268: Mental Health As An Organizational Reality, With Josh Rivedal

June 27, 2023

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Dr. Pelè (00:00):

Hello, happy people. Welcome to the Profitable Happiness Podcast. Hello everyone. This is Dr. Pelè with the Profitable Happiness Podcast, and today it is my pleasure to introduce to you Josh Rivedal, who is a mission driven speaker, educator, storyteller, and get this standup comic, but he's actually an author, right? A really powerful author, and a nonfiction and fiction editor, ghost writer. Josh, you have so many things going for you on your resume. I'm gonna have to let you tell some of this story. But he is also the founder and c e o of the "I'm Possible" Project. Josh Rivedal. How are you doing today,

Josh Rivedal (00:44):

Man, Dr. Pelè! I am so glad to be spending some time with you. This is, this is a real treat, so, uh, I'm great. Good to be here. Thank you. Thank you, thank you.

Dr. Pelè (00:53):

Awesome. You know, Josh, I've watched some of your videos where you're talking to college students and organizations about the ideas surrounding, you know, wellness and, you know, emotional success at work. And, and you've gotten some different ways of describing things, but I'll let you sort of lead with this. What exactly are the challenges that you see with organizations when you go talk with them?

Josh Rivedal (01:16):

Yeah, so that's, thanks for asking. Um, I think what ends, like the broad strokes is they recognize we have a problem with our, with our people's wellness, right? Something happens. So there's like a reactive side, there's a proactive side. On the reactive side there, it might be change management, right? Like, we're going through something, we're doing something new. We're, we're, we're consolidating. People are worried, people are upset. There's a lack of engagement, there's a lack of whatever. I'm not gonna come in on the logistical side, but I'm gonna come in on the emotional wellness side, on the, on sort of the culture change management side. And either, you know, deliver a speech or do some workshop or, or, you know, do some kind of curriculum, that kind of thing. Uh, you know, general lack of engagement might be another reason. Um, uh, some, you know, because I do work in suicide prevention as well.

Uh, it might be, uh, you know, uh, uh, a colleague or somebody outside the workplace or, or, you know, somebody third tier. And so they want me to come in and maybe do what's called postvention, which is still, again, the emotional wellness side and, and sort of figuring that out. And then, then there's the proactive side, and that's more so, hey, it's mental health awareness month, or mental illness awareness month. Can you do something to positively impact, uh, what we want to do for our culture and what we want to do individually and organizationally, you know, um, how we can have more productive and engage employees and just be more productive. Yeah. So, yeah.

Dr. Pelè (02:41):

You know, I love the way you've, you've sort of separated the reactive versus the proactive. It almost sounds to me like most people are focused on the reactive, right? Yeah. And, and you help them see that there's a need for that balance. But something that you've mentioned I think is really important is the whole question of mental health. You know, I'm really intrigued by that. When people think of mental health, this is my assessment anyway, um, I find that far too many people think of problems, like something's wrong. Maybe you've got schizophrenia, or you've got your bipolar, I mean, like way extremes of having a mental health difficulty. Whereas it sounds to me like for you and the way you explain mental health, we all have mental health, just like I have a physical health, I gotta take walks in the morning proactively, or, or, you know, something like that. There's a physical health and there's mental health, and you can't make mental health only about what's going wrong with you. Is that correct?

Josh Rivedal (03:37):

That is absolutely a hundred percent correct. Uh, and I'm so glad you brought that to light, because some of my work does involve the vocabulary side, because we aren't on the same page about what it is. So mental health, it's just our psychological and emotional wellbeing. That's it. It's neither good nor bad, positive and negative. It's neutral, right? So when I'm educating, when I'm talking to my friends, uh, and it, you know, casually gets strapped into the conversation when I'm talking to corporations, whatever, I don't even use like good or bad, positive or negative. I'm like, efficient or inefficient, um, healthy or, you know, might, might be struggling, something like that. And I don't just focus on the struggle side, I also focus on the triumphs, right? So like, I live, and then, and then on the, on the other side of it, you mentioned schizophrenia, right?

So the problems I live with depression, chronic clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder. And so these two things, I don't just talk, I do talk about how to cope and how I cope, and that they look different on different people. But to your point, I'm not just talking about the struggles. I'm also talking about the triumphs, that I'm able to use them as tools that I don't run from them. I lean into them because they have something to offer me and, and, and lessons and, and ways to do differently, healthier, better. So thanks for leading over of that question. This this is really, really astute of you.

Dr. Pelè (04:52):

Well, you know, I have to ask you now, one of my favorite questions is, what's your story? Because, you know, I, I know that, uh, you know, in fact, I have a, a a thing on my wall here that says, A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. Mm-hmm. And you're, to me, I know your story, so I'm kind of giving this away. But to me, you are a true leader in that sense, because you have lived this story. Tell us a little bit about how you became Josh Vidal, the guy who goes out there and helps people with the mental health stuff, the suicide prevention stuff. How did you become Joshua Vidal?

Josh Rivedal (05:29):

Uh, thanks. So I, uh, grew up in Jersey. Uh, grew up in trauma. Uh, just had a, a, unfortunately, a a physically and emotionally abusive parent, my father. And so one of the things I learned early on is if I was funny, uh, I would escape some of that trauma. And so that was, that sort of led led me to that, uh, acting show business e kind of stuff was always in my periphery be, and, and in, in front of me because I, I also grew up in church, so it was also singing, saw my parents doing that. So that was, you know, artistic and creative expression was a big part of my life. And then as I started to get older in like high school and early college, it, it wasn't as much as an art as it was an escape, right? And emotional escape, but also an escape from that.

That, uh, environment was getting less toxic, but it was still that. And so age 19 moved out, uh, did what a lot of people with a bad childhood do, moved to New York City, became a professional actor, <laugh>. Uh, so started doing that. I didn't get into show business. I had a good childhood, right? Um, and, uh, so, uh, so started doing that, um, comedy show business, you know, I was doing singing, writing, you know, all that. Some of the stuff that we talked about. And just, just really threw myself in with abandon to that. Um, was emotionally struggling. Didn't know that I had too undiagnosed mental illnesses, uh, you know, struggled a bit emotionally and just in life. And then age 25, uh, my dad, uh, and my parents broke up. My dad died by suicide. Um, and my grandfather, his father died in the 1960s.

And that was something we never talked about in the home. My mom told us in secret, she really just told me in secret. I think she told my sister too, who's a year older. But nevertheless, uh, I got that at age 12, but was never able to express and talk about that with my dad, and never got anything around hope and healing. Um, and so age 25, my dad dies, and I'm just sort of like, oh my gosh, what am I doing with my life? And I'm struggling? And just, uh, the next couple years were in SCO and trauma and chaos and, uh, was losing relationships. Um, you know, was going through a lot of un uh, you know, just, uh, just change, you know, just multiple major changes. And I didn't know what, at the time, I know it now, a lot of major changes all at once can be a catalyst, not cost or so suicidal ideation.

And that plus the undiagnosed, uh, mental illnesses and of of few other things, I nearly attempted suicide myself. Uh, early 2011, about, uh, 20 months after I lost my dad, I ended up getting help, uh, after nearly attempting. And, um, uh, I was back in school as an non-traditional age students. So I got, you know, through the university's counseling center, through friends, through family. Um, and in between losing my dad in this crisis, I wrote a one man show, which is 16 characters that I, you know, I play all of 'em. It's sort of a combo between standup and traditional theater. And then the, and, and the very end of that piece talked a little bit about my dad's death and how I dealt with that. And people were connecting with me at the time in New York City and in Philadelphia. And it got good reviews.

Uh, and they were wanted to talk about their experience as a survivor of loss. And I was trying to be present, but I didn't quite get it. And, and after, so then fast forward, after I went through my crisis, I realized, wait a minute, I have a tool and a story to be able to affect change for others, right? Like, cuz I re like at the time I thought I was the only one going through what I was going through. Turns out I wasn't. Right. And there's a lot of people struggling on a variety of things in a variety of ways. And if I could be helpful in that way before I even knew that I was able to be helpful, right? Like, like, you know, in between losing my dad and my crisis, then maybe I could be intentional about it. So I got trained, I started, you know, researching.

I went, you know, through some human capital management training. I got some suicide prevention and mental health training paired that stuff, a keynote, um, and, uh, and, and a q and a and put that together, uh, at, at this point it was at a college. Uh, the corporate stuff didn't get developed till later, but a young man, you know, waited around till the end of the event and just was like, basically like, I've been depressed for as long as I can remember. I've been suicidal for about a month. I didn't know I could get help for these things. I thought it was normal. I know they're not, now I'm gonna go get help at the counseling center. And I was like, holy cow. Like, you know, I'm gonna keep doing this. Uh, and so I did. And so here we are, you know, 500 some odd presentations later.

Um, there's some curriculum, you know, and so it's just this ongoing sort of learning the, you know, learning the ropes, this ongoing education ongoing, like, how can I be more helpful? What can I do to have a bigger and better and healthier conversation around this? Now we're integrating comedy, right? Like that's a big piece of it, a little bit. You know, now we're integrating food, now we're integrating bias and, and, and change management and things like that. So any way that I can plug a gap, um, is where I am. So it's going through those struggles and going through those crises, you know, being a storyteller, learning that I can combine the two. Um, and, and, uh, and then getting, seeing some positive results and be like, wow, okay, I need to continue being helpful and being service. So that's, that's a little bit of it in a semi chunky nutshell. <laugh>.

Dr. Pelè (10:29):

Well, you know, you know, uh, every time I listen to your story, I'm just fascinated, um, by all the pieces of your story and also by, by your many talents that you've brought to the fore as almost a, a, a healing mechanism. And, and, and I share that, cuz for me, music is a healing approach. And we both share music. You're a singer. Um, you know, sometimes our, our skills are the things that help us get over some of the things that we're dealing with. Um, but could, could you tell us a little bit more about all these talents that you've brought to the table? Because I'm fascinated. You've got, you're a cook. Okay, let's, let's start with that. You've got a, a great, you're like an artist, right? In terms of cooking, and you're also, of course, the standup comic we've talked about. And you're a singer dude, like, is your name Jack? Like mine is, you know, like got all these skills everywhere. But tell us a little bit about how skills, just talents have been so important to you.

Josh Rivedal (11:28):

Yeah. Uh, you know, it's, I'm just a curious person and, and I'm a creative person. And so, uh, this is probably gonna be an act three of what we talk about today. But I'm just gonna give a little foreshadowing that for me. And, and one of the ongoing things, especially the past 12 years, is like, how do I do the things that I like and love and make them push them all together so that I'm not having to toggle between different things in my brain and it's like really hard to transition from cooking to TaeKwonDo to this, to that, right? So how can I sort of bring them all together, even if it's just a little bit, and maybe I'll get to expand that piece a little bit later, but for now at least I'm touching on this, right? So, uh, so the cooking piece is a really big deal for me, and it has been for a little while, but it was one of the things that prompted that was like, Hey, turns out there are foods that help, uh, mitigate symptoms of depression and anxiety.

There's research peer-reviewed research out there. In fact, I ghost wrote something for somebody and they allowed me to go in that direction. So I touched on it lightly, um, and got to, so it sort of like on the job training, which was cool. And then I've integrated some of that into a men, you know, mental wellness and food talk, right? Um, and things to stay away from, things to be proactive about, uh, and stuff like that. And a offering, a cooking demo, and then the comedy, right? Like that's been ever present in my life for a while. But it got, it's gotten really serious in the past four years. Um, you know, I had some time over the pandemic to really refine it and do it virtually and in person a little bit. And then just putting it together. And I was like, I really like comedy.

I don't really have time to do it outside of the mental health work. I'm throwing it on the front end of the, of the work and I'm, I'm doing, um, you know, I do TaeKwonDo and I have a black belt in that. And that's, that's my, that's for my wellness and that's just to keep, keep my brain and my body sharp because I'm either gonna pay for wellness now or I'm gonna pay for it later, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and doctors bills and things like that, right? So just being proactive about my physical wellness cuz I, you know, I don't really like running and lifting and things like that. So if, if I can do that and sort of be engaged, cuz I spend a lot of time alone as well because of being a writer and things like that. Um, singing is just, it's been, you know, since age six, right?

And being in choirs and all state choir in high school and college choirs and solo stuff and Broadway stuff. And, um, and every now and then, I, I pull that back out there. I have a little bit of comedy music, um, one of them's, uh, why Counter Hearts speak like Ikea furniture, easy to put together, hard to take apart <laugh>. Um, I've done, uh, one called I'm just a straight white guy singing about diversity, which is silly, but semi-serious. Um, and so, uh, yeah, just anything I can do just to be creative and just to sort of find another way to solve problems and, and to, uh, you know, you talk about in your book the You demonic happiness, right? What are the meaningful and purposeful things that I can do to continue to add on to my life and get better at those things? Um, you know, and what story am I telling with my life? Yeah. Um, I, I get to write that story and so if I get to write that story, then I get to be creative and curious about these different things. So, um, it just keeps me, keeps me, you know, buoyant throughout the day.

Dr. Pelè (14:41):

That's, that's powerful. I just love the fact that you are the product and the example, um, um, of the things that you help other people with. There's really no, no more powerful way to do it. And when you talk about being proactive with wellness and really focusing on wellness, you know, not just as a problem, but before it's a problem. Just always using every talent and skill you have to support a wellness culture. I really find that powerful. But before we talk about how, because for me, you know, a lot of people might be listening to this and going, you know, I get it, but how do I go from A to B? Like, you know, here's where we are today as an organization, our employees, we may not be focusing on wellness the way we need to be. How do we get to where we need to be? But before we talk about how you have an organization with the powerful little name that I want to just understand a little better mm-hmm. <affirmative>, what does the I'm Possible Project mean?

Josh Rivedal (15:35):

Yeah. Well, so I started this, uh, I've been doing the work for, for, uh, 11 years, but I started it about nine and a half years ago officially because I noticed that storytelling is such a powerful piece. Like, I was telling my story and then people were coming to me and telling me their story afterwards, you know, about anything and everything. Like, you know, 10% hopeful, a hundred percent hopeful. Mm-hmm. And sometimes it was the first time they talked about that thing, or the, the first time they talked about it in years. And it was not just benefiting them, but it was also benefiting me. So I was like, alright, how do I start something from a place of storytelling? So I gave some of these storytellers a platform first. It was a, a blog, uh, then it was a series of books, right? So we have something like 140 storytellers between five books, and it's a little like a gritty version of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

And so the Impossible Project really is, is is an organization based in storytelling. It, it really, uh, it's the oldest thing that human beings that and fire. But I'm not allowed to do that in a room. So I'm gonna tell my story <laugh>, um, and, uh, and, and I'm gonna allow people to find ways to connect to theirs and tell it in a variety of contexts. And it doesn't have to be with words, right? It could be with your resume, it could be with, you know, it could be with your, you know, with your direct report. It could be as an organization. Uh, so there's a lot of ways that we can tell stories. Um, and it doesn't have to be the way that Josh does it, right? But just allowing people to say, see, to see what's possible and to say, oh, wow, this is not impossible. I'm possible. Mm-hmm.

Dr. Pelè (17:05):

Right? Mm-hmm. Deep stuff. Now, if you were to go into an organization and someone asks you, okay, well here we are. How do we get from A to B? Do you have a three step plan, a 12 step plan, or some kind of a process that people could follow very high level that would take them from wherever they are in their organization now to being a proactive wellness organization?

Josh Rivedal (17:31):

Yeah, I think, I think it's, I think for starters, I think it, there needs to be a, a commitment first. Like, we know we need this, uh, we need to get on board, not just top down, because there, because there's leaders who don't have an official title, right? And, and any, uh, organization, big or small, right? So getting the buy-in of folks and saying, why are we doing this? Why do we want to be more, well, why do we want to be healthier? What, what might that, what could that look like? Right? So like probably before I come in, it's probably noticing that we can probably do dif differently, healthier, better. And it probably comes from a reactionary place. Like, we're not making as much money. Um, are, we took some survey and they're not engaged, right? There's a, we have a lot of turnover, right?

So there's, so there's sort of these indicators that, that say there's a problem, right? Um, and so usually the, I mean, you talked about it and I did say reactive in the beginning. It is, it's usually reactive, right? Yeah. So we're, most of us aren't in a place of being proactive just yet, hoping that changes soon. Um, so that's probably step one. So I think, you know, whether you decide to bring Josh in or Dr. Parlay or any, anyone, I think it's really sitting down and saying like, Hey, what can we do better, differently, healthier? Um, what would it look like if, what would it sound like if asking these big questions, right? So it'd be, step one would be sort of getting those people, those stakeholders together. Um, and, and really having that conversation. Step two, having someone come in, uh, and, and either do an assessment, right?

So it might be, um, you know, a diagnostic or something like that. And or, uh, having an educational session in on, Hey, what does wellness look like on an organizational level, on an individual level, on a spiritual level, on an emotional level, right? Because they all tie together and it's a little disingenuous. Even if it focuses, even if it's the 90% of it's focused on organizational wellness, we can't not talk about the rest because they all tie in together. And if we don't focus on all of it, some of it's, it's just gonna fall apart at some point, right? So it's, we, you know, we talk about the eight dimensions of wellness. So that's, that's one element. And then, you know, the, the, the, one of the simplest, I guess step three would be then to, uh, to take baby steps in the direction of, all right, so what are the things that we need to do?

What are those KPIs, those K performance indicators? And then how do we measure that, right? So what do we look, and, and it's all measurable. And I love in your book too, like how you talk about we can measure happiness. Yes, we can. Right? We can do that. Right? And, and, and I mean, with my work, cause I don't always just do, uh, keynote, it's a big chunk of what I do because it's gen generally what people have the time for, uh, and the energy for. But, um, when, when they offer me, me, the opportunity to do some curriculum and workshop work and, and checking in and a little consulting, we're measuring that right? Attitudes, right? Um, you know, uh, what's happening in the aftermath and things like that. So, uh, I think it's recognition, education, uh, uh, baby steps and measurement.

Dr. Pelè (20:33):

Love that. Love that. Um, you know, so anybody listening or watching <laugh> get ready to measure, because if you don't measure what, what, where you are in terms of organizational health, you won't know where you need to be or what progress you've made. Powerful stuff there. Josh, let me ask you if maybe we could shift the conversation a little bit to what I like to talk about, which is the intersection between your topic and mind. So how does mental health intersect with happiness, employee happiness, profitable happiness? You know, first of all, I know that the, by by definition, as I mentioned earlier, when people hear mental health, they, they put it way over there in a category of we got a problem, <laugh>. Whereas the truth is, mental health is even happiness. Like being happiness, any emotion is a state of your mental health, just like being awake is a state of your physical health, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I'm wondering, where do you see the intersection in organizations? Where do they need to talk about mental health versus employee happiness and things like that?

Josh Rivedal (21:43):

Everywhere, <laugh> everywhere. Like, it so intersects, like when I was reading your book, I just, I was like, man, this and this and this. It was like, it was like being in my own little church. Like, amen. Amen. <laugh>, right? Uh, you know, it's, um, it know, like, it, it goes back to the, the spokes, right? This is a wheel of wellness and, and, and, and happiness encompasses all of it, and mental wellness touches all of it, right? So, um, it's, it's finding meaning and purpose and creating that, like I remember in the very beginning of, of this journey that we're talking about, so about twelve-ish years ago, um, reading the Art of Hap uh, the Art of Happiness at Work by the Dalai Lama mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, and it was just like, you know, making meaning, you know, we are storytelling machines, right? So we get, we get a chance to choose the story that we want to tell inside of our heads, right?

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So for me, I'm, I'm looking at like, all right, so what's the lesson in that thing that went poorly or my report, the, my boss said this, right? And I didn't like the way I way it was said, is this an opportunity to set a boundary? Is this an opportunity for me to learn about bias? Is this an opportunity for X, y, or Z? Right? So that's, so there's some reframing, some psychological reframing Yeah. On, on, on that end, right? So how am I gonna tell that story? Um, and then connecting it, anything and everything to meaning and purpose, right? So I don't see in the moment that doing this, that, that crafting this widget is anything important turns out on the backend. It's the difference between that baby getting that formula and and starving, right? Yeah. It's, it's, it's the difference between your kid going to college, uh, and, and not being able to do the thing that they want to do, right?

So it's about short-term and long-term orientation as well. So I think it goes back that happiness is finding meaning and purpose, and that's part of mental health, right? It's, it's, it's how we're engaging and being proactive, um, about everything that we're doing and being cognizant and aware and not, not, it's tough. Sometimes we want to be on autopilot. I find myself around nine 30 to 10 o'clock at night and it's time for autopilot, Josh, right? But for the rest, cuz it's tough. We go through a long day, it's hard, you know, we were bombarded with a lot of things, but during the, the, the regular sort of working hours of the day, like, how can I be proactive about making meaning and purpose, um, which tie into mental health? Um, just about out of, just about everything.

Dr. Pelè (24:12):

Yeah. Y you know, I, I think it, it's the unseen, the the invisible aspect of both physical health and mental health that make it such a sort of a nebulous, you know, conversation. You know, I mean, okay, say I want to, I wanna lose 30 pounds, I can't see the 30 pounds, I'm gonna lose <laugh>. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it's just not something I can, you know, pull out and see, you know, over time I have to develop habits of eating better, of, of walking, maybe running whatever it is I do. And somehow those actions will slowly chip away and get me my 30, 30 pounds. Same thing with mental health. We can't see our mental health. It's not easy to visualize. So we have to figure out ways, and I think you've talked about them to make proactive behaviors that get us in a stable and positive mental health. So I think that's just such an important topic. I hope anyone listening can take, take your approach to mental health being a proactive process and just go get solutions. And one of them should be call Josh <laugh>.

Josh Rivedal (25:20):

I love that. Um,

Dr. Pelè (25:22):

What, what are you, what you excited about next? What are you working on right now? And, and what can people, how can people get ahold of you?

Josh Rivedal (25:29):

Oh, what am I working on next? How people go? Uh, so I'm working on a, uh, a storytelling curriculum for, in internally for a business that ties in mental health, although they don't know it yet, but there is some, some, because it all ties in, but I Yeah, it does to say it right. Yeah. But, so I'm working on that, uh, I'm working on a book about, uh, financial wellness and mental health. Mm. And it's toward, uh, college and, uh, college students and incoming college students. Mm-hmm. Um, constantly working on comedy and my routine. So, uh, I've got some, a lot of time set, set up for that over the summer. Um, I'm gonna be making a good meal tonight, so we're, I'll be working on that. Uh, gosh

Dr. Pelè (26:09):

Darn it. I'm not over there. I can't eat it.

Josh Rivedal (26:11):

Yeah. Well I'll tell you what, Dr. Dr. Belay, I, this is sort of my trademark. Anytime a friend comes into town or anytime I meet somebody and they're kind enough to open their door to me, I'm like, can I cook tonight?

Dr. Pelè (26:22):

Aw, that's so cool. I

Josh Rivedal (26:23):

Love that. Yeah. And, and I usually get to that. I usually, uh, get taken up on that offer. Um, so, uh, that's fun for me. Um, uh, get in touch with me, josh@iampossibleproject.com. Josh iam possible project.com. I'm on Instagram, I'm on Facebook. I'm not super active on those places cuz it just takes a lot outta my head. Yeah. But you can reach out to me there. I'm there. You can get on me, you know, www.iampossibleproject.comjoshuart.com. Uh,

Dr. Pelè (26:55):

I'll also include your LinkedIn because that's where we met and, and, um, right. Um, definitely have that in the, in the show notes. Josh, I wanna thank you so much, uh, for bringing your talents, your humility, your depth of wisdom, um, to, to the Profitable Happiness Podcast. You're just a, a breath of fresh air and I can't wait to taste your cooking. <laugh>.

Josh Rivedal (27:16):

Yes, you, uh, it's, it's on, it's on like dunk gum and I just want to give you a little shout out like you're living your message and your profitable happiness and how you treat people and how you show up. Cuz we've had private interactions and we've had this interaction and it's very, it's very consistent, um, ands to be celebrated and to be honored and, uh, and the people on, you know, who are watching and listening should know that. So, um, I,

Dr. Pelè (27:41):

I, I appreciate that, Josh. Hey, have a wonderful day and we'll talk soon. Okay?

Josh Rivedal (27:46):

Sounds good, doc. All right. All

Dr. Pelè (27:47):


Dr. Pelè (27:49):

Thanks for tuning in to the Profitable Happiness Podcast. For more episodes, visit dr pal.com. And remember, get happy first and success will follow.