After a raid gone awry while overseas during his time in the Marines, Kionte lost his right leg. Though he recalls the moments after in a matter-of-fact tone, the truth was the Kionte lost more than just his leg that day. 

He lost his self confidence, his self esteem, his ability to ever walk into a room and not be looked at twice. 

What followed were bouts of emotions he never faced before: melancholy, depression, and suicidal thoughts. 

This next episode of Resilient Us is all about the darker parts of our mind. What happens when you no longer see a future for yourself? How can you manage anxiety, melancholy, depression – will these things ever leave? 

I’m most excited about this episode because Kionte always smiles. But happiness doesn’t preclude someone from suffering from debilitating thoughts. 

After our conversation I don’t think I’ll ever think about depression the same. And since the odds are that you or someone you love suffers from his exact same, tormenting thoughts, it’s a good thing to rethink.

So here’s to renewing our minds for the ones we love, for being there for them when they can’t be for themselves. 

Because really, resilience is a product of community.

 

Cobey “Chaos” Fehr is an amateur MMA fighter with a professional fighter mindset who’s on path to join the UFC.

Cobey’s life has been defined by fighting, from his early days of fighting against the influence of drugs in his closest circles, to dedicating his childhood and collegiate years to wrestling, Cobey has, in all areas of his life, fought for who he is today. 

This is why I was most excited to talk to him – because I know that the lessons he’s learned on mats and cages across the country shape the way he sees life. He understands pain and suffering, and the proper response to those inconveniences which yield to something other than setbacks. 

This journey hasn’t been without difficulty. Cobey recalls intimately the moments when he wanted to jump out of a car on his way to college because he was so afraid of life on campus at Lake Erie College. He talks about performance anxiety and how personal and social expectations frequently culminate to bouts of depression. 

We talk about “making it” – what it takes to get to the UFC. Hint: it’s not just about your record. A fighter has to make a business case that they belong in the league, that their personality can sell out arenas. It doesn’t take long listening to Cobey Fehr to believe he has that personality. 

But his reasoning for making to the UFC is touching. He reminisces on growing up in Barberton, Ohio and how most of the media he witnessed spoke negatively of his future: star athletes getting busted for drug use, rising crime rates in the city, who was going to re-write that narrative? Who was going to show the next generation of kids that they could do something like MMA and not be someone who’s story ended in drug abuse? Queue Cobey. 

Can he do it? He’s sitting at 2-1. And, at a minimum, a fighter needs a 6 win streak to be considered for the big leagues. He’s got something else working in his favor, Cobey trains at Strong Style Training Center, the same facility as the UFC Heavyweight Champion of the World, Stipe Miocic. So, he’s in good company.

If there’s one thing I’ve been pondering since my talk with Cobey it’s that in all things we must keep fighting. 

And as always, stay resilient. 

Till next time, let me know your thoughts on the show – guests you’d like to see, places you’d like for the show to go. I’m all ears. 

Mario Romero: Free Will, Prior Causes, and Discovering a New Self

Mario Romero is a modern day renaissance man. 

He’s a polymath whose story doesn’t begin with promises of a prodigy. He seemed normal, even average. Some of his labels were inherited. As Mario so intimately recalls, he was told that “no one in the family is good at math.” So he wasn’t either, he thought. No one in his immediately family had graduated college (let alone an Ivy League), fought in U.S. Special Operations, or started the application process to become an astronaut at NASA either. But Mario has since done all these things. 

His accomplishments began with him challenging his prior causes, the moments in his life that defined what he thought he could and could not do. Mario was fed up with these prior causes, and believing them to be lies, set out to disprove their narrative. 

What culminated was a nine year journey in the U.S. Navy SEALs, where he was selected to join its most prestigious team, DEVGRU. After his time in the military Mario struggled – as so many veterans do. He never joined believing there would be a day after his time in uniform. Then there was. And he was left to figure out his new identity; with bruises and wounds on the inside and out.  

Having proved himself physically capable of some of the toughest challenges in the world, Mario applied the same approach to academics. He believed that he could become “good at math.” That it was just like any physical exercise – he just needed practice. Subsequently, he excelled at community college and continued his education at Columbia University in the City of New York – where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Pure Mathematics. 

Now, Mario works at NASA as a member of their dive team and trains astronauts in high-pressure environments. His next dream is to be an astronaut. 

Most peculiar to Mario’s story is his obsession with free will. How much of these accomplishments was actually his choice? He didn’t choose to first believe he was bad at math, did he? Did he choose to challenge the prior causes, or was it another cause that sent him into challenging his identity? 

While this conversation feels abstract, it suggests an interesting challenge. 

Where do we draw the lines to where the self begins and where it ends? And once drawn, can these lines be redrawn? Only through the proof of our lives can we answer these questions; through journeys with paths yet paved. Because, just as we’ve redrawn maps of the physical world, and our galaxy through exploration, so too we must explore and – and redraw – the map of ourselves.  

Shaping Pflugerville, One of America's Fastest Growing Cities

Ask a city dweller and they’ll tell you that the suburbs are where culture dies. It’s where cookie cutter homes line perfectly trimmed streets; where block party’s serve the same recipes as in the seventies. Boredom is what they might call it. While that may be true in some places, this isn’t the case in Pflugerville, Texas, a northeast suburb of Austin that’s also one of the fastest growing cities in America.

In this episode, I speak with Mary Foss, one of the entrepreneurs making Pflugerville such a desirable place to call home. Mary and her husband Josh started West Pecan Coffee + Beer, making it the first coffee/beer cafe in town.

What evolved was more than a business. They became the epicenter for town. A place for bible studies and business meetings; where locals work remotely, and people gather to talk about their new lives they’re starting down the road after moving – most likely – from California.

Mary’s heart is as pure as the Scandinavian aesthetic of the shop. It won’t take you long to hear that. As a local, it brings me great joy knowing that she is among the people actively shaping the future of this town. For those who live far from Austin, I hope you hear her story and realize that entrepreneurship doesn’t mean that work equals life. Because, most interesting to Mary’s story was hearing how she manages all her life, and her one year old business.

More than work-life balance, we talk about bearing the responsibility of building a community and the unique struggles of being a female entrepreneur.

If you like the show please share it with someone you know! And as always, give it a rating on iTunes to help other find it. And if you really like what you’ve heard, make sure to hit “subscribe” on whatever platform you listen to podcasts.

And until next time, stay resilient.

AI, Evolutionary Computation, and the Future of Us

Risto Miikkulainen is a professor of neural and evolutionary computation at the University of Texas, Austin. As a researcher of artificial intelligence, his life’s work has ushered in findings and technologies that are aiding in the goal to make machines autonomous. Though not yet a reality, his vision for the future is a world where computers – once built – will update themselves, write their own code, and perpetually learn without any human input.

What does this have to do with resilience? Risto gives a few illuminating examples where AI thrives under adverse conditions. In fact, he argues that high-pressure environments are an essential element to the development of AI. Given that much of AI has been modeled off of the human brain this is remarkable insight to how we also develop.  Moreover, Risto and I talk about how society might remain resilient amidst rapid technological changes. Ultimately, Risto and I agree that much of the fear-mongering conversations surrounding AI are only half the conversation.

He sees a world that’s directly influencing every part of our lives. Meaning, the next wave of technological advancements won’t merely effect the functionalities of your phone. Rather, he sees a world where AI decides the laws we make and even politicians to elect.

While this kind of world seems scary, Risto welcomes the changes. Most importantly, he believes that AI will introduce more independence and greater opportunities for individuals.

Let’s keep the conversation going on the Resilient Us Facebook page. How do you envision the future of humans and AI?

As always, if you have any guest requests or would like to respond to this episode find me on my social channels or reach out to me here

 

 

Fleeing Gangs, Homelessness, and Drug Addiction

Miguel Leon has overcame homelessness and drug addiction. He’s escaped from gangs. He is born and bred from the streets. To many, his story can feel flat. Because we love the Hollywood arcs. We love a plot line that moves from struggle to a clean victory. But that victory isn’t so clear with Miguel. Within a year of this recording he recently relapsed.  This doesn’t lessen his accomplishments in sobriety, or classify him as someone who “hasn’t changed.” Far from it. 
 
As I say in the beginning of this episode, why doesn’t Miguel just give up? Why doesn’t he just admit that he’s an addict and will always be an addict? That despite his best intentions he’ll never be anything but the gangster he was growing up? Because he won’t be. He isn’t any of these things. Miguel is changed. He’s not normal. He’s resilient. 
 
His victory started with separating from his gang in New Jersey, continued into choosing to battle drug addiction, and lives on today as he lives with an incredibly positive spirit despite his hardships – which included him living homeless and at times in prison. 
 
As I think about Miguel’s story I’m genuinely curious to know, what – to you – makes a person resilient? 
 
I think it’s about the fight in them, not the victories behind them.
 
To comment on the episode, or make a show request please reach out to me here.

 

Other topics of discussion include working as an ironworker, his conversion to Christianity, and fostering the next generation of kids in his place to live a different life.

Coming Out at Work and Finding Work/Life Balance

Katie K is a management consultant known for coming out at work. Shortly after starting college Katie came out as gay and quickly retreated after much of her family, church, and friends lambasted her for her homosexuality. She concealed it for years. Then she started her career, and questioned whether she should continue to keep this part of her a secret again. 
 
Early in her career, a mentor encouraged Katie to make this part of her well-known. She learned that her sexuality wouldn’t affect her promotions or opportunities. In short time, her message became something of a buzz among business professionals. Her story was shared in a recent  feature in the Financial Times and in the June Print Issue of Oprah Magazine.
 
As a result, the doubts she had about herself as an openly gay woman in the workplace vanished and she started to rethink the entire notion of work/life balance. How much of her was dictated by the firm that paid her, how much of her time did she owe the employer that let her truly be her? 
 
Katie realized that work wasn’t life. That her identity wasn’t in her corporate title; and that even her sexuality – something she once made such a great deal of – wasn’t even HER. 
 
Because of this premise, Katie has developed a unique perspective to separating work from her personal life. She draws boundaries that many on a professional track can’t. 
 
These experiences made her opinions on the divide between men and women, sexual harassment, and the #metoo movement especially poignant. 
 
For guest requests, please contact me here.

Matt Young on Writing a Military Memoir, Honesty, and Finding His Voice

Matt Young is the author of Eat The Apple, a military memoir which has been called the “Iliad of the Iraq War.” His memoir received glowing – and not-so-glowing – remarks from critics. The reason for the latter lies in Matt’s vulnerability. Though equipped with the pen, Matt chooses not to write himself as a hero in his own book. Instead, he degrades his existence. Sparring no detail, Matt describes his infidelity toward his then fiancée, his obsession with masturbation, and abuse toward junior Marines. 
 
In this interview, we talk about this “Matt” and why he chose to make him his protagonist. Moreover, we talk about the writing process and how he discovered that he was a writer. In short: writing is rewriting. Though originally a fiction writer, Matt continued to write nonfiction and succumbed to this habit – which led to the production of his first book. 
 
Following the release of this book, Matt landed a position as assistant professor at Centralia College. There he teaches the next generation of writers about prose and storytelling. 
 
Also since the release of Eat the Apple, Matt has started writing his second book, which is aligned with his first love, fiction. 
 
If you want to follow Matt you can find him on twitter (@mcyoung0) and Instagram (@youngmattc). To follow his tour dates, recent publications, or to say hi head to mattyoungauthor.com. 
 
Listened to the show? Let me know what you think here!

Creating Community Through Coffee in Wilmington, NC

Marissa Ruehle is a serial entrepreneur from Wilmington, North Carolina. Her ventures have helped shape Wilmington into one of the most desirable beach towns on the east coast. Amazingly, she’s created incredible businesses and community through coffee. 

We discuss her life as early entrepreneur, when, at the age of 15 she bought infrared saunas and leased them to fitness centers across the city. Since then, every venture of hers has improved people’s lives.
 
Currently, she runs Casa Blanca Coffee, is Wilmington’s only roaster. Additionally, it doubles as Wilmington’s premiere coffee shop. 
 
Marissa talks about joys and struggles of building businesses. Most importantly, she discusses why – through all ventures – community is the most important thing she creates. 
 
Moreover, she talks about difficulties of being a woman entrepreneur. Her anecdotes were shocking and a good reminder that we all have biases to face and people to give grace. 
 
Finally, we talked about the coffee industry. It’s hard to believe that such a hard-to-harvest commodity is so ubiquitous. As she says, if you’ve ever had a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop, it was among the best coffee in the world. But she asks, and struggles to answer, whether coffee should be so cheap and accessible? Despite growing awareness in the coffee industry, too many roasters have become “white saviors” in their pursuit for more just economics.
 
Whatever the answer is for the next generation, it’s obvious that the coffee industry will look drastically different in the next generation than it does now. Just as this generation does after Starbucks paved the way for cafe-lifestyle in the United States during the late 70’s. 

Before you go, if you enjoyed this episode let me know

Ep 9. Mike Lewis: First Legal Hemp Farmer Since 1937

Mike Lewis is the first federally permitted farmer to grow hemp in the United States since its prohibition in 1937. His mission is to deschedule hemp in the United States.
 
We talk about how is path to farming started with a few books on political philosophy, his love for hemp as America’s first true crop, and the promises it holds for the future of farming. 
 
Since he first started his campaign to deschedule hemp as a psychoactive drug, Mike has found himself in courts, on the steps of the capitol, and traveling the country to get people to believe in what he’s believed for so long – that hemp is a powerful crop that belongs in fields across America. And then, in shirts, fuel tanks, and flags across this great country as well. 
 
Mike talks about the history of hemp and its relation to marijuana and the obstacles he faces in his journey to see the crop grow beyond the fields and into the marketplace in more forms than just CBD Oil. 
 
Additionally, we talk about farming in general, the problems it’s facing, and the technologies aiding farmers to predict problems on the ground and in their supply chains. 
 
Today, Mike heads two organizations, Third Wave Farms and Growing Warriors. Third Wave Farms exists to empower American farmers to embrace and sustain today’s game-changing crop—industrial hemp. Growing Warriors trains, assists, and equips military veterans with the skills they need to produce high quality, naturally grown produce for their families, communities and country.
 
You can learn more about Mike on Patagonia’s Youtube page, where you can watch short films about him including, Harvesting Liberty and Misunderstood: A Short History of Hemp – among others. 
 
You can learn more about farming by visiting the National Center for Appropriate Technology
 
Mike’s favorite food philosopher is Windell Berry
 
Let me know what you think of the show!!