Ep 67 | Marty Cooper

Marty Cooper | Behind the Curtain of the Inventor of the Mobile Phone



What does the wizard behind the one invention that has transformed society around the globe have to say about optimism, failure, and learning?

Marty Cooper has been coined the name the “Father of the Cell Phone” but, there’s more to him than being an inventor of one of the most societal-altering devices.

It took ten years to see his dream come to fruition, and it nearly didn’t happen. In our conversation, we explore optimism, failure, the importance of learning, and so much more.

We get a peek behind the curtain in this episode where Marty shares his thoughts about technological advances, his prediction for the future of how we will power our lives, advice for all of us regarding privacy (in terms of how we use our cell phones), and what he believes is the threat to our civilization.

What does Marty have to say about kids and cell phone safety, the body being a complete system (at 92 years old, he’s learned a thing or two), learning from others, thoughts about grief, what breaks his heart and what gives him hope for the future? You’ll just have to listen!

This is a lighthearted conversation, filled with optimism and wisdom from someone who had a dream and never gave up. Perhaps how he lives his life today is an indicator of why Marty Cooper became the “Father of the Cell Phone?”



Victoria Volk 0:05
Thank you for tuning in to grieving voices. Today I’m very excited to share this conversation with my guest, Marty Cooper. He is the father of the mobile, cellular phone. And, Marty, thank you so much for being here. I have great pleasure. I, at the time of this recording, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve seen you on CBS Sunday morning. And I was just very struck by your story. And found myself very just very curious about you interested in your story, your personal story, what led you to become an inventor? And just I really selfishly just wanted to learn more about you. So thank you so much for agreeing to I emailed you. And you answered, and you agreed, and I was just take, I’m tickled pink, thank you so much.

Marty Cooper 1:08
What a nice guy. My pleasure, right, I like to share my story with everybody in the face, if you’re interested just is an ego trip.

Victoria Volk 1:22
Thank you so much. So I’m going to actually read, I’m going to start with the description of your book, which is cutting the cord, the cell phone has transformed humanity, which is about the obstacles you had to overcome inventing the cell phone. And it says that you’re one of Time magazine’s top 100 inventors in history, and that you share your inside story of the cell phone, and how it changed the world and a view of where it’s headed, which I’m very interested in hearing. So while at Motorola in the 1970s, you invented the first handheld mobile phone, but the cell phone as we know it today almost didn’t happen. And that’s really what kind of your book is about. Maybe let’s start there, and then we’ll kind of even go further back.

Marty Cooper 2:16
Sure. Well, we’re talking about the late 1960s, which doesn’t seem like so long ago, because I, I was a an executive at Motorola at the time. So it’s it’s not as though I was a child. And yet, those are really primitive times. We didn’t have personal computers, we didn’t have digital cameras. And the internet had not been invented yet believe. They didn’t have integrated circuits like we have in our cell phones today. But they did have careful. The only problem was like our phones are terrible. You have fuel in the car phone, and you wanted to make a phone call during the day, there were so many people competing with you for this radio channel that we run, that sometimes you’d have to wait a half hour just to get a line, if you could get one at all. So we had a bell system, you’re too young to remember the bell system, the system used to be the monopoly. If you wanted a telephone, practically anywhere in the world, not only states, you have to go to the phone company. And sometimes they would even sell you a phone you had to read it through. And there was one color black. And the definitely at that time. Most of the homes have just a single phone, we had a phone in the kitchen. So we’re really talking about ancient times. But the Bell System came up with a way of using the radio channels over and over again. So you can have more capacity in a city, you can have more than just 100 people getting service in the city. And so the nation that we’re promoting this wonderful service, except they didn’t believe was going to be very big. And they have a study done. And their study said there were only going to be a billion people ever using a cell phone. Well, it turns out they were right. That’s about the maximum number of people that ever use the cell phone in the car. Because we knew at that time that people are basically fundamentally naturally mobile. And now you know that because you you’re on board of the airport tomorrow. You get the feeling like nobody’s where they want to be everything’s going somewhere else, though. And here are the after being trapped in our homes by that copper wire for 100 years. The Bell System is telling us Well, we’re going to solve your problem, we’re going to free you and trap you into a car didn’t make any sense to us. And we got a radio made two way radios that you can hold in your hand, we had watched how companies revolutionized how they ran their businesses because they don’t talk to people moving around. So we went out a very big company at the time, at&t was $22 billion in revenue, so we were just a billion dollars. And so we took the Bell System on, we went to our, the FCC, who matters, these radio channels that will drag him up, and tell them that we have a better way to do it. And by 1973, it looks like the FCC is about to make a decision, and we’re scared to death, they’re gonna do the wrong thing. And if they made the wrong decision, we would be stuck with cartel bones for at least 10 or 20 years. So at that time, is when I decided, you know, the only way you can convince people of something is to demonstrate the real thing. And so I pulled the team together, and we made a cell phone. And the guys actually built a cell phone in three months, we had enough technology around our company. And I had to bend a lot of people that are behind their backs to get him to stop what they were doing. And working on this crazy idea. In April 3 1973, in front of the New York Hilton on Sixth Avenue, I was interviewed by somebody just like you were doing to the now. And I was talking on a cell phone. So that, and 10 years later, fully figured out. That’s how long it took to get the government agency to make up their minds. And they did decide in favor of competition. So it wasn’t going to be just the Bell System. And the industry was going to decide what the right technology was. And of course, we picked personal phones, handheld phones. And you know what the result is? There are more portable phones in the world today than there are people. Is that an amazing thing. And it’s also true in the United States were cell phones in the USA, there are people in the US. And the number of wired phones, believe it or not, is going down, down, down. And there are only a little over 50 million wired phones in the United States today, compared to by 350 million cell phones.

Victoria Volk 8:02
I imagine it’s such an incredible story to me and I I just I love inventors the story of inventors anyway, but what you did, though, has, do you ever just like sit back and pinch yourself? Like, did I really do that? Do you feel like you’re living a dream? Sometimes?

Marty Cooper 8:25
I do what except I said, I feel like I’ve agreed most of my life. So you know, I’ve always I like to think of myself as being a futurist. I’m not a very good executive. We proved out at Motorola even though we’re at a multi billion dollar division, by the time that I left Motorola, but I like to think about new things. I love to take things apart and put them back together. And the reason I know so much about the future iskysoft I spend so much time there. I love fantasy. I read science fiction. I have grown since I was a as long as I could remember since I was a little boy, five years old. I was just desperately interested in everything technical, I want to know how things work. I could take anything apart. I couldn’t always put it back together again. But I always knew I was going to be some kind of a technical person ended there. Or a scientist and and I guess I pretty much related. But yeah, but I have to tell you that, you know, inventing is not the only thing. It’s great fun to come up with new ideas. And it’s a little harder to come up with ideas that are really work. And it’s even harder to actually make some work. Yeah. So there were many, many people that are involved in creating the cell phone, the cell phone, the the equipment and the takes to make a cell phone works. Least So sites all around the city. So I would guess, to build today’s multi trillion dollar industry took 10s of 1000s of people.

Victoria Volk 10:13
I just have to tell you to the day that I got that email from you, that you would be on my podcast was the day that I got my kids. Their first cell phone plans. Oh, is that right? Yeah. Ironically, that same day. Older your children? Seven, well, 16, almost 15 and 12. Wow,

Marty Cooper 10:37
why are you a disciplined mother? My granddaughter, of course, it was a special case, she, she was going to school at a school bus when she was seven years old. And we were afraid she could get stuck waiting for the bus. And nobody showed up together. So we got our cell phone just for that purpose when he was seven years old. But your children will very quickly know more about cell phones and either of us.

Victoria Volk 11:10
Oh, my gosh. And you know, I find that it’s really made my my life a lot easier to and there’s, you know, but I do have a question that kind of leads into that part of the conversation is that? Did you anticipate it because I imagine, while you’re obviously a very strategic person to I am also a strategic person, you can kind of see around the band, you can see kind of see around the next corner? Did you anticipate that with the cell phone that we would have so much? Because there’s a lot of negative to, you know, and parents would share that frustration that sometimes the cell phone is like a, you know, a sore spot for some families and homes and with their kids and stuff. Have you ever? Yeah, what do you say to that? Let’s start there.

Marty Cooper 12:07
We’ll have shortly certainly there are negatives to every technology that comes along. And the only thing I say about that is I looked enough in the US. And of these developed countries, I look at places like Africa, India, Mexico, where people really struggle, just to live with a cell phone is revolutionizing those countries. It’s it’s reducing poverty significantly. It’s bringing health care to villages that have never had a doctor before. It’s for allowing collaboration so you can build up their entire economies. So some of these things that we’re going through now. And I observe the same thing that you do. You. You go into a restaurant or you look here, some kids having lunch, and they were all sitting there looking at their phone and said, I can’t do it. But I have ultimate confidence that you will be in it with a cell phone. So no, really, it’s only been about 20 years since it was widely. And since everybody out there, maybe less than that for teenagers. It takes time to figure these things out. Sometimes it takes a generation to do that. But the advantages, the things that the cell phone allows us to do, that we couldn’t do before way overwhelm the disadvantages, at least in my viewpoint. So Pentagon, have conflicts with people, we’re going to work with work. And

Victoria Volk 13:45
I love that. And I think part of the thing too, when I was watching you on CBS Sunday morning is I just I loved your energy and your optimism. You are just so optimistic. And so what do you see for the future? With the cell phone? I mean, because it’s changing our clothes, versus like everything is adapting kind of to the cell phone. So what do you what do you see next? What do you envision?

Marty Cooper 14:13
Start off with your comment about optimism. You’re right, I do have a very positive outlook on life. And people laugh with me a lot about that. But I look at the facts. And the reality is that society, all of us are getting better. And we are better now than we ever have been in every respect. We live longer, we are healthier. We are richer than any time in history. All the curves are going up. There are bumps up and down. And we have disasters like the pandemics and other things that come along. But on the average, we are better off now than we ever have been. And there’s no reason to believe why that can happen. And the cellphone, not by itself, but it’s going to be an important contributor to this. And that’s why I emphasize so much not to how much fun we’re having in the developed countries, with social media, and all these other things, with with the social media, and the games that the kids are playing is doing is making us familiar with an extraordinary valuable tool. So when these kids that are sitting around the rest, not talking to each other, and by the way, they do end up talking to each other, when they grow up, they are going to be so good at using these tools, they will put us to shame. And they’re going to do everything more efficiently. And when you do things more efficiently everybody benefits. And that has been demonstrated, as I mentioned before, in Africa, the There are, of course, the cell phone has as the LeapFrog to the wireless phone, or the anybody ever had, where were wired phones in Africa. And one thing that they did, they introduced a weight of managing money. Now, that doesn’t sound very important to us, we have banks. And it turns out that poor people at Africa can’t do that. They can’t move money around the country, they can’t save money. And somebody introduced a system called m pesa. That allows them to do all of those things to save to transfer money. And to do that just with their cell phone. And so they ask, and other things that have happened to make things more efficient, have at least according to the United Nations, Sonny, and move over a billion people out of power, severe poverty in the last 20 years. So definitely that kind of thing is what it really is the basis of my optimism. And the fact that there are villages in Mexico, where they have never had a doctor or never will have a doctor. And they now have the ability because they’ve got somebody in the village that’s got a cell phone, that will route the cell phone held by a better a doctor in Mexico City, and fried somebody’s eyes, in this little village and bring them medical treatment they could never have imagined before. So it’s those kinds of things that are the basis of my optimism. And you can make all the fun of the work. Stand by it.

Victoria Volk 17:30
I wouldn’t make fun of you. And actually, it makes me think of the idea of where your attention is, is where it’s like where you put your attention and focus. That’s what you’ll see. Right? So if you are focused and have your attention on all the negative things, cell phones have brought to us, that’s all you’ll see. Right?

Marty Cooper 17:57
That’s a very, that’s a very wise thing. You just set it, I absolutely agree with you. I want to tell you, I know it’s slightly off the subject. But the most important drive in my life, and what I think that should be the drive that everybody else’s life is learning. And the reason is kind of obvious if you think about it. Because most kids as an example, when they get out of school, the only thing they think about is getting a job making money. And there, there’s a lot to be said to having a lot of money and being able to do all the things you want. But it turns out that after you’ve accumulated enough money to do the basic things, and maybe a few steps beyond that, it turns out that the gratification you get from more money kind of starts waiting. And it turns out money is not the only thing in life. And the only thing you can keep doing the rest of your life that brings you satisfaction is to learn to have new ideas, to generate new ideas all by yourself. Now, you know, that’s the biggest thrill of my life is to think about something in a way that I have never thought of before. It might not be original, because somebody else probably thought about, but maybe they didn’t. So and you never ever get tired of having new ideas, and about learning new things. So I put a great deal of emphasis on practicing learning. Now, why do you ask? You didn’t ask but I’m presuming. Why do you have to practice? But it turns out they’ve done some studies, scientific studies. They are what they call rats, psychologists who determined that the act of learning is something that has to be practiced if you stop learning Just like with your muscles, you lose the ability to learn your ability to learn after five. So I can’t think of anything more scary than that, that that you get so self satisfied, so happy with your position in life, if you don’t think you need to know anything more than what you know now, and you do that for a few years. And it turns out when you want to learn something new, you don’t have the ability. Is that scary? Or what?

Victoria Volk 20:29
Absolutely, absolutely. I think that, like our greatest asset is is our minds. And where are we? Again, it comes back to where we put our attention to. So do you want to focus on growth and learning and advancing yourself in your life? Or do you want to focus on that one, the sad, depressing things that are going wrong, either in your life or in the world around you? Yeah. And so where does your optimism come from? Have you always since a child just had the sense of wonder and optimism,

Marty Cooper 21:14
but I suppose the hardest thing to do is to be objective about yourself.

Victoria Volk 21:20
That’s true,

Marty Cooper 21:20
I have absolutely no idea. I was blessed with a wonderful parents, my parents struggled, they started out in what is now the Ukraine, at that time, it was Russia, they were suppressed to the most awful ways. And they managed to work their way to Canada and ultimately to the US. They worked hard all their lives, but managed to, to come up with a comfortable life. For all of us. My mother was a dynamo. She never stopped moving. She was a charmer, she could talk to anybody. So I see some great advantages. And I, I would hope that the only thing that I could do useful in life, is to inspire other people to be like my mother was.

Victoria Volk 22:18
So I take it, then all of your ideas were nurtured. And that aspect of yourself was something that was nurtured.

Marty Cooper 22:32
I put it all down to luck, if he should i do is I’m not smart enough to figure out why I am what I am. But people have asked me you get off even to your life over again, what we do different. And I have to tell you, I can’t think of anything, you change one thing. In the past, there are unintended consequences. So I just think I’m very lucky. And I think it’s a very effective, almost all of us are lucky to be around. And today to enjoy all these wonderful things that our society has to do, including you and I talking to each other virtually as though we were right next to each other, isn’t it? Oh, it is just now less than a half hour ago. And you could say that we’re friends, we have exchanged emotions and ideas. So I think oh, that’s fantastic. And all these kids take all their for granted.

Victoria Volk 23:43
I love that. And I made me think of to how even even today I was thinking about our conversation coming up. I just thought, you know, I because I would always I would as a kid, like I wanted to invent something like if I could just invent something. But I would call myself a creator. I’m a creative person. And people that’s how people most people describe me as is as creative. And what is invention but creativity in action, right? And so even just this podcast, it was an idea. I created it. I invented it. I invented greevey voices. And so it struck me today I am an inventor, I may not have invented the cell phone. But I’ve invented other things. And I think that’s where so many of us kind of forget that as creators are people who create things or bring about ideas into fruition and into their world and into their life for others to enjoy for others to participate like this podcast. The microphone I’m using the computer like all of it, like creativity is invention, you know, in inaction and so I would just my my thing I just message I would like to share with people is that even though you may not be coined an inventor of something like yourself, I think if you created anything, you are an inventor. So what do you say to that?

Marty Cooper 25:19
I say that you’re exactly right. Although I have to put some boundaries on them, every crazy idea that I might have is not an invention. That’s true. In order to be an invention, there, it needs to be a couple of other attributes. It has to be buildable to be an invention, and it has to be useful. So when you talk about what you achieved with your is this, what is it? Are we doing what’s called a podcast? Yeah, you do going one step further, because you don’t have your podcast you so somebody is getting some benefit, at least I am, because you ask creative questions. But, but you have to also execute it. And that’s a whole step further from the inventing. So I would not only compliment yourself on bigger and better which you are, but you’re also a builder. And we need both kinds. And it’s very nice when one person could do both of them. In my case, I was the creative guy. My guys were all creative as well at a different level. But some of the things that my team did, I couldn’t imagine doing I could have done them 20 years earlier when I was sitting on a bench working, but it takes all kinds of skills, to do modern kinds of things. And everybody, at least at a technical field has to be not only creative, they have to be able to put these things to work to actually do things with their hands.

Victoria Volk 27:03
So what was the pivotal moment in your life? Were really everything changed? Or was this like just a natural progression of what how your life took shape?

Marty Cooper 27:16
While you know you, you know you were going to talk about my book at some point. So I’ll bring this up that go back, right. That’s one of the points that I made in my book is there is no eureka moment, there is no one sudden flash of light and and the wisdom of the ages, suddenly, in a lifetime, that just builds the experience one experience after another. Sorry, I believe before you’re born, you start experiencing things and you’re learning. And that’s why I keep bringing that word up all the time about about learning. I couldn’t, there was no way that I could have thought about something as important as a cell phone. Early in my career, I didn’t have the background, I didn’t have the technology, understanding. So I expressed in my book and some really beginning chapters above how it takes the progression of increasingly complex thoughts as to build up the capability to do something more important. So yeah. And the other thing that I don’t just say advice for other people, I’ve never had a plan for my life. All I knew is that I was going to be an engineer, but I had no idea what kind of work I was going to do, what fields I was going to go into. And somehow the world has taken care of me. And I am so grateful for that. But I can’t express it. Which is why I say I’m so so lucky. I have there have been things in my life that have been drivers. But we are never capable of doing total planning for the future. You just have to build up all the capabilities you can and become the person you want to be. And hope that you’ll be lucky too. And I hope you are. There’s no doubt in my mind that you’re going to do great. Well, you’re you’re just have to do this podcast. I don’t know. You certainly are not making a fortune. I’m doing podcasts for most of them. 100 of them. Say sir. In fact, I was amazed to find out how many podcasts there are the world today. But it is hundreds of 1000s right?

Victoria Volk 29:49
Um, I don’t even know. Maybe even millions. Yeah.

Marty Cooper 29:55
So somebody must be better for you. You guessed it. Back from people that watch your podcast to tell you that they have learned something new or that they’ve been entertained, or

Victoria Volk 30:10
occasionally, occasionally, sometimes I feel like it’s crickets, you know, but it comes, I just I think that’s a good point here to say, or a good spot to say that it’s how you constantly consistently just had just showed up for yourself to not give up like how, like you didn’t give up? Yeah, 10 years it took. I imagine that had some grief in it thinking like, did you ever have this thought in the back your mind? Like if this doesn’t, if this doesn’t happen? Like all this blood, sweat and tears, you know, you put because I know what that’s like? Not to your extent, of course, but to put your heart and soul into something and it bust or it not come through the way you hoped. Right? What do you say to that?

Marty Cooper 31:06
Well, you know, like my parents went through that they have failures in their lifetime. And they actually had a grocery store and what effective failed and another one and Thunder Bay that failed in a water business in Chicago that failed, before they finally found something that they could do. with sheer luck, I think that they fell into this. So it was a remarkable coincidence that when I was in the Navy, US Navy for four years, when I got a Navy job, and then I was approached by Motorola. And amazingly enough, the founder of Motorola had gone through that same experience. He has started his three different businesses and have two of them totally failed. disastrously. And so he was like, put up a plaque in the lobby of this fantastic building. At the time that I was there. Many years after the founding. On the plaque, they put out something that you said, Do not fear failure, reach out. And I took that seriously a Motorola, sometimes, to a fault. Sometimes I’ve reached out a little too far. And I had my share of failures. Sometimes I will emphasize in the future much more than the president when you’re running a business, that’s a very healthy thing to do. people depend on your profits to keep going. But that was one of the lucky things in my life to find a place that would tolerate me for 29 years. That’s how long I spent it notarized. And I am not a corporate type. If you recall, back to corporate type. And I shouldn’t say that there are people in the corporate world that are very creative. But Motorola tolerated me for all those years that I’m very grateful for that.

Victoria Volk 33:20
I am sure millions of people are as well. So I have a couple questions that I jotted down. So I would I would actually probably say that your answer to this will be Yes, but I’ll and I think you may be kinda answered it. In your opinion, are tech advances, always a good thing? This is actually a question from a friend of mine,

Marty Cooper 33:53
Nicola valses, who was asked the I have a rule about that. In fact, I have a number of rules of life that I wrote down in my book, by the way, my book is called cutting the cord. The cell phone is transform humanity, find people. One of the pages I have in the book is what I called the party’s Maxim’s, and one of them is a definition of what technology is. My definition is technology is the application of science to create products and services that make people’s lives better. If it doesn’t make somebody’s life better, it’s not technology. It could be a curiosity. It could be a technical phenomenon. But if it’s set knology by definition, it has to make people’s lives better. Having said that, there are things that come along. Thanks Your lives better, but also have drawbacks. And that’s true of almost every technology. It’s absolutely true of things like nuclear technology. You know, you look at the idea that we have countries try to come compete in how many missiles, nuclear missiles they can make. That’s a really depressing thought. Yeah. But at some point in our history, our cities will be run by perfectly safe nuclear technology that is going to be so inexpensive, the power is not going to be the thing to us, we’re going to be driving our cars for practically nothing. Heating and Cooling our homes, all these things that are so costly today. So sometimes it takes time. And there are drawbacks to technologies. But as I say before, if it doesn’t make people’s lives better, it’s not technology.

Victoria Volk 36:06
I love that answer. Let’s see, what else do I have? What else should we have jotted down? Well, okay, so I did have this one thought too. And I wish whoever’s, like anyone who’s listening to this, and any inventors. You know, how the, when you’re driving down the highway or Interstate, or even the city or whatever, on the street lights, they’ll have like that thing. So if you’re running a red light, it can capture your license plate. Oh, yeah. Okay, great technology, right? saves the police officers time, you get a ticket in the mail. It’s, you know, so I’m just I, like, can’t we apply that to the cell phone. So like, situations where people are doing like, really awful things, you know, especially in in, I’m talking, I was going to go dark a little bit, but you know, like, with teenagers and sending pictures, or, you know, sex offenders sending pornography, like just things like that, like, to be able to track those people. Like when something is, you know, just like when you get a ticket in the mail, when you run a red light, if you do something like that, on a cell phone. There’s like some sort of data capture. And I mean, I don’t know, that’s maybe way, way far off thought. But I just thought, Gosh, to help make it safer, right to help utilize it for good, right?

Marty Cooper 37:46
Well, that’s what you just have touched upon, is one of the biggest problems in society today. And I’m really serious about that. Because the answer your comments, is absolutely. If all you have to do to be perfectly safe is to give up all your privacy. You’ve got to

Victoria Volk 38:08
make a decision. That’s true.

Marty Cooper 38:10
Are you willing to let somebody somebody else know exactly what you’re doing 24 hours a day, every day of your life, wherever you are? Are you willing to live somebody? examine what you do? record it all? And and knowing that, and knowing that’s true of everybody, we’d all be perfectly safe, right? There could be no crime, because we would catch people in the middle are doing well, you know that. Except that happening?

Victoria Volk 38:43
And it’s not happening, right? Yeah,

Marty Cooper 38:46
well, it can’t happen. Because we just treasure our privacy. And we also know what happens when you give up your privacy. In total, you go and look at what’s happened to totalitarian states. Because what happens is that the bad guys do get control of that information. And when they control your information, they control you. And they control your ideas. And they control your minds. They control what you can and cannot do. So somehow we have to achieve the right balance. I would suggest that we have gotten anywhere close to that now. People have been enchanted by this idea of getting stuff for nothing better to do to you, you know, you go to Google and they give you a search engine. Well, the most powerful educational tools that’s ever existed, and you kind of forgotten. No, you don’t. You are giving up your privacy every time you do a transaction. on Google, they get information about you, they know more and more about you and they use that information for their benefit. Very often it’s for your benefit to but you have no control over it, you have to get that free service, that you are giving up an awful lot. And the same thing is true with Facebook. And the same thing is true with Twitter, that you’re getting some satisfaction, you’re getting some improvement in your life, but you’re giving up your privacy for this. So we haven’t figured that out yet. And I think there are a lot of people working on including my wife, who is a an entrepreneur, and inventor herself. And one of her latest endeavors is kind of a side issue she has created an organization says, at least what is the tour, it will be able to put a Good Housekeeping Seal on a company with regard to privacy. They have come up with standards of privacy, what does a company have to do to preserve the privacy of their customers, and a company achieves those objectives, then they will have a seal that says that this organization, and I asked approve this company from the standpoint of privacy, because somehow rather we have to face this, this issue of privacy and nip it in the bud. If we keep it very, very good, keeps getting in chat and chatted with free services, and gives up all their privacy. I think that’s a super threat to our civilization. And I think people are too scared to do this.

Victoria Volk 41:45
This is a I’m glad that conversation went here because actually just recently well with my kids getting their cell phone. Right. So a part of it is that part of the caveat was that well, the ones with jobs have to help pay for those cell phones, the plans. And the one and a part of it too is that I want to be able to find you if you’re not home when you say you’re going to get home. So iPhone, they all have iPhones, I have an iPhone, you can use the find my app right to find it’ll actually locate their phone wherever their phones at. Typically, Yes, I understand that their phone can be somewhere where they’re not. But as teenagers will, they’re going to have their cell phone with them. But it’s there is also an app called I’m not going to name it out. But there was another app that I had heard about and I downloaded it and just to kind of test run it. And my daughter, I get home that night. And she’s like, so I saw you’re driving a little fast today. I’m like what she’s like, yeah, it tells me how fast you were going. Whoa. And it does. And like it tells me how fast the school bus went. The fastest speed of the school bus tells me when she left home when she got to school, like if you want to be like, helicopter parent on top of your kids by that’s the app to have. But I just found it. Like you said, I want to give my kids the sense of privacy too. And I I appreciate privacy as well. So thank you for bringing that up. I think it’s this artificial intelligence that’s maybe possibly even taking things a little further than maybe need be. I just want to be able to find my kids if you know, yeah, home when they say they’re going to be home.

Marty Cooper 43:51
Well, you do have an obligation somehow or other you have to make sure that your kids know, first of all, they’re not getting something for nothing. Secondly, that there are people that have access to them that they don’t want to have access, there are predators out there that are taking advantage of children, pretending that they are something that they’re not. So your kids do have to be careful and they have to be educated. And I fear that a lot of them are not being educated in that regard. Our schools, spend a lot of time teaching kids things that they may or may not do to know and they forget about other things that are practical things about living. Like what you eat, and how much exercise is important, and how to use your cell phone.

Victoria Volk 44:47
great segue to you being taught 92 going to be 93 soon and we have to remind me of that but I want to

Marty Cooper 45:00
Go ahead. On the other hand, Richard 93 has to be an important objective. So go ahead, please go ahead.

Victoria Volk 45:06
No, I want to, I want you to speak to your vitality, and to what you just said about eating and exercise and all of that, because obviously, that’s a huge contributor to your life and to your capability to continue to learn, right?

Marty Cooper 45:26
Well, let me tell you, this is gonna be a little hard to do in a couple of minutes. But your body is a complete system. It is not muscles, blood vessels, a brain, skeleton, it is a system where everything is connected to everything else. And everything affects everything else. So you can ask progressive life, unless you create the system as a complete system. So you have to exercise your brain, we’ve already covered that, haven’t we, but you’ve got to exercise your body as well, and every part of your body. So so you need to not only do aerobic, to anaerobic exercise, you need to really know, upper body has got to be everything. And do your digestive system is extraordinarily important in that because that’s how you know, that’s what your body is, your body is nothing like a big battery, where you take this food in. And this got this wonderful thing called the digestive system that turns the food into energy. So your whole system has to be exercised in an intelligent way. And we don’t learn how to do that in school. They depend upon us to go out into the real world and solve their problem ourselves. So I was lucky enough. And it took until I was almost 50 years old, before I started, I became a runner I took on for for about 15 or 20 years, I never touched a bit of refined sugar or refined flour. Because I read I think it was corrected that time and I still try to do this, as you get an imbalance of sugar in your body, and it causes inflammation and do it reduces your lifetime and makes your lifetime less effective. So there are a whole bunch of rules that people ought to practice. And then we don’t we grew, we, as a society, eat too much sugar. And we eat too much in general. And I’m on discipline. So the only way I could get rid of all this food that I used to just exercise a lot. Which I which I try to do, it gets harder and harder as you get older, as you might imagine. So discipline is important. And I haven’t learned that yet, but I’ve worked.

Victoria Volk 48:18
So what has been one of the greatest lessons that you’ve learned in your life. Aside from that, you know, the body and maintaining all of that, like just what some wisdom that you would share with others that you’ve learned in your life?

Marty Cooper 48:35
Well, I wouldn’t call it wisdom, but I important part of my life is interaction with people, in my presumption when I meet somebody, including you is that I’m going to pursue this relationship and learn what I can because everybody has something to teach me. And I have found that to be true, even people that I in your case, I don’t have any problem. I think you’re charming. I’ve met people that are offensive. And yet when I engage with them, I find out that you have skills or knowledge and I don’t have and I try to be as open minded as I can. Now the other side of that coin, however, is that when I do find people that have things to contribute, I treasure that. so fortunate to live in a in a city like San Diego, we’ve, we have a number of universities. And when I get to meet people in these universities, and exchange ideas with them, that is a cornerstone in my life. And I could do that every day with my wife, a great deal smarter than I am. So all of those things are so important. You cannot live live without for yourself, that we live in a society, and the exciting things about life, do involve collaboration, and appreciate each other. I love to vlog and answer for such a nice short No,

Victoria Volk 50:16
no, it seems like connection connection, you know? Yeah, it’s about connection. And just like we can grow through connection, we grow through grief, too, which is what my podcast is all about. And so what has grief taught you in your life? And what are some of your grieving experiences that have helped you push through some difficult challenges in your life?

Marty Cooper 50:44
Well, I always try to think about the issues that cause grief in the context of what was positive before the grief happened. So I never talked about the difficulties my mother had, her mother lived in, until almost from the 90s. I talked about how wonderful she was, and how much she contributed, and how she even my mother was selling dresses, when she was in her late 80s. In a in a dress shop, but it really not because she needed the money, but she wanted to keep talking to other people. So I, I think that understanding of how important it is to help people in your life is probably one of the most important things in my life.

Victoria Volk 51:44
I love that. And I saw too, that you, you were thank you for your service as well. I’m a veteran. And I am and I saw that you were in the Korean War. And can you share anything about that experience?

Marty Cooper 52:01
No, I you know, I was in active duty in the sense that we were trying to blow up North Korean railroads and things of that nature, I was in the submarine forces. And we did an awful lot of practicing to be ready for something but I was never at a shooting war. Nobody ever shouted at me. And I’m very grateful for that. I I appreciated the service for a number of reasons. One is they put me through school. And I’m not sure I would have been able to go to university without without the navies, and help. And the second thing is a I’ve always been someone in the tour I’m still working on growing up. But they’ve helped me grow up they taught me about discipline, about responsibility, a lot keeping your word about things. So I learned a great deal in the in the Navy. And I would recommend that to everyone. I think what they do in Israel, where everybody else is served for some period of time, is a very useful and productive thing. And ladies says For most people, some people grow up sooner than others. But it’s an experience everybody loves to have. The other side of that coin, however, is that I wish we didn’t need armies, or weapons. I find that if so, you know, if you’re a builder, or if you’re a creator, and you want things to get better. We certainly do better cooperating with each other than we do. Fighting. We’re more efficient if we do take them all the money we spend on these weapons when we could be working on tools for improving productivity. So So I wish we didn’t have to have our reason that people would learn how to talk to each other. I’m afraid we are some generations away from last. But if education keeps getting better, at least in the youth, free societies, I think that that we are going to learn how to get by without a roof. And I only hope that we can make all the societies in the world free like we are before we should be glory at our independence. You know, we’ve got a lot of problems. I don’t suggest that. That’s all of better roses, but but it’s all fixable. I think I think we’re lucky to have a society where we could complain about things. We could argue with other people and yet, everyone Good speaker lines don’t?

Victoria Volk 55:02
Absolutely. Would you say that is one thing that maybe breaks your heart? I’m sorry. One thing? Would you say that that’s maybe one thing that breaks your heart?

Marty Cooper 55:16
Oh, yeah. irrationality bricks. When I when people have ideas that just don’t make any sense at all, and they deeply believe that, that is heartbreaking to me. And that is the basis of intolerance. If they basis of warfare, this people just not sticking it out. If you think it out and work things out, right? There’s always a solution that is more efficient, and better than fighting or being intolerant.

Victoria Volk 55:56
all comes back to what you said earlier in being willing to learn from others being open to learning.

Marty Cooper 56:04
You’ve got it. No wonder you could make the big bucks.

Victoria Volk 56:11
Yeah, maybe someday. I get a feeling though, like the crux of your message, like, the main part of your message is that learning is, is what was I gonna say? Learning is everything.

Marty Cooper 56:30
It’s a foundation. Yeah, it’s not, you know, you have to execute. So having all that information is not worthwhile unless you actually put it to use. But without that, there are no uses that you can do. There’s nothing you could accomplish without what I have a basis for doing good things. So that’s the one thing I got for this thing, that I use that term before, but learning is the foundation of life.

Victoria Volk 57:01
That is your quotable for this episode. What is one thing that you would like to share with someone listening that maybe has a dream, or lost a dream, or maybe hasn’t allowed themselves to dream just because of their circumstances in life? And you’ve kind of touched on a lot of different points, but kind of put it in a nutshell, what you would say to them how to get out of that space, that headspace and get back to dreaming again, and believing? I think it comes back down to faith too. Right? Yeah.

Marty Cooper 57:47
You know, that’s the first question to ask that I can’t respond to because I can’t envision I can’t put myself in somebody’s shoes. Totally negative doesn’t have a vision of the future of how things could get better. And there’s really no reason to do that. Because I know people at all levels of life that have an optimistic viewpoint, and whatever they do, they want to do it well. And sometimes they’re menial tasks, but they somehow take pride in what they’re doing. And if somebody doesn’t take pride in what they’re doing, if they don’t have ideas, if they don’t think about things that bring them pleasure, I feel so sorry for them. And I tell people, if you’ve got a job where you never get any satisfaction, go to something else, you’re entitled to be able to have your own ideas, to get satisfaction out of it, get a thrill out of it, who idea. And if you don’t do that, shame on us, you can go find something else to do and live a much more productive life.

Victoria Volk 59:06
What I hear and you say and that is that look at who you’re surrounding yourself with.

Marty Cooper 59:12
I suppose you’re right. Well, your your sounds like you’re more selective that I like my wife, he’s telling me No, I don’t like so and so. And I say, well, they’re not so bad. I had learned such a trope. So as I say, I’m just very lucky I just I just run into more interesting and fun. And people that teach me things so. So I know when I make rules about how selective I should be. You don’t want me to be a snob or an elitist or you

Victoria Volk 59:47
know, but no, but I think it comes down to two it’s been if if what you’re focusing on is wanting to learn from people, you’re going to learn from all kinds of people you’re going to look for those people to learn from right up. You got it? What is one thing? What brings you out? This is a question I asked usually, what is the one one thing that brings you the most joy and hope for the future? Well,

Marty Cooper 1:00:22
oh, that’s another really hard question, I’m gonna have to duck that one, only by talking about my, I now have a great granddaughter, if you and I have other family that’s got a baby, segue guess I have three, three babies in my life of very close people. And when I see them growing up, and how fast they’re learning, and, and how much I admire their parents, and how they’re raising these kids, because they got advantages. I never had, my children never had, I guess that’s my biggest tell for the future. There, they are going to get educated better than I was like children, or maybe even my grandchildren. And they, that’s our hope for society. And society doesn’t get control out of some of these things that are on the verge of getting out of control our society that civilization second to last much longer. That would be a shame with all that we’ve accomplished, though, for. So it’s the coming generations that I think are greater, we should be doing everything we can to make their world a better world than our world was

Victoria Volk 1:01:46
about, I’m gonna put you on the spot for one more question. So being the futuristic thinker that you are, and being 92, going and 93, often living in the future. What do you think about for the rest of your days? What do you want that to look like? Your mind when you think about that?

Marty Cooper 1:02:12
Obviously, you’re not paying attention. Like I told you at the beginning, I have never been able to plan out my life. I am struggling at the moment, trying to figure out what my next career is. And I haven’t quite worked it out, you know, I spent a lot of effort writing my book. And I was focused on it for a number of years. And that’s over. And I’m very satisfied with the book, I wish another million people that would have bought the book that when I told my story, and that was my objective. And I’m trying to figure out what to do next. And not entirely clear, I’ve got topicals I’ve tried to look at things I’ve been studying how the human brain works. You know, we’re a hearing aids, which are totally unsatisfactory. And I am working with people in the universities that try to improve this industry. So I haven’t totally figured it out yet. But I am going to come up with another career. And it will be focused on the things that I know how to do, how do you put things existing things together in different ways to make people’s lives better. That’s how we started a conversation. It’s a good way for us to,

Victoria Volk 1:03:40
but I’m gonna put a bug in here on that one, forgive the pun, but actually, there was an incident where someone I know had lost their hearing aid at a campground. And we were looking through the grass to try and find this hearing aid. And it’s like, you know, they have apps and things where you can find your keys and ways to do that. How come there isn’t this artificial intelligence in your hearing aids that you can pair to your phone? So if you lose your hearing aid, you can find it especially something that costs like a small car like you can they’re very expensive, right? Yeah. So

Marty Cooper 1:04:18
I’m veteran. Yeah. By the way to do this flower record, I guys. Okay, yellow. This is a big Hi, Ellen. She’s reminding me about my next appointment. So you did just could do it in venture it is possible to do find my hearing aid. A much better solution would be to make the hearing aid so inexpensive. If you lost if you could just get another one, and it wouldn’t be. And that really is what I’m working on. Now. If you look at a pair of Apple earbuds, the technology in these earbuds they cost about two or $300, it’s not very different than this $6,000 pair of earrings that irrigates that were, something’s wrong. And I’m really working very hard on this. Because not only are they too costly, they don’t work. Oh, that will. But I’ll keep in mind your comment to it when we get to the stage of actually doing something. Even losing if a hearing aid class out at hours, you ought to be able to find it. And there is no technical reason why you couldn’t do it. If you can find a cell phone, you could find a hearing aid. So I’ll try to remember to put your name on the patent if we ever have no way. Multiple is better. Oh, that would be amazing.

Victoria Volk 1:06:06
I yeah. And you know, thank you so much. I know you have to go thank you so much for your time today for your wisdom. I’m gonna put everything in the show notes, but quickly share where people can find you.

Marty Cooper 1:06:19
So it’s my pleasure. Great to talk to her a great interviewer and a very good question. Good luck to you.

Victoria Volk 1:06:26
Great, thank you. Good to see you. Bye Bye now. Bye.

Ep 60 | Evolving with Grief

Takeaways & Reflections | Evolving with Grief


Grief can either suck the life right out of you or, it can build you into the most compassionate heart for others who will look to you to lean on for support in their grief.

They say grief shared is grief diminished, but many people find sharing their grief difficult. Some turn to writing as a way to express and soothe the soul like I had and like my guest, Faith shared, in episode 59. Or, they turn to others in support groups or friendships, only to be let down or disappointed, as my guest Sherrie was and talked about in episode 58.

There is one question I encourage you to ask yourself; one that I challenge you to ask yourself. If you have listened to episode 59, then you may already know what it is. If you haven’t, then listen to this week’s episode because I mention it again.

Also, this episode is dedicated to the founder of The Grief Recovery Method®, John James, who passed away on 8/10/2021, only three short months following his cancer diagnosis. GRM changed my life and, I will forever be grateful to James for creating this beautiful gift out of his own grief. What a gift to humankind he was and will continue to be to the many hurting hearts who feel led to doing the deep, inner-work through GRM. His legacy will endure; I do not doubt that. Love + Light, John. 💛


Today is the takeaways and reflections episode where I’ll be talking about Episode 58 with Sherrie Dunlevy, and Episode 59 with Faith Wilcox. Sherrie had lost her infant son 29 days after his birth, and also her beloved pet. And so she talks about each of those losses and the impact they had on her as well as her experience of going through grief recovery and how that changed her life. And Faith talks about the loss of her 13 year old daughter. She was diagnosed at the age of 13 and died 365 days later in her mother’s arms of cancer. And the curious thing about that is she didn’t know she had one year to live when she was diagnosed. But I think it’s an important question to ask ourselves, what would I do? If I knew I had one year to live?

People are Often Consumed with Their Own Grief

Starting with Sherrie’s episode, she brought up a very important topic that I want to bring up in this takeaway’s episode and she talked about her this desire that she had when she lost her son. She thought that time that followed, she was really struggling with why she felt abandoned, why people weren’t there for her that she thought would have been or should be. And she said she came up with a few reasons why this happened. One was it hit too close to home, that if it happened to them, thinking about that makes them sad, it’s just too sad for them. Another reason why she came up with why people abandoned her was they never had to deal with a situation like that before. And they just didn’t know what to say. Also, people really want to say something, but don’t know what to say, or afraid to say the wrong thing. And they want to help and they want to do something, but they just don’t know what to do. And so it’s easier to do or say nothing than the wrong thing. And one thing I would like to add to that is that, I think also too, people are often consumed with their own grief, consumed with what’s going on in their own lives. Maybe not even grief at the time, but just the just all. Especially women or head of households, you wear all the hats. For me personally, I can just say I have days where it’s just feel so scatterbrained, it’s hard to focus, my attention is pulled in many different directions and, and so trying to hold the capacity for compassion and empathy and trying to hold that space for somebody else. In a really trying difficult emotionally challenging time. I’m struggling in my own mind, I’m probably not the best suited person to sit with you during those days. But also I think it comes down to communication. If I am feeling that way if I am because here’s the thing, too, in that situation that would cause me grief is like a really want to be there for you, but I just can’t right now “this is what’s going on, this is how I’m feeling, this is what I’m experiencing”. You know, and I might feel like it’s nothing in comparison to what you’re feeling. You know, the person that just you know is going through a loss but all the same. How do you do to be there for somebody who you really want to be there for? and yet, just you don’t have the capacity to do it. And

How Can I Help?

I think it’s where we tend to complicate things, we overcomplicate things, and sometimes we think that we just need to do these big grandiose gestures, or these big expressions of our love and care. But sometimes it can just be as simple, “I don’t have the brain capacity today. I hope I do tomorrow. But in case I don’t, know that I’m sending you love, know that I’m sending you a hug“. Maybe you put that in a card, and you mail a card to that person? Or maybe you send them a fruit basket? It can be something small, a small gesture. Maybe if they have a pet, maybe it’s like, “Okay, I know, I need to disconnect a bit. I need to, like reboot my brain.” But maybe you don’t have a pet. Right? And so maybe that person that had a loss, has a pet. “Hey, can I walk your dog, it’d be good for me, it’d be good for your dog, and it would help you out.” Right? So I think sometimes we have to think outside the box, and maybe a little bit creatively about how we can be of service to other people when we really, really want to, but no, we’re just not there yet in full capacity, but still want to do a little something. And if you are feeling in full capacity, you know, mentally, emotionally, physically, all of those things where you can be there for other people, then it’s like, by all means balls to the wall, I mean, put all your effort and energy into that, because you wouldn’t be surprised how life-giving that can be for somebody else, and for you as the giver of your time and energy. And it doesn’t even have to be a financial expense to do anything special. I just encourage you to think about maybe what you would like, I think that’s also where we tend to overcomplicate things. It’s like, “what would I appreciate today? what would I really like? what would lift my spirits? Or what would be helpful to me today?” .And then do that thing for that person, or somebody else who is going through a challenging time, who don’t have to be grieving something. Just maybe it’s a challenging time, right? And, you know, all of this desire for Sherrie to find why people abandoned her is kind of what led to her writing her book, “How can I help?” your go-to guide for helping loved ones through life’s difficulties, and it is on Amazon. And I did link to her book in the show notes of her episode. So I do highly encourage you to check it out, and to listen to that episode in its entirety.

There’s a Clarity That Can Come From Grief

And I’m going to go through a few more things that Sherrie and I talked about. Next, I’d like to share just how contrast really shows us what we do want. And therefore, it’s a knowing of what we don’t want. And we had talked about during our episode about this post traumatic growth. And I had heard this term before, but I think it’s true in that when you go through something traumatic, or you have a really difficult, challenging experience, loss of a loved one or just natural disaster. Things like that we realize, what we don’t want, like, “this isn’t working for me, that’s not working”. How do you know we start to think about what we do want. And so there’s a clarity that can come from grief. It is a clarifier that brings us to our awareness, all that probably isn’t working in our lives, things that we would desire to change. Even if we don’t know how or what that looks like. You can feel it in your body. Your body responds to what isn’t working, if we just kind of tune in. We just take a moment to tune in to what our bodies are telling us because our bodies are always speaking to us, especially in grief. Especially with that post traumatic growth journey that all gravers go through

There is No Timeline to Grieve

And because there’s no timeline to grieve, I think that experience or how long that experience takes is very different for everybody. I think it also relies on how open we are to learning something new, to see in our lives and other people from a different perspective. I think one of the beautiful things about grief is it brings us more compassion, we become more compassionate people, I believe. And so it’s really leaning into that compassion for ourselves first. Because it’s really hard to give others compassion, when we don’t have it for ourselves. It comes back to that old thing. You can’t pour from an empty cup, right? I think that is one of the lessons that Sherrie had received in her grief, and what made her seek out grief recovery, help in the grief recovery method, and I just loved how she shared her experience in that, she said it has the most amazing tool, and it was the best gift that she had ever given herself. And I would wholeheartedly agree for myself personally. Grief recovery has been the gift that keeps on  giving. I certified in March of 2019, in Austin, Texas, and I was just telling someone about it the other day. And I was telling this friend, there are pivotal moments in our lives. Times where we can think back and, and think well, that conversation or that bumping into that person or, being in the right place at the right time, or that choice I made or that decision. We can pick out these moments in our lives that are very pivotal to us, that really changed the trajectory of the rest of our lives, where we understand and are aware that had I not done that thing, my life would not be where it is today. A happenstance conversation, and I’ve had so many of those instances, just the perfect conversation at the perfect time, or hearing something exactly when I needed to hear it, or stumbling upon a resource or something that would inevitably change my life. And that was grief recovery, to be honest, which opened the doors and led to many other things such as Reiki and end of life doula and the clients that I’ve been working with in Reiki and what I’m learning starting to learn now to further my Reiki and deeper my practice there with crystals and sound healing.

We evolve with our grief, we are always evolving with our grief. It’s just truly sad to me, I feel sadness when I see people, especially online, often in the grief community, that feel like their life is destined to be how it is today. I was that person who thought my life was going to be how it was, and I was going to feel how I was going to feel for the rest of my life. You can’t see the label from inside the jar. Right? I mean, that’s another quote. But it’s so true, it’s really hard to see a path forward when you’ve tried something and it didn’t work or you’ve tried that thing and it didn’t work or or you constantly feel like you’re judged, criticized or analyzed. And that’s what grief recovery is absolutely different. The approach is different in its individual, because you’re an individual like it is individualized to you, because your grief is unique to you. I could go on and on on a tangent on that but grief shows us what needs to be healed, grief is a clarifier it and it will force you to evolve.

Grief is Like a Sinkhole

I think eventually, unless you are unwilling to surrender to what it has in store for you, the gift that it could give you and I can just see the eyes rolling because when you are deep in grief, you do not want to hear how there’s gifts in grief, you don’t want to hear that there is purpose to your suffering, like you just don’t want to hear that stuff. I didn’t want to hear that stuff. But eventually, there comes a point where you just get sick and tired of being sick and tired. And like my friend Sherrie said in her episode, and honestly, we had recorded that many months back. And I had never forgotten this phrase that she said, but when you lay you decay, and if that’s not true of so many other aspects of our lives, whether let’s say you have a cancer diagnosis. Of course, there are days where absolutely all you can do is lay. But if you just laid, right, if you just laid and you’d never got up and you never had a reason to get up, or you never tried to get up, you never even tried or, granted, there’s all kinds of scenarios and situations. This is a very blanket statement, but that statement lay or decay. It’s like our bodies are meant to move. And, I don’t I’m not even sure who said it. But a body in motion, stays in motion like the laws of physics or something. I’m not sure. I think you get the idea, though, of where I’m getting to, but we must stay in motion. And that’s true with grief too, or you do get stuck. It’s like you’re in a sinkhole. Grief is like a sinkhole, it’ll swallow you whole. If you let it ,grief will force you out of your comfort zone and bring change whether you like it or not. The more you fight these changes that grief will bring in, the more resistant you are to these changes, the more your suffering will persist. And that was no different in my grave.

Grief Recovery is About Addressing the Pain

I had many days where I cried more tears than I thought I could ever possibly cry. When you’re crying from sadness, it’s much different than when you’re crying from pain. Just like Sherrie had mentioned in her episode. She said you will someday at some point cry so much that you’ve cried enough from the pain. And I agree, I think there comes a point where you just run out of tears and crying from the sadness is much different. And I think it’s once you actually process that pain, and you work through that pain, what left is the sadness. That doesn’t go away. You know, grief recovery isn’t about getting over or putting behind you the person that passed away or the relationship that is less than loving, grief recovery is about addressing the pain. Any sadness you feel isn’t just going to go away, there’s still going to be that empty seat at the table. And just this week, as I’m recording this, on Tuesday, the founder of grief recovery passed away from cancer after three months of senses diagnosis. And for me personally, it’s a very sad loss. It’s a sad loss for all of us grief recovery specialists, I believe, because he founded something that is incredible, that has changed and impacted all of our lives. And I am in awe of the legacy that he has created and his left. And I feel deeply honored to be able to carry on his work and his creation of the grief recovery method in the work that I do with my clients. Again, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. And it was an incredible gift that he has given me. And so I dedicate this episode to John James, who created the grief recovery method out of his own pain in his own sorrow. And if you are interested in learning more about his story, I encourage you to pick up the book the grief recovery handbook. It is linked in the show notes. And if you don’t see the show notes, or don’t go to the show notes, you can also find the grief recovery handbook on Amazon. And I highly recommend it.

Voice Out Your Feelings

Moving on to Episode 59 with Faith Wilcox, she shared her story of her 13 year old daughter being diagnosed with cancer and actually passing away in her arms 365 days following her diagnosis. And this was over 20 years ago, she just recently published a book, which is also linked in the show notes for Episode 59. It’s called “Hope as a Bright Star”. And it was developed from her writings that she wrote at the bedside of her daughter, and what she had learned throughout that whole process of sitting with her daughter in that year, in and out of the hospital, chemo radiation treatments and also navigating being a parent to her daughter’s sister as well. And the dynamics of how you function as a family when you have such a sick child and you’re in and out of the hospital. And I can’t imagine what that’s like, I cannot even imagine. I resonated with what Faith had shared about how writing was such a pivotal healing tool for her. Because I too, have been writing since I was in my teens and I journaled, I wrote poetry. I found much comfort in expressing myself in that way. And I think for a lot of introverts or empathic people, we find that it is much easier for us to process our feelings. We often do internally, but it’s a great exercise in expression, to give your feelings a voice in some way. And so for me, it was always writing. And that was the case also for Faith. And she gives some tips for other parents at the bedside of a loved one, going through the same situation that she experienced.

What would you want to do if you only have one year left to live?

And I just thought when I was listening back and editing, I just thought to myself, like, had she known she had one year to live? Would she have made different choices? What would she have wanted to experience? I mean, what a good question to ask yourself to get some fire under your butt. You know, if you had one year to live, you were told today, you have one year to live? What would you want that year to look like? I don’t know about you. But I feel very overwhelmed by that question, to be honest. Because I feel like there’s so much more that I have to offer people and want to do in my life. I think grief in that question is a clarifier. I have a pretty long bucket list. I don’t know about you, but I do have a bucket list. And I seem to be adding to it year after year. But it is a daunting feeling isn’t it? To think if you were given only one year. Probably many of the things that you might have on your bucket list aren’t things that you would probably prioritize.

Maybe it’s putting your feet in the ocean or feeling the beach, sand in between your toes for the first time or swimming with dolphins. I’m reminded of a story of Jeffie which is shared by Elisabeth Kubler Ross and her book “The Wheel of Life” , a memoir for living and dying. But she shares the story of this little boy named Jeffie who is dying of cancer and was sick much of his young childhood and the last thing he wanted to do was more cancer treatment, more chemo and radiation and he just wanted to go home. And so his family took him home, and when they got home, the one thing he wanted to do was to ride his bike. And I’ll actually share this, you’ll hear the story of Jeffie brought up in a future episode, I had the privilege of having a conversation with Ken Ross, who is Elisabeth Kubler Ross’s son. And I brought up that story because I was moved to tears when I read it. But Elizabeth’s life is just one of many stories. She was actively doing her work, but it’s like the amount of work, the amount of accomplishments that she had in that time, is just, I’m in awe. So anyway, I was made to think of that story of Jeffie. When I thought of that question, what would you want to do if you had one year left to live and turns out with Jeffie, he knew intuitively, that he had but a few hours at most. In fact, he wanted to go home so he could die at home. That story was just though a beautiful example of just this little child, young child taking ownership of the kind of death he wanted to have. And I just think, imagine if we had that kind of authority, and took that authority to have that kind of conviction when we’re alive, right? not when we’re on our way out. And so again, it just comes back to that whole question. And my biggest takeaway from Faith’s episode is, how would I want my next year to be if I knew I had one year to live? And so that’s, that’s the question I want to leave you with today to truly ponder on, and think about, and what do you want your next year to be? Like? If you are grieving right now, what do you want your next year to be like.

much love, victoria

P.S. In case you don’t know if it is something that you want to move forward working through your grief, I offer grief recovery, both online and in person, and both one on one and in a group. So if that’s something that is of interest to you, I encourage you to please reach out to me at Victoria at http://theunleashedheart.com or you can head to the show notes. And there will be some links to my social media there and you can send me a message. I highly encourage you to do that. If you have any questions or reservations about moving forward in your grief, because you got one life to live? And how about we make the most of it. Right? Thank you so much for listening to today’s episode, which as I mentioned, I’m dedicating to John James, the founder of the grief recovery method, and the grief recovery Institute. A program that has very much so changed my life and has been the gift to me that has kept on giving. If you would like to learn more about this amazing program, I encourage you again to reach out to me check out the show notes. And remember, when you unleash your heart, you unleash your life. Much love. If you liked this episode, please share it because Sharing is caring. And until next time, give and share compassion by being hurt with yours. And if you’re hurting know that what you’re feeling is normal and natural. Much love my friend.


Vulnerability versus Emotional Honesty

vulnerability versus emotional honesty

I’ve been stewing about something for a few days. Not long ago, I listened to a podcast episode where Tim Ferriss interviewed five-time NY Times Bestselling Author (and vulnerability researcher), Brene Brown. [Click HERE for the interview on YouTube – l love the marriage/parenting tips shared 50 minutes in and onward.]

I honestly did enjoy the entire episode. However, there is one question that lingers for me. In the full 45-minutes or so, they were discussing vulnerability and in using elite athletes who are miserable (going on their third marriage) as an example, not once was the word “grief” used. And, I’d love to know: “WHY?They were discussing scenarios of miserable people and vulnerability as it relates to the hard Knox of life. Brene did say, in the event where someone is not willing to go real deep (into their vulnerability), then that’s where these individuals need to seek therapy options.

Can we please start calling situations of emotional dis-ease, emotional turmoil/pain – for what it really is? IT’S ALL GRIEF! We all have it and no one is immune.

I’m a Questioner and was a “Why?” kid. You know the one that asked “why” about everything under the sun. Yeah, that was me – still am a questioner of all things. It’s why I end up down so many rabbit holes on any given day. Curiosity and questioning have both served me well and have derailed my progress many times over. Lol!

Anyway, if we look at the comparison graphic above, where I compare vulnerability to emotional honesty, we can see that one feels quite a bit differently than the other, right? Say the two comparisons out loud (vulnerability and emotional honesty), and the physical vibrational response is different, too – because one simply feels better than the other. One feels more aligned with our human-ness, in my opinion.

When I’m in a mood for reality television (e.g., “The Bachelor”), it’s interesting to me how many times the word “vulnerability” is thrown around. It’s a buzz word, for sure; it’s all over television, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook – you name it. And, if I’m honest, I feel like it’s lost its effectiveness.

How about, from now on, we tell the emotional truth about ourselves? How about we get emotionally honest with ourselves and others? And say that’s what we’re doing when we’re speaking from our hearts.

Try that on for a while. See how that feels instead. It makes a hell of a lot more sense, too. It needs no explanation and requires no fluff or buzz words.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below. The conversation changing relies on us to start changing it.

Are you ready to discover how to become emotionally honest with yourself and others in a safe, guided, and supportive environment? I invite you to reach out to me via my contact form or on social media [@theunleashedheart].

much love, victoria

Giving of Ourselves

giving of ourselves

In the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.), a popular program for recovery from alcohol addiction, the addict’s sobriety is not complete until it is shared with others. 

The principle of sharing to completion also applies to The Grief Recovery Method programs. Interesting, huh?

Anyway, This principle is also true for all of us. If we live only for ourselves, what kind of life would we live? If all we did is take, take, take – we’d never experience the joy we receive when we give. We truly find ourselves when we give of ourselves. For example, spouses find fulfillment in giving to each other and their children (with healthy boundaries in place, of course). Teachers, nurses, coaches, first-responders – people in all walks of life, find meaning to life when giving of themselves lovingly.

When a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it still produces – so do we. When we give of ourselves to others, we too live and flourish.

Earlier this week, after a second failed attempt at getting a grief recovery group going, I found myself in a self-inflicted pity party. Until I remembered a very wise lesson someone shared with me that I will blog about next week. After feeling sorry for myself for a good two days, I decided to take the advice given and decided to give of myself instead. I am currently working on the details of what that’s going to look like for me. But know this: when you feel like you’ve failed, the fastest and easiest way to flip that crap around is taking forward-action. Do something that will move you forward in your life – listen to a podcast episode that’s motivating, read a book that feeds your brain and teaches you something new, or, as this blog post is about – give of your time (lovingly) to someone else or a cause you believe in supporting.

Try this the next time you feel disappointed about something that didn’t turn out as you hoped or expected and see how that failure (i.e. learning moment) fades into the rearview. 

much love, victoria

P.S. I’ve started providing Reiki sessions and have received fantastic feedback on results! Are you interested in trying it? Read all about it and click here to book your session. Various days/times available. 🙂

“I’m Fine” is Often a Lie

im fine













Some of the most “put together” people find their way to grief recovery. They look good, sound good, and they try their damnedest to convince us (and themselves) they are feeling good. When we meet people who’ve recently experienced a loss, we ask them how they’re doing. Typically, the answer is the same: “I’m fine.”

Do you like to be lied to? Of course, no one likes to be lied to. But, have you lied about your feelings following sad or painful events? It is sad to know that we’ve been taught to lie about our feelings for fear of being judged or criticized.

The danger of “I’m fine” is that it does not help the broken heart. Saying “I’m fine” merely distracts us and others, while pain and loneliness persist on the inside. The net effect is to create a scab over an infection, leaving a mess underneath.

Unresolved grief consumes a tremendous amount of energy. The grief stays buried under the surface, and only the symptoms are treated. And many people, including mental health professionals, misunderstand the fact that unresolved loss is cumulative and cumulatively negative. 

Our energy is most efficient when our minds and bodies are in harmony. Unresolved grief tends to separate us from ourselves. I look back on 2014 now and I am fully aware that I was separated from myself. Have you ever been driving down the road and suddenly realize you’re a few miles from where you last had an awareness of where you were? It’s as if your body wasn’t even driving the car. You were in your head, having a conversation with someone who wasn’t even in the car!

As we continue depleting our energy, we lose our sense of vitality and spontaneity. And, as time goes on, you fall into the trap of quiet desperation – sometimes feeling good, sometimes feeling bad, but never being able to return to a state of full happiness and joy. Each time a loss is not completed, there is a cumulative restriction on our aliveness. Life becomes something to endure and, because of misinformation, we never had a fair chance to deal effectively with the loss events in our lives.

You may have tried any number of ways, as I did, to try to improve your sense of happiness and well-being. Therapy, religious or spiritual beliefs, or even twelve-step programs may have provided valuable insights and tools. And yet, as I did, still have a lingering sense that you are incomplete with your past, a feeling that, in turn, diminishes your hopes about the future.

The Grief Recovery Method, established by John James, a Vietnam Veteran, had lost his newborn son and, following that loss, his marriage fell apart. He had searched for something that could help him, all the while, many people with good intentions, said unhelpful (even hurtful) things. Combined with the misinformation about grief we’re raised with, John reached a breaking point. On the beach by the Pacific Ocean, he had a gun to his head and had every intention of completing suicide, when a question came to mind he had never before considered. He asked himself: “What do I wish had been here for me?”

It was then, The Grief Recovery Method began to take shape and the book, The Grief Recovery Handbook, was written, followed by the other books and programs (Helping Children with Loss and Pet Loss programs) that now transform lives internationally.

This beautifully written program is rooted in hope. It is written by a griever for grievers – regardless of religion, race, or anything else.

What do you wish was there for you? Perhaps, like John discovered, and, I, too discovered – a program that takes an emotional loss, turns it upside down and inside out, provides hope, and guides you through action steps that enable you to live in the present moment – more fully. It is a gift, to give yourself, that keeps on giving.

So, what do you wish was there for you?

Joy awaits, my friend.

much love, victoria


Who is Responsible for Feelings?

responsible for feelings

Would you agree that the victim mentality seems to be almost epidemic in our society? If the word victim seems a bit harsh, how about we swap it for helpless. Who here heard, during your childhood statements like: “Don’t do that, you’ll make your father angry” or “You make mommy feel so proud.” If we pick apart those statements, there is the suggestion that someone “makes” someone else feel something. A “victim” foundation is laid with the idea that other people are the chief architects of our feelings. Children quickly realize that if they have the power to make dad or mom feel something, then dad or mom can make them feel something, too. 

Digging more deeply into who is responsible for feelings, we have to understand something referred to in psychology called the basic action chain.

This formula explains how and why we respond to things as we do. It’s made up of four basic elements:

  1. First is the stimulus: something that we sense that starts the process. Any stimulus is “neutral” until you give it a positive, negative or no value whatsoever.
  2. If that stimulus is strong enough, it causes you to generate a thought, which is what gives it value.
  3. If that thought is strong enough, it may generate a feeling.
  4. If that feeling is strong enough to reach a saturation point, it will cause you to take some kind of action. It might be to run, cry, laugh, scream or any number of different things.

If you look at this formula, it all comes down to the thoughts that you generate in response to that initial stimulus. It’s common to hear people say, “He made me mad!” If how you feel is in response to your very own thoughts, it makes this statement impossible! The other person may have given your reasons to be mad, but ultimately that decision was your own choice.

Most of us have spent a lifetime blaming others for what we do and how we feel. It’s certainly easier to blame others rather than take personal responsibility for our feelings and actions. As adults, we can make choices about how much power we wish to give to others regarding our happiness. This formula also tells us that if we really want to feel better, we can use our thoughts to take positive action for ourselves! This is a powerful example we can be for children and teens.

Taking Action

Perhaps the best action you can take, as part of moving forward, is learning how to forgive others, rather than letting them control you. This might sound strange or even impossible. Ultimately, it comes down to understanding that forgiving someone has absolutely nothing to do with condoning their actions! It’s purposefully and a rightfully selfish action on your part to take back control over your happiness!

Forgiveness is an action. It’s something that we chose to do because we are tired of being the one that continues to suffer because of something someone else did to us. As is often the case, the “wronged” party is the only one that continues to suffer. The other person is either blissfully unaware of it or enjoys the power that you have given them to influence your feelings. Once you have taken the action of forgiveness, you are in a far better position to once again take back control over your life.

How to Take Back Control of Your Happiness

First and foremost, the other person is not part of this process! Forgiveness during the grieving process is an action that you are taking on your own. This is not something you do “with” them, but something that you are doing for yourself. If you try to involve them or make them directly a part of the process, it can often lead to more problems and arguments.

Since you cannot go back in time to change the past, forgiveness is about giving up the hope of a different or better yesterday. It’s about acknowledging those things that another did or said that caused pain and making the decision that you are not going to let that hurt or control you anymore.

Forgiveness can be very empowering. It can give you the chance to be free of another person’s emotional control. It has nothing to do with the other person. As previously mentioned, it is something that is for you and you alone.

Implementing a Plan

Let’s use an example to illustrate this. The Grief Recovery Method is all about taking action to recover from painful events. Let’s say a teen experiences his first break-up. The emotional pain associated with a breakup is actually a form of grief. The concept of putting “forgiveness” to work is an important element of this process.  It’s this approach that distinguishes The Grief Recovery Method from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and other approaches. This method is about dealing with grief as an emotion, rather than as an intellectual problem. After all, that is what grief is: grief is an emotion!

Successfully moving forward, after the breakup of a relationship, involves taking action for your happiness. Learning how to forgive is a vital part of that process. Failure to take the needed actions, to move beyond that emotional pain associated with the relationship, can get in the way of teens (and adults) being successful in the next relationship.

Another example to illustrate the point of responsibility for feelings is a true story about a preschool class of four-year-olds where one of the teachers was absent. The curious children asked where the other teacher was and the response the teacher gave was “You children were so bad last Friday, and did not listen, so Ms. X had to stay home and rest because of you.” 

The consequence of that phrase was that one student didn’t want to go to school the next day because the student believed he had made the other teacher sick. 

Teachers, like parents, are powerful influence sources in the minds and hearts of children. You or I may be able to dismiss ideas with which we do not agree, but children will hear the words of teachers and parents as gospel.

Change the Language

To accurately communicate the responsibility of feelings, rather than saying “You really make me angry,” restructure the sentence to “I am angry.” By doing so, you are taking responsibility for your reaction to the other person’s words or action. 

This can be one of the most powerful lessons we can teach children. We must become aware of our use of the idea of others causing us to feel. As we change our language, the children will change, too. 

You can change the feelings you create. You are responsible for your own happiness – don’t make others. Besides, that’s a lot of power and pressure to put on someone else, isn’t it?

much love, victoria

P.S. Interested in joining me, and other hurting hearts for a transformational experience? I’m starting my next group this coming week! Details HERE!

evidence based grief recovery