Our guest today: Michael O’Brien
Michael O’Brien helps successful sales and marketing executives become the best version of themselves. He’s a coach, a consultant, and a recovering trauma patient.
He is the author of a heartfelt memoir called Shift, where Michael talks about his Last Bad Day. Michael was on an early morning cycling training ride when he nearly died from a head-on collision with an SUV. After the event, he began to shift his self-narrative and through this recovery, Michael formulated a powerful triad to help people discover the lost art of conversation.
To learn more about Michael, visit his website: https://www.michaelobrienshift.com/
To check out his weekly Facebook Live and other fun videos, visit his YouTube page here.
Visit Amazon to purchase his incredible memoir called SHIFT.
Michael O’Brien – Show Notes
- [06:00] What’s your main business today, what’s your revenue model like?
- [08:00] How did you attract your initial clients back in 2014? What was that process like?
- [11:00] How did you go about charging your clients at first?
- [14:00] How long did it take for you to find a sweet spot for your prices, a good package and price range that works for you?
- [15:00] What’s your advice for people to decide their pricing structure?
- [19:00] Since you are so hands on with your clients, they demand more time and you can take fewer of them. How does that change your pricing structure?
- [22:00] What’s the best way for people to learn more about you?
- [23:00] How do you stand out from the competition with your name, which is fairly common?
- [25:00] You blog regularly. What’s your routine, what’s the frequency of your blog?
- [34:00] Can you share the story behind your accident?
- [43:00] Did you self-publish your book Shift?
- [48:00] What are some of the feedback you’ve got from your readers? What about your children (who are teenagers)?
[08:00] People who used to get paid to listen to my directions, flipped it around and the started paying me for my coaching.
[12:00] I think we undervalue our services all the time, what we quote in terms of our fees is much lower than what we possibly quote. So I wrestled with that in the beginning and I think a lot of entrepreneurs do. What’s the value of my work, of my art? I’ve decided I’d just play with it.
[30:00] I really do try to put it out there then everyone reading this can do it too. You have a story to tell, so try it. If you just do it for a few people that’s cool. Maybe a few people turn into hundreds, and then thousands. But all of us have stories within us that are worth telling or sharing.
[37:00] My wife got a cookie on the flight she took when she was traveling to the hospital. She decided to wrap it up because by the time she got to the hospital, she was thinking, Michael will be in recovery and he might want a nice cookie. And she got to the hospital, I was still in the trauma center. And the reality set in. Michael has been in a very bad accident and the next 48h are going to be critical. Then she went back to the hotel room, and it was time to put the safety belts and buckle in because this was going to be a long haul to get back. It was the biggest test of our marriage.
Those little things… When you are sick, sometimes you feel invisible. You feel really lonely. When everyone left the hospital I felt isolated and alone. And those little things that people do for you when you needed the most makes you feel that you are not invisible, that you matter, that you are still connected to folks. It makes it less scary and less fearful.
Hey. Hello. How are you? This is a show for everyone else. Instead of going after top one person of the world, we dedicate this podcast to celebrate the lives of the unsung heroes and self made artists. Thank you.
And early on, as an entrepreneur, I think we undervalue our services all the time. What we quote in terms of our fee is much lower than we can possibly quote. So I wrestled with that in the beginning, and I think a lot of entrepreneurs do. You know what to charge, you know, what’s the value of my work, of my art? And I decided I would just play with it over time. And I think this is some advice I would give to any entrepreneur or freelancer, is be consistent. Keep on planting seeds. Put your voice out there on a routine basis so people expect that it’s out there. I really do try to put it out there to say, hey, if I can do this, then everyone reading this. You can do it too, because you have a story to tell. So try it. And if you just do it for a few people, that’s cool. And maybe a few people rose into a few hundred people or a few thousand, but I think we all have stories within us that are worth telling and sharing and, hey, if I can do this, I think everyone can.
And then reality set in. They were like, hey, Michael’s been in a very bad accident. We did the best we could. The next 48 hours are going to be critical. And then reality just sort of sunk in and it was time to sort of put on our safety belts and buckle in, because this was going to be a long haul to get back and it was going to be the biggest test of our marriage. Right? So you take your vows in sickness and in health. When you’re sick, you sometimes feel invisible. You feel really lonely. When everyone left the hospital, I just felt really isolated and alone. And those little things that people do for you when you need it the most makes you feel like you’re not invisible, that you matter, that you’re still connected to folks, and it makes it less scary and less fearful.
Hey, guys, it’s your host, Fawu. And welcome to a brand new episode of the Faze Feisworld podcast. Today I am joined by Michael O’Brien, who helps successful sales and marketing executives become the best version of themselves. So he’s a coach, a consultant, and a recovering trauma patient. Many of you guys requested more episodes on coaches. It’s because a lot of us, myself included, still don’t fully understand what personal or executive coaches do, what they do on a DayToday basis. Can anyone be a coach? And how exactly do they help their clients? This is a special episode to help you answer all of those questions. I had a lot of fun. Michael is the author of a heartfelt memoir called Shift, where he talks about his last bad day. He was on an early morning training ride and he was hit by a SUV. In fact, it was a head on collision and it was a absolute near death experience for Michael. Without any exaggeration after the event, he began to shift his self narrative and through this very recovery, michael formulated a powerful triad to help people discover the lost art of conversation. This episode is for people who are going through traumatic events and maybe a neardeath experience or a very deep regret or the loss of a family member or friend.
During my interview with Michael, it had become clear that this is a universal language because everyone has suffered at some point in their lives. The recovery process takes time. Hearing stories like this will hopefully help you find a new perspective. Michael is naturally humorous and very lighthearted person. We didn’t just talk about his last bad day. In fact, I was very eager to learn more about how he moves through his world today, which are all of his good days. Besides helping people get better, michael hosts a weekly Facebook Live with his friend Dane called The Performance Zone. I was also interviewed on the show and was great fun. I have included links and other resources on Feisworld.com, including my interview on The Performance Zone, as well as show notes and favorite quotes. Last but not least, please consider signing up for the Face World newsletter. It is an infrequent letter curated by me and sent to all my listeners. You can easily do firstname.lastname@example.org newsletter. There I will be sharing new experiments, new experiences, such as a documentary we’re in the process of producing at the moment. We’re so excited. Without further ado, please welcome Michael O’Brien to the Phase World Podcast.
You know, as soon as I stepped into the entrepreneurial world. And for me, it’s more freelancing, to be honest. There are a lot of topics I want to introduce my listeners to when it comes to your background, your transitions, or should we call shifts in the past, really 15 years at this point or 16 years since the accident. But before we talk about the accident, I want to hear a little more. I want to learn more about your business. In your own words, what is your revenue model will you do for your clients?
Yeah, so Peloton primarily is executive coaching. So that’s sort of the top of the pyramid. And I also do workshops for many of the executives I coach, and then sometimes I’ll do some speaking engagements too, that are more motivational and inspirational. But most of my business right now is good old fashioned, one on one executive coaching folks that are normally like at a director level, mainly on the commercial side. So sales and marketing and hire so director to CEO. And so that’s become sort of my sweet spot. And just by, I guess, chance or the universe or what have you. Most of my clients, or at least the majority of my clients, are female leaders. So I find that there is a great connection there and that’s not surprising. So if you ask my wife, she’s like, well, I’m not surprised by that because throughout my whole career I’ve been an advocate for female leadership, and the best teams I had always had diversity. They went well beyond just gender, but my best teams had a balance there. And I’m a key volunteer and actually a corporate sponsor of the Healthcare Business Women’s Association. So that’s a advocacy organization within healthcare that really sort of focuses in on women and gender parity.
So that’s sort of the makeup of my business right now. So the hope is that I can bring some of the messages from my book and just my corporate experience to a more junior or less tenured sales and marketing professional, so they can have a little bit more in terms of tools in their toolbox, so they can climb that corporate ladder if they desire to climb the corporate ladder.
Wow. Could you give me a sense of I’m sure you remember some of the details from 2014. When you first started the coaching business. How did you gain or attract your initial clients? What was that process like?
Well, yeah, so that was pretty cool. So I went through a real big flip on that. So my early clients were actually former direct reports of mine. So almost it’s not like a day, but it was definitely a little bit longer than that. So that people who used to get paid to listen to my direction then flipped it around and started paying me for my coaching. And I’m like, wow, this is pretty cool. Like I like this. This is pretty awesome. So some of my very early clients actually came from my old team. And then my first big break, my first corporate corporate assignment, my first corporate client, actually came from my old world, so they knew I had made the transition. And she called me up really in October. So my first full day as the founder of Peloton was September 1, 2014. She called me up in around mid October and said, hey, I think I have a VP. It was a boutique advertising agency based here in New Jersey that feeds into the pharmaceutical industry and bio. And that was the start of my corporate stuff. So early on, I had a mixture of like a couple corporate in addition to that one and then a lot of self paying people from my old company.
Their coaching that they wanted was career transition. So they’re like, you left. Tell us how to leave. So it became a little bit like LinkedIn resume interview skills as opposed to some of the coaching I thought I was going to get into that I was doing on the corporate side. But yeah. I had a whole bunch of people from my old company say, I need to leave. You left. The company’s changed. Can you help me find a new job? Which was really flattering. And that was pretty nice to feel.
Yeah, that feels definitely reaffirming, too, of you being a really good manager, which I did read in your book, when your company had to lay off a ton of people, how you struggle to have that conversation. There are families and friends and you’re at their weddings. That feeling is just so horrendous, to be honest. And so I want to know, how did you approach people? I mean, first of all, they approached you first, but how do you go about charging them and then really turn that into a business? I mean, some of these people seem to be younger, more junior than you were at the time.
Yeah. So when I first started out, to be honest, I was a little surprised they called me so quickly, so I hadn’t really framed in my mind what I would be charging. And I’m like, well, this sounds like a good number. And early on, as an entrepreneur, I think we undervalue our services all the time. And so then what we quote in terms of our fee is much lower than we can possibly quote, because we’re like because now the product becomes us. Right? Back in my corporate days, I sold products, I sold pharmaceuticals, but it wasn’t me, right? So the price was for the product, not me selling it or leading the salesforce. Now the product is me. And so now you can get into that lizard brain and Seth Godin, which we can share that common bond. We can really start overthinking. It so early on, I was like, well, how about this? Right? And I was a little bit gingerly, sort of approaching it. Even my first corporate assignment, I had the proposal done. It was about 10:00 at night. I was ready to hit send. And I looked at the proposal, and I’m like, It’s too much money.
It’s too much money. They’re going to say no. What are they going to do? They’re going to say no. And it took me, like, a half an hour of backsweats before I actually said, I’m just going to hit send. I went out into the Internet the next morning. I ran to my computer. I wanted to see, all right, did they respond yet? They didn’t respond. It was 630 in the morning. Like, come on, right? They eventually responded a few hours later, and they’re like, Sounds great. And then at that very moment in time, I was like, I should have quoted them a higher price. So I wrestled with that in the beginning, and I think a lot of entrepreneurs do what to charge what’s the value of my work, of my art? And I decided I would just play with it and try to find that sweet spot. I had a good idea how much executive coaches cost because in my corporate days, I hired a lot of corporate executive coaches, so I had at least that benchmark. But still, when it becomes you, it becomes a lot more difficult.
Yeah. So how long did it a lot of people struggle with it for a long time, extended period of time. How long did it take for you to find that sweet spot and to find that a package and price range for yourself?
Well, it took, I would say good four months. I would say that September, October, November, december time period. And then I flipped the calendar into my first full year from a calendar perspective, which was 2015. And I decided I set the intention, like, I’m not going to have this like, gremlin inner critic stuff about my pricing that I know I’m a good coach, I’m an excellent coach, and I’m providing value. So the clients I had early on also helped validate that. And then I decided as I gain more experience and I gain more credentials, then over time, I’ll raise my prices, but I’ll keep my prices grandfathered for my early clients. And that’s been sort of my approach ever since. But I decided, staking the ground, I’m not going to get all fussed up and worried and anxious about my pricing because I knew I had something to offer. And the people I was coaching and still coach this day are making multi million dollar decisions. So I felt that the return on investment was there for them because I knew how I was going to show up. If they matched my energy, then I think we were going to have a pretty good match.
Yeah, I mean, the next question is probably a little bit tricky and it’s something everybody, I guess, struggles with, but how should one go about pricing him or herself with a value proposition and such? People ask me about that all the time. And to be honest, it took me several iterations of my hourly rate to the client, and I’m still on hourly rate for extended projects. So help us out there.
Well, so one thing I think came up early on as an entrepreneur or freelancer, and I could call myself either or to be honest, that there were definitely some clients that were like, well, what’s your hourly rate? And I was like, oh homie, not going to play that game. I’m like, I’m not going to do the hourly rate because that gets way too confusing. So I saw that signal pretty early on and I decided to make a shift there to say I’m going to actually speak to people in packages. And I first started off offering like three, six, and twelve month packages, and then I realized, well, everyone’s picking three months. And so I was like, why am I offering six and twelve? Or why not just offer six and twelve? Right? Because my anchor point was three months. And everyone was like, well, I’ll start off small, and I could always elevate or extend. So I learned that through doing as we often do, right? And I decided, well, I offer six months. That’s how we start. And then if you want to go twelve months, we can do that. I started benchmarking my services against other people.
I also hired a good coach. I hired a coach that was going to sit down and be really transparent. She had about five or six years of experience. She came from Wall Street. And when I sat down with her, I said, I really need someone that’s more consultant than coach to really holistically look at my business. And I want to sort of look behind the curtain, because I was talking to other coaches, and I’m like, well, what do you charge? And everyone’s freaked out about pricing. They’re like, I don’t want to tell you my pricing. And I’m like, okay, because I think it gets into the story we tell ourselves about our value, and we can really judge someone else’s prices. Like, well, you charge so little, you charge so much, and who are you to charge that much? Why don’t you have confidence to charge more? Right? It’s that whole inner critic story that I think gets to a lot of entrepreneurs. So I look for a coach that would tell me, like, okay, here’s the landscape. Here’s what a good corporate rate is. I started talking to my HR professional friends in my network in LinkedIn, and I was like, how much are you charging or paying for executive coaching?
So then I had some good I think I had some good market research data, and then I put myself against that. And then I decided, okay, what kind of coach do I want to be? And I decided that was going to be all in concierge level, like all in partnership, and it wasn’t going to be a contract or a statement of work just for scheduled time to talk. I became like, your biggest cheerleader, your accountability partner, your strategist. In between sessions, I’ll text you, I’m thinking about you. Like, I’m all in, and I want you to go above and beyond and with above and beyond. I could sort of outperform the sow, but I also felt I could charge a premium relative to some of the other coaches that I was benchmarking against. So some of it was science and some of it was art, and some of it was gut.
Yeah, I love that with you being so hands on. And by the way, I am incredibly hands on with my clients. And I feel like almost in a way, we were able to do that because your kids are now teenagers and I don’t yet have children. I can’t imagine watching people with young kids trying to be so handson on somebody else’s business. But may I ask, since you’re so hands on people texting you or calling you over the weekend and nights and weekends, that means you probably could only take on fewer clients. Right. So you do need a higher price tag for that.
Yeah. So one of the exercises I did with the coach I hired as we started my first full year was, hey, there’s 168 hours in a week. What kind of income do you want to make revenue wise for your company? And let’s sort of reverse engineer it, like, how many hours are going to work? And then you start doing the math, right? So then you’re like, well, if you want to make that type of revenue for your company because it’s not about the money. It’s about what the money provides you, right? Safety, security, providing for family, all that jazz. That, yes. You have to get really honest with the math if you’re going to go all in as a coach. It’s just not that time. That 1 hour I spend with the client, like, I’m doing prep beforehand, I’m doing prep after. I’m thinking about them and looking for articles and other resources. So all that counts. Plus, you want to sleep and might want to get a workout in and you want to eat.
So, yeah, I tend to take on fewer clients, maybe than maybe some other coaches, but I can go much deeper. And people know, like, if they text me, they have something on their mind, they’ll get a response back pretty quickly from me, and then I’ll be able to find some time if they need to get on the phone for, like, a laser session, like, hey, something just popped up. I’m about to go into a meeting. If I have the time, I’m like, okay, give me a buzz. Let’s brainstorm it. Like, we can, you know, dampen down the emotion, get some focus, get connected with our breath, make sure that we have the right intentions showing up. So that’s the type of coach I wanted to be. Some would argue that I might be, like, too hands on. Like, you got to even let go even more. But I sort of like it, and I think my clients like it, too.
Yeah. I think we need to give ourselves a break to really appreciate what suits us, because I think every coach has a different style, and freelancer all work very differently. Hi there. It’s your host, Fawu, and you are listening to the Face Feisworld podcast. Today on the show, you will meet Michael O’Brien, who is a coach, a consultant, and also a recovering trauma patient. Definitely. I remember just in my past two years, the first year, I was so proud of myself, being able to go swimming, this and that, and to be honest, I didn’t even have a revenue goal for myself. I just want to see if I can make it work. And I did. Second year, which was 2017. I became crazy busy, which enabled me to really triple quadruple my revenue. But I lost all the freedom in the idea of why I wanted to be a freelancer to begin with. So I’m making adjustments now, like in the third year. So I want to definitely cover other topics. So before we switch subjects, what is the best way for people to learn more about you, your services?
So the best way would be my website, which is Michaeleanshift.com, so that has my whole story. And of course they can email me at michael at Peloton Cc.net. But if you go to the website, you can get all my socials, you can get my contact me, and you can get my phone number many different ways through Google to find me. So that’s how people can contact me.
That’s great because I realize that your name is not particularly unique. So how do you stand out among the competitions with your name?
Well, so connecting it to Shift definitely helps. And I decided early on as an executive coach that I had to put my voice out there. And that was a little nerve wracking to begin with. So back in my corporate days, I put my voice out there, but I had the.ORG chart to give me some comfort, right? It was my security blanket because I was the boss. So people wanted and expected me to put my opinions out there. I left that cozy environment, if you will, that structure, and now I have to put my voice out there. So I started blogging and trying to put the demons of 7th grade English to bed. And over time, and I think this is some advice I would give to any entrepreneur or freelancer, is be consistent, like keep on planting seeds. Put your voice out there on a routine basis so people expect that it’s out there. And then I think over time, that certainly helped with search engine optimization in connecting it back to my company, Peloton Coaching, and through LinkedIn, my company named Peloton Coaching sometimes gets confused with Peloton Cycles, those exercise bikes that we see advertised on TV.
And they have a much bigger advertising budget. So I thank them for putting the word Peloton into the public domain. I think it started off like trying to put my voice out there in a variety of different ways, to have it stick in terms of Google so people can find me. So if people Googled Michael O’Brien executive coach, most likely my website will pop up.
That’s great. You mentioned blogging and sort of getting your voice out there consistently. What is your routine and how often? What is the frequency of your blog?
Yeah, so it’s changed over time. So in the beginning, I was going to put out a long form blog. I’d say 600, 800 words every other week. And then in 2016, I did it once a week. So every Monday 2015, it was once a week. In 2016, I was doing it Mondays and Thursdays. Kept that going. And so it’s every Monday and Thursday. This year, I’ve mixed it up a little bit again. So Monday is still the same type of post. It’s pithy. I try to keep it to a two minute read as medium judges it on Thursday. I’m trying to put more video into the world. It seems like that’s the trend and people can connect with me and see my face and see my goofballiness and all that jazz. So every Thursday I tried to make the blog a Vlog and put out video. So I have one that I’ll post tomorrow. So I call them my shift tips because I do believe, like, little shifts, like little microsteps can actually, as cliche as it sounds, lead to our macro leaps. So I try to do a little thing twice a week, every week.
And last year I put out 102 posts. I took Christmas and Thanksgiving off.
Wow. So one post every three days?
Yes. So there are definitely some days where it’s like, it’s Monday again. It’s Thursday again. But what I do at the beginning of the year is I brainstorm all these different topics. I have standard topics that I’d like to write about that are all categorized on my website. And I definitely took a page from Seth. Seth puts out his blog every day. I don’t know how he does it. I’m totally amazed by it. And I was like, well, I’m going to try to do that and really force myself into that practice. Now it’s no longer a force. I actually love to do it. Some are really great, some are less than great, but I figured I’m going to put everything out there almost too as a role model to say, not every piece of art that you produce is the Mona Lisa. It’s not loved by everyone, but that’s the whole part of art and putting out your voice that sometimes you really hit the target and sometimes you don’t. And you know what? The next post I can do a little bit better.
I love that ideal. I mentioned this several times on those podcasts that by the time I was almost 30 years old, I realized I have forgotten how much I enjoyed writing and reading for my whole life. And at that point in nearly ten years into my career, the only thing I’ve ever written was email. And that was really sad. So not even the content, the structure, the grammar and the content of it, and the purpose of emails and snarky snippy people get at just even reading emails, and that becomes our own entire existence was going to work and be faced with 300 emails.
Yeah. So I would get not 300, but definitely like 150 to 200. And some days I would just lose count. But that was my writing. Almost like, they should teach this in like, again, 7th grade English, just how to write an email, because that’s what or now a text. But I really wanted to, like, stress myself, like, when I entered this new phase of my life. And for me, the most fun with it is actually the storytelling and, like, the little connection. So what I try to do with mine is tell personal stories, like real stuff that’s happened, and try to be clever. Now, my readers will debate how clever I am, but start with a little story in the beginning and the readers trying to figure out, well, where’s Michael going to go with this? And then I get to the heart of the lesson, the leadership lesson, and then at the end, I try to tie it back into the little clever way I opened it. So that’s my creative, fun side of it. In some blog posts, it’s easy to do that, and others it’s like, not so much. But I try to have fun with it, and I really do try to put it out there to say, hey, if I can do this, then everyone reading this, you can do it too, because you have a story to tell.
Because I do believe everyone has a story to tell. So try it. And if you just do it for a few people, that’s cool. And maybe a few people, you know, rose into a few hundred people or a few thousand, but I think we all have stories within us that are worth telling and sharing. And that’s one of the reasons why I write it, is like, hey, if I can do this, guys and gals, I think everyone can.
That is really true. And that’s sort of the missing ingredients in a way that’s counterintuitive, because, yes, on one hand, you do hear that a lot of blogs don’t get a ton of traffic. And to be quite honest, Phase feisworld podcast since it’s launched three and a half years ago, we’re certainly not surfacing anywhere near top 50 or this is no household name whatsoever. And I look at my own traffic, I think there’s a lot of improvements that, you know, I would love to increase my own web traffic, but at the same time, it’s just astonishing how many people know about the podcast, including my college advisor, who I saw for the first time in ten years at the swimming pool I go to. And she ran up to me and tell me details, specifics from two episodes. And same thing, I practiced taekwondo in Peabody, Massachusetts. I know you sort of know the area, so the North Shore area. And I saw this very quiet he’s a parent, very quiet, kind of nervous, the kids running around. I try to introduce myself. Welcome to the school. He was just a yellow belt, and he looked at me and said, You’re Faye.
Oh, you have a podcast, right? I don’t think this is the most.
Wow, that’s so cool.
Random thing. And I have. These also grandparents in their early seventy s at the school who barely knew how to operate Facebook, have listened to my podcast and tell me which episodes they loved the most. In this case was Chris Foss, who was the FBI agent and why he liked it. It was just the personal connection. And I know for a fact that perhaps some of my colleagues were super supportive and I know they listened to it religiously, but they’re also, I’m sure because I come from the marketing and advertising world, people are laughing their butt off thinking, what a stupid idea, nobody’s going to be interested in what you have to say. Right? So I almost bought into that, just thinking maybe, is it really worth it? But it’s incredible. You and I both know this. I would love to just emphasize that’s.
What I love about your podcast phase, it was the courage to do it in the first place. And you make it about the untold stories out there that there’s so many. But I love how the art like for your podcast, my blog, it’s messy, right? It’s not perfect and it’s not top of the charts. And I think you and I share a philosophy. Like if we reach just one person with each blog post or each episode, then that’s one person that we’ve reached, and that might make a small shift in their life. And I don’t hear back from everybody that opens my blog, but I do hear back each week from some people. Now, some people unsubscribe too, which is totally cool. Like if they don’t like it, it’s not for them, right? And that’s totally cool. But if I can reach some people and they’re like, hey, you gave me something to think about. Because if people get done with your podcast and if people get done with my blog and they just spend a minute or two just thinking about, hey, how did that touch me? How do I want to look at the world a little bit differently?
How do I want to set my intentions today? Then, boom, we’re in business. And the blog worked.
Yeah, absolutely. Hi there. It’s your host Fawu, and you are listening to the Phaserolled podcast. Today on the show, you will meet Michael O’Brien, who is a coach, a consultant, and also a recovering trauma patient. So it took us a while to get to your book, and I love the chapters about how your wife found out with a seven month old daughter found out that day, and have to travel for a very long distance to find you at the hospital and not be able to find you there because you don’t care. An ID that was probably the worst day in her life. But I enjoy reading it so much because I know you end up you’re okay now. But I just felt like the deepest desperation of like, how do people function, for one, and how do you go about writing it and it’s just there’s so much complexity in that storytelling. So I would love to open it up to you and for you to kind of share that story of sort of what happened that day.
Yeah. So that day was obviously well, I call it my last bad day. And some people say, well, wasn’t it your best day? Because it was the catalyst for your big shift. And I’m like, well, yeah, I can see how you would look at it that way, but when I was in the hospital, I decided I was going to call it My Last Bad Day. So on that day, from multiple angles, because the book, since you’ve read it, you know, it’s about different perspectives, because I’ve interviewed different people to share their perspectives. It’s sort of woven into the story, including my wife. So when I was there waiting for the medevac to come, I was really thinking that this isn’t happening. I really thought, like, bad things happen to other people. At that point in my life, nothing had really traumatic ever happened within our family. We didn’t have any cancer diagnosis or other type of illness. And so I was the type of guy that was like, hey, my thoughts and prayers go out to you, I’ll be there. But I just thought, bad things happen to other people. So when I was waiting for the medevac after the EMTs were remarkable and really saving my life after the SUV hit me.
But as I thought through it, I was like, well, life is going to be different. I made a commitment. The life is going to be different if I survive. And I knew that was in question. So off to the airport I went. The helicopter finally came and I tried to talk them out of taking me into a helicopter because I was scared of flying and the whole thing like that. And I knew I was very badly hurt. And the question of living and dying was a real one. It wasn’t a hyperbolic question, it was like I could just feel it. And the EMT said nothing, but I could just feel like, whatever you do, Michael, do not fall asleep. You read that in the book. I was determined not to fall asleep because I was deathly worried that if I fell asleep, I would never wake up again. So I’m getting medevac to the hospital. At the same time my company is trying to call my wife, and it took them like three phone calls to convince her to fly out because she was busy with Elle, three and a half years old, and Grady seven months old.
She’s like, I got a life going on here. And at the time, the severity of my injuries weren’t known, or at least they did not tell her. So she heard, well, he might have broken a couple legs because you only have a couple anyway, but and she’s like, well, that seems relatively minor. Can you fix them up and just ship him back home? Right. Because I got things going on here. And finally someone called from my company that got her attention, and she flew out. Well, the company was really great through this whole situation, and they flew out first class. And in first class, you get a cookie, right? You get some fresh cookies back in the day. Yeah. So she decided to wrap them up because by the time she got to the hospital, at least this is what she’s thinking. Michael will be in recovery. He might like a nice cookie. And she got to the hospital, long story short, and I was still in the trauma center, right, still in the operating room. And that’s when she sort of took control. She was like, hey, I want to talk to whoever comes out of that room next to find out what the heck is happening with my husband.
And then reality set in. They were like, hey, Michael’s been in a very bad accident. We did the best we could. The next 48 hours are going to be critical. And then she left and went back to the hotel room. And this is a long day for her, obviously. A long day for me, long day for everyone. And then reality just sort of sunk in, and it was time to sort of put on our safety belts and buckle in, because this was going to be a long haul to get back, and it was going to be the biggest test of our marriage. Right. So you take your vows in sickness and in health. All we had was health, and now we have the biggest test. And I’m happy to say we passed it with flying colors and we’ve been married come up this May, 24 years. That was a big test for any couple, right, that they go through something like that. You really get real with the bond that you’ve created.
Yeah. And there’s so much to be said about that. And then you certainly credit your wife in a way that I think through your words, that came through so clearly in a very gentle way that wasn’t like in your face. There’s no any dramatic moment, which is really the small things. Like you said actually earlier, you said all the micro changes were in the micro expressions and acts. That really represents at a macro level.
Yeah. Those acts of kindness. I think a message that hopefully I can relate to the audience is that when you have a life partner, those little things matter. But even if it’s just a friend, those little acts that you think, well, that’s so little like, why bother? I’m like, those things matter so much. I had a friend, Will. I write about him in the book, and Jamie, too. Will sent me three spinach burritos on dry ice from Washington, DC. It was so crazy. And it was so will and it was so awesome. And when I came back to New Jersey from New Mexico, janie bought me this steak and spinach because I was low, my iron count was low and they needed to really bump that up because I had lost so much blood through the trauma. And I tell you, I’m not a big red meat eater, but that was like the most amazing meal and those were amazing meals. Not because they were well prepared and tasty and the whole thing, but it was filled with love and those little things. When you’re sick, you sometimes feel invisible. You feel really lonely. And there are definitely moments and I write about this in the book, where when everyone left the hospital, I just felt really isolated and alone.
And those little things that people do for you when you need it the most makes you feel like you’re not invisible, that you matter, that you’re still connected to folks, and it makes it less scary and less fearful.
Wow, that’s really powerful. And I know it’s vulnerable for you to say that too, having gone through that.
As I share with you, it still like, percolates in my body. It’s just shift was. I wrote it, obviously for a variety of different reasons. I wrote it for my daughters who didn’t know pre accident dad. And I wrote it for my wife because I wanted people to read about how, like, freaking awesome she is. She’s freaking awesome. And she in that moment, she was like MVP times 1000, right? And I credit her a great deal for helping me get to this point. And also she was right there when I decided, hey, honey, I want to leave corporate America and start my own business and let go of the every other week paychecks that look pretty good and the benefits you get. And like, let’s do this. And she was like, okay, I’m going to bet on you, and I’m going to bet on her. And I think that’s what makes a good relationship.
I think the accident, as really traumatic as it was, really strengthened your relationship with your wife. And I think, like you said, it’s not just romantic relationships, but also friendships. Once you’ve gone through something together, you’re sort of in it for life. Like the friends who call me up to say, my husband is dying. I need someone to be here with me where I’m going. I’m also going through this medical treatment, even though there’s nothing she was freaking out and I drove in an hour and a half to a hospital I had never been to just to literally sit there with her for 4 hours. And she was so incredibly touched by that. But to me, it wasn’t really that big of a deal. I really appreciate you sharing, pouring your heart out for this part. Hi there. It’s your host, Fawu, and you are listening to the Face world podcast. Today on the show, you will meet Michael O’Brien, who is a coach, a consultant, and also a recovering trauma patient. Did you selfpublish that book?
So selfpublished indie published? Yeah. So it’s published by Red Hill Publishing. But they’re, in essence, my uber editor. And so one of the reasons why I went with Red Hill is that I had all these notes, like journals and stuff that I written, because I had starts and stops in my writing about this book because I wasn’t really sure why I wanted to write it. A lot of people told me, oh, you got to write this book. It’s going to be great for your business and speaking engagements and all that jazz. And that just seemed empty to me. And then when I took the All MBA, I was like, I’m going to go into this All MBA by Seth Godin, and I’m going to determine if this is a real book or not by the end. And when Seth asked what’s it for? That first prompt that I know you know of, I was like, well, the books for my girls. So I had everything on my computer. I hadn’t written stuff from the hospital. I had written stuff, and I needed a good editor. I didn’t know how to end the story because people would ask me, well, how does the story end?
I go, I’m still living it. Even today. I had to go into the city to do a medical procedure because I had my accident. It still continues. So Red Hill and Sally Collins there really helped me sort of structure the story because I was so close to it. And they also do something really remarkable. They create legacy memoirs. So they made 20 special deluxe copies of the book that I was able to give to 20 of the closest people during that time. So my girls have a copy. My wife has a copy. My surgeons have a copy, my physical therapist. And so I wanted the Artistic Artisanal care. 20 copies. No one can buy it on Amazon. And I found them just through a search. And I was like, that’s it. So some people are like, who you use and how’d you do it? And I said, well, through my editor and publishing. Through them, I definitely paid probably more than people would pay normally. But for me, it was those 20 copies that was like pure, like, love. I wanted them to have something that could sit in their bookcase that was really like a legacy, because they’re part of the book.
They’re part of the story. It’s just not my story. They’re part of the story. And I wanted to give them something special. I wanted that as, like, maybe another small token of thanks to say, like, listen, for whatever reason, the universe all put us together. And you were on that day, and because you were on, you saved my life, and you changed not only my life, but there’s a cascade. I definitely believe that when you change one life, you change lives everywhere. And it changed my wife’s life and my daughters and the people they touch. And that’s why I decided to give all the proceeds to charity, to World Bicycle Relief, because I wanted the book to be about the message and not about making money, because that didn’t feel right to me. I’m like, I don’t know. And that’s not to criticize people who sell their book for a profit. I think that’s really cool, too. But for me, I wanted to spread the message that when we show up with the right mindset, with right intentions, and we consistently keep pedaling, we can get closer to that best version of who we can be and be human beings and connect with each other and love each other.
And I figured, why not give the money away? And giving the money away gives me a lot of freedom with the book. Right. So I don’t have to answer to, like, Penguin books or Random House. I can do a lot of cool things with the book because it’s just about the message of the book, and not about every book has to make me X amount of dollars.
That is so true. That’s why I love having normal human conversations on the show. I don’t worry about call to actions or structuring the show exactly the same way. I mean, there are people who can record literally ten episodes a day. I can never do that with the way I approach my podcasting routine. I don’t ever ask the same set of questions to different people to mean that completely defeats the purpose.
Yeah, because we’re having a conversation. It’s not an sat, right?
For me, it’s always about that. It’s about the message that we send out. And I have faith that what I put out there will come back to me. And it might not come back to me in money. It could come back to me in a lot of different ways, but I do believe that will come back, and so I’m at peace with that.
I think one of the lessons I learned from a guest of mine, Barry Alexander, he’s a consultant to musicians, and they run a competition in New York. One thing he said that resonated with me all these years is he said most musicians and artists, too, believe they’re only as good as other people say they are. And I realize that’s so true with our own lives. If somebody who’s a sales or marketing executives you respect very much tell you, why are you giving money away? Or sometimes I often hear your podcasting, do you make money? How do you make money? If you’re not making money, what’s the point of it? But it’s really true that my business is the foundation. My podcast has become the foundation of my business, and people are coming to me without any sales pitch to want to work with me. How do you measure that? And I think just the way that you’re describing giving away the book and talking about your own lives and your family’s life, that is the best version of you. It doesn’t matter what other people say, you’ve become that. You don’t need any validation for that moment.
So I got to ask you, though. You said your daughter, you wrote the book for your daughters, and there were seven months and three. I mean, the book came later. Now they’re teenagers. They can easily read the book. What are some of the feedback you’ve gotten from them? Or are they, being teenagers? They want to tell you.
Well, it was interesting. They both took different approaches. So my oldest, as I was finishing chapter, she wanted to read it as I went, and my youngest wanted to read it. When it was all said and done, as I mentioned, I wrote it for them. And in all honesty, I was like, if they get the book and they love the book, and they could take away some life lessons, then every other copy I sell beyond that would be whipped cream and cherry. And I can’t probably describe the emotions I felt like when they came to me and they told me how much they loved it. To me, it was priceless and for them to appreciate. So Grady was seven months old at the time of the accident, so she doesn’t remember any of that timeframe. Elle a little bit, three and a half. But as our memories go, we don’t remember what it was like to be three and a half years old. But they definitely were around through a lot of the surgeries because I’ve had, like, ten procedures, and they were old enough to remember some of that and some of the rehab.
So for me, their reaction was, that was it. That was everything. And now, again, the freedom is like, okay, I got that done. Check. They love it. They love it. And now I can put it out there and people find it. Clearly, I would love more people to read it. I would love if it was a New York Times bestseller, because that would mean we’re doing more work for the great people at World Bicycle Relief, because every copy of the book we sell gets us closer to building more bicycles for young women in Africa, in countries like Zayer and Zimbabwe and Kenya. But people find it. And I know when people read it, it really speaks to them because it’s relatable. I think that’s why I love your podcast, is that you talk to relatable people, and it’s not a fanatical story. It’s not like something bad happened to me, and the definition of success is to climb out Everest. And there are a lot of people have done that, and they’re totally amazing. But my definition of success was my own definition. And I think as entrepreneurs and freelancers, to stay away from comparison is helpful.
And I’m trying to live that and write about that and just put that type of message out there. So that everyday guy or gal who just wants to be a really good husband or wife, father or mother or friend, they say, okay, I can do this and I don’t have to beat myself up if I’m not climbing Mount Everest. Yes, and I think we need more of that in this world because we’re so celebrity focused and we latch onto the icons that I think it’s entertaining, but I’m not sure if it’s really healthy over the long haul.
Yeah, and it’s not very helpful either. Mount Everest are so narrowly minded or a certain dollar amount, I think it’s so easy to measure because you recognize that mountain where you recognize a celebrity or dollar amount is something that you can see on a calculator. It’s easy. So thank you so much, Michael. Sorry for taking care. Yeah, talk to you very soon.
Alright, see ya.
Bye. Hi there, it’s me again. I want to thank you very much for listening to this episode and I hope you were able to learn a few things. If you enjoyed what you heard, it would be hugely helpful if you could subscribe to the Phase Role Podcast. It literally takes seconds. If you are on your mobile phone, just search for Phaserael Podcast in the Podcast app on iPhone or an Android app such as Podcast Addict and click subscribe. All new episodes will be delivered to you automatically. Thanks so much for your support. Thank you.
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