Knowing your truth makes it easier to have a vision of where you want to go. As early as sixth grade, Mark Hattas knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur. A series of life pivots led him to achieve one of his goals – retiring before 40. Today, Mark is an author, speaker, executive mentor and a thought leader who teaches organizations and leaders the principles of living as “optimal beings”. Diagnosed as bipolar, Mark didn’t let that distract him from achieving his vision and instead embraced his gift of seeing the future. His book, Awakening the Optimal Leader, is a visionary fiction story highlighting Mark’s vision 25 years into the future. In this episode, Mark shares how he and his team bring transformation to corporations by creating a custom visionary fiction book that aligns vision and values, which ultimately bring organizations together.
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Knowing Your Truth And Vision With Mark Hattas
I’m feeling incredibly blessed. I’ve started this new routine. I have a new ritual in the morning after I say the four words that I’ve been saying for many years now. I’ve added a question right after that and that question is, “I wonder what miracles are coming today?” It is an interesting question for me to lie in bed and put that out to the universe and to the space of all that’s infinite and limitless, knowing that a miracle can be everywhere. I don’t pay attention to them enough. I don’t acknowledge them enough, I feel. Now, that I’ve started to ask that question, I guess it begs the question, “Are there miracles showing up in my life because I asked the question?” I wonder what miracles are coming or were those miracles there all along and I wasn’t paying attention?
I feel incredible because I get to spend time with a friend and a colleague and somebody that I’ve known for a while and I feel blessed to be able to share this gentleman and his work, his teaching with our community. You’re going to enjoy finding out more about his story. You can find out more about the books he’s written and the work he’s doing, which I think is cutting edge pretty out there and something that I support and am looking forward to seeing a lot of people be moved by his message. His name is Mark Hattas. He is an author. He’s a thought leader. He’ll share a little bit of the way he sources that information, but he has access to information that has the capacity to move people, move large organizations and he has already achieved a certain level of mastery that I think as a teacher is something that I admire. One of the books that I was talking to him is this book called Awakening the Optimal Leader, which begs the question for me what an optimal leader is? What does it mean to be in an optimal state of being? He even as programs that are coined with that phrase. He’s got a profound pivot story. Mark, welcome to the show. It’s a pleasure to have you here.
Thank you. It’s awesome to be with you.
You’ve had some seasons, you’ve had some three-season, four-season days personally, as we all have. I think your pivot story is profound. Maybe we’ll dive in there. You can start any place you like. You’ve been a very successful entrepreneur. How did you get into the business? Was that something you dreamt of doing when you’re a kid? Was that a calling that you had from the time you’re eight years old to own, operate, and sell businesses? Is that’s your deal?
There are two stories there that merged into that leap to go from employment. I was working at GE Medical Systems prior to heading down the path of entrepreneurship. I would say the first is my grandfather who was in the Navy during World War II and a great athlete in his day. After the war, he started a carpet business and he carpeted a lot of the homes in Chicago. My mom grew up in that environment. She would talk about that and his business was still going on when I was a very young boy. I thought that was he must be brilliant, a genius to be an entrepreneur. I felt so unworthy because I didn’t have a high view of myself at the time that I could ever be an entrepreneur. I’d hear these stories and admire my grandfather and I loved him so much but felt this distance between what I viewed in him and where I was.
The second story was that it was around sixth grade or so, I come down the stairs of my home, and it’s a two-story colonial house. My mother, who is a strong woman, she has her head down at the roll-top desk around the corner, down the hallway. I sense that she’s crying. It’s very rare to see. I went up and said, “Mom, what’s going on?” My dad had been out of work and she said that she didn’t know how they were going to pay for groceries that month. I had earned some money and stuff. I said, “I’ve got $100 in my room.” I think that helped her cry more than you could imagine your kid doing that. She’s like, “That actually would help.” She promised, “I’ll get it back to you.” I gave her the $100 and I went back to my room and I said this prayer, I said, “God, if there’s a way that I could never be in that position ever, maybe retire before I’m 40 that would be cool.” I think the merger of those two led to that desire. I saw that entrepreneurship, much like sales in my early career would lead me to the wealth that I would need not to have to work. That was my number one goal.
I love the story. Thank you for sharing that. You and I have known each other a while and I never heard that story. It’s a catalyst in many ways. The idea that you had an example. Those were a model for what that pain looks like. That level of whatever you want to call it, just frustration and exhaustion and even shame, I suppose. The idea that I couldn’t feed the family that week. To put those words out, was that the first time you can remember saying a prayer, putting out that intention?Going from employment to entrepreneurship is a leap. Click To Tweet
I’m a Cradle Catholic and grew up Catholic, straight school, high school, Jesuit college. I was taught from a little youngster about prayer, but it’s not like we’d sit around holding hands, praying or anything in the home. We go to church on Sunday and then I’d go to school. It’s a nuisance for me. I’d say the rote prayers and I would say that I was a needy prayer at the time. When I would need something, I’d pray. Otherwise, I’d go through the motions. I would say that nothing quite that extraordinary in terms of feeling so determined but certainly consistent with how I prayed at the time.
What would say was different about that? This is interesting to me because I pray and I believe in the power of prayer, not in a religious sense, not that I have any issues with people that pray in a religious context. I believe in a source and infinite source of divine everything, love and whatever we call that. I feel that that’s not outside of us. I don’t believe it’s something that’s external. It is something that’s within us and that we can all tap into and are a part of but there’s a lot of times I think we’re prayer has that obligation tied to it because it is a part of the training that we receive in certain contexts growing up. You said you’re a Cradle Catholic. I’m sure you had your training for certain rote prayers. What was different about that prayer do you think?
There are two things that I want to share in context. I’ll share one quick story about my grandfather to give this context. In the war, he was a mechanic for the Navy. He and some friends love playing football. They all agreed, “Let’s do our maintenance on the planes and then we’ll go and play some ball.” There’s a carburetor part that wouldn’t go back in. It just wouldn’t fit right. It was unusual because it would just normally drop. The guys are all done and he’s like, “I got to finish this. Go ahead without me.” They were getting into an airplane to fly off to this field where they would go and land and play ball. He couldn’t go. As soon as the plane takes off, this part drops right in and that plane crashed. All the men on board died. He raised my mother and his eight children with the context that, “We know not what a thing is or what it’s for but trust, even those moments that might be frustrating.” He wanted to ball. The Holy, Divine, Essence, Source or whatever you want to call it, the Angels are there guiding and trust that.
The fact that it didn’t go in means that I’m here, that my mother’s here. That all went into motion because he didn’t neglect his obligation to complete his tasks to play ball. That’s one element of the household you can imagine I grew up in. My mom grew up with that praying and getting answers and she would receive insights when she would get the answers. She would see the prayer go out and the answer comes back. I knew that was possible and I was jealous as a little boy. I’m like, “How come I pray and I don’t see the answer come back?” When we get to the rest of the story, the answer to that prayer that day comes back before I’m 40-years-old. I couldn’t see the answer when I was in sixth grade or seventh grade that I got to look back and see exactly when it was. That desire was so strong. There was so much desire there that it just shot out and the universe collected everything that needed to happen and I got into position to receive that answer. When I saw it, “What else am I putting out there?”
What’s different about that prayer than some of the other prayers? Not every seed takes and that seed took. It wasn’t a needy prayer. Is that the distinction? Was it just the magnitude?
It was almost like I was in this state of peace, but I wasn’t experiencing what my mom was. She was experiencing this tension and all the things you had mentioned. I was just like, “I’m glad I’ve got $100 and I don’t want to be in that situation.” If there’s any way not to have that happen, have something to retire before I’m 40, that’d be pretty cool. It was very relaxed but there was a lot of “I don’t want to do that.” It was a big contrast. It didn’t mean it was all healthy along the way.
Let’s not gloss over the fact anything that we’re going to talk about, especially when it comes to the success of a business. It’s a long and winding road. It’s an up and down thing. What did it look like for you to get out of a stable job? You’re working for GE. Jack is your man. This guy is an epic leader.
When I started, he was there. He was awesome. They were doing Black Belt, Six Sigma is just a new thing. I was in sales. I was telling my son, “As an engineer out of school, engineers got jobs and then they’d get little raises along the way. I doubled my income within twelve months because I was in sales and was making a lot of money.” It’s fascinating because I was in Kansas City. My wife and I had got married. We had gone through a loss of a pregnancy and decided while she was going through her recovery, it was pretty intense. It was a twin molar pregnancy, which led her to be in the hospital for a month. Talking about prayer, at that time I said a prayer. I remember being outside her room and they told me that they were doing a biopsy because they thought that the cancer cells that had produced from this molar pregnancy could be malignant. I’m on tears constantly at that time. I remember hanging up, talking to my dad at the payphone slumped down into this chair outside her room. I said, “God, help her get well. I’m yours. I’ll do whatever.” I was making a deal in a way. “You give me her. I’m yours.” There are a couple of times where I did that.
You started bartering with God, is that what you’re saying?
I was attempting. The call came, I got called on it. I remember telling her, “When you’re out of here, let’s go and build a house.” I remember I was making all this money. I was 26-years-old. We built a semi-custom house in our mid-twenties and then I get the phone call. It’s a phone call from my cousin and he says, “I know you’re great at sales. We’ve got this little company out here in Naperville, Illinois and we’re six, seven guys and gals. We’d like to grow it, would you consider leaving GE?” I lit up like, “Are you’re kidding me?” Because I wanted to be wanted. One of the reasons I got into it, I didn’t accept myself very well. I wanted acceptance and validation from the sales I got and I got it. Here my cousin sees that I’m good and wants me to help him grow a business. That was a pretty cool moment, yet we had just built this house. Liz was pregnant again because it was a year after the whole loss thing and I knew that she wanted to stay in Kansas City. I said, “God, if there’s a way to have this happen and be obvious that this is the right choice, show us the way.”
I am writing a book and it’s got this story and a lot of these stories in it. You can see the drops of wisdom and insights and the coincidences that line up to have it be so obvious, including prior to us fully saying yes. We decided we’ll put the house on the market and we’ll see if it sells and if it sells quickly, sure. A guy knocks on the door to see our home. We were supposed to be gone before he got there, but he got there early. His real estate agent wasn’t with them. His name is Buddy. I’m like, “Come on in.” He comes into the kitchen, we start talking, and he’s like, “Why are you moving?” I say, “There’s this job that I got drawn into with my cousin and we’re a software company. You probably never heard of it.” He said, “I’m in that business. What’s the name?” I tell him the name. He said,” I’m one of their clients.” He worked for a company called the Kemper. I’m like, “Are you’re kidding?” They had five clients in the whole world. One of their clients comes to Kansas City to look at our house because they were opening an office there. It’s stuff like that. It’s like, “Wait a minute, this is happening.” It was the God called, “Are you going to come through on your commitment to do what is optimal here?” Thankfully it came through and we moved.
You follow that guidance and you end up in Naperville.
I’m with this little tiny company and six months later, we doubled the size of the company. They’re making a lot more money. They’re not sure how to manage it. They’re not business people. They’re all techies. About six months in, my cousin contacts me and says, “Just so you know, I’m leaving.” I’m like, “What? I just moved from Kansas City. It’s been six months.” He said it’s just not working out. He and the partners. He thought I would come in and save it and it didn’t work out. They had promised me equity. At least I had that. They told me after they found out he was leaving, they said, “Just so you know, we’re not giving you the equity.” I’m like, “Screw you. It’s why I’m here.” That was the catalyst to say if you’re not going to honor your commitments, I’m going to leave.” I started a company called Geneca. It’s a software company. That was on September 18th, 1998. It was a great day.
What happens with Geneca? Let’s leap from the point of inception. You get this entrepreneurial bug and the seed of that was sewn early on in life as we found out. Here you are. You’re no longer an employee. You’re starting something from scratch. There’s no guarantee of anything. How’s it go?Some answers to your prayers do not come immediately. Click To Tweet
We had a six-month-old.
Let’s add that.
The first of five that kept coming. Let me give you a couple of highlight points. We are working our tails off nonstop until 11:00, 12:00 every night, out of the house, move into an apartment, then move into an office, then grow the office. It’s that story. It’s progressive, slow growth. There were ups and downs. I had never taken a business class, so I was learning everything for the first time hands-on. My partner was a technical architect. He was an operational mindset. I was the visionary sales mindset. We worked very well complimentary because about three months after I had left, he and I joined together. My cousin and I rejoined. We grew to about $1.5 million closing up on $2 million in a pretty quick period of time. I had a coach who said, “What is company look like when you’re a little bit bigger?” I said, “What do you mean?”
He said, “Create the model of the business now.” I created a model. I knew I wanted to grow to a $20 million company. We created the whole architecture of what a $6 million company looked like in year two. My name and my partner’s name were mostly in the boxes, then we did it. It happened. That’s what I found is every time we put an intention out there and we’re clear about it and we had to work but I was more stressed about it than I needed to be because it was going to happen. That’s what I’ve discovered is when we put a clear intention out, it’s happening and it’s up to us to allow it to happen. We grew to the $6 million and then we quickly doubled to $11 million. We were very fragile and in 2006, we had just booked some new office space.
What do you mean you were very fragile?
The business was very fragile. It was like we outgrew our ability to deliver. We brought on a gentleman who was exceptional at that. He came on, helped solidify our process so that we could deliver on all these things. We were good at selling and we stabilized and then quickly grew up over a couple of years to $20 million. That led until 2010. I’m going to tell you the story of how we got to the sale. Along the way, lots of ups and downs and whenever I was desperate, I’d pray and whenever I’d pray, the answer just showed up. At some point along the way, I said, “What if I just prayed all the time?” Every day I say, “I surrender.” I know not what a thing is or what it’s for. I used the thing I learned from my grandfather, which I know comes from the Bible. I started to do that more and more.
In 2009, we hired this woman Allison and she introduces this concept called Psych-K. It’s a tool that supports changing beliefs very rapidly. I’m like, “This is cool.” I love it so much I invited our whole management team to go through it and the ones who chose did, and there was a moment in the end she said, “We’re going to do a vision for this future state.” I was clear and I publicly stated, I said, “I want to sell the company within a certain period of time.” I think it was eighteen months for a certain amount of money and I want to stay with the company for only six months. That was in 2009.
It was fourteen months after that, some dynamics had taken place where I went to Thanksgiving in 2010. My wife, kids and I were at a condo that we wanted an auction and I didn’t have the cell phone on at all. I hear this voice inside my head and it says, “Offer to buy Joel out.” There was some tension building at the company like where are we going? What’s happening? We’re right at $20 million. Our profitability had gotten cut in half from like 15%, 18% down to 10%. I’m like, “Why are we working harder for less money? This doesn’t make sense.” That was the message. It was very clear. Offer to buy him out. I went back, offered to buy him out and he says that he doesn’t want to sell and he’s concerned that if I bought him that the way I was thinking we’d lead, the company wouldn’t lead to success. He says, “How about if I buy you out?”
Before the words left his lips, I was like, “Yes,” I said, “Let me talk to my wife and get back to you.” What would it look like? He lays it out. It was the exact amount of money that I had said back in 2009. He asked me to stay six months, which is the exact amount of time and it was within the time period and it goes to show. It’s like I got everything that I had asked for, which brings up another story and I was 38-years-old. Going back to the sixth grade and the prayer, “It would be nice to retire before I’m 40.” Here I’m 38-years-old and I’m being handed lots of money. Most of it was paid out over time, but there was a big chunk up front too. Within a week we had all the paperwork done, signed and about half a week later we sold the company. It was incredible.
You had so many stories of the struggle involved in that thing. You used the word allowing. Tie this in. How much is this you just getting out of the way? Did it feel like that at the time? Is that what you look back and go, like you said, surrendered.
It was October, a month and a half before the Thanksgiving moment and I had been working on a project with a local politician to bring a huge global initiative to Chicago. We did a proposal that ended up on the doorstep of Obama through David Axelrod, his right-hand guy at the time. Axelrod called us back at that moment, in October of 2010 because I had been spending a lot of time on that thinking I didn’t care about software as much anymore. I wanted to move on. I had this idea that we could shape the future in a unique way and these vicious cycles that we keep going through again and again. I thought this will be the catalyst because then if countries ever get to a place where they’re not talking, we can start to seed some of the communication channels globally by doing this initiative. Axelrod comes back and says, “Obama loves it and we’ll do it anywhere but Chicago,” which is where we all are. We want to do it in Chicago. All of our interests are like, “I’m not interested. What am I going to do it in Seattle?” I don’t know anything about the other areas.
I was actually in tears in the parking garage the very soon after that because I felt empty. I felt so apathetic and I sat in my car in tears and I said, “God, I’m not moving until you talk to me and tell me what to do. I’m done.” I said, “I don’t want to build this company anymore.” The thing in Chicago that we’re building, that seems to be gone. “What is it? Show me.” I sat there for many tens of minutes and finally calmed down and breathe. I got to a calm state and this idea came up in my head. I went and did it, right up to the office. Said, “What now?” I waited. I was like, “I don’t know what I was saying F you too, but it felt like that. I’ll stay. I’ll hang out, I’ll do stuff, but I’m just going to wait.” It just kept coming and coming. That’s what led to the voice in the head in November saying offer to buy my partner out, which flipped around and I got what I wanted but wasn’t conscious of it. The whole unconscious thing made it happen. It’s incredible. That was the struggle moment. That was the moment I’m done, I surrender. Show me the way. A month later, I’m out of the company.
Let’s fast forward beyond that and we’re going to take another big leap. You’ve closed, you’ve been paid, your consulting is done, and you’re finished with the company. Is this just putting your feet up, sitting around and watching your kids grow? As I heard Eddie Murphy talking about this. He’s having a whole conversation. It’s a very interesting episode with Eddie Murphy who is not doing stand-up. I’m not sure what other projects he’s got going, but basically, he says, “I’m just lazy. My favorite thing to do is to do nothing.” He’s just watching his kids. There’s an element with him, which is a separate thing where this is a fear now because he is such an icon. Even Seinfeld speaking to him, you could sense that Seinfeld looks at him as this iconic figure and oddly enough, Murphy looks at Seinfeld the same way. Seinfeld looks at Murphy and thinks, “There’s a guy who was always so confident. I wish I could have had just a fraction of his confidence.” Murphy’s like, “I look at Seinfeld and the only thing I ever wanted was that guy’s confidence.” He always knew so much.
Each of them hiding their insecurity, their lack of confidence, all of that but in Murphy’s instance anyway, he just hasn’t gotten back on the horse when it comes to the standup stuff. The story in his mind is that if he did and he failed, it would be an epic public failure. To get up and try new material to create some bits and get some feedback is the normal process for a comic. They all do it and they’re like baseball players and a Hall of Famer is going to hit one out of three, seven out of ten are our outs or strike. It’s a failure. It’s the same with the comic. They’ve got to get out there and try stuff and get feedback and fail to be able to find out what works and he’s not prepared to pay that price so he’s sitting home just watching his kids grow up. Mark, were you there? What were you up to six months later?Every time you put an intention out there, with hard work, it's going to happen. Click To Tweet
Six months after, here’s what happened. I had invitations to travel. People who knew I sold, suddenly I had offers to invest in their companies. I’d lost the identity that I had so wrapped myself around believing that I was a successful entrepreneur. The awards we won. I said I didn’t care, but I guess I might have valued them a little bit more than I thought. It wasn’t the award. It was the knowingness that we deserved it. We kicked butt. The downside to that was when it was gone, I had invested so much. Three nights a week I’d be gone from my family networking, building relationships, serving on nonprofit boards. Suddenly I’m going 90 miles an hour to about thirteen and it felt very weird. I went with the flow a little bit.
One day in January to February, after I sold, a friend of mine calls, he said, “I woke up from a dream. I was supposed to go to Israel with this group. The message in the dream was that you’re supposed to go and not me.” My response, I’m like, “It feels right,” and I did. I talked to Liz. She’s like, “How can I say no when you’re going to the Holy Land?” I go for sixteen days and amazing transformational experiences. I start writing a book because I thought I would journal every day. I had a dozen years of journals all through the business’s ups and downs. I start modeling that with a business book consultant and I’m working on that. All my fears, all my insecurities, they all come rising during that six-month period. I’m introduced to a concept in the summer of 2011 and it’s a concept that was so foreign to me. I had grown up hearing that forgiveness was to let someone off the hook. “You’re a good guy, so you should forgive.” I thought, “If someone’s a jerk, me, I’ll the proud good guy. I forgive you.” That does nothing for the pain that I was hanging onto. I felt slighted or hurt or whatever feelings came up. There’s anger and all that, they had nowhere to go. There was no outlet.
I’m introduced to this concept that true forgiveness, the forgiveness that Jesus in his Aramaic tongue would have taught was to release the brother, the sister by letting go of attachment to what’s going on in us. Don’t hang onto them, allow them to come up, allow them to be freed, allow our perception of what we thought happened to change. I might’ve thought, Adam did this and he did it to hurt. It’s like, if I could breathe and feel the hurt and allow my perception to change. I might see that maybe you did it because there was a good reason. I can say, “Adam when you did that, this is my experience. What was going on?” We address it and move forward. I never did that. I made lots of assumptions, judged, hung on and so here I’m learning this concept and I go into overdrive. I’m talking hours a day where I’m thinking of people from grade school and high school and college and work and thinking “I’ve got to release judgment of this guy.” The image would come up with these people and say, “I release judgment of you. I forgive, I release this pain. I allow for that anger to be felt.” I was feeling this energetic release and miraculous things started to happen around me leading up to a week in September of 2011.
That week, which I will chronicle completely in the book because I was writing the book during this experience of all these, out of this world things, I’m writing every day about the experience. It’s live happening. Adam, during that week, I had a wall moved. I had invisible hands heal a muscle that was torn in my back I couldn’t even move and I felt these hands and then they rolled me over, lifted me up. I’d be in a room and I’d mentioned something about somebody related to roses and the smell of roses would come up or the smell of pipe came up. I remember hearing the thoughts of other people and then they’d say it and it’s like, “Wait a minute, I just heard what it was they were saying.” It was almost like I was plugged into this different realm of understanding.
I knew things beyond the moment. I’d see them start to come about. If you know Abraham Hicks, I heard her say this well. She said, “Imagine you haven’t eaten for a week and then all of a sudden somebody gives you a pizza. You’re going to look a little crazy when you go after that pizza because no one’s as hungry as you are.” It was like that. It’s like this world of the unseen that I knew was there, that I grew up being educated that was there but didn’t quite believe. Maybe it’s there, maybe it’s not. I don’t know. Even though I had so much evidence and hear all of a sudden, it’s real. It’s physical, stuff’s happening, visions are happening that are incredible.
I had one vision and it was as real as me having this conversation. By the end of that week, I ended up being dragged from my home and hauled off by paramedics and I ended up in the one place that I was terrified and had no context for it except for the shining. The shining was my reference for insane. As soon as I was told you need to go to the psych ward, which I was told the day before, but I didn’t go. I was hauled there. I’m like, “My life’s over. I’m crazy. I’m going to kill somebody.” Because that was my reference, crazy people kill people. It was so wrong, so different but that’s where I ended up. I ended up in the psych ward in September of 2011 and I was there for a week. I would say that some of the wildest ideas I had for what that would be like completely collapsed. I realized these are just real people and they’re going through whatever they’re going through.
I got to a place where I was fully medicated, fully diagnosed, and I said to the doc, “How do I get better?” This was just before I was going home. He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “How do I get well? How long does this last?” He said, “This isn’t something that goes away.” I’m like, “What do we do?” He said, “Let me first tell you that the most we know about the brain we learned in the ‘90s,” He said, “Even that’s not that much. There’s no cure for what you have.” I was diagnosed with Bipolar I. He said, “Manage the medications and if the one you’re on doesn’t work, we’ll adjust it and we’ll just keep getting to a place until it’s stable.” I said, “How long do I take those?” He said, “Probably the rest of your life.” It just landed like a lead balloon. Inside, I’m like, “It’s not happening.” I went home and from that day forward, I was looking for solutions, but I accelerated it. A month after I got out and did a TEDx Talk, which I had prepared for. I was so ready and memorize this thing. It was talking about ending these vicious cycles and I showed patterns from historians and my philosophy about what could stop it.
Interestingly enough, instead of focusing on the cycles out in the world, then I started to focus on the cycles in here and changing those, which helped me realize that they could change. That took a little while but I had an out of body experience on that stage where my body was here, my consciousness after I started shifted over here and I could see my body moving and talking, but I couldn’t hear anything. I had had a vision of this during my mania experience. I saw the 11/11. I saw the stop sign and this out of body experience like me up in the stands and it happened. I said, “How’s this possible?” I was back in my body and I didn’t know where I was in the talk except for the slide that was up. I had some context, but it was so foreign to me. I stumbled through that talk and the memorized talk, which I’d handled differently. I just tried to get through and shortly after I was praying again because I felt thoroughly embarrassed and I said, “God, if there’s a way to heal, show me the way.”
Adam, there’s a great story that goes much beyond this show about how I was led step by step to full health and restoration and included medical doctors, psychiatrists and spiritual healing, mental healing. There was a lot there. It took everything. Healing the gut, getting the nutrients to the brain but the biggest part I would say was to go to the core source. That’s what we teach in the Optimal Being Program that you mentioned. We teach how to get to a place where any division within us that keeps us from the truth of who we are starts to collapse and we become fully unified again. When we are, we’re so connected. That confidence you were talking about, the comedians were desiring, I desired it to and I have it. I’m a very confident individual and very grounded. I’m bringing some of the tools that helped me get there to others so that they can also live their optimal life. That’s what I’m doing.
People maybe some of them may know you, may have watched videos or seeing you in places and people that have even hired you to come and speak to their organizations and those that will no doubt do that. I know you well and you’re just a humble person. By that, I mean your confidence isn’t something that intrudes on mine. It doesn’t intrude into my space or anyone else’s space as far as I can tell. I’ve never said those words about anybody before in that particular way. I genuinely appreciate that about you as a leader in the world because if our leaders were exuding those qualities, it doesn’t mean you don’t have strong opinions. It doesn’t mean that you can’t make tough decisions or that you’re trying to create a uniform agreement, consensus even. I don’t believe in those things.
It means standing in yourself without a waiver. It’s knowing yourself and there’s a famous quote, I can’t remember who said it, but it’s essentially, “There’s no way you can know what to do until you know who you are.” When we look at business, what’s interesting is business leaders have a whole collection of human beings that come in and they’re all dealing with their stuff. There’s this question of, “How do we get people aligned? How do we encourage people to come in and have some commonality with our value set and align with our vision and help that?” One of the first things that I realized in the summer of 2012 after I started seeing the path that I was going to get well, because it took about three years, honestly. Three hospitalizations, a suicide attempt. There’s a bunch of stuff in there. It wasn’t like a switch but I realized that one of the reasons why it wasn’t quicker is because I didn’t have as clear of an access point. Anyone who can fog a mirror is on some continuum of health. On the one side, they’re in that ideal flow state. They’re just humming and happening. They’re joyful. All areas of their life are rocking and they’re connected. On the other side, we’ll call that what we’ve labeled as a mental illness, which is so disconnected and trying desperately to reconnect or get out.
I don’t even like the word dysfunction because it has this air of judgment, just like mental health has this air of judgment. We’ve got a huge problem with suicide among young people and older people. It’s scary and the studies, the demographics of a group that showed the highest increase in the incidence of suicide were women in their 50s and 60s. You go, “Are you kidding me?” It is a problem for sure that begs are our attention. The beginning of a solution is in how we look at it in our perception of what it is and the judgments that we have about it and the fear, which I think those judgments are all based in fear that keeps us from a greater understanding of what mental health means.
The fact that you wouldn’t tolerate a diagnosis from a professional that said, “You’re not going to get better. You’re just going to manage through medication for the rest of your life. A condition that’ll stay the same.” That was BS. You called BS on it. It’s not an easy road, but three years later, you were in a very different place. You’ve got this new book that’s coming out, but there’s a book that people can find as well, which is Awakening the Optimal Leader. It’s a book of visionary fiction. It’s helping organizations create a narrative even through a project like a book for the company to bring people together to align a vision and have those values be a tangible thing that everybody within the organization can lean on, rely on and count on. Is that an accurate summation of that?
I wanted to share a story. In 2015, I’m well. My doctor has said, “Mark, you don’t need to take the medication anymore. You’re good.” It took me a little while to accept that, but 2015, my nine-year-old boy says, “Dad, would you lay down with me, before you go to bed and tell me a story?” I’m like, “Sure.” I laid down with him. I start coming up with a story. Night after night, he keeps asking me, “Would you tell me another story, dad?” One night, I know he’s going to ask me. I’m thinking, “I don’t know if I have any stories left.” He keeps asking and I loved it. It was fun. On this particular night, I hear this inner voice again and it’s so clear. It’d be like if you were speaking in my head, but it was my voice. The voice says, “Don’t tell him a story. Allow a story to come.” As if what I shared wasn’t unusual already, one of the most unusual experiences of my life occurred. I experienced my lips moving, words coming out, but no pre-thought or anything. It was almost like I paid $5 to go see a movie and I was watching this unfold and participating. It didn’t feel like it came from me that had told the previous ones.When you discover and embrace your truth, it is easier to have the vision of where you want to go. Click To Tweet
Here’s that allowing again.
It’s one of the things that not that people would experience this, but as someone does the optimal being work that we teach, gifts that are innate within them. It’s almost like an apple seed contains within it the knowingness of how to produce an apple. It’s something within me that I had resisted came forward and this knowingness of how to do this story thing, how to be surrendered, how to be in that state of allowance, how to be whole came forward. I say, “Henry, what do you think of that at the end?” He took his fingers out of his mouth and he gives me a thumbs up and he said “Dad that was good. It’s just going to get better. I know you’re just learning.”
When was this?
This is the fall of 2015. Night after night, sometimes with some gaps, this same thing happens and I was taught how to get into this mode of allowing for a story. Fast forward, I’m doing this in my coaching, doing this with speaking, doing this in different environments because I keep surrendering. One day I’m at this desk and I grab a pen, I grab a little notecard and I write down fourteen numbers. These words are written and I’m watching these words come to like, “What is this?” In the end, I hear that same voice say, “Go down in the basement and record this book,” and that is Awakening the Optimal Leader. It took 90 minutes. I sent it to the editor and publisher to get it produced and I said, “What’s this for?” The answer was, “I’m going to create these books for companies so that their stories can be told. It starts with their truth of what has happened, their vision of where they want to go and then interview some other people to see what the gaps that might be in the way are.”
We get a roadmap and then I create a story that’s like a hero’s journey for the company, which allows for their story to be handed to new employees or partners or current employees. They can say, “This is where we’re going. This is what we’re building. If you want to join us and help us build this, then you got a job here but didn’t accept until you believe that this is a place that you want to be.” If you look at the Millennials and some of the younger generation, they want to belong. They want someone who’s got a vision, who’s got clarity, who’s willing to say, this is what we’re creating, and have enough room in it so that the new people could come in and put their stamp on it and contribute. I believe in that. I want to do that. That’s the intention. This was a model to show people like, “Would you like your company to go through this?” Some of them may also want to do some of the programs stuff we do. Even just the book to hand to future employees, it’s like people love this. I’m looking for companies that want to dive right in with that.
Back to what you said and we’re going to wrap up for the allowing. You are one of our programs and I watched you do that. I saw you allow in a moment, you could call it inspiration, guidance or something, but you were so present. A big part when we work with people on public speaking is that the distinction between pretense and presence and obvious pretense is much about the ego and much about defending and protecting. Everything that creates that identity that we walk around with, that facade and presence is very vulnerable. It’s that place of transparency on some level even and certainly represents truths at the moment for sure and this empty vessel that allows for whatever it is to flow in a pure clean, clear way. I saw that happen to you. It was a very distinct moment and it was very moving because the people that were there, the people that were also participating were all in awe of that moment when you got into that space when you were in that flow state. For me, seeing you in front of organizations is something I continue to look forward to because there’s a great deal that you have to share.
I say this to everybody. You could be certain that there’s a level of allowing and maybe allowing yourself to have a bigger influence in the world to have a bigger impact. I’ll bring it back, Eddie Murphy. It’s hard not to look at that man and go, “He’s a comic genius.” Anything you ever saw of him, whether you like the material or didn’t. He’s a command of that genre. I truly believe he’s not allowing himself to go into that space of pure vulnerability, which would allow him to learn something about what’s funny at the moment. What was funny in 1976, maybe funny now, but that’s just not what’s relevant. There’s a relevance and he has great relevance once he’s prepared to step into that place where he can dare to suck again and get that freedom. Mark, what a pleasure. I’m happy to have you on the show. The last little thing, do you have a ritual, a practice in the morning that you start the day with? This is a work in progress for all of us and your day begins the same as mine does. With the first thought of the day, with the first action of the day. What does that look like for you?
I do the same thing pretty much every day. I stay in bed for quite a bit longer. Some people say, “Count to five and put your feet on the floor and get up.” That doesn’t work for me. I think I’d get dizzy and fall. I wake up and the first thing takes some nice breaths in bed, laying down, just eyes closed. I’m just breathing and consciously moving the breath. I’m very often awoken with something that’s needed to be addressed in that clear, calm, meditative state. It gets resolved. I’ll see it come out later in the day. It’s like, “That was cool.” I live my life in awe. That’s what I do. I breathe and in that breath, get into that meditative state, allow for what needs to come up.
Before I get up, I often will say, “Is there anything else to be aware of?” Sometimes it’s I get up and go. Sometimes there’s a message that I receive that allows for me to tap into something that maybe I’ve been resisting. There may have been a project that wasn’t flowing that’s you realize that it’s been three weeks since you’ve talked to someone. It’s like, “That’s interesting. What’s going on there?” I’m nervous because of X, Y, Z. It gives me the conscious awareness to start to move through that. That’s how I start every day. I’ll be honest, sometimes that’s a five-minute process and I’ve done that for three hours. Sometimes I’ll get out of the bed or sit up or get to a chair. Before I ever step out of my room, the number one priority I realized is to be whole. If there’s anything keeping me from being whole, I don’t leave the room until I am. I moved forward with the day.
Start with your right foot. Get out, as my grandmother would say, “Get out on the right foot.” Allowing is so profound in so many ways. It’s a beautiful thing. I’m taking that in myself. How important it is that we allow and allow for space of that. You can’t do that when you get your cell phone in your hand necessarily and you’re checking on who called you while you were sleeping or messages, and Facebook and any other number of things that will just immediately take you into a different space, maybe less than whole space to start the day with.
My practice has been the same for so many years. It’s for ten seconds. I think part of what I enjoy about that is the level of its simplicity and I can count on it. I don’t have to create it anew, so there’s a predictability to it as well. I wake up first and foremost and I think that’s the key right there. The alternative ain’t so good. I chuckle at the fact that there is that moment of waking that it could have gone the other way. I then shift my attention to being grateful and appreciative of whatever it is at that moment that I can appreciate. There’s so much and it’s infinite and endless. That’s the second piece of it. The third is these feet on the floor or even from the bed, ten seconds to couple the gratitude or put the gratitude feeling into action and that action is this verbal statement thing. I say out loud, which is “I love my life. I love my life.” Mark, what are the words?
I love my life and I do.
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About Mark Hattas
Mark Hattas has, amongst other accomplishments, started, built and sold a $20M/yr tech company. He was later diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder and told there was no cure. Mark didn’t believe that prognosis and searched for solutions. He found them and fully became well.
Today, Mark is an author, speaker, executive mentor and leader teaching principles for organizations and leaders to live as Optimal Beings. His book, Awakening the Optimal Leader is a visionary fiction story highlighting the trajectory of Mark’s vision twenty-five years in the future.
As he and his team bring solutions into corporate cultures for transformation, they can create a custom visionary fiction book for you. Handing new prospective employees your organization’s story will support them making a conscious choice to say “yes” or “no” to helping build the vision described of your culture, and support the optimal delivery of your mission.
Additionally, Mark is a co-founder of a non-profit for optimal mental health via journeysdream.org.