that for about 10 years, I don't remember it was in the late 1930s 1940s 1950s. But somewhere in that era, they actually eliminated forest fires for 10 years. And the forests started dying. And they realized that forest fires were part of this natural intelligence, clearing the brush making space for things to grow. And so they started the way they dealt with it was starting doing control Do burns. Well, that intelligence, that that where everything is part of the ecological balance is so brilliant. And yet somehow we think human nature is not part of nature. So life itself is guided like, acorns never become pine trees. Baby squirrels never grow up to be goats. Right there. There isn't. There is some sort of, you know, implicate order as David Boehm said. And yet we try to navigate life as if we're not part of that. implicate order. And, and when we realize that we are and we relax into it, life gets so much easier. It's not that shit doesn't happen. I didn't check to see if I'm allowed to say that on your show. It's not that it doesn't happen. But it's, it's you just handled it with so much more grace, because you can kind of see, it's all part of the unfolding. It's all part of the, the implicate order.
Alex Ferrari 21:02
It's interesting, because so many of us believe that we are kind of like, we are just travelers on the ride, but not of the ride. And so and when you're trying and when you're like traveling through a lake on a boat, you feel like you're not in many ways. I'm not sure if I'm articulating it properly, but you don't feel like you are of the you're not in the river, you're not in, you're just a rider on it. And you start in you're like viewing other things happening, right? You You see nature, but you don't think to yourself, no, no, I am. I'm part of this. You know, yeah, I wear tennis shoes. Yeah, I wear a shirt yet. You know, we have an iPhone in our pockets, and so on and so forth. But we are part of this plan, we are part of the planet we are. I mean, we're, we're such a dominant force on this planet, that if we're all just visitors, it doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense.
Michael Neill 22:00
Well, and a lot of people actually experience this when they're in nature, because it's a little harder to deny it when you're really in. There's a great Henry David Thoreau quote, where he said, most men spend all their lives fishing, without ever realizing it isn't fish that they're after? Right? Like there's something about when you kind of get you settle, just enough to notice, oh, I am part of this. And then of course, when you're part of it, you would no more deliberately damage it, then you would punch yourself in the face. But when you're not, it's understandable why people do what they do.
Alex Ferrari 22:41
Right! I mean, in Japanese culture, they have what's called with nature bathing, or when they walk when they they literally take the time to go out into the forest and just walk amongst nature. And they call it nature bathing to kind of calm them. And because you sit in Sequoia National Park or go to Muir Woods up in Northern California, I challenge you not to be chilled.
Michael Neill 23:06
I remember I don't know if this was the very first tweet I ever made when I first went on Twitter. But I was driving the highway one up the coast, Big Sur, I was coming back from Carmel. And I pulled over to watch a sunset. And the tweet was something like I don't know if this is divine order or random chance. But if it's random chance it caught this sunset. So Right.
Alex Ferrari 23:34
I mean, and Big Sur is a hell of a place to see Jesus. That's, you know, I always tell people, that's what God lives. He vacations in Santa Barbara, in Hawaii,
Michael Neill 23:44
You know, it's actually our 32nd wedding anniversary on Friday. But last year for wedding anniversary, we went up to this hotel in Big Sur that I can't remember the name of it. But it's this extraordinary hotel in the trees on a cliff. And I wept and I'm not a big crier, but I like it was so beautiful.
Alex Ferrari 24:03
It's it's it's pretty insane. So I mean a lot of your work, talks about our our self talk of the things that we do to ourselves. We've been talking about the negative thoughts and just the thought the things in our minds that we believe are our our realities, but truly, they're just literally in our brains, the dragons if you will. Why do we allow? Why do so many people allow the circumstances of our lives to take over our lives?
Michael Neill 24:35
Oh, it's completely innocent. It's because we are systematically taught from birth that that's how it works. What's wrong? Why are you upset? Oh, it's okay. Let me fix it. And so of course, we learned that we feel good because good things are happening and we feel bad because bad things have happened and we feel good because this person is nice to us. We feel bad because that person yelled at us and So everyone agrees with us. So we never even question it. until or unless we have a moment of grace, where our reaction makes no sense. Where we get very fearful, but there's genuinely nothing to be scared of, or we feel amazing in the midst of a really crappy circumstance. And then you begin to go, well hang on. It can't be the circumstances causing this that. And so I talked about it a lot. My work is the the innocent misuse of the gift of thought. Any moment, we are using thought to create heaven or hell, we're using thought as a tool to create in the world, or as a weapon against ourselves and others. And the way you know which it is, is when you're using it as a weapon, it hurts you feel bad. See, we think feeling bad is a problem. We need to we need to fix as opposed to No, it's a colder signal about how your brains working. It's like, if my check engine light comes on. And I go to get the check engine light fixed instead of the engine, I've missed the point. So all this stuff, and I used to do it, I used to teach it about trying to control your feelings and control your emotions is is as counterproductive as trying to fix all the gauges in your car so that they never move so that your it never get the temperature gauge never gets too high or too low. And the the oil gauge never gets too high or too low. And the gas gauge never gets too high or too low. You want them to move. Because they let you know what you need to do. And emotionally were designed so beautifully. But we just misinterpret the second.
Alex Ferrari 26:55
Michael, from talking to you and reading your books. The it seems to be that your work in in the later part of your career has seemed to start moving more towards the divine more towards source more towards spirituality in its underlyings. How did you come? How did you make that journey from when you started this? Or did it start automatically like that? And you're just kind of more revealing it now more overtly than you did early on? Or did it? Was there something that started to turn you that direction?
Michael Neill 27:32
Well, it's kind of a both end. So I my early experiences were pure spirit. But I came from such a scientific background that that was unacceptable. Right, so I found alternate explanations for everything. But I didn't I didn't like that answer. You know, it's like there's the old joke about the guy is in the Himalayas, and it's foggy. And he's wondering, kind of the clouds clear, just as he notices that he's at the top of 1000 foot ice cliff. And like if he'd gone two steps more, he would have fallen. And he looks behind them and it's all fog. And he just calls out he's not a religious guy, but he just goes, you know, is there anyone out there? And to his own amazement, he hears this Charlton Heston the divine voice saying I am here. Step off the edge, I will take you in my hand and I will carry you safely. Oh, and the guy goes, is there anyone else here? Right? Like that was me is like I just I saw it, but I didn't like what I saw it so. So there's definitely a process. What a great story. But But then the other part of it was I I thought that I couldn't say it. So I thought when I wrote Inside Out revolution, I called my agent, because that's a very blatantly spiritual book. And and and I said, Hey, do you think I need to put more of a sort of a disclaimer in the in the, in the foreword in the introduction kind of explaining why this book is more spirit? And he said, do me a favor, go back and read your blog posts from the last two years? And I was like, What do you mean? He said, Just do it? And I did. And And to my amazement, like I didn't even know I'd been talking openly about spirit for two years. So I was I thought I was in the closet. I'd been out for years before I noticed. So there was an element of Oh, okay. And then it was fine.
Alex Ferrari 29:43
So I have to ask you this because this is something that I've gone through as well. You know, as many of my listeners know, I have another show in the filmmaking space and, and the screenwriting space and I've been in the film industry for a long time. And when you hear the word spiritual ality or godforsaken religion, or something along those lines, you see the word God,
Michael Neill 30:06
Oh God, not God, again, not God, again,
Alex Ferrari 30:09
You hear these kinds of terms, it's almost trigger points in the way people look at you. So it took me a while, before I was comfortable enough to come out as you as you just said, and start this whole spiritual company, spiritual podcast and show to really just dive into deeper waters than I have been in the film industry. I still love doing that of the show. I love talking to, you know, Oscar winners and all that kind of good stuff. But this is this kind of conversation I'm having with you feeds the soul in a different way. And even when you were, when you're saying it earlier today, earlier in the conversation you were saying, so I mean, I can't I should I should I say so. You're safe here. It's a safe space to call the show is called next level. So so why is it that we have such have a problem? Allowing ourselves like, why is there such a stigma now, and I think it's loosening up a bit.
Michael Neill 31:06
It opening up, but I haven't answered that. Like, like, it was when I first my first book. Was, was my title for it was soul path. Because I've noticed, because I've worked with a lot of high achievers. And I've noticed that the ones that were happy, there was a there was an element of unfolding. It wasn't so much goal driven as the people who were trying to get somewhere that they just kind of did what they knew to do they follow these like Soul tongues, and the next step would appear. And Hay House, who are you know, they at the time, at least, they were the largest publisher of sort of spiritual and metaphysical content. They said, Yeah, we can't use the word soul. It's, it's too controversial. And I was like, You guys do books on dolphins and the angels talking? Really. But so we changed the title of that first book, so you can have what you want, which actually wasn't a terrible title. But but you know, and, but the, the we've thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Spirituality has come under the domain of dogma for so long, that people can't separate the two. So they think if you talk about spirit, you're saying you're going to hell for being gay. They think if you talk about spirit, you're you're better than me. Because you believe different, right? I actually lovely neighbors for many years, who were very, very, very fundamentalist, and religiously. And I was just with the guy back then. And we're waiting to pick up a sofa, he asked for my help in preparing a sofa, like so we went. And while we were waiting for the sofa to come out, he said, Do you have a problem with my religion? I'm like, Well, where did that come from? It was like, whoa, this was not the conversation I wanted. And I, you know, he brought it up. And I said, I don't have a problem with your religion. I have a problem that you think my family and I are going to hell? And he said, I don't think that. And I said to him, yeah, you do. Because we don't believe the way you believe. And you've said many times that anyone who doesn't believe what you believe is going to hell. And he said, Oh, no, there's still time. I actually found that sufficiently charming that I didn't I find it's not over yet.
Alex Ferrari 33:30
You're still breathing. You can. You can find the light. You can find the lights or there's hope for you.
Michael Neill 33:36
So that's why is we have it so linked with that kind of either or Right wrong, good, bad. And that's, that's such a constrictive, miserable world to live in. But when you can find God without religion, when you can live in spirit without giving up humanity, like I you cannot tell me by pointing someone's life out who's got the richest spiritual experience, like one of my absolute favorite Zen stories. And it's kind of to Zen stories that hinge together. But so a Zen master comes home, and he catches a robber in his house. And he and the robber sees him and runs off. And, and the Zen master quickly looks around, and all that's left is a shoe. Like one shoe. So he grabs the shoe, and he starts chasing after the guy going, hey, hey, and the guys running. And this is obviously a very fit Zen master because the Zen master catches up to and, and the robber puts down the stuff and he's like, Oh, and there's that master because you forgot this shoe. And the robber is so taken aback but also moved by that grace, that he becomes a student I have the Zen master. And in time he becomes enlightened. And when when they asked him, Well, what are you going to do now that you're enlightened? And you're going to leave the monastery, clearly, what are you going to do? They said, Well, I think I'm going to go back to being a robber. And they go, but you're enlightened, how can you do that? And he said, Well, everybody needs to do something. And we confuse the formless with the form. Spirit is the infinite breath of life that runs through everyone, regardless of what they do. So we confuse spirituality with morality. We confuse God with dogma. And so of course, we we resist it, because it's been the prison that we've been trying to be shut in. People have tried to shut us in our whole lives, but they have nothing to do with one another.
Alex Ferrari 35:56
You're right. They have nothing. I, when I tell people about this show, I tell them like it's a spirituality, personal growth, health, kind of, you know, answering the big questions of life is the way this this whole show is pitched. As opposed to, you know, this is a religious show. Like I don't, you know, I have different I've had, I've had a priest on I've had a yogi on, I have a rabbi coming on very soon. I have a Buddhist monk coming on soon, you know, a Zen master coming on soon. So like, they all have different perspectives, but I'm very curious to hear their answers to the same questions. Just to see their perspective on it, but they're very open. They're not dogmatic about things.
Michael Neill 36:38
And I, when I wrote Inside Out revolution, which was the same was kind of the first one where I just fill out just when
Alex Ferrari 36:45
Here's what it is.
Michael Neill 36:47
I have my early readers, I had an atheist, I had a Zen master, I had a priest, I had a scientist, I, you know, I, I wanted to hear what resonated with everybody, knowing that there would be bits that would completely not resonate with each person, as well. You know, one of the other ways that I think about it, so I swear a lot when I teach. And I, which makes my wife laugh, because I never swear at home. But I swear a lot when I teach. I don't know why it's not deliberate. It's not an act. It's just how it comes out of me. And over the years, and I've been teaching for over 30 years, I have got an equal amount of complaints about my use of the word God and my use of the word fuck. So
Alex Ferrari 37:39
Wow, that's pretty, it's pretty intense.
Michael Neill 37:43
Well, there's that there's an interesting story that somebody told me about a minister. And I can't remember his name, but he did a famous sermon, where he he said, you know, there are X number of children dying of hunger in the world every day. And that is shit. And the problem with it, is that more of you are upset right now that I just used the word ship and you are about the children dying of hunger. And that, to me speaks to that difference between the form and the formless between spirit.
Alex Ferrari 38:23
No, that's, that's, that's amazing. You mentioned earlier that you worked with Stuart, for a while. I have to ask the question. What are some of the best lessons you took from that, Matt? I mean, for everyone that listening please google stuart wilde. I mean, I listened to his audio cassettes. That's how old I am. I had his audio cassettes.
Michael Neill 38:45
Remember, we were talking about rotary phones earlier kids.
Alex Ferrari 38:49
I had his audio program on cassette, the CDs were way too advanced at the time. So I used to listen to him and his the way his a matter of fact, way of delivering his wisdom. And knowledge was so refreshing that there was not many doing it the way he was doing it at the time, arguably ever since, honestly. So what was your experience working with him? What was some of the things I'm assuming you absorbed a little bit off of Stuart?
Michael Neill 39:18
Oh, I you know, one of the one of the interesting things to me was I became like a steward wild apologist for years, you know, where people would go, Oh, my God, he drinks it. Oh, my God, he does this. Oh, my God, he does this. And I was like, Yeah, but he doesn't say he doesn't. Like to me, there's otter integrity, in drinking and womanizing and saying, Yeah, I drink and woman eyes. I might not approve. And in fact, I'm kind of a prude. Like I've been one with one woman since I was 20. Like I you know, it's just, that's how I came out. But somehow because Stuart was so open about it. It never I actually respected it. And I think one One thing that I learned from him was that the the secular and the spiritual can coexist, that you don't have to live this pure white robed life, in order to be to live a life infused with spirit, because that's what a spiritual life is, to me, a life infused with spirit. It's, it's, it's a liveness. I was so I used to be an actor. When I came out here to LA, I worked with an acting coach. And he did. He would film auditions for people, and then give them feedback. And I worked as his cameraman for a little while. And he would, from time to time, he would ask people, are you on a spiritual path? And they would always go, Well, yes, how can you tell? And he just wouldn't he'd never answered. And finally I said to him one day, how do you know who to ask that question of, and he said, Oh, it's the ones who are Dead from the neck down. Because for so many people, they're trying so hard to get the form of being spiritual, right? That there's no aliveness in them, there's no spirit. And, and so Stuart was somebody who had that very organic blend of the spiritual and the secular. So I learned that from him, but the other thing I didn't know I learned from him, so we went to, I think, was Louise Hay, his 90th birthday, my wife, my wife, and I, we obviously knew Stuart 30 years before. And, and it was the last time I saw him before he died. And, and he was talking about, like, I don't know, he was talking about 15 foot tall creatures, gray men, and the more fun it was, like, my wife was like, Well, how do you get there? And he's like, Well, you turn left, it was weird. But But I watched him speak, he gave a little talk. And I hadn't realized how much of my performance style like how I am onstage is Stuart. Because I never did. It was never deliberate. But I realized that they Oh, I'm standing on his shoulders performance wise. Because Because gestures and things I was like, Oh my God, I didn't know that was from him. So he had a big influence on me in many different ways. Even though in his later stuff, I gotta admit it, he went way further out there than I've ever got.
Alex Ferrari 42:16
He went on, he went off the reservation a bit, but later Later in his life, hey, it's Pat. Hey, Kootenay. Do you? Do you? Maybe he's right, we don't know what the hell. Now speaking of Stuart, you talked about something. In another interview, I saw you do a book called The Power of authenticity. And I think it's something that peoples really need to understand why certain people were drawn to certain kinds of people. And what we want to do to become more authentic, because we're always so afraid of being who we are in life, many people are always have this armor and talking about building castles. That's what they do to protect themselves, because they're definitely afraid of actually being themselves. But yet, after speaking to almost 800 of the top performers in the film industry, I realized that every one of them is authentic to who they are, they're not trying to be anybody else. Because if you try to be somebody else, you'd never reach to the top of whatever field you're in, whatever you're trying to do. And it could be for the book, by the way, for good and for bad, quote, unquote, what good and bad is because you can, you know, there was a reason why a lot of people listen to Howard Stern.
Michael Neill 43:38
Alex Ferrari 43:39
Oh, we love him, love him or hate him. He is who He is Joe Rogan is who he is. Jesus was who he was. There was an authentic not to throw those three in the same sentence, everybody, but you just see it as like,
Michael Neill 43:54
Why is he in trouble? The opinions expressed by the host are not those of the guests.
Alex Ferrari 44:02
Buddha, there's a few others. But But, but generally speaking, that authenticity and I've always wondered, I don't know if you ever saw this. And sure we you've had to have seen this in college or in high school, you would just see the ugliest dude with the most beautiful woman and you're just walking on a pier somewhere, and you're just like, how is that dude got? How did he get that girl. And I used to be friends with one of these guys who was this huge, very big, lovely teddy bear of a guy. But he wasn't quote unquote, attractive. But when we were at a club together, my God, the woman swarmed over him, because he knew who he was. And he was authentic and people are attracted to that. And I use that as a crude example. But it is it would love you to talk about that power of authenticity and how we can tap into more of who we are.
Michael Neill 44:58
And I got three The three things instantly came up. So the first is the new Charlie Puth. Video. Can't remember the name of the song, but the one that Billy Blanks is in, that's the story. Like he, he, this girl dumps him and he becomes all buff and, and works out with Billy Blanks and does all this stuff. And then, you know, goes back to the girl and the girl is now hooked up with this kind of fat guy. And it's like, because he's because he's just, he's just being himself. Imposter syndrome, which is such a big deal in our culture. When it doesn't make me cry, it makes me laugh. Because everybody thinks fake it till you make it as a great strategy and then wonders why they feel like a fake. It's because they are. They're even deliberately doing it. Especially like the film industry. You and I both have worked in the film industry long enough. Oh, my God, like, oh, yeah, my new movie, right? And, and it's like, Why do I have impostor syndrome, because you're a freaking imposter. It's, it's not confusing. It's not deep psychological wound. Now it can be and I'm not touring everything. But a lot of the time, it's that simple. And, and it does come from this idea that if people knew who I really was, and how I really was, they wouldn't want to be around me. Right? But the problem is, then the best you can get is imitation, love, imitation, fame, imitation happiness, because you get the form without the feeling. So until you're willing to show up as you if somebody loves you, you don't actually feel loved. Because you will, we're always gonna wonder, do they love me? Or the mask? Do they love me or the act? And so while on the one hand, yeah, you might, to use your analogy, you might wind up with a pretty guy, or the pretty girl. You spend the whole time kind of never feeling secure in the relationship? Because, God, what if they ever find out what I'm really like, right? Because at least if you show up as you, and that doesn't mean be a jerk and go, well, that's just me, you don't know you still be mean or kind. As you write those, those, you know, that's not you, that's just your behavior. But if you are willing to show up as you it is amazing how your people will find you. It becomes like somebody wants to describe it to me as the difference between a lighthouse, which is just giving up a signal. And when people can use the lighthouse, they're drawn to the lighthouse, they can avoid the lighthouse, but they know where the and, and the way most people try and and make it in the world by like being a lighthouse running up and down the beach, going over here, over here, over here. Like like that doesn't, that's not what draws people. It's just what is that I don't even want to be around that.
Alex Ferrari 48:05
But there's a confidence that comes along with the authenticity that that's the thing that people don't understand, like when you're in you could be, you know, physically unappealing, or not have all the money in the world or not be successful. If you're really truly comfortable in your own skin. That's arguably one of the most attractive qualities in a human being in a relationship standpoint, in a business standpoint, in a teaching standpoint, like those are the people you're drawn to.
Michael Neill 48:33
If somebody is listening, and you don't want to read the books, and you don't want to put in the hours, but you want to get the goodies when I know I'm sure nobody like that listens to your show. Obviously, that's but here's the shortcut. Show up, be yourself. See what happens. It's the secret to success in business. It's the secret to success in relationships. It's the secret to happiness in life. It's that simple. But nobody believes it can be that simple. I didn't.
Alex Ferrari 49:04
It was found out it was so you I'm assuming you know who Danny Trejo is right? So Danny, so Danny, if everyone doesn't know who Danny Trejo, Google, he's been in every single movie ever made since the 70s, basically, so
Michael Neill 49:20
That I've eaten and yeah,
Alex Ferrari 49:21
He has his fantastic tacos and the donut shop as well. But yeah, that's done in Hollywood. But Danny is one of the most interesting looking human beings ever. He's wonderful look to Him. Danny did not try to be Tom Cruise. Because he would fail. Danny's like, I'm going to be the best Danny I can be. I'm going to wear my tattoos. Just out in the open. I'm going to tell everybody who I am. I'm an ex con. I used to do bad stuff but then I'm rehabilitated. I'm clean and sober and he just put it all out. There he goes. This is who I am. Um, and that is why he is one of the more successful actors of his generation because he's just being himself. And and you know, as well as I do you being an actor even more so, how many people did you know coming up as an actor who were trying to be somebody who they weren't?
Michael Neill 50:14
Oh, you mean other than all of them? Raw. Tim Roth was not Tim, Tim. I knew him early on. And he was pretty much exactly himself the whole time. It was just like, I'm here, mate. I watched him in an audition, tell the casting director to fuck off. I mean, it was, it was great. That's great. And it was honest, it wasn't an act. It was just like, that's, that's where he was now. You know, again, not my style, personally. But it was him. It was like, that's, that's how he felt. And I think the other thing that people don't notice, look, you can get to authenticity and integrity in 30 seconds. Like, it's not a big journey. It's, it's just okay, here's my journey. I know, this isn't everyone's journey. But so I thought that I was about a 95% integrity. And I wanted to kind of close the gap. I didn't know if I could ever get to 100. But I wanted to close the gap. And when I started really looking at that gap, one day, to my horror, I realized I was at about 12%, authenticity, like, like just little things, where I'd like, oh, I shut a ad for when I shut Navy five, like, you know, it was it was just stuff where I was like, What are you doing, but it was actually helpful, because instead of my goal being to get to this place of perfect authenticity, my goal became to be a little bit less volition today than I was yesterday. And you know what, I have been successful at that for 1516 years. And it's been more than enough. Right? Like, I remember the first time it really came up after I saw that. So clearly, I was hosting my radio show guy calls in, and he's got a problem. You know, with with cold calling, he's a sales guy. And he's got a problem with cold calling. And I'm joking with him, and I'm saying, oh, so is it? Is it picking up the phone that scary? Is it pressing the one that scary? You know, is it the first three number, you know, and he's laughing and we're having fun with it. But I realized, as I'm talking to him, Oh, I know all this. And I'm still scared of cold calling. And so I stopped. And it felt like I didn't say anything for two minutes. I'm sure it was 12 seconds, like I but it felt like you know that it feels like forever. And I said, Hey, can we try again, because I just realized this isn't true for me. This doesn't I know this and it doesn't help me. And we had a great conversation after that. Got, it gets so much easier. When you're not trying to have people perceive you a certain way. I know a woman who runs a an organization on the south side of Chicago, called one solution, or one solution global, I think they're called and they do amazing work they work with, you know, a bunch of street kids who've really caught this kind of soul bug and seen something called ripples for peace. And they're doing amazing work there and around the world. But they're, they're centered there. And she used to be a business consultant. I knew her as a business consultant. And we were talking about what made the leap like how did she make that transition? And she said, there were two things, because she had a master's in social work. She'd always been inclined that way. She said the first was I was saying to my boyfriend, who's now her husband, that you know, we were watching the news. And there was another story about somebody else getting killed unnecessarily. And she said, You know, one day when people understand the spiritual principles, some day, it won't be like this. And her boyfriend said to her, you know, someday is just a thought. And she said, that really affected her because she realized, yeah, she kept thinking of this as something that had to happen later. Not something that could start happening now. But she said the other thing that was really the one is she she she was wondering why she wasn't making the leap. And she realized it was because she didn't want people to think that she thought she was better than them, or that she thought she knew the answers, or that she thought she was so great and spiritual that she could solve gang problems on the Southside of Chicago. And then she realized, oh, that's pure ego. Even though it sounds like humility. It's me concerned about how people perceive me, instead of just being and expressing who I am.
Alex Ferrari 54:41
Yep, that ego does get in the way sometimes, doesn't it?
Michael Neill 54:47
Now and again.
Alex Ferrari 54:49
Well, it's so interesting because you know, my style of interviewing and you've obviously had your own radio show, and you know how this is I have never trained properly. I'm not a journalist. nor do I pretend to be. So I ask questions because they are, I'm truly just having a conversation with you. And I were generally just recording it for other people to enjoy. But my, my approach has always been very conversational. And I disarm many of my guests because of that. They're just, they're expecting journalistic questions. And I'm like, no. So this and that, and that. And it's, it's because I'm truly just being authentic to who I am. And that's where a lot of the power and the strength comes from just being like, Yeah, I'm just having a conversation with another human being.
Michael Neill 55:31
Do you know the actor Bill Bailey, he's, he's dead now. But he was American actor, edit, he had the best radio voice, he had one on his name. Sounds familiar. In the UK, people know him as the voice of the audience. You know, and I met him, I used to do a lot of voiceover over there. And, and I met him on a couple of jobs. And, you know, he always played the man with the big voice, I played the kid. Right. And, and, and he would dress all in black. He was a huge guy, cowboy hat, black cowboy hat all in black. And, you know, he liked to hold court, and I loved being in the court. What? And I remember him saying to me once, I won't do the boys, because I can't. But he said, Michael, in this business, you must let go of old vanity, but never let them take your ego. And I found that such a helpful distinction. Because the way he was using the word, which isn't the way everyone uses the words, vanity is the problem. How am I looking? How am I looking? How am I coming across? Do you think that is going to get in the way of everything. But ego in the sense of your willingness to be yourself? You if you give that up? You got nothing. Now it is, you know, in my words, the way I would talk about it, you know, it's it's, it's Alex flavored God talking to Michael flavored God. So the Divine is still there. But if you let it, it's always going to carry just enough of your flavor. And people who like Alex flavored God are the ones who are going to subscribe to your podcast and rate five stars and do all that. Right people who like Michael flavor got that. But it but everybody gets the seasoning wrong. Right? Like I don't know if you cook, but my son and my wife are great cooks. And every now and again, they let me watch. But but one of the things that I know is that if you put too much seasoning on something, all you can taste is the seasoning. And that's like having too much ego too much vanity in your work too much. Too much Alex in the soup too much Michael in the soup. If you don't put enough, it's just a bit bland. But if you get the seasoning, right, it brings out the flavor in the soup, it brings out the flavor and the meat. And so when we are at our best when any performer, artist human is at their best, it's just enough of the humanity to bring out the flavor of the universal to bring out the flavor of the soul
Alex Ferrari 58:02
It's beautiful. That's such a great analogy. And never thought of that. Michael, that's, it's so true. Because you know, when you follow somebody or you read a book, you know, a lot of the times the concepts are been around forever. But yeah, they're Univer I mean, like, you know, do unto others as you want them to on to us pretty pretty have been around for a bit, you know, be kind be of service. These are not giant leaps in, you know, humanity as far as thought is concerned. But when you read it in someone else's work, it's the flavor of that person that you connect with. So that's why certain people listen to my shows, and people listen to your work because of the fleet. And I've never thought of it that that way before. But it is the flavor. And you can't have too much. You're absolutely right. Because if if you get too much Michael in there, you'd be like, yeah, and that's why sometimes you lose interest in people, because they, they go too far. They, their ego comes in like oh, it's it's about me now.
Michael Neill 59:02
Right! It becomes too big. And it's, you know, there's an adjustment. It's like, it's okay that it happens, but you don't want to get stuck in it.
Alex Ferrari 59:10
Right! Right! Yeah, if you get if you get a little too far into your own, you know what? Now I'm gonna ask Mike, I'm gonna ask you a couple questions. Ask all my guests. What is your mission in this life?
Michael Neill 59:26
You know, I have thought about that over the years. I don't know how seriously I take it as a mission. But when I first started, I for at least the first 25 years of my career, I would have described my mission as to study and search for the secrets to happiness, success and well being to live them in my own life and to share the best of what I've learned with others. And that that was true it like it was accurate, but it was sort of a description. It wasn't a mission. Right? Like, that's what I did. But it wasn't like I set out to do it. It just was what I was doing. When I think about it now, you know, I would just describe, sort of like a personal mission and a professional mission. And my personal mission is to have fun learn heaps love lots. Like, I want my tombstone to say, you know, here lies a loving father and friend, for husband, father and friend, like that would do me. But, but professionally, it's, it's to wake people up to this deeper dimension of themselves and of life. And then to help them live from it. And it doesn't have to be hard. And it doesn't have to be serious and grim. And it doesn't have to look floaty. It's very real. And to me, I can think of no better or more enjoyable way to spend my time. And if I ever do, I'll go do that.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:04
Fair enough. Now, what is the ultimate purpose of life?
Michael Neill 1:01:09
Look, I'll give you the honest answer. And the answer I like, the honest answer is I got no fucking clue. Okay. Now, but but the profound spiritual answer that I'm sure you're looking for, I think it is to wake up to who and what we are. I really do I think it is to wake up to our souls to wake up to the to wake up, if not from the dream, to wake up inside the dream. And then you get to master the art of drink.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:39
So we're all Neo in the Matrix, and we're trying to wake up,
Michael Neill 1:01:43
But we're all Neo in the Matrix. Right? None of us are Morpheus. None of us are the court like, we're all new. We are all the one.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:51
We're all capable of doing everything that Neo can do.
Michael Neill 1:01:54
Yeah, in whatever form it comes through us. I mean, I don't know if I would would go to the yet within the movie world.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:00
Yes, yes. within the movie world Well, yes, yes. But yeah, we have to just come true to who we are and what we are capable of doing in this incarnation, essentially.
Michael Neill 1:02:09
So in other words, once you wake up to that soul path, it will unfold for you. Like you don't know where it's taking you. But you know, what's next? It's whatever's in front of you. So what's my mission in life right now is to chat to you. In 10 minutes, I'm going to have a different question. But I don't know what it is yet. I think it'll involve lunch, but I'm not sure
Alex Ferrari 1:02:35
So, but the question of the main question is, when is soul path? The book coming out, sir?
Michael Neill 1:02:39
Well, it kind of already did it. You had a different title.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:42
But you have to pair it with a new one, a new one with all the years of experience and knowledge you build.
Michael Neill 1:02:47
This is I mean, I if this is audio, nobody will see this. This is the the mock up cover of the new book that's coming.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:54
It's that simple. A user manuals for human beings. That's amazing. We need one.
Michael Neill 1:03:00
Yeah. Well, it turns out, it's a really lovely User's Manual is very friendly.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:05
It wasn't Ikea. Ikea didn't do it. No. Turns out.
Michael Neill 1:03:10
There's no missing parts that you have to send off for.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:13
Now, Michael, where can people find out more about you and your work, sir?
Michael Neill 1:03:16
Well, michaelneill.org is is is the central hub is my my people. funny to say that but you know, to build me a sort of a sandbox on the on the web. And that's where we're everything is people who kind of want to the next steps caffeine for the soul is the podcast, we're about to hit our 2 million downloads, which is I haven't been around as long as you but. But it's like, it's cool. That's a fun, fun milestone. And the TEDx talk, why aren't we awesome? Where is another place that a lot of people just go? Oh, it's like, I get it. Yeah, absolutely.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:54
Michael, it has been such a pleasure talking to you, my friend. You are welcome back anytime. Please let me know when the new book is out because I want to have you back to talk about that. And I appreciate you my friend. Thank you again for being on the show.
Michael Neill 1:04:05
Pleasure to meet you. Thank you!
Links and Resources
- Michael Neill – Official Site
- The Inside-Out Revolution: The Only Thing You Need to Know to Change Your Life Forever
- The Space Within: Finding Your Way Back Home
- Creating the Impossible: A 90-day Program to Get Your Dreams Out of Your Head and into the World
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