Feeling stuck? Lonely? Jaded?
That's exactly where I was a few years ago.
Today, I'm feeling more fulfilled than ever before, and I'm lucky enough to coach Fortune 100 leaders at some of the most famous companies in the world.
But it wasn't easy to get here (and I still struggle sometimes). For most of my life, I'd felt a hollow void inside myself that was eating away at me. I didn't understand it, and I was jealous of other people who seemed so happy and fulfilled.
I finally decided to do something about it, and I spent three years pushing myself to experiment outside my comfort zone. I was a huge skeptic, but—beyond reading all the usual self-help books—I tried everything from skydiving, to ecstatic dance, to a Spirit Journey with a shaman.And after a lot of hard work, I've managed to reach a feeling of aliveness that I couldn't have understood before.
There isn't one single solution that will work for everyone. But I've worked with a lot of people and honed the most effective paths to figuring it out.
Do you identify with any of these?
(because I’ve been there—this was me)
You feel like something big is missing
There’s an existential hole inside you that you cover up with work, Reddit, gaming, or some other form of distraction.
But it keeps coming back.
You keep waiting for your “real” life to start
Despite your life’s objective success markers, you still feel like you’re just treading water until you really achieve your potential and you can spend your time doing what you really should be doing.
You know you’re capable of so much more—your life is supposed to be amazing, right?
You’re overwhelmed by lifehacking or productivity
You’ve tried Tim Ferriss, you’ve read about the science of happiness, and you have a GTD system. But it’s never enough.
There are always more changes you’re “supposed” to make to finally be happy.
You feel existentially or spiritually disconnected
You’re lonely, or you feel like you’re not really part of any community. Maybe you hate small-talk and you think most people are boring.
You’re not especially religious, or you’re even a strong atheist.
You’re turned off by woo-woo
You’re looking for something more in life. But, as a logical, rational person, you’re quickly turned off by anything too woo-woo or out there.
No crystals, chakras, or daily affirmations for you. What’s actually backed by scientific evidence?
You’re proud of your analytical mind
You tend to look down on overly-emotional, feelings-oriented people. How can they get through life by just doing whatever feels right instead of using data?
(But, maybe a tiny part of you is jealous of just how much they’re able to feel compared to that numb emptiness you often experience instead.)
You can’t help but solve other people’s problems
You know that sometimes your partner or friend just wants you to listen. But when the solution is so obvious, you can’t help but offer suggestions.
Why wouldn’t they want to hear your idea if it would make their life better?
You find it hard to connect with new people as an adult
You want to make more real friends—people you can rely on and go to for support—but it’s much harder than other people make it seem.
Where are you even supposed to meet interesting people, and how do you turn a meetup acquaintance into an actual friend?
Running away from the void
I’ve lived in Montreal, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Washington DC, and now Portland.
Why so many moves? I told myself I was searching for fulfillment and happiness. I tried to find it at each place, then I got bored, felt stuck, and moved.
I kept running because I felt a void inside me that I didn't understand. I knew something big was missing but I wasn't sure what. And there was a physical tightness in my gut that chased me wherever I went.
I finally realized that wasn't sustainable.
Leaning into my edge and putting my comfort on the line
I’d always been a very analytical, logical person who had shied away from serious emotional and spiritual growth. I had stopped identifying with religion as a teenager, and—as much as I hated myself for it—I had looked down on overly-emotional “feelers.”
I knew I wasn't truly happy, and several years ago I decided to take a hard look at my life and do something about it.
I'd always rejected the idea of "putting down roots" somewhere since I thought that would be admitting defeat. I thought it would mean abandoning personal development to just settle down and be like everyone else.
But I decided to actually test that theory and stay put in Portland to see if I could find a lifestyle and friends that finally resonated with me.
Transforming my life
I settled down in Portland and I tried everything from meetups, to church, to speed dating, to partner dancing, to practicing authentic relating and mindfulness in a yurt in the forest.
Most of all, I found communities that I really resonated with, and I finally found my people. I felt like I belonged, and that was incredible after so long feeling lonely.
I started going to community retreats every month, and I went from being the guy standing awkwardly on the side watching other people dance to being the first one out on the dance floor.
I realized how many stories I'd been telling myself that simply weren't true—like that dancing was for other people (physically-oriented people, I told myself, not mentally-oriented people like me).
And after a lot of hard work, I finally learned what it's really like to feel alive.
I’ve coached world-class teams and leaders
My career has taken me everywhere from game design on one of the top-rated PlayStation 3 series of all time (Uncharted) to leading major web and app projects used at events like the Super Bowl and the Olympics.
Nowadays, I coach teams and leaders at Fortune 500 companies to help them be more self-aware, communicate more clearly, and work together to build awesome features that will excite their users.
Coaching thinkers to fill the void and learn how to feel
But I want to go deeper, beyond the face that we’re willing to reveal at work. I’m inspired to help people with their most authentic selves—with their personal struggles outside the corporate context.
So, my side practice is coaching individuals to help them unlock their potential by better understanding their unique way of seeing and processing the world.
I’m especially focused on fellow NTs in the Myers-Briggs system—people who think very logically and analytically. NTs tend to get overwhelmed with endless goals and projects, and they feel like they’re always in their heads thinking about the future.
I understand because I’ve been there, and I’ve done the hard work to push myself through those problems that can weigh us down and make us feel stuck.
The elusive “life purpose”
Here's an example of an important lesson I learned the hard way.
Personal development authors love to talk about life purpose. They'll casually mention theirs as if they'd always known it.
Worst of all are the self-help books that talk about "finding" your purpose, as if it'll simply come to you one day on a backpacking trip across Southeast Asia or at a Vipassana meditation retreat.
For years, I'd been trying to "find" my life purpose. I traveled. I read all the books. But nothing ever felt quite right.
Here's the truth.
It's a lot harder than all that. But once you really figure it out, it does change everything.
After years of treading water, I worked with a coach who challenged me to explore a completely different side of life—the world of feelings, embodiment, and ecstatic experiences.
It will be different for each person. But those things turned out to be exactly what I needed to be pushed toward. And after a lot of hard work, I finally realized that my purpose wouldn't ever find me.
I had to create it.
My life purpose is to be the pathfinder who investigates alternative paths to personal growth; then, to model and teach the most effective ones to help other people feel more alive and aligned with their life purpose.
It's a bit of a mouthful, but it's very specifically written to capture all the nuances that are important to me.
And I want to be transparent about something: That's what it looks like after 9 iterations (and that's 9 for this latest version alone—there were many other versions over the years that never felt quite right).
See what I mean? Reading through it, you might assume I came up with it in a single afternoon.
Nope. That purpose statement represents months of work.
And because of that, there's real power behind it. It feels more alive to me, and that makes me want to take it seriously.
But, truthfully, it would have taken me far longer to get there if I'd continued my effort alone.
I'd meditated on it, I'd read all the big lifehacking books, and I'd gone through the most commonly recommended life planning exercises.
But the real shift came when I worked with a coach. Someone who got to know me and my specific needs, not the general reader that the book authors are speaking to.
Someone who really heard me and challenged me to go after what I truly needed.
(How I can help you)
Deepen your relationships
"There was a time in our early sessions where I questioned whether working with Michael would be valuable to me. Our first encounter led to an 'a-ha' moment that I wrote off as a lucky break. But when I kept walking away with one refreshing insight after another, I knew that all credit is due to Michael himself. I encourage any skeptic to give Michael two meetings to prove his worth – and I’ll tell you right now that the second meeting is only for you to be convinced that the first wasn’t a fluke.
Michael admirably applies praise where deserved and tends to avoid positivity for positivity’s sake. He does not judge – he seeks to understand. His inquisitive nature and mannerisms are a refreshing blend of friendly banter, humor, and understanding that are hard to find and very much appreciated. There is great peace of mind in knowing that at least one person outside of my family can be absolutely trusted with my most confidential musings about my career.
He has an uncanny ability to say something back to me in a way that’s more coherent than how I first said it. When I hear my thoughts stated back to me it brings a certain permanence, conviction, and power to them I am challenged to replicate on my own.
I can’t thank Michael enough, and I wholeheartedly encourage you to take advantage of his gift."
—Ryan, Director at a Fortune 10 Company
- Co-Active Coaching: 100+ hours over 6 months of in-depth experiential training at the Coaches Training Institute in San Francisco (recognized as the most rigorous coaching training in the industry)
- M.E.T.A. / Hakomi (in progress): Two-year Comprehensive Training program in counseling at the M.E.T.A. and Hakomi Institute of Oregon (expected completion in 2021)
- Brené Brown: Completed Brave Leaders training program
- Myers-Briggs: Over 85 hours of Personality Profiler training
- University of Tokyo: Received prestigious Monbukagakusho full scholarship to conduct postgraduate research at the University of Tokyo (ranked #1 in Asia at time of attendance)
- University of Southern California (USC): Graduated with honors, B.A. in East Asian Languages & Cultures and B.A. in Interactive Media; awarded the Renaissance Scholar designation
The pronouns I use are he/him. If you'd like, please feel free to include yours when you contact me.
We all have complex identities that are impacted by varying levels of access & privilege as well as structural systems of power and oppression. I consider inclusivity and equity to be foundational to my practice, and I strive to continually educate myself to be able to support clients as whole people who may be impacted by a range of issues related to their multi-faceted and intersectional identities. You can read some of my anti-racism work here.
If you identify as LGBTQIA+ or BIPOC: I offer a couple of spots in my practice for coaching at a reduced rate. Please let me know if you're interested.
According to a study in the journal Emotion, the most enduring type of regret is the failure to live up to our goals and aspirations. The author calls it "the connection to a person's self-concept."
In other words, the most powerful kind of regret you're likely to feel is that you never became the person you wanted to be.
Nowadays, there are endless resources with all the information you could ever want on how to build the ideal life, be happy, and achieve your potential.
But your life still isn't where you want it to be. So what are you lacking?
It's not knowledge.
What you're missing is the mindset shift to truly believe it, the behavior to back it up, and the practice to make all that a real part of your life.
It's the difference between reading a book about confidence and actually pushing yourself to go out there and do something scary.
That's what creates the real sensation of confidence in your body where you can really feel it. Where you can truly believe it and remember it.
You know what you should be doing, but how can you live it?
I won't promise to have all the answers, but I can tell you what finally led me to making the real changes in my life that made me feel alive:
I worked with an amazing coach. I was completely vulnerable with her, and she looked past my excuses and the old stories I'd been telling myself. She saw who I had the potential to become and she believed it even before I did.
I doubted that her advice could work, but she kept challenging me.
And she stuck with me as I made it happen.