The Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea on how his relationship with his parents impacted his life and music career, and why he sees vulnerability as a strength
Dan Schawbel is a bestselling author, speaker, entrepreneur, and host of the "5 Questions with Dan Schawbel" podcast, where he interviews world-class humans by asking them just five questions in under 10 minutes.
He recently interviewed Flea, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' bassist and the author of "Acid for the Children."
Growing up, Flea wasn't close to his mother and considered his father a "difficult person," but they shaped his relationships and love for music. His desire for connection outside of his household was "a perfect setup for a rock band to start."
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Born in Melbourne, Australia, Michael Peter Balzary was nicknamed Flea as a teenager because of his inability to sit still. After moving to California, he attended Fairfax High School, where he started his lifelong friendship with Red Hot Chili Peppers lead singer Anthony Kiedis. Originally a jazz trumpet player, Flea later was introduced to rock music and bass guitar by Hillel Slovak. Flea helped found the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1983, and since then they have released 11 studio albums that have sold over 80 million copies worldwide. In 2012, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Rolling Stone's readers ranked Flea as the second-best bassist of all time. Flea is also the cofounder of the Silverlake Conservatory of Music, a nonprofit music education organization for underprivileged children. I was very excited to speak to Flea about his relationships, life experiences, and views that he wrote about in his new memoir "Acid for the Children'' for this podcast. In our conversation, Flea shares how the relationship he had with his mom affected future relationships, why his stepfather was a blessing and a curse, why he views his friends as his family, how vulnerability has been his strength, and his best career advice. Dan Schawbel: In your book, you said that you didn't have a deep connection with your mom growing up. How did that impact your future relationships? Flea: A lot. I think and I didn't really become aware of that until I was in my 30s, and I'm 57 now. I looked for love in romantic relationships in a way that came from a place of not feeling affectionate and close to my mother. That's not healthy in a romantic relationship to look for that type of attention. I'm so grateful to have consciously felt the pain of the relationship difficulties that I've had, and I've managed to grow beyond that. In one way, it was very difficult to go through those things. In another way, I'm grateful because it made me really look at myself and look at relationships, and forced me to want to evolve and change as a human being. Once I got past being angry about it, then I got to a real healthy place of forgiveness, and actually managed to forge a really beautiful relationship with my mother as an adult and in her later years. DS: Your stepfather seemed to be both a blessing and a curse for you and you. Can you describe some of the lessons you learned from sharing various experiences with them?
F: He was a difficult person. He was a drug addict and he was prone to really irrational fits of violence and stuff. But he was also an unbelievably great musician and he also loved me with everything that he knew. He was battling his own demons and had a really hard time. It was really scary being around him because we never knew when it was over. We were always kind of trepidatious that he might blow up and rage and destroy the house or whatever. When I started writing this book, I learned so much about myself and how I grew in my yearning, and my search to understand what happened when I was a kid. And I realized that I learned from him that when he played the upright bass, he was taking all the pain and torment of his own life and turning it into something beautiful. When I tried to write about it, I realized that that's what I do when I play music. If it wasn't for him, I would probably never have played music. He opened me up to all the limitless, infinite gifts that music has given me in terms of being a place to express myself and something to focus on, and community and friends and all of that stuff. People are complicated. There's never good guys and bad guys. They're always both. DS: I look at my friends as my family because I'm an only child. And you saw your friends as part of your family too. Can you explain those relationships and why they were so valuable? F: I grew up in a very unconventional and oftentimes difficult household at a place where I didn't feel safe. I also was completely unwatched as a kid. I was out in the street running wild, getting into trouble. The friends that I made were really where I looked for family, where I looked for that bond, that togetherness, and that unity that we all want. We're all yearning for connection, whether it's an intimate one-on-one relationship or a sense of community or just that feeling of togetherness and people being there for each other. There's a perfect setup for a rock band to start. Because we pretty much all came from broken homes and all were running around wild, and all found profound meaning in our friendship and to be able to translate that into music, the music became more than the sum of its parts. DS: Historically, people have always viewed vulnerability as a weakness, but you view it as a strength. Can you give me an example of a time when you were vulnerable, and how that drew you closer to someone and improved a relationship you had? F: Even if sometimes my vulnerability might be irrational, like I might have my feelings hurt by you and I feel bad and I'll say, "Dude, why did you say that? That really hurt my feelings?" And you'll be like, "Oh, I didn't mean it that way. I meant to say that what you're doing is really beautiful. You know?" And I took it as an insult because I heard it the wrong way. Then we forge a bond because we connected over something. This has been the case very often, in so many different ways, especially being in a communal creative situation with my band. We get our feelings hurt all the time. The willingness to be vulnerable and still express yourself and open yourself up to being hurt in a romantic relationship, a friendship relationship, a creative relationship, any collaborative effort of any kind takes courage, but it's where all love is. Writing this book has been an extraordinarily vulnerable feeling. But I think there's value in telling my story, and there was value for me in challenging myself to write a piece of literature that I thought could be a contribution to the world of books. It was scary because I thought there was a good chance I might fail, but I knew I had to do it on my own. I knew I had to have to be my voice and nobody else's and I had to sink or swim, so that's what I did. DS: What's your best piece of career advice? F: My best piece of career advice is to work from a place of love. DS: How do you go about doing that? F: The first step is asking yourself, is this act that I'm doing coming from love or is it coming from fear? If you're coming from love, it will guide you in the right direction. Listen to the audio podcast:
And watch the extended video interview:
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I'm a former professional matchmaker who found love while traveling solo — here's why it prepared me for a strong long-term relationship
Olivia Balsinger is a writer, traveler, and former professional matchmaker. She spent years solo traveling around...Olivia Balsinger is a writer, traveler, and former professional matchmaker. She spent years solo traveling around the world, and it taught her a lot about how to be in a relationship. Traveling tested Balsinger's sense of adventure, bravery, self-confidence, and, most significantly, self-love — attributes that are all extremely important to develop before jumping into a relationship. After spending half a decade counseling clients on love, she found her own at an Irish pub in Bangkok. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Almost two years ago, I sat wearing wrinkled elephant pants and sipping Chang beer outside an Irish pub on Khao San Road in Bangkok. I had spontaneously purchased a one-way ticket to Southeast Asia in an "Eat, Pray, Love," moment of inspiration, typical of my chaotic, perpetually nomadic (and perpetually single) lifestyle. I had been strung along, spit out, and washed ashore again in the romance department and swore I was taking a sabbatical from love. My number one rule for the trip was no romance. However, like most rules, this one was subject to change. I motioned to the waitress to ask for the check for my beer. She pointed to a tall, handsome man sitting across the room from me, and said he had already paid for my drink. And that's when the fairy tale began. I was supposed to head to Bali the next night on assignment, and he had only just arrived in Thailand that afternoon on his first solo trip (his name was Jonathan, from Denmark). But from the moment he pulled his chair up to my table, we knew. Fast forward to today: I have since moved to Copenhagen with him, am in the process of acquiring a new citizenship, and we've explored 17 countries together (with dozens more on our radar.) When we met, I was working as a successful matchmaker at Tawkify, one of the most coveted firms in the country. 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Although I was only in my early twenties, these questions would sometimes bother me, and often I started trying to pursue relationships for the wrong reasons. I was looking for someone to sweep me off my feet, or to tell me how wonderful I am and assure me that I'm worthy of love. But these relationships never lasted, because they lacked a solid, meaningful foundation. But without realizing it, my explorations had already been teaching me how to build a strong foundation. The bravery it takes to be a solo female traveler helped mold me into the independent woman I am today. When I worked as a professional matchmaker, half of my coaching was explaining to clients that their most important relationship has to be with the person in the mirror. If you are actively searching to be made whole by a partner, you aren't yet whole yourself. Jonathan later told me that I had seemed approachable that night in Bangkok because I looked comfortable being alone. It had taken years of mistakes, failures, and lessons learned while solo traveling to feel confident in my own skin. But once you have it, confidence like that shows. There's nothing wrong with making the first move Your Instagram is likely saturated with photos displaying your bravery and adventurous spirit when traveling. Yet for some reason, when it comes to our emotions, we tend to hide behind a protective shield. Traveling solo is the ultimate opportunity to break out of your romantic comfort zone, as there is less risk involved. If your smile at the cutie across the bar isn't returned, there's no harm done, and you don't have to worry about running into them at your local grocery store next week. Plus, if they are also traveling solo, there is a better chance they are open to new experiences and engaging with fellow wanderlusters. When I worked professionally as a matchmaker, I would remind clients not to be intimidated to ask their love interest out. It's better to find out if there is mutual interest before your brain goes down the thought spiral of "what ifs." To develop connections, you must be open to your surroundings and new opportunities, and also continue to know your worth if the relationship doesn't work out. Travel can make your romance more serious Frequent globetrotters know that travel isn't always as seamless as social media likes to portray. It can be stressful trying to manage budgets, logistics, and itinerary details for solo traveling, and traveling with a partner can be complicated in different ways. When I met Jonathan and we decided to ditch our plans and travel together, we needed to have logistical discussions that I previously presumed were saved for serious couples, not perfect strangers. Which hotel can we afford together? Should I purchase the plane tickets with my points and you pay me back? 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My rationale was that you're more inclined to feel comfortable with your date when you are interacting in a playful setting, such as mini golf, instead of sitting stiffly at a five-star restaurant, nervous about spilling a drop of soup. If you can explore the world alongside your partner, it makes those memories that much more precious when you reminisce about them years later, curled up on the sofa. With a partner, the stories you make while traveling together can be valued for years to come. I gained my independence, bravery, and confidence by traveling alone for many years, and I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. Those solo experiences allowed me to grow to love and put myself first, and prepared me to be a confident and caring partner. Today I am still that person who aspires to tell stories visiting every country I can, and now I can enjoy traveling in the company of an equally independent partner. Olivia Balsinger is a writer, traveler, PR pro, and former professional matchmaker. Connect with her on Instagram.
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