On this episode of ‘Bring Your Own Awesome’, Dan and Broc talk to Michelle Sandau, self-identified scientist and writer. Michelle’s love for books becomes her side hustle.
She also talks about what to do when we are struggling to find our voices and we feel as though we are not being heard. She also discusses giving ourselves permission to speak up in a place where we feel we are not qualified to be.
Looking to connect with Michelle? She is active in The EDGY Empire of Awesomeness Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/edgyempire/
Dan: [00:00:00] Hey guys, it’s Dan and Brock, Dan Waldschmidt, Broc Edwards. Hey, Broc.
Broc: [00:00:04] Hey Dan, how’s it going?
Dan: [00:00:05] It’s going great, as you guys know this is the Bring Your Own Awesome. I remember Brock, right? I remember.
Broc: [00:00:12] That’s right, you got the whole name right.
Dan: [00:00:14] It’s not Bring Your Awesome, it’s Bring Your Own Awesome. I’m excited that we’ve got an amazing guest with us, a friend, not just a friend of the empire. Like a full-blown in the middle of the empire making it happen, the show. I’m going to say Sando and I know I get that wrong, but did I get it right this time?
Michelle: [00:00:31] No.
Dan: [00:00:31] Oh, my goodness.
Michelle: [00:00:31] It’s alright, it’s Michelle Sandau.
Dan: [00:00:31] Tell people because I’m not even pretending like we’ve talked before, right?
Michelle: [00:00:39] Yes.
Dan: [00:00:40] And not just once but like several times and here I am loving this.
Michelle: [00:00:44] That’s alright. It makes her a good story.
Dan: [00:00:47] So why don’t you just jump in and tell us a little bit about you.
Michelle: [00:00:49] Sure, I guess personally, I’m a lot, probably, a lot like many people. I’m married, I have two kids, I work a full-time job. Those are kind of my check the box simple things but at a lot of complexity to our lives and dynamics. From a professional training, I identify as a scientist. I love science. I love life science. I love figuring out how things work. I think biology is just absolutely fascinating.
Broc: [00:01:24] What kind of science do you focus on, Michelle?
Michelle: [00:01:27] So, my training was to study the immune system. I’m really interested in how our body has this ability to discriminate and understand what is us. So yourself and what is outside of us. So, we need to attack the bacteria or viruses that come into our body but then we’re supposed to leave ourselves alone but we all know that that’s doesn’t actually happen. When you think about these autoimmune diseases that folks have such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis but then I can tie this up here. Then the other flip side of that is when we have cancer and that is us and our bodies supposed to ignore us but we’re like, “Wait a minute, this is something that is not supposed to be here”. So, I love that interplay of harnessing the immune system to figure out all these different things and so I spent a lot of time of my life studying that and I have gotten away from it but I’m still quite passionate and follow academics as well as industry type work that goes on. I just think that that’s fascinating and it’s probably a theme, inside and outside and all of that. That probably continues to shape the way I look at things.
Broc: [00:02:44] Very nice. So before we start recording, you were talking about doing a children’s book right now. Is there a connection between there in science or where the book is headed?
Michelle: [00:02:55] No, there’s no science at all in it. I’m really turning away from that and yes, I say I’m just turning away from it. I just loved books, books to me are just the most amazing things and as a researcher, there are great tools and I liked writing. I’ve loved technical writing but as I’ve got became a parent, I love reading to my kids and I’ve probably learned as much from these children’s books that I’ve read as I have from these great big novels or great, big research papers because I think it’s a little simple nuggets that you get from these children’s books that probably help the kids and more often than not help me. This idea kind of came out of this love of books, children’s books and wanting to make an impact within that realm. It’s probably a small time commitment in a way because you’re writing a really concise story. You get your message and then you move on, is really where that came from.
Dan: [00:04:02] I love that example by the way of the simplicity of a child’s book you know because as a runner all I do is listen to books. Sometimes you’re thinking, “Okay, get to it. Get to it. Are we going to get to that point. What are we building up to. Come on people”. So I think that’s awesome.
Michelle: [00:04:18] Thank you.
Broc: [00:04:18] So can you tell us a little about the book?
Michelle: [00:04:19] So, I’m nervous to share because I haven’t shared it a whole lot. This is forcing me I guess in a wider audience to share that concept. So the idea is, I watch kids and it’s amazing to me how quickly kids put on their own barriers. So my first book is about a little girl who’s voice kind of gets trapped in her own throat. I don’t have the pictures for this yet. She wants to say something but all of a sudden it gets trapped in her throat. Within the story she becomes aware of a lion who is going through the same struggle as her and has to practice his roar because lion is supposed to roar, that’s what they do, that’s their job. They roar on things but then she realizes that she and this lion are very similar to one.
Dan: [00:05:17] Oh, cool. That is so cool.
Michelle: [00:05:22] There’s another twist to this that I’m really not ready to share but I yes I’m leaving a cliffhanger for you all so you can buy the book and see what happens and how the story gets delivered, but the idea is really to make this a series. So the next concept already I have written it but the concept is I see kids putting barriers around themselves to protect themselves. Just like, “Oh, I’m too afraid to do this”, and so the idea for this one is that the animal that this individual is going to encounter is going to be a beaver and it builds this great big dam. No, you don’t need to build such a great big wall because you need it. Yes, it’s there to keep you safe and might give you a house but you’ve made it so big that it probably ends up doing more harm than good. So it’s taking these animals to do their natural things and learning through a kid’s perspective how to manage these. things.
Dan: [00:06:20] Here’s what I’m fascinated by, because Broc says to a simple question is like sort of you’re writing the book and I know a little bit about Michelle, we’ve talked a couple times on the phone. It’s fascinating to me you’re a scientist, you’re literally that person. You’re not a rocket scientist but you’re like a body rocket scientist which is awesome. So one day you just decide, “I’m going to write a book.” How did they go down? Did you think about it for a while? Did it take awhile to get started? Tell me about this now.
Michelle: [00:06:54] Yes, it took me a while. I think for me writing is a way to really organize my thoughts and organize my energy and figure out my junk that’s in my head and that’s from private work. I just want to leave it alone, that’s private but my love for books became the driving force. And as as I was thinking about books and how magical I think books are and was like, “I need to make one”, and I didn’t want to make a big document, I didn’t. Then it slowly, these little ideas just came probably over the course of six months and then I started talking to my friends about, ” Hey, I got this idea and think that’s beautiful” I have great friends who encouraged me. It was just like, “Well, what the heck?”, I have a great job, I have a great life. I will sell this book but it is not something that I’m looking for to fill a hole of financial freedom. It’s really just a creative exploration for me.
Broc: [00:08:09] So the theme here, the idea of a person’s voice getting stuck in their throat. So that really resonates for me. I can really relate to that. What advice do you have for folks out there who feel like their voice is stuck in their throat and not just kids but adults?
Michelle: [00:08:24] That was of course my own personal struggle because that’s me and I’ve gotten better and better at it and I think it’s just practice and that’s what the book does. The book shows this little lion practicing on a blade of grass because it was that blade of grass won’t talk back. You practice your words, you practice your voice. For me, practicing my voice comes out in writing and then I know what it is that I want to say and then I go back and say it out loud if it needs to be said out loud. So to me, it’s a practice.
Broc: [00:09:00] There’s a lot of people who want to write a book. How does that process work for you? What advice would you give to those who are going, “Yeah, I’ve always had a book in me but I can’t get it out that voice are stuck in my throat”?
Michelle: [00:09:12] I don’t know that I’m the person to answer that question. I think you just you just do it. So Dan, I’ll give you credit here I think there is that book you had recommended that Bird by Bird and I’m going to use an expletive because it’s in the book. You just write a shitty first draft.
Dan: [00:09:33] [laughing]
Michelle: [00:09:35] And I’m like, “I love that”, you write a terrible first draft and who cares and then you just do it.
Dan: [00:09:44] Yes, that’s amazing. Now, did you use something like Google Docs to write it down? Did you open up your laptop and take a text editor app? Practically speaking, did use Evernote? How did you write? I’m imagining you, you’re like, “I’m going to do it.” You go and grab something. Maybe have a cup of coffee next and you like your keys, your fingers on the keys for the first time. What is that? Where are you? What’s happening?
Michelle: [00:10:06] I’m just sitting, I’m a morning person. I’m sitting at my desk at home. I’ve got a few moments at home after my husband takes the kids to school and I haven’t left for work yet. And I just start typing in Google Docs and I’m like, “Alright, there’s this girl. Her voice is stuck in her throat”, and I’m pretty sure I came up with the idea of the Lion or the roar and I just put out words. I just got my shitty first draft done and left it there for a while because I’m like, “I don’t know how this is going to end. I don’t know I haven’t figured that part out yet”, close the laptop, go on the day job then go on with business.
Dan: [00:10:48] You’re also a former recruit from some of our talks. You’re pretty athletic too, aren’t you?
Michelle: [00:10:55] I try to be. I try to stay in shape. Yes, I run. I’d like to do yoga and then just simply stay active, hike, things like that.
Dan: [00:11:04] So talk to me about, we’re talking about bring your own awesome and it’s awesome to me the story that you told about your voice stuck in your throat as a speaker, man, I had to practice so much that I’m smiling just as I listened to that. What hurdles have you faced? Either professionally or personally and kind of getting to this point of awesomeness where you’ve got this book concept.
Michelle: [00:11:34] Oh, that’s a great one. Most recently, I felt like I need it and I’m still working through this like permission to do something, I need permission. There’s this other space that I was kind of spending some time in and may give you a course and you can sign up and they’ll help you write and they’ll help spread your word. To me, that was like a permission to allow me to do it but I had to pay a lot of money to do that and it gave me structure. It was like, “It’s stupid”, but I needed to give myself permission and I think I’m still working through that.
Dan: [00:12:19] I think there’s a lot of people who are listening right now, who struggle with the exact same thing. They want to write a book, they’ll even say to me, “Oh Dan, you do that but I’m not you”, and I’m like, “Yes,I know”, it’s good here. That’s a positive thing, right? We each can bring our own awesome. Talk to me about, you wrote this book it sounds like, which were mentioned earlier by Broc because you yourself kind of had this struggle with getting your voice out. Was that at work? Was that professionally that you struggled to, as a really, really smart person vocalize your thoughts?
Michelle: [00:12:56] Yes, absolutely.
Dan: [00:13:02] I think there’s a lot of, that is not a trick question. There’s a lot of people who have jobs and I think you work for a really big company and you’re in your role and you have the credentials and skills and experience and super qualified to do what you do but still feel stuck. What is that speaking up? Speaking out? What is that exactly? Can you put a can you put a thing on it?
Michelle: [00:13:31] Sure. I think I’ll say two things. Number one, it’s just me personally as I identify as an introvert. I kind of like to just sit back and watch and see things and then 90 minutes later is when I get my really cool idea and that time has passed. There’s that piece of it but also it’s the who I think I am to think that I have something of value to add. I get the pleasure of being surrounded by really smart, really inspirational, very loud people as well. They have more experience than I do and in a different space and I’m probably not as well versed as being business. Who ami I to have speak up? Again, it’s a permission thing, I need to get myself permission to say even if what I have to say is really not smarter, it may come undone. It’s better that I say and take that risk and I’m not saying at all.
Broc: [00:14:36] Yes, absolutely. Paraphrasing Marianne Williamson, who are you not to.
Michelle: [00:14:41] Yes.
Broc: [00:14:41] Dan, you’re a bestselling writer. You’ve sold a lot of books. Would you give Michelle permission to go ahead and write a book?
Dan: [00:14:50] Oh, absolutely.
Broc: [00:14:52] So, you’ve been authorized, Michelle.
Michelle: [00:14:53] Thank you.
Dan: [00:14:55] And you sound like you’re light years ahead of me. It took me more than four years to write my book. So it sounds like you’re well ahead of schedule.
Michelle: [00:15:03] It is a strategy that it’s a children’s book and probably doesn’t have to be more than 12 pages with maybe two sentences per page, that was by design.
Broc: [00:15:12] You’ve been talking about your challenge and what you’re up to and sharing and inspiring others in the Empire just because I know there’s other people out there to get that same point. That all of us are probably at the same point somewhere in our lives. So how could the Empire help you? How could this group help you move forward?
Michelle: [00:15:39] Now that’s great. With this particular project, I am interested in self publishing. Some insight on that, there’s a particular website that I think I want to go through but I am open to other sites. My biggest roadblock right now is because it’s a children’s book. I expect there to be illustrations and I do not like to draw as it does not bring me any joy. I’m pretty sure that would come through pretty well on the pages. So if there’s somebody out there who would love to work on this type of a project with me, I welcome that opportunity.
Broc: [00:16:22] Those are the illustrations. What specifically would you want to know about self publishing?
Michelle: [00:16:28] I think with self publishing, I think I can do the legal stuff. I’ve done patents and I’ve done trademarks and stuff so I can get the copyright done and all that sort of stuff I’m not worried about that. Maybe it’s the energy behind the marketing of a self publishing.
Dan: [00:16:46] I think she lets us know, how do I put my book in a place where people buy it?
Michelle: [00:16:51] Yes, thank you for helping me articulate.
Dan: [00:16:55] No, it’s awesome. Will leave that to the Empire to help us because I think there’s probably a tremendous number of great ideas for that.
Michelle: [00:17:04] Yes.
Dan: [00:17:04] I appreciate you spending some time with us today to talk about your own awesome. Here you are, scientists, you’re fascinated by the human body and how it works and the science behind all of that. You find yourself in a position where you’re thinking, “Why aren’t I speaking up and speaking out. I have great ideas and I’m really freakin smart right. I should be able to be able have these conversations”, and so you channel that through a child’s book which is amazing and even that wasn’t easy because you had to get permission. A huge lesson for all of us on that. So what we can do to help you it sounds like is figure out the world old self publishing and into what has and ideas will give you Michelle’s contact information so you guys can talk, as well illustrations. I know there are some amazing illustrators inside the group. How awesome would it be people team up and do this.
Michelle: [00:18:04] I love it. Thank you.
Dan: [00:18:06] Thank you for spending a few minutes with us. Broc, any final questions for Michelle?
Broc: [00:18:11] Michelle, is there anything we didn’t ask you that you were just hoping we would ask?
Michelle: [00:18:16] No, I can’t think anything else now.
Broc: [00:18:20] All right, we covered it all.
Michelle: [00:18:22] Yes.
Dan: [00:18:23] Well, thank you for spending so much time with us. For those of you listening, what’s your own awesome that you are bringing to life? Small steps can make a big difference. I’m excited as always to hear about your brand of awesome. See you on the next episode where we talk to someone else who is bringing their own awesome.
Theme music (“Runaway”) by Shadow of Whales: https://www.facebook.com/shadowofwhales