4 Insights After 5 Years of Radical Honesty

Photo by:  Johannes Riggelsen

I didn't get Radical Honesty right away. In fact, I almost forgot about it...

In my first workshop with Brad Blanton in Greece, I sat in silence for most of the time, dropping in the occasional smart-assed comment, thinking I was superior to everyone else – just like in school. Back home – I‘d just quit a high-paying career job in New York City to move back to my parent‘s place in Germany and clean up my act – I almost forgot about the workshop and kept feeling stuck despite tons of “shelf-help” books, audiobooks and affirmations.

Sometime later, and I guess I simply had enough of making myself mildly depressed and helpless with overthinking stuff to death, I decided to give it a shot. I planned to come clear about having stolen a Playstation portable in the school I used to work in.

That, I thought, would go into the coffin with me!

No one knew and I had always planned to keep it that way – only that I did not trust myself with money and thought of myself as some unworthy piece of trash with a college degree. Well, after I decided to face one of my biggest fears and drive to that school and tell the principal, my mind did everything it could to talk me out of it.

Jailtime! Public Humiliation! Excommunication! You name it...

I put my mind‘s ideas to the test and did it anyway. I tell you, it was not easy and I needed around 20 minutes to talk myself into getting out of the car. Once I walked towards the building, a strange sense of certainty took me over. I asked for the principal and went into her office. I sighed. One more deep breath. I told her the entire story. She nodded and said „Well, what you did was shitty, but thank you for telling me now and coming clear. I imagine it must‘ve been hard for you!“

Really, just like that? I could almost not believe it.

We talked for some more time and agreed on me repaying the money. She even smiled at one point. I thought I would be shot on sight, suffered for a whole decade from the weight of the story. Once I cleared this up, slowly, my thoughts about me changed and I gained a new trust in my abilities. I had a bunch of other shit to face and feel through, but this story marked the beginning of my journey.

Today, I‘ve stuck with the work for almost six years. Of course, that does not mean I am honest all of the time. I have periods of withholding more and then circles of cleaning up those situations that still weigh on me. Sometimes I think Radical Honesty is stupid… and too much effort. And then, after having the talk I was scared of, the smoke clears yet again and I see what the work is good for.

Photo by:  Johannes Riggelsen

Here are some more insights after 5 years of Radical Honesty:

1. Always a beginner

After leading workshops for 3 years, I developed a new sense of superiority: I started thinking that I‘ve reached a higher level (finally!!) and can get away with lying again. I successfully found a way to trap myself in my own mind – a genius way, in fact. After riding the hiding train for some time, I came back to my senses more. In Radical Honesty, there are no levels to reach, only what is there in the present moment.

2. Done is better than perfect

I want to get everything perfect by nature. I obsess about small details. I practice conversations in my head in advance, prepare battle plans for every potential scenario, and yes, I am German… of course! In Radical Honesty, getting into contact is the most important step. And a half-assed honest conversation is infinitely better than sitting at home alone, preparing and thinking… and sinking.

3. No moralism in honesty

Being me, I wanted to do a really good job at being honest. I wanted to be honest all the time. The truth is, you don‘t have to be honest, neither should you be honest: there is no honesty-moralism (even if you secretly wish there was one). You can probably make it to 85 years without being honest a day in your life.

So why are we honest?

Simply because it may feel better than the alternative.

4. No rules, just guidelines

Radical Honesty is neither a doctrine nor a set of specific tools. Above all, it is an awareness practice of what goes on for you in the present moment. Then, in the next step, we look for ways to relate your momentary truth to another person. To do that, we have a few guidelines that can help direct your attention more to the body instead of your mind, but it’s no fixed rule.

Radical Honesty is not that serious. It can even be fun sometimes. It sure as hell can be freeing once you come clear about a thing you‘ve been hiding. What we often don‘t get is that lying takes a lot of creative energy, and that energy can‘t be used for real creative ventures.

Keeping up your self-image is hard work. And kind of futile.

I think the opposite is more fun: living out loud in the present moment!

Think so too?

-Marvin Schulz, Certified Radical Honesty Trainer


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