Ep. 211 Reimagining success in the face of adversity

reimagining-success-in-the-face-of-adversity-

In this week’s special bonus episode, Anna facilitates a panel discussion together with Sam Mitchell of Autism Rocks and Rolls, Sonny von Cleveland, and Sam’s grandfather Joe Pursell.

It’s an extra long episode but an extra special one at that, well worth a listen. It’s both a little off the beaten path when it comes to the usual focus of this podcast (leaving the corporate 9 to 5 to design and build your own business) and also very much consistent with its themes.

*Resources mentioned during the episode*

Sam Mitchell’s website – autismrocksandrolls.com

Sonny von Cleveland’s website – sonnyandclare.com

Sonny’s charity – boo2bullying.org

Success in the face of adversity

Anna Lundberg 

So before we dive into this special episode, I wanted to give a little bit more background a bit more context, because this really is a special episode. So if you’ve been part of my community for a while, or if you’ve perhaps just landed on this podcast, for context, the reimagining success podcast is a podcast I’ve been doing for the last four years, I believe strongly in this bigger mission of redefining, and in particular defining for you what success looks like, whatever your circumstances, whatever your situation. However, I’ve been focusing specifically and I do focus specifically on the transition usually out of what I call the corporate nine to five and into working for yourself. That’s what my business one step outside does. In my coaching, I help experienced professionals design a business and a lifestyle that brings them more freedom, flexibility and fulfillment, as I say outside the nine to five. However, in the journey, I suppose of doing this, I am always curious about different moments in which we pivot and are forced to or choose to redefine success. And so I’ve been exploring, working with professional athletes and sports people who are essentially forced into early retirement at the end of a professional rugby career or cricket career, whatever that may be, and need to reimagine success, a life a career, that doesn’t anymore involve being on that public stage being lauded literally cheered on, on the arena, as it were, for being at the top of their game fans, you know, absolutely enthralled by their performance, having the incredible camaraderie of the team and all these things, and actually being in your dream career, and then having to redefine that. Another group of people I’ve spoken to, of course, is in the military, where again, there’s an early retirement, where you come back from a very specific working context, again, the camaraderie, the the regimented lifestyle, and there’s this huge emptiness when you come back from that. So those are a couple of areas I’ve explored. But of course, there are so many other situations and in particular, trauma, and very traumatic adverse circumstances, whether we’re born with them, or they happen, or whatever it may be. So in the context of the work that I do, I’m part of a podcasting community. And I’ve been matched up for the last few months with various people. And let’s be honest, most of them haven’t really led to anything, a couple have led to some interviews and so on. But I was really intrigued when I came across Sam Mitchell, and I’m going to read his bio here from the website, because I think that’s far better than for me to, to do so. And when we talked together in that quick little chat, we really were aligned on this idea of redefining success, he very generously felt that it resonated with him with his audience, and we explored some opportunities to collaborate together. We came up with this idea for a panel, it was all quite spontaneous. And Sam did an incredible job of putting together a panel. We ended up not doing it as a live session. We’ve recorded it in an intimate setting. And but we’re now really happy to share it here on the podcast. It is a little outside of the ordinary in terms of the the interview guests and the particular focus and yet, not so surprisingly, I’d say the themes, the insights are very much universal. So this is Sam’s bio. Sam Mitchell is a high functioning human being on the autism spectrum. But he has a mission to show people that he is not broken. It does not need to be fixed. There is no normal in this world and he is successful with autism. Sam wants to celebrate the successes of all he embraces who he is and feels as though everyone should do the same. His mission has caught on and this powerful and extraordinary idea is catching on and getting the world’s attention. People are differently abled, not disabled. Autism rocks and rolls Corporation is Sam’s organization. It was started by 20 year old Sam and October 2019. It began with a simple interest in media when he was a junior in high school and has led to him becoming an entrepreneur, creating his own nonprofit and podcast, autism rocks and rolls Corporation. His nonprofit and advocacy offers public speaking podcast coaching podcast editing sponsorships, ad space, merchandise, public speaking, educational supplements, guest appearances and guests based on his podcast. So that’s an autism rocks and rolls.com Autism rocks and rolls.com. So I hope you’ll forgive me that longer intro without further ado, I’d love to introduce the so called panel discussion. So Sam and I took it and turned interviewing our guests and to tell you who the guests are, first of all, we have Sonny Vaughn Cleveland. He is an event and portrait photographer in color. Fornia however, he has a very interesting and challenging background, and I’ll let him explain that throughout the interview. The second guest was incredibly Sam’s grandfather, Joe Pursell. And he was born in Indiana, six of seven kids at home of no doctor. And again, he has a very interesting story to tell. And again, I loved his insights. And I was humbled by the the things the personal reflections that both Sonny and Joe shared. So many thanks to Sam for the idea, and many thanks for putting together these fantastic unexpected guests. Thank you to Joe. Thank you to Sonny and without further ado, here is our discussion on reimagining success in the face of adversity.

 

Anna Lundberg  

Okay, well welcome everybody to our roundtable I suppose we can call it although there’s four of us, I’m not sure if it’s a square table, but but we’re here a triangle on on Zoom. And we’re talking about reimagining success. And my name is Anna Lundberg. My podcast is called Reimagining Success. And it’s through my podcast that I met Sam, and Sam and I found this common ground and the topic of what does success mean, maybe challenging some definitions, some conventional perspectives on one that should mean and we toyed with some different ideas, and Sam came up with the idea of having this panel or or round square table that we’re doing today. And he very kindly found these two lovely gentleman who are going to be talking with us today. So we’ve got Sonny von Cleveland. And we’ve got Joe Pursell, who I’ll introduce in just a moment. But just to tell you where I’m coming from. And I think I’m coming from a very specific perspective, but also a very general perspective, I look at redefining success through the lens of having left my corporate job, that was the initial trigger for me. So 2013, I left my big full time marketing career. And since then, I’ve been questioning a lot of these things around what’s actually important to me, what matters, where should I be spending my time, and that’s been my focus, but I’m very passionate about the bigger idea of questioning some of these conventional assumptions again, and, and and I’m really excited to be here to hear some, I think, very different perspectives from from you all, but I think also some common themes. And so Sam, I’d love for you to introduce yourself, tell us a bit more about what you do. And then we can we can hand over to these other guys.

 

Sam Mitchell  

Alrighty, so hello, everyone. My name is Sam Mitchell, what I do is I run a podcast like her called Autism rocks and rolls. And it is about autism and how we cope with daily struggles. Most of my life, I’ve been bullied excluded. So I’ve had to reimagine success throughout my whole entire life. And that’s kind of the mission is success is what you make out of it. No one gets to honestly determine that.

 

Anna Lundberg  

I love that. And maybe Sam, if I can ask you right away, how would you define success? Personally,

 

Sam Mitchell  

I would define success is what you make out of it. So my eyes, I believe that meeting a celebrity and getting out of bed equals each other out because you’re accomplishing something. If there’s accomplishment at the end of the day, it’s success.

 

Anna Lundberg  

I love that. And you know what, when I did my research on this, I Googled as you do success and success is actually the accomplishment of a goal of an aim or a purpose. So as you said, I think you get to decide what the aim or purpose is. And it will be different over the years, depending on your situation. And that’s what’s so beautiful. You get to choose yourself what it is so, so love that.

 

Sam Mitchell  

And it’s hard though when society sometimes doesn’t agree with you when they think that’s an accomplishment. Anyone can do that. No, they can’t.

 

Anna Lundberg  

Well, and something that’s very difficult for someone can be very easy to someone else and so on. Right? So that’s where the differences come in, I suppose. Can you introduce the lovely gentleman on your I guess the left right depending on where you’re looking? Who’s this?

 

Sam Mitchell  

He’s going to introduce himself actually.

 

Joe Pursell  

Yeah, well, I’m Joe Pursell. I’m Sam’s grandfather, actually. Which, like he told him, I’m always here to fill in. I’ve Well, I’ve met his grandfather his whole life. And, and whenever Sam was diagnosed with autism, I was one of the last people to know because his mother was afraid I’m just gonna say no, he’s not he’s just this this way. He’s that way. But it turns out that him being Autistics the best thing that ever happened to us you know, he’s because he’s he won’t give up he’s a smart boy he must take that from his grandmother asked me

 

Sam Mitchell  

about your story mean you have a story to share. And yeah,

 

Joe Pursell  

he he said that, you know, you as I remember the podcast that he’s that he did with you guys, but now he wanted me to come and he kind of tell the story about how I was raised in poverty, and somehow or another dragged my way out along with six other siblings. And it turns out that I turned out for Good, you know, to be to live in a home with the alcoholic and being frozen and starved and ISTEP and all of us, every kid, my family turned out to be, you know, prosperous, because we chose, you know, we had we had two choices, you know, take the bad example, and go with it, or understand that this isn’t right. You know, in some way or another, we all figured out that. Okay, we’re going to choose the good part, you know, and here we are today with Sam. That a I mean, like you were saying, success, I had a good job, we started out. We had nothing me and my wife, we bought some property, chopped down logs and built a log cabin and then raised her kids, you know, I guess kind of how hippies Did you know, back then, you know, bad day, but my kids turned out good. And, you know, we’ve survived. And I started, I did get a job. And I started moving up into the company, and I forgot who I was, you know, I thought, wait a minute, you know, you know, I just paid people to do everything for me now. You know, because I’m making money. So one day I just quit. And here I am today, I’ve been just surviving for the last 20 years, just the same way I did the first 20 years. You know, it’s just all personal thing. You got to make a decision you got to do right. Are you going to be wrong? And everybody knows the difference? You know? We chose right.

 

Sam Mitchell  

I’ve seen it choose right for a while. But Sonny Why don’t you tell us how you went from wrong to right.

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

Did you just hijack Anna’s podcast a little bit? No, I will. My name is Sonny von Cleveland. I am a professional photographer, and a cat cafe owner in Palm Springs, California. I define success as happiness. For me, success is not measured by accomplishment. Success is not measured by material gain or your financial bank account. To me, success is waking up happy. And if you live a happy life, then you are successful. I grew up in small town Michigan, I was molested from the time I was five years old until I was 10 by four different men. I caught a felony when I was seven years old because I didn’t know how to process, the emotion that was happening and the trauma that I was going through and enduring. And I fell in love with the attention from the police. Because they were men that didn’t want to hurt me. They were disciplinarian figures. And I was craving that as a child in a single mother home. And so I continue to break the law because that’s the way you get the attention of the police. And by the time I was 13, I was into drugs and alcohol and all kinds of wonderful things that kids should not be into. And I was sent to prison when I was 16. i It was a horribly traumatic experience for me. I was raped the first week I was there, which turned me into a very violent gangbanger. I joined a gang and for the next five and a half years, I spent all that time immersing myself in gang culture. And I was released when I was 21. And I was nowhere near mentally fit to be released. And I ran terror for two years in the world for about 22 months. Got a couple of women pregnant, robbed drug dealers consistently that was my main source of income, and then eventually got arrested again and was sent back to prison for 12 years. And in 2008, I kind of lost my mind a little bit when my brother had an affair with my oldest son’s mother and they had a child together and I just kind of lost touch with everything gotten to a pretty violent altercation was sent to the hole for five years solitary confinement, where I met a Muslim and they Mallory Bay who changed my life and we spent the next 19 months doing some deep introspective psycho analysis on myself. I read every self help book I could get my hands on. I learned how to process emotion I learned how to let go of hate and anger and learn how to see the world through the lens of love and kindness. And that man helped me to discover passion and goals and happiness. And then I dedicated the rest of my life to helping people learn how to overcome trauma and be successful no matter what you’ve been through in your life. So I spent the last five years of my time tutoring and counseling and mentoring inmates on how to get over things and how to set themselves up for success when you get out. And I was released six years ago, I started a metal band, and was signed to a label relatively quickly toured the country as a rap metal vocalist in my own band. And it accepted the challenges that came with that as well. There’s ups and downs. And I got out of the music game and started a corporate career. I was, I believe in manifestation, I believe that you can manifest anything you want to write, there’s no human being Sam or anybody else that cannot accomplish anything they want to win this life.

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

I walked into a staffing company for a part time job and walked out with a six figure career because you go for goals, right? And so I met the owner, and I told him my story. And we talked and he loved it. And he hired me on the spot. And so I started this wonderful corporate career and you know, life was going really good. And then COVID hit? And of course it did, right? Like, why would that not happen to me. But instead of staying down, I practice what I preach, you get up every time no matter what happens, you find a way there’s always something. So I jumped on YouTube, and I started making YouTube videos. And I blew up relatively quickly to the tune of about 50,000 subscribers within a couple months period of time, and started making a decent amount of money off of YouTube. And I in debt path for probably a year and a half until a very bad breakup. And then I was hacked and my youtube channel got deleted. And that’s when I met my wife on a podcast, which is fascinating. She has a podcast called boot camp for the mind and soul. And when you know, you know, right, like the moment we saw each other, it was like, I love that person. And then we started to build right you don’t ever give up, you don’t quit. So I left Ohio, I moved to California, we opened up a we’re opening up a cat cafe, which is an incredible, frustrating and nightmare exciting journey in life. And I started a professional photography company, because I love photography. So I got my camera and started a photography business because there’s nothing you cannot do. And I am happier than I’ve ever been in my life. And that to me is the cornerstone of success.

 

Anna Lundberg  

You simply told and you know, they say that you have full careers these days, I think over your lifetime. But it sounds like you’ve had a few more ready and perhaps many more still to come. So it’ll be interesting to see

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

where you just never know what happens next year.

 

Anna Lundberg  

And I love that success is happiness. And you brought that around beautifully. I should say that Sam and I are doing this together. So he’s not hijacking in any way. We’re very much CO hosts here say,

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

Oh, I was just messing with them.

 

Anna Lundberg  

Both. I think both you Sonny and Joe mentioned some things which lead really nicely into our first set of questions that Sam has. So take it away.

 

Sam Mitchell  

All right, so our first one we’re talking about here is turning things into a positive message or what she calls turning lemons into lemonade. So I’m going to start with this. So how each of you tried to change your challenge and to a positive message the world can hear

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

Oh, well. I, I wear my story on my sleeve. I don’t I don’t sugarcoat it. I don’t hide anything. I believe that authenticity is the key to translating your story so that people can receive it right. And so I think you turn those challenges into successes by wearing your story and using your voice and showing not talk telling but showing what you can accomplish.

 

Sam Mitchell  

And then you’d like to add Mr. Pursell?

 

Joe Pursell  

Well, I’m not really good at interviews, you can probably tell.

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

I think you’re fantastic.

 

Joe Pursell  

Thank you. Maybe I’ll start my own podcast. As an idea, I just feel like that no matter what you do in life, you know, you choose, you know, like I said earlier, you you can see what’s going on around you. You know, when I was five years old. I knew it wasn’t good. You know, for what what was happening, you know, and I knew when I grew up, got married, I was going to beat my wife up. You know, it was just something that a kid can figure out. I’ve always heard Is that how your rage is? That’s the way you’re going to be. And it turns out, that’s not that’s not the truth, you know, you get, you get to choose every day, every minute, you’re choosing this and that. And even at a at a young age, I thought, you know, I’m not going to do this, if I can just make it a few more years, and I don’t have to depend on these people to take care of me, you know, then I can do it. So everything just is easy. Once I got old enough to do it myself, I thought, this is easy. You know, because I’m deciding myself, you know, and there’s nobody there that’s holding me down. I’m not looking at the wind, are they coming home? You know, or are they never coming back? I guess like a dog would do when you leave. You know, when you’re, when you’re five years old, you don’t know if they’re ever coming home, you know. So you know, you just have to decide what’s good, what’s bad. And always go with the good.

 

Sam Mitchell  

And I find, I just admire the fact that you that you and your family figured that out? Because not everyone does.

 

Joe Pursell  

Not everyone does. And like I said, there’s seven kids in my family, every single one of them figured it out. You know, none of them are drunks, none of them, you know, abuse their family. You know, they’re, they somehow or another figure it out, you know, we’re all old now. And we’ve made it. And I always figured if I can make it till I die, then I’m successful. You know?

 

Anna Lundberg  

That’s the definition of success. Right there.

 

Sam Mitchell  

Yeah, making it till you break it, I guess. Right. Now, sonny, I want to note this. So when you were released from prison, and they basically kind of just threw you out, as I like to say, or they basically just like, Okay, you’re out. There you go. What did you do to turn around?

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

Oh, well, the second time, I prepared myself the first time, I had no idea what what to do or what was going on. I was 21. And I had no idea. So I was a train wreck. The second time I pray I prepared myself for what’s to come and not every that’s the reason why recidivism is so high, right? Because a lot of times, if you don’t understand the tools that are available to you, when you’re locked up, you won’t utilize them. And so the second time around, I was able to utilize a lot of the tools that are available and prepare myself for coming out. It’s when you’re released from that when you’re in that it’s not just the physical penitentiary, right, this is this goes for people that they go through depression or anxiety or have panic attacks. That’s kind of like a prison to write. So like it’s the mental prison. When you finally gain some semblance of freedom, it’s important to keep in mind what you’re passionate about, and what keeps you going. Right. So I wake up every day. And just stepping outside and feeling the air on my face reminds me of freedom. And why you never want to take it for granted again, right? A lot of people, most people don’t lose their freedom, whether mentally or physically, whether you go to a prison, or you go to go through a mental depression. People take for granted their freedom. And when you go through a traumatic experience like that, it changes you, right? And so you, you have to keep cognizant of what drives you. And you keep that in the forefront of your mind like, like Joe did there. Like, it wasn’t easy, right? And so every day, you have to wake up and keep that goal in your mind and stay focused every day. It’s work, right? You can’t just if you lose focus of that you’ll lose your path and you’ll deviate.

 

Sam Mitchell  

Yeah, and you it’s easy to do. I mean, people lose paths. I’ve seen people drop out of school. And thankfully, there’s now other paths. I mean, I was taught my family. College isn’t the only way in other ways.

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

I got a GED.

 

Sam Mitchell  

You’re a business owner. Or getting one now. Oh 202 Yeah, not that. What would you say that your difficulties? What about how your difficulties made you into who you are today?

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

So I’m a big fan of the stoics. And Marcus Aurelius has a wonderful example of what we call a more fatty right which is loving the process, right loving fate. Every challenge is an opportunity. Every obstacle is an opportunity. There’s something to learn from everything that you go through. So you learn to love the process when things don’t go, right. You you love the process, right? You’d learn opening a cat cafe in Palm Springs, right? You think it’s a simple process like, Okay, well, here’s this and then a year later, you’re four times over budget, you’re stressed out to the max. But you’ve learned, right? You’ve I know know how to read architectural plans, I know how to be a general contractor, I know what goes where and what doesn’t go where what’s allowed, what isn’t allowed, I know permitting processes and franchising processes. And in while all of that was very stressful, you learn from it, and you grow. So you can either look at a challenge that’s in front of you as an obstacle that blocks you from moving forward, or you can see it as an opportunity to learn grow and proceed better than you were before. And so I that’s what I think about challenges.

 

Joe Pursell  

It sounds to me, like, you’ve learned a lot of same things that I’ve learned, because, like, I’ve told Sam that no one cared, you know, when when I was good, they didn’t care. And I didn’t know how to read, I didn’t know how to spell. You know, I’ve learned that later in life. And but if I had a, I got a job where the guy believed in me, and I thought, I can’t do this, you know, I’m stupid. But he kept saying now, oh, my God, this show you, you know, on the same deal. I’ve learned it, you know, read blueprints and do take offs. And do you know, anything that that I was, was put in front of me. I thought, just show me. I, I finally figured out just show me. Just tell me. You know, just give me the concept. You know, and I always had the ability to give me the concept. I can fill in the blanks, you know, and I always had that ability, and I didn’t even know it into this guy. Now you can do it here. Wait a minute. I don’t know how to do this. You’ll figure it out. And I’ll figure it out. He was right. Oh, you got to show me. The show.

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

yourself. self doubt is the number one enemy to success. Yes. 100%.

 

Joe Pursell  

Yes, it is.

 

Sam Mitchell  

Right. And I want to know, throughout your difficulties. Yeah, in a few words, or maybe more words, what’s the biggest life lesson you’ve taken? 

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

Love for Me, love, love everything. love everybody. And understand what that means. Right? Like, there, there’s no room in your life for hate. Right. And hate doesn’t necessarily mean racism or being a misogynist or being anti something. Hate can mean. Not wanting to do something hate can mean being ignorant to something because you don’t understand it. Right. So it’s, for me, love is the number one key to everything. If you learn to see life through love, when you meet somebody, you don’t understand what that person has been through in their life, you don’t know how their days going, you don’t know how their week is gone. They’re month or year their whole life. And if you approach them from the lens of love and kindness, you can not only change your life, but you can change their life, you can make their life better, because you don’t know if they’re just looking for a handshake or a hug or a smile. And that could change their entire perspective in life. Right? So love

 

Anna Lundberg  

That’s so powerful, it’s so easy to judge other people isn’t it you yourself, excuse your own behavior because I was having a bad day or whatever it is, but but with someone else, they’re, they’re evil because they’re doing all these things. But actually, as you say, giving people the benefit of the doubt and, and being kind and compassionate as a first step, I think is an important message that we could all do with implementing more facts.

 

Joe Pursell  

I agree. Love Love. I mean, you made it easy for me. Because, you know, going back to some of the things that that that I endured as a child for some crazy reason. My father loved me, you know, and I and I felt it, he never pushed me away. I could kiss him anytime I wanted. I could hug him I could climb on him. Never push me away even though he was stupid. You know what he’s done. Everything he did was stupid. Except, except that and that, looking back on it, and I’ve looked back on it many times. That’s what kept me going, you know, that, that I’ve never got pushed away, you know, and that’s and it never been, you know, I carried that on but doing it with my kids, my family, my friends and my whole family. They all hug and kiss and you know, just we all love each other. You know, so I couldn’t have said it any better.

 

Sam Mitchell  

Thank you, are you wanting to go on?

 

Anna Lundberg  

Yeah, I’d love to build on that. Because it’s, it’s obviously, it sounds a lot of understanding who you are. So Sam and I talked a lot about the importance of self awareness, self awareness, knowing your own strengths, but also maybe knowing your weaknesses, your opportunities, where you might need to reach out for help, I suppose. And, and Joe, I think your your story, you know, I know you said you were called sort of the poor dirty kids at school, and then the hillbillies trying to fit in. And yet, you were able somehow despite that upbringing, and so on, to choose, right, choose good and so on, as you’ve been saying, so I’m curious, you know, what, what are the strengths in you that you’ve discovered, I guess, over the years, you know, what, what do you understand about yourself and, and the incredible power, I guess, the strengths that you have?

 

Joe Pursell  

Well, I am, like I said, once I figured out that, all you have to do show me and tell me, and I’m not really stupid. You know, whenever, you know, talking about being the hillbilly kid, just out of nowhere, my parents moved to Las Vegas for download the How’re you know, and it was like, I felt like Jethro Bodeen down on Fremont Street, Las Vegas, you know, I, I didn’t know, I didn’t know anything. I’ve never been to town. And then here, the bus stops right at the end of Fremont Street, I climb off the bus and, and I’m standing there with pants too short to cut hair. You know, you know, I just, I don’t know. And I just dumped in there. And, and but it gave me you know, the ability to see. I mean, extreme, you know, went from the shack to Las Vegas, you know, and I’d never been to town. You know, shock? Yeah, well, I didn’t even know about culture shock. You know, I didn’t even know about that. But it it, it gave me the opportunity to have to adjust really quick. You know, stay on your feet like that. Just overnight, you know, they threw me in school and the people at school like, where are you from you from Texas? You know, because of my accent? I don’t know. Where’s Texas? Then, you know, it was quite a shock, you know, and I just had to somehow learn how to adapt. And it helped. It helped me a lot, because now we’re back in Indiana, I made it back alive. You know, because even when we went to Las Vegas, we had no discipline, we had no buddy really caring, we just me and my brother, we just run the streets, you know, got a job always had money, you know, had a car when I was I had a car I had my license. So, you know, just, we just had learned by ourselves, you know, what he taught us?

 

Anna Lundberg  

Yeah, growth mindset versus fixed mindset. Because I think at school, we are actually told You’re good at this. You’re not good at that. And actually, the fact that you’re able to, as you said, figure it out somehow, you know, I don’t know yet. But I will. I’m adaptable. Yeah.

 

Joe Pursell  

I do. The school passed me on through, you know, I didn’t, I never went to school. You know, I went to a school called Las Vegas urban evening high, which was for adults. But I started there when I was in 10th grade and they didn’t care. You know, they just passed me on through and when I came back to Indiana, I went to the small country school, same school, same regimen. And it was like a real school, you know, and I made good grades. And, you know, I made it back alive. And you know, I have to just say that I made it back and move back to the holler. Which, you know, which I’d loved it, you know,

 

Sam Mitchell  

it’s a part of who you are. I mean, it’s who

 

Joe Pursell  

I was. And I, I didn’t realize it the whole time. I was in Las Vegas. That’s what I was looking for. We’d go to the mountains to see the woods. You know, I wanted to get back into the woods. If it was crazy, but I made it

 

Anna Lundberg  

back. And you talked about quitting that job as well because you are losing sight of who you are. Can you tell us more about that? And you know, what was that process? How did you realize that wasn’t the right path for you?

 

Joe Pursell  

Well, like I said, we whenever when we were younger, you know, we we just started out my wife. And I said we if we could it goes back to being a kid. If we could just find a piece of property was treats. We can build a house, you know, and luckily we there’s an old man he’s dead now but he sold us some property, cheap on contract, you know, no downpayment. And we just started cutting down trees and stacking hauling rocks out of the Creek making the foundation for our house. And, you know, we’re early 20s I couldn’t imagine anybody I know now that would even in their early 20s, cut down trees and build a home. But I raised my kids in that log cabin, you know. But the, the job that I had the guy kept trying to get me to buy new houses and cars and, and he was trapping, you know, the more houses I get, the more cars I get, I can’t quit. And he wanted, he didn’t want me to quit because apparently I’m doing my job. But one day, I just I don’t pay people to fix things for me, you know, I fix them myself, you know, who am I? You know, and then I just one day wouldn’t quit. And I haven’t really worked since 20 years ago. I mean, I’ve worked myself contracting and things like that. And

 

Sam Mitchell  

so he does some contract work know, when you like, I mean, not like for like a week, like for a gig and work for

 

Joe Pursell  

it, you know. And then one day, I decided I didn’t want to do that anymore, either. So I just now just stay in the hall where I don’t want to go to town.

 

Anna Lundberg  

Well, that trap as you say, a buying things. And then I mean, that’s very familiar to me to kids here, whether it’s private school, or fancy cars or big houses, you know, we’re trapped in that commercialism that we then have to stay in a job we don’t like and so on. So. So that’s definitely a familiar trend.

 

Joe Pursell  

And it doesn’t mean anything to me. You know, as long as I have enough money to feed my wife, I got to feed my family anymore. They feed themselves just me and my wife, you know, it just doesn’t take much to exist. You know? And as long as you’re existing and you’re happy. What do you need?

 

Sam Mitchell  

There’s something you said that kind of hit home the other day, and I want to bring it up. It may come and go, but you don’t need money to have fun time even remember bout fellas? Yeah, money. It wasn’t involved. Yeah, it resonated with me

 

Joe Pursell  

as someone else and got me into it gets me into stuff. I love that. That’s what that’s what I exist for. Yeah.

 

Anna Lundberg  

Well, speaking of YouTube, as well, I mean, we’re quite addicted to watching these programs of people who are living out in the woods, surviving on, you know, just fixing things themselves and so on. And it’s so far removed from our life in the city, you know, so it’s, yeah, it’s definitely an appeal, which I think is growing with the people. Sonny, what about you over these years, obviously, through through the trauma you experienced through prison through being in a metal band through being a photographer and having a cat cafe, and now and so on, you know, what are the core strengths, I guess that you can see. Now looking back, I know Steve Jobs talked about connecting the dots. You see the strengths and the self awareness that you’ve gained over these incredible experiences you’ve had,

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

I think self awareness is another one of the core principles that, that help you in life that propel you toward success or whatever you want. Again, Success to me is happiness. So you can be successful in whatever it is that you want. If if having a cabin in the holler is what makes you happy, then you are a massive success. Right? Like you are the pinnacle of success in this instance, if that’s the goal. I think perseverance, and understanding that every single thing that we’ve ever been through has put us where we are. Is is the core of the challenge and learning from it. Had you not gone to Vegas and ran those streets, you wouldn’t be where you are. Because everything that you’ve ever endured, gave you an appreciation for what you didn’t have. And getting back to that hauler was your goal. So being removed from it showed you how much you wanted it, and you earned your way back to it and solidified it. And I think, I think along the way, especially through schooling, I think that school, it’s, it can help but I think it really hurts because it’s limiting, right? And it limits what we can do. It tells us like you said earlier, what you can do what you’re good at what you’re not good at. And I don’t think anybody is not good at anything. I think if they want to apply themselves, they’re good at anything. You can be good at whatever you want to do. There’s no such thing as a natural right there. You hear that term a lot like oh, are you just a natural? No, he’s not. He’s somebody that applied himself. And that’s it. Like, anybody can be a musician. Anybody can be an artist. Anybody can be a painter. Anybody can be a photographer. It’s just whether or not you have a passion for it and you apply yourself and so I think the core there is self awareness know what you want know what makes you happy, know what doesn’t make you happy, know what you don’t want and have the courage to face those things, because a lot of times, self doubt will creep in. And we feel that we’re unworthy of something we feel we’re unworthy of happiness and unworthy of success, because we’re burying some type of, of hidden shame or, or some type of guilt that we haven’t released or processed yet. And that is the biggest hindrance to moving forward. So we get content, we settle for the life that we have, well, my bills are paid, my kids are fed. So I’m just I’m content. And, and you’re not happy. And happiness is success for me. So you have to be happy, and you have to face if you’re not happy. Change it. Because like Joe said earlier, everything’s a choice. If you’re unhappy in life, it’s because you choose to be Nobody forces you, you can’t be forced in this lifetime, especially in 2022, you can’t be forced to do anything. You do what you want to do. And if you’re unhappy with your life, it’s because you’ve chosen to be unhappy.

 

Anna Lundberg  

And what I’m hearing through both of your stories is this idea of resilience and persistence and grit. And Angela Duckworth talks about grit being two things. One is the having that clear purpose and passion for the long term goal. And the second piece is that resilience of showing up and even through the inevitable difficulties still, turning those lemons into lemonade, I guess, as the saying goes, and picking yourself back up again, and trying again, and so on. The contentment piece is also really interesting, because we were interested in the idea of getting stuck in your comfort zone and the importance of stretching yourself, Sam, do you want to dig into that topic?

 

Sam Mitchell  

So now I would like to know what the comfort zone is, I think, both points in our time, you’ve had to step outside your comfort zone. I know she’s has stepped outside of her comfort zone. I know, I’ve had to. I know Sonny has. But why is it important not to stay in that comfort zone all the time? Why do we need to expand it? Or get out of there? Or out of the bubble?

 

Joe Pursell  

Well, even being part of Sam’s podcasts and stuff, that’s kind of out of my comfort zone. But at the same time, I kind of like to do it. Because it’s kind of exciting. You know, I think that I could screw up and you know, and seem like, you know, what, what’s he doing on that podcast? He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But, but I do it anyway. Yeah. Because it just makes me feel good. You know, especially after it’s over, you know, after it’s over, you know, you kind of feel the adrenaline settling back down, you know, and stuff. But if you don’t, then you’ll never accomplish anything. You know, because it I guess my comfort zone. I’m in my comfort zone. You know, I was talking about the cabinet and collar. But I had a whole life. Before that, you know, now I’m just settled down. You know, I’ve already done this done that. You know, I’ve settled down now.

 

Anna Lundberg  

That’s right. And there’s a beauty in the comfort zone too, right? We talk about it as a negative thing. But if you’re choosing to be there, after having been outside of it for so long, again, it’s the choice, right? And then and that’s an intentional thing rather than it happening accidentally, I suppose.

 

Sam Mitchell  

Yeah. When they asked you guys this, what tips can you give to those who are having a tough time right now, choosing right? From wrong because choosing right or wrong? It’s not the easiest thing to do. I mean, we all make mistakes. And if I get that, I made mistakes, you made mistakes. She’s made mistakes. Anyone probably here has made mistakes. But how can we get from someone to be like, okay, you know what I’ve done? Bad? How can I shift the good because they want to do that we get in that people get in there where? Okay, I’ve done some bad. I think I need to stop I need to go go be a hero. Yes, in a sense, that can we get there? Or hack itself? What tips can you get to get there? Well, no, they gotta get there on their own that what can you what can you advice? Can you offer to help for

 

Joe Pursell  

me, it’d be hard to give advice, because I’d have to look at the individual and say, Okay, what are you all about? Because I know people who would no way get out of their comfort zone. You couldn’t make them, you know, you could feed them and they wouldn’t, they wouldn’t do it, you know, it has to do with, with the, you know, their state of mind, you know, you know, they’re just way too nervous to get out and, and do it, you know, but so, it would be hard for me to give anybody any advice, you know, it has to be an individual, I guess, you know, I don’t know. I guess I don’t have an answer.

 

Sam Mitchell  

That’s, that was kind of an answer.

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

Oh, my advice would be, understand that everything’s a choice. Again, realize that you are where you are because you choose to be there and that you don’t have to be. You can be anywhere you want. And Do whatever you want. Understand that we all fail. Everybody fails. Right? Michael Jordan is famous for quoting. I’ve failed a million times. That’s why I’m successful. Right? We, your your failures are what teach you there your lessons in life. I often refer to sharks. Sharks are born swimming, right. And sharks don’t get an opportunity. Sharks aren’t taught anything. They don’t, they don’t. They don’t learn. They come right out of the womb, instantly swimming. And you learn it. And so you just you use your instinct, you trust your instincts, you follow your heart, and you quelch doubt, whenever you doubt, something, sit down and think for a minute, you know, I think we underestimate the power of thinking in this in life. We’re not, there’s not enough emphasis in education on the art of thinking, you know, the way you look back at the great philosophers of time, and empires and civilizations were built by thinkers, and the world was ran by thinkers. And now we’re, it’s by emotion, right? Everybody’s based on emotion, because everybody wants a heart or a like, on a Facebook post, or an Instagram post, and everybody’s chasing those little likes and those little hearts. And that’s where they get their sense of fulfillment. And it all comes back to thinking if you just sit down and take 10-15 minutes a day, every morning to think, what do I want to do with my day? What do I want to accomplish? How do I make that happen? What does that look like? How do I feel? Am I happy? Am I upset? Why am I upset? And just think, right? If you sit and you think you can work out anything, I’m unhappy, because this is happening. So how can I stop this from happening? I can make the choice to do this. And then that stops, right? And then you can, it’s literally thinking your way through life. Napoleon Hill has one of the most amazing manuscripts in the world called Thinking grow rich. And it’s not a I think I’m a millionaire. So I am. But it’s thinking like a millionaire that will make you a millionaire. You know what I mean? So my advice is to think

 

Sam Mitchell  

it is. Now I want this is actually for us. So you talked about this culture shock with the 180. I call turn in Las Vegas, where you start having food on the table, you start having, you know, place to shower, maybe. But what would you say? is like, the biggest moment you realized that you were stepping outside your comfort zone, you saw you were going down more and what was the makeup, 

 

Joe Pursell  

Shoot, my life changed the instant that I stepped off of that bus. And like I said, the bus station was at the end of Fremont Street. My younger brother was there. And I remember him saying, Mom, can I show him the lights? And I remember and I can, I’ve actually drawn a picture of myself, a silhouette of me and him standing there with Fremont Street. It were at the end, literally at the end of Fremont Street looking down the street, and I knew, you know, that. And I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Right. You know, this is different. This is way, way different. You know, it was it was instant. I knew, you know, that, that things had changed. But it did. You know, it was a real home, you know, rehab, you know, running water, had lights, you know, had everything that everybody else had, you know, so it was changed that that minute.

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

Fremont Street is a sight to behold.

 

Joe Pursell  

It has been back then it was nothing like it is now you know, back then it was just a street. You know, we thought it was pretty cool to get that canopy and stuff over. But that’s where we that’s where we cruised every Friday and Saturday night.

 

Sam Mitchell  

Back in the day, right? Yeah.

 

Anna Lundberg  

I’m not getting all these references. I know Las Vegas I’m gonna have to look up some of these streets and towns I’m not sure about the geography but

 

Joe Pursell  

it’s downtown okay.

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

Yeah, got it’s all lights for casinos in light.

 

Sam Mitchell  

Now you were now Sonny for you, you had a very limited amount of space when you were in prison. You were behind bars and very, like a very limited so how did you get successful while we while being behind bars and having this very limited amount of space? And this probably jail cell that I’m envisioning, which probably consists of a bench and a toilet that I think would really

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

You learn to be free on the inside, right? Like, your mind is an amazing, amazing thing, right? Like our brain is as just amazing in our ability to think and transpose our self As amazing, you’re only limited by what you think. Right? So being I’m, you see opportunity we’re in whatever situation you’re in. So I’m, I’m in an eight by nine cell with nothing but a better bench in a in a toilet. What can I do instead of Oh man, I’m stuck here, I can’t do anything what can I do? I can read, I can I literally taught myself to be a motivational speaker inside that cell I paced back and forth. And in my mind, I’m in an auditorium with 1000s of people. And I’m the crazy person that the CEOs are walking down and you hear somebody mumbling to themselves in the cell. I’m that guy that you know, I’m the one that’s talking to myself in the cell, you think I’m crazy? And I’m training myself? Because now I can certainly.

 

Anna Lundberg  

Where did the idea of being a motivational speaker while you were in that cell come from, that’s just incredible.

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

Because I read, I read a book was it I saw, I think Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl was one of the most influential tomes that I’ve ever read I’ve ever read. And here’s a man who is existing inside of the Holocaust with death, knocking on the door every single day. And he maintains a smile and helps all the people around him to maintain a healthy, happy, positive mindset. And it resonated with me so hard because of the trauma that I’ve been through in my life. I want to help somebody else here that I want somebody else to know that, that it’s okay, right? Like what you’re going through is building you. It’s not breaking you, it’s building you into something. And it’s just a matter of perspective, it’s how you see it, do you see yourself as deteriorating, because that’s what’s going to happen, if you see yourself is what I’m enduring right now is building me for something greater. And I took that and I thought, well, I can’t just walk on the stage and talk to people because I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. So I have to learn what I’m talking about. And so I practice, and I just, as I’m in my cell pacing, and I’m talking out loud, and I, my eyes are closed, I mean, I learned the entire cell. So I knew I could walk seven steps this way, in seven steps that way, and I’m not going to hit anything. So now I can walk for two hours with my eyes closed. And I’m just walking back and forth. And I’m not even in prison. And I’m on a stage in front of 1000s of people. And what am I going to say to these 1000s of people, I’m going to tell you how to get over the stuff that you’ve been through in your life, how no matter what happens, I have been hurt in some of the craziest ways that you can physically be hurt. I’ve been emotionally damaged. And it doesn’t define me. It doesn’t define who I am. It doesn’t dictate the next move in my life. It doesn’t, it doesn’t get to control how I walk through life. And that’s what I want to tell you. And so how do I tell you that? I tell you like I just said it. And then I’ll just say it again and again and again. And through that I also learned that the power of our voice is what heals us, right? We have a voice like no other creature on the planet has the vocal cords that human beings have. And that’s something special, that special tool that we have is what can heal us. The more you talk about it, the easier it is to talk about because you’re processing that, right. It’s like lifting weights in a weight room when you first do it, it sucks. It’s hard and it hurts, right? But the more you do it, the more you can lift, the easier it becomes the stronger you get. It’s the same thing with our voice, I can tell you that I’ve been raped, I can tell you that I’ve been molested. I can tell you all these things that have happened to me and it doesn’t hurt me. It doesn’t hurt me anymore. Because I’ve processed it. I’ve said it so many times that it doesn’t hurt me and you don’t have to tell it to anybody. You can tell it to the wall. The wall is a fantastic listener thread you can just pour it out. And so I learned not only that, that I wanted to be a motivational speaker but I also learned how your voice can heal you and I want to help people understand that I want to teach people that I want them to know talk about it say it speak it right that’s how you heal and so that’s what led me to that

 

Sam Mitchell  

yeah, and then there’s something else before they move on to our next day I briefly want to talk to you about I probably forgot until now. I guess I’ll try and surprise and I guess almost she’s ag we have an ambassador actually see as an ambassador for Buddha bullying so somebody could tell us about bullying and bullying. Why is that near and dear to your heart please?

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

Well, I mean, I was bullied all of my life growing up through school. I may be being a victim of molestation puts a meme emotional and mental dichotomy inside of the mind of a child. Especially I was a very extroverted kid. That wanted to be funny. I wanted to make people laugh. I wanted to talk to people and but then I’m dealing with this emotional trauma that’s happening from my molestation, and I don’t know how to process it. So I’m now introverted. So having that dichotomy of being an extrovert with an introverted mindset, it destroys a kid. And not only that, it makes you a target, because it comes off in your character, you don’t have confidence, you’re you don’t take care of yourself hygienic ly, and that makes you a target in school. So I was bullied all school, through my entire school career, I was bullied to the point where it’s, you know, started off just being ostracized from group events, and being picked on and called names to then getting hair pulled being spit on and kick to full on beatings from the football team in the locker room and being you know, stripped naked and stuck in a locker for hours on end, because nobody knows you’re in there. You know, and those are very traumatic experiences, right? We’re like, we can laugh about them because of the environment. I grew up and it’s boys will be boys. But it’s a very traumatic thing to happen to a child who’s already experiencing some horrible trauma in their life. And it’s, it’s unhealthy, right? And so, you, you, you learn to process those things. And if you don’t, you’re gonna get stuck, right? You’re gonna go down a bad path. And it’s not even your fault, really, you just don’t know how to deal with it. And so buta bullying is an organizations and local nonprofit, that that goes into schools, and we talk to kids about how to deal with that, that trauma that you’re dealing with, if you’re the target of bullying. And if you’re a bully, what your actions, the consequences of your actions on somebody else’s there, it’s a serious thing, kids are killing themselves. They’re taking their own lives at young ages, because of bullying. And we grew up in a culture that says, oh, kids will be kids will be kids, we have to stop that narrative. Because kids are killing themselves. There’s suicide going on out here, because of bullying. And so we go into schools to teach the kids the reality of what bullying does, and then teach parents and teachers how to recognize bullying, to see it, where it is and how to stop it. Because 65% of bullying happens in the classroom. It’s just a teacher, that’s not paying attention. And if you if you are a teacher, then you have chosen this profession and you need to pay attention and you need to your your our children are in your hands to educate and to teach. And it’s incumbent upon that person to to pay attention to what happens in the classroom. So that this is not a thing. So we go into schools, we go to sixth, seventh to eighth, ninth grade primarily in middle schools and charter schools. And we go in and we we talk to kids.

 

Anna Lundberg  

Well, it’s a subject that’s close to my heart, both from my own childhood experience, but now having my own little ones and worrying, of course, about social media and everything you hear it’s such a Yeah, it’s such a dangerous environment for young people to grow up in. So that sounds like an incredible initiative. So so so important.

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

Data, it’s awesome. You guys can check it out at boo2bullying.org. It’s boo2bullying.org. It’s, it’s an amazing thing.

 

Anna Lundberg  

So Sam, I have a few more questions, and then we’ll probably wrap up I think, is that okay, I feel like I could talk to you all for hours. And it’s been such a valuable experience. So thank you, first of all,

 

Sam Mitchell  

you go ahead, I got a couple and then we’ll be good to go.

 

Anna Lundberg  

But I wanted to be honest, just one question, which I think is quite uncommon. And it’s a little bit of what we talked about. But we talked about focusing on what really matters. And you know, I think of when I’m I mean, my kids aren’t sleeping, my little one is not sleeping so much. So I’m quite sleep deprived, and with no sleep, suddenly, that becomes quite, you know, the focus that I need to sleep and that becomes my one focus. If you’re very unwell, if you’re sick, then you need to be healthy, right? And I just think you know, Joe, you mentioned when you had no food and shelter when you couldn’t read and write and so on to suddenly having those things. And now, I hope you’re comfortable and safe and with your loved ones. How do you I suppose remind yourself not all of the very sad things you’ve gone through, but how do you really stay focused and grateful for the things you have? You know, and I guess not get caught up in, in these wrong things, as you mentioned with a job, you know, the car and the house or whatever, how do you really remind yourself of what’s important?

 

Joe Pursell  

Well, I’m an old man now. So the things that that I had to deal with. Seems like so long ago that it was it was a lifetime ago, two lifetimes ago. because things have changed, and I’ve become about every 10 years become a different person. And I look back, when I first got married I, I, I was we were sitting around the table eating, and there was somebody there eating with us. And I remember, I can’t remember who they were, but I remember they were different food. And I thought, and they’re taking a lot, you know, and it hit me, why do I care how much their tank and, you know, we’re going to the store would get more, you know, and that, that one point there, and this was years ago was a change, in my whole mind that I didn’t even know was their job. What do they do? They’re, they’re gonna take all the mashed potatoes, you know, but they embedded him me that it doesn’t matter. There’s plenty of potatoes at the store, you know, and but it is just time, as time goes, by different things happen, you become a different person. And that’s, and I’m who I am today. And tomorrow, I may be different. But every day is a new beginning. Every day is a new beginning.

 

Anna Lundberg  

And suddenly, you mentioned and I’m glad you said this, because I have grown up in such what I recognize as privileged and very different world and my very limited understanding of prison comes from TV shows, and so on. So I mean, it’s quite ridiculous. And yet, the one fear I have when I see those shows is exactly what I said, taking that freedom away. And the idea that something that we take so for granted, and we’re so caught up in all these things that in a way, of course, they matter because they matter right now. But you know, in the big scheme of things, that freedom is the one thing that I hear from my clients and from people that everybody longs for. And that’s even from a place where, let’s face it, we’re pretty free to begin with. So same question to you, you know, how do you I mask that yourself? Now that you’re out? Twice, I guess, and you know, for each time, how do you? How do you keep that incredible, I guess gratitude and sense of perspective on what matters.

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

I pay attention to my surroundings. I wake up every day thankful for this amazing blanket that I have on me that is so soft, I’m an Ugg addict. And everything we have is Ugg, blankets, Ugg, sheets and pillows. And I wake up on a cloud, right with this beautiful woman next to me, I wake up to my my puppy in my face every day. And I’m thankful for that puppy being in my face. Because I’ve never had a puppy in prison, like you don’t have those. And those are, those are the things you take for granted. The birds chirping in the sound of a lawn mower and people talking outside. It just I’m inundated with my surroundings because I just pay attention to it. Right, I just wake up and for, I don’t even get out of bed for the first 10-15 minutes I wake up, my wife generally gets up before me she’s a five o’clock or she gets up and does her thing. But then she always comes in with a cup of coffee, here’s a cup of coffee for my favorite guy. And, and I just lay there for 10-15 minutes. And I appreciate it. I appreciate my surroundings. And again, it’s taking time to yourself to just look and think and look around. I spent the first 10 minutes 15 minutes my day thinking. And I just lay there and I’m thankful. You know, Denzel Washington is one of my role models in life. And he said, to put your shoes underneath your bed, throw them underneath your bed as far as you can throw them back every night before you go to bed. So when you get up in the morning, and you go for your slippers, you have to get down on your knees and put your face to the floor. And it will humble you, right? It reminds you just how little you actually have in this life and how small we are in this lifetime. And, and you humble yourself, right? And so you just you pay attention to what you have. And I mean, it’s hard to tell somebody to imagine what it’s like to lose it because you can’t really imagine what it’s like to lose it until you do. And if I can help somebody avoid losing it. That would be a goal for me, that would be a success in my life. But just take that time, just 10 minutes when you wake up, just think of everything around you. And that’s what I do. And then I walk outside and I’d see the sun in just I can’t explain the euphoria that I feel every single day, even if yesterday was the hardest day I’ve had in years. Because I’m dealing with bureaucracy over a grease interceptor that cost $26,000 to put in for one espresso machine in my cafe like it’s frustrating. I still wake up every day in the same way. And I wake up appreciative and it helps me to start my day off in that mindset of you. Life is Beautiful Life, Everything’s beautiful. And no matter what it’s going on life is still beautiful.

 

Anna Lundberg  

Oh, so simple and yet so difficult. And I think I’m sure you’ve heard of these Regrets of the Dying that I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. I wish I’d let myself be happier. I wish I’d stayed in touch with the people I loved. I wish I lived a life that was true to myself. And we hear that and we say, yes, yes, life is short. That’s very important. And then we get on with our petty disputes and silly worries. And I think that the hardest thing for us is to own and feel and embody those insights without having to put ourselves through that hardship I suppose to to get there. So I hope these reminders and those little tips, as you said, will shift everything a little bit.

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

And unfortunate truth about life, though, is that pain is the ultimate educator. Right? Pain is the ultimate educator. We don’t grab fire for a reason, right? Like we all learn that one real young, but we’ve all done it, we’ve all grabbed fire. And that’s why we don’t grab fire, because we know it hurts, right? So you don’t do it. And it’s unfortunate that, that, in a macro sense, losing everything is what has taught me to appreciate everything. They know what I mean. And I’d love to try to help somebody avoid that.

 

Thank you.

 

Sam Mitchell  

This is the final question for me, I think. This last one’s about spreading messages and sharing stories. As to why we need to speak up, which is my first question of is, why is it important for us to speak up about their story?

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

Again, got tons on this one. Go ahead. We grow up watching movies and books, or watching movies and TV shows and reading books, right? It’s experience via somebody else’s experience, right? It’s my experience can help somebody else. It’s so important because you don’t know who’s watching this. You don’t know who’s watching this and saying, that happened to me too. And by you speaking up, that person might find the courage to speak up. It’s important to speak, because it can change somebody else’s life who’s listening to it, somebody’s going to hear it. And it might not help 99 of the people in the room, but it might help one. And if you help one person, you can change one person’s life. It’s worth it. Right? It doesn’t take excuse me, doesn’t really take her quiet requires a lot of energy to speak. Right? And so do it and do it often. You have a beautiful voice, use it speak. Because you never know who’s listening.

 

Joe Pursell  

Well, I find myself sometimes with my family, with my brothers and sisters. And we have no trouble talking about how things were. And if there’s people around to know us and have known us for years, they think, how in the world? Did you turn out the way you guys turned out with the stories and we don’t really sit around and tell the stories we’d laugh about it, you know, and say you remember this? Everybody remember that it changed a little bit. But just to be around people who don’t know what it’s really like to be like that and just see my whole family thing. They went through this, how can they possibly do this and be who they are today? You know, so hopefully, it when we do that if somebody does learn something, you know,

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

it’s inspirational and inspires people.

 

Anna Lundberg  

Yeah, and Joe, you feel it’s important for the younger generations, I guess to hear this to again, get a perspective, I guess and to realize how lucky they are in a way.

 

Joe Pursell  

It wouldn’t be if they would listen. No, but the only way they’re going to do it is

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

you gotta tweet it Joe, you got to put it in a tweet.

 

Anna Lundberg  

Podcast

 

Sam Mitchell  

hashtag I might hashtag the holler. And in this sad that the majority doesn’t want listen to that story. But there’s a few or a slim percent that wouldn’t want to hear the story. I mean, I’m one of them.

 

Joe Pursell  

Yeah, but it would take a lifetime to tell you that.

 

Sam Mitchell  

Yeah, definitely take a

 

Anna Lundberg  

lifetime as far as Sonny said in a way that the pain is inevitable part of human life as opposed that we each generation makes the same mistakes makes different mistakes. And that is the cycle. Unfortunately, when we’re young, we don’t listen to the wiser, older people and so there we are, we make those mistakes, but that’s just the nature of the human experience.

 

Sam Mitchell  

Coming in world They can give me I know there’s a certain age you think you know everything. You think you’re invincible. Try again.

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

But I like that’s the that’s the funny thing. Sam we are invincible, right? We’re unbreakable. People just don’t realize it. Yeah, you can’t break us. Like you only can be broken if you allow yourself to be broken. Right? The only way to lose is to quit. Right? If you never quit, you never lose.

 

Sam Mitchell  

I mean, I guess I can reword it. We’re mentally I’m blank behind me like far as physically unbreakable. Right.

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

I know. It’s a process. I just, I think there’s so much power in words in the way that we say things, right? If we pay attention to the way that we say things, we can change the narrative, you can really change it because there’s so many idioms that have been just become part of the norm in our life. So we just accept it when we hear it right. Like I Well, nobody’s unbreakable. Well, actually, we’re all unbreakable. Every one of us you cannot be broken unless you allow yourself to be broken.

 

Anna Lundberg  

And that’s a great insight. I think part of all this redefining success is literally redefining words and looking at the language that we’re using because there’s a lot of yeah, there’s a lot of inherent of course gender gender discrimination, or ageism or whatever, which is we’re not even realizing it’s unconscious sexism is important

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

it’s never too late. I started life when I was 35 years old. That’s the

 

Sam Mitchell  

one like you said it’s never too late to start when did you would say you are about like, this morning when I woke up

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

facts I was just gonna say started this morning

 

Joe Pursell  

and hopefully I wake up tomorrow I’ll start life

 

Sam Mitchell  

again. That’s not too much ask for the Ask is honestly hoping that I wake up tomorrow I don’t think but if I don’t Sam remember me i Well, you know that I will. Now this is actually my last and this is kind of a fun one. And this one you got to think about for a while so you can actually start to do some thinking it’s for all of us to post and panelists. So What song would you say is the representation of their life and why?

 

Joe Pursell  

There’s several songs I guess. It’d be hard to pick one there’s I don’t know you guys know John Prine. singer John Prine. There’s something about Daddy, once you take me back to Muhlenberg County, but it’s a song of the coal company came in and call it all away. And I’ve been back to where I’m from. And it’s not there. It’s, I mean, literally, it’s not there anymore. You know, I went back to where to where we lived and time was the coal company. Time, hold it all away. You know? And so I relate to that to that song. Quite a lot.

 

Sam Mitchell  

Go ahead. I guess mine would be. I mean, it’s a hard one. There’s a lot I could say. Truth be told. But I have to say it’s gonna be kind of funny, but kind of true. Born to be Wild. Because

 

Anna Lundberg  

I know I can think I might have

 

Sam Mitchell  

I knew that was coming. The moment I open my mouth. Sorry. Oh. You’re pretty well, I know. But there’s a serious side to why and say it’s because that kind of like with you sign with the freedom. I was kind of trapped, in my own sense. Because when I was at the school, I was a boy, I was lost. I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t know where I was going to be in live. I didn’t know. I mean, having a podcast with me in the basement playing video games or trying to do something that’s probably either a not going to lead me anyway. Or B that’s very, not what society would say, Oh, that’s very successful. But after leaving the school, I became a man and started to have the freedom and starting to, in a sense, have this wild fun side to where I’m like, okay, I can be extroverted. I can not limit societal norms. I like it a whole other

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

way, way too.

 

Sam Mitchell  

Because my dad does.

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

I have way too many songs. for that. Again, music is my life. Like I’m so passionate about music. But if I had to narrow it down to a song that would I think represents my life. It’s an oddball, right? It’s Elton John the circle of life. Because that song encompasses what life is right and what what life is supposed to be and what it’s all about. I would have to go with that one. But I mean, I have a million others

 

Anna Lundberg  

like the metal I was expecting them

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

to No. Well, I mean, there’s a whole slew of metal songs too that could represent my life but Oh, Elton John Circle of Life.

 

Anna Lundberg  

Oh goodness. Well, I can’t possibly choose one to be honest. And I wouldn’t impress you with my choices when I was little Disney would have been high on the list. Definitely. But I think there’d been different songs for different moments.

 

Sam Mitchell  

That I know a lot of people have said Disney songs have represent their life.

 

Anna Lundberg  

Well, there’s a reason for that, right? They really capture the essence of human existence. But I mean, I had when I quit my job, there was a song from a musical called wicked defying gravity and it was all about taking a leap and trusting so that was a theme of Ichi is wake me up I think I had when I also through a phase and some of the country’s songs to be honest, that take me home country roads, those kinds of you know, it just depends on what’s happening in your life, I think and they sort of support the soundtrack. Don’t stop me now. Queen was the one that first came to mind. I’m having such a good time. I feel like there’s some kind of positive energy there. But anyway, yeah, many, many songs. But what a great question with them. You cheated. You didn’t give us chance to prepare. But next time, I’ll be ready with a song.

 

Sam Mitchell  

It’s gonna surprise you.

 

Joe Pursell  

I love it. Well, like I actually would love to change or, or change my song. Country row. You’re right.

 

Anna Lundberg  

Oh, good. Well, maybe for all of us, because everyone was nodding along. It’s a good one. Isn’t it?

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

Almost heaven? Where’s the gene? That sounds great.

 

Sam Mitchell  

Like, shut down. It’s like, okay, what’s what’s exciting about okay, cool.

 

Anna Lundberg  

Well, let’s that it really is. Yeah, for me, it’s the uneven road tripping across the states that sort of vary, but it’s

 

Sam Mitchell  

great. I want to argue with you guys there.

 

Anna Lundberg  

I think we can do a whole other podcast episode on our musical choices. I think just I guess. Final question, because just coming full circle, we talked about what success means now. And we talked about happiness and, you know, surviving in a way. We also talked about success being accomplishment, achieving some kind of goal. So I’m curious, Joe, you talked about who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow? Do you have any thoughts on you know, do you have a goal that you’re working towards? Or some exciting thing that you’re thinking about for the future?

 

Joe Pursell  

No, I I like I said, I’m an old man. Yeah. And I’m just like you said, I’m just gonna wake up in the morning when I want. And I’m not. I have no alarm clock. And I’ll wake up and think, Okay, what am I gonna do today? Well, I have to help Sam. Sam, here’s what I do. But I have usually no plans. You know, I great way to live. I think, Oh, great. I’m gonna waste my time waiting to I have to go over to Samsung. No, I just to be with my with my kids and grandkids and love my wife. And that’s all I should do. I may go to the casino tomorrow.

 

Anna Lundberg  

I mean, honestly, you’re focusing on matters, although I do think you should launch a podcast. So you might have to get behind you on that one. So what about you? What’s your next goal?

 

Sam Mitchell  

I’m it briefly this is kind of relate to you have adventures like that you drive and you don’t, you shouldn’t have like mentioned a little bit what the I don’t want to get into

 

Joe Pursell  

every weekend, my wife, me and my neighbors. A couple. We call it our adventure. We get the car and we go. We don’t know where we’re going sometimes, but drive 100 miles to eat lunch, you know that we don’t know where we’re going. Just senior citizen drives. Love that. But we call it our adventure.

 

Anna Lundberg  

I think the adventure is better than the senior citizen drive as far as branding goes, yes. But I love that you don’t know where you’re going. And you’re just enjoying the journey together. That’s,

 

Joe Pursell  

it turns out to be an adventure sometimes seems like it’s not going to be and then all of a sudden we’re in a tornado. That didn’t happen to us.

 

Sam Mitchell  

That I did not know that happened to you. That was the question I got excited

 

Anna Lundberg  

to do next. I know you’ve got lots of exciting things that you’re doing, Sam. So what’s on the horizon for you? What are you thinking for next year? What are you focusing on?

 

Sam Mitchell  

Okay, thank you. Um, well on the horizon, I guess I would say is Well, I mean, just trying to spread the acceptance of autism just going more into this nonprofit. Hopefully I can make this into career I need I one thing I can probably share is I’m in IV right now me it’s kind of not sign at the moment, but it will be exciting, is I’m taking an accounting class to get a business degree. So in the future, so we’ll definitely see how that goes. So not exciting right now. When I get it. You bet I’ll be having a celebratory go get some wings.

 

Anna Lundberg  

That was exciting. And the hardest part is that is the journey to get there. Right. So by all means, celebrate the degree but celebrate the The, you know, the progress that you’re making now as well because it’s and Sandy, what about you?

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

Ah, opening this cat cafe. That’s first and and expanding my photography business I just opened my own studio. And so I have a headshot portrait studio here in Palm Springs, so excited about that excited about this cafe and getting this open. But to Joe’s thing, i Yesterday is a memory and tomorrow is a wish, right? I live today. And I’m going to do my best to make today as good as I possibly can make it. And so I just I again focus every day on living it to its best because if I die right now, I want to be able to say, I left the way I wanted to I lived George Frank Sinatra, I did it my way. Right. And and, and that’s what drives me. So I got those things coming up. I might start a new podcast I’ve been thinking about I’ve done a lot of them in my past on my old YouTube channel. I’ve been thinking about I’ve been getting the itch to want to jump in and do podcasting again. So you never know. Absolutely.

 

Sam Mitchell  

Check but you want guests. You got one you got another.

 

Anna Lundberg  

You’ve got listeners, you’ve got a ready made audience for you. Absolutely.

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

And so it’s definitely something that I’m considering. So but right now it’s cat cafe and photography. So got to put one foot in front of the other.

 

Anna Lundberg  

Absolutely. But I loved what you both just said there. And I think that’s the key takeaway I’m taking as well being present and focusing on today. Because it’s so easy to get caught up in these goals and ambitions and even in a positive sense to be working towards something and having that sense of purpose when actually it’s the simple. Waking up those 10 minutes in the morning, as you said Sonny and going for Drive and not knowing where you’re ending up and being with your wife, being with your partner, being with your puppy, whatever that is in your life. I think that’s a lovely reminder of what really matters. I have to say thank you so much. This was a little out of my comfort zone too. Because as I said, you know, my focus is usually a pretty conventional unconventional path as it were. So I’ve been so intrigued by your stories, and I’m so grateful for your willingness to step into our strange idea that we had Sam and I and also a huge thank you to Sam for for doing this with me because I’ve loved it I’ve loved today and I know it’s such a valuable audience. And as you said, sonny, whether it’s one person or 10 or 100 who hear this and take something away, we will have done our job and I My

 

Sonny von Cleveland  

pleasure. Thank you guys so much for having me. I greatly appreciate it. Always good to see you, Sam and I look forward to talking to you guys in the future.

 

Anna Lundberg  

Thank you so much.

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