I sat down with my old housemate Mike for a casual chat about life.
Michael and I were housemates this year and would regularly find ourselves deep in conversation in the kitchen on topics of psychology, philosophy and the nature of the universe.
The thought of recording these conversations often came up but never eventuated until now.
This week’s episode is a little different as I purposefully left the topic of our talk undecided. I let my questions come from a place of genuine curiousity instead of the expectation to make the best podcast episode in the world, and really, this is how all of our conversations have started in the past.
We talk about the experience of performing on stage, why hip-hop is Mike’s primary form of expression and Mike shares a heartfelt message to his 15 year old self when he was having a hard time in life.
Michael has a degree in psychology and is an Australian hip-hop artist focused on spreading awareness and understanding through his music for us to re-connect with ourselves and each other.
Highlights and Takeaways
- Nervous energy can transform into excitement when you’re on stage.
- People aren’t in a performance situation by accident. They have progressively built their experience and want to be on stage. They still feel nervous but they are not doubting their ability to perform.
- We’re in a time of transition in the year 2016.
- Those of us with enough resources for food and shelter are in a privileged situation to create change in the world.
- There are no downsides to developing self-awareness: the awareness of how you’re thinking and feeling in this moment.
- It’s usually the most painful situations in life that have the ability to make us turn inwards and deepen our understanding of ourselves.
I Am Enough [02:38]
- Michael: I know I don’t always feel that I am enough. We feel we need certain relationships or other things (which may not be fulfilling), because we don’t feel like we are enough.
- I feel learning to accept myself is quite tricky. Growing up I was trying to achieve good grades or sporting awards – whatever I did I felt I had to be the best.
- For me, the phrase I am enough means accepting myself without needing to prove myself through achieving certain results or a particular status; It means just accepting myself for who I am, as I am.
The Transformation of Nervousness into Excitement [08:06]
- Michael: Hip Hop is a powerful form of expression for me. To get on stage and express is such a powerful feeling. I can’t compare it to anything else.
- I still find it difficult to get up on stage. I still get nervous and scared. But there is this strange transformation that happens; as soon as I get up there all of the nervous energy transforms into excitement. It’s amazing how quick this transformation happens, it’s like a switch.
- It was a powerfully insightful moment for me. I realised that the nervous energy and the excited energy were the same energy.
- Ben: You’re not on the stage because you don’t want to be there; you want to be there.
- I used to see people on stage and think, that must be terrifying. But to them they might be nervous but they want to be there, they aren’t doubting their ability to deliver.
What Are You Trying to Express Through Hip-Hop? [20:27]
- Michael: Hip-hop emerged out of New York in the mid-70s partly as a reaction to the urban decay that was happening at the time. There were a lot of unemployed youths and a there was a lot of violence going on. These people didn’t have anything to do with their time except join a gang. A lot of my favourite rappers grew up in New York at that time. It wasn’t a question of what they were going to rap about, they were rapping about what was happening in their lives which was the gang violence and chauvinism.
- I didn’t grow up in that setting but I’ve experienced my own difficulties, we’ve all experienced our own difficulties.
- I have my idea about what I see as the problems of the world and how we can make things better so we can reconnect with ourselves and each other.
- I want my raps to wake people up so they pay attention to what’s going on.
- I like that hip-hop (and music) is a really direct way of reaching people on a deeper level. It hits them deeper than going to a lecture or reading a book.
What is the Deepest, Truest Expression of What You Want to Share with People? [23:13]
- Michael: There are a lot of things which are going to change dramatically in the next few years. I want to portray this time of transition through my music. In my heart, I feel that we need to collectively wake up in a lot of ways. I feel hip-hop is a great way of doing that.
- I want people to think about what spirituality actually means for them; what working means for them – is there some other way to make money? How important is it to make money?
- We have a lot more choice than ever before.
Michael: 2016 is such a mixture of things. There is war and protests going on all around the world and on the other hand you have highly-conscious groups of people getting together and helping others.
- For us, as people who have food and shelter, and a decent amount of freedom – we are the ones who have the opportunity to speak about this and put it out to the world. If you’re living in a disadvantaged situation (not enough money or food) you just don’t have the strength or resources to help others out. On the other hand, if you’re in an advantaged situation you’re probably going to look at how you can maintain your own position of advantage. You already have a lot of power and privilege so you’re probably not wanting to shake things up that much. It’s the middle cohort that have enough resources to survive and feel ok but we’re not so rich and privileged that we want to keep things the same.
- There’s a lot to change and it will be difficult. But, even if the change feels hard it needs to happen. We at least need to be talking about this stuff and spreading awareness. I’m doing that through my music.
What Would You Like to Express About Where We Are Now in 2016 [29:25]
- Michael: Look within and see what’s holding you back. Figure out what drives you. What do you care about?
- Developing self-awareness is never going to be harmful. What triggers me in certain situations? What pisses me off and where does that come from?
- What happens in my body when I get triggered?
- Looking within can be a confronting thing to do but it’s extremely valuable work to do.
- You need to connect with yourself first before you can connect with others and have meaningful relationships.
- When I feel myself getting caught up with certain thoughts and feelings, I just stop and check-in with what’s happening right now.
- I experienced quite a few deaths in the year 2000 and my parents broke up. This all happened within the space of three months. It impacted me greatly, it shook my whole world. School didn’t matter to me anymore. I thought how do I deserve this. I felt that the world was terrible and I am a victim.
- At that point I turned inward because I saw the only other alternative was to fall into sorrow and deep anger at the world. That was a turning point for me.
What Advice Would You Give Your 15 Year Old Self? [35:16]
- Michael: You have know idea in what ways this, seemingly terrible experience, will build strength in you. It will shape you to become a deeper individual, and you’ll go on to have a huge impact on other people’s lives.
- This is very painful and you’re going through a lot of difficulty right now. But it’s not endless. It does get better.
- I really hope you can know this: you’ll get through it in a way you can’t even imagine.
Mike’s single – Mass Manipulators.