Every Wednesday we do a 24 hour fast, we leave our phones at home and don’t schedule any calls or meetings that day. First, I want to say, fasting is not for everyone, so please consult your physician. That said, if done correctly, periodic fasts can be amazing for performance in the office, at the gym and even on a cellular level. Having a day where I don’t have to think about my meals gives me an insane amount of drive. Like a hungry lion I feel this primal level of awareness, focus and creativity to direct towards whatever task is at hand. It’s no secret that we are addicted to our phones. Notifications are distractions that also carry a context switch which zaps momentum and therefore some of your potential to perform at your best. Having a day where you don’t have that urge to check your screen provides a necessary break from that incessant flood of pings and content. It feels like having an extra battery back of processing power and it makes you feel like you can do more with less time. Combine those two focus-enhancing rituals with the freedom of not having any meetings, it’s no surprise that it is our most productive day of the week.
As part of my series about “companies and organizations making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shane Heath. Shane is the Founder and CEO of MUDWTR, a company that creates products and experiences to optimize one’s mind, body and ritual. Since launching in May of 2018 MUDWTR has reached tens of thousands of customers across every state in the US and garnered capital from high profile angel investors like Nick Green (Thrive Market), Zach Coelius (Industry Ventures), Brandon Shainfeld (Unilever Ventures), Chris Hollod (formerly A-Grade Investments and VCs like M13, 25 Madison, Able Partners and Industry Ventures and surpassed $1m in revenue in their first year of business.
Outside of MUDWTR, Shane Heath is also a fine artist. Creating large scale paintings using a variety of mediums including acrylics, spray paint, charcoal and pastels. Shane’s work focuses on form and figure with compositions discussing consciousness, fame and storytelling, with shows in Santa Cruz, San Diego, Goa (India) and Los Angeles. Shane’s sought-after talents have also extended to music festivals throughout the year where he paints live and in recently displayed work at Google’s curated artwalk, where he was honored to paint Ed Moses, one of the organization’s founders. Shane is currently focused on developing a series that gives a voice to homelessness in the Venice Beach, California area. Prior to starting MUDWTR, Shane was working as a designer for 6 years, with experience ranging from agencies, enterprise and co-founding two tech companies of his own, where he developed a toolset that included UI/UX, branding and a good amount of front-end code skills. In 2016 he quit his job as lead designer at a successful startup in Silicon Valley to be an Artist in Residence in Goa, India, and it was during this time that he fell in love with the black tea and spice blended beverage, Chai, the drink that would eventually evolve into MUDWTR. Always testing himself physically, Shane is a purple belt in Jiu-Jitsu, loves to climb, drop into a hot yoga class, train crossfit and does a couple triathlons every year. A lifelong student to spirituality and his own psyche, Shane is a huge advocate for rituals and practices like meditation, breathwork, fasting and nutrition, even weaving them in to the company culture at the MUDWTR headquarters. He’s passionate about asking questions, testing taboos and is a public supporter of the research being done by MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) through which they are having remarkable results in the treatment of mental disorders through the therapeutic use of psychedelics. Shane currently resides in Venice Beach, CA.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Shane! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always been creating. My dad, a contractor designed and built all the homes that I lived in growing up. I was always around tools, drafting papers, hammers and nails. I was immersed in the creation process, literally seeing and hearing sketches become walls and then rooms that we would literally live within. A seamless congruence of imaginary and material realms.
I’ve since sought-after knowledge that would allow me to take ideas into reality. I studied design in college and after graduating went on to work at ad agencies, startups and established enterprises. In doing so, I built a skillset that spanned packaging design, branding through front end web development. While working as lead designer for a tech company in Silicon Valley I fell into the belief that coffee would allow me to do more and do it better. Soon, I was drinking 3 cups of coffee per day and began to experience anxiety, jitters and really poor sleep which led to a variety of other negative side effects.
I decided I no longer wanted to rely on hundreds of milligrams of caffeine to wake up the same way that I didn’t want to depend on a pill to fall asleep. I loved the morning ritual, but I felt I could create something more than just a vessel for caffeine. I quit my job and moved to India for 6 months and fell in love with Chai. When I got back to the states, I used chai as a base and curated an amalgam of different ingredients that gave me a benefit profile that fit my lifestyle which included Jiu Jitsu, Yoga and Crossfit.
I settled on masala chai, cacao, turmeric, cinnamon and four mushrooms: chaga, reishi, lion’s mane and cordyceps with a little salt. With 1/7th the caffeine of coffee it gave me focus, energy and immune benefits without the jitters and crash. Soon, I had people asking me “What the F is that?”
I’d say, “it’s mud.”
MUD started as a pivot away from the caffeine addiction virtually prescribed by workplace culture.
After experiencing the benefits first hand, I launched the business in May of 2018 to share it with others.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Being a designer is typically a solitary role. You aren’t on the front lines, you’re not in the headlines and I liked it that way. Despite the confidence in my ideas and vision I struggled for years on finding my voice in meetings. I guess I never felt confident that I deserved to be heard and wasn’t really sure how or when to overcome that weakness.
Sometime around 2013, I was working as a designer under a VP of Product with years of experience managing dozens of designers at Fortune 100 companies. One day he pulled me aside and told me “Shane, you’re the most talented designer I’ve ever worked. But you don’t know it.”
I still think about this message constantly. It was both a compliment, but also a clear indication that I was holding myself back from my true potential.
Starting MUD is largely a reflection of this pursuit to grow as a person. Expanding my capacity to vocalize my beliefs to potential customers, investors, and the team has been tough and rewarding. Years ago, the thought of merely being on a podcast would have been terrifying. Since launching MUD, I’ve been on almost a dozen podcasts and multiple on camera appearances. My confidence in that side of my self is growing daily which might be the most valuable thing I’ve earned so far.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I came into this business with zero experience in the food and beverage space. I hardly even cook.
But I did have a mind groomed by tech which meant I moved fast and wasn’t afraid to fail. I think the biggest mistake I made was assuming that the supply chain and manufacturing companies in CPG worked at the same speed and agility as tech companies do. I thought I could get to a certain scale and then just with a flip of a switch, a co-packer would be making my product and a third party logistics company would kit and ship it.
This assumption made me less focused on optimizing my manufacturing and fulfillment process because I felt these functions were only a placeholder until I had someone doing it for me at scale. So, I felt, I could just do it all myself until that happens.
I remember the first time walking into the commercial kitchen. I filled the mixer to the brim and thought “turbo” mode sounded right. I pressed the green button and a cloud of Indian Spices was quickly dusted the facility as I learned that the mixer should only be filled ¾ of the way and mixed at low speed.
It turns out that finding a co-packer that understands your quality standards, eco-packaging needs and scale takes a lot of time. And, once you find them, every aspect of the packaging from the materials to the certifications all have their own layered and separate lead times.
If I had known that finding and ramping the right co-packer was going to take 6 months, I would have brought in some professionals early on which would have saved me countless 2am sessions covered in mud at the kitchen.
Can you describe how your organization is making a significant social impact?
The ethos behind MUD is to ask “why?” I love the quote by Mark Twain where he says, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” I think it’s important to question our habits, our beliefs and really understand the nature of them. I feel that if we blindly follow without developing an understanding of our decisions and behavior, we at minimum are underselling our capability and at worst jeopardizing our capacity to thrive. The company started by me questioning my relationship to coffee and finding something better. That exercise, applied to other areas, has the capacity to positively impact the world in big ways.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
First, be curious. Ask why. We have access to more information than any other time in history. But we also have the individual broadcasting capacity like never before in history. Unfortunately, the latter has led to more noise without curation and more claims without rigor or basic diligence. Real journalism has lost to clickbait and fear. Truth and rigor have lost to the intimidation of and convenience of group think. If you want the truth you must conduct your own research and be an example to the rest.
The second is to find time for silence. Blaise Pascal said that “All of humanity’s problems stem from one’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Piggybacking on the necessity to be curious is creating space to process information and cultivate answers from within. From when we get up in the morning our days are filled with pings, emails, texts and calls. With so much input, it’s more important than ever to find stillness. I start and end every day with meditation and am actively trying to limit my phone use. (It’s hard.)
The third is simply to not be afraid to think different. I think if you are asking why and are giving yourself ample time to think and express yourself mindfully, it’s important to live on your edge and act from that space. We need more of that.
“A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are made for.” — John A. Shedd
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Haha, I’m still working on this one. I’ve always looked up to those who lead by example. It’s not as simple as what they do, but how they do it and maybe more importantly how they respond to unexpected chaos.
I look at someone like Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia as a good example of this. I love how he built his company around his passions and beliefs around sustainability and quality into every aspect of Patagonia. He wasn’t afraid to zig when others were zagging, from the way he made carabiners to the hours that people worked, he didn’t take the status quo as the template. He was building his company from the heart and if it meant rethinking the way things were done from scratch, he would do that. I think this type of authentic thinking and follow-through supersedes any of the textbook traits you might try to acquire in a business book. It’s not something you can really teach but it is something we are all uniquely capable of.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Feel the burn. When you are getting some momentum, making money or raising money, it becomes tempting to outsource new things you maybe don’t have experience in. I signed on an agency to manage our ad spend without understanding how it worked myself. Soon, I saw that not knowing how to confidently audit and communicate around the vernacular of the advertising space could leave you exposed to being taken advantage of. Feel the pain first and then when you outsource, you will know what you are handing off to someone.
- Sleep. I think when you are riding the startup roller coaster day in it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle mentality: work work work, sleep when you’re dead etc. In reality, starting a business is a long journey. I learned this the hard way 6 months into starting mud as my body gave out on me and I was sick for a week and realized that hustle culture is doing it all wrong. Eight hours of work doesn’t equal 8 hours of output anymore. It’s all about how you well you can solve problems, manage stress, and think outside the box and recovery is a requirement for all of those things.
- There are lots of ways to spend money and few ways to make money. Once you raise money it’s easy to feel like you are on top of the world. New advertising opportunities, packaging upgrades, events to sponsor all are now viable investments to make. The people behind them all have amazing pitches on the value they bring yada yada… In the end, focus is key. I’ve made a couple needless swings on sexy opportunities that either never bring back returns or don’t have any way to track efficacy. Both terrible options for an early stage business.
- Things take time. Manufacturing, packaging, distribution partnerships are archaic verticals that don’t have the same incentives of a startup to move fast. Designing a package concept could take a few hours but actually receiving the finished product could take months. Because of this, you have to be thinking about where you are going to be months ahead of time and start taking actions today in order to get there.
- Enjoy it. I think to be successful you have to celebrate the wins and losses equally. I am very much a white belt at this. I notice I can get down on myself for days over the smallest oversight but don’t treat myself with equal positive intensity for the small wins that happen with similar frequency. Happiness is just a perspective and something that can be tapped into. Enjoy the ride.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂
Every Wednesday we do a 24 hour fast, we leave our phones at home and don’t schedule any calls or meetings that day.
First, I want to say, fasting is not for everyone, so please consult your physician. That said, if done correctly, periodic fasts can be amazing for performance in the office, at the gym and even on a cellular level. Having a day where I don’t have to think about my meals gives me an insane amount of drive. Like a hungry lion I feel this primal level of awareness, focus and creativity to direct towards whatever task is at hand.
It’s no secret that we are addicted to our phones. Notifications are distractions that also carry a context switch which zaps momentum and therefore some of your potential to perform at your best. Having a day where you don’t have that urge to check your screen provides a necessary break from that incessant flood of pings and content. It feels like having an extra battery back of processing power and it makes you feel like you can do more with less time.
Combine those two focus-enhancing rituals with the freedom of not having any meetings, it’s no surprise that it is our most productive day of the week.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You have two lives, the second begins when you realize you have one.” — Confucius
I went to San Diego State and studied art and design. I was always a good student. I was near the top of my class grade-wise, but I wasn’t focused. I wasn’t doing my best, nor did I know or care what that really was.
In Fall of my junior year at San Diego State I was dealing with a heart wrenching breakup with a girlfriend. Shortly after, I lost a friend to suicide. These events really flipped my world on its head. I was in a dark place. When your purpose gets questioned, it’s a frightening feeling but also a space that can cultivate meaningful change. I felt like I realized what a gift it was to be alive and a small part of me felt like I was mindlessly just going through the motions.
Out of that darkness came some really personal questions about who I was which drove me down a path of questioning my habits, passions and goals. From there, I really started to act from a more authentic place. I set up a studio at my house and started painting, I experimented with meditation, studied some Ayurveda, yoga and jiu jitsu. I became passionate about finding who I was. What I was capable of.
This quote really resonates with that turning point in my life which ultimately led me down a path to where I am today.
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 tag them. 🙂
I’ll bring it back to Yvon Chouinard. I’m currently reading his book “let my people go surfing” and am fascinated by his life and perspective on starting a company. I’d love to grab a post-surf MUDWTR with him and hear his advice and philosophy on starting a business like ours first hand.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow me on Instagram at @somanypossibilities and @drinkmudwtr
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!