Mike Michalowicz Q&A
YOU’VE OBVIOUSLY EXPERIENCED A GREAT DEAL OF SUCCESS IN YOUR LIFE. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT, AND WHY?
Without question, it is the many partnerships I’ve developed with other business professionals. These are incredibly impressive people and I’ve learned as much from them as I’ve taught. Business partnerships can be more challenging than marriage, not that my marriage is “challenging.” (Sorry, honey). The point is I’ve developed great partnerships with great people, and I’m most proud of that.
LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, LIFE IS NOT ALWAYS SMOOTH. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT A SETBACK OR TRAGEDY YOU’VE ENCOUNTERED, HOW YOU DEALT WITH IT, AND THE IMPACT IT HAS HAD ON YOU?
When I sold my second company to a subsidiary of Robert Half in 2006, I’d become a self-made millionaire by my early 30s. I got full of myself and took a sabbatical in Hawaii. I spent money like it was water and pretended to be another Mark Cuban, an ‘angel investor.’ That’s pathetic because I had one billionth of both Cuban’s wealth and intelligence and I thoroughly proved it. I lost everything. Married, three children and no money.
But, I learned the best lesson of my life, that I was capable of being a phoenix, rising from the ashes of ruin to greater heights. I thought very carefully about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Nothing to do with money, but what was I truly passionate about. What would make me happy. I always wanted to be an author, so I started to write. I found a great co-writer and editor. I’m a storyteller, she’s a great writer, it’s an extraordinary partnership. I write the concepts and outlines, we go away to a cabin in the woods, very authorly of us, and she polishes it up into the finished book. What I love about being an author is I must live what I preach. The accountability is so high, it’s a great enforcement mechanism. Beyond that, my career is a story still being written.
DO YOU SET ASIDE “ME-TIME” IN YOUR CALENDAR, AND WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME TO RELAX?
My wife, Krista, is my best friend. I absolutely love spending time with her. Also, I play guitar, not great, but good enough that I can get lost in music. For exercise I get on my bicycle and hit the road. Finally, I just love college football and especially my Hokies. These are more than enough to fill my down time.
WHAT’S THE MOST MAGICAL PLACE YOU’VE DISCOVERED WHERE YOU CAN GO TO CHILL OUT?
People who’ve passed through New Jersey on the turnpike would be surprised to hear of the many beautiful natural spaces we have. My favorite is called Splitrock Reservoir. As often as possible I bike to a private alcove there. I quiet my mind and just watch and listen. It’s breathtaking. It’s said to be a habitat for eagles, though I haven’t seen one yet. I’m not a particularly religious person but I am spiritual. I find myself praying when I’m there, for my family, my loved ones, all my readers and clients, and for those suffering in the world. When I’m out in nature and at ease, I can’t help but feel gratitude, a higher energy. That’s why I preach the importance of developing this as a regular habit.
DOES PHILANTHROPY PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR LIFE, TO WHAT EXTENT AND HOW?
We’re very active in KIVA.org. They loan small amounts of money to aspiring entrepreneurs in third-world countries – helping them build their lives, build local economies and live out their dreams. Helping people who want to help themselves and their communities. I can’t think of anything more important and fulfilling.
WHO IS ON THE GUEST LIST FOR YOUR IDEAL DINNER PARTY, PRESENT OR PASSED?
For starters, my four grandparents. I’d never met any of them and think it’s been my deep loss. After that, it would be great if George Washington and Abe Lincoln would stop over. Can you imagine that Washington had the chance to be named King, and declined? Lincoln’s accomplishments speak for themselves. Finally, Dale Carnegie and Yanik Silver. Everybody needs some good advice and inspiration, even this group. Carnegie wrote my favorite book of all time, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. I still pick it up on occasion when I need a boost.
CAN YOU OFFER ANY WORDS OF WISDOM TO YOUR FELLOW THROOMERS?
Don’t listen to experts, myself included. I had a business coach who started by saying, “don’t listen to a word I’m about to say.” It was funny, it got my attention, and soon I understood what he meant. Listen only to your customer’s actions. They are the only experts.