Hay House author James McCray is a brand strategist, award-winning creative director and the author of Shit Your Ego Says : Strategies To Overthrow Your Ego and Become the Hero of your Story.
Jen’s ZEN Show: Sh#t Your Ego Says and Getting Published With Hay House
James McCrae: Jen thanks for having me. Hello to everyone in Ottawa and everyone watching. It’s great to be here.
Jennifer Clark : I fell upon your website. I was googling Yogananda’s five sutras or something and I found your site. I thought who is this cat and I need to interview him. I love it how the universe plots us in the right place at the right time. Tell us about your book. In fact a lot of people want to know how did you get to Hay House. Talk about the back story too because a lot of people who listen are aspiring authors. I’ve published though not through Hay House but certainly people do aspire to that so tell us about the book the creation and how you got it published through Hay House.
James McCrae: So the book came out about a year ago and it’s such a crazy story. I feel like the best things that happen in in life at least in my experiences and I think the experience of a lot of people I’ve spoken with is we try and try and try to get what we want and to kind of like a cheesy something we’re trying to achieve. I’ve been a writer as long as I can remember. Since I was twelve, thirteen I was writing poetry and writing, trying to write books and trying to get things published and trying to get things published online and through a publisher. You know some of it worked and some of it didn’t. For the most part that it’s funny that the book that worked, the book that was published, the book that was written and put out there was something that happened with like little to no effort on my part at all. That’s not to say it wasn’t effort to write it. It took three years, of a lot of dedication to actually write it but in the sense of getting it published and finding Hay House, it all happened very serendipitous.
Jennifer Clark : I used to interview a lot of the Hay House authors on my radio show back in the day and they would say you got to get an agent then it’s a two-year wait and there was a delay. There was this journey to get to Hay House. Tell us how will you flipped the switch and then went with the with the flow.
James McCrae: I was writing the book and everyone told me that same thing. I think the feedback I got from everyone who knew an acknowledged publicly is that there’s a way to get published and it has more to do with pitching your work and finding an agent and finding a publisher than it has to do with you writing a book.
I really love the craft of writing. I love when you’re able to put together something like write a sentence or write a paragraph or write a chapter or write a book that just stands the test of time and then it has some kind of artistic quality that that you know is meaningful. Everyone was telling me you know find an agent, write a proposal, don’t write the book yet because you shouldn’t write the book until you’ve got approval from the gatekeepers to write it.
I just thought that’s so counterintuitive to be trying to promote something and market something and gain attention for something that that doesn’t exist yet. I care about writing a good book and if it’s not a good book then it’s not worth promoting anyway. So I literally said my job is to write the best book that I can possibly write. That’s a hard enough job as it is. I’m going to leave it in the hands of the universe to get it out there. I’m giving the assignment to the universe to put this book out there because I’m busy writing the damn book
That’s what I did and I was pretty stubborn with that but I did put together a book proposal because I needed to articulate what the book was about and I only sent it to a few friends and I don’t even realize it but all this is working around me to actually get it out there. I had a friend that was talking to Hay House in the UK and he was pitching his own book and it didn’t work out but he happened to have my proposal. He sent it to the UK Hay House office without telling me. They loved it. They sent it to Hay house New York. I remember I was having kind of a hard day and I get an email out of nowhere from Hay House saying they wanted me to come into their offices to meet with them.
The only take-away from that for me in terms of what that means for others who are trying to get published is focus on doing good work and you know that if the book proposal wasn’t good, if the book itself wasn’t good, none of that would have worked. Instead of trying too hard to worry about getting your work out there, my advice to everyone no matter what they’re doing is to have something really good and solid in the first place.
Jennifer Clark : You are the second North American that I’ve interviewed and I’ve seen have some final success in the sense they’ve been doing the work locally and grassroots that I heard went to the UK Hay House. Tell us about the book though because I mean you’re straight to the point that’s the whole point of the book. What is the basis of the book? how did it sort of birth within you? and what do you want your reader to get as a benefit from reading it?
James McCrae: The book itself happened by accident as well. The backstory and the origin story of the book is that I was I’m from Minnesota. I was living in Minnesota working in the advertising industry. I was successful. I was advancing in my career. Everything on the surface looked like it was good but I had was drawn to move to New York City. I kind of always did. I kind of felt like I wanted to expand my horizons and take a chance and jump into something bigger and try to swim. In the back of my head I always kind of never gave up being a writer even though that’s something I had been doing as a younger person and then I just got lost in my career like we all tend to do and we kind of lose sight of some of our dreams and passions.
I just knew if I didn’t act soon and act drastically that I would kind of become more and more stuck and more and more unhappy so I took a leap of faith and moved to New York City which is where I am now. I moved without a plan without a job with very little money and just really crossing my fingers and hoping that everything would fall into place. Everything did not fall into place. Honestly I moved here just about a month before Hurricane Sandy and I had barely unpacked my bags. I had just got my first apartment and I signed my lease the day before Hurricane Sandy swooped in and destroyed the apartment that I was about to move into and just like that I was already struggling to keep my head above water.
I didn’t have a job. I didn’t have any money. I was kind of running out of options and then suddenly I was homeless and I had nothing to do. I was at the end of my rope I had nowhere to go. It ended up an opportunity presented itself for me to go to this small island in the Caribbean called Culebra where my friend had a friend who had this empty Cottage. In hindsight it’s like “what was I doing?” but at the time there was nowhere else for me to go because New York City was just in chaos at that time. I didn’t have any money to get another New York apartment so I spent the last of my money to get to this little island in Culebra.
It’s a very small island and I had not realized that because I had nothing to do on this island but just be alone with my thoughts. It was almost like the universe was sitting me down and putting me on a timeout and I had time to be alone with myself and really just meditate. I realized that I had been chasing ambitions. I have been chasing goals. I had been kind of caught up my whole life and running away from things and running to things and on this island I had nowhere else to run. It was kind of like the end of the line and I realized that I was wondering how I got there… I’m a failure… I’ve messed up. All my fears and insecurities came to the surface but I was there for so long with no net worth with nowhere else to go that I had to be alone with those thoughts. I came to realize that these thoughts were not the real me. These were the voice of my ego. I realized that anything that’s either insecurities, fears or even pride thinking you’re you so great or thinking that you’re here durable this is just your ego reacting to circumstances. The more I sat with that, the more I realized that there was kind of a higher self, an intuition that I had, that we all have, that was beyond the voice of the ego and no doubt that voice you know assured me that everything was okay and everything was going to be okay. On the island it was actually a blessing. I was there for a reason. That is basically how the book starts.
Jennifer Clark : Can you tell us a bit about it without giving the story away. People are listening. People are really understanding what you’re saying. You know you’re lucky. It would take the tornado for you to get to the Caribbean. What are some of the things that you’ve learned in the book of strategies. The simple strategies to overthrow your ego. Give me some of that for the for the people who are listening and people who really want to become the hero of their own story.
James McCrae: The main thing to learn and the main thing that I learned is if there was one kind of lesson it is don’t believe everything you think. I think we tend to do this, everyone and myself included. Even now we tend to if as soon as a thought pops into our heads whatever it is we take for granted that that thought is truth or that thought is meaningful so as soon as a negative thought comes to door head there’s like oh I messed up here Things aren’t going my way.. that person did something I didn’t like. Our immediate army it’s mental clutter, it’s mental chatter and our immediate reaction is to grab on to that thought take it seriously and kind of react to that thought. I didn’t realize at the time that we are not that everything that we think we are.
Take an analogy to the ocean. We have all of these thoughts and all of these insecurities and worries and anxieties. These are like waves and ripples on the ocean surface. We are not the waves themselves. We are the ocean of consciousness beneath the waves. The ultimate message is re-association yourself from being the waves from being the thoughts to being the consciousness to being the ocean and really stepping back to look and being the observer of your thoughts.
Since then I’ve got very intimately into meditation. What every meditation teacher I’ve ever had has said is to be the observer of your thoughts not to identify with your thoughts and the more you do that the more you can see that all this mental activity is noise that actually distracts us from our own intuition.
Jennifer Clark : I teach this as well so I understand what you’re saying. From being that person who always gets triggered on that student level to someone who has shared this wisdom teaching. The part that I and others get stuck on is the negative stuff….you’re stupid…you’re a fag or this is okay that’s no. Meaning you can understand that as noise but the tricky part where the spiritual mastery comes in is like oh you’re great Jennifer for everyone loves you. Where you’re actually going on the opposite as in the arrogant or the side that’s a little puffy and you know full of herself the good stuff you want to hear. The good stuff you want to believe may not be true though you know it may be again. The polarity swing from the ego to a negative mind chatter to ego boastful mind chatter. How would you suggest someone watch that polarity?
James McCrae: I think a lot of people understand that the negative is not helpful it’s toxic whether you are able to handle it, manage it, flip the switch yet you underserve it that way. The part that’s really tricky is the one that’s the happy thoughts “yeah yeah you’re you’re right”, it’s super attractive to get caught up in our own you know to drink our own kool-aid to a degree. I think part of that is even the idea of spiritual bypassing where negative things are happening in your life or you know you might be good.
I think it’s very important to look at the feedback you’re getting from others. I think the world is our mirror and the people around us are our mirror. I think it’s one thing that’s easy to do say maybe you get a negative reflection back from the world in some way.. maybe your friends or your family your coworkers… you’re not doing something so right and they kind of feel it and they might be giving you a little bit of a negative feedback. I think it’s one trap that spiritual people tend to get into is they say oh that’s that’s their problem you know I’m gonna be spiritual me and I’m gonna be proud and I know that I am on a higher path yeah and I’m going to ignore the feedback I’m getting from others and just kind of live my life. That’s super dangerous because we need to pay attention and take into consideration that feedback we’re getting from others. Yes there are people in the world who are inherently looking to undermine people. Those people exist and it’s important to sniff them out from the crowd but it’s important to have people in your life that you trust and that and that can hold you accountable… friends …family…coworkers …online communities you know… other communities that exist in in the real world and how are those people reacting to me what kind of feedback am I getting from those people. Am I making genuine heart connections with the world or am I kind of caught up in my own mind and not connecting with others? You know if you’re connecting with people on the heart level it means you’re living from the heart and that you’re actually not too wrapped up in your own mind because the mind is an individual thing. The mind and the ego you know exist to yourself alone. Knowing is really connecting with your thoughts and one’s really connecting with your ego. You actually can make real emotional heart connections with other people so it’s important to you.
I talked about the painful and awkward journey from the head to the heart and that’s not an easy transition to make because we’re all conditioned to be living up here in our minds. When we actually make that awkward journey to start living in our heart we’ll actually see the people and the communities around us kind of respond to that and kind of want more from that. I think it can be a complicated question and I tossed it just because I answered ways at different moments because it’s a fluid answer in the sense that you could be born into a family of digits. That’s your karmic relationship with them and you may physically have to leave the tribe to find your space plane to know your joy, your need to be understood, to be heard but you do it out of love. You don’t do it out of like they’re bad I’m better. You leave in love you stay in love and so I think that’s the point you’re trying to make is as long as you’re making the observation from a loving space without judgment you know we’re not on the same page is not necessarily “I’m evolved and they’re not”, it’s just that we’re on different subject matters on the big homework assignment.
Jennifer Clark : absolutely I think it’s you know just because someone’s not on the same path that we are or someone is behaving in a way that we don’t like, be aware how are we reacting to that person. You mentioned judgment and that’s very important to catch yourself “am i judging others who are on a different path or maybe not as far along as I am” and then as a flipside am i judging myself for not being as far as I want to be because the truth is life is a long road, life is a long journey with lots of twists and turns and there’s no better or worse. We’re all on different parts of the Monopoly board. Am I judging myself for nothing where I want to be, am I judging others for being where they were. Similar other than where I am and having compassion for myself and others as opposed to judging us for not being where we are where we want to be that makes a huge huge difference.
When do you walk away in whatever capacity that might be? As in leave a job or leave a relationship. When do you? There is a lot of people there in this crux point we’re in. The spring equinox here. The full moon of March is trying to get us a line always means letting go of something. You can’t fly forward when you’re holding yourself backward. It’s a trapeze moment we’re in. A lot of people are in decision-making … “do I stay do I go left right?..and it’s hard when you have all the mind chatter. You have your higher-self, your guides or angels, wisdom teachings of the world then you have your own ego. Then you have logic that may not be anything to do with any of it all.
James McCrae: Absolutely. I mean it’s really hard and it’s different for everyone. From my own experience, one thing is that you’re probably going to have to do it at some point once you have made so called spiritual progress. I have friends and communities a lifestyle that that wasn’t spiritual. I think that we’re living in an age where people are starting to kind of awaken to spiritual concepts and understand what mindfulness is all about. At least for me.
I know for so many others that take a drastic shift in their lifestyle, there are certain people that absolutely will not understand it because they haven’t had the opportunity to open their own mind to that yet. If someone is in that situation and is actively working to undermine that growth, and I’ve had that happen in my life, where I always give them a chance and yeah I think you should always try to explain what you’re going through. You may just have to walk away but I think some people just want to learn more. They might just they see you changing and they wonder what’s this all about. They might question it but in reality they’re just wanting to learn more but they don’t have the tools to ask in a more well-articulated way.
I think it’s very important to give people a chance so try to explain what this is that I’m going through. This is what I’ve learned. This is how I’m growing and that life is bigger and more exciting and more expansive than I ever imagined. Not preaching in any sense but at least explaining your journey and giving them a chance to learn. If you do that and they still have no interest in hearing what you have to say and have no interest in your own or can’t be at least appreciative and happy for you and for the progress you have made you know it might be time, not in some kind of reactionary ego way saying get out of my life, but allowing them to kind of fade away because when we change and we fully change I think that the things that no longer align with us and no longer vibrate with us well, kind of naturally fade away. I don’t think you’d ever really need to forcefully slam the door in anger although in extreme cases you might. That hasn’t been my experience. I can’t speak to the extreme situations where you need to run for it. I’m sure those situations exist. For me I think the more fully and solidly you step into your new life, the more those people that don’t understand, will tend to fade away.
Jennifer Clark : As a life path guide who is strongly intuitive, the number one question I get is love and when is it gonna happen. I look at them as a wisdom teacher and I say when are you gonna have like it’s all about you don’t ask about he or she it’s not out it’s in. What are you gonna do about the work. A lot of people who are already in relationships are having a shakedown. It’s one thing to be the one you’re waiting for and all that kind of stuff I get that. There is a little bit of trickiness with people already in relationships where one is processing something, going through something, and the other isn’t and they’re creating a little bit of a dance with each other. A lot of people are pulling triggers quickly. They are out. “I’m out I’m done”. A lot of people are staying too long when they know this person is never gonna get it whatever it is. They’re kind of just delaying the inevitable.
You are a man of a certain age you’ve probably had relationships in your awakened state, how would you translate that to your book Shit Your Ego Says while you are sitting on your ass in the Caribbean.
James McCrae: Well my next book is about relationships. It is an interesting question and we could talk for another hour. I know we don’t have an hour but I’ll just say this much, I think that it’s important to not jump too quickly into a relationship and I think that you can’t be good in a relationship.
I’ll tell you to get good at being single because it’s the same thing if we’re chasing something that we feel like we’re lacking something and we’re looking for someone else to kind of make up for that. It is not gonna work. It might work at first as you’re gonna fulfill some kind of neediness that you have but then you know other people can’t fulfill our neediness.
Our feelings lack so until we can be fully confident at being single and having that being able to sustain that love for ourselves and within ourselves we don’t have the proper foundation to engage and give and receive love from another. People that are in relationships already that are not working out, I don’t want to give any broad advice because sometimes it might be right to leave and sometimes it might be right to me looking at a mirror and see the other person as a mirror and kind of find a way to fix this.
There are both of those situations and either might be right for different people so it’s too hard to give over-arching advice for people. I’m in a happy relationship now and it took me many years and many failed relationships to get to that point and it wasn’t until I really stopped looking and stopped seeking and just looked at myself as being really in a relationship with me and having that and then they became much easier to integrate that with somebody else.
Jennifer Clark : wow that’s awesome advice. again guys you have to live independently I actually don’t like the word single. I think that’s just a dumb word. Yeah I’m judging the word but that’s okay. It’s alone in the sense of all one. You have to be the one you’re looking for before you can expect a partner, a companion, a king of clean to show up.
Jennifer Clark broadcasts weekly to Ottawa Buzz TV on her show Jen’s ZEN Tune-Up Tuesdays. Find out more about what she does an how you can work with her.