Phil Cerdorian: Cigarette Sales to Psychotherapy

Welcome to The Priority Paradigm. I’m Shea Oliver. These are the stories of people who have taken
a look at their lives and said something’s more important and then made a radical change. Today I’m with a friend of mine, Phil, Cerdorian,
who is a counselor, therapist, and life coach in Longmont, Colorado. Somebody who’s helped me when I’ve had some
significant issues in life and wanted to make some changes. I talked to him when I launched The Priority
Paradigm because I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if he would give me somebody to talk
to, because he talks to people who are making changes all the time, and I was absolutely
thrilled when Phil said, I’d like to tell you my story. So without further ado, Phil, let’s go back
in time and talk a little bit about how you took a look at your life and then made a radical
change. Yeah, you bet. Well, I grew up in, well there’s an old a
Bob Dylan Song says, you know, my name means nothing. My age means less. the country. I come from what’s called the Midwest. I grew up in suburban Chicago, a big Catholic
family. A pretty normal childhood. Catholic schools went to college got a business
degree that was like, oh no, what do I do now? Aren’t there a few more classes? You know, college is pretty good. Someone told my teacher, taught me how to
just practice interviewing. So I got a practice interview and I got a
job offer my first, you know, interview. So you did what a lot of people dream about
doing when they’re ending college. Yeah. And so I went back to the teachers and get
some experience you know, take it. So I got a job as a sales rep for Philip Morris
tobacco. They can me a brand new car and expense account
and wearing a suit and the whole world’s telling me you made it dude. But inside I felt kind of crappy so I did
it for like a year and a half trying to get that practical experience, and I thought maybe
I’d go sell something that we believed in more. But then at that point I was really fed up
and disgusted. I felt like I was following other people’s
advice most of my life. And I said, ah, I’m gonna. Start doing things that I want to do what,
you know. Right. So went to Mardi gras with some friends, had
a really good time. Went to Jamaica for a couple of weeks and
you know, smoked some weed, but it was also doing yoga on the beach. Well, that’s not a bad thing. And Yoga, and God I was feeling so good. The stress was peeling off some kind of blissful
experiences and um, I decided there at the beach in Jamaica, I’m going to go study yoga. So went home, moved back to my parents and
I’m like 22, maybe 23 at this point. And I started doing yoga and meditating everyday,
reading books and I’m working two jobs. My friends are morning me as if I died. And um, I applied to this Ashram in Pennsylvania
and they accept me and you know, pretty serious student at this point and my friends think
I’m joined by hare krishnas. Think, do we need to do an intervention here? Sure. But I go off for like a three month residential
program and um, you know, it’s great. I’m doing yoga twice a day and chanting. And the people I like, the people, there’s
a swami, they’re from India and he’s funny and radiant says pretty amazing energy and
um, he says don’t believe anything but this change in past and you know, if you follow
what you haven’t experience, if you’re serious couple months now, so serious, six months,
less serious a year, if you don’t have something to year, forget about it. Go back in the world. So, you know, long story short, I woke up
one day and had a experience with my true nature, you might say, Or what the Yogis call
samadhi. And it lasted for three days. I felt completely present. My mind was calm and I felt like I, my questions
have been answered. So what did you discover? It’s hard to put into words. It was more of like a knowingness about who
I was. Not in words, but kind of a deep place in
myself. So they wanted me to stay, you know, I was
kind of a serious student and I was like, I got it. You realize the later. That was the beginning, you know? Right Anyway, the point is, my whole life shifted
after that, I moved to Seattle, new friends, I became a social worker. I started hiking, camping my whole life shifted. So, and you know, it’s a lot of these traditions,
if you have this experience with your true nature, then you get on track with who you
are, you know. And so I worked some other jobs too, but then
I, you know, got into a graduate program, came to boulder and studied psychology, and
been doing that ever since. And it feels more right. My conditioning the Midwest was basically
um, you know, get a good job, make a lot of money, work hard, be a good person and will
work out. So I was following that script and until it
was like, you know, this needs a little further tweaking here. So what didn’t feel right while you were selling
cigarettes? Well you know, I was into health, you know,
so it didn’t feel right to be selling cigarettes and you know, I think sales would be fine
if you believe in the product and you know something wrong with it. But I think actually the, one of the best
ways to find out who you are is to be something you’re not Say more. Well, if you go into being something you’re,
you’re not. I did a 180 from there. You know, it catapulted me into something
much more who I was – social work, psychology, Yoga. So there’s no, there’s no wrong choices. There’s only learning. Hopefully it’s not illegal or dangerous. Right. Sure. So, as you were working, what did you do to
try to find yourself while you were still, before you took off to Mardi gras and before
you took off to the beach in Jamaica? I mean, you had a sense that you weren’t in
the right place. Yes. What were you doing during that time to try
to figure out what direction do I need to go or were you. Or were you just rolling going, I’m miserable. I’m just going to sit here. No, no. Well the thing that got me was when I was
working for Philip Morris, I was going to the rec center playing basketball, and lifting
weights and on a whim, I took a yoga class and I was like, wow, this is great and I could
lift more weight, and my basketball, got better, I got a little more integrated and coordinated. So I became fascinated and I had tea with
this yoga teacher a couple times and all of a sudden became fascinated with yoga, but
I pretty much, you know, when I quit my job and went to Mardi gras pretty much right after
that. And then Florida and the Jamaica and, also,
you know, I’d been drinking, smoking weed and that was like losing its appeal to me. Like it was Kinda like the same old thing. And so I knew there was something more and
then. So Yoga was a vehicle for that. Cool. So as you went through the process and made
that, quit your job and began to explore who you really were and trying to find out who
am I going to be and what am I going to do with my life. You said you lost a lot of friends. I did. Who was supporting you during this time? Were there people in your life that were actually
saying, hey, dive in. Figure this out? Yes, there were. Great question. My parents were pretty open, you know, they’re
Catholic, they’re uh yoga, a little bit wary of that, and I’m like, well, we’ve seen some
good changes happening here. Just go with it. They were supportive and my oldest sister
who had read some books on Yoga and Buddhism and she was very supportive and, there were
a couple of friends who understood, but I’d say most of them didn’t. And how did that feel having them disconnected
from you? It was a little disconcerting, but I was,
I was determined. Like I said, you know, I was like, I’m not
listening to anybody. I am not. I’m trying to be inner directed rather than
influenced by my peers, which I had been very much so in the high school and college. Sure. A lot of us are that way And so I got really focused on what I wanted
to know. Very cool. So how much of a role did your, your family
play in making any of the decisions? You said you’re getting focused and these
were the people supporting you, were they influencing you at all or were they just very
open to whatever direction you needed to go? Yeah. I’d say they were open to what direction I
want them to go, you know. And how important do you think it is to have
people around you that are like that? Oh, totally, totally important. You know, as a parent, I know if I get really
controlling, the kids are going to resist me. There’s, there’s nothing wrong with guiding
and giving your opinion and sharing what, you know, your own wisdom, but, but not getting
too forceful with that, is pretty wise. I totally, totally agree. All right, so let’s go back in time and puts
you back as a cigarette salesperson and let’s not find yoga. Where would you
be today? Well, that’s a good question. I think I still would’ve to quit. I probably would have followed a sales track,
you know, like a date I had was to sell music or records or something. At that time. Do you think you’d be as happy? No, I don’t think so. So today, when you look at what was important
in your life then and what’s important in your life now, what are the differences? Yeah. At that time selling cigarettes, I was kind
of into health, but I was also somewhat of a hedonist, you know, I thought, you know,
you just make money and pleasure, you know, that’s the way to go. But then that runs its course after awhile
you doesn’t feel so great, you know. You know, you got hangovers, then And they hurt more as every year goes by. So I would say that I went for the deeper
meaning, you know, which is for me – service. I felt called to service, call to call to,
helping others, transformation, tools for, you know, coping for awareness for, getting
clear on a direction in life, you know. Sure. Outside of Yoga, how do you get clear on the
direction in life? Well, I think there’s a lot of ways and I
think people have to ask themselves the right questions, you know, and then also try a lot
of things out and we find out what would be like by trying things out and experiencing
things and how this feeling and, and also our heroes, I think our big indication of
where we need to go or want to go. People we admire. Right. So as you went through this transformation
part one, and then today, who are your heroes? Who were my heroes? Wow. I think I think of Gandhi and Martin Luther
King. There’s certainly some therapists, Carl Young. I think the great mystics, Jesus, the Buddha,
Paramahansa Yogananda, a great Yogi. Yeah, I think people who made a difference
on a deep level, socially, politically, spiritually, but people who were, helping the community
are my heroes. So, you know, it’s, we have to raise our awareness
or consciousness. It’s not just about, I think we reached that
level in America or materialism doesn’t, doesn’t make you happy. There’s nothing wrong with money, but that’s
your only goal. I think it’s a dead end That’s going to be hollow. Yeah. Yeah. I mean money’s fine, but you know, the pursuit
of it only or to the exclusion of everything else I think is a path of ruin, you know,
at the desperation and narrowness. So you see a lot of people that are probably
sitting in that boat. They come to you for advice. What do you tell them? I mean, how do you get people who are unhappy
in life? I mean they’ve made one step. How do you get them to go to the next steps? The first step being come to see somebody,
talk to somebody. What did we do next? Well, my job is to ask questions, you know? And to inquire and, you know, what are your
passions, what are dreams that have you given up, what gives your life meaning? And then usually people would come up those
things and then I helped them with the obstacles, well I can’t do that or you know, this is
impractical. Or uh, you know, I can’t, I don’t know if
I can… self esteem issues. I don’t know if I could ever do that, but
it’s my job to help, you know, help them find a course or at least take the next step or
if nothing else, to develop these things on the side. You know, some people work a job and it’s
fine just to make a living and then you cultivate your inserts on the side and there’s nothing
wrong with that. But if we don’t end up depressed or anxious. So, how often do you see people who have a
dream that they’ve put on a shelf and then follow that dream and find themselves in a
significantly better place? That’s a good question. I would say a small amount of people. Most people are interested in getting out
of their pain and get a little more functional and some coping skills. So do you see that a lot of people just try
to get to a point of, okay, now I can move through life rather than live it to its fullest? Yeah. I mean, does that, would you think that’s
just part of our culture now that we’re comfortable being miserable and as long as we’re not too
miserable, we push forward? Yeah, I think that’s, that’s accurate. However, I just had, I just have a client
who, you know, I can’t say his name of course, but he was just slugging through his job and
I helped them make some decisions that he wanted to make and now the opportunities have
opened up in a huge way about things he is excited about. A dream that he kind of gave up on and these
things are coming in again. That’s exciting! So when people get. So when you get to see people say, okay, I’m
going to go past an okay level of misery that I can handle and pursue their dreams. What’s the experience that you see people
have? I mean, is that a common experience that they
have. In this guy’s particular case just to bring
it to earth, you know, I mean, you know, once he made the decision to leave his job that
he was barely functioning, that the world opened up again and he always to deal with
juggling and the transition and then the anxiety about the shifts. Financial concerns. But I think it’s really exciting to. Is it worth it? And he’s excited about. So he probably would say it say it’s worth. I think he would say it’s worth it. Totally. Totally. Very cool. That’s very cool. So if you were to be able to go out and just
show up someplace where somebody was stuck, which you get to do a lot and you could only
tell them one thing to do to try to move from where they are, what would that one thing
be? Well, you know, we live in our heads in this
culture. I would ask him to ask himself what he really,
really wants and checking into his gut and check into his heart. These days, I see my heart is more intelligent
than the mind Why’s that? I think there’s a knowingness. I think our soul lives in the heart. I think there’s a knowingness in the heart. A divine director that helps us if we ask
the question, if we willing to discover, if we’re open to discovering. And then those things get revealed. How hard is it to get to that point where
you can ask yourself those question? I think it’s about intention and focus. You know, if, if you have an intention, do
you really want to get there? You will. And there’s a million different avenues for
different people. I mean, there’s no one way, but life will
open up if you have an intention and you’re paying attention, life will open up, very
show you these things. So obviously, you’ve reached that point to
some degree. It’s an ongoing forever ongoing process. I would, of course, I know some of this from
talking with you many times. Where’s Phil going from what you can see today, Well, again, I’m called to service, so I’m
always working on myself, but it really, these days is becoming more simple as is it really
about being present. You can be present in your life and in the
moment. The divine lives in the moment. It doesn’t live in the past or the future. You can’t experience the divine in the future
or the past and the mind when you go into it, often you’re in the past to the future. So you can function in the present moment,
you know, much better. And there’s a knowingness that happens from
that. It’s not knowledge, if you turned the knowledge,
you’re back in the mind, but it’s trusting moment and trusting that you know what to
do next. So how do you get there? I think sitting still helps. I think meditation helps. There’s lots of things that help. Creativity helps some sort of a mind body
thing helps. But again, it’s your intention to be present
and then checking in several times a day. Am I present my really present or am I just
off in my mind thinking about this? Does that make sense? Yeah, it totally makes sense. I think. I think a lot of us get very stuck in the,
“okay, here’s where it didn’t go right yesterday. Here’s why it’s not going to go right here
in the next few hours.” Rather than being what’s going right now where
I am. We try to figure it out. We trying to strategize to avoid pain. We all have regrets about the past and anxiety
about the future, but those things rob us. The more time we spend there, the less we
are in the present moment, so the point is it takes some trust and faith, I guess, to
do that, but the more you crowd those things out and focus on the now all kinds of opportunities
and gifts will come. So it’s interesting. I don’t have a degree in psychology, but I
did study psychology in college for some time. How variant are you from a traditional psychologist,
do you think? Or is psychology moving in the direction where
you are? I hope it’s moving in the direction i am. I don’t know, the therapists I know are into
like mindfulness and presence, but I, I really don’t know how many, how many psychologists
across the country is becoming more widespread. I suppose there’s definitely a movement towards
that direction, but I don’t know actually. Fair enough. Cool. So, iif people wanted to learn a little bit
more about you, do you have a website they could go? Yes, I do. Okay. Very cool. Phil, I really appreciate you taking some
time. Are there any last thoughts you’d like to
leave our viewers with? So a lot of the people that are going to be
coming are going to be people who are probably stuck and who are looking for inspiration,
motivation to go from where they are today to where you, and so many other people who
have gotten to, in essence, live their dreams, figure out who they are. What would you like to tell them? Well, there’s always a way. There’s always, you always have choices. There’s always opportunities, but you have
to set your intention that you want to do something meaningful or something more true
to your own self and and so go for the truth. Go for the truth about who you are and what
you, what role or what thing you’re going to play in life, and if you have that intention,
things will be revealed to you. Very cool. Thank you Phil. I appreciate it. Thank you.

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