Live and Thrive Like a Drug Addict (with Michael Brody-Waite)
National Twilight Zone Day brought all sorts of rarities, even more than Doug’s usual antics. Today, Joe hopped on his dad’s shortwave with a (former) drug addict. Before you jump to the conclusion that the show took a wrong turn (as if tolerating
Doug Joe is not enough to make you question reality), check out the lessons learned by talking with Michael Brody-Waite – about how to achieve balance, reclaim energy, and thrive in work.
The US Treasury Department is launching a new 20-year bond in an effort to fund the record level of borrowing this year that has been brought on by COVID-19 and its effect on the economy. An auction on May 20 will feature the sale of $20 billion worth of 20-year Treasury Bonds in an effort to meet record borrowing needs. Because of the uncertainty with the COVID-19 situation, the Treasury is looking to maintain high levels of cash, which will help it better deal with unanticipated needs.
The reasoning behind adding 20-year offerings is to extend out the duration of the bonds – allowing the government to pay a set lower interest rate, which is determined at today’s levels, over a longer time period. OG explains how Treasury auctions work: “It’s kind of like a reverse auction; it’s not trying to auction it up, it’s (US Treasury) is auctioning it (the bond) down…how much (money) will you give me for this (interest rate)?” This is how the US Government, the largest debtor in the world, borrows money at the lowest possible rate.
While it is not possible to borrow at the same rates that the US Government can, Joe reminds everybody, “this is why you always shop interest rates. You don’t just go to the first bank and say, “Hey, what interest rate will you give me?’ Let’s shop interest rates.”
In the first quarter of 2020, 401(k) participants who use professional advice to help with their 401(k) plan investing were more likely to sit tight than self-directed investors, according to Morningstar. Per the research, 5.7% of participants who were enrolled in the plan on December 31, 2019, changed their portfolio allocations in the first quarter, although the rate of change varied significantly depending on how the participant was invested. Only 2% of participants invested in target date funds and managed accounts changed their portfolios, in contrast to more than 10% participants who self direct their investments. OG opined, “To be fair, the people who are listening to this are most likely to be in the either 98% or 90% of people who didn’t do anything.” Later, OG commented, “(YOU, the listeners of the show) are the smart ones…you’re brilliant because you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing.” Kudos, Stackers!
“To be fair, the people who are listening to this are most likely to be in the either 98% or 90% of people who didn’t do anything.” –OG
OG goes on to berate the concept of market timing, acknowledging that it sounds great in theory, but saying, “it never works.” History has shown over and over again that trying to successfully time the market twice (when to get out and when to get back in) is a fool’s errand…it is highly improbable to do it consistently. Long story short, you cannot rely on consistently being able to successfully time the market twice.
It may very well feel like The Twilight Zone with as much sense as recent market volatility make. Do not try to time the market; stick to your well thought out financial plan.
Michael Brody-Waite called in to the show to discuss his 17 year journey from drug addiction and near-homelessness to CEO and co-founder of an Inc. 500 startup that was sold to a publicly traded company.
The TEDxNashville presenter is happy to share his story and lessons learned through experience. “If what I have to share helps one perspn, it’s worth it,” Michael states. The husband and father, book author, speaker, leadership coach, and former corporate executive looked back at his past, and expressed sheer gratitude to be in the fortunate position where he is today. To really drive the point home and illustrate how far he’s come, Brody-Waite said, “I expected to be dead at least 11 years ago, let alone being a husband and a father.”
The Slippery Slope
To get some frame of reference, Joe asked when did he first get started with drugs, to which Brody-Waite replied, “I started experimenting in high school and then in college…I never really felt like I had the instructions on how to deal with life on life’s terms, and I always felt less than. I found that when I put drugs and alcohol in my body, I could control the way I felt…better and numb.” He was fully addicted by his junior year in college, where his only obsession was to get and stay high all day, every day. Due to his addiction, he was kicked out of school and his house, fired from his job, and had his car repossessed in short order. In spite of the world happening around him, his sole focus remained on how he could get high. “From age 20 to 23, I went from Fullbright college student to homeless drug addict,” he explained just how precipitous his decline was. The only way he stayed off the streets was a friend let him stay at his apartment for a weekend…which turned into three months. Michael admits that he was a horrible guest, saying that, in addition to overstaying his welcome, he would steal his friend;s money, drink his liquor, eat his food, and invite strangers over to wreck the place – while his friend was out at work.
At the end of the three months, “I had nothing, man. I couldn’t even afford a belt to hold my pants up; so I had to rely on whatever means I could to get money.” When people would try to talk to him about how bad the situation looks, Brody-Waite would avoid them at all costs or tell them that he was in control and had things figured out.
A low point came one weekend when Michael was high and borrowing his parents’ car. He had seen an advertisement for a Big Mac, and drove down to the McDonald’s on Sunset Boulevard in LA, and, on his way back, (still high) was speeding recklessly and a cop pulled him over. At that moment, he actually felt relief (“finally I can stop spinning all these plates.”), but the officer just motioned for him to slow down.
The low point for Michael came when he looked at himself in the mirror and did not recognize who he was. He thought to himself, “I can’t keep going on like this.” His thoughts turned dark and he contemplated suicide by overdose, because he hoped he could feel high enough before he died. He used more drugs than he ever had before, and achieved his desired high for five minutes. After he did not even lose consciousness despite using a significant amount of drugs, he finally broke down and came to his senses, thinking that he could not even keep up with the unquenchable thirst for more. He was exhausted, thinking that he was too tired and couldn’t do it any more.
“I’m so tired. I can’t do this anymore.” –Michael Brody-Waite on his lowest point and moment of realization
At six months into rehab, he was having a difficult time staying clean. He had to share with his support group in order to refrain from using. Michael thinks that he totally bombed the talk, but a 15-year clean veteran, Tim, came up to him after the show and said, “That was a great share.” Tim went on to explain that the only way to win and stay on top of the addiction is to be real and vulnerable. Michael had bared his soul during the share, and Tim appreciated that and wanted to know the REAL Michael.
“That was the first time anyone had ever told me being my true self was the most important thing.” –Michael Brody-Waite on his “A-ha Moment” from being counseled by a 15-year clean veteran. “There are those who call me, ‘Tim’” (can be removed, but I though the Monty Python reference might win points
The Shift to Corporate America
Disclaimer: when talking about “taking off the mask”, it is figurative. We are currently in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. DO NOT take off your mask!!!
According to Michael, drug addicts do four things well:
1. Say “yes” to drugs
2. Hide the weakness (addiction)
3. Avoid difficult conversations that will lead to an intervention
4. Hold back beautiful and unique perspective due to being blunted by drugs and alcohol
Once in the corporate world, Michael looked at all the people around him – well dressed, polished, distinguished-looking professionals with great degrees – and felt out of place. He soon realized that, when he looked at them, he was just like them: people are saying “yes” when they could say “no” to emails, projects, tasks, etc. He goes on to say it is absolutely pervasive in businesses in America today. “They’re hiding their weaknesses because they don’t want people to think they can’t do something. They’re avoiding difficult conversations with their boss, their coworkers, the customer, their significant other. And they’re holding back their unique perspective; they’re not saying, “I don;t know.” They’re not saying, “I don’t agree with that,” or they’re not showing, when the boss’s boss is in the room, what their unique perspective is.”
Upon realizing this, Michael thought, “I get that. They’re hiding behind a mask to get what they want. I did that as a drug addict.” The colleagues were hiding behind the mask to get success. Due to his history of addiction and hiding behind the mask to get what he wanted (drugs and alcohol), Michael simply could not do it in order to achieve professional success…he feared relapse. He openly shared his weakness aggressively, leaned into the difficult conversations, and did not hold his unique perspective back. Just as in therapy, he thought this brutal honesty would make him an outcast, and it did – he was an outsider in the corporate culture. As time passed, however, it made his former mentors his employees as he got promoted eight times in eight years. He was more efficient, more effective, more trusted, and able to leverage his self-awareness. Ultimately, his honesty and truth allowed him to excel – instead of the crowd that says the right things or volunteers for a project that they may have no idea how to do (and are scared to ask for help). Furthermore, he was not afraid to say no to things or speak his mind – being odd man out in a corporate culture is much less intimidating than facing drug addiction.
The ability to be brutally honest and vulnerable has allowed Brody-Waite to ascend to greatness – both professionally and personally. His credentials speak for themselves: TED Talk speaker whose speech holds the record for number of views for TedxNashville, accomplished co-founder of a company and author, husband and father… His message is clear: don’t wear a mask.
Vanessa wants to get the guys’ thoughts on whether or not she should pay off student loans or just pay the minimums after getting laid off due to Coronavirus. She has $2,000 saved, will be receiving around $980 per week from unemployment and the extra $600, will receive a severance of $1,800 biweekly, plus she received the full $1,200 stimulus payment from the federal government. She has a federal student loan for about $3700 at 2% with a $57 minimum monthly payment and a personal loan of $16,000 with a minimum monthly payment of $577 at 5%. She was in the accounting field, so feels confident that she will be able to find a job without too much problem after the pandemic and quarantine are in the rear-view mirror,
OG emphatically recommends that she “100% hang on to the money.” Because there are too many unknowns, He argues that she can always pay the loans off later, whereas she could not ask for another loan the day after paying them off. Liquidity is key. After regaining employment, if she’s feeling more secure, she could pay off the loans in a lump sum.
Joe points out that there are assistance programs out there for student loans right now that may warrant looking into. It may be possible to have her already-low 2% rate lowered to 0% and possibly deferred for a few months.