Why do you matter? In this episode, Matthew Emerzian, the Founder and CEO at Every Monday Matters, joins Tanya Memme as they discuss the things that matter most, focused on making the world a better place. Get to know Mattew deeper as he shares his journey through the years and the lessons he’s learned along the way. From working with the biggest music artists in the world to building a not-for-profit organization, Matthew is helping individuals and organizations know their worth. Tune in and understand that you matter and cherish what you value most.
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Know Your Worth: Focusing On Things That Matter With Matthew Emerzian
We have Matthew Emerzian. Matthew, I met you years ago before I was ever on TV, barely an actress.
Doing some hosting things is what you were doing.
I was doing it a little bit but it was before I had gotten Sell This House and some of the other bigger shows. You hired me to work for you, do some red carpet events, and things like that for your nonprofit of which you’re the Founder, Every Monday Matters. Since then, you’ve written books. You’re an author, traveling the world speaking, and done TED Talks. I remember when you were starting this nonprofit and you were passionate about it because you had this flourishing job in the music industry, and then you’re realizing it wasn’t you. You quit. Talk about a whole pivot, turn around, and change of life in general, and then you start this nonprofit. You decide to give off your life and live a life of service. What you’re doing and everything that you represent is special. You gave me these books on Amazon. We’re in quarantine. This is Life Masters quarantine series.
It’s good for your series. You’ll get a lot of people at home.
The wind is blowing and you hear the birds in the trees. There is also sunset. I’m in California too.
In an hour, I might be up in the mountains. Who knows?
You never know. You can change it if you ever feel inclined. I’ve wanted you on the show for a while now. I want to talk about how this all started for you. We’re going to get into Every Monday Matters and everything that you do, which is incredible. How did this start for you? I know that you were into the music industry. You had a good job in the music industry. What happened that brought you to start your first nonprofit?
That’s a long story. We’ll take it in chunks. I worked in the music industry. I went to graduate school, UCLA, and got my Master’s in Business. After that, I was looking for the right job for me. I didn’t know what that was. I don’t know that I felt like business school was the right place for me, but it was going to give me my Master’s degree.
I remember back in those days, you want to take something. This is a good place to start because you can do a lot with that.
I thought, “Maybe I’ll meet some people and I’ll learn my way there or something.” What I learned was that I just don’t think business school was that creative and I had this creative side of me that I wanted to keep coming out. My best friend was in a band and he’s the lead singer. One night, we got together after I graduated from business school and we were having some beers and some other things. He got me primed. He’s like, “The reason I brought you here is because I want to know if you’ll be the manager of my band.” I said, “Yes.” We pulled out a Domino’s Pizza napkin and we wrote down this contract. “Matthew Emerzian is now the manager of Elephant Ride.” That moment became the first day in almost a ten-year career for me in the music industry.
It’s just an idea. Why would he choose you when you didn’t have any experience? He saw something in you and trusted you.
Trust was a big part of it, for sure. He also saw my passion for their music. The band’s no longer together. This was a long time ago, but it’s one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of them.
Are they still around?
No. They do reunion shows in LA every now and then. At the time, they were the band of LA and they sold out every venue. They have a crazy following. I love being a part of it, so I became a band manager. I had a hard work ethic. I also played water polo in college. I know what it means to get your butt kicked. I wanted to bring that to the band because, as you know in LA, there are many people that say, “I’m a musician. I’m a painter. I’m an actor.” If you ask them, “How many paintings do you paint a year?” They say, “One or two.” If I painted 1 or 2 paintings a year, I could call myself a painter as well. That’s BS.
Let’s either get honest with ourselves or stop doing what you’re doing here. I took the mentality to the band. I said, “If you’re going to say you’re a band and you’re musicians, you should be rehearsing 3 to 4 days a week. You should be playing shows once a month. Let’s go.” That mentality towards it is what they probably enjoyed the most. It was less about my connections in the beginning and more about getting them going and the engine turned on.
I love that they saw what they needed in you and you saw what you needed in them. You also had a specific work ethic. You had the tools innately to make a successful career out of this.
I’ve had it since I was born, honestly. My mom tells me all the time if I was the first, I’d be an only because I was always persistent and I never gave up easily. To this day, I’m the same way. Even fast forward to COVID-19 with all the struggles and everything, I’m not giving up. We’re going. I’ve always had that in me. I brought that to the band. They have the talent and it was a great combination. I heard about a gentleman named Robert Kardashian. This is pre-Keeping Up With the Kardashians. I only knew Robert from the OJ Simpson trial. That was my reference to him. What I didn’t know was that he was a music man and he had a successful music marketing company. We’re both Armenian. That was my only hook.
Use anything as you can. You’ve got to do what you got to do.
My idea was to create a farm system. He had contracts with all the record labels and I had access to the bands on the streets. We’re looking for deals. If I could bring him bands that he liked as well, and then he can help me shop them to labels, we could create this development machine, if you will.
Why him? You met him. You weren’t seeking out to meet him.
I heard about him, then I met him.
You’re like, “I’m going to use this one big contact I have and do what I can.” I love that you have that mentality and mindset towards it.
I wanted it to be good for him too. At the time, artist development was on the decline. You weren’t seeing A&R guys go to clubs and find bands anymore. It was getting harder for bands to get discovered. Radio wasn’t playing new music anymore and Napster was coming out. There was a big change in music going on. I felt like you had to be loud and you had to be that squeaky wheel and get in there to be a new artist or else you’re never going to have a fighting chance.
That was stressful on you and you’re new at this.
Yeah, but I was having fun and I loved it. I remember the day I went to Robert’s office and I had three CDs with me. Unfortunately, he didn’t love any of the music I brought him but he did like me. He offered me a job that day as his vice president and then I became senior vice president of his music marketing company.
That’s a big job. You have one band that you’ve been working with. How many years did you build the following for that band?
We were together for 4 or 5 years.
It was long, but not that long. It was enough to show somebody of that stature your next job moving forward as the senior vice president of marketing. That’s amazing.
You’re also dealing with a completely new world. You go from the Sunset Strip and now you’re dealing with bands like U2 and Usher.
What was it like? Was it like, “Here’s this job?” Did you leave the band? Were they okay with that?
I kept working with the band. My work definitely helped them, is what I thought. They’re my best friends and I love them and I would never leave them. That world was crazy for starters. I say this lovingly because I truly do love them. Kim, Khloé, and Kourtney all ran the front office. Every day was quite a unique ride at our offices alone. Their best friends were Brandy, Christina, Paris, and all that. I helped Robert Jr. with his college application. This is how far back that goes when he’s applying to USC. We worked all day and then at night. It’s dinners, parties, after-parties, and after-after-parties. It’s a lot. Even the best of us can chip away what you value and how you define success. It’s a matter of being seen, being known, having nice things, and lots of dangling carats. That HBO show, Entourage, is true.
I remember going through the same thing and it’s incredible because when it’s all taken away from you, which I also had that happen, you want it back so bad just to know it’s there. Going through it is tough. You feel like you’re keeping up with Hollywood. You’re constantly battling who am I through all of this? You go to the red carpet and you’re trying to prove something because you need to. It’s a whole thing.
You almost start living outside of your own body. It’s nothing about what you align with who you are as a person. It’s all about what other people will think and see you as. It’s a slippery slope and it’s a bummer because that’s not to say that acting or music is a bad thing when they’re beautiful. There are these creative expressions that are amazing. My favorite memories were being in a recording studio with a band and watching a vocalist lay down vocal tracks, harmonies, counter harmonies, and harmonies on the harmonies. You’re like, “Holy crap. This is incredible.” There’s beauty in it but there’s also a dark side and it can get the best of us for sure.
What was that like for you? What would you say was your biggest struggle? I know you eventually ended up leaving, and then started a nonprofit. That is a humongous jump.
Clearly, I didn’t have the strength, fortitude, or creativity to figure it out myself. I was delivered a lovely panic attack that turned into chronic anxiety disorder and depression. On a Monday morning, hence the name Every Monday Matters, I woke up to this health scare and my health scare being a bad panic attack didn’t go away in three days. The doctor thought it would. It turned into a chronic mental illness.
Do you mean chronic mental illness as in depression because it’s more brought on mentally or as opposed to the outside influences? I don’t understand.Either get honest with yourself or stop doing what you're doing. Click To Tweet
Chronic is something like a panic attack. It might be an acute thing. It just happens and it hits you. People have suffered those things off and on, but they’re these moments in time and they come and they go. In hindsight, I realized I had already had a couple of those panic attacks. I just didn’t know what they were so I shrugged them off. Chronic is with me all day and in the middle of the night. I cannot shake it and I’m anxious and depressed 24/7. My life looks nothing like it used to be.
How do you think somebody gets there from living a life they don’t want to be living from outside and inside influences? Is it a mixture?
It’s a mixture of a lot of things. Number one, I always had a story of how my life was supposed to go and I realized that it wasn’t going at all like that. In paper, it was still a good life. There were things about it that weren’t right. I had major control issues. I wanted to build this empire. I wanted Virgil to be the next U2. I wanted it to be known as the greatest band manager since Paul McGuinness whose U2’s manager. I had these big ideas for how I thought my life was supposed to look. I had some stuff I felt I had to prove myself to some people. Not that they asked me to prove it to them, but I wanted to prove that I can leave this route of, “Go to college. Go to business school. Go to Corporate America.” Instead of taking that path like a lot of my friends in business school did, I can come over here, go into music, manage a band, build this other career, and be as successful. I had a lot of things going on.
Where do you think that comes from, Matthew? I went through similar things growing up. Do you think it’s more from your upbringing? Do you think it’s who you are? Is it something that you deeply were trying to prove to someone else? It’s different for everyone but where is it for you?
It’s a combination of things. Part of it is our wiring. We are who we are and that’s perfect. Part of it is societal pressures. Part of it is things that we’ve learned and what we let influence us, our exposure to certain things. One of the most important parts about at least I realized is that I had to take responsibility for where I was. I was suicidal on some days. I thought about getting in my car and making the wheel. I couldn’t dismiss it as something else. It wasn’t like the music industry was bad. It was that myself in it wasn’t working and that was up to me to figure out what part of me was not working. I went to work like I always do. I’ve got to figure this out because I can’t live this way. In the beginning, I thought, “I’m not going to take antidepressants. I’m not going to use Xanax.” Eventually, I’m like, “I’m going to use it to help me get through this.” I got lucky because I had enough resources that I was able to get an amazing therapist and I call her my expensive friend.
That’s what they are.
Everyone needs an expensive friend. Honestly, she saved my life. We went to work and she helped me see myself, my relationships, and the world in a whole new way.
You were living that Hollywood life. This and that and going out partying. Everything that goes with that.
Defying women thinking you’re cool, thinking the corner office and the business card, a house in the Hills, and you mattered.
It’s because of all that stuff. At the same time inside, you’re running, which causes this slow downward spiral, and then you finally hit your rock bottom. You have a massive panic attack and now it’s become chronic. What was your first step? What was that first thing that you did to start to come out of it? I ask every Life Masters this because when I was at my rock bottom, I had no help and I had no tools. That was the one question I wanted to be answered.
The thing that got me to move was desperation. I was desperate for help. Necessity is an amazing compeller of action. I had to do something. In some ways, it was the surrender. For the first time in my life, I surrendered and I said, “I’m sick. I’m not well. I need help.” That help came in the form of my mom and dad. It gives me goosebumps even saying that. My mom and dad coming down and helping me get through my day, whether that help might be going to see a therapist or getting an antidepressant, or whatever the help was. I had to say, “My program didn’t work, so I need to listen to other people who can master me and who know what they’re talking about.”
The pieces seem to fit over time but I will tell you, it wasn’t easy. It takes a ton of work and time but it’s worth it. That’s the part I never could have said back in that time like, “One day, I’ll be running a nonprofit organization. We’ll have millions of kids doing our school curriculum. I’ll be helping companies. I’ve written three books and have done TED Talks. All this is going to come from this moment in time of complete brokenness that one day, down the road, that’s what my life’s going to look like.” There was no way I could have imagined that. The only way it happened was this methodical, step by step process of putting in the work.
It’s interesting too because when you go through something like that, what I find fascinating is how it’s similar to a lot of the people that I’m interviewing. The first thing is realizing you have a problem, and then being still with that problem because when you try to make big decisions at that moment, they’re never going to be the right decision. They’re never going to be a decision that works. Even having tough conversations with certain people, it’s filled with misunderstandings and that’s the time when you need to be still.
It’s hard to be still. I wanted to be healed fast. I tell my therapist, “No, I’m coming back tomorrow.”
That’s who we are, work and achieve.
She’s like, “No. Let’s sit with what we talked about now, and then I’ll see you again next week.” That was hard because I had to sit in it for a lot more days. Ultimately, it’s what I had to do. My therapy looked like this. In the beginning, it was, “Stop the bleeding. The water is crashing on board the ship. We are in a crisis and we’ve got to slow this thing down.” There’s a lot of internal work that will have to go on. The second phase was, “Let’s start to look at our world around us more. Like our relationships and our work. How are things working for you? How are things, life-giving, life-taking, and these sorts of things?”
After that, the relational level. You’re a part of something bigger than yourself. She gave me the motto to live my life, “One day, when you live your life and you understand that it’s not about you, you’ll truly feel better.” It’s not about you thing. Once I got to that place where I had to cut out friends, when I say work, this is what I mean. It’s hard choices you have to make but if you’re committed to healing and you trust those who are leading you, you have to make the calls. Once I got to the idea that it wasn’t about me, it’s where my mind started going, “We’re powerful and we’re connected. I’m not alone.”
That’s the other thing, realizing you’re not alone when you’re down because you feel alone. I felt alone like you. There were days I didn’t even want to live anymore.
You just feel cut off.
You are not alone. When did you realize and how did you realize that you weren’t alone?
It’s funny because when you’re going through anxiety and depression, if you’re at your rock bottom like what you experienced and you feel all alone, and someone says, “Matt, it’s not about you,” you’re like, “What is it about? I’m here. I’m paying you. Why is it not about me?” This is part of what gets us there in the first place. For me to learn this, every Saturday, I had to go out and do something that wasn’t about me. I go pick up litter for three hours in LA. I would go feed homeless people. I would read the elderly or paint over graffiti. Every Saturday, I had this thing that I would do.
Do you go out there, get a paintbrush, and start painting over graffiti on public or city property?
On Wilshire Boulevard.
I didn’t even know that was okay or legal. Can’t you get arrested? That’s a beautiful thing to do.
It might be illegal. I honestly don’t know.
You just did it. Did anybody ever tell you not to or stop?
People said, “That’s cool you’re doing that.”
It’s a great lesson to teach your kids too.
That’s what I started doing. The funny part is picking up litter became my jam. For some reason, I enjoyed being out when the city was quiet and everyone’s still hungover and in bed. I knew the meals on wheels people, the dog walkers, and the Starbucks folks. It was this Zen peaceful time for me to walk the streets of LA and pick up trash.
Have you met new friends?
Have you met new people and business owners because they’re opening up their business? It’s funny how you decided to do one thing. Making garbage is something that many people feel like they’re above. It’s amazing. Look at the world that this has opened for you.
I’ve never thought about it that way. I started to build a new community and this community was sweet. It celebrated the right stuff. People started joining me and they went to pick up trash with me, and then I made Street Team t-shirts.
Every Monday Matters, is that how that whole thing started?
No. Every Monday Matters hasn’t happened yet. This would be for the first book. This said Street Team on it and they were red and white. We would go out there with our garbage self-drive.
You didn’t promote anything? You’re like, “Street Team, no intentions except to be of service.”You are who you are, and that's perfect. Click To Tweet
Just go pick up litter. What happened then is I was picking up litter one time and some friends called me and said, “There’s a Hollywood pool party up in the Hills.” It was a Saturday morning because that’s when I was doing my little thing and they said, “We’ll come to pick you up and we’ll go up there.” I remember saying, “I’m out picking up trash right now and I’m happy so go have a good time.” I hung up the phone. First of all, I had a reputation to protect. I was like, “No one knew I was doing this secret trash picker up thingy.”
Number two, I realized that this is what Denise, my therapist, meant. I feel more rewarded, significance, and purpose picking up litter than I would be going up to another Hollywood hills pool party, watching dudes do push-ups before they take their shirts off, and watch them throw their stuff around the pool. I was worried that I was going to be that 55 or 60-year-old dude that I would see at those parties like, “You’re still doing this?” This is what she meant. That is also the moment where I decided to write a book. I’m like, “I’m going to write a book that helps all of us understand that we’re trying to find purpose in all the wrong places.” That became the first Every Monday Matters book.
I remember that book.
You did the interviews that were on the CD-ROM in the back of the book. You read Nick Cannon, remember?
Yes. I forgot I had to read Nick Cannon. That’s right.
That book came out in 2008.
How did you connect with all these celebrities to have that CD interview area for that part of the book? You were in the music.
If I didn’t know them, I knew people who knew people.
I don’t know if you know but when you think about it, this all came about because you were at rock bottom and you decided to pick up garbage. That’s amazing for me. Giving of service at a time when you have no inclination at all that you’re even capable of getting out of bed is a big deal. I love that you went in and you made t-shirts without trying to promote some new garbage picking up business or you or whatever. You’re just the garbage pickup team on t-shirts. Whoever wants to join, just join.
I love that you come from a genuine place of no expectations. You don’t expect anything in return. You’re doing this because it’s who you are. When I started doing those red carpets for you and the book was going, I remember the struggles because it didn’t take off just like that either. This is a nonprofit. Here, you’re asking people for money. During those times, it was around the crash, wasn’t it?
Yeah. We survived the crash. We’re going to survive a virus. Here’s the great part of Every Monday Matters. That first book, I wrote with my friend Kelly. A month after it came out, I received an email from a gal in Palm Springs and she said that because of the book, she saved someone from committing suicide. When I got this email, I never imagined this book would save a life. I said, “I don’t know what this is supposed to be, but I have to follow it.” That’s the day that I walked away from the music industry. That’s the day that I quit and I never went back. I was fired, which is even more poetic. I was going to figure out how to make this thing a household name so I started at a MySpace page, which is sad and funny.
Slowly, this thing started building, and before I knew it, I was hearing from all these teachers from across the country about the book saying, “Do you have lesson plans, like curriculum so we can teach these concepts to our youth?” I’m like, “No, but maybe we could try to figure out how to make some.” I brought together a team of educators and we ended up designing a school curriculum that in three years, we sold into 42 states. Companies started asking for corporate culture work and engagement work so I started doing that. Forest Whitaker bought my book and he gave it to Oprah Winfrey.
He’s amazing and he’s such a beautiful soul. All these things started happening. There was no plan. I didn’t put on my MBA hat and have a business plan. It’s been tail wagging the dog the whole time. It truly has and I’ve just followed it where I felt like it was meant to go. It was the time when I was asked to speak to UBEC convicted felons who were using my book as part of a program. I told them how much they mattered. They were in handcuffs, ankle chains, waist chains, and everything. I went to see them in person.
What was that like? It’s intense.
A judge contacted me and told me that she was using the book with her program and asked if I can speak to these inmates. I said, “Yes.” I felt like Forrest Gump. I’m showing up where these things are popping up and trying to deliver something. I walked into a room full of men and women in prison jumpsuits, ankle chains, waist chains, handcuffs, and the whole nine yards. She’s like, “Everyone, here’s Matt. He wrote the book. Matt, why don’t you go ahead and share?” I was like, “I have no idea what to even say right now.”
It’s funny because they’re looking at you like you’ve done this a million times, that you’re this professional speaker and professional presenter. Meanwhile you’re like, “I’m just building my business and I had no idea a week ago that you were even putting this in your curriculum and it’s all exploding.” What happened?
I spent my whole career supporting and promoting people on stage. Now for the first time, I’m the one that has to be on stage. It’s a complete flipping dynamic and I wasn’t trained for it. What I learned was that if I go share my authentic, true story, that’s the best I can do, so that’s what I committed to doing. I told them how much they mattered and at the end of it, one of the convicts stood up and he said, “No one’s ever told me that I matter before and that’s why I ended up where I am now.” He started bawling. He was a huge guy. He was a 6’6”, 300-pound guy.
Didn’t you have a bracelet that you gave them?
Yeah. We have our bracelets that say, “You Matter” on them.
They had that on. That must have meant the world.
It was such a big moment for me. This man made me realize that I was still doing Every Monday Matters the wrong way because what happened was I was starting to see it as a business. I was losing touch with maybe the mission of the work. I almost built this thing to one day sell to Hallmark or something. I don’t know where my head was going with it. The first book has 52 Mondays that you can do throughout the year, like my weekly plan I was doing on Saturdays. The same thing you can do on Mondays. One of the Mondays was, “Don’t flick your butt.” In researching that day, I learned that we smoke 300 billion cigarettes a year in America, and of those 300 billion cigarettes, we litter 100 billion of them. Every year, if you take 100 billion cigarette butts and put them in the end, they go from LA to New York 337 round trips a year.
Have you picked up bags of cigarette butts?
Yeah. They’re everywhere. It’s by far the number one littered item in the world. My vision was, what if between the corporate programs and social media education, we can prove as a company that we’ve reduced that number from 100 billion to 90 billion to 80 billion? That was my vision. What this convicted felon taught me was that I had the wrong focus. I don’t focus on the result and on what’s causing the result. What’s causing the result are people who don’t understand that they matter, so they go out in the world and they act in a way that reflects that. It’s the same as my one vote won’t matter. What’s one cigarette butt? It doesn’t matter. It does matter because it’s 100 billion people saying that their butt didn’t matter and look at what it creates for us.
Your butt matters in many different ways.
I don’t know if you know this, but because of him, I converted Every Monday Matters to a nonprofit organization. At first, it was for-profit and I owned it. Ever since, we’re a nonprofit. I don’t own it, I work for it. Our mission is to create a world where everyone knows how much and why they matter, and that’s what we do now.
I remember how I got reconnected with you is that I saw you on Instagram. You had posted a clip of you on the TED Talk stage. First of all, congratulations. One day, I would like to do the same thing but it’s not easy to even accomplish getting on that stage, and you did. I didn’t know where you were going with it when you asked the five people up on stage. I was like, “What’s going to happen?” Also, my internet went out. It was right when he was a school teacher. It was the first person you asked. You didn’t even ask, you just said, “You matter. Tell me why you matter.” He stood there, and then that’s when my internet went out. I was into it because of his reaction when he knew you were going to ask him that. It’s different when the question is posed and you’re at that moment. It’s powerful. What was that moment like for you?
First thing, those people didn’t know I was calling them on stage. They were not in the audience and you’re not supposed to bring anyone on stage during a TED Talk. I don’t care. It’s not about me. I want to share the stage. All of my work that I do and my book the whole goal of all this work is if I walked up to you and said, “Why do you matter?” You could answer that question clearly, empowered, and aligned with, “This is who I am. This is why I matter.” What I believe is that we all want to know why we matter.
I don’t think I could have answered that question as well.
It’s a hard question to answer. You can’t just walk up to someone on the street and say, “Why do you matter?” It’s gentle. You have to handle it with care. Every hour-long keynote I do or whatever, at the end of it, that’s the last activity. I bring people on stage with me and they go through that process of being able to say, “My name is and I matter because.” That’s my life’s work. I’ve done this with 50,000 to 60,000 people.
Share a story with me that was life-changing. When you ask them that question, what were 1, 2 or 3 stories, however many you want to share, of things that were life-changing for you in their response?
It’s a quick process. It’s like, “My name is. I matter because.” There was this little boy and I have him on video. He says, “My name is and I matter because I’m autistic.” He stared at the camera and did not blink. I’ve seen this video 100 times and every time I see him, I love how he owns who he is. It’s engaging. When people say, “I matter because I’m a rape survivor. I matter because I’m a father or I’m a mother,” it’s beautiful when you help people dig into who they are and what matters most to them on the deepest levels, what they come up with. It’s not because they’re a band manager or a CEO or a huge actress or a supermodel or anything.
Often, those are people that are struggling most.
That’s not why we matter. The sad part for me is because there’s something in us that we think that we were brought into this world. Our purpose for being here was to work our butts off, make lots of money, and have nice things. That’s why our life was created. For people who think that about their life, I am sad because we were brought here for bigger reasons for that. Like when you brought your beautiful daughter. These are the reasons why we matter Also, it was one of the reasons why I struggle with my books because all my books go into the self-help section of bookstores and I don’t believe in self-help as its own individual thing because we live in a social context.
We do because of COVID but we live together. In Africa, they call it Ubuntu. It’s like, “I am because of you. Part of who I am is through you and without you, I don’t understand myself the same.” Imagine, if 7.8 billion people in the world who are all alive, but never had contact with each other, then go do self-help because that’s all you have is yourself, but we have each other as well. Self-help or self-transformation and social transformation happen together.
Often, it didn’t happen to times when you’re struggling. Those times that you’re struggling and you’ve hit rock bottom, I have found has been the opening of gold of a whole new chapter. It’s normal human instinct to go crazy and think and then have to do, then, “I’ve got to get out of this.” You struggle and you end up becoming the person you never even knew you were, not in a good way. You spiral down. It’s hard.
I’ll tell you a funny story and I never told the story in an interview. It’s in my book. I was doing a keynote out in Las Vegas for a large global nonprofit and afterward, I had to go to the restroom. You know how Vegas public bathrooms are. It’s like chandeliers.Necessity is an amazing compeller of action. Click To Tweet
It’s a thing. It’s a spectacle. It’s like, “What’s this bathroom like?”
It’s like Versailles. I walked into Versailles and I had to go number one. Us guys, we do those at urinals. We’re standing right there. There are 12 or 15 urinals and I realized I was the only person in the bathroom so I picked whatever urinal seemed right to me. It was seven or something. I’m about to do what you would do at a urinal and I hear the door open and hear someone come walking in. My private Versailles is no longer private. This guy has to go number one as well and he decides to use the urinal right next to mine.
Us, women, will be like, “What?” We can’t even relate at all.
You invite each other to go with you to the bathroom.
If we want but it’s a friend. It’s not a stranger.
You’ll never hear a guy say, “I’ll go to the bathroom. Do you, too? Let’s go together,” but women do it all the time. This guy picks the urinal next to me and I’m thinking, “What the heck? You have fourteen others not near me.” They keep doing this weird thing like you have to stare at the tile in front of your face like you’re madly in love with it. You can’t look down certainly or over like it’s awkward.
There’s an etiquette there.
Huge etiquette. The guy decides he wants to talk with me and he says, “I don’t want to bother you but you taught me something.” I’m thinking, “How could I teach this guy something? I haven’t looked into the eye yet.”
This is while you’re standing there doing your thing?
Yes. I was trying to do my thing because, at that point, I had full-on stage fright. I’m not sure, which I don’t get on the actual stage, which is the funny part. He said, “My entire life, I had it that I have to learn how to love myself before I could love somebody else but you taught me that through loving other people, you can also learn to love yourself.” This awkward bathroom moment turned into a profound moment. I wrote about that story in my book because I still believe that our entire life we’re on this quest to love ourselves. We have these holes and these wounds that we’ve gained along the way. We’ve had heartbroken, hit roadblocks, speed bumps, and potholes, and we slowly bubble ourselves off to, “It’s safe here. I want to feel better, so I’m going to spend my life on self-improvement. I’m going to do yoga, meditation, this, and this.”
That’s often how we start because we don’t know.
All the arrows are pointing towards me like, “How can I feel better?” What this man said in that Las Vegas bathroom, which is something I want everyone to know is, “No, that’s not all of it. Through loving other people, we can also learn to love ourselves.” That’s where service comes into play. Like people talk about heaven on Earth. To me heaven on Earth is an Earth with 7.8 billion people and every morning when they wake up, their first thought is how can I serve someone else? If that’s how we all started our days worldwide, our world would look vastly different than it does now.
First of all, I’m going to have Ava here. She’s nine, and I want you to ask her why she matters. Let’s see what a nine-year-old says. She has no idea, so let’s see how that goes. That’d be interesting. When you first started on this journey, you were fired from your job, which is a whole other million questions I could ask you. You start off on this nonprofit route. What was your hardest day when things were going but then you had this happen that set you back? What was your biggest setback, and then yet, you just kept plowing forward? I want people to know because we’re in a time of huge transition. People are reassessing everything they’re doing and it’s that drive to keep going. What was your biggest setback and how did you blast through it? I know it wasn’t easy to get Every Monday Matters off the ground.
It’s been a ton of work. I’m lucky, I know that the work I do at Every Monday Matters it also feels like my life mission so it doesn’t feel like work because I found my purpose.
You found your purpose. When I am not here anymore, that’s how I want to be remembered. “This is Matt Emerzian. This is what he did and who he is as a soul and person.” It’s funny because I was watching the world around me start to change and crumble because of COVID-19 and you’re hearing these stories of businesses and things that are changing. For some reason, in my mind, I’m like, “This isn’t going to impact us. We’ll be fine.” Until in a one week period of time, $250,000 got pushed out indefinitely. I had appearances booked on the Today Show and a couple of other shows because of my book.
This is a big deal for you. You’re at this moment where your book is being launched. It is on the rise, you are on the rise, and your company’s on the rise.
I’m going to be interviewed by Hoda & Jenna in New York and that gets canceled. All of a sudden, all of our teachers and our students who we reach across the country, the school shut down. They’re all at home. I’m sitting there going, “We just lost $250,000. I probably have to do some cutbacks. At the same time, we have a constituency that we need to serve in terms of students, teachers, and parents who have to figure out distance learning with their youth, so we have to pivot our entire program.” It’s been rough.
What was your list of events that happened? Everything’s being taken away and you’re like, “What am I going to do?” You could have sat in that and thrown in the towel.
One thing about me is besides being willing to work hard is I’m also super coachable and I seek that out. There were some Zoom webinars that I saw. There was this guy, a venture capitalist up in Palo Alto, who was doing a Zoom webinar for nonprofit leaders on how to manage this time.
What’s his name so others can check him out? Do you remember?
Kurt Keilhacker. I went on this thing and Kurt dished it out. He was like, “You either need to step up and you need to create a plan or maybe ten plans from aggressive to minor pivot. You’ve got to look at your budgets and create financial forecasting. Imagine this thing’s not going to be gone for the rest of the year and you got to go to work. You have to have honest conversations right away and get ahead of this thing. If you have to let somebody go, do it now because at least there are job opportunities they can still go get.” That message from him gave me the courage to be like, “This is going to be hard for me but if I do it and I do it with love and grace, and I also share with the team that I’m going to take a hit personally, too, I’m going to take a pay cut. If we all do a little bit of a pay cut together, for the next six months that will come through this thing okay.”
Did you have to let some people go too?
I haven’t had to let anyone go. We all took a step back, and then we had to serve the need. It’s like, “Team, you got cutbacks, but now you’d be working even harder.” They believed in me and what they said was special. “We know your heart, Matt. We know if you could do more, you would. We know as soon as you can, you’re going to get us all to go in again.” It was a heartwarming thing for me to know that my team believes in our mission.
They believed in you and your mission. I do find that a lot, too. I know some people that had to let some people go or take a huge cut back. People are understanding of it. It’s not your fault.Self-transformation and social transformation happen together. Click To Tweet
People say, “Matt, when a tornado goes through town, people want to know how they can help.” I’m like, “Except if the tornado hits every single house in the town.” This is impacting everybody. There’s nobody who’s not impacted by it, so people were super understanding.
Everybody takes a pay cut, you all decided, and you brainstormed. What was the next step from that?
We had to design the new education program so we ended up launching a brand new portal on our website. It’s completely free. On EveryMondayMatters.org, at the menu, it says Home Education Resources and there are things for educators, teachers, moms, dads, and families. There are also live classes. We teach live classes three days a week. We had to meet that need and the team rallied. It was amazing to watch the work and we did it. What’s interesting, too, is that when you show up, you never know what might happen. All of a sudden, people are wanting to do contracts with us for Zoom trainings.
With your curriculum?
On the curriculum or just in life. I wrote training called Finding Normal in the New Normal. It’s about helping people process emotionally what we’re going through, what people are feeling, and why we feel this way.
People can join in. They can go to your website and sign up for these Zoom trainings?
Yes, exactly. One time, I did one for 992 people. Imagine having 992 people in Zoom and I’ll ask a question, “Raise your hand.” All of a sudden, my whole screen went black with raised hands on the Zoom thing. It was nuts. We’re seeing new opportunities for impact and it’s interesting from companies. I had a great call with Zoom, the company, and they want me to come in, do some work there, and lead some workshops and things as well about these topics of who we are as Every Monday Matters. People are struggling with purpose. “Why do I matter? Part of my identity used to be the job I had. I don’t have that job anymore so now, what do I do? Who am I? I’m struggling.” All of those things. If mental health wasn’t a big enough issue before, it’s even bigger now. We want to be there to serve and help people process.
My daughter is going to come. You catch her off guard and see. This is an example of what you do.
It isn’t because I don’t catch people off guard like this.
Do your thing. I just want to know because it’s impactful when you do ask somebody that question and getting it from a nine-year-old’s perspective might be interesting.
Matthew wants to talk to you.
Matthew wrote a book called Every Monday Matters. You have 2 or 3 books out now.
Ava, your mom put me up to this. I was with these two young boys and they were from Africa. They were here in America. They were seniors in a choir and they stayed with me for a week. I asked them one day, I said, “Why do you matter?” My message to people in their life is that you matter because you’re special, you’re awesome, and you have these things about you that make you unique. There’s only one of you. One of the boys said, “My name is Joseph and I matter because I love to dance. When I dance, it makes people happy and they smile.” It’s true. For the whole week, he danced and I laughed and smiled.
His brother said, “My name is Edwin and I matter because one day, I’m going to change my country.” It’s what he said. I was inspired by them that I started thinking, “Why do I matter?” If someone asked me, “Matt, why do you matter?” I say, “I matter because I help other people know how much they matter.” If someone were to ask you, Ava, why do you matter? You would say, “My name is Ava and I matter because,” and you would fill in that blank. Before you go your mom’s going to do it.
My name is Tanya and I matter because I realized that I am put on this planet to help people in general. I’ve been given certain gifts to help people sell their homes. I have helped with Life Masters. I help people through the deepest, darkest, and most horrific times in their lives. I realized that I matter because I can give the gift of seeing things through different perspectives to help see the glass half full instead of half empty in a world that has a lot of pain in it.
Ava, why don’t you matter?
I matter because I make people laugh. I am funny and kind.
Good job. That’s amazing.
You do make people laugh and you’re kind. That’s true. You can tell Matthew that isn’t embarrassing. That’s not what we’re talking about.
When she was brushing her teeth. I scared her to death and then she peed on her pants and it was funny. There was pee going down everywhere.
That’s a master class right there.
Ava and I are going to sign up for your class. You said do you have them recorded, too, right?
You are live at 12:30 every day.
Our live school classes are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Grades 3 to 5 are from 12:30 to 1:00 and grades 6 to 8 are from 1:30 to 2:00, and then we record all of them. You can go on there and they’re all recorded and you can click on them on our website.
She’s doing it online, so she has to wear her uniform every day too.
You still wear your uniform at home.
She’s wearing pajamas underneath. She finishes around 2:30, and then we’ll have to do the recorded version during the week. That’d be super fun. I want to thank you, Matthew, for sharing everything. I can talk to you for so long and ask you many more questions. Maybe we’ll have to have part two.
Thank you for having me. Ava, it’s a pleasure meeting you.
It’s pleasure meeting you.
You matter, young lady.
Thanks, Matthew. Maybe once we start taking your classes, we’ll have another Life Masters and we can talk to you about that and your curriculum.
That’d be amazing. Thank you.
You’re welcome. Until next time. Keep moving forward. It’s amazing how you have turned something that you didn’t know where the future of your nonprofit was going to go and all the gifts that you see now they’re being given on the other end.
Let go. That’s the whole irony of the whole thing. This whole thing is you matter, but it’s not about you.
The gentleman that you met in the stall that day, he chose to stand beside you.
I know. To have that conversation, which was amazing.
If that ever happens to anybody out there, keep an open mind. Thanks, Matthew.
Get my book. It’s called You Matter.: Learning to Love Who You Really Are.
We can get that on Amazon, right?
If we want to learn more about you, EveryMondayMatters.com?
Anything else that we can learn more or discover more or get involved? Because you also get people involved.
Donate millions. Thanks, again.
- Every Monday Matters
- Every Monday Matters – first book
- Instagram – Matthew Emerzian
- Every Monday Matters – new book
- Kurt Keilhacker
- You Matter.: Learning to Love Who You Really Are
- Amazon – You Matter.: Learning to Love Who You Really Are
- TED Talk – Matt Emerzian