BLOG*May 8, 2012

Greg Montana is an amazing life coach. I met Greg years ago in one of his focus groups, when he was refining ways to deliver the message of Heart Virtue. A heart virtue is a quality inherent in everyone, but not everyone is awake to it. His book, “Your Pain Is Your Credential – Unlock Your Heart Virtue” is a powerful guide to finding this core purpose inside you.


My favorite video of Greg talking about the heart of his work.

I stress the importance of the ancient Greek aphorism, “Know Thyself” to my students. It is a powerful place to live your life from. My work with Greg inspired me to share his philosophy in my workshops and one of the reasons I recommend everyone read his book before diving into the Artist As Brand® course. It is a gift when he speaks at my workshops. The following interview is filled with amazing stories and wisdom:

GS: You were on the road to corporate nirvana when you dropped out and became a monk for eight years.
Tell us more.

GM: As a monk, I had some extraordinary realizations: The first was on the day I entered the monastery…it was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. I was in the passenger seat, driving through the big black gates towards the entrance of the monastery. Just as the car passed through the gates, I heard a genuine deep male voice say, “Welcome Home.”

I could hear the voice from all directions. It was so tangible, I turned to the driver and said, “Did you hear that?” “Hear what?” he questioned. I realized the voice I heard, was just for me. My heart was thrilled that day. I was so grateful to be home at last. Those two words, Welcome Home, got me through many doubts and trials of being in the monastery.

As I became more passionate about Heart Virtues in the monastery, I became a bit of a problem for the monks. The rules of being a monk are simple and strict, and there is plenty of ancient scripture to study without a young monk adding his ideas to the mix, but I was bold about the importance of the Heart Virtues work and, consequently, was asked to leave. I argued for a few minutes, but it felt like I was trying to delay the tide. The meeting was adjourned. I went back to my “cell” and had the most bizarre two hour sobbing/laughing spell of my life. I felt horribly rejected, and wonderfully relieved.

Two weeks later, I found myself sitting in a rental car with all my possessions in the back seat and the trunk. As I approached the giant black iron gates, through which I had entered eight years earlier, I pulled over and stopped before exiting. I tried somehow to turn being kicked out into something other than what it was. I imagined being a hero and going back in; unpacking my things and going back to work.

“That’s it!” I thought to myself, ”It’s a test!”

I got out of my car and went straight back into the office of the old monk. I spoke sternly, “I’m not leaving. I am going to unpack my things and go back to work.” He was silent for a moment. Just as I was about to consider his silence as consent, he said, “You took four vows, did you not?”

“Yes.” I responded.
“And what are they?” he said dryly.
“Chastity, Simplicity, Loyalty, and Obedience,” I replied.

He looked squarely at me, “Consider this to be an act of obedience.”

I went back to the car. While I was sitting there, I stared at the giant black gates. It felt like I was trying to win a chess 156 Your Pain is Your Credential game after being checkmated. As I sat there in the car staring at that gate, I reached deep inside myself for some explanation. “I know that voice was real! It’s the most real thing I have ever experienced! How can I leave? This is home… I’ll just have to pull over and sob. Perhaps a half-hour passed, my mood became dark and heavy. “What will I do?! Where will I go?!”

Then, somehow, I just surrendered. I stopped looking back at my past and looked out those black gates to the future. I started the car and rolled slowly toward the gate. The next sixty seconds would change my life forever. As I approached those black gates, a warm peace started to move through my body. Seconds later, it was accompanied by a flood of joy. As I passed through the gates, a giant rush of love went up through my body and I heard the same beautiful voice say the exact same words, “Welcome Home.”

Every cell of my body was singing! I was dancing in my seat as I drove down the winding mountain road. I thought I was leaving all my brothers and sisters for an empty world. In reality, I was leaving behind the few hundred for a few billion. I had been in total delusion, thinking God is more present in monasteries than in the world.

GS: I love that story! Your book “Your Pain Is Your Credential – Unlock Your Heart Virtue manifested out of this experience.

GM: When I left the monastery I took about a year to transition back into the world. The thought of seeing everyone have clarity and confidence about why they came to this earth haunted me so I started offering private client sessions and the most powerful sessions were identifying people’s Heart Virtues.

After presenting the same content several hundred times, it became obvious that a book would be far more efficient. The book contains amazing new self-help principles derived from the laws of Quantum Physics and a complete outline of the process people go through to identify their Heart Virtue. Then there is a 10 minute video at that summarizes the book and people can take an online test to identify their Heart Virtue. Doing so connects them to the hero inside them and gives them a clear and concise sentence that represents the core of their purpose.

GS: I recommend your book to all my students. It really helps clarify the process of finding their core purpose and is a perfect first step into doing the work. It is also wonderful to see the realization in people’s eyes and in their body when they get it.

What is the key to empowered independence in life and art?

GM: To pay attention to what is going on inside your chest and gut as you create. True art is an expression of the heart’s experiences in life. We read bumper stickers that say HE WHO DIES WITH THE MOST TOYS WINS or ON YOUR DEATHBED, YOU WON’T BE SAYING, I SHOULD HAVE SPENT MORE TIME AT THE OFFICE. I’ve been to nursing homes and seen people rotting from living reasonable lives. Art and life must be unreasonable, and break rules in a way that reaches inside people (including the rule-makers). A good sign that you are on your authentic path of empowered independence is when you share an idea and everyone tells you it won’t work. That’s when you know it’s YOURS!

GS: Beautiful. Knowing when you own it is empowerment. Where in the individual does this art reside?

GM: In the place in the body that feelings are the strongest. Even if those feelings are numb and painfully empty. We are not billions of people living in one world, we are one people living in billions of worlds – and art reconnects us by accurately expressing our experiences.

GS: Connecting your talent with success is another form of empowerment. How do you define success? Please share one of your favorite success stories as a life coach.

GM: I think when our endeavors create a rewarding experience for others and actually yield more to us than we put into them because others deeply value what we have created, we consider ourselves successful. Most gifted artists are not willing to spend the thousands of hours it takes to merge the brilliance of their craft with the desires of consumers. Those that are successful enough to support themselves with their art are willing to realize that their talents are for expressing love in a way that reaches others, not merely for their own self-pleasure. True success is to accomplish both.

GS: Right on.

GM: Perhaps my most rewarding experiences was with a client I worked with in a rehab center. I should preface by saying that when I was 2 years old, my parents divorced because my father drank too much, and when I was 9 my father died drunk in a car accident. I had met him only once when I was 5 for a few days. Forty years later, I was working with alcoholics in a recovery center.

One of them was a man who I facilitated in discovering his Heart Virtue of “Nurturing Innocence,” and as soon as he saw that he realized he had to clean himself up and return to his wife and two-year-old daughter. About a year later I ran into him again at a reunion. He came walking toward me across the lawn. He was holding his little girl’s hand. When he reached me, he knelt down on one knee, looked at his daughter and said, “I want to introduce you to the man who helped save daddy’s life.” In that moment, the pain of my past made sense. I didn’t grow up having my dad, but this little girl would. On a visceral level, I got…how my pain, was my credential.

GS: That brought a tear to my eye. I emphasize to my students the importance of creating alignments with like minded individuals. What have been some of your favorite collaborations?

GM: I’ve always believed it is self-sabotage to share one’s dreams with people that do not have the power, desire or resources to make our dreams come true… and that if we share our dreams with one person every day that has the power, desire and resources to make our dreams come true, our life will be truly charmed. My favorite collaborations are with people that have such a powerful and beautiful reputation that they make most people nervous.

GS: Art is like fashion, it changes and morphs throughout the years. Any suggestions for an artist’s sustainability?

GM: Stay out of your head and into your gut. Check in with your torso at least once an hour, continuously if possible. Say yes to at least one project each year that takes you out of your comfort zone. Target working with people you admire, and accept projects that make you feel like you will have to stretch or compromise. Then learn from those you admire knowing that if you don’t like their ways you can return to your old ways after the lessons are learned. Eventually you will recognize opportunities that invite what’s authentic for you.

GS: It’s interesting that in chinese martial arts and medicine they talk about the power of Qi being held in the Dantien (in the navel or lower dantian). This is lower than the heart chakra but as we know it’s all connected.

Authenticity connected to opportunity is a wonderful combination. Are you happy and content with your career, or do you desire something more?

GM: I’m not sure I’ve ever had a career as I’ve been a solopreneur for 30 years.

I am not at all content with being content but I am happiest when I stand boldly, being myself and reaching out to be unreasonably caring. Lately, I’ve been very courageous with lots of curiosity, so I’ve been pretty happy. This changes weekly and I think it’s a big mistake for anyone to think they will “one day be happy”… as if it’s a state one can reach. Life, like art, is boring without contrast.

GS:  There may be a danger in becoming too comfortable, and of course going it alone does not allow much time to dally. Onward and upward I always say. What has been your greatest accomplishment?

GM: My marriage with Tamara is my greatest blessing, but I’m not sure I would call it an accomplishment. So, second place goes to mastering the 3 skills I discovered all heroes had: 1) Knowing my Self (through 15,000 hours of meditation), 2) Speaking my Truth (that every living entity is aching to express an authentic virtue)  3) Giving my Gift (Creating a very accessible process for people to identify their Heart Virtue)

Greg and Tamara are a team.
GS: I was wondering when Tamara was going to make an appearance! Wow, 15,000 of meditation, talk about introspection. Please offer some final pearls of wisdom for artists and creative souls everywhere.

GM: You know how, when you are having a nightmare and it seems totally real?… and then when you wake up, you exclaim, “Oh Thank God!… it was just a dream!” Well, the day you wake up, you will say, with great relief, “Oh Thank God!…. it was just a life!” So, do something courageous every day… and when you get stuck, give away something you are afraid to let go of.

Thank you Greg, for your light and inspiration. You are a gift. Learn more about Heart Virtue and the empowerment that is yours on the Heart Virtue website.

Onward and upward!