The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “To truly live a clean and connected life, it is crucial to learn how to feel and process our pain” with Brendan Burns and Candice Georgiadis

To truly live a clean and connected life, it is crucial to learn how to feel and process our pain, rather than stay distracted and use substances or possessions to cope. Some good first steps are to journal regularly and begin meditation, both great ways to face and move through your pain directly, rather than soothe the pain in unhealthy ways such as addiction.

As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brendan Burns. Burns holds his Law Degree and M.B.A. from Cornell University, yet his story and upbringing began in a far more desperate place. On the outside, it would seem he had it all in his 20s — a career in Investment Banking and as a Hedge Fund investor on Wall Street. Now an Entrepreneur, Speaker, and High-Performance Coach, Brendan is on a mission to help others, save lives, and give back. His Business, Life, and Relationship Coaching Programs as well as his live events and destination retreats are for anyone. They have particularly helped people who have suffered abuse, trauma, or drug addiction and want to escape that nightmare and start living their best life. For example, he successfully helped a young woman end an addiction to heroin in just two sessions. Brendan has worked with professional athletes, including former NFL and MLB players, as well as C-level executives and clients from over 60 countries on 6 continents. Brendan manages the @brendanhburns account on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/brendanhburns/), which has more than 100,000 followers, and he hosts The Brendan Burns Show, which is featured on iTunes and Spotify.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

While working as an Investment Banker, there was an analyst in my group named Ronen. One night around 11:00 P.M, Ronen and I received an email from our Vice President commanding us to meet in the conference room immediately and to prepare for a, “long night ahead.” At the time, I was actually hiding in an empty room on the 64th Floor of our Manhattan skyscraper editing my resume and planning my exit from this job. The email I’d received, like many before, implied that I wasn’t going home until 4:00 A.M….if I was lucky. I headed towards the conference room prepared for a long night filled with Excel spreadsheets and subtle emotional abuse.

When I came downstairs, I found Ronen having a stress-induced seizure triggered by many consecutive late nights and all-nighters. Someone from the group had called 9–1–1, and soon paramedics carrying a stretcher and medical equipment showed up to cart this recent Ivy League graduate to the nearest Manhattan hospital. I sat in my chair in bewilderment and stared at the mayhem. I was in shock.

For the first time in my life I asked myself, “What is life all about? At what point does sacrificing my health, my relationships, and my sanity become too great a price to pay for financial gain or being able to say that I am an Investment Banker on Wall Street?”

As they carried Ronen off to the nearest emergency room, I realized it was time for me to make changes in my career and in my life. That incident, coupled with a blindsided breakup from my then girlfriend and additional family drama, led me to the Self Help section at my local Barnes & Noble. There, I found powerful books and tools which ignited my own personal growth journey. As I learned and grew from my own personal transformation, I then began sharing these tools in person and on Instagram account, which grew from 0 to 100K+ followers in a year, and this journey evolved into a new career.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

After leaving the Investment Banking job, I joined a Hedge Fund where I worked for approximately 3 years while doing deep inner work on myself. I realized that my passion was become an Influencer, Speaker, and High-Performance Life & Business Coach. This was motivated by the influence that mentors like Tony Robbins and Jack Canfield had on me through their home study programs. As I grew my business and launched an online course, I found out that a former professional NFL athlete purchased one of my online courses, and he and his girlfriend listened to my entire program while a road trip to the Grand Canyon.

We built a relationship and I invited him onto my podcast, The Brendan Burns Show, which is available on iTunes and Spotify (https://www.brendanhburns.com/podcast). Then, later that year, he invited me to attend the Super Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia with him. A few days before the game, I was attending a player networking event in Atlanta when out of the corner of my eye I saw Jack Canfield, who is one of my biggest mentors and the person who completely changed my life with his personal growth program that I took.

Even though the room was filled with former NFL athletes and even “Dr. J,” Julius Erving, one of the best basketball players in the history of the NBA, the only person I wanted to talk to at that was Jack Canfield. Just as I realized who he was, Jack left the room. I felt disappointed, thinking I had just lost my chance to meet my hero. Luckily, he came back into the room and I was able to tell Jack my story and explain how he changed my life. He was incredibly kind and generous with his time, and we were able to talk more about our lives and careers. I left the conversation elated and so excited to continue growing both personally and professionally. It was a powerful life experience.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The first time I met Tony Robbins was after one of his events in the New York City area. Like Jack Canfield, Tony has had an enormous influence on my personal development, and I had the opportunity to come on stage and speak with him one-on-one.

His programs and advice deeply impacted my life, so I was naturally excited to meet him. I also happened to be wearing a name tag that I received at the beginning on his event. He came up to me and gave me a big hug (he is 6-foot-7) and said to me, “What’s your name?” I froze in that moment and forgot my own name, so I looked down at my name tag and read off it and said, “Oh, it’s Brendan.” And he and I both laughed about it.

What I learned from that experience is to always be yourself and practice inner presence no matter who you are interacting with or what the external situation happens to be. After meeting Tony Robbins, Jack Canfield, pro athletes, and other notable people, I’ve learned that we are all people. I also learned not to play myself down. We’re all special, we all have a purpose, we all have great talents, and there is no need to be nervous when interacting with a very accomplished or notable person. The majority that I’ve met with are very kind, gracious, open and warm. I’ve learned to be myself with whoever I’m meeting with.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

My Instagram account first took off when I began sharing my travel and food photos. I love traveling and that allowed me to obtain my first 15,000–20,000 followers on Instagram. However, I then began to share content related to my personal development journey of overcoming abuse, trauma, addiction and depression and my account took off from 20,000 to well over 100,000 followers. Now, my Instagram is primarily focused on sharing inspirational and motivational messages with my audience.

It’s also a great place to connect with people — I’ve had many people reach out to me about coaching or my programs such as Mastery Academy through Instagram and other social media platforms. We have a fantastic private group coaching program and community called Mastery Academy (https://courses.brendanhburns.com/p/mastery-academy),and I see people impacted by my mission every day. My mission is to share my best business and self-development tools to help people achieve high levels of success, fulfillment, and most importantly, happiness.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

I have a client who saw my content and got in touch with me regarding her daughter’s heroin addiction. After working with her for just a few sessions, we were able to get her daughter off of heroin and into an outpatient rehab program using my coaching strategies. It’s not easy to set boundaries with loved ones and we often enable their addictive behaviors without realizing it. I helped my client break the pattern and it was an extremely powerful experience. To this day I receive messages and see social media posts of her celebrating her newfound life.

Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

When I began my own journey of personal development, I did a lot of deep inner work. As I healed my past and reclaimed my true self, I began to move away from the Wall Street culture of money, drugs, and dysfunction. Yet I was afraid of letting go of this identity and life that I had known for so long, and I couldn’t give myself the final push to get sober and healthy.

I received my final wake-up call when my hedge fund coworker and best work friend, Jessie, lost his life to a drug addiction. I knew the job was taking an emotional toll on him, but I had no idea that he was using drugs. He continued to show more and more unhappiness with his work and life, but I had no idea how severe it was. His passing left me angry and devastated. And as I mourned his loss, I couldn’t believe I was allowing myself to stay in a situation that could lead to such tragedy. I quit it all in a heartbeat — the money, the drugs, the dysfunction.

Leaving my steady paycheck was scary. Yet two months after Jessie’s passing I never felt so alive as the day I walked out of those office building doors and said goodbye to Wall Street forever. I immediately bought a one-way ticket to Hanoi, Vietnam and began traveling and growing my Instagram account as a fun pet project, assuming I would come back to New York in 6 months or so and find a more quality-of-life finance job such as working at a Mutual Fund or in the Finance Department of a company with a good culture.

However, during my trip, I started posting a lot of travel content as well as personal growth tools that I had been implementing in my own life. When my Instagram account @brendanhburns blew up to more than 100,000 followers, I realized there was an opportunity to monetize it and use the platform to share my passion, personal development information, and use it as the foundation to start my own coaching and speaking business (https://www.brendanhburns.com). It became abundantly clear to me how much I enjoyed helping people, and I knew that was the life I wanted to pursue.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

1. More awareness on Mental Health

There have been great strides made in Mental Health awareness in recent years, yet as long as there are negative stigmas around getting support, we can do more.

2. Treating mental health holistically — instead of defaulting to medication

A big part of my coaching approach is focusing on the root of the problem instead of trying to cover it up. While medication can help in certain instances, our first attempt should be to treat mental health holistically.

3. Funding programs and people in the personal development and self-improvement space

I’m a firm believer that the best investment you can make is in yourself, and one of the best ways to do that is get a coach or therapist. However, these resources can be expensive and I would love to see that space open and accessible to everyone in the world.

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

I operate with a “Freemium” model where I share a lot of video and audio content on my social media accounts and podcast to help people for free. It gets my content into the hands of more people and it’s easier to support people through video versus a written post. Ultimately you want to connect with people the best you can, so exploring different ways to share your message is a good way to start.

My podcast, The Brendan Burns Show (https://brendanhburns.com/podcast), has been integral in advancing my cause. Hearing stories from people around the world with similar missions is very inspiring and has created a lot of valuable connections. You have to connect with people to advance any cause.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1. You have permission to do whatever you want and are most passionate about

You have one life and you should live it in a way that makes you the most happy and fulfilled.

2. Be vulnerable and put yourself out there

Vulnerability is the only way we can truly grow and succeed.

3. Trust that everything will work out 100% if you put in the work with the right strategy

As long as you are trying your best and constantly striving to improve, things will fall into place how they’re meant to.

4. Have fun and take care of yourself

You can’t pour from an empty cup. What’s the point of working hard if you never get to enjoy your life?

5. Focus on human connection, especially when a solopreneur

Don’t get into the mindset that you have to do everything on your own — no one accomplishes anything great by themselves. There’s a reason that Oscar speeches always go overtime…there are a lot of people to thank.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The movement I want to inspire is Using our mobile devices and social media for personal development. It would be great to see more people following accounts similar to mine that are focused on positivity, optimism, personal development and self-improvement for the greater good.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain.”

-Eckhart Tolle

During my first few years working on Wall Street in New York City, I used a lot of externalities to avoid my pain. Expensive restaurants, excessive alcohol consumption, international travel and shopping were some of the main ways I avoided my true emotions and pain. I very fortunately picked up a copy of Eckhart Tolle’s, The Power of Now, which is one of the most influential and life-changing books I have ever read.

In Tolle’s guide to enlightenment, he discusses how addiction doesn’t actually have anything to do with the substance, product or distraction that is weighing you down. He writes:

“Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain. Whatever the substance you are addicted to — alcohol, food, legal or illegal drugs, or a person — you are using something or somebody to cover up your pain.”

Many of us are taught from an early age that feeling or expressing emotion is a sign of weakness. Women are “allowed” to feel sadness, and men anger, but what about shame, fear, guilt, insecurity, loneliness, and pain?

To truly live a clean and connected life, it is crucial to learn how to feel and process our pain, rather than stay distracted and use substances or possessions to cope. Some good first steps are to journal regularly and begin meditation, both great ways to face and move through your pain directly, rather than soothe the pain in unhealthy ways such as addiction.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Eckhart Tolle. His spiritual writings, such as The Power of Now and A New Earth, were extremely powerful and impactful on my growth on a deep level, I would want to ask him more detailed questions about his teachings, what his daily practice looks like today, and build a relationship with someone I perceive to be living a peaceful, purpose-driven, and impactful life. His philosophy and view on life seems extremely spiritually mature to me, and it’s a powerful lens that if humanity looked through could change the world in a way that could impact billions or people. Incorporating his practice into my life has been extremely powerful with working through emotional pain and breaking my addiction to my mind.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brendanhburns/

Podcast: https://www.brendanhburns.com/podcast (The Brendan Burns Show on iTunes and Spotify)

Website: https://www.brendanhburns.com

Publicist: Carolyn Barth of https://digitalcontentstrategy.com

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “To truly live a clean and connected life, it is crucial… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.