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Valley writer Austin Vickers aims to alter perceptions with People vs. The State of Illusion

Published: Friday, September 9, 2011

Updated: Friday, September 9, 2011 15:09

Austin Vickers

Austin Vickers wrote and produced "People vs. The State of Illusion."

Austin Vickers is a Valley-based writer, producer and life coach – a career that came after years as general counsel for large, international corporations. He wrote and produce "The People vs. the State of Illusion" which opens at Harkins Camelview on Friday, September 9.

He recently spoke by e-mail with College Times.

College Times: Let's start with the most obvious question. You've been a corporate attorney; and then a motivational speaker and personal coach. What lead you to want to direct; and to some extent, star in a docudrama?

Austin Vickers: My huge ego. And I am not even kidding. I learned a long time ago to not fight my ego, but rather integrate it into my life and work. Inspiring people and helping others is a big part of who I am, so when I can find projects that integrate both my altruistic side and my ego, and happily satisfy both, I feel integrated, focused, passionate and effective at helping others. A win-win for all of me.

The film focuses heavily on the impact of stress in our lives; arguing that it triggers a host of problems, most notably driving us into a repetitive pattern were we turn to addictive behavior to calm our dissatisfaction. And yet, you worked as general counsel for a massive, international firm - arguably one of the most stressful jobs in existence, one that, by its very nature - forces you to engage in daily conflict. Was there a point in your life, where you realized you needed a change?

Yes, absolutely. There is a saying in the speaking world "you teach what you need to learn." This was true for me as well. Going through my own issues and learning how to deal with my stress formed the framework for which I could teach my solutions to others. What I learned along the way, is while it looks like stress is caused by these external factors such as our jobs, relationships, etc., in fact, it is an internal issue that is generated by our perceptions. And once we realize this, and learn how to shift our perceptions, the external world "magically" seems to change.

I imagine the move from general counsel to going off and becoming a motivational speaker and writer comes with some severe financial changes. Were you afraid when you made the move; how did you overcome that fear?

Um, how many movie tickets have we sold so far? LOL. I always feel fear, and I still do. I think fear is a normal part of our human experience. I think the mistake that gets made is the idea that we need to overcome it. So we try, which usually means repression, and then we find ourselves in a heap of psychological and physical problems that come from repression. I think the trick is to integrate fear into our experience. Feel it, but then choose to respond differently to it. Using the metaphor of the movie, fear can either be a jailor, or a counselor. I prefer the latter. So I always feel fear, and did leaving the practice of law to do this work, but I try to stay present and allow that fear to lead me to reasonable, balanced choices that avoid unnecessary risks. But I never let it prevent me from pursuing my passion or ideals.

The film is very timely in that it addresses the fact that most people feel "lucky" just to have their jobs. When you meet people who tell you this; but at the same time are clearly unhappy - that their work is killing them - what advice do you give them?

I am glad they feel lucky actually. Feeling lucky is an attitude of appreciation, and appreciation is a really great process and pattern of thought towards life, one that usually encourages people to want to give us more. So I would encourage that kind of process. But, if they are truly unhappy and feel like work is killing them, then I tell them that all of the science I have ever studied on the subject shows that what they are perceiving is what is real for them. So if they feel like work is killing them, it probably is. Then they either have two choices. They can learn to re-perceive their work in a way that will make them feel that their work is incredible and making them feel passionate and healthy, or they should leave and find something to do for work that does empower them. The problem in most cases is that "work" is not really the problem. The problem is that nobody has ever taught them how to even be aware of their perceptions, let alone shift them. Until they learn, the problem usually will continue to show up in their lives no matter what they are doing for work. And if they don't change the pattern, it will ultimately kill them.

Your film quickly shifts to perception; how our brains create our reality. I love this topic; and the mathematical idea that we only process 2,000 of the possible 4 billion stimuli we receive really puts this into perspective. I think what you're getting us here, is that, somehow, we can change our truth, or change our reality, based on what we consciously choose to perceive and be aware of. I am correct? Can you expand on this a bit?

Yes, absolutely correct, and I love this topic, too. The truth is that what we are even capable of perceiving in the world or of any circumstance or person is so extremely small, closer to zero as a percentage, than even one one-thousandths of 1 percent, that the emotional experience of what we are seeing in the world and people out there is really more true of us than what it is we think we are experiencing. Let me give you an example. Its funny, I just read a review of my movie from two guys that work for the same publication. Both attended the same day and in the same theater. One really liked the movie and felt it was "thought-provoking" and "emotionally compelling" and the other thought the movie was really boring. So who is right? Well, the truth is, their perceptions tell us more about them as people than it does the movie itself. The movie was written and designed, like all of my work, to reflect back who people are and cause them to look at themselves. So what people see in the movie, like anything in life, is really more indicative of them, than the movie itself. That is why one person will love it, and another may hate it. Although difficult to follow, if we showed them the film 20 years from now, my guess is they would both have an entirely new reaction to it. Why? Of course the film would not have changed, but they would have changed. So they would be seeing the film (and the world) through a different set of eyes, and thus the external experience would be different also.

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