Most mental illnesses have no cure, but there are solutions to make a person’s life more functional. Today, Dr. Timothy J. Hayes interviews Mark Hattas, a certified Extreme Focus mental performance coach and an Optimal Being certified executive mentor, about how he found a solution to cure his bipolar disorder. Committed to helping others struggling with similar issues, Mark advocates mentorship and coaching for organizations like Optimal Being Program and Journey’s Dream. Today, he shares his painful journey from manic episodes to self-discovery, as well as some tools that can promote a balanced state. Learn how Mark was able to turn his greatest challenges into his life’s purpose on today’s show.
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Optimal Being Program: The Path To A Balanced Mental State With Mark Hattas
My guest is Mark Hattas. He carries the highest endorsement by the number one ranked business conference in the world for ten years running. They call Mark, “A rare teacher of the masters who are bringing in new truth and frequency right when human awareness can embrace its urgent upgrading.” Mark has, amongst other accomplishments, started and built a $20 million per year tech company and was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder and told there was no cure. He didn’t believe that prognosis and had searched for solutions. He found them and is now completely healthy. He is committed to supporting people in transformation and living optimal lives.
Part of his mission is to support everyone individually and organizationally to find their path to optimal health, joy, fulfillment and performance. He’s doing this through JourneysDream.org, which is a support hub to free people from mental illnesses, OptimalBeing.live, a program supporting the transformation of healing and through the BeatitudesPractice.com, bringing ancient wisdom into practical application for optimal living. He uses his experience and expertise to help others as a mentor, guide, author, teacher and speaker. He’s a certified extreme focus mental performance coach. He is an Optimal Being Certified Executive Mentor and it’s my honor to interview, Mark.
Mark, welcome. Thanks for joining us. I’m excited to hear about what put you on this path and what message you have to share for us.
I have a pretty fascinating story. After building and selling a tech company that got to be well-known in the Chicago area and fairly sizable, we had about 150 people working for the firm. I had gone through an interesting experience. It was nine months after selling and after a week in bipolar mania. I was hospitalized. In fact, I was dragged from my home and thankfully, my wife called the paramedics. There’s a level of appreciation I have for that that I’d probably didn’t have at the time. I ended up in the psych ward, the last place I would have ever wanted to be. After a week there, I realized it wasn’t all like the movies or in this dynamic change that started to occur in my life though extremely frightening at the time, was overcome.
It took a while but after a three-year period, I got into a place where I was healthy per my doctor encouraging me. I went off all my medication and now several years later, I’m still healthy. I want to share resources and messages of hope for people and solutions and access so that other people who are going through a serious mental health crisis can get a message that is more consistent with my experience. It’s that full recovery and full restoration to health is not only possible, but in my opinion it’s probable given that someone’s willing and opens up to the resources that are available on the planet.
How did that happen? How did you go from needing to be hospitalized to full recovery?
I’ll give the starting point and then give a few milestones along the way. The starting point was about a month after I got out of the hospital in 2011, I was giving a TEDx Talk in front of a couple of hundred people. I was on a couple of medications and was feeling a little foggy in my head. I memorized this talk and I felt confident that I knew this material backward and forth. I wanted to get the message about breaking the historical cycles of war and things of that nature. I thought, “We can do this. We can shift and architect the future.” That was my tagline or company name at the time. I get on stage and about 30, 42 seconds in, suddenly I have an out of body experience which I hadn’t had before.
My physical body is here and my awareness shifts over here. I’m watching my body give a talk from over here, but I couldn’t hear the words. I internally said, “How’s this possible?” I was back in the body, but I didn’t know where I was in the talk. I, for about 25 seconds or so, said nothing and 200 people in a TEDx Talk where no one’s speaking. There’s this energy that’s built because everyone there wants the speakers to be successful. I felt like they needed me to say something to break this awkward silence. I fumbled back into it and finished it, but there was a level of embarrassment that surfaced in me that was beyond anything I had experienced before. Shortly after that, I went home and I remember being on my bed upstairs.
Marquette is my alma mater. The Marquette basketball game was on. Liz, my wife was folding laundry. The kids were running around and I remember feeling low. I said, “God, if there’s a way to heal this, show me the way. I’m yours.” I know this might sound strange to a lot of people, but if you know more about the details of my story, it won’t. My hand lifted off of my lap and it wasn’t like I was lifting it, it’s being lifted. I had about twenty or so books on the side of my bed and it reached, grabbed a book, the hands opened to a certain page and I began reading. It was a story about a woman whose name is Teresa of Avila. She’s a Saint in the 16th Century, Spain. The story triggered my tickle bone a little bit because there were stories about mystical things similar to what I had experienced in mania.
Liz had asked, “What are you laughing about?” I said, “If Saint Teresa were alive now, she’d be locked up in a psych ward too.” She did not think that was funny. Not much was funny for her at the time because we were going through a serious emotional new experience and she didn’t know if I was ever going to get well or I was going to be around. There were a lot of questions at that time and I said, “Why are you crying?” She said, “Because I know you’re going to want to go back there.” It was one of those moments where I couldn’t honestly respond. I wanted to help her feel better and say, “No, I don’t want to go back into that mania,” but I knew that would have been a lie.90% of the first step is having someone feel like they're not alone and there's hope. Click To Tweet
The only thing I wanted at that time was to go back into mania. The only thing I wanted was to feel that high again. I had never felt that high before and I wanted to finish something that appeared to have been started, but I didn’t understand. It was this new mystery, the rabbit hole, if you will. The catalyst for my healing process was the request, the asking of if there’s a way for this to get better, please send some help. The first thing was that book and like a breadcrumb trail, I was led to a number of different resources. I want to highlight a couple of them. One of the resources that came about, you’ll appreciate this story because I know you know Dr. Michael Ryce, but there was a book that I came across through a friend of mine.
He said, “There’s this guy who talks about the true forgiveness process that Jesus used to teach, not the way it’s taught in the West, but the way he taught it.” I said, “How did he teach it?” This gentleman said, “You’ll have to watch some of this guy’s videos, Dr. Ryce.” Essentially, instead of letting yourself or someone off the hook, it’s looking at the wounds and the pains and the things we’re hanging on to inside and allowing those to be changed, allowing for that energy to release. It’s a process that allows for the perception to change and beliefs to start to be opened up into a more healthy, constructive path rather than repeating historical patterns. I thought, “Sign me up. This is cool.” Without reading Michael’s work, I started practicing this. Eventually, I made a phone call to Michael and I didn’t expect him honestly even to return the call.
In my mind it’s like, “This guy has got it going on. He’s got no time for me.” I had a low self-image, but he did return my call and I said, “I went through something. I have no idea what it is. They’re calling it bipolar. I’m in and out of the psych ward and I was up and down. The only thing I want is to have this thing restored, healed and figure out what happened. I like your forgiveness stuff. Do you have any insight?” This is maybe a week to three weeks after the book incident. I’m seeking and seeking. He’s the first person on the planet who said something that helped me feel like I was going to be okay.
I remember the tears welling up and the joy coming up. He didn’t tell me how, but he said, “Mark, I’ve seen a lot of people go through this.” He gave me encouragement. He in fact had had his own experiences, not like mine, but his own experience where he’s like, “Stick with this.” In fact, he said if I’d come to the intensive that he was talking about, which taught these principles, a lot of people who come and they feel better. Their perceptions change. I thought there’s nothing more I want to do than go to that intensive. I was just out of the psych ward, I get off the phone and I tell my wife, “I want to go to this guy for nine days and learn about what he’s talking about.”
I couldn’t articulate, “He’s teaching how Jesus taught about this thing.” My mania experience was spiritual. She didn’t want anything to do with Michael’s work. She said, “No, you’re not going anywhere.” Some people might say why your wife would put down that? Is this like a mother-child relationship? Honestly, it shifted into that for a while. I didn’t trust myself. She didn’t trust me. We didn’t know what was happening. Not legally but in a way, she was our family’s guardian. I wasn’t going to push that at the time. I said, “God, if this is to happen, it’s to happen.”
Michael, every once in a while, would call back like, “What do you think? Are you going to come out in April?” I’m like, “I don’t know if this is going to happen. I’d like it to.” Fast forward from then, which was around November, December to spring, we choose to take our family to Sarasota Siesta Key and go to the beach. My wife grew up going there once in a while, and so we’re at the beach. It’s getting closer to the intensive. Michael calls while I’m on the beach. I come and get his voicemail and I think, “I got to call him and tell him no again.”
I call him back and I say, look, “Mike, I don’t think this is going to work, because Liz and I had talked about it again.” He said that’s all right. I said, “I’m on vacation. Maybe I’ll ask Liz one more time.” He said, “Where are you vacationing?” I said, “Siesta Key.” He said, “What place are you staying at?” I told him the exact place, Sarasota Surf & Racquet. He said, “I’m about a mile down the road.” It was as if the clouds opened and the heavens are singing. I was like, “What? You’re down the road?” He said, “Some friends gave us their condo and we’re here. How about we at least meet for coffee? We’re in the same town.” I ran to the beach and was like, “Liz, you won’t believe it. Dr. Ryce is here. I’d like to meet him for coffee.”
She was thrilled.Our wholeness - that beingness - starts with being in union internally in integrity within ourselves. Click To Tweet
She said, “That’s interesting. Go meet him for coffee.” I meet him for coffee. It’s a phenomenal conversation. It’s one of the best conversations I had about my experience and what could happen. He gave me a bunch of DVDs to take back with me and I was beaming coming back after. I had better ways to articulate it to Liz. She said, “There are too many coincidences here lining up. Go ahead.” I went and I learned through that nine-day intensive these extraordinary tools. It wasn’t just the forgiveness tool, but there were a lot of tools, dozens of tools that I thought, “I need to get these to more people,” because in that week, I felt healthier and better. It was shortly after that I went off my medication and for 1.5 years I was doing well off the medication, but I knew I wasn’t healed.
I would go into manic thing. I wasn’t on the medication and I come up and down. Different people would support me, but it was a starting point of self-discovery. The number one thing I learned was I had gone through a significant shift from building and selling a company, having my identity wrapped up in, “I’m an entrepreneur. I’m successful,” to all of that was gone and I was just a guy sitting at the dining room table trying to piece my life together. To learn who my wife was because even though we lived together and had five children, I was at work all the time and she was at home. We live parallel different lives.
There was this, “Who am I when I’m around her? Who am I when I’m at work? Who am I when I’m by myself?” They didn’t diagnose me with this, but if someone knew what was going on in my head, they probably would have said I had multiple personality disorder because I had names for these different characters and I could distinguish who I was in one situation and the other. All I wanted was to be whole. It took a while. There were two more hospitalizations that I did go through. I played with going on and off the medication sometimes with the doctor’s permission and one time on my own, because I didn’t want anyone to know. It was a roller coaster. There were times that I was told, “Get out of the house. I don’t want you here anymore.”
I didn’t know if that meant for the night or forever. There are these moments of shilling horrible choices that I could have easily said, “Fine, I’m out of here,” I had the money and left, but I knew something that Dr. Ryce had taught me. That was if you leave your situation from a place of fear or hostility, it’s a 100% guarantee you’re going to go recreate those relationships with different faces and names. I thought, “Why would I want to do that? I’m going to have to do this somewhere. Why not do it here with someone who I know, at one point, I had the most open heart to, even though it wasn’t the case at that time? Maybe we could do that again.”
Once I accepted that I knew I could get well, Liz then believed me. It did require me firing my doctor because he did not believe I could get well. It was a tough moment at the time because Liz was not happy with that choice because she’s like, “What are you going to do?” Her safety net was me on medication with that doctor, but it was her that found Dr. Mensah and Dr. Albert Mensah helped get me a nutrient protocol and took some tests and helped get the brain functioning. I was introduced to another doctor, Dr. Raden, who helped me get the gut healthy. Between the gut, the brain getting the nutrients and some of the work that Dr. Ryce introduced me to and then expanded, it was the cocktail that’s needed to recover fully and to get fully restored.
I appreciate that and I try to help people understand, we don’t want to sell cheerleader stories here of recovery and eliminate the messiness of it. Life is messy and families have a lot of moving parts, especially when you said you’ve got five children. It’s not just the relationship and the mental health issue, it’s coordinating a family. I appreciate that. What happened with you after you were in the realization that you were healthy? What did you do with that?
This gets into what I would call the fun part of the story. There was a desire in 2012 when I was introduced to Michael’s work. I thought, “More people need to hear this.” Though I wasn’t fully recovered by the end of that year, I’d put a corporate program together and piloted it at my old business. They said, “Mark, it’s great but it’ll never go into corporate. It’s too spiritual.” I felt dejected that I reached out to a friend of mine who I met at a teacher training from Michael. His name is Rex Montague-Bauer. I said, “Rex, I got rejected on this thing. I’m not sure what to do. They’re saying it’s too spiritual. I don’t know if we can get it corporate. Would you work with me and let’s work on the languaging, see if we can get these principles?”
Because human beings, it’s not a religious or even a remotely process. It’s a human process that everyone, no matter what their faith or no faith, these are principles I’ve used with atheists and they get the same benefits. We just use different words that they can relate to and it’s effective. It shifts behavior and it’s extraordinary. We worked hard. In fact, I’m going to bring you into the story, Dr. Tim, we invited you into those calls with the three of us and then Breaha started meeting. We met weekly for a little over two years. I was not healthy at that time, so a lot of it was processing. I was processing, Rex was processing and we were processing stuff like, “What is this thing? What does it become?” In 2015, when I finally got to a place where I believed I was healthy, I then was inspired to invest.If the desire's there and you're doing the work, there's this inner teacher that comes and says, “Now you're ready.” Click To Tweet
It was the first time we made a real capital investment in starting the organization. We formed the company in early 2016 and brought 50 people together to do a prototype. They’re all friends of mine and in the Chicago area. We said, “This is our vision. We want to do something with a nonprofit for mental health. We want to do something corporate so that corporate organizations can have cultures that are healthy. People can be excited about their lives and grounded in that excitement in a way that’s constructive inside and outside the office.” The feedback was great. People had various things, but the one thing that stuck out then in early 2016 was a friend of mine, Dirk, who was a client at Nielsen at the time.
He said, “Mark, what would work is you need a program. You need a solid protocol.” I thought, “How am I going to find that?” What we had found is I met someone at CEO Space which happened to be a curriculum designer out of San Diego. He was designing a program that was similar to our desire as well. We’re both at the early stages. We said, “Why don’t we do it together?” He put his on the shelf, learned about ours and helped us create this whole curriculum based on the Michael Ryce Foundation and also some other things that the three of us had learned over the years and my experience of getting healthy. It took a little while, but by the fall of 2016, we ran our first pilot of the Optimal Leader Program, we called it.
Now it’s called the Optimal Being Program. I was not sure if it was going to be effective because I was still feeling a little bit of woundedness from the first rejection. I thought, “This will be another learning experience and we’ll move forward.” The results were quite remarkable and people loved it. The five-week pilot turned into a twelve-week pilot. We learned from that, revised the program, ran it the next year, revised it again to see what’s it like in corporate, what’s it like with people who might be on the mental health realm with a mental health issue. It turns out both groups were equally as effective. We worked on it again to refine it. Ultimately, the program was so effective that we decided to invest in automating it. Now it’s got a digital and human component and it’s being used by people in corporate and people who are going through some mental health challenges.
Here’s another way to say it and you can jump in here, Tim, because I know this is your expertise in terms of psychology. The way I say it is if someone can fog a mirror, they’re on the continuum of health. They’re either at the one end of the spectrum where they’re thriving. I call it flow state or that the end of the spectrum might be disrupted. They might be navigating a disappointment or frustration or something. If they keep going down the path, they might get to a place where they’ll have symptomology that would be diagnosable. What I’ve learned is that the tools of the Optimal Being program, which are in Michael’s work as well, what they do is they activate a guidance system internally that leads people to make choices that are best for their life. They’re going to have thoughts and actions that are going to lead to happiness and wellbeing. It doesn’t matter where someone is as long as they’re functional.
If someone’s not functional and cognitively with it, they’re not going to be able to do the program. If they’re functional with it, they’re going to learn some things from it. We do an assessment at the beginning of the end and we see the differences and then we look at people’s top three challenges. The number one challenge is 92% increase in performance and the number two challenge is an 88% increase in performance. There’s a big shift that occurs across the board. Those are of the 41 people that we ran through the program prior to this latest release. What we see is this is big and it’s one component. In addition to Optimal Being, we’ve got Journey’s Dream, which is a resource hub.
Optimal Being is one resource in the resource hub and Journey’s Dream brings together practitioners. It brings together products and it brings together other programs that have some elements of support for someone or their family members, their loved ones that are going through something that’s new and called this mental illness thing. Let’s give people the resources so they have the hope out there. Since getting well, that’s what I’ve been doing, bringing out solutions that people can enter into a relationship with and that might support them. It could be listening to a podcast and hearing a story and saying, “I feel like I’m not alone anymore.” Believe me, 90% of the first step is having someone feel like they’re not alone and there’s hope. When I personally mentor people, that’s the biggest shift.
I tell them that I had a wall move. I had miraculous healing, were invisible hands healed my back, and things that most people would say, “You’re crazy.” I experienced things that we would call crazy. A lot of people do. Now in hindsight, I see the brilliance of it, the wisdom of how the system works to support me in becoming more whole. The only thing I want to do for the rest of my life is supporting other people and also living that vibrant whole awesome life that they’re here to live. Part of it is investing time and money in programs like Journey’s Dream, Optimal Being. There’s another one that’s called Beatitudes Practice, which taps into the faith market a bit. All these teachings are found in the Bible. They’re probably found in the Bhagavad Gita and other places, but these are the places where I found.
It sounds like what you’re describing is you’ve found a way to turn some of your greatest challenges into your life’s purpose.
Yeah and Michael does this so and I use it with everybody. My number one primary purpose is to maintain my connection with the Source, to be as a whole human being. The more whole and in integrity with who it is I truly am, the more sensitive I get to when I’m not and it doesn’t feel good. When I’m not and I feel that something’s not right, there’s only one thing to do and that’s to release that tension and resistance, allow that to come forth, see if there’s anything to learn from it and trust that I’ll always be brought back into that natural state of beingness, of wholeness. It’s from there that the secondary purpose comes alive. The secondary purpose is what we do in the world, but the primary purpose is that wholeness, that beingness. It’s what Jesus taught about and his whole message was we could have that relationship of union with God, whether someone uses that language or not, that starts with being in union internally, in integrity within ourselves. Anything outside of that is going to create division.
If I want to plan a trip to New York and California at the same time, I’m going to be stuck because, which airline do I book in which flight and what do I pack? The first thing to do is be present and be in integrity. It’s like, “Make a choice. I’m going to go here. I’m not going to go there.” It’s letting go of goals and things and plans that aren’t constructive toward moving forward and being present, moving forward with our secondary purpose in the world. When someone goes through something like what I’ve gone through and is on the other side, I don’t think there’s anything else that anyone would be inspired to do. It’s like, “I’m going to move forward with all the gifts, all the talents to support other people in finding some restoration for their life as well.”
It sounds like you’ve been working to create some specific tools to help people accomplish that, to get back to that whole state or that balanced state. Where can people access these tools?
The first place I would send people is Journey’s Dream. JourneysDream.org is one of those access points. There’s another access point for Optimal Being, which you can get through JourneysDream.org. It’s OptimalBeing.live. It will get people to the programs personally and professionally. The corporate programs will be out there as well. The third place would be BeatitudesPractice.com and that’s going to be more of the faith arena. It’s for all human beings. It’s the teachings that Jesus started with at the sermon on the Mount. There are these ten teachings that essentially are a roadmap to what the world calls enlightenment. When they’re understood, they’re actually practices, they’re instructions.
People can’t do the second without the first and you can’t do the third without the second. They are practices that will lead to the promises that are in those beatitudes. We shine a light on that from the perspective of how I use the beatitudes in a practical sense. Dave and Cathy Austin and I put that together. On the Journey’s Dream and Optimal Being sides, Breaha Wallin, Rex Montague-Bauer, Paul Repicky, Mitzi Montague-Bauer and Joseph Gabriel. We’ve got a great team of people who have put a lot of energy into those plus our wonderful board members like yourself.
You also mentioned Dr. Ryce.
Yes and his work can be found at WhyAgain.org. He has intensives that you can go to. They’re awesome if that’s the route that is right for you. It was right for me. He also has a radio show every day. You have a radio show every day. Why don’t you tell them about that?
We’ll get to that. What I was going to say is that when you were doing the intensives, the materials that you’ve built weren’t available. What you’re doing is making the core tools of Dr. Ryce’s work and some others available to people online at what I’m assuming is a reasonable cost. You haven’t mentioned the cost.
The Beatitudes Practice is $47. It’s $197 and it’s an audio program. It’s inexpensive. The Optimal Being Program is a little more of an investment. The highest-end program right now is over $4,400 and the baseline program is around $1,800. There are times when there are promotions for that and that is a combination of digital and there’s some mentoring. There’s live mentoring and there’s a program guide with the people throughout the whole program. We intended to build that with the following. Anyone from any faith background or no faith background could come in. They could go into a corporate environment and an HR director would say, “Yes, this fits here.” It’s using a dynamics and language that are based on the same principles, but the languaging is structured to support people in many walks of life. That’s first and foremost.
Secondly, our intention was to build it such that it could be done in life. The people that don’t have the ability to travel or go to an intensive, they could do it in their everyday life. As they’re going to work and on the train and drive, they can listen to things, they can practice things, they can do the stuff throughout time. We want to support people in embodying the principles and practices. If someone were to learn a sport or chess or whatever, you don’t learn how the rules work and then master it. You learn the fundamentals and then practice and practice. Through that practice, it gets refined and refined until you become masterful. The cool thing about this is the mastery is about your own life. The mastery is about who is it that I am, releasing anything that conflicts with the truth of your beingness and bringing you into a relationship with your optimal being. That’s why we call it the Optimal Being Program.
You’re talking about an investment of somewhere between $1,800 and $4,400. What’s the time investment? How long does it take to run through the program?
We’ve measured it out to be around three hours a week over the course of about fourteen weeks. Some people might spend a little more time with it and it depends on what’s going on in your life.
I look forward to staying in touch with what’s happening with Journey’s Dream and the Optimal Being Program. I look forward to interviewing you again in a few months or a year and see how it’s going because it seems like there’s going to be more going on. You’re learning and growing. It’s exciting to share that.
Thank you. I appreciate you so much, Dr. Tim. You’re one of my favorite people and it’s been a pleasure that we’ve got to spend this time together. Thank you so much.
Thanks, Mark. We’ll talk again soon.
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About Mark Hattas
Mark has, amongst other accomplishments, started, built and sold a $20M/yr tech company. He was later diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder and told there was no cure. Mark didn’t believe that prognosis and found solutions, used them, and was in awe as his life changed, including his health. He is now completely healthy. Mark is committed to supporting others in transformation and living optimal lives.
Part of Mark’s mission is to support everyone (individually and organizationally) find their path to optimal health, joy, fulfillment, and performance. He is doing this through www.journeysdream.org, a support hub to free people from mental illnesses, www.optimalbeing.live, a program supporting transformation and healing and www.beatitudespractice.com, bringing ancient wisdom into practical application for optimal living.
Mark uses his experience and expertise to help others as a Mentor, Guide, author, teacher, and speaker. He is a Certified Extreme Focus mental performance coach. He is an Optimal Being Certified Executive Mentor.
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