To be on the front line of entrepreneurship you must be bold and take risks. But the need to achieve can be as addictive as drugs with serious side effects. It can make you feel isolated, uncertain and trapped on an emotional roller coaster, full of euphoric highs and devastating lows. Our next guest, Michael Dash, author of Chasing the High, tells us that there’s a way to get back on to solid ground.
Michael Dash: it started at a retreat in an entrepreneur organization that I’m a part of, YEC, and I actually heard Book in a Box present there. That was the first thought of like, “Hey, maybe I could write a book?” The reason I did, well, it’s two-fold. Number one. Multiple people kept telling me, “You should write a book,” after I would tell them stories and the challenges I was going through.
Secondly, I recognized all the mistakes that I had made and the pain and the self-inflicted pain that I had gone through, and I realized after years of doing that, that there were better ways to approach the situations and challenges that I was facing in my life. If I could document some of these and the lessons that I learned, I think it would be easier for other entrepreneurs and other individuals who might be facing addiction challenges like I was to approach situations in another manner.
And that’s ultimately why I decided to write the book. I wanted to impact others and give them other ideas with how to handle situations that come up in business and life.
Rae Williams: Give us a kind of shorter version of what your journey is and where you’re coming from and why this is important to you.
Michael Dash: So, my journey is one of self-exploration at the end of the day. Somebody who was brought up with specific beliefs, a belief system that was ingrained in them from a time that I was very young. And basically, told that this was the way life is. You need to get the job, you need to get the promotion, you need to get the cars, get the house, get the nicer houses, run a business, because my father did.
Everything else doesn’t really matter. So, I turned my back on curiosity and I turned my back on exploration, whether that was new ideas or whether that was experiences. Over the years, after I made many, many mistakes and I finally started understanding that there has to be a better way to live and those specific situations were presented to themselves, I cracked that door of curiosity and I started listening and learning about things I had been told were complete nonsense my whole life.
Things like energy and flow and astrology and like just different people coming from different places and incorporating and listening to their ideas and then adopting them. That actually changed my life and allowed me to expand my horizons and to start exploring other practices, which led to being able to overcome all the pain and change and gave me the tools to be able to push my ego aside and address certain situations from a different angle with different skillset that led to a much more powerful experience for me.
Rae Williams: What would you say then in writing the book is the actionable thing that people that are reading can make a move on to change their lives as well?
Michael Dash: I always go back to what completely changed my life, and for me, it was the power of curiosity and being curious about other practices. You may have a certain preconception about and exploring them and listening to them and understanding what they are, and trying them if you are in a space where you want to change.
And that’s the actionable item, it doesn’t matter what it is, it could be yoga, it could be meditation, it could be listening to podcasts, it could be affirmations. It could be any of these things that where I’m from back East, at least when I grew up, you know all of that was considered she/she nonsense.
So, until I opened my mind to that, I didn’t have the tools to actually change my behavior patterns and to change the way I was approaching it dealing with challenging situations in my life.
Gambling with Addiction
Rae Williams: Let’s talk a little bit about the comparison that you make in the book from addiction and gambling to that need for success. What is it about the two that you found similar, and what is it about the two that you found could work as a remedy to heal both and kind of impart that knowledge on other people?
Michael Dash: For me, growing up and through most of my life, my focus is on one thing and it was money. I wanted to accumulate as much money as I could, success to me equaled how much money you had and then feeding that kind of addiction which it was for me.
So, the feeling I would get from closing a sale, and the blood that would be pumping through my veins and that high from closing a business deal, I wanted to replicate.
Early on in my life, I got that same kind of fix, so to speak, from gambling. From not winning or losing, but actually just making that bet. That rush I would have was the best feeling in the world and that transferred to other addictions that I talk about in the book like cocaine, like Adderall.
Very similar to the feelings that the “high” feelings I would get in business when I would close the deal. When I would hit the million-dollar mark, when I hit the two-million-dollar mark, the three-million-dollar mark. Keep growing the company. I would get those feelings when the company made the Inc. 5000 list.
That type of excitement and adrenaline was extremely similar to the adrenaline I would feel with these other addictions. I was in this mode where I just want to replicate, replicate, replicate, and then at some point, it just wasn’t enough for me. It didn’t do anything for me anymore.
I was so numb to those feelings that I started recognizing, there’s got to be more to life than these fleeting feelings, because that’s what they were, they were fleeting.
So, they would happen and they would feel great then they’d be gone. They go back to that normal kind of—I guess, mundane type of existence so to speak. Once I incorporated these various tools in my life that I realized, life’s going to be full of highs and lows.
I’d like to say on a scale of one to 10, it’s still living in the fives, sixes and sevens and finding that real comfort zone within those five, six, and sevens and joy and fulfillment in those areas that really allow you to have a sustained fulfilled life.
Steps Toward Healing
Rae Williams: What was your first step in healing yourself and changing your life?
Michael Dash: I’ve gone through several of these iterations, but I would say completely changing myself happened over the last three years, even though I’ve made many changes throughout my life. And I was curious, I was part of an entrepreneur organization and we shared this kind of like a group chat page, Facebook group page.
Somebody posted on there about a retreat in Bali. And I became really curious about that, I’ve never been to Bali. I mean, going all the way across the world to me was like this daunting thing, I was like, “My god, Bali.” This retreat with, like she/she type people, that’s what I envisioned, but I really was curious about it.
I just threw caution to the wind and I went.
When I went there, there were two people on stage who were talking about flow consciousness and living in a state of flow and living an effortless life by following your intuition and making decisions from your heart versus from your head.
And this was a completely foreign process to me, foreign thought to me. Even though, at the time, I didn’t recognize that I had made decisions like that previously in my life, I just didn’t realize I was doing that.
So, at the time, I was in a lot of pain and struggle internally, I was in a six-year legal battle with an ex business partner. I was taking Adderall on a daily basis, and it was really affecting my mood swings and how I spoke to other people. I was running a business that was running me and I had no joy left in it.
My curiosity said to me, “Would it be so bad to live a different way?”
With that thought on the flight back from Bali to the US, the answer was overwhelming. No, it can’t get any worse internally at that time for me. So, I decided to do something that I would never do and I took this course. I paid a thousand dollars and took this course on flow. We went through this whole process of clearing out limiting beliefs and putting positive beliefs system inside internally by doing these tapping exercises and things that my old self would have looked at me and said, “What the heck are you doing? You look ridiculous doing these things.”
I worked through that whole process. Things I was able to start manifesting and started seeing different synchronicities in my life, and those words were not in my vocabulary before that. I don’t think I ever said either of those words in 40 years of living.
I leaned in hard, I did the practices, and my life started completely changing since I was actually manifesting situations. I started seeing this light, and I wanted more of it and I was able to kind of follow that path and change my attitude and my ego around and have a much more fulfilled life.
Rae Williams: What were some of those limiting beliefs that you had to overcome?
Michael Dash: Some of them were that self-worth. I always talked negatively about myself. It wasn’t others so much, it was me. It was the internal voices. A lot of it was from the isolation that I caused from the addictions that I had, and I gave power to those addictions.
So, the money was a big one, and just my infatuation with money. If I did not have money, I would not be worthy, and my success in life was tied to how much money I made.
So that was a complete limiting belief, a limiting belief that I am not worth being loved, that I am really not worth it.
So those are the most powerful. There are many others. Actually I have a book where I wrote them all out, but those are some of the big ones and it was more because I was stuck in my own head and I could not get out of my own way because my ego would not allow me to. Or excuse me, I allowed my ego to run my life and I always had to be “big man on campus,” even though I meant absolutely nothing in the big scheme of things.
For the Entrepreneur
Rae Williams: Let’s talk a little bit about how a lot of this applies to entrepreneurship and how people can help to grow their businesses or help to get out of their own way as you said, by doing this self-examination.
Michael Dash: One of the things that I’ve learned is I used to be very reactionary in my business. I had a staffing business. There’s a lot of moving pieces, you have your clients, you have your candidates, you have your employees, and then you have everything else going on. And so, there’s a lot of things that happen in the moment in a very fast paced environment, and you have to manage the situations in real time.
I used to be very reactionary, and I would get upset very quickly if a deal blew up for instance or if something happened with a candidate that my actual staff had nothing to do with.
They can’t actually act for the person, which is one of the challenges with the staffing business. You can do everything right, but a deal could completely fall apart for you because a candidate says something that is just completely off the wall. Now that’s not necessarily my employees’ fault, but I would intrinsically get angry at them even if they did everything right.
What I learned along the way is to shut up and listen to the situation, understand the whole situation.
If I was feeling that angst inside, I would take a walk around my building. I would go two offices down from me and literary just sit and meditate for 10 minutes. It’s the shortest thing, but it created a complete dynamic shift in my mentality. So instead of being reactionary, I actually would just lower my blood pressure, lower my heart rate, and give much more positive advice and lead with empathy.
And that’s the only way your employees are going to learn, you are going to learn and you are going to be able to constructively manage a challenging situation that comes up in business. So, those are just a couple of things that I incorporated as I learned that the way I was acting wasn’t helping anybody.
I call this thing reactionary guilt, and it is when you react in a negative, loud, angry manner and then five or 10 minutes later you completely feel guilty about how you reacted.
Now you are going through this whole thing in your mind of, “Okay, I want to make sure that Jenny isn’t upset with how I reacted to her about this situation. I need to go and I need to apologize. I need to address this.”
I’d be consumed with that for about an hour and then I’d bring the person in and then have this whole explanation for them, but it wouldn’t change their initial feelings of how I reacted to that situation.
So, my biggest piece of advice in that whole little diatribe I just gave is don’t make emotional decisions and that was one of the biggest things that I learned. I made a lot of them and they all led to mistakes.
Rae Williams: What are we doing with habits?
Michael Dash: Yeah, great question. So, it was when I was able to develop habits that I was able to grow. And so, it starts with breaking bad habits and incorporating positive habits into your life, so you’re leading a more fulfilled life.
I’d like to look at it as I have various buckets in my life. I have a work bucket that I want to fill and I want to have success, whatever that success means. For me now that success means impacting others. It has nothing to do with the dollar sign in front of me, although obviously we need to make money for a living, is it impacting others? So that is one bucket.
Another bucket is mindset and being able to meditate for 10 minutes in the morning, being able to sit in silence. Recently I’ve started driving without the radio on, just like a meditative state while I am driving.
Another one is health and making sure that we are moving our bodies. For me, I like to go to Orange Theory Fitness. It is a gym here and it is around the country. It is like a 50-minute workout to really get my sweat on.
And then another bucket is volunteering and the impact that I get from volunteering. I’ve done a tremendous amount of volunteering with leukemia-lymphoma society and over the years raised over a $100,000 for them. Visiting a leukemia patient in the hospital and just putting a smile on their face, going to feed the homeless, which I have done a lot of, and interacting with them brings a lot of fulfillment.
So, all of those buckets for me, I need to fill those buckets in order to be fulfilled. That creates a pattern and that goes to create habits where I would go and feed the homeless at least once a quarter with my entire company. I would be doing some sort of fundraising at least once a quarter throughout the year. I would be working out four to five times a week, and I would be meditating the same, about four to five times a week.
So, those build strong habits. As you explore new activities and you tap into that curiosity, you might either incorporate another habit or switch out habits. Maybe one is resonating with you more.
For me it is always about growth, the growth of the habit, but the biggest thing is building those habits. The more positive habits you put in, the less negative habits that you are going to have. I like to call that whole process “the habit of happening.”
A Challenge from Richard Conrad
Rae Williams: If you had to issue a challenge to your readers, to our listeners, to anybody who is trying to overcome certain things in their life, what would that challenge be?
Michael Dash: The challenge would be the smallest and slightest change can lead to the biggest results. I would challenge every listener and reader to make one slight change that doesn’t seem so daunting and uncomfortable that they’re staring at it in the face with stagnation.
That change could be something like deleting Facebook from your cellphone and I mention that because there is a lot of people who just go to social media as an escape.
Maybe their intention is to go on five minutes and they are on there for an hour and then they keep repeating this all week long. So, maybe delete it off your phone and only use it on your desktop.
Or just sit in silence for 10 minutes. Everybody has 10 minutes in the day or listen to a podcast that you have never listened to before, an affirmation podcast where they are actually giving you positive affirmations and that’s what you are listening to, it is retraining your brain.
All three of those examples are such small things that you can incorporate into your life, but what I found is when I’ve incorporated these small things, they create a snowball effect and then I want something else really small that I can incorporate. And then all of a sudden, I am making positive change.
So, when you talk before about limiting beliefs, one that is obvious that I should have mentioned is that change is difficult.
And that was actually a limiting belief of mine. I wish I could re-answer that question. But change is not difficult.
We have created a story in our minds to convince ourselves that change is difficult, whether it’s eating habits, whether it’s social media, or any other examples I gave. But change is actually very easy.
Change might take time, but time and whether it is easy or hard are not directly linked whatsoever. The actual change itself is extremely easy.
So, make that slight change, one change, see how that affects your life and see what that leads to. I promise, more times than not, it will lead to a snowball effect of positive change and stronger fulfillment in your life.
Rae Williams: How can people contact you if they are interested in learning more?
Michael Dash: So, they could contact me on my website. It is michaelgdash.com, and they can find a link for my book on that site.
I am also creating a program called FATE (From Addict to Entrepreneur), where I would be working with business leaders who are dealing with compulsive and addiction behaviors that are affecting their lives in a negative way. I am putting that program together. They’ll be able to find that there as well and they could always call me directly. I am very personable. (917) 584-5734. Yeah, I just gave my phone number out. I am cool with that.