It is impossible to achieve what you want to achieve if you aren’t putting everything you’ve got into it. We all have different capacities for things at different moments, so our “best” might look different depending on the day, week, year, etc… but ensuring that you believe you are doing all you can in each moment is a powerful philosophy for a happy life.
As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Malkin.
Michael Malkin is the creator of Calm Strips. Michael Malkins initially would deal with anxiety by wrapping carpenter’s tape around finger so he could rub something when he felt anxious. Over the years, he developed a product that could help others suffering from anxiety, Calm Strips. Calm Strips are designed to be calming and to take you back to a calm environment. They are created from a texture (soft sand) that won’t scratch fingers or a laptop screen. The strips also are not too rough to negate risks of self-harm, which can occur with anxiety.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Iworked in a busy retail environment for many years. I loved the interaction with customers, but it would definitely spark my anxiety on really busy days. I started looking into options for fidgeting and found that most of the options were clunky or cumbersome, or were literal toys.
I started working on Calm Strips as an option for people that wanted a more portable, more modern option. It took us over a year to find the right combination of a textured finish and reusable adhesive that would meet all of our goals. We launched the product about 8 weeks ago and people seem to be loving them!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Definitely working intensely hard to ship orders to customers. I started this business out of my house and my primary partner (in everything) was my wife. We would pack up and ship orders in the evening after the kids went to bed. I thought that version of the business would be around for a long time, but thanks to our amazing customers we have been working overtime to get all the orders shipped out to customers.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
I was contacting a customer about an issue with their order and I misspelled their name. They sent me back a reply with their name highlighted in bold. I felt so bad about it. I actually made a little apology video and sent it to her. She was a good sport about it and is now a fan of the product, but for a minute I was so worried that I had created an enemy for life.
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?
Too many to list. I mentioned my wife earlier and she has always supported me. I have a very creative spirit and I’ve done a lot of things and spent a lot of time that were ultimately failures.
Well… maybe failures isn’t the right word. They weren’t financially successful; but they did help me to develop skills that I’ve needed to make Calm Strips possible.
I would be remiss without mentioning my mother, who has always loved and supported me no matter what. Without her I am sure I would not have even made it out of grade school.
There are also too many family members to list that have helped me along the way. Chris, Danny, Avi, Myrna, Bob, and on and on…
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Become a believer. Every difficult moment I have had while starting this business has been because of self-doubt. As someone who deals with anxiety, the highs and lows of starting a business are felt very acutely by me.
On our product packaging it says “What if things work out?” which is a question I ask myself constantly to keep myself in a positive mindset.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Hire the right people. I think that is the key. The best people don’t need much “managing.” You give them a goal and a purpose and trust them to get it done.
This allows you to spend your time inspiring people and creating a culture where the team can trust each other and just have fun.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.
- Stay in the moment: Most of my worries come from dwelling on the past or overthinking the future. Staying in the current moment and being mindful of your current state and surroundings.
- Try and stay positive: This is much tougher than it sounds. I struggle with it everyday. It’s so easy, especially in our current times, to keep a positive outlook and believe that things will work out for the best. Tough times get even tougher if you think tomorrow will be worse. Hope for a brighter tomorrow.
- Meditate: If you aren’t meditating already, start. Start small. You don’t need an app or anything if you don’t want to, though I like the Balance app. It can be as simple as taking 5–10 minutes of quiet in your car before you drive home from work. Give your mind the time it needs to just rest and not focus too deeply on anything.
- Get enough sleep: This is another one I struggle with. I watched a video about how even getting one hour more of sleep each night can have a dramatically positive impact on your mental and physical well-being.
- Don’t worry so much about what other people think about you. Make sure you are happy with yourself and everything else will take care of itself.
Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.
While I’m not an expert on this subject, I would say that having a purpose is an important element for happiness and mental health at any age.
How about teens and pre teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre teens to optimize their mental wellness?
Realize that it is going to take time for things to come together for you. I’m going on 39 and feel like I’m just starting to get a sense of what I’m “supposed to do.” I always think of the line from the seminal 90s hit (to me anyway) “Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen.” :
“The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives
Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t”
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
I am a big fan of Seth Godin and I would recommend any of his books. Purple Cow is a favorite of mine.
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. 🙂
I would love it if Calm Strips could help, in some small way, to reduce the stigma that is around mental health and anxiety. I think we have made some strides in recent years, but I think there is still a ways to go.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Learn to put everything you’ve got into everything you do.”
This quote is one that really changed everything for me. It is impossible to achieve what you want to achieve if you aren’t putting everything you’ve got into it. We all have different capacities for things at different moments, so our “best” might look different depending on the day, week, year, etc… but ensuring that you believe you are doing all you can in each moment is a powerful philosophy for a happy life.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
We are @calmstrips on Instagram and Facebook.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!