Recently Frank Ferrante, author of May I Be Frank: How I Changed My Ways, Lost 100 Pounds, and Found Love Again was kind enough to talk with me for over an hour covering all sorts of topics peppered with lots of laughter and his trademark wisecracks (as seen in the documentary May I Be Frank), usually at the expense of himself… which I can appreciate, having the same sense of humor. I can’t publish what he said about wheat grass but it’s safe to say he never quite got used to the taste! However, raw foods are still a big part of his diet. Both were introduced to him when he decided to participate in a detox program guided by his friends at Cafe Gratitude, the subject of the aforementioned documentary.
As you may have read in part one of our interview, the whole journey started with an expressed wish to find true love. Frank did met someone very lovely while touring with the film but decided not to go into detail about that part of the story because after sharing so much, he needed to keep some things private and close to his heart. Fair enough from a guy who allowed himself to be filmed while on the toilet!!
I also asked about his thoughts on the controversy surrounding Cafe Gratitude, which was forced to close a few Bay Area locations after being sued by employees who were required to attend and pay for half of Landmark Education’s forums. He didn’t really know too much about all of that but definitely rates Landmark classes and their ‘hard sell tactics’ right up there with wheat grass!
Frank can be reached at mayispeakfrankly.com and is available for group bookings, screenings or individual coaching. Here is the second part of our discussion:
In the beginning of your book you discussed the idea that the mind (the same thing that seems to sometimes torture us as you previously mentioned) can also be capable of healing the body and creating change through visualization. This seems like the easiest thing in the world but also the hardest because it requires a leap of faith.
Frank: Again, that is not new. It’s a type of meditation. I don’t think a lot of people realize that if you have a negative thought, over and over, it creates a brain pathway. By the same token, if you have a positive thought repeated it creates a new pathway.
Emerson talked about this; he says if you are going to create a path you have to walk down it many times. It’s the same with the brain… this is where a practice comes in, because it’s not just one time. Which is again counter to our culture, we want everything yesterday… we want it in little sound bites. Really, that’s a shallow approach. It takes more than that.
Another way you mention to heal the heart is through compassion and remaining open. Is this something we are all able to feel unless we build up an amour against it to protect ourselves?
Frank: Yes, it’s an illusion… there is a price for everything. For example, if you fall in love and that person breaks your heart… there are a couple of ways you can go…. you deal with it and get back on the horse. Some people don’t. They may go in and out of relationships but they never open up their heart again. And it’s true, they will never get hurt. But look at what they’re missing.
Like Shakespeare said ‘it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all’. It’s definitely a painful thing and yet would you really want to go through life without (love)? You can but what is the price? I’m not prepared to do that.
What about those who are biologically incapable of feeling empathy like sociopaths? Sometimes it seems like there are a lot of them in today’s world with its wars, financial schemes, murder and chaos. How do we show them compassion without falling victim to them?
Frank: Well, first of all I’d like to respectively disagree that there are more of them. I think that the squeaky wheel gets the oil so they get the press. I think that if the world was dominated by sociopaths, it would be a different world. I think there is an enormous amount of kindness, love and generosity in the world.
Right now we are seeing a dark side in a way we’ve never seen before…. well, I don’t know if that is true either. If you were a Jew in Poland in 1939, I think you would be hard pressed to say we are all right where we are supposed to be and everything happens for a reason.
We do have an enormous amount of heavy debts and energy in the world. I believe there is a way out of the darkness, I don’t have an answer but I know collectively we can deflect it. There will always be a shadow side. I think when the shadow is gone there will no longer be a need for us to be here. We will all ascend.
But right now, violence is very effective. That is why there is so much of it. I also think that the violence we see in the world like in the Middle East, Nigeria and all the suffering in Syria is the absolute absence of the divine feminine. I’m not saying that to sound like a nice cotton candy hippie guy but I really profoundly believe that.
You see these people like Isis and its ravaging humanity. Feminine is the opposite of that, it’s about nurturing… and I’m not trying to paint this with broad brushstrokes and make it so easy. I think we need to do that without losing the masculine. I hear women complain all the time that men are too effeminate, but there is a balance there somewhere that if we don’t achieve we are doomed.
I’ve heard you mention in interviews for the film that in order to be a good citizen you have to really take care of yourself, improve yourself and be in touch with your mind, body and spirit. Only then can we deal with the outside world.
Frank: Well, I think it has to be simultaneous. That whole thing about you can’t love someone else before you love yourself, well it is pithy and abbreviated and really over-simplification.
The example I use is that when I was still drinking… you know, I loved my children but I certainly wasn’t present the way I would have liked to have been. I still had the capacity to love but I was greatly inhibited by my inability to deal with my own wounded self.
But to say that you can’t love anyone else until you love yourself, maybe not with all the colors that are possible is a blanket statement that does a dis-service to people. It takes practice! What if you waited until you had all your shit together until you had your first date, you’d be 80! With every relationship you learn. The way I was when I was in love at 14 is certainly very different when I was 50. It was a very long arduous arch (Franks says with a laugh)!
But you got there!
Frank: No, I’m still working on it just like everyone else. I think people see someone on stage and think they’ve got it all together. It’s not true; no matter who it is or how famous the speaker is… they put their pants on one leg at a time. And I guarantee you they have issues! It doesn’t mean that they don’t have a wonderful message.
I want my teachers to be imperfect. But it seems like there is a tendency in the New Age movement to glorify and fawn over ‘gurus’. You certainly have got a lot of attention because of the movie. How do you keep your ego from getting in the way of your mission?
Frank: I have friends in my life that will help set my compass straight. I’m very, very lucky to have them! This recognition came very late in life. It’s not like I’m 25 years old and suffering from a terrible case of testosterone poisoning.
I have an advantage to getting this recognition at this point in my life because I know what is important. My goal isn’t to have a Maserati or a Rolex. It’s not about that at all. I’m in a different place and again it doesn’t mean I have it all together.
I think there is something really wonderful about getting older. It’s not valued in our society but I don’t want to be 25 anymore. I like being in my 40s.
Frank: I don’t want to be 25 but I’d love it if certain things didn’t hurt. I’d also like to have a more amicable experience with gravity! I’d like us to be pals!
You got a point there, I can’t argue with that!
Frank: I forget how old I am until I look in to the mirror. I went to bed last night and I was 17 years old. I woke up this morning, I have a kid, she’s how old?! What, there’s two? Wait a minute! How did that happen?!
Getting back to the book, the most interesting part of your story happened after the Cafe Gratitude raw food experiment was over and the cameras stopped rolling. You had a terrible relapse on prescription pills after seventeen years of sobriety and then began the daily hard work of recovery. Why wasn’t this covered in the documentary?
Frank: Actually, in a way it is. You got to keep in mind it was three young guys in their early 20s and it was an experiment (that was the key word). After 42 days, that was enough. They were really done. Also I didn’t really realize how much trouble I was in till a little later.
The way it’s covered in the film is that in the end it does say (in a written epilogue) that I relapsed on prescription drugs. You should hear people gasp when they read that! Because they want to believe that in a sort of 1950s bento box movie kind of way that the good guy gets the girl, the bad guy gets caught, and we live happily ever after.
I believe it’s really important for me to convey that transformation is not linear. It’s not my experience or anyone that I know that we get from point A to point B without any interruption. Life is not a self-contained bento box with everything in its place and a place for everything.
I think that what happens sometimes is that people stumble and then they get into that whole failure story and don’t get back on the horse. I want to tell people that listen, it’s not whether you fall… the champion is the guy who gets back up. Just keep standing and putting one foot in front of the other no matter what. Keep moving!
I used to watch stories of transformation and think they had a secret weapon, a trust fund or something… a secret they were not telling me. I don’t believe I come across that way because I’m basically a blue collar son of Italian immigrants that came here after WW II. I happen to be fairly well–educated because I had the desire to do it but I’m essentially a working class guy. I think that speaks to people because I’m just an everyday kind of guy. If I can do this maybe people will believe that they can too?
That is why I’m so glad you wrote this book. It shows that while there is no magic bullet or easy answer it can be done.
Frank: It can be done and look at the cost of not doing it! Taking care of yourself is the new patriotism, if you really want to be a responsible citizen. And respond to your neighbor. I believe we are our brother’s keeper; it’s such a disservice to say otherwise.
How do you prevent yourself from falling back on old habits?
Frank: What we are doing now prevents that. This is my new job. I have to go to the gym; I have to have my green juice in the morning. I have to take care of myself because I’m going to talk to somebody like you.
Thank you very much for talking to me!