Executive Coach John O'Connor on Managing Confusion and Uncertainty
The 'not knowing state' is what triggers us most, says the entrepreneur.
In this series called Member Showcase, we publish interviews with members of The Oracles. This interview is with John O’Connor, executive and performance coach, and certified HNLP and brain-based leadership trainer. It was condensed by The Oracles.
Who are you?
John O’Connor: I work with CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business leaders who want to not only perform at a high level but also access the deepest parts of themselves, master their mental and emotional state, and connect with themselves and others.
I believe that there is potential in each of us waiting to be activated. With the right skills and guidance, we can transform our identity and unlock a way of being that is radically different than how we live now.
What are you more skilled at than most people in the world?
John O’Connor: For the past 25 years, I’ve spent over 20,000 hours working one-on-one with people, creating a safe space to share what’s really going on in their lives and to be themselves truthfully, free of judgment.
Connecting with the parts of ourselves that have been frozen from trauma, shame, confusion, and guilt creates movement, understanding, acceptance, healing, and clarity around what we want in life. When we slow down and connect with our experience, we tap into our inner wisdom, guidance, and resources, which is rewarding and empowering. From that place, we can show up as our full selves: fierce, tender, and playful.
What excites you the most about your business right now?
John O’Connor: During a deep meditation five years ago, I received a vision of what I would create next in my business. I was blown away by what I saw, but after a few days, I lost that connection. Over the years, it occasionally seemed like that vision would re-emerge, but for some reason, I couldn’t do anything with it. Sometimes, things need time to incubate before coming into the world.
I’m excited because I reconnected with that vision when we finished our first training using a new framework, the CORE blueprint. This framework allows others to connect with themselves in a simple yet profound way, giving them access to their deepest calling, creative unconscious, and most powerful parts of themselves. The results have been incredible, and our first weekend training will launch in April 2020.
What did you learn from your favorite mentor?
John O’Connor: The concept of Relational Mantras has changed my life and the lives of the thousands I train. I learned it from my mentor, Steven Gilligan, who learned it from his teacher, Milton Erickson, the psychiatrist who played a key role in the development of hypnosis. It’s a way of responding when you don’t know why a feeling or sensation arises in the body, and you feel confused, uncertain, or triggered.
When that happens, pause, take a deep breath, connect with the sensation, and locate where you feel it. Say to yourself, “Isn’t that interesting?” Welcome the feeling, connect it to the statement, “It must make sense,” and watch what happens as you relax and release the tension. What triggers us most is the ”not knowing” state. When we say, “I don’t know,” we unconsciously sound the alarm that “this is bad,” which can trigger helplessness and despair.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
John O’Connor: Find a men’s group and commit to it fully. When I was 32, a friend introduced me to a David Deida group. Every week, we went over the teachings from his bestselling book, “The Way of the Superior Man.” I learned that I had deep trauma around men. Fear of conflict, violence, and my own anger kept me from speaking my truth and stepping fully into my life, which was a source of deep shame and depression.
During that time, I also met my wife, Suki, who challenged me to step into my power. With the support of those men, I did. They helped walk me through a path of healing. Now I am successful and have a beautiful family as a result. Sometimes I wonder how my life would be different if I had had that experience 10 years earlier.
How do you define great leadership?
John O’Connor: I’ve had the privilege of helping develop many great leaders. In my experience, the foundation of great leadership is the ability to connect with and align the head, heart, and gut. That means your vision is deeply connected to your values, and your actions and words come from there. When this happens, the ripple effect flows through your company and culture.
How do you identify a good business partner?
John O’Connor: I see two common problems when working with business partners: high inferences and unspoken expectations and assumptions. Find a business partner who is willing to work with you in these areas.
With a high inference, one partner assumes that the other did something for negative reasons. The solution is giving them the benefit of the doubt and finding out more. Without clarity and alignment around expectations and assumptions, disappointment and resentment are inevitable. I get partners to voice their expectations of themselves and their partner, as well as their assumptions of the other’s expectations for them. I recommend this exercise at least once or twice a year for those who work together closely.
How do you prevent burnout?
John O’Connor: To overcome burnout, develop basic self-care rituals around getting enough sleep, sunlight, healthy food, exercise, and positive social interactions.
The next level of living from a place of inner freedom requires having the skills and discipline to manage your cognitive, somatic, and relational fields. My new training, Access Architecture, teaches about tools and systems to expand and raise the vibration of these fields. It’s a simple framework I created by combining neuro-linguistic programming, neuroscience, hypnosis, and traditions from Eastern wisdom.
What are you working on right now?
John O’Connor: Through Access Architecture, which activates exponential growth in business leaders and teams, I’m now transmitting my wisdom to up-and-coming coaches and facilitators. This gives them tools with which to go out into the world and frees them to express themselves fully and powerfully in their business and personal lives.
I’m also wrapping my head around how I healed my asthma after 30 years. When I was 8, my sister and I were hit by a car. She tragically lost her leg but I had no visible wounds. I now know that I suffered from deep trauma that lodged in my lungs. I carried grief and guilt unconsciously for most of my life. About 18 months ago, I went through two deep processes where I saw that the accident was the cause of my asthma. I was able to connect with that inner 8-year-old boy and clear the asthma, which was how he had been trying to get my attention and care.
What are two or three things on your bucket list?
John O’Connor: I am living my bucket list by being healthy, making an impact authentically, connecting to myself, and being a father. It was a long journey getting here. It’s easy to lose sight of what’s important and get caught up in the trap of striving for bigger and better things.
In particular, being a father has been a continual unfolding of healing, growth, and incredible experiences. Soon, I’m taking my son, Jaden, on a week-long retreat. We’ll be living in the woods with eight other fathers and sons, connecting with nature and learning to live off the land. This was a dream I never got to reach with my father before he passed away, so I’m lit up about this. Everything else is gravy.
The words and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee alone. What worked for them may not work for everyone. Any claims in this article have not been independently verified.