Hangin’ with Michael Hardle
Michael is the definition of a serial entrepreneur. From selling used fireworks to creating his own haunted house all before the age of 10, he loved what impact his creations could have. Having hopped around from different venture to different venture, his main passion has been film, and he was able to scratch that itch producing the film Inspired Guns back in 2013. He has since owned his own apparel line, insurance company, and a bunch of other ventures that seem absolutely unrelated to each other. And yet, through it all, he keeps creating because his deepest fear is that he would look back on his life and feel regret for not making enough of an impact. Michael is HUGE on reverse engineering. He knows exactly what he wants and reverse engineers the process so he could know how to start moving forward. This strategy has helped him win on many different occasions. We talked about the philosophy of reverse engineering and how that this strategy is important not just for an entrepreneur, but for just experiencing the best life possible. Fun podcast today with high energy. Enjoy!
Get to Know Michael Hardle
Born, raised, and residing in Utah, Michael was always going to be a success. He knew he wanted more than just the average 9-to-5. He also knew his ability to think outside of the box was going to get him places in life. His ability to work hard and never give up on what he wanted is the reason he stands where he’s stood today. A movie producer, the owner of multiple successful businesses, and a loving family man, and he’s still nowhere near finished in terms of the work he’s looking to put in.
After studying to become a lawyer, he decided after a few weeks that it just wasn’t for him. He much preferred the idea of being free to use his creativity and to bring money in his own way. You might say that he managed to reach such a feat.
In terms of his passion for film, the ability to take an idea and place it on screen for people to see came as no surprise. He once again was able to put plenty of eggs into a film-producing basket and conjure up two enjoyable and well-received movies: Chick Magnets and Inspired Guns.
The former is a comedy revolving around the life of Truman. Truman has had a thing for Beth for the longest time, but she could never be his as she’s the hot, popular girl. He’s not exactly in that category. In order to make her jealous and win her over, Truman enlists the help of his buddy Ari in order to pose as his girlfriend. It’s available to view on Amazon.
The latter? A movie surrounding two mafia goons who mistake two Latter-day Saint missionaries for messengers. Their boss sent them for a reason, but along the way, they learn about Latter-day Saint life. All the while, they have a serious operation to complete. Again, it’s available on Amazon — this one, however, was the winner of the 2015 Filmed in Utah Best Feature.
Away from his movie-making endeavors, he has created his own businesses in the apparel business and entertainment world.
Fear Con is a unique and one-of-a-kind event that celebrates the world of horror and Halloween. Live and interactive entertainment takes place through the entire show, as Hardle wants people to feel as though there are things to see and do at every single turn.
Fear Con not only provides incredible activitie,s but all vendors will be dressed up in order to add to the show. It’s a great interactive experience — the goal here is to make this everyone’s next and newest Halloween tradition!
Riven Athletics is also a company that Michael has created and taken to higher levels. The positive lifestyle brand focuses on self-improvement. Before it was acquired by Pro Look Sports in 2017, Michael worked with athletes and influencers when looking to grow. He also worked with non-profits and charities to create awareness and financial aid.
Fresco Press, founded in January 2014, focuses on the creation, sourcing, and manufacturing of custom apparel and promotional items. The company operates its own retail online, puts on events, and has official merchandising programs. They also offer graphic design, branding, and social media marketing for anyone who wishes to get in touch and partner up. All kinds of industry-leading companies have partnered with Fresco Press. Michael’s ability to liaise with high-profile groups allows easy deals to be struck and productivity to soar.
Michael Hardle Podcast Transcription
Charan: Hey, what’s going on guys? This is Charan Prabhakar with the Lemonade Stands Stories podcast, and I’m here with a dear friend of mine who it’s taken a long while to get him on just because he’s so busy. Also, I felt like I wasn’t, I personally wasn’t ready to have him on yet. I needed to improve myself for the stature that is in front of me. Michael Hardle is his name. And we’ve had the pleasure of knowing each other for gosh, now eight years. Eight years, I’d say because that’s when we did Inspired Guns, I believe.
Charan: And if you guys are not familiar with that movie, it’s a fun like, just like a missionary, action packed, mobsters type of comedy film that Michael produced. And I was very fortunate to be in the film. And I don’t know, it was just so fun. We had such a good time working on it. And I remember it was such an interesting experience, and I think I told you this a couple times. But more than even being on the film, I loved how professional it felt. It was a lower-budget film, but it felt so professional. And I remember getting paid so quickly. I even told you this. I’m like, “Dude, I have never in a Utah film been paid as quickly as I was paid on your film.”
Michael: We were paying checks in the RV, right.
Charan: You were paying checks in the RV?
Michael: Every week when we said we would.
Charan: Yeah. Dude, that was so fun. But yeah, thanks so much, man, for coming on this podcast. And the thing is, guys, if you guys don’t know, Michael is the definition of a “cereal” entrepreneur. He literally has marketed cereal before. I’m just kidding. I don’t know if you have. Maybe you have. Maybe you have.
Michael: [crosstalk 00:02:55] cereal before. So, yeah.
Charan: See, there you go. And by eating that cereal, he was marketing it. So you are a “cereal” entrepreneur. You’re welcome.
Michael: Yeah. I think that’s a positive generally.
Charan: Generally positive.
Michael: My wife sometimes doesn’t necessarily think that’s such an advantage, basically.
Charan: Right. No, dude. It’s great. The thing is, you approached film from a very business sense, which I thought was so smart, because most filmmakers do not do that. I was very fortunate to learn from you. And I remember even back then you had tons and tons of different businesses and things that were going. And I remember that you were selling, you had your own printing company, I believe? Is what it was. Dude, give me the highlights.
Michael: Yeah, the timelines overlap on everything.
Michael Hardle Talks About His First Businesses
Charan: Yeah, give me that. Give me the timeline of all the stuff you’ve done.
Michael: Of everything? Okay.
Charan: Since you came out of the womb.
Michael: Yeah. I was the typical kid. My parents love to tell the story. After the 4th of July, I would go collect all the fireworks.
Charan: Are you serious?
Michael: Those used burn fireworks. You had those Chinese pagodas in the tanks, and I’d go gather up literally used, burned fireworks, and I’d go door to door, selling them to the other kids.
Michael: I sold rocks door to door. I actually started-
Charan: How would you sell used fireworks? I don’t understand how that would work.
Michael: I thought they were cool. Other kids thought they were cool too. I’d go door to door. I had a clubhouse in my backyard. I’d set them up like a little store, go knocking doors, have all the kids come bring whatever money they and-
Charan: Was business booming? Sorry. That was a terrible… that was so bad.
Michael: Yeah, nice pun there.
Charan: I’m going to go and drink some water and pretend that didn’t happen.
Michael: Yeah. I started a haunted house when I was 10 or 11 years old.
Charan: No way.
Michael: We had a field next to my house, and during Halloween we’d put a haunted house together and charge admission for everybody in the neighborhood.
Charan: Unbelievable, man.
Michael: Yeah, I had that entrepreneur spirit early on. Fortunately, or unfortunately, you don’t really… back then we didn’t really know entrepreneurship wasn’t cool, right? You were kind of, pick what you wanted to do, go to school, figure out your path. I wanted to be an actor early on, and then I started going bald and realized that there wasn’t a lot of-
Charan: But dude, you look so aerodynamic and there’s something to be said about that.
Michael: Well, hey, it’s come back around, right? You got Jeff Bezos, you got the Rock representing for us.
Charan: Yeah. Absolutely.
Michael: That’s helped out a little bit.
Charan: The dream’s still alive, dude.
Michael: Yep. Now I can be a bad guy or a boxer, basically. I get typecast.
Charan: 100%. Yeah.
Michael: Yeah. Wanted to be filmmaker, wanted to be an actor. I never really knew what I wanted to do for a day job. So many people… I ended up in sales and went on an LDS mission, learned that skill, learned to really eat rejection and knock doors and sell God all day.
Charan: What’s the benefit? What’s the benefit of eating rejection? Because I feel like that’s an important skill to learn early on, honestly.
Michael: Yeah. We live in a modern society where everybody is so adverse to any sort of uncomfortability or… is that a word?
Michael: Uncomfortable nature. So anything that’s negative, they want to do anything they can, and our body or mind naturally wants to avoid that. When you go and put yourself in those situations, when you eat that rejection all day long, it develops your capacity to try new things; you don’t care as much, as we know here, being where we live. A lot of times because of the door-to door-culture in the LDS church, we have a lot of sales people. We export door-to-door and call centers; people that don’t care. We’re used to eating rejection all day long, a lot of times.
Charan: Well, I like what you were saying as well about trying new things and not caring as much. I think that’s an important skill to learn. Because once the pain of rejection goes away, you realize, oh, mostly it’s a psychological thing.
Charan: And when you can remove yourself from the feeling of “I’m worthless, because they rejected me” to “Oh, they said no because they just don’t want it, but that has nothing to do with my own worth and value.” I feel like you’re able to try more things and try new things and stuff like that.
Michael: Yeah. I tell all my sales reps, I say it’s like getting punched in the face, right? I did MMA and boxing for a long time, too much. I can’t smell anymore.
Charan: Wow. So you’ve had COVID for a long time, basically? All the effects of COVID.
Michael: Well, that’s a whole different discussion.
Charan: Yeah, that’s a whole discussion.
Michael: I was a pioneer of COVID.
Michael: I got on Times Square early on.
Michael: But anyway, I tell my sales reps, rejection is like getting punched in the face. If you’ve ever trained MMA or boxing, everybody has… they’ll do anything to avoid getting punched in the face. But as you start doing it more and more, you hate it, and then you begin to tolerate it and get a little bit better at getting punched in the head and then eventually, you weirdly cross this threshold to where you crave it, and that’s how sales and rejection is a lot of times is you have to build up your tolerance to do those uncomfortable things, and then your capacity… You eventually get to the point where you don’t even care. People can be rejecting you all day long, and you just get used to eating that rejection and rolling with it, staying positive and moving on.
Charan: Let me ask you this, then, when people are first getting rejected then, how do they keep going? How did you keep going? You know what I mean?
Michael: Yeah. It’s all about why you’re doing it, right? That’s so many different things in life, and entrepreneurship is your why. Why are you doing that? Is it a means to an end? Did you make a bad decision? Are you trying to provide a lifestyle? Do you believe in the product that you’re trying to sell? Whether it’s religion, door to door, or whether it’s a product that you’re trying to sell?
Michael Hardle Talks About His Why
Charan: Well, you have done a ton of different jobs, not jobs, sold tons of different things. You’ve brought a lot of different things to the world. So what is your why?
Michael: My why, is definitely I want to provide for my family, for my children. But most importantly, I don’t want to have any regrets in life. And I don’t want to ever look back on anything and wonder why I didn’t do anything, which is why I’ve done quite a few different things. I don’t want to be that guy sitting on my deathbed one day, and it sounds cliché, but I don’t want to look back and think, “I wish I would have done that; I could have done more.” I want to empty the tank, so to say.
Charan: I love that, man. It’s an interesting thing because, and that’s a cool mentality to have, I feel like too many times people live with a lot of regret. I remember I was having a conversation with a friend of mine. His dad actually was the one who was speaking to me, and he was just saying, he’s like, “Listen, Charan…” He’s like, “Please, whatever you do, don’t do what I did.” And I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, what did you do?” And he was just saying, “Look, I chose a career path that I hated. But I knew it was going to provide for the family. I knew it was going to do those things.” But he’s like, “I spend at least 40 hours a week doing something that I absolutely hate.”
Charan: And that is haunting me to the core, man. More than any motivational speech, that speech haunted me to the core because I realized, wow, your time is such a valuable asset. And if you are spending your time doing something you absolutely hate or feel like you got a narrative in your head, “I got to take care of this; I got to take care of that.” And that’s why I’m doing this type of jobs. And I’m not saying that, all jobs that I got… sometimes you just have to do things to make ends meet. But at the same time, if you’re living a life full of regret, because you’re doing things that you don’t really want to do, you’re going to be very, very unfulfilled.
Michael: Yeah, that’s a good point. And it’s an invaluable lesson. And unfortunately, I feel like I really learned that a little bit later than I would have. I’m glad I learned it. But I had a door-to-door job; I had a traditional day job for a long time. And for me, it was always a means to an end, right? I’m only going to do this for a certain period of time, but because I was making good money, because it was easy for me, I stayed doing that a little bit longer. And it became that the frog in boiling water analogy where,I spent way too much time doing that, and I wish I would have realized, to fulfill my potential to be the entrepreneur that I wanted to be, I should have left that stable, more secure thing earlier on in my life. And I’m glad I did it when I did it. But I definitely held on to that a little bit longer than I would have in hindsight.
Charan: What was the pivot point? What was the point where you’re like, “You know what? I need to go be free”?
Michael: Yeah. For me, it was about value. And with this particular organization I worked for — Comcast — they’re a nameless, faceless, massive organization.
Charan: Huge entity, right?
Michael: I did so much for them. I made them so much money, I made them so much revenue, I brought people in, I recruited… And one day, I just realized they didn’t care about me. I was a name-
Charan: You were a cog in [crosstalk 00:11:47].
Michael: I was a number on a spreadsheet, a percentage, a line item for them, and nobody cared about me. It didn’t matter what I had done; there was nobody that directly correlated me in what I was providing to anything else. It just wasn’t offering me the value in myself that I wanted to do.
Charan: And this is cool, because you’re realizing that this isn’t about money. It’s about value, which is a totally separate thing.
Charan: Keep going, I love this.
Michael: Yeah. I looked and said, “What do I want to do?” and it was all about taking that risk, right? And we talked about not having those regrets. And a lot of people, they have that fear, and especially if they want to go start a business or they want to pursue a different career path, they have a very difficult time, coming to grips with that or maybe even breaking free from that establishment or having those difficult conversations with their wife or their spouse or their family member or whoever, their parent that sent them through college, whatever it is. And one thing that really helped me was early on, and Gary Vaynerchuk, have you ever heard of him? Gary V.
Charan: Mm-mm (negative). No.
Michael: He’s an entrepreneur that I really like. And he used to do a YouTube show called The Ask Gary V. Show, and entrepreneurs would go ask him questions. And one time he had a guest on; it was really profound. She basically was saying, “I want to go do this, I want to go start this business, but I’m afraid.” And he was like, “Well, who are you afraid to disappoint?” And ultimately, it was her parents, right? And he’s like, “All you entrepreneurs out there, if you have that feeling in you, if you feel that passion, that burning to go do something else, go identify who it is that you’re scared to let down, that you’re scared to disappoint, and go have that difficult conversation with them.” That to me, I didn’t need to have that conversation with my wife, but that conversation was more with myself.
Charan: Internal. Yeah.
Michael: It was more internally what am I afraid of? Am I scared to let myself down? Am I scared to fail? Because I’d already done… dived in entrepreneurship before that. [crosstalk 00:13:53].
Charan: What year was this roughly, when you were like… [crosstalk 00:13:55].
Michael: Probably 2013. Yeah.
Charan: Okay, yeah. Right around when we were meeting?
Michael: Yeah. Because at that time, I had a lot of different things on my plate. I was trying to compartmentalize, at that time we produced that movie. I had a corporate job that I took vacation time off and then also just-
Charan: I didn’t know that.
Michael: Yeah. I was finagling the system big time. I was on set for almost a month while I kept a full-time corporate job, somehow.
Charan: Wow. No.
Michael: It was that juggle, but it was always stressful. And then it was, hey, I just want to be able to control my own… write my own story, basically.
Charan: Yeah. Well, it’s a powerful thing,. Because I remember after Inspired Guns had come out or when we were doing that, because that was back in 2013, I believe, is when I did that with you guys. I remember you were just doing a bunch of different things. It was like you had a print shop.
Michael: Yeah, at that exact time.
Charan: Right. Yeah.
Michael: At that exact time I’d started Ribbon, which was a clothing brand.
Charan: That’s right. It sort of was.
Michael: Everybody always, even now, everybody wants a clothing brand, right? Everybody’s got an idea for a clothing brand. I did it. I had a clothing brand; it was going really well. And fortunately, it had a niche. People were passionate about it, had an identity. And that was growing at the time. In fact, I think we even put some apparel plugs in there at the time. So I was starting a clothing brand, I was producing a movie, I was keeping a corporate job, I still had my insurance and real estate license at the time…
Michael: That was the beginning of… shortly after that, I left my day job and then I took… We spun up that other marketing and apparel business called Fresco. And then we were making everybody else’s apparel and gear, the clothing brand. And then I also got into managing social media and doing digital marketing and design. Doing something similar to what you guys are doing here, not on that scale.
Charan: Yeah. Well, it’s interesting, because you went off and did all kinds of really cool stuff. And it’s been cool, because even though we don’t talk every day, I always see you in my periphery, doing really cool things, making an impact in the world, doing MMA. What drives you right now?
Michael: It’s that same thing: I want to fulfill my potential, right? And I’ve had this philosophy lately, this concept I’ve been talking about. Everyone talks about a bucket list, right? And I want to have a bucket life, or a life of just a résumé of a bunch of different things that I’ve done. So I try to live my life like that, where I’m maximizing every day and doing all the things that I want to do in business and in life and continuing to push myself.
Michael Hardle Talks About Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Charan: Well, you clearly are… I remember I think I ran into you at Noodles & Company once. I went over there and you were eating food over there when we caught up and it had been a couple years. Even back then I was like, man, you’ve just got some great things lined up and going for you. But at the heart of every entrepreneur story, in addition to having a lemonade stand is you’re dealt with lemons, you’ve dealt with some pretty big blows, and especially as an entrepreneur, there’s a lot of things that go that just don’t really take off.
Charan: And you’re like, oh, crap, I gotta go back to the drawing board. Do you have anything in your own personal life or in a entrepreneur setting, whatever it is, which was a severe lemon that was handed to you?
Michael: Yeah, fortunately, my childhood and all that was great, right? I don’t have that “overcoming a negative childhood” story, so to say. I had great parents; we were well-off. My first real adversity was when I went on an LDS mission and struggling through that. Those are some of the things where you start building that mental fortitude, that resilience. And when I got back, my best friend was killed.
Charan: Oh, no.
Michael: We were young bullet bikers; we were Rough Riders, basically, back in those days, riding bullet bikes, and he was killed in a tragic accident.
Michael: And that was one of the most significant lemons that I’d had to overcome in my life. And I was actually thinking about that last night. And I’ve been really studying suffering. I told you earlier I’ve been doing that 75 hard program. And the purpose is to choose things that you have to suffer and overcome on purpose. And by doing so it grows your capacity, it grows your ability to deal with adversity and overcome hard things. And I was thinking about, the things in my life that I’ve gone through suffering, either by choice or that happened to me. And there really is so much beauty and growth that happens in suffering even though you hear that suffering and failure — those are two most negative words that you could imagine — but yet there’s power and beauty as a result of both of those things, the suffering and the things that you learn.
Michael: And I was thinking about it in relation to… It’s like that Japanese pottery. Have you ever heard of that? Where it used to break and then they would fill the cracks with gold, and then they put these parts back together and they’re even more beautiful.
Charan: No. [crosstalk 00:19:31].
Michael: I can’t remember. Somebody could probably tell me what that methodology is called. And that’s how going through suffering and going through difficulty is. It makes life more beautiful. It helps you expand and grow your capacity to deal with what’s next. And as that relates to business. Every thing that I’ve done entrepreneurially has led me to one thing, and it sounds cliché because people say this all the time, is, you don’t fail; you learn. You don’t… All the idiosyncrasies or whatever they say of failure, but they’re all true. And as I look back at all the different random things that I’ve done. My first business wasn’t necessarily the success I thought it was. And I thought I was going to get acquired, and it was going to go into this big thing. And ultimately, we went out of business. My second business was slightly better. My third thing, I sold it for a small profit.
Michael: My next business, I sold it for a larger profit. Each one of those difficulties at the time led me to learn something and apply it. And it takes a lot longer than you think. Unfortunately, some of these entrepreneurs strike it, strike gold right off the bat, and maybe they don’t have that same journey. But it’s through those lemons, it’s through those failures, that you actually learn and progress.
Charan: Yeah. Well, it’s so interesting. I think the difference between misery and suffering is misery, you’re suffering for no reason. You’re in the mental state of not learning anything. But suffering can be a beautiful thing, like you were saying. It’s interesting, there’s a… I don’t know if you ever heard of this story; it is a true story, actually. There were these two soldiers. They were professors, English professors, that had come after World War I or World War II. They were taking a walk. And one of them was talking to the other and was just saying how he didn’t see how there could ever be a God, felt like there could just never be a God; after the atrocities that he’s seen, there’s just no way.
Charan: And the other one said, “Well, it’s only God that has carried me through; it was only God that helped me in the path to give me hope again and peace again.” And so the professor that believed in God basically told the other one that said, “Listen, there’s something that happens when you enter into the joy of the suffering of Christ,” is what he was saying, “and that if you do that, and if you can cultivate that and let him be a part of your suffering, you can turn into something beautiful.” Well, what happened was that the professor that said this was J. R. R. Tolkien, who wrote Lord of the Rings, and he was saying it to C. S. Lewis, who wasn’t a Christian at the time, and then learned that about the fellowship of the suffering of Christ by that conversation and went on his path and now he’s become who he’s become.
Michael: So interesting, I’ve never heard that story.
Charan: Yeah. The first time I heard that story I was blown away. I had no idea. But I think it’s such an interesting thing that leads to business that leads to life really, honestly, when you think about it. There is something beautiful that comes through suffering. It’s a forging; it’s a fire that can refine you and help you become much better and much, much more polished and bright, but it burns away the things in you that don’t really serve you much.
Michael: Yeah, absolutely. As I’ve been… Weirdly, I talked to a lot of my agents about this on Monday on our team meeting. We have a bunch of… like a sales meeting that we get together, and I was talking about suffering. And there’s a big difference in choosing to suffer versus things that happen to you, right? There’s a lot of magnitude and beauty in that suffering, because when you’re choosing those things and as it relates to entrepreneurship, a lot of times when you’re the entrepreneur, you’re the CEO or you’re the founder of a company or whatever, you have a unique set of circumstances and it’s very lonely. There’s a lot of suffering mentally; there’s a lot of sometimes financial suffering. When you’re doing it right, oftentimes, you’re the last one to get paid; you’re the one that has to absorb all the stress and the anxiety about it. You are the one who are not just worried about yourself and your own personal finances but that of your team. You’re the one that has to, if things aren’t going well-
Charan: You’re the guy to blame.
Michael: You’re the only one and there’s a lot of loneliness a lot of times in that entrepreneur journey, because who do you go to? Do you go to your staff and your employees at that time and say, “I’m really struggling, I got to figure out a way to pay you guys, or whatnot, this next week.” Or “I’m dealing with this.” Or “I got to get these loans.” Or “I’ve got to get an investor coming in.” And a lot of times… but at the same time, when it pays off, and I’m sure a lot of the other entrepreneurs you’ve had on this podcast would feel the same way, it’s a special feeling and a reward that most people won’t ever get to experience because they weren’t willing to go through that. They didn’t choose that path and they didn’t experience that. And so, a lot of times people who want to… That’s why so many people choose that safe path. They choose the stable job, the stable career, the stable paycheck because they don’t want to have to choose that suffering.
Michael Hardle Talks About Burnout
Charan: Well, it’s interesting, because with that suffering, some people experienced severe burnout, right? Have you ever been burned out?
Michael: Yeah, I’ve been burned out a lot. And it just comes down to you’ve got to focus on things. And it goes back to when we talked about how many things that I was doing at that time; I did get burned out. At one time, I just produced that movie, I had Fresca, the apparel, and then we started doing digital marketing. And we were selling retail apparel at events and Comic Cons all across the country. And I was running people’s social media. And then we started Fear Con, that big Halloween and horror, the largest convention in the country. I was feeling burned out. You feel that anxiety every day. And that’s when I started unwinding some things, and trying to focus, because I had let so many things get on my plate that I felt like I wasn’t as efficient.
Charan: Spread too thin.
Michael: Yes. Spread too thin, not focused, not efficient. And I was looking to dial in a little bit more, and I was feeling burned out. It comes back to getting right with yourself and visualizing and having that mindset. And a lot of people… and this is something that’s also interesting about entrepreneurs is, a lot of people don’t visualize, or they don’t necessarily know what they want, things are just happening.
Michael: They didn’t really choose those things, and all of a sudden, things start happening to them and their business and going different ways, but that wasn’t necessarily what they wanted or where they wanted to go. Everything that I do now is purposeful, until before I get into something, or a new business venture or a new idea, I wrestle with myself with, is this getting me to… Is this part of my plan, right? Is this part of something I want? Or is this just a new shiny thing that’s happening in front of my face that I see potentially?
Charan: I love that you just said that. I think that’s such an important thing, because I feel like a lot of entrepreneurs also have ADD, and they’re like, “Oh, my gosh, I got to do this; I got to do that.” And I know I’m so guilty of all these things. But when you start honing in on your purpose, your legacy, what you want to do, what’s that bucket life thing that you want to do with yourself, then you can put it through filters. Every opportunity that comes your way, put it through some filters and be, “Hey, is this speaking to my soul? Is this is exciting?” A buddy of mine and I were having this conversation. And he was saying, “Dude, the thing that you’re doing, if you don’t feel absolutely elated, just thinking about it, don’t do it. Don’t do it.” And I’m like, “I think it’s such a beautiful, beautiful idea.”
Charan: There’s a filmmaker, oh my gosh, and this is so sad, because his name is slipping my mind. But he has since passed away. He was a producer as well. But he used to produce a lot of Robert Redford’s movies, and he’s been doing movies for a long time; he produced Chariots of Fire, all these classics, right? Anyway, I happened to meet him; he was a good friend. I met him at Sundance and he was telling me, he’s like, “Listen, Charan, whatever movie or whatever project you’re doing, you’ve got to be absolutely passionate about.” He said, “Because if you’re not, then you’re going to spend a lot of time doing something that you’re not excited about; you’re going to be bored and tired and exhausted and all this negative stuff,” right? And he said, “In my career, I’ve only done one film that I was not absolutely passionate about, and I regret it to this day.” Oh, my gosh, that’s so sad. But what’s the film? I wanted to know, right?
Charan: And he’s like, “I did it because my kids wanted me to” and everything. And I’m like, “Okay, cool. What’s the film? What’s the film?” And he said it was Mario Brothers. Do you remember that movie?
Michael: Really? Wow.
Charan: It was the worst movie ever.
Michael: It was horrible.
Charan: It was a horrible movie. And I’m like, oh, man. I felt for him, because I was also like, “Dang, you ruined that movie. You ruined the video game for me.”
Charan: But it was an interesting conversation.
Michael: Chariots of Fire, Mario Brothers.
Charan: Mario Brothers. He’s like, “Oh, Chariots of Fire, A River Runs Through It, Mario Brothers.” I’m like, “Oh, dude, that’s a black stain in your IMDb.
Michael: Absolutely, yeah.
Charan: But it’s an interesting thing, because we were talking about that. That’s so applicable to life, right? You’ve got to run into, through those filters of “Is this fulfilling what I want to fulfill?”
Michael Hardle Talks About His Next Plans
Charan: Let me ask you this, because you’ve done so many different things and you’re continuing to exceed and grow. What’s next for you? What’s your plans?
Michael: Yeah. Right now, my brother and I have a growing insurance business.
Michael: I would say, it’s more boring to me as far as like the actual product. I’m not scratching that creative itch at the same level. But the entrepreneurial arm of it is there for me, right?
Michael: And so I love that, and I love the growth. And I looked at it again, purposeful, and said, if I put X amount of time into this, I visualized what would happen, and you know what the potential was and what the return on my time was. After all these experience, I became very clear on what my return on time is, right? Everyone talks about the return on investment. What’s my return on time? And this business is a great return on time and I’m helping people. And so we feel rewarded in that, and we’re growing a real big, valuable business, and we’re doing something different in the space. At the same time, I still have a lot of passion projects that I’m passionate about, that still fit in my wheelhouse of what I want to do. I would ultimately like to get back into the entertainment game, be producing.
Michael: And to bring it back full circle a little bit, we were talking about movies, and people make it and try to figure it out, and then I took a business approach to that. I think that that’s what’s needed to be successful-
Charan: Absolutely. Yeah.
Michael: … in the future now is, I’m going to get back into production at some point but do it and run it as a business, right? And have everything with a purpose and a path. And in the film world, it’s completely different than the business world, the entrepreneurship world, because in film it’s “if I make it, they will come.” That’s the attitude of so many different projects. This guy raised money and put this together and got these people on board. You’ve been a part of a lot of projects like that, but there’s no path, right?
Michael: They don’t know what it was for. They don’t know what the market was. It’s the Field of Dreams scene: “if you build it, they will come.” But that doesn’t work, right? That’s why so many film projects don’t-
Charan: Unless you’re making a movie about baseball, but that’s it.
Michael: Yeah, exactly.
Charan: I’m just kidding. Yeah.
Michael: I would do it in a more purposeful way where we have a strategy in a production company and planned… I’ve got a really cool idea of where I want to go with that and that would be an end game for me because I’ve always, as you know, always flirted with the entertainment and the production side of things. And that’s what I’m ultimately passionate about is creating content and projects that I’m proud of and that will entertain and inspire people. That would be an end game for me.
Charan: Yeah. Well, that’s so awesome, too, because I remember even doing Inspired Guns, it was so refreshing, because I think up till that point, I had done a bunch of different Utah projects that were lower-budget, but they didn’t have that type of business mindset that I immediately felt on Inspired Guns. I thought that was a very cool thing.
Michael: Yeah, Adam and I that produced it, one of the reasons why it was like that is we got screwed on our first movie that we did.
Charan: No, I didn’t know you did a movie before.
Michael: We produced Chick Magnets.
Charan: Oh, okay. That’s right.
Michael: It was that Napoleon Dynamite-… vibe. It was actually a great film but some things happens. It’s on Amazon. Both of our movies are on Amazon, if you want check them out. Quick plug.
Charan: That was great. Thank you.
Michael: Yeah. The producer that we did that with and the director, he actually embezzled all the money. And we ended up losing more money, and we had to actually threaten to get legal action and the FBI involved.
Charan: No way.
Michael: And we had to seize control the film, and it was really ugly. Nothing ever happened with that movie like it should have, because of the circumstances. It was a “learn from that,” like I said, before you learn from those experiences, those failures and make them better. The next thing that I do, I’ve not really done a lot of film past few years, is I want to take what I learned prior, and Adam’s doing the same thing right now. He’s just wrapping up another project that he leveled up. He took what he learned, doing it better, doing it differently this time. And that’s what I’ll do as well. And that’s why it was like that is because of past experiences.
Charan: Well, I remember the two of you guys. You guys’s approach to it was really refreshing. I really loved it. It was funny, because just a couple years ago, I worked with Adam on some commercials; I acted in some commercials that he directed. And it’s for his own company. And apparently those commercials killed it for him. And he’s like, dude… They still get me a lot of work or a lot of business in his SEOJet company. But it was interesting, because I was like, man, if people could take that type of approach a little bit more. I mean, look, yes, you want to make a good film, you want to tell a good story, all those things are absolutely important. But I remember having conversations with another friend of mine who wanted me to help him raise money for his suspense movies, he’s doing it.
Charan: And he’s a talented filmmaker. But I said, “This is great. The story you pitched me is great. So what are you going to do for getting distribution, getting the money back for investors?” And he’s like, “Well, no, we’re going to make a really good movie.” And I’m like, “Again, it’s so great. I’m so excited.” And then I kept asking him again, and he didn’t have a plan. He didn’t have a plan. And I remember being like, “Dude, the thing, dude, you’ve got to come up with a very solid strategy.”
Michael: And these days, you have to… And this is not just in film, but this is in business, right? You have to reverse engineer what your goal is, right. And if you don’t have that in mind, if you don’t have what your purpose is, what you’re trying to do, and you don’t start with the end in mind, then your chance of success is very, very low. Like I said in film and in business, people go back and “if I build it, they will come, if I start this… if I make this business, then I’ll be successful. And if I’m passionate about it…” Well, no, dude, you got into a business where there’s no market for it. If you’re the most successful, you’ve got a micro-niche of a micro-niche in there; there’s no market.
Charan: You’ve heard of the “red ocean, blue ocean” strategy, right? Have you heard of that whole thing?
Michael: Uh-uh (negative).
Charan: It’s really cool. But the red ocean is where all the sharks are. So if you’re creating something where all the sharks are, then you’re not going to have traction; you’re going to be able to stand out. If you find a blue ocean, where it’s your own niche, it’s your own thing, that’s great. But if you create, if it’s like a blue pond, there’s just no market at all; it’s like a tiny little thing where you’re swimming. You’re not going to get anything anyway. You’ve got to find that middle ground, right?
Michael Hardle Talks About Joy
Charan: I think that’s just an important mindset that you have to wrap into as you move forward and create projects and businesses and all that fun stuff. I want to shift the conversation a little bit, just wrapping things up a little bit. What brings you the greatest amount of joy right now?
Michael: My family and my kids. It is what it is, everything. I think people have to have their priorities straight. I talked to some friends, an entrepreneurship group about this the other day, and when you have your priorities crystal clear like that, it makes all your other decisions easy.
Charan: So much easier.
Michael: Right now my priority is my family, spending the time maximizing my relationship with them. And so I was telling some of my co-workers or employees that, for me, everything is crystal clear. Here’s my priorities: my family, my faith, my fitness. I have my priorities. And so all my decision-making is very easy, right? I mean, if it’s a choice between work late or go to my kids’ games or watch my daughter cheer or something like that, it’s a very easy choice for me because that decision’s already made based on what’s my priority. That brings me joy and then, honestly, doing things like this, sharing any insight, any positivity, any slight inspiration. I just had a conversation with one of my guys yesterday, and I said, “Look, man, I care as much about seeing you win as I do about money. I want you to make me money, but at the same time, I get as much value and satisfaction and happiness from helping from that EQ, that human capital, than I do actual money.”
Charan: I love that EQ, man, yeah. [crosstalk 00:38:35].
Michael: Yeah. And that’s another huge thing for me is trying to add value and build a legacy as small or as big as I can. And I try to take that… I visualize my funeral. I visualize the end, and I think, who would… How can I have the impact that I want? And who would be there and what would they say about me as a human, as somebody that helped them in their life or what positive or negative things would people say? And I try to reverse engineer my life around that.
Charan: I love, that man, reverse engineering your life around your funeral?
Michael: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Charan: Then that’s a very powerful thing, right? Excuse me. It’s interesting, because last year when the world turned upside down, a lot of people suffered. A lot people, their mindsets, everything, just freaked out, right?
Michael: Your friend Jared Phillips.
Charan: Yep. I was just going to mention Jared Phillips.
Michael: We worked with.
Charan: Yeah. And it was such an interesting thing, because Jared Phillips also worked on the movie Alien Country that I just really did. And he was one of the producers on it. And I remember having conversations with him and he was really suffering. I remember that. And I remember the amount of pain that he was going through. And we had some really deep, poignant conversations, and at the end, he left early because he was taking a lot of medication and he couldn’t survive the night shoots. And we didn’t want him to stick around for night and then possibly fall asleep while he was driving, right? He took off, but he hugged me goodbye. And I remember just what a sweetheart he was. And what a good, good guy.
Charan: And so the news hit all of us hard. Oh my gosh, poor Jerry took his life. But it made me really think, how do you add more value in a world that’s suffering? It’s feeling the heaviness; it’s feeling downtrodden. But I appreciate what you just barely said, because you just said “more than even making myself money, seeing somebody else succeed and being able to empower somebody else to succeed and see them, have a light in their eyes.” That’s powerful stuff. That’s very, very important, I think, because it’s too much if you’re only just looking out for yourself, then you’re going to find that your life was not worth it. You know what I mean?
Michael Hardle Talks About His Greatest Fear
Charan: You don’t feel like you really made that impact. I love that. That is a huge part of what brings you joy, is being able to give to other people. What’s your greatest fear right now?
Michael: My greatest fear — we’ve been talking about it — is that I’m going to have regrets one day or that I’m going to feel like I didn’t fulfill my potential. I think about it often and it helps me, I’m middle-aged now, despite what I may think.
Charan: What are you talking about? You look like you’re just over 20.
Michael: You make decisions and everything is… my fears are that I’m going to end up unhappy or unfulfilled. When you have that as your motivating factor, like I said, decisions are easy, and I’m always wanting to go out and experience life and do what’s next. Yeah, that’s my greatest fear.
Charan: Oh, man. That’s good. A healthy dose of that fear, I think, will keep the fire burning and keep it going so you’re able to keep on doing things to fulfill you and other people. Because it is true. I often think about that too. What would be some of the greatest regrets? And I think for me it’s if I don’t make quality memories with the people that I love, I would regret that a lot. I try to do that. And that comes in a lot of different ways, right? But I think if having good conversations like this and being able to connect with old friends and then lift each other up, especially during these tough times, I think to me that makes it so when I look back; I don’t regret that. Those are beautiful moments. But the moments that I feel like I regret right now when I look back is the time when I was too focused on school to look at just my friends.
Michael: Living life.
Michael Hardle’s Advice to His Younger Self
Charan: And living life. I know that’s an easy thing that sometimes I slip into because I’m a workaholic and I have to remember work is great. but I also need to spend time with good people, so I love them. Okay. Last question. What would be the advice you would give your younger self?
Michael: To figure out who I am and much earlier, right? And what I mean by that is, or don’t be afraid to follow what’s in your heart. Again, sounds cliché, but you hear a lot of people say stuff like that. And it’s because it’s true. I wasted a lot of time on things that weren’t in line with what my ultimate goals were. And there was a time when I didn’t even know… I would never tell anybody that I had my real estate license and I also had this and I own this other business. I tried to keep everything separate because-
Charan: Compartmentalize it.
Michael: Compartmentalize and keep life separate, because I didn’t want anybody to think that I would be less of this because I was also doing this or whatever. And it takes… you have to unlearn some of these societal pressures. And fortunately, I feel like one of the good things about our site and culture now is it’s almost too much work, do what you love, do what makes you feel good, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But that’s the millennial generation, which I barely missed. There’s a lot of negatives with the millennials, but they’re much more dialed into what makes them happy, right? Pursue what makes you happy. I think of a funny conversation I had with my dad one time. And he was like — I was going to go sell my bullet bike and go to this acting school in California — and he was like, “No, that’s a bad idea.” And from him that was a standpoint of love and it was… “That doesn’t work out; actors suck; that’s a bad life.”
Charan: Yeah, they’re the worst.
Michael: I’m preaching to the choir, you know what I mean?
Charan: Trust me, I know.
Michael: And I was like, “What if somebody would have told you that you couldn’t be this or whatever in your life?” I’m like, “What did you want to do?” He said, “I wanted to be a forest ranger, but my dad told me that was stupid. So I’d went and did this.” And I just think about that often, that people who know what they want to do and what makes them happy and pursue that is, is what I try to instill in my kids. That’s what I wish that I knew earlier is… And I found that out, well, relatively early, I feel like. But people who know what the life they want to live and what makes them happy that’s… Man, if you’re happy, I see some of these people that are a river guide and live on very little money and do what they love and fish all the time or whatever but don’t necessarily have the life I want, but they’re happy as heck.
Michael: I love that. I hope that that’s what I try to teach my kids is, “Great, you want to be a nurse, you want to do this, or you want to go to school, or you don’t want to go to school? That’s great, but just do what makes you happy.”
Charan: Dude, I think that’s such profound advice. It’s funny, because my dad, I remember was always, “Be a doctor.” A typical… right? And I’m like, “Dad, I pass out over blood. So I don’t know if it’s going to work out for me.”
Michael: But then there’s lawyers.
Charan: Then there’s lawyers, right? But I’ve been able to fulfill that dream for him because I play doctors and lawyers on TV. I took pictures, and I send it to him, and I’m like, “Hey, Dad, look, you wanted a doctor? You got one. You just didn’t specify if it was an actor or not.” But no, it’s very interesting, because when I chose to do acting, I remember I was like, “Well, it’s going to be an up and down path, for sure.” But there’s this thing. In fact, I just heard about this other day. Have you heard of FOPO before? You’ve heard of FOMO?
Charan: Yeah, fear of missing out. But FOPO is fearing other people’s opinions. And I used to have FOPO all the time. And I finally realized, oh, my gosh, having FOPO makes me very unhappy. I realized, okay, like you, reverse engineering my life. And I thought, if I get old and I look back at my life, and I regret anything, what would it be? And I knew if I never give acting a shot, I would regret it. I’m like, well, I might as well just go for it while I can. I had nothing really stopping me except for my own excuses my mind was making. I went for it. Man, I’m so grateful I did. That was back in 2004. And now I look and I’m, wow, I’ve really made a living as an actor. Have I made tons and tons and tons of money? No, absolutely not, but can I pay myself? Can I support myself? Can I pay my bills? Absolutely. And so I’m like, wow, I would not have had it any other way?
Michael: Yeah, that FOPO is real.
Charan: It is real.
Michael: And that’s probably one of the most prevalent things that holds people back is fear of other people’s opinion. And one of the things that has been a fortunate byproduct for me of the past year and a half and the pandemic and all the craziness of the world is I don’t care about FOPO anymore. And for a long time, I would think that I didn’t, or I say that I didn’t, but I simultaneously wanted everybody to like me and wanted everybody to have a favorable opinion of me. And that’s just not a reality, you know what I mean? And that FOPO right there holds so many people back. It goes back to what I was saying initially, that holds people back from pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams, pursuing any of their life dreams, pursuing a career path that’s not in line with what society expects, or what their-
Charan: Yeah. The culture is [crosstalk 00:48:52].
Michael: Or even having an opinion, right. And we live in a modern society and especially with social media, where everybody is so scared of other people’s opinions that you post anything online, and it’s just like this toxic dumping grounds of discourse. It literally restricts people from doing what they want, and it causes so much unhappiness. And that fear of other people’s opinion right now… You look at skyrocketing anxiety and depression and suicide rates. And the way that our culture and our society is evolving, and so much of that is because of the fear of other people’s opinions.
Charan: Yeah. And it’s so interesting. That’s one of the things where… The older I’ve gotten, the more I’m like, wow, how trapped I have been in my own mental prison because of FOPO.
Charan: Right. And if you can just let that go and be, you know what, I just need to go and be and just shine and do the things that I was meant to do.
Michael: It’s so freeing.
Charan: It’s so freeing.
Michael: And really if you’re struggling with unhappiness and anxiety — a lot of people do struggle with legitimate mental illness.
Michael: But a lot of it is caused by this prison of what other people think or what they’re supposedly doing. And it drives so much unhappiness. And so just get clear with who you are, what you want to do, what you want to be, and let other people’s opinion go. And it takes active practice to… It holds people back from posting things they want to post, from saying the things that they want to say, from pursuing the career path that they want to do, all because they’re scared of being judged. If you can overcome that, that will unlock a level of happiness and peace within yourself that most people don’t ever get experience.
Charan: Man, when you do experience that, it is life-altering. It’s life-altering. Dude, this has been epic, man. I appreciate you coming on and sharing these incredible thoughts with me. Yeah, man, it’s been so good to catch up and to hear all these wonderful things.
Michael: Yeah, absolutely.
Charan: Any last words before we wrap up?
Michael: No, this conversation drifted all over the place, but I love how my mind works. When you’re talking about ADD, I told my wife one time that my mind is like fireworks, right? I’m always looking at the next thing blowing up in the sky. That’s how this podcast works.
Charan: Well, dude, your first job you sold used fireworks; it’s a sign of what your life was going to be.
Michael: Hey, there we go. Yep.
Charan: That’s awesome.
Michael: I still love fireworks.
Charan: I know. Me too. Me too, man. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, man, for joining me.
Michael: Appreciate it. Thanks to you and your team, Charan.
Charan: Yep, of course.
Michael: It was great catching up and you guys have a… you’re doing a great thing here.
Charan: Thank you so much, man.
Michael: Appreciate it.
Charan: Yep, take care.
Michael: Thanks, guys.
Charan: Thanks so much for listening to the Lemonade Stand podcast. And we hope you enjoyed this episode. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you use to be alerted when we release new episodes. We’d also love to hear your feedback in the reviews and if you or someone you know has an awesome Lemonade Stand story, please reach out to us on social media and let us know. Thanks so much and have a great day.