Michael Chernow, Discipline = Freedom : Why Habits are Everything (#238)

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Michael Chernow is a restaurateur and chef, entrepreneur, TV host, fitness personality, and a family man dedicated to inspiring the world through positivity, hospitality, and service. Michael always had an entrepreneurial mindset, which can be dated back to when he was only six years of age and was selling his used toys. As a teenager, Michael began working in restaurants and went on to have a successful career in the field. He met his wife Donna while working as a bartender and bar manager at Frank Restaurant for eight years. He enrolled in the French Culinary Institute in 2007 and graduated with honors in 2008, with an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management.

The turning point in Michael Chernow’s life came when he was 23 years old. Back then he was already experiencing success in his night work at the bar, but he realized some of his habits were detrimental to his physical health. That’s when he decided to get sober, and from that moment, every aspect of his life – physical, mental, and spiritual – changed for the better. Focusing on fitness and nutrition became a cornerstone in Michael’s life and something to which he attributes his success.

Entrepreneurial Roller Coaster and Daily Habits

When it comes to entrepreneurship, there are certain qualities one must possess in order to endure through the entrepreneurial roller coaster: discipline, commitment, learning from failure, patience, and positivity. Michael Chernow learned these principles after being introduced to Muay Thai. For a decade, he would wake up, go to AA, and then to the gym to train. Such a consistent approach allowed Michael to make all these principles part of his identity, making him ready for any entrepreneurial challenge.

Talking of which, Michael co-founded The Meatball Shop with his childhood friend Daniel Holzman in 2009, which currently has five outlets in New York City, and he also co-authored The Meatball Shop Cookbook. In 2015, he founded SEAMORE’s, a Manhattan restaurant that also grew to five locations, and in 2016, he co-founded WellWell, a functional beverage company, alongside Sagan Schultz and Larry Praeger. Michael Chernow’s latest endeavor is Kreatures of Habit, a brand with the goal of giving people the power to harness healthy habits from wake up to wind down. To achieve that, Michael and his team have developed over a year of testing and formulation The PrOATagonist, an instant oatmeal that contains a blend of gluten-free oats, plant-based protein, vitamin D3, and omega-3 fatty acids. If you want to give it a try, you can get 10% off using the code Howdithappen.

And now here’s Michael Chernow.

Show Notes

[4:59] How’d it happen for Michael?
[16:58] What is Kreatures of Habit and the products that it offers
[19:03] Let’s talk about Michael’s EQ
[23:44] Michael’s relationship with his mother and father
[31:04] Business plan vs. actual business trajectory
[33:16] Why is partnership difficult for Michael
[40:06] On failure—does Michael see it as something negative?
[44:55] Diving a little bit deeper into Michael’s tattoos
[48:30] On the concept of habits
[57:02] Where to find more of Michael and Kreatures of Habit
[59:38] Outro

Full transcript below

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Podcast with Michael Chernow. Discipline = Freedom : Why Habits are Everything.


habit, people, meatball shop, tattoos, life, restaurant, business, michael, years, day, toilet seat, walk, partner, creatures, father, person, partnership, work, morning, single


Michael Chernow, Mike Malatesta

Mike Malatesta  00:05

All right, 321 Hey, everybody, welcome back to the HOW TO HAPPEN podcast. So happy to have you here as I am with every episode. And before I get started today, I do want to remind you that if I haven’t reminded you enough already that my new book, owner shift how getting selfish got me unstuck is available on Amazon. It’s also available on my website at Mike Malatesta calm, where you can also download a chapter for free chapter 26. And you can read that and take it for a test drive and see what you think. And if you like it, buy the book. And if you don’t tell me why. If you do happen to buy the book, please consider leaving a review on Amazon as those are super important for the Amazon algorithm. I’m told to get the book in front of more people’s eyes. So thank you so much for that. And now let’s get into the episode. I am fulfilling my promise to you today with another amazing success story. I’ve got Michael churn out on the podcast. Michael, thank you so much for joining me today.

Michael Chernow  01:14

Thanks for having me. I’m very excited to be here.

Mike Malatesta  01:17

So let me tell you why you should be as excited about Michael as well. So Michael churn out his restaurant tour, a chef, entrepreneur, TV host fitness personality podcaster and family man and I’m glad you have that in your bio by the line that’s I love to see that dedicated to inspiring the world through positivity, hospitality, and service. He first began working in restaurants as a teenager and thereafter built a successful career in the industry. He’s worked as a bartender bar manager at Frank restaurant for eight years and met his wife Donna while there and I’m glad you included that as well. In 2017, he enrolled in the French Culinary Institute and graduated with honors and was awarded an associate’s degree in both culinary arts and restaurant management in 2008. Michael co founded the meatball shop in 2009 with childhood friend Daniel Holzman, which now has multiple locations across New York City. Are you outside of New York City as well Michael, I thought I saw that. We’ve

Michael Chernow  02:23

done a few pop ups outside of the city, but we are we are our restaurants are in New York.

Mike Malatesta  02:28

Got it. Okay. And he’s also co authored the meatball shop cookbook in 2001. Released by Ballantine Books in 2015, he founded Seymour’s Manhattan restaurant that combines Michaels love of fishing and culinary expertise, which has also grown to five locations. As captain of his own ship. It is in this role where Michael grew his passion and talent for managing and nurturing others, taking advice from everyone and hiring people to see his vision come to fruition. And in 2006, he co founded functional beverage brand Well, well, with Sagan Schultz, is that how to pronounce correct pronunciation?

Michael Chernow  03:07

Yeah, that was 2016

Mike Malatesta  03:09

Oh, did I say 2006?

Michael Chernow  03:12

Yeah, there was a couple of dates there that got a little a little that were a little off but

Mike Malatesta  03:16

okay. In 2016, or thereabouts. And so he he co founded that brand with Sagan Schultz and frozen health food mogul Larry Prager of Dr. prayers. So on the TV side, Michaels hosted two seasons of food porn on the FYI network and been featured on shows like beat Bobby Flay, chopped, and others. He’s also been on a bunch of TV shows like Good Morning America, the Today Show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and a bunch of others. He’s been featured in many public publications like The New York Times, people GQ and more. His podcast born or made, great name, by the way, takes a deep dive into the personal backgrounds of leaders and extraordinary individuals. You can find Michael on his website at Michael Turnhout ch er n o w.com. On Instagram and Twitter at at Michael turnout. And on Facebook at Michael P. turnout. So Michael, I start every episode with the same simple question. And that is, how did it happen for you?

Michael Chernow  04:31

Well, first of all, I just want to say that was a that was an intense intro. I really appreciate you going through it all listening to it. I haven’t listened to that from start to finish in a long time. So it might set my I guess I’ve got to live up to an expectation.

Mike Malatesta  04:51

Yeah, you know, I tell I tell my listeners all the time to expect that we will activate and inspire greatness in them and that’s That’s the simple hurdle you need to get over today. So, I think we’re going to do that.

Michael Chernow  05:04

Um, you know, I guess I’ll just start from way back. From as early as I can remember, I’ve thought entrepreneurially I believe that I was born with a high level of emotional intelligence. I’m definitely not the smartest guy in the room. But when it comes to emotional intelligence, my EQ, I am intuitively sharp bear. So as early as I can remember, you know, going, you know, five, six years old, I thought entrepreneurially for whatever reason, I always wanted to make, do and create. I remember, you know, when I was done with a toy, you know, essentially got bored of playing with that toy. I didn’t just like leave it in the corner of my bedroom, I would actually collect the toys that I didn’t want to use anymore. I wasn’t interested anymore. And when I had enough of them, I would ask my older sister to come downstairs. We, you know, I grew up in Manhattan on 87th Street between first and second avenue. And I would lay out a sheet and I would put my toys out, neatly lined up and sell them for as much money as I can get. It typically was $1 toy. You know, and then I quickly began walking dogs in my neighborhood. And you know, by the time I was 11 years old, I had 30 dogs that I was walking. I got a job in a video store as a delivery boy, when I was 12. And a buddy of mine who was a year older, actually my business partner at the meatball shop, he was working in a vegan restaurant right up the street, and said, hey, you know, you’re delivering videos on rollerblades? Why don’t you deliver food as well. And you can just do you can toggle back and forth. And I said, fantastic. So I’m now you know, delivering food and videos all over, you know, the Upper East Side of New York City. And I really fell in love with the restaurant business. I fell in love with the restaurant business. I didn’t have a great home. Childhood, you know, my in terms of my home stuff my father was, was physically and mentally ill. And so he made it very challenging. And we had a pretty rough relationship. And so any opportunity that I got to be out of the house I took, and so I started working in restaurants and that restaurant that hired me, and his delivery boy, gave me an opportunity to step into the kitchen and wash dishes and then prep cook. And then, you know, when I was 14, they allowed me to be a busboy, and then I left there and I got another job as a busboy and I started to work my way up in the restaurant business. And by the time I was 1516 years old, I was working in the hottest nightclub in New York City as a barback. And I live, you know, I got the job as an 18 year old, I was really probably just before my 16th birthday. So I was able to finagle that. And I was living my best life I had moved out of my parents house when I was young when I was 15 years old. So I was really sort of out of my own. And, and making a great amount of money working in these in these nightlife establishments and stayed in school, graduated high school did a year and a half of college realized college wasn’t for me. But what I will say is, is that working at night really exposed me to a lot of great things. I wouldn’t change it for a minute. But it also exposed me to a lot of the things that happen at night in New York City. You know, I partied hard, and I drank hard and I and I did, I did things that were not not amazing for my body. When I was 23 years old, it had gotten to a point where I needed to make a change, I knew that I had a lot more to offer than what I was putting out there. And so I decided to get sober. And I’ve been sober now for 17 plus years. But when that happened, everything in my life changed. I very quickly changed physically, mentally and spiritually. And I started to put the plan in place for my future career. And I got very serious about it. And so I but I do want to say that that fitness and nutrition, really were the cornerstone of my success and still are today, the cornerstone of my success in business, family, personal life, I really do put it before everything in anything. And that gives me an opportunity to be a better father, husband, brother, son, friend, business owner, business partner, all those things because I really do take care of myself first. Anyway, so then I you know, I went on I enrolled in culinary school While I was there, during the chef’s culinary program, Cornell, put together a truncated associate’s degree for their restaurant, hospitality program. And they they did that with Union Square Hospitality Group and the French Culinary Institute where I went to school, and I decided to enroll in that and I did that as well. So I back I did back to back degrees there, graduated, wrote a business plan took me about a year, and then I dropped the business plan for the meatball shop in front of 20 regulars that would come to the restaurant because I had worked there from when I was a kid, I got a job there when I was 20. And I opened up the meatball shop when I was 29. And I worked at the meatballs i Excuse me, I worked at Frank restaurant. until a week before I opened the doors can be Paul shop. Lucky as I was at the time, 14 regulars wrote me a check to open up my first business. And my business partner, Daniel Holzman and I found a location, we opened up to meatball shop on February 9 2010, right out of the pit of a recession. And it was a home run hit. We got a crash course and what it meant to be business owners, we paid back our investors in six months, raised a bunch of more money opened up five more units over the next three and a half years, I found out through that journey that what I really love is discovery, uncertainty, creativity, culture, design, team building, I did not love stamping out. restaurant concepts are the same restaurant within a concept, I really enjoy the creative component of it. I really loved that the uncertainty of just you know, digging things up from from scratch. And so I saw I said to the partners, hey, I really want to go launch another brands. You know, I would love to be able to step back as CO CEO and find and find another company. And so we took a year to figure out how to get me replaced. And so I can slowly zoom out and I sold them the majority of my acne and then I launched Seymour’s a sustainable seafood concept in June of 2015. And on the corner of Boomin, Mulberry Street, and that one was another successful venture. And, and by the way, all of this is not possible. With the backbone of my sobriety, my fitness and my nutrition, I just have to say that I’ve done a lot of work on myself over the years. And I’m not ashamed of it. I wouldn’t have it any other way. And so I pushed really hard at Seymour’s and I attracted a mentor of mine, he was a mentor for a number of years, who fell in love with the brand of Seymours. And he was running a big company called Le Pen quotidienne at the time. And after he after, you know, him seeing what I did with Seymours, he approached me and said, You know, I would love to leave the pen quotidienne and help you grow this brand as your partner. I was very hesitant to take on a partner. But he was one of the smartest guys I knew I really trusted him for many years as a mentor and a soundboard. And I said, Okay, well, you know, there’s only one way I’d be comfortable doing this. You’re 15 years, my senior, and you’ve opened up way more restaurants that I have. So I can’t be your boss, like your what it wouldn’t work if, if I was your boss. So I would bring you in as a CEO, I would take the presidency to the company, we would go raise money. And in three to four years after we’ve opened up five more restaurants together, I would try to you know, exit and launch another brand because that’s really what drives me. And, and we agreed on that. And that’s exactly what we did. And in 2019 November 2019, I sold a bunch of my equity to the partners at Seymour’s and started building my newest brand called creatures of habit. creatures of habit was a brand that I was developing that really aligned with my passion for wellness and nutrition and fitness and mindset. Habits are everything for me. They have been they they almost killed me. And as soon as I was able to shift from the bad ones to the good ones, they’ve made me the man I am today, which is a guy that I’m actually pretty proud of. It’s all about habits for me. My morning routine is very, very structured. Everything in my life is pretty structured. But that gives me a list. Freedom because I know what I have to do. And I now know what I don’t have to do. And that’s all based around the habits that I have implemented over the years and stacked up, right, like I call my habit, you know, their wins. Every time I nail I have it in a specific succession, it’s another win for the day. And they tend to my real sort of habit string is in the morning. But anyway, creatures of habit was going to launch as a restaurant. And when the pandemic hit, that plan was no longer arrival. And I always wanted to have a CPG company, a business and consumer packaged goods. So the vision and the trajectory for seat for creatures was going to be open one restaurant, use it as a marketing hub, obviously, as a revenue generator for a restaurant, but not scale the restaurant model, use it as a lab slash slash incubation hub for a line of consumer packaged goods that had real time feedback. So create products in the kitchen at the restaurant, to then put out in a retail area in the front of the house, see what people were actually attracted to. And then invest money into those products and sell them direct to consumer and in retail, brick and mortar. And when the pandemic hit, I made a decision to draw a line to the restaurant and go straight direct to consumer with creatures of habit. And I launched creatures of habit, August of 2021. So we’re about three and a half, four months in, and it’s going very, very well. That the product that I launched with which is is the one nutritional habit that I’ve stuck to last 17 and a half years which is my oatmeal in the morning, I’m a massive fan of oatmeal in the morning as my first meal of the day. And over the years I’ve added a bunch of things to my oats and so I decided to just take that formula and work with a a food scientists to help me create a package that packs an incredible nutritional value punch and is delicious and is instant and sold in subscription over internet that’s working really really well.

Mike Malatesta  17:27

And is that just out of curiosity is is that come frozen? Michael there’s what is what No,

Michael Chernow  17:32

it’s literally it’s instant oats like imagine Quaker Oats Yep, like powder and an open an actual oats. So in the in the product is gluten free oats 30 grams of plant based protein, omega three fatty acids, vitamin d3, pink, Himalayan salts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, and a little organic maple sugar, a little stevia and a little monkfruit. And it’s made for different ways you can make it overnight in the fridge, you can make it instantly by just adding hot water or throwing it into the microwave. Or you can make a delicious smoothie out of it. So it’s super versatile. It’s a single serve pouch comes in a box of seven. And it is killer.

Mike Malatesta  18:20

Okay, nice. Well, thank you for for for that you. You lay down a lot of stuff there. So I’ve got plenty of stuff to dive into here. And I guess the first thing I wanted to dive into is this. You, you know, this EQ thing you said you’ve got a really smart EQ. And have you thought about or do you know how you developed that, especially since you said you developed it pretty young, and I’m trying to think of myself even having an awareness of EQ. I don’t think I had that until much later. And then whether I was any good at it or not. I think it’s still sort of up in the air. But I’m curious where that were, where it came from, or where you think it came from?

Michael Chernow  19:07

You know, it’s a good question. I think that it’s a combination of a few things. A I think I was sort of born with a gene. You know, my grandmother is my whole really my, my, my father’s side of the family. excluding him, unfortunately, but we’re, you know, they’re all very engaged in. They’re very engaging people. They’re, they’re, they’re great listeners. They’re very creative. Everybody on that side is very creative. So I think I inherently had a gene of really wanting to loving people like I love people. I love the human connectivity, the love human engagement. I love making memories for people. I think that’s a big part of my, my skill set is really understanding how to create environments that people feel comfortable Good in. But I think, you know, there’s another element to it that I had a really, really rough relationship with my father, and from Missouri, you know, from a very young age, and I needed and slash wanted attention from some someone like a father. So I learned early on that, you know, if I got people to like me, I would get that I would get, I would get what I was looking for, as a young kid, from friends, from teachers, from coaches from, so I really figured out how to be a chameleon, and not want to be the center of attention. But, but when, with kindness, when with compassion, when with empathy, when with listening, I really never like, wanted to stand out in the crowd. But I was able to understand how to make myself somewhat of a magnet for positivity, because I wasn’t getting a lot of it at home. And so as opposed to like a, what a lot of people tend to do is, they have a tough childhood or tough relationship with their parents, or it’s not the best situation, they tend to, you know, bring that forward. In my case, I believe that I consciously broke the chain, and wanted something totally different. And I could say, for sure, now, in my life, I’ve definitely broke the chain, because I’m a father of two children that I love more than anything and have an amazing relationship with, and I have a really healthy, successful marriage. I’ve been married for almost 15 years, and my wife and I have been together for 17 years. So, you know, if anybody’s listening here, and, you know, wondering if change is possible, or, you know, your past does not have to predict your present or future. The past is history, you know, and it really does not have to weigh heavily on what’s happening right now. And definitely not what the future looks like. And I’m a living breathing example of that.

Mike Malatesta  22:25

I really liked how you said you sort of consciously broke the chain because as I think about and I did not have that, that experience growing up as a as I think about experiences that I’ve become familiar with it’s it’s there’s often a conscious desire to break the chain, but not an understanding of how to do it if you’re raised a certain way you may not you know, you don’t like it, but it’s hard to get away from it. And it seems like you were you did you you mentally and maybe spiritually broke away from it, but you also physically broke away from it. Use your left at a at an early. An early. Yeah, just well. What about mom? Where was what was? What was her role with?

Michael Chernow  23:12

Yeah, so I have, I have a great relationship with my mother. You know, my mom was also a victim of, of abuse for my dad, more mental than anything more mental, you know, verbal abuse than anything. But she was, you know, she was diagnosed with, you know, abused wife syndrome. She was really shell shocked. And so she didn’t know how to deal with it. Like, none of us knew how to deal with it. And you know, my dad, really, I mean, I love him. And I know that he loved me, my dad just really was not meant he was he was sick, you know, he was sick, very sick, physically. He died very young, he died at 57, he had a heart condition, he was a juvenile diabetic. And I think that plagued him. You know, it really prevented him from doing what you want it to do in life. And so he was really angry, you know, and I don’t at this point, I’ve really made peace with it, and I don’t fault him for it. As a matter of fact, I have a few tattoos on my body that, you know, that that commemorate him and, and he taught me some things that I do believe have helped shape the man I am today. You know, my father was very, very, he was an intense dude. And, you know, there are three things that he instilled in me, as a child that I wear I walk with today, with pride, you know, he taught me that. And I think they’re very important. When you meet somebody for the first time, you make eye contact, and you give a firm handshake. And you do those two things at the same time. With intent and intention, you know, and so that that that is very important to me. My father also was a was a Gentlemen, you know, when he was out and about, and he made it a point to hold the door for everyone, specifically women, respect for women was major, major major in his life. He really had this, you know, high level of chivalry that that really made an impression on me. And, and, and the last thing that he taught me, which I honestly do believe is a valuable lesson is every single time you use the bathroom as a man, you lift up the toilet seat. And when you’re done, you put the toilet seat back down. And you know, there’s nothing worse for me, my one of my biggest pet peeves is when you know, I walk into a bathroom, and there’s urine all over the toilet seat, and a guy just walks out. And I’m just like, I mean, that’s just absolute disrespect. So, so that that is, you know that those three things are something that my father was very, very adamant about teaching me as a young kid, and they’ve stuck with me, and now I pass them on to my kids, you know, my, every night before my kids go go down, you know, my wife, and I go back and forth on putting our sons down. They’re four and six. And my kids and I have the nine things. And every night that I put them down, I say, All right, guys, let’s do it. Let me hear the nine things. And the nine things are number one, I’m always going to protect my brother number two, ladies always go first. Number three, squeezing eyes. Number four, remember people’s names. Number five, always put the toilet seat up when you use the bathroom. Number six, always put the toilet seat down when you’re done using the bathroom. Number seven, when you walk when you’re walking across the street, look to the left number eight when you’re walking on street look to the right. And number nine, I love you. And so those are the nine things that I walked through my sons they say it very fast, they’ve got it down to a science. And I say that with them right after I sing stand by me, which is the song I’ve been singing to them every night since they’re born. You know, and and I owe that to my dad. So yeah, seems

Mike Malatesta  27:16

weird, like your dad sort of a dichotomy, like inside the house. You know, maybe he’s one way and outside of the house. He’s different. Like I think of your a person, like your dad walking through the neighborhood, and everyone would have this impression based on what you just talked about. As you know, that was definitely different than what you had inside. Yeah, reminds me of my dog I used to have that was the most well behaved dog inside. But when you let her out, if she wasn’t on a leash or wasn’t tied up somewhere, she was gone. And I know that’s not a direct, great example, but it just reminded me of that dichotomy. Oh,

Michael Chernow  27:57

you’re you kind of nailed it. You know, my dad was he was liked by a lot of people, you know? And, and some people not not so much, you know, my dad had a really bad temper. And if you got on the wrong side of him, he was a tough guy. You know, he was not an easy guy to deal with. But he had some values. You know, my grandfather was in the military. He was a hardcore military guy, you know, he was a lieutenant commander in the Navy, and he stayed in the military for years and years after World War Two. And so he was a tough guy to please, you know, although my grandfather was sort of a monument in my life. You know, he really was like, the only successful person in the whole family outside of myself. He, after the military, he wasn’t he became an entrepreneur, and, you know, built a business in cardboard boxes. And, you know, he was so so my father, too, was an entrepreneur. He was a, he was an electrician, but he had his own electrician, company and light lighting design and electrician company until he got too sick to work. So I do have the entrepreneurial gene in my blood, that’s for sure. I come from a wall a string of entrepreneurs.

Mike Malatesta  29:23

I definitely feel the toilet seat thing too. Because my, my whole family is is girls, women. And so I’m been very cognizant of that for, you know, 30 some years. And I can always tell when a strange man when an outsider has been in my house, because I’ll walk into one of the bathrooms, the toilet seat and be like, Okay, I did not do that. So someone was

Michael Chernow  29:45

there, though, something that I learned about rather recently. It’s not just men that tinkle on the toilet seat.

Mike Malatesta  29:53

Oh, well, yeah. Yeah. That’s, like the hover thing right that poor Yachty Everything Yeah, yep. Yeah, yeah. You mentioned the business plan that you have for the meatball shop and the 14 folks who went along with it. And I just did a podcast earlier today with another entrepreneur who said, I’ve never had a business plan. I’ve started six, seven companies never had a business plan. Now, he never needed outside financing for his business. So I get why he didn’t have one. But my question to you is, how different was the actual trajectory of the business from the business plan that you created and showed to those initial investors?

Michael Chernow  30:42

Well, the business plan that we put forth in front of the investors had us doing moderately well. And the business itself. Crushed it. So so there was so that the difference was, you know, we projected 1.5 million, I think in sales in year one, and we did just under 4 million. Okay. And so, you know, that was the like, really the big difference. In the business plan, we didn’t really talk much about scaling the business, we really wanted to focus on the business. And very quickly, we learned that scaling the business was something that we would need to do, because of how successful the first one was. And people were coming from all over New York City and the tri state area to eat with us. And so we really wanted to be able to expand. So we started to put putting plans in place within the first year to open up the second and third restaurant.

Mike Malatesta  31:45

Okay, so in the business plan, it was a single location, here’s how we’re going to grow the business. And then you, you under promise and over deliver, I guess I would say, and congratulations, that’s phenomenal. When you you have something that you know, is enough for people to want to back you on. And then you blow that out of the water. That doesn’t happen very often, Michael. So that’s a tremendous accomplishment. Congratulations on that. Thank you so much. And then you mentioned with Seymours, that you were reticent or reluctant to take on a partner, if I heard you, right, but with the ball shop, it was you, you and your best friend, or from growing up, Daniel, so you had a partnership there, what changed between the two that had you, you know, open to partnership, and then not wanting necessarily to have a partner? Yep.

Michael Chernow  32:41

Or partnership is an area where I fail. As a business person, partnership is really difficult for me, because I am a visionary. I really am, you know, the motivation for the creativity behind the business. And in many areas, I am comfortable taking a backseat. When it comes to operations, logistics, finance, I’m very comfortable saying you know what, this is not my, this is not my area of expertise. I understand it, I have to understand it to be a business guy. But I don’t, I don’t want to pretend to be the one to step up and run that department. Okay, when it comes to large scale decision making about like the, the, the, the macro view of the plan, I’m very strict on my vision. And I really don’t play in the sandbox well, when others want to change that vision. And so you know, people have asked me because I have had a successful career. People have asked me you know, what, where do you fail? And that’s where I fail. I choose I choose to do business in a partnership. However, I’m not willing to share the vision I’m really I really need to be at the helm of where the business is going. And I and I don’t I don’t like when people you know contest that now. I will say I I’ve learned my lesson twice. With me Paul Chapman seems as though I’ve done well in both businesses. The partnerships were very difficult for me, launch creatures without a partner, I will not have a partner. And what I’ve learned to do is actually find really incredible people to surround myself with and listen to them with intent Respect, and humility. And knowing that I have the control of whether to say, You know what, I’m going to take your advice, or you know what, I’m going to go forward with my plan. Right. And that I believe, for someone like me is much more of a successful model. It definitely makes it more difficult. There’s no doubt about it, not having a co founder, the responsibility of every single thing is on my shoulders. But I’m, I’m comfortable that way. That that actually inspires me to be stronger, to be better to be sharper. And I think also, what I’ve learned over my, you know, 11 years as a business owner, is that micromanagement never works. I’m a terrible micromanager in terms of I just don’t do it. I’d much rather, you know, hire slow and fire fast. So I really take my time when it comes to bringing people on the team of who I think I can work with and who I think will be a self starter, and not someone that’s going to need my hand holding and holding micromanaging. Because I will fail there too. I will fail there too. If I have somebody on the team that needs an enormous amount of attention. I’m, I’ve got like, you know, a bunch of things going on at all times. And following up on whether or not you know, this email was written or that thing was paid, or, you know, it’s just not a strong suit of mine. Right. So I really surround myself with sharp people that are much smarter than me. So that I can not only learn from them to sharpen my skills in the arena’s that I’m not great at, but also so that I don’t have to worry about areas in the business that are not my strong suit. And also, I don’t have to worry about those people trying to overstep their boundaries, because they have a certain amount of equity that can potentially, you know, when a board a board decision,

Mike Malatesta  37:07

yeah, it’s sort of a double edged sword of partnership, you know, the, the, there’s a lot of advantages to partnerships. And there’s just a lot of potential disadvantages to partnerships. But you don’t know what any of them are, even if you write them out, you know, very thoughtfully go through it, write them all out, you know, sort of a pro and con, until you get a person in a situation, you really don’t know. You can anticipate exactly how you’re going to react, and you can anticipate how they’re going to react. And that’s often though it’s those types of situations, I think that often end up causing the the initial sort of headbutt, and then you’re kind of like, where do we go from here? You know, it’s tough, and I appreciate you sharing your experience because, and I appreciate you sharing that, you know, you’ve made the decision that partners aren’t, aren’t for you. That’s, that’s a bold decision. But but a very self aware one, too. And,

Michael Chernow  38:09

you know, I’m also an athlete, right, so I’ve done I’ve been competing in sports for since I changed my life in 2004. And the sports that I’ve chosen to compete in, I’ve been a marathon endurance runner, which is a solo sport. So as I did in Muay Thai years solo sport, I, you know, I’ve just came off of a bodybuilding competition that I’ve now done, you know, three different bodybuilding competitions to solo sport. And so when there is a level of performance, that is, that requires an enormous amount of work, dedication, commitment, mindset, focus, I like to I like to wear the the weight of that on my shoulders, comfortable there, you know, when I have to worry about other people, you know, and don’t get me wrong, like, I love working with others, and I work well with others. But when it comes to the ultimate decisions, are we going to do this? Or we’re not going to do this? Am I, you know, I’m better. I’m better flying solo.

Mike Malatesta  39:30

And and you said before that partnership, in the way you described, it is where you fail, and it made me think, why do you why do you why do you position it that way? I mean, why is it a failure that you have determined through the experiences that you have had, what feels right to you as, as an entrepreneur or founder?

Michael Chernow  39:52

Well, you know, for me, I actually strive for failure. I don’t look at failure as as a negative thing, you know, I look at failure as truly a learning experience. And so when people ask me where I fail, I really have learned so much more from the areas that I have not that the outcome has not been a massive victory for me. Right? Like, having to, you know, break up with my partner at the meatball shop was the most challenging thing I’ve ever had to go through in my life. Probably outside of maybe getting sober addiction. You know, my best friend, and thank God, you know, Daniel, and I took about four years off from from communicating and being friends. And now we’re right back to best friends. Again, I’m going out to LA to see him in a couple of days now. But it was very, very difficult. It was grueling, it was painful. But I’d never learned so much in my life, about myself about what I’m, where I shine, and where I’m dull, where I need to sharpen about self awareness. And, and so, you know, I also, where I really had a lesson to learn was in me partnering again, with someone that I thought was right for me as a partner, and ultimately was not. And about a year into our relationship, I’ve realized that I’ve made a catastrophic mistake. And that was a hard one to swallow. And I and I found myself in a pattern, you know, choosing partners that I thought were going to be right for me and ultimately, not being right, you know, and so I had to figure out how to how to, you know, I am, I have a lot of tattoos, you know, I’m a creative guy and kind of collect them. And my grandmother used to say something to me that is so powerful, that I’ve really implemented into my life, she used to say, because, you know, I would talk to her, she was my father’s mother, I would talk to her a lot about my relationship with my dad, and my grandmother was one most wonderful person spiritual, like, just impactful person in my life. And she used to say, Mike, you can’t change anybody. You’ve got to, you’ve got to say to yourself, This mantra, bless you, change me, bless you, change me wish them well. And if you want to feel differently about the situation, you’ve got to change yourself. So wish them well, before you go into a meeting, before you go into a family dinner, before you go into any situation where you believe that something not awesome can happen before you walk in, truly close your eyes, and wish that person or those people well with sincerity, and understand that if you want the outcome to feel better for you, you are going to have to change do not expect them to. And so I got that tattooed right here on my arm. It says, Bless you change me right there. Nice. And it’s important to me, that’s a good one. You know, it really has helped me in many, many situations where I’ve just had to like be like, You know what, Mike, like, you are walking in with a prerequisite of pain. Change your mentality, change your mindset right now. Wish that person well, with with like a sincere WELL, WELL wish for that person and then change how you perceive them. And you might have to do it every single time. But it works.

Mike Malatesta  43:48

Well. That was very wise advice. Because as you were talking about that and showing me I was thinking about the energy that you waste approaching it differently. Like, I’m going to change, I have to change this person. That’s a huge responsibility to put on yourself and also very frustrating when you can’t do it. So if you just reverse it, just change the way you think about it. You know, I got a plus. bless, bless you change me, right. That’s, yeah, I love that. That’s really nice. How do you decide what you’re going to besides that one? How do you decide what tattoos you’re going to put on? On your body?

Michael Chernow  44:27

You know, all my tattoos have a really great story. Or I’d like to I’d like to think of them as really great stories. So whenever there’s a moment in time where, you know, my life has been impacted. I make room you know, I’ve Mark I mark moments in time throughout my life, every tattoo I have, you know, I catch a glimpse of it, you know, it. It reminds me of a moment in time that was either really Incredible or sometimes really challenging and sad, you know that my left arm is dedicated to the people that are no longer with us and that have made an impact on my life. And my right arm is really dedicated to my father and my grandmother, and my mom. And, you know, my legs are tattooed with my tie, Warrior shorts, from my hips all the way down to just above my knees and got my kids names tattooed on my, on my foot on my quads. I’ve got these huge angels tattooed on my back and one resembles sobriety for me, and the other one is my wife, because they came kind of together, you know, and really saved my life. And yeah, I got a bunch a bunch of stuff like that really just, you know, I tattoos have just given me an opportunity to really not forget the things that have shaped me.

Mike Malatesta  46:08

That could be an interesting book for you. To, you know, to really get inside of Michael churna, you know, through, you know, body art, I think that’d be super interesting. Because as you were saying, We should do a whole podcast on your tattoos because the stories in those are? Probably not once you tell all the time. Maybe some of them you do, and some of them you don’t, you know, it’d be a very interesting sort of discovery, I think. Yeah, let’s do it. What’s the what’s the most recent one you’ve added?

Michael Chernow  46:44

Uh, what is the most recent one? Mmm hmm. Oh, my, the most recent one was on Father’s Day, I got my I got my kids names tattooed on my quad. And then before that, I got this tattoo on my hand that says discipline equals freedom. And I have just read, Jocko willings book, The dichotomy of leadership. Sure. And he essentially described my, my happiness. Very clearly, I’d never heard that said before discipline equals freedom. My life is incredibly disciplined, you know, and a lot of people associate discipline with negativity. And for me, discipline is everything. Everything.

Mike Malatesta  47:37

So I want to dig into that with the time we have left, if you don’t mind, because you had mentioned habits at the beginning. And I’m, I’m a huge, I’m a huge believer in habits and habits and discipline are often connected. When when you think about habits, do you do you think you mentioned sort of good habits and bad habits? And I wondered, Is that how you really think about habits or you think about, these are the habits that I have now, whether they’re good or bad, I suppose is kind of up to, you know, up to interpretation, the real question is, are these the habits that I want to have? Right now? And if the answer is no, how do I replace that habit? Or can you add habits without getting rid of habits? I’m just curious how you think about it in general?

Michael Chernow  48:36

It’s a really great question. And I actually have not thought much about that specifically. So I’m excited to see where what comes out of my mouth when when you first set it. My I immediately went to when you are a person who lives a life of positive habit. The word habit is what defines you as a positive human being. And when you’re a person who lives a life of bad habit, habit is definitely not a positive thing. And it is the thing that is most likely preventing you from progressing. Today, when I think of habit, I never think of it as a bad thing. I only think of it as a good thing, because the habits that I have today are what paint the picture of my life on a daily basis,

Mike Malatesta  49:39

which Yeah, if I heard you right on looking at your hand the habits that you have right now you equate with freedom.

Michael Chernow  49:46

Absolutely. You know, without without a doubt, just absolutely. And look, I’m not I’m fine. I’m far from perfect, but I know that I have an opportunity every single day To be better, and that doesn’t mean better than yesterday. That just means better, right? Feeling better, feeling better is better than feeling worse. And so, you know, and every day we get a clean slate you cannot, you know, you cannot do anything yesterday. And you simply cannot do anything in an hour from now, you can only do right now. And so if you live that way where you know, you realize that, like all you can really do, you can only do anything right now. You can change what the rest of your day looks like. It’s just that simple, great decisions make great decisions. And so I start my day, every day with a long list of habits that are no longer a list, it’s just my life. Right now I wake up at 435 o’clock in the morning to somewhere between 430 and five, I don’t I don’t use an alarm. But I never sleep past five. I wake up very, very early. The first thing I do is I walk into the bathroom, I brush my teeth, I wash my face, I dropped down on my knees and I asked the universe for help. I have a prayer that I’ve been saying every single day for many, many years. Not a religious guy, but you know, believe in the universe and believe in positive energy and, and then I do 50 Push Ups. I get up, I put some face moisturizer on my face. So I feel like I’m doing something that’s going to help keep me young and fresh and plain. And then I sneak out of the bedroom. And actually, that’s not true. The first thing I do, every single morning, the moment I’m awake is I smile. I smile for 15 seconds. As soon as I know I’m awake. I like a real shit eating grin. I flip up my eye mask and I smile from ear to ear. And immediate gratitude starts my day, a lot of people wake up including myself with anxiety. And so I just beat down that anxiety right away. And then I make my way into the bathroom. And then when I’m done with that I walked downstairs I have about 20 ounces of water with pink Himalayan salt and half a squeeze of lemon, half a half a lemon. And then I make my athletic greens and I start a pot of coffee. And then I sit down at the breakfast nook, light two candles and meditate for anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes while my coffee is brewing coffee is done Brian, walk over, grab a cup of coffee, sit down, open up my journal. And I plan out my day my daily planner and my journal. And then after that sometimes my kids are up. And sometimes I get the time to read 10 pages out of a book. But I try to read 10 pages every day out of a book early in the morning. And then my kids are up and I hang out with them for about an hour while they’re at the breakfast and we just hang out. And then they go off to school my wife takes him to school most days. And then I go into the gym and I work out from like 730 to nine, typically six days a week. And then as soon as I get out of there I have my protagonist which is my my oatmeal from creatures of habit. And I take a shower. And I say a little gratitude list in the shower. And then I sit down on my my desk and I work. And that’s my morning every day, even on the weekends, even on Sundays and even on Sundays. Sunday’s is typically my off day from the gym. And I don’t have down at the desk I have I reserve Saturday and Sunday for being with my family. But you know, so instead of sitting down at the desk at nine 930 In the morning, I’m hanging with the fam, but that’s my day, every single day, seven days a week. I can’t wait to go to bed at night so that I can start that in the morning. I just I’m like so excited to pass out at 930 Every night so that I can start my my day in the morning like that.

Mike Malatesta  54:04

And just curious, is your wife schedule similar to yours? No. Because mine mine is totally different as well. So I just wanted to,

Michael Chernow  54:14

ya know, my wife is you know, my wife is she thinks I’m crazy. But she you know, she’s totally supportive of what I do. And I mean, she’s my, she’s the rock of my life. She’s everything. Yeah, she supports me. She she does think, um, you know, she knows I’m extreme. I mean, I am extreme. You know, I don’t I don’t like open a business. I’ve got to open a bunch. I don’t run a marathon. I’ve got to run you know 10 I you know, I don’t lift weights. I compete in bodybuilding competitions. You know, it’s, I’m an extreme guy, but I really do think what drives me there is the level of passion for this The uncertainty in life and the discovery and the curiosity and being able to help other people being of service in some way, shape or form, even if it’s just being a motivational, you know, thing or person that somebody sees throughout the day doing something that could potentially inspire them to want to flip the switch. Yeah,

Mike Malatesta  55:23

sure. Why, like, so I’ll just say that you have this very, I would say it’s a reserved intensity. So I can see that, you know, and you when you talk about the, you know, this intensity that you have, but it’s very reserved the way that it comes across. And I feel like that’s very disarming in a good way. Because some people who are very intense are very intense all the time, and they kind of people are like, whoo, that dude’s really intense, you know, but you’re kind of like, at least from what I’m seeing from you today, you’re a little bit different than that I do appreciate you walking through your, your habits because I’m a big habit advocate, as I mentioned, and athletic greens are something I’ve been doing for three years or so myself. So I do believe in that product as well. So where do we where do you want people to connect with you? I mean, I gave out your Instagram, your Twitter, your Facebook at the beginning your website? I didn’t give out creatures of habit, though. So that’s where the K is that right? Or?

Michael Chernow  56:26

Yeah, creatures of habit with a K. So you know, I think the best way to, you know, follow along with what I’m doing is at Michael turnout, predominantly on Instagram, that’s where I, you know, put out a lot of my content, but it would mean the world to me if if your listeners would check out creatures of habit. And I’d be happy to offer a 10% off discount if they want to enter onto the site and they can use the discount code. Oats 10 Oh, ATS the number 10. Okay, um, that would be Yeah, I would I that would mean the world to me because I think we’re doing some really amazing things and the more people I can help, the better and it’s really been a product that people have really taken into their lives and and it’s helped motivate them to kick their days off with with positive with a positive habit. And yeah, so check out creatures of habit with a K on creatures of habit calm. You can also check out creatures of habit on Instagram, to see what we’re doing there at Michael Turnhout on social media, and I’m launching a new podcast soon and I just pushed pause I’m born or made and Oh, you did? Okay. Um, launched in the creatures of habit podcast in the New Year, which I’m really excited about. So that’ll be fun. It’ll be a habit focus podcast.

Mike Malatesta  57:53

Love it. Love it. Well, Michael, it’s been so much fun exploring your story. And I appreciate you coming on and sharing. So many different things we covered and I do wish we had time to do a lot more. I like the I do think that’s a good book thing for your tattoo stories by the way. I do. I will. I will personally get the get the protagonist because I want to try that and see if that’ll become more of my daily habit I magic spoon now with blueberries and and some grain free granola that sort of a little bit of of that plain yogurt. That’s sort of my little morning thing, but, but I’m definitely willing to try something different. So I will definitely give it a go. And and and I’ll let you know how, how I like it. So thanks for the offer. And thanks for coming on the podcast. It’s been it’s been a real pleasure.

Michael Chernow  58:54

Awesome, man. Thank you so much for having me.

Mike Malatesta  59:00

Three to one.

Michael Chernow  59:04

So for anybody that’s listening that wants to give creatures of habit a shot, I’d love to offer a 10% discount code for everyone out there. You can use code How’d it happen HOWDIT h a p p n for 10% off your first order to give us a shot.

Mike Malatesta  59:24

About h a p p e n I think I think you said it’s a P P N

Michael Chernow  59:29

Oh sorry. That’s h h h h o w DITHAPPN How did happen for 10% off the first purchase nice

Mike Malatesta

Mike Malatesta

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