Your core essence is never wrong. You just have to find the right container to fit you. Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen‘s guest today is Mike Iamele, a Purpose + Brand Strategist. He helps hundreds of celebrities, influencers, entrepreneurs, and more tap into their purpose and discover their brand. Mike discusses with Jason and Whitney that your core essence is who you truly are. You are your every desire, every emotion, and every fetish. Join in the conversation and listen to Mike’s crazy adventures as he uncovers the core essence of who he is. Tune and be who you truly are!
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Getting To The Core Essence Of Who You Are With Mike Iamele
I am excited about this episode’s guest for a few reasons. One, he lives in Massachusetts. That’s where I grew up so it’s nice. It’s like nostalgia but an instant bond when you meet someone that lives either where you’ve lived or where you’re from and he even knows the town that I grew up in, which was small. Mike has some interesting things to talk about. I have a quick question. It could be a long answer, Mike. I’m curious how you feel about coffee or is that your coffee? It could be your partner’s coffee. Where do you stand on the coffee spectrum? I feel like this says a lot about someone in addition to where they live.
I feel there’s a lot of pressure on this question. I love the taste of coffee. I especially love the taste of espresso. The caffeine doesn’t necessarily work well with me. I drank coffee probably starting at age 11 or 12. I drank it almost every day through college until I was maybe 24 years old. I realized the anxiety and the acid reflux were not worth it anymore. I rarely drink coffee now. That is my husband’s but don’t hate me, I do like coffee.
My next question is how do you feel about Dunkin’ Donuts? Are you a huge Dunkin’ Donuts fan? That’s a Massachusetts thing but I didn’t get into coffee until a few years ago. When I was growing up and going to school in Massachusetts, I could care less about Dunkin’ Donuts coffee because I didn’t drink it. I felt like I didn’t get that deep commitment to the brand. How about you?
I hate to say that I don’t love Dunkin’ Donuts. I like espresso. I feel like espresso is on one end of the spectrum of Dunkin’ Donuts and the sugary French vanilla or whatever is the other end of the spectrum. When I drink coffee, which is rare, it is an affogato at dinner. I’m this pretentious snob. In high school, I drank a lot of Dunkin’ Donuts. I’m not going to say I was above it but I drink it so rarely now that I need the good stuff.
I love that because I’m the same way. I am either an espresso drinker or a cold-brew drinker. I’ll drink cold brew all throughout the year. No matter how cold it is outside, I will be happy to have iced coffee or, specifically, cold brew with ice in it. I don’t like regular coffee. It’s too watered down for me so I get it. Espresso is on another level.
I’ve also heard from regular Dunkin’ Donuts customers that the experience of Dunkin’ Donuts is not consistent. I saw a video on TikTok yesterday of a girl that went to two Dunkin’ Donuts. One in a row because the first Dunkin’ Donuts that she went to was bad and then went to another one and the coffee tasted good. She’s like, “You cannot expect a consistent experience when you go to Dunkin’ Donuts.” I feel like people don’t say that about Starbucks.
I could see how it might not be great for a coffee snob because if you can’t count on it, you’re wasting your money. I am totally cool with that, Mike. I feel like Dunkin’ Donuts is a rite of passage when you live in Massachusetts but aside from that, it’s totally cool to admit if it’s not your thing anymore or if it never was. Jason’s not into coffee but he has been to Dunkin’ Donuts when he’s visited Massachusetts. We did a video there. I feel like you got tea or something bizarre at Dunkin’ Donuts when we went.
I probably got a fruity drink knowing me and much like you, Mike, I love the aroma, the ritual, and the taste of coffee. However, in my younger years especially when I wrote my last book, which was fueled by coffee and cannabis basically, I realized that it was not what my body wanted anymore. It was similar to what you shared. They feel like it’s the love child of Jim Carrey and a hyena.
I was working and I was getting things done and I was being creative. The comedown at 2:30 AM and not being able to sleep was not worth the creative exchange. I’ve transitioned into matcha tea. I’m geeking out on the varieties of ceremonial matcha and making it myself with a traditional Japanese whisk. People are like, “Drink decaf, Jason.” I’m like, “It’s not the same.”
What’s interesting about this and I was thinking of suggesting this to you, Mike, is that green tea is high in L-theanine. I’ve heard that when you combine L-theanine with coffee, it prevents or reduces jitters and anxiety. Don’t quote me on this. I will go research this behind the scenes but I’m fairly certain this is why some brands add L-theanine to their coffee. That might explain, Jason, why you feel much better on green tea like matcha.
This is a fascinating conversation. 1) I like green tea quite a bit. Even that is still a little bit of caffeine for me, sometimes but number 2) I never do caffeine. Now, I was feeling tired and I had chai tea. I am a total hypocrite here, I had my black coffee and black tea before this conversation.
We have no judgment. Otherwise, we would be hypocrites if we judge people here. We can always prevent ourselves from judging, which I feel is a good segue into some of the things that we are going to talk about here, Mike. I know so much of your story is about transitions in your life and becoming someone that perhaps you were not always. Maybe that’s loving Dunkin’ Donuts to not loving Dunkin’ Donuts or that is something more serious and how even something as simple as your coffee or tea preferences can evoke judgment.
Part of that is similar to what I started off with is that we tend to feel connected to people that are like us and disconnected from people that aren’t like us, which is a basic human instinct in a way where it feels like a threat if we don’t understand someone. One of our greatest works in society is to do our best to understand people and avoid that knee-jerk reaction to things like, “You are not like me,” or, “You’re not who I thought you were. I do not like you. I’m going to distance myself from you.” It has become a huge challenge for us in our societies versus we might feel those things but can we work towards not acting on them. That is something that I’ve been working on.
We even talked about this in an episode we recorded where I was saying sometimes my ego flares up. I can feel it. I can think certain things but it does not mean I have to verbalize anything or act on them. I can step back even in an instant and make a different decision, which has served me more than those knee-jerk reactions and saying things that I might regret.
It also reminds me of perspectives on gossip which came from Michael Singer who wrote The Untethered Soul. I’m fairly certain it is in that book. He was talking about how a lot of us gossip as a way of connecting with others. It does not bring us the connection we think it’s going to. I’m especially fascinated with that because gossip feels so good at the moment but a lot of times, it’s like having a gossip hangover where I might speak poorly about someone and then later on I’m like, “I should not have said that.”
It can sometimes be damaging not to yourself but to your relationships and people will lose trust in you. I feel like all of these judgments we put into another whether it’s something as basic as, “I can’t believe Mike doesn’t like Dunkin’ Donuts.” Who cares if you don’t like something? I’m curious, Mike, even though it feels silly or maybe surface level, why do you think you hesitate in admitting something like Dunkin’ Donuts? Is it because you’re afraid of someone not liking you or judging you? I’m curious if you have any further deeper thoughts on that when you reflect on why you hesitate to tell someone about yourself.
This is a great multi-layered question here. One, this is Bostonian pride where everybody likes Dunkin’ Donuts. On a deeper level so much of my work, what I do for a job every day is to map people’s lives and figure out what they subconsciously do every time they’re successful. In that, what I’m also understanding is what they’re most sensitive to. That also is going to be where their core wounds are.
For me, one of those things is successful. One of my biggest insecurities and fears is that I’m going to come across as pretentious, unrelatable in some way. This is a core wound of mine that I’m always afraid of. It’s funny that we bring this in here because of Dunkin’ Donuts versus espresso in Italy. It’s to say, “I only do caffeine when I’m in Italy.” I’m conscious of the message that that sends and I’m hypersensitive to it. It’s interesting because life is subjective. That’s all of us experience things subjectively. We all have these things we’re more sensitive to even when we’re babies.
Some babies are sensitive to freedom. They feel trapped in that swaddle. Some babies are sensitive to connection. They love looking their moms in the eyes. That doesn’t go away over time like if I am sensitive to connection, I’m going to feel isolated easily. I’m always going to want to create connections, create community. I’m going to feel purposeful. I created a job around that. I’m going to feel shunned and hurt when somebody leaves me out. We can start to understand why we experience what we do and then what purpose means to us.
This is interesting because, in my perspective, the traditional approach when it comes to the word purpose. That’s a hot button word to me because I feel like that’s something that gets parroted in so many different contexts of finding your purpose, discovering your purpose, going on your journey, amd uncovering who you are. It feels intimidating and overwhelming sometimes because I’ve gone through a lot of changes over the months of a global pandemic, as many of us have. It’s reexamining, “What am I doing? What am I passionate about? Am I wasting my time?”
We did an episode on death, Mike, not to get morose but to contemplate our own mortality. The fact that we literally don’t know how much time we have left or how we’re going to check out of this place. You talked about purpose and you assisting people with the subconscious clues, these markers of success and their sensitivities, which I want to dig into your approach on this. To hone in on purpose for a second, it feels like this intimidating thing. We’ve got to figure it out.The essence isn't wrong; the container is. Click To Tweet
I’ve got these whiteboards in my office and I’ve been doing exercises. I’m like, “What’s my purpose? Here are my passions. Here are my talents. This is what I cared about as a little kid. This is what I care about.” It has not gotten me any closer to answering that question. What is your perspective on purpose and also some of these narratives that may not be so beneficial around?
You are speaking my language. To be perfectly frank, 99% of what we talk about purpose is total BS and it is shame-inducing. I want to talk about why that is. The thing is people say this to me all the time like, “Mike, I figured out my purpose. I’m meant to be a life coach. I’m meant to be a writer.” That is awesome. I’m so happy for you that it feels right. Who the hell am I to say no? Here’s the thing. If we can achieve something, that implies we can also fail it. That doesn’t make sense. How could you fail your purpose?
Furthermore, if you can achieve something, that implies you didn’t have it at a certain point. Did you not have a purpose as a baby? That doesn’t make sense. How could you achieve a purpose? Do you not have a purpose in your relationship, sex during, with your friends, with your trauma and with literally anywhere that’s not a job? You do.
The way we talk about purpose is incredibly influenced by our capitalistic culture. It’s this idea that “I have a job and I’ve got to achieve and achieve.” What happens when you get divorced, retire, get fired or get laid off? I see this every day in my work. People are like, “I had a purpose and now, it’s gone.” That doesn’t make sense. I want to change this narrative once and for all.
I think of purpose when I’m drinking water. I’m always drinking water from mason jars. I think of a purpose like this. I drink water out of mason jars because of two things. I like drinking a lot of water and I am incredibly lazy. I don’t want to fill my water all day long. I want my big water next to me all day. If I went over to a friend’s house, they had a tiny little cup and they wanted to give me water. Sure, I would take that. I want the water because it’s never been about the container. It’s about the water. If I crack my mason jar, I can pour it into another cup because I want the water.
In life, when someone comes to me and says, “Mike, I retired. I don’t have a purpose.” Your container may be changed but it’s the same essence. We’re going to pour water from one to the next. Why you are attracted to this person, why this hurt you, why you love this job, why this didn’t work out for you, it’s all the same reason over and over again. It’s based on what you’re sensitive to. If we want to know why, which is, by the way, what the word purpose means then we want to know the reason for something. We want to know why we experienced it and that means we’re talking about our subjectivity or our sensitivities like what we’re sensing.
When I was a baby, I didn’t accomplish much, to be honest with you. What I did have were sensitivities. I was sensitive to things. I experienced life uniquely. Some babies are sensitive to freedom, connection, music and they can hear notes that I can’t hear because when I’m sensitive to something, I literally sense more. I see, taste, touch, smell and hear more. It brings me more life. I’m going to have some nuances and be more of an expert there. I’m also going to have more trauma there because I feel it deeper. I sense more. I’m also going to have more desires around this issue.
As I grew up in life, what makes me feel purposeful, my sensitivities are aligned, zany, free, unmistakable, successful and vulnerable. We’re going to see them come out 1,000 times in this conversation. I promise you. I’m going to be weird and zany. I’m going to be deeply vulnerable and share stuff. I can’t help it. When I’m my most authentic, that’s who I am because you never have to try to be yourself. If you’re trying, it means you’re being somebody else.
When I’m hanging out with a best friend, I’m having coffee and shooting the crap or tea because we all know I don’t drink coffee then I’m being my most authentic self and I’m speaking. I don’t remember trying. I don’t remember like, “Crap. Did I say the right thing? Let me be impressive here.” I just be me. Miraculously, those are the moments where I have the closest relationships with my husband, during sex or anytime that’s intuitive.
I have the other moments where I’m like, “Did I say the right thing? Did I do the right thing?” Anytime I’m in that awkward phase, that doesn’t feel purposeful to me. The purpose isn’t this thing I achieve. It’s a subjective feeling. It’s not that being a life coach is my purpose. It’s why being a life coach feels purposeful. That’s going to be the same reason why this sex felt good. Why is this conversation intuitive? Why did that relationship end? Why is what purpose means? That’s my hopefully short way of explaining it.
It’s interesting because I haven’t heard anyone describe purpose that way before, Mike. Thank you. I’m a huge why person. It is my favorite question. It’s one of my favorite words. I could ask why all day long, like a little kid. Part of what you’re saying here was having me reflect on, for me specifically, people tried to, for lack of a better word in this case, bully me out of asking why to shame me out of it. Many people in my life have been annoyed with me asking why.
It wasn’t until a few years ago when I did this assessment called The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin. She has this framework. One of the results that you can get is called the questioner. That was me. When I read that book, I thought, “I can finally understand why I asked why so much,” but also better articulate that to others and stand up for myself. Previously, many people got annoyed with me asking those questions, which is unfortunate. The number of times that we bully, shame or even gaslight people around their core essence is disturbing.
That also leads me to something. I’m sure that you talk about or reflect on it often, Mike but correct me if I’m wrong, that sensitivity is often groomed out of us or conditioned out of us is a better word for that. We’re encouraged in this culture to be less sensitive, to develop thick skin, which is some of the worst advice we can give each other as human beings.
Jason has talked a lot about how this has impacted his masculinity. I’m curious how that’s influenced you, Mike. Certainly, as a woman, we’re looked at poorly and it’s often associated with a feminine trait like, “Don’t be a pussy.” What does that generally mean? “Don’t be so sensitive. Don’t be a wuss. Don’t be this dumb,” and a lot of those phrases are related to sensitivity. I spent a long time feeling shame for my sensitivity.
It’s one of the reasons I don’t run my YouTube channels quite as much. Somebody may be watching this on YouTube but I have had multiple channels over the years. It became almost traumatic for me the amount of cruel things people would say to me on social media or YouTube, specifically. When I would verbalize it, the overwhelming advice would be, “Don’t be so sensitive. You can’t let it bother you. Develop a thick skin.” For years, I tried. I realized that’s not, to your point, Mike, my core essence. My core essence is to be sensitive. I was thinking, “How much of myself have I lost by trying not to be sensitive?” Is that the reason I often feel out of tune with who I am and what I want?
There are many things I can say about this. First of all, to clear the air for anyone who’s ever been told, “You’re too sensitive,” which is everyone, but we are all sensitive. Sensitive literally means alive. The only things that aren’t sensitive are dead. We sense. We are alive. The more sensitive you are, the more alive you are. That makes sense. We’re picking up nuances, feeling and sensing things that other people can’t see.
We live in a world that has been trying to get us to numb out. We live in a world that is overwhelming, quite frankly. Sometimes, I do want to disassociate or numb out. There’s this movement between being sensitive, alive and experiencing more of life or being so overwhelmed that we are numbing out and basically being more dead.
To anybody out there who’s ever been told, “You’re too sensitive,” what I want to tell you because I have been told this a million times in my life is, number one, every one of us is sensitive but we’re sensitive to different things. I am sure, Whitney, what you are picking up or reading in these YouTube comments hit a corner for you. It hits something. We’re all sensitive to something. Some people could say something to me that I’m not sensitive to. It’s like water off a duck’s back. Who cares? There’s something else that will get under my skin and will hit it if I feel overly exposed and vulnerable if I feel unsuccessful according to those core sensitivities that we’ve talked about.
If someone says to you and they say it to me all the time, “Mike, you are too sensitive. You’re too emotional. You’re too intense.” How many of us have been told this? What I’ve learned is what they’re saying, to go back to my mason jar is “You are too much or you are too sensitive for me to handle in this container.” They tell me it’s the wrong container. If I had a big pot of water and I tried to pour it into a little cup and spilled it all over the floor, I wouldn’t shame the water for being too much. That doesn’t make sense. I would get a bigger pot. I would get a bigger container.
Whenever someone says that’s me these days, I’m like, “Thank you. I totally get it. You don’t have the emotional capacity to handle me.” That’s fine. It’s not the right relationship for me. Let me go find the space that’s right for me. The essence isn’t wrong. The container is. When we begin to understand that we start realizing, “I’m right as I am.” Every desire, turn-on, fetish, or emotion is right. I need to find the containers that fit me. When I do, it’s as intuitive as having coffee with a best friend.
As we get to this essence because this word core essence, who we truly are, we talk so much on this show about the decades of conditioning, the decades of parents, teachers, religion, culture, telling us what we ought to be to fit in. They inject this fear of social ostracization. If you don’t “fit in,” there’s this primal fear as we know of not too long ago where we were living in small tribal societies that if you did something that was ghastly to the code of the tribe, you’d be cast out into the world around us. That meant death.
We live in a societal framework where that’s not happening like, “Go to the woods and find some food. You’re going to die.” Maybe that’s happening somewhere but in most modern society, that’s not a thing anymore. In your process, personally, Mike, and also what you facilitate and help with others but I want to dig into your life story a little more. You’ve obviously, like all of us, been conditioned to this subjugation, this patterning, “Be like everyone else. You’re not enough the way you are.”It's hard to know who we aren't if we don't know who we are. Click To Tweet
More clearly, in certain contexts of career, this idea is that we have to follow someone else’s path or look at them as an avatar and follow their business plan, follow their business model. This conditioning is everywhere in life. How have you looked at that conditioning? What has been your process of shedding it and obviously, this is an ongoing process to get to the core essence of who you are? What have been those challenges? What’s your process? How the heck do we even approach this?
This is such a big question that we can go in 1,000 different directions with but subjectivity work is inherently deconditioning work. There’s no way we are loaded up. Essence is still on that but we’re loaded up with conditioning and unconditioning. We’ve got to take that off. For me, it’s hard to know who we aren’t if we don’t know who we are because once I know who I am like, “I’m vulnerable and successful. That’s me. This isn’t that. Let me pull this out.” It becomes a lot easier to do that deconditioning.
I haven’t been doing this work forever and I have had a lot of conditioning in my life. To be perfectly honest with you if I go way back in my story. Early on in life, I was pretty successful. Yes, that’s one of my sensitivities. I’m pretty sensitive to success but I didn’t understand this. At 22, I started a pretty successful PR agency. I worked with billionaires and a lot of famous people that you might know. It was great. I liked my job. I was working crazy hours and I was still drinking coffee. Certainly, a lot of acid reflux.
One day in my mid-twenties, I woke up and I was vomiting blood. That was pretty scary because you don’t often wake up vomiting blood but I couldn’t eat anything. I was vomiting blood every day for about two months straight. I was in and out of doctors’ offices and I was hospitalized a few times. At the emergency room, I got fluids because I was losing fluids and vomiting blood.
I went to work one day and I realized that I had to go to the bathroom. I ran to the toilet. I didn’t make it in time and I crap my pants at work. I had an accident and I could not control my bowels. It was a horrifying moment. I can talk a lot more graphically about it but basically, I had to have people help me get a change of clothes, get out the back door, get a cab and go home.
I was scared because I had what I was supposed to have in life. I worked hard. I was smart. I had all the success I was supposed to have at 25 years old. I made a lot of money. I thought I was going to die tomorrow. I was like, “This isn’t what life is supposed to be at 25. I’m decently healthy. I should not be on the verge of dying.” I started going to pretty much every pathway. I started unpacking, deconditioning stuff and saying, “Do I believe that Western medicine is the only thing? Let me try Eastern medicine. Let me try acupuncture or herbs. Do I believe that this job is the height of my purpose? Could there be something else?”
I got in this phase of questioning like you, Whitney. I became this questioner and in the midst of this, I started doing some radical things. I was writing handwritten letters to every member of my family, telling them everything I’ve never said out loud. It was crazy stuff because I was like, “If I’m going to die. I need to put it out there. I can’t hold anything down.”
While all this was going on, I had two roommates at the time. One of them was my oldest sister’s friend and she wasn’t around much. The other was a guy I knew from college that I was friendly with. He was on pharmacy residency and by chance because of his schedule and because he would live there. He was home during the day. He took care of me. He knew the medical system. He would drive me to appointments.
It was about two months into this process of him driving your appointment, sometimes cooking me dinner, sometimes sitting with me on the couch when I was in pain that I realized I had feelings for him. It was a little bit weird for me because, at that time at least, I had never, to my conscious knowledge, been interested in a man. I had never been with a man. I thought, “I’m going to roll with this.” I don’t know what to think. This is probably like, to get you in my mentality at the time, I was thinking like, “Is this like a human within proximity and I’m scared I’m going to die?” I don’t know what this is so I thought, “Let me brush this under the rug.” I probably would have had it been any other time in my life but I was afraid I was going to die. I said, “I got to say something like I could die tomorrow. Maybe he wants to punch me in the face but I’m not going to die being afraid to say what’s true.”
His name is Garrett. One day, I said, “Garrett, this doesn’t feel sexual. This doesn’t even feel romantic but I feel something and I don’t know how to describe it. I don’t know how you are going to react but I have to tell you.” He, thankfully, is the most thoughtful person in the world. He said, “I don’t know how I feel. Let me think about that.”
Emails and lots of conversations later, we decided to try to make the relationship work. We still dated women. While we tried to figure it out, we were not physical. People ask me all the time like “You had all these feelings for him. It must have felt so natural the first time you kissed.” No, I’ve never felt facial hair before while kissing someone. It felt completely unnatural. This was not something that I enjoyed. I’m sitting here and trying to figure this out. Long story short, it took us about two years of navigating to figure out a relationship and how to make this work.
I can pinpoint for you the moment I knew I was in love with him because it’s a good story so I’ll share it. This was six months after I got sick. I was getting better and it was around Christmas time. I went to a Christmas party. Thankfully, someone here is from Boston so they know the north end. It’s a section of the city that’s bad for parking. It’s all cobblestone streets. There was a snowstorm that night and Garrett had to work until about midnight at the hospital because he was still on residency. I go to this party and I’m happy to be out of my house, not afraid I’m going to vomit or crap my pants. I look over at about 1:00 AM as I was getting ready to leave, Garrett is sitting in the corner in the scrubs. I was like, “What are you doing here? Don’t you work until midnight? Why are you at this party?”
He said, “You’re right. I did work about twelve hours and I’m exhausted. I look like crap. I went to get into my car. I realized that if I drove all the way home, you would take public transportation home. It’d be a half-hour later. I would probably be asleep because I’m so tired. I want something for myself so I drove across the entire city in a snowstorm and I fought to find parking on these cobblestone streets, sit in the corner, have one drink and watch you tell stories because I couldn’t watch you tell stories all night and then I get to drive you home and see you.” I thought, “Now I have to marry this man. I don’t know if it’s going to work out but this is someone I have to marry.” We didn’t get engaged for another four and a half years but that was the moment I knew I had to marry him.
That’s like out of a Lifetime movie.
Literally, Whitney, the scene was playing out so vividly in my mind.
That is such a great story especially because I picked some restaurant in the North end that I’ve been to and set the whole stage in my head because I know what it’s like there. I feel like that should be a Lifetime movie.
That’s funny you say this because I haven’t ever publicly talked about this and I will. There is a musical being written about us. There’s a lot more to our story that we’ll get into of how we publicly came out to millions of people. Anyway, years ago, somebody said, “Can we have the rights to your story? We’d like to produce something.” These were, at that time, college kids. We did not take this seriously. We’re like, “Whatever. We’ll sign a contract.”
Anyway, apparently, over the last few years, it’s been worked on. COVID helped these people, a free time to work on it. I heard the first song and it’s beautiful. The script will be finished in the fall of 2021. They’re workshopping it at a college. They have the agreement in the fall and by next spring, they’re looking to producers and they’re going to be doing an off-Broadway show of this so it’s strange.
I’m going to manifest coming to see it because I hope it plays in Boston while I’m there and that is cool. I can’t wait to hear the music. That’s much better than a Lifetime movie, a musical. I’m curious to backtrack a little. I imagine you did get to the bottom of what was causing the sickness. If you don’t mind sharing, what was causing you to vomit blood for so long?
I don’t know for sure. I’ve been diagnosed with these few things. I’m diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disorder. I do have ulcerative colitis. I haven’t had flare-ups since then so I am cautious about my diet. I don’t do dairy or gluten. I don’t drink often. I was at the time also, based on my pancreatic enzyme levels, diagnosed with severe pancreatitis, which is something that’s rare for someone at my age at that point. I had some infections in major organs. It’s chalked up a lot of times to something autoimmune but I will say, it made me question my career.
Not surprisingly, I decided to leave my job. When I do things, I go all out, if you can’t tell so I left. I was navigating my first same-sex relationship, trying to heal myself. I went to two years of herbalism school and a year of nutrition school full-time while I was working full-time because I decided to give a year’s notice at work. I would never recommend you do that. I was the owner of this company. It was a real job. I felt like I had to do this. It was the most hellish year of my life.
I finished that and I thought, “I’m going to be this herbalist to Boston’s tech entrepreneurs. I know all these people. Why not? I’ll be their herbalist.” I did that for a little bit. Honestly, I didn’t love it. I wasn’t making a lot of money. I thought, “Crap, I didn’t just leave this great job for nothing. Figure this out, Mike.” I was successful at a young age. I have a lot of stories. I realized it wasn’t what it’s cracked up to be. I thought, “Maybe, I can be a writer. I’ve always been a writer. Let me start a blog and see where it goes.” I started a blog.The idea that success is objective is really toxic. Click To Tweet
A few months later, someone reached out to me and said, “I’ve been following your writing. Can I give you a book deal?” I’m sitting here thinking like, “This doesn’t happen to people. This has got to be my purpose. The universe is handing me something. There’s got to be my purpose. Someone has handed me a book deal.” She even said, “You’ve got enough in your blog post. Why don’t we repurpose those?” It was easy.
I had two months to turn in this manuscript but it’s easy to turn this into a book. I wrote a book. I said, “If you’re going to pay me, sure. This will be my summer income. I’m happy with it.” While this was going on, the editor was queer and she wanted me to talk about my relationship in the book. I thought, “My family knew. Close friends knew but I hadn’t told wider networks of people. This is something we’re still figuring out, navigating at this point.”
I put it into the book, turned them the manuscript and then thought, “I better tell people about this. Before they find out on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, I have to tell people in my life. They’re going to be upset.” I decided, being a writer, the best thing I can do is write a blog post because I’ve got this blog already. People can read it, talk crap behind my back. I don’t have to deal with any of their emotional freak-outs and then they can come to me. It is so much better for me than telling people one-on-one.
I thought, “This is going to be great.” I wrote a blog post. At that time, I was writing for a few national publications and one of them saw it and thought, “Mike, can we republish this? We want you to add a few more details.” I was like, “It’s already out there. What difference is it going to make at this point?” I said, “Sure, you can republish it.” I went to bed that night and when I woke up the next morning, 100,000 people had shared it.
This was overwhelming, in case you can’t have guessed. That time, I woke up to literally millions of people talking about my sex life, asking me to defend sexuality that quite frankly, I wasn’t clear about. I woke up to the phone calls from NPR, Yahoo! News and Huffington Post wanting to talk to me about the story. I froze. I didn’t know what to do. I had people accusing me of things. I had thousands of emails in my inbox. I was being invited to speak at Pride events all over and I was like, “I am not qualified for this. I don’t even know what to do.” It was a surreal moment.
This is when somebody wanted the rights to create a musical. That happened as well. Talk about purpose. This was a moment in my life where I was like, “I am a mess.” I have this book deal and millions of people talking about me. I have zero business model. I’m making $0 off of them in advance. I’m not an herbalist. I’m not in branding or public relations anymore. I have no idea what I want to do with my life. All of these people are looking at me and asked to interview me. In any interview I take, they only want to talk about my relationship. Nobody cares about me. Otherwise, I’m only Garrett’s boyfriend at this point.
It was this interesting moment where I could have doubled down and gone. I was offered book deals. I could have written about my relationship until the day I die. That could have been my entire career. I had to stop and be like, “This isn’t all of me.” I’m not interested and I’m refusing to let myself be objectified by myself. I decided to figure this out. I got to figure out this purpose thing because I’m a mess.
You don’t fall into purpose work. This is how I got here. I got obsessed with life’s purpose. Jason, just like you I started reading every book, every webinar, I am not kidding you. You name it, I have read it. Trust me. Many times in my life, I have heard, “By the end of 60 minutes, you will know your purpose.” All of us feel the exact same way so you listen to enough things. I was laughing when you were saying it, Jason, because they all say, “Figure out your skills. Figure out your passions. Figure out what the world needs. Find the middle points.” I’m like, “What do these things have in common? Branding and public relations, herbalism, same-sex relationship, getting sick and a viral article. I have no idea what these things have in common.”
I’m thinking and like you, I’ve got my stickies, my whiteboard and I’m trying to figure this out. I realized, “It’s so obvious. It’s been in front of me the whole time. I’m meant to create a blogging course. This blogging course is going to help people get book deals but it’s going to be deep and spiritual. It’s going to be helping people find their voice, understand their wounds and heal themselves. I know this.”
This is the end of the year where I basically haven’t been working. I got a little bit into herbalism. I got a book advance but otherwise, I didn’t make any income. I am broke at this point. I’m like, “It doesn’t matter. I know my purpose. I am about to take the hell off. This is exciting. People are following me already. I’ve got this.”
I get that fancy lighting kit and the microphone. I’ve got a business partner and a web designer. You name it. I’ve got all this crap. I put it out into the world. I spent thousands of dollars on this thing. I know it will take off. I put it out into the world. Five people bought it. It was a colossal failure. I thought, “I am so done,” because I went for it. I put myself into the world. I was vulnerable. The world is telling me it does not want what I have to offer. “That’s it. I’ll go back to public relations. At least I made money there. Why am I putting myself through hell and not making money? I don’t know if I have a job at my own company. I can beg them to take me back because at least that’s something.”
I decided to do what changed my life radically. Although at that time, I didn’t know it. One of my sensitivities is success. You’ll all understand why this changed my life. I didn’t know this at the time. I decided to host a failure celebration. The thinking around that was like, “I fail pretty publicly but at least, I did something that got me to fail. At least, I took a risk that’s going to be worth something in this world.” Failure implies risk.
I said, “For this failure celebration, I’m going to celebrate my big failure. I’m going to go into spiritual groups I was a part of. I’m going to offer them the one thing I’m so confident in, which is branding. I can map their brand. I’ve been doing this forever. I can tell them and make them successful and then I am out.” I offer this for free. I did nine hours straight of this one day. I worked with six different people. I literally stopped sessions to pee but I was like, “I am going for it if this is my last day.”
I did this and I’m used to working with healthcare, politicians and tech billionaires. These people were like artists, writers, psychics, healers and all types of cool people. I’m doing these sessions. At the end of the day, each of them said some variation to me like, “Mike, this isn’t my brand at all. This has nothing to do with my business. This is my whole life’s purpose.” Suddenly, I’m like, “What the heck are you talking about? I don’t know what you mean. I don’t know what to say about this. This is your business brand.”
“Mike, I’m a solopreneur. My brand is me. You’ve described who I am and why I have this trauma.” I’m sitting here and I was like, “I don’t understand what you’re talking about. What I’m going to do at this point, I do it all myself.” I spent two hours doing with them the exact mapping that I did in myself. When I had done them, I came up with six words. Those words are aligned, zany, free, unmistakable, successful and vulnerable.
There was this moment of this click because I started realizing, “I know why I’m attracted to Garrett. I’ve never been that safe to be vulnerable before. I literally can’t make a mistake. I am unmistakable. There’s nothing I can do wrong. I got into public relations. How I help people to align their messaging to be successful but I couldn’t be vulnerable.” I get why I was successful there but not fulfilled. It was like this moment of I can see past relationships and why they failed. It was this light bulb moment going off.
I don’t know what to do with this but I’ve got it. I checked my email and one of the women I worked with that day said, “Mike, my friend wants to buy this from you. Do you sell it? What do you call it? Tell me.” I was like, “I would sell it if she’s going to pay me,” because I’m making nothing. I said, “Sure, I charge $200 for this. It wasn’t much money. How about I call it Sacred Branding because it’s branding but you’re telling me it’s life purpose. It’s sacred. Let’s call it that.”
The next day, I have one client. She told her few friends. I made a rule in my mind that as long as I have a client the next day or at least within the week, I will not leave my job. That was a few years ago. I have had that sense. I never ended up leaving. The work has changed a lot over those years. I’ve come to understand it more.
Basically, when we understand what we are most sensitive to, I’ve seen people use it to get on TV shows or build businesses. Certainly, people with sexual trauma working through and understanding how to move through trauma and have a healthy sex life again. The possibilities are endless. My favorite is working with children. I’m only getting started there. It’s an exciting endeavor for me. I’d love to create after-school programs but that is my own public unprocessing, unpacking, deconditioning journey that led me to understand how to help others with that.
What a story. It’s fascinating. One thing that I’m curious about, Mike, it feels like there’s been a lot of criticism, a big emphasis on billionaires. I’m sure that you’re seeing it. I don’t know if you’ve worked with any of these billionaires but with your experience with the billionaires you have worked with, you have this inside look into who they are.
One of the big criticisms and challenges people have is they see successful people with lots of money, whereas the average person is not in that position so there’s a huge disconnect. There’s perhaps a lot of jealousy or resentment over why this person got all that success and money. Why did they get to go to space, to be specific, in summer 2021? Why aren’t they using their money for good?
I’m curious about your perspective especially because a lot of your story is about transitioning into a deeper connection with yourself. Often our definition of doing something for good is about doing something for a greater purpose. What it seems like a lot of people are yearning for is for people that have a lot of money and power to not present themselves as greedy and self-centered but to do things that are part of the bigger picture of life. I’m fascinated if you have a perspective on this, Mike, based on your inside knowledge and experience with people like that.Every life is cultivating wisdom for the universe. If we can get different voices sharing their perspective, that’s how we further evolve. Click To Tweet
This is a big and partially controversial topic. There’s a reason I don’t do the work that I used to do in some ways. People are people and money can augment or amplify anything going on for you. I won’t say that everybody is the most enlightened person. A lot of people get surprised by this one but billionaires have a lot of insecurities like any human being. It’s not necessarily that every human is out here trying to figure out stuff and doing our own work. We’re all human beings.
I would say that I would love to see people who have more than enough giving back, contributing and making this world a better place or a more equitable place because that’s something we’re all hoping to look for in time. I don’t know that I thought I would be able to have the impact I did in those areas. Granted, I got to have a lot of impact in the spaces of education and healthcare, which spaces I cared about. My husband works in health care. I’m behind the scenes doing a lot of stuff in his department because it’s fun for me.
I would say that I would love people to be doing more. It’s tough. I highly doubt any of those people are reading my stance, unfortunately. This deification of billionaires or celebrities, in general I’ve worked with a number of celebrities, is strange to me because humans are humans. It sucks that some of these decisions have a direct impact on our lives especially politicians. I’ve never ever worked intimately especially mapping someone’s sensitivities through Sacred Branding, with anyone who presents publicly the same way they are privately whether they’re a famous billionaire or not famous.
Why do you think that is?
People are people. It’s interesting. A lot of times, people will assume that it’s easier for someone who’s wealthy and public to work with me or figure some of this stuff out and figure out the purpose. In my experience, it’s harder. It’s the exact opposite. Here’s the thing. If you’ve ever been validated for something that isn’t inherently who you are, that creates, “I’m not good enough.” If I am successful because I have to put an image and I amplify that by a billion dollars or by billions of views on me, I am going to, on some level, think I’m not good enough but this character, this image is. Counterintuitively, you become less confident the more successful you are.
I know that doesn’t seem like it makes sense if we stop and think about it but it does make sense. There’s that famous line by Rita Hayworth who said, “Men are disappointed because they go to bed with Rita Hayworth but they wake up with me.” It captures this thought process. This is a human with insecurities, fears and concerns. I’m not saying to let people off the hook when they are harming the planet or harming lives. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I see on Instagram, “This tech person is a god.” We’re humans. Nobody out here is a god or maybe paradoxically, we are all gods. This is a singular deification of a person so it’s interesting to me. I’m fascinated by objectification. I’m fascinated by people who the world sees one way when their reality is different. That’s most of us.
This is fascinating on many levels, Mike because 100%, first of all, I agree with you with the strangeness of putting other human beings on a pedestal, worshipping them and being obsessed with their lives. The entire industries that are completely focused on following these people are the paparazzi. We had an amazing guest previously on the show called Owen Beiny, who was a successful owner of a paparazzi media corporation.
One of his philosophies, which I thought was interesting and no one ever had phrased it or I’d never heard someone phrase it this way was, we were discussing a lot of the celebrity suicides and the mental health issues that more and more athletes, musicians and celebrities have. It’s wonderful that more famous and influential people are talking about not only their health challenges and relationship challenges but their mental health struggles. It’s wonderful that that’s more public.
His framework around it was basically when you have a dream in life and you not only achieve that dream but you even exceed it financially, fame-wise, career success and all of those things that at a certain point, there’s nothing else you want. He said they lack hope. When you lack hope and you’ve had this idea that getting all of these external things will fulfill you, define you and make you happy then you realize none of those things do. It can be a hopeless feeling for a lot of people. I thought that it was interesting that he phrased it that way.
A lot of us who aren’t in that category of celebrity, I can absolutely relate to that feeling of having big dreams, having some of them come true in my life and being on the other side of it and going like, “This isn’t what I thought it would feel like this. This hasn’t changed my life or changed me because I didn’t think I was enough. If I got that thing, that TV show and did the thing, I would finally feel the success I’ve wanted to be,” but not feeling that way at all.
We have a mutual acquaintance, Whitney and I, who hit the New York Times Bestseller list. He had emailed me and said, “It was cool getting a New York Times Bestselling book. To be honest with you, my life has not changed at all.” That goes against the illusion of this toxic capitalist structure that wants us to keep going, work, hustle and grind. We do it and then we get the proverbial brass ring. We’re like, “This doesn’t feel as good as I thought it was going to feel.” That can be mentally shattering for a lot of people. Have you observed the same thing with the people you’ve known? Have you experienced a similar thing?
Of course. This idea that success is objective, that purpose is objective is toxic. This idea is that I can achieve a purpose. That’s what we’re all saying. When we say my purpose is to be a life coach, be a writer, be a New York Times Bestseller, or be whatever, we’re saying that it’s achievable. That’s toxic. It’s also putting all of our eggs in one container. That doesn’t make sense.
The purpose is the essence. It’s the water. It’s not the mason jar. For me, I had a big book launch party and the media was there. You would think this is the time where I feel most successful. A Sunday on the couch with my dogs and my husband is infinitely a more successful feeling than that one moment of my life. It’s recognizing that purpose is the why, “Why do I feel this way? What is it about that?” I get to be vulnerable. I get to be zany and weird. I get to be aligned with the people I care about.
Understanding what purpose is, it’s so much more meaningful because we realize it’s subjective. I don’t care what I achieve. I’m going to keep growing. This is the thing about consciousness. It expands. Years ago, what vulnerable meant to me is pretty different from now and will be pretty different than another ten years, I’m sure. I didn’t lose my old definition of vulnerable. I retained it but expanded it because I’m learning more about myself and the world around me. That’s what purpose is. That’s what consciousness is doing.
Rather than, “See, I achieved this. I’m done. Life sucks. I’m hopeless,” it’s like, “I have pushed myself to be vulnerable in a different way. A way I never thought I could do before.” I used to think that being vulnerable meant I had to post naked pictures of myself online, which I’ve done. Now, vulnerable might mean something entirely different. That’s awesome because I’m expanding my understanding, myself and the world around me.
If we want to take it to the most esoteric place because I am always down to go there and I love it, keep it going. It’s this idea that each of us, we are basically I call souls, differentiated aspects of the universe. We are different perspectives of the universe according to what we’re sensitive to and to what we’re sensing or experiencing different aspects of the universe. All three of us can watch the same scene and all see different things based on what we’re sensitive to because there are infinite things happening around us all the time.
What is beautiful about that is that as we grow and expand according to our own sensitivities, we are learning for ourselves and teaching the universe about itself. We’re teaching each other about the world around us. This is a huge case for diversity because if we keep hearing the same voices over and over again, we’re having a limited perspective of the world around us and we’re losing infinite wisdom. We need that wisdom because every life, including lives that are not being featured, is cultivating wisdom for the universe that we’re not getting and so we’re all dumber for it. If we can get more different voices, everybody sharing these voices, looking for what perspectives are we not getting out there, that’s how we all as a species, as a universe further ourselves, continue evolving and pushing one another to grow into ourselves.
I absolutely love this, Mike, of thinking that we are the universe expressing through each one of us in different ways. With you saying that, talking about diversity, which is something we have a container for here on this show. We want to hear as many different perspectives, voices, background stories. Desires, kinks, dreams, all of it.
One of the concerning things as a backdrop of what’s happening on planet Earth is it can feel divisive in a lot of arenas. People’s opinion on COVID-19. People’s opinions on whether to get vaccinated or not get vaccinated. People’s opinion on whether to be pro-life or pro-choice and a lot of the things that are trying to get repealed with Roe vs. Wade.
Looking at LGBTQ plus and transgender. Making sure people have rights when it comes to health care coverage, partnerships and legal protections. There are so many issues that I’m not even covering. We can talk about child labor and slavery. Sometimes as an empathic, sensitive person, I feel like, “I signed up for this.” It can feel overwhelming as a sensitive being.
With your backdrop of what you said of this beautiful spiritual perspective of each one of our souls being an individual expression of a greater universe, a greater spirit, I wonder if that type of mentality if people were to be open to it. If that would allow us to treat each other with more respect, not be so divisive, not trying to be right all the time because that’s one of the things that’s tearing the fabric of humanity. Everyone feels the need of, “I’m right and you’re wrong. Screw you. You need to believe in this. If you don’t believe in this, we’re going to literally or figuratively destroy you online.” My question is, how do you think we can start to infuse more of this respect, love and openness? The world needs it badly.
I don’t know that I’ll have the answer that you want because my answer is slow-moving and that is to think about how trauma and subjectivity works. I talk about what I call the widening lens of subjectivity. If I’ve got my arm cut off, I can’t worry about your paper cut because I’m bleeding out and I am in so much pain. My lens of subjectivity is pretty narrow. I am worried about this thing. As I may not be in that pain, hopefully someone gets me a tourniquet or something goes on and I’m not in this situation. My lens can widen a little bit. I can see a little bit in front of me and it can widen more.You never have to try to be yourself. If you're trying, it means you're being somebody else. Click To Tweet
What I want is a 360 view. That’s what we call enlightenment. I want to be able to see and experience all things. We have a lot of people and it’s impossible for them to see other’s perspectives because they are suffering and they are in their own situation so severely that they cannot see beyond that lens of subjectivity. What we need to do is, as a society, look around and see how we can alleviate suffering the most. I think about this all the time when I vote. I don’t vote for myself. I look around and see who will not be okay based on the vote and vote for those people because that’s what I need to do as a society and as a world.
I’ve also done a lot of self-work, I have some privileges so I’m able to do some of that. What we want to do is widen that lens of subjectivity. That’s why I do the work I do every day. Sometimes actors or business people think I’m helping them with their business and that’s fine. I am doing those things but I am also helping you to understand your own subjectivity. You can expand that so we can all be there for other people, see other perspectives and support one another.
Shifting gears, Mike. I don’t want to let this off the hook because it’s been similarly hanging out my subconscious to want to ask. When we were getting to know you, you said, “I have the greatest engagement story ever.” Before we get to the finish line of this episode because you are such a phenomenally engaging storyteller, I want to know about this all-time great engagement story. You’ve been teasing this beautiful man, Garrett, and your wonderful relationship. This Lifetime story turned into a musical that we’re going to see. I feel like this engagement story is a huge part and we need to hear about it.
I knew that day I was at that North End party that I was going to marry this guy. I had to marry him. It took me a long time because I was starting my own business. I couldn’t hide thousands and thousands of dollars and not seem stressed out about money. I wanted this to be a surprise and I knew the exact spot I wanted to propose and it was on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. It’s the first time he saw the Mediterranean because he had never seen the Mediterranean before. I was like, “I’ve got to propose to him right there.”
I couldn’t hide this money so it took me four years to do but I finally saved up enough money and said, “Garrett, why don’t you take a week off of work. We’re going to do something small. Take an off for four months.” He’s like, “Okay.” I knew this had to be a big surprise. Leading up to it, I went down to his parents. His parents were divorced but I went to where they live. I stayed with his ex-girlfriend to include her. I asked for their blessing but pretended I was at a yoga retreat, which was hard to lie my way out of because I knew he would check the flight tracker. Long story short, I got there.
The day was coming. I knew where he kept his passport. I was excited. He was going to work. We were going to hit the road and get to the airport by the time he got home. He said, “I have to bring my passport to work.” Whoever needs their passport? He was teaching a class at a university and he needed his passport for tax reasons. One day in his entire life, he needs his passport. I was like, “He’s going to have it on him. We’ll make this work.”
The whole time I’m not telling him if we’re flying or driving. I said, “I pack for both but I wouldn’t put a knife in your carry-on.” It wasn’t going to be warm in Italy that week. I said, “We’re not going far. Pack like you would around here.” He said, “Okay. The one thing you have to tell me is will I need my passport because I don’t want to bring it and lose it.” I thought, “Mike, you’ve got committed at this point. You’ve got to make a decision.” I said, “Don’t bring it. I don’t want you to lose that. Why don’t you go pack the car and I’ll be down in a minute.”
I sprinted into the bedroom, grabbed the passport and zipped it up as he was coming up the stairs. I was like, “Not that car. The Uber I ordered.” We got into an Uber and I put in the location we were going to so I didn’t have to tell the driver in front of him. If you can’t tell by the end of this interview, I am psychotic. I could not get dropped off at Terminal E, which those Bostonians here know is International because he would know we’re going international. I had to get dropped off at Terminal C and I studied the blueprint of the airport and there’s a passageway from C to E so I could walk this. I was like, “Perfect.”
C is JetBlue and we fly JetBlue a lot. We got dropped off over there. I go over to the kiosk and said, “Crap.” He was like, “What is it? What did you forget?” I said, “Can you hold this?” I gave him his passport. He said, “Why would you bring your passport? You told me not to bring mine. This is my passport.” I was like, “Can you hold this?” I gave him three books on Rome. He said, “What’s going on here?” I said, “When you get up tomorrow morning, you will be in Rome. We’re going on a plane to Rome tonight.” He’s like, “What are you talking about?” I said, “Come on. Let’s walk through this passageway. We’re going to the plane.”
Garrett’s mom, God bless her, is one of the worst liars you have ever met. I had to call her and say, “Cheryl, we’ve got to work hard on this one. He’s going to call you and say, ‘Mike is taking me to Italy.’ You have to pretend about that but not the engagement so there are layers to this lie. You can do this.” He calls her and she does great. We got on the plane. I say, “Garrett, we can have a local thing. We can do the touristy thing. This is your trip. You do whatever you want. You plan it.” He plans out this beautiful trip. We land in Rome. We’ve got 3.5 days in Rome and we’re going to do the other 3.5 days in the Amalfi.
I told him, “You have 3.5 days. Do whatever you want.” We have three beautiful days. It was supposed to rain every single day that we were there but it didn’t. It was beautiful. I was like, “Thank God. It’s okay.” We’re going to Amalfi. It’s going to be sunny so we’re good. We brought our raincoats and our umbrellas everywhere we went. It was annoying to carry because we didn’t need it. The Saturday that we were leaving for the Amalfi Coast, he said, “The one thing I want to do before I leave, I will kick myself, I cannot leave Rome without going to the Vatican.”
I go, “On a Saturday. Great. We’re going to try this. It’s going to be a disaster but let’s get over there because we cannot miss this train. We have to catch it at 2:00 PM because it’s the last train down there. We have nowhere to stay here. We have somewhere to stay there.” Long story short, we’ll lose thousands of dollars. We cannot miss this train. I cannot afford this. He’s like, “We’re going to get in line for the Vatican and we’ll be fine.” We get over there. We get in line and they tell us it’s about a two-hour wait. I said, “They’re overdramatic. They’re lying. It’s never going to be that bad.” We got in this line and we didn’t bring raincoats because it’s not raining this one day. The forecast is supposed to be beautiful. It starts downpouring. We’re now sitting there completely soaked.
Garrett has this fancy camera. He had to buy a €10 poncho to wrap around the camera case because it’s getting wet. I am drenched and now I have to pee and I have to pee really bad. I’m like, “I can’t get out the line because I cannot miss this.” I have to pee and Garrett is getting hungry. We’re waiting and we’re waiting for some more. Finally, it’s been 2.5 hours. We are three people from the final line and Garrett says, “It’s not worth spending €30 each to go in there for ten minutes. We don’t have time. Let’s get out of line.” After 2.5 hours of standing in the rain, we left the line.
I was like, “Let’s salvage this day. Let’s go over, grab something to eat, pee quickly, get our bags and get over to the train.” I go over and I’m begging people to let me in. Nobody is open until 1:00. It was 12:45 and nobody would even let me in to pee. We can’t eat and can’t pee anywhere. I said, “Fine. Screw it. We can eat at the train station. Let’s go grab our bags.” We rushed over to the metro to take back to our hotel and people were standing outside in the rain. I asked them in Italian, “What’s going on here?” They said, “This is a delay between three stops. The only stops we needed.” I said, “We have to speed walk home at this point.” We’ve got our little map that is now disintegrating in the rain. We are trying to read street signs etched in Roman letters into the buildings. It’s pouring rain and I can’t see.
Long story short, the bridge we wanted went one way and the bridge we took went a different way. We are now further away from our hotel in Rome. I have to pee so badly and there are no alleys so I can’t pee anywhere. Hungry has turned to hangry for Garrett and we start bickering. I was like, “Screw this. I’m not proposing. I have spent four years planning this. I have spent thousands of dollars and this is not it. This is not going to be the day that I am proposing.”
Before I left, a friend of mine who’s Hindu sent me a prayer for Ganesha. For some reason, she said, “I want you to pray to the Hindu God Ganesha.” I didn’t think much of it and did the prayer she asked me to. I’m sitting here in Rome so pissed off and I look up and there’s a mural of Ganesha in the middle of Rome. I’m like, “Placer and mover of obstacles,” or something here.
Long story short, I remember one, Garrett remembers another and we find our way back to the hotel. We grab our bags, we go down to the metro station and we’re going to take it over to the train station. I go through the turnstile. We had weekly passes. Garrett goes through and he says, “It was in my front pocket. It’s now disintegrated from the rain.” I said, “It’s Saturday in one of the busiest train stations in Rome. Nobody is helping an American. I can’t get back through the turnstile. I have to yell how to get the machine into English and try to get you to buy another ticket.”
I’m yelling it to him and he finally figures it out. He puts the ticket and it doesn’t work. I’m like, “Garrett, we have one more shot at this. We don’t have time.” He goes, gets another one and finally works. We take the metro to Rome Termini, which is the main train station in Italy. You’ve got 40 trains going at any given time. This is a busy train station.
We have five minutes until our train is leaving. We couldn’t eat but it didn’t matter. I’ll grab a power bar and at least we can get there. I said, “Garrett, here’s where we’ll set a platform. You look for it. I’m going to make sure what we printed out is enough or if I have to exchange it for a physical ticket.” I go over, I come back and Garrett is panicking. There are only two minutes until this train leaves and it does not say anything. It is not posted. I’m like, “Garrett, we’re going to go through security, run up and down all 40 trains and hope we can find that train in time. That’s what we’ve got to do at this point.”
We go, we run up and down all 40 trains and we cannot find the train. We are freaking out. I ran over to an attendant and I said, “Please call this in. What track number is it?” He calls it in and says, “Your train is leaving in less than a minute. Run.” We are drenched. We are sweaty. We have all of our bags to be in Italy the entire week. We are sprinting down this platform trying to get to this train in time and all I can think is, “We can’t miss this.” This is a $1,000 train. I feel like I’m on The Amazing Race. I cannot miss this moment.
I wish I were exaggerating this part. We jump up onto the train and within ten seconds, the train takes off. We’ve made it. I am sweating. My heart is racing. I’m hungry, I am tired and my only thought is, “Screw this. I’m not proposing today. I can wait until tomorrow. He’ll see the Mediterranean. I don’t care. The second time he sees it is good enough for me.” Garrett looks over at me and says, “It’s weird for everything that went wrong today and a lot did, you would have thought we would have turned on each other but we didn’t. We worked together as a team. Isn’t that weird?” I thought, “Crap, now I have to propose today.”
We take this train. We have three hours. God knows it’s still raining because I bought him a watch, I put it in my raincoat. We get out and walk a mile in the rain to our hotel but, at this point, it is on. This is happening. I’ve got no plan. I have no idea what I’m going to say but I know I have to propose today. We check into the hotel, we drop our bags off and I say, “Garrett, do you want to check out the rooftop?” Who in their right mind would want to check out the rooftop in this rainstorm? Now it’s only drizzling but still. Garrett was like, “I guess.”The more sensitive you are, the more alive you are. Click To Tweet
We go outside. You can barely see the Mediterranean through the fog and I say, “Garrett, go look at that castle off in the distance.” When he turns around, he can’t see it through the fog and I’m trying to think of what I’m going to say. I get down on one knee and he turns back around. I said, “Garrett, I won’t lie to you. I woke up this morning and I planned on proposing to you and everything went to crap. Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. I thought, ‘Screw this. I’m not proposing to you.’ This isn’t the proposal I want where I’m swearing and complaining about the day. I’m not doing this today.”
“Everything went wrong and I thought I had one shot at this. I spent thousands of dollars and years of planning for this one shot and I am not wasting it on today. When everything did go wrong, we started working together as a team and I realized that I don’t have one shot at this. I have a million shots at this. Every day for the rest of my life, I’m waking up, I’m asking myself if I’m still going to do this and I’m asking you to love me. Today is one of those days. I brought you to the most beautiful place that I know to potentially rival your beauty to ask you, will you marry me?” He said yes. I then pulled out my pocket a date stamp picture with his mom that said, “Cheryl approved.” I told him I secretly went down there.
Your storytelling is good, Mike. It’s such a nice end cap to this episode because I feel like anyone who stays to the end of the episode is invested as we are. Having that treat of a great story with visuals because I’ve been to Rome. It’s an intense city. It’s amazing but there’s so much going on. It’s confusing and all the details. When I was growing up in high school, my Writing teachers taught us how to infuse details in our storytelling and how powerful it is.
Everything you did is also explaining why you got a book deal and became a successful blogger because you’re great at creating these stories that draw us in. Thank you for doing that here. If you want, you can take the transcript and turn this into another book, Mike. You have our permission to do that. That’s your story. Does your main website link to your blog post? Is that your hub, Mike, for anything people want to know about you diving deeper into your work? Is that all in one place?
It’s there on my website. I’m not a social media person by habit but I’m getting into Instagram so you can pull me out of my shell on Instagram @MikeIamele. If you are interested in mapping your own sensitivities and figuring out what those things are, we have a free resource on our website at MikeIamele.com/map. You can download a worksheet and it’s a free 30-minute training and that will help you. It’s not my full system, I’ll be honest but it will help you to get a sense of what those sensitivities are for you.
Hopefully, you can continue the journey with Mike and everything that lays ahead and at least get notified when the musical comes out. I need to know that. Mike, thank you so much. You shared things that we’ve only scratched the surface on the show. Thank you for the storytelling, the wisdom, the resources and most of all for being you and being open about your journey. It’s been beautiful to witness that here.
Thanks so much for having me. It’s been awesome!
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About Mike Iamele
Mike Iamele is a Purpose + Brand Strategist. For nearly a decade, he’s helped hundreds of people to map their experiences and figure out what they subconsciously do every time they’re successful –– through a process called Sacred Branding®. In 2014, Mike accidentally came out to millions when he wrote an article about falling in love with a man after identifying as straight––and 100,000 people shared it overnight. Mike’s also the author of Enough Already: Create Success on Your Own Terms (Conari Press 2015). He’s shared his provocative and vulnerable take on life in hundreds of magazines and podcasts, including NPR, CBS, and Huffington Post. Prior to Sacred Branding®, at only 22 years old, Mike co-founded Torch Communications, a boutique public relations firm, specializing in healthcare and disruptive technology. He currently lives in Somerville, MA, with his husband and two adorable dogs.
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