Episode 024: Michael Woodward

Ep.024 Michael Woodward
Episode 024
#IAmMovement Logo
Episode 024:
Discover Your True Self with Jumblethink's Michael Woodward

“The journey of a hero isn’t about the specific one-off journey, it’s about a lifestyle.” - Michael Woodward

Simon Sinek #IAmMovement

If someone asks, “Who are you?”, the answer seems simple, right? You probably don’t have to think about it too hard. But do you know why you answer the way that you do – and do you wish the answer was different?

Michael Woodward is a speaker who dedicates himself to teaching others, through lessons on faith and entrepreneurship, to stand in their worth, creativity and value. He continues this work as well through the JumbleThink podcast. 

On this episode of the I Am Movement podcast, Rock and Michael sit down to discuss the recipe for shaping a healthy identity with mentorship and introspection – using your own natural talents. We dive into the difference between an identity built for others and one built only by you, and how understanding all these things constructs a self-image, a lifestyle, and a lasting impact that fills you up and radiates joy. Join the conversation to change your reality for the better.

Topics Discussed

00:00 – Intro to Michael and his relationship with labels/self-perception

06:45 – Bias, perception, and understanding our identity

09:50 – Discovering who we are through introspection and healthy community

16:24 – The Dreamer’s Guide to Micro-Experiments and the process of achieving goals

21:40 – Dream Giver and the hero’s journey

23:00 – How we expand and shift our identity based on experience

31:00 – Internal vs. external factors that shape identity

36:15 – Who Michael is today and wrap-up

Key Takeaways:

“I don’t fit in the normal mold, and that’s okay, and I’ve gotta fight for my place and who I am.” – Michael Woodward

“I think it’s easy for us, when we feel like we’re different from the status quo – and let’s be honest – entrepreneurs and creatives, we often feel like fringe people. We put a self-perception, a filter, of who accepts us and who wants to be around us, and that isn’t true.” – Michael Woodward

“One of my favorite words is presupposition. And that’s basically how we view the world based on your circumstances. We have a bias, we are bent in specific ways.” – Michael Woodward

“Significance and joy don’t come from success of money. That helps sustain your lifestyle, but that’s a vastly different thing than joy and fulfillment. Fulfillment and joy come from a completely different place.” – Michael Woodward

“If we don’t change, our impact is going to be shallow.” – Michael Woodward

“What we need are people who believe in us more than we believe in ourselves, who are willing to say the hard things.” – Michael Woodward

“Breaking them down into smaller steps makes a big idea more tangible.” – Michael Woodward

“I think there’s core identity that doesn’t really change, and there is certainty in that…but there’s a lot of things that could evolve and grow based on experience.” – Michael Woodward

You’ll Learn

How embracing the principles of the scientific process holds the key to choosing and achieving your goals, one step at a time

Why we are afraid of sitting quietly with ourselves - and why it’s time to conquer the fear of introspection in order to grow

How your high school friend group still factors into your identity, and what it can teach you about your personal view of reality

And much more!


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Full Transcript

Intro (00:01):

Hi, I’m Rock Thomas, the founder of M1, the tribe of healthy, wealthy, and passionate people, also known as fulfillionaires. You’re listening to the I Am Movement podcast where we believe that the words that follow “I am” follow you. Join me and the world’s greatest thought leaders as we discuss the power of transformation and making success a part of your identity.

Rock Thomas (00:31):

And welcome to the podcast, Michael.

Michael Woodward (00:34):

Thanks so much. Excited to be here.

Rock Thomas (00:36):

Well, you know it’s a thrill to have you because you’re a guy that is not only a speaker, you speak on entrepreneurship, on faith, you’re a guy that believes that it’s really important that you be worthy, creative, and valuable. In this podcast, I want to talk to people about the importance of how they describe themselves, where that came from, what the genesis of that is, and whether they were able to transform some of the labels. So let’s talk for yourself, growing up, did you have labels that were downloaded to you by your parents, your community, your pastor, whatever, and what did you do with them, and how did you transform them if you did?

Michael Woodward (01:14):

Yeah. As a kid, there are a lot of times I didn’t feel like I fit in. And I think that the biggest area that was a label for me, that I had to overcome, was when I was really young, early years, kindergarten, first grade. I was diagnosed as ADHD, and the truth of the matter is, is that when they put me on Ritalin and all the other things, it changed who I was and I lost myself in that. I was super excited because our doctor, my parents, a small community around me said, hey, this isn’t right. This isn’t what we’re going to do because the school said you had to take the medicine, you had to do this, you had to do that, put me in different classes.

Michael Woodward (01:52):

What they learned was that it wasn’t ADHD. If they took the time to actually study who I was and learn about me, what the school would have learned early on was that I learned differently than the average student. And so for me, it wasn’t a matter of having attention deficit disorder, it was about, I wasn’t connecting with how I was being taught. And so they were saying, “Hey, he has ADHD, he has learning disabilities, has all this stuff,” and really the reality for me was I wasn’t being taught in a way that communicated to me.

Rock Thomas (02:22):

All right, let’s stop the car for a second there because this is really important. I want people to get this. I want to ask you a deeper question.

Michael Woodward (02:29):


Rock Thomas (02:30):

How long did that stigma stay with you? How long did you go through that, and what was the – I’m going to use the word damage because I want to be graphic here – on your psyche, on your self-esteem?

Michael Woodward (02:42):

Yeah. For me, I was off the drugs, Ritalin, all the other stuff probably within a year or two, probably by second grade. It was probably till fourth grade that I was really excelling and in the classes I should have been in to begin with, the ones that were more accelerated, that the teachers taught in a way that I learned. So from that standpoint, it took a good two, three years to really re-acclimate into the places that I should have been.

Michael Woodward (03:06):

When it comes to the stigma personally and the damage, I went to a counselor for a while to work through some of those issues of like, who am I really? What is that identity of my personality, my strengths? And that helped a lot. That was a massive transformation. But even through high school, it was a process of going, hey, I don’t fit into the normal mold, but that’s okay, and I’ve got to fight for my place and who I am and for people to say, “You know what? It’s okay that he doesn’t operate this way.” And so even through high school, that was always the fight, was to fight for my space that was being accepted in the right place.

Rock Thomas (03:46):

So Michael, I changed six or seven schools. I can’t remember any more. I was like virtually every year in elementary. I was that kid, and I want to see if you identify with this at all in a different way maybe, but similar is I walked into the cafeteria with my tray looking for a spot to sit, feeling like I didn’t fit in, and I had this panicky inner narrative of… It felt like the whole room was looking at me going, “He’s a loser. Who is that weirdo? Don’t come sit near us.” Did you have any of that kind of experience when you felt, when you got labeled, and you were like, “Okay, now how do I fit in?”?

Michael Woodward (04:25):

I didn’t. I had a really good group of friends, community in which I grew up with, these people. There are still people I know to this day that were close knit friends. I wouldn’t say that early on I had a lot of friends like, hey, I was Mr. Popularity by any measure, but I felt like I had a place. There was probably three or four or five people that I felt really close to and then I was a part of boys scouts. And so there were other outlets where we could have that creativity, and for me, the learning process was more about experience and less about teaching, being taught, this is this, this is that, and instead, moving into a model that said, “Let’s experience learning together.”

Michael Woodward (05:02):

And so for me, the peer space wasn’t as strong. I would say that that would come a little bit later where in high school I took a real strong stance of like, I know what I believe and what I stand for as what I call follower of Christ. A lot of people call that Christianity, but I know what I stand for and that kind of thing. And in that, I had to sacrifice some friendships that weren’t healthy for me and that they wouldn’t accept that really firm, I’m not going to go out and just be stupid in some of the things I do because it doesn’t align up with the morality, with the ethics, the character that I believe that my faith informs me with.

Michael Woodward (05:40):

So I think when it comes to that aspect of feeling a little bit outside, I would say that that came a little bit later, probably around my sophomore year of high school. What’s funny though is looking back now, I think I was a little bit of a chameleon along the way and I fit in more than I thought I did. I look at the friendships, and I bumped into a guy a couple of weeks ago, and he said, “Hey, do you remember me?” I knew his face and I was like searching for the name, and he’s like, “Mike, it’s me, blah, blah, blah,” whoever it was.

Michael Woodward (06:11):

What was amazing is that their perception of me was different than my perception of me. And so I think it’s easy for us when we feel like we’re different from the status quo, and let’s be honest, entrepreneurs, creatives, we mostly feel like fringe people, and what was interesting to me is that I think a lot of people don’t view it the same way that we view it. And so we put a self-perception, a filter of who accepts us and who wants to be around us that isn’t really true. And that really shocked me. Our 20th high school reunion, I missed it because I was out of town, but it just came up last week. And to still be bumping into people who I haven’t seen for 20 years, and for them to say stuff like that, it changes your perspective, even now, on like, maybe who I thought I was and how I felt like I fit in wasn’t real and didn’t meet the reality.

Rock Thomas (07:08):

How much of your work as a speaker, as a trainer, as a coach, as a guide, as a mentor, is helping other people look at life from a new perspective, being passionately curious, being open, being available? Because there’s constructs we grow up with that sometimes later we go, “Oh, my God, I was looking at life this way and there could have been a better way.” Does that make sense?

Michael Woodward (07:34):

Yeah. I’ll say two things. One, for me, one of my favorite words is presupposition, and that’s basically how you view the world based on your circumstances. All of us filter life through that. We have a bias. We are bent in specific ways. There is this popular belief in society that none of us are biased, that our opinion matters, that our truth is truth. And the reality is, is that’s not real, and it’s okay to have bias to an extent. I mean, if you’re out like being a part of the KKK and doing stupid stuff, that’s biased to the nth degree that’s not healthy or good.

Michael Woodward (08:10):

And so we all have bias. We all have perspective on our lives and the lives around us based on experience. That’s how we filter our family, That’s how we filter friends, that’s how we filter jobs. And so first off, we have to understand bias and that we are biased, and some of our biases are bad, and some of them are good, and just be honest and transparent with that and work through that.

Michael Woodward (08:31):

The second thing I would say to that is, yeah, a lot of what we do at JumbleThink, a lot of things I do personally are about entrepreneurship. They’re about ideas and idea formation and innovation and all of those things, but I say that identity is the foundation for building all of that. You look at StrengthsFinders, it talks about understanding your core abilities, and then flourishing in that. Wall Street Journal just put out an article this week that was talking about, we need to do less about trying to fit people into curriculums and teach them what we think that they need to succeed, help them figure out who they are.

Michael Woodward (09:06):

For me, entrepreneurship starts with identity. If you don’t understand yourself, you’re not going to succeed in business. And success, in that case, I’m defining as fulfillment, joy, really being able to tap into the best of yourself and apply it to what you do. You might make a lot of money, but that doesn’t, for most people, actually translate into joy and significance because significance and joy doesn’t come from success of money. That helps sustain your lifestyle, but that is a vastly different thing than joy and fulfillment. Fulfillment and joy come from a completely different place.

Michael Woodward (09:42):

And so for me, when I’m working with people who are saying, “I have an idea, I have a dream, I have a thing I want to do,” I always say, “Let’s back up and look at your identity,” because that’s the foundation that gets you through everything in life, and if we’re not starting… Simon Sinek says, start with why, which I think is a great question to ask. Steve Olsher says, what’s your what? That’s a great question to ask, but if you don’t understand who you are, none of that other stuff matters. It has no value.

Rock Thomas (10:09):

So what question do you ask to discover who you are? Because a lot of people have trouble figuring that out.

Michael Woodward (10:13):

Well, I don’t think it’s so much of a question. I think it’s much more of an intentional lifestyle, which is to get quiet with yourself, which, let’s be honest, most of us don’t want to do it because that is a painful place. You have to work through the pain, you have to work through the questions. If you were rejected as a child maybe from your parents or from your peers, or you didn’t succeed the way that somebody expected you to, whether it’s yourself or others, you have to process through that because they will be millstones around your neck to hold you down from the potential that you have.

Michael Woodward (10:45):

And so I think that it starts not with a question, but it starts with a quietness and a reflection and a place of introspection. We are so busy trying to say why everyone else is wrong and why we need everyone else to get on board with us, that we’re not taking the time to get quiet with ourselves and really understand that’s not the world around us that needs to change, it’s us. Because if we don’t change, our impact is going to be shallow. And so getting quiet is the first step.

Michael Woodward (11:13):

I think the second question is, what am I good at? What are my natural born abilities? Do people love to listen to me speak? Maybe you’re a great storyteller, and then that helps you become an influencer, or maybe you are really crafty with your hands and you can build things and you can invent a new space, or maybe you can see things from a perspective of pain or a trouble, and you can come in and help businesses innovate in a space and see, “These are the blind spots that you’re missing,” or maybe you just like numbers – and I don’t understand that one – and you’re good at math and you love all those things and you love working with accounting and helping businesses or people with finances, and you go work in that space. So figuring out your abilities. So get quiet, figure out your strengths and your weaknesses.

Michael Woodward (11:58):

I think the third thing is put people around you that can call out the best of you. Many of us are surrounded by people who want to beat us down to make themselves look better or to make themselves feel better, and they do it in ways that aren’t obvious. And so what we need are people that believe in us more than we believe in ourselves, who are willing to say the hard things like, “Dude, you need to step up to the play and really show up here because you’re not really engaging to the fullness of what you could do.” I think that those kind of things set you up for the successes to find identity. So get quiet with yourself, figure out your strengths and abilities, get your mentors and peers around you.

Michael Woodward (12:36):

I think the last thing is really stepping back and saying, what do I like and what do I hate? Often, we are doing things that we hate because we feel we’re obligated to that. I don’t think that’s what we’re created to do. I think we’re created to find joy. So either we need to change our perspective and find joy in what we’re doing, not false joy to make it okay, but really find that place, or we need to change. Change is scary, it’s filled with risk in the unknown, and we don’t want to do that. So instead, we just accept the status quo and we fill the void of joy and fulfillment with, “Maybe I can get the new toy I want. Maybe I can get the best house that I want. Maybe I can move up in my career, and that shows that I’m successful because now I’m the vice president in my business over this instead of just the accountant.” And so we are looking for fulfillment, again, in the wrong places.

Michael Woodward (13:26):

And so if it’s not aligning up with your personal gifts and talents and personality and you don’t love it… That doesn’t mean you don’t have things about your job or your entrepreneurial journey that you hate. I’m in a place right now, there are places that I’m trying to shift, and it takes awhile to do that. And so there are pain in that process, but if you’re every day going, “I don’t want to wake up and go into my job,” it’s probably not the right place.

Rock Thomas (13:51):

Whoa, that was a lot. I wrote a bunch of notes. I want to unpack some of that for people because I don’t want them to gloss over that, Michael. Thank you so much. I love the get quiet. I think that, for those of you that have practices in the morning or the evening, I want to reiterate that. I think it’s really good to do that in the morning and also take an audit at the end of the day with your journal and take some notes. So I love that. The second-

Michael Woodward (14:11):

I want to say, one thing with that is that’s really good, and I think that’s really good to do those things. I do it. I would go one step further and say, not only should you do that, but at least once, maybe twice a year, you should take a couple of days and completely detach. Untethering is what it’s called. Untether from your technology. And if you don’t have the finances, that could be just sitting at home with some good books, processing the ideas, journaling. If you have some money, that could be going to a cabin, going for walks, and that kind of thing. And so that’s going look different for every person, but I think it’s good to actually take a little bit of time that’s a little bit bigger than that sometimes too.

Rock Thomas (14:52):

I love it.

Michael Woodward (14:53):

And take a weekend or take a week to do that.

Rock Thomas (14:56):

Excellent. Excellent suggestion. You’ve reminded me of something I’m going to include in the show notes, which is an assessment you can take called the Sacred Gifts. And essentially, it’s what you talked about in your second point, which is, whatever lights you up, if you’re good with numbers. There’s a belief that there’s about 24 gifts and we get four to six of them at birth, and it’s really up to us to discover what those are. Some people are good with their hands, and other people are not. Some people are good with administration, like for instance, I am not, I lose papers. So I surround myself with people that have that gift so they can shine and I can release myself from it. So I’ll include that in the show notes.

Rock Thomas (15:36):

Then I also like what you said about surround yourself with really successful people. It’s very common, we say that, but what I liked what you said is the person who’s going to have the courage to challenge you. I think we can sometimes default to being around the people that we love and that love us and tell us what we want to hear versus the person who’s going to give us the tough love that you suggested, Michael, which I think is essential to growing. You need a crosswind every once in a while to strengthen your roots.

Michael Woodward (16:05):


Rock Thomas (16:05):

So that’s really great. And then the interesting thing is you talked about going through your joy, but then maybe getting distracted by some position of significance, like becoming the vice president or something, and getting distracted by material toys and accomplishments versus going back to that, understanding your gifts, leaning into them and believing that you can make a living and a lifestyle from the things that truly lights you up. So that was a lot that you dropped on us. Thank you very much. Very, very powerful stuff.

Rock Thomas (16:39):

Let’s talk a little bit about your goal-setting mechanism because we both share some strategies around that. I’m a big believer that there are steps to it, there’s better ways to access the resources within ourselves. Tell us what you do for goal setting.

Michael Woodward (16:53):

Yeah. So I do a couple of things, and if you’re seeing in video format, you’ll see this book here. This is… I call it… What do I call it? It’s up here. I call it-

Rock Thomas (17:06):


Michael Woodward (17:06):

… my goals list. Yeah, that’s what I call it. I call it the goals list. It’s not a bucket list, although it’s a lot like a bucket list, but there are things that I want to accomplish, things that are important to me for some kind of reason, whether personal or that kind of thing. So that’s one place I start.

Michael Woodward (17:21):

Another place I start is that, for me, what I’ve found is that often we set very big goals, very big dreams, very big ideas, and because of that, we don’t try to shoot for it. I created a little method, I call it Dreamer’s Guide to Micro Experiments, and it’s five steps to say, let’s not try for the big innovation, let’s not try for the big dream, let’s not try for all of it at once. Let’s try small things. And what the small little steps allow you to do, it’s five steps, there’re two allow you to make small pivots instead of big pivots and small changes over a course of time, make the end goal much doable.

Michael Woodward (18:01):

So you start out by forming a question or a goal, what do you want to do? Then you set a time limit. I always recommend, make this short, maybe a day, maybe an hour, maybe a weekend, a week, maybe a month. Six months is where I cap it, because if it’s longer than six months, it’s not a micro goal, it’s a big goal. Then run your experiment, do all the things in that time period to see if you can get from point A to point C, stop and reflect. That’s where you actually look about what you love, what you hate, what worked, what didn’t work, and you really take that process of saying, well, what’s the next step towards that goal? And then you rinse and repeat and you do that process again.

Michael Woodward (18:37):

And so it’s like the scientific process applied to entrepreneurship or to goal setting, and taking those five steps and making it very simple to say, if you want to be Elon Musk, you don’t have to build Tesla, a finished product at stage one, you build a prototype. And before you build a prototype, you build a model. And before you build a model, you might do sketches. And so your micro experiment is like, “This weekend I’m going to sketch up some concepts on how we can use electric power to power a car.” They don’t go right into the production line. That would be a silly step for that idea, that dream, that goal that he had. Instead, he may build a micro step, and that micro step may have not even been to do the sketches, it may have been like, “I’m going to hire an engineer.” Okay, that’s a micro experiment.

Michael Woodward (19:21):

And so you learn along the way, and then your dream and idea and the goal may evolve as you go through that process, but we just call that The Dreamer’s Guide to Micro Experiments. And it makes it fun because often we get buried in the vastness of the idea, the unknown of the idea, the financing, like how are we going to pay for the idea or dream or goal we’re trying to do?

Michael Woodward (19:42):

Let’s make it personal. So let’s say you want to go to Hawaii. Well, what’s the first step? You don’t jump on a plane and go. First step is like, “Maybe I want to research it. Which Island in Hawaii do I want to go? Okay, I want to go to the Big Island because it’s big and I like big.” And so you go, “Well, what is it? I want to go see a volcano and I want to see that.” And then you start planning and you start… So those micro experiments give you the time. You may not have the money to get there today, but you’re saving towards it. Now, you’re learning about it, you’re getting more excited, and it’s driving you to that goal.

Michael Woodward (20:14):

And then step two, maybe, okay, I’m going to talk to other people who’ve been there, like a tour guide or something like that and say, “Hey, where are the places I need to go? What’s the uncharted stuff? What’s the stuff that you’re not going to find on the internet or that people aren’t going to tell you?” And then your third step might be, “Okay, well we’re saving the money. Now, we’re going to book our tickets.” And so that’s your next step. And then you’re going to get on the plane, and that’s a micro experiment, and that you’re hoping the plane gets there. Most of the time it does.

Rock Thomas (20:38):

Hopefully, it’s not an experiment.

Michael Woodward (20:41):

No, it’s not an experiment. At least by Boeing, hopefully, it’s not an experiment. And so that process can be applied whether it’s a personal dream or a goal that you have or a big goal. Let’s say you want to start a business and you want to create the best widget ever. Well, step number one might not be going to a China and having it all produced and made. Step number one might be trial and error to get it right until you send it over to them. And so breaking it down into smaller steps make big ideas much more tangible.

Rock Thomas (21:11):

So I think that’s what I hear you saying is chunk it down, don’t get overwhelmed, you don’t have to be great to start, you got to start to be great, eat the elephant one bite at a time, all of those pieces, instead of looking at the top of Mount Everest and going, “Oh, my God, I can never make it there.” Something like that?

Michael Woodward (21:29):

Yeah. I mean, if you’re going to climb Everest, you don’t start with Everest. That’s not the first mountain you’ve climbed. You may have done Mount Lassen or Shasta as your first mountain in Northern California.

Rock Thomas (21:39):

So micro experiments.

Michael Woodward (21:40):

Yeah, and you go, “Hey, I like this. This is fine,” or you learn, “Hey, I went up to Lassen and I don’t like the fact that I can’t breathe real well.” And then you figure out, is that still a goal or a value that you want to accomplish?

Rock Thomas (21:51):

Right. I like it. I like it a lot. Dream Giver.

Michael Woodward (21:56):


Rock Thomas (21:57):

Talk to us about that.

Michael Woodward (21:59):

Yeah, it’s a great book by Bruce Wilkinson. It is all about a guy who felt like he had… He lived in a little community of nobodies and he felt like he was a somebody. It’s like The Hero’s Journey, which is another allegory by Joseph Campbell. And so I like it because it’s a little bit more like what you’d find from C.S. Lewis or Tolkien, or something like that, and it walks you through his journey of going through the different phases of chasing a dream, chasing an idea, finding a goal. And really, in that, it was about finding himself. It’s not so much about the outcome of the goal or the dream as it was, it was a journey of discovery.

Michael Woodward (22:44):

What’s interesting about that book, and I’m going to give away the ending, I think it’s really valuable, is that we see end game goals. They call it [Hebrew 00:22:53] in the Hebrew, which is the end of our actions. There is an end of our actions that we’re all going to get to, but that’s not the end of our journey. Many of us think, when I reach having a million dollars in the bank, when I reach a certain position in a job, when I reach going to certain expedition and doing a certain activity, when I am an NFL football player, when I…” and then they get there and they’re like, “Well, what next?”

Michael Woodward (23:20):

The journey of a hero isn’t about the specific one-off journey, it’s about a lifestyle. Many of us achieve maybe greatness or success, and then we go, “Then what?” And our identity is gone. That is a great marker of knowing if you know who you are. If you get to the top of your game and you’re still like, “I know who I am,” then you knew your identity from day one, and it evolved and it grew and it became stronger. I think that’s the part of the Dream Giver that a lot of people miss, is that it’s about a lifestyle of saying, once you step into that, you can become a nobody again. It’s not about notoriety or fame, it’s about your identity, going from not knowing your identity to knowing your identity. You don’t get to a place where you said, “I arrived with identity,” you’re always evolving, you’re always growing, you’re always changing. [inaudible 00:24:13] got to keep on that journey. That’s what it’s about, and I love that book.

Rock Thomas (24:16):

I love that. So on that note, the strongest force in human nature is this desire for us to remain consistent with how we describe ourselves. We’re either a smoker or nonsmoker, we’re a morning person or a non-morning person. And if somebody asks you, “You want to come play tennis? You go, “Oh no, I’m not a tennis player.” We’re very congruent with how we see ourselves, and then we give ourselves guilt when we behave outside of our identity, like, “I’m not a smoker, but then I was out camping that weekend and all my friends were smoking and I thought, let me take a puff,” and then you were like, “Ah,” the next morning, “what did I do? How would you say is the best way to expand your identity for those people that are going to grow and become the best version of themself?

Michael Woodward (25:02):

Yeah. Well, if something Is not unmoral, if something is not unethical, if something isn’t like stupid dangerous, like, “Hey, I’m going to go cliff diving onto a cliff,” well, you probably don’t want to do that from a thousand feet and go, “Hey, I’m going to jump on another cliff,” it’s going to kill you. That’s not a wise thing, but you may go, “Hey, I’m going to go cliff diving. I’m going to go off of 10 feet into water.” Okay, well, you changed what you’re doing, and it’s the same thing applied to a different role.

Michael Woodward (25:31):

So I have a rule that if it’s not against my ethics, my belief statement, which is my core beliefs of faith, if it’s not going to hurt somebody, if it’s not unethical, it has to meet that-

Rock Thomas (25:46):

Be moral, yeah.

Michael Woodward (25:48):

… kind of criteria, I’m going to go take the experience. I had the experience. We had a guest on our podcast a week ago, he does dinosaur digs and finds fossils. I’ve never done that before. I could say, “Hey, I just want to interview you,” but then he said, “Hey, do you want to come out?” And it’s like, “Well, yeah, I don’t know what it’s like. I’ve never experienced that. Yeah, I’ll go.” So just because I had never dug for dinosaur’s bones before, doesn’t mean that I may like it or loathe it. I don’t know until I do it. So like your tennis example, hey, you want to go play tennis? Well, I’m not a tennis player. Well, how do you know that you don’t love tennis and you’ve just never done it? So until you step into that, you’re not going to know.

Michael Woodward (26:31):

So I think there’s core identity that doesn’t really change, and there’s certainty in that. Like, I’m never going to be a smoker. It’s not going to happen. That’s a core identity thing. And so there are certain things of identity that aren’t going to change, but there is a lot of things that can evolve and grow based on experience.

Rock Thomas (26:50):

So I’m going to mess with you now. If a new study came out and said that smoking this kind of cigarette was going to increase your memory and extend your life by 20 years – Now, this is all hypothetical – you would then at least entertain that information and look at it, would you not?

Michael Woodward (27:10):

I’d look at the information. I don’t think it would change my outtake on that. I’d probably be content with where I’m at in that specific case.

Rock Thomas (27:18):

Okay. I’ll give you-

Michael Woodward (27:19):

Let me give you another example.

Rock Thomas (27:20):


Michael Woodward (27:21):

People love beer.

Rock Thomas (27:22):


Michael Woodward (27:22):

There’s nothing wrong with beer. I hate the taste of it. I’ve tried different kinds of beer. I’m just not going to drink beer. It’s not going to change because someone goes, “Well, this is a nitro brew and it does X, Y, and Z, and so it’s different. You should try it.” At some point, I’m going to smell it and I’m going to look at it and go, “That’s just not for me.” And so, yeah.

Rock Thomas (27:42):

There’s lots of things, don’t you find though, that… We used to all drink milk, now it’s almond milk and it’s cashew milk and it’s soy milk, and then a new report comes out and soy milk gives you estrogen and now you shouldn’t drink soy milk. So we have all these influences and information that can shift a little bit our identity, right? Coffee is good for you, it’s not good for you. One glass of red wine is good for you, it’s not good for you. So in the process, information creates the opportunity for a new decision if you’re open. Does that make sense?

Michael Woodward (28:13):

I think so, but I think that at the core, your identity probably hasn’t changed much in that, because those are outliers. Those are likes, dislikes, those are more… I don’t consider that necessarily identity.

Rock Thomas (28:25):

Okay, I’ll give you a more concrete example.

Michael Woodward (28:27):


Rock Thomas (28:27):

I grew up on a farm. I worked hard for 20 years, and I met a gentleman who said, “You’re working hard. I love your work ethic, but there’s room for you to make some shifts and work more intelligently.” And I went, “Well, what does that look like?” And then he started to guide me to not just work with my hands and with my back, but to work more with my mind and with my mouth, and I became a salesperson and I went on to have a completely different career to your point that you mentioned before, is that I didn’t even know existed, right?

Michael Woodward (28:55):


Rock Thomas (28:56):

And I change and I transformed my identity from working hard to working smart, from being shy and introverted and working with goats and two-by-fours to working with people and paper, and I became financially in a completely different arena than I could have possibly working with my hands. How about that one for an example?

Michael Woodward (29:15):

Yeah, yeah, but I would still say your core beliefs didn’t change in that, like who you were as a person. You were still kind, you were still generous. Those kinds of things didn’t change. So it’s an outward expression. So I guess it comes back to how do we define identity?

Rock Thomas (29:33):


Michael Woodward (29:34):

And that’s a hard question to answer because for each person-

Rock Thomas (29:37):

I think it’s very easy, the words that follow “I am”, however you say I am, like you say, “I am kind.” There was a period of time I wasn’t that kind. I was a dick. I was, and I still am probably to some people, but I just was brought up in an environment that was like, I got kicked by a horse, my arm was broken, my father wouldn’t take me to the hospital. I learned to tolerate circumstances that wasn’t usual, so then when I went out there and played football with somebody and ran them over and they said, “Hey,” I was like, “Suck it up.”

Rock Thomas (30:08):

So it’s not that because I wanted to be a dick, is because that’s what I was experiencing. But later on when I looked at it from a perspective of feedback from the world, I was like, “People keep on telling me I’m too intense. Maybe I need to look at how I’m showing up because I’m entering into a different arena.” So I started to shift my identity. I’ve had to work on my empathy, Michael. I wasn’t very empathetic. I’ve learned to develop that side, and it’s actually a beautiful side, but it’s been work for me versus most people have to work on being tougher.

Michael Woodward (30:40):

Yeah, yeah. I think that identity does evolve and change and grow. So I completely agree with that. Yeah.

Rock Thomas (30:48):

I think that community and connection is what affects it more than anything else. It could be your church, it could be your chess club, it could be your bike riding club. You get part of that community, we all want to belong, and all of a sudden somebody says, “Hey, when you wear these shoes and when you cycle early in the morning before the heat, you’re going to get a better ride. We do slight mountains, and it’ll help you perform better on the long run,” and you start to shift your identity. I’m not a morning person, and you start-

Michael Woodward (31:19):

Neither do I.

Rock Thomas (31:20):

… and you start to be able to find what I think is the journey. The hero’s journey is the parts of yourself that you didn’t know existed.

Michael Woodward (31:29):

Yeah, absolutely. I think that that’s the thing that I think most people really struggle with, is the fear of unknowing themselves.

Rock Thomas (31:38):


Michael Woodward (31:38):

And what I mean by that, because that sounds kind of weird is that, what if I am this other person?

Rock Thomas (31:45):

And what if I am not this thing that I’m being? Because it pleased people when I was quiet and I didn’t say anything, but I actually want to say stuff.

Michael Woodward (31:54):

Yeah. And I think that that’s the funny thing about identity because, like in your example that you shared, like, “Hey, maybe I experienced this and I realized that I can be empathetic based on the feedback of the world and all of that,” you get to a point of identity where you question, is this true identity? Is this at the core who I am, or is this a masked identity for perception?

Rock Thomas (32:15):

Now you’re talking.

Michael Woodward (32:16):

I think that that’s the problem is that most of us… and that’s why I was kind of leery about answering that question the way that I did, is because I think so many people buy into, well, this is who I am, and what they’re really living is a false identity.

Rock Thomas (32:29):

Yes, that’s my whole point.

Michael Woodward (32:31):

And I think that that’s the problem, is that they accept it and they go, “Well, I should like coffee because that’s what the world tells me I should like.” And they go, “But I like tea, but that doesn’t fit in because they don’t have a tea bar at my work. So I’ll just go get the coffee,” and that kind of thing. I think that that’s a bad example. I think that if we look at a really good example of identity, we look at it and we say, what about the person who’s doing that nine to five that they hate? And that they know that maybe it was a parent that positioned them there. Maybe it was that guidance counselor. I think that there are a lot of well-intended people that have directed people into very dangerous places.

Rock Thomas (33:09):

Or maybe they tried to open up a business, it didn’t work. Their amygdala took charge of the fear-based part of their mind and they said, “You’re going to put food on the table for two young children and you better not screw up, so stick with this job that makes you $48,000 a year. Damn it, don’t take a chance.” And they’re surrounded by a community and connection of other people that echo that, and now after five or seven years doing a job they hate as an accountant or whatever it is, they’re sitting there going, “What is my life about? Who am I?”

Michael Woodward (33:41):

Yes. I love the world of education. I love learning. Learning is something that I value.

Rock Thomas (33:46):

I know you do.

Michael Woodward (33:47):

I hate the systems of education in America.

Rock Thomas (33:49):

Yes, that’s why we’re having this conversation.

Michael Woodward (33:52):

Yeah. And that’s the thing, it’s like people are buying into like, hey, I’ve got to go get the career that pays X amount of dollars. A great example again, that paleontologist that I went out and did a dig for. He didn’t want to go get a certain degree and that kind of thing, which hindered him from working in academic circles. So he figured another way to turn his passion, his dreams, and his ideas into a business. And now that funds him and he’s out in the field teaching everyday people the things that he would be teaching in a university, giving young kids an experience to say, maybe paleontology is for you, maybe it’s not, but now you’ve experienced it. So he’s teaching it. He’s out in the field every day where his contemporaries in the educational sphere are sitting in a classroom and they get one to two weeks out in the field every year.

Michael Woodward (34:39):

So here’s a guy who’s been able to go do the things he wants and he’s figured out a system that works for him, that goes counter to what the convention is, and he’s built a business around it that’s successful. And the reason that it works for him is because he found what worked for him. I think that that’s the problem, is everyone’s saying, “Hey, you got to go get the four year degree.” Well, Google, Apple, big corporations are saying these four year degrees, they’re washing-

Rock Thomas (35:05):

Showing creativity.

Michael Woodward (35:06):

Yeah, creativity. They’re teaching bad practices. People aren’t being… If you don’t know that you’re not supposed to do something, then you’re going to go do something. That’s why as a web developer, for years, we were hired to do stuff because we take projects on that we were too dumb to say no to, big projects, projects like writing encryption tools and languages. We didn’t know any better that that was really hard stuff to do, we just figured, “Well, we’ll figure out a way to do it.” And so we did. And that’s the thing, is that because we didn’t know better, we could find a better solution.

Michael Woodward (35:40):

And so often we’re hindering ourselves in our careers, in our passions, in our hobbies, in our joys by the fact that we’re not stepping into a contrary and kind of view to say, “Well, screw the way that it’s supposed to be done. Maybe I can find a different way. Maybe I can find a better way. Maybe I can create a new path, blaze a new trail.” You want to be Steve jobs? Well, you got to take the risk of Steve jobs. You want to be Bill Gates? You’ve got to say, “Well, maybe mainframes aren’t the solution anymore,” and go take a different trail. All of these people stood out because maybe they didn’t know better, or maybe they saw a better way and they said screw you to the world and said, “We’re going to go this path.”

Rock Thomas (36:22):

It’s really good stuff, really good stuff, Michael. I appreciate it. I run a real estate office and we help people get on the phones and call people. People are nervous and they don’t like rejection, so they call and they’re like, “Hi, do you want to sell your house?” No. “Okay, bye.” And we had this one guy come in, a kind of Italian guy, he goes, “Hey, you want to sell your house or what?” And the person goes, “What?” He goes, “Okay, coming over.” Because he didn’t know what he was doing. He just assumed everybody wanted to do business with him. It’s a bit of a made up story, but the fact of the matter is, is that the knowledge hinders people, and I love what you said about this openness. You didn’t know, so you became creative. I want to end the call on that a little bit, is tell us a little bit about who you are today. Just choose a few words of how you’ve evolved because you’ve done a lot of things. Who do you feel you are today in your identity?

Michael Woodward (37:20):

Yeah. First off, I want to go back to the beginning. We talked about my experience as a kindergarten or first grader and the drugs that they put me on and all of that stuff. That was one of the greatest gifts I could have ever gotten. I could have looked at that as being a place of being a victim, which we’re good in our society of creating victims.

Rock Thomas (37:40):


Michael Woodward (37:41):

But instead it taught me a lot about myself, how do I learn? How do I experience? So today where I am is in a very weird place when it comes to vocation. I have one foot in the future that I want to create and one foot in the past that I no longer want to be a part of. The past is being a web developer and designer. Loved doing it for years, and there was a grace for doing it for about 10 years. Now what I want to do is go help people figure out who they are and what they do. And so now I’m launching into the podcast, and we’ve been doing that for three years. So I’m a podcaster and we have a radio show now, which is crazy. When I started the podcast, I never thought somebody would want to syndicate the radio show.

Michael Woodward (38:23):

It’s all about helping others. I pastored for eight years in Northern California. Now I look at what I do is I pastor people how to figure what they’re created to do. Whether that’s a business, whether that’s relationships, whether that’s an entrepreneurial endeavor or spirit that they have. I’m pastoring people in the world to find out who they are. My faith informs that for me. I’m a believer that there’s a God that created me, and if I’m created for something, everyone else around me is created for something. It’s funny when I talk to atheists or when I talk to Christians or when I talked to Hindus, when people find that core identity, they all say the same thing, “I feel like I’m doing what I’m created to do,” whether they believe in a God or not.

Michael Woodward (39:12):

And so for me, where I’m at right now, I, in the business world, want to pastor other people to figure out what that is for them and help them get there. And when it comes to the personal life, we’re creating a lifestyle for our family where we are available for our kids. So we’re not working nine to fives. My wife works a job where she can work from home and create her own schedule every week and do whatever she wants when it comes to the hour she works. I run my business and I’m home and accessible for my kids. We want to create a life where we give them everything available, not stuff, not things, but proximity to the experiences, to the people, to us, that they need to be the fullness of who they’re created to be and to help them get to there and encourage those dreams and ideas.

Michael Woodward (39:58):

So who am I? Yeah, I’m that entrepreneur, I’m helping other entrepreneurs. I am a father, I’m a husband. And in that identity, I would boil it down to this one thing, I’m a person who is intentional about creating the lifestyle I want to live, not letting others tell me what it should look like, but really figuring out the lifestyle that’s right for me, right for my family, and right for the peers and friends around me and saying, “That’s who I want to be. That’s where I want to create,” instead of accepting the status quo.

Michael Woodward (40:28):

Right now we’re in a weird place because our lease ran out. We don’t have a house right now. We’re just traveling and visiting friends and family around the country. So every day looks different for us, but that’s the lifestyle that we’ve chosen for this season. In a couple weeks, we’re going to go back to the Northeast and maybe end up in New York City, maybe end in Philadelphia, or Pennsylvania, somewhere else in the state. We don’t know where that’s going to be, but right now, our goal is to create the lifestyle we want to live, for our family, for the people around us, and to help them encounter the things that they’re created to do. So that’s who I am.

Rock Thomas (41:03):

Amazing. I love it. I love it. Very, very flexible and open. Michael Woodward, where can people get hold of you?

Michael Woodward (41:10):

Yeah. Head on over to and you can check out everything we’ve got going on there. There’s a contact form, but if you just want to drop me an email, Yeah, it comes to me. I have no personal assistant checking my emails or anything, so I’ll respond. Can connect with me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, wherever, all those links are on, but I’d love to connect with anyone watching, listening, wherever you’re consuming this. I love connecting with people and dreaming together because, you mentioned it earlier, community is so critical and I hope people get into a community that helps them flourish into their identity whether that’s connecting more with you, which I’d highly recommend, or just continuing to get around more and more people like us that want to see people find that fullness of life.

Rock Thomas (41:57):

Yeah. Awesome. Thank you so much. I want to remind the listeners that the words that follow “I am” follow you. Describe yourself with an intention and purpose like Michael does, and I think that you’ll find yourself being more fulfilled and happier and every day being a little bit fuller. The words that follow “I am” follow you. I encourage that you be passionately curious. It’s one of my favorite phrases because that brings youth, it brings excitement, it brings openness, it brings a sense of newness to everyday.

Rock Thomas (42:27):

Michael, thanks for being on the show today. I really, really appreciate it. You are a wealth of knowledge and you’re a very beautiful spirit, so thanks again.

Michael Woodward (42:34):

Thank you.

Outro (42:37):

This is the I Am Movement podcast. To find out more about how you can join the I Am Movement and take your life to the next level, go to,

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