“Forgive Yourself ”, Michael Nova of RiseUpEight.org and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

Forgive Yourself — This ties into being grateful. It’s being grateful for the mistakes you made in the past, so that you can learn from them. It means not beating yourself up for past transgressions. As a perfectionist, I’m always hard on myself, but it’s important to take a step back and just say, “I did the […]

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Forgive Yourself — This ties into being grateful. It’s being grateful for the mistakes you made in the past, so that you can learn from them. It means not beating yourself up for past transgressions. As a perfectionist, I’m always hard on myself, but it’s important to take a step back and just say, “I did the best I could at the time”.

Yes, you may have messed up, but you’re not perfect. Humans are imperfect, but what’s important is learning from your mistakes, because each time you mess up, just like each time you fall down, you rise again, with new experiences to learn from, which make you wiser and stronger.

As we all know, times are tough right now. In addition to the acute medical crisis caused by the Pandemic, in our post COVID world, we are also experiencing what some have called a “mental health pandemic”.

What can each of us do to get out of this “Pandemic Induced Mental and Emotional Funk”?

One tool that each of us has access to is the simple power of daily gratitude. As a part of our series about the “How Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness ” I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Nova.

Michael Nova has developed a proven track record of overseeing multiple businesses & creative projects simultaneously. As president of Nova Music Productions, Inc., Michael was previously featured in the New York Times as a pioneer in offering multiple services to independent artists in the music industry.

Michael then created Nova Disc and Nova Custom Printing, divisions of the corporation that would focus on offering services to businesses exclusively. Over the years, Nova’s clients grew to include NASA, MTV, BET, Google, L’Oreal, Halston, Palm Pictures, & The United Way, and many others.

Because the business was doing well, Michael found a calling to give back to the community. He co-founded Metrofly, a non-profit organization that hosted fundraising events for charity.

Then, with the intention of also making a difference through his work, Michael fully funded, wrote, directed edited and produced the film portion of the multimedia project, “X: The Human Condition”​ for Hypnotical Entertainment, while composing and co-producing the music. During production, Michael lost his eyesight due to illness, but manifested a miraculous recovery, inspiring people around the world with his story.

The project has received rave reviews globally, from Europe, Australia, Africa and Asia to North & South America. To date, the majority of all proceeds have been donated to charity.

Michael then founded the worldwide community website, RiseUpEight.org, featuring interviews with people from all walks of life who have overcome adversity in order to inspire others to never give up.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about you and about what brought you to your specific career path?

Thanks for having me. That’s a great question. I think as I tell my story, you might notice that the details are not as important as what came out of those details. We all go through adversity in our lives, but how we overcome it is what either makes us or breaks us…

I was tired of working for someone else, always looking over my shoulder and telling me what to do and how to do it. As a naturally creative person, I always valued freedom, so it was inevitable that I venture out on my own to start my own business with Nova Music Productions Inc.

As a musician, I saw what was happening in the music industry and how musicians were beginning to achieve success independently.

I realized that musicians were often left to their own devices to put their careers together and become business people as well as musicians. It’s not easy to do both. So since my previous job was acting as VP of an event planning firm, I realized that one of my strengths was in organization. Nova Music Productions Inc. would focus in on helping musicians with the business end of things, so that they could focus in on doing the music, and the company would support helping them as independent artists.

I put the word out to friends and asked them to refer me to others. I went around town and hung up flyers all over NYC, in music shops and other places where musicians might congregate. I placed small ads in newspapers and magazines. Eventually, through hard work 24/7 I got a phone call from the New York Times who wanted to interview me on “the new music business”.

As it turned out, there were other companies doing other innovative things in the industry. This gave me a signal that I was on the right track. Over the years, I was able to build up a solid base of clients, both in and outside of the music industry.

Now, years later, my client list reads like a Who’s Who of business. Major corporations are regular clients of my label printing company, and the music industry is now only a small percentage of my client base.

Meanwhile, I never lost sight of being a musician. Over the course of 12 years, I put together the existential music and film multimedia project, X: The Human Condition, which was to be a “message in a bottle” to all the people in the world who felt “different”, who felt like an outsider who couldn’t find their place in the world. The message was “you are not alone”.

Everyone I approached in the music industry rejected the project, telling me it would be impossible. I went ahead anyway and self funded it through my business. I was able to complete it with the help of many people who either worked on the project for free or cut their rates because of the positive message.

But the stress of having everything on my shoulders eventually took me to the point of near bankruptcy. I became seriously ill, was misdiagnosed, and almost lost my eyesight permanently. I was also diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, and the prognosis was not good. I was in a dark place, literally.

But a last-minute second opinion saved my vision, and as I eventually recovered fully, I was able to successfully reverse the process of kidney disease.

It was a miraculous recovery, but what I learned from all this, and still hearing those voices telling me what I was trying to do was “ impossible”, I realized that nothing is impossible.

I had confounded the experts multiple times. And X: The Human Condition becamea success.Our music group of the same name, X: THC received rave reviews as we performed the film and music together live, and we were able to raise funds for charities, and inspired people around the world with our story.

As our story grew, I learned of other people’s stories of overcoming the “impossible”, so I founded the website RiseUpEight.org, focusing on sharing those inspiring stories of people overcoming adversity worldwide.

There are now over 100 stories on the website that people have shared with us, of overcoming everything from homelessness to natural disasters to Civil War to serious health-related, life-threatening illnesses.

These are all examples of the human condition, and as I look back on it now, I realized that I fulfilled my original mission. A “message in a bottle” sent out to people all over the world with the message “you are not alone”. Because as a community, our RiseUpEight.org website joins people together worldwide, to realize that overcoming adversity is the human condition.

Isn’t that amazing? How life can lead us down twisting roads that lead us to an unexpected destination?

So now I can see how all the struggles with my music, my health and my finances all led to the creation of Rise Up Eight, and making a difference in a world that was completely unplanned.

And joining together the resources of X: THC and Rise Up Eight, we just completed an inspiring music video, This Town, with people from 43 countries worldwide coming together with a message of unity to inspire everyone to hang in there during this pandemic.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why do you think that resonates with you? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

My personal life lesson quote is “Never look at adversity as your enemy, look at it as your ally.” I say this because adversity strengthens you, and leads you through the path of life that you are meant for. There will be numerous challenges to overcome in life, and each battle you win strengthens you for the next one. It’s simply life training. 🙂

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?

The road less traveled by Scott Peck. I’d also make mention of Leo Buscaglia’s living loving and learning. These are two books that made a difference in my life, by pointing me in a directions that I think were natural to me. It was just refreshing to realize that I wasn’t alone in my “weird” thinking. I took those lessons learned to heart. 🙂

I studied hypnotherapy and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), and was always fascinated by psychology and how the human mind perceives things. It has become very helpful in my life when coming up against challenges. I highly recommend these two practices to deal with life’s unexpected circumstances.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, my music group X: THC just released the second music video from our appropriately titled, upcoming album, Fall Down Seven Times, Rise Up Eight, to promote the website, Rise Up Eight.

Each song focuses on overcoming different types of adversity, from mental health to bullying, to socio-economic issues, the divide between the rich and the poor, and the division within our nation.

The first music video we released was the previously mentioned, This Town, featuring people from 43 countries worldwide.

The second video we just released the other day is an anti-bullying video entitled, No Fear. It speaks from the viewpoint of someone who has been through the challenge of facing bullying and came through the other side stronger, able to help others going through the same thing.

We are actually giving away free songs from the album at our website at the bottom of this article.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are so many people that have helped me along the way. I’m grateful to every single person who has helped me. I think it’s important to mention that asking for help is not a bad thing. For a long time, I didn’t want to ask for help because I didn’t want to bother anyone, but when you ask for help in a way that is not needy, but just ask for advice, you might be surprised by what you get back.

My father always used to say, “Life is not a straight road. You will go through many twists and turns in your life.”

I think he was very accurate by saying that. And whenever I’m faced with a challenge that takes me down a different road, I think back to his statement, and also add a bit of my own. That is, that you should take that detour that is presented to you. You may want to go down a straight road because that’s the easy way, but taking that road less traveled often leads you to a better place than you even imagined.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now that we are on the topic of gratitude, let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. We would like to explore together how every one of us can use gratitude to improve our mental wellness. Let’s start with a basic definition of terms. How do you define the concept of Gratitude? Can you explain what you mean?

Gratitude is the realization in your mind that things can always get worse! On the surface that may sound like a negative comment, but what I mean by that is that if you can look at your life as a whole, hopefully you will realize that you are not at the bottom. That means you have a choice of how you can look at your life. And if you can focus on what is positive in your life, that will empower you. So gratitude is self-empowerment.

If in fact, you are at the bottom, then there is only one way up, so in that strange way, you can be thankful for being at the bottom, because things can’t get any worse! Always keep your sense of humor. 🙂

Gratitude is about looking at your life as a whole and not focusing in on the current adversity you may be facing. It is taking stock of your entire life, and deciding to focus in on the positive elements of it. It may only be 1% of your current existence, but that makes it even more important to focus in on, because what you focus on becomes your reality. I will expand on that below.

Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?

Thanks for asking this question. I think it’s easy to get completely wrapped in our adversity. We are when we are in the midst of it, it’s like we are lost in a dark forest, trying to find our way out, and feeling completely lost. It becomes our entire existence unless we are able to step out of it, and try to see it from an outside perspective.

Part of this comes from our childhood experience where we were the center of our own universe, and a part of us never really grows out of that.

So when we are faced with problems, it can overwhelm us. As we become more adept at handling adversity, this becomes less of a reality, and we are able to step out of it and realize that it’s just the part of our life that is currently not working and that can change.

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be constructive to help spell it out. Can you share with us a few ways that increased gratitude can benefit and enhance our life?

Absolutely. Scientific studies have shown that when focusing on what you are grateful for in your life, it calms you, releasing positive chemicals in the brain and actually giving you strength to deal with adversity.

I said before that what you focus in on becomes your reality. If you focus in on the problem and how it is affecting you and how it’s going to ruin your life, it’s hard to move forward. If you focus in on something good in your life, for a few minutes, you take a break from the problem. You are able to get those positive chemicals in your body flowing and you are able to clear your mind and regroup, which allows you to formulate a plan for overcoming whatever challenge you’re facing.

This is a very simplistic example. But you can extrapolate that to more complex situations.

Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?

I think what I stated above applies here. When I was going through the adversity of nearly losing my vision permanently and facing chronic kidney disease, initially, I was in a state of shock. I didn’t know what to do, felt confused and overwhelmed. This is normal.

When we are going through adversity, we think we are the only one in the whole world experiencing this. This is a crucial time to seek some kind of support, either from professionals or friends and family. I was lucky to get both, but I had to ask for it.

While formulating a plan for dealing with these health challenges, I realized I had to work hard to get back to where I was before.

I also suddenly realized that I was grateful for everything I had before I became ill. I had good vision where I can see everything in the world. Now I was looking through extreme blurriness where I could barely make out anything. But I could be grateful for hearing the birds sing, for feeling the sunshine on my body, for the people in my life that were helping me. I could also be grateful for being alive and still having a chance at being able to see in the near future. It wasn’t guaranteed, but I thought, if I work hard, maybe I can overcome this.

In that way, the horror of my life transformed itself into some kind of unexpected blessing. I was able to see the world in an entirely new way of feeling gratitude.

At that time, while I was feeling grateful, I could feel my body relaxing, and I realized that this is what I need to do. Focus in on the good things. This is healing. This is gratitude.

Ok wonderful. Now here is the main question of our discussion. From your experience or research, what are “Five Ways That Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”. Can you please share a story or example for each?

Yes, we are giving away a free report on the Rise Up Eight website entitled, 8 ways to take back control of your life…NOW! It contains eight things you can do immediately that will make a difference in dealing with adversity.

Several of them tie into the practice of gratitude…

1. Give yourself a break from over-thinking

Wracking your brain over what to do when you’re faced with adversity can often lead you around in circles.

When you wake up in the morning, take a few moments before going to work to focus in on something that is working in your life. What are you grateful for? It might be the opportunity to eat at delicious breakfast. It might be someone you love who is living with you. It might be the simple fact that you can see, hear and speak, and get up and walk around on your own two legs, when many people in this world can’t successfully do that.

Whatever it is, take a few moments to be thankful for that. This creates positive energy that lasts for hours. This will also clear your head so that when you come back to your problem, you’ll look at it with a fresh perspective, and you may find yourself thinking of options you did not think of before.

As I studied hypnotherapy and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), I learned that it’s much more effective to go into the subconscious, come out of it, and then go back into it than it would be to just keep going deeper and deeper without a break.

Studies regarding brain activity have proven that distracting yourself from a problem you are trying to solve “re-starts” the brain just like you are re-starting a computer, and sometimes all we need is a re-start.

2. STOP Yourself

STOP yourself from ruminating on your problem. Whenever you think to yourself, “HOW AM I GOING TO GET OUT OF THIS?”, take a break and focus in on what is working in your life.

What is the one thing that you can point to that you can be thankful for? Like the example I gave for myself, it might just be the ability to hear the birds singing outside over to feel the sunshine on your body.

Whatever that is, take a few moments to be thankful for that and enjoy that experience just for a few moments so that you can take a break from the madness of trying to figure out how to fix your problem.

3. Forgive Yourself

This ties into being grateful. It’s being grateful for the mistakes you made in the past, so that you can learn from them. It means not beating yourself up for past transgressions. As a perfectionist, I’m always hard on myself, but it’s important to take a step back and just say, “I did the best I could at the time”.

Yes, you may have messed up, but you’re not perfect. Humans are imperfect, but what’s important is learning from your mistakes, because each time you mess up, just like each time you fall down, you rise again, with new experiences to learn from, which make you wiser and stronger.

This is the meaning of our website’s statement, “Fall down seven times, rise up eight”

4. Get Your Body Moving

There have been many studies about how movement affects mood and health. Exercise creates positive chemicals (endorphins) in the brain which automatically lifts your spirits, but you don’t have to become a marathon runner. Just get your body moving.

Walking 30 minutes per day is optimal at a minimum. Morning is the best time to do this because it sets the tone for the day and gives you energy.

The movement and getting your heart beating is important not only for brain health but for your body as well. Also, studies have shown that walking 30 minutes per day improves your heart health, and raises HDL (good) cholesterol, so there are more benefits to exercising than you might expect.

When you are taking this walk, make sure to take in all the sounds of the birds singing, the smells of the flowers, grass and trees and sights of all of these signs of nature. Feel yourself being grateful for the ability to see, hear and feel them. If you can share this experience with someone else, it makes it even better!

5. Be THANKFUL For Adversity

This is my bottom line statement. I said before never to look at adversity as your enemy but instead, look at it as your ally.

I say this because it’s easy to ask “why me?” It’s easy to look at things from the victim’s viewpoint. If instead, you can turn that thought on its head, and instead, actually be thankful for the challenge you are experiencing, you might find that it empowers you, because ultimately what you are facing now is only one step in a journey.

It’s a journey of self-discovery and life learning. In life, we go through many challenges. It may seem that as soon as we conquer one challenge, we are faced with another.

This is the human condition. This is normal. This is not out of the ordinary, but instead, the experience of most human beings in this world.

Terrible things happen in life. Loved ones get sick, loved ones leave us, we become despondent, we lose our livelihood, failed to achieve our dream, we become homeless, we lose parts of our bodies or the ability to function in certain ways, but in each case, we have a choice.

We can ask, “why me?” or we can look at adversity as an opportunity to learn about life and ourselves, painful as it may be. As I’ve interviewed people who have overcome adversity from all over the world, I always ask one question…

“Would you be where you are now if you didn’t go through your adversity?”

Every person I asked this question of told me they would not be where they are today if they didn’t go through the challenges they faced.

They HAD to go through that to get to a better place in life. This is proof that adversity strengthens you and ultimately is a good thing.

If I didn’t become seriously ill, and face near bankruptcy, finding myself at the lowest point of my life, and ultimately recover from all that, I wouldn’t have come up with the idea to create RiseUpEight.org.

I wouldn’t have been able to share all of these incredible stories of people overcoming challenges to inspire others to never give up. I wouldn’t have been able to write the music I write today, about overcoming adversity.

I didn’t plan that. It just happened, and I’m actually thankful for it, because it allowed me to grow to become a stronger person.

Life is like a videogame. You can level up to the second level once you conquer the first level, but then you are faced with a greater challenge on the second level. The great thing about it though, is that you retain your powers gained from conquering the first level, and second level, and so on. Your powers get stronger with each level you conquer.

This is the human condition. This is normal. This is not out of the ordinary, but instead, the experience of most human beings in this world.

You are not alone in feeling that you are alone. In fact, we all feel alone in our struggle to overcome challenges. It’s only when we open our mind to the fact that others are also experiencing this, that we can take comfort from the fact that we are a part of something greater than ourselves. We are part of a worldwide community of people overcoming adversity.

This is the human condition. This is normal. This is not out of the ordinary, but instead, the experience of most human beings in this world.

So when I was experiencing my adversity, and when I currently experience any type of adversity, I say, “Bring it on”, because I know I will “level up”, and increase my power.

NOW, when you look at it like THAT, everything changes.

Be thankful for the opportunity to improve yourself, to learn to become stronger, because it’s inevitable. Everyone has challenges of one sort or another. You can’t let it define you. You have to define it.

Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?

I’ve learned several exercises from studying neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) that I like to do in such a situation.

The great thing about these “mind-trick” exercises is that you can create them for yourself. There are NO rules. The goal here is to distract yourself from the negativity by focusing in on something that is positive so that you can get yourself into a heightened state, to rise above the pit of misery you might find yourself in!

Here’s a very simple exercise I created years ago that only takes a few seconds to do, which is actually loads of fun and takes you back to when you were a kid.

It takes some imagining, so try to connect with that inner child that you have within you. We all have one. Some are more connected to it than others, but allow yourself to feel free to experience some fun for a moment.

Don’t worry about looking silly, no one will see you and all of us are doing this at the same time together, so join in the fun! 🙂

Just stand up right now if you are sitting or laying down.

Now imagine that you are your favorite superhero. For me, it’s Superman, but I might be someone else for you. 🙂

Now stand like your superhero would stand. If your superhero wears a cape, imagine that Cape on your shoulders flowing down your back. If not, imagine your superhero outfit on your body and how that feels on you. If it helps, you can close your eyes to imagine it.

Now imagine it and FEEL IT!

Move around the room like your superhero would move around the room. You are a superhero. Breathe in deeply as a superhero and fill your body with super energy.

Now, how does that feel?

The heightened state you are in for those few moments can be achieved any time you want to. It’s all in the mind. Remember what I said about what you focus in on becomes your reality? This is true every moment of our existence.

We create our own reality in each moment that we exist. We can choose to focus in on the negativity or focus in on something that helps us. We can choose to be happy or sad by looking at the same thing in different ways.

What’s the secret to happiness? People, including myself search for years for the meaning of happiness. We wrote a song about the search for happiness. Mr. Happy questions what happiness is all about. What is it? How do we achieve it?

It one song featured on our debut music and film multimedia album, “X: The Human Condition”​ which explored the meaning of human condition, loneliness, alienation and the importance of mental health, through an allegorical story of two people searching for connection. What they find is something completely unexpected, but change is not only their lives but the lives of everyone around them.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?

I was recently interviewed by the gratitude podcast from Georgian Benta. I highly recommend his podcast if you want to learn more about gratitude and thankfulness.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Thank you, I’ve already started a movement! Please visit RiseUpEight.org and read about how people all over the world are overcoming adversity. I sincerely hope that you gain inspiration from it. That’s the reason we all share our stories. To help others…

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

You can download free music from our upcoming album, Fall Down Seven Times, Rise Up Eight at https://www.x-thc.com/no-fear until the album comes out. The album focuses on overcoming adversity, and pretty much encompasses this entire interview into music. 🙂

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

I appreciate the opportunity to make a small difference to someone out there. Thank you. 🙂

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