An Adultitis Fighter is someone who rallies against rules that don’t exist and engages in ruthless, senseless acts of silliness that undermine Adultitis and its unadventurous version of adulthood. Once a month, we shine a light upon the most remarkable among us, holding them up as a dazzling example of what we should strive for in this epic battle against a formidable enemy.
Michael Leone works in the financial industry (a credit union, to be exact). Although some people might assume that people working in that arena are a little stuffy, Michael doesn’t fit that mold at all. Not only does he have a childlike heart and a ton of enthusiasm, he is also a compassionate catalyst for helping other people fight Adultitis, too!
Recently, he helped host “Bring Your Child to Work Day” for his co-workers and their children, despite the fact that he doesn’t yet have kids of his own. While he admitted being nervous about how things would turn out (he’s used to planning events for adults), the day was a huge success. Children who weren’t quite sure about what the day had in store went from tentative curiosity to joyous exclamations of, “I wish we could do this again tomorrow!” As you can see from the photos below, this was not your standard version of “Bring Your Kid to Work Day.”
In recognition of their efforts, Adultitis Fighters of the Month receive a special mini-canvas hand-painted by Jason, along with a certificate of honor, a sweet patch, and other Adultitis-Fighting tools. We asked Michael some questions about how he fights the Big A and what advice he has for others…
What are some of your favorite ways to fight Adultitis?
Smiling is serious business. I try to find ways to smile, laugh, and be silly all day long. That may sound simple — and it is — BUT, it also makes such a difference in my day. The key for me is to surround myself with both people and things that remind me to smile. My desk at work (and at home) has knick-knacks, quotes, props and more that are all designed to make me smile and keep me thinking like a kid. I love that I can walk into my office each day and immediately feel renewed. Heck, I even have a “high five stick” strategically placed above my desk so that when I have a good idea, do something embarrassing, or just need to do something to change my current mental/emotional state I can reach up and, essentially, give myself a “high five.” That probably sounds ridiculous, but I promise you, even just thinking about it as I type now I feel a mischievous grin forming on my face. Or that could just be gas…nope, I’m pretty sure it’s a genuine smile. Anyway, sometimes we all need a high five and who says you can’t give it to yourself? (#NotARule)
Remember what I’m thankful for. Being thankful shouldn’t be limited to that day on the fourth Thursday of November where turkeys have to question their existence and, probably, their biggest struggle with Adultitis. Gratitude can and should be a habit. Not a day goes by where I don’t write down what I’m thankful for. And some days I have to stretch to be thankful, don’t get me wrong, “Today I am thankful for remembering my name.” Once you’ve done this enough, it becomes automatic and you will find yourself being thankful for, well…everything. Heck, you’ll even get to the point where you are thankful for the hardships because they give you an opportunity to persevere and grow – they serve as a whetstone that sharpens your ability to be “you” and forces you to grow in ways you hadn’t thought possible.
I love to write. It’s a passion of mine. And one of my greatest joys is writing my blog. The act of creating something from nothing and filling a blank page always fills me with wonder and awe. (Shameless Plug: If you’d like to check it out, I’d be both humbled and grateful: www.MichaelCLeone.com)
Above all else, I try to remember this: The only boundary that has the power to limit you, is the one you put your faith in; the one you believe is real. If you can destroy the boundary by making the choice to not believe in it – you can do anything.
Who or what has been the greatest influence in your own fight against Adultitis?
Okay…this isn’t sucking up, and you’ll see why in a second: Jason Kotecki has been a huge influence in this area for me. Now, before you ask me to wipe the brown stuff off of my nose, hear me out. What did you call “Adultitis” before Jason gave us the name? If you were anything like me you called it “Stress” which inspires so many feelings of anger, dismay and powerlessness that it has become the first 6-letter, “4 letter word.” I mentioned smiling earlier; when I read or hear the word “Adultitis” I can’t help but smile. Jason named a “disease” which is most definitely a state of “dis-ease.” Calling it “Adultitus” is a fantastic way to both recognize the problem AND help make it fun. And that is part of Jason’s gift. I was first introduced to him by my assistant, then his book Penguins Can’t Fly. Then we had the pleasure of hosting him as our Keynote speaker at our annual Training Day. Now everyone on our staff is a fan.
From there, I’ve been blessed to have many influences on my life that have shaped how I approach “Adultitis.” There have been mentors like Jim Smith Jr, Bill Doan, and Shawn Clerkin who have each pushed me to grow out of my comfort zones. I also have the pleasure of working for Widget Financial, where everyone – from our CEO, Gail Cook, to my boss, Chris Monaghan – encourages me to “be me” so that I can help our team have fun, learn, and be confident in all that they do each day as they serve the Erie community.
Ultimately, the two most important people in this fight have been my parents.They both taught me that laughter wins. Every time.
What is something you loved doing as a child that you still do in some form today?
Act. As a child I loved to “pretend.” I loved to think that I was “He-man” or “Luke Skywalker.” In fact, when I was really young I remember first learning that people changed their names when getting married. I was a little confused on how this worked and boldly and defiantly declared to my mom, “When I get married I’m changing my name to…HE-MAN!” Who knows, I still might! It was that love of pretend and play that lead me to the theater and acting. Eventually I got my degree and spent 6 years in Chicago pursuing that passion. Now, I use those same skills every day to train, coach, and help others to be their best both interpersonally and when speaking in front of a crowd. Oh…and I still act on stage too. Those same skills that some would have hoped I’d “outgrow,” are what have led to my success and my ability to smile in the face of adversity.
What is your strategy for dealing with people who are obviously infected with Adultitis?
Another mentor of mine (as you can see, any success I have is owed to those that I have been blessed with and had the good fortune to be taught by), Rick Olson, shared with me this tip which I am probably paraphrasing with a vengeance: Assume people like you. Whenever you meet someone new or have to go train a group of people you’ve never met – just assume they like you. It takes all the pressure off. Why stress about what others think? When you just figure, ‘Yeah – they like me,’ you can relax and just be yourself.”
And if they truly don’t like you? Then be yourself – genuine, funny, and caring – make it impossible for them not to like you in the end. This advice has served me well – if I can make someone comfortable or do something silly or strange to break their pattern of negativity (a joke, a funny sound, or just by doing something a little odd), I know I can win them over in the end. If all else fails, the simple act of listening and making sure they know that you empathize and “get” what they are saying can be enough to break up the cholesterol that is Adultitis and help the “fun” flow freely again.
What advice do you have for someone who is feeling overwhelmed by Adultitis?
It’s simple and obvious: What makes you smile? As long as it isn’t illegal or harmful to others, figure that out and go do more of that. If you feel “stuck” in something that is wearing you down – be it a relationship, a job, or anything in-between, find what makes you smile about that and do that more. And it might be small, but that’s okay – you can’t roast marshmallows without first creating a spark. Find the spark – and I don’t care what it is – a friend you work with, a toy on your desk, heck, even the fact that when you come to work your computer manages to boot up each day – it doesn’t matter – just find something each day that makes you smile and focus on that. Stoke that spark and soon, that spark will become a flame as you start adding more and more kindling (in the form of other things that make you smile) to the fire. Is that always easy depending on what you are going through? Of course not! But the fact is this: as far as we can prove, we only live once. ONCE! Do you want to go through each day, focused on the things that cause you pain and sadness, or do you want to be bold, to destroy that boundary and inspire others with your smile?
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’d like to thank the academy for…(Just kidding). If I’ve learned anything in my brief time on this planet, it’s this: I’m here. So I might as well do something. And if I’m going to do something I have a choice: I can do it with a smile on my face and a song in my heart so that it can be great! Or I can muddle through it, let myself be enslaved to the idea that life happens to me instead of for me and maybe have a modicum of success…if only by accident. My challenge to you – my dare to you in the face of Adultitis is this: Make today great!
Congrats to Michael Leone, May 2016 Adultitis Fighter of the Month. Thank you for making the world more awesome!