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When you’re a whitewater river guide, severe back problems don’t fit in with the program. That’s the predicament podcast guest Ken Streater found himself in when he was in his early thirties. He spent a lot of time in bed and lost himself in a deep depression. He recently had a great discussion with Rebeccah Silence, host of the Tougher Together, Breakthrough podcast, and shared some insight to help us all get through the tough times.
Ken defines breakthrough as getting to a different plane of awareness through peeling the layers back. One way to reach this higher awareness is to “unconditionally listen,” according to Ken. This means quieting the noise in your head to keep it from interfering with your listening opportunities. If you can’t quiet the noise… go to Plan B, which is to keep your mouth shut!
Once he got back on track, he decided to increase his earnings by investing in real estate. This was in 2006, and the market crashed in 2008, leaving Ken with major debt pressure and mortgages he was unable to meet. He found himself in the abyss of depression once more, with sleepless nights and the fear of losing everything.
When he evaluated his career choices, he decided that rather than go back to the traditional definition of “success,” he would create a real estate brokerage that celebrates community. He began operating from a mindset of passion instead of profits, and it made all the difference.
These days, Ken takes walks. This time helps him to consider what’s important to him. He’s learned to quiet the noise and lean into the pain. He observes that it’s essential to have moments in your day doing something you really want to do.
As an internationally renowned author, Ken writes books about community and hosts a podcast about Good Change. Breakthrough hurts, says Ken… but don’t be afraid of the pain. The reward is such an epiphany, a moment of joy.
If you’d like to learn more about Ken Streater, visit his website. Ken’s podcast can provide additional listening. We’re always Tougher Together! Please tune in to other episodes of our podcast and explore the human connection between us.
Rebeccah Silence, is a speaker, coach and international media personality, who survived cancer while pregnant and has impacted hundreds of thousands of listeners through her radio programs and appearances. She is the Creator of the HEALING IS POSSIBLE movement and courses and is committed to helping others heal their traumas. As a certified world-class Emotional Healing Coach, Rebeccah is uniquely qualified to facilitate breakthroughs to wellness and transformation while she inspires hope and possibility in even the most challenging times. She is best known for healing heartbreak, and her clients frequently tell her that she brought them “back to life”!
Rebeccah [00:00:00] Have you ever met an influencer that is living his life purpose after absolutely living the opposite? Being as down and out as it gets, and then literally launching his life from that place, into being who he wanted to be. That’s who we’re interviewing today.
Intro [00:00:29] This episode is brought to you by the podcast services division at Life’s Tough Media. Having your own podcast and using your voice to deliver your message allows you to creatively reach all types of audiences, from clients to prospects to your most loyal, membership-based, Life’s Tough Media makes having a podcast easier than ever before. By offering robust turnkey podcast solutions with superior remote recording capabilities and with studio affiliates located around the world. Contact us today for a no obligation consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at LifesTough.com to learn more. So, what is a breakthrough? It’s finding your way out of suffering and stuck. It’s that feeling of new energy, renewed life and excitement. When I was seven months pregnant with my second baby, I received a life changing diagnosis. I had cancer. When I told my older daughter, she said “So, you’re going to die?” And the only thing that saved my life during that time was knowing how to emotionally break through. Welcome to the Tougher Together, Breakthrough podcast. I’m your host, Rebeccah Silence. I’m a speaker, coach and the creator of Healing is Possible. In each episode I prepare you for life no matter what challenges you’re facing. I’m going to invite you into the stories of real people who are living life in breakthrough and making the world a better place. If they can do it so can you. Breakthrough is your right. Get ready to break through. Get ready for the rest of your life.
Rebeccah [00:02:14] Ken Streater went from traditional success and deep dark depression into writing books and being an author that is telling stories of possibility because he’s living his. Ken, welcome to the Breakthrough podcast with me, Rebeccah Silence.
Ken [00:02:38] Hi, Rebeccah. It’s great to be here. I’m honored to be here and excited about wherever this is going.
Rebeccah [00:02:43] Yeah. Tell us, Ken. Let’s just dive right in. What’s breakthrough?
Ken [00:02:49] So breakthrough. I’ve got a couple of different ideas about what that is, but it’s getting to a different plain of awareness, plain as in the plains of the fields, and then growing to the next field and then going up and up and up, not as an airplane, but it’s getting to a new plain of awareness. And it usually requires peeling layers back until you get to a core of what was keeping you from climbing those plains. So that’s one definition. Breakthrough for me, because I’m a father of three teenagers, is also just learning to unconditionally listen to them and to recognize that because they’re different, and I think this applies to everybody, to recognize that because they’re different means that they’re special. And slow down with your own prejudices. Slow down with the noise in your head and just unconditionally listen.
Rebeccah [00:03:43] How do you do that? Sounds amazing. How do you do that? I mean, what you’re saying is so profound. And yet I want our listeners to get a feel for what’s possible beyond that concept.
Ken [00:03:57] So with the unconditional listening, it really is quieting the noise in your head there. We all have this tendency when people are talking to us, and especially teenagers who maybe in the past completely drove you crazy with their ideas and might still. But it’s really slowing down and making the noise in your head be almost silent, if not completely silent, almost silent. And the other important thing to unconditional listening is to even if those noises don’t dissipate or don’t quiet themselves is to just keep your mouth shut. It’s so hard for anyone to express themselves if your mouth is moving. And so I learned with my teenagers through a lot of pain and trial and error that, A, I can quiet the noise in my head. B, I need to quiet the noise in my head and C if I can’t always do that, just be quiet.
Rebeccah [00:04:58] And will you say more about using the pain to break through, because I believe that is a lot of your story of transformation and breakthrough from life before to life now.
Ken [00:05:13] Yes. So, I’ve had a couple of just remarkably, abjectly painful episodes in my life. The first was I was a river guide for a number of years, and then I managed rafting companies in different parts of the world. And I hurt my back from years of ignoring the back pain until it got to the point where I ruptured discs and I spent for eight straight months, 20 or more hours a day, on my back looking at the ceiling, because I could not get up to walk, walking to the bathroom, walking outside to get the mail, walking half a block was torturous. And so, I was hoping to not have to have back surgery, but I ended up having back surgery, but only after being on my back, looking at ceilings, feeling like a train or a big truck was driving back and forth over my legs or I was being hammered, electric prodded, and I was abjectly despondent. Deep depression. I was 30 something, early 30s, late 20s, early 30s. And I thought, this is my life. This is the scope of my life to not be able to do anything? And it really what it boiled down to is I didn’t care if I ever rafted again. I didn’t care if I ever had meaningful employment. I just wanted to be able to walk and be pain free. And it took eight months of despondence to finally work my way out of that and a big part of my recovery was I met my future wife and you know, so why in the world she elected to engage with me is beyond my realm of understanding. I was six foot, two hundred and fifty pounds from not eating. I looked like a bad version of an 80’s spaghetti western movie actor just with the big glasses. And I had Lycra shorts that I could manage to put on to go for walks out the door. But she stuck with me and that love, that unconditional love really was a big part of what healed me. And then I ended up getting back surgery and returned to the outfitting business and became an international Whitewater River Guide and Outfitter and did that for a number of years. But it was, I think in order to understand other people’s pain, you have to go through it yourself to some degree. And I would never wish this on anything or anybody. But it really helped me get to the next stage of my life, which then had a deep depression for other reasons.
Rebeccah [00:07:54] Yeah. And you said you had two big stories of using the pain to your advantage. What’s the second one?
Ken [00:08:01] Second story was in the early 2000s, we had invested in real estate. So, this first episode happened in the early 90s. And so, then for 10 years, I was in pretty good shape, financially running the rafting business and then also physically. And then I had kids and I said, OK, I’ve got to get out of the rafting business. I want to spend more time at home, that company cost me a lot of time away from home. So, I made a conscious decision to step out of that. And I got into real estate and I started being a real estate broker. And that was in 2006. And we all know what happened in 2008. So, between 2002 and 2006, my wife and I and some family members had invested in real estate, and it all unraveled in 2008, 2009, we were upside down. I had easily one hundred and fifty thousand dollars in credit card debt because we’d actually bought a house using our credit card debt, which all the experts will tell you to never do. But we did it anyway. And I would wake up every morning, two or three o’clock in the morning, not just here and there, but every morning. Every morning, I would wake up panicked with three little kids, mortgages that we couldn’t pay, credit card debt that was skyrocketing. And I couldn’t go back to sleep. I would lay there tossing and turning, and I’d convinced myself that we were going to lose it all, that we were going to lose all the investments we had. We were going to lose our home. We were just going to lose it all and I was the jackass. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that, idiot, that had caused all that to happen. And it was soul crushing for me to feel that responsibility and to just not be able to function effectively, because I felt like an oxymoron at that point. I wasn’t me. And a big part of that was because of the financial peril that I’d put us in.
Rebeccah [00:09:59] I want to ask you a hard question, if I may. Was real estate ever you?
Ken [00:10:08] It is… It’s a very fair question. And the short answer is, not for a long time. So, I started my own real estate brokerage in 2010, 2011, thinking that that could help get us out of debt. And my wife was adamantly opposed to that because we were… where’s the money going to come from that? Just keep working for somebody else. Just keep selling houses. I got into commercial real estate, which began a gradual metamorphosis in my real estate career. And so, we started our own brokerage. And about that time, right as I was starting the brokerage, I had an epiphany. I had three choices. I could either continue to work in the industry and hate it. I could get out of the industry altogether or I could create my own reality. I could change the way that I related to real estate by changing the way that I did business. And I harken back to the period in my life where I was most rewarded, and that was as an international adventure travel outfit in an industry that is run by people who love what they do. There’s a brotherhood and sisterhood in that industry that is beyond compare, in my opinion. Everybody believes that the pie is big enough for all of us to have a good piece as opposed to the pie is not big enough for any of us to have enough. So, let’s grab our own pie. And so, I applied that thinking, that way of running businesses to commercial real estate and created a brokerage with a partner of mine that embraced things like community before commodity and the fact that family is our first fortune. And so, I basically chose door number three, which was I can create a different reality with my business. And we’ve gone on to be very successful, so successful that I’m now considered to be the inconsequential figurehead. And all I do is a periodic deal with customers that I love. And so, the question was real estate ever right for me? The answer initially was no. And if I had not had the gumption, I guess, to make it something different, it would never have been for me. But now we have a brokerage that was just sold, and it’s run by people who are operating with their passion is ahead of their profits. And we’re making a difference in the world and in the world of real estate, which is almost unheard of, where you’re running a business by heart as opposed to head.
Rebeccah [00:12:35] Oh, and this is just the beginning of your story. One of the things that I think is really unique about your story, Ken, it seems to me that because of your time and experience living as a whitewater rafting guide and then taking that to a whole new level, you’ve known how you want your life to feel, it seems. And no matter if you were on your back because your back, literally was out, or if you were up in the middle of the night panicking about finances and debt, you still have the carrot of knowing how you want your life to feel. Is that accurate?
Ken [00:13:13] Yeah, absolutely. And I think that that is something that we all have in us, and it just gets buried. And it got buried for me with the physical limitations. It got buried for me with the financial catastrophe and it just gets buried. And so, I’m laying in bed at 2:00 in the morning for months, months on end. I would… I was I was getting three, four hours of sleep at night and just going on exhaust fumes during the day. And I’m laying in bed at night and I’m trying to think of things that inspired me and also trying to compare my situation with folks who have it so much more difficult tonight. At least I had a roof over my head and we could afford macaroni and cheese. And a friend of mine said I was inconsulate. I talked to him about this and he asked me a simple question, what what’s the worst that could happen? What’s the worst that could happen? And I thought about that for weeks. What’s the worst that could happen? And what I concluded was that we would have to just start all over. And then I realized, too, that liberation, that awareness that if I have to start all over, then let’s go to what really matters to me and create a world—this was a breakthrough moment—create a world that inspires me and rewards me and gives me opportunities to be a better husband and a better father and a better community member and just bring fulfillment into life in order to realize stuff that made me go.
Rebeccah [00:14:56] What would you say to any of our listeners that are thinking, Ken, sounds great, you knew what you wanted. You knew how you want life to feel. I don’t have that. I’ve never felt how I want to feel. I’ve never seen anything that I actually want. I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what I want to feel. What would you say to that listener?
Ken [00:15:19] It’s in there. It’s in there. And you just have to be patient and you have to give yourself opportunities to find it. And I gave this advice to my son a few weeks ago. Just start with one thing. Do one thing different in your life. One thing starting tomorrow, do it different. And hopefully that one thing will be founded in a desire to figure out what it is that matters to you. And so do one thing different. Turn off the TV, read a book, go for a walk. Talk with somebody that you really, really, really regard and feel can share with you ideas about how to construct a life that matters by discovering what matters. And I’ll tell you. For me, it’s… For me, transformation happens at the intersection of adventure and serenity. And so, I just I knew that. And I think each one of us knows what really floats our boat. We may not know what we need to do in terms of the big picture, in terms of how to create our life. But we all know what floats our boat, whether that’s watching the sunset or whether that’s cooking a great meal or whether that’s knitting a cool sweater or tending to your garden. We all know what floats our boat, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with our occupation. So, make sure that when you change one thing, that it is bringing more of that vibe into your life, that thing that brings you pleasure. And for me, in that moment and those months, it was… we live in a rural spot, we live in a little town in central Oregon and I just I loved walking down my road, my country road, you know, there’s three cars an hour that pass, it’s really cool and there’s beautiful mountains off in the distance. And I just I love to go for walks in the morning. And I’d stopped doing that. I’d stopped walking and I just did that. I just got up every morning before my kids got up. And I went for a walk. Went for a walk a mile up the road. Sometimes I had on headphones. Sometimes I just listen to the sounds of the neighborhood. Really not a neighborhood, just a rural scene. And that was the shift, because I liked doing it gave me time to consider what really was important to me and the values began to well up and pour out. And from those values, from the value that I realized mattered to me, I started to create a more meaningful life.
Rebeccah [00:18:00] Yeah. And even back to what you said in the beginning of our show today, quieting the noise, leaning into the pain is also access for you to be able to listen for the answers.
Ken [00:18:15] And listen to yourself. You know, that’s the key. And obviously, there’s times in those periods where listening to others who have your best interests at heart and that’s a big difference where if you listen to others who don’t have your best interests at heart, then the path is going to continue to wind away from what matters to you. And so if you take the time to listen to yourself and if you take the time to listen to those who have your heart in their hands, then that gives you access to understanding what matters to you. And you can build your life around that. But again, the key, I think for me and for others I believe, is to include in your day, definitely in your week, but try to make it in your day, moments where you’re doing something that you know you like to do.
Rebeccah [00:19:06] Yeah, I love that, and I think when you and I first met, you were succeeding in real estate again, but then at that time you were also beginning the process of writing your first book. So, tell us, you know, where you are now and you’ve got your good change hat on. What’s the change? Where are we now, Ken?
Ken [00:19:27] Yeah. So, when we first met a few years back, several years back, the real estate business had stabilized. We were now getting into, I think 2014 or so, and it stabilized. And then thankfully, by the grace of God, we began to do fairly well. And we’ve built on that. And again, the foundation, though, was blending business with purpose and understanding my values. Otherwise, I would have just hated it and probably not have been as successful as I was. So, in this process, I’m realizing that there’s still more for me to do. I mean, when I was a river guide and outfitter, what I enjoyed more than anything else was creating communities that people thrived in. And in those days, it was on a sea kayaking trip or on a hiking trip or on a rafting trip for days, where you would be in a community that was all revolving around this activity, this adventure. And I began to realize the importance of that to me and community building and creating healthy places for people to live. And then I thought about people that had been doing that their whole lives in ways that are unimaginably powerful and fantastic. And I thought, oh, I want to tell stories about these people and then there was one person in particular, her name was Kelly Kalafati, and she was a friend of mine. A pioneering international adventure, female river guide, totally broke the glass ceiling. And for about 20 years, she led the way in terms of exploring difficult rivers. She was on the world championship, all women’s world championship team. She was doing first descents where nobody else had ever run rivers before. And she was training—she worked in Africa for some time—she was training locals to become river guides so they could become breadwinners in their community. All kinds of really cool things and then she suffered an injury that left her paralyzed from the waist down. And to this day, she’s unable to spend time as a river guide again, in pain. But I’m thinking about all these people who had manifest these brilliant communities. Kelly came to mind, the front of mine. And I said, I need to tell her story and I want to tell her story in a way that maybe there’s some monetization that comes from it and whatever money that is made from telling her story, I can help pay for her rehab with those funds because insurance was not covering her recovery at this point. The book never made it commercially. But my goal and some of the efforts that we’ve received, some of the, I guess, benefits that we received from that book, I have been able to help a little bit here and there with the rehab fund. But what it did was it helped me recognize that the importance of pouring your heart and soul into community. I wrote stories about a woman, one about a woman from San Francisco who created the homeless prenatal program, just a nursing student who saw pregnant women on the streets homeless and she said, I can change this. And today she’s helped thousands and thousands and thousands of families off the street. I wrote a story about a gentleman named Josh Kern, who created a public charter school in the most violent neighborhood in Washington, D.C., where there were 3,000 violent crimes a year in this basically suburb area of Washington, D.C. and kids were afraid to walk to school. He opened a charter school on one of the most violent corners in that subdivision, or the suburb, rather. And every single senior has gone on and graduated from that school, Thurgood Marshall Academy. Every single senior has graduated and gone on to college. So, I wrote The Gift of Courage. That’s the name of that book about these people and it was super inspiring to see what they had done breakthrough wise in their lives in order to benefit community.
Rebeccah [00:23:25] And you were literally, if I remember correctly, waking up at 5 a.m. writing every morning before the family got up, while you were working really hard on your real estate. And how did that time that you put in, get you to where you are now and where are you now?
Ken [00:23:44] So the other key for me was so I started walking early in the morning and I thought, OK, when am I going to be able to write, you know, because you have to set time aside to write. There’s a book called The War of Art. And in it, he says, genius doesn’t come in these random lightning strike moments. Genius comes when you settle down in front of your computer or you settle down in front of your easel and you write or you paint for hours. So genius isn’t a miraculous thing. There just appears you have to work in order to produce art. And my books are far from genius, but you have to work to produce art. And so, I said, OK, when am I going to do this? My kids got up around seven o’clock. I helped them get ready for school. My wife actually at that point was working till 1:00 in the morning. We were still, you know, trying to get on the best possible financial footing we could. She’s working at a local airport. And so, I would help get the kids up. But I said, OK, the only time I have during this period, during the 24-hour period, is from five to seven. And so, I just kept setting my alarm and kept waking up. And I would go for a short walk and then I would sit in front of the computer for an hour and a half and type type type. And lo and behold, a few months later, out comes a book. And Meryl Streep endorsed it, which is really cool. And we’ve had some other very powerful endorsements from it. And but that’s what it took. And I guess that’s an important part of breakthrough, too, is that you have these epiphanies, you have these moments of realization where this is what I want to achieve. And those are just phenomenal, phenomenal experiences to have those epiphanies. And then you got to act on them and in order to do that, you’ve got to change more than one thing now. And in this case, it was changing my schedule so that I would get up every morning and type for an hour or two.
Rebeccah [00:25:34] Yeah. And I think what you’re talking about is clarity. The clarity comes and then the next step is action. So, tell us about the Good Change movement that you’ve created, your new book and the action you’re in today and the breakthrough you’re in today.
Ken [00:25:51] Yeah. So, my next book, after the Gift of Courage is called Be the Good subtitle is Becoming a Force for a Better World. And that’s a book that has 20 separate chapters with some really cool stories about some really cool people from around the world and each chapter has a lesson in it. Chapter one is be less certain, and that tells the story of a rather traumatic event in my family’s life, my and my family’s life. We were in Hawaii during the nuclear missile alert attack, which everybody that was there new doggone good and well, was real. There was no consideration if that was a false alarm. We all felt it. When you’re at gymnastics meet and the guy that’s the mic for the meet in charge of the whole thing tells you to get back into the small room in the very back corner of the school that you’re at, because that’s where they’ve been taught to go for their nuclear bomb drills and he says, folks, we have 15 minutes to impact. All we can do is pray. It’s pretty real. And so, chapter one is the mission or the message is be less certain and it’s be less certain about the idiotic postures that we take every day, whether it’s being angry at a driver or being frustrated because our coffee isn’t hot enough. And to be certain that only two things matter, and that is the time is precious and love is everything. And so, each chapter has a message in it from some experience or some wise people from around the world that are doing really cool things to be the good. And that book has been just very well received by viewers or readers, rather, and by people who have written reviews. But I realized that I could do even more with the community of be gooders, and I could do even more to change the narrative that we’re all inundated with every day, which is we live in a horrible, horrible, discordant place with people who are out to get us and violence and mayhem and financial and environmental devastation around every corner. And so, I thought, how can I change the narrative? How can I make an accurate representation of us for us to believe in, in a semi powerful way? And so, I came up with the Good Change podcast that has had guests like you, Rebeccah, sharing pearls of wisdom about things that others can do, but also stories about what they’ve done in order to lift the world, one person or one community at a time.
Rebeccah [00:28:24] I love it Ken. Final thoughts on breakthrough. What else do you want people to know?
Ken [00:28:32] It hurts. You know, it hurts, but don’t be afraid of, don’t be afraid of the pain. Part of the part of the challenge that we have is that we’re so inundated with bad news that fear, and I call it economic fear, fear from those that power to profit from fear, from those that use their power to profit from our anxiety and our fear. It’s prevalent in our world and it makes it harder when that is part of your regular life to rally the courage to peel the layers back that we talked about before. In the book, The Gift of Courage, the last type of courage, there is assumed courage like firefighters have assumed courage and then there’s deep courage and deep courage is peeling those layers back. And so, if you can quiet the distraction, the negativity that’s around you that the media and insurance companies and pharmaceuticals are all trying to peddle that gives you some extra juice to be able to face the discomfort that you might face when you’re peeling back the layers to have a breakthrough. Because it isn’t easy. It takes a while to get through that period. But my gosh, on the other side of that, it’s remarkably rewarding. Do I have time to tell one more quick story?
Rebeccah [00:30:03] Oh, you do.
Ken [00:30:07] A friend of mine has a teenage boy that asked me the other day, what’s your definition of success? And I thought about it, and I thought, you know, that’s an interesting question. It’s changed over time, but success to me today, I guess, is when you’ve created a life where on a semi regular basis, hopefully daily, you have these moments that are so pure and so blissful that you don’t even realize what time is. You’re so lost in that period, that moment, whether that’s 30 seconds or three hours, you’re so lost in that, that you have no real sense of time. And we went rafting yesterday. We went rafting yesterday, and we went through the big rapid, there were four of us in the boat and just so much fun, just challenging waves, big drops, we came through it. Everybody’s high five and below the rapid. And this 16-year-old kid turns to me and says, that’s success. And that’s what’s on the other side. That’s what’s on the other side. When you have the breakthrough, when you peel the layers back and you realize that you can create this enriching, fulfilling, purpose filled life. That’s the kind of stuff that’s on that side.
Rebeccah [00:31:30] Ken, that’s so beautiful. Give us homework. What homework would you give to our listeners?
Ken [00:31:37] We talked about it earlier. Take time starting tomorrow, there’s no reason to wait. Starting tomorrow, take time to do something that day that inspires you, that you know feels good when you do that. And if that means watching a half hour less of television or if that means getting up a half hour earlier, if that means just doing something different than what you’re doing now, take time to inspire yourself. Rebeccah, you say it brilliantly. Take time to be the source of your own encouragement and the way that you do that most simply is an activity that you know you like.
Rebeccah [00:32:23] Awesome ,Ken, you are such a gift to my life, to the world. Thank you for being here with us on the Tougher Together Breakthrough podcast. We are tougher than the pain and we are tougher together. And what’s on the other side of the pain is your life. Thanks for tuning in and we will see you again soon.
Ken [00:32:45] Thank you, Rebeccah.
Outro [00:32:46] Please note that the content of this podcast is not meant to be therapeutic or to replace any personal growth work that you are already doing with a coach, therapist, or mentor. Take the content, have it inspire you, and then keep working with your support system. Breakthrough is your right. Breakthrough reminds us that we’re tougher together and that we’re connected to possibility even in the most challenging and possibly darkest times. I’m Rebeccah Silence, creator of Healing is Possible and proud host of the Tougher Together, Breakthrough podcast where we come together and we tell stories of real breakthrough that exist for you as well. Get ready to break through, get ready to live more free, and get ready to experience more breakthrough. Because that’s your right. Join us on the Life’s Tough Media website and stay tuned for more. If you want to get in touch with me visit rebeccahsilence.com. Your time is now. Your breakthrough begins now.