“Spend time learning a new skill.” With Beau Henderson & Justin Malik

It would be a movement of disconnecting from the digital world and simply being present with people in person and outside of social media. There’s nothing like a warm social gathering with interesting conversation. I think that deep down, we all miss deep connection and time where everyone’s free from looking down at their screens. […]

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It would be a movement of disconnecting from the digital world and simply being present with people in person and outside of social media. There’s nothing like a warm social gathering with interesting conversation. I think that deep down, we all miss deep connection and time where everyone’s free from looking down at their screens.

As a part of my series about the “5 Things, Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Justin Malik. Justin Malik is an award-winning podcaster and award-winning audiobook narrator. He quit his full-time cubicle job to pursue a lucrative app business. However, feeling unfulfilled with apps, he and Lee Rankinen launched the Optimal Living Daily podcast network to spread motivational and inspirational articles every day for free and has turned podcasting into his full-time job since 2015.

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?

Iwas originally looking to transition out of a mobile apps business that my business partner and I had built. We wanted to find something that we were both passionate about. Eventually, we decided that we wanted to create content around the theme of personal development, but didn’t have enough personal experience to write about. I came up with the idea of narrating other people’s articles with their permission, and that’s how the idea was born. As a bonus, hosting the show would force me to speak more, which is something I actively avoid, having dealt with performance anxiety from an early age.

The first authors we got permission from to narrate were The Minimalists after I sent them a handwritten letter in the mail back in 2015. When they said ‘yes,’ I had everything I needed to get started and to begin recording.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

After hearing me narrate their articles on my podcast, Optimal Living Daily, The Minimalists asked me to narrate three of their audiobooks. I was thrilled, but nervous, as I had no prior experience recording or editing audiobooks. It was a valuable experience, but very difficult and time-consuming. Lots of editing was required and I made so many mistakes while trying to figure out the ins and outs of audiobook production. But it was all worth it in the end. To my surprise, one of the audiobooks, Everything That Remains, won an AudioFile Earphones Award two years ago.

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?

When I first started, I was very new to podcasting. My business partner and I took on too much and we were spread too thin. Within three months of launching, we launched our second podcast in the network (Optimal Finance Daily), and three months after that, we launched the third podcast (Optimal Health Daily). They’re all daily shows! I was producing 20 plus episodes per week — mostly on my own. While it’s good to start early, growing quickly without help put too much onto our plate. Also, we didn’t monetize from the start. I was overworked and burned out with 15+ hour days since I was also working on 3 audiobooks at the same time. Looking back, I’d like to have spent more time building to scale so that the work wouldn’t have piled up like it did.

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?

The Minimalists were monumental in the success of the podcast. After I got permission from them, it becomes substantially easier to onboard more websites and bloggers, thanks to their popularity. They also were kind enough to mention my podcast on their show multiple times, suggest new authors to me, and link back to me from their site. They did all of this while also hiring me to record and produce three audiobooks for them, and I’ll always be grateful for that.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

One suggestion would be to clearly define goals: do you plan on this being a standalone job or a hobby? Is this strictly a marketing vehicle for something else? What is the long-term vision? For me, I really wanted this podcast to be my full-time job — not only that, but I also wanted it to provide full-time income for my business partner, and also have enough to hire a few contractors. And that’s what I’ve created. You want to define expectations and set a standard that makes sense workload-wise in order to reach your goals. This way you will work smarter and not just harder.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

For me, it all begins with people. If you don’t have the right people on your team and/or they’re not doing the work that is right for them, the culture will suffer. On top of that, I love giving them autonomy and space to be proactive. I feel that our team will give their best if they feel like they’re making a difference and if they’re truly valued.

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.

I don’t think these will be revolutionary, but that’s part of the problem. We’ve been conditioned to look for the shiny and new, when in fact, the tried and true is what works best. Here’s what I’ve found works for me and from my experience reading thousands of articles on the subject.

  1. Exercise — According to a 2006 study, exercise improves mental health by reducing depression, anxiety, and other negative moods. It also boosts self-esteem and cognitive function. Start small with your fitness goals, but do something daily. You don’t need to get a gym membership or run a marathon. Set aside sometime each day to go for a short walk, or follow exercise routines you enjoy on YouTube. It adds up! Personally, I try to do one thing a day that gets my heart rate up, and that’s the best way I’ve found to create a lasting exercise habit.
  2. Sleep — A Harvard study concluded that sleep and mental health are closely connected. Sleep deprivation can affect your psychological state and mental health. When you prioritize your sleep, you help support an optimal environment for your mind and body to function. I get a solid 9 hours almost every night.
  3. Try Meditation — Numerous studies have shown that meditation can help with sleep, coping with depression and anxiety, and improving behavioral functions. Even a simple 5 or 10-minute daily meditation practice can have a positive effect on your mental wellness. It gives you a chance to center yourself and actively incorporate calmness and relaxation into your day. Again, don’t shoot for the moon. Do just a tiny bit and daily to slowly build it into your routine. I was lucky enough to be “forced” to do it as part of a college class and through meditation retreats. These structured and formal practices can help maintain discipline, but building the habit is critical for the long-term.
  4. Ensure you have a social connection and support — Volunteering and giving back to your community or contributing to a cause you strongly believe in are great ways to build a meaningful sense of connection to others. HelpGuide.org shares that volunteering provides many benefits to mental and physical health as it increases your self-confidence and provides a sense of purpose, both of which will contribute to mental wellbeing. Creating my podcast for free has been my main outlet of giving to a large number of people, but I’ve also volunteered at meditation centers. You can even give back through your skills. For example, I enjoy giving business feedback and advice, and this is a great way to provide value to someone who needs that kind of help.
  5. Create a daily positive practice — Examples include journaling, listen to a positive podcast each morning, a gratitude session, and more. A positive mindset can eventually become a part of your life once this daily practice becomes a habit.

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.

  1. Spend time learning a new skill — Retirement means more leisure time. Don’t use this precious time for idling! If you’ve ever wanted to learn a new language or get more involved in a hobby, this is the time to do it and enjoy learning at your own pace.
  2. Volunteer — One of my colleague’s godparents regularly volunteer and go on international short-term orphanage mission trips. They have a highly active lifestyle which supports their mental wellness because there’s always new people to meet and new activities to experience.
  3. Continue working on something — You might not need to work a 9-to-5 when you’re retired, but having projects to work on keeps you feeling fulfilled. Your project could be a novel, keeping up an active lifestyle, babysitting grandchildren, or meeting like-minded folks online through a personal blog. This will decrease the likelihood of boredom and negative feelings defining your outlook during retirement.

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?

I’d suggest two specific things for teens and pre-teens: digital sabbaticals and meditative practice. Life is crazy as a teen with everything and everyone vying for our eyes and ears in our attention-seeking economy. A John Hopkins study found that adolescents who spend more than three hours daily on social media report higher levels of social withdrawal and difficulty with coping with anxiety or depression. Make an effort to get away from the constant noise and distractions. This will give your teenage self a chance to develop into a healthy and capable adult, but also build concentration skills and mindfulness with a consistent meditation practice.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

I first read “Your Money or Your Life” by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin in business school. One simple practice it encourages is to track every penny in and out of your life for a month or two. Our assignment was for only a week, but this practice alone completely changed my view of money, taxes, and consumption. 10 years later, I’m still tracking every single penny I make and spend, and it’s made tax season a breeze! This has given me financial peace of mind.

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. 🙂

It would be a movement of disconnecting from the digital world and simply being present with people in person and outside of social media. There’s nothing like a warm social gathering with interesting conversation. I think that deep down, we all miss deep connection and time where everyone’s free from looking down at their screens.

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

“Don’t let success go to your head nor let failure go to your heart.” As an entrepreneur, I’ve felt both. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day wins and losses, but that emotional roller coaster will make you queasy. This isn’t something I’ve mastered — I still feel the pain of failure and the high of a win — but I’ve realized that without my failures, I wouldn’t have had the successes. At the same time, if I let the successes go to my head and let off the gas or treated them as a destination, my journey would be cut short. The truth is that there is no final success or destination.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

FB Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/oldpodcast

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/oldpodcast/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/oldpodcast/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/OLDPodcast

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

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