Life always has many questions in store for us, but precious few of them are actually, in the long run, productive. Dr. James Mellon is the founding Spiritual Director of Global Truth Center Los Angeles and author of the new book, The Five Questions. James joins John Livesay to give you a little taste of the titular five questions that you should be asking yourself. There are certain questions—and answers—that move the needle in terms of the progress you want to see for yourself. But the journey to finding these questions and answers begins with believing in yourself and your own capabilities. After all, life’s too short to keep comparing yourself to other people.
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The Five Questions With Dr. James Mellon
Dr. James Mellon is the Founding Spiritual Director of Global Truth Center, which has launched a new way to experience a body, mind, spirit connection in a program called Welcome Home. James’ philosophy of life is enlightenment through entertainment. He wears many hats in the entertainment world from being a Broadway actor, director, writer and producer. He’s a sought-after speaker in the field of personal growth. He is also the author of the book, Mental Muscle: Sixteen Weeks of Spiritual Bootcamp and has a new book, The Five Questions. James, welcome to this show.
It’s so great to be here, John.
You’ve been on the planet for a while and you’ve done a few things that have made a big impact. That’s a part of why I was so excited to be able to put a spotlight on you. I know you’ve helped so many people including myself, get clear on who they are and the impact that’s possible. A lot of the people who tune in to The Successful Pitch Podcast are entrepreneurs and they’re looking for a little bit of inspiration, motivation, and maybe some tips on when it’s time to pivot and make a change. I also want to talk to you about resilience because you’re the expert in that and that’s one of the keys to being an entrepreneur. One of the things I like to ask my guests is to tell us your own story of origin. You have so many stories and you can go back as far as you want. You can go back to being someone who wanted to be a priest in Philadelphia or you can jump right into your decision to get to Broadway. You start the story wherever you want.
Mine does start out as a kid in Philadelphia who could see the world outside of Philadelphia as something enticing and exciting. I always knew that I would be a Broadway, movie star or a television star. I had a sense that I was made for something bigger than Northeast Philadelphia. Even with all of the race consciousness and the familial encouragement or I should say lack of encouragement, making the world a big, bad place, a place that’s difficult to get into and succeed at. This is where it all began for me. I never listened to what other people had to say about what I wanted to do. I went and did it. I’ve always been that person to jump in before I knew what I would hit.
Automatically, I’m starting to think of Broadway musicals because that’s a part of who you are from Good Morning Baltimore to There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This to Sweet Charity.
Even the one that I started on Broadway, which was West side story and that was against all odds because I didn’t have the dance training that Jerome Robbins was looking for. I didn’t have the singing training that Leonard Bernstein was looking for and I didn’t have the acting chops that any of them were looking for. Somehow when I stood on that stage and auditioned, it was like, “I’m here and I’m the right person for this. Give me a chance,” and they did. You’re right. When you decide to do something like Tony sings in West Side Story, “Something is coming.”Life is too short to compare yourself-tick frickin tock. Click To Tweet
My whole life I have believed something’s coming. Even now, I still feel something’s coming. I don’t feel that I’m in the, as Jane Fonda likes to talk about, the third act of her life, I don’t feel that. I feel that there’s something new always coming. You used the word pivot. Pivot is so important to my life and I noticed yours too. If something doesn’t feel right, we need to pivot and not be afraid to pivot. Too much of the world is spent dealing with what they are accepting out of life as opposed to, “I don’t want to only accept this. I want to actually be passionate about something.” I pivot whenever I need to pivot and I don’t worry about what people will think about it.
This concept of jumping in without “having all the qualifications or the background that a lot of people think you need to do” is a helpful thing for us to double click on. How do you get the confidence or the mindset to do that?
How would you get the confidence to do something like that? It’s innate in all of us. It’s right there for us to tap into. The question is, “Do we tap into our natural authentic selves or do we tap into what the race consciousness around us is telling us?” For most people, unfortunately, we tap into what we’re being told as opposed to what we know and I mean in a deep sense not what I know because of what I’ve been told but what do I know in spite of what I’ve been told.
I want to get right to your book, The Five Questions, because I want to make sure we cover what those questions are. Think of it as a roadmap, readers, for your own entrepreneurial journey as well as your own personal growth journey. As you’re learning these questions, you can think about what your answers are for both personal and professional. Then I’ll ask you, James, how you’ve applied some of that on your own pivot. Tell us what those five questions are and we’ll go back to each one.
These questions came to me because I was caught off-guard. As you know, I’m a busy person and I tend to do a lot of things at once. I was at a retreat center and one of my partners came up to me and said, “I’m looking forward to your workshop.” I said, “When is my workshop?” They said, “It’s in an hour.” I hadn’t realized my workshop was that day. I went and sat under a tree and I said, “What do I need to know here?” All of a sudden these questions downloaded to me and they came in a specific order. It’s this, the first question was, “Why am I here?” Followed by, “What wants to know me?” Then came, “What wants me to release it?” “What is mine to do right now?” The last one was, “Do I know how great I am?” Those five questions came and I wrote them down. It was almost like a download. I wrote them down and thought, “I can work from these.”Money is a demonstration of integrity and passion on the right path. Click To Tweet
I went into the conference hall and there were about 200 people there. They were all sitting and I asked them all to lay down on the ground and I said, “I’m going to go through some questions for us to start this off with.” When I started and I asked the first question, “Why am I here?” I was flooded with 100 other questions. The first question took about 30 minutes and people were crying, moving around and wriggling. I was like, “There’s something here.” When I got to, “What wants to know me?” I explained that we live in an energetic field of ideas and desires. Elizabeth Gilbert in her book, Big Magic, talks about how these ideas come up and you either take them or you don’t. If you don’t, someone else will because they’re all such viable living things and entities.
What wants to know me is, what am I allowing in my passion, intelligence and my wisdom? What am I allowing myself to absolutely engage in my own mind? It’s been a pretty amazing journey for me with these five questions and how they play out. That first question, “Why am I here?” I think of you and your amazing journey through your many careers and there are moments when something is ending like, let’s say your work at Condé Nast. When something ends, the question, “Why am I here?” can be answered on so many different levels. Why am I here at the end of this journey but why am I here at the beginning of this journey?
When entrepreneurs can ask themselves that question, why am I here? Why am I starting this company? What is my bigger purpose than just making money? They define a culture and attract the right people to their team, which attracts the ideal customers. People go, “I don’t need to figure out what my culture is in my company yet. It’s only me or me and a couple of people.” I tell people, “No. You need to know from the beginning why you’re doing this beyond profit.” That’s what people are responding to energetically.
This concept of what wants to know me, as an entrepreneur, a lot of people have a lot of ideas and in fact, so many of them that I help, say, “Don’t try to boil the ocean. Figure out one thing. Who you help and what problem you solve.” This concept of creating time through meditation or any other options. Google and big companies that now have nap rooms. A lot of people leading tech companies are saying, “One of the keys to my success is meditation and allowing other ideas to come in that are yours and not reacting to the world and emails all the time.” This question of “What wants to know me?” do you have any advice or suggestions for people of what they need to do to create that space to hear their own ideas?
It’s funny you should say that. One of my newest projects is a live space people will go to called Welcome Home. The whole purpose of creating Welcome Home is to give people an opportunity to go somewhere, into a room, into space which is our physical spaces, although they can also be entered virtually, to allow yourself to decompress. Get rid of the outside voices and world, to give yourself the opportunity to focus your mind on only you and allowing nature and nurture and all of the intentional energies out there to flow in and get into the fluidity of this thing called creative mind.EGO-Enter Greatness Only Click To Tweet
You asked the question about, “Why I am here and what wants to know me about an entrepreneur?” One of the smartest things an entrepreneur can do or anyone with a new idea is to ask the question at the onset of something. “Why am I here?” If we find out that the only reason I’m here is that I feel I have to be here or it’s going to make me money, money cannot be the end goal. Money for me is always the demonstration of the integrity and passion that wants to be brought forth. Money is just a natural outcome of when someone is on the right path. Sometimes we hear, “Why am I here?” We may hear, “I’m here for all the wrong reasons.” It’s like you. I’m here for all the wrong reasons. I need to pivot. I need to ask myself, “What can I do to find what’s mine to do?”
This concept of, “What do I need to release?” Bob Iger was quoted in the New York Times launching Disney+ saying, “They realized they needed to release something true to only making money from the model of traditional television of owning ABC.” He started the streaming service and he said, “If you don’t innovate, you die.” Sometimes you’re even killing off your existing revenue source. In terms of spirituality and how people are doing things, what you’ve created with welcome home is the Disney+ of church.
You’re creating a place for people who want to watch ABC can still do that and go to church whether virtually or online or go to Global Truth Center or in going to hear you speak every Sunday. For others who are like, “That’s not me or I never did like that format,” you’re doing your own version of Disney +/Netflix for this place of Welcome Home. It’s important too because I’m so big on the story of every origin that Welcome Home is not a destination like, “I’m going home to see my family for the holidays.” It’s a welcome home to yourself going inside. Is that accurate?
That is absolutely right. Welcome Home, meaning that there is a place in you and a place in me that when we’re in that place, we’re in the same place. That’s what Namaste means, when you honor the sacredness and another person. John, you are so correct. I am a minister, a Reverend, I have my Doctorate in Consciousness Studies and yet I lean away from the religious side of even my own ministry. Everyone has a ministry in life. Even whoever’s the head of Sony has a ministry. It’s called Sony. I lean away from the religious side of it because, to be honest, that’s one of those dinosaurs and albatrosses that are dying out. You watch a lot of these religions and churches people aren’t supporting it anymore.You can't really run very far if you are weighted down with all of the things that have no purpose in your life anymore. Click To Tweet
There are still the holdovers, the ones that still want that type of experience but as the younger generation moves up and becomes the older generation, they want experiential. They want to feel what it feels like to be spiritual. They don’t want to be bored to death being told what it’s all about or asked to do some archaic exercises of prayers and whatever. What they want is to feel it. They want to be involved in it. That’s where we came up with the idea of Welcome Home. I still love Sunday services at Global Truth Center. I love being on stage, singing, band and fellowship. I love all of that but I recognize that there are many people who want something different so we came up with Welcome Home. It’s a series of 45-minute sessions where you go in and either have a sound bath, heart breath meditation or heart math. There are so many different modalities out there that can get us tapped into our inner self so you can finally say, “Why am I here? What wants to know me?”
What is the sound bath for those people who might not be aware of that?
A sound bath is a concert. I remember when we used to go to hear concerts and people still do. It’s a concert. It’s allowing your audible senses to be bathed in sound. Usually, those sounds are glass bowls, chimes, gongs, some rain. Also, those with big tusks that have all those pebbles in them and you turn them upside down and it sounds like a rain forest. It’s a beautiful place to go to. You usually lie on a mat with a beautiful pillow and a blanket and you’re surrounded in love and sound. People take about 45 minutes out of their day to go be immersed in this sound bath.
It gets you out of your head and all the frustrations of worrying about something. You’re fully present and you’re immersed in this experience that can reset your button. This concept that we recharge our phones and yet we somehow think we don’t ever need to recharge our bodies or our minds.
If you recharge your phone, why wouldn’t you be willing to recharge your body? You know what happens when you don’t recharge your phone.
That will be the visual image for Welcome Home. It will be a phone being charged in. It will be the future of us all becoming chips inside of us. The other question of what’s mine to do right now, everyone, whether they’re an entrepreneur or not struggles with time management. So much is coming at us with tweets and text messages and things that we weren’t expecting and our day gets away from us. How does that question allow us to make sure we are in fact doing the right thing at the right moment?
All of these questions take into consideration that you’ve given yourself space and time to let these questions answer you. It’s not about you answering them. If you allow that question to answer itself through you, sometimes we hear things that we may not want to hear like what’s mine to do right now? We may be shocked to find out that a lot of what we’re doing isn’t mine to do right now.
The keyword there is mine versus delegating it to someone else.
Even the question, “What wants me to release it?” I have been on the other end of that question and found out that what wants me to release it is a relationship that no longer works for me. It could be a business partner, a friend or a family relation. It could be anything. You can’t run far if you are weighed down with all of these things that have no purpose in your life anymore. You’ve got to let it go and ask, “What’s mine to do right now?” Now you have the ability to go do whatever that is when you’ve let go of everything else. For the businessman and entrepreneur to say, “What’s mine to do right now?” If I were in the middle of it or at the beginning of a business project and I asked myself that question, “What’s mine to do right now?” I might give myself the opportunity to get out of thinking of the seven billion things that need to get done for this company to succeed and hear the first thing that I need to do.
It’s trusting your intuition to let it bubble up as opposed to, “Last night, I wrote down the number one thing is this.” Things might’ve changed and you’re still obsessed and attached to what you think has to get done first. It may not be the case. You said something about being burdened with so many things to do. A lot of this concept of what’s mine to release now might be being obsessed with what other people are doing aka what’s my competition doing and comparing ourselves to other people. That can be a burden. What advice do you have for people who want to release that trap?
It’s a big trap. You put your finger on it beautifully, it’s competition. Not to go all spiritual on you but for me, spiritually speaking, there is no competition. I understand that there is competition in the world. I am in the world. I succeed well in the world but for myself, I have to be clear that when it comes to truth, spirituality and energy of life, there is no competition. Energy is always expanding, creative, growing and moving. If I put my attention on what someone else is doing, not only am I not moving forward, I’ve stopped to pay attention. I’ve heard you talk about Michael Phelps. If you take a second to look at your competitor, you have lost because you’re not doing what’s yours to do.It is knowing who you are that allows you to step onto the largest stage possible. Click To Tweet
There we go. It’s full circle because if you were to analyze what percentage of my day am I focused on what’s mine to do versus what’s everyone else is doing, how they’re ahead of me, how many more likes they have, how many more books they sold or widget, how much more money they’ve raised, or 101 things to be focused on besides what’s mine to do. You said, “I’m spending 30% or 40% of my time subconsciously thinking and focusing on that.” I’m reading the news and I’m thinking about, “Look at what that person did or got that I didn’t get.” What happened? Will you focus some of that energy on what I can do best?”
What would I do with all that time if I wasn’t doing that? I love Holland Taylor. I interviewed her for a show I’m doing called The Inner View and Holland was one of my guests. Someone in the audience, I forget who asked her, but it was a question about, “Do you ever worry about opportunities in what may go to other actresses?” She leaned forward and said, “I don’t have time for that stuff. My life is continuing to move forward, tick-freaking-tock.” I laughed because she put her finger on it. She said, “I’m living my life. Meryl Streep lives her life. Everybody else does what they do. I don’t need to be Meryl Streep. I personally don’t need to be Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra or Marianne Williamson. I am who I am. They are who they are and we’re all doing what is best for us to do at any given moment.”
This final question of, “Do I know how great I am?” This is one that most people might struggle with. I’d love for you to talk about the difference between confidence and arrogance as you see it.
That’s a great way to put that. I always look at the ego. We think of ego sometimes as a bad thing when someone says, “That guy has such a big ego.” You better have a big ego. You better have a big understanding of who you are because it’s your belief in yourself. It’s your knowing who you are that allows you to step onto the largest stage possible. I don’t have a problem with ego whatsoever. Here’s the difference. You said confidence and arrogance. Confidence comes from an ego that knows who it is. It’s entertaining greatness only as opposed to people in spiritual terms, say edging God out, meaning edging the greatness out.
Confidence to me is someone who knows who they are. I tell this story a lot about Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise was my roommate back in the 1980s or early ‘80s. I was starring on Broadway and West Side Story and he was this teenager from New Jersey who wanted to be an actor. He would stay at my apartment because we had the same manager. Tom used to tell me all the time he was going to be a movie star and I used to laugh. I’d say, “Tom, you’re 5’7”. I didn’t see it but it didn’t matter that I didn’t see it. It didn’t matter who didn’t see it. It just mattered that he saw it because he had confidence and certainty about who he was that you could not fight him off of that. He’s also the nicest guy in the world. Arrogance is when you’re actually insecure about yourself. You don’t know who you are so you put up this pompous air of, “This is how great I am,” but you don’t believe it. Let me tell you as a director, when an actor walks into a room and they don’t believe in themselves, they barely have to speak and I already see it.
Listening to you describe these wonderful questions again and I can hear this over and over. It seems to me that there’s a circular connection to all this when I’m thinking visually. If we answer, do I know how great I am, ties into my belief in myself, which stems from answering the first question of, “Why am I here? What is my purpose?” Does the answer to why I’m here help the foundation to answer this is how I know how great I am because I know why I’m here? Is it all connected?
It’s totally all connected, John. Those five questions can be used in any situation. When you peel the onion back, every time you peel a layer back, start over, ask the questions again because if I know who I am and I know how great I am, when I say, why am I here? I’m going to get a different answer.
I promised at the beginning of this that I would ask you about resilience. You’ve had two major incidents in your life that most people would have a difficult time jumping back from. If we’re going to have things happen to us and it’s not a matter of if we get back up but I’m keen on how fast do we get back up. From being diagnosed with cancer to having your daughter tragically die at nineteen in a car accident, you’ve had more than your share of challenges in life. I don’t want people to go, “What an easy-breezy life this guy’s had from Broadway to this to that.” You’ve had all of that too. Somehow you model for yourself and other people this ability to be resilient. My big question to you is, what advice do you have for people on how they can be more resilient?
When you look at the word, resilience, resilience is the capacity to recover quickly, to recover quickly from some difficulty. When I was diagnosed with stage four cancer, to be perfectly honest, as devastating as it was to look at on the surface, I never ever felt that it would kill me even though they gave me a few months to live. They said in March I would be gone by August if they couldn’t find everything. They had no idea where it was. There was something in me that said, “You’re not going anywhere.” I had to go through five months of chemo, radiation, tearing things out of my neck. I went down to 130 pounds. For a six-foot male, that’s not a great weight. The whole time there was something behind me, which is my true self that said, “You’ll be fine. Keep going.” I’ve never had to get back on my feet through that. I don’t think I ever left my feet so I was pretty clear.
When my daughter died, which we’re about to reach the anniversary, if resilience is the capacity to recover quickly, perhaps I haven’t been resilient because I don’t think I will ever recover from that. However, what I did do quickly was to make sure everybody knew that just because the worst thing that I could have ever imagined happening to me happened, it did not change my faith. It didn’t change what I believed about God and about myself. It didn’t change how I would answer, do I know how great I am or that life may unfold perfectly no matter what.
It’s caused me to go deeper into what is life and what is death and try to have a better understanding of that. A day after my daughter passed, someone wrote on my Facebook page, and they didn’t mean it in a mean way. They wrote that they were sorry that it happened and perhaps I would reconsider the many things I’ve said as a minister and as a speaker. When I say, “Life unfolds perfectly and there’s always good in everything.” This person brought that forward and my reaction to it was so visceral that I went back onto the stage within three days of her passing and did not leave the stage. I stayed in my pulpit and my work. I have still stayed within my work this whole time. It was in reaction to that. I still do believe all this and no one is going to argue me down just because I have suffered something because my daughter’s fine. Wherever she is and whatever her next journey is, she’s fine. I miss her. I can’t even tell that I miss her every day. I miss her every moment of every day.
You always remember why you’re here. That’s the key to resilience that goes back to that answer to that first question.
“Why am I here?”
That purpose and reason for being allows you to be such a light and a gift to all of us. How can people find your book, The Five Questions, and find out about Welcome Home? What’s the best place for people to do all that?
If you go to JamesMellon.org, you will find me and my programs and you will find the book there. It’s simple. You’ll find me there. I don’t send people, I don’t even like using the word church anymore, to my center my spiritual center. If you’re interested in that, it’s called The Global Truth Center. You’ll find what goes on there. To me, it’s all one thing. Thank you for saying it at the top of the show, enlightenment through entertainment. I’m an entertainer. I will always be an entertainer, actor, singer, dancer, director, writer and minister. I get to take all that I do, wrap it up into one thing and focus my attention wherever that takes me.
James, I can’t thank you enough for reminding us that we get to remember who we are, figure out where we want to go, what wants to know us and all the other great questions that we can now ask ourselves in any situation.
Thank you, John. This has been a real treat.
- Dr. James Mellon
- Global Truth Center
- Welcome Home
- Mental Muscle: Sixteen Weeks of Spiritual Bootcamp
- Big Magic
- The Inner View
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