Mark speaks with Michael Unbroken, survivor of childhood trauma and a powerful voice of resilience. Through dealing with ultimate rock bottoms, addressing his traumas, and healing his mind, Michael became passionately known for being Unbroken. He’s the host of the Think Unbroken Podcast, a coach, entrepreneur, advocate, and author of Think Unbroken, available for free on his website.
Today, Commander Divine speaks with Michael Unbroken, an entrepreneur, coach, podcast host, award-winning speaker, best-selling author, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma. In the episode, Michael shares his experiences of childhood trauma, crime, death, and alcoholism, outlining his story from rock bottom to mountaintop in an effort to restore faith in your own ability to heal.
“I’m a survivor, man. I’m a warrior. I just have this massive resiliency in me that sometimes unfortunately, like a lot of people only comes via the rock bottom. And as I sat there, it was just, it was the first time I realized I was tired of myself, I was done with my own bullshit. And it was just like, take action, do something.” Michael Unbroken
“My mom is, like, begging this guy not to turn off the water and he’s just doing his job. I go to the backyard, I grabbed this little blue bucket, I walk across the street to our neighbor’s house, I turn on their spigot on the side of their house. And for the first time I stole water. And I was like, when I’m a grown up, this will not be my life. And it wasn’t in a lot of ways.” Michael Unbroken
“But in so many ways. I was still that hurt, lost little boy. And as I looked in the mirror, I asked myself a question that literally changed my life forever. I said what are you willing to do to have the life that you want to have? And the answer was no excuses, just results. And what that meant is I was no longer going to play the victim was no longer gonna fucking blame other people for my decisions. And I was no longer going to negotiate with myself. And 12 years later I’m talking to you.” Michael Unbroken
“And it really just started with that declaration of recognizing that you can be your excuses. And you’re more than welcome to be… most people, you have all the right in the world to be the victim. I will never strip that, will never take that away from anyone, ever. But you have to make a f*cking decision.” Michael Unbroken
“One of the great secrets to living an extraordinary life, a creative life, is to be comfortable with that unknown, to be always stepping into unknown territory, and to not fear it, or to turn the fear into excitement and anticipation. And just pure creative force, which is the mind the ability to just absolutely create whatever you want, in alignment with what your calling or dreams are, from your higher self.” Mark Divine
Mark Divine 0:05
Coming up on the Mark Divine show,
Michael Unbroken 0:07
Not everybody’s gonna like you. It’s fine. The most important thing is when you stand in front of that mirror that you like you, that you hold your truth, that it’s self evident that you are created to be the person you are, and that if you’re willing to stand in that truth, it’s incredible what happens.
Mark Divine 0:32
Hi, I’m Mark Divine. And this is the Mark Divine Show. On the show I discover by diving in and discussing what makes the world’s most inspirational, compassionate, and museum leaders so fearless. I talk to folks in depth from all walks of life, from martial arts grandmasters, meditation monks, CEOs, military leaders, and survivors of incredibly traumatic childhoods like my guest today, Michael Anthony, aka Michael Unbroken. We’re going to talk about how he became Unbroken by overcoming extreme childhood trauma. Oh, my God, his story is incredible, to become a powerful voice of resilience and can do through his Unbroken podcasts and his book by that title. Michael now works with adult survivors of childhood trauma, who thought they were stuck, and he’s helped them learn to believe and love themselves and eradicate regrets. Michael, thanks for joining me today.
So give us a little sense of your background. I mean, I read up on you and you know, come across your stuff. This sounds like you had a pretty traumatic childhood. And then part of your story is how you overcame that to become unbroken. And it’s kind of cool because I’m unbeatable, you’re unbroken. Together. We’re, what’s the word if you combine them?
Incomparable? Trauma doesn’t discriminate. Yeah, it does not, it’s way more of a problem or an issue than anyone is willing to admit. And there’s probably a lot of people here who think they’re not a victim of trauma when they really are.
Michael Unbroken 1:57
Yeah, man, you know, growing up the homeless, super violent, mother drug addict, alcoholic, all create a little bit of…just a warning before I get in, because it’s dark, man. It’s like very dark. When I was four years old, my mother was a drug addict and alcoholic. And she actually cut off my right index finger on purpose.
And you think about this. And you know, Mark, that’s the response that I get. It’s like, hurt people, hurt people, and healed people healed people. And you know, growing up in Indianapolis in Indiana, it was a very different world than we live in, in the 80s. And she married my stepfather who was super abusive, I mean, dude, he’d kick the shit out of my brothers and I, he put me in the hospital multiple times, it was the mental, emotional, physical abuse, the getting woken up in the middle of the night, dragged into the kitchen and getting beat for putting away wet dishes. That’s context, man.
Mark Divine 2:53
That is context. And that puts mine to shame. Not that there’s any kind of like rank order for trauma, but, you know, yeah, like trauma can have, you know, a stacking effect, you know, in the more violent and more intensities, and also the more over the duration, then, then you can claim that it’s going to be a little bit more challenging, it’s gonna have different impact on you. But at the same time, you know, the jury’s out on that, you know, you can have one incident that is not remembered, which could negatively impact you for entire life and cause enormous distress, depression, and even suicidal tendencies, if not actual suicide, and you’re gonna have your situation where it’s so intense and so overt, that you’re forced to make a decision. Yeah, and that’s the thing. I think covert trauma is one of the biggest hidden diseases in our culture is that covert… It’s the overt stuff that you’re like, holy shit, either I go down this path and die, or I get my shit together and figure this out.
Michael Unbroken 3:45
Yeah, and part of what I experienced, and your spot on, part of what I experienced as a kid also was the mental and emotional abuse, right? You’re not good enough. Nobody loves you. My stepdad would be like, this is why your real dad’s never around, you’re a piece of shit. And he would just ingrain those things into me. And when you understand causation and correlation, which I would later in life, you recognize that we are the sum total of all of our experiences and you can’t run from that as much as you want to. And so by the time we were eight years old, I mean, we were deeply impoverished homeless, food stamps, getting bounced around, and between 8 to 12 I live with over 30 different families man just getting popped place to place to place to place
Mark Divine 4:31
And probably none of them really stable.
Michael Unbroken 4:33
No, of course not because you’d be at one place for three days and one day for four and then be at grandma’s for a week and then be literally in some person’s van overnight like it was kind of crazy.
Mark Divine 4:42
You were like a possession just being passed around.
Michael Unbroken 4:46
And that’s exactly what it was. And that invalidates you, it made me feel worthless and made me feel like I don’t matter in the world. And on top of that, right, I have a learning disability plus I’m a bed wetter because of obviously, and all these things are happening and transpiring. Well, by the time that I’m 12, my grandmother adopted me because that summer, I’d been living in an abandoned house off of 30th and Georgetown by the Indianapolis raceway go into Big Lots on the corner over there stealing food to survive. And like somehow she found out and she came home, there’d been no electricity and no running water. I’d been in this place for like six weeks. And she took me and you know, you think that’d be a Godsend, and to some extent it was because I finally was out of that environment. My mom had been in a rehab, she just kind of literally disappeared off the face of the earth, didn’t tell anyone where she was. And my stepfather and her had had a divorce. So it was just kind of me. And when my grandmother adopted me, you know, I’m biracial. I’m black and white. My grandma’s an old racist ass white lady from a town in Tennessee you ever heard of. Dude, we had a not joke, we had a copy of Hitler’s autobiography sitting in our living room,
Mark Divine 5:56
Oh, my gosh, wow.
Michael Unbroken 5:58
So now it’s massive identity crisis, man. And I started getting high when I was 12. Got high for the first time, started popping pills, started doing all these other different things got drunk when I was 13. That’s where it started. And by the time I was 15, I was expelled from school for selling drugs. I’m breaking into houses, I’m stealing cars. I’m running from the cops. I’m getting shot at, we’re hurting people. Like it’s like a movie, man. I’m like, what is happening in my life?
Mark Divine 6:24
Grand Theft Auto?
Michael Unbroken 6:26
Well, it was grand theft survival, dude. I was like, what does it take? You know, that was the environment I grew up in just trying to survive.
Mark Divine 6:35
How many others were you with in the same situation, your running mates, how many, and how many of them made it through?
Michael Unbroken 6:43
My three childhood best friends have been murdered, Mark, one of them got stabbed to death behind the dumpster, one of them got shot in the living room. And the other one I just don’t even like to talk about. And you see this happening. And that’s like real life, dude, we would just do whatever it took. Right. And we were like this band of brothers for lack of a better term. And it was just trying to figure out how to make it day to day to day because you know, their parents were beating the shit out of them. They, they got kicked out or dropped out of high school. And we’re just trying to figure out this life thing. And I got a call one day, the Dean of the school wanted to see me and I’m like, I don’t know why I’m already kicked out. And turns out, they weren’t going to put me into a last chance program. And in this last chance program, I would learn skills, I would learn life skills, how to write a resume and a cover letter and to build computers. And this is in the early 2000s. And that was really important. And so I took heed of that I decided to go for it. At that time. I actually put a restraining order on my mother. Oh, you know, like 16, 17. I’m 15 into 16.
And you can see on my report card, I went from straight F’s to straight A’s. And I ended up being the captain of the wrestling team and I was dating a cheerleader and life was very different for a period of time.
Mark Divine 8:03
Last Chance program. Was that something that was like a federal program? Was it a state program? Or was it like a nonprofit? Like, where did that come from? Who was funding it? And, and was it something that a lot of people got, you know, help from or was…
Michael Unbroken 8:18
It was actually specific to my high school, which was Northwest High School, which has now been defunded. Because it was a dropout factory. It was a nonprofit sponsored by Goodwill Industries, actually. And so every day, we would go to high school. And this is weird, because like kids are wearing jeans and T shirts and stuff. And we had to show up in khakis and polos, right? So they started training that into us. And we got on this other bus, we went to a literal Goodwill. And in the back where they had like these classroom settings created for us, we would learn, we would do mock interviews with each other and go through the whole thing. It was a phenomenal experience that actually set the precedent for what my life would come on a long enough timeline.
Mark Divine 9:01
Yeah I mean, just in that point, that just seems like such an obvious, beneficial and powerful way to really help, you know, the lost souls at a very young age. And I’m wondering why there’s not like a, you know, with all the billions and trillions of dollars that we spend on social programs, why this isn’t like a federally funded, obvious thing that we do.
Michael Unbroken 9:22
Yeah. And most of those kids, after we graduated, they went on and they got jobs. They weren’t in the streets. Most of those kids didn’t go to prison, right. It’s incredible. Sometimes we’ll connect, a lot of them joined the military, which was kind of my path to like, the one thing I always wanted to do was be a Marine Corps Scout Sniper, but I actually destroyed my knee my senior year. And even though I rocked the ASVAB they were like, dude, you’re not we’re not letting you in. I only had two dreams as a kid man. Don’t die, become a Scout Sniper. That’s it and I blame Tom Berenger for that by the way.
Mark Divine 9:57
Funny you should say that because that’s the end. It popped in my mind of Platoon when you said that I said I bet you he watched Platoon and that was it.
Michael Unbroken 10:05
It was all the military movies. It was that, Top Gun. You name it man. I was buried in that mentality because it’s, to me it felt like freedom. And as a freshman I was in JROTC for the Navy. And it was my path. So I ended up not graduating high school, because my mom who got out of rehab came to live with us again. And within a month, she was back to drinking and popping pills, crashing cars. And again, on my report card, you can watch from straight A’s to straight F’s. And my girlfriend calls me one day and she’s like, you’re not graduating. And I was like, F*ck. And I was incredibly embarrassing. Because I had to go to school and I had to confront this. And I stood across from my teacher, Mr. Bush, who told me the most important thing anyone’s ever told me. He said, If you want to get by in life, you have to work for it. You can’t get by on your charms and your good looks. And he made me go to summer school. And this really weird thing happened in summer school where the teacher just handed me the diploma. Goes, we’re done with you, get out. I was like, oh, well, this is the opposite of everything I just experienced. So I go get this job. I’m working in a warehouse. And you can just see the desperation in people’s eyes. Like, it’s where dreams go to die. And I was putting microchips in motherboards for 12 hours a day on this assembly line. And they fired me.
Mark Divine 11:29
Because why? Because you weren’t doing it fast enough.
Oh, no, because I was stoned. (Laughing)
Okay, well, why not? Of course, right. I’d probably be stoned if I was putting microchips in motherboards…
Michael Unbroken 11:41
And it was the only way I could survive. And so, I’m sitting in my car, I’m like, look at your life, man. This was my first rock bottom. Look at your life. You are loser, you just got fired from a dead end job. You have no money. What are you doing? And I was like, what is the solution for poverty, for homelessness for abuse? And I was like, oh, it’s money, right? It’s gotta be. And so I made a declaration. I said, I want to make $100,000 a year legally. By the time I’m 21. You know, I’ve been in handcuffs multiple times, I have family in prison for life, I talk to you about my three best friends. And it was just like, if I can figure this out, everything will be different.
Mark Divine 12:30
Okay, we’re gonna take a short break here from the Mark Divine Show, to hear a short message from one of our partners. And now back to the show.
Let me ask you a question here just about how your mind works, or how the mind works. So you’ve got all this trauma, you’re obviously, your thinking processes are leading to bad outcomes. And so what was that, like, in that moment? Or what caused you to like to have this separation and this, you know, what I now call metacognitive ability to think about your thinking and say, you know, what, that thinking, you know, is not leading to the good results. And so therefore, I can think differently? Because some people never really come upon that, you know, they just think, well, I am these thoughts, I am these behaviors, I am this identity, and that’s what you get.
Michael Unbroken 13:20
I’m a survivor, man. I’m a warrior. I just have this massive resiliency in me that sometimes unfortunately, like a lot of people only comes via the rock bottom. And as I sat there, it was just, it was the first time I realized I was tired of myself, I was done with my own bullshit. And it was just like, take action, do something.
Mark Divine 13:40
That story doesn’t work anymore for you. And whoever the you was, you didn’t identify as that story anymore.
Michael Unbroken 13:46
And I didn’t have the words for it, then being a kid, the only thing I knew is like, this wasn’t the track. Like I knew that if I didn’t shift something, what are the things that happened and I don’t actually talk about this a lot. But it sparked this memory as we’re chatting, we used to go visit my uncle at Pendleton Prison, like three to four times a month. And he would just sit there and I’d look at him and every single day it was reinforced. Don’t ever be this. And I was on my way there. And I just truly was and I was just like I’m in debt or in jail. My dream got stripped of me. I did not know what to do after, not being able to be a sniper. And so I said, alright, the path is $100,000 legally, and I land a job at 18 and a half working for a fast food joint. And I get into a leadership role General Manager in Training, and I got a team of 52 people under me at 18 and a half.
Mark Divine 14:37
What was the company?
It was a Wendy’s.
Those are great paths to learning business management leadership skills. I’m a big fan of those franchises that hire minimum wage people off the street and teach them how to do basic skills. That’s phenomenal. And we have fewer and fewer of those opportunities that are going to be outsourced to robots someday or automation. It’s unfortunate, like what are the kids that need that kind of opportunity going to do?
Michael Unbroken 15:01
Yeah. And I did need that opportunity. Like what context like they were totally throwing me to the wolves because they put me in the busiest store in the entire city where we were doing a million dollars and burgers and fries man, like it was chaos. And I knew it wasn’t the path. Like I just knew that this wasn’t going to be the thing that led me to that marker, 100,000. And I ended up after really two years of constant rejection of trying to work for a corporation, have resumes and interviews and the stuff going nowhere. Hundreds of no’s, I actually ended up landing a job with a Fortune 10 company. This is again, no high school diploma, no college education, and I hit my goal. I started making six figures. And then my life turned into a complete disaster.
Mark Divine 15:48
What was that job?
Michael Unbroken 15:49
I was doing insurance sales. This is pre-Obamacare. And I was helping people get medical insurance. I was licensed in 48 states. I was a broker and I was building a book of business. I had this moment recently, I was like, did I make this up? Did I really make $100,000 When I was like 20 years old, when I pulled up my old W-2 and it’s a little bit of a stretch, but I made $96,000. And what happened was what happens with a lot of people money, it kind of brings out your truth. And by the time that I was 25, I was 350 pounds, smoking two packs a day, drinking myself to sleep, high from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed, cheating on my girlfriend and I was $40,000 in debt. I was everything everyone told me I was gonna be.
Mark Divine 16:38
But you weren’t in jail or dead. So you had that going for you.
Michael Unbroken 16:41
I wasn’t that far away, though. You know, especially with the health choices and the lifestyle choices and the food and drugs I was putting into my body the late nights. The fifth of you know, Captain Morgan on Fridays, like it was chaos man. And I woke up this one particular Saturday after arguably the worst night of my life. And I’d put a gun in my mouth. I was done, man. I was done. Like just feeling alone in the world, feeling like nobody gets it. Money was supposed to solve all these problems and it didn’t. And I’m laying in bed. Keep in mind, I’m 350 pounds. I’m smoking a joint, eating chocolate cake, and watching the CrossFit Games, man. And if that’s not rock bottom, I don’t know what it is. I really, truly don’t. And I went I pulled myself up and I went to the bathroom. I was looking at myself in the mirror.
And I remember being eight years old, and the water company had come and turned our water off. And it’s like a blistering hot Indiana August summer day. And you know, they’re always turning off our water or heat electricity. I mean, this is just normal to me. But that’s one particular day. My mom is like begging this guy not to turn off the water and he’s just doing his job. I go to the backyard, I grabbed this little blue bucket, I walk across the street to our neighbor’s house, I turn on their spigot on the side of their house. And for the first time I stole water. And I was like, when I’m a grown up, this will not be my life. And it wasn’t in a lot of ways. But in so many ways. I was still that hurt, lost little boy. And as I looked in the mirror, I asked myself a question that literally changed my life forever. I said what are you willing to do to have the life that you want to have? And the answer was no excuses, just results. And what that meant is I was no longer going to play the victim was no longer gonna fucking blame other people for my decisions. And I was no longer going to negotiate with myself. And 12 years later, I’m talking to you,
Mark Divine 18:45
Let’s say someone is listening to this. And they just haul themselves out of bed and go and look themselves in the mirror and they have that same conversation. And then they’re gonna say, okay, Michael, what did you do next? What was the very next thing you did after that conversation?
Michael Unbroken 19:00
Literally, in that moment, it was, I took those cigarettes and I threw them away. That was step one, I realized something in that moment that would start to transpire again and again and again in my life, and also things that I teach people, when I coach them and things I talk about is at that moment, at that juncture, you have to give yourself an intense amount of grace.
What people don’t understand. And this is just my truth about childhood trauma and abuse. Dude, it’s not this finger that was cut off and the all the surgeries and the cuts and the burns and getting my head slammed into walls. Like it’s not that stuff that I carried with me. It was the theft of identity. Every time that these things happened. My brain made meaning of those experiences. And it said you’re in danger. So don’t be you. And you learn to placate, you learn to become a chameleon. And the worst part about that is that serves you for a period of time because it keeps you safe. You know, when you’re eight, when you’re twelve, when you’re eighteen. And then what happens is you realize, like, this no longer serves me, to not own my truth to not be the person I’m capable of being to not love myself and be compassionate and have empathy and grace and show up and have accountability and do the damn things I said I was gonna do.
And that space that I want people to hold onto when they start this journey, is to recognize that what they’re about to do, they’ve never done before. And they’re going to fail a lot. And the four years after that moment was a consummate battle. Like, I would take a step forward, and 8 million steps backwards, because I promise you, I threw those damn cigarettes away about 200 more times
Threw the bottle away more and went to the gym, and the whole thing. And it really just started with that declaration of recognizing that you can be your excuses. And you’re more than welcome to be, you are, most people, you have all the right in the world to be the victim. I will never strip that, will never take that away from anyone, ever. But you have to make a fucking decision.
Mark Divine 21:12
But if you want to transform, you can’t play the victim. That has to be a past identity, you have to transform out of that identity, something else, you can still be proud or not proud. But you can still claim it. Yes, but you can’t live it anymore. The other thing that really pops out to me there is you recognize early on that just the decision in the matrix, you know, of reality, that decision is everything. And if our minds were powerful enough, probably, you probably could transform, you know, within a week or two or a month or even a year. But the reality is most of us don’t have that kind of mental power. And we have to build it slowly and slowly over time. Yes. And it’s just through making you know, this decision, like you said over and over and over. So make that same decision to come back to that intentionality when you slip and say, You know what, no, these cigarettes are going away again, and again and again until they go away for the last time. Same thing with the drink. Same thing with the decision not to go to the gym, you just reverse that again and again and again until going to the gym is as normal as waking up. Yes. And then suddenly, for your case, 13 years later, or 10 years later, or whatever it was probably more like five or six years later, you’re super healthy and like looking back on. Wow, look what I’ve done.
Michael Unbroken 22:19
Yeah, people drastically underestimate what they can do in a decade. And the beginning, I would beat myself up all the time about.
Mark Divine 22:26
I think it was James clear. I think recently I read an article or something. He said people drastically overestimate what they can do in five years, underestimate what they can do in five years and drastically overestimate what they can do in one year. Yeah, something like that. And I think that’s so true, right?
Michael Unbroken 22:40
It is. And it’s patience, right. And it’s the willingness to call heed to the signs when they’re in front of you. And it says, this is how you can be special. This is how you can be the hero of your own story, this is the thing that you need. And for me, it became very much about leveraging what was in front of you. And it was like, they weren’t really a podcast yet. But they were like YouTube videos where it was like a guy like Mark Divine on Inside Quest with Tom Bilyeu, and I would sit there and I would consume it. And I would find these books, and I would consume them. And we’d go to conferences and events. And I would just keep bringing it in, bringing and bring it in. Because the one thing that I knew to be true, was like, if other people could do it, I could do it too. I think people underestimate how important community and mentorship is, even if you’re not directly connected to that person. I mean, you’ve been influenced in my life for a very long time, we just met. But it was because someone made a decision to sit down and have a conversation with you, where I started thinking about things like Zen and martial arts and breathing. And that holds true for whatever arena you’re willing to step into. And you have to be very cautious as well as making sure you’re not inputting the wrong information. I’d always been goal driven, I just was driven towards the wrong goals.
Mark Divine 24:00
What’s interesting, I mean, there’s a very practical view of this, which is, you know, you’ve got to learn, you have to learn from people who are doing things in a way that you perceive to be in line with your goals, which then you know, will teach you how to replace and train, retrain yourself out of the behaviors that have led you to where you now perceive to be a not a good place. So that’s habituation and learning. The other way to look at it is this kind of theory that I have that, that you know, essentially our minds create everything, even creates the physical manifestation in this world. And your mind is like a stream. It’s a river. It can be a tiny little trickle. And you see people whose minds are a little trickle, you know, there’s not a whole lot there. And then you see people whose minds are like a quick and torrential rapid, you know, just all sorts of eddies and rocks in danger and those are the chaotic, that was you for a while. You see people whose minds are like the depths of the ocean just completely pure, clear, undisturbed and powerful. And so we’re left to its own devices, your mind is trained by your environment, until you wake up. And you recognize that you have the capacity to train it, which is what you did when you looked in the mirror. And then you take responsibility for training that. And it’s like shaping the banks for the river, you know of your mind. And then also determining what kind of quality of water you’re going to allow into that river. Right. And so the water is in the content, and the ideas and the people, it’s almost like you dam up the old shitty water that was coming into the river of your mind, which is the negative people, network news, negative thinking, and also memories that you are obsessing about about who you are and what you are. And that’s the, the old false identity. And then you create a pathway to filling up with new fresh water, clear thinking, new ideas, new beliefs, new people, and within a short order of time, you completely rerout it and transform the river of your mind, which then transforms your body, transforms your relationships, transforms entire directionality of their lives,
Michael Unbroken 26:00
I love so much that you use the word create, because I think the greatest thing that I understood was the ability to bring to fruition the dreams that I had to create them, to create my body, my mind, my environment, a lot of that came through visualization, a lot of it came through meditation. But without having the clarity of those two things combined with action, nothing would have been different. Here’s what was really interesting, at 27 years old, I realized I had zero confidence, I didn’t believe in myself in any capacity.
Mark Divine 26:41
Okay, we’re gonna take a short break here from the Mark Divine show, to hear a short message from one of our partners. And now back to the show.
That’s good, you are living a false story. Yes, your belief is built on that identity. When you step away from that story, then you’re facing the unknown. And so that’s fearful, you say you lack confidence. So until you step into the unknown, and start building the new structures of the new identity, you’re gonna have that lack of confidence. But that’s also the beauty of it. One of the great secrets to living extraordinary life, a creative life is to be comfortable with that unknown, to be always stepping into unknown territory, and to not fear it, or to turn the fear into excitement and anticipation. And just pure creative force, which is the mind the ability to just absolutely create whatever you want, in alignment with what your calling or dreams are, from your higher self.
Michael Unbroken 27:35
And it was creating values in my life, deciding what words represented, me understanding, the power of words, leveraging those words, as a filter for the decisions that I was making, honesty, kindness, leadership, self actualization, and thinking about everything that I did in my life filtering through those words, to help me determine if I was making the right or wrong decisions for myself. And the more that I did that, the more I actually started to pay attention to the environment around me. And realize that so many times, it was a collision of values with other human beings that was in my way, and more. So I would allow, because it felt necessary to placate so that I had companionship and friendship, I would allow myself to break my own values for significance. And when I understood that, everything changed, and one of the really hard parts about this journey that I don’t envy that people have to go through, but I’m sure you will understand this is that as you grow, and you change, there are people who are not going to like it, or are going to want you to be the version of you that you used to be.
Mark Divine 28:46
That does, they’re using you in some way or they get benefit for you. It helps their psyche to see you suffer.
Michael Unbroken 28:53
It does. And that’s one of the really unfortunate truths about life. And that could be your own parents, your best friends, your wife, and you have to be willing to stick to your guns and say, this is who I am. And this is my path, because that’s ownership. And that’s agency. And that’s the greatest sense of healing in this journey. Mark as I look at myself in the mirror today, man, and I’m okay with the reflection.
Mark Divine 29:19
Yeah, I just want to double click for a second on what you said there. You know, there’s three ways to live are four ways dependent, independent, codependent, or mutually interdependent? Obviously, the fourth one is the healthiest. Right? That’s what we’re seeking, which is, I mean that you have your autonomy and freedom. But you can collaborate in a mutually interdependent way to you know, because we can rely on other people. This is great teamwork, right? And you can look at your family and your parents as part of that team if they’re healthy and interdependent, otherwise, what so often happens especially if you grew up in a dysfunctional environment, dysfunctional family is in a codependent or dependent relationship, and codependency is just rampant in our culture. The codependency is unhealthy because you give up your autonomy to someone else and they give up some of their autonomy to you. And you think it’s oh, yeah, you know, when you kind of fit together sometimes like hand in the glove, and it works, or sometimes it’s more like, like push, pull, push, pull, push pull, but it’s still unhealthy, and it absorbs an enormous amount of energy. And it’s all negative, even if you don’t recognize it, because you’ve given up a lot of your autonomy.
In fact, you could also say that we have individually and culturally a codependent relationship with the government, or the church because they’ve basically inserted themselves and said, You need me, you need to be dependent upon me. And so you give up a lot of your autonomy to them, and then you can’t live free. When you do that, then you can live in society and, you know, enjoy the benefits that government offers, such as, you know, policing, and clean roads and stuff like that. Some of the things we take for granted in our country, and all you got to do is go to Egypt or Syria or somewhere else to realize, while those aren’t normal, around the world, right, you can enjoy the benefits in an interdependent relationship with a little bit of wisdom and work that you’ve done. I just wanted to kind of talk to you that because I think it’s something that I haven’t thought a lot about, but we are a culture of codependence. And that means if you are in that manner, where you’ve given up your autonomy to a government or to church, and you’re thinking clearly for yourself, or some people would be like, What are you talking about? I love my church. I’m like, great, you should. But be free of the dogma and doctrine to explore other ideas and explore your own spirituality and find God within because it’s there. Right? Whatever your concept of God is, we emanate from that, to me, you, people could say, well, that’s a belief. And I said, no, that’s reality. That’s lived reality. Right? So live the reality to prove it to yourself,
Michael Unbroken 31:39
I think you’re spot on. Because the greatest sense of freedom, again, is about autonomy, is your willingness to stand on your own two feet and say, this is who I am, despite the criticism, despite cancel culture, despite whatever it is that’s in front of you that says no. And you know, growing up, it’s really fascinating when you really dive into causation and correlation, because you, you look at these experiences of youth right now, you could have my case where it’s overt and covert trauma, it’s really right there, you can’t run from it. But then you’re like, in third grade, and you’re coloring the house, and you make the sun and purple. And Miss Smith comes up to you and chastises you in maybe a gentle way right in front of the entire class. And what happens is, suddenly, your brain goes, wait a second, I thought it was okay to make the moon purple. But everyone laughed at me, and your, your reptilian brain goes, well, I’m gonna get ostracized from the community. And that’s dangerous. And so now instead of showing up creating your art, maybe standing on stages, or having a podcast or whatever it is that brings you joy, the fear of criticism is so deep in you, because that one experience. And it could be something so small that in passing, and Miss Smith will never remember that that happened. But it is embedded in your psyche for life. And until you can step through and understand and acknowledge how you got to where you are, you’re never going to be able to get to where you want to go. And I spent so much of my life, stuffing it down, hiding from it, running from it, but it’s there. In the darkness will always catch up with you. But what’s really, really beautiful is like think about a new day, right? It starts in the dark, and then eventually there’s light. But if you’re unwilling to acknowledge that, then you’re ever going to be forever going to be trapped. And that, to me is so dangerous, because it leads down this path of regret. And my greatest fear in life is dying with regret, a life unlived. And I think to myself every single day, like how do you just show up? It’s hard. It’s difficult, it’s grimy, it’s ugly, it’s painful. Life is suffering sometimes, sometimes, man, it’s fucking beautiful. And it’s amazing. And you get to connect with incredible human beings. And if you’re willing to look for that light, even if it’s just a small glimmer and the tunnel feels like it’s insurmountable. If you take a step towards that light every single day. I promise you on a long enough timeline, you will stand in it,
Mark Divine 34:02
you will and you will have no regrets. And that’s a great driving principle, to be at the end and not have any regrets. And so what does that mean? You don’t wait until the end, and then try to eradicate those regrets. You do it but now start working on eradicating regrets. And then once you do that, then you work on not accumulating regrets. The human spirit is driven toward freedom, right, driven toward full expression of this creative force and kind of energy and dharma are calling. And anything that stands in the way is a limiting, a contraction. I came across a quote this morning, from Lao Tzu, right, the author of Tao Te Ching, care about what other people think and you’ll always be their prisoner. You know, especially influencers like us or others, everybody. They’re all worried about on social media, you’re worried about what everyone thinks about them, and therefore they’re prisoners to other people’s opinions. And that contracts them and takes them away from their full autonomy and freedom. So they’re not going to feel the full creative expression and joy and they’re going to have regrets. So don’t do that. Alright?
Michael Unbroken 35:00
Yeah, and especially on social, I mean, you’ve been on social as long as I have, like, I’m sure you’ve been canceled. I’ve been canceled. Not going to stop me. You’re not going to stop me. I’m uncountable. Because I believe in the words that I’m saying with conviction. I think that if you can get to that place in your life and recognize, like, not everybody’s gonna like you, it’s fine. The most important thing is when you stand in front of that mirror that you like you. That you hold your truth, that it’s self evident that you are created to be the person you are, and that if you’re willing to stand in that truth, it’s incredible what happens.
Mark, you had the same experience, you had a decision to make that changed your life forever. And had you not made that decision, we would not be here, you’d be a CPA, maybe an alcoholic, maybe miserable, having a midlife crisis, right, whatever that thing is, but you stood in front of that sign. And you said, yes, this is for me, and you honored that. And that is life. Honor your truth. Even if it’s uncomfortable, even if people around you judge you and say you’re a crazy person. Dude, when I left that Fortune 10 company, everyone around me said you’re never going to be successful again, man, this is a once in a lifetime shot. You’re insane to walk away from this. I mean, I was making more money than people with, like PhDs and master’s degrees, man. I come from nothing. And everyone said, you’re never gonna make it again. And I said to myself, I don’t give a shit what you think I’m gonna trust and bet on myself.
Mark Divine 36:32
I love it. Yeah, we got to wrap this up, but one thing you said is just absolutely profound is you’ve got to face your truth, but it might be uncomfortable. And I would propose that moving toward capital T, truth is always uncomfortable. Because culture doesn’t want you to go there. We want you to stay in your little box. But if you want to be happy, you want to fulfill your creative yearning, your spiritual drive, you have to move to your truth, and get comfortable with that discomfort, until it becomes joyful. I really appreciate you Michael, what a brilliant interview you are. It’s so cool to hear your story and what an inspiration you are for everybody, not just people who, you know, who’ve gone through that extreme trauma like you have, and are looking for answers, but for everybody. If you can do it, then anybody can do it.
Michael Unbroken 37:17
Thank you. And it’s an honor to be here with you. And, you know, again, I have so much admiration for you because even from a million miles away, you played a role in this journey just by being willing to share your truth.
Mark Divine 37:29
Yeah, hooyah. Where can people find more about you? Where do you want to, you know, folks to kind of engage and connect with you?
Michael Unbroken 37:35
I’m everywhere, Michael unbroken on social. You can check out the think unbroken podcast, and you can also read my first book, absolutely for free. You go to book.thinkunbroken.com You can download it, it’s $0. If you want to buy a copy, go for it. I literally don’t care. My mission is to end generational trauma in my lifetime through education and information. So that’s where you can find me.
Mark Divine 37:57
Perfect. Thanks, Michael.
Wow, that was an incredibly inspiring episode with Michael Anthony or aka Michael Unbroken. What an interesting fellow I mean, wow. I’m going to be on his podcast, so I’m really excited to talk to him. You can find his podcasts at Unbroken or Michael Unbroken podcast. Show notes and transcripts, on markdivine.com, video at our YouTube channel, MarkDivine.com/youtube. You can find me on Twitter. At @RealMarkDivine on Instagram and Facebook. Twitter is just Mark Divine, and find me on LinkedIn. And of course, send me questions or guest ideas or just you know, a shout out.
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