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I Feel You.

I mean it. I really feel you.

Years ago we were looking at taking some venture capital at GroupSense and growing our small team. I have always prioritized culture and purpose at our company, and anytime there are new people injected into the mix, there is risk of that being disrupted.

A friend of mine had been a CEO of a tech company and he used a psychological test to determine who was a good fit at his organization and whether people were in the correct roles. He was so confident in this system, after he exited his company, he became certified to administer these tests. He offered to do this for GroupSense and it was fortuitous timing given the future capital and staffing increase.

After administering the tests, my friend gave a detailed breakdown of the organization. He explained who belonged where, and which team members might struggle in the near future. After we finished and we were about to leave the conference room, he asked if I could stay and chat for a minute. My partners departed, curious about what he might be sharing with me alone.

“…Kurtis, how are you not under your desk crying right now?”


“…You score off the charts as an empath, you are a hyper-empath. Frankly, this is not a typical psych profile for someone in your position.”

“I don’t understand.”

“….you FEEL everything everyone else feels, don’t you?”

“….ahem….I think so…and I do occasionally cry under my desk…hah.”

Being an empath has real advantages. It provides a third eye into people, a sense of what they are feeling and going through. This allows you to build trust, see their perspective, and conduct yourself in a way as to prevent emotional harm. It also is a great skill for negotiation, which is a big part of my job.

It also has really shitty impacts on a person. It is emotionally draining to feel this all the time. And certain people can literally empty your emotional tank in a single engagement. There are other weird side effects too, like I am sensitive to bright artificial light, loud noises, crowds. All of these things take energy from me and can even handicap me to the point of non-function at times.

I am also a bulldozer. Which means I stand across the hypothetical room looking at a wall then I run through it. Despite these challenges, I am on stage, a public speaker, attending conferences, engaging in intense debate, presenting to customers, and so on.

How do I do it?

The answer often is…barely. But no one would know.

For those of you who think you might be in a similar proverbial boat, here are some of the tools I use to function when my emotional bank is perpetually under attack…

I get up early.

Admittedly, I am a morning person to begin with. But the only thing that would make my hyper-empath challenges more difficult is if I were on my heels all day, playing catch-up. Rising early and getting in FRONT of those things puts me at an advantage. It also gives me time to prepare for battle in other ways…

I work out

If you know me, you know that fitness is not a habit or a routine for me. It is life. I am not your stereotypical “gym rat” and I am not “bulking” or “cutting”. I simply believe and practice that your mental health and your physical health are closely related. Having a strong body, a strong central nervous system, fosters a strong mind. This is not new news, guys. It has been baked into ancient Eastern philosophy for millennia. Speaking of….

I meditate

This is crucial to resetting and creating a blank slate for what is to come. The best part of this practice is that you can do it anywhere and as often as you need. It is not unusual for me to sneak away and meditate for 10 minutes to “shake the etch-i-sketch” in my mind. I also use this practice to send love or “meta” to others. I end each session by thinking of three people: Two people who I genuinely like and care about and one person that I struggle with. I picture smiling at them, and them smiling back. I imagine an embrace.

I journal

This practice provides me a way to process thoughts and have a dialogue with myself. Strangely, writing down these thoughts allows my brain to process them differently, perhaps in a more holistic fashion. I highly recommend you try this.

I read

I could always use more time to read and I am consistently trying to make time. I read almost exclusively non-fiction. For me, new knowledge, on virtually any topic, is therapeutic. Curiosity and peeling back the onion on new disciplines are fascinating and invigorating. I bounce around from philosophy to books on business leaders to legal matters. Variety for the mind!

I eat smart

Your gut is inextricably tied to your mind. You know that heavy, sloggy feeling after you ate that big meal at lunch? Well, that impacts your mood, also. Many years ago, I noticed these lulls in my day and I started paying attention to how I felt when I ate something. I think this will be different for everyone, but I know how food makes me feel. I eat what makes me feel good and avoid those short term gratification snacks and meals that punish me later.

I practice self care

Obvi some of the above items are part of this. Yet, I also make time to allow myself to relax. (If you work with me or know me, you might be saying…”WHEN?”) I certainly need to do a better job of this, but I do get it in. This is often a walk, a hike, a run. Or an epsom bath (which I need for fitness reasons anyway) with some jazz, incense, and a glass of wine. Judge away, it doesn’t suck.

I go to therapy

There is still a stigma around mental health. it is a shame, because therapy is just as much preventative as any physical health regimen. This also proves an objective perspective outside my own echo chamber should I be heading down a dangerous path.

Of course, there are areas where I need much improvement. Typically, empaths are bad at creating boundaries. I am bad at that. I should also be pickier about who gets my time in general, because every moment I spend with other people takes energy. I need to conserve that energy for those who are important to me.

I need to be kinder to myself. Sure, I have to hold myself accountable, but I don’t have to be punitive to myself in the process. I am working on this.

I have also noticed that some people may see my approach as soft, or weak. That is a mistake; remember, there is a bulldozer in there and it will topple anything in front of it…stand aside.

I hope this is helpful for those that cannot figure out why they have nothing left at the end of the day to offer their families. For those that need a nap after every presentation. And maybe even for those around me, this will provide some insight into my behavior. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go present to 500 law enforcement professionals…


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