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Breast Selling Author

How does a person go from the happiest moment of their life to the scariest—all in a span of 24 hours? An engagement to be married, followed by a breast cancer diagnosis. Where do all of those emotions live? How does a person celebrate, mourn, fight for survival… and cope, all in a single breath? How does a loved one offer support in the face of such an uphill, life-or-death battle? And who supports the supporter/carer/loved one?  

Phew… these are all big questions. And we discuss them and a lot more in my interview with breast cancer survivor Holly Bertone. Holly is gracious enough to share her story and takes time to answer some of the big questions that not many think to ask or even ponder. Cancer can affect anyone and Holly’s mission is to provide hope, help, and answers to questions should the need arise. 

In this interview, despite the subject matter, Holly and I actually have a great time and laugh (Breast Selling Author is Holly’s title for her story in our first i’Mpossible book; and satiates the 3rd grade comedian living in my head who thrives on low-brow humor from time to time), and tell stories, and put a positive spin when talking about life, love, family, and the “C” word. 

The interview is embedded above, is available on iTunes, and can be downloaded directly here. I hope you take a little time to listen and hang out with Holly and I. Our chat was fun and enlightening for me and I hope the same for you

“Creating” Purpose from Tragedy and Self-Doubt

“Everything happens for a reason,” is probably one of the worst things you can say to someone after a tragedy or traumatic event. My head explodes a little whenever I hear someone make that statement, because it’s super trite and borderline insensitive. One never has a complete picture of another person’s frame of reference or what’s going on inside their head or the scope of how a traumatic event or tragedy truly affects another person. 
Yes, everything does happen for a reason, but only if one makes that choice (hopefully a healthy choice)—and no one can make that choice for another person. 
Bob Brader, a playwright/actor/advocate/man-crush-on-Joseph-Gordon-Levitt, is someone who made a choice in his life, where everything to date has happened for a reason. Dude was traumatized, beaten, and belittled constantly as a child by his father. He worked his butt off to get out of his smallish town in Pennsylvania and hustled and grinded for years as an actor and playwright. 
I interviewed Bob because I saw his one man show Spitting in the Face of the Devil in New York City a few years back. Bob created purpose and meaning from his tumultuous childhood by bearing it all on stage in Spitting…  and has toured it all over North America and fellow abuse survivors have found inspiration and the capacity to make purpose and meaning from their own experiences because of Bob’s work. He’s showing and not telling people that yes, everything does happen for a reason… but it’s a choice and not a manifest. 
In my interview, Bob and I talk about self-doubt and how to work through it—not simply silencing those negative voices but turning them into allies and friends. We talk the art of creativity, (specifically theater) and how it can help one’s healing process, how it can facilitate self-awareness, and how it can bring about catharsis.

We laugh and joke and talk serious. The interview is embedded above, available on iTunes, and can be directly downloaded here. I hope you find my chat with Bob as enlightening and as fun as I had. 

Building Wealth Without Money

What exactly is the definition of wealth? Many associate wealth with money—as did I for a very long time, and pursued it (albeit unsuccessfully) until I was bankrupt in almost every area of my life including my bank account. 

2009-2011 happened—a death, a lawsuit, a bad breakup, a crisis—and life no longer seemed worth living. 

It wasn’t until I began to focus on the other areas of my life—well-being, mental wellness, relationships, empathy, love, spirituality, giving back—that I really truly felt wealthy. And none of it had to do with money. Oddly enough, the money part started to grow really well because my focus was elsewhere. 

A few months back I spoke with my new and dear friend Adam Giery, who happens to be a part of the same speakers bureau (Campuspeak) as I, and who in his early 30’s, happens to be a bit of a sage on education, stoicism, and building wealth without money. 

In this podcast episode (embedded above, available on iTunes, and available for direct download here) Adam and I discuss what it truly means to be wealthy, what success looks like, the empowerment of switching jobs, focus, and freedom. 

I really enjoyed this one with Adam. I came away with a lot and I hope you do, too. 

Upstaging Stigma

As a former professional actor, it’s ingrained in my brain to never upstage anyone or anything—usually applied to stage and film, but it’s a great analogy for life as well. 

In case you’re not familiar, upstaging is when you try to divert attention from someone else toward yourself. When witnessing it, upstaging has a fake, grotesque, and desperate feeling to it. It has similar roots to bullying without (hopefully) violence or overt negativity heaped on the person you’re trying to outshine.

BUT my friend Walker Vreeland, who also happens to be a playwright/actor and former radio personality, makes it his mission to “upstage stigma,” which is a damn good idea. Outshine and maybe even b*tch slap the stigma surrounding mental illness and mental health; showing everyone you’re a bigger star than that tired old soap opera star called Stigma. 

I interviewed Walker on my podcast and he talks about his battles with mental illness, his struggle with authenticity, finding his truest self, and living out his purpose or calling in life. Dude is super funny and engaging and provides a lot of wisdom about this thing called life. It doesn’t hurt that I had a lot of fun talking to a fellow one-man play performer and theatre nerd (#putdownthehaterade).

Walker’s episode is embedded above, available in iTunes, and for direct download. Give it a listen on a subway ride or on a car ride… or in the shower—I’m not the boss of your life :) I hope you have as good a time hanging out with Walker as I had. 

Now I See

What does it mean to truly see—not with your eyes, but personal enlightenment?

How does one achieve moments of enlightenment? Through pain? Success? Being of service?

Mariagrazia Buttitta and I explore what it means to “see” in our latest podcast episode. Mariagrazia was born with a rare condition, cone dystrophy, which has caused her to be ultra sensitive to light and has made her nearly completely blind. For many years, Mariagrazia was deemed “slow,” “mentally challenged,” “disabled,” and in some cases she was seen as a pariah. 

But with the help of her family and her commitment to getting up when she gets knocked down (with the help of coping skills and her friend Casper the Walking Cane), Mariagrazia has turned what some would see as a liability into an asset. And she shows us what it means to see, even without the use of her eyes. 

This one is especially poignant for me, having met Mariagrazia at her lowest in 2013 and now getting the chance to watch her blossom into a graduate school (clinical mental health counseling) student, and an advocate for mental health and reducing stigma against blindness and low vision. The interview isn’t all serious either—we laugh, we learn some Italian, and we talk spirit animals :) 

I have the interview embedded above, available on iTunes, and for direct download. I hope you have as good a time with it as I have. 

The Secret Depression Club

The title “The Secret Depression Club,” is in reference to my friend, Mae’s chapter in our first i’Mpossible book. In interviewed her on the podcast, and this one was incredibly special for me. 

I met Mae when she was in her undergrad years at Assumption College in Massachusetts. It was early in my speaking career (2012) and I didn’t quite realize the affect we had on one another—until this interview (I don’t to spill the beans completely). 

This one is chock full of good stuff—Mae talks about persistence, especially when it comes to one’s health and mental health. It took her 4 1/2 years to find the right and balanced form of treatment for her conditions. She talks about choosing to make meaning and purpose from her emotional pain to help other people (she happens to be working in a leadership position in an incredible state-wide organization in Maine). We also talk counseling/free counseling and the importance of therapy. And if mental health ain’t your thing—we also talk about traveling, and life, and have a couple of laughs along the way.

The interview is embedded above, available on iTunes, or direct download here. I hope you find it as inspiring and as useful as I have :) 

If you Want the World to be What you Want, you Need to Change in it, not the Other Way Around

“If you want the world to be what you want it to be, you need to change in it, not the other way around,” is a quote from my good friend and colleague Benjamin Tyler. Ben spent more than 25 years of his life waiting, bitching, and wallowing in self-pity because the world wasn’t giving him what he wanted and what he was “entitled to.” 

I interviewed Ben on the podcast a few months back and it was a big revelation and learning moment for me. Ben was emotionally neglected as a young person and it affected him profoundly into adulthood—drug and alcohol abuse and misuse, a disheveled life without purpose that was spiraling toward an unhealthy point of no return. It wasn’t until a few years ago that Ben discovered self-love and his want and need to help others and live the life he was born to live. And that included the realization that he needed to change inside to see any kind of outward results he was looking for from the world. 

Ben’s episode is embedded above and is available on iTunes and for direct download as well. The interview is chock full of humor and light moments, and some darkness colored by hope and healing. We’re just two dudes speaking honestly and openly about emotions, childhood neglect, helping others, and living a purposeful and healthful life. Give it a listen—I hope you find it as useful and enjoyable as I have.

Transforming Stigma

What do we do with a kid who has severe behavior issues and problems—a kid who gets kicked out of school three times and attempts suicide by the age of ten?

Are these “just puberty” issues or is there something more? How does one handle the behavioral problems as a teacher or parent? 

I often see cases of kids with anger problems or who may cuss out a teacher or parent, and that child is written off as a bad seed who will never amount to anything. In fact, in fifth grade I was written off as a bad kid who would never amount to anything because I hit a kid in school and then lied about it. In retrospect, I was living with untreated mental illness and I had few positive role models in my life. Stigma around mental illness prevented me from getting the treatment I needed. I shouldn’t have gotten a free pass, nor should any kid with behavioral problems—what I should have gotten, in addition to treatment, was extra attention and mentorship. We need to take these kids under our wings, teach some coping skills, and then provide them or show them they can channel their energy into something healthy or meaningful. 

Mike Veny, the kid who was kicked out of school three times and attempted suicide at age ten, is a glowing example of someone who needed extra attention and an outlet for his energy. I interviewed Mike on the podcast, and he talks about how mental illness and drumming saved his life as a young man (much like theatre did for me as a young person)—and how he presently uses drumming to talk about mental illness and mental health to make sure young people don’t suffer the way he once did. 

Mike’s interview is full of tidbits of wisdom and practical skills and tools to deal with the difficulties life throws our way. He’s funny and insightful… and his spirit animal is a goat (you’ll find out why when you listen… ha!).

Mike is doing great work as a speaker and thought leader with Transforming Stigma. His website is Mike’s episode is embedded above, is downloadable, and can be found on iTunes. I hope you enjoy :)