PP 056: Michael Cinquino, Photographer, Speaker and Educator
Michael and I have an incredible chat about overcoming life’s struggles and learning to live a life we love.
KIM: Welcome back to another episode of Positive Productivity! This is your host, Kim Sutton, and today I’m thrilled to have guest Michael Cinquino – I got that right, right Michael?
MICHAEL: Yes, you did.
KIM: Michael is a photographer, speaker, and on-camera coach with MichaelCinquino.TV. It’s awesome to have you here, Michael.
MICHAEL: It’s awesome to be here. Thanks for having me, Kim.
KIM: Oh, you’re very welcome. So, can you please give the listeners a little bit more introduction about you, and tell them more about what you do?
MICHAEL: Sure. I’ve kind of lived a few lives. I’ve traded careers –I don’t know how many times, but a few times. I’m a conservatory-trained actor, turned professional photographer, turned on-camera coach. And I’ll kind of talk a little bit about how I got to where I am here, and let you know a little bit about my story.
I decided to be an actor a long time ago. I was an undergrad studying psychology because I was fascinated with human behavior, and I met somebody who was an actress. And she said, “You know, you should audition for this play.” And I liked her a lot, so I did, of course, whatever she told me to do.
I auditioned for this play, and I got cast – because I didn’t know what I was doing. And I never really planned on being an actor, but I have always loved movies, and I’ve always loved acting. So I thought, “Hey, why not give this a shot?”
And I gave it a shot, because I really just went in just not knowing a thing. I got cast, and I got cast in a set of plays. And I’ll never forget it: My first night on stage – it was opening night – I did something, and the audience loved it and laughed. And it literally felt like cocaine being injected into my heart. Like, I was like, “Whoa.”
So I kind of felt for the first time the impact a human being can have on an audience – especially a live audience. I’m like, “Wow. This is what I got to do. This feels way too good. I’ve got to change my career.” So I got an undergraduate degree in acting. I have a B.A. in Acting and Directing from a small school in Pennsylvania called DeSales University.
And when I was leaving school, I kind of knew – I got a great theater degree, it was a great education about theater, and in acting and directing, but I kind of felt like something was missing from my acting.
And I came across Rutgers University – which is one of the better programs in the country for acting – and I got invited there to sit in on a class. And I sat in on a class and I saw what was missing from my acting in that acting classes. It was this rich, emotional life this “fully in the moment”, letting stuff come through you rather than from you.
Long story short, I got finished with graduate school, I came right to New York, and I learned a very hard lesson. And the lesson is [00:02:23] [inaudible] [0.3] tell you often to “do what you love”. And what I learned was, just because you love doing it doesn’t mean it’s going to love you back. And to this day, I still love acting. I was trying to be an actor in New York, and I loved acting. But for a number of reasons, at that time, it wasn’t loving me back.
And for anybody listening to this, if you’ve ever been in a relationship before, if you’ve been in love before and that person loves you back, it’s probably one of the greatest feelings a human being can feel. On the flip side of that coin, loving someone who doesn’t want anything to do with you is probably one of the worst feelings.
KIM: That is so deep.
MICHAEL: You know? I lived it, and I learned. And what happened – I spiraled out of control. I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression most of my life, and I just started self-medicating heavily. I mean, heavily. Drugs, alcohol – I was living in a basement studio in New York.
And a friend came to visit me. She knew I was not doing well – and it was somebody that was an old student of mine, we had become friends – and she came. It was like 3:30 on a Thursday. I was crawling back into bed after I answered the door. And she just looked down on me, and she asked one question – it went right in. And she said, “What are you doing?” Just kind of tears in her eyes, shaking her head at me – so disappointed.
And at that point, I saw this person that used to look up to me who is now literally looking down on me saying this. And I was just crushed. And at that moment, that was enough pain to make me go, “You know what? Something’s got to change.”
And luckily, a few weeks later, a camera found its way into my lap – a used camera. Never planned on being a photographer. I picked up a camera, and that’s basically when my life began. And I always like to say “That’s when life started for me.”
What I found was – I love acting, but acting wasn’t loving me back – I found that I had a talent for photography and a gift for it. And it was the first time in my life that I had done something, or was doing something, and the more I did it, the more I wanted to do it. The more I did it, the better I felt. The more I did it, the more energy I have.
Acting is great. I love acting, but it was always exhausting for me. So what happened was, I felt fulfillment in my work for the first time in my life. I’m kind of condensing the story here – not to go too lengthy.
KIM: Oh, no – this is awesome.
MICHAEL: Yeah, but I felt fulfillment for the first time ever. And I thought I had that with acting, but I was wrong. I loved acting, but I didn’t love everything about it. With photography, I loved everything about it.
But it’s an interesting thing here – and I’ll get to it in a second – is that photography wasn’t really what I was doing. It was something kind of “else”. And what I had learned from this whole experience and having had some time to go through it – and I’ve been a professional photographer in New York almost 10 years now – what I learned was: With acting (and anybody listening to this), the question that I asked that helped me tremendously was not “What do I love to do?” but “What do I love about doing it?”
And with acting, I learned that what I loved about acting was inspiring people to be their truest and best selves. And I realized that I actually didn’t need to be an actor to do that. And with photography, I thought I was making compelling images – and you know what? I’m not going to “toot my own horn”, but I’m a great photographer. I’m talented, I work relentlessly at my craft to this day, I learn new things every day as a photographer. But what I learned what I was doing, Kim, was – I was inspiring the best in other people while they happened to have cameras pointed at them. And it took me a while to even realize that I was doing that.
So I kind of branched off, and I asked myself a question. I said, “How can I do the same for people that don’t happen to be in front of a camera? I want to inspire the best in people while they’re in front of maybe another camera, or in front of an audience, or a partner, or whatever that might be. How can I do that and not have to take their picture to do it?”
That’s how MichaelCinquino.TV was born, and basically, it’s a site and a bunch of services to help people be their absolute best – be their truest and best selves while they’re in front of a camera, while they’re in front of a partner, or an audience, or whatever that might be.
And that’s kind of what led me to where I am today. I’m leaving just a little bit of time, but that’s who I’ve become and what I do. And for anybody listening, this did not happen overnight. It was the result of a lot of exploration, a lot of failure, bunch of struggle – but it was all worth it to get to where I am now.
KIM: Can you share some of that exploration? And maybe some of the struggle? But I mean, definitely I’m interested – and I think the listeners are as well – about the exploration and the journey that brought you here.
MICHAEL: Sure. I’m one of those people that likes to – I think you mentioned it earlier, I’m an idealaholic, or ideaholic – or what did you say? We were kind of chatting before we launched.
KIM: Yeah, I have “Chronic Idea Disorder”.
MICHAEL: Yes! Kim and I both – I have Chronic Idea Disorder as well! So what I’ve learned – and part of the discovery process is to get out there and do stuff, and I’ve done a lot of stuff.
I mean, I was in the Navy for four years – I was a U.S. Navy Rescue Swimmer – so that was right out of high school. I was a terrible kid in high school, I didn’t have any options, so I joined the military to try to get myself some options. So I did four years in the U.S. Navy.
I’ve studied personal development – I read constantly. I’ve been reading, since 19 years old, relentlessly – hundreds of personal development books, psychology books. So I read. I study. I try different things. I get on podcasts – like yours, Kim – and talk to people – or just as a listener, just listen to the podcast.
But for me, it was just trying stuff. You know, I kind of find a common thread among the couple younger generations, and I feel like the tremendous amount of pressure these kids put on themselves to go “What do I need to do? What am I going to do? What am I going to be?” [00:08:02] [inaudible] [1.5] Oh, I have to decide what I’m going to be when I grow up,” as if that’s one thing. And I feel like part of the exploration is to accept that nobody is really “one thing” anymore.
And this 30-year-old idea – maybe 20-, 40-year-old idea – that you go do one thing for 20 years or 30 years and then retire – I kind of feel like that’s gone. And even somebody that’s a photographer – it’s a good part of what I do – I do three or four other things as well.
So I feel like it’s important – my exploration came in two parts: one, an exploration of how I like to spend my time, like what kind of activities do I like to do? 1b would be: What kind of people do I like to be around? Or, who don’t want to hurt? And then the second part of that is just self-exploration.
I’m an open book. My therapist is my longest relationship in New York. It’s a true fact! She is my longest relationship in New York; I’ve been with her nine years. And when I came to her, things were – I mean, I was a mess. I was suicidal, I was raw with anxiety, I thought was going to die. And now, we have a completely different set of problems – I guess, a “higher quality of problems”, if you will.
Butthat’s come as a result of me going, “You know, the work [00:09:17] [inaudible].” [0.1] And I think it’s a balance. For me, I’ve kind of learned to balance between taking action and doing things – and also taking that time to take a step back, and reflect, and refine, and then improve upon what you’ve learned.
And what I love about your message – we talked about it – is that positive productivity is like: You want to be productive, but at the same time, we have to step back.
So I have learned that – and just to use a photography analogy here – all lenses have a minimal focus distance. And that means how close a lens can pull focus – what the distance of [00:09:52] [inaudible]. [0.1] Some lenses can focus on objects that are a foot away. Some lenses need six feet of space to actually pull clear focus on an object. And if you want to do an experiment right now, you can just take a book – or even a screen you’re looking at – and if you just move that object close your eyes, it’s going to go out of focus, and you have to create some distance between your eyes and whatever it is you’re looking at to create focus.
And I think that’s a great analogy for productivity, it’s a great analogy for life, is that when we’re so close to something, it will remain out of focus. We need to take a step back. Sometimes that step back is literal space, like leaving and going somewhere on vacation every quarter, or every three months. Sometimes that’s time space.
KIM: Oh, absolutely.
MICHAEL: Sometimes it’s emotional. But I would say: Heed that minimum focus distance.
And one thing I do – I have to say in this in this podcast – is that you have to schedule your breaks. You have to schedule that perspective. Because oftentimes, I’ve found that I don’t realize that I need it until I have it. I’m like, “Oh, yeah. I’m fine, I’m fine.” And I’m a New Yorker, so I’m like, “Seven days a week. Let’s go-go-go.” And then I go away somewhere for a week, and I’m like, “Oh, I really needed this.”
KIM: You learn how to be patient in the grocery line.
MICHAEL: Yes! I just came back from Texas, and some guy in the elevator is like, “Hey, how are you doing?” Am my New Yorker instinct – I didn’t say this out loud – but I was like, “What the hell do you want?” But I was like, “Oh. This is a different part of the country where people actually believe in just saying ‘Hello’ to one another. They don’t want anything from me. They’re just being polite and saying ‘Hello’.” I was like, “Oh, hey man. How are you doing?” But yeah it’s good to get away – yeah, to learn how to be patient in the grocery store. Absolutely.
KIM: Oh, yeah. My parents used to laugh about that when they would come and visit me when I was living in New York, how they would go to the grocery store, and they would not only leave with groceries but they would leave with a different attitude.
MICHAEL: Yes. Extra baggage.
KIM: Yeah, extra baggage. Exactly. So I just have to ask: Have you heard of both Bo Eason?
MICHAEL: I love Bo Eason. [00:11:47] [inaudible] [0.3] to something called “World’s Greatest Speaker Training”. Have you been to that?
KIM: I haven’t, but we’ve have a whole ‘nother conversation about that.
MICHAEL: I love Bo Eason. Bo Eason is somebody – you know, it’s funny. If Bo hears this podcast: I’ve actually been eyeballing Bo. Because I don’t really have a mentor, and I am actually going to work my way up to try to get on Bo’s radar so I can be kind of his “protégé type” or something like that.
Because I got to spend a weekend with Bo at World’s Greatest Speaker Training, and let me tell you: If you’re listening to this podcast, you just heard it twice over. Go find Bo Eason and go to his website – BoEason.com – learn about him, sign up for his e-mail list.
And I’m hoping to go to his – he has a specific training that just he does. So my next step is to go to his training, and then hopefully get on his radar. Because as a storyteller, this is a guy – just for those of you listening – this is a guy who was an NFL football player-turned Broadway actor. And can I tell a quick – can I tell it?
KIM: Oh, please. Yeah, I love the story.
MICHAEL: Do you know the Al Pacino story?
KIM: Yes, I love it, so please share it.
MICHAEL: Where’d you hear the story?
KIM: No, High Performance Academy with Brendon Burchard: Bo had a segment, and it drew me in. And I had to share it with my sons and with my husband – and actually, with my business coach as well. It was phenomenal.
MICHAEL: So this just lends to practice. I’ll do a greatly condensed version of this story. Bo was a professional football player – he played for many, many teams – and he got injured, and he had a career-ending injury. And he didn’t know what he was going to do with his life.
He was being wheeled off the football field, and basically, the vision he had in his head was him in prison – him in an orange jumpsuit in prison. Because all he knew how to do was smash people, and he didn’t know what other job would entail that, aside from hurting somebody in real life and going to jail forever.
So he decided that the best thing he could do was find an outlet for this. He decided to become an actor – didn’t know anything about acting – moved to New York, started taking acting classes, asked everybody who the best stage actor was of the time. Everybody agreed: It was Al Pacino. So he’s like, “You know what? I’ve got to talk to Al Pacino.”
He called his sports agent to try to get him a meeting with Al Pacino, and he wanted to ask Al Pacino how to be the greatest stage actor alive. That’s the question he had for Al. So actually, he got a meeting with Al Pacino, which is super cool. Al Pacino invites Bo to his house. He shows up. There’s Al Pacino on the front porch. He’s like, “Hey, Bo, how are you doing? I’m Al Pacino.” Bo Eason’s like, “No, shit. It’s Al Pacino. Oh, my God!”
So he brings him in – and again, I’m condensing this story greatly – and brings him downstairs, and they’re playing pool together. And Bo says to Al Pacino. He said, “You know, I’m sure there are a lot of people – I know that a lot of people ask you this question. And I [00:14:20] [inaudible] [0.3] for taking the time to share with me, because I know, I’m sure you get bombarded with this.”
And Al said to him, “You know what, Bo? No one’s ever asked me this question.”
And Bo said, “You’re kidding me, right?”
He said, “No. No one’s ever asked me how to be a great stage actor. People ask me how to be a movie star, how to make a ton of money in movies. They ask me if they could be in my movie. But no one’s ever asked me how to be the great stage actor of our time.” And then he took the next four hours and basically taught him everything he knew about how to be a great stage actor.
And for anybody listening to this, Bo is all about practice. Relentless practice. And so am I, actually. This is a story for another day [00:14:56] [inaudible] practices there the [1.8] practices for a reason. It’s basically how to get anything you want your life. But they’re practices. Most of these things are stuff you do every day, if not every couple of weeks. And for anybody that’s listening to this, practice, I believe, makes possible – not perfect, because I believe perfection is a myth.
But Bo is somebody that I respect incredibly because he is about repetition of practice. And nowadays – and nobody loves to hear it, nobody wants to hear anything about this – but we all want to hear how fast and easy everything is.
And you know what? If I want to sell you a [00:15:28] program how easy it is if you [0.9] actually care about, and I want to prepare to be successful, I’m going to tell you that anything of value in life is neither fast nor easy. It’s going to be incredibly difficult, and it’s going to take time. And the more you practice – the more you dive headfirst in and repeat, repeat, repeat and master your craft, whatever that crap is – the more successful you’re going to be.
KIM: I love that. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that: “Practice makes possible.”
MICHAEL: I believe it. “Practice makes possible.” Not perfect, because I think when we strive for perfection – perfection doesn’t exist, nor should it. To steal from Bo, “Mother Nature is undefeated.” And we all have to obey Mother Nature.
If Kim and I could build a solid concrete house on the beach in Florida, and it was the strongest house ever made by human beings – if Mother Nature wants that house, she’s going to take it. And there is nothing we can do about it.
So I believe that nature is the most powerful force. And with all our technology, and all our money, and all our quote-“advancements”, we still have our heads in nature. And there’s nothing we can do about it. If a hurricane wants to come in, as we’ve just seen, and cause billions of dollars’ worth of damage, and loss of life, and terrible things – there’s nothing we can do.
KIM: Hey listeners: So we just took a quick break to switch computers and make sure that you get the highest quality of interview. Because this interview with Michael is so powerful, and I want to make sure that you’re not missing anything from either side.
So thank you for your patience, and thank you so much, Michael, for being willing. Oh, my goodness – this podcast is called “Positive Productivity”, where we’re not about perfection, but about living a positively productive life. There you go.
So I hope you’ve all appreciated the conversation so far, but what I really wanted to interject even about the Bo Eason story is that he grew up wanting to be a all-star football player. And when he graduated high school, nobody wanted him on their college team. So he ended up being a walk-on.
And even though they told him he wasn’t on the team, he still end up going into the locker rooms, and out onto practice everyday until the first game, and then just kept on showing up, and showing up – and went into the first game, even though he shouldn’t have been there. And then four years later, he was the first round draft pick for…
MICHAEL: I think he was a strong safety, I think – or a cornerback, I believe.
KIM: Yeah, one or the other. But Michael, I just want to let you know I have already reached out to Bo Eason, and I’m hoping to get him on the show in the first quarter of the year, so I’ve definitely put a shout-out for you.
KIM: And I’m totally serious when I say that. So Bo, I’m holding you to it. And that’s another thing that I’d love to say, is in putting together this podcast, I have had a great lineup of guests – Michael included, so thank you Michael.
But the same as what Bo did in reaching out to Al Pacino – that was putting himself out there, even though he had been an NFL football star. I mean, Al could have said “No”. But unless you put yourself out there and are willing to accept “no”, you don’t know if you’re going to get a “yes”.
And I’ve got to tell you all: I have put myself out there in more ways than I ever thought I would have been comfortable for. And I have received no “no’s”. The only negative responses that I’ve received, if you can call them negatives, are “My schedule’s full right now, but please get in touch in a couple of months, and we’ll get you on my calendar then.” So just put yourself out there, because you’ve no idea what’s in store for you when you do.
Michael, I do have a couple of questions, though – just to back up. And I’m sorry to take you back to a dark time, but I know that a lot of us have struggled with anxiety and depression. And a lot of people, me included, have kept it quiet because we don’t want people to think that we’re any less successful or “put together” than we really are.
So after your friend talked to you and asked you, “What are you doing?” what were the first steps that you took?
MICHAEL: Okay, great. So I am more – I’m actually probably – I shouldn’t say it, but I’m very happy to talk about anxiety and depression. I mean, it’s funny because the more – and I talk about the first step in a second – but the more I talk about it, and the more that I get help for it, the longer that I realize it was a part of me. And it explains a lot of my behavior in my teens and henceforth.
But the first thing I did, and the first thing that anybody listening to this podcast that suffers from anxiety, or depression, or both is – number one: You have to get professional help. Professional help, real – and to get treatment. Not me, who’s not – I’m not a psychologist, or psychiatrist, anything like that. I’m not anybody that has an “-ist” at the end of their title. I have a ton of experience with it, but I am not a licensed practitioner, someone that is a psychologist. So I would say number one, you’ve got to get help.
In 1a: Keep shopping around until you find somebody that’s the right fit. I had to go to a few therapists before I actually found somebody who really felt like they understood me, they were the right fit, I felt comfortable, I felt safe, I felt like they were going to help me. So that was step one. Above all, you’ve got to get help, okay?
I know – and it’s funny, because I’ve been a New Yorker 11 years, and my views have shifted to New York views where guys going to therapy is really no big deal at all. But I still know there are parts of the country – and I’ve been all over the country, and I love our country – is that a male going to therapy… You might be looked at as “weak”.
KIM: Hey, a male going to the doctor.
MICHAEL: Exactly, a male going to the doctor! I would say: Gentlemen, the bravest thing any human being can do, whether you’re a male or a female, is to ask for help. And if you ever feel like, “Oh, man. I’m going to get help – I’m weak.” Err. Wrong. Flip it over.
It’s the bravest thing anybody can do, to say, “Hey, you know what? I need some help, and I’m going to go get it.” And I think that is a direct reflection of courage and bravery, being able to do that – and it’s the first step towards ending suffering. And why suffer?
So that was the first thing I did: I actually got professional help. And then, I was very honest with my therapists about how I was feeling and what was going on. And I’ll tell you – if there’s one thing I’ve learned: The more personal something is, thus the more universal it is. That is why I’m personally so open about my struggle with anxiety, so open about my struggle with substance abuse, and all that stuff.
Because I’ll tell you something, man. I’ve got my e-mail list, I am on social media, I’m very active, I do livestream video a lot, and I’ll tell you this anybody listening. When I share about my struggle, anxiety, anything like that, I get an outpouring of e-mails, and texts, and messages like you would not believe. Me just going, “Hey, this is where I struggled, this is how bad it sucks, this is what I did to get beyond that” – let me tell you. I believe that our struggles are the shortest distance between two people. And when we share thosse, we’re going to find that we’re not alone.
So step one, I would say: Get professional help. Do you want me to do step two and three?
KIM: Yeah – but I do, actually, have a question before you go to step two. So what – again, listeners, neither of us is a doctor. We don’t have any “-ist” at the end of our name. What is your thought about psychiatrists or psychologists – I guess it would be psychiatrists, who try to medicate?
MICHAEL: I will be very open about that, too. So I was with my therapist for about five years before I went on medication. So I was one of those people that did not want to go on medication because I just didn’t believe in it, I didn’t feel like it will be healthy. So what I had done was, I did five years of hard work – a real work of being honest in therapy, of learning some tools – meditation.
Now, I also have to just say this: I am someone that walked in taking care of himself. Like I exercise regularly, I eat well – at the time, I was consuming a lot of alcohol, and I’ll talk about why I stopped drinking over a year ago – but I was mostly taking pretty good care of myself. So to talk about medication, it took me five years to consider going on medication.
And I’m just going to share my story here: There is such a thing as brain chemistry. We all have a certain type of brain chemistry. We all have certain types of allergies, when you get your blood work done – that’s what it is. So your brain chemistry is just like your blood work. And there’s only so much you can do to change your physiology as a person before you have to start taking some other steps beyond meditation, diet, exercise, whatever that might be.
So what happened for me was, I did everything I could possibly do to to deal with the anxiety, but it still wasn’t working, and I was still feeling very anxious. I said, “You know what? Okay, fine. I’m going to try to go on medication.”
So, total transparency, the first medication I went on was not good for me. I got off it in two days, it made me feel high as a kite, it was just not really what I needed. Then I tried another kind of medication – and this actually made me feel normal, basically, for the first time in my life.
So I’m someone that has a very wide range of feeling – I mean, I couldn’t have been an actor, can’t be an actor without it – but what happened was, that range of feeling got shorter or more narrow. So I wasn’t way happy, and I wasn’t way sad. I was just kind of like “normal”, like within the range of “normal human being”.
So I stayed on medication for six years or so, and I was just – I decided I was going to gradually try to get off this so I wasn’t on something for the rest of my life. And I did. Basically, I’m kind of on no medication. I take a tiny little bit that is basically a placebo sort of effect, but it just helps me with my anxiety, helps you with depression.
And also, I would say: Your brain chemistry can change. So just because you get the medication now doesn’t mean you’ll be on it for the rest of your life. So anybody that’s considering medication, I recommend a couple of things: One, make sure you have a regular psychologist, all right? Not a psychiatrist, but a psychologist, someone that cannot prescribe medication.
Because for me, that was helpful to go, “Okay, we’re going to do everything we can without medication.” Then I went to my physician to go, “Okay, what are the options for anxiety, etc.?” Then I did a little bit of research on my own to see what was popular.
Now, I would caution you, because if you go on the Internet and you go on M.D. – which is something I don’t even touch anymore – you’re going to think that you’re going to die tomorrow, and have all of these side effects, or whatever. People react to the medication differently, so I would say: Get a team together – make it your psychologist, and maybe a psychiatrist and/or primary care physician – and decide on a course of action. And then you can stop. You have to take it forever.
But I came to medication because I was really doing everything I could do, and it still wasn’t working. So I said, “All right, let me make an adjustment to my brain chemistry that I can’t make on my own. And you know what? It was hugely helpful – hugely helpful. And now, I’m basically not on medication, and I feel fantastic.
KIM: That’s amazing, and I love that about the team. And I’m just going to interject quick – I apologize for sharing my own little story, but I did not have a team.
And if you listen to one of the earlier episodes -I think it’s Episode #5 for listeners – where I talk about sleep deprivation. And I was actually admitted to a mental hospital due to a thyroid condition and lack of sleep. And the psychiatrist that was assigned to me put me on four different medications, I believe.
And as an artist myself, I was used to looking at white paper and being full of ideas, right? Well, what he put me on, I started looking at white paper and being absolutely blank. It was sort of like Russell Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind” where, when he was on the medication, he could not create any more.
And that was more of a death to me – maybe that’s a strong way of putting it – but that was more horrible to me than going through the anxiety that I was going through, was not having my creativity – and my spirit, I’m even going to say. Because my creativity does feel like spirit. If I lost my Chronic Idea Disorder tomorrow, I don’t know what I’d do. Right?
So I actually got fired from my psychiatrist because I removed myself from my medication – which I do not recommend anybody doing without consulting their doctor first.
So what did take you on your journey to stopping drinking alcohol?
MICHAEL: Yeah, so what I realized about myself – and it’s funny how I realized this after I stopped drinking – what led me there was it had become a habit. And I drank for 25 years, so I had my first drink at 15, and then I basically just drank heavily until last year – September 8th.
And what I had found was, the reason why I was doing it was because I was anxious, and I didn’t feel good. So us human beings are programmed to get ourselves out of pain as quickly as possible in the easiest possible means. So I learned very early on in my life that, if I would drink, I didn’t have to feel anxious. And what had happened was, for a while there, the only time I actually didn’t feel anxious when I was drinking.
So what happened to me is that it became such a habit that, a little over a year ago now, I was finding myself – and I’ve been through many different kinds of drinking – but at the last point, I was drinking a bottle of wine a day just normal. That was just kind of like my – what do you call it – baseline? Usually two bottles a day. So it was probably a bottle and a half, to two bottles, every day of wine. And even even to this day, that doesn’t sound like a lot to me – but it is.
So what I found was, I wanted to stop drinking. And I realized that I was going to the wine store every day, and I’d go through this cycle, Kim. I would wake up in the morning, and I’d say, “You know what? Today, I’m not going to drink.” And I’d really mean it, and I’d really feel it. The day would go on, and about 5:00 would come, and my brain would shut off, and I would go like a zombie to the liquor store and buy two bottles of wine, come back home, and start drinking. And I realized that I had no control.
So I was like, “Okay, I have to stop doing this. So I decided that I was going to stop.” And then, I couldn’t stop. So I was like, “Wow, I can’t stop doing this. So actually, I really need to stop.”
So what I did was I went to A, and I started to go to AA meetings. And in the beginning – for me, they were very helpful. In going back to struggle: I went to an AA meeting, the first meeting I ever went to, I sat down in that room, and I felt “not alone” for the first time that I could remember. And I felt like I was surrounded by people who were just like me, who understood this thing, and that I could relate to and share safely with.
And what I had learned after being sober – and if you go to MichaelCinquino.TV/Blogs – if you go to the blog, I did a post on this, what it was to go three years sober. What I learned was, I actually don’t have an issue not drinking alcohol. There are some people that have a daily struggle no matter how long they’ve been sober. They could be sober 25 years, and every day, they’re trying not to drink. For me, that doesn’t bother me at all. You could put a glass of wine under my face right now – it doesn’t do a thing for me.
So what I realized was, I was using alcohol to numb feelings. And that’s what led me to give up drinking. Now that I’ve given up drinking, wow. What a amazing life it is, because I have to deal with everything. I have access to all of my feelings. I either have to talk it out or do something positive, because I don’t have alcohol to numb what I’m feeling.
And some really positive things have happened in my life. I don’t do anything I don’t want to do anymore – those dinner dates or those connections with people, where I was like, “Oh, let’s go hang out”? Well, when I was drinking, I didn’t really care for this person – “Ah, no big deal. I’ll just drink a bottle of wine, and I’ll get something out of it.” Now, I just say, “No.” I’m like, “No, I’m not going to hang out, because – I don’t know. I don’t want to.” And I don’t have drinking to “grease the wheels”, if you will.
So giving up drinking was my best decision of last year, I have to say, by far.
KIM: Well, congratulations, first off. That’s so huge. And I’ll just say it one more time, congratulations. And then, I have follow-up question for that: It’s been so impactful on your life – I’m curious how it impacted your business, especially with what your business is about, and helping people do their best and most authentic self in front of the camera.
MICHAEL: You know, if you go to my site, there’s a quote there that says, “The future belongs to those who are able to be their most authentic and their clearest self.” And I’ll tell you: It’s done wonders for my business.
And I learned that – and I’m not bashing. Don’t get me wrong here – I’m not someone that says, “You shouldn’t – nobody should drink.” I don’t believe that at all. If you’re drinking right now, and your your life is good, and you’re happy – you should keep doing that. And I will never be someone that says, “Don’t do this or don’t do that.”
I will tell you that, my experience, I was never really having a true connection with anybody while I was drunk. It never happened. All those drinking buddies I thought I had a great time with – we never really had a real connection. It was nonsense, because we’re drinking. So what it has enabled me to do is it’s forced me to be fully “me”. And because of that, I’ve been able to help other people go, “Hey, you know…”
I believe we are truest and our best selves when we’re in one of two places: either at play, or suffering. That’s when our truest self comes out. And two examples: If you watch kids run around – I mean, you have children – watch a four- or five-year-old run around the playground. They are just beaming with personality, they’re not watching themselves, they’re not self-conscious – their truest, beautiful self is coming out. That’s one way.
And I feel like, as adults, we kind of play smaller, and smaller, and smaller. And I encourage any adult watching this: Play like a four- or five-year-old. That’s how you come out. So that was something that helped me to re-realize or revisit.
And the second thing is suffering. And you know, we don’t want to do that, but if I make you do 5,000 push ups, there’s going to come a point where you’re going to stop caring about what you look like. And your self is going to come through. Because you’re not going to have any strength or energy to socialize your responses, or to think about what you’re going to say. You’re just going to come out.
So those are the two ways we come out at our truest – and I prefer play over suffering, of course. But it is allowed me to have a deeper connection with my clients – whether it’s over Skype, or there in front of my camera, or an audience – and to be able to connect with them on a level that I really wasn’t able to do as deeply before, because I was drinking everyday.
KIM: Oh, absolutely. So I am curious: When you were talking earlier about – and just remind me and the listeners again, because this has been such a full conversation – about your business. I forget – Michael, can you remind us what your focus is in the business, like helping people be their best in front of the camera and in front of their partners.
MICHAEL: Yeah, exactly. Really, I’m a photographer, speaker, and on-camera coach. So what I do is, I’m here to inspire your best and your truest self. And I’m here to help your message come through you, rather than from you – and there’s all kinds of ways that we get in our own way. And I mostly help people while they happen to be in front of a camera, because there is something about a camera that raises our “self-consciousness quotient” and kind of freaks people out.
And here’s the thing: Nowadays, no matter what we want, you have to be on camera to get it. Anything – anybody listening to this broadcast right now, anybody listening to this – anything you want is on the other side of the camera lens. If you want to date, you’ve got to have a dating photo, right? If you want a job, you have to have a head shot on LinkedIn and/or a Skype interview. If you are in business, you have to do video. You have to put your face and yourself on video.
So anything that anybody could ever want nowadays is going to happen as a result of being on camera. And the more authentic you can be, and the more connected to your audience, and the clearer you can come across on-camera – that will enable you to have, basically, whatever you want. If you can’t do that, it’s going to be catastrophic for anything.
And I’ll tell you, just to give you a quick story about that – I have a friend who’s a senior vice president at Michael Kors, and I have a couple of friends that are recruiters. They choose to call in people for jobs based on their photo. Period. They will never tell you this. They’ll never, ever tell you this – but it’s true.
Same thing with dating. And I call it kind of the “silent killer”, because no one’s ever going to tell you that they didn’t choose you for a date or they select you for a job because of your photo. It’s just going to happen. So what I help people do is to be the truest and best self on-camera so they can have whatever they want.
KIM: Michael, I have to share – it’s sort of funny – but my husband and I met through Craigslist.
MICHAEL: Here we go. Ready guys? Here it comes.
KIM: Yeah, and his ad actually said, “I’m sorry if you don’t get a response from me, but I do want a photo, and I’m not mean enough to tell you that I’m not attracted to you.” But you’re right. There’s got to be that connection. And my husband is the best – if I could clone him, I would be a millionaire, because he’s just that awesome – but, yeah. It does happen. And you don’t need to look like you’re glamorized all the time. Just be yourself – but you’ve got to be out there.
MICHAEL: One of my biggest things is that being attractive on camera has nothing to do with your looks. Absolutely nothing to do with you. You could be the most attractive person on camera in the world and not be anywhere near what someone would consider “physically attractive” or quote-“traditionally attractive”.
So for those of you out there like, “Oh, I’ve got a face for radio.” I say, “Bull. That’s not true. Get that idea out your head. That’s a myth, doesn’t exist. You can be as attractive as anybody on camera.” Just anybody just needs to do a couple of things to do that, and it has nothing to do with your looks.
KIM: Oh, absolutely. I love that. That’s huge. So based upon our conversation so far, I have a feeling I know a couple of your answers, so I’m going to take them away from you right away.
Besides a camera – and I mean digital, or a camcorder, or plain photography (I know a lot of people are using cameras that do both, these days, or smartphones that do both) – and professional help if you’re dealing with anxiety, what are a couple of other tools that you would recommend for entrepreneurs to live a more positive and productive life?
MICHAEL: Cool. Okay. A morning routine – a morning routine of waking up early, exercising, practicing gratitude. No, I’ll give you one single thing – I’ll give you one single tool: a daily practice of gratitude. Period. And if you do it two ways in the morning – I’m going to say “guarantee”, I’ll say the word – I guarantee you a more productive and a happier life if you do these two things.
If you wake up in the morning, and you literally just say – write down or say – “What am I grateful for?” And the way that I like to do it, is I like to say, “What do I get to do today? I get to be on Kim’s podcast today. How cool is that?” “I get to live in the greatest city in the world – or what I consider to be the greatest city in the world.” “I get to have a gym in my building.” “I get to do this, I get to do that.”
And I just go on a list. I just say, “I get to [fill in the blank].” And I just say, “How cool is that? How awesome is that?” And just doing it right now puts me in a different state. So I do that – what I have.
Then, I take what I want, and I say it as if I already have it. Because I basically tell my brain subconsciously, “This is stuff that I need to have.” So on a subconscious level, I’m programming my brain to go, “Yeah, I need to have this stuff in my life.” So then I start to go, “How great is it that I make a million dollars a month?” “How cool is it that I have my own airplane?” “How cool is it that I get to drive a Ferrarri?” or whatever that might be for you, or whatever. “How cool is it that I’m doing X Y Z?”
And do those two things for just 10 minutes in the morning every day – I guarantee you that tool will not only make you more productive, it’s going to make you a happier person. And I’ll tell you: When you’re filled with gratitude, and you walk into a room, or get on an interview, or whatever that might be – my god, you’re attractive.
And this goes right back – and I’ll connect, I’ll make a connection here – to go back to the camera. If someone shows up on a date with you, and they’re just full of gratitude, and they’re so interested in you, and connected to you – that person is attractive. They have your attention. If you’re someone that shows up, and talks all about yourself, doesn’t care about this person – ugh. Right? I think – Ugh. I can’t. I can’t even!
KIM: Oh, absolutely. I mean, even if you had to drive around the block five times, it’s not, “Ugh, I had to drive around the block five times in order to come meet you.” It’s, “Yeah, I am so glad to get to meet you. Sorry I’m a couple of minutes late.”
MICHAEL: So yeah, that’s the one tool that I would say: Practice gratitude for what you have, then practice gratitude for what you want as if you have it.
KIM: So have you shifted out of a “I have to,” to “I get to” in all parts?
MICHAEL: Yeah, absolutely. When I was in the Navy, they told me I only had to do two things. I only had to die, and pay taxes. That’s it! Anything else was not a “have to”. But you know, Kim, sometimes – yeah, it’s like, “Oh, I’ve got to – I have to go do this thing.” And then I have to remind myself, “No, Michael. No, you don’t. You ‘get’ to go do this thing.”
And, like any human being, some days are going to be easier than others. Some days are going to be catastrophic. Some days are going to be awesome. But I always try to take the good with the bad and stay consistently in the practice of gratitude. I’ll tell you: The days when I need to do it are the days when it’s the hardest to do. But the more I’m able to say “I get to” instead of “I have to”, the better life it is. But I certainly struggle like anybody else.
KIM: I love that. And I have to say – I haven’t been great about having the daily gratitude in my life.
I have to ask if you are familiar – and we might have even met in his group, but I can’t remember – are you familiar with Hal Elrod and the Miracle Morning?
MICHAEL: I’ve heard of the Miracle Morning, but I don’t – I’m not in that group.
KIM: Have you read the Miracle Morning?
MICHAEL: I haven’t.
KIM: It’s amazing. I recommend it highly. Michael, it has been absolutely fantastic having you on the show today. I’ve really enjoyed it.
MICHAEL: It’s been my pleasure. Thank you for having me.
KIM: Oh, you’re very welcome. Where can listeners get in touch with you, and find out more about you and what you do?
MICHAEL: Sure, if you go to MichaelCinquino.TV – that’s MichaelCinquino.TV – you can go there, and there’s a free gift for you there, a video series on how to be instantly more attractive on camera. It has nothing to do with your looks. So drop your name, your e-mail in, you’ll get a free video series on how to do that. It’s a two-part, free video series. And then you get a couple of free interviews – I interview people that make their living on camera – so you get to steal from some people that are actually making a living being on camera.
KIM: You “get to” steal from people! Well, thank you so much again, Michael.
MICHAEL: Kim, it’s my pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.
KIM: You’re very welcome. Listeners, Michael’s link, and any of the books, and people that we’ve mentioned will in the show notes. I want to thank you for being here for another episode of Positive Productivity, and I will catch you the next time around.