February 25

Episode 24: Creativity and Chaos With Richard Friesen


With us today, Richard Friesen is a consultant and creator of the Mind Muscles training process. Rich has a BA in Philosophy, a Masters in Clinical Psychology, and certification in neuro-linguistic training. Let’s listen as Mike O’Neill waxes philosophical with Richard as he shares some stories about what he’s learned and what he’s still learning.

In This Episode, You’ll Learn…

  • Release tension in helpful in meaningful ways to achieve your goals
  • Understanding some basic foundations of progress and growth
  • Understand how to change your mindset using Richard’s Mind Muscles process
  • Look at what all could be limiting your success that you aren’t even considering


  • “We start at knowledge, then build our skills, then behavior.– Richard Friesen
  • “If our underlying identity — who we are and our beliefs about ourselves — is in conflict, then we end up out of rapport with ourselves in our world and we get stuck.” – Richard Friesen
  • “My stuckness went down to the core of my identity.” – Richard Friesen
  • “The limitations that you have placed on yourself are just that.” – Mike O’Neill
  • “If you step out of the struggle, there are people who want to pull you back into the struggle because the struggle itself feels safe. It’s what they know.” – Richard Friesen
  • “We start to create new patterns, and these patterns get solidified. But there are forces in the world that want to keep us in stress.” – Richard Friesen
  • “The Gold Keys are Awareness, Acceptance, Ask Now What I Want, which leads to Agency.” – Richard Friesen
  • “I, as an agent, have the right in my life to ascribe meaning to what goes on out there rather than the meaning that comes packaged with the event.” – Richard Friesen
  • “The one word that describes how I work with my client is ‘rapport’.” – Richard Friesen
  • “Even in chaos, I can have the confidence to find out what’s going on and live my life and make behavioral decisions that really benefit me and my loved ones in the long term.” – Richard Friesen

Links & Resources Mentioned…

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Read The Transcript

Mike O'Neill:  

Hello, and welcome back to the Get Unstuck & On Target Podcast. I'm Mike O'Neill with Bench Builders, and we're speaking with thought leaders to uncover tips to help you break down the barriers that may be keeping you or your business stuck. Joining me today from San Jose is Richard Friesen. Rich is a consultant and creator of the Mind Muscles Training Process.

He teaches his clients how to get unstuck by making new neural connections that create new behaviors that feel better, support your values and get you to your goals. Welcome Rich.

Richard Friesen: Well, thank you. It is so nice to be here and in our conversation that we just had. What I really appreciate is your curiosity, your openness, your interest, and just inviting this conversation.

And so we can just have this intimate conversation and share it with the world. So I'm really looking forward to some creativity coming up here.

Mike O'Neill: Well, I too, and I hope in fact, that's exactly what takes place. I want to share a little more about your background because it's quite impressive.  Academically Rich has a BA in philosophy has got a master's degree in clinical psychology and certification in neuro-linguistic programming.

And you'll know why I brought that up in just a moment, but he counters that by offering some just real down to earth concrete world experiences. He has been a broker, he's been a floor trader. He has been a financials, software developer, and an entrepreneur. And I've left some things off up to including he has multiple patents in his name.

So Rich we're in for a treat.

Richard Friesen: Well, I think that, there is so much that in terms of your mission of helping people get unstuck. If I just let myself feel the potential that is out there and creating value in the world. And there's this tension and stuckness that so many people have personally that if we can just kind of invite people to release it in ways that is helpful to them and is meaningful and gets them to their goals.

It's OMG. Wow. So I really appreciate you opening the doors to, you know, adding to our, the richness of our lives.

Mike O'Neill: Rich. It is that personal aspect. I would like us to spend our time on, and that is when we personally feel stuck. And I know that you have worked with clients, and many industries, literally all over the world.

But in what ways have you found working with clients that gets people stuck?

Richard Friesen: Okay, well, you have a pretty intelligent audience. So what I'd like to do is lay a little foundation before we get to maybe some specifics. And what I see in terms of change and progress and growth. I have a, kind of a triangle stack.

And at the bottom of the stack is our identity, the core of who we are. Then above that we have our belief systems, the beliefs about how the world works, how we engaged in it, above that. Then the, if the identity drives our beliefs, then the belief set up for the behaviors. That we have in the world and how we interact with all the incoming data and information and events in our lives.

So then in top of that, we have our skill set. And on top of the skillset, we need knowledge. So at the top is knowledge and that's where people usually start. They usually start, what can I learn? I work with a lot of financial professionals, hedge fund managers, active traders. And generally we start at the top of the knowledge.

Then we build our skills and then we go to behaviors. And here's the issue. If our underlying identity who we are and our beliefs about ourselves are in conflict. Then we end up out of rapport with ourselves and our world and we get stuck and it's completely out of awareness. Can I tell you a personal story?

Mike O'Neill: I'd welcome that please.

Richard Friesen: Yeah, it was April. I was a floor, well is April of 1995. And I had just, started, three, four years prior to that treading on my own. Before that I worked with a large arbitrage firms, Chicago Research and Trading in Chicago and had done really well with them. But I moved back to the San Francisco area and I started trading for myself and it was April of 1995.

It was the middle of the night sound asleep. And I heard a voice and the voice said, Rich, you're only worth $200,000 a year. And I hear that voice as clearly as I hear yours and I woke up, I sat up in bed, and looked around. My wife was sleeping peacefully beside me. There was nobody else in the room. It was like three in the morning.

I got up dressed, showered, drove to San Francisco. And went to the exchange floor and it was still locked. There was nobody there yet. And I sat on the concrete floor and I thought about Rich, you're only worth $200,000. And I realized that that was a stuckness for me, that that's somehow, and I didn't fully appreciated or understand it.

So the doors opened, I went to the pit, which I traded Micron and Microsoft options, the options pit. And I did something very different. I stood in the best spot. Now, most people aren't aware of floor trading anymore, cause everything's electronic, but on the floors you don't own a spot. That is held by the person who's the most dominant that make us bully the toughest, the most capitalized, the most aggressive, but that is a, sociological position that is held by a whole confluence of aggressiveness.

So I stood in the best spot. Well, the rest of the market makers and the traders and the brokers kept, you know, drifting in during the day and at 6:30, the bell went off. Now, the guy who always stood there, who always had that spot was standing beside me chatting and tapped me on the shoulder, you know? Okay. Rich, come on. I didn't move. So there, you know, the shoving started and we are the, the order book official said a $10,000 fine guys, if you start a fight. So the bell went off and normally Rich Friesen is a philosophy major. He's the therapist. He stands at the back with his values and he picks a little over to here and he picks out here very carefully doing it.

But this time I'm going to blow the microphone here. Buy'em buy'em sell you 50 buy 100 sell your 30 buy'em. The pit thought that I had gone biserk. But they had never seen anything like it. But I went on to make 650,000 that year. What's then funded, starting a trading firm. So what was going on? What was that stuckness? And again, I come, I wanted to lay the foundation of the identity.

Rich Friesen. Well, he wasn't, isn't quite good enough. He's not as aggressiveness he's he doesn't really have what it takes, you know, and on an idea on the belief level. Well, I don't have all the computers. I don't have the quants behind me. I'm not as aggressive. I'm not as a re I, you know, just beliefs about myself in the world.

I'm not fast enough. I'm not good enough to calculate the option values and all that. And then, you know, there was the, the behaviors and that's the result of my identity, my beliefs. My behaviors were I stood at the back of the pit and carefully pick things out to suit this kind of very narrow picture I had of myself. Wasn't so. It was my stuckness went all the way down to the core of my identity. So when I started building a trading firm, I hired traders and about half of them, I had a methodology just took off. Another quarter of them kind of just, eh, they did okay. Another quarter of them just wouldn't go anywhere. They'd make some money, lose it, make it, lose it.

So I brought in a hypnotherapist. And the three traders that were really not doing well. Under hypnotherapy one of them came from dark poor West Virginia, and it turned out that if he made money, he would lose his family. Family in that culture, was very tight and to step out and be successful meant he would be all alone.

Now that doesn't necessarily have to be the case, but there was this internal voice that said, if you make money you're on your own. And other one, is really respected and loved his father and his father was an immigrant, worked three jobs, struggled, you know, and never made over a hundred thousand a year.

Even after he got going. And the son felt if I easily make three or $400,000 a year, What does that say about my dad? That he just, just wasted this time that he worked too hard, that he, he was inefficient. I can't make that much money easily. It's disrespectful. Another trader had a, single mom and he had a severely handicapped brother and he resented his younger brother who got all the attention.

And if he made a lot of money, his mother would come to him and demand he take care of them. So, how did he handle it? Just not make money. So this is what I'm talking about in terms of how we get stuck. If it goes down sometimes to the core of our identity, our beliefs and our behaviors.

Mike O'Neill: I love the story because it really sets the stage for our conversation.

Now I probably need to point out, the folks who are listening, you were quoting a dollar amount in 1995 of $200,000 bucks. There may be folks on this podcast listening now who say, Oh, that's my goal is to get a 200,000. And so what I really want to make sure we understand is, you're in San Jose, the cost of living is astronomical, but what I'm hearing you say loud and clear is that voice in the middle of the night made it very clear to you that the limitations that you have placed on yourself are just that. And if I'm hearing you correctly, and this is what I wrote down, as you were speaking, you described that there are multiple levels and that it starts with identity and it moves to belief, then behaviors, and then skillsets and knowledge.

And my question to you was when you were working with clients, you shared that oftentimes you start at the top at the knowledge and work down, but you are pointing out with this last story, how that identity and beliefs much further down that pyramid really drives outcomes. I love the example in by which if they were making that kind of money, it could ostracize them in the family. And they had to wrestle with that. Perfect illustration. So we'll call that your $200,000 story so that in 1995 gave you the means, the fund your own firm. And you sounds like you use what you learned there to handpick the team.

That would do the same thing that you experienced? Is that a fair generalization?

Richard Friesen: I had a methodology. We had singles and doubles, never hit home runs, never took a lot of risk, but we just ground out money. Well, it was a little bit of a magical time because on the floors, we had a monopoly on some of the issues.

There was a, now the younger people are going to go. There was like an option trading, three bid at three and a quarter. You know, and you paid, you know, $20 round turn or whatever it was now, it's three bid at 3.01 cents. And, you know, in some places it's even free. So we had a magical time. We saw the orders first.

So there was, there was a moment in history where there, there was just money laying around. And it was there to be taken advantage of. But what was clear is when you had that clear upside and the limitation was, was in terms of our identity and beliefs, then it became clear. Now for most of the people in the world that magical time, you know, there's, there's just a lot more challenges.

So if we add the external challenges of, of life and business and development with, with the internal ones, you know, then we even have a more, a little bit more complexity.

Mike O'Neill: I got you. And so, as we're talking about how this kind of informed you and it continues to inform you, I know that you help clients kind of help change this mindset.

For the listeners. How does that work in practical terms? What is it that you're doing with your clients to kind of do just that?

Richard Friesen: Well, first I said, okay, what are all the issues you face? And we list all the issues, you know, for, it might be. When the boss calls me in the office, my stomach's tight and I say the wrong things or for a hedge fund manager, when I make a lot of money, I'm fearful, I'm going to lose it. And then my brain just goes on tilt. We list all the behaviors that don't work. Now in my current model and current way of thinking, all those behaviors have a positive intent. So next, to them, we say, okay, what's the positive intent of that behavior.

And it's sometimes there's some stumbling around, a little hard to get, but we can find a positive intent for all those behaviors. Then we can ask, okay, given that positive intent for the behavior, how can we use it more effectively? Then we create a list of all of the behaviors and the beliefs, and even going down to the core identity of what we really want.

What's interesting is I used to start out and say, okay, what would you like? And people would then talk about the issues. Sometimes very difficult. Sorry about that. Sometimes it is very difficult for people to articulate or even envision what they want. And it's very difficult our brain will not let us go somewhere that we can't even visualize.

And if we visualize it, this is what is a big surprise to me as I started working with people. Is that there is risk, there is loss with success and there's this voice that says, if you get there, then you know, one of the obvious examples I gave earlier was you'll lose your family.

Mike O'Neill: Yes.

Richard Friesen:  So, you know, the question always arises. We do what I call an ecology check that comes from neuro linguistic programming. What, who in your environment? And it could very well be that your wife, for example, or your husband is used to struggle. And if you step out of the struggle and this sounds ridiculous, I know, and nobody's going to believe me, but there are people who want to pull you back into the struggle, because that is their ecology and the, the struggle itself feels safe.

Mike O'Neill: It's what they know and they want what they know.


Richard Friesen: Yes. And you know, the, the old story about lottery winners, most of them returned to their original net worth in five years because we can always go back.

Mike O'Neill: You know, it's interesting. We spent most of the time talking about what is limiting success and what you pointing out as one of the things is just success in itself.

Is that for some of us, we may in fact have a fear of success because we don't know what it looks like or success doesn't fit somebody else's ecology. This was very interesting. Elaborate on it in other ways.

Richard Friesen: Yeah. Well, this is really important. Our brain has, knows how to survive certain struggles. For example, a client,  had a depressed mother and he learned how to survive a very depressed unloving, unaffectionate mother.

So when he got into the world and he went to college, and then he had a choice of two girlfriends on who to follow through, and one of them was loving and touchy and kissy, and the other one was smart and cool and reserved. Who did he pick?

Mike O'Neill: Yep.

Richard Friesen: Because he knew how to survive the one but he didn't know how to survive the other.

And that's not only in relationships. But so we continue our struggle and I, and nobody ever believes me, but we sometimes prefer our struggle that our survival metric, Oh, this is home. This is what I know. And we can do it, but Oh no, no, no, no. Don't, don't, don't go over there. No, no, no, we don't. We don't know.

We'll stay in the safety of our struggle. So I see clients and if, especially, if we look into professional traders who will make money and lose it suddenly it's like the losses come within a day or two or three days. And the making money was weeks or months. And because that puts them back into a very familiar struggle.

Mike O'Neill: Rich, we're recording this, at the end of January, this probably won't be uploaded until probably into March. Therefore come March, 2021 United States will have kind of crossed the one year mark. And which many of the things you're kind of describing is been experienced by everybody. And you're not expecting this question. But could we societaly could we individually have basically settled into a survival pattern for the last year that when things do improve, which they will with the advent of the vaccine, with the things that will come into place, but might there be a potential risk?


Richard Friesen:  Wow, you just opened huge, as they say in our, in our generation can of worms.

Mike O'Neill: It's a,

it's a can of worms. So why don't we do this? Let's make the assumption. Is that on the individual level, people listening to this podcast and they're saying, you know what, this is what I've known for the last year. I do aspire to get out of this, but this is all I know.

How, what would you say to folks like us that might have that view?

Richard Friesen: Yes, we've gotten used to it. We've lowered expectations. There are some benefits to this. Yeah.  you know, my wife and I get to spend a lot more time with each other. And so we start to create new patterns and then these patterns become solidified and especially

I wasn't even thinking about going here in this conversation, but there are forces in the world that want to keep us in stress. And keeping us in stress maintains control. So if we look at wars in a philosophic sense, not in a shooting sense, but if we can maintain a war against the virus against ecological disaster, against totalitarianism to all these different things and we can be in this, then we are maintaining the sense of struggle. Which for some people is an advantage to have a population that's maintained in this fear struggle mode. Plus the fact as you pointed out there, there's the personal plus if it is supported on a bigger, more powerful level, then we got a two for that is really challenging.

Mike O'Neill: If that is the case, we've got a two for potential going here. What practical guidance would you give our listeners to not let that happen?

Richard Friesen: Just as you said that I took a breath and I'm aware of some emotions right now. So, what with my clients is that what I call the golden piece and the first is awareness, you know, awareness of what is going on inside awareness of where I'm fighting myself and struggling wereI'm out of rapport. So if I can be aware of what's going on and we have physiology, physiological awareness, emotional awareness, and thought intellectual awareness, what's going on in our neocortex.

So if I can do that in real time, then all of a sudden, some doors open. The next step is acceptance. So if I'm aware of a tight stomach and say, Oh, you're, you know, you're a real master of physiology you shouldn't have tight stomach doesn't work. So I think so I have tight stomach. Hmm. Interesting. I wonder what it's telling me.

So first is awareness, second is acceptance. And then I can say now, what do I want? So given the external pressures of fear, then we can say, What do I want for my life, family, my own vision for the future in this chaos, that's coming up in the, you know, we're looking at the potential for a major shift in our economic, political and civic societies and in this shift there's opportunities.

So I ran a group called Creativity and Chaos. How do we use these golden keys? Our own awareness. How do we get gravitas? How do we stand on our own two feet? So that in this chaos, all around us, we have agency to determine its meaning. In other words, so many people are going to look at this, all these external factors and they come with the meaning and that is the meaning that they get.

But what, if you can look at these external factors and say, I have agency, the meaning I ascribed to them is my job and not anybody else's. Now we can then start to create a world for ourselves. Even if the rest of the world is in fear in chaos falling apart, it'd be really powerful.

Mike O'Neill: Rich. I was writing this down. As you were speaking, I may not have gotten this written down, but what I understood you to say is the golden keys include awareness, it includes acceptance, and when you use the word agency, are you characterizing agency as a golden key?

Richard Friesen:  Agency is a result of having awareness of ourselves accepting and asking now what I want. Agency then is the ability once we have that, we get what I call a higher self. Once we are awake. In other words, If I act impulsively, you know, if somebody came behind you right now and said, boo, you know, you would jump the, that the environment would determine that physiologically.

But even with things that aren't as direct, if the, if the event comes into our lives, And we jumped and it's just habitual. We don't have agency, but if I'm aware of what's going on, if I can accept it, be curious about it. Look at its positive intent and ask now what I want. Then I can ascribe meaning to those outside events rather than the meaning coming package to them.

This is incredibly powerful. That I, as an agent have the right in my life to ascribe, meaning to what goes on out there rather than the meaning coming packaged with the event.

Mike O'Neill: I appreciate your clarification.  And that is Awareness a. Acceptance a and then the last a Ask and that is asking kind of what you want.  I keep coming back to this just because maybe this applies to me, it may not apply to our listeners, but I think it probably would.

And that is, you've got such a strong academic background. You work with a very, very smart  people and what I'm always looking for, in this podcast are those practical things that we can kind of grab as takeaways. What might be some of those takeaways you want to make sure that we have heard so that we can internalize and act on?

Richard Friesen: Yeah, what I have is called the first part is awareness is what I call our set scores, our sensations, emotions, thoughts. So here's what you can do. As you take your smartphone, they all have alarms and you set alarm like for active traders that might be for 15 minutes for somebody in the longer-term it might be twice a day or every hour.

And when the alarm goes off, you catch yourself, what is my sensation? So let me do that right now. The alarm goes off. I noticed my stomach's a little tight, my shoulders, a little tight. My breathing here in my chest is, is pretty shallow. So then I accept it. I say, okay, that's where I am right now. I guess I'm a little tense.

What would I like? Well, I'd like to breathe more easily. I like my voice to be a little bit lower.

Okay. Here I am. And we don't judge at least you know, I invite you not to judge yourself by what you just discover, and that's acceptance a huge start. Because you can't have agency without that awareness and the acceptance.

Mike O'Neill: That's powerful method while you're speaking. I literally dropped my, my arms I loosened to my shoulders and I was really trying to do the exact same thing in the moment, to key in on,  awareness to recognize, you know, we're recording a podcast,  and therefore you want it to be right and you gotta make sure the sound levels work and everything.

But what you have to do, this is going to work is just accept, it is what it is.  And so I, I was able to literally in real time, just kind of follow along with you. That was very, very helpful. You know?

Richard Friesen: Yeah,

Mike O'Neill: Go ahead.

Richard Friesen:  If you do that enough, then we come down to the one word that describes how I work with my client.

And that is rapport. Once we're aware, once we accept then we're at rapport with ourselves. Next, the events that come into our world since we're assigning the meaning to them, we can be in rapport with them. We can be curious about them. We can be delighted about them. We can be grateful for some things. There's some things where we have to set our boundaries.

Nope. That is not safe for me or no, I don't want to hang around that kind of person or whatever it is. But now you have a safe world. You can be in rapport with. Then once you're a rapport, then comes creativity, creativity, and chaos. Once you can stand on your own two feet. And part of the creativity is letting go of being certain of being sure.

There's a book I read The Book of Not Knowing by Peter Ralston. Many years ago changed my life because I realized how much I thought I was right. But now I say, well, my current way of thinking or my current model, or I work with my clients this way today. What a relief that is that I don't have to be the defender of the capital T truth that I can be curious.

I can learn that the environment, even in chaos, I can have the confidence to find out what's going on and to live my life and make my behavioral decisions that really benefit me and my loved ones in the longterm.

Mike O'Neill: Rich. You've just introduced me to something that I've never heard. The term rapport. If I was to define it would have been limited to interaction with another person and you've introduced that rapport can equally be, to be in rapport with yourself.

Richard Friesen: Yes.

Mike O'Neill: To be in rapport with your environment. To be in rapport with others. And that if you can achieve that sense of awareness and you can, except it is what it is now with that in mind, what do I want to do? I can see how these pieces started to kind of come together. This was very interesting information Rich for those who would like to learn more, what's the best way for our listeners to connect with you.

Richard Friesen: Yeah, you can go to, there's a number of sites, but, my email is rich, R I C H, which is a wonderful word.

Mike O'Neill: I imagine.

Richard Friesen: rich@mindmuscles.com. rich@mindmuscles.com

 And there you can go. You can send me an email. There's the mind muscle site. I'm also in the last stages of a book Conversations with Money.

You can go to a site conversations.money, and we're more there. We're going to be doing groups around, just what we talked about in terms of getting unstuck around money and success in life, because there's just so much pain around that. And it's just a belief system. It's just neurons in our head. And once we make that shift, all of a sudden, the world changes.

So I'm really excited about, providing more value and more potential for everybody in my


Mike O'Neill: For those folks who are listening while you're out walking or driving, we're going to be including these contact links in the show notes. So don't worry about it that will be included when we upload this episode.

Rich, thank you.

Richard Friesen: Well, thank you. One of, may I give you an appreciation? Of course, I really appreciate the openendedness.  The, the willing to really delve into something that's deeper and meaningful, rather than just talking about chit chat things. And I think that that brings really value to your listeners.

So it, you made me feel so comfortable and open and I just really appreciate your time. So my


Mike O'Neill: Thank you Rich. I also want to express appreciation to our listeners who have joined us for this episode of Get Unstuck & On Target. We upload the latest episode every Thursday, and I hope you'll subscribe via the Spotify, Apple, Google or YouTube. We at Bench Builders we love helping companies get unstuck with practical management training, leadership coaching, and better business planning, and execution. But if you've been listening to my discussion with Rich and you're realizing that something's keeping you or your business stuck, let's talk. Simply visit unstuck.show to schedule a call.

 So I'd like to thank you for joining us. And I hope you have picked up on some tips. That'll help you Get Unstuck & On Target. Until next time.
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