Michael Cazayoux is a nutrition coach which specialty is helping his clients “get out of their own way” by identifying self-limiting beliefs and ineffective behaviors. He is the President of Working Against Gravity, a company that provides nutrition coaching. Michael is also the co-founder at Brute Strength, a team of experts in every field of fitness imaginable.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up in New Roads, LA where there are 4,500 people and 3 traffic lights. The pace of life was very slow and pretty simple. I played between 1-3 ball sports competitively all year long. Football, baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, and even weight lifting and powerlifting. I just loved to compete.
I also spent a ton of time skateboarding, riding four-wheelers, and running through the woods by my grandma’s house or friends’ houses.
An experience that would shape me for quite some time was when I saw my older cousin get beat up at a football game behind the bleachers. I remember thinking to myself “I don’t want to be like my cousin.” I believe that was the moment that I started looking up to the “bad kids” as role models. The “bad kids” in New Roads used drugs and so I got into drugs and eventually became an addict.
Two qualities that people often comment on about me is my depth and wisdom (which makes me feel very good). I believe my roots for both of those qualities have to do with how early I started in alcoholics anonymous and therapy. Basically how early I started having and being surrounded by very deep conversations. My parents knew I had a problem at 14 or 15, and when I was 15 my dad started taking me to AA meetings. I felt completely out of place for months, but after a while, I started to become more comfortable being around people sharing very vulnerable shit. That was the beginning of a 10 year period of recovery from addiction.
Lastly, as you might imagine, I got in trouble a lot as a kid. The most trouble I ever remember getting into, and the maddest I’ve ever seen my dad, was when I disrespected our school principal. I have no idea what I said to her, but word got around to my parents by the time I got home (small town), and my dad was fuming. The lesson that he drilled into me that day and every day just by the way he lived his life is that the most important thing in life is how we treat those around us.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
The coolest people are the ones who are most unapologetically themselves. They are also the happiest.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Just work harder. One quote I LOVE is that “our calling is where our deepest gladness and the world’s hunger meet.” I think if you have to convince yourself to work hard then you’re probably in the wrong profession. I also think the fetishization of hard work leads to a lot of mental health issues.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
When I was 17 years old I left Louisiana for rehab. I spent the next 18 months in in-patient treatment and the next 5 years deeply entrenched in the recovery world.
There were some factors in my favor that were completely outside of my control. Some would call this the grace of God. That was the fact that my family (including grandparents) had the money to send me to some great facilities with world-class therapists. Another factor was that my parents and sisters played a very active role in my recovery. Many see addiction as a problem that the addict alone deals with. My programs saw it as a family system problem, and my family took that very seriously. They participated in countless hours of grueling family therapy with me and were incredibly courageous in how they showed up.
Things I did to overcome my addiction that was inside of my control:
I went to at least one AA meeting nearly every day for 5 years. This taught me the power of community. One of my central beliefs in life today is that the strongest influence in our life is our environment. And our environment is the people in it. Just like the Grand Canyon was shaped by wind and water, we are shaped by those around us. I chose to surround myself with positive people on a path of spiritual growth and it saved my life.
I stayed involved in therapy long after I was required and even after I was feeling better. This taught me that “it doesn’t have to be broke to get better.” Personal or spiritual growth is never done. This period of time taught me that we always have things we can work on or let go of, and it’s not weak to ask for help.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Ever since rehab, I’ve always felt comfortable asking for help. That has led me to find and establish relationships with great mentors at every stage of my development since then. Creating these relationships and implementing their advice as quickly as possible has been like rocket fuel for me.
What is your morning routine?
Wake between 5:30 am and 6:00 am. Meditate for 30 minutes. Do Romwod for 20 minutes (Yin Yoga App). Take my son on a 60-minute walk. Process my inbox the Getting Things Done way. Occasionally journal for about 10 minutes in Roam Research before moving on to the day’s tasks.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Having tough conversations swiftly and never leaving things incomplete with people. I don’t sweep anything significant under the rug – ever. As a part of my recovery, I addressed all of the shit that happened in my childhood and made amends where I needed to. Now I regularly just try to “keep my side of the street clean” as they say in AA.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
For my whole life up until a few years ago, I forgot a lot of things. I was late, missed deadlines, made commitments that I completely forgot about, and in general, was known as being pretty disorganized.
Now I am very reliable and almost never forget anything. My productivity has also gone through the roof compared to what it was.
Here’s exactly what I did in the exact order I did it:
I read the book Getting Things Done by David Allen. He is one of the most successful executive coaches in history, and creating this system has been his life’s work.
Then I immediately took Tiago Forte’s online course Getting Stuff Done Like a Boss that taught me to implement the GTD system using modern tech (i.e. an app on my computer and phone).
Next, I learned about knowledge management to help me organize projects and create content (like this newsletter) more effectively and efficiently. The main goal with this stuff is to be able to make use of all the podcasts, books, and articles I consume without forgetting so much of it.
I took Tiago’s Building a Second Brain Course which was my intro to knowledge management.
Then I took my buddy Nat Eliason’s Effortless Output with Roam course to help me implement the BASB material in the most amazing software – Roam Research (which I write this newsletter in).
This has been a multi-year process, and it has been one of the most important things I’ve done personally and professionally in years.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown – this book helped me articulate the biggest lesson that I learned in all of my years of therapy as a teenager. Vulnerability is the path to connect with myself and others. It taught me that courage is putting yourself out there: emotionally, professionally, artistically. Being courageous has been the biggest source of my success personally and professionally.
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle – reading this incredibly dry book was a spiritual experience for me. It taught me that we have two purposes in life. Our inner and primary purpose is to be present and an outer purpose which is like a vocation or calling in life. The recognition that my primary purpose in life is to be present has helped me align all of my actions to doing more of the things that naturally make me more present and do less of the things that distract me and cause me to “be in my head.”
Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport – I’ve always had a feeling that there was something I didn’t like about cell phones and then social media when it came out. I noticed how addicting they were even as a teenager. This book helped me understand why I felt so bad when I used my phone and social media compulsively as well as a path out of that matrix and addiction. I haven’t had social media apps on my phone in years and LOVE it. I also have great boundaries around when I use my cell phone. To my point above about my primary purpose, having this relationship with technology helps me to be more present in my life. Being mostly off of social media saves me a lot of time and keeps me from constantly comparing myself to others.
The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss – I learned that there were other career options than working the traditional 9-5. I immediately started my first online business as a result.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
“The seeds of clarity sprout in the soil of silence.” -Kunal
“Integrity is when your thoughts, speech, and actions become one.”
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.” – George Berard Shaw