13 Apr #79. Mike Lee on How to Control the Controllables
Sometimes pain is our body’s way of letting us know we need to make big changes. Instead of stressing out about the stuff you can’t change, focus on what you can do. Control the controllables in your life.
WELCOME TO THE DARIN OLIEN SHOW
Mike Lee was the #3 ranked fighter in the world. But he was in pain every day.
For the last ten years, Mike Lee fought in front of millions of spectators in the world’s biggest arenas. This big tough guy was winning fights left and right. You would have no idea of the private fight he dealt with outside of the ring. For years, Mike struggled with chronic pain and health issues that kept him in and out of hospital beds.
After being on eight prescription medications at one point, Mike was fed up and felt like he had lost control of his life. He was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease but knew popping pills was no way to live. Lots of searching and learning led him to a complete overhaul of his life and his health. Nutrition, meditation, and CBD became his saviors as he learned ways to fight the inflammation in his body.
Although Mike decided to retire from boxing, he did so with his head held high and a 21-1 record. Today, he is the co-founder and CEO of Soul CBD, a highly successful wellness brand where Mike can give others an effective way to fight their own pain. In this episode, Mike tells me all about the things that led to his journey of wellness. I had such a fantastic time interviewing this dude. He is so open, so kind, and just has the most inviting, infectious energy. I can’t wait for you to hear all about his life, struggles, and how he’s learning to “control the controllables” in his life.
ALSO IN THIS EPISODE:
- Why Mike became a boxer
- His struggle with pain and autoimmune issues
- The journey to wellness
- How to control the controllables in your life
- Funny surfing stories
Darin: You are listening to the Darin Olien Show. I’m Darin. I spent the last 15 years exploring the planet looking for healthy foods, superfoods, environmental solutions, and I’ve had my mind blown along the way by the people, the far off places I have been, and the life-altering events that have changed my life forever. My goal is to help you dive deep into some of the issues of our modern-day life, society’s fatal conveniences. The things that we do that we’re indoctrinated into thinking we have to, even though those things are negatively affecting us, and in some cases, slowly destroying us and even killing us. Every week, I have honest conversations with people that inspire me. My hope is through their knowledge and unique perspectives they’ll inspire you too. Together, we’ll explore how you can make small tweaks in your life that amount to big changes for you, the people around you and the planet, so let’s do this. This is my show, the Darin Olien Show.
Darin: Hey, everybody, welcome to the show. This is The Darin Olien Show. I’m Darin. Are you ready? This is an episode that has literally got a light heavyweight, badass boxer, Mike Lee, on the show. So for the last decade, Mike has fought in front of millions of people. So the biggest arenas in the world, Madison Square Garden, MGM Grand, and he was climbing his way up the ranks in the prime of his career. And then all of a sudden, he spent almost two years in and out of hospitals battling debilitating challenges. He couldn’t get to the root of it. In and out of hospitals, then he later found out autoimmune condition, Man, ending his career, boom, done. So all of these hospital visits, he then what is the choice, become a victim to it, take a bunch of pills all the time? No, he decided to look in, tune in, figure out what he needed to do for him, unpack from a nutrition standpoint, understand the mindset, take the training that he had learned in the boxing career and turn it inward and turning on his body and what his body needed, which then led him to CBD. And that got to the underlying causes and inflammation and challenges. You know, when you’re ranked number three, and you’re fighting all over the world, and eventually fighting for the world title, he had a career of 21 and 1, and then boom, autoimmune condition ended your bloody career. That’s gnarly. And so that’s a lot of soul searching. And what he ended up doing is, so not only now the CBD and the CBD oils, and all this stuff helped him personally, with all the nutritional unpacking, with all the testing and all of that stuff, he then decided to turn in and turn towards the very thing that helped him out, and that is he started his own CBD company called Soul CBD, perfect title. And boom, that became seven figures, and that’s his full-time job. So this guy, what a sweet guy, but you look at his hands, you look at his face, I mean, look at his face and he’s a good-looking guy. And he doesn’t even look like he was beaten around for all those years. You look at his hands, you’re like, yeah, they’ve been broke a few times. It’s kind of cool. And he came to the yurt, and we got to hang out personally. I love this guy, and you’re gonna love his story. And you’re gonna love the trajectory that he pivoted on. And listen, we all can relate to the challenges that drop us to our knees. When we are dedicated to something, we are committed, our whole life is going towards it, things are happening, things are rolling, and then boom, something changes, and then we have to soul search. And that happens to all of us. You don’t get out of jail free. This is life. What are you going to do with that information? What are you going to do to go in so that you can overcome? And this guy, Mike Lee, is one of those guys. So enjoy this conversation. Let it inspire you. So enjoy this conversation with my good new friend, Mike Lee.
Darin: Dude, awesome.
Mike: Thanks for having me, man.
Darin: Good to have you here. Thanks for making the drive. And it’s always fun to be in person, especially new people that I’ve met. And you can vibe it out that way. So yeah, appreciate that. And I definitely have a lot of faith in my immune system, and the way I take care of myself.
Darin: So that’s a big thing.
Mike: You know, I think, to that point, what people don’t talk about enough is your immune system. It’s like, there’s a lot of studies coming out finding that insufficient levels of vitamin D are having terrible effects on people that get COVID. So obviously, certain measures need to be taken to try to prevent COVID and the spread. But I also think we need to be talking about our immune system, man. We need to be talking about our diet, and this is the perfect time to do it, and people just aren’t. So I’m glad to be on shows like this where you can have health experts and doctors come on, and finally are starting to talk about these things.
Darin: And now our medical association is basically saying, oh, you catch something, you have no control over it. So wear this, do that, do this, take this vaccination, blah, blah, blah. And it’s really, to your point, it’s not taking into the effect of all of these incredible things nutritionally that we can do, not to mention the toxification of our humanity that we’ve created so much in the world.
Mike: Absolutely. And I think the western medicine has advanced incredibly in the past 100 years, and I’m sure we’ll dive into more of this. But during my career, I got really sick. I was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease, and it led to my immune system shutting down. But what I found throughout that process is that the system, unfortunately, is designed to treat not cure. And especially with chronic diseases, chronic illnesses, I found that every answer I was getting from so many doctors was just prescription medication. At one point, I was on eight different medications. And I just knew another one wasn’t the answer.
Darin: And there wasn’t healing in that. It was just one–
Mike: It was band-aids. It was band-aids over the problem. So, unfortunately, and I talked about pain as a gift all the time, but that pain brought me the gift of learning about opening my eyes to everything you just talked about. The fact that your gut and your intuition is probably the best doctor you’vell ever had. That’s not saying don’t listen to doctors. I’m not a doctor. They’re a lot smarter than I am. I’ve just been getting punched in the head as an athlete for the last 10 years, but I do know my body better than anybody else. And so that’s really was the beginning, the origin of my journey into health and wellness and figuring out that I need to figure out ways outside of prescription medication and these answers to really heal myself from the ground up.
Darin: Yeah, man. So let’s unpack because you’ve got a really, I mean, fascinating– I mean, as a guy, it’s like fighters and had a great career, right, Light Heavyweight, 21 and 1.
Mike: I won a few Junior World titles. And my last fight, I just fought for a world title at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Things I would dream about since I was eight years old, your face all over the casino. And just at that moment you dream of where multi-city press tour, and I got to top three in the world. My highest ranking was number three at the time. And so I’m grateful I had a very long, incredible career with a lot of ups and downs.
Darin: Yeah. So, how did that start? Did you really just want to box since you’re a kid?
Mike: It’s funny, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to unpack why I’m doing things or why I started doing things. And I’m realizing now as I get older and more mature, I realized that I didn’t love boxing as much as I love competition. So I started fighting at age eight years old. I was born and raised in Chicago. My dad is an inner-city Chicago guy, came from nothing and he was an athlete himself, but an aggressive Italian guy who just threw me in the ring. So it was kind of sink or swim.
Darin: Figure it out.
Mike: Figure it out. And so I started fighting at young age before I even knew. And I was just scrappy when I was younger, getting in fights and other sports. And I remember in hockey, I was a goalie. And at 10 years old, I had the most penalty minutes than anybody else on the team as a goalie, and anybody that knows hockey knows that like, this kid’s got a problem. I didn’t fight much, and even to this day, I’m not a person who enjoys conflict, ironically. I’m not that guy at the bar if you bump into me, I want to start a fight. In fact, I walk away from fights constantly or areas of conflict. So, for me, I just love the competition. And boxing gave me that. And I think there were some things in me that were innate, you know, hand-eye coordination, athleticism, that got me to where I was. And then the rest of it was just hard work, man. And I started like I said, fighting at eight years old, and then playing a million different sports. And I got a lot better in college, started fighting all over the country. I won the Chicago Golden Gloves in my class. Then I started fighting in pro camps. And then this idea when I became a junior and senior in college, I went to the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, and I was boxing there as well. But this idea of, wow, maybe I could do this. Maybe I have what it takes because I started sparring pros and winning these tournaments and doing well in the amateurs. And sure enough, at 21, I got signed by Top Rank, which I’ll never forget that phone call from from Bob Arum and Manny Pacquiao, Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya. I mean, getting a call from– those guys were all with top rank at one point. So for me, that was like getting a call from the New York Yankees, you know. And I had that moment where I knew that I was never really a risk-averse person. And I knew that to this day, some of the greatest things I have ever done in my life and sense of accomplishment have been things that scared the shit out of me before I did them. So I knew no matter what, even though people told me that I should either get into business or not getting into boxing, it’s obviously an extremely dangerous sport, that I had to go for it, man. I knew one day I’d be laying on my deathbed and I would always regret if I didn’t go for it, whether the first fight, I broke my hand and never fought again, or I go fight for a world title. At least I can go to bed at night knowing that I went for it. And that was always my ideology. So I’m just grateful that it kind of took off, and I did make it to those title fights.
Darin: That’s amazing. And you have this Notre Dame background. So, again, you’re kind of breaking the norms here. It’s like no one expects a boxer to have any sort of degrees at all. And really, you had that, and you still kind of went forward in a pro career. So talk to me about that moment when you went Pro. And then kind of that journey of, you know, it’s so easy to take these routes of this is what other people may want of me because there’s danger over here. There’s all this other stuff, you have a career, you have a degree in finance, I think, and great school. And it was just you were going to go for it.
Mike: It’s interesting, that was such a pivotal moment in my life to where I needed to decide. I had a lot of friends and family that were telling me that I shouldn’t do this. I mean, they saw how much I wanted it, how hard I was training, how well I was doing, but they saw the risk too. This type of sport, they always say you don’t play boxing. You know, you play football, you play basketball. You don’t play boxing, but I loved it, man. That feeling, that adrenaline rush that you get when you jump on the ropes in front of thousands of people. And I’m lucky enough to have had that at Madison Square Garden and Cowboys Stadium. Through all the pain and ups and downs and surgeries and hospital visits, I wouldn’t trade it for the world because it’s made me who I am as a human being. But before I turned pro, it’s wild that I read this study and I remember literally sitting in my room senior year, and the study came across randomly. Maybe it was an ad that was served to me or I don’t know why but it was about a month before I got that phone call and decided to turn pro. The study resonated with me and I believe that God and the universe put things in your life at certain moments. What the study did is they interviewed people from all over the world, different races, different ethnicities, different religions, even different ages. And they wanted to find what was going through their minds when they were on their deathbeds. These were all people, unfortunately, that were dying. And what they found was fascinating. It struck me right there. And I remembered as a 21-year-old young man, to this day, they found that the vast majority of people regretted the things they didn’t do more than the things they did. And I sat there and thought to myself, that’s never gonna be me. I don’t care if I make a fool of myself. If I break my hand, if I even get injured, I’m never going to be that person that regrets the things I didn’t do. And for some reason, it was such a powerful moment in my life. And sure enough, weeks later, I had the opportunity and that call from Top Rank and I said yes, and I never looked back. And Darin, it’s been a hell of a ride. A lot of ups and downs, especially in the middle of my career, but you know, I’ve always had that ideology. Yeah, man, I’m grateful.
Darin: So what was some of the hardest challenges in the middle of your career? I mean, because you have to overcome because it’s not easy going after anything, let alone getting your head punched in and prone to injury just by way of the sport.
Mike: Well, I will say one thing, you know, I definitely had some talent, but there were a lot of other fighters that are better talented than me. I think I just worked harder. But when I first turned pro, I moved to Houston, Texas. I was training with Ronnie Shields, one of the best trainers ever lived. I was in this camp with all these monsters, man. These guys who were world champions, and I was getting my ass kicked. I realized very quickly, the speed is different. And a lot of my buddies say that as well that are in the NFL or the NHL or whatever sport it is, once you get to that top tier, top-ranked World class level, the speed gets very different. Something you don’t see on TV. When you’re in the ring or you’re on the field, it’s a different type of speed. That was tough to get used to at first, you know, but I adapted. And, throughout all the ups and downs and incredible experiences, I think, another moment in my life that kind of changed who I was and my trajectory as a human being was I was about 12 and 0, I was undefeated. On top of the world, man. I felt immortal. I was winning fights. I just want to fight Madison Square Garden. It was my first fight on HBO Undercard and I felt like this ride would never end. I was I was doing Superbowl commercials for Subway. It was it was surreal. It was crazy. I was like just a few years ago, I was sitting in my dorm room wondering what am I going to do with my life. And here I was, but I started to get really sick in the beginning of 2013. And my 13th fight we ended up canceling because I started waking up with incredible pain. My immune system started shutting down. I was getting daily headaches, inflammation all over, flare-ups, chronic pain. And it just got worse and worse. And I spent the next almost two years about 18 months in and out of hospitals battling what we later found out was an autoimmune disease known as ankylosing spondylitis, but that was only beginning. That’s an autoimmune disease that attacks your lower back and inflammation, but I was getting constant flare-ups. And I just think that it wasn’t one thing that caused it, but I do think that me constantly being in fight or flight, not only during the fights but like the training, everything. It was breaking my immune system down. So that really changed me as a human being. It humbled me. I went from being on top of the world to hospital beds. Literally, laying in the hospital bed and my commercials would come on. And my sense of identity got stolen from me. And I felt like why is this happening to me. As I mentioned before, I was on eight different medications at the time, on antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication. I wasn’t telling people. I was embarrassed and completely addicted to painkillers. And it was a long, tough journey to get back in the ring and get some sort of health but I’ve been in some sort of pain every single day in my life. And I’ve now had to learn how to deal with that pain, not only physically but mentally.
Darin: Many of you who follow me know I’ve spent most of my life searching for the healthiest foods on the planet from the Amazon jungle to the Andes of Peru, to the Himalayas and Bhutan, to the deserts of Africa, and everything in between discovering hundreds of plants and herbs and superfoods like this is my passion. Things like sacha inch, an Incan treasure, wild [unintelligible 00:31:41] mushrooms, things like Maya nuts, another Aztec superfood, wild cocoa moringa, many adaptogenic herbs and on and on and on. If you look hard enough, there are a few unknown extraordinary foods around the world that people still don’t know about. And a few years ago, I came across my favorite superfood discovery of all time, barukas nuts. Why is that my favorite? Well, when I first tasted them, my eyes lit up. I was blown away. They’re so delicious with notes of popcorn and cocoa and chocolate with peanut butter, and with this amazing crunch, so the taste alone just absolutely blew me away. But after sending them to the lab, which I do, and getting all the tests, I realized they’re the healthiest nuts on the planet. No other nut even compares. They have an unusually high amount of fiber, which is critical for healthy digestion. We’re all getting way too low of fiber in our diet and it’s good for the healthy bacteria and microbiome. And they’re off the charts in super high antioxidants, and have few calories than any other nut. It’s jam-packed with micronutrients. And what they don’t have is just as important as what they do have because they’re found in the forest in the savanna what’s called the Cerrado biome of Brazil, not grown on a plantation or a farm. They’re untouched by industrial pesticides, larvicides, fertilizers. They’re truly a wild food. But they’re not just good for you, they’re really good for the planet. Most other nuts require millions of gallons of irrigated water, not to mention, using bees and shipping them across the United States and just horrible sustainable practices just to grow certain nuts annually, but Baruka trees require no artificial irrigation. At one time, the Cerrado’s forest were made up of millions of these trees. These trees are incredible. They’re nitrogen fixers. They give back to the other plants in the forest. Their grandfather of sacred trees, but most of them were chopped down to make way for cattle, soy, and corn production. When you’re down in Brazil, it can be absolutely shocking. And actually, I’ve cried several times with miles and miles of deforested land filled with soy farms. This beautiful Savanna filled with soy farms and cattle grazing. Our mission is to reverse that. And the long term goal is to plant 20 million new baruzeiro trees throughout the Cerrado. And if that wasn’t enough, we are also providing highly beneficial and fair jobs for thousands of indigenous people so they can stay on their land and they can thrive with this consistent income every year forging and working with Barukas. Barukas are truly good for you, good for the planet, and good for the world community. It’s a win all the way around. I really think you’ll love them, so I’m giving all of my listeners 15% off by going to barukas.com/darin. That’s B-A-R-U-K-A-S dot com backslash Darin, D-A-R-I-N and using the code “Darin” at the checkout. I know you will enjoy.
Darin: How did you get out of it? I mean, painkillers, I mean, so easy. Opiates are so easily addicted and obviously prescribed a lot and floating around a lot so it’s not hard to get ahold of those regardless. And so what did you do? Obviously, your identity is stripped, as an athlete, now of a sudden, you have no control, and you’re a victim to this thing. So what happened? How did you get out of it?
Mike: Well, first of all, the painkiller stay in front of me, standpoint, a lot of athletes, it’s easy to get those. And also you feel like, if I’m not on the field, if I’m not in the ring, someone’s gonna take my place. Like there’s always a younger, more talented, hungrier guy. And then it was the identity thing. I was like, I need to do whatever it takes to get back in the ring. And as I look back now, I wonder if that was the smart move or not. All I knew is that it would cause me more mental pain if I wasn’t still a boxer because that identity in an athlete was so core to my being. It’s like how I receive love. So I thought to myself, who am I if I’m not that? And I know a lot of people deal with that as they transition careers or get out of relationships, whatever it is, but especially athletes because we receive love and praise and self-worth through achievement. And it took a long time for me to realize that I am enough without those things, and I’m still working on it. It’ll be a constant journey, man. But really what I started to do and what changed my mindset is, I realized I started diving into health, wellness, nutrition, things outside the scope of prescription medication for me. And while there are some things with the medication, I was on Humira for years, there are some things that calm down the inflammation and helped me. I knew I had a goal to get off of it. And I ended up slowly but surely weaning off of everything to the point where today, I am on zero prescription medication and I am proud of that. Some people may need it. So once again, I don’t want to demonize it but for me, all that pain brought me to a point, like that pain was a gift because I started opening up books, reading podcasts, and even on the mental side. I started diving into Dr. Joe Dispenza, Tony Robbins, learning how much your mind and psyche affect your body. I started meditating, which for me was insane. I started doing more like visualization on my health. I really dove into my diet. And I cut out gluten, I cut out dairy, I started doing IgG, MRT testing, seeing nutritionists instead of internal medicine doctors who just wanted to write me prescriptions. The diet was massive. I discovered CBD. CBD was massive for me in terms of anxiety. And as long as I had zero THC, I was fine on the drug testing. Infrared, saunas, I have one in my home now, cold plunge. It’s another thing I have in my place that’s massive for me. I started finding natural ways to fight the inflammation. And it ended up chipping away at the pain. It ended up allowing me to start weaning off this medication. And two years later, I had my comeback fight live on NBC in Philadelphia. I fought another undefeated fighter. I got a sixth-round knockout. It was one of the greatest wins in my career, not because of the opponent or the time in my life but for me. No one knew why it was so important to me. And I told myself, I just got to get to this fight, even if I never fight again, to prove to myself that I can do this when I didn’t believe I could. And so it wasn’t one aha moment or one supplement or anything like that. It was a series of really educating myself.
Darin: So what were some of the key things for you like, obviously, the dairy, the pro-inflammatory things, I would assume processed food and you said gluten and dairy. What else did you add in or eliminate?
Mike: Yeah, I mean, diet was huge. And like we talked in the beginning, people aren’t talking about that enough. As the foundation of what you’re putting in, so that was massive and really understanding. You know, everybody’s so unique. There’s no blanket. Everyone says, oh, I do the keto, I do the Paleo, or I do this diet. That’s great, but everybody’s unique. So it was just constant trial and error. But what I loved about what I was doing, and even the CBD, which I fell in love with, just to help me with anxiety, and all these things that I ended up helping me with pain because I realized that my mind was causing a lot of this pain or at least making it worse. It’s never the chicken or the egg, so to speak. But I realized how important that all these little things were added up. But I do think that the breath work and the meditation was massive. So I started working with breath coach people, literally one on one, similar to like the Wim Hof Method, and doing these different things where I was learning how to control my breath. And I started doing little visualizations and meditations and these little breathwork. I think Dr. Andrew Weil has the 4-7-8 breathing that I read about that I love, you inhale 4 through the nose, hold for 7, exhale audibly out 8. Little things like that that I would do in the dressing room in the back of Madison Square Garden, MGM, whatever it was, you hear that crowd going crazy, put my headphones on, do my breathwork, bring my heart rate down. And it just felt like I was in the zone. So I think that started not only helping my athletic performance but physical wellbeing. And athletes in general are really moving towards this man. This idea of sports psychologists who I’ve worked with in the past, and this idea of mindfulness and breathwork. It’s moved past this idea of woo-woo and just, oh, that’s so out there, to now massively accepted in the athletic community. And I think that’s awesome.
Darin: Yeah, especially the breathwork, too. I mean, the Yogi has been talking about this forever, but it just couldn’t translate over. I think it was over a decade ago, we started doing Wim Hof, just a bunch of that as athletes as recovery to the workout. And next thing you know, we’re tripping dude. We’re having an out-of-body experience. I had like ancestors come visit me and like, we’re in the gym. Just doing ridiculous breath stuff and it’s unbelievable.
Mike: It’s wild. I’ve had those exact same experiences. I’m glad he brought that up. And I’m not the only one here, but I’ve done breathwork by myself and groups. It is incredible. I’m not sure what type of, once again, I’m a doctor or scientist, but what type of chemicals it’s releasing or what it is, but that naturally, you can create those states to where– I’ve had out of body experiences during that Wim Hof where I cried during sessions, I’ve laughed, or I remember one time I did breathwork session, it was for about 45 minutes intense out-of-body, it felt like it was five minutes. And my teacher’s name is Stevie. She’s awesome. She was like, what were you thinking about? You were smiling the whole time. I was like, I was smiling? I didn’t even realize I was smiling. It’s almost like you did a plant medicine journey, in a sense, and it has a lot of similarities. But it’s really cool that we’re just scratching the surface of how powerful the brain is, how powerful the mind is, and what it can do to affect the body. And I truly believe, I mean, think about it, we have stresses in our life constantly and you know, we give ourselves heart attacks. I mean, more people die of heart attacks in this country than almost anything else.
Darin: On Mondays.
Mike: Oh really? I didn’t know that.
Darin: On Mondays, dude, by a huge degree.
Mike: Well, that that says it right there, right? But if we’re killing ourselves with thoughts that we’re manifesting, this isn’t an actual saber-toothed tiger running about to kill us, these are thoughts about deadlines or whatever it is, but who’s to say in the next 50 or 100, 1,000 years of humanity that we can’t heal ourselves with our brain. Why not?
Darin: When you’re breathing and you’re out there, you’re no longer this body. You might as well have taken a plant medicine. You might as well have taken LSD or whatever your brain is producing every and any chemical, and that’s the beautiful thing. So number one, I applaud you for going in and taking control of your health and of your mind and then being able to make that choice and go back to I’m going to go box again. So after that, after you came back, how many more matches did you–
Mike: I ended up having, let’s see, 22 fights, so nine more fights after that 13th. I haven’t gotten hit in the head that much that I can’t do simple math yet. But actually, yeah, about nine more fights. And it’s interesting, towards the end of my career, I really started losing the love of the sport. And this last fight I had, I knew that win or lose, it was gonna be my last fight. I could barely get through the training camp. I had really gone so far from those hospital beds to back in the ring and training. But to perform at an elite level, once I got 17 and 0, I think I made top 15 in the world, then I started winning more, top 10, top five. When you’re competing against that type of talent, it takes everything in your being, and I was just in too much pain, man. So this last training camp, damn, nearly broke me. You know, we’re doing multi-city press tours, that’s very stressful. I’m training. I’m sparring every day. I was still excited because it was a dream of mine. But it was this weird feeling of like, do I really want this? And I truly believe in my last fight, which I lost, my performance showed that. You can’t go into the ring second-guessing yourself. And I’ll tell you an interesting story that happened for the first time ever in my career. So I’m getting out of the limo and normally in these big fights, you know, you walk into the arena, they have a camera in front of you, you do your entrance walk, you’ve got your entourage behind you, or whatever it is, yeah, you’re feeling yourself. But for whatever reason, I stepped out of the car, cameras in your face, and I’m about to go in the dressing room and I’m smiling, but I had this thought that came across my mind that honestly kind of scared me. I never had it in 21 other fights. I thought to myself, am I going back to the hotel room tonight or am I going to the hospital tonight? I’ve been to the hospital after fights. The fight before, I broke my rib in the second round when eight more rounds collapsed in the dressing room. Broke my rib completely, went to the hospital till 4 AM. I’m not afraid of pain. I’m more scared of losing than pain. That’s how my entire life and career was. I was that damn motivated. But that moment, all the pain, everything that I’ve gone through over the years kind of hit me right before the fight and I thought, am I going to die tonight? And in 2019, that year, I think three fighters died. Top Rank guys, one of them undefeated. I know one of his trainers. One was a fight on his own, another one was a guy that fight on the ESPN, went to the hospital, rushed to the hospital, later, had brain hemorrhage, ended up passing away. For whatever it was, the universe gave me that feeling. And I think that I lost in the way I did because it was my way of letting me know you need to move on. You did what you did but it’s time to change your identity, it’s time to have another journey in life. So that thought going through my head as we’re walking in the dressing room kind of scared the shit out of me. And I stepped out of it, got back into it, went into the ring, fought my ass off, ended up losing. But still, I’ll never forget that moment because I had 21 other fights where that didn’t cross my mind at all. I was like, let’s go, let’s do this. I was excited. So that was a huge moment for me that I realized that I need to focus on my health. And if I want to live another 70 years healthy, I need to focus on that.
Darin: Yeah, that’s huge. And that’s the universe also stepping in and giving you that little glimpse enough to scare the shit out of you. And enough to where it’s scary, those moments too like, we’ve all blown off those intuitions. And we know that in retrospect, you’re like shit, I should have listened because I just screwed up, I just heard someone, I just whatever. And it’s scary to think even your position in your career and in your field that what if you didn’t listen to that? What if that was a foreshadow of the next fight if you didn’t retire or whatever? So from there, you’re like your heart wasn’t in it, you’re done. And did you start thinking of what you want to do after or it took you a while to kind of transition to that space?
Mike: Well, I co-founded this company with my sister, Soul CBD, about a year before that. Well, we thought it was originally kind of a little side hustle, invest in the business, hired a couple of people to help run it and it just took off. So it was crazy. The first year of this company, I was literally training for a world title. I would get off the phone with media, multi-city press tour, training, on the phone with my CBD team, on the phone with lawyers. We were trying to raise a little bit of capital. It damn near broke me. That was another reason. I bit off more than I could chew. So another reason why I had this pain, I discovered a bunch of different things, CBD happened to be one of them, I wanted to share it with the world, co-founded the business. It gave me a nice transition into this. And now, I’m full-time for the past year since I retired, CEO of the company. It’s really taken off. We’ve helped thousands of people. I’ve got 13 people working for me. If I’m gonna sit here and be honest, I still miss that adrenaline rush. I miss that feeling man of walking out of a tunnel and thousands of people screaming. I don’t know if I’ll ever replace it. But that was the universe giving me an easier way to transition because, as you said, who am I? That was the big question that kept going crossed my mind and probably why I didn’t retire years earlier because I didn’t know who I was without boxing and without this identity. And I’m still trying to break that down, but that kind of helped me transition into after that fight and after I realized I really wanted to retire into a new business where I can help people, I can be on shows like this and try to instill hope in people, and see what’s next for me, the next chapter my life.
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Darin: So who are you now, if you were to try to put that into words?
Mike: That’s a great question. It’s interesting you say that because I think the first thing people ask is what do you do? And so who am I? I think that I am a person who instills hope. And I’m an empathetic person. This pain has caused me to be an empath. And I think I always kind of had it in me, which obviously is a conflict when you’re fighting and hurting people, but maybe that was part of the autoimmunity and my own true identity.
Darin: Your fighting yourself.
Mike: I was fighting myself, I really think so. And I think that anytime you’re trying to be something you’re not, your body’s gonna reject it, your minds gonna reject it eventually. And I think maybe that manifested itself in a disease, in pain. So who am I? I need to figure that out the next hopefully 70 plus years of my life. I’m 33 now. But I think that I’m a person who’s an empath, someone who went through pain to help others out of pain. And I’m somebody that has become more grounded and more comfortable with who I am. So I think that I’m a healer in a sense, and that’s what I want to be. I want to be more of a healer.
Darin: Those are incredible realizations because on the one hand, realize that potentially, you’re fighting an aspect of yourself and so manifesting into biological autoimmune, but then realizing you’re an empath. And so that’s a huge realization when you’re literally fighting people. And so on some level kind of hurting yourself as you punch someone because you feel their pain. And that’s kind of a crazy thing. So realizing, that’s got to be very interesting and freeing. I’m just curious as to what your view of the world is now. Where do you want to go? Obviously, a successful company and keep having that but now that you’re not dedicating every inch of your existence to training and fighting, and the next match and all of that stuff, that’s got a that’s a lot of time that’s freed up. So what else are you looking towards?
Mike: Little things. Now that I have this time on my hands and everything in my life since I put on gloves was dictated around a goal, winning world championships, winning titles, making money, fame, the wrong things, but achievement. I’m now finding that I’m trying to do things that I just like. For the first time in my damn life, I’m doing things that I enjoy, not because of my father’s expectations, not because of what my agent says, not because what I think other people on Instagram thought of my last fight. I’m like, holy shit, I love to surf. I just started surfing this year, and I’m like, this is awesome. And I don’t care how good I am or what it is. So for the first time in my life, I’m not on this damn schedule that’s putting me in pain. And the world is a blank canvas. I can do whatever I want. Success isn’t an achievement. That’s what I finally am trying to get better at. Success is my happiness, it’s not achievement. And it took me 33 years to figure that out, and I’m still working on it, but that’s kind of what I’m getting into. I’m finally doing things that I just enjoy, man.
Darin: Dude, that’s huge what you just said. Success, it doesn’t have to be these achievements, these materialized things. Success is happiness. What you said is so powerful that, I mean, wow, doing something because I like it, surfing. It’s almost like the kid in you is kind of coming out again and just like, woah, I can do this, I can do this, and I don’t have to worry about this person or getting hurt because I’m doing this and this fight and all of that, you can just do it. Now, I would also say I would just quiver at the coo-coo who’d cut you off in the surf line, that would be so gnarly because you don’t know who you’re bumping next to. And man, you could go to the beach with that person and just be like lights out.
Mike: It’s funny, I’ve been surfing out here in Malibu. I’ve had a couple of people that, I guess they’re boxing fans who came up and they’re like, “Mike Lee?” Because boxing has this called following. But once again, man, it’s usually me cutting people off. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing yet. I’m just trying to get better and better. So usually every time like, oh, I’m sorry, man, but I don’t like conflicts. So if anything, I’ll let them punch and then I’ll dodge the punch and just keep riding. Just push him over and keep riding.
Darin: There’s a funny story I have to tell because– well, retired now, Bill Romanowski. Largely, one of the gnarliest line backers in the sport. And when he played it, it was really bad.
Mike: A beast.
Darin: A beast in breaking stuff and just really over the top. And I’ve gotten to know him over the years. So he’s not a great standup surfer either, but he’s still a big boy. And so that’s where I don’t understand how people don’t compute who they’re talking to. So he got in the way of someone and didn’t have enough skill to kind of get his board and stuff out of the way. He was trying to get off the wave, clearly, but he wrecked that wave for the person. And Bill was right away, he’s like, dude– and he’s actually quite a gentle giant. And so he’s like, dude, I’m so sorry. And the guy kept at him, like kept going even though Bill was saying– And then all of a sudden, in front of us, he clicked. He clicked like he was on the field. And then I’m not gonna swear all of it that he said, but he was like, I want you to get all your fucking friends, meet me at the beach and I’m gonna fucking, like he tweaked. And he was now gonna go after the guy and the guy spun and paddled out of the water. And I saw it and I’m like, damn, because he’s a really nice guy. So that’s the flip side for you. You may get into someone’s way and you still will because we all do, and if those people don’t let it go–
Mike: First of all, I’m not gonna try to fight anybody in the water. I’m like, let’s do this on the land.
Darin: Can we just paddle in quick.
Mike: Hey, buddy, really quick, let’s do this in the parking lot where I can get solid footing.
Darin: That was a funny moment of a retired NFL player.
Mike: It is funny though that people get upset in the lineup. I thought surfers were the most chill, relaxed dudes. And I’ve gotten out there and cut off some guys accidentally, apologized right off the bat and they give you these death stares. I’m like, woah, this isn’t the surfer culture that I watched in movies. I’m from Chicago, so I don’t know.
Darin: It wrecks the vibe out there when people–
Mike: There’s always another wave, man.
Darin: There’s always another wave.
Mike: Just relax. If they apologize then who cares?
Darin: Yeah, then you let it go. Dude, it gives me joy kind of knowing that you’re finding joy and just living in a different way. That’s got to be like just a child opening his eyes for the first time in a certain way and giving yourself the license to have this kind of opportunity. So besides from surfing, what else are you–
Mike: It’s a great question. I’m not working out a ton, I’ll tell you that. I’ll tell you, it’s like I spent years and years training. Basically, somehow I’m still in somewhat decent shape. I just surf. I play basketball. I workout. I do yoga. I do things I enjoy, like the ones getting back to the things I enjoy with the workout. I spent years waking up at 5 AM and running. I became one of the best in the world because I was willing to do things other people weren’t. And now I just want to be happy and enjoy. I love running the company. I get a lot of joy out of testimonials coming in because I am an empath. I love when we can help people. The surfing has been a massive for me. Other than that, just trying to find little things that make me happy here and there and taking time. You know, essentially, I do feel like a kid sometimes. And I was telling my girlfriend this the other day, I’m 33 but I feel like I’m 21 now where I’m like, there’s a whole world out there and if I want to try skateboarding, I can. And if I want to go surf, I can. So that’s kind of a really cool realization where I felt like I had this blueprint for my life, and now it’s like changing the blueprint. And I think that’s very difficult but also very liberating.
Darin: You know, people listening to this, I mean, certainly now, millions of people in the US have lost their jobs. We all have had to pivot in a lot of different ways. Listen, you’ve been goal-oriented, you obviously have a work ethic that’s very unique and is unstoppable. What would you say to people right now in their lives and seemingly every way they look, the media is telling them this thing, they’re frustrated staying home, they’re probably spending a little too much time with their kids and spouses they’re not used to. I think that we need hope. I think we need to always connect to that human spirit that is there. What would you say to people kind of coming from your work ethic, your vision to get goals, and now your new child-like view of the world? What would you say to people right now to give them a little hope in terms of potentially creating a different future for themselves?
Mike: I mean, something I learned throughout my career, control the controllables. And what I mean by that is I had many strength coaches and coaches that would tell me that line, control the controllables. You can’t control the cards you’re dealt especially now. And there’s constant fear and anxiety and things coming in and terrible things. I’m not minimizing that, but what I do know is that the only control we really have is our reaction to a situation. That’s it. I mean, some of the most famous authors and minds this world has every known has always harped on that. One of my favorite books is Man Search for Meaning. And they talk about this ideology all the time, Viktor Frankl, it’s an incredible book. And the biggest takeaway I took from that is that in the worst situations that humanity had to offer for him, literally, he found a way in his mind to get through that with hope. And he found a way to get through that by changing the narrative and controlling his reaction, what he was thinking about. And I find that incredibly powerful because look at where we are now and how many millions of people are struggling especially with this pandemic. There’s a little bit of hope in knowing that you can control your thought and you can see things as either a victim or an opportunity. And once again, I’m not minimizing what’s going on but control the controllables. It means to me, control what you can control and the only thing you control is your reaction, your mindset towards it. That ideology right there helped me go from hospital beds to back in the ring. And I think that it’s one that we all need right now.
Darin: Yeah, and then you back up that thought pattern shift into the controlled, you know, the things that you can control, you know, take control of yourself, eat well, sleep well, drink. With all of the stuff coming at us, and if you keep watching that or tuning into that, it’s such an intense energy that if you’re no proactively doing something that you can control, meditating, breathing, sleeping, exercise, food intake, all of this stuff, it’s like trying to push a boulder uphill. It’s just gonna eventually just roll down and crush you. And so turn off the TV, turn off the crazy politics of it all and go back to controlling that. You nailed it. It’s the mindset first. And that’s not Viktor Frankl. It wasn’t an inactive process. He had to consciously step in, realize the observer observing the rumination of his mind and then go, oh, I can interject here and do something different. And that muscle is a very underutilized muscle because what happens if you don’t proactively do that in life, you get yanked around by other people’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions. The next thing you know, you wake up and you’re not moving forwards in your own life, in the place or the space that you want. And I just see that so clearly in what you’re doing and I’m just like, dude, I’m so stoked for you. It’s amazing. You got yourself fairly healthy through a career, at least found health in your career. And now in service getting this product out to help people. And just getting to vibe with you here, it’s clear that your heart’s huge and you have a lot to give. And I’m stoked for everything that you’re gonna be doing, man.
Mike: I really appreciate that, man. And you’re doing it too, you’re instilling so much hope in people and that’s what we need right now. I think I want to tell you that because I didn’t realize that when I would do either little interviews where I would write that, you know, people would reach out and say, man, this changed my day. So, you’re doing that in a massive level, and I think that’s awesome. I appreciate you having me. I mean, I was just thinking, Kelly Slater is what, 40 or 41? I mean, maybe I have a chance to be a pro surfer. Go from pro boxer to pro surfer. So who knows? Maybe that’s the next step.
Darin: Why not? At least you’ll be having fun in the process.
Mike: Exactly. But yeah, I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.
Darin: Awesome, brother.
Darin: That was a fantastic episode. What was the one thing that you got out of today’s conversation? If today’s episode struck a chord with you, and you want to dive a little deeper on a variety of topics, check out my live deep dives on darinolien.com/deepdive. More episodes are available on darinolien.com as well. Keep diving my friends, keep diving.
Darin: This episode is produced by my team at Must Amplify, an audio marketing company that specializes in giving a voice to a brand and making sure the right people hear it. If you would like or are thinking about doing a podcast or even would like a strategy session to add your voice to your brand in a powerful way, go to www.mustamplify.com/darin. That’s www.mustamplify.com/darin.