Sam talks with Micah Baldwin: executive coach, angel investor, and serial entreprenuer. Micah courageously shares his battle with addiction, depression, and anxiety while simultaneously achieving high levels of entrepreneurial success. He highlights how he’s carved a path forward through serving others and the realization that it’s okay to ask for help. Micah’s three core values: Kindness, Distinct Point of View, and Acceptance/Vulnerability.
Welcome to Ikigai Stories. I’m Sam Ushio The goal of this podcast is to showcase people who are living with intention, working hard to align actions with priorities, and ultimately provide a platform of inspiration for those seeking to live a life rooted in purpose. Micah Baldwin’s professional track record speaks for itself. He’s been a successful entrepreneur founding, or an early employee on six startups that raised over $350 million in capital, including for exits. He was an early member of Amazon startup team that built a bridge between enterprise solutions and startup innovation. He built out an incubator at Madrona Venture Group with 300 companies that collectively raised over 110 million. He served as a mentor at Techstars since 2007, and most recently, Micah has successfully made the transition to leadership coaching where he dedicates his energy toward working with early stage founders. All of that is impressive, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Micah’s true depth in incredible wisdom.
On March 31st, 2006, Micah was at a crossroads as he stared at a bag of cocaine. After a long bender, he suddenly realized that he was actively trying to commit suicide by overdosing on drugs. In that moment, he knew that he had to make a choice, stop doing drugs or die that wake up call let him on a journey dedicated to sobriety. He got rid of every drug in the house and white knuckled it for a year, eventually getting things back on track, navigating this challenging stage of life with complete self-reliance. 13 years later, he again found himself in a dark place, not sparked by drugs and alcohol, but triggered by Lyme disease and bipolar diagnosis and depression. And although he had overcome addiction, warning signs again began to surface. He met a founder building a company in the recovery space who encouraged him to attend her AA meeting.
In that room, he met people that didn’t share a similar professional trajectory, but in Micah’s words. They told stories that were his stories, and at that point he realized that problems are unique to the individual, but they’re also universal Community transparency and generativity revealed a path forward that transformational moment underpins Micah’s ethos that life is lived best when it is in service of others, fueled by one’s ability to ask for help. Micah’s, courageous acts are rooted in his awareness and vulnerability, and through his story, we can all learn a valuable lesson in empathy, perseverance, and human connection. If you or a loved one is facing substance abuse, addiction, suicide, or you simply just need someone to talk to, please call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Hotline at 1-800-662-FOUR 3 5 7. That’s 1-800-662-HELP. Now, please enjoy this episode of Ikigai Stories with Micah Baldwin.
Micah. welcome to Ikigai Stories. Thank you for being, Thank you. Thanks. Glad to be here. So I’d, I’d like to to kick things off with your top three core values. If you can provide some background and context on what are your top three core values, and then provide a little bit of background on the why, why are these your top three core values?
Micah Baldwin (04:06):
Yeah, so, you know, core values are an interesting concept because there’s a general feeling that somehow they’re static, right? Like they, they end up being like, you get them as children and then you stick with them for the rest of your life. And I, and I think that’s not the case. I think they adjust change over time. And, and as you are thoughtful of the things that matter to you, you start to learn more and more about what is, what actually connects with you and your soul rather than just sort of saying the things that matter. So when you ask me the question, I had to think whether they had changed and whether I had you know, whether they had changed, right? And so what were the ones? So I would say the three that I have one is kindness. One is having a distinct point of view.
And the last one is, I want to say honesty, but it’s not honesty. It’s really more vulnerability. But vulnerability is also a weird word because it, it sounds like it’s about, you know, weird openness and, and sort of, you know, being vulnerable is sort of a, a real kind of catch phrase these days, I think. And, and really what I mean is sort of being accepting of who you are as a human being and being willing to express that without, without fear of retribution, right? So maybe the word is better to be acceptance than it is to be vulnerability or honesty. How did I get to those core values? So there’s sort of a long and winding road, I think. But, but really the, the key is that you know, I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life since I was a little kid.
One of the things that I learned much later in life when I was in my mid thirties was that I actually have bipolar and that I probably have had it since I was 12. I think that’s about when it usually shows with bipolar very often comes depression and anxiety. So I have those as well, which is awesome. And and that for most of my life, they were very much undiagnosed and untreated. And so a lot of what I did was try to treat it myself both through actions and through drugs and alcohol. And I think a lot of that really drove how I engage with things. The anxiety, definitely. I think we don’t understand how much anxiety drives our thought processes. And I don’t think we think so much about how anxiety makes us act and react, right?
And, and often without even feeling like we’re anxious, just sort of, it’s something that we feel like, we feel that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Cuz that’s the feeling we have in our gut. Over time I got the bipolar and the anxiety under, you know, handled so like therapy and and then got the drugs and alcohol handled and, you know, recovery aa sort of things. And I think through that process what I learned was that I was really very unkind to myself, very unkind to myself. And that in many ways I was also then being unkind to others. So I would talk about, as an example, I would talk about, like, I’m always honest, like no matter what you asked me a question, I’m gonna give you an answer. But I realized that like I was being brutally honest and brutal.
Brutal honesty is actually not helpful. Honesty, right? It’s more about me in the way I feel and sort of managing, again, than anxiety, than it is about being helpful. And as I actively focused on kindness, like trying to be a kinder individual and being, associating myself with people who were kind, I just found that my anxiety kind of went away, right? Like, it just wasn’t as, as front and center. Like it still exists, right? Like I’ll never be able to get rid of it, but it just wasn’t, it wasn’t quite as, as as painful, right? Because cuz people, kindness is usually returned, returned with kindness. And, and the kinder we are as humans, then the kinder kindness that we get from others. So kindness has really become an important thing for me is just being, being very thoughtful about how to be kind and, and, and drive there point of view.
It’s really tough for me to, to work with people, deal with people, engage with people that, that don’t believe in what they’re saying or doing, right? So I, I don’t care if you disagree with me, but I want you to have a clear point of view. Like, I believe X should be this way, or y should be that way. And, and, and it’s okay if your point of view is different than my point of view. But I want you to have clarity around what you’re thinking. I want to have clarity. I have very distinct points of view around things. And, and I want to be able be expressive about that. And I think clarity around your point of view matters when you’re trying to making decisions and how you want to engage with others. I think it also opens up an understanding of your own emotions, right?
So like, what are you able to do as a human, right? Because I, I feel like my point of view is that if I do X, it makes me feel bad. So therefore I’m never gonna do x even though I feel like the expectation is, is that everybody thinks I’m gonna do that, right? So I can, I can be again, honest with myself and have more clarity there. And then vulnerability or sort of acceptance is the biggest thing that I’ve learned over the course of the last few years. And I, and I really think the pandemic helped drive this in many ways for me, like staying home and having to focus in on myself is that you have to accept the way things are, right? Like it is what it is, right? Yeah. Like, you can accept that somebody is super mean. You can accept that a job isn’t good.
You can accept a million things and it just stops the anger and resentment and fear and anxiety around things when you can just accept it is what it is. And so I have found that like once I’ve gotten into a, a framework of acceptance things are different. Like, I walk slower, you know, I just, it’s not as big a deal to get from point A to point B. Cause I accept it’s gonna take me the time it’s gonna take me to get to where I have to go. So so, and then that also allows me to accept the fact that there’s times when I feel bad and there’s times when I’m happy and there’s times when I’m frustrated and there’s times when I’m excited and it’s okay for me to be proud of myself. I can accept the fact that I can be proud of myself and I can accept the fact that I’ve made mistakes and that mistakes can be fixed over time. Right? and if I can do all of that, then I can speak to you very honestly about who I am and very vulnerably about who I am because I’ve accepted myself for who I am, right? Like, your opinion of that matters very little because I’ve already accepted what it is. So yeah, I think that’s kind of where, where those three things have come from.
Sam Ushio (11:40):
Thank you. Thank you for sharing. I love that. That’s, that’s that’s incredible. So kindness a distinct point of view and vulnerability slash acceptance. It sounds like on the journey number two, the, the distinct point of view has always kind of been a part of, of the fabric of Micah. While kindness and acceptance are kind of more newer, more emerging values, if you will, sparked at least the acceptance sparked by the the pandemic. Can you, can you shed a little bit more light on just the kindness side? Like where, where was that tied to vulnerability, acceptance and kind of recognition as you moved through the depths of, of the pandemic?
Micah Baldwin (12:29):
Yeah, I think kindness, kindness is an interesting one, right? Because when I first got sober, first tried to get sober in 2006 I set up two rules for myself. One rule was that I’d always be honest, no matter the question asked, right? I’d answer all questions and then I would do the right thing, whether it was detrimental to me or not. And so when I started on the honesty path, right, like being always being honest, answering every question, I was just unfiltered, right? Like, I was like, Okay, you want me to tell you how I think your shirt looks? I’ll tell you how your shirt looks. You want me to think about the business you’re building or whatever you’re doing? Like, I, I will tell you, and what I realized was over time was that that brutal honesty was for me, it wasn’t really about helping the other person.
That, that I was actually in some cases causing more damage than I was, you know, fixing or helping. And one of the things that’s really interesting about Alcoholics Anonymous is that there’s a huge push on the idea of being helpful, right? So they say very often, like, if you feel like you have to drink, go help someone, right? Like, you know, like that’s the way to get past it. And so you build this world of where like you just want to be of value to others. What is interesting though is that it’s not just about being helpful to others, right? It’s about the fact that being helpful to others keeps you sober, right? So the value of helping somebody else is to you. It’s not the fact that you’re responsible for the other person to do well or to fix things or whatever.
So if you’re think about that path and you think about being kind in that then being helpful matters, but be the act of being helpful makes me better, right? It’s the act of being kind. So like, it’s much more effective to be kind, right? Your ability to be helpful and the effect it has on you and the other person is much greater if you do it with kindness than if you do it with brutality. And so the decision was that I wanted to be more kind. I also think that it’s just snuck up on me. I started being more kind, like, I don’t know if you’ve ever been around AA or know people around a, but like, they are some of just the nice, like there are a bunch of weirdos, Like we’re all, you know, weirdo, you know, drunks. But like, the truth is, is that we’re also just some of the nicest people.
And you’re talking about people that have been in prison, people that have like lost families, people that have destroyed businesses that have really created wreckage in their life. And that part of the way to get out of that is to be good person, right? Like, just to be the thing that you actually always have been, but that was hidden by this drug and alcohol abuse. And so, like, people are super nice. Like every Wednesday night I go out to dinner with five or six guys and we go to a meeting, right? Like, just the act of going to dinner and just enjoying each other’s company right? Is rare. Like, it’s a very kind thing to show up and actually be excited to see somebody, right? Like yeah, people don’t do that very often in life. Yeah. so kindness has just really become a primary core focus of mine because I’ve seen how big an effect it’s had on my life and how big of an effect it’s had on other people’s lives.
Sam Ushio (16:05):
Yeah. Love it. Love it. So you’re, you’re touching on this a bit with these three core values in terms of intentionality and actually putting these core values into motion on a, on a daily basis or on an ongoing basis. So dinner on Wednesday nights prior to going to the AA meeting. Are there other routines or, or, or habits or efforts that you put in motion to try to keep you focused on these core values?
Micah Baldwin (16:37):
So routines are important in life, I think for most people. More so people that are bipolar, right? Like, because there’s such a mood swing that occurs and it, and it is without trigger. And I think that’s the part that most people don’t understand is somebody who’s bipolar will be sad just because like, there’ll be no reason for it, or they’ll be manic and super happy just cause like there’s no reason for it. And so one of the ways to help manage sort of anxiety, bipolar and all of those is to build routine in life. So I’m actually relatively routine. Like my day is, is pretty much the same every day in and out. And it makes me feel good when I have a routine going, it makes me feel weird when the routine is off. And I feel out of control when my routines don’t sort of fall.
That doesn’t mean that I’m not flexible, Like things don’t shift. But like, I wake up every morning, I, you know, brush my teeth, feed the cat, right? Like make myself breakfast, watch a little YouTube. Like I try to stay away from email and everything else until at least nine o’clock, right? Have my first call usually around nine or 10 o’clock, and then do that until about three o’clock in the afternoon. And then I work out. And then depending on the night, I’m either working with guys with AA or going to dinner or playing Dungeons and Dragons or you know, I have something I do every evening and I’m usually in bed by like 10, 11 o’clock. Like, the routines are there. But I, I think, I think routines end up creating a world where you’re being very intentional with all of your choices, right? So like, like you can’t have a routine unless you are thoughtful about each step you take.
Sam Ushio (18:36):
So maybe if we just zoom way out and start way back, you know, you’re a, you’re a serial entrepreneur, you’ve worked at some of the largest organizations in the world, you worked with inbc and, and now you are an executive leadership coach. And, and I’d love for you just to paint a picture on that journey from that first business that you started when you were, when you were young, to what you’re doing now, and the key inflection points along the way that have been a especially influential.
Micah Baldwin (19:09):
So what’s funny, whenever I talk about my entrepreneurial journey is I never really wanted to be an entrepreneur. And I don’t, today. If I could do something different, I probably would. But I don’t know how to do anything different, and I really do enjoy what I do, right? But if I could be a teacher or like an engineer or I don’t know, a million other things, I probably would do it. And I don’t know if that’s a Grasso screener or just kind of like entrepreneurship, and this is gonna sound toal, but don’t mean it to be Entrepreneurship has been relatively easy for me. Like, I get how it works. It doesn’t mean that I’ve had nothing but success. I’ve had a lot of failure. But it’s, it just fits. And so I’ve sort of felt like I did, I’ve done the easy thing my whole life rather than like figured out the hard thing, which would’ve been in like being a high school teacher or like my sister’s in assistant principal, associate principal at a high school.
And like, you know, her job is a thousand times more difficult than mine and I have nothing but respect for the work that she does, and I just never could do that. But that being said, when I was a kid I started mowing lawns and and doing yard work and realized that there was a bunch of other kids in the neighborhood that were doing the same. And I decided that it was a lot easier for me to get all the other kids to work together than it was for me to kind of compete with them. And so I convinced all of them to basically work for me. I would help them, you know, get the sales and then they would give me 80% of the money and I would pay them all. And, and it was great. They all got paid more because we all kind of worked together.
And then I got paid and had to work less and realized that that’s actually the way that you build businesses. It’s figure out how to work less and get paid more. And so I did that as a kid and then had a ton of like side gigs that I ran, you know, at nine and 10 and 11 and, and whatnot. Never did a lemonade stand, but but did all kinds of things through high school where I mostly made money through, you know, the, the, the, the scams that I was running through the companies that I was building business I was building. My mom worked in startups and then went to work at Stanford and my dad worked at Stanford. And so I always say that I became a farmer because I grew up on the farm, right? Like I grew up in Stanford, Francisco Bay area, you know, everything was startups all around.
Like, it’s kind of what you did. So I just did it cuz it’s what I did. And then I sort of, my parents didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up. And so if I wanted money, I had to figure out how to make it myself. And that was kind of how my entrepreneurial journey began. And then, like I said, I I, I’ve always been able to make money. Like that’s never been a problem, even in the days where I had no money, like if I needed money, I could figure out how to make 20 or $30 to buy food or whatever. So always kind of worked and did things and started little companies and then helped build a few companies, build some companies on my own over the course of time. The last company was in 2014.
And then when that company finished, I realized that like, if you wanna work at a big, at a in startups, there’s sort of only four different ways to do it. And I guess technically know how there’s, there’s five, but you can build a company, you can work at one, right? Hopefully a rocket ship. You can invest in them, you can work for a big company that works with startups or you can provide services to a startup, right? Like, I guess that would be the fifth. And of those, the thing that I had never done was work at a big company, right? Like I had, my first company that I built was a marketing automation company. So we did, you know, services and then obviously I built companies and worked in companies and et cetera, but I never worked at a big company.
And so was talking to a friend of mine and he’s like, Look, I just interviewed at Amazon, I decided not to take the job, so I know they’re hiring. Do you want me to introduce you? The hiring manager? And I was like, Sure. And then serendipitously got a job at Amazon two weeks later. There was a lot of stars in alignment when that happened. And I joined Amazon’s startup team. When I started there was like 20 people, and I think there’s well over a thousand now. You know, Amazon gets big fast. And it was great. I worked with accelerators, I worked with founders, really tried to come up with ideas on how we could be more supportive in that world. Built a team that built a bridge between sort of enterprises and startups. And so like, really try to take it from the startup point of view.
In 2007, I started mentoring at Techstar. I had reached out to one of the founders of Techstars about an idea I had. And his email back to me was like, I don’t know anything about what you’re doing, but I’m building this thing called Techstar. If you wanna come check it out, you should. And so started your friendship with David Cohen and, and helping out at Techstars. So did that, was that Amazon for three and a half years got recruited by a venture firm here in Seattle called Madrona Ventures, where I helped build out an accelerator, not accelerated, an incubator that had about 300 members and that raised about 110 million bucks had some health problems, so was really an effective there the last or half of my existence at Madrona. And so we both decided that me focusing on my health was the right thing.
So I left to go focus in on my health and the idea was to take 2020 off and focus on health, which turned out to be a good year to focus on health. And was able to figure out pretty quickly that I had Lyme disease. And so put in a bunch of things to work around that. So I think that was sort of a talk about inflection point was kind of like getting my health straight was probably that helped some friends build companies, was looking at spinning a division off of a company in LA into a startup. For a bunch of reasons we decided that the right thing to do was to shut it down. And all along this journey I had had friends who were coaches telling me that I should be a coach. They were like, You should be a coach.
And I always was very much against it. So I’m like, what do I have to bring to the table? Like, you know, like I don’t have, I haven’t sold a company for $200 million, right? I don’t, you know, like I haven’t, I’m not a vc, like blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Like what, who am I bring this to the table. And when I was at Amazon, I flew out to Colorado to meet with some mentors and friends, so David Cohen again, and Brad Feld and my mentor Jerry Kona, who’s an executive coach. And I was sitting there talking to Jerry and he was like, You should be a coach. And I’m like, You’re crazy. There’s no way I’ll be a coach. He’s like, No, I think you should be a coach. And I was like, Ah, I just, you know, I’ll screw it up.
Like there’s no way that I’ll do well. Like, I just don’t think so. And I met with Brad and Dave and was like, Do you think that like I could be a founder again? Do you think that they have that in me? And we had a really good conversation and I walked away with it being like, I don’t know if I have it in me to be like, start from scratch founder. Like definitely could join a company as ceo, but I just, I’m old now. I don’t know if I have it in me to be like start from the beginning. But this idea of coaching sort of just sat in my brain. And so then I met with one of Jerry’s partners and we talked and they both were super supportive and super, like, you should do this. So I was like, okay.
So in 2019 I took coaching training, so like, maybe I should at least see what it’s like. So I spent a nine month course getting trained as a coach, but then did a little coaching, but sort of did it for free and on the side, didn’t really care and was still mentoring a ton and just wasn’t, wasn’t really sure about it. And then when we shut down the company a really good friend of mine by the name of Steve Schuffman had reached out to me and said, Listen, why don’t you come, you know, I’ve got a company that’s doing coaching. Why don’t you come join my company as coach and residence, I’ll help you with all the backend, like logistical admin stuff of running a company and being a coach, and you just go out there and say that you’re gonna coach and see what happens.
And I was like, Alright, I’ve got time. Like, you know, I’ve got enough the company down and financially I’m okay for a while. Everybody told me it would take a year to get to like eight clients. And like I was like, Okay, I can afford that financially, like, why not? And so I went and put out a shingle saying that I was a coach and I got eight clients in the first month. And by the second month, I think I was up to like 20 and realized that was too many. And so pulled back and and started to learn a lot about who I could work with. Like who was I actually good with. It turns out that I’m good with sort of founder, founder CEOs, founder COO types, like not really good with like senior managers and a few others. And so I focus entirely now on sort of series A and below founder CEOs, founder COO types. And, and I’m very having a ton of fun working with them and learning and and I’m, you know, super appreciative of Steve kind of pushed me over the cliff and, you know, see a few other friends like Robin Ward and Janine Davis sort of just giving me the, the confidence that I could do it. And yeah. And so now I’m coaching and having a good time.
Sam Ushio (29:03):
Okay. So if I, if I back you up to the, to the point where you’re, you’re having that conversation with Jerry and Jerry drops this, Hey, I think you should be a coach, and there’s this, you know, disconnect between what he’s saying and what, maybe you’re kind of feeling it, it sounds like, but you’re still on this path toward becoming a founder again. Can you, can you unpack that a bit? Because I, I think oftentimes many people have this, this sense, like this internal sense and others see it within them and kind of draw it out of them. But there’s still this, like, I, that’s not who I am. I, I need to go this route because this is the route that I’ve always gone. So if being an entrepreneur has historically been easy to you and, and that was the path that you’ve carved largely to that point at Amazon, you’re still working in an entrepreneurial sense entrepreneurship I guess you could call it. But can you just unpack that a bit? Like how, how did you actually, so Steve was influential, but how did you make that transition to make the decision that I’m planting the flag and this is the new path that I’m taking?
Micah Baldwin (30:12):
So there’s a few things there, right? One was sort of who am I as a human right? And as a person I’ve always considered myself to be a founder. I’m always gonna be a founder. I’m right now just a founder who’s coaching, right? Like I think fundamentally I’m always a founder. And at that time, the question was always, I always felt uncomfortable at Amazon because I was like, but I’m a founder, not a big company guy. Like, you know, et cetera. And at that time, a lot of the question I had was, Well, if everybody thinks I’m a founder, am I letting down everybody else by not being a founder? Am I not being true to myself by not being a founder? If everybody expects me to be a founder, maybe I should be a founder, right? Like, I remember when I joined Amazon, I send an email to the Techstars like email list, like, Hey, I’m at Amazon.
If you guys need any help, let me know. And and one of the founders hit reply all included the list but meant to just send it to his co-founder and they’re like, Holy crap, Micahs an Amazon. They must have paid him a lot of money, right? Because I’m supposed to be a founder guy, not a big company guy. And and so there was a lot of that, like, the expectation like, should I go start a company? Cuz that’s what everybody expects me to do and that’s who I’ve always been. And you know, so Jerry’s saying you should be a coach, was sort of this like weird feeling of like, but I thought I’m a founder. Like, am I, you know, am not a, And then secondarily, like, I don’t know if you’ve ever listened to Jerry speak or watch Jerry coach, but like, people tend to cry when they talk to Jerry, right?
Like, it tends to be this like deep pull out emotional thing. I’m not an emotional guy, right? Like, I live in my, my head a lot. And so when people are like, How do you feel like in your body? I’m like, I don’t, like, what are you talking about? Right? The somatic method is just something that’s never worked for me as well as it could, right? You know, they’re like, Oh, but when you have intuition, when you say you feel it in your gut, aren’t you? I’m like, No, it’s just a saying like, you feel it in my gut. What are you talking about? And and so I’ve always had struggled with like, well, I’m not emotional. I don’t feel like I connect to people on an emotional level. Like, I’m not connected to myself emotionally. Like, how am I gonna be a good coach?
Coaching feels really close to therapy. I get nervous around that because I’ve been in therapy for 20 years and, you know, I’m a very distinct, you know, point of view on what therapy is and what it isn’t. And and so it just was like, it just felt very uncomfortable and I was pretty certain that I wouldn’t be good at it, right? Because I’m like, Yeah, I can mentor you and tell you how to build a financial model, but like really dealing with the fact that you as a child were yelled at all the time. And so now you have an avoidant personality and how does that show up in your leadership? Like, how the hell am I gonna be able to manage that? Right? Yeah. And so it was, it was just a very, like, it just didn’t feel like it fit, but it felt like something that I should explore.
Sam Ushio (33:23):
Okay. So I’m gonna shift gears just a a bit here. But there was something that I read that you had published about your grandmother. There was a story, there was a line that you had where you said a great story always finds its way. And I love that, That really just was compelling to me. So can you just, maybe, maybe it’s your grandmother, maybe it’s somebody else, but can you just talk about someone in particular that’s whose life has inspired you and continues to serve as a, as an inspirational voice as you kind of move through this next phase of life?
Micah Baldwin (33:55):
Yeah, I mean, <laugh>, I always hate the question like, you know, who’s, who’s inspired you? Because I feel like I have to pull out like, well, Steve Jobs, when, you know, or Hot Ma Gandhi, I’m inspired by everybody, right? Like, like the truth is, is that, you know, the the courage that you have to do a podcast is impressive, right? Like the the willingness for somebody to stand in front of a room full of people and talk about their alcoholic background, like, impressive, right? Like a founder who’s willing to try when they’ve never tried before, impressive, right? Like, I have a, a client who’s never had a job and started a company and raised a bunch of money, and now he’s gotta build an entire company, right? And he has a distinct point of view, and he, he knows what he wants to do, and I’m really happy to be on his journey with him.
But like, that’s impressive, right? Like so I, I don’t look to any individual to provide me inspiration. I look to everybody for the things that they do that are inspiring, and then those things will drive me to really explore my own desires and needs and wants, and figuring out what within that is something, you know, that I can do, right? Like, like, you know could I be a coach? Because people that I know are coaching and are doing it really well. Yeah, it means that you could be a coach if you really wanted to be a coach, right? Like Steve gave up being a vc, you know, to be a coach. And so like, yeah, that’s impressive. So then can I apply that to my own world? Can I give up the idea of being a founder to, to be a coach and be valuable to the world? Yeah, maybe, right? Then maybe that’s something that’s impressive and inspirational enough that, that I can pursue that. So I try really hard not to, to be inspired by, by any one individual because I think everybody does things that are inspiring.
Sam Ushio (36:07):
How about areas where you feel compelled to, to lead change in your, you’re touching on it in terms of the coaching and the, you know, the early seed foundry. Are there there specific areas where you feel compelled to improve humanity? Generativity, can you expand on that?
Micah Baldwin (36:24):
I’m one person, I cannot change humanity, right? Like, I, I, I can’t, I cannot, I cannot change the world, but I cannot change me, right? And if I change me and I act a certain way and somebody else sees that change that I’ve made in them, then they can make that change and then it becomes viral, right? Because the change in them inspires somebody else, and then that change happens there. So I think very hard about the things within my myself that I want to improve and adjust and how I wanna live. And, you know the intentional, thoughtful decisions that I make in sort of my own life. I’m very driven about trying to add value to other people. And I, I think it’s actually <laugh> obsession is the wrong word, but I think it’s somewhat of a detriment at time because I sort of applied value to myself as to the value I’m adding to somebody else.
So for me, I’ll walk away from this podcast in my head being like, All right, did I do a good enough job that it was a nice enough, you know, podcast that like, you’ll get the listeners that you want to get, right? Like, was, did I do that or not? And I’m not sure, like, could I have sped things differently? Maybe I talked too much about recovery. Like I’ll, I’ll go through all of that, that conversation in my head, because the question at the end of the day was, was I valuable? And when I can say yes to that question, then I feel good. And when I say no to that question, I feel bad. So I live a very binary existence, which is not which is by the way, very alcoholic way of thinking. And so so so I don’t think I can change the world. I really don’t. But I do think I can change me and I can, I can optimize me and I can do things that are better for me and that I can be open and honest about things that I struggle with, and hopefully other people will see that struggle is something that they’re dealing with, and they’ll make changes and then somebody else will make changes and a way we go.
Sam Ushio (38:24):
Yeah. So that was the spirit of the question. And I, so first off, I wanna say absolutely you’ve added value in this conversation in the first 35 minutes or so, so thank you. So we’ll check that box. So don’t, don’t go to the other side of that, of that ledger. And, you know, the spirit of the question was about improving humanity through improving self. Yeah. Cause if we look out in society, I think there’s a lot of a lack of self-awareness that has a ripple effect in terms of just very complex problems that are surfacing, or challenges that are surfacing all over the world. And so if people have the ability to reflect internally and identify who they are, who they wanna be, and then start to actually take the action to do that like you’ve done, I think that’s a catalyst for, for improving humanity at some scale. And the way that you articulated that is the essence of, of where I was going with that question to, to expand off of that question would be comfort zones. There’s been moments you’ve referenced many moments in the journey where you had to stretch yourself a bit. How do you take yourself out of the comfort zone? And, but not so far that it hits the panic zone in a way that reveals insight into who you are and, and, and where you want to go.
Micah Baldwin (39:47):
So one of the downsides of anxiety is that you’re never in our comfort, comfort zone, right? Like, you’re always nervous about everything. You know, if I eat this, if I go there, if I say this right? Like, there’s always that, that nervousness in the back of your brain. And, and a lot of the work that I’ve done with my therapist is about recognizing those moments, capturing those moments, reframing those moments, and then moving forward. That plus medication helps a lot. And so so I also firmly believe that you don’t grow unless you’re uncomfortable. So if I want to be in a constant state of growth, then I have to be in a constant state of uncomfortable. So it means I have to actually get comfortable with the uncomfortable. And I have to be okay with the fact that like, I’m gonna say a lot of stupid things and I’m gonna do a lot of bad things, and I’m gonna make a lot of mistakes.
And all I can be is, you know, true to myself and, and open and, and, you know, live up to those core values. So I don’t know if I’m ever in a comfort zone, right? I don’t know if I ever am there. I can definitely tell, there’s moments when I do things where I’m like, All right, you did well on that one. Like, that was good, right? Like I will tell you, here’s a thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. And there’s a concept in recovery around self-reliance that if you’re fully self-reliant, like that is a quote unquote alcoholic way of thinking, right? Like, if I believe that I can do everything, if I can go out and I don’t need anybody else, I can figure it all out. I can do it all myself. That leads often to bad behavior.
And which is a weird statement, because one of the things that we value in the United States is self-reliance, right? Is the ability to, to be reliant upon yourself. But if you’re fully self-reliant, like you never ask for help, that’s actually a bad thing, right? Yeah. So, so I’ve been reviewing my own life as to like, how, where does self-reliance, fully self-reliance show up in my life? And where should I review that and make adjustments, meaning not where I’m comfortable or uncomfortable, but where am I willing to ask for help, Right? And what does asking for help feel like, You know, like asking for help is hard. Like when you’re a founder, asking for help is hard. You’re afraid that your investors are gonna think badly of you, or other founders are gonna think badly of you, or like you’re gonna ask a stupid question and people are gonna think badly of you, or you’re gonna make a bad decision and people are gonna think badly of you.
And, and then if other people think badly of you, you’re gonna think badly of yourself. And it’s gonna turn out that you’re actually a bad founder. And like, you really shouldn’t be doing this because you don’t deserve it. You don’t, you haven’t earned it, and you suck as a founder, right? Like, so you don’t ask for help and then you make bad decisions. You make, actually don’t believe that there’s bad or good decisions, There’s just decisions, but you make decisions that have negative consequences because you’re not willing to ask for help because you’re so afraid of what that will mean by asking for help. I think it’s why, by the way, a coaching profession exists, right? Or like why people wanna work with people like me and Steve and Robin and Brian and others is because, you know, we’ve all walked the path a bit in different ways.
And you can ask us any question and we’re gonna answer it, you know, non-judgmentally. But I think that, I think that this idea of where you’re willing to ask for help, So in my life where this shows up right now is in my weight. Like I am grossly overweight, right? I’ve been grossly overweight my entire life. When I was a senior in high school, I lost a bunch of weight and I, and I was really in shape, like really, really in shape. I got a lot of attention from women, which was very strange for me being the fat kid my whole life. And like, I didn’t know how to handle it. And so when I got to college, I think I just went back to eating and sort of, and certainly lots of drinking. And so I’m grossly of a weight. I’ve tried for years to lose weight. I’ve tried a million different ways to lose weight. I have never asked for help. I can tell you nine different ways of why the keto diet works and doesn’t work. I can tell you every nutritional, everything I could probably a registered nutritionist at this point with the information I have. I can tell you all the ver I’ve never asked for help.
So I am with my way acting as if I am fully self-reliant, which is not conducive to a positive way of living. So the right answer for me is to ask for help, is to go to a doctor and be like, Listen, I’ve tried every single way I possibly can to lose weight. I’m not being overly successful. I need help. Tell me what I can do in order to make this happen. And then accept that help, right? Then being willing to do whatever it is that an expert tells me I should do. And, and that has been transformative, right? The weight, you know, not intended on my shoulders about my weight is somewhat lifted. Cause I’m like, all right, now I have a plan. I feel comfortable, it’s in, you know, the hands of somebody else to figure out what the right steps are for me to take.
And I’ll take those steps and hopefully I’ll see some, you know, some improvement and that’ll help my life in a million different ways, and I’ll be more confident as a human in my own body and, you know, all these things. But it’s been years and I’ve been unwilling to ask for help. And so, so I do think that one of the ways that we as human beings can be transformative in our own lives is looking at the areas of our life where we are fully self-reliant and take one step backwards and see if asking for help would actually get us further down the path.
Sam Ushio (46:10):
Well, that’s incredible. I, I love the concept. How do I, how do I actually go through that exercise to think through, like, these are these different areas of my life. I’m fully self-reliant here, and I’m, I am willing to, to ask for help there. Like, what is, what does that look
Micah Baldwin (46:28):
Like? Yeah. hard question, <laugh> cause I’m learning as we go. But, but I feel like it’s, for me at least, it’s where I know the right thing to do is to ask for help, but something is blocking me from asking for help. Yeah. Right? Like, like, I honestly believe that like, one of the things that Jerry talks a lot about is that most founders have the answers. And this, this goes for, most people have the answers to their issues inside. And the job of the coach is to guide them to those answers. Not to tell them, but to guide them. And so that means learning how to listen to yourself, right? That means going back to how we were as children and, and having that intuition in our stomach that the right thing to do is to do X. And then the difference between now and when we’re children is actually choosing to do the right thing, right? Since most don’t <laugh>. And, and I think as adults, somewhere along the line, we have forgotten. We’ve been trained or we’ve had it, society has beaten it out of us that, that ability to just listen to our own stomachs and tell, to know what the right thing to do is, and trust that intuition to do the right thing and then actually do it somewhere along the line, it got beat out of us. Yeah.
Right. And so I think step one is like accepting the fact that you actually know what the right thing to do is. You just have to listen to yourself to get there.
Sam Ushio (48:04):
One last question, and then we’ll kind of we’ll move toward, toward the wrap up. Yeah. You’ve, you’ve mentioned a number of different experiences in your life that have really yielded personal growth. Was there a moment if you reflect back where, you know, you were, you were stuck? The spirit of intention of this podcast is to help people align actions with their priorities, essentially, like find their, their reason for being and commit to, to that reason for being. And I think you’re, you’re touching on this right here, where you’ve got the gut, but the gut is telling us to go this path, but whatever reason, we’re getting blown a different direction and following a different path. So if you reflect back on, on the journey, is there a moment or two where you really got compelled and you, you had the courage to take that step in the direction despite all of these headwinds? And with the benefit of hindsight, that step was the right step?
Micah Baldwin (49:05):
Wow. <laugh> the one that comes immediately to mind is when I was in the, the depth of my drug addiction I was feeling like I wanted to quit, but didn’t know if I could and was and was literally on a bender. Like I was just, I was just on a week long, massive. Which for me, given the amounts I was doing was, was <laugh> astronomical legendary any other big word you like to use. And I remember sitting there on March 31st, 2006 and doing much drugs. And I looked at this, this bag of cocaine that I had, and I said to myself, You know, you’re actually trying to kill yourself here, right? Like, like you are actively trying to commit suicide in the slowest way possible, right? Like instead of grabbing a gun or doing other things, like you’re trying to literally od on cocaine, right?
You’re trying to od and you’re not being very successful at it. Like you actually suck at this. But you’re trying really hard. So I need to make a decision. I need to make a decision at that point. I need to decide, did I want to stop doing drugs right, and be sober or did I want to die? Like that was the choice. And I said, Okay, I’m gonna go to sleep and when I wake up in the morning, I’m gonna make my decision. And I went to sleep and I woke up in the morning and I said, I wanna stop doing drugs. And I took every drug I had in the house, put it in a box, drove over to a friend’s house, gave it to her, came back home, and then basically white knuckled it for a year trying to get myself to quit, right?
And then a little did, stopped doing cocaine and other drugs and stopped alcohol a few months later, and then stopped smoking probably eight months later. Smoking’s always the hardest. And then unsuccessfully, but kind of successfully was sober for about 13 years. I would, you know, drink here and there and smoke a bunch of weed here and there. And then about three and a half years ago decided that again, that I was at a point where I needed something more in my life, right? Like I had, was back into kind of that weird, dark, suicidal mode. Wasn’t because of drugs and alcohol, was because of Lyme disease and a bunch of other depressions and other things. And decided that I needed to make a change, right? Like it was a choice. Like I either needed to call it a day or, you know, go in a different direction.
Happened to meet somebody who was building a company in the recovery space and was talking to her and was like, Yeah, blah, blah, blah. She’s like, Why don’t you come to my AA meeting here in Seattle? And I said, Okay. And I went to this room of full of people that were completely different from me. Like, no, nobody in there I think worked in tech at the time, or maybe a couple people did. Certainly weren’t a bunch of founders, certainly weren’t a bunch of, you know, folks that I was normally hanging out with. And they told stories that were my story, right? And I, and I realized at that point that our problems are unique, right? They are specific to us, but they’re also universal. And so if somebody who like spent his day, you know, selling houses or painting buildings or you know, whatever, could tell a story that was no different than the story I told, then maybe I actually fit a little bit in the world and maybe there was like a place for me that understood all the stuff that I was struggling with.
So I would say those two moments were like, you know, obviously moments of of change, right? One was that I decided that living over dying and then tried my best to figure out how to live on my own, but again, did it’s fully self reliantly, right? Ask for no help, tried to figure out how to be sober on my own, wasn’t overly successful at it, drove me to, again, back literally back to the beginning of darkness. And it was when I asked for help, yes, you know, I am an alcoholic and you know, I need help. I went, I’m admitting complete defeat. Went to a meeting and then not immediately it took, you know, years in a lot of ways for my life to change and who I am to change. But it kind of snuck in there and just sort of grew.
And and I think that fundamentally changed kind of my outlook on life, right? Was that was that life was really lived best when it was in service to others. And life was really lived best when you could ask for help. And, and I think that’s at the end of the day why I’m a coach to a certain degree because I’m in service to others, right? And I’m learning something from other people every day and hopefully where I can, you know, I’m being helpful. And I think those were probably the two fundamental moments in my life. There was starting companies and there were selling companies and there’s other stuff, but that was never really exciting to me.
Sam Ushio (54:41):
That’s a beautiful story. Yeah. That’s very inspiring. I admire your, your, your authenticity and vulnerability and it’s your, your ability to share your courageous act of sharing. And I, I disagree with what you were saying about how you’re not improving humanity, cuz you’re showing up. The way you’re showing up is there’s, there’s someone out there who is listening to this right now that it’s probably in some space that is they need that boost. And I think, I think you just gave it to ’em. So you’ve improved humanity in a, in a meaningful, tangible way. I’ve been impacted in a meaningful, tangible way as well. So just final thoughts last remarks. Are there any kind of closing thoughts that you have? And also if you could mention where people could find you on the various outlets?
Micah Baldwin (55:29):
Yeah, I, I mean, honestly, I mean, I guess to your point, if somebody who’s listening to this needs to reach out and talk to somebody, like please do, I’m happy to have that conversation. Hopefully we talked about a lot of dark things, but hopefully it was a little uplifting. One of the things that’s really funny about AA is like, if you ever go to an AA meeting there’s tons of laughter that goes on, right? Like, there’s a ton of laughing and, and, and the general feeling is, is that if we can’t look at our own, you know fallacies and, and foibles as humorous, then you know, maybe we’re looking at it wrong. And so so hopefully people didn’t see just the darkness. They saw a little bit of the light. But best way to reach me is probably on Twitter, which is just at my first name, M I C a H. My dms are open so anyone can reach, reach out to me anytime they want. Yeah, that’s probably the best place.
Sam Ushio (56:28):
Okay. Well, thank you Micah. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for your inspiration. Thank you for showing up the way that you’re showing up in this world. It is the, you know, it’s the epitome of the, the concept of Ikigai and I’m very grateful that you took the time.
Sam Ushio (56:42):
Thank you, Micah
Micah Baldwin (56:42):
You so much.