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“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 :)