Make Time for Self-Reflection says Dan Ram, World-Renowned MC, 5x TEDx speaker, and Friend to the Stars.
In December 2022, Jan Gerber, CEO of Paracelsus Recovery, sat down for a candid and authentic conversation with world-renowned MC, Entrepreneur, and Personal Coach Dan Ram. Together, they dissected what it means to be both a flawed human being and a highly successful one. Dan’s life has led him down a myriad of roads, and he has become friends with some of the world’s most influential people, ranging from Barack Obama to Richard Branson and Jessica Alba.
Dan’s unique talent is his ability to connect with the ultra-successful and wealthy as human beings (and of course, everyone else for that matter). His capacity for authentic and genuine connection has allowed him to build a successful company and career, and it has given him a plethora of fascinating experiences — such as helping a former US president’s daughter with her college applications.
However, he has also spent the last five years traveling the world. While it has been the most productive and successful period of his life, “I’m also probably the most broken; and they both are happening at the same time.”Together, Jan and Dan map out why success often comes with loneliness and a loss of time for oneself; and what these ‘costs of successes’ can do to a person’s authentic self.
Jan and Dan’s conversation is filled with personal stories, insights, and an inspiring honesty that can only come when two people sit together and are willing to take off their masks and connect as vulnerable human beings.
This is a video conversation not to be missed ⬇️
Jan: Hi, I’m Jan. I’m the founder of Paracelsus Recovery, which is a specialist mental health clinic in Zurich, Switzerland that works predominantly with celebrity clientele and ultra-high net worth clientele, which is why these topics of the mental health impact of life in the public spotlight, and wealth are very, very close to my heart. Today I’m sitting with Dan Ram. Dan is an international MC. You know a thing or two about life in the public spotlight. You know a thing or two about entrepreneurship as a serial entrepreneur, about the anxieties and struggles of the entrepreneurial life and of life in the public spotlight. And you’ve been working with a lot of people who know a thing or two about being in the public spotlight. You’ve met Richard Branson, Barack Obama, Jessica Alba, and so on. And I’m sure you had some interesting conversations with them behind the scenes as well. So today’s conversation should just be on the life behind the front, behind the mask. And why don’t you just tell me what just comes first to your mind when you hear mental health and life in the public spotlight? What’s your reaction?
Dan: So, first of all, thank you for having me, and I’m glad we can have this honest, authentic, intimate conversation. We welcome you to join in, sit down, grab a couch, and be part of a conversation between friends as we reveal the person behind the mask. So, this is not Dan the performer that is sitting. This is Dan the human. And I’m making that distinction because behind every celebrity, behind every successful person, behind everything that we celebrate is a real heartbeat of a real human. And humans are flawed. We are capable of so much significance. But with that comes struggle. In fact, part of what makes significance so amazing is the struggle. What we want to celebrate and love is the wins. But you cannot have the winds without the losses. So who’s there during those low moments? And so for me, this mental health and celebrity mental health and the public eye are completely intertwined. And I think it takes people like you and people like me, me on stage with these characters and you, when they’re off the stage, to connect on the human level. But we cannot neglect, and in this podcast, I think we’re going to share our own journeys in that because as much as we serve, we also need to be served. And so this is a journey for them. It’s a journey for us. This is a conversation for them, the wonderful people watching, and a conversation for us. So thank you for having me with this, and I can’t wait to get in.
Jan: Well, thanks, Dan. Looking forward to that.
Dan: Absolutely. So, about the issue of success, one of the things that I think we resonate with, because from your background to what you have created, and for me, from my background to the brand and the presence online and in person, is that success comes at a cost, right? And, it’s almost like the world is geared towards you need to have a certain bank balance, you need to drive a certain car, have a certain watch, there’s a certain image, even if it is to walk down the street to the local coffee shop. There is this requirement to be somebody. You can add in makeup, what we wear, you know, aesthetic medicine is a big trend and so on. So it’s exactly that. It’s all these elements, right? And there’s a pressure to be a certain way. That comes at a cost. And it’s so much more than financial, isn’t it? It comes at a significant, significant cost.
So to start the conversation here, for me, I must say that my journey from being a behind-the-scenes entrepreneur, just building behind a computer these tech companies, to suddenly being on stage, at 110 to 120 engagements per year, on four continents, on a flight every two to three days, living exclusively in hotels. I’m doing about 270 to 300 days in hotels. I have had less than ten home-cooked meals in the last five years. One of the greatest struggles came with the fact that it almost seems like it’s a lonely journey. There is no handbook for this. I cannot buy a book that will guide me through the hidden costs. And it’s like you have to learn on the job. And yet the job is all-consuming. So my focus is not about who takes care of me when I come off on stage. My focus is on how can I be the best person when I’m on stage.
Jan: Basically, it’s like you push into a circus arena, you know, you’re getting a whip and there are lions around you, but nobody ever taught you how to do this. That’s kind of how life in the public spotlight is, especially if it goes rather quick, which I understand you had quite a steep start into the spotlight.
Dan: I mean, I did ten years as an entrepreneur behind the scenes, and then five years doing this. I am geared for the previous ten years of my life, not for this five years of my life. And at the point of this conversation that we’re having right now, I am what you would call high performing. In fact, I don’t think I have been better at what I do ever in my life than at this moment. And yet I’m also probably the most broken, and they both are happening at the same time. I am able to put on the hat, perform genuinely and give my best, honestly. But privately, I don’t think I’ve been struggling more, and I’m at that tipping point of something’s going to change.
Jan: Is that in some ways connected? Like being very high performing, does that have an impact on your energy as a person, as Dan? Or is it other things that are going on behind the scenes here?
Dan: I believe in a world of abundance, but we are also limited. We’re limited by time, we’re limited by energy, we’re limited by attention. So the more attention in my case, the more attention that I give to others, to serve others, to love others, to please others, to perform for others. And perform can be an ugly word, but for me, it’s actually a good thing. I love making people feel good. I love making people feel like they’re seen like they’re heard. But that comes at the cost of being there for me. And I’m not saying that because I’m selfish on my time or anything, but I also believe that you can only give to others if you’re overflowing within yourself. And if you only have 24 hours in a day and you spend 18 of those completely consumed on how you love others, then you’re sneaking a naughty meal in the 20 minutes gap you have before you catch a flight, at a McDonald’s, and that accumulating over 100 days is not good for your body. And then bad health leads to escapism in all kinds of ways, not just with your perception, and it’s just a trigger effect. It just leads on and on and on, it becomes an avalanche of sorts.
Jan: I think you’re touching on a very important topic there; self-care, right? And it’s more and more preached. I think more and more people are aware these days, and luckily we talk about that, how important self-care and by extension also self-love is. And now if you take somebody who lives a life in a public spotlight, either a rock star going on a tour, more and more people call off their tours halfway because they’re struggling. It’s almost always a mental health issue. Luckily, ten years ago, it would have been a ‘bad infection’ as an excuse. But now, we’ve moved on and these performers can say publicly, I’m not well, I’m depressed, I have anxiety attacks, I struggle with alcohol or medication. But that’s exactly that. If you live this life in the spotlight, it’s intense. And it’s one minute after the next, one hour after the next, one day after the next year, you hardly get a break. So you’re sneaking in that meal, not doing a proper workout, but also just losing that time with yourself. You get out of touch with yourself, right?
As an entrepreneur, it’s like when you build things as a leader at some point, when you manage people every few minutes or so, somebody comes to the office door, the phone rings, and the scheduling is back to back to back. And on the weekend you try to spend time with your kids or family or friends. But where is the self-time? The time for self-care to reflect? Who am I? What do I want out of this life? Am I happy? Am I in touch with my purpose? Am I on a path with what I want to achieve? Or do I even know what I want to achieve? And I think a lot of the noise of life in the public spotlight drowns that out. We don’t have the time for it. And when we have a moment, I know this from personal experience. When I have a moment, it’s just like Netflix, or okay, maybe playing the piano brings me down a bit, right? But it’s not really a time where I really sit down and reflect or read inspirational books, journaling, all of these things that are recommended to do. It’s all drowned out and you just don’t have time. And sometimes that’s not just, you know, one year or five years. Sometimes it can be twenty, thirty years of building up that pressure and not having these outlets and actually at some point realizing, actually, I haven’t done any personal growth. I might be a multimillionaire, I might be world-famous, you know, Times Person of the Year, but all of that doesn’t mean that behind is not a human being that’s just being completely overwhelmed by this journey.
Dan: That’s so true. And also, what I don’t think is talked about so much is how much we change. Right? I think a lot about some of the people that I started coaching when they were 12, 13, and 14 years old, and their talent is first discovered and then they become they achieve their dream of being an NBA star or some of the guys that I mentor are some of the biggest artists in the world. They have achieved their dream. But the pressure from their labels to keep singing like a 13-year-old child to those teenage audiences, when in their heart they want to mature as an artist, or if they don’t want to sing anymore, why do we not permit people to grow and to even discover who they are?
Because when I meet them first at 13 or 14, there is pure joy and passion to achieve. And thankfully, because I’m friends with them, by the time they’re 18, I recognize that actually their passion right now is maybe to mentor others or to take a break. It is totally fine to take a break, but when you’re signed to contracts and you have to deliver, and when your fans are demanding, they feel the pressure to keep performing, but to keep performing for the expectations of the other person, not for how you are developing and your sound is developing and your talent is developing. And I think that is really challenging. And even thinking about your life, right? So you build one successful company and the other and the other, and then a pandemic comes in and that causes some rush and stress. You may have seen how the business evolved at that moment. But have you even had the moment to dissect how you as a leader transformed because of it?
You know, the reprioritization, I know during the pandemic, actually, for us, it was a boom, because we decided to completely digitise what was otherwise in person, and everyone around us needs to do that. And my team grew really quickly and all of a sudden I went from a CEO that hired only friends and knew each of them personally, and we happened to do professional work to now hiring a lot of professionals who I did not know personally. And then two years on now, the pandemic is kind of subsiding and I’m realising, who are they to me and what’s my relationship to them? And who I am as a CEO has changed, but I haven’t had a moment to think about that. Also, I’m a CEO that’s also executing. I don’t have the luxury to be behind a table, just doing emails and stuff. I’m also on stage. So, there’s a version of me that has evolved when I’m in the office and I haven’t had a moment to reconcile with that guy while I’ve also been performing, and that person is changing and who I am on stage because I used to be one of the younger people on stage and now I’m one of the middle-aged people that’s on stage. And the expectations are different and I don’t even know am I going to try to stay young? Do I dye my hair black and stay ultra fit and try to compete with them? Is that the game? Or is there a role for me at this age, at 36? And who is that person? Or can I craft that person? These are really deep insights that could change an industry. But who’s got the time for that? I don’t have the time to deal with that.
You’ve also become a dad in the last couple of years. There’s so much going on, on the personal level, professional level, and I just think sometimes we need a place to breathe. It’s nice when you’re self-aware and you realize, I need to check myself in. But sometimes I think we just need time to pause. And I love that you and I have a passion for piano and we know when we’re tipping to go, just go to a piano for at least 15 minutes. But that 15 minutes is like almost forced therapy. But what about the time that we can just, on a Saturday, wake up with no agenda and go, here’s a piano? I love to just play and just play for the love of it and for no goal, no reason.
Jan: Oh, God. And I craved this feeling of just this Saturday morning, no agenda, just go with the flow. It’s probably been a decade or so. And it’s really, really important that we can factor that into our lives. And again, especially life in the public spotlight or as a manager, as a founder, or manager of a company, whether it’s a startup or already mature. In the end, time, we can’t buy time. There are 24 hours in a day, so we just have to make time. Right? I think that… And it’s easily said, especially with all the expectations of all the people around, and when you live life in a public spotlight, and then, as you mentioned, you know, often, especially entertainers, but also politicians, you’re kind of signed up to something, and you just have to see it through. At least with the politician, after two terms, at some point, there’s just an end in sight. Whereas as an entertainer, I think the self-identity with you know, ‘I’m this person now’ together with the external expectations, the expectation can quickly become that you need to go on forever.
Jan: So that can be quite daunting. Again, when you start, let’s say, as a teenage star, and then you mature, maybe your passion isn’t quite aligned anymore with what you’re doing, what’s expected of you. At the same time, it costs you a lot of energy. And I know teenagers have a lot of energy, but what was asked of a young entertainer, for example, is just crazy. A human being is not made for this kind of pressure and expectation. So already at an early age, there’s some level of burnout, some level of really not being in touch with yourself. So I’m a big fan of prevention, so I strongly advocate and think that everybody, you don’t have to be a child star, but we have to teach this in schools. We have to actually practice this in schools. Take time out, think, go to the forest, and just be with yourself. Also sit with your feelings, right?
Maybe let’s talk about that for a moment, because I think that is one consequence of what you’re talking about right now is we now live in a society where we don’t like discomfort, and we don’t like uncomfortable feelings. And everything is made for us to be more comfortable, right? I mean, look at smartphones, right? It’s supposed to make our lives easier. Every technological innovation that takes off, it’s because it makes life easier. Having an Uber just at the touch of your fingertip, you can pay your bills whilst you’re waiting for a flight, all of that. Okay, it’s all very convenient, but it’s also trained us in a way that we don’t like to wait anymore. We don’t like to sit with disappointment, with anger. So what do we do? We try to drown it out. Now, I do the same. That’s the thing. When I wait for boarding a flight, but I’m standing in line or something, I don’t have my laptop open. I can’t do work. What do I do? I listen to something on YouTube or a podcast, sometimes music, but not often enough. So I always have this external stimulus. And sometimes I’m sitting on that plane like, how am I actually feeling today? And often you know what the answer is? I’m not sure. Am I happy? Am I just flat or numb or am I anxious about something? And it takes a moment to identify that. So we are losing touch with our emotions. And as a consequence, if you do that for too long a time, getting more out of touch, it adds to the struggle. It’s a downward slippery slope.
Jan: And really, I think in schools we should have at least once a week, let’s say half an hour. That’s a long time for kids, right? But just sit, don’t talk, just think. How do you feel today? Where are you in life? What are your expectations? What is currently bothering you? And all that. And maybe write down a few thoughts.
Dan: I think it’s the class that is missing that should be introduced, right from elementary school; self-awareness. Getting the toolkit on discovering yourself, understanding yourself, building your resilience, building your vulnerability, and knowing how to navigate life with the right tools. We absolutely need places when we’re dealing with crises.
But like you said, prevention is powerful too. And there’s a lot of self-development that happens with self-awareness…
Jan: and the growing crisis as well. Right? So, there’s value in crisis and there’s value in discomfort. So, we shouldn’t just say it has to be prevented at all costs.
Dan: Yeah, the reflection thing is huge. As you were sharing about that, I realized I’m guilty too, because I actually pre-plan, probably most people do, but before I get on a flight, I think about the Netflix shows that I have to download and the Spotify podcast I should listen to because my goal is to fill up my time. And I realized, I am so guilty of that. And yet in small things, like just reflecting on the last conversation I would have had, or the last decision I would have made for my home, those probably deserve a moment to dwell, but it’s like, okay, so I just moved to a new place in Germany and I was like, okay, I got to buy furniture. But nowhere did I have the larger conversation of what should my home stand for? What is the purpose of this home? I just thought I’m going to need a couch. I think the plane would have been a great moment to even just to take a moment to breathe and be like, okay, in six weeks, I furnish a whole house.
How do I feel? Do I feel at home yet? What will it take to feel at home? That would have been good, but I also have some existential crises I have to deal with. You know, I’m a gay man who loves Jesus and I have a church that does not accept being gay. And I have a gay life that I cannot say doesn’t exist. I’m gay. I’ve always been gay, from the time I was born. So this is a deep existential crisis that affects do I get married? Do I not? Do I tell who? And that deserves thought. But I’m too afraid to have that to go down that road because are there answers? See, not all questions have answers. Sometimes you just make a move without an answer. And I’m the kind of guy that I need to have an answer. I’ll invest when I’ve understood all the risks and everything. But sometimes you just have to put money somewhere rather than just keep it in your pocket, because that’s the worst one. I think sometimes we’re that where there are emotions as well. We don’t take a step. Some days you just have to take a step. You don’t have to know the end result of the step but do something. Step over just being stuck in place and kind of dwelling in your misery and building up the misery and possibly creating a negative fallout. Right? Just take a step. It can be completely in the wrong direction, but at least to get out of that place.
Jan: I think when you don’t need an answer, as you say to every question, but when you’re in a situation, as you describe yourself, ask yourself, so how do I feel about that? And what can I possibly do? Taking that time, being not afraid of having these thoughts, I think is really important because the other thing is denial. And in mental health we know denial is basically something that never solves a problem, it only makes it worse because the questions are there and in your subconscious, in your emotions, that something that’s important to you. It’s important for your purpose. It’s important to Dan, your identity as who you are and bottling that up, the pressure comes, and then there are several ways to deal with that.
Either at some point, there might be a breakdown that rips it all open and people go to therapy or take finally that time to self-reflect or we start self-medicating. And that’s a massive thing. What is self-medication? Basically, any addiction is self-medication. There is uncertainty, there’s pain, there’s anxiety, and we’re afraid to go there and look at it. What is it actually about and what can I do about it? How can I heal? It’s like, oh, no, I don’t want to feel this. So I don’t want to think about what are the implications for me or what steps can I do? Because it’s just too overwhelming. So, yeah, I might just have a couple of glasses of wine, relaxes me a bit, or take a sleeping pill at night. And all these remedies are so widely available, legal or illegal, or medically prescribed. And I think actually the Netflix solution, it’s the same thing, right? It’s just okay, I turn it on. I kind of tune out and then tune into this show. Video gaming is for a lot of youngsters. Massive coping mechanism, basically. Right?
Dan: What’s your self-medication?
Jan: That’s a good question, actually, Dan, because I, in theory, know everything about it, right? It doesn’t mean that I live the healthiest of life. I think my go-to medication, to be very honest, sounds maybe a bit trivial, but it’s actually not. I like sweets, so I definitely overeat chocolates when I’m not well. I drink too much coffee when I’m stressed. And what do I know? I spend too much time on the phone. But what I did half a year ago, I deleted Facebook, the app. I keep my account so people back from school can reach me, in theory. And I get an email that somebody wrote to me. No, I deleted that. And the other thing is, I spend a lot of time reading the news. I don’t do TikTok, all that, but I can see how it’s also something, how we just kind of zone out and spend time. And I had a two-week holiday this year, I went to a beautiful place and after two days, I realized I’m on the beach, my kid is playing in the sand and I have my phone here and I’m on CNN.com and I read about wars and viruses and all that. So I thought, okay, for these two weeks, I’m not opening any news site anymore. You know what? That was the best decision. And obviously, I slide back into it, especially at work. And I have conversations where I think I need to kind of be up to date with what’s happening in the world. But it’s a good little detox. Paracelsus was a medieval alchemist and doctor from Switzerland, and he said, it’s the dose that makes the poison. And I think that’s true with everything, even with money, even with fame, it’s too much, even with water, too much in too short a time, it can kill you.
Dan: My dad always says Everything in moderation, Dan. Everything in moderation.
Jan: There you go; that’s the same thing in it. Yeah.
Dan: Yeah. So you and I twin on the self-medication part, for sure. It’s chocolate and coffee and excessive time on the phone. I am more of the Instagram-TikTok style rather than the news. But I will say something. I have come to realize this in the last six weeks. This is my new realization… my primary self-medication is work.
Because I don’t know who I am privately. I throw myself into what I know professionally. I mean, I can actually live life with 15 events a year. Why am I doing 129? Well, because I don’t know who I’m coming back home to, and I also don’t enjoy that guy.
Jan: And that’s uncomfortable to come back home.
Dan: Yes, I’d rather stay at work; I’d rather keep performing. Because also, not only do I love the person I am there, other people do too. So, I’m very lucky that way. So, it’s a complete reinforcement that’s actually deceptively positive, right? Because problems don’t always look like problems. It’s like the dose is your poison.
I am earning well, I am doing what I’m best at. Honestly, there’s nothing I do better than this. I am happy, I am with people that are amazing. I love my entire being there. But it’s actually self-medication because of the confusion about who I am privately. This is why at the time of this recording, I’m about to flip it because I want to love the person that is just Dan when the crowd isn’t watching — when it’s not on camera, when we’re not creating something for others when it’s just me by myself. And even if it is Netflix, I want to watch it because I want to watch it, not because I’m trying to escape something. And right now it is okay, I’ve been working until the moment, I mean, literally, and you’re probably the same, I’m doing phone calls and meetings at the airport, in the lounge, on the way in the line, and by the time I’m on the plane, I’m like okay I can breathe. I can escape. But why?
Why not just you know what, when it’s Saturday night, I’ve been out in nature all day and I want to put my feet up, put on the fireplace and watch a show, from a good place rather than from a place of escapism. So I’m not even saying that phone or Netflix are bad things. I’m just saying the motive, the intention behind is what we need to check more often. And also, problems don’t show up as problems. Most often it’s hidden, like with medication or pills and things. I have friends that I coach that are on tour and they love it. They tell me Dan; we’re doing a 100-city tour. Wow, that’s amazing, right? It’s a good thing. That’s a success. 100 arenas back-to-back. That’s a positive thing. What’s wrong with that? Well, everything that you can’t see because you know what happens when you’re off stage at 11:00 at night? You meet fans for about an hour. Maybe you have a friendly drink, just to ease off. Great, now it’s midnight, and your adrenaline hasn’t stopped. You know you’re doing the thing that you love.
So, what do you do? You stay awake for another two, or 3 hours. So now it’s 2.30, 3.00 in the morning, and you’re all alone. Not only are there temptations, but even something as simple as sleeping. Sleeping doesn’t come easy when you have been on stage all day. So, you take a little something, whether it’s a drink or a pill, so you can sleep better. It’s fine, the first couple of times, it’s helpful. But then what happens when that pill doesn’t wear off, when you have to then wake up, because then in 3 hours you have a flight to catch or somewhere to be, you have that press conference. And so how do you wake up? Well, you take another pill or you take something else that wakes you up. So now you got two and you’re already playing games with your body.
Then you go, you know what? I don’t even look that good. So, I’m awake, my mind’s awake, but my face is tired. So let me start doing things to my face and to my energy to show up for others. It always starts off super innocent. I rarely know anyone that does it to destroy themselves. They usually do it to do better for themselves. But that same thing that was the dose becomes the poison and before you know it, you are now a victim and an addict, and the things that were meant to help you because they are now destroying you. And this is always the slippery slope you were talking about.
Jan: In clinical terms, that’s a coping mechanism, right? How do we cope with the pressure, the stress or the need to sleep, or they need to be alert and awake, or they need to look good? How do I cope? Yeah, it’s a natural one, it’s okay, I need to sleep. So yeah, I take a sleeping pill. And there are potentially dangerous coping mechanisms that can work in the short term, as you just said, that are slippery slopes. And again, there’s nothing wrong with them in a high-pressure moment or in crisis to medicate, ideally by a physician and not the bartender. You know, even here and there it’s fine. But the problem is if you do this day after day, week after week for months and years, then it becomes chronic.
And then you have events like it happened many times in the past where an international pop star stands on stage in London and says ‘hello Munich, how are you today?’ Right? And then there’s this public outcry amongst the fans and everybody is insulted and all that. But actually, my reaction is poor soul. What has had to have happened and what led up to that, to somebody being so confused about where they are in the world? And it’s not relatable for anybody who has not been there. And that’s the thing for me, what I really try to advocate and get into people’s heads is it doesn’t matter who you are, in the end, we are human beings. We are not made for being on stage all the time. We’re not made for being super wealthy and powerful and everybody has an expectation of us. We’re humans, we are hunters and gatherers, right? And we still have that part of the brain as well that creates anxiety or the fight-flight response and all that. And those parts of the brain actually, they can get too strong, they can get the better of us when we get into these extreme situations. And being in a public spotlight is actually nothing but an extreme situation, high adrenaline. Right? For some people, it becomes a healthy routine. Some people are more made for it than others. But I think the ones who handle it really well, they know their limits, they know what they have to do, and they take their breaks.
Dan: And there’s a couple of things that we desperately need to do. We have to change our expectations of celebrities. We are so quick to celebrate people and so quick to rip them apart. We also have completely unreasonable expectations. When a mother is pregnant, her body changes. There should be no expectation that she returns to the body that she had ever let alone in four weeks or six weeks. That is just not fair. And yet the number of women that I coach, especially in business, around pregnancy, rather than it being this thing that we celebrate and love, it actually becomes a sign of weakness. Like she is losing her power and her dignity in front of her staff. What is that? Why do we do that?
And as young stars get older, let’s see it as that’s great. Celebrate the experience and maturity. So, I think as audiences, as people, we really have to change and allow people to be human. One of my greatest joys and blessings is not being known. I love that I have an impact, but people don’t know me. Nobody who’s watching knows me. I love that. Do you know why? Because I can sit on a plane and just be by myself. I can sit on a beach and no one’s taking an unflattering picture of me and I don’t have to worry about that. And I love that when I organize bachelor parties or even just birthday parties for my friends who are celebrities in Hollywood, in LA, do you know the amount of security protocol, the number of things we have to consider to just protect their privacy? Why, as people, can we not allow a mother to play with her child in the park, even if she’s Beyonce? Why not? Why don’t we just change our attitude and just let them be? Do we need to take the selfies? Do we need to harass? That’s really what it comes down to. So that, I think, is something that we really have to change.
Jan: So we need to rethink celebrity culture, basically, right, before mass media, it was probably more by hearsay, in the old days before electronic media and so on. Maybe there was a news article or there was a book written about somebody or something, even if they were a ruler of a country or a famous athlete or something, but it would always be secondhand, right? And I think the directness and obviously photographic imagery and all that, that changed a lot. And with that, in a way, also developed celebrity culture and tabloid culture. And then obviously, since we all can create our own tabloids now with social media, that took a turn even more for the worst and I think even as we’re filming this, I haven’t seen it yet, but there is a documentary coming out of Prince Harry and Megan.
Dan: I was just thinking about that when you’re mentioning it.
Jan: And I think a lot of the dialogue around that is there is a view a lot of people have that there is a symbiosis between tabloid culture and celebrities, right? Because who would a celebrity be if they weren’t celebrated? It comes in with the word, with the term. Yes. So they gain something from that celebration, so they also need to live with the consequences. That’s a common notion that I hear and that I read in comments, and even some famous commentators and news contributors, they share that view.
And I think that’s very, very, very problematic because, for a lot of people, it’s not like I decide I want to be famous and tomorrow you’re famous and you have millions and everybody follows you. It’s a journey, right? And it starts off innocent. It starts off with an ambition or it starts off with being born into a certain family, but it always starts off innocent and I think it stays innocent all the way through. I mean, if I feel that my voice is delighting people and creating joy and also giving me purpose and pride and that I can do this, of course, I will sign a contract and, you know, I will go down that route and then the expectations are there and I will try my best to do more. I probably like the money that comes with it, which is absolutely fine and deserved. But then when 10, 15, 20, 30 years later, I hit the wall because I just can’t anymore and I check into a rehab. It’s vicious how the public reacts to that, it’s like he or she achieved everything. How can you throw it all away by just driving under the influence or going for the third time to rehab? And that lack of empathy for these human beings who are behind these masks and facades that really bothers me.
Dan: Yeah, me too. And I think we have to be kinder to ourselves and to each other. These are very basic human values. But imagine a world where we showed grace. Imagine a world where we had hope in each other because it’s one of these things where I want you to be authentic and open. I want you to feel safe with me. But you’ll only do that if you know that you’re going to receive kindness and compassion and empathy. And that’s important. You need people that you can be open to, but you also have a requirement of the other person that they will receive that well. And I think often we’re not great friends or neighbours. I think we have aspirations, but we’re too busy. We’re too busy on Netflix or on our phone to notice that someone that we actually live with, or someone that we’re a neighbour to or someone that we work next to is struggling. It’s one of the things I have noticed the most with celebrities because I am not a paid professional on their behalf, I am their friend and their money can buy anything, but not friendship and this is because I’m such an ordinary person you know?
When a president says, hey, my daughter is about to go to college and she really needs someone to go through her essays, I’m like, you can hire the best people, but what they want is a friend, because it’s more than just writing an essay. She’s going through an identity crisis and all kinds of stuff about what is college. Will they even know who I am or will they just only know my dad who’s a president? Those are the things that you need, friendship. But even for them, one of these, I love playing the piano, you love playing the piano, and my musician friend, one of the biggest pop stars in the world right now, but his favourite thing to do with me is playing basketball because, yes, he could hang out with NBA stars, but can he just play ball with the friend on a backyard court? They don’t have friendship and I think it just comes down to kindness. If you show kindness, you can be someone’s friend. If you can be someone’s friend, you can have authentic conversations. If you have authentic conversations, we can do prevention, all the things we’re talking about.
Jan: You were touching on something very important there. And that’s trust and loneliness that comes, issues with trust and loneliness that come with being a celebrity. Very rarely, I think you see somebody really famous getting engaged or marrying just someone. Right? And why is that? It’s, well, you can speculate it’s because they understand each other and if two celebrities get together, they understand each other’s role and purpose and they connect because of that. But actually, no, it’s because who can you trust when you are super famous, super well known, and super successful, which also comes with luxuries and material possibilities and so on. There are so many people in this world who would like to latch onto that, right? Be it managers, consultants, friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, and so on. So what people learn, either because they’re the son or daughter of a celebrity or in a wealthy family, for that matter, or when you become famous yourself, you learn as a first thing, often through painful experience, don’t trust anyone. They probably just want you to shine in your light of your status. They might have financial interests and so on. And unfortunately, there’s a lot of truth in that. So as a consequence, what happens? Well, you get very lonely. You get very, very lonely. And it’s the same for top industry leaders, heads of nations, entertainers, it doesn’t really matter. And to break through that is tough. So that’d be actually interesting. You have quite a few very high-profile celebrity friends. Presumably, you became friends with them after they have already had their names. Do you have a tip for celebrities? How can I deal with this? How did these people get to trust you? How did they get to know you? And how did these genuine friendships, how were they allowed to evolve given the nature of distrust within celebrity?
Dan: So to clarify, some of them are friends that we’ve grown up together even before they discover their talents and their abilities. And that’s beautiful to be part of that journey, which by the way, the friendship changes when one of your friends becomes famous, you have to change as a friend to them because their needs change as well. That’s a whole podcast by itself.
Jan: True that.
Dan: But some of them, yes, I met them after they were already big and I’d say my credibility, my field is what led me to share the stage with them. And that’s where the credibility comes in because if I was an audience member or someone else, they would not have even seen me. But I think it’s who we are backstage that builds the trust. Because my interest is not just for the person that is on stage or in the light. My care is genuine. I care about the person. And so when we’re backstage, the conversation is about family or sleep or priorities and things like that. Very human conversation. So my tip to celebrities, my tip to people that are maybe resonating for this conversation, whether it’s a celebrity or not, we’re all under pressure and it could be like you said, in any field, is find the one or two that you can be accountable to. Yes, it’s lonely, but that is not an excuse. It takes so much work, but it’s effort worth putting in to find those friends that you can be completely, entirely honest with.
I’m very lucky I have those friends. And you don’t have to talk to them every day or every week, but they’re at the end of a call when you need it. And that is an important one, to have those friendships and it doesn’t just happen and you cannot buy it. You have to put work into it. You have to be honest and authentic. You have to make time for it. And when you do it, protect it at all costs and hold on to it and then have the discipline to use it. Because some people are resourced, but they don’t use their resources. A lot of celebrities have great parents but they’ve stopped talking to their parents for whatever reason and yet those parents are still there and still desire to be a mom and a dad to them. Some of them have childhood best friends that are actually still around. But for some reason those paths, because they became so different, they think the best friend doesn’t get them anymore, and maybe they don’t, but they are still willing to maybe learn if you give them a chance. So sometimes it’s the resources there, but they don’t have the discipline to work at it. And sometimes, honestly, it’s lonely. Or you wake up one day and you’re 40 years old and you realise you have not hung out with your buddies for a while because you’ve been busy getting married and having a kid and building your business empire and everything else.
Jan: Or surrounding yourself with people, being surrounded by people. And it’s obviously a lot of action. Having a lot of people in the room every day doesn’t mean you’re not lonely. Right?
Dan: I think the opposite. I think the loneliest people are in a crowd.
Jan: Yeah, exactly. I think being in the public spotlight a lot of it is similar to it to people who are very wealthy or who are industry leaders who might not be known in the street or entrepreneurs for that matter. In the end, it’s often an issue of trust and loneliness and you mentioned earlier what’s really important I think that’s a tool to break that, right? It’s being genuine, it’s showing love and compassion and I’m grateful, I like observing that. I think there is a trend that we talk more about kindness to each other from human to human, cross-culture, cross religions, cross everything but we still have such a long, long, long way to go with crises as we’ve had in these times here. I mean, if you listen to this podcast, and maybe in 20 years, it will sound like a far-distant thing because newer things will have happened. But we’ve just been through a pandemic. There is a war going on with global implications and putting a lot of us at the edge of our seats with possible fallouts.
I think it’s also these times that can bring us closer together. I’ve had the most human conversations with friends in the last few years. I’ve had the most significant energy of friendship when I was about to lose my companies because of the Covid lockdowns and all that, where I was technically in a bankrupt situation with one of my companies, and the support that I got, I was in a really painful, still am to some degree, relationship crisis. I have friends who are really best friends from, again, childhood that helps, who just said ‘Jan if I need to come, I know I live 3 hours away, I can come for 2 hours and watch your kids so you have time to do something else you don’t even have to see me or talk to me.’
I’ve had these conversations and these energies of friendships really in times of crisis because in good times we can all have friends, right? And when you’re famous and beautiful and wealthy it’s very easy to have friends but what is real friendship, what is real kindness, what is real empathy? So we should be grateful for crises because there is an opportunity if it’s a global crisis that affects all of us or if it’s a personal crisis like an identity crisis, like a midlife relationship crisis, there is opportunity in everything. And I’ve come to realise when I struggled, but it took a degree of maturity as I was always uncomfortable with uncomfortable feelings, as most of us are, but I’ve kind of realised in the last few years, it’s the nervous breakdowns, it’s the real anxiety around existential matters. And in that moment, I’m already grateful for the experience. I hate it, it’s super painful, but I’m grateful because I know I can grow from it and it makes me a more empathetic, kinder, and loving person. So let’s not be afraid of crisis, let’s not be afraid of the pressure of being in the public spotlight or having to play a role. There’s opportunity in that. It’s important to take that opportunity and not let the situation break here.
Dan: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more with that. And if kindness is part of the equation, my last thought on this is also to have hope, you know? I think life without hope is hard to live for. But if you’re successful, have hope that you’ll keep growing and that’s good, it’ll be the drive that pushes you. But if you’re struggling, have hope that you’ll come through it. When you come to a recovery centre, half the battle is just believing that you can. Maybe even more than half the battle, the day you give up hope is the bad day. But, so hold on to hope. Hope for yourself, hope for others. And even as friends, family, and people who care for celebrities, care for influential people, have hope in them too, because when they fall, they will rise again, as long as you keep believing them, believing in them too. And I think, for us, we have to have more hope, because, well, I started the podcast saying this, I’m broken and flawed, and I can say that because I have a hope that I’m going to overcome it. But if that was my final statement, well, this isn’t much of a podcast or a conversation.
Jan: But actually, think there’s a nice conclusion to that, that actually came to my mind when he said it at the beginning. It’s all the things we celebrate, it’s the beauty, it’s the fame, it’s the wealth, but we often don’t account for the cost it comes. But aren’t scars beautiful? Aren’t the irregularities, the things that tell a story, just perfect beauty doesn’t tell a story, but a battled one does. And one that healed, right, is still visible, but it healed, it didn’t kill you. And I think that’s what we should celebrate. The journeys, all the pains, and all the crises that make us who we are. And they make us, I think, more grateful, more humble, and more purpose-driven to avoid such pain in the future for oneself, and for others. So, to conclude from my side, let’s celebrate the struggles, let’s celebrate the crisis. Not because people should feel pain, but because that’s where we grow, and let’s not let these instances break us.
Dan: I love that.
Jan: Dan, it’s been a real pleasure. I think that’s a very important conversation that we’re having here. We should continue that conversation in our own ways, whenever we have the opportunity. The more people talk about mental health and it doesn’t matter if it’s an everyday struggle in an office job or if it’s in a public spotlight or as an international leader. If we talk about mental health, we think more about mental health, the more we can be empathetic to people who struggle and most importantly, be empathetic to ourselves.
Dan: Absolutely. And from my end, thank you for all that you do, both for creating, hopefully, value for those who watch these podcasts and conversations, and for what you do at centres like these, to inspire and to keep believing that whatever the status, whatever the accomplishment, whatever the pain, whatever the hurt, still human. And humans deserve kindness, humans deserve hope. And together we can do much better than on our own. We can, and we shall.
Jan: Thanks, Dan.
Dan: Thank you.
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