Emotional Transformation with Michael Chu
Mike is a friend, he’s a fellow Front Row Dad, and someone I’ve had the privilege of sharing some profound experiences with. His energy and wisdom are dynamic.
This episode covers a range of insights and inspring stories. Mike shares his background into the entrepreneurial world, coaching others, somatic breathwork, grieving identities, healing generational trauma, and so much more. We unpack the power of processing our emotions and truly feeling our feelings in ways that might blow your mind.
I believe we become better when we really tune into our emotions, sit with them, process them, and then pay attention to what they’re teaching us. Mike is living proof of someone who’s modeled that.
I’m deeply grateful for Mike creating space to share parts of his journey with us.
“Learning to feel my feelings is true strength.”
[00:00:00] Ali: Welcome back folks. I have a special guest with me today, Mr. Michael Chu. Mike is a friend, he's a fellow Front Row Dad, that's how we know each other, and I've had some pretty profound experiences with Mike in person at some of our Front Row Dad retreats. That's part of what sparked this and just wanting to record together, wanting to create some space here on the podcast, so I'm very grateful for that, Mike.
I'm also interested to learn a little bit more about your story, about Champ Dev, about the work that you do in the world, and my jam on this podcast is to actually let you introduce yourself. So who is Mike Chu?
[00:00:44] Mike: I'm honored to be here and I think a lot of times when a guest might have an opportunity to introduce themselves, the natural thing to do is maybe talk about how awesome you are or, or all the achievements or all the accolades.
But, I actually feel really honored to be here because when I first stepped into the container that is Front Row Dads, I felt really insecure. You know, in a lot of my life growing up, there were times where I felt like I didn't fit in a lot or, um, I had my, my own running narrative about why I wasn't good enough or wouldn't be loved or didn't fit in.
So I felt really insecure showing up in that room. Uh, and the mastermind that is Front Row Dads and why I said I feel honored to be here is you were one of the first people that in many ways made me feel welcome. Whether it was conversations we had over lunch or, or side conversations or comments that we made near the water fountain at the end, you know, the back of the room. And so to be here just to jam and to, to talk. Yeah, I'm excited to be here.
As far as who I am, there's a lot of different directions you can go there. At the core of my story, I guess in a minute or two. Born in America, Chinese in a small town in New Jersey, 4,000 person population. And so going back to like feeling insecure and outta place like, you know, 360 person graduating class and maybe five to 10 Asian people in the class as an example. So there's that. Um, as far as kind of what became foundational in my life afterwards, I started karate when I was three, and that was one of the few places I felt like I really was great at something.
I went on to win 10 plus national championships through my teens and early twenties, and wow, uh, that became a big part of what gave me confidence. I was an athlete, uh, played basketball, et cetera. And then as far as what I do, quote unquote, I think that phrase gets used a lot more just like referring to professional. I got introduced to the entrepreneurial sales world. You know, many people from the Cutco world. I got introduced there when I was in college. I was working at Pizza Hut trying to, you know, cover beer and gas money, and I never saw myself being entrepreneurial.
Most of my family are teachers. This aunt, that aunt, this aunt, my mom, like teachers, you know, they're through and through. And so the entrepreneurial side was not something that ever I thought came natural, but sales and entrepreneurship was actually the first thing professionally that really challenged me. School kind of came naturally at the time, and at that point I'd been doing karate for 15 something years and, uh, that came, you know, pretty natural at this point. Sales and entrepreneurship's, the first thing that really, really, really challenged me. And I think for that reason, uh, I kind of fell in love with it. And, uh, since then I've been doing direct sales.
Today I, uh, run Champ Dev, which is an Inc 5,000 fastest growing company. We have two main branches of peak performance. A peak performance cohort and, and coaching program for entrepreneurs and direct sales leaders. And then we also help people take their passion for health, fitness, personal growth, and move it online to launch a six or seven figure business.
[00:03:35] Ali: Mm. Wow. Dude, there's a lot in there. Going back to what you shared, I appreciate those words and you also struck me cuz we've had the opportunity to be at a few retreats together and had a couple intimate conversations, which I wanna bring up.
But you definitely struck me as someone who held space in the room without saying much. Mm. Our group is dynamic and there are some men that hold space in the room with saying things. Right? And I remember even when you shared it previously about the insecurity that caught me off guard. I think that the way that you carry yourself, you have this, this grace and yeah, I, I'm reserving, diving right into the water cooler story cuz we have something very interesting there that we will unpack, but I'm also fascinated by how you identified is that being an athlete, which is so cool. And coming from a family of educators, it initially piques my interest. What was their reaction to Mike going into this entrepreneurial world?
[00:04:38] Mike: Yeah, yeah. I, I mean, externally they were supportive, mm-hmm, but I think also equally as just kind of confused, like, yeah. Not really understanding the world. When my dad passed, which we might touch on at some point during the conversation a year ago, I was grieving and one of the first questions I asked my mom after I kind of did some of the initial grieving, as I just said, "did Dad ever really understand what I was doing with my life?" And, and her response was, honestly, no, not really, but he was really proud of you.
Mm-hmm. Right. And so as far as their initial reaction, I think they were supportive, but confused. I think, uh, they were fascinated in many ways, but not sure how to really support, mm-hmm, because, you know, as teachers, a lot of times it is what I consider like the stereotypical seven to three, eight to four, nine to five life. It's very stable and entrepreneurship was the complete opposite. I mean, I was stepping out of family dinners early on in my career, which was kind of frowned upon in an Asian family to take work calls and I was missing events at times. I was traveling. And so, uh, I think externally they were supportive, but internally a little confused.
[00:05:49] Ali: Yeah. Okay. Totally man. Somewhat similar of a story that I'm half Iranian and Persians, there, there is some understanding for entrepreneurial. Yeah, like_ ism_, but there's also that straight up like go to school, get the degree, that's just what they know. And so for sure, even my dad who, who is a bit entrepreneurial, I remember there were times where I made some decisions on my journey which I've have a lot of roots in entrepreneurial efforts and endeavors where I could sense I caught him off guard, but because he kind of took that path, it was a little bit more, yeah, acceptable. Where's my wife's family, it's a full beautiful lineage of educators and so just the wiring is very different, you know?
[00:06:36] Mike: For sure.
[00:06:37] Ali: So, sales background, entrepreneurial driven. Let's talk a little bit more about Champ Dev, so I can understand this work. Yeah. Um, because I think there's some connection here in terms of the educator, perhaps the archetype to teach, to educate, inspire. So how did Champ Dev evolve? Or how did you get to where you are now?
[00:06:57] Mike: Well, I never really saw myself as someone who was going to teach or coach. Mm-hmm, because I think growing up in the entrepreneurial world where I was creating and I was building and producing, I heard sometimes the very judgemental phrase, _those who cannot do teach_ right, uh, that phrase. And so I don't know if I ever really had it in my forefront to coach or teach or mentor or anything like that, but it came from this. I had been in great shape most of my teens and early twenties. I was competing at a high level. Uh, after college I chose to stay in the entrepreneurial world.
I believed that I could stay in shape with all that I had known my most of my life, while growing this business. And that business was having me work 50, 60, 70, mm-hmm, 80, five, six, sometimes seven days a week. And I found myself over the first 2, 3, 4 years, realizing that the standard of which I held for myself as far as being in shape was starting to completely diminish.
And so what did I do? I tried all the things that most people would do when they try and get back into shape. Get back into the gym, eat clean, get back in the gym, eat clean. Then I went to the extreme of what diets do I need to do to eat clean. I did vegan, pescatarian, paleo. Which workout programs I do. I did p90x, I did this, I did that, and I tried all of them. But here's the crazy part. Even growing up a national karate champion and being around some of the greatest nutritionist, health professionals, coaches in the world during those years, nothing was working for me come 25, 26, 27. Mm-hmm. Right. I find myself not in shape and I started to question and started to just say things like, oh, that's just what happens when you get older.
Right? Like, I just accepted the fact that you lower your standard around your own health. Late twenties, early thirties I made a decision that that wasn't going to be the case and I went kinda like on my own path to not wanna teach it to other people one day, but I went on my own path to figure out, how do I run seven figure organizations and build wealth and want to be financially successful in business and win with my health? Right. And not have to compromise one or the other. Right. Because I think there's a lot of times the belief that one sacrifices the other. Sure. Yeah. And I've heard the quote like, _don't be the richest man in the graveyard._
Mm. Right. And so I went down a path to figure that out. And over the next couple years, um, I got back into great shape, what I would consider better shape in my early thirties than when I was in my early twenties. Hmm. Like physique wise and I, I grew up kind of a scrawny. I was 4'11 my freshman year of high school, just to give you an idea.
So I was like short, scrawny. And so I never considered myself well built or muscular or anything like that. And, uh, my early thirties, I found myself in the best shape of my life. I made a commitment to be in the best shape of my life for the rest of my life while still growing successful organizations. So that's the story that led to what Champ Dev originally started at.
Then at a low point in my life, I found myself basically asking, how do I give back to the world at a higher level? I had a mentor in my first business who used to say, _when you lack it, give it_. And I felt like I was lacking purpose at that stage in my life. I felt myself lacking passion. Mm-hmm. I was feeling a little burnt out with direct sales in that part of my career. I was really unhappy in my personal life. I just like was really at a dark place in my life. And so from that place of feeling like I was lacking purpose and passion, I asked myself, how do I give back more to the world?
And I put up a Facebook post because that's what all people do if they wanna find purpose. Right? Um, I put up a Facebook post and I said, if I've ever impacted or inspired your life in any way, it would mean the world to me if you shared with me how. And this post got all this feedback. Hmm. Right. And that's what led to what the first program within our company - it's our signature program still today, the Health and Wealth Academy. And a mutual friend of ours, John Vroman, funny enough, it was the very first coaching lesson I learned from him when he was my original coach, and that is that an abundant life, starts with the power of AND not OR.
Mm-hmm. And so that's what led to the Health and Wealth Academy is how can I help up and coming sales leaders, sales professionals, entrepreneurs see that they can build incredibly successful businesses while getting into the best shape of their life with thriving happiness and relationships versus it having to be one or the other.
So that's how that started. That business grew. People started asking us, how are you doing it? And so we took our exact templates and systems and we now help health professionals, fitness trainers, personal trainers. We help them transition their business online and create either a six figure side hustle or build it out to a full seven figure business. So that's kind of how that whole thing unfolded in three to five minutes there.
[00:11:29] Ali: Wow, dude, that is extraordinary. Yeah. To reflect back there is definitely examples of people who've mastered one or the other. Hmm. I think that that's what makes your program, your coaching the value, very esoteric in a way, is that to bring both of those together and to allow someone to do it without burning out or extending themselves, there's an art to that, let alone a method and a system. So, dude, that is awesome.
So if I'm hearing this correctly, you mentioned at the end how you definitely serve fitness professionals, entrepreneurs in that realm to help them get better with their business. But then it also sounds like there's the counter side of that where you work with executives, high performers, say, hey, by the way, part of this peak performance is you and health and wellness, right?
[00:12:20] Mike: Yeah. So without a doubt. So there's two completely different business units within the company. Mm-hmm. One is purely business consulting. Mm-hmm, right, which is very much the strategies and the systems and the actions and the accountability so I would call that more like b2b. And then there's the more B2C where we work with the CEO, we work with the executive, we work with the sales professional, realizing that like John Maxwell would say. Law one in _The_ _21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership_, _The Law of the Lid_, you as the leader are oftentimes the lid in how much your business is expanding or not expanding or growing. And so we address what's going on with you personally, beliefs, health, fitness, energy, confidence, and even the emotional side as well.
[00:13:01] Ali: Wow. Okay, so knowing that got a little bit about your story, we understand all these amazing things that you're doing today, the Champ Dev and other parts of your life. One of the big questions that I want to bring to the conversation is where are you creating space right now?
[00:13:19] Mike: Because the word space gets used so often, Mm-hmm, I just want to clarify language. How do you mean? How are you using the word space for this context of this conversation?
[00:13:27] Ali: Great reframe. So where we're gonna go with that is that, what does that word mean to you at a deep level?
[00:13:34] Mike: To me, when I hear that word, the reason why I wanted to clarify is it could go two different directions. Professionally when I hear space, I think a little bit more like, what's in focus for you? Sure. What are you giving energy to? Mm-hmm, what are you prioritizing time, energy, and space for? And then the second way I hear the word space is very much in human connection. Mm-hmm, right? And allowing a space for another human being to feel fully seen, welcomed, accepted, for all that they are and all that they're not. For their imperfections and their perfections for their strengths and their weaknesses.
And so, to me, when I hear the word space, I hear it kind of on a personal realm with human connection. Then I hear it on a professional realm with where we're giving prioritized focus and energy.
[00:14:19] Ali: Mmm, I love that. I don't even know if you need to answer further because it's just a really healthy way to bring more context to the word, which I love. It's actually the reason I chose the word. Is that in my life, that word didn't mean anything until it meant everything.
Hmm. I don't want to get deep into my story, but not until a few years ago did I really start honoring that word, and now I'm all about it. Like, which is why I asked where are you creating space and where do you need space, et cetera. So I think that this really healthy dichotomy is a beautiful way to look at it from the connection, relationships or this other sort of, uh...
[00:15:02] Mike: Professional focus.
[00:15:03] Ali: Precisely. Okay, cool. So, we need to get to some of the meat here, since I promised it. I'm gonna give a little bit of context to this story and then we're gonna see where it goes because in some ways, this is the perfect opportunity to evolve the next chapter of this story.
So early last year, Mike and I are at a retreat in Nashville in the Front Row Dads community, and we have this really, really profound breath work experience, yeah. And to summarize it, I did a separate podcast about this, which gives some details, but to really summarize it, as I got into the experience, it became very visual, very spiritual.
And almost a climax of my experience was being at my funeral. Hmm. And amongst other things, it allowed me to really feel through some emotions that were buried. And coming out of that, there was this lightness, there was some confusion, there was all types of things, but I definitely felt a shift. And in fact it was even hard to describe.
But, we get up and I go over to the water area to get some water and I see Mike and I just kind of smile. And you said, "How was that for you?" I remember pausing and being like, I don't know. I don't know yet, but for some reason I felt compelled to tell you.
What I can tell you is that I was literally at my funeral. And I remember you just perked up with like, hey, I have something to potentially share. Your body language shifted and you started asking intentional questions. The first one was, "How old were you at your funeral?" And I was like, oh, I was my age and everyone there seemed to be present age. And you offered this really intriguing insight where we started discussing how this can be a representation of putting an identity to rest.
[00:17:08] Mike: Yeah. Grieving, grieving a, a version of ourselves.
[00:17:11] Ali: So go with that. As if you were reexplaining it to me or just dropping whatever you know about that. Tell a little bit more about that for our audience.
[00:17:20] Mike: For so long I thought personal growth was all in the head. Mm-hmm, and I still love a lot of that personal growth stuff, right? Reading books or, I've done things like Landmark or Tony Robbins conference. I still love that. Mm-hmm. But for so long, personal growth to me was stuff that was happening in my head.
I understood concepts and I, uh, could think about things and I could be a strategist, but there was a disconnect between what was going on in my head and what was going on in my heart. Yep. Right. Like who I had developed as emotionally was probably an eight year old even though I was a 28 year old or a 48 year old.
Right. Uh, in my intellectual side, right, uh, of my brain. And so, um, I remember I started working with a somatic therapist. Mm-hmm. And I showed up with all types of ego to my first session, to that type of stuff because I was like, I've done all this personal growth work. Yep. Therapy. Therapy, that means something's wrong with you, right. That means you're broken or something like that. Little did I know that somatic work for me would be the most transformational work that I've ever done. Mm-hmm. Because when you can connect the mind and the heart at the same level, what you're feeling emotionally and what you're thinking mentally, I believe that's a superpower.
It accelerates growth. It accelerates, expansion and things like that. Now, how that comes back to grieving though, is that somatic coach at one point said to me, uh, if you want to trigger your deepest shit, if you want to do your deepest healing, start a family, start a business, or start a relationship. Mm-hmm. And jokingly, I said to her, I've done all three in the last like 12 months or whatever it is, and all this stuff was coming up.
But where grieving came into play is that if you really think about it, we say all the time, like, I'm ready to step into the next version of myself. Mm-hmm. Right? When people are growing, they say, I'm ready to step into this next chapter. What some people, I'm not saying everybody from my own experience. What I've noticed though, that what stops people oftentimes from either (A) fully stepping into that next identity or chapter or ever even getting there, is that to step into a new chapter or a new identity oftentimes requires what? Leaving one old, one behind.
[00:19:22] Ali: Totally.
[00:19:24] Mike: And that's oftentimes harder emotionally than we anticipate. Mm-hmm, because we're sometimes motivated by the new version of ourselves, but we're oftentimes also very attached or comfortable with an old version of ourselves.
As an example, I gave up drinking alcohol forever. I think it'll be four years this upcoming June. And I knew the reasons I was doing it. I was motivated by it, generational change, improving my relationship, becoming more of a man of integrity and all these things. So there were tons of powerful whys drawing me towards that decision.
And I remember, I don't know if it was six-ish months after deciding to stop drinking, I was sitting in my apartment on Rainy Street with Kayla, and I just felt sad. And I couldn't figure out what it was. And this was the first time I was really fully introduced to the idea of grieving a past version of ourselves if we want to accelerate our growth.
And really what was happening, the sadness that I was feeling, is that I started to become far enough distanced from the drinking version of me. And even though I knew I never wanted to go back to the habit of drinking, the action of drinking, the identity of me as a, as a drinker was being put to rest.
Hmm. And I kind of loved that guy. Right. That guy was fun. He was a fraternity guy. He was a high school party guy. He traveled the world. He shared great bottles of wine over amazing dinners and conversations. He networked, he built right, and so the identity of me as a drinker was being laid to rest if I was no longer drinking.
And that was the first time I was really exposed to the idea of the fact that sometimes as we're growing, we're shedding layers of ourselves and sometimes that will be met with grieving because you really are in many ways putting an identity, a chapter to rest. It could, it also could be said similar like, we love being a parent. Right? That's how you and I connected through Front Row Dads. Mm-hmm. So we could love being a parent, but in the same breath, we could also have days and moments where we feel really sad. Mm-hmm. Right? Because we're grieving possibly what? The single, free, spontaneous version of ourselves. That doesn't mean we don't love being a parent, but sometimes that does mean we are allowed to hold space for the grieving and the sadness of that version of ourselves.
And so to kind of close out this initial point, you know, I think the old version of me would've ignored that. Like, oh, toughen up. Sure. Like, shut up. What are you crying about? Right. But coming back to the whole concept of holding space, uh, as an example, it's like if my dad had just passed and someone said, suck it up, right? That would never be said in in society, I don't think or rarely would ever be said in society. Instead, we would hold space for people.
But if we can translate, Ali the same thing and realize the same way I would grieve the physical death of my dad's body, we oftentimes will grieve the emotional, spiritual death of different identities and versions of us over the years, and that's why. I don't remember where I heard the quote. But even when it comes to our parents, there are two deaths that we need to grieve of our parents. There's that one point where we have to grieve the spiritual death, the image we have of them being this perfect parent. And then there's the day we grieve the physical death of our parents. So that all kind of falls under the category of grieving.
[00:22:38] Ali: Totally. Wow. Yeah. So a couple things that come up quickly are, do you think there's a weight or a cost to holding space for too many active identities?
[00:22:50] Mike: Potentially yes if two identities are in conflict of each other, mm-hmm. Right. But the other way I hear that question is, is there a conflict or cost if we don't hold space for the grieving of a, of an identity. Right. And there's the whole concept of what we resist, persists. Right. Well, I think oftentimes if we resist the fact that there is a moment of grieving that it persists, but there's a second half of that quote that I heard somewhere that says _what we resist, persists, until it expands._
Hmm. And then one day explodes. And so I think if we don't hold space for the grieving of that version of ourselves, and it persists, what might that look like on the other side if it expands and explodes? Right. It could look like resentment towards a significant other. It could look like, uh, anger or hate towards a child. It could look like burnout or let down or, you know, it could look like a lot of ugly things. And, you know, as someone who didn't always know how to process my own emotions, uh, until I did a lot of somatic work. I have dozens, if not hundreds of stories of times where I didn't hold space for my own emotions.
Then you pair that with alcohol and it would be met with saying vile stuff or uh, physical, you know, expressions of anger and stuff like that. And so yeah, that's the cost or the conflict that I think is there if we don't hold space for the grieving of different identities.
[00:24:14] Ali: For sure. Yep. That lands totally, it becomes fireworks because it's just suppressed and to your point, it's just not being fluidly processed. That's exactly my relationship with the minimal amounts of somatic breath work that I've done and, and how it's opened up different doors into really sitting and feeling things at a level that I just didn't know how to do before. So I think it's a powerful tool. And since that day I've shifted and evolved my relationship with emotions in, yeah, in meaningful ways. So this stuff is real. Somatic breath work is powerful.
[00:24:55] Mike: And somatic work, Ali, really quickly can sometimes seem really woowoo to like a, A type achiever. At least that was me, right? Yeah, sure. I was so a type, I'm so like achiever that like sometimes slowing down to do that stuff can seem woowoo. So this simple analogy helped it make sense for me. Right. And that was like, If I hold onto the identity of who I was in high school, but I'm now in college, I might struggle, right? Because I'm trying to be this guy over here.
But I'm also wanting, there comes a point where I have to let go of that high school version of me, or if I'm trying to become this professional CEO, but I'm still partying like I'm in college. I use those as examples of just kind of using real life examples of times where we do have to let an identity to rest.
Mm-hmm. Right. And we've all seen that 45 year old who still thinks they're in college. Yeah, sure. Right. And we've all seen that 25 year old jokingly, and there's probably me at one point who still thinks they're in high school. But if we can learn to love and honor that season, but also allow ourselves to grieve it only then can we really fully step into the next identity if we wanna become, if not, we stay too attached to an old identity at the cost of stepping into the next version, identity vert chapter of our lives. So I just wanted to throw that in there.
[00:26:12] Ali: Oh man, this stuff is powerful. As you're saying that I'm having some introspective realizations, but I have to to pause cuz otherwise it's gonna turn into you coaching me so. The other thing you spark that I wanted to ask especially cuz you're in this world and you now have this deep coaching background with all these tools that we're discussing, do you find a reason to distinguish between personal growth and personal transformation?
[00:26:39] Mike: Do I feel the need to distinguish the difference between the two? No.
[00:26:43] Ali: So it's synonymous to you?
[00:26:45] Mike: Yes. Mm-hmm. Like if I were to just try and create distinctions between the two terminologies, the growth is the process, the transformation is the outcome. Hmm. Right. Like where we want to get to, but the two are tied together.
[00:26:58] Ali: Yeah. I like that. I like that because I've been wrestling with if there even needs to be a difference, but I think that's a really beautiful way to keep it simple. Yeah. Sometimes transformation feels heavy for people and I appreciate that insight. Okay. Um...
[00:27:16] Mike: One other distinction as you said it that way. I think some people attach to personal growth a little more naturally, cuz it feels a little more heady. Like I read books or I listen to podcasts. Transformation can start to feel a little more like you're asking me to go emotionally deep or spiritually deep. Yes. That might be a distinction for some people between the two. Mm-hmm, but that's not my natural reaction when I hear the two different terms.
[00:27:38] Ali: Totally, totally. Okay. I have one other big question or topic for us to get to, and that relates to the most recent conversation we had, so yeah, yeah. Back in October we're having lunch together and that's right after I saw you put on a show for kickboxing in our, our fitness session. So clearly the karate history was, was displayed.
But we started talking about, you have a really cool story about your father, which I'm not sure if we'll have time to get fully into, but we got into this world of trauma and energy, which is so in focus for me right now. And you started sharing a bit about your relationship or some of your experience navigating. This is how I filtered it, and I'll let you, you correct it, but feeling your father's energy who has now passed. And I just remember as we were talking about this, like the student in me was like, what? Hyper-focused, hyper intrigued. I don't even know if I can label it correctly, but I, again, I just interpreted you having some understanding of being like, yes, I've gotten to a level where now I can actually feel some of my father's trauma or feel some of his energetic things that are cellular based.
[00:28:52] Mike: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I just wanna acknowledge that even when I hear you saying that to me, um, part to any of the listeners that might go, that's, that sounds a little wacky. I get it , I, I would've said the same thing a handful of years ago, and largely because I didn't even know how to address my own cellular, somatic nervous system body, et cetera.
Right? So how could I ever connect universally? But if you even believe even so slightly that we are all connected, mmm-hmm, then maybe you can allow your mind to stay open to the fact that there might be some truth to what the conversation that you and I are referring to here.
I don't know where to start per se, but I'll start with this. My relationship with my dad was tumultuous. We butt heads a lot. Through most of my adult years, through most of my teenage years, I felt like he never understood me and I felt like I never understood him.
We argued a lot, I didn't feel safe around him physically and emotionally a lot of times. That probably goes back to his, he was an alcoholic for many years. He was clean and sober for his last couple years. But you know, a lot of my childhood days, or I remember halls being punched, I remember yelling. I remember, you know, him chasing me and my siblings and, you know, while he never did actually physically hurt us, there's still the childhood side of not feeling safe.
And so I'll start there and my dad and I, when I say I feel like I'm connected with him. It's not because I had a really close relationship with him. In fact, it was because right before he passed, I really started the process of grieving the spiritual death of my dad. And I think that's where this all started to begin. Well, the connection with him begin, it, start the journey, started with me learning how to process my own traumas, triggers, emotions, whatever you want to call them. But months before my dad passed, and you know, I don't know if I would share the story if he was alive, but now that he is passed there was some stuff that happened right before he passed that I was really embarrassed by.
And, um, I was ready to write him off as my dad completely. And so it started with me grieving the spiritual, I like version of me picturing my dad having to be this perfect man and realizing that he's not. And I was doing this Wim Hof somatic breathwork session, um, weeks after all this happened and I was angry. I was ready to write him off. I was sad. I was all these things.
And as I was doing this breath work, similar to you, seeing yourself at your own funeral, I actually saw myself at my dad's funeral. Mm-hmm. . But he was still alive remember at this point. And I grieved. And I wept, but I remember watching his casket , but really what was happening is I was letting go of the emotional expectation of let down and disappointment all the things I was grieving, the spiritual, uh, side of him. Um, little did I know, 90 days later I would also be grieving the physical death, Mm-hmm, of my dad.
I do believe that grieving the spiritual side made the grieving of my dad physically, I don't wanna say easier, but more heart-centered, more heartfelt. And I was able to really grieve in a healthy way because I had already let go of a lot of the anger and the, and, and, and the spiritual side to all of that. And so that's kind of, what happened there.
But there's two directions I could take that I think you're referring to. As I started to grieve my dad's physical death now, and the, and the more times I would be processing my own emotions.
To give you an example, I remember I was in the hotel room about to go give a talk on stage and I was feeling anxious and I was feeling nervous and everything like that. And so I got on a call with my somatic coach and we were processing. And most of my life as an oldest son of an Asian family, right, was very much make my parents proud.
Mm-hmm. But I always question if I was actually making them proud, which then manifested into am I good enough and all this stuff. Sure. And here I am processing an anxiety and doubt and fear. And when I got to the other side was I still so badly wanted to know if I was good enough. I still so badly wanted to know if I was making my dad proud and with my eyes closed as I was feeling through this, I felt, like a, like I felt two hands land on my back. And whenever I process emotions, I always feel it on the front of my body. It's always deep in the pain of my heart and in my gut. And all of a sudden I felt tingling on my back and I felt two hands. And I remember my coach at the time, uh, my coach still today, but at the time of that call, she said, Mike, do you believe that the afterlife can cross over?
Because she didn't want to just start saying what she thought was happening, but I didn't even believe, but right. And I said, sure, I think it's possible. And she said, I think your dad's in the room. It was wild. My eyes closed. I said those are my dad's hands. And I suddenly saw this flash through my mind. I saw all these moments where, at the time you ever see like movies where they, there's like, there's the first set of the scenes of the movie and then they replay those same scenes later on in the movie. Yeah. But they show it from a different angle. Right, right, right, right.
And it's like, oh, I didn't even see that was right. It was like that was happening in my own life. And there were all these moments, basketball tournaments, school, karate, et cetera. Right. That at the time I was like, is my dad proud of me? And I saw this flashback of like every moment of my life, my dad's standing there so proud, or my dad not knowing how to verbally say he was proud of me, but feeling proud.
And in that moment, his hands were on my back and he said, son, I'm already proud of you. And all this anxiety of having to go perform on stage went away because I was no longer trying to prove anything. Mm-hmm. And I could just step on stage and serve and have fun. And arguably I went and gave the best message I'd ever given in my career. I had more fun doing it Right. And it, and, and that was an example of kind of the cellular connection, mm-hmm, uh, with my dad.
And then a second example is I remember processing, like, does my dad get me? Hmm. Right. And it was really this, this wild visualization as I was healing and I was processing and, I saw my dad not really seeing me, is what I was seeing in my mind. Right. Always drunk or always busy or always like in his own, in his own world and not fully seeing me. And then it's like I zoomed out and I saw his dad, my grandfather not seeing him. Mm-hmm. Yeah. And funny enough, by doing that, I was able to compassionately feel where his pains came from. Him always wanting his dad to love him, and it felt like I was healing generat, like at least the way I felt it and saw it in my mind was happening.
It felt like I was healing generational, like pain and trauma, whatever you wanna call it, of being an Asian man, not allowed to feel your feelings and uh, not feeling like you're good enough by seeing my dad and then seeing his dad and then seeing his dad. And then standing there and processing. I processed the trauma for all four generations at the same time. And I yelled, and I grieved and I had all these things. But those are just some examples. I could probably tell three to five other stories, but those are just some examples of kind of what unfolds when you do this type of work. You learn to love those around you more deeply. And most importantly, I learned to love myself more deeply.
And you used the word space a handful of times here. I think it's hard to hold space for love for others when we haven't fully held space to love ourselves fully. Mm-hmm. And that's one of the biggest lessons I've learned while doing trauma healing, reparenting and somatic work. So I could go on and on, but I will see what you maybe want to comment or question on.
[00:36:30] Ali: I was gonna say there's a lot of energy evoked. First thank you for that gift because I think there's so much wisdom in what you just shared from your experience. It gave me a sense of raw inspiration. I want to know if there's a recording, I wanna see that speech, by the way.
[00:36:49] Mike: Yeah, yeah.
[00:36:50] Ali: And you totally finished the convo we started at lunch where not only did this just land in a way where I'm like, holy cow, but fulfilled my curiosity. In other words, I've been doing my work, I've been relating it to my father and then using the lineage, like, there's been moments where now I feel like, oh, I was actually feeling something beyond myself.
Hmm. You know, having a grandfather who grew up without a dad, et cetera. Yeah. So that type of insight is extraordinary, man. Thank you. This feels so complete already. And I also wanna honor the clock. I just want to give you some space to say, is there anything left unsaid for today's convo?
[00:37:31] Mike: Uh, I'll just say this because I just shared examples of healing, Mm-hmm, at like a high and really deep level. Um, and so to anyone listening might go, that sounds like you were on drugs, or something like that, and admittedly I was not. While I do understand psilocybin and all those things and or ayahuasca could have similar effects, all the things I've shared were completely through just learning how to process my own feelings.
So I'll just say this at a fundamental level, why the gift of learning how to feel my own feelings became so powerful is if you just believe it all in principles of like what you resist, persists, until it expands. Well, the number of times I said things like, no, I'm fine. Mm-hmm. Or I, I don't feel stressed or, right.
All that was was me just what, resisting the actual emotion. So just by giving myself that release valve a little bit became really healthy for my own happiness. But secondly, if you've ever heard quotes before, like _you can't heal, what you don't feel_. Mm-hmm. I know people that can just think about things, feel complete and move on.
That's not me. I'm actually very naturally an emotional being. I'm very sensitive by nature. And so that became powerful for me to realize that I can't heal just by talking. I have to feel. And so that's the second thing that I learned about the power of being willing to slow down and, and feel my feelings.
But the third one was this. And that is that feeling one's own emotions, especially if you're a man who grew up in a generation or in a household at all that said things like, man up or, uh, be strong, big, be strong or toughen up or big boys don't cry, or whatever it is. Um, I just took the reframe that learning to feel my feelings is true strength. Mm-hmm. It is a muscle that is developed over time and I just didn't really start going to the gym of emotional stuff, so to speak, until I was 30, right? But I started lifting weights when I was eight or whatever it is. I started doing karate when I was three, and so it allowed me to . Just be patient with that as well and enjoy the process of learning to develop a new muscle.
That might not always lead to these deep connections with your dad and everything like that, it just might lead to a higher level of joy, a higher level of happiness, a diminished level of anxiety or stress. And that's the approach I have taken where I've learned over the last five or six years about emotional healing.
And I'm not an emotional healing coach. I don't pretend to be an expert around this. This is me just sharing my own journey and my own experience and the impact it's had in my world. And so, even if there's one man who can hear this and say, I've been suicidal or depressed, or burnt out, or overwhelmed, or anxious, and I've done all the reading, and I've done all the books. Maybe I need to slow down and actually feel whatever it is I'm feeling. Hopefully this inspires even one man to do that.
[00:40:17] Ali: Indeed. Gotta breathe through that. Thank you brother. If it didn't help anyone else, it helped me. I appreciate you being in my life. Yeah. I appreciate you creating space for this. This is one of those things that I'm probably going to re-listen to. Yeah. So I appreciate how much we got through today and I'm excited for more of these water or lunch convos to come.
[00:40:40] Mike: Yes, my pleasure. I look forward to them as well.
[00:40:43] Ali: All right. Thank you brother.
Ali is a creator who's passionate about coaching people through desired self transformation. That's a fancy way of saying he wants to help people do their inner work. He's a father, husband, podcaster, blogger, technologist and many other things that inspire him to stay curious and learn. He's also a huge advocate for nature, hiking, adventure, testing physical limits and experiencing the natural world.