Podcast Nr. 21 - Mike Gillette "Never give up!"

Podcast Nr. 21 - Mike Gillette "Gib nie auf!"

Mike Gillette has a fascinating personal background. His early childhood was marked by poverty and violence. He withdrew into himself and because of that felt very lonely, but he did not want others to know about his situation. As a teenager he took to drinking and used drugs. Even though he knew that he should take his life into his own hands and get himself out of this mess, he could not find the strength to do so. At age 18 he thought his life no longer had any meaning. He tried to kill himself with a mix of alcohol and pills. He survived - fortunately. 

Soon afterwards he ran into an old female friend (his now-wife), and started attending church regularly. This left a lasting impression on him and encouraged him to change his life. He completely quit drinking and stopped using drugs.

But also the rest of his life changed for the better. He went to the U.S. Army. After he left the army he had many very interesting jobs and positions. He worked as a police officer, was a paratrooper, SWAT commander, anti-terrorism consultant, bodyguard of the Fortune 500 CEOs and a record-breaking strongman.

He is a motivational speaker, mind coach, author of several books and has produced videos. 

Today he reveals how he became this amazing and remarkable person.




Interview with Mike Gillette

  • Moin, Moin. Hamburg Kettlebell Club. Training with heart and mind. A podcast about motivation, strength training and the art of living. Here is Frank Delventhal from Hamburg Kettlebell Club Podcast, and my todays guest is Mike Gillette. As he comes from the US, I will change the language into English. So my today’s guest is Mike Gillette and I’m very, very happy to have him here on. He was a police officer, army paratrooper, SWAT commander, counter-terrorism consultant, bodyguard to the Fortune 500 CEOs, AND a record-breaking strongman. This is also the reason why I got Mike on my radar. He’s a motivational speaker and mind coach. And as far as I see he also teaches young people to get stronger, especially in gymnastics. He has set several world records, the first one is I think pretty - I don’t want to say insane, because he obviously survives it, but he’s actually breaking arrows with his throat. And there are videos out there and I‘ll put them also below the podcast so that you see: This is not nonsense, he’s really doing that. He’s rolling up frying pans with his bare hands, bending horse shoes, and he survived a 6.000 pound impact while lying on broken glass. Wow. He also smashes several concrete plates with a bare fist. So Mike, I really apologize for this long introduction, but you really brought this up to yourself. #00:01:37-0#
  • The longer I live the longer the introduction tends to be, so it makes sense. #00:01:44-0#
  • Which is perfect, because this speaks for you and that you do not have a boring live. It would be very disappointing “He was born, he went to school, he went to work, he died.” So, if there’s nothing more to say you do it wrong. #00:01:58-0#
  • Well, that’s good for some people and it’s just not me. #00:02:02-0#
  • Yes, I can relate to that. One of the reasons why I’m very happy to have you here on this show is: In Germany we have a proverb, I don’t know if this translates that good into English. The proverb is “Jeder ist seines eigenen Glückes Schmied.” Translates to „Everybody is the blacksmith of his own fortune.“ And I really think this relates to you, because you really worked for what you achieved and what you became. And would you be so nice and tell the audience where you actually came from and how you went up to being – yes, how to say it? – living your great life? #00:02:51-0#
  • Well, basically I was born many years ago, I’m 55 years old and I just turned 55 last month. And when I was born/ my parents had met very young and they found out that they were expecting me, which was a surprise. And they did what was customary in those days, which was to get married. And you sort of get married under duress if you will. So, their situation didn’t start off under the best of circumstances. And perhaps not surprisingly it didn’t last very long. My parents split up when I was three and a half or so. And that was sort of the beginning of a long difficult stretch for my mother. We were poor. And she was for various reasons kind of an angry person. She was prone to choose the wrong ways to demonstrate her independence. And, you know, this is the early 60s, so there was a lot of things changing culturally. And she spent a lot of time in a lot of relationships that were very short-term, that were not respectful of her. And she was consistently drawn to the wrong sort of men. She was drawn to men that would treat her badly, that would hurt her. And that reinforced, I think, her attitude. She drank a lot. She was an angry person. And, you know, our home situation was predictably in a sort of transient unsettle; we moved a lot, going from apartment to apartment. And eventually she remarried. I was seven years old. And the person that she remarried was an extremely violent person - and that was not apparent immediately. But I think they had been married about a month or two before she was brandishing a rifle at him during one of their fights. But he would punch her, he would kick her, he would choke her. One night she was thrown down a flight of stairs. Screaming, yelling, lots of alcohol consumption. And that was all happening during my formative years and it was the kind of thing that was so #-# I mean, I knew with six, seven, eight years old that this was not usual. And because it was not usual and because I was a kid and all I wanted to do was fit in. I really couldn’t invite other kids over to where I lived. I didn’t want anyone to know how I lived. Plus it was very unpredictable. So, that I think was the beginning of me sort of withdrawing into myself. I was very quiet, didn’t have nice clothes for school; sometimes that would be pointed out to me by my classmates, which sort of reinforced that kind of internalization of everything that was going on. You couldn’t really talk about what was going on at home to anyone. They would have no basis for understanding it; and it would just make you sort of seem odd or tainted as a result. So (…) life sort of progressed in a very consistent fashion, because people typically don’t change. #00:06:47-0#
  • But you do. #00:06:49-0#
  • Go ahead? #00:06:50-0#
  • But you did. #00:06:51-0#
  • Eventually. But the sad part is: I assimilated a lot of this negativity. So by the time I became a teenager even though I should have been somebody who would rise, you know, above it or sort of, you know, seek to step out of those circumstances, I just started reproducing my own version of negative or self-destructive behavior. So I started drinking. I started using drugs. And in just short it became more and more. And, you know, the violence never quit, you know, sort of the chaos never quit. And when my mother was (..) 35 years old she died of cancer. She had a brain tumor that was treated, that was actually treated fairly successfully, but cancer has spread. And then she died. I just started my sophomore year in high school. And that was sort of a #-# #00:07:52-0#
  • Oh, sorry. For the German audience: How old were you? Because “sophomore year in high school” nobody will know here. #00:07:59-0#
  • I’ve been 15. #00:08:00-0#
  • 15. Okay, thank you. #00:08:02-0#
  • Yes. So 15 years old. And despite the fact that my mother was always, you know, crazy, she was my mother. And she was the one sort of constant in my life. So, with her gone it was kind of as though the wheels came off the wagon, you know, and I shuttled around from different relatives. I eventually ended up living with my biological father who had resided across the country. And, you know, my negative behavior continued. And the sad part about that is: I actually knew better. I was intellectually developed enough to realize that what I was doing was not helpful. In fact, it was simply stupid. But the things that are put into us – typically when we’re young – sort of, you know, make us, you know, feel strong, make us feel good about ourselves. That step never really stuck with me. You know, there wasn’t a lot of that happening. You know, because when your mother is concerned about survival she’s not always thinking about parenting. You know, I didn’t have a lot of sort of those native incarnations or skills that most kids might logically have. So, and, you know, I was not unique in that regard, lots of kids have very challenging circumstances, many far more difficult than what I ever experienced. But what I experienced is what I experienced. And I didn’t process that experience well. I wasn’t handling myself productively. And I just sort of drifted further and further away from the people in my life to the point when – I was 18 years old – I just decided that I have had enough. And I was going to kill myself. So, not really knowing the best way to do it and I was still feeling a bit embarrassed about this conclusion that I had come to. So I tried to do it in a way that made it look accidental. So, I checked into a cheap hotel by a busy highway and I’ve been consuming alcohol all day and I swallowed a bottle of pain killers and then as soon as I did I flung the bottle off the hotel balcony as far as I could away so no one would find it. I didn’t think about things like toxicology screens and autopsies. I’m a stupid 18-year-old. But I #--# #00:10:45-0#
  • And drunk. #00:10:45-0#
  • #--# didn’t want people to think that I’d actually done this intentionally. There was some part of me – even though I knew that I was going to be dead in the next ten minutes – that was kind of ashamed of it. So, I just laid down on the bed and I waited to die. And obviously – we’re having this conversation – so, that didn’t take place. #00:11:02-0#
  • Very good. #00:11:03-0#
  • Right. And I woke up I don’t know when, it was daytime, sun light was streaming in the window and I still thought I was going to die because I felt horrible. You know, I had thrown up a lot. I mean it was just gross and stupid. But there I was, sort of confronting the reality of “I tried to kill myself and I didn’t even manage to pull that off.” So, if you really want to be humbled by your own inability to accomplish a task – there you are. I was in that place. So, there was really nothing left to do except try to, you know, attach some meaning to that experience what had just happened. And I’m still a stupid 18-year-old with nothing but a history of bad decisions leading up to that moment. But there was something about that moment that was a pivotal event obviously for me. And as each subsequent day would go by I tried to create some sort of meaning out of why I hadn't died. And what were the implications of that? What does that put on me now? So, it was a short time later that I had reconnected with someone from my past, which was a girl, a girl that I had known in high school. This is the girl who I’ve been married to now for 34 years. But, you know, she was sort of a lone beacon of positivity in my life and we started, you know, talking. She lived elsewhere in the United States. We started corresponding, talking on the phone, back when phones were phones, and write letters. So you had to actually commit to communicating with somebody. And short time later I relocated myself to where she lived, we started becoming an official couple, we started doing things that couples do. And one of those things was doing things that she did and that included going to a place called church, which was sort of an alien thing to my own upbringing. And it was the right time for me to hear that message. Everything sort of was happening in a very opportune sort of way. I was never more ready to be receptive to a positive message than I was at that point in my life. And suddenly without benefit of therapy or rehab or anything like that I stopped doing what was an enormous amount of drugs. Everything you can think of except the things that would require shots, because I didn’t like needles. You know, and drinking. All of that stuff. I just stopped. I mean completely. It didn’t seem to serve a purpose for me anymore. And suddenly the idea of living for a purpose seemed extremely important. I didn’t know exactly what that purpose was going to be quite yet, but I knew something was happening inside of me. And I was very interested to see where all of this might lead. So, a very short time later after cleaning up my act, so to speak, I was enlisting in the army, because I had designs on being a police officer. I had applied. Now, I mean, and try that already out: I had gone from one very specific type of dead end person who was breaking laws – I mean, I was using a lot of illegal drugs – and now I suddenly decided that I should be a police officer. I don’t know how that works, but I was a young person. #00:15:02-0#
  • This works perfectly well. See: A lot of very good IT security consultants were actually before hackers. #00:15:10-0#
  • Well, true enough. Yes, I’ve encountered plenty of individuals like that, so that’s a good analogy. But for me it was just: I wanted to serve something bigger than myself. I wanted to be a good person. I mean it was nothing more complicated than that really. And so, I had gone through the selection process for several police agencies and I did pretty well at one, but they said “Look, you’re just too young. We never hire anyone your age. Perhaps if you were to come back after some college or, you know, perhaps have some life experience gained in the military – then, you know, we would be willing to talk.” So I said “Okay.” So I literally went to the army recruiter, asked them if they had any money for college. They said yes, I took a test, I qualified, I took a couple of more tests and short time later I was off and running to do that. So, as soon as I hit the army it was kind of like everything sort of switched into a higher gear for me. A few moments ago I mentioned that when I started going to church I was ready for that and it had a really sort of intense and immediate impact on me. The army was very much the same experience. Somehow I was waiting to be there. And I was encountering a man, and this is even in the unpleasant phase. This is like when they’re screaming at you and depriving you of sleep and not feeding you enough and all of that – and I still loved it. I still couldn’t get enough of it. So, I took that as a sign that this is definitely the right sort of environment for me. The idea of the mission and everything about it just really spoke to me. And I loved the fact that no matter how hard you wanted to push yourself in the army there was always a next level. There was always another level of excellence to aspire to. And that was just amazing to me, because I saw amazing examples of men. And then I knew that there were layers of excellence beyond even that. So after infantry training and jump school I was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division which is in a place called Fort Bragg. And Fort Bragg is the home of the 82nd Airborne Division, it’s also the home of the army’s Special Forces, it’s also the home of a unit that nobody talked about in those days, but now they had a TV show about them, it’s kind of hard to pretend it doesn’t exist. But the Delta Force is also on Fort Bragg. And (…) all of those layers of sort of aspirational excellence were something that I would just see every day. And I was completely inspired by that. And (…) those were very formative years. And there wasn’t anything about that time – even though I was an insignificant member in terms of rank, in relative knowledge, in importance to the United States army, I was nobody – but I didn’t think that. I felt as though I was the best soldier I had ever met. Because I had the conviction of youth and you know how it is, you’re young and invincible and all of those wonderful things. Talk to a young person and you’ll remember what that’s like. I’m a little bit different now. I like to think I have a little bit more of a perspective. #00:18:54-0#
  • I want to point something out which the audience – here in Germany at least – cannot know: That at a very young age you had fear of heights and now a – small memory test – parachutist with a fear of heights? #00:18:13-0#
  • Yes, that’s a very good point. Yes, that was something that tormented me when I was a kid. I was uncomfortable in a car driving over a bridge, I didn’t like going up long stair cases. All of that bothered me. And honestly I still hate heights. I just don’t like it. However, the lure of being a paratrooper was so strong that I just – I did it. Which means I’ve never cured myself of this fear. You know, I’ve done some things, you know, on observation towers and what not – I mean I don’t like it. I’ll do it, but I don’t like it. And what I have found, you know, subsequent to that: Because now when I work with people who have, you know, perhaps a particular issue or challenge or a fear, (…) I never really wrapped up in trying to fix anything. It’s much more important to me to simply find out if a person, you know, can be willing to do what needs to be done. You know, if your desire to obtain a certain outcome is strong enough, it doesn’t matter if you’re afraid of heights. It doesn’t matter if you’re afraid of the water. It doesn’t matter anything if the desire is sufficient. So it can be very simple. You just have to want something badly enough to do it. And that was sort of my story with respect to the fear of heights and everything. Because there’s one particular thing that you do when you’re in jump school. Jump school is this army school, three weeks long and they teach you basically how to fall out of an airplane and not die. You don’t really learn any amazing skills, it’s far different than sky diving or the army’s high altitude, low opening HALO school, which is extremely challenging and very rigorous. If you can just tough out airborne school you’ll get through it. But at the end of the second week/ the second week is called tower week. Week one is ground week and you just get pushed off platforms a lot and learn how to land and not die. Because when you’re coming out with an army parachute you’re still falling at 18 feet per second. And that’s without any additional equipment strapped to you. But there’s always additional equipment strapped to you. You usually come out of that plane with, you know, 100 to 120 pounds of gear if you’re factoring in the way of the parachute rig. So that’s a lot of weight on you. And when you hit the ground with these chutes it’s not an attractive or impressive looking sight. It’s like somebody dropped a bag of cement out of an airplane with a parachute attached. You just hit and it’s uncomfortable on a good day. On a bad windy day it’s far worse. But you do it, because it’s cool. In tower week they have these structures that were built back when airborne training was invented, which was during World War II, and they’re called the jump towers and they’re 250 feet tall. And they almost look like an antiquated carnival ride. There are four chutes that can be loaded up to one ton. It looks like a radio tower. And cables come down on four different sides and they’re attached to a parachute which you’re already attached to. And the parachute is out. It’s not in a pack. So they clip it on and they pull you up in the air. So you slowly get winched up into the air 250 feet. And you watch everything on the ground just gets smaller and smaller. And then you’re just hanging there, just waving in the breeze, waiting for your turn to get dropped. And it gives you a lot of time to be reacquainted with the fact that if you are Mike Gillette you really don’t like this. But what’s interesting about it: As soon as they cut you away your chute inflates immediately and you actually get to experience what it’s like to try to maneuver a parachute without doing it for real exiting out of the aircraft. So it’s neat idea training-wise, but it’s not a lot of fun if you don’t care for heights. So yes, there was that. And interestingly enough: Once I was at Fort Bragg and assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division I found a number of other young paratroopers who didn’t like heights either or who just hated jumping – some of which said it absolutely terrified them and I mean they had a hard time doing it – but they loved being in the unit. So there you go. All about desire. So that kind of gets us, you know, into the military phase of my life. I married at this point and in fact I think we’ve been married maybe six months or so when we found out that we were expecting our first child. And she was born while I was still in act of duty. Act of duty was a great time. That just simply is the operative term for when you’re assigned in the army. That was my job. And things just went well for me, I was encouraged by a lot of (…) leaders. I was afforded opportunities to do things like start attending college classes, which was sort of unheard of based on my job description, which was an infantry man. I was supposed to be living in the woods and, you know, running around with my #-# #00:25:12-0#
  • Yes, but obviously they saw something in you which they thought would be far more important to – how to say it? – to nurture. #00:25:20-0#
  • Yes. And I was very fortunate with that, because there were all kinds of very capable young men who I was serving alongside. And it’s just kind of a numbers game. It’s a huge organization and some people have great experiences in the military, some people less so. For me everything went very well. So the result of that is: I had the opportunity as my original enlistment period was coming to an end I was looking at several options. At that point I was no longer thinking about getting out and pursuing law enforcement. I had become so attached to the army. I knew that that’s what I wanted to do as a career. I couldn’t imagine anything that could duplicate what the army offered. So I (…) was going to either re-enlist for an assignment in Special Forces and try to pursue that. But that’s not a great career path for somebody who has #--# #00:26:30-0#
  • Family. #00:26:30-0#
  • #--# a wife and kids. Because the training tempo is extreme and you spend a lot of time away. Alternatively I was looking at the opportunity to exit the army and participate in a program called reserve officers training corps. Basically they were offering me a scholarship so that I could attend college fulltime and then be commissioned as an officer and then return to act of duty as an officer. Essentially that’s like being promoted to management. So I’m not sure how the terminology would translate to your listeners. So that seemed like the although less exciting but more responsible decision. So that’s what I did. I left act of duty and I started attending college. And while attending college just one semester in, right before the end of the semester, I went on a climbing outing with a group of guys that I knew. And it ended up being a bad decision, one that impacted my life in a very significant way. I had accompanied these guys to a canyon that was East of Tuscon, Arizona. I was attending University of Arizona at the time. And I didn’t have equipment with me so I was compelled to use the hardware that someone else brought. It was a device that I was unfamiliar with so they had to hook me up and I had to trust that they knew how to do that. And I was hooked up incorrectly and I didn’t even know. So the way that this climbing trip was going to work is: You had to get into the canyon in order to climb out of the canyon. And the way into the canyon was: We had found this abandoned railroad bridge and secured ropes to it. And you had to sort of stand on the top rail, jump off, which would allow you to sort of swing under the bridge and you kind of swing back and forth like a pendulum and once you stopped swinging then you would slide down the rope, you know, release yourself from the rope, the next person would come down. And then when everybody came down we would pull the ropes down and then we would climb back up and, you know, be done for the day. So in the process of/ you know, I’m standing on the top rail of a railroad bridge that is above a canyon which – for those of you who have been listening the entire time – was not something that I was enjoying, because it was high in the air and you’re standing on the top rail. The rope is actually secured about ten to twelve feet below you, so you have to jump and you’ll drop, just as though you’re jumping in space, until you come to probably 20, 24 or so feet when the hardware is going to engage the rope and then you wait to stop swinging, slide down as I described. Now because I wasn’t actually connected to the rope the way that I was supposed to be, after jumping away nothing ever happened to start slowing me down. (…) So I immediately realized that I was not slowing down, in fact I felt as though I was speeding up. And there wasn’t any time to sort of intellectually process what was happening other than what would you do? Well, you would try to hang on, you try to maintain an upright posture so you don’t land either on your back or on your head which would kill you. And I’m hurdling towards the earth and I’m trying to hang on to this rope. And the rope burns through my leather gloves, just rips my hands open, burns through my trousers, burns through my shirt. I was wearing an old army uniform. And I slammed into the ground, broke my ankles, broke my back. And (…) that was a sensory overload kind of experience. The pain of that is something I still sort of can feel if I just think about it. (…) It was so comprehensive. Now the tricky part was not actually the pain or realizing that I may be paralyzed – because I didn’t feel at the moment that I can move anything – but I had to explain to these other guys how to create a stretcher out of rope and sticks so they could tear me out of there. And the way that they did that was to carry me down this dried river bed about three quarters of a mile, bouncing along the entire way. And at that point there was an area where you could start to walk up a hill and then about a half mile back towards where the truck was parked. So that was a long couple of hours. (…) Because there were no cell phones. This is 1984. (…) So (…) to avoid belaboring this particular reminiscence any further: The important detail of that day came much later in the evening. I had been transported to one hospital and then to another. In the second hospital I was X-rayed and it was probably 9 p.m. when a surgeon came into my room. His name was Doctor John Wilde. And I had been informed that he used to be an army surgeon. And I was encouraged by that because he knew the kind of life that I needed to return to. So as soon as he came in – and this is obviously before he has cut me open or he has looked at some initial X-rays – and I said “What’s my situation? How long is it going to take before I can run again, jump out of planes, all of that?” And he looked at me with that sort of expression like when a kid says something stupid to an adult, because they just don’t even know what they’re talking about. It was that kind of an expression. And he said “The good news is: You’ll be able to walk again. (…) You’re not going to run. You’re not jumping out of any more air planes.” (…) So I had gone in one day from someone who was extraordinarily active to someone who would at least as far as we knew in that moment never be active again. (…) And my entire career plan was built around being an active person. So that was the first of many long nights. And this is something that, if your listeners want to really see just how much time a person can spend ruminating on these kinds of problems I’ve written about it extensively in my blog post at mikegillette.com, which I would encourage them to/ #00:33:47-0#
  • On this side I would suggest: You have a course out which is called strength psychology which has also/ #00:33:57-0#
  • Before you start selling anything: I just want to get people to go to the website and sign up for my e-mails. All that stuff is free. Maybe later when everyone decides how cool I am then we can talk about things they can actually buy. #00:34:10-0#
  • Okay, okay. But because you just/ yes. #00:34:14-0#
  • But I appreciate that. Particularly if that’s something that you have found valuable I do appreciate that. #00:34:20-0#
  • Yes, I find all of your stuff valuable. If I think you would be talking – how to say – if your talking wouldn’t make much sense I would have not been so freaking happy to have you here. #00:34:38-0#
  • I appreciate that, thanks so much. So the shorter version of that particular story is that I was/ I struggled at that point in my life because of this new situation I was dealing with. The disappointments, the uncertainty. And I guess just the naked fear of not knowing what I was supposed to do with my life now. And I think that was probably the hardest thing for the young version of me, because I was very, you know, college age at the time, but still married. I have a baby. So I have like real adult responsibilities to contend with. But at the same time I don’t really know what I’m going to do with my life, because I can’t do the thing that I thought that I was put on this earth to do. Because when I was in the army/ (…) when people talk about “I just know that this is why I’m on this earth. To do this thing right now.” And to have it taken away in so unceremonious a fashion, you know, it would have been more honorable to have been, you know, injured in battle and been unable to continue. But to just go out on a Sunday afternoon and have this seemingly random sort of thing happen – I just didn’t have the perspective to wrestle that to the ground and deal with it effectively. #00:36:21-0#
  • How could you? How could anyone? I mean you can tell this in retrospective, but at the moment when something like this happens to you (…) nobody will say “Oh, no problem, I will fix this.” #00:36:36-0#
  • Yes. Well, so there I was: No longer in the army. And I’m in college now, so I have to find a way to make that work. And, you know, we have this baby, my wife is working. And so we’re busy as anyone would be in that circumstance. We’re making, you know, very little money because most of my time was being devoted to trying to do reasonably well with college, but, you know, I’m still working part-time too. And (…) as (…) stressful a time as that can be – you know, anyone who’s trying to go to college and work at the same time, you know, and juggle family responsibilities – the bigger issue was that it was not seemingly going to lead to anything of real value, of real meaning. I didn’t want just some job. I wanted THAT job. I wanted to be involved in something that I felt was big and important and challenging. And I wasn’t/ again, no perspective. It was difficult to see any other avenue that was going to provide that for me. So, I would periodically – I would say every few months or so – I would throw myself back at training. I would try to run. And it was horrible. The pain was just (…) indescribable. I would join the gym, you know, short-term membership. And (…) it would take me a day or two to push myself to the point that I would just be wrecked with pain and it would be just another reminder that this world was no longer for me. But I could nOt stop doing that. I just couldn’t stop throwing myself back into the doorway to that world. #00:38:37-0#
  • How long did it take until you realized that you actually did improve despite all the pain? #00:38:44-0#
  • It came after I graduated from college. And it was (…) when we had moved from where I was attending college, which was in Arizona, which is in the southwestern part of the United States, and we moved back home where we were from, which is the very central part of the United States. And once we did that I (…) got back in touch with a friend that I had met in the military. And he was someone that was my very first I would say sort of military mentor. And he was a gentleman named Mike. And at 33 years old Mike was a police officer and who had taken a leave of absence from his police officer job in order to enter what’s called the army reserve. You may have a reserve, a program in Germany. So it would be kind of like a part-time soldier, but he was entering an army reserve Special Forces unit, which meant that he was going to be off of work for over a year, trying to get through, you know, first infantry training which he and I did together, airborne school which he and I did together. But then when we rode the bus up to Fort Bragg I went to the 82. And then he went off to Special Forces school. But we had stayed in touch. And meanwhile he had, you know, continued on with his police career and he was now the chief of police of a nearby suburban agency. And when he found out that I was coming back to home, he was asking me about applying to be a police officer. And I said “You can’t say that to me. I don’t know if you’re serious, I don’t know if you just try to be encouraging. But please don’t ever say that to me again. It’s just torture. That is something I simply can’t do.” But he would just badger me about it. And he would just kept dangling that carrot. And it was happening at a time, the one time, when I had just finally given up. I had hurt myself so many times after the injury, trying to reclaim the physical part of Mike Gillette, that even I realized how futile the effort had become, so I just stopped. And it wasn’t until I stopped (…) and I started looking at the world and what it felt like without that, you know, even as a remote possibility. And I was really becoming unhappy. (…) #00:41:39-0#
  • I can relate to that. #00:41:42-0#
  • Ya. (…) It would be interesting to be able to talk to that particular version of myself, but, you know, knowing what I know now and sort of seeing where I was. But I’m confident that I was not in a good place. Happily I never sort of, you know, slid back into, you know, my old coping skills from way, way back. And I never fell back into alcohol or anything like that. #00:42:09-0#
  • I think the difference was: You were not alone and you had a great family. #00:42:15-0#
  • I did have that. I was very fortunate to have had that then as well as now. And the only thing that was hard for me was – and, you know, not everybody likes to hear this sort of thing – but: When I started going to church (…) I had a sense of how things were supposed to be. And that sense continued with complete conviction and clarity throughout my time in the army. And even when I left the army for the less familiar culture of a major, you know, university, I still knew somehow inside me in some way that one can’t really articulate, it’s just a very subjective personal feeling, but it still felt like it was the right thing. So, when I was confronted with the reality that I could no longer do this it wasn’t just disappointing the me vocationally speaking – it was disappointing to me profoundly, so in a spiritual context. I really felt like I had kind of lost the connection with what I was supposed to be doing. You know? And I just didn’t have the perspective to sort of sort through that. And rather than seek like-minded people to, you know, sort of help me with that, I just kind of withdrew into myself. You know, my personality is such that I try to solve my own problems. And sometimes that’s productive, sometimes it’s not. And that was a time when it was not. So, nonetheless here we are: I’m out of school (…) and (…) I’m not looking at a world in which I think I’m going to do anything that I want to do, I’m just- (…) you know, I got a job after college, I didn’t like it, which means that I’m just going to look for the next job and the next job and I’m not going to like any of them, because nothing is going to replace- it’s almost like you had this significant relationship with this amazing person and then for whatever reason you don’t have that relationship anymore and then every person subsequent to them you are comparing to that one amazing person. And no one else seems to measure up. And meanwhile, you know, you sort of romanticize what that relationship was like and you idealize it and it becomes this enormous thing that nothing will ever possibly compare to. But you don’t know you’re doing it at the time, because, you know, you’re young and you’re in the middle of your own experience. So, that was kind of me. (…) And meanwhile a little bit of time elapses and I periodically have contact with my police chief friend and he still (…) talks about police work, knowing that it bothers me, but he does it nonetheless. He probably knew what he was doing. And I think I had been out of college about six months and we got in the mail a check, it was our tax refund. And something here in the United States: If you end up having more money withheld for tax purposes than you’re actually going to owe, you get that money back at the end of the year. So although we had very little money – here we were looking at a chunk of it and we were trying to figure out what we should do. And we both decided that we’re going to join the gym. So here I am, joining another gym. (…) But in this case it had been probably, you know, almost a year since the last time that I had thrown myself at some, you know, poor gym owner. You know, here I come, and then I break myself almost immediately and then I’m done. So, we joined this gym. And I decided I’m going to try something very new, very radical for me, and that is moderation. Now (…) the #-# #00:46:24-0#
  • Sorry, sorry, sorry that I have to start laughing, but because it just sounds a little familiar. Sorry. #00:46:31-0#
  • Well, here’s the thing: When I was recovering from surgery and I had a large cast on one leg and I had a back brace that went from my hips all the way up to my armpits, I was doing chin-ups. I was literally going to force myself to recover. And, you know: The doctors didn’t know what they were talking about and Mike Gillette knows, what’s best for Mike Gillette. And because I don’t. Yes, I mean I was just, you know, a reckless imbecilic youth. But that was what I was dealing with, that mentality, that approach, when I had tried to get back into shape all those times unsuccessfully. I’m confident that much of my lack of success would be attributed to an inability to do anything other than as fast and hard as I could. (…) And because it was so scary not being that person I just know that I was compelled to try to recapture that as hard and fast as I could. And of course I couldn’t. I had no idea what it was like to start from, you know, this very low, de-conditioned state. (…) So (…) having sort of assimilated all of those lessons maybe subconsciously: When we joined this last gym I worked very, very slowly, very measured. And four weeks in I could tell something was different. Another eight weeks in I started having thoughts, (…) thoughts about what might be possible. After about ten or eleven weeks I knew that I could do this. I KNEW that I probably had a crack at law enforcement. So I started scanning the newspaper ads, you know, looking for potential openings, and I started applying. And this whole time I’m being very measured and very systematic in my weight training, I’m running. The running is going okay. I mean my back, to this day my back hurts. I mean I broke it. But as long as I knew that I couldn’t damage things further – and I didn’t know, I just assumed, I hoped – I was just going to keep sort of marching purposefully down this particular path to see where it would take me. I had to give this one last grand shot. And that’s what I did. That was (…) what got me eventually to the point where I was hired by a police agency. And that was kind of like a recreation of how things were when I first landed in the army. All of a sudden things started happening very quickly in a very specific sort of direction. And for me, (…) as much as I loved police work – now I’m starting to speed up the timeframe #--# #00:49:35-0#
  • No problem. #00:49:36-0#
  • #--## -I was drawn to one particular aspect about it. And it was I think because when I was in the army I noticed a pattern. And that pattern was: Every time I was in a training environment – whether it was basic training or infantry school or, you know, airborne school or advanced courses beyond that – the people who were the instructors were always the best soldiers. They looked different, they seemed smarter, there was something about that, that role. The idea that you’re an instructor and therefore you have to be an expert at this particular topic. #00:50:18-0#
  • Yes, you should be. #00:50:19-0#
  • And as I was going through the police academy I noticed that same pattern emerge again. Every time an instructor came in and they would introduce themselves – you know, they were an investigator from some large agency or something of this nature – they were just (…) cooler, they were smarter, they were faster, they were something. And I’m still youngish and I’m in my 20s. That’s the sort of thing that speaks to me. And I want to be like them. And I just acquainted being like them to being a trainer, being an instructor. And for whatever reason that (…) path started to just open up to me and I ran down that path really hard. And (…) to the point where I sought out opportunities for, you know, instructor courses – to the extent, that if my own agency wasn’t sending them to me, I would take my own vacation time and my own money and I would send myself. (…) Now once you cross that threshold, you know, you’re basically building the resume that you want. (…) Which is what I did. (…) And because I was doing that I was accruing all of these qualifications, demands were being placed on my time from further and further away. Because I was building myself into something that was kind of unprecedented at the time. Nobody had the magnitude of credentials that I did in the particular combination of topic areas as I did. And it wasn’t that no one else could have done it, it’s just that no one else was inclined to do it. (…) You know, the (…) average police officer is having a great time just being a police officer and, you know, trying to maintain that. I was just sort of inclined to do things that took me in this training area. And I did that with such a fervor that by 2001 I had realized a sort of a goal. And when I was a police officer I remember thinking that the coolest police officer I had ever seen was the guy who helped the guy who taught defense attacks at the police academy. I just wanted to be that guy, that helper. Because he was a police officer, he wasn’t a professional instructor. He was just somebody who was so good, that he was selected to help out. I always wanted to be that guy. Well, I became that guy very fast. Then I decided I wanted to be the instructor. Well, then I became that guy. And it was just sort of: I kept becoming the next level up of everything that I saw that I sort of have had ascribed a significance or value to. And I used to say “I want to become the go-to law enforcement trainer in the United States.” (…) By 2001 I was that guy. (…) And that’s coming from a police agency really in the middle of no place special. The famous cop trainers were from LA, they were from New York, you know, they were from big, big cities and they had done big, amazing, heroic things. But what they hadn’t done is: They had not built this Frankenstein-like resume (…) with all of these qualifications. And in 2001 – the same year that I received the Law Enforcement Trainer of the Year award from the National Association of Law Enforcement and Security – was when I left law enforcement to become a trainer full time. (…) And then shortly thereafter 9/11 happened. (…) And 9/11 had a huge impact on my professional development. I ended up doing a variety of 9/11 sort of related training initiatives with the airline industry, with the Department of Homeland Security, with companies like Disney. And it was just (…) this- (…) you know, the resume that I had built just ended up positioning me in a very unique sort of way. And I was afforded opportunities that I was very, you know, fortunate to be a part of, very humbled to be a part of. Because when you get to the top of the food chain in anything – you know, whether it’s strength training, whether it’s, you know, police training, whatever it is – you find that there are some really smart, really talented people out there. And to the point where you realize that you are NOT, you know, as special as you used to think you were back when you were in a very, you know, small environment. You may have been the coolest guy in that room, but if you keep bumping up you’ll find that there’s plenty of people that can, you know, hold their own and be very impressive in their own right. And I experienced that. It was very gratifying in a way to finally just be in the same room with people like that, working with really talented, highly respected people. And sort of the professional essence for me culminated because of the training projects that I have been involved in, ultimately led me to unexpectedly start working bodyguard assignments in 2006. And that’s a very small world. And if clients are significant enough (…) everybody finds out about you pretty quickly. And if your client is happy with the services that they get they tend to tell people. (…) So (…) I was working for a training company in Las Vegas and the training, which still goes on to this day and it’s considered some of the best tactical training available anywhere and they’ve got really, really talented people: younger, better looking, smarter than me and, you know, just super energetic and creative guys. I was there sort of on the ground floor of that company – and was happy to. But what’s interesting is that the bodyguard work actually started to offset the training in terms of the revenue. That became a really big part of the business for a time. And they are still actively engaged in the client list, although small, was very, very significant. So that was also a very formative time for me, because you’re applying your skills in a much different context. But that was also sort of the end of what I would say the tactical chapter of Mike Gillette. Because it was during those five years that I realized there were some other things that I wanted to do. And much of that had to do with the fact that as I was accruing all of this training expertise and seeing how different training topics could overlap with others and finding different and better ways to teach particular skills, I noticed that a lot of what I was teaching was not just mechanical techniques or specific methods for, you know, solving a particular problem, but they were bigger than that. They were really more about improving someone’s ability to perform in a given situation. They were in essence a sort of very intense, very tactical version of self-help. #00:58:35-0#
  • So what was the final tipping point that made you switch to the say self-motivation, self-help side? #00:58:52-0#
  • Well, it was all very simple. I had (…) released, well, periodically- I mean going back even when I was still a police officer I would release my first set of instruction videos back in 2001. And every now and then I would have like a small thing on the market, I would just, you know, stumble into an opportunity to work with a company and they would put it out. But I put out a larger product in late 2011. It was a strength training course. It’s all online, it’s a digital download. And it was several e-books and several collections of video. And it took a long time to put together because I was putting it together while I was, you know, working full time on these other capacities. #00:59:41-0#
  • Small question: Is this the Critical Bench video? #00:59:45-0#
  • It was with Critical Bench. It’s got a crazy name, it’s called “Savage Strength”. I didn’t pick that name, but there you go. To me it sounds a little over the top, but I’m not a marketing guy. So (…) I had sort of gotten to this point where the bodyguard work – though interesting – was SO time-consuming, was so demanding in terms of being flexible with your schedule. It required me to be away from the family, it required me to apologize to the family, because I would have to cancel plans frequently, because the needs of the clients come first, you know. Period. And these are people who, you know, if they’re halfway around the world and they need to stay longer, they stay longer. If they need to go somewhere else because they’ve got an emergency meeting about something that has to happen. So everything sort of orbits the client. That’s just the nature of that work. And I had kind of reached a point where I knew that if I continued working in that field I would never get to do some of these other things that I wanted to do. So I had just watched my first product launch and it launched pretty well. And I thought okay, I think I may be able to make enough money with this other stuff that I can step away from, you know, what had been a very good job. So, I didn’t know that a launch is different than like ongoing revenue. Or I probably wouldn’t have jumped right in. But I did. And here we are. So it was in early 2012, that I stepped away from doing that full time. I continued to do it, you know, periodically. But less and less as I tried to put more time in furthering these other things that I do. So that’s when I was able to have the time to release some more DVDs, to write a couple of books and to start trying to build the relationships necessary to work with people, you know, whether they’re individuals or sports teams. It’s been a lot of athletes, you know, sports teams and so forth. Here we are 2017 now, doing that work. And the work has evolved, I’ve gotten better at what I do, I’m a little faster, a little more astute I think as far as diagnosing people’s challenges. But the (…) reason that I think it’s helpful to go through it in excruciating detail: All of what led to this point is that (…) sometimes I meet people and when they’re meeting me they’re meeting the 2017 version of me. And I’ve done some things that are not typical. So it makes me seem, you know- well, I don’t know what it makes me seem. Some people say it makes me seem crazy, interesting, definitely different. And, you know, different can be hard for people to understand. And, you know, a person like you, coming from a physical place, you know, you can relate to a lot of these things and you may find those interesting or admirable. #01:03:26-0#
  • Yes, I do. And I was fortunate enough – how to say it? – to, (…) yes, get my beatings and got hurt. But compared to you it’s just a very light version. But I still have similar experiences. But nowhere near as intense as yours. #01:03:49-0#
  • Well, for me, I mean I don’t like to make a big deal of how hard was it for me growing up, because, you know, I’ve met plenty of people who had it harder. For me I think the biggest challenges to overcome was the disconnectedness, the isolation. You know? Only child, frequently left at home alone, couldn’t really talk about what I was experiencing – because I didn’t want to. I didn’t want people to know, it was embarrassing. So that I think was probably in retrospect the greatest challenge: sort of going from extremely disconnected- because I think that’s where a lot of kids are now. You know, we’ve got a culture that sort of promotes mobility and disconnectedness, we’ve got technology, that sort of allows us to entertain ourselves in isolation. You know, as great as technology is: I think there is some downsides to anything in technology - anything. #01:04:50-0#
  • I think sometimes the way how entertaining this technology is, is a little bit like a drug. Because I can create an addiction for not actually living and just #-# (…) yes. #01:04:06-0#
  • I think you’re completely correct and I think that the recent studies are supporting that opinion. The types of areas of the brain that get triggered by that sort of perpetual entertainment are not dissimilar from the same types of brain patterns that can happen, you know, under the influence of particular substances. So for me, because I was very disconnected when I was younger - that’s one of the things, you know, when I’m talking to kids and I have a real (…) strong inclination to talk to kids, at-risk-kids, alternative high school settings, (…) basically we call them detention centers, but they’re jails for kids. (…) Because I was very close to them, you know, sort of attitude-wise, when I was their age, conduct-wise. You know, feeling trapped by circumstances. Those kinds of things. So it’s very meaningful to me, to be able to – as somebody, who was, you know, fortunate enough to have kind of transcended those circumstances – to be able to go back and kind of, you know, point the way forward, you know, and hopefully be an encouragement. So, the interesting thing I think for people who just meet that version of me is to understand that I was- if you think that what this is, is cool: I wasn’t always this cool. If you think that what this is, is crazy: Well, I have been this crazy for a long time, yes. I am guilty of that. (…) #01:06:58-0#
  • I mean this is just something which is important, because (…) it is correctly for us humans to develop and to improve ourselves. So we’re not born perfect, but we can in our life try to make ourselves and our environment better. And this is also one of the reasons why I have this podcast: To make people aware of that they have the power to do that. #01:07:31-0#
  • Absolutely. I mean what’s interesting about us as humans is that we have a physiological ability to adapt and improve. Whether we’re talking about learning, whether we’re talking about acquiring skills, you know, painting, music, language, whether we’re talking about, you know, physical skills and just getting physically stronger. We have this amazing adaptive organism that we get to walk around as and it just seems kind of crazy not to want to see what we can do with it. #01:08:11-0#
  • Oh and it’s really also important that we explore the different possibilities, not just physical, but also mentally. #01:08:19-0#
  • One of the things that, (…) you know, I’ve sort of aggressively gone after in terms of people that I work with is: I found that the most receptive audience for the things that I teach are athletes. And I think that’s because most people have heard of something called sport psychology, which is psychology for people who’re considered broken or damaged. So (…) if athletes are okay with a term like sport psychology then, you know, at least there’s a frame of reference for people like me. But it’s a little less common in the creative side of things or the performing art side of things. So, you know, we’re talking about musicians, dancers. So when I get to work with them that’s a real treat for me, because we’re talking about- we’re still looking at peak performance, getting the best possible results from yourself. But it’s a fundamentally different sort of frame of reference than the athlete. (…) So what you were just talking about definitely resonates with me, because there’re a lot of different ways to manifest excellence or manifest strength, you know, or skill. And I’m personally interested in all of them myself and I’m interested in finding ways to improve all of them for other people. #01:09:53-0#
  • (…) Yes. And you (…) did certainly put some very good material out there for that. #01:10:02-0#
  • Well, I appreciate that, thank you. #01:10:03-0#
  • I do not know how your timeframe is, but I just have (…) two more things. If people would like to reach out to you: You have a website, mikegillette.com. #01:10:21-0#
  • Yes. And it would be great to have them do so. And that’s also where they can find all my social media channels too, so, you know, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook page, all those things. #01:10:33-0#
  • Yes. And for the audience I would like to point out that you get a free download there from your manual “Tough as Nails”, which is very good and I really would advise you to download that. Go through it and then you most probably would like to spread out to “Strength Psychology” or “Mind Boss”. #01:11:00-0#
  • (…) I agree. And interestingly: We are preparing to create the next level of “Strength Psychology”, we’re actually going to be filming that in July. #01:11:12-0#
  • Cool. #01:11:13-0#
  • Yes. At Critical Bench headquarters in Tampa, Florida. So looking forward to that. #01:11:18-0#
  • Oh, cool. #01:11:19-0#
  • So it’s kind of like the next level. #01:11:21-0#
  • One question: Which would you advise for the audience to go after first? The course “Strength Psychology” or “Mind Boss”? #01:11:32-0#
  • Well, the material is very similar. #01:11:37-0#
  • There’s an overlap, yes. #01:11:38-0#
  • And some people like to read, in which case: Get the book. Some people like to listen, in which case you have to get the course. And I know people that (…) get the course and they tell me they just listened to it numerous times. Not necessarily sitting down there and watching, you know, my face say it, but like they just listen to it on their iPod or listen to it in their car. And the interesting thing about information like this is that you hear it once and it’s easy to think that you have it. (…) But that’s not how the mind works. We typically need to hear something six times before we, you know, start to internalize it. And when it comes to really sort of learning something to the extent that we can do something with it- there’s (…) something I like to share with people, and that’s: Speaking creates awareness. So like if you hear it, you know, you become aware of the thing. Training leads to skills transfer or skill acquisition. And then coaching – like, you know, working one on one – actually is what leads to behavior change. Now some people if they hear it and they become aware of it they’re sufficiently self-motivated that they’ll investigate it, you know, to the extent that they can start to, you know, really absorb it and make it part of their life. But the nice thing about programs like “Strength Psychology” is, you know, you can see it, you can hear it, you can revisit it. Which is different than a book. (…) So it’s easier to assimilate it over the long term with the course. But the book is very convenient. And some people, you know, I’m old school, I like to read. And I read an awful lot. You know, but why choose? Just get both. #01:13:45-0#
  • Yes, I did this and did not regret it. So yes. And also another thing is: If you see a movie or read a book and if you read that again (…) after maybe six months or one year, you very most probably discover new things that you have not seen before or realized before. #01:14:13-0#
  • Very true. #01:14:15-0#
  • And this is due to the fact that you evolved at that time. If it’s exactly the same it’s either a very boring book or a very boring film or you did not evolve at that time in-between. #01:14:30-0#
  • (…) That’s true. You may be like this too, I have some friends that are the same way, but I have a couple of books that I read and re-read and re-read. And even if you’re not finding something completely new and different, your understanding of it increases. It just always does. You’re immersing yourself in information by engaging with it at a greater level of understanding. #01:15:05-0#
  • Would you be so kind and tell us one of the books you like to read over and over again? #01:15:11-0#
  • Okay. And I don't want to frustrate anyone, because it's been out of print a long time, you can still get them, but they're expensive. It's the "Spiritual Journey of Joseph L. Greenstein: The Mighty Atom" biography. #01:15:23-0#
  • Oh okay, okay. I know this, I got the book and I can say this is a very, very excellent advice- #01:15:29-0#
  • I kind of figured I was preaching to the choir so to speak. #01:15:33-0#
  • Hallelujah. Yes. You do! #01:15:36-0#
  • Yes, very nice. And, here's what's for me. I got the book. I know that you know Chris Rider. #01:15:46-0#
  • Yes! #01:15:47-0#
  • And maybe your listeners know who he is, because you've shared some of your #-# #01:15:53-0#
  • Yes, and just for the listeners, who are maybe not familiar with this gentleman, Chris Rider is my mentor for strongman training or feats of strengths. So, please. #01:16:03-0#
  • Alright. And I met Chris in 2008. And I met him at a workshop that was being conducted by Dennis Rogers. And if you look at the lineage, Mighty Atom mentored Slim "The Hammer Man", Slim "The Hammer Man" mentored Dennis Rogers, Dennis Rogers mentored Chris, he mentored me, you know. He's very active and engaged. He's had his hand on a lot of men and women! We need more women doing that, but anyway. It was at this workshop, and here's what's kind of funny! I had contacted Dennis early in 2008, I think, maybe even late '07, because I have travelled around to train with people who I think are interesting or, you know, can offer value. So, I've done one-on-one trainings with a lot of - these tend to be martial artists, but a lot of well -known martial artists. So, when I became aware of Dennis, I reached out to him and, you know, I got this crazy bodyguard schedule at the time, so I was looking for an opportunity to fly to Houston and spend some time with Dennis, because I was interested in what he did. Not because I ever thought I could do it. Because I knew intellectually that I never could. #01:17:32-0#
  • When did it start that you actually realized, this is something you can actually achieve? #01:17:40-0#
  • Well, here's how it happened. I told Dennis that I was interested in him as a research study. I wanted to know how somebody who was older than me, smaller than me - not by much but by a little -, could do these things and not have his body just break apart. I couldn't fathom how he could do what he could do. And we kind of looked at schedules and he was busy when I was, you know, free, and, you know, vice versa. So he said: "In a few months I've got this workshop coming up and I'm going to have some guys there. Some of these guys have been training with me for a while. And if you want to come and sort of talk about training" - because I've always been just a voracious consumer of training information. I basically went to this event to study these people. To talk to them about how they do what they do or how do they think they do what they do, because I was suspecting that some of them didn't even know. I think they were just tapping into something that was sort of indescribable and magic. So, not that I'm saying magic like I believe in magic, but nonetheless, I get to this event, it's several days long and of course I meet Chris and he's wonderful, but I met another guy and his name is Greg Martonick and sadly he died a couple of years ago. But Greg was a/ #01:19:09-0#
  • And just a second. For reference, because I wrote a book review on my Kettlebell-site from Eric Moss who was a student of Martonick. #01:19:24-0#
  • Yes, yes. Yeah, mentored by Greg and Eric. Wonderful. I actually performed alongside Eric I think in 2014. Nonetheless, I'm at this event and while I'm at the event I meet Greg. And Greg is, he's older than me and Greg had been doing steel bending and so forth for a really long time. So much so that, you know, he had shoulder problems and couldn't really do a lot of the old bends that he used to, because of surgeries and so forth and he'd had a heart attack. And that's when he got into bending things with his teeth. You know, he would put a coin in his teeth and then just push up with his thumb and like, you know, bend it. And that strength that that required was just crazy and I watched it from 3 feet away and I was just, I was stunned, it was so great. And he came to me and he asked me if I had read the "Atom" book. And I said "No, I never have". I knew of the book and I said "It's out of print though, right?" And he said "You need to get that book." And he's like standing just right in my face "You need to get this book. It will change your bending." And like, he assumed that I was a bender. I wasn't. I hadn't bent anything, and we're having this conversation, he said it will change everything. And he was SO SERIOUS, and I thought: wow! So that night I'm back in my hotel, I go on amazon.com and I pay way too much for an out-of-print copy of this book, which, you know is winging it's way back to Las Vegas while I'm still- #01:21:10-0#
  • I mean honestly, you know the book, and it's expensive, but if you go for the content and if you realize what it means, it, it's- #01:21:23-0#
  • It is so important! It says so much, even though it's not saying it. If you are just open, you will learn things, you will have important life lessons reinforced and you just keep going back to it because, you know, Greenstein was such an inspirational person, you know, talk about somebody who has risen above his circumstances more times than- I mean, I couldn't do what he did in 20 lifetimes. You know, he's just this small guy, but a larger-than-life hero to me and to many people. In fact, my daughter, a couple of years ago painted a Joseph Greenstein quote on canvas and it's in my garage gym as we speak, so I can always just kind of glance at it and now that we've opened the door to "Mighty Atom" I'm going to finish with an anecdote, after I answer your question which was "When did I know or when did I get the idea that I wanted to do these things?" Well, it happened in that workshop. It's 2008. I've been everything I've ever wanted to be professionally. I mean I've been a bodyguard for two years by this point for some of the wealthiest people on the planet, people that everyone who is in your audience has heard of. And I just sort of had this amazing life at this point, but I was hungry. And I didn't know what I was hungry for. And I think that what I was hungry for, if we can really quantify, was just to go deeper. Not to attain more resume entries but just - I needed to go deeper in myself. I needed to find something that challenged me in a more personal, quiet way. And there was something about what I was watching these men do that really spoke to me. And of course, the workshop culminates with the surprise announcement that everybody is going to be a part of a presentation on the last day. And the presentation is for this church that Dennis was a member of at the time. Now, the name of the church was called the "Powerhouse Church". Fitting. In Houston, Texas. And the churches in Texas are big and loud and demonstrative. And this was for the youth, so like junior-high kids, high school kids. This is like sort of, you know, the 13 through 18-year old students. And because, you know, Dennis is famous for this, you know, they've agreed to let him bring in his, this rabble of folks that did their thing. So, Chris Rider did a- he broke some chain with his hair braided into a cable and the kids love that, because nobody does that. #01:24:31-0#
  • There's a reason for that! #01:24:33-0#
  • Yeah, right? Yeah, so, but the night before, I had a real interest in asking Dennis a question, which is "What am I going to do?" And he said "Oh I've got something I think you'd be good at." And I said "Well, what's that?" and he said "How about we have-" and he pointed to a guy "-we have him jump off of a folding-ladder onto your stomach?" And I said "That sounds impressive. It sounds dangerous." And he said "I think you'll be fine." So, okay, I think I'll be fine too in that case. So we tried it from like a couple of the lower steps. Turns out, it's just as bad as it sounds. Now, we're talking about a 4-foot ladder, I mean nothing crazy, because jumping off anything higher than that is dangerous to the person jumping as well. So, we did that, in fact, I went after Chris which was too bad. Because everyone else, they're like ripping cards and bending horseshoes and they're doing sort of the typical things in strongman repertoire. But the kids, they have no idea how hard that stuff is. But everybody has had their hair pulled, so when Chris did his thing, they went crazy. And now I've got to do this thing after Chris. And to me, I'm thinking, I don't have to really do anything expect survive. There's no skill involved. However, the kids were kind of impressed. Dennis sort of explaining what's going to happen and we've got this guy climbing up to the top ladder, I'm laying down in front of the ladder, he's standing on the top of it. And all of the sudden I think everyone in the room realized what's about to take place. And I distinctively remember hearing a girl question someone loudly "Is he going to die?" at which point I thought to myself, that's a very good question, I guess we're going to find out. So, you know, the stunt went, I survived and we'll just say that was probably the time that the switch was thrown. Now, I wrestled with this for a couple of weeks, I'm back in Las Vegas, I called Dennis Rogers and I said "I loved being a part of the event, I loved how much you shared with me, how nice everyone was to me", because I really wasn't a part of their little community. I was an outsider. But I told Dennis, I said "There's something about this that is speaking to me in a very strong way, and I'm going to attempt to pursue it. I don't know how. Because I don't think I'm strong enough to, but I'm going to figure some things out, there's something I can do that's going to, you know, be like a real translatable, I don't know, sort of metaphor for whatever it is that gets communicated, when you see a human do something that appears to be impossible. And he told me, right then on the phone, he said "That's what I was hoping was going to happen." I said "Great!" So, I spent months trying to develop a repertoire, unsuccessfully, tearing myself up in the process, because I don't know what I'm doing. I'm just- this is like the 20-something version of me that's trying to rehabilitate himself after the accident. I just, you know, I throw myself at it and eventually I figure out what's not working. So, I build a repertoire and here we are. Now, my last anecdote. We're sort of getting back to Slim "The Hammer Man" who was the mentee of the Mighty Atom. I had known of Slim "The Hammer Man" long before I knew about Dennis Rogers. And his strengths exploits are well known, even in a lot of, sort of, mainstream strenghts-training circles. Just, you know, because he's been around for so very long, and he's so very unique. Now, at this point, I've got- it's 2013 and I've got my Mighty Atom book and it's February and I get a phone call from Chris Rider and he invites me to the Coney Island Strongmen Spectacular. Ok, Coney Island, that's where the Mighty Atom used to perform, as did many other historically significant strongmen and, you know, just Vaudeville era performers. #01:29:19#
  • This is one of my dreams. Once in my lifetime I want to perform there, so I'm all there. #01:29:27#
  • Yeah. So, of course I want to do this and it's just extremely humbling. And they had done it one time before the previous year and if anyone has seen the documentary "Bending Steel", it's that first year's show 2012 that is featured in the final act, if you will of that movie. And anyone who is interested in anything that we've been talking about today, really should watch this documentary. It is extraordinary. #01:30:01#
  • Yeah. I put a link up there. #01:30:04-1#
  • I’ve watched it. This is one of those things that I go back to, and you know, it’s very powerful for me. So, it’s 2013, I’ve been invited to this event that really seems beyond me in terms of its significance and who else is going to be there, because I’ve never really felt like a part of the Strongman community, because I don’t think of myself as being strong. I’m just tough. I’m very resilient. So, we figure out what it is that I’m going to do, and then he mentions that Slim is probably going to be there. And I thought to myself, you're kidding me. I might actually get to meet Slim? It was an overwhelming idea. Now, this is coming from a guy who had spent like, within like, arms distance away from many famous people. But I’m not awestruck by any of them. You know. Celebrities are just celebrities to me. But Slim? The guy that was written about in the Mighty Atom book? That was really hard for me to wrap my head around. And Chris said: “Yeah, in fact Mike Greenstein might be there too.” Oh! Mike Greenstein! Mighty Atom Junior, Atom's son. Wow! So, I am bringing my book, because I’m going to ask Slim to sign it and also Mike to sign it, too. And I even have a poster of Slim that I brought with me. So, now it’s Sunday, it’s the day of the Coney Island Strength Spectacular and it’s very heavy experience. I'm meeting guys that I’ve known of for a long time. Very exciting. It’s Coney Island so that’s exciting. And I had some friends who live on the east coast that showed up and the weather was horrible and rainy and cold and they're still there - so that was exciting. And I step out for a moment from the Coney Island Sideshow Theatre which is where we were all sort of hanging out prior to the show mostly because it was raining and we want to stay indoors. And somebody had just brought in some issues of the New York Post. And several of us, including Chris, were featured in that article with photographs; so that was pretty exciting. So, I take my copy and put that in my car and I’m walking back in to the Sideshow Theatre, and unbeknownst to me, while I was away from the building for two, three minutes, Slim and Mike had both shown up. They had a ride while we were inside. I didn’t know this. Now, a couple of my daughters came with me to New York to be a part of this experience, and they watch me come in the door, and then they watch me recognize Slim “The Hammer Man” and Mike Greenstein who just happens to be looking at an old poster of the Atom and it was too much for me to process. I walk straight into the bathroom to catch my breath. This had never happened to me in my adult life, around politicians, around CEOs, around celebrities. Never anything like this. So I gathered my thoughts, I came back out, I got my Slim poster and my copy of my Mighty Atom book. And I walked up to Slim and I said "My name is Mike. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Would you mind signing this for me?" So, doesn’t say a word. It’s Slim. He's you know, as big as he is physically, he's bigger than that in real life. He's enormous; he’s a giant of a man. And Mike Greenstein doesn’t have to be a giant, he's Mike Greenstein. So, it just... And he's in his 90s at this point. So, you really have a sense of, you know, the span of history and the tenuous connection to all of that and how special it is. #01:34:31-5#
  • If you see them in the movies or so on, I mean I have not met them personally, but it seems that they are radiating a kind of special aura. Is it true? #01:34:45-3#
  • It's probably something that only people like you and I can see. But yes. Because they’re very significant to us. I definitely felt that significance in that moment. Now, he signs both objects, he hands the back to me. No words, ok? And he's kind of a quiet, aloof, imposing fellow. I hand the book to Mike Greenstein, and he's a little bit more genial. He says: “There you go”, or something like that. I thank him and I immediately secure those in a suitcase. And Slim turns away from me and I don’t expect we're going to have any more words for the rest of the day; and I’m fine with that because I met him and he signed my stuff. So, what he's doing unbeknownst to me is pulling something out of his bag and he turns back towards me, takes one step towards me, and I can tell has got something in his hand. Now it’s hard to see because his hands are like 10 times as large as a normal hand, but it’s a tiny glass bottle. Now, you know from reading the Atom book that the atom was very interested in health and the various physical indicators of health, he was always curious about his skin health and the health of his hair and what I was looking at was a tiny glass bottle that contains some of the Mighty Atom's hair and it had a label on it, it was pre-printed. "Hair from the Mighty Atom presented by the Slim The Hammer Man” Farman"; and he gave it to me. No words. You know, he just hands this thing to me. And to this day, I can’t articulate what that moment felt like. It was just this amazing sign of acceptance, if you will, in this very small brotherhood. And what made me happy about that was he hadn’t seen me do anything yet. Because I wasn’t sure how the things I was going to do at the strongman show lined up with what he thought was appropriate. Because I was doing dangerous things. You know. Bending rebar against my throat and breaking arrows and laying on the broken glass and brick smash and all those sorts of things and I was going to break a stack of bricks, which I have a picture somewhere in my Facebook page of Slim standing behind me off to the side, watching me break a stack of bricks. I never felt so much pressure. It was something (unv. #01:37:43-3#) I mean there was a crowd around and they are hooting and hollering and they’ve got their camera phones out. And that’s great, I’m used to that but having Slim there was crazy stressful. But happily everything went well and he came over and shook my hand. I don’t know that he'd ever seen somebody do that like, from that close up before, so it probably seemed perhaps novel and unique. But the point if there can be one to that reminiscence is that in 2008 I was interested enough in something that I bought the plane ticket, I paid the fee, I decided to put myself in a room full of people I didn't know for several days, that could do things that I can only dream of doing, but I wanted to do it. I wanted to know more about what that world was all about. And doing so, and then there the result the decision to allow myself to pursue something which seemed completely illogical and frankly, unattainable to me at that time. I was 46 years old when I started that. 46. And to be able to sort of find my own path, because I don’t replicate what most of those guys do. #01:39:12-7#
  • No, your feats are very, very unique. #01:39:14-9#
  • Well, they're unique in that community. I mean they’re a little more known of in the martial arts realm, but I’ve found things that speak to me, that are interesting to me. That also seemed to tie into lessons or ideas that I tried to share with other people when I do, because I don’t consider myself a performer or a showman. I just consider myself a teacher and I just do certain things as object lessons that, I mean they are inherently visual, they’re interesting, but there is something behind it. I’m not there for the applause or the gasps or anything like that. I want it to mean something when I’m done. I mean this stuff is dangerous; it hurts, if it doesn’t mean anything, then it means just somebody showing off and that doesn’t work for me, because I don’t have the performer persona. I’m not entertaining in that way, so I can’t create that sort of experience for someone, but I can share of myself and that’s what that's important about. And to go from a 46-year-old rookie in this completely illogical realm, to the kind of acceptance that is represented by someone like Chris Rider inviting you to this event which was very prestigious and high-profile, and they have somebody like Slim who’s the greatest living exponent among us, just acknowledge my presence, just acknowledge my presence, that is the kind of thing that anybody can do if they just allow themselves to be open to pursuing that which they are passionate about. Even if it seems illogical or expensive or the wrong time. And it was all of those things for me. #01:41:13-1#
  • Yes. So, I think the whole thing with strongman or feats of strength are far more spiritual than physical. #01:41:28-3#
  • Well, I know that the Mighty Atom would agree with you. Mighty Atom would definitely agree with that. And I think that’s why I find the message or that book so resonant is because he was connecting that part of himself with these physical exploits. They were never just something to do. There was a purpose to it. In his case, as an illustration of that which is possible. I mean, his whole life was that, an illustration of what was possible. Which is why everyone needs to read that book. It’s worth the price; it’s worth all of it. #01:42:13-0#
  • Do you know where the rights are? I would be really grateful if they would just put it out as an eBook so more people could acquire that knowledge. #01:42:24-9#
  • Yeah. I’ve always been surprised that doesn’t happen, because I bought my copy from the author. He had a certain quantity of them and it was signed by the author. #01:42:36-8#
  • Me too! #01:42:37-7#
  • Yeah. And so there you go. I’ve got his name, you know, Spielman, as well as Mike Greenstein and that’s important because Mike Greenstein passed away a little over a year ago. And I was very blessed to get to spend some additional time with him at a show on the East Coast in 2014 the following year. So just very special to be able to get to be that physically close to these people who have just been part of this magnificent legacy. There are people like that in all locations and in all creative pursuits, in all physical pursuits. And I would just encourage anybody to, if they are inclined to get to the next level in whatever area it is of life that really speaks to them, I have been infinitely enriched by chasing down different people. The Denis Rogerses of this world and it’s lead to amazing. Some of the martial artists that I’ve spent time with, you know, because of the people they’ve spent time with. #01:44:06-2#
  • So, this is basically the same thing which you did also with your police career, so you chased what you wanted to learn to be the best instructor, to create your resume. #01:44:20-8#
  • It’s not a sophisticated approach. It’s very simple. It just requires application. Again, it gets back to; you just have to have the desire. If you want to jump out of the airplane enough, because it means something to you, you’ll find a way to deal with the fact that you don’t really want to jump out of the airplane. But it’s that end result, you know? You have to be willing. Willing is what it’s all about. And I don’t know that I could sum it up. I wouldn’t say it's simple because we’ve been talking for a long time but that is about the most logical place to sort of finish up on. #01:45:00-4#
  • This is great, I really enjoy this talk. I normally always have 3 questions on how I wrap up an interview, as an introduction. So, if you would not mind me pestering you longer, I would have three more questions. #01:45:23-0#
  • I will answer your three questions! #01:45:25-0#
  • Aah, thank you! Do you train with or without music? #01:45:29-0#
  • Almost always with music, which is easy for me to do. Well, of course everybody's got, you know, earbuds and so forth now. I train alone, I ALWAYS train alone. I have just found ways to be able to train alone - for decades. When I didn't have my own garage gym, I found gyms that I would be able to use after hours or before hours, because for whatever reason I just have a better result. I don't like the commercial gym atmosphere. I mean if I 'm travelling, if I'm on the road I have to train wherever, but the commercial gyms with the mirrors and the look-what-I-can-do sort of attitude, I mean, I almost- because I can't really turn off my competitive nature, so if I'm at a commercial gym and I've brought like some rings with me or something like that, I may find myself doing something that I don't need to do, because that wasn't what I planned. But there's just this thing that men do in gyms and I don't like to explore that part of my personality. I like to focus on me. I don't like to show off, I 'm not at the gym to be an example of "oh look isn't that great, he's in his 50's and he's still working out", that's not my purpose. So, I like to listen to music. The music changes, sort of based on what I'm feeling or what I'm planning for. But yeah, for me the music helps. #01:47:29-0#
  • Is there a favorite song or just maybe a favorite song of the week? #01:47:35-0#
  • No, I don't think so, because I'm enough of a music fan that I listen to almost everything. I mean with the exception of, I only know a couple of operas. So, I'm not sophisticated with that. But I love classical music, I love jazz. I love crazy, loud heavy-metal music, I love real, old, traditional country music and I could probably lift weights to that. It's usually loud and it's usually fast, but that can be classical music too. It can be old-school R&B. I love so many different kinds of music that I'm not really locked in any one type. #01:48:19-0#
  • That's cool, so we seem to have some similarities there. Yeah! #01:48:25-0#
  • Well I think that is more common in European countries, where I think there's just more exposure to different cultures. Here in the United States, we're not as encouraged to sort of step out of what we like, you know? So, people who are exposed to things like jazz or classical music "Well, I don't like that." or "That's weird, I don't understand it. It’s stupid." And they just never explore it any further. #01:48:54-0#
  • Yes, I think we have the same here; there are people who say "Okay I'll give it a try." And there are people who are "No, I just want to get to the things I know and nothing new and change is bad!" #01:49:12-0#
  • Well, I'm always appreciative of well, your country in particular, because it gave me my favorite classical composer which is Beethoven. I'm also a Wagner fan. But, it took Europe to discover jazz, a uniquely American form of music. Those guys all went over there, to sort of be discovered, because there just wasn't the audience here. Which is kind of interesting. Anyway, we're getting way off topic. So I like working out with music, that's the short answer. #01:49:48-0#
  • Okay. Cool. And now the last thing. So, if you could name the listeners 3 points to carry away, how to improve their lives? So, it can be training, health or just to be a nicer human being. #01:50:05-0#
  • Okay, that's great! Well, the most important thing that I can share with anyone, is that whatever it is that you're doing or wherever it is that you feel like your life is, at the moment, it can always be improved upon. You can always make it better, make it more special, make it more meaningful. The idea of changing your thought patterns, a lot of people just won't accept it. You can't do that, you know "We are the way that we are, our brains are the way that they are." It's like, no that's not true. Research continuously proves this to be the case. You can have much more of the kinds of things that you want if you simply first open yourself up to that as a real possibility. You have to believe that it's real, that it can happen for you. Then you just have to do work. And I think that the second point that I would share with your listeners, because it's what I share with everybody, at least in the United States we're not living in a culture that really celebrates work. Everybody just kind of slides by. We don't even learn the same way because of technology. When you know that the answer is always a click away, it sort of demystifies the learning process. So, people who really understand things deeply, who have a real deep knowledge of a subject, of a skill, we're seeing less and less of those people. Because people don't have patience for that. It takes a long time to become good at carpentry, to become proficient in the violin or ballet. And everything is just so immediate, the answer is always immediate but understanding is not. That's why I always talk about going deeper. So, it's great to decide upon on something that you're passionate about and pursue it, but you have to understand that it's going to take work. And that's where most people fall short. They don't understand what work feels like, what really hard work feels like. #01:52:30-0#
  • And this can be also enjoyable as a process. #01:52:33-0#
  • It should be! Ideally, it should be enjoyable. But we have words that have come to associate, you know, when we say the word work, that's kind of a negative term at least here in the States. It's got a difficult connotation, you know. But if you can sort of reframe your attitudes about work and just think- change it to refinement, cultivation, acquisition, like you're getting something from it. Just recast it in a different, in a more positive way, because even under- you know, at your best, work can be hard. Work can be frustrating if you hit those points where progress is less obvious to you. And then, the third point is, be a complete person. Don't just be a physical person, don't just be a cerebral person. And don't just be a self-focused person. Be somebody who engages with the world and engages with other people, be a nice person. There's a lot to be said for, you know, just being kind to people. And seeing what kinds of experiences that simple decision can lead to. So, identify the things that really move you, that mean something to you. Be open to the idea that it's going to take work to have those things or to change things for yourself and be a complete person. Just be the biggest, broadest, best version of yourself. #01:54:16-0#
  • Mike, thank you very much. Mike, I really appreciate that you took yourself so much time to talk with me, with the audience. Really, really great. #01:54:32-0#
  • Well, good! Happy to do it, I hope there's something there of value. #01:54:35-0#
  • Thank you very much! #01:54:37-0#
  • Alright, take care! #01:54:38-0#
  • Bye! #01:54:39-0#
  • Bye-bye! #01:54:40-0#

Contact to Mike Gillette

And one of the favourite books of Mike and me: "The Mighty Atom: The Life and Times of Joseph L. Greenstein by Ed Spielman"

Documentary "Bending Steel" with Chris "Wonder" Schoeck and in it you can also see my mentor Chris "Haircules" Rider

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