Mike Shoreman: “Mistakes are good”

When I lost my sense of balance, literally from a neurological condition I went from being this super athletic professional paddle boarding coach, a vibrant fun guy to not being able to walk from the living room to the kitchen of my parent’s home. I was bathing in a swimsuit in case I would spin […]

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When I lost my sense of balance, literally from a neurological condition I went from being this super athletic professional paddle boarding coach, a vibrant fun guy to not being able to walk from the living room to the kitchen of my parent’s home. I was bathing in a swimsuit in case I would spin out in the tub from vertigo that would hit me and need to be rescued. When we would go for short trips to appointments or just to get me out of the house, I would move really slowly. I literally traded in my paddle for a walking cane. I found that I would get really frustrated with my appearance, how I looked and acted, and I was hard on myself. Compassion is a thing we often give to others but for many of us find that it is hard to give to ourselves. Especially when things are tough. I found that writing down things I was proud of or happy with even if they were small wins would leave me feeling better about myselfand helped shifted my attitude and my perception of what I was experiencing.

Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?

As a part of our series about “How We Can Do To Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewingMike Shoreman.

Mike Shoreman is an author, speaker, advocate and community builder. Mike is a former professional stand up paddle boarding coach and now speaks on leadership, mental health and resilience to organizations, businesses and schools around the world. He is the winner of Canada’s largest inspirational speaking competition and is the winner of the 2021 Stand Up Paddle Boarding Man of the Year Award. His online speech on resilience has garnered over 4 million views online and his book Crash and Rise: Diaries of the Unbalanced Paddleboarder was published late last year.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Thanks so much for having me. I had a happy childhood. I am very fortunate- not all do. My parents divorced when I was quite young, and I don’t have any recollection of that, but I do remember having two of everything. Two birthday parties, two Christmases, two homes to go to and two parents who loved me. I was lucky. I grew up having very intimate relationships with both of them as a result. When I was young, my parents put me in swimming lessons and my dad would take me every Thursday night. It was our thing. Thursday nights were special: watching the latest episode of the Simpsons, ordering pizza and swimming.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

I began paddle boarding as a hobby when it began to really take off. There was this kind of boom where everyone was trying it. A few years later after following a bad break up and being inspired by several things including Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat Pray Love” I took a solo trip to India to find myself. While I was there, I spent some time in Varanasi which is one of the holiest cities in the world. One night when I was down by the water, I saw hundreds of lotus flowers on the Ganges River with lit candles in them flickering. It was one of those moments where the lightbulb just goes off. I knew then and there that I wanted to create experiences where people would light up the water like those lotus flowers. I knew then I wanted to give people an experience and by teaching them I would give them power and confidence and then they would shine bright. I have carried that with my transition into consulting and speaking. Give them the tools they need to go out and let them light up the water or light up the world.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

In late 2018 after several years of running my own business and being a coach with the national organization I developed a sudden neurological condition. A reactivation of my chicken pox virus attacking my facial nerve and ear. One of the biggest challenges and heartbreak was that I lost my sense of balance. Overnight I went from being this vibrant athletic entrepreneur to being unable to walk a few feet. I have had a lot of help in the last few years physically and emotionally recovering and pivoting into a new career. A friend of mine encouraged me to challenge myself with writing and public speaking leading me to do my first talk at Canada’s largest inspirational speaking competition on my story back to the paddleboard when doctors said it wasn’t possible. She saw something in me that day standing in front of her wearing an eye patch and using a cane. She believed in me when I was still struggling after taking a huge life knock. She gently nudged me down a new path I never thought of before. What I learned from this is that we do not always believe in ourselves and sometimes we need to trust others belief in us until we regain the confidence in our own abilities.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Too many to count! But mistakes are good, if we learn from them. I became the media guy for the Canadian Safe Boating Council, and I would do water safety demonstrations every May for the media to keep the public safe ahead of boating season. A role I loved doing. A few weeks later I was with some clients and we were going out for a sunset yoga paddle board session and one showed up with a twisted ankle. While we were out there the wind switched and what would normally take us twenty minutes became an hour and a half with hurricane like winds. It was like the movie “Twister” out there. I had to attach her board to my board for safety, it was not ideal! I was having visions of the marine police pulling up and asking me if I was the safety guy. Big changes were made following that incident but looking back on it now I can laugh. I hope the girl with the twisted ankle would say the same!

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

When I was travelling through India, mostly by train I picked up “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts. The story of a convicted bank robber and addict who flees Australia to India. When I picked it up, I was following the recommendation of several travelers who were also reading it and loving it but as I went through my own adventure in a foreign country where the book was set in I started seeing parts of myself in the characters. It helped me adjust to India and taught me a lot about the country and left me feeling more familiar with the culture. I highly recommend when travelling we read literature set in that culture. It left me feeling more confident while being there and gave me a gentle pushes and curiosity to go out and explore.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“Make your mess your message” by Erin Roberts is the quote that resonates with me most on many levels. We all have journeys in life, we all have stories. When my world fell apart, when my face fell apart- it was devastating and by sharing my story in a speech it was cathartic and healing for me and it was healing and empowering for others because it was told in a universal way that others saw themselves in it. Our stories have the power to help others and be transformative for them if it’s crafted in a way that brings the audience in and to be a survivor guide if you will for a journey, they find themselves on that can be totally unrelated.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I became an advocate for a national health organization about a year and a half ago. With losing my independence, my social life all in one go- my mental health took a huge hit. I sunk into a huge depression, experienced anxiety and thought about taking my life. I eventually sought mental health treatment and saw several mental health professionals which helped me process the grief, anger, and sadness I was going through. I have had a few independent events for them following my ordeal and right now my fun personal project is a national fundraiser and awareness campaign where I will be the first paddleboarder to cross from the USA to Canada next summer. Between working with them and training on and off the water, that is where most of my free time is going these days. But it is rewarding and I hope it shows people that we are all capable of doing big things to make our communities stronger.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives, mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

When I lost my sense of balance, literally from a neurological condition I went from being this super athletic professional paddle boarding coach, a vibrant fun guy to not being able to walk from the living room to the kitchen of my parent’s home. I was bathing in a swimsuit in case I would spin out in the tub from vertigo that would hit me and need to be rescued. When we would go for short trips to appointments or just to get me out of the house, I would move really slowly. I literally traded in my paddle for a walking cane. I found that I would get really frustrated with my appearance, how I looked and acted, and I was hard on myself. Compassion is a thing we often give to others but for many of us find that it is hard to give to ourselves. Especially when things are tough. I found that writing down things I was proud of or happy with even if they were small wins would leave me feeling better about myselfand helped shifted my attitude and my perception of what I was experiencing.

I think for many when they are suddenly facing a diagnosis and their health declines out of nowhere people do not initially think of the mental health journey they are about to go on. There is grief, anger, rage, sadness- all the emotions. There is a lot to process. For me, I felt extremely isolated with what I was experiencing. I felt very alone and that I was the only one going through it. To help normalize a condition that is so not normal I found support by joining groups on social media. I also looked for familiar faces- people I would recognize. I googled famous people, my condition. A few names popped up on the screen, mostly politicians. Right at the top was celebrity fitness guru and founder of P90X, Tony Horton who had gone through what I had just one year earlier. I contacted Tony hoping he might see my message and eventually it became a friendship and mentorship. I believe that when we surround ourselves with like- minded individuals it elevates everyone. Surrounding ourselves with people and communities where others have similar goals. It can be motivating and help us achieve things at an accelerated rate. It holds us accountable to follow through on tasks and projects when we are working towards similar goals.

One of favorite quotes is “The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller.”- Steve Jobs.

After a friend suggested I share my story she sent me some information for competing at Canada’s largest inspirational speaking competition. I had given one talk before and it had not gone well but I had a lot of time on my hands with my recovery and I could write and rewrite and practice. That night when I gave my talk to a room of 300 people on the power of saying yes to ourselves and how every yes sets us up for our next yes, our next win, I won. For me the experience was healing and cathartic. A huge release of pain and healing at the same time through the art of storytelling. But that win that night was not the most significant part. The talk went viral online on several platforms and garnered millions of views with thousands of comments from people around the world. I heard from people with all kinds of conditions telling me how they saw themselves in that talk and how it helped shift their mindset with what they were going through. Our stories are meant to be told and shared. There is power that comes in releasing them and there is power that comes from someone telling you that you helped them with their journeys. Think about how we do show and tell when we are in school and we bring an item to class and share it with others. By sharing parts of ourselves it lets others feel connected to us. We can share our stories by journaling, with trusted friends and loved ones or in community groups. Telling stories is one of the most powerful tools that leaders use to influence, inspire, and teach. It helps build instant connections with people and it bridges concepts and ideas between people.

Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.

It is amazing what is out there if we choose to go look for it. The simple act of research. I am a firm believer that we are own greatest advocates, we are the ones who will fight for ourselves the most. When I was sitting at home not doing much aside from my physiotherapy appointments while I was recovering physically, a few friends with yoga practices invited me to come join them. At first, I was very hesitant with still using a walking cane, but they were encouraging and told me it would be a sit down/lay down sort of class and it would bring me a lot of peace. For people who have disabilities or mobility issues like I do there are so many options out there. I personally enjoy Hatha Yoga poses that can be done while sitting down. It is calming, peaceful and brings me into a state of relaxation.

A great tool is the “Insight timer app.” It has a variety of beginner meditation practices, sights and sounds with a timer. They also programs for improving your sleep. over two hundred talks to listen to and have a guide for beginners who are new to meditation. There are a lot of free features on this app for people who are wanting to dip their toes in the meditation ring without committing to the full membership right away.

Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Practicing the art of mindfulness can be extremely difficult at first but can be really rewarding, combatting stress and anxiety. When I first starting using mindfulness activities it was through a workbook that had me doing an exercise where I would focus on breathing with deep breaths and taking in my surroundings. For someone who is go, go, go, this can be a huge challenge but slowing down and becoming more aware of yourself and your surroundings has huge health advantages. I remember doing this activity where I would hold my hand under a running stream of water and the point of the exercise is to take in the sensations of the water on the skin. The temperature, the feeling of the water, how it makes you feel. For me in the state I was in it was entirely frustrating but if we consistently take action and stick with what we are practicing we will get there in the end.

Re shifting our thoughts on sleep and how much sleep we need is something we all need to be doing. When I was running my paddle board business in the beginning it was just me on my own. I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders with bookings, marketing, teaching, driving- everything and there were always things that needed to get done. I was averaging 5 to 6 hours of sleep every night well below what is recommended by health professionals. What I know now to be true is that the most valuable hours for sleep are the ones taken before midnight. I aim for 7 to 9 hours now which keeps me rested, keeps me sharp emotionally and physically. I was in bed by 9:30 p.m. last night and it was the best thing. It felt like I was doing my body and my mind a favor.

We focus a lot on what we consume. We count calories, we try to make smart healthy food choices-mostly but many of us are not taking in enough hydration. As a person who spent all day every day, in the sun surrounded with water, I was more focused on the water going in me than the water around me. I would drink liters and liters far surpassing the daily recommendations. If we think about it every cell, every organ requires water to function at its fullest capacity. It helps our kidneys function. It helps us maintain a proper body temperature and helps cool us down in the summer and warms us up in the winter with circulation. Proper water consumption also helps with stress relief, digestion, and bone health leading us to being healthier not just today but also in the future. So, if you are not doing it for the you today, do it for the you tomorrow. That version of you will be grateful you did.

Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

A lot of people think that eating healthy means they need to give up all the food they love. Bye hamburgers, pizza and fries, chocolate. But our body gets this thing called cravings and when we don’t give into those cravings, the frequency of those cravings change. I still eat pizza and hamburgers. Do not tell Tony Horton that! But everything in moderation.

I used to say to myself I was “too busy.” I think that is one we all use. “I don’t have time in the morning” is one each of us is or has been guilty of at some point. I will raise my hand here and keep it permanently up. But the truth is we do have the time. People who eat a nutritional breakfast have been shown to work more effectively and make fewer mistakes than the ones who are running on low fuel until lunch time.

There is time for the things we really want to do. Whether it is cutting up fruit the night before during commercials of our fave tv show or waking up 15 minutes earlier to scramble some eggs or setting aside two or three hours for meal prep. I suggest Sunday afternoons while listening to Tracy Chapman singing in the background. Make food prep an experience that is enjoyable, so you look forward to it every week and it does not seem like a chore on a list of things to do. Put on a show if you can or listen to music, call a friend and have a nice catch up on while on speaker phone, and multi-task.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Asking for help can be one of the most challenging things we can. We put blocks up in our minds as to all the reasons why someone might not help which makes the process even more exhausting when it should be really easy. People love helping others. It makes them feel good to know that they have made a difference and helped someone. When my book was published, the publishing house asked me to make a list of influencers that I knew who I would contact to write a review of the book. Initially I thought they would all say no. Guess what? Fourteen out of fifteen people said yes. People I thought were too busy. Athletes, Actors, Authors, Community Leaders. They all wanted me to succeed and they all wanted to be a part of the success of it. I just had to change my mindset that they were too busy to help me. I had to get out of my own head and trust the process.

Every month I write down a gratitude list of all that I am grateful for in my life. Being grateful for all the things that we do have makes the bonuses that life brings to us seem even more special while it strengthens relationships with colleagues, friends, and family. A friend of mine calls me on the phone once a month and we do a gratitude writing session together. Sometimes we do not even talk, we just write for 15 minutes on the phone together, making sure the other is being accountable for gratitude journaling. We write down all the things and people we are grateful for and appreciative of and then on a separate piece of paper we write down a manifestation list of all the things we want to work towards.

Staying positive all the time especially this past year has been trying for many. But the emotional benefits of staying positive are amazing. People who generally stay positive have lower rates of depression, have a better physical and psychological wellbeing, and keep themselves in better overall health by staying upbeat. The first six months following my diagnosis, I was not in a good place emotionally. It looked bleak. Every appointment I would go to I would get bad new followed by more bad news and I went deeper and deeper into my depression until my business collapsed in front of me.I was being sent to have MRI’s to rule out brain damage and I was defeated. I remember thinking that Christmas that it would be the last. I was in a bad way emotionally. Eventually after months and months of rehab and mental health treatment I began to feel better and I started looking at the world kindly again and when I did that, the wins then started happening. I got on a paddleboard when doctors said it was not possible. I won Canada’s largest inspirational speaking competition. I got on an airplane when doctors said I could not do that. Positive things started happening because I allowed them to happen and created space for them in my life when the confidence started building again.

Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.

“I smile a lot in January.” A friend told me this once and I thought she was talking crazy talk until she explained to me why. She told me she smiles a lot in the winter because it helps her feel happy and it contributes to personal war with the winter blues. When my face collapsed with 5th, 7th and 8th cranial nerve damage on the right side of my face I felt like I looked like a monster with how I looked. I avoided looking in mirrors, I avoided people and I avoided going out and being seen. But even though my face was paralyzed on the one side and I was a shell of my former self virtually unrecognizable to people, when I smiled or laughed on rare occasion, I could really feel it on the left side of my face. It made me feel good inside even though I was embarrassed to be seen. It felt good to smile and laugh and it led me to feeling happier at a consistent level faster.

Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

There are massive health benefits associated to volunteering. People have reported they feel that it makes them happier, healthier, less stressed, and they even get a better night’s sleep. There are reasons why many law firms and several businesses do corporate team building activities with organizations looking for volunteers. Studies have indicated that people work more efficiently when they are happy and feel fulfilled. When I started an annual fundraising and awareness initiative for a national mental health organization, a few years ago I felt like I really accomplished something and made a difference. I felt like I contributed to society and I made a difference. That has also shown people in my networks that they are also capable of getting involved in their communities.

Travelling is another version of spiritual wellness. Going off on an adventure and discovering new lands, new languages, new foods is something everyone should experience. Immersing yourself into different cultures gives us perspective and clarity on what is important to us. It teaches us things we did not know about ourselves and shows us what we are capable of. It helps us grow as individuals.

As a rule, I try to support one friend in a big way once a month. Also, of note I have a lot of creative friends. People who are artists, musicians, actors. I may not be able to support all of them all the time, but I do try to support them if they have an exhibit or a show. I show up for them but showing up for them is also showing up for myself because appreciating music and the arts also adds to our spiritual wellness.

Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?

Our ancestral roots are in nature and the average American spends over 90% of our time indoors. When I worked on the water as a professional paddle boarding coach, I would spend 12 to 15 hours on the beach, on the water, in the water. I would explore bird sanctuaries I would paddle through, rivers and breathtaking skylines. I felt alive every day I went to work because I was going on an adventure and I was going to see and share amazing sights with others which built a connection with clients who were also sharing the experience. Not everyone is going to be a paddle boarding coach, not everyone likes the beach but being in nature whether it’s hiking on a trail or cross-country skiing in the winter has huge health benefits. Get outside, turn off the phone. Calls and clients will still be there two hours from now.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone could inspire a movement and the world became a better place because of all the amazing things people set off in motion? When my speech was released and went viral over a year ago it triggered a wave of support for mental health from the international paddle boarding community. Thousands of paddleboarders from all around the world took pictures of themselves holding their paddles up in the air for people who could not. For people struggling mentally and physically. Hundreds of people in the United States alone. I think something crazy like 26 posts from Texas. Posting it on social media with hashtags. It was and continues to be one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. It has been amazing to be centered in a movement showing me and others in the process what community does for their own when they fall.

There are so many causes that leaders need to be focusing on. Build movements to eradicate homelessness, food hunger, poverty and it just takes one person to make that first decision that they are going to make this their work.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I would love to sit down with Amal Clooney. I find her fascinating. Full time mom, busines woman, advocate, she is a wonder woman. So impressive. I would love to sit down and talk about her humanitarian work and the causes she advocates for. I would love to find out what lights her fire, what gets her up in the morning, what motivates her. I find her work and the way she lives her life to be incredibly inspiring.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can find out more if they look up The Unbalanced Paddleboarder.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

Thanks so much for having me. I really enjoyed my time. Wishing you the same!

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