Human Wayfinding & Connection with Mike Brcic

Episode 053
Duration 58 min
Mike Brcic - Seeker, Explorer and Entrepreneur
Mike Brcic

Mike Brcic is a spirit of adventure. He’s a family man, entrepreneur, spiritual seeker, drummer, and many other things in the world. He also guides humans on extraordinary adventures through his company, Wayfinders.

This episode explores the depths of human wayfinding and connection. The path back to who we are at our core. Mike shares his thoughts and experiences around self discovery, identity transition, impactful experiences, entrepreneurship, scaling, and much more.   We discuss Mike’s 5 C’s of and how they led him to design amazing experiences rooted in community, culture and connection.

Mike also shares some details around his latest adventure to Western Mongolia. He guided a group into one of the most remote and special places in the world. The unique landscape and culture of that area is something you’d generally learn about in National Geographic. This was one of many experiences rooted in Mike’s mission to restore connection in the world.

I appreciate Mike for his humility, wisdom and curiosity.  He’s a seeker, like me, who’s passionate about helping people discover their truth.  I share a lot of common alignment with Mike, so this episode was like catching up with an old buddy over coffee.

I’m also excited to join him on a future Wayfinder adventure!


[00:00:00] Ali: Welcome back, folks. Today, I have Mr. Mike Brcic, a friend, a fellow FRD, we have similar friends and connections in the world. So the few but fun chats I've had with Mike in person have just been awesome. They've been inspiring.

And, um, Mike leads people. He has a lot of similar core values as me, especially in the adventure world, which I know we're going to talk about.

And you're just the type of human Mike that I was, I was just telling you before we hit record, I feel like I could just talk to for hours and like trade stories. And a big part of having you on the show today is I'm curious about the work you're doing in the world, the energy you're bringing to the world, which I've already felt from some of our discussions.

And I'm just excited to learn a little bit more about what's in focus for you. So, how would you like to introduce yourself today? Who is Mike Brcic?

[00:00:59] Mike: Well, first off, I'll say feeling is mutual. I'm excited for a chat. I'm always happy to connect.

As for who I am, you know, it's a work in progress, always evolving. I think that's essentially the core work of a human being is discover who you are and move more and more towards some deeper truth about who you are at your core.

And it's like unraveling, you know, peeling back the onion, unraveling all those messages and mantras and all those things you've been told over your life by other, you know, well meaning people for the most part, about who you are, who you should be... and carrying those into adult life and believing those stories.

And then our work is to unravel those stories and find out what's beneath all of that and what's at the core and who are we? And, uh, that to me is, that's a worthwhile journey, discovering who you are and discovering your truth.

And so who I am is I guess you could say a seeker, somebody who's trying to discover every day who he is. I could give you a few labels like father, entrepreneur, adventurer, guitar player, drummer, mountain biker, psychonaut, all sorts of different things.

But at the core, I'm just a human being trying to walk the journey, figure out who the heck I am. And the more I do that, the more I like who I discover at the core and the more I like showing that to other people. And the better it feels to just live the life that's more my own and not, you know, You know, I don't want to live somebody else's life.

[00:02:24] Ali: Man. See that, that is why we're so aligned. And again, it's why it's been so easy for me to have conversations with you, even though there haven't been a lot of them yet. And because you just use some words, some phrases about getting back to who we are at our core, finding our truth. I wrote down seeker.

It's really interesting you said that because seeker is something that came up for me. Yeah. Years ago when I did an archetypes exercise. And so that word, that archetype, that persona is something I've also found valuable as it relates to learning and curiosity, which is one of my core values. And so I love that you said that.

I have a soft spot for seekers and I think I'm biased that we are a special breed that in a healthy way, we're not really content until we find our truth. At least that's the way I've found it.

And it's also just cool how you navigated that. I use that question intentionally, cause it forces you to do a bit of humble identity revealing. And it's cool how you navigated that.

It's easy for people to go into work or go right into their family, but you gave a really beautiful explanation that you're still on this journey, as am I.

And so... how did that start? I imagine you didn't always think this way. How did you start thinking about the world and your life in this way?

[00:03:52] Mike: I came right out of the womb this way, I'll tell you. Ah...

[00:03:55] Ali: Yeah!

[00:03:56] Mike: I came into this like most people do, by getting punched in the face by life. And, in my early thirties, I had an experience, I call that, it was a two year experience with depression that I call my long dark night of the soul.

And the person that went into that experience and the person that emerged on the other side were radically different. And I went into that still carrying those vestiges of my twenties of just like, partying and, you know, skiing and I was playing in a band and I was just like really living life hard.

But it was, it was a life lived for me. It was for my own pleasure. I didn't really put too much thought into the people around me. And, uh, you know, I had friends and I love my friends and we had fun and stuff, but it was really just about me and my needs.

And that experience really brought me to my knees and forced me to a greater level of awareness that there's a world around me and that there's a world within me as well. And forced me to look inside and confront a lot of things. Forced me to develop a level of empathy and compassion for people around me. And kind of started me on this journey of seeking.

And that journey is kind of come and gone and in bits and waves. And you know, it's a lot easier to commit to that journey when you don't have three kids. Three kids will eat up a lot of your time. But my kids are a little bit older now and I have more bandwidth and I've really in the last couple of years, I really tried to commit to that work.

Just like, you know, understanding myself. Really understanding my patterns, my stories, my beliefs, you know, where did all this come from? Do I need to believe these stories and do I need to have these beliefs? And, um, I was thinking about it the other day, like part of it is like committing to this work in this kind of hope that like, okay, maybe if I just commit to this work, the universe won't have to punch me in the face again to get me to wake up.

And I can stay ahead of it. But I know it doesn't really work that way. I expect, I will get, take a few more uppercuts, but I feel much more ready to take them. And I have a different bias towards these experiences now, because I've had some big challenges over the course of my life.

And now I can look back in the rear view mirror at these challenges with deep gratitude for what they brought me. Because every single one of them brought me to another level of awareness, another level of growth that called me to something else.

And so now when I go through those experiences, as hard as they may be, I can remind myself, this is calling me. This is calling me forward to something. And that's comforting. It doesn't really take away the pain and the suffering, but it gives meaning to that pain and suffering. And it's somewhat comforting, right?

Because for me, my ultimate commitment and priority is to myself and my own journey. Because if I know I commit to that, I will show up better for the people around me. I will show up better in the world. I will be of more service. So I just try to commit to that. Now it's become more of a daily or a weekly practice rather than, "Oh, shit is getting tough." I better like go see my therapist or, you know, whatever.

Now it's just like, shit is always going to be tough. Let's just keep doing the work. Let's commit to the journey and whether it's tough or whether it's easy, that work is going to propel me forward better and better versions of myself.

[00:07:09] Ali: Hmm, man. Wow. There's a lot in there.

And I'm curious, is this what shaped the name Wayfinders? So part of the work that you're doing in the world today.

[00:07:24] Mike: Yeah, for sure. There was a few things that went into that name. And I'll give you a little bit of, um, a little bit of context.

With my previous company, I was running this company that did high end mountain bike trips all over the world. And we were expanding rapidly. And I was bringing on investors and building up the team and all that kind of stuff that one does as an entrepreneur. And um, encountering lots of problems that I hadn't encountered before.

So I started joining these different communities and going to different entrepreneur conferences to try and uplevel my game and connect with people. And, um, lot of these conferences were great, lots of useful information, some great connections. The format was typically set up in a way where lots of speakers, lots of workshops, and it wasn't really optimized for connecting with other people.

Because, you know, you can't connect with other people while somebody's talking on stage. And so I wanted to do something where the focus was on connection. And I knew that from my experience with my company, that when you take people outside and they're doing fun and challenging things together, they tend to bond pretty quickly. More so than listening to a speaker, of course.

[00:08:32] Mike: And so I put together an event in the Canadian Rockies. I sent an invite to a bunch of friends and said, Hey, I'm doing this five day event, we're going to mountain bike. We're going to hike, we're going to explore. We're also going to do some workshops in the evening and stuff like that, and hang out in the hot tub and connect and, you know, it filled up very quickly. People loved it, asked me to do more.

And at the very beginning it was called Mastermind Adventures, because it was a little bit of a mastermind, it was a little bit of an adventure. But within a couple years I really got sick of that mastermind term, because it just got used so often, like, if you and I go for a piss in the bathroom, we're having a mastermind, right?

Yeah. And, so I was looking for a new name for the company. And I just happened to be rereading a book, one of my favorite books. And it's written by one of my mentors, a guy named Wade Davis, who's a world renowned anthropologist, ethnobotanist, National Geographic explorer in residence photographer.

He's written like 10 books. He is, I call him Canada's Indiana Jones because he's just done some crazy badass shit. Like he lived in the deepest reaches of the Amazon for five years with these tribes and, and did like, you know, every psychedelic plant you can, you know, find on earth and um, wild guy.

He has a book. It's a book called The Wayfinders. And the subtitle of the book is Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World. And he visits all these different cultures around the world. These Indigenous cultures and traditional cultures, and talks a little bit about their way of life, and these cultures that have survived for thousands or tens of thousands of years.

And outlines a pretty compelling case for why this wisdom that we tend to write off, you know, we look at these cultures as primitive or whatever and we write them off and in some cases try to exterminate them entirely, and why this wisdom is actually so crucial to the modern world. And the reason that it's endured for so long, despite all these efforts to exterminate is because this wisdom is so valuable.

And the actual, the wayfinders that it, that it points to in the book are these Polynesians in the South Pacific and these islands that are separated by like, you know, 500, 600 miles and how these people managed to populate all these tiny little islands all over the South Pacific, which without modern navigation, it's completely unfathomable. It'd be like a suicide mission to try and go explore these islands.

And he spent time with these people, these wayfinders, these people that occupied a particular position in the community, their role was navigation. But they did it through these methods that, uh, are pretty much imperceptible to the modern human or even to instruments and reading things like these imperceptible motions of waves and of birds and of wind and stuff like that and having like this incredible ancient GPS.

And so that was a beautiful metaphor to me of like this process of seeking that every human is on whether they know it or not. How do we tune into these like subtle, very subtle symbols and very subtle clues about how to find our path and how to find our life.

And essentially, I look at my work as I'm not there to lead them on the journey. I'm not there to teach them about the journey. I'm certainly not a guru or anything like that. I'm just a guide and say, "Hey, it's, it's your journey. You've got to figure out what it is, but I'm going to get you started on that."

And I'm not going to show you the way, but I will show you that there is a journey to be had and how you might be able to go on it. So that's a little bit about the name there.

[00:11:53] Ali: Wow. Okay. I'm glad I asked that because now I'm going to come back to some of the things that you said, as it relates to, let's just say the earlier part of your journey. When there's a lot of things I could say, but some of the things that I just want to reflect back to you are that...

I think it's really interesting how not only did you realize that life kind of punched you in the face because not everybody sees that or feels that or realizes that. I, I think that many people get these signs that you mentioned, get these cues and they just ignore them or they don't even see them or they don't feel them and so they keep going.

And how I would describe that, Mike, is that then they start just operating more asleep or under stress. I see a lot of humans who are just in my world asleep or they're operating under stress. Whereas boom, you got hit. I got hit too. And it's funny. It happened right in my early thirties. And I'd say I got knocked out twice just to play with your metaphor and was like, What happened?

Like, how did this happen? And then that's when my seeker path started where I need answers now. And to bring it back to some of the things that you're doing through this, that that beautiful wayfinder story and now, you know, sort of your mission, your community that you're building around it.

So much of it, for me, is paying attention to what's being shown or what I'm able to feel, which I couldn't do before. So it's almost like you said, you had to get punched in the mouth. You had to start, you know, kind of hitting a lower or a darker place to be more aware, which is one of the most important words in my world.

So much of what you said, not only lands with me, but aligns with my story. And I am definitely going to read this book, dude. Like you picked an...

[00:13:49] Mike: Amazing book. Yeah.

[00:13:50] Ali: Just the fact that ancient wisdom, which was also, I just love being an advocate for it. It's like, it's so easy to get distracted by the new and shiny things.

Even right now, like we're in this cyclone of AI. And while I understand its implication, was just telling my wife, like, yeah, this is going to change things. I'm also a little bit like, yeah, but what about all the cool Ancient stuff that we know we've just forgotten and we're just so far away from, you know. So thank you for the book recommendation. That's a gift.

And as it relates to that, you just got back from an epic adventure and not just this happened months ago, but Mongolia, correct? How would you describe that for people who don't know much about the adventures that you lead? Like what was unique or special about that experience?

[00:14:46] Mike: Well, for starters, it was cold as fuck. And we knew that going in. So I took a group of 27 entrepreneurs to Western Mongolia. This is far Western Mongolia just a few miles from the Kazakh border. And in that region, the people there are ethnic Kazakhs and they're nomads and they've been nomads for thousands of years.

So they keep these giant herds typically a thousand animals or more sheep, horses, buffalo, camels. It's a strange thing to see a camel in that environment, and see these camels surrounded by snow, and you're so used to seeing camels with a backdrop of desert, and these camels, like in the frigid cold, it seems out of place.

These people have been migrating with the seasons for thousands of years. And I went there about a year and a half ago for the first time to just go scout it out and spend time with these people. And it's such a captivating way of life of just completely living in tune with the land, living in tune with the rhythm of the seasons. Days are simple, but very rich.

And so I knew that there was something valuable to be learned from this area and from this culture. And I'm intentional about the places I take people to, and I take people to places where I think there's something valuable to be learned from the culture. And the reason for that is we exist within this dominant narrative, the Western sort of Cartesian narrative of what it means to live a human, human life.

And there's a lot of value to that. There are aspects of that story that are very valuable, but there are so many other interpretations of how to live a human life, right? And that's the Wade Davis talks about this idea of culture. Culture is just shorthand for how different people, you know, their codified way of thinking living life and how to approach life and what makes a meaningful and fulfilling human life.

And so because I've traveled so much all over the world and spent time with all kinds of different people, you see, there are so many interpretations of how to live a human life. And I take a little, little something from each one of those cultures, right?

And, you know, I spent time in late 2022 with the monks of Bhutan, living up in this remote monastery and learning the value of stillness and contemplation. And I spent time with the hunters of Greenland learning the value of listening to the land. And spending time with the Batwa of Uganda and learning something from them as well.

And so I always let the context and the culture of a place inform how I design the experience. And every event, every adventure has a theme. And the theme for this adventure going in, I have a co facilitator and we talked about it and the theme was transitions and transformation.

Because as humans, we're always going through various transitions in life and various transformations. Some of them minor, some of them major, some of them we're aware of, some of them we're not even aware of until they're done. And learning how to navigate those transitions with a little bit of grace and awareness generally makes it a smoother ride.

Because if you're not aware, then it tends to be bumpier. It tends to be harder. It tends to be more like an experience of getting punched in the face. And that this backdrop of this beautiful place with these people who have been in transition, constant transition for thousands of years felt like the perfect place to do it.

And it's also one of the most remote and vast and quiet and still places I've ever been. Just for reference, over the course of those nine days, I don't think we ran into more than five people.

And so what we did was we met this family, we went up to their summer grounds. This was in October of 2023, and we accompanied them on their fall migration down to their winter grounds. So, you know, every spring they go back up to the summer grounds, and every fall they come back down. They have to move because they have these giant flocks that if they keep them in one place too long, they graze it out, and obviously, you can't stay up in the highlands in the winter because it goes down to like minus 40.

And we accompanied their fall migration. So over the course, we were there for three days at the summer camp, and then the migration was three days and then three days at the winter camp. And that experience of moving on foot and then on horseback through this vast landscape was like so opening. You have these huge mountains all around you. And you crest a hill and you see this valley that stretches on for dozens of miles. And it was such an opening experience.

And so, there's the outer journey that we're moving through this place, but I'm also trying to facilitate for people this inner journey. How can we mirror this movement in this outer journey with our own journey within?

And so, you know, I do that through various exercises through various things we take them through. One of my favorite things to do usually I do this towards the end of an event. I take people out into the wilderness and I get everybody to just find their own spot in the wilderness where they can't see or hear anybody else. And then I just leave them there for an unspecified amount of time.

Usually it's like two, three hours. I'm going to start pushing that even longer. But an amazing thing happens when you put somebody in a remote place where it's completely quiet and they don't have phones, they don't have journals, they don't have anything, but just themselves and their thoughts and the surrounding.

And people have had you know, mystical experiences that they would describe as like a psychedelic experience. Just from the process of sitting still in a quiet and remote place.

And so all of that informs the experience. And if I do my job well, they've come in contact with some deeper truths about themselves and hopefully have some information that they can come home with about how they can stay connected to that and stay committed to that inner place where there's more truth inside there.

[00:20:24] Ali: Totally. Yeah. That sounds beautiful. For a minute I was envisioning and kind of feeling into that, like, ah, just walking or riding on horseback and seeing valleys, man. And then yes, the ability for us to be with ourselves in a new environment, particularly in nature. Because I find that like being in buildings and man made things brings its own energy. But when you're in nature, especially a place very remote like you described, like, there's nothing to do but be with yourself.

There's no distractions. There's nothing to take you out of the moment, which has all this amazing insight and potential new awareness, new learnings. So I love that. I love that you're intentional about where you take people in that theme, transitions, transformation.

These are some of the most powerful things that I think we can experience. It's also why I do this show. So thank you for supporting that. And it sounded like Mongolia was cold, but amazing and awesome. And so literally besides the people that you were with only five humans.

[00:21:36] Mike: We, we had our camp crew.

Mm-Hmm. . So we had a pretty big camp crew. There's about 2020 locals, Uhhuh, , uh, you know, the drivers. We had these Russian military vehicles that were there when we needed them. We had the cooking crew, we had the camp crew who was building the fires and setting up the toilets and all that kind of stuff.

So there's about 20 of those people. But in terms of running into other people, it was very, very few and far between. There's not a lot of people that live in that area and that's what makes it so special. Yes. And it was also, the snows had come early, the winter snows had come early.

So most of the nomads in that area had already hightailed it down to their winter grounds. But we, you know, we had a schedule. I couldn't just call everybody up and say, actually, we're going to fly over a week early. We had, we had a, we had a set schedule and we had, you know, our flights to West from Mongolia booked or whatever.

So we had to stick with that. And the family was up there just getting snowed in going, waiting around, like, when are they going to get here? So we were one of the last people to come from that high ground.

So that was also part of it too. If we'd been there a week or two earlier, it would have been a lot more people. You know, it's wild to see just these massive caravans of like a thousand animals all moving through this landscape. And every time you crest a hill, it looks like you're looking at the cover of national geographic. You know, you can just sort of picture these pictures there.

It's one of the wildest and most amazing places I've been to. And I'm going back in October, 2025. And I'm bringing you with me just so you know.

[00:23:01] Ali: Indeed you are. Yeah. I remember seeing those pictures when you shared some on social media and I agree, I was like, whoa, this is National Geographic caliber. So yes, as we were talking about before, I'm already in. Thank you for putting me on the 2025 roster.

Something I want to also talk about, Mike, is that I realize there's these five C's that I'll share with our audience that are part of the wayfinder, let's just say ethos or the culture, the mission.

Self, others.

[00:23:36] Mike: Connection. Connection to self. Yeah. That's the C part. It's the connection.

[00:23:40] Ali: Great. Thank you for, I'm sorry. So thank you for correcting me early on. So connection to self, connection to others, connection to nature, connection to calling, connection to mystery. And we've already talked about a lot of these.

So I want to give you some space to go in and out of anything that we haven't talked about, especially mystery, because I don't think we've talked about that. And that was the one it kind of popped out to me that I was like, "Oh, I want to learn more about this."

But feel free to take the five C's anywhere you want.

[00:24:09] Mike: Well, let's start there with mystery. It's a good place to start. We humans, us 8 billion or whatever, we're plunked down on this tiny little marble floating in space. And if you take the astronomical view of it we're just a tiny pinhead in this vast universe.

We have no idea if there's other life out there. We have no idea what the hell we're doing on this planet. It's a big mystery, right? And we can get freaked out by that. But we can also get curious about that, and we can explore that. And we humans have been doing that for thousands and thousands of years.

And we have words for that mystery, like God, and various other words, like some sense of something. Something behind, you know, all this, illusion, you want to call it.

And I've been blessed to have experiences, both assisted with medication, or without. You know, I've had psychedelic experiences that have connected me with that sense of mystery and that sense of oneness with everything that had been powerful and mystical. I've also had experiences like that through breathwork.

I've had them, you know, from sitting in the jungle by myself in the Amazon jungle where I felt that sense of connection to everything. And it's a really powerful experience. You know, we go through life with this absolute conviction that we are discrete, separate beings that exist separate from everything around us. I can point to my arms and I can point to my skin, it's like, this is me, and then there's the rest of the world.

But then you have these experiences that kind of reach a little bit more into the quantum field or whatever you want to call it. And you start to realize that you are actually connected to everything. And we could detangle that in very literal terms and talk about the exchange of. You know, how our, our body is constantly changing and whatnot, but in a more spiritual sense, I've had very powerful experiences that have convinced me that I'm not quite as separate and discreet as I would like to believe. And that I'm actually interconnected with everything, and that's a beautiful feeling, and it's a beautiful appreciation of it what life might actually be, as opposed to just this one aspect of the story.

And when I know that, when I know that I'm connected to you, when I know that I'm connected to a tree in the Amazon jungle, when I know that I'm connected to a child suffering in Gaza or in Israel, whatever, I, I move through life, a little bit differently. And a little bit less concerned with my discrete borders where I begin and end.

And I think that's a better way to go through human life with that understanding. And so, you know, you don't have to take ayahuasca to do it. Sometimes you just have to sit still long enough, ideally sit still in a quiet, natural place. And you will start to have inklings of what that is.

You sit there long enough, a day, two days, and you're probably going to experience that very powerfully.

[00:27:05] Ali: Love that. Wow. I love, I love all of that. Yeah, I don't think I have anything to share other than, yes, I'm with that. So, that's mystery. You talked a little about calling. We've talked about nature.

Do you feel you want to give extra context to any of the other five Cs?

[00:27:24] Mike: Well, let's talk about connection to self. We sort of started talking about this, about this process of discovering who you are. And, really the whole five C's model is really just about restoring connection.

That's, that's my personal mission is to restore connection in the world for as many people as want to embark on that journey. And through these different ways in. Ideally, through all of them, but, you can choose any door to start with.

Connection to self is a great one because the more you understand yourself, the easier it is to connect with others. You can have more authentic and fulfilling relationships when you have a deeper understanding of who you are and you know what's valuable to you and you know the types of people that you want to spend time with and all these things.

And I'm not going to be prescriptive about that. There's so many ways into that. It could be psychedelics, it could be journaling, it could be meditation, it could be, you know, you name it. Just sitting quietly in a room for 10 minutes.

But I know what it isn't. And it's not constantly being on the move, constantly going, constantly hustling, and grinding. Because what that is for most people is a very compelling avoidance strategy.

And especially workaholism is the most socially acceptable form of avoidance that we have. The other ones like, you know, snorting a pile of cocaine or sex addiction or whatever that may be those are all the same thing. We're trying to avoid pain.

We're trying to avoid sitting with ourselves. But work is, it's a badge of honor to hustle and grind. And yeah, I worked 90 hours last week. But a lot of that is just, I'm not comfortable dealing with these emotions inside myself, so I'm going to do something else. And in order to actually really get ground in a deeper understanding of ourselves, we have to be able to sit with that, and we have to be able to endure the discomfort.

And you don't have to do that all day, but just making a little bit of space for it, it's going to give you a deeper understanding of self. And I'll give you an example of just how useful that work can be.

This weekend I was taking a breathwork facilitator training program. And I don't know if you, I mean you experienced breathwork at FRD Live, you know, how powerful it can be, and it can bring up a lot of stuff.

And so it brought up a lot of stuff for me, and it brought up a lot of sadness. And on Sunday when the second session was done, I was sitting with all this emotion, all these sad feelings. And it would have been very easy to just open up my laptop and start banging out some work or throw on Netflix or whatever, but I knew that there was something that wanted to express itself through me.

So instead I put on some headphones and I just put on some music that would drown out the outside noise. And I just laid down and I went within and I allowed that emotion to just express itself through my body, however it wanted to. I know you resonate with this because you talked a lot about emotional intelligence and this process.

And I rode that wave for about an hour. It wasn't comfortable. There's a lot of, you know, stuff and grief and whatever that was for whatever reason coming up. But then I moved through it. And then I went to bed soon after and had a great sleep. I woke up the next day, just completely supercharged, full of energy, full of vitality, had an amazing day.

And it wasn't a coincidence. It's because I allowed those emotions to express themselves. And I often think about it as the bandwidth of our emotional experience. Most of us exist in this narrow band where we won't allow ourselves really to feel too much pain. And as a result, we also are unable to feel that much joy on the other end of the spectrum.

And my personal experience and my belief is that the deeper we can go into an experience and allow that pain and that sadness and anger and suffering and whatever that may be, the greater our capacity for joy just expands the entire bandwidth of the human experience and increases your understanding of self and your connection to yourself.

And it just makes the experience of life that much richer. So to me, that's a valuable practice. It's added so much to my life

[00:31:22] Ali: Man, I couldn't agree more. Yeah. Breath work in particular has been one of the most amazing tools that I've been able to experience. It's, and then again, it goes back to this ancient wisdom that like this has been around for a long long time. And we're reminding ourselves because more people are stepping into it and practicing it and sharing it that "oh my goodness." Like we can do this virtually anytime we want.

It's just a matter of what you said, Is it am I willing to sit and be with this? Am I willing to face this? Am I willing to feel this?

Because dude I agree with you literally just the other day as I was doing my new year's practice and I was walking on this nice nature walk and also did a little bit of experimentation with some mushrooms. Not enough to have an extraordinary psychedelic experience, but enough that I intentionally just wanted to reconnect.

So use your word, like really connect with myself and connect with the land, connect with nature with my environment. I had more awareness around how important I think it is that we do feel what we need to feel and all of it. So exactly what you did, where it's like, you knew your internal guidance system knew you could avoid this and you could go run and work or play or do something, but you chose to sit and play the music and be with it.

And, this is the work. This is the hardest part when it comes to being with your emotions, because like you said, if you're willing to face it, and move through it, and then integrate it, then we have this beautiful range. Because that's what being human is. Like that's what I've been telling people more and more, and reminding myself is that, It's not about becoming more aware.

So you're like, "Oh, I know what that is. And I can just kind of avoid it and not have it happen more." Where it's being with all of it. And my children often remind me of that because they're still young, where my daughter, at least in particular, she's young enough that she will literally show and be with her emotions in just the most authentic way.

And I feel like that's how we're designed. And so I honor you for doing the work. Because it's funny, sometimes I create this story, Mike where I'm like, "Oh, it's so simple. Like, why don't people just wake up and be with their emotions?" But it's actually arguably the hardest thing because yeah, said we've trained ourself. We've become conditioned to avoid them.

It segues into the, one of the last things I want to talk to you about, which is this new business coaching program that you've developed called the entrepreneur's compass. We talked a little bit about it for jumping on today, and it definitely has piqued my curiosity.

So I want to give some space for that, because I think it maps back to what you described where it's like, "Oh, it's easy to work a lot. It's easy to grind. It's easy to scale." When in reality, those can also be defense mechanisms for reconnecting with ourselves. Right?

So what would you share in terms of like why it's important to find this compass with the work that you're doing in the world?

[00:34:31] Mike: It really just comes back to that idea of connection with self.

And there's nothing wrong with just approaching work as a means to make a living and maybe make a really comfortable living. But ultimately, over the span of a human lifetime, if we're going to work 40, 50 years, to spend all that time doing work, whose only purpose is to put food on the table and, you know, the odd vacation, whatnot. The longer you do that, the greater psychic psychological costs there is to that.

And I can say from my experience, doing work that feels aligned with yourself at your core, at your soul level, that feels to me, my work feels like a very natural and full expression of who I am and who I want to be in the world. The people that I want to serve.

And it's it's extremely motivating. I wake up with, you know, energy and excitement to do my work every single day. And, you know, one of the biggest things I learned is that your success as as an entrepreneur depends in large part on your energy and your energy management. And there's all kinds of things that go into that.

And I talked about that in the program. Some of it is the habits that we develop that are going to support energy or they're going to drain our energy. Some of it is the actual, the core of the work that we're doing, that what is our company doing in the world? And some of it is the tasks that we're doing.

You can have a company that feels deeply aligned, but you still end up doing a bunch of crappy stuff that you hate doing. Right? There's four core aspects of the program. Aligned, easy, appealing and profitable.

So the aligned part I just talked about , it's doing work that feels aligned with who you are. And my experience is that there are some people who should probably just look in the mirror and finally recognize that they're just not really into the work that they're doing or not into the company that they're running . And they should figure out how to gracefully, sooner rather than later get out, whether it's selling or whether it's exiting or quitting their job or whatever.

But I also recognize that, you know, that's not easy. You don't just make that decision overnight. You need to do it with grace. But my experience is that there are far more people who got into the work that they're doing or the company that they're running because there's something about it that genuinely jazzed them.

And then over time, and I find this happens often with scaling a company, you start out and you're serving your customers directly and you're working one on one with them and you love doing the work with your customers. And then you have a small team and you love working with your small team and you see them every day.

And then you scale the company and all of a sudden you've got 40 employees and then 100 employees and then 400, you don't even know half their names. You haven't talked to a customer in two years and you're spending most of your time in meetings or talking to shareholders or whatever.

And it doesn't have to be like a 400 person company. It could be a five person company, but there's probably a core of work within that company that you enjoy doing that really energizes you, that jazzes you, creates a lot of value. And so how do we get back to that and how do we clear off all the other stuff, right? And there's all kinds of tools and techniques and whatever to do that.

And that's the easy part. How do we make a company that's easy to manage and where we can focus on time on where we're getting energy, where we're delivering great value.

The appealing part is really honing down on who are the people that I really love serving that I really want to serve and how can I speak directly to them rather than trying to speak to everybody all at once? And how can I hone my my products and services?

My experience has been most people, their companies get a little bit bloated over time and they end up offering so many different products and services and they feel like they need to keep launching new things or whatever. But when you actually focus and you focus on the core customer, that ideal customer and just solving their number one problem, that's when you get the big margins. That's when your marketing becomes so much more effective. It just becomes so much easier to land customers.

And then the final part of it is profitable. Which is just focusing on profit and cashflow over revenue growth. Sometimes you have to grow your revenue to get to a certain point where you can keep the lights on, whatever.

But beyond that, my experience has been people tend to push the revenue growth at the expense of other things like profit and cashflow, right? And so revenue is going up, you know, 40 percent a year, but your operating expenses are going up 60 percent a year and your cost of goods sold keeps going up and all this stuff and your cashflow is in the toilet.

And that's stressful. Right. So it's like, let's pick that apart. How can we take what you've got and make it more profitable, have your cashflow be more consistent. And that's just the way less stressful way to run a business. Right.

And for me personally, I can look at my cashflow 12 months ahead. I can see where my business is going to be. I know I have 18 months of operating capital in my bank account. So I could not have another customer for 18 months and I'd be fine. And that is an incredibly comforting thing, particularly in light of my previous business, where I made all of those mistakes and like every day was waking up stressed out, like, am I going to make payroll next week? You know, all that kind of stuff. That's just too stressful.

And so trying to teach people a different way to run a business that is ultimately more fulfilling and it's more aligned and you can sleep better, and all that kind of stuff.

[00:39:39] Ali: I love that man. I feel it. I feel your energy, your aura.

Like you said, I don't know or talk to a lot of people who say they wake up with energy and vitality to work on their business. And I, you know, I have friends that have amazing, extraordinary businesses that, as you and I talked about that are actually changing the world.

That's a term that people throw around in the business world. Where like you said, you're not fucking changing the world. You're building a SAAS tool that just makes it easy to do X, Y, and Z. Like, so I love that you called that out, called that up. Cause I aligned with that. I'm like, Hey, if you're going to say you're changing the world, let's be clear. Like, are you truly driving humanity forward in meaningful ways?

And coming back to what you were sharing, I have a lot of friends and I know people that are doing extraordinary things, but they're not waking up with energy and vitality. They don't have 18 months of cashflow in the bank to really honor that profitable approach, which is important.

It's funny, Mike, one of my early mentors gave me that gift early on. He's like, I don't care about revenue. He's like, how profitable is your business? Because you could have this large enterprise and brag about all your revenue. But like you said, if the profit doesn't look good, then who cares how big it is.

[00:41:03] Mike: The other part of it, it's just as important or maybe more important as the cash flow, right?

Because you can have a profitable business, but if you don't understand your cash flow cycles, particularly if you're manufacturing a product, you can be super profitable. But if you can't manage that cash flow, like when you're paying out , you know, a hundred thousand dollars for product before you can ship it, if you don't understand how to manage that, you can go out of business.

So profit is a starting point, but then you also have to manage the cashflow as well. You know, my old business, we would track all kinds of different metrics, but the conversation was always about revenue and revenue growth. And I was bringing on investors and I was bringing on debt and all this kind of stuff. And there's lots of money in the bank account because of all this outside money coming in. But I wasn't even paying attention to my P and L statement.

And I was just watching the revenue go. And then the money started drying up and I'd already tapped the investor well three times. And it was like, A, I don't think I can go back to my network where I'm pulling in money from and B, I don't have the strength to do it because I hate raising money.

And then I started looking at the business model and it's like, "Oh my God, this is a mess." Our gross margins are like 15%. You can't run a business on 15% gross margins. But it was easy to tell myself I'm a great success because our revenue was going up like 50, 60, 70% a year. It's like I'm crushing it. And it's like I'm crushing my business into the ground, is what I'm doing.

And so that's just one example of like, we've got to counter the dominant narrative.

People think like, I'm speaking out against scale. Like I have something against scale. I don't. A, you gotta know why you're scaling. My experience was I'd set these crazy goals and I wanted to be on the cover of entrepreneur magazine and all this stuff. It was really just an ego play. I wanted validation. That's a stupid reason to run a business.

So you got to know why you're chasing the goals, and you have to understand how to scale properly. If you haven't figured out how to deliver your product at a super high level consistently, then don't throw a whole bunch of gas on the fire.

Because you're just going to create a whole bunch of problems. So figure out how to deliver that product service consistently to every single customer at a high level, and then figure out the operations that are going to help you scale and then scale all you want.

But that's not my experience. Most people don't do it that way.

[00:43:06] Ali: I agree. In fact, dude this it's so funny how much we have in common. Just the other day. This is like very, very fresh. I do this from time to time where like, I look at a topic that either I've talked about or discussed with people or given serious thought, let's say. And then I try to really see both sides.

And scale came up. And I was thinking, I was like, what is my resistance to this? Because early on in my entrepreneurial journey, I was blindsided by it too. And I thought it was important. So aligned with what you're sharing. And now I really, really pause when that word comes up.

And I don't want to pause and be like, "nope, scaling's not for me." But like you said intentionally, what is the scaling about? What's underneath it? What's the why?

And then is there validation to actually say that this is something to scale? But dude, you know, it was interesting Mike, I was like, how does nature scale?

[00:44:06] Mike: Yeah, good question.

[00:44:08] Ali: You know, and I was trying to come up with a way to show that. And not everything always goes back to, well, how does nature do it? But I do value nature as my primary mentor. And I often look to it when I'm stuck with like human problems or challenges. I'm like, wait a second. Let's just see, like, how would nature solve this?

And that was something that I sat with and I'm like, huh, I don't know that I have a lot of great examples of it without really digging into let's just say microbiology.

But, it's an interesting thing to sit with because more and more of what I'm aligning with and what I I'm hearing and filtering in your awesome compass program is like organic growth is what nature promotes. Organic growth is what is out in my garden. Organic growth is where I have alignment. Starting with that alignment, that's the hard part.

I think people can teach and learn some of the other things, not to discount their value. But like profitability and doing something that's appealing, like there's different ways and systems to navigate that. But to find work that you're truly aligned with, I think is one of the incredibly harder things to do because of all the stuff we've discussed earlier today.

Like it's easy to get blindsided or easy to just work and easy to, you know, just distract yourself, neglect these things.

So coming back to this, I'm with you. I think that if you're gonna scale, go scale, you know, do what you need to do, but really pause and questioning that in a healthy way. Like, what's this about?

Because most of the scaling I see in the world is human manufactured. And I mean that like from all different angles, not just like manufacturing. But like even software companies hit scale like that's not organic. It's very formulaic and it often involves rounds and rounds of fundraising. And was in that world earlier in my career and it was kind of toxic.

It was not kind of toxic. There were very toxic elements of it. And it just I saw it https: otter. ai

[00:46:21] Mike: Yeah, totally. You know, like VC money is concerned with one thing, getting a return, right? And it wants a fast return and it wants a big return. And scaling a company as rapidly as VC money demands or as rapidly as, you know, you want to get on the Inc 5, 000 or something like that.

You have to be willing to pay a price for that if you're the founder or one of the founders, right. You're expected to sacrifice a lot of things, your friendships, your health, your marriage, whatever that may be. And that's great. You know, if you're 23 and that's what you want.

Chances are, you probably want that because you want some validation. You want to feel a sense of self worth through that.

And there's funny, you know, somebody posted recently it was like four recent covers of entrepreneur magazine. The people that they're venerating on their cover. And it was like Elizabeth Holmes from Theranos, Sam Bankman, freed, you know, all these people who have just like crashed and burned spectacularly.

And if you look at like the Inc. 5000, they're celebrating these companies that have like , 4, 000 percent year over year growth. And that is our metric of success. And we're like, "Oh my God, this is amazing." You know?

I mean, it's impressive. I don't know if it's amazing. I'm sure if you were to take the Inc. 5000 from five years ago and go through every one of those companies, which of these companies are still in business? I'll bet you that the failure rate is spectacularly high of those companies. Right?

Because if that's your goal to keep growing like that, every company a different stage of its growth will fall apart in some significant way. And if the leaders haven't upleveled themselves to be able to handle that, which most people don't, then it's going to crash and burn.

And, and in my experience, it's far more fulfilling on a soul level to just do work that you love, that resonates with you. Do it at a patient process. And I also want to be clear, this idea of purpose and fulfillment or whatever, it doesn't have to always be the goal that that is your means of earning a living.

That's a beautiful long term goal, and for me, I'm super blessed. The way I earn a living, and I earn a very good living, is my means of authentic expression. But, a good starting point is just find some time outside of that, you know? If you love playing the drums, that's fine. You know, make 20 minutes a day to play the drums. If that feels like a really good means of self expression, that's great.

And just keep creating more and more time for that and develop that like a muscle. It's like, Hey, this is me. This is my expression. This is how I want to express myself. This is how I want to contribute to the world. Make that a regular part of your practice.

And then eventually you will probably find your way to work that is a more direct expression of who you want to be in the world.

[00:48:56] Ali: I love that. Yes, that is a great tip because that's all it

[00:48:58] Mike: takes. It takes some of the pressure off, right? It's like people get so worked up on this like "I've got to find my purpose." And they think you know, "my career and my whole life has to be wrapped up in my purpose."

You're setting a pretty high bar. It's like you're not going to discover that overnight. Just experiment and play and try different things on the side. Find 20 minutes on the weekend, whatever, just play an experiment. And eventually, if you keep that experimenting enough, you will probably find your way to making a living from living your purpose.

[00:49:24] Ali: I'm so with that. Dude, I'm so with that because what I found is that the number one blocker for like getting behind your passion, your purpose and making that the work you do in the world, are these real constraints. Like financial challenges, like have a family. And some of it you could say, well, Oh, do you really need that? Do you know?

But there's some real challenges to go from the lifestyle you have to, "Oh, I just want to pursue my passion." So I love that you're sharing that. And to come back to something that you said earlier, I think it starts with knowing what really helps you come alive and starting to put that into the world, which is what you're saying.

Like start drumming 100 percent going on adventures. Because if you do that, then gradually that transition will sort of present itself. But it is incredibly difficult to do it overnight. I can tell you that from experience. It's not a snap your fingers like, "Oh, I figured it out. Now I can just leave this previous thing."

[00:50:27] Mike: Yeah, yeah. 100%. And you said it, you said an important thing, which is what makes you come alive, right? And if you know, puppetry makes you come alive, find a way to like, get a half an hour of that into your week. And if you think you don't have time to do it, that half an hour that you spend on puppetry is going to give you the energy that's going to create at least another half hour, probably several hours in your schedule, because you'll feel energized from the act of expressing yourself in the world.

So just find the time and it becomes like a snowball rolling down a hill and it just gets bigger and bigger.

[00:50:57] Ali: It will help you find your way. Pun intended.


[00:51:01] Mike: Yeah, nice.

[00:51:02] Ali: Mike, this has been a gift. I knew it would be. I usually like to wrap with a few just fun, rapid fire questions. Are you game?

[00:51:10] Mike: Awesome. I am.

[00:51:11] Ali: Alright, sweet. The first one. What's your favorite book? And you cannot use the one from Wade Davis that we talked about earlier.

[00:51:20] Mike: Oh, shit. So many books. So many books. Um, wow, damn it.

[00:51:26] Ali: Or you could use that. I'm not going to give you that rule. You could use that book.

[00:51:30] Mike: Well, I'm gonna go back to Wade Davis because he's just been such an influence in my life.

And the first book of his that I encountered and read was a book called One River. And it was this big 600 or 700 page tome and it was all about his experiences in the Amazon. But also bringing his mentor in and his mentor, you know, went into the Amazon back in the forties, I think, or something like that. And it's just a gripping tale and it really turned me on to this life of adventure that I'm living.

[00:51:56] Ali: Very cool. All right. Two books I have to check out now.

Second question, Mike, what animal would you be if not human?

[00:52:08] Mike: In the past, I've been tempted to say grizzly bear cause I really resonate with grizzlies. But, uh, it's going to sound funny, but the three toed sloth, not because I want to be lazy, but I just, I love how just slow and deliberate it is with how it moves through the world.

And it's like, Hey, There's a leaf over there. I'm going to go, I'm going to go get to that leaf, but I'm going to get there in 10 minutes. And I'm going to take my time and I'm going to enjoy myself along the way. Enjoy the view. I mean, I don't know anything about three toed sloths.

They probably get taken out pretty quickly, but they're still alive. So they must have some sort of self defense mechanism.

[00:52:47] Ali: I love that answer, man. Cause yeah, I'm just envisioning being a sloth. Like everything would be such a total experience as a sloth, cause there is nothing fast. Ah, that's a great it is.

[00:52:59] Mike: It is crazy how slow those animals are. They look like they're in slow motion. It's like surely you have the muscles that can make you move faster, but they don't. They're just like, no, I'm not. I'm in no hurry, but it's fucking rushing me.

[00:53:13] Ali: I'm with you. And so yeah, someone actually used a bear on a previous episode and there are advantages of being a bear, but man, a sloth.

Yes. The advantage there is just absorbing and just like the total human experience. Wow.

All right. Last question. What's one of your favorite childhood memories?

This one takes you back.

[00:53:41] Mike: Yeah, my background is, is Croatian. My parents are Croatian. I was born in Canada, but still very much resonate with that culture. And growing up, we would go to Croatia almost every summer. And we would meet my parents families and we would just get a, like a big apartment on some seaside town on the Croatian coast.

And this was back when it was part of Yugoslavia and it became like the big hot European destination it was now. It was mostly Croatians, a few Eastern Europeans, and then me, this Canadian kid. And like people there, you know, had never seen Canadians there. And so I was like this exotic creature there.

But besides that, it was just like, you know, go hang out on the beach all day. And then we'd have dinner together as a family. You know, they practice a very European style of parenting, which is like, let the kids wander and explore and we'd go to these like beautiful medieval towns on the coast and I'd connect with all these local kids. You know, even as a 10 year old, I'd be staying out to like 10 11 at night and just wandering the streets and playing hide and go seek.

And it was amazing. It was just this beautiful experience of connection with my extended family and with my culture and with whoever happened to be in town that we knew at the time. And still to this day, like most of the country in August just packs up and heads to the coast and we'll spend most of the month there.

So it was a beautiful experience growing up to spend time there. And I don't spend enough time there now and I should. But all these other people have discovered it and made it so crowded and expensive. Move on to the next thing.

[00:55:11] Ali: What a beautiful answer, man. That's it. Yeah. As I was listening to you, I just felt magical and it's perfect.

It aligns with who you are and what you're doing. So it's a beautiful place to end, man.

Mike, thank you. This was a gift like I said, just to learn a little bit more about your story, your path, and then some of the amazing work that I think you're doing in the world. Is there anything left unsaid before we wrap?

[00:55:37] Mike: Man, I'm just gonna leave it at that. I've enjoyed this conversation a lot. I like spending time with you and looking forward to many more conversations. And, you know, love what you're doing as well. So keep it up.

[00:55:48] Ali: Thank you, brother. Likewise. Yes. So I'm gonna hold you accountable to allowing me or inviting me to join you on one of your Wayfinder adventures.

And yes, I hope that this is one of many conversations, Mike.

[00:56:02] Mike: Awesome, brother. Thank you.

Ali Jafarian

Ali is a creator and coach who's passionate about guiding people to their truth. That's a fancy way of saying he wants to help people realize their most authentic life. He's a family man, entrepreneur, conscious technologist, explorer, podcast host 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.