In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, today’s episode features Michael Martin. He is a systems thinker, consensus builder, and self-starter who currently serves as the Data and Analytics Global Transformation Manager at Google.
Michael and host Sean Li chatted about how mental well-being contributes to productivity and the importance of building a sphere of influence. Besides his professional work, Michael established the John E. Martin Memorial Fellowship and the John E. Martin Mental Healthcare Tech Challenge, a partnership with Google and Haas Healthcare Association. He discussed how experiences in his personal life and family shaped how he became more self-aware.
On mental health and well-being is a continuous journey:
“Unlike certain physical issues where you go in for surgery, the issue is addressed and you’re good to go thereafter. I think with mental health care, it’s this constant journey and you’re going through. It’s like this helix. Sometimes it looks like you’re going up and sometimes it looks like you’re going down, and trusting that you’re proceeding forward in the right direction. It’s really one of the things that are so key to your ultimate success.”
What recent stigmas have you witnessed regarding mental health?
I think things are getting better. And I think that’s because people are more comfortable sharing that, which is their full self. I bring this up because a lot of times, I’m personally concerned with what I see in social media where, what’s being presented is seemingly one’s best life, perfect life. And probably in many ways, nothing to go and do with the majority of that individual’s life.
On learning from the younger generation about speaking up on issues surrounding mental health:
“The faster that we go and identify that there are issues, the faster, I think we’re going to come up with effective solutions. And it’s a bit of like, that first step in the 12 step program where you’re going. I’m admitting that I’m no longer in control of this.[…] But I certainly think, to go and admit that, is something that our younger generations have a much easier time doing. I’m really appreciative of that in a strange kind of way. I think they’re actually teaching folks that are much more senior, the power that you can have, by going and sharing that part of your story.”
How can writing help you build habits that help improve your mental well-being?
“By writing things down, I feel like it gives them a chance to go and have their voice documented. In a sense, be listened to. I think one of the things we always strive for, it’s we just want to go and be heard. It’s a really empowering thing. It’s a really great way of loving oneself, not in a narcissistic way. But, in terms of showing compassion to all of those facets of you and it goes along the way up this idea of striving for perfection.”
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
Sean Li: [00:00:00] Welcome to the OneHaas Alumni podcast. I’m your host, Sean Li. And today we’re joined by Michael Martin. Michael is the data and analytics global transformational manager at Google. He’s a full-time MBA class of 2009 and he is a staunch supporter of mental health awareness and being mental health awareness month. We are honored to have him on to chat about mental health. When I was thinking about this interview, I was just reflecting on myself and thinking how I tend to take mental health for granted very often, and how I associate it with my physical well-being. Well, the way to take care of my mental health is just to go and exercise, which is one way to do it. I’ve been learning more and more, over the years through meditation that it is something that is completely separate as well from my physical. But, yeah, before we jump into all that, let’s hear a little bit about your background.
[00:00:59] Michael Martin: Sean, I’ll start from the beginning. I grew up in the burbs of Chicago, in a town called Woodridge, Illinois. After graduating high school, I went to Vanderbilt University where I received my bachelor’s and master’s, in a sense I was ahead of my time, with that master’s degree, having it be focused on organizational leadership. For all the MBAs out there who dreaded organizational behavior is one of the introductory courses.
[00:01:23] I found myself rather enthralled by it. Being a bit nostalgic. After graduating from Vanderbilt I joined a consultancy called Huron Consulting. I had the distinct pleasure of focusing on healthcare, first and foremost. And, had some great opportunities to go and work in a variety of hospitals, some of which were children’s hospitals.
[00:01:43] So it was really clear in terms of why you were going and doing what it was that you were doing. After leaving consulting. That’s when I actually matriculate into Haas as a full-time MBA. As you mentioned, after departing Haas, I joined Chevron. It was a super major oil and gas firm. I joined through what was then referred to as a commercial skills development program and moved from Berkeley, California to Houston, Texa. Shortly thereafter, to a place that was completely different, Dhaka Bangladesh. Followed by Moscow, Russia. Followed by, Jakarta Indonesia. Then Manila, Philippines. Ultimately back to the U.S. where I was living in New Orleans for a couple of years. And then bounced over to Singapore. Finally came back to go back to the U.S. and join Google, there. Data centers, department. So it’s been a whirlwind. Over that journey, I had the opportunity to go and get married and have a kid. A lot of things happening, all over the world.
[00:02:35] Sean Li: Where are you based now?
[00:02:44] I am, officially based in, New York City. Of course, this has been a unique year for a lot of folks. Yours truly, and my family, being one in some of them. So, we found ourselves, living a large part of the year outside of New York City in a variety of locations. But, ultimately when we get back to this new normal, New York City, once again, we’ll be our full-time home. I was married to a Bulgarian. We were in Bulgaria for about two months there. We had the good fortune of spending some time in the mountains, as well as Sophia, where my wife’s from. You know, and it’s important to us, to go and, make sure that, we keep that grounding and connection, for her.
[00:03:22]I think sometimes we could become, American-centric, living in the States. I think I need to go and be mindful of that. And one of the best ways to go and do that is obviously by taking a step out of the borders of the country and visiting this home that my wife is really, really proud of.
[00:03:39]Sean Li: I want to talk a little bit about what you’ve done at Haas. Your initiatives at Haas, having Google sponsor, the Johnny Martin Mental Health Care Challenge, hosted by U.C. Berkeley Haas School of Business. Our Health Care Association. Tell us a little bit about that and kind of the origin story of healthcare and mental health awareness in your life.
[00:04:04] Michael Martin: It’s kind of grounded, I guess, in, an inflection point in my life, that in not so many words, tragic. My wife and I got married, in Bulgaria, in July of 2013. And we had a lot of friends and family, that joined us. Amongst those folks were quite a few Haasies. It was a really wonderful experience. Our parents, both my wife’s and my parents, along with a few friends of theirs, and relatives, decide to head down to Greece. And, as they were coming back from Greece to Bulgaria, the vehicle that they were traveling in was struck by a truck. My father died instantaneously and my wife’s father succumbed to his injuries, a few days after that. The whirlwind of emotions was something I was completely unprepared for. I don’t think anybody is truly prepared for that. And I knew that I needed to go and do something with us that was positive. Because if I didn’t, it was going to go and be the demise of my marriage and it was going to go and be the demise of me as an individual. I want to go and create something positive out of this above and beyond.
[00:05:11]The reason I just shared was that I wanted to go and lead by example. I’ve always been one to go and, take on that role out of a sense of duty and a sense of joy. This was no different. As I was reflecting on how to go and make meaning of this tragic event I reflected on my dad’s life. My dad was the son of two Worl War II veterans. He grew up in a middle-class household. His dad was a factory worker. His mom was a stay-at-home mother. He also lived in a house where there was alcoholism present. His father was an alcoholic. My grandfather’s father was an alcoholic and so on and so on. And my dad, succumbed to alcoholism as well, which he was predisposed to for many years. He was in the throes of it. But towards the last 10 or 20 years of his life, he found sobriety. He was going through that journey, our relationship started to improve and we started to go and have a lot of wonderful conversations.
[00:06:14] And one of the things he to me once kind of passively, but with great intent was, you and your friends are so talented. Can you go and do more with those talents? And the topic that we were talking about was mental health. Because part of his recovery was actually going back to school and getting his degree in psychology so that he could become an addiction counselor. What was so interesting about that portion of his journey, Sean was, that pain that he experienced being the son of an alcoholic, being an alcoholic, being a veteran of the Vietnam war. He was somebody who was in really high demand. And that’s because we had a lot of veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan that were in the throes of addiction and dealing with a lot of mental health issues. So suddenly this pain that he had carried with him became a treasure to have a way for him to go on, not lock the hearts and minds of these folks that were in great need of his experience and the service that he could go and provide. So, in thinking about that, it was very clear that we need to go and create a fellowship, in his name to go and honor his passion.
[00:07:30] And that fellowship was created in 2014. And it really focused on going and giving graduate students, be they in the school of social welfare, public health, or Haas, some funds to go and pursue an internship. During one of their summers that would focus on either improving the quality of or access to mental health care. It just so happened that, in 2020, my family and I had gone to talk and I said, how can we go and do more with this? And then all of a sudden COVID strikes and it became very clear that there were a lot of mental health issues that folks were dealing with and we needed to go and scale up the number of people that were working on this.
[00:08:10] So that’s when I reached out to folks at Haas and folks at Google and ultimately brought them together to go and host and sponsor the inaugural Johnny Martin Mental Health Care Challenge in 2020. Apparently, some folks thought it went pretty well, such that we receive the good news that Google is going to be sponsoring it again in 2021.
[00:08:36]Sean Li: That’s amazing. I think that is an amazing legacy and initiative you’re creating.
[00:08:42]Michael Martin: I appreciate that.
[00:08:44]Sean Li: And you’re absolutely right. I mean, COVID has definitely brought to light The amount of, issues that isolation brings about.
[00:08:54]Michael Martin: And honestly, for me, I’ve just been so isolated with my family group here. I think you and I were in some ways, very fortunate to have newborns right at the onset of COVID because, hey, it gave us something to do, right? And keep us busy. Certainly a lot of diaper changing and other things along the way.
[00:09:18]Sean Li: Yeah. And we didn’t have to worry about our kids not being in school. That’s one of the most unfortunate things I think, that’s coming out of COVID is the mental health impact the kids.
[00:09:31] Michael Martin: The thing about that, in my opinion, Sean, that’s something that we have to go and be aware of is not only what’s happening in the here and now. But the ripple effects will be seen for years to come. And I think that’s one of those things that is really helpful when thinking about mental health as well. Unlike certain physical issues where you go in for surgery and, the issue is addressed and you’re good to go thereafter. I think with mental health care, it’s this constant journey and you’re going through. It’s like this helix. Sometimes it looks like you’re going up and sometimes it looks like you’re going down, and trusting that you’re proceeding forward in the right direction. It’s really one of the things that are so key to your ultimate success. But having that awareness, I think, can be difficult at times,
[00:10:22] Sean Li: Yeah.
[00:10:22] Michael Martin: There’s, a lot of stimuli out there. It starts to be rather easy for you to go and doubt yourself. It can be described as first-world problems, but there’s certainly, a lot of self-doubts that I saw when I was a student, at Haas. I speak about that from my personal experience, as well as those, my peers. I think that is one of those things that continues to go and be the case. In a sense, perhaps in this modern-day and age, it’s part of being human.
[00:10:47]Sean Li: Talk a little about the lack of research between mental health care and productivity.
[00:10:53]Michael Martin: During, the first challenge that I referenced, we had the good fortune of having a former FDA commissioner speak. Dr. Rod Collins made this observation that was so simple and so profound. He goes, mental health care is 30 years behind physical health care. The problem is you can’t separate the two. What we know is that it’s very clear that there’s an issue. All that Covid did in many ways was put a magnifying lens on it. To go and make it that much more clear. What we know is that we’re all going to be, impacted by it either directly or indirectly. It’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when. The stats are the stats. In those moments when one does not have access to appropriate culturally competent resources in a timely manner, things have the ability to grow exponentially worse. That is really when you start to go and see productivity in the workplace, when we’re speaking about it from the professional realm. A lot of press warrant nefarious things on the home front if we’re thinking about it from the personal perspective. So one of the things that are definitely lacking right now is the queer articulation in a quantifiable way of the business case. To go and invest in it, a lot of is anecdotal. That’s great that we’re there. Because if you think about it 10, 20 years ago, that certainly wasn’t the case. The need to actually go and have some of the greatest economists of the day, the great researchers of the day actually make this their discipline they focus on. Is something that gets me excited.
[00:12:35] Sean Li: You had mentioned to me that the tech challenge, showed how similar we are to one another. That, just this idea that we all know instinctively know that we are more similar than we are different. I’m curious to hear a little bit about that.
[00:12:49] Michael Martin: Something that, probably was one of my favorite things about the tech challenge, and I’d just say like in life general, just taking a step back, if we think about Haas, we think about Berkeley. There are certain stereotypes associated, with the institutions. And then if I go and I think about somebody in middle America, living in a rural area, there are certain stereotypes that we would associate with those folks. Leaving Berkeley to go and join Chevron it was an amazing experience. Because being out there, offshore with folks that certainly do not have the educational achievements that I had, but in many ways were so much smarter than me. It was one of the greatest educational experiences I could’ve ever asked for. The thing that made it an educational experience was my willingness to go and learn from them and to go and have them have a willingness to go and learn from me. To go and do that over, the dining room table, every night, breaking bread, having dinner together, having a conversation. It really helped amplify, its effect and impact. So during the tech challenge, the community that we were really focusing on, were construction workers because it might come as a surprise, but Google is dependent on infrastructure, big infrastructure. These things called data centers that are the size of football stadiums, and in order to go and build those, you need a lot of construction workers. They didn’t go to the best school. They may not have gone to any school, but they’re really good at what they do. And unfortunately, they experience a rate of suicide on a per capita basis. That is second only to those in the extractive industry. So in my career, I’ve had the opportunity to go and work for folks that are regrettably number one, in that org. In terms of, oil and gas being in this active industry. Then, number two, and will already be in the construction industry. So focusing on this group in the tech challenge was really important to me. Bringing those folks to the table to go and speak with the students that were going to be generating ideas was important to me. Because often, we make a lot of assumptions. And assumptions can be imperfect and sometimes just outright wrong. In doing this, what I found was both sides, the students that were pursuing these amazing degrees and these construction workers that have these amazing life experiences, developed a respect for one another. At these vitriolic times where you have, cable news just pitting one side versus the other. That was a mental health moment for me, in terms of just taking down the temperature and going and seeing these two groups of individuals that may have thought they had nothing in common. Actually going and finding a way to go and be helpful to one another, to go and develop something bigger. It really goes back to those Haas defining principles. They were going beyond themselves and they were being students’ objects. I thought it was just a lovely experience.
[00:15:44]Sean Li: Do you mind sharing a little bit more about this dichotomy? I’m curious to see how these students came up with some solutions in conjunction with the construction workers. Do you have any examples for us?
[00:15:55] Michael Martin: I do. first off, what we did is we, assigned each group a mentor that had a decade, two decades, plus of experience in the construction industry. The teams that were most successful, were the teams that asked a lot of questions and did a lot of listening. So that was the first thing. Then the next thing was the teams that actually brought their own experience with mental health and that of their family members to the table were a level up. From there and the team that won the competition. The team name was Clicks. I’m not quite sure how they came up with that name. But it was four individuals. Some of them were coming from outside the U.S.Some of whom were coming from, the U.S. one of them was in the military. Others were working on FoxConn projects or FoxConn light projects.
[00:16:45]Sean Li: Yeah.
[00:16:45]Michael Martin: And they all had experienced some pain in their lives directly or indirectly associated with mental health care. When they started actually thinking about developing the solutions, the solutions were respectful of the individual. And I thought that that was a really amazing thing because in doing that, they were a lot more effective in terms of developing something that was compelling to the judges. This was a competitive challenge after all. And, something that people would say “I’d like to go and invest my time in it further”. Or “I’d like to go and invest my money in it”.
[00:17:20] Sean Li: Yeah, it’s amazing. That’s really exciting. I’m curious to hear. A little bit more about, having been leading this challenge and obviously reading up in this space, what are some stigmas that you’ve seen around mental health? At least in this country and in our culture, American culture.
[00:17:38]Michael Martin: Fair point. Cause I think that’s where I could probably speak to the best. The first thing I’d like to go and say is. I think things are getting better. And I think that’s because people are more comfortable sharing that, which is their full self. I bring this up because a lot of times, I’m personally concerned with what I see in social media where, what’s being presented is seemingly one’s best life, perfect life. And probably in many ways, nothing to go and do with the majority of that individual’s life. At the same time, I’m seeing some really encouraging things. Sean, for the longest time I was embarrassed because of what was happening at my home. I had a dad who was an alcoholic. I had a dad that was arrested because of his addiction. I thought that was an indictment on me as an individual, and the most empowering thing that I think ever happened to me was when I shared this with a professor of mine. My freshman year at Vanderbilt, she was teaching a class called the good life there. It was focused on learning from the classics.
[00:18:42]Sean Li: Yeah.
[00:18:43] Michael Martin: And she wrote me this really simple note. It’s kind of like goodwill hunting, but this note just said on it “It’s okay”. She just gave you a hug and that was the perfect way to go and encourage me to go and share my story with others.
[00:18:59]Sean Li: Yeah.
[00:19:00] [00:18:59] Michael MartinShe didn’t need to say anything that was. Uber eloquent. She just listened. She said two words, “It’s okay” and a hug. And that energized me to go and commit to going and sharing my story with others. I think the stigma is still a weakness. My family’s memory issue is an indictment on me, that if I share this information, it’s going to go and be a detriment to me, both as a person and a professional. I’m tainted in a sense. I’m really excited to go and see what’s happening with folks that are a lot younger than me. I think, I get to go and say, that now having just turned 40, there’s a fluency with which they actually speak about these issues. Which, I think sometimes rubs people the wrong way. But also, I think this needs to go and be celebrated because the faster that we go and identify that there are issues, the faster, I think we’re going to come up with effective solutions. And it’s a bit of like, that first step in the 12 step program where you’re going. And saying, you know, I’m admitting that I’m no longer in control of this. I know that doesn’t exactly go and speak to that. But I certainly think, to go and admit that, is something that our younger generations have a much easier time doing. I’m really appreciative of that in a strange kind of way. I think they’re actually teaching folks that are much more senior, the power that you can have, by going and sharing that part of your story.
00:20:28]Sean Li: [00:20:28] When you brought up this whole social media thing, and I’ve been reading a lot lately on the space. Naturally being in podcasting, this whole idea that as an economy, we are starting to shift from the attention economy. Which is based on presenting that good life. But also trying to sell that good life, because the way that Instagram and social media are designed is that it’s free, free to us, financially. But there is always a cost and that cost is our attention. So, it’s been this, non-stop, attention grab between companies. Because creators on Instagram don’t have really any other ways to monetize, at least not in the past decade. Since they’ve been doing the social media influencer things, that they are forced to over-sensualize their lives so that they can sell something. It’s a very interesting paradigm. So the paradigm shift now is when people realize, well really, it’s free. They have to over-hype everything and over-sell everything, so they can make money. They make money with ads. How do we shift that model to going back? People are saying, “Oh, we’re shifting from the attention economy to the value economy”. I’m thinking. Or just going back to the value where the basic audience used to be. You, voting with your dollars not because you were told to buy something. Or that you were oversold something. That you really need this thing to make your life complete but you actually received tangible value from it, that you feel internally. What I’m trying to get at is, I think it’s a very interesting shift to that. We’re going to start to see in this internet, 3.0 now we’re going to move into.
[00:22:15]Michael Martin: I think it’s really easy to go and say, like, things are binary, right? I’m guilty of it.
[00:22:19]Sean Li: Yeah.
[00:22:20] Michael Martin: All bad, all good. And we live in this world of gray. I think acknowledging that is important. To me personally, I knew that being on Facebook, was something that was not good for my mental health. That’s not an indictment on that company. I’m just going and saying, I asked myself what’s in my sphere of influence.
[00:22:40]Sean Li: Yeah.
[00:22:41] Michael Martin: And I knew that I would be better positioned to go and be the best version of myself. Which I try to do and achieve each and every day by not having that in my life.
[00:22:53]Sean Li: Yeah.
[00:22:53] Michael Martin: I know other folks who really don’t see a deleterious impact on their mental health or physical health by using Facebook, the good and bad of it. So I bring this up, because, I think part of what we need to go and be mindful of is which is in our control. Sean, you and I were talking about this idea of responsibility and it’s the ability to, you know, go and control your responses at the most basic of levels and all of these things are occurring, in sequence. So, when I started to go and think about it from a root cause perspective, in terms of my mental health, for me, the answer was. Don’t use this for other people doing that root cause analysis. The answer might be different. But, just simply having the tools to go and take that pause and go and ask oneself. that I think is something that’s really powerful and I’m not patting myself on the back. I’m actually. Appreciative of the support that I got along the way to go and have the opportunity to go and ask that question and have that time to go and reflect
[00:24:03]Sean Li: Absolutely. Having the awareness of your vices in many ways. Similarly, I don’t when I weaned off of Facebook, 10 years ago. But Instagram, I made a very conscious decision two years ago. I think almost two years ago now. It was an experiment, where I said, “Why don’t I just take a one-year break?” And that’s what I called it. The one-year break has turned into a two-year break. Are there are things that I miss from it? That I lack from it? Absolutely. There are certain friends that I know I can keep up with easier because that’s the way they share their life. I can keep up with them easily through Instagram or social media. But, I also realized I could just message them and just email them or call them. Ask them what’s going on and at first, it’s awkward because they’re saying, look at my Instagram, you know, you can catch up in a moment, but I said,
[00:24:56] Michael Martin Yeah.
[00:24:57] Sean Li: I don’t want to look at your Instagram. Just tell me what’s going on. Let’s just have a conversation. Let’s just talk.
[00:25:02] Michael Martin: On that note, what’s so funny about it. It’s like the thoughts that are going through my mind, Sean is like how, the big craze, during COVID was like, “I don’t know how to go and bake bread”. You could probably go to the store and buy better bread, than what you could go and make. I know that would certainly be the case for me. But there was a joy in terms of the effort that you need to put in and get this product. In, 2020, I made a promise to myself. I’m just going to go and write a handwritten letter, to a different person offering my gratitude every single week and I did.
[00:25:35]I say jokingly when somebody goes and gets that handwritten letter, they call immediately and they’re like, “Is everything okay?”, or “There has to be something wrong. Nobody does this anymore.” So I’m like, “Great! Mission accomplished”. You know what? I got that response. I got that connection. But you know, all jokes aside, I enjoyed the journey. I enjoyed the process.
[00:25:51] Sean Li: Yeah.
[00:25:52] Michael Martin I enjoy not having the ability to go and quickly delete what I just typed and having to go and think a little bit about going into writing that letter. What was in front of my mind for me? Why was Interested in connecting with that person? It had a whole slew of other positive things. I know a lot of people hearing this could probably just go and say, “Oh, how come? The reason why, social media email, text messaging is so great. It’s because it’s so efficient.” I don’t disagree with any of those comments, but I think there’s something to be said about having this balance, in your life. And the reason why I don’t do Facebook, I never did Instagram, is because I realized I couldn’t have that balance.
[00:26:36] Sean Li: Same.
[00:26:37] Michael Martin: So for me, it was pretty easy then to go and say, “Okay, great.” And it reminded me in a sense, of what I learned from my dad. My dad wasn’t going to go pick up that drink because he knew that he didn’t have the ability as much as he would’ve liked to, to go and say “Only one”. No, it was going to go and turn into a lot more than that. And I think, I bring this up because it’s just one more way that I try to go and make sense of a very uncomfortable time in my life. In terms of going and saying “Yes, but what were the things that I learned?” And I think that kind of goes back to these defining principles too, in terms of students always. Bad stuff happens, but what did it teach you?
[00:27:16] Sean Li: Right?
[00:27:17] Michael Martin: What meaning am I making out of it?
[00:27:18]Sean Li: [00:27:18] Yeah. Absolutely. This is really fascinating. I mean, makes me wonder what this might, it might age the both of us. But it makes you wonder what tools,, methods, habits, what are some healthy habits that we have learned along the way to really create that balance? Or in terms of Daniel Kahneman’s book thinking fast and slow. I think that’s, the balance that everybody needs. We can’t consume everything in 10, 15 second bites. This is something that I’ve been thinking very deeply about the past couple of years. I’m really curious to hear, what are some habits, tips or tricks that you have for maintaining self-awareness? Maintaining a healthy balance? To me, starting the day out, the same way each and every morning, regardless of where I am in the world. And that is through doing breathwork. I find it both invigorating in terms of, it wakes me up. It also provides clarity for me mentally. It takes the fog away and I take some time just to go and reflect, in terms of what was good about yesterday.
[00:28:25]Michael Martin: And what I have, this day ahead? What I’m excited about? I found when I was struggling, the most with mental health, I got out of those routines that were detrimental. And it’s not one of those things where I’m spending hours doing. It’s these ones where I spend just a couple of minutes. But that’s a big tip for me. I think the other thing is, since I’ve had the pleasure of becoming a dad, each and every morning, I’m chatting to, my daughter. We talk about her principles. I’m hoping that these sink in for her via osmosis because really I’m hoping that they sink in for me via the osmosis. We’ve got six of them and we’re students always because I think you start dying when you stop learning.
[00:29:07]Sean Li: A hundred percent yes.
[00:29:09]Michael Martin: And then our next one is to give respect, get respect. It’s a two-way street, regardless of who it is in the world. The most poison I’ve ever taken in my life is when I’ve held on to that animosity and that’s a struggle for me. That’s one of those things that I think about regularly, in terms of the real power to choose for me. This is changing the lens is to be able to let it go. To forgive, easily said, difficult to do. But something I’m committed to the fourth principle is to focus on that, which brings us joy. I don’t mean that we should be joyous all the time. That’s not what I’m trying to go and tell her. But to go and understand that sometimes it takes work to ultimately go and arrive at that point of joy. And accordingly that joy. I should say it makes it worth it. Time’s more valuable than money as the fifth. And, boy, that’s an important one because I’ve wasted a lot of time in my life. The last one is controlling what’s in your sphere of influence. And I feel like if, I have understood this stuff when I was a little kid, I would have been really precocious. I would’ve been a lot better off. But, it’s my little gifts that I like to go and give her and myself every day. That to me is something that is simple, profound, hopefully, impactful to the two of us.
[00:30:24]Sean Li: I think that’s a wonderful gift. I resonate with every single one of those I think it’s how I stay the same on every one of those dimensions. It’s a daily practice, these foundational principles. I noticed when things go out of balance, it’s when I am not paying respect to one of these principles. Practicing them, especially controlling what’s in your sphere of influence the last one especially in these crazy days.
[00:30:52]Michael Martin: Absolutely.
[00:30:54] Sean Li: It’s so critical and all these things also, in my opinion, my humble opinion, I think they also enable, thought. They enable critical thinking.
[00:31:04] Michael Martin: I’m like that too. It’s not that I’m waiting for the next bad thing to happen. Because I was at a certain point in time in life when I was growing up in the household where it wasn’t a question of if dad was going to come home drunk. It was a question of when and how bad was it going to go and be like? And that can really go and mess with people, myself included. But in terms of like, control what’s in your sphere of influence? I share with you, hey, something that I wish I no one, that your father and father-in-law to go and just suddenly go away in a physical and manifest way. But what was in my sphere of influence? It was making meaning of it. By creating this fellowship that’s going to go support folks in doing some fantastic things. I acknowledge the fact that I’m in a gifted and privileged position to be able to go and achieve what I was able to. Coming out of that, I don’t want to go and, be remiss by not saying that. But, it’s really empowering, to go and have, an awareness to go and say that, I can go and, control my attitude. Or work on controlling my attitude. And I bring this up too because I think sometimes as it relates to mental health, that’s easier said than done. But by having access to, the right tools. Gosh, I sure hope that more and more folks, get access to them. It helps you have increased stability to go and do that, that’d be great.
[00:32:20]Sean Li: I personally share my tools for maintaining my mental health. I definitely agree with the breathwork. It’s something that when I was thinking about meditation, that’s just deliberate time for breathwork, in my opinion. And once I practiced meditation enough, I noticed that I can meditate anywhere. I can meditate while I’m driving, not the same type of meditation, but I can do breathwork. Not as intensely either, I should clarify. I don’t pass out while driving. But you can practice breathwork and just be intentional about your breath anywhere. It doesn’t have to be five minutes, 30 minutes. It can just be two minutes and it’s just a quick reset. And so I definitely resonate with that. The other thing is writing, just writing. There’s just so much power to writing, especially writing negative emotions. This is something that is scary at times because you’re documenting it somewhere.
[00:33:04]Michael Martin: Yeah. What if somebody finds it? But I think it’s a very healthy practice to just write down my negative feelings. And this happens once in a while, where I’ll just wake up and I won’t be in the mood. I’ll just write that down. You know, I don’t feel like I’m in the mood for anything today. And then usually at the end of the day, when I do my end of the day journal, before bed, I find those are the most productive days. Because I just got the negative emotion out of the way. I acknowledged it. And it just disappeared. I think there’s a lot of power in terms of that. Because, I don’t know if only I think of it this way, but I think about it in terms of the sense that I’ve got a lot of voices in my head. I don’t mean that, yes, there’s a little kid inside me, there are some other types of me inside. By writing things down, I feel like it gives them a chance to go and have their voice documented. In a sense, be listened to. I think one of the things we always strive for, it’s we just want to go and be heard. It’s a really empowering thing. It’s a really great way of loving oneself, not in a narcissistic way. But, in terms of showing compassion to all of those facets of you and it goes along the way up this idea of striving for perfection.
[00:34:32] I think a lot of, business school students in particular being on tight days, overachievers, so on and so forth, have experienced, perfection at many points in times throughout their life. And at those times that they don’t, there can be a lot of self-flagellation. By writing it down and finding out that you are not your mistakes nor you were successes, you were so much more in terms of nuance. Absolutely cliched, but there’s something in that has seemed to go be true for me.
[00:35:05] Sean Li: I think that’s a great note to end this episode on. Is that idea that to love others, right? There’s that saying to others? You must first love yourself. And this is a great reminder for mental health awareness month. That, to be able to be present for your loved ones, for the people that you care about, you need to take care of yourself first? It’s not selfish. It’s just a reality. Your house is burning down. You can’t save anybody else’s house.
[00:35:33]Michael Martin: You’re on that plane and the face masks are up. You’re going to put your face mask on and then you’re going to go and help those around you. Otherwise, it’s going to be terminal.
[00:35:42]Sean Li: Yeah. Thank you, Michael, for taking the time to hang out with us on the podcast, this has been a real pleasure. Talking to you and learning about the initiatives that you have brought to Haas. We’re going to remind everyone to please, especially students and alumni who want to support this cause. Please check out the John E. Martin mental health care challenge that is hosted by our very own Haas school business healthcare association. That’ll be happening this fall, right?
[00:36:14] Michael Martin: That’s correct. It’ll be happening this fall. There are going to be a lot of events that are occurring in conjunction with it, in terms of speakers and round tables. So a lot of ways to go and get involved. We’ll be continuing to go and publish more updates leading up to the event itself.
[00:36:28]Sean Li: What’s a great way for our listeners to find out more.
[00:36:33]Michael Martin You can go to the Haas Healthcare Association website. there is, a section of that website specifically dedicated to the challenge and that’s where we will go and be, posting all information on that. And we will also go and make an effort to go and publish this in all the various, electronic and terrestrial, platforms, Haas School of Business offers in terms of staying in touch as well as, LinkedIn. And other sorts of, connection tools like that.
[00:36:59] [00:37:00]Sean Li: Absolutely. We’ll be sure to include those links in the description and share that with everyone. Thanks again for coming on the podcast. I look forward to talking again soon.
[00:37:09] Michael Martin Thanks, Sean. Stay safe and well bye-bye!
[00:37:11] Sean Li: Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the OneHaas podcast. If you enjoyed our show today, please remember to hit that subscribe or follow button on your favorite podcast player. We’d also really appreciate it, if you could give us a five-star rating and review, you can also check out more of our content on our website at Haaspodcasts.org. That’s podcasts with an S at the end, where you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter and check out some of our other Berkeley Haas podcasts. Until next time. Go Bears!