This episode welcomes Michael Buckley, a remarkable solo, former YouTube star and now life coach who coaches humanness, not happiness. Michael talks about his process of realizing that being single is an amazing choice, but he had to get past the nagging thought that “it would be nice to have someone.” Peter and Michael talk about his breakthrough and how it changed how he subsequently thought and behaved. Michael dispenses helpful advice, such as how to go to a movie alone and how to move on from an unsatisfying relationship.
One more thing before we start Solo has its second sponsor: Wax Crescent, a boulder-based company that makes small batch candles hand poured. Founded by a solo entrepreneur and contributor to the podcast. Kym Terrible, her candles are made with soy wax and infused with wonderful fragrances and essential oils. Each candle is topped with a crystal. Yes, a crystal. Kym sells other hippie dippie stuff on there too. Don’t worry, gentleman, Wax Crescent has guy friendly candles, or as I like to call them, MANdles. Peter’s favorites are Wild Wonder and Imagine.
Use code: SOLO20 for 20% off your first order at waxcrescent.com.
Listen to Episode #49 here:
What The Buck
This episode welcomes Michael Buckley, a remarkable Solo, former YouTube star, and now a life coach who coaches humanness, not happiness. Michael talks about his process of realizing that being single is an amazing choice but he had to get past the nagging thought that, “It would be nice to have someone.” We talk about his breakthrough and how it changed and how he subsequently thought and behaved. He dispenses some helpful advice such as how to go to a movie alone and how to move on from an unsatisfying relationship.
One more thing before we start, Solo has its second sponsor, Wax Crescent, a Boulder-based company that makes small-batch candles hand-poured, founded by a solo entrepreneur and contributor to the podcast, Kym Terra Beale. Her candles are made with soy wax, infused with a wonderful fragrance, essential oils, and each candle top with a crystal, which I think is pretty cool. Kym sells some other hippy-dippy stuff out there too, but don’t worry, Wax Crescent has guy-friendly candles also, whereas I like to call them MANdles. Use SOLO20 for 20% off your first order at WaxCrescent.com. I hope you enjoy the episode. Let’s get started.
We are overdue to have a remarkable single person as a guest, someone who is unapologetically unattached, and Michael is that person. He was one of the first generations of online stars as the award-winning host of the What the Buck Show, which ran for ten seasons on YouTube. Buck was hand-selected to be one of the first YouTube partners in 2007. His content garnered over 400 million video views. He’s the bestselling author of HELP! My Kid Wants to Become a YouTuber. He is happily retired from YouTube, happily divorced, and enjoying his career as a life coach. Welcome, Michael.
I’m remarkable. I’m single. I’m happy, and all of it. That was such a lovely intro. Thank you. Nice to meet you, Peter. I’m excited to talk about all these things with you.
I found you when someone alerted me to the following tweet you sent. It says, “This is also the first time in my life I looked at single as an amazing choice versus in the back of my mind, I always thought, but it would be nice have someone because I was brainwashed to think and love equals good/better being consciously, deliberately single is an amazing choice.” That was the tweet where we got connected. First of all, it’s refreshing for someone else besides my readers to have that opinion and then to say it proudly and publicly.
I’ve been doing this work on myself for the last couple of years and I do think there was always that one thought that kept derailing the other thoughts. When I finally caught that thought, which was, “It would be nice to have someone.” That was the thought that kept tripping me up. I feel like I kept trying to talk the talk and walk the walk, but it wasn’t clicking. Once that thought went away, it was like, “It all started clicking.” That was the last thought that was holding me back from truly embracing life as a single person.
How quickly was it from realizing that, “It would be nice to have someone,” to recognizing that was your roadblock to tweeting that? What was the distance in time between the recognition and the tweet?
All I know is I was working on this for several years. I’ve been divorced for several years and I have not dated for a couple of years. What I would take breaks from dating or breaks from online apps, it was still like in my brain, I was taking a break. I wasn’t sold on the idea of being single. I’m looking at my journal from April of 2020. Something that I wrote to myself was, “I do feel single.” I wrote my great life work and purpose, “Do not involve having a boyfriend.” I also wrote my 40s are for me. It’s interesting because when I was journaling about this, all of my twenties was dating or having a boyfriend and then meeting my ex-husband. At the age of 26, immediately deciding to get married and then spending many years married.
It’s interesting being 45 and being single for the last years. After I got divorced trying to be okay being single, but not jumping right into a nine-month relationship. Still always thinking I should be with somebody, I’m a great catch. The click was, “I like being single. I want to be single.” I would think because of my brainwashing for the first few years of my life, “t would nice to have somebody.” When I realized, “My 40s are for me,” that was the thought that helped solidify it because it was like, “This is for me. It’s not for me and a partner,” which feels very different than being single because I can’t find somebody.
That’s why when I use the words conscious and deliberate, that’s what makes it click. I’m not accidentally single. I’m not single because I’ve run out of options. I’m not single because I don’t believe in love. I’m not single because I think it’s dumb to be married or a couple. It’s wonderful but for me at age 45, I belong to being single. When I’m looking at my journal, I kept solidifying it and I wrote, “I meant to be single.” I reminded myself I’m more able to live in line with my purpose and achieve my great life goals as a single person. I wrote, “I never feel alone. I’m surrounded by love. I’m in a deeply committed relationship with myself,” which sounds so goofy, but it is the way I feel. It’s wonderful because I love myself. Why wouldn’t I want to be in this beautiful relationship with myself that it’s hard to be in that if not impossible when you’re trying to do that with another person? It’s such a luxury to have this single life.
There are many things that are popping in my mind that we’ve talked about that I’ve been writing about and working on. One is that it reminds me of one of my favorite Oscar Wilde quotes, which is, “To love oneself is to begin a lifelong love affair.” It’s from actually a rom-com that he wrote with a bachelor and a single focus gentleman in it. It’s interesting the push back or even hearing how hard it is for people to say how committed they can be to themselves first. All of the media messages and all of the pressure is for you to find someone else to commit to. The idea that you can be focused on yourself and your mission in life, the things that you want to accomplish, and that you want to put those things first.
It’s weird to have to apologize for that, to feel strange about it or work on it in a journal in order to accept it. I would like to see that as the default. The default is you’re committed to yourself and to make your life as good as possible. If someone comes along that you feel that special connection with, and that you want to share that life with, that sounds wonderful and good. I like to say solo is not anti-marriage. It’s pro single. Is this an orientation or a new recognition that you’ve had? Have you always been a solo mentality even when you were partnered up in marriage?
I was. I’m someone who loves being alone. I’m very charismatic. If I’ve learned anything about myself is that I’m friendly but not very social. It’s interesting because even when I was with somebody, I love being alone. I love it when they would go and leave and I would be alone. I love to be alone to watch TV. I’m the type of person I go to the movies by myself. I go to dinner by myself. I went to the Botanic gardens and walked around by myself for three days in a row. I love the company of myself. As a life coach, when I’m talking to someone I always think if you’re looking for a boyfriend or a girlfriend, a lot of times we’re looking for an external solution to an internal problem with drugs, alcohol or a partner.
If you don’t love yourself, there’s not a lot of love in the world from a partner, a stranger on the internet, somebody, friend or a parent that’s going to make you feel that. It has to be an active daily practice to like and love yourself on purpose. As goofy as that sounds if you don’t do that right, it’s going to show up out and weird behaviors or weird relationships. People don’t do work on themselves, they throw themselves into relationships and they wonder after four marriages or constant dating for ten years, “Why? What’s going wrong here? Men are terrible. Women are crazy.” No, it’s you. I always tell people, “You’re the problem and you are the solution because if you’re not the problem you were screwed.” Otherwise, I need to get rid of my job or get rid of my partner so I can do something versus, “No, I can solve this.”
I did feel brainwashed. I feel like I got out of a cult of, “Marriage is good. Divorce is bad. Love is security. Single as lonely.” It’s disempowering. Once you’re out of that mindset, you’re like, “It feels so liberating. It feels so freeing.” I’m not anti-marriage. I’m a minister. I’ve married eight couples. I celebrate marriage. It’s also to celebrate it in terms of, when people get divorced, we should celebrate. When people call off an engagement, we should celebrate. It’s very easy to get engaged, “I’ve known you for three months and you gave me a ring.” It’s challenging and uncomfortable to break off a two-year engagement and be like, “You’re not the one for me.” How beautiful that choice is.
The more we talk about this stuff and people read it, it’s like, “Marriage is marriage. Divorce is divorce. Love is you make it. Single life is what you make it, it doesn’t mean lonely for me. I’ve never felt so happy. I’ve never felt so fulfilled. I’ve never felt connected to myself and my purpose.” I’m not catching my heart started the wagon of, I will never be with anybody, but for the next couple of years, this is it. My life is fulfilling. If I happen to spend someone, I enjoy time with that’s a bonus or that’s extra. Can you imagine when they stand up there? “When we get married, I was nothing until I met you. My life was unfulfilling and then you came along and saved me from the minutiae.” That sounds horrible.
It’s fascinating as I have these conversations and it’s uplifting to talk to you, Michael, because not only your energy and you’re unapologetic, you’re not going to apologize for how you are thriving and how you’re flourishing in this life. First of all, we do the world especially young, old and middle-aged people a disservice by saying you are incomplete when you’re not partnered. As a result of that, you have a huge swath of life where you are a less than. I like this term for now or forever. You’re single by choice, for now, it might be forever. You don’t have to decide. For some people, it’s forever. They know that they’re not the marrying type and the partnering type for whatever reason. They would be less happy as a result of that. My last comment listening to you is this, why aren’t we having harder conversations about how risky it is to partner up?
The nice thing about myself is I’m a sure thing. I always say, yes, I always want to do what I want to do. I’m not worried about someone ruining my life. The idea is that yes, there’s a big upside potentially partnering up, but there’s also a big downside. The idea that someone would go through an engagement, which is meant to be an assessment of how good a partner this person is going to be and ends up going through with the marriage and the wedding because they’re afraid of disappointing friends, family, and that partner is I feel bad for these people. If we could change the conversation and have people comfortable with their singleness, when you’re single by choice, it’s very easy to be happy. It sounds like a switch flipped for you.
It’s silly when we say, “I love you until death do us part,” and then we keep getting married. It’s like, “I love you until I changed my mind.” People think love is flowers, sex and it’s all these amazing things, but it’s, “I thought something about you and then two years later, I thought something different about you.” That’s all it is. Relationships are thoughts. Why were you delightful for two years? Two years later, I thought, “You’re not the one for me.” Every romantic song is disempowering. We are brainwashed and even getting married obligation is the lowest form of motivation. When you see people who’ve been married for twenty years and they have this look on their face, they barely talk to each other. They sleep in separate beds. “We stayed together for the kids.” They’re not the great love of each other’s lives.
I remember in 1998, I was living on Cape Cod and I was doing theater. There was this man who was doing theater with me. It was in a very unhappy marriage but he had a million friends. He lived like an independent person. He looked at me and I was 23 years old. He said, “Michael, think of all of our friends in our peer group, how many married couples can you think of that seem happy together?” None of us could come up with one. Everybody else of the gazillions of couples we were social with, how many of them seemed to be enjoying life together? When I’m at the airport and I see people, I was like, “They just met. That’s the third wife.” They can’t keep their hands off of each other.
If you are going to be married for 60 years, that’s lovely. If you are going to be married for twenty years, that’s lovely. It’s every year as a recommitment to the idea. You should check in with each other, “How’s it going?” versus, “We signed up for this,” and until the end, it’s like, “It’s not working. Do we go to therapy and beg each other to be different?” When I got divorced, the only thing I ever think about my marriage was he adored me. We had a lovely thirteen years together. I don’t think, “I should have done this. I shouldn’t have done that. I could’ve done this. We were a bad match.” Whatever the BS story, the only thing I ever think about it was we had a nice thirteen years together and it came to completion. That’s the other thing.
I love the concept of friendship and relationships of completion. Many people think I need closure. No, you don’t. I need to message them on Facebook ten years later and ask them what happened. Nothing happened. It was meant to last two months, two years or two minutes. That was all it was meant to be. That helps my brain too. There is a consequence. Nobody tells you, you get married. There’s an emotional consequence. There’s a financial consequence. That’s why the older I get to it is a transaction financially. I am 45 years old. I’m not going to have children. It’s lovely that we fought to get married. For me as a gay person, I’ve already been married, and I don’t think I’m dying to get married again. If I dated someone for a couple of years and they said, “It’s very important to me.” I might say, “I’m 45. I’m divorced. I’m good.”
Let me ask you a little bit more about this idea of completion versus closure. I understand the notion of closure like the thing that you want to put a bow on it, get it out there, and get beyond it. When you’re coaching someone, tell me about how you coach them about completion?
It’s the same as forgiveness. I forgive you and I move on. I say forgiveness is a decision, not a process, because what am I going to do? Go to therapy and ramble for twenty years about, how you did me wrong and how I need to grow. It’s a process and I need to meet someone else. It’s a decision. I believe forgiveness is a decision. I believe closure is a decision. You don’t need an answer. Why? Imagine if I’m dating somebody and it doesn’t work out. Three months later, I feel the need to ask them, “What happened?” You don’t need to know because their reason is 3 to 5 different things. You think you need to hear it versus, “I can decide now. We were together for three months. That what it was meant to be. Thank you for your time,” versus dragging this out in your head. For any friendship or relationship, it generally runs its course. It’s not anything deeper than that. If someone up, “You should know why I’m mad at you or you should know why it ended,” none of us are psychic.
This is communication too. Poor married couples are married twenty years and the wife is so irritated to the husband, he doesn’t know after twenty years? He’s not psychic. That’s the problem. We get married and we assume that our spouse is going to be our therapist, psychic and best friend. It’s like, “No, you’re my spouse. I want you to be my spouse.” Closure and forgiveness is a concept that I believe is it’s not something, “I don’t need it.” Your brain wants to put a bow on it or your brain wants to understand. I’m coaching someone who’s about to leave their spouse and the spouse doesn’t understand. I keep saying to her, “He doesn’t need to understand your leaving.”
It’s like, “I love you. I like you. Please understand.” What we’re trying to get people to understand, it’s like, good luck. We have to seek to understand to be understood. In relationships, there’s nothing deeper than I love you, I like you, it’s been a great ten years, I didn’t cheat on you, and I’m not disappointed. I have loved you for ten years and now I would like to be single. There was nobody else. When I got divorced, my father said, “Please don’t tell me you have a boyfriend.” I said, “Daddy, I’ve been married for thirteen years. The last thing I need is a boyfriend.”
First of all, anytime you have a breakup and the person wants to know why, it’s often hard for people to give the reasons. They end up becoming hurtful. To me, I always say, “No is no. No more is no more.” I like that idea of you appreciated what you had and it comes to an end. I’m a big believer in we have chapters in life. Some chapters are long and some chapters are short, but part of life is moving forward to the next chapter. I like the way you’re talking about this. It’s helpful for people.
“I could give you a million reasons why I don’t want to be with you. Do you want me to list them all? I don’t see myself with you.” When I used to date people for a brief about a time that ended up being like, “I don’t see myself with you. I see you as a friend. I see you as a lovely person. I’ve enjoyed hanging out with, but I don’t see this going any further.” There’s something about being my age when I was dating years ago, I don’t need someone to spend time with, like, “If it’s not going to be this amazing, my life feels spectacular.” If someone wishes to partner with me, I hope they show up spectacular and not someone who is looking for me to complete them. Someone like me who is charismatic, lovely, and compassionate. People do misread that as, “Maybe I should take Buck.” No, I should be a great friend, mentor and lovely person in your life. You don’t need to try to date me.
That’s a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem. You have this moment of recognition and it comes in different ways. It sounds like for you, the recognition came through journaling, writing, and self-reflection. I’ve had people emailing and messaging me about a moment reading this blog. For example, there’s an episode called Getting off The Relationship Escalator. It’s about this prototypical exemplar relationship in society. The criteria, the rules of that relationship, the status that it has, the difficulty that some people have riding the relationship escalator and they realize, “I don’t want that.”
Once it gets laid out that they’re not looking for monogamy, they’re not looking for consistency. They’re not looking for what’s called merging, coming together. The special status that they don’t want to have a relationship that is put above all their other relationships. They don’t want to have to vacation with this person, and so on. They have a moment where they recognize human domestication. That we are being domesticated by the world to get us to behave and act in certain ways. When you have that moment of recognition, what I argue it should lead to is reinvention. That is suddenly you are playing by a whole different set of rules. For you, does this feel like a reinvention? Have you reinvented yourself, your attitude, your behavior and the way you live in any way as a result of this recognition?
Totally, besides the journaling, when I look back in the self-reflection, I think about how I was on dates and it was, “I was jerky.” I didn’t want to go to dinner. I hate going to dinner. I hate small talk. I would sit there and I had this like, “I dare you to say something.” The realization is, “I didn’t want this.” The brain isn’t very good at knowing what it wants. That’s why “I want a Mercedes,” you buy a Mercedes. You’re like, “Did I want this?” It’s like, “I got married. Do I want this?” Our brain isn’t great at knowing what it wants and then we get it and we’re like, “Did I even want this?” It was also the recognition of I was going through the motions of a heteronormative seeking love and life. When I got married in 2002, especially as a gay person, I was like, “Good. People will regard me higher. I made a better life choice.” “You all know gay people, they’re wild, they do drugs, they have lots of sex, but look at me full jowl. I’m living a monogamous suburban life in Connecticut.”
I felt this weird heteronormative ideal to aspire to. The moment I got divorced, I was wild. I went from monogamously married for thirteen years to, “Let’s go to the bathhouse. Let’s have fun. There’s not enough.” Now that I’ve come around, I knew I would have to reconfigure myself because I had lived monogamously married. I was playing the role of a wild hyper-sexual single person. I had confused about being sex-positive with being wild. Now I’ve been celibate. That’s another layer of it. I could have casual sex and people think that too, when they hear, “Gay single guy, he wants to be wild.” I’m like, “No, I want to be alone.” It’s interesting how I have reconfigured myself. My life is mindful, deliberate, and purposeful. I think intentionally. I feel intentionally. I create intentionally. I eat intentionally. Everything I do is intentional.
I don’t want to be having random sex because that doesn’t fit in with who I am. I’m not shaming myself for doing that. I loved every second of it. I have a lot of fun doing it, but at this stage in my life, I don’t want to be having sex even. My relationships are different. Being a gay person is when you’re out, it’s very flirty and it’s very easy. I love that I’ve taken myself that I’m not an option. I will not date with you. I will not sleep with you. I will be a great friend and an important person in your life. I have done a lot of reconfiguring and reassessing at 45 years old. I’m always gently evolving into new versions of myself. Who I was at 23 is nothing like 33 and nothing like 43. When I meet me at 53, I’ll look at him too and say, “What do you want Buck?” I’m always checking in with myself. It suits me and it serves me to be a very happily off the market solo person.
I do like this idea of reinvention. What better time than the middle of your life knowing what you know and being comfortable with who you are. One of the things that drew me to you and made me want to have you as a guest, besides the fact that you’re unapologetic about this, which is refreshing to have someone own it and own it publicly is your positive attitude and your charisma. You also are very good about acknowledging that life can be hard. Life can be really difficult. You have this one, two-punch of go out there, mix it up, have a great time. This is an amazing world, but can it be hard? That’s okay. Where does that come from?
I coach humanness, not happiness. I’m here for the human experience. The human experience includes many amazing things and many terrible things, but exactly what you make it. My brain is wired to be very proactive and very positive. I always say the place could burn down. The worst part is the uncomfortable emotion. Your wife could leave you tomorrow. The only thing that’s the problem is the heartbreaks. One of the things in my personal mission statement is I use my emotions as superpowers. Something about being a coach is I’m very good at allowing my negative emotions. I’m also good at creating my positive emotion on purpose. That is a skill that I’ve worked on over the years.
My mother died very young. I’m divorced. I’ve been through things, but I love them. I’m not like, “These are the sad parts of my life and these are the happy parts of the life.” These are the parts of my life. I always say, “Messy me greatly informs thriving me.” It’s not like you go to therapy, coaching, read a great book or listen to a podcast and suddenly it’s like, “I’m thriving.” I love all the years that I wasn’t self-doubt, confusion, and messy drunkenness because that inspired me to be this version of myself. The suffering is always optional.
When I work with people, I can tell it’s like, “Do you want to work on this? Do you just want to complain?” When you said life is hard, I’m like, “I don’t think that. Life is what you decide to make it.” When I talk to people and they say that, “There’s no upside to that.” I know you’re thinking your brain is protecting you from disappointment later. That thought feels way more empowering than life is hard. For some people, life is easy. For some people, life is hard. For some people, they have no self-awareness. Life is, “I don’t even know, I’m going through the motions.”
I do agree with you about this idea that your negative emotions serve you also.
Did you ever see the movie, Inside Out? That’s $20,000 worth of free life coaching. At the end of it when she says, “I would never know what a happy day was if I never had a sad day.” I’m crying and I’m looking around, I’m like, “I hope these parents are talking to their children about emotional intelligence.” If we were only ever having positive emotions, we would not know we were having positive emotions. We need the contrast. What makes abundance feel so amazing is because we know what scarcity feels like. If we didn’t know what hate felt like we wouldn’t know what love felt like. People who want happiness, you’re missing out. I wouldn’t know what it felt like to be successful if I didn’t know what it felt like to be a huge flop. I love that I’ve had both experiences in my life.
In my research, I noticed a couple of cool things, and I’m wondering how much of them are connected to this reinvention of yourself or how much of them are Michael Buckley in general? One of them is you seem to be into minimalism. You like this idea of living a minimal lifestyle. The other one is that you are abstinent at the moment, but you’re also not drinking much. Are those independent of your soloness or are they connected?
Minimalism helps because I love living a simple life. Dating and being in a relationship is not simple and it plays along with that. I remember being married, and being a couple. We had two houses, we have two basements. We had two attics and it felt like we had so much crap. I like having very few things. That plays a part of it. Having a person around is not minimal, it’s tough or they’d have to be into minimalism too. The not drinking thing is a huge part of my life. I haven’t drank since June of 2017. I don’t identify as sober. I identify as a happy non-drinker and it did change my life.
The moment I stopped drinking, my life became very clear. The reason that I’m celibate is because I am someone who’s very good at giving things up. It was easy for me to stop drinking. I stopped eating fast food. I stopped drinking diet soda. I am an all-in person. I remember the first day I showed up at my flag football team back in 2018, I said, “I’m either going to sleep with all of you or none of you.” My personality is like I’m either going to do it or I’m not going to do it. I love not having sex. I love not drinking. I love having a very simple life full of no knick-knacks and very little clutter.
You live life well or you’re good at life.
I have lived a very lovely and delightful life. One of my default thoughts on my little Post-it is, “I’m so lucky, this is my life.” I think that. I feel that every day.
We want our life coaches to be good at life. You’ve picked the right career as you’ve pivoted away. We have a mutual friend who said from being weblebrity, that’s Kevin Nalty.
I love Kevin. I’ve known him for years. I haven’t seen him in years, but yes, we were navigating a weblebrity, internet stardom, YouTube sensation, and whatever the heck they were calling us back in 2007. He messaged me or he pointed you out to me. I believe that’s how we became Twitter friends because he tweeted at me when I tweeted that and that’s how you saw it. Thank you, Kevin Nalty.
Kevin is a previous guest as a remarkable solo. He was in the Kevin 2.0. He’s newly divorced and reinventing himself. It’s interesting how these things can work out. I have a question for you, Michael, and that is, do you ever light a candle to relax or energize yourself?
I like candles all day. Every day. I have a candle behind me that I light first thing in the morning and then I’m looking over at my coffee table. I have a candlelit now.
This is warm weather candles for you. This is warm days. I do that too. I have good news for our Solo readers and that is Solo has a new sponsor, Wax Crescent. They make small batch candles, hand-poured North of you, Michael, in Boulder, Colorado. The company is founded by a solo entrepreneur and contributor the show, Kym Terribile. If anybody read episode one, you’ll know Kym. Her candles are made with soy wax and infused with wonderful fragrances and essential oils. Each candle is topped with a crystal which is cool. I’m not into the hippy-dippy stuff.
Wax Crescent also offers other hippy-dippy stuff like ritual boxes for your sacred space. Wax Crescent has a guy-friendly candle too, or as I call them MANdles. My favorite MANdles are Wild Wonder and Imagine. Use SOLO20 for 20% off your first order at WaxCrescent.com. I do want some advice from you for the readers who want to lean on your soloness and your life coaching. The first one is, do you have advice for people who aren’t comfortable dining alone or aren’t comfortable going to the movies alone? How do you dine alone well? How do you go to the movies alone?
This is a great opportunity to work on your self-confidence because there’s something about putting yourself in emotional harm’s way on purpose. You might or will have some anxiety, but that doesn’t mean don’t do it. It’s a great opportunity for yourself to go allow an uncomfortable emotion on purpose, eat, and have a wonderful time. As you do it, you are creating evidence as you go, “I am the type of person who can go out to eat alone. I am the type of person who can go to the movies alone.” All your brain is doing before you go is, “What will people think of me?”
If someone thinks that I was stood up, no one’s thinking that. There’s a great quote, “When you’re twenty, you care about what people think of you. When you’re 40, you don’t care what people think of you. When you’re 60, you realize no one’s been thinking of you.” It’s funny when you’re young, you’re like, “Everyone’s looking at me.” No one’s looking at you. Allow the uncomfortable emotion on purpose and imagine who you will be on the other side of this. Keep creating evidence. I am the type of person who easily and happily goes out by myself. That’s your new best friend for a thought.
I also like to dine alone and do it often. I go to coffee shops alone. I like going to movies alone. There’s a study that looks at what’s called the Spotlight Effect. It’s the idea that we believe that the world is looking at us, judging us, like there’s a big spotlight on us and that’s far from the truth. There’s a great experiment where they have like 600 graduates engaged in a conversation. They randomly assigned one of them to wear a Barry Manilow t‑shirt. Imagine being you’re twenty years old, you’re wearing a Barry Manilow’s t‑shirt and having this conversation.
What they do is they ask all the other five people, “Was someone wearing a Barry Manilow t‑shirt? Yes or no? If so, who?” They ask the person wearing the Barry Manilow t‑shirt, “How many people notice that you’re wearing a Barry Manilow t‑shirt?” The person wearing the t‑shirt who has the spotlight on them in their opinion says 4 or 5 people have to notice, everyone sees this shirt. What usually ends up happening is there’s one or maybe two people. They don’t even get it right who the person was wearing it. We are way too focused on what other people think about us.
Nobody is noticing your pimple. Nobody is noticing you wore the same dress. Go onward in the world. Everybody is staring at themselves and on their own. I love Barry Manilow. I hope he’s reading.
The next thing I wanted to ask you is supposing you’re a listener and you’ve come to this recognition about the relationship escalator. There’s some element around the escalator that you don’t want. You don’t want the merging. You want to be in the relationship, but you don’t want to merge your finances or live together. You don’t want to give that relationship the special status that the world wants to bestow it. For example, you get invited to a wedding and you want to invite a friend who would be better for that wedding than your partner and so on. How do you suggest people have those conversations with their partners or even set up those expectations as they start dating or getting to know someone?
You should both write down, “What I want my relationship to look like.” You write it down, whether it’s children, finances, spending weekends apart or are we going to live together, all of that. The degree that it doesn’t need to look alike. We’re seeking to understand each other. You both have it in writing in front of you, “No, we can change our mind every two months, every two minutes. I’m always checking in with my partner. You still want kids. You still want to live together. You’re still don’t want to use money.” People don’t know. We assume our partner can read our minds, it’s like, “He should know I want kids. Why? He should know that it’s important for me to go away with my best friend. Why?”
The other thing is I love the concept of a want match. You can have a partner who is not the be all end all. Imagine there was a pie, my husband is my person to spend my nights with and to have sex with. I’ve got this friend and they’re the ones I talked to about politics. I’ve got this friend and we go to the theater together. Why do we put this pressure on our partner to be the absolute one and then, “I have to cheat because I have to find someone who meets all my needs?” As a life coach, I tell you all my needs are met by me. I make me happy. I make me secure. You get to enjoy me and I get to enjoy you.
That’s true emotional adulthood because otherwise we’re dragging each other into therapy and trying to get others to be different so we can love each other more versus you don’t have to compliment me. You don’t have to take the garbage out. I can set some expectations, but then I’m responsible for managing my emotions when they’re not met. Being clear, specific and constantly checking in with each other because the rules might change. Suddenly, “Maybe I want Polyamory. Maybe I want to go away one week in a year without you. Does it mean I don’t want to be with you? No, but it means I want to go away for the weekend.”
It’s such an evolved thing to get to that point because these kinds of relationships are given such special status. There’s so much pressure for you to stay together. It’s a failure if you have a breakup. I’m with you. When someone says they got divorced, I say, “Congratulations.” Emotions are involved and we’re trying to maximize the positive and minimize the negative ones. It’s scary to ask someone that you’re beginning to date, that you’re excited about, someone you’ve been dating to reveal your soloness to that person. First of all, they may not understand because they’ve been watching the same rom-coms, reading Jane Austin their entire life. It is a weird thing where on one hand, you’re scared to be rejected. You’re scared to not have that connection because if you have good taste, this is a good person. On the other hand, you’re scared that fear is keeping you from being the person that you authentically are and to have the wants that you want to have.
It’s like going out to dinner by yourself. You have to allow the fear on purpose. Fear means go. Fear means don’t shut down. Your brain naturally produces self-doubt, worry and fear. If you’re going to work on this, you have to account for that. I am going to put myself in harm’s way emotionally by bringing this up. Otherwise, you’re tricking people. I tricked him into marrying me, and then what? Maybe five years later, I’ll be honest about, “I want to have a threesome with a girl, I like recreational drugs. I have this terrible story from my past I was too embarrassed to tell you.” The more you show up your authentic self in the world, the more you’re going to attract an ideal partner, an ideal friend group, and ideal career, because otherwise you’re people-pleasing trying to get people to like you and they don’t even know you.
I want to be honest with myself. I want to be honest with the person I’m dating. I also want to create that space by asking my partner checking in, “How are you? What can I be doing differently? Is this what you want?” We’re risking that uncomfortable cringy moment of, “I want something different. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It doesn’t mean I reject you. It means I’m 50 and I see the world differently.” That’s the problem too, are people grow and evolve and their partner doesn’t. I was coaching someone and the husband said to her something along the lines of, “I liked the girl I married.” I’m like, “You’re screwed. You got married at 22 and now you’re 40. He doesn’t like you anymore.”
You’ve evolved and changed into this amazing woman. He doesn’t like that. He liked you not working. He liked you not having opinions. If I’m going to marry someone that, “I love you regardless of you.” I get to love you every day. If you have a new hobby, if you have a new friend, I’m not threatened by it, I’m inspired by it. Imagine if more people could be that, “I’m not threatened by my partner’s success. I’m inspired by it. She has needs outside of our marriage. It’s good for her for communicating them and going after her dreams.” She’s sitting home at night because she made me vows years ago that neither of us cares about that anymore.
I want to reiterate a piece of wisdom that you started off by saying, going to the movies alone facing that fear and that discomfort is a lot like asking for what you want as a solo in a relationship. Those are parallel acts where you’re going to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation in order to do the thing that you want and that in the long run, you’re going to be better off for doing it. That’s a big idea, Michael.
You don’t need to get the outcome you want to have the emotion you want. Happiness leads to success, not the other way around. If you ask for something or you chase a dream and you don’t get the outcome, you still get to be proud of yourself. “I’m telling you about it as my spouse. This is what I want.” You don’t need to get what you want in order to be satisfied and to be proud of yourself for asking for it.
I believe that the process is what matters. Almost everything that I’ve done in my life that I’ve been satisfied with hasn’t been this gleeful over the moon feeling once it happened. When the book comes out, it feels nice, but it’s not like, “It’s now all my problems are solved. This is amazing. I’m not running around the house doing cartwheels.” It’s a process along the way of getting to that. If you sacrifice too much with the process for the outcome, you’ve got to be worried because the outcome might disappoint.
If I’m like, “I need to get married.” That’s why people break up so easily because three dates and then they look at the poor idiot and he’s like, “Where’s this going?” If you are out there and you are still dating, your default thought needs to be, “I’m enjoying getting to know this person.” If you’re like, “This isn’t going to work.” You’re going to break up or it’s not going anywhere. It takes time to get to know somebody. You might as well be patient, present, and enjoy the journey. If your outcome is hitch on, “I’ve got to get married. I’ve got to get a boyfriend,” you’re missing all of these amazing, awkward dates and opportunities to grow as a human being.Happiness leads to success, not the other way around. Click To Tweet
Let’s set aside dating and relationships, and stuff. Let’s talk about being comfortable being alone. That seems to be something that you’re quite good at. I’m good at it too. I am a social person. I can be quite extroverted, but I do like my alone time. It’s important for me. It seems to be important for you. How do you do being alone well?
I focused on being a great company for myself and I always think if I’m not a great company for myself, how the heck is anybody else going to want to be around me? I am constantly enjoying myself. I’m delighted by myself. I am in constant self-talk mode. It sounds very coachy but I get out of bed, I’m in constant self-talk and prayer. I am praying and I’m saying nice things about myself all day, every day. As we talk, I’m grateful for this opportunity. I’m present and delighted. I’m in constant self-talk. I celebrate every little moment. When this is over, I will celebrate how lovely it was to spend time with you. I will think about how lovely it is that it’s almost the weekend and I’m going to enjoy that.
I’m constantly grateful and that’s the only thing too. When people talk about gratitude, it takes practice to be grateful. Gratitude isn’t writing, “I love my family. I love my job. I love my car.” That’s not it. It’s connecting with gratitude and savoring it. What does my body feel like when I’m grateful? It feels amazing. It’s funny because, on my personal mission statement, it says, “I create time for everything I want to do. My life is full of meaningful work and ridiculously fun play.” I think about that all the time. I never ask people, how are you? Because it’s such like a low-level question. If you ask someone how they are, they’re going to say busy or tired and that’s boring. I never say I’m busy. I always tell people when they say, “How was your week?” I always say productive and successful, because that makes feel better than I was busy. Busy as vague. Busy as you at the expense of the day versus what I’m doing, which is creating my day on purpose.
Speaking of gratitude, I have to tell you how grateful I am that you are on this show because I’m super energized. I am furiously writing ideas down and I’m calling this a movement. For this movement to work, it needs exemplars. It needs people that you can point to and say, “Look at that person living a great life. Look at them doing it in a way that they’re thriving, that they’re being their best selves and they’re being authentic to who they are and what their needs are.” I want to for a moment acknowledge that and thank you for doing this. I also know it’s the end of a very long day for you. Michael, you have a sign-off, it’s on your emails where you say, “How can I like and love myself a little bit more today?” I want to say, I appreciate you. Thank you for participating. I hope you have a wonderful day.
It was lovely. Thank you for having me.
- Michael Buckley
- What the Buck Show — YouTube
- HELP! My Kid Wants to Become a YouTuber
- Getting off The Relationship Escalator — Previous episode
- Kevin 2.0 — Previous episode
- Kym Terribile — Past episode
About Michael Buckley
Hey! I am so glad you found me! Or I found you and told you to go to my website! Perhaps you saw one of my YouTube videos? Or you saw my Instagram story? Have you seen my Instagram story? It is AMAZING! Somehow we found each other and it is all meant to be. Yay! Here you will learn more about me and what I do and how we can work together.
Life Coaching is amazing! How is it that we teach children math and science but not how to think and feel? It is crazy! It is not too late! Hooray! We go to high school, college, get a job and then what? How do we grow and evolve into the next and most amazing version of ourselves? Coaching bridges the gap between who you currently are and who you are meant to be. It is not as far as you think.
Do this work with me! It is so much fun!
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