Episode 318

Michael W. Allison, The Adversity Academy

Published on: 27th May, 2024

In this episode of "Your World of Creativity," host Mark Stinson delves into the theme of unlocking creativity through adversity. He invites Michael W. Allison, founder and CEO of the Adversity Academy, to share his insights and experiences.

Michael's Website

Michael on YouTube

@iammichaelwallison on Instagram

Michael's Facebook page

**Key Highlights:**

- **Collaborative Creativity:** Michael discusses the importance of collaboration in overcoming challenges, drawing from his experience in building leadership teams in the government sector.

- **Military Experience:** Reflecting on his time in the Marine Corps and surviving a car bomb in Iraq, Michael emphasizes the value of perspective and living life to the fullest.

- **Personal Transformation:** Michael opens up about his struggles with PTSD, trauma, and suicidal thoughts, highlighting his journey of seeking help, finding purpose, and undergoing personal development.

- **Service and Impact:** Inspired by his own journey, Michael shares his commitment to helping others overcome adversity, leading to the creation of the Adversity Academy and his various endeavors in public speaking and coaching.

- **Vision for the Future:** Michael envisions the Adversity Academy becoming a global brand, offering transformative programs to individuals and organizations worldwide.

**Pull-out Quote:**

"I live my life honoring those guys and telling my story... because tomorrow is not promised." - Michael W. Allison

The episode concludes with a message of resilience and the power of embracing adversity to unlock creativity.

[If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text "HELLO" to 741741 for the Crisis Text Line.]


  Hello friends and welcome back to our podcast your world of creativity. We talk a lot about how to get inspiration for our creativity and how to launch our workout into the world. And many times I call it unlocking your creativity because somehow we think it's in a vault somewhere, but sometimes it really is overcoming adversity.

And that's why I wanted to talk to our guest today, Michael W. Allison, Michael, welcome to the show.

Hey, thank you so much for having me here, Mark. I appreciate it, man.

It's going to be a great conversation. Michael is the driving force behind the Adversity Academy. He's its founder, CEO, and executive chairman.

And Michael, you're building quite an executive leadership team around you. I'd love to start there and just talk about the collaborative nature of creativity and how that helps us overcome the challenges that we face sometimes.

Absolutely. Definitely. For myself being someone that was previously in the executive space working for the government and building leadership programs with a bunch of executives in Washington, DC, I saw collectively as a project manager and a contracting officer, where I had to collectively put a team together and build out the programs for all of the projects that was working on.

And that was what that helped us to become successful. So when I think about it, when it comes to being in the business space, I said, what's a better way to go with. Following the same blueprint that helped me to be successful in that current space. And I wanted to build out a team that's going to help me to be successful in anything that I do, whether it was sports or anything, but definitely in the business space, that's the same idea that in concept that I wanted to have.

Sure. I think we had a pause and highlight the fact that you were able to create leadership, collaboration, all of this. In the government in Washington, D. C. It's not something we think about often, is it?

No, not too often. Definitely being in, in these times that we have, collectively trying to get everybody on the same page, obviously is a diversity within itself.

And I'm trying to navigate through some of those things is the challenge.

Yes. In speaking to our audience of creative practitioners, really tapping in to people's original thinking, making sure everybody's heard, making sure ideas are out on the table that, we can identify with how do you make sure everybody on your team is heard because it's quite a range of experiences, isn't it?

Absolutely. You're correct. And I think the gift that I have is surrounding myself with people that are totally talented, totally smart more than I am. I I always see to find people that have great expertise in different quadrants in areas of where I know that I lack.

And then with that being said, for me, I find myself one of my greatest gift is to, is to be a great problem solver. So whenever I could get all of the information and filled up with all of the questions that I need to ask, that's what helped me to execute and do things much at a greater scale. So definitely surround yourself with an excellent leadership team.

Definitely people that are experts within their own right, within their own field is is the key for me. I think the. The African proverb is if you want to go somewhere slow, go by yourself. If you want to go somewhere fast, you're going to have to go with your team or go with a whole bunch of our great leaders.

And that was the whole concept with that.

Yes. But boy, we, sometimes we think they slow us down.

This is what I think of

even the marathon runners have all the pacers and have all the other competitors around them. And yet we think they're running alone.

The Marine Corps taught me that you're only as good as your weakest link. You're only good as the 10%, so if there's ever a weak link or something like that, we always find ways to reinforce and get those people up to speed and get them better. I was just at a retreat this past weekend with a bunch of guys that I serve with.

And that's one of the collective things that we all talked about was like the brotherhood and making sure that we do not leave anybody behind and carrying everybody that's on the team.

Yes. We can laugh about the government and laugh about teamwork, but in all seriousness, your military experience and service in the Marine Corps.

And by the way, thank you so much for that service, but a real life. Lessons and challenges that you faced, including, as I was reading in your bio, surviving a car bomb in Iraq. My goodness, that's the ultimate adversity. What were some of the perspectives that you, I guess now you take away from that ultimate adversity?

It's a lot that I took away from that experience and it's really ultimately coming down, putting life and putting things in perspective. At such a young age, I was overseas in Iraq, fighting a war doing a normal delivery for our crew. So we're delivering the water, we're delivering ammo.

And we're delivering MREs to my crews and come, we returned, delivered, had a brief conversation to the Humvee with all the guys that was in it. We had Soto, we had the doc, we had the gunner, we had my gunny in the back. And as soon as we pulled off, seven seconds later, a car bomb went off.

And killed my best friend, Salto, injured my gunny, injured the doc, and the gunner that was there, he lost half of his face. And as soon as I pulled away, the shrapnel, the explosion, everything from there, obviously injured my shoulder, scars, and all those different things that impacted our tank. And when I say put things in perspective, I was seven seconds away where that could have easily been me.

So when I look at some of the things that I took away from that is, I live my life honoring those guys and telling my story as I'm here on your podcast to make sure that people that are listening, live their life to the maximum, live their life to the fullest because tomorrow is not promised.

And that's how I do carry on. So I'm going to tell my truth. I'm going to be authentic. I'm going to be 100 percent present when I'm here with you and communicating with you. And it goes the same with my family, within my business, within activities or things that I'm functioning and doing, because you don't get second chances a lot.

You don't get second opportunities a lot in life. And that's the mindset that I go about, I was doing a speech and I was preparing for the speech and just looking at it like some people, most people die around their 70s 80s ish, and some people are in the back half of their lives and things like that.

So what is it you're going to do to maximize the time that you do have here. If it's the loved one that you need to tell that you love and go ahead and tell them you love them. If it's that phone call you need to make, go ahead and make that phone call. If it's that book you need to write, go ahead and write that book.

If it's that company, you need to start, go ahead and start that company, but go ahead and set some of those things straight. And that's what I meant by putting things in perspective.

So good. So powerful. And that's seven seconds, it's that is a motivator for sure.


and michael, i'm sure there's listeners who would say Was a great positive attitude, you know make the best of a bad situation but what kind of work, maybe even tools and models Did you have to draw upon to make that situation?

The learning opportunity or the motivational opportunity that it is because it's so dramatic so traumatic how did you overcome that?

Yeah. So to be totally honest with your audience, man it was not easy. When I transitioned out of the service, I bottled in, which is, you always hear me talking about breaking the bottle, but I bottled in emotions, thoughts, and feelings when I got out of the service, because at that particular time, I was not sure how I would be accepted coming back from fighting in the Iraq war and being in the workspace.

So I didn't really talk too much about my time overseas or my time in the service for close to 10 years. And it was not until I was working on a railroad and I got, I was a supervisor on a railroad in Atlanta, Georgia, and I got called out to suicide suicide and being called out to the suicide. I seen obviously a dead body.

And that immediately brought me back to my time in Iraq. And from there, that kind of brought back so much memories and so many things. But this is when I really understood like the, what is like PTSD look like, what does traumatic brain injury actually looks like when things started playing out for me.

I've had other things, but I never really, I never went to a hospital. I never seeked out a counselor or anything like that. And, that propelled and, Moving forward, I I made some bad decisions. So I ended up right around that same time. I ended up getting a DUI. I got, went through a divorce.

I I I eventually left that company and then I eventually got remarried again, and then during the second time getting remarried, I went through another phase in my life where things was not going the greatest and I was going through my second divorce. And going through the second divorce, I, I was starting seeking some type of treatment from the hospital, was not too consistent with it.

nd I tried to take my life in:

And truly honoring those guys that passed away, and. I have a son to live for, I have a family to live for, and that's when I started working on personal development and professional development to actually turn things around within my life. So I went to I went to Rush University to understand what is this thing called PTSD?

A traumatic brain injury. What are some of these things that's going on psychologically with me? And I went through the the training, the treatment, and all those things to understand truly what I was dealing with. And once I comprehended those things, I started understanding better how I could understand things and deal with things as I moved through further throughout life.

And then, excuse me, and then I also went to another program in Atlanta, Georgia, where they were working with veterans and helping them replay some couple of things, a couple of stories that we're dealing with that was haunting them. And for me I carried a lot of guilt, in my in my heart and in my mind as I always thought that I could have done something around about that car bomb explosion because I literally came from the same direction, same location where the person was in the car.

That drove up and hit those guys and now we lost my best friend. All these guys got injured and so much more so much ripple effects from that one incident and then so we play that out and that helped me started understanding some things and started like we started doing some things around neuro linguistic programming.

And I understand how your brain work and how things are wired and how things your function. And then from there, I started doing a whole bunch of things that's tied into personal development. So working on things to make me a much more highly productive type of person, try creating better habits, creating better systems, and just changing my habits and surroundings and things around me.

And from those, I just started implementing these different strategies, there's different things to help me become a better human being a better person and serving humanity at a higher scale. And doing that, I Obviously changed my circle. I started doing much, changing different programs. I started getting mentors, I started getting coaches.

I started being in different types of programs, and that's part of the path that helped me get to where I'm at now today. I always talk about the framework is decision direction and destination. And the destination where I wanted my life to be was to where I'm at now.

So what are some of the decisions that I need to start making and remove some of the old decisions that I was making and what is the direction of where I wanted to go in my life and change some of the direction to direction where my life was going before and make sure just answering those questions and drilling down into that and getting so much more clarity where I could create that alignment in regards to that destination.

Michael, it's such an inspiring and personal story and thank you for being so forthcoming. Everyone talks about au authenticity and vulnerability, but you're living it and I, I can learn a lot from you just in that area. And at some point, Michael, you said I will not only improve my direction, but I want to help others improve and make the most of their direction.

And so as an author. TEDx speaker. You host your own podcast on overcoming adversity. You've decided, I want to make impact. I want to affect other people's lives. Where was that turning point for you that it really became a service, not just improving yourself?

So when I actually left that job working on the railroad, I volunteered at a hospital in Miami, Florida.

For one year and volunteering at the hospital, I saw so many other veterans that were dealing with some of the same things that I was dealing with that I thought I was just in that bottle. I was just in my own little space and I was the only one that I was dealing with some of the same things. And once I started being in some of these groups and started sharing some of my stories and my experiences, some of the things that I was dealing with and some of the things I was going through.

For I found out that there is so much power within your voice. There is so much power within your story. There is so much power that's within you that you're capable of in regards to just sharing your own story. And for me, deciding to share my story with other people and me trying to turn my life around and change my life, I was not in a perfect space, but definitely trying to change my life based off where I was at before.

I found that I was connecting with these veterans. based off my story. So once I decided to do that, I I got connected with a guy in San Antonio, Texas, and we sat down and he said, Hey man, tell me your story. I was going to, I wanted to write my own story to in regards to like writing my own book.

And once we sat down, he said wow, man, you have such an impactful story. I think you need to peel back the layers to your story and actually see what it looks like. When it comes to a book because I think that you could help so many people and at that moment though, I did not know if I was ready to be transparent and totally vulnerable with some of the things that was going on within my life.

And I sat on that story for about 6 years. I was still helping people and talking to them about some things that they could implement in their lives and change their lives. But I had a, I had childhood trauma from a younger age that I was not ready to speak about or talk about or put that within a book yet.

And it was not until I got through the right counseling, the right counselors, the right people around me to help me free myself or breaking the bottle of some of the things that was holding me back. That's tied to the limiting beliefs or even like imposter syndrome thinking that I may be less than someone that I can't speak, I can't write a book, I can't go out and tell my story, those types of things.

And it took around, around two, three years ago where those decisions started to change. And once that changed, I said, let me go ahead and I'm gonna write this book. And I wrote the book within 90 days. And after writing the book, we had a great turnout in regards to the launch of the books. We had, we sold over a thousand books, plenty of people was giving me compliments, but what I found from the stories were the connections and the feedback was, wow, man, you're so brave to write that book.

I know that I've been that I've been in your shoes. I have a family member that's been in that shoes. I have a brother that served in the military that still has not spoken from Vietnam from Desert Storm. These types of stories that I was hearing and I was realizing the impact of me sharing my story.

From there, I got called to do a TEDx and I went to go do my TED Talk. And after my TED Talk, there was a crowd of people around me asking me, about my story and how much of an impact it made for them. And they're asking me, can you come and speak at our church? Can you come and speak to our workforce?

These different types of conversations I was having. And then I started seeing the impact of what my story was. When I was someone that was balling these stories, I was ashamed of it. I did not feel like I could even talk about some of the things that occurred to me as a kid, or even when I served in the military or when I was going through my divorce or some of the things with being a dad, being a parent, being a husband, being a dad.

Some of the things that affect me when I was working professionally and trying to manage and deal with some of those things. And truth be told, I found out that those traumas, those stories was actually my gift to actually, those adversities was actually my gift to share with other people and help other people.

And from there, I said, let me just package this and decide to See what I could do with this package of what my life was, what my stories were, what are my accomplishments and see how I can make an impact where I could inspire people and empower people and have them live a life much more of a bigger purpose and a greater purpose, better, greater than themselves.

Yes. I'm glad you mentioned this word, package and create models. And I found the Adversity Academy, a nice clash of words. It's adversity. And then you put Academy. It's I'm just going to teach and share the research, the technology, because it's not just reading a Zig Ziglar book sometimes we need a little bit more than just motivation, right?

He's a classic, so I'm taking nothing away from Zig Ziglar.

Yeah. When I first created the company, diversity, I was working with a marketing person and he was like, are you sure you want to name your company adversity Academy? And I said yes, I'm sure I do. I said, This company exemplify who I am. And when you look at it, you can look at it from the negative aspect, which is why he was asking me that question, or you can look at it from the opposite side of that, where you, the opposite for me of adversity is resilience piece of things, like, how do you fight back?

How do you push back? How do you become that person that you was destined to be? And that's what our programs is all about, is developing leaders that are much more resilient in any space there are, whether it's your personal life or your business life, your professional life or your career or anything like that.

But we try to create that identity. We try to create that mindset throughout our different courses and different programs with the people that we're working with.

So good. And as people begin to look at it as tools, as exercises, do they begin to embrace the adversity and say, okay, now I need to take this on?

How is that received?

Yeah, so that's the key. So we actually go through the program where initially we're going to go through some of the barriers and some of the things that are holding you back. So that's where I always talk about your limiting beliefs, your imposter syndrome, some of these thoughts and feelings that you may have been harboring or carrying your whole entire life.

And then That's keeping you from making decisions and problem solve or working with people or making having that conversation. So we go through some of those things with me and obviously our business partners. We do have people that are from the clinical aspects of things that we do work with that help people get past some of these things.

But definitely within the training. Those are some of the things that we're targeting and trying to help individuals or companies where if we're looking at things from a business aspect. Okay. What are some of the things that are impacting you from getting you to the next step? We don't even need to get to z.

We just need to get to b. Let's get from a to b If it's a small step or whatever it may be, but that's the biggest impact that we're trying to work with people on. And if they're willing to be vulnerable, transparent, just like myself, then that's ultimately a big win for us right there.

Yes. And then as you envision the Adversity Academy going forward and continuing to evolve how do you see that in the future?

I my big vision for this company is for us to be a global brand where we could travel across the United States. We could travel in different countries and we're serving different companies. We're serving different individuals and we're teaching them our curriculum. We're teaching them our programs and we're helping making an impact within their company where we could get them results.

We get them growth, we get them profits.

So exciting. My guest has been Michael W. Allison, and his company is Academy, the Adversity Academy. Michael, what an enjoyable and motivational and inspirational and very personal conversation we've had. I cannot thank you enough.

Mark, it's been a pleasure to be on your show, man.

Thank you so much.

Yes. And listeners definitely check out the adversity Academy Explorer, they've got some transformative leadership for sure, but personal development programs as well. And I think Michael, you would agree that I want to make sure that any listeners who are having maybe suicidal thoughts may have a friend.

That might be expressing these suicidal thoughts definitely seek out your local resources. There's crisis hotlines there's help out there. So we should definitely take advantage of that And thank you for sharing that helps you personally. I think that helps us all So listeners, we've been talking about resilience.

We've been talking about overcoming obstacles to get in our creative work. And sometimes it's not enough just to say, Oh, come on, get up. Let's do it. But to build the team around you, to gain the resources, the tools, the models, the exercises that Michael has shared with us today, that's the key sometimes to unlocking our creativity.

So come back again next time. We're going to continue our around the world journeys. We love to talk to creative practitioners around the world. I think we've talked to people in some 25 countries. We've got listeners and even more, and we love making connections to see how we can develop our personal and professional creative endeavors.

So come back again next time. And until then, I'm Mark Stenson, and we'll keep unlocking your world of creativity.

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About the Podcast

Your World of Creativity
Catalyst of Inspiration, Stories, and Tools to Get Your Work Out Into the World
On YOUR WORLD OF CREATIVITY, best-selling author and global brand innovator, Mark Stinson introduces you to some of the world’s leading creative talent from publishing, film, animation, music, restaurants, medical research, and more.

In every episode, you'll discover:
- How to tap into your most original thinking.
- Inspiration from the experts’ own experience.
- Specific tools, exercises, and formulas to organize your ideas.
- And most of all, you’ll learn how to make connections

 and create opportunities to publish, post, record, display, sell, market, and promote
 your creative work.

Listen for the latest insights for creative people who want to stop questioning themselves and overcome obstacles to launch their creative endeavors out into the world.

Connect with Mark at www.Mark-Stinson.com

About your host

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Mark Stinson

Mark Stinson has earned the reputation as a “brand innovator” -- an experienced marketer, persuasive writer, dynamic presenter, and skilled facilitator. His work includes brand strategy and creative workshops. He has contributed to the launches of more than 150 brands, with a focus on health, science, and technology companies. Mark has worked with clients ranging from global corporations to entrepreneurial start-ups. He is a recipient of the Brand Leadership Award from the Asia Brand Congress and was included in the PharmaVoice 100 Most Inspiring People in the Life-Sciences Industry.