Today, I interview Chris Salem who remembers being disappointed and hurt by his father. His dad wasn’t around much and didn’t give him the encouragement and praise he so longed for, and this lack of support dug a deep hole in Chris’s heart.
Chris says his mother was great. She was always there, always supportive, and did her best to fill in the gaps where his father was lacking. However, she was an extreme perfectionist, so her unrealistic desire for perfection from a child meant she was often helping him to “get it right” down to the last detail. This resulted in a codependent relationship and a lack of independence and individuality in Chris.
In connecting the dots, Chris says he got his passive side from his father, and his aggressive side from his mother, because she had modeled the expectation of perfection. He was “always striving for something that was impossible.” Despite his mother’s good intentions, he was also in pain over his father and he became bitter, rebellious, and angry in his teenage years. This led to him getting into trouble, making bad decisions, and eventually spiraling into various addictions. He didn’t know how to cope with his anger.
Eventually, Chris got sick of being “on the hamster wheel”. His dad had been diagnosed with late-stage cancer and passed very quickly after. The day before his passing, he saw Chris in his room and began speaking to him – but he spoke differently than he ever had. He expressed his heart and made a last effort to connect.
Suddenly, Chris had an epiphany. He realized that his dad had always been doing and being what he knew. He wasn’t intentionally doing a poor job as a parent. He did care, and he did the best he could despite his own uphill battles. Chris realized he’d been acting like a victim his whole life, and that he needed to take stewardship of his time on earth. He went down a path of self-discovery and found a way to overcome his limiting beliefs and bad habits. He developed his self-esteem and found his own personal values, embracing personal development and acknowledging his emotions. Once he stepped into his purpose, he realized that the goal wasn’t perfection. The goal was to be present today in order to embrace life and continue to grow.
Chris Salem is an accomplished CEO, business executive coach, world-class speaker, corporate trainer-advisor, award-winning author®, certified mindset expert, and radio show host & media personality mentoring business leaders and organizations to scale their brands and business by raising their level of influence as trusted advisors. In addition, he mentors business leaders and organizations toward solutions for enhancing corporate culture, improving workplace communications, increasing sales, and increasing employee engagement for maximum production. His book Master Your Inner Critic / Resolve the Root Cause – Create Prosperity went international best seller in 2016. He also co-authored the recent edition of “Mastering the Art of Success” with Jack Canfield. His weekly radio show, Sustainable Success, is part of the Voice America Influencers Channel and Business Influencers with TAL Radio, part of the Touch-A-Life foundation.
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Transcript of Interview
Transcript of Interview
Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast
Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing
Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com
Episode # 83 Chris Salem
“Honor Your Values”
(00:35) Dr. Doreen Downing
Hi, this is Dr. Doreen Downing. I’m a psychologist and host of the Find Your Voice, Change Your Life podcast. What excites me about doing these interviews with people is that they have a story to tell. Yes, most of them have found their voice and they’re successful out there in the world. But guess what? They didn’t start that way. All their success is built on difficult learning along the way, maybe the struggles, and to me that gives them the right to come here and say, “Hey, I did it. I know you can do it, and here’s how.” Today I get to introduce somebody who I think is exactly what I’m talking about, Chris Salem. Hi, Chris.
(01:25) Chris Salem
Dr. Doreen, thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
(01:28) Dr. Doreen Downing
Wonderful. Well, I always like to read the bio. I might make some comments along the way because it’s pretty spectacular. I’m reading it before the show today, and I was already in awe of you. Chris Salem is an accomplished CEO, business executive coach, world-class speaker, corporate trainer, advisor, award-winning author, certified mindset expert, and radio show host and media personality, mentoring business leaders and organizations to scale their brands and business by raising their level of influence as trusted advisors. I think that’s so important, that phrase. Raising their level of influence as trusted. Trusted. That stands out to me as trusted advisors. In addition, he mentors business leaders in organizations towards solutions for enhancing corporate culture, improving workplace communications, increasing sales, and increasing employee engagement for maximum production. Sounds like all aspects of business, Chris. I want to say something about your book, “Master Your Inner Critic: Resolve the Root Cause, Create Prosperity,” went international best-seller in 2016. He also co-authored the recent addition to “Mastering the Art of Success” with Jack Canfield, a name many of us know. His weekly radio shows Sustainable Success is part of the Voice America Influencers Channel and Business Influencers with Tal radio, part of the Touch-A-Life Foundation. That sounds great. I mean, hello, mister, you are everywhere and adding great influence. Speaking of elevating others into being trusted advisors, you, to me, are a trusted adviser already.
(03:52) Chris Salem
Oh, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
(03:55) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes, I’ve had the pleasure of being in groups with you and have listened to some of the advice you’d give to some of us on the networking calls. I’ve already been a participant of your wisdom. But as I said in the intro today, we don’t always get to be successful just coming out the chute. I’d like to at least go back as far as you can. You talk about root cause. Usually, the root within us is something brilliant and beautiful, but then something happens and we get off-track and we don’t grow what is so amazing inside of us. If you could begin just by talking about some of your early challenges or struggles around having a voice because it’s not about you not having a speaking voice. I don’t think you’re afraid of public speaking but there was some other issues.
(05:01) Chris Salem
Dr. Doreen, for the first 30 years of my life, not knowing this consciously, I was living somebody else’s values. What I mean by that is we all have core values that we operate from, whether we know that consciously or not. Those core values can be either your own or somebody else’s, and you just don’t realize it. I just knew that for almost every day of my life up for the first 30 years, this goes back to when I was in college to the point I was 30, I lived most of my life each day in this fight or flight state. I was constantly anxious. I had a lot of stress. I was angry all the time. Even though I could put on a smile and look like everything was fine, and had a great work ethic, and seemed like I had my life together, it wasn’t the case, and I was just always miserable.
As a result of that, I didn’t know how to deal with this frustration. I didn’t know how to deal with this anger. I didn’t know how to deal with this disconnect. As a result of it, the only thing I knew how to deal with it, to offset the way I was feeling was to escape it, and that led me down the path of 12 years of addiction. That addiction, coupled with how I felt about myself, almost took me out of what I was doing successfully in my business. I always had a great work ethic. It was established by my father and my mother. I was a go-getter. I was making very good money at the time working for somebody and then eventually going on my own.
But then I would also, in a period of time, self-destruct and then have to start over and then repeat that pattern over and over and over again. I kept getting angry at the world like, why is this happening? Everything starts off really well, and I build it up and then it just comes falling down. Being a codependent and again, this was in hindsight, being passive and aggressive in my behavior and my communication, I was pointing the finger at everyone else saying that I can’t trust anybody, I can only do this myself, I can’t trust that people are going to live up to my expectations, because they always let me down, they never follow through. I didn’t realize what I was doing to myself that I single-handedly had a major part in my self-destruction and why things weren’t working out, because I was so busy caught up in what other people weren’t doing or what the world was doing to me and that victim role that I played for so long.
Going back to my addiction. The addiction didn’t help me. I had a very bad sexual addiction, very promiscuous. I had bouts of problems with alcohol and drugs as ways to kind of remedy the anger that I felt as a byproduct of that fight or flight state that I was constantly in. These are the things that really were taking me down a path of further self-destruction that I knew, at some point, what it might have taken out of my life. Not that I was ever suicidal or anything like that, but just my behavior and the actions I took in the situations I was putting myself into, that would have been the byproduct of what could have been. It really took a life-changing moment for me—
(08:28) Dr. Doreen Downing
Before we go into the life-changing moment, I’m just in awe again of your recovery, but the story that you’ve been telling so far about all those layers of emotion and the escape and some of the cycles that you went into of self-destruction. Then you say they could have taken you out and my heart just went, oh, this is what happens to people. They go so far down that they lose themselves and the escape is sometimes final. But I wanted to just go back because you talk about root, so I’m going to ask about how you identify the early sense of ourselves where I think we get rooted in our confidence. You talked about anxiety. There must have been some other earlier kinds of roots that you’ve already identified that you might share with us.
(09:40) Chris Salem
Yes, the root cause that I ended up finding out to my anxiety. Would you like me to talk about the life-changing thing?
(09:48) Dr. Doreen Downing
(09:50) Chris Salem
So, I would say that the root cause, again, in hindsight, my relationship with my father— I didn’t get the attention that I was looking for from him. I didn’t know this at the time. I just knew that every time I would go to a ballgame, or I did something, I thought that I would love to be—that you would want your dad to be rooting for you. He wasn’t there. While other kids, their dads were there, my father wasn’t. At the time, I didn’t realize all this. I was just on some level knew I was disappointed. That cumulated over time as a child into my teenage years, where I became very rebellious, very angry. That’s what led me down the path of that self-destructive behavior that I was doing slowly over a period of time, in my personal life and in business.
(10:47) Dr. Doreen Downing
That anger. I’m so glad you said that and identified a relationship early on in life, because my listeners want to know what happened. Yes, you are such an amazing person now, you were then too, of course, but something happened. It feels like what you’re saying is the embracing of your sense of self as a young person, a young boy, going out there in sports, and probably I’d imagine you’re still very fit and excelling.
(11:26) Chris Salem
I’m 55. But yes, I’ve been working out since I was 18 years old.
(11:32) Dr. Doreen Downing
Then that anger then just ate away at your sense of self, and so thank you. Just another question on early roots. What about your mom?
(11:49) Chris Salem
My mother was a great mother, who was always there, and also played the role of the father in all my ball games as well. The only thing about my mom that I can look back, where I developed some things that ended up working against me—because she was a wonderful mother, I owe my mother high regard because her intentions were always good—is that my mother was a perfectionist. Everything had to be done exactly right. When I say a perfectionist, I mean ultra-perfectionist. If my homework wasn’t at a certain level, she would help me do it. In that essence, she, without her knowing that she pleased and enabled me, and that led me down a path of co-dependency, and developing not my passive side, which I got from my father, but to start to develop my aggressive side that I would never be good enough. That no matter what expectations I set, I would never fulfill it, and nobody would ever fulfill my expectation. It was always striving for something that was impossible to fulfill.
(12:59) Dr. Doreen Downing
I get it. Then that external world, what we do is interject, we take in, and those voices become our own. One thing I noticed though, what you said about your mom is that she didn’t come at you with a scolding finger and say, “What’s wrong with you?” She dug right in and helped you.
(13:20) Chris Salem
Yes, her intentions were always in the right place, but sometimes we just don’t realize that sometimes what we’re doing may not be the right thing, because it might be working against us, but she knew that we only know what we know. I’ll be happy to share that on the back end.
(13:42) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes, for our listeners doing some of this internal journeying to find out more of how come they are the way they are in terms of being afraid to be more of who they can be in life. What you’re showing today, a couple of those incidences and stories you have to tell will say, “Maybe I do need to look back.” It’s not about blame. It’s just about a reality, a situation that you were in, and that’s where you grew up, so how were you growing up? But okay, we’re on a journey with you, Chris. You’re having all of this breaking down of the cycles. I guess you could have kept doing it your whole life, but something happened. What happened?
(14:41) Chris Salem
I guess I got to the point of being sick and tired of being sick and tired and feeling I was on this hamster wheel that I could never get off, but really what the defining moment was for me was when my father was diagnosed at the age of 56 of lung cancer. My dad hadn’t smoked in years. It just came out of nowhere. By the time they diagnosed it, he was already stage 3B going stage four, given only a year to live, and he succumbed to the disease in four months, so he didn’t even live the full year. The life-changing moment for me was the day before he passed, I remember being in the room with him, he was on morphine, he couldn’t talk, but it was when he looked over, his eyes were somewhat shut and open, he obviously couldn’t talk, yet he knew I was there. He was talking to me in a different way, a way that to this day I can’t explain, except that I understood what was being said to me. It was that way. Whatever you want to call it, I leave it in the eyes of the listeners, or the ears of the listeners, how they’re processing this information to determine what that means to them. It was like he said that “I just want to let you know that I did the best I could. I always loved you, your brother, and your mother, and I know it didn’t come across that way.”
My parents have been divorced. My dad was unfaithful. My brother became a heroin addict as a result of the actions of the disconnect with my father. My brother has never been the same. It was like he said that “I just want to let you know that I always loved all of you. I can only be the best of what I thought at the time. I only knew what I knew.” So, something came to me and i thought that he did not do this intentionally. He grew up the same way from a father that neglected him, a father that saw him as the black sheep of the family. He can only do what he knew, what he was capable of. We could only be what we know. He was just repeating those same patterns with us. Not even knowing all this, the way I’m explaining it right now, it’s like a light bulb went off. As a result of that, I began to say, “Oh, it’s not that my father intentionally didn’t care, where he put himself first and he was selfish, it was that he was just trying to fulfill his own lack of beliefs of how he felt about himself, and he did the best he could. I looked at myself. These things happen, but it’s my responsibility, not my father, to do something, to improve where I’m at right now. That’s when the lightbulb went off.
I went from going, “Oh, my God. I’ve been a victim my whole life.” Now, I got to step up. Some things were beyond my control. I didn’t ask for it, but it happened. If I’m going to change my life, change my business, I have to assume responsibility. I got to change. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I didn’t know what process. I just knew in that moment. That’s what led me down this journey, this path of self-discovery and self-mastery that was almost 23 years ago. That led me down this path and how I was able to move away from my lack of confidence and self-esteem, move away from my self-limiting beliefs and self-destructive patterns, to developing a mindset where I shifted my thinking away from past and future thinking, to being the present, learning to re-program the way I think, to learn what I can control versus what I can’t control, and learning to really develop my self-esteem and confidence. As a result, my communication improved to myself and others. I moved away from codependent behaviors and passive aggressive communication styles, of communication and behavior, to be more assertive in an interdependent way. I began to become transparent and vulnerable and admit my mistakes rather than avoid them or deflect them on to others. I began to really understand what my strengths and my weaknesses were and be honest with them and honor them. I began to see how I was not being transparent about the values that I was operating from. I was operating from my father’s values, thinking if I did, he would recognize me, but those were my father’s values, not mine. When I found out what my values were, I began to step into my purpose. I began to see myself, that I don’t have to be the best, I don’t have to be perfect. I can be who I am. It’s about progress. It’s about being better than yesterday. This doesn’t happen overnight or in a short period of time, this happened over a period of time.
(20:07) Chris Salem
I made these shifts over time to learn how to focus on what I can control, and that was my communication to myself and others, my behavior, my attitude. It’s looking at what happened in any challenges I was going through currently, is happening for me, not to me, that I could choose to have a positive attitude rather than the negative attitude. I began to learn how to respond rather than react to situations. Even though my primary emotions still could be anger and disappointment, I said to myself, “Okay, I can honor that.” But I’m going to take a breath and choose to respond from a secondary emotion or something positive, not react to it from the negative emotion. I would do my part to try to find a solution or something within my control to make things better and let everything else go. Then I took massive action, daily action. I use discipline and consistency to do things that I’ve never done before, meditation, journaling, waking up at 4am every morning, making my bed. These were routines that were foreign to me. I never did them. I did them because I use discipline. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. That daily routine saved my life. It got me to change my way of thinking away from the expectations tied to the outcome operating from fear in the past and in the future, to thinking in the moment, trusting the process of what I can control, letting go of what I can’t, and loving the results, be a byproduct of what I can do in the moment.
When I shifted my thinking that way, I lead from intention not expectation, and I shifted away from codependent behavior and communication to be interdependent. I began to impact other people around me in a positive way. I began to put up healthy boundaries to ward off toxic people or people that would normally suck that energy away out of me when I was in the passive state or aggressive state. Because of that, those changes over time led me down a path of more sustainability in terms of my success. I begin to grow healthier businesses, healthier relationships with myself and others, and begin to put boundaries and stay away from negativity and toxic people. These are the things that were a game changer for me in where I’m at today and what led me down a path 12 years ago to go into executive coaching, business executive coaching including personal, to help people do the same for themselves, and to create more impact in their lives and their businesses to be the example and be resourceful for the people they lead to do the same. I’ve written an international best-selling book in the area. I have co-authored a book with Jack Canfield in the area. I’ve committed my life to speaking on this subject matter at leading industry B2B, B2C, and entrepreneur events worldwide. I have two radio shows that I speak in and around these topics, bringing in guests, of course, that speak around that as well or somewhere indirectly. It’s just something that I’m here to be the messenger. I’m just here to be the example and be a resource to help others do that for themselves.
(23:14) Dr. Doreen Downing
Chris, what a transformation and in what you’ve just said over and over for the listeners today is around mindset and about boundaries and about the health that is possible once you get on a track, but I think it all started when you said responsibility, taking responsibility for yourself. One of the things I want to note is that because this is a podcast about voice and finding voice, your father said something, it was his voice, even though the words were something that—
(23:56) Chris Salem
Call it vibrational energy, whatever you want to call it.
(24:00) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes, that’s what I got when you were describing that moment. That magical, powerful, mystical, transformational turning point moment where the light bulb enlightenment happened in that moment. It can happen in a moment. That wake up is what you’ve talked about. I just want to say it again. It was because of a voice that you heard. It came from the very person, one who had maybe unknowingly forwarded, in some ways, your development and just woke you up in that moment. Before we’re coming to an end, what would you say about— I think you agree that there was a voice that you heard.
(24:57) Chris Salem
There’s a voice even to this day for me. The voice I listened to is the voice of my inner champion. I don’t listen to my inner critic anymore. I listened to my inner champion. I listened to the voice that says, “I am” and “I will”, not “I want” or “I need.” “I will” and “I am” say, “I’m going to focus on what I can control versus what I can’t control.” If I listened to “I want” and “I need”, I’m going back into what I can’t control and getting caught up in expectation. The voice I listened to is the one that says, “I love you unconditionally. I love when you make mistakes. I love when you learn from mistakes. I love you no matter what as long as you keep stepping up and showing up and doing things and learning and growing and being the example.” That’s the voice I listened to each and every day, that internal voice that I call the inner champion.
(25:52) Dr. Doreen Downing
Thank you so much. How do people find you?
(25:56) Chris Salem
The best place to reach me is on my website at christophersalem.com or Chris, C-H-R-I-S at Christopher Salem dot com or LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great place. I love to connect with people, get to know people, and share stories like we did here. It’s all about relationships and learning and growing from that. If I can help you and point you in the right direction or refer you to somebody, happy to do so.
(26:23) Dr. Doreen Downing
Chris, you are so authentic, you are so easy to be with. Thank you so much.
(26:29) Chris Salem
Thank you, Dr. Doreen, for having me. You have a wonderful show. I love the ‘finding your voice’. It’s so important.
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Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.