In this episode I talk to Cory Miller, a friend of mine and tech entrepreneur. Cory seemingly had everything going for him and he explains mental health with the analogy of an iceberg.
Cory is not a veteran, but his story has inspired others to seek help for their own mental health issues. I encourage you to listen to his message and take it to heart.
Links and Resources
Scott DeLuzio: 00:00 Hey everybody, this is the Drive On Podcast where we talk about issues affecting veterans after they get out of the military. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio and now let's get on with the show.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:14 Hey everyone, thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast today. We have a friend of mine from the tech world, Cory Miller. Cory and I met a few years ago at a tech conference. Now, Cory is unlike many of the other guests on this podcast, as he's not a veteran. He does come from a military family. He does have veterans in his family but he can talk about a little bit about that later. That's not really the reason why I'm having Cory on the show today. Instead, he was the CEO of a successful company and who was well-respected and looked up to. As a matter of fact, I think some people may even say that he's a type of entrepreneur that they want to be. I know I would say that for myself anyways. And why not? He ran a successful company with a great team of employees. Financially, he was very successful. On the surface, it seemed like he had pretty much everything going right for him. Who wouldn't want to be like him, right? But that wasn't the full story. I'm going to let Cory introduce himself and then we'll get into a little bit about his story. So, without any further delay, Cory, welcome to the show.
Cory Miller: 01:24 Hey, thanks Scott. That was a great intro. It's nice knowing you. What has it been three, four or five years? I'm trying to think back when we first met.
Scott DeLuzio: 01:34 I think it was about three years now. At least.
Cory Miller: 01:38 Thank you for the intro. I started a company in 2008 called I Themes. Ran it for 10 years, actually 11 but at the 10-year mark I sold it to another company. We were required and spent the next year transitioning the team to the company that bought us. Then just earlier this year, in January, 2018 or, I'm sorry, 2019, when we're talking, I left the team and that company to start again. So, my newest venture is, Leader.Team, where I'm helping support leaders across various organizations and it's been a fun restart, reboot to business.
Scott DeLuzio: 02:24 Great. So, the reason that I wanted to have Cory on the show is because I wanted people to know that it's not always rainbows and unicorns. It may appear to be on the surface. It's not always a picture-perfect life. Even though it may seem like it is for other people. Cory was a great example of how on the surface it seemed like he had everything going right for him. But underneath that surface, as you peel back the layers, it really started to become apparent that the things were not quite going all that well for him. And so, Cory, you had talked a while back at a couple of different conferences. You were a speaker about the concept of the iceberg. Can you go into that a little bit and tell us about that concept and maybe get into your story a little bit?
Cory Miller: 03:19 So the story I share publicly is meant to help people know that they're not alone. That just like you explained in the introduction, on the surface it looked like I had everything in the world but still I was hurting underneath the surface. And so, the snippet of my mental health journey, I should say, is from 2010-2011. So, on the surface, all these things were going on. It was just a really good time. You could see if you didn't know me intimately well at that moment. So, the concept of the iceberg is, you're looking at an iceberg and mostly all you see is everything that's on top of the surface. And I call that, if you watch the Lego movie, everything is awesome. It's the curated press release version of our life.
Cory Miller: 04:10 And that's what most people see. But on the surface are all the things from fear, anxiety deep down as you go further down the iceberg, underwater is depression. Severe problems that from time to time we deal with. And so, my iceberg back in 2010, the one I share publicly to say you're not alone is on the surface I had punched my ticket by taking a lifelong dream, which was to co-author a commercially published book from the For Dummies brand, one of my favorite series of books. We had hit $1 million in revenue at the company that I had started in two, three short years. We went on and we're doing some cool things like we went on a RV road trip with our team from Oklahoma City to Boulder, Colorado for a conference.
Cory Miller: 05:05 Things were just clicking on the public version of what you saw in my life, but under the surface, I had midway through that year filed for divorce from my wife of seven years. I had a couple of times slept in our office because I didn't have any other place to go. When I walked into a counselor's office that year after all of these events happened, he basically said you're suffering from depression, went through a battery of questions and it was a big wake-up call. The first time in my life a professionally trained counselor had shared that I was suffering with, at the time, low grade depression. And it was real sobering moment for me because I thought I was the superhero.
Cory Miller: 06:00 I could get through anything. it was a big wake-up call and I share that story because just like you had mentioned Scott, I seemingly had everything going and yet was hurting very badly on the inside. So much so too that I had insulated myself that my own parents didn't know some of the heartbreak I was going through. They were, of course, the first people I called when my marriage was ending and just things were sort of bottoming out in my personal life. Also, she had mentioned too that even though we have this cool new office and we went on this RV road trip that it was the first time in my business tenure at this company that I started in my home and grew that I didn't want to be there at all.
Cory Miller: 06:49 We had a couple of people that I had allowed to basically make me miserable at work. Professionally and personally my life was really crumbling. And so that's the story I shared because although everything looked like I had it together, I wrote this post a couple of years ago that said “everybody hurts, including me and it's okay to ask for help.” I had to go through all of those events to realize I can't do it alone. I don't want to do it alone. And as I started to share the story publicly for that one reason, that you're not alone, there was this resonating reverb of people contacting me, too, Privately, I'd get emails, text messages, Facebook messages, all those kinds of things. I talked to friends years later and they told me they heard my story and they sought a counselor after that or made specific positive moves in their life to better their mental health.
Cory Miller: 07:47 I shared that story because there are so many people who need help and are hurting right now in the world, and often we're suffering in solitude. I share that because I want to release people, free people to seek and receive help that they need, that they don't have to walk alone. In fact, Scott this morning somebody tweeted at me and actually said, “what would be the one piece of advice you'd give or that makes the most difference in your own mental health?” And I said, “don't go it alone.” I've had to learn those lessons again, Scott, I keep trying to pull this back and try to do everything by myself and realize I just can't do it alone. I need support.
Scott DeLuzio: 08:29 Going back a little bit here, if you think about it what you're talking about going it alone and everything, a lot of times, especially, guys who are in the military, have that macho attitude. Like, “I don't need that.” “I don't need to go talk to somebody about my feelings and all this other stuff.” They feel like they can just handle it on their own. They've handled so many other things on their own. If you think about all these other things that you might do in your life that you do rely on other people, I think I said to another guest that I had on the show a while back, I don't cut my own hair because if I did, I'd end up looking like a clown.
Scott DeLuzio: 09:14 I rely on the hairdresser or the barber or whoever you go to cut it and make it look acceptable. Anyways, I might look like a clown anyways that's more my problem than their problem. Even if you're moving out of your house and you're going to another house, you're not going to throw the couch on your back or your dining room table. You're not going to throw that on your own back. You're going to call up some friends or something and you're going to ask them to come and help you move that stuff out. Because if you were to look at your house and all that stuff that you have, it would just be such a daunting task to have to move all that stuff on your own.
Scott DeLuzio: 09:58 Once when you have that one extra person who's there to help you move some of that stuff, even if it's really heavy, at least there's somebody else who's there who can help you out with that. So, I think people need to understand that it's okay to ask for help. You can't do everything all on your own. And a lot of times with this mental health stuff, you might need to have somebody else in with an outside perspective to help guide you through, and to help you see, a better way of doing things. This brings me to the other reason that I wanted you to be on the show because at some point during this whole journey, between the divorce and the depression and all this other stuff, you came to the conclusion that something wasn't right and that you realized you needed to get off your butt and go talk to somebody about all this stuff.
Scott DeLuzio: 10:54 At the same time, on the surface, you're the guy who seemed to be on top of the world. So, there must've been a little bit of fear or doubt about whether or not you should even talk to someone. How might that affect other people in our tech community? How they might view you in your company or how would your employees view you, or your own family, even. So, there might've been a little bit of hesitation or doubt there. So, can you tell us a little bit about that and how you eventually, overcame that and decided, I need to go get that help?
Cory Miller: 11:30 Scott, for me, back in 2010, 2011 I was realizing that when I feel like I'm face down in the gravel and being drug, I honestly had gotten to the very end of myself and I just couldn't do it by myself. As funny as it might sound, the first people I called when my personal life was cratering just going straight down into the abyss was my parents. I just wanted to hear my dad, my mom say, we love you, son. We're here for you. After they got over their initial shock that was one of the first things they said, they ran into my life when other people were rushing out of my life. It was past fear and anxiety and all that. I was at the absolute lowest point in my life at that point in my life, and I needed help.
Cory Miller: 12:29 I couldn't hide behind fear or any other reason I might propose, my ego or whatever, it was that I needed help. I remember at least a week or two after I filed for divorce, my mom came and just did laundry for me and cooked. And it was just tough for me to pick up my fork and eat but that was the low point of my life too. I just needed people. Through that, now I've obviously healed from those experiences. Maybe the scars are still there. What I realized from that, the great lesson of my life was I can't do it alone. Now I'm telling you, it's a lesson to have to wake up every day and learn again. Because, I just somehow think I can do everything by myself.
Cory Miller: 13:18 I call it Superhero Syndrome. I just think I've got a cape and the superpower and I can get through anything by myself. And then time and time again, life tells me not so fast. Cory, you're just merely mortal. So, it's something I continually or I wouldn't say learned it all then and like forever. I had a friend ask me, hey, I know you share, it was a business acquaintance actually, he said, “hey, I know you share about mental health and stuff, is that all good now?” And I said, “no, brother, it's everyday life throws so much, so many things at you every single day that no, it's not a one and done thing.” It's just like your physical health. You can't neglect good nutrition and physical exercise and those types of things.
Cory Miller: 14:07 Your body will start to deteriorate faster. And I feel the same way about my mental health. I want to talk about something that you mentioned and I think particularly with us guys, there's this masculine culture of, don't reach out, don't share your feelings. You shared all that. You talked about that, which guys are supposed to be stoic and not express their emotions; yet we're born as humans with emotions and we put a cap on the bottle of those emotions and then there's all kinds of terrible things that happen as a part of that. Mainly our health and then also our personal health and then our relationships with other people. I think that's got to stop. The fact that we can't admit that we cry.
Cory Miller: 14:59 I've seen grown men though, the most macho man you can think of, that wouldn't cry, maybe when a loved one passed away or something or their dog passed away. You've got these emotions that no matter what you're a human being. You're born with these things that you need to share those appropriately with those that you want to. We find ourselves, as men, being so secluded and not getting help and receiving help that we justly need and it affects everything in our lives. That's part of my iceberg story. There was this picture on CNN, there was this iceberg affecting the small town in Greenland. It was basically when it was melting. It would send parts of the ice off the shelf of the iceberg and it would cause this a little mini tsunami that was potentially going to flood this town of a hundred people. That's the way my life is when I don't seek help for the things I'm going through.
Scott DeLuzio: 16:05 I like the illustration of the iceberg. In addition to what you were just talking about in terms of having those mini tsunamis that might wipe out a little small village on the coast or whatever the graphic that you have and I'll try to include this in the show notes too. The graphic that you have of the iceberg is basically that everything is awesome above the surface and it's your financial success, your business success, and all these other successes. And I feel that a lot of times people, especially nowadays with social media, they are so prone to just putting out there all their successes that they're putting out their A game when their life might be falling apart around them.
Scott DeLuzio: 16:57 That’s the below the surface stuff of the iceberg. If you really know anything about icebergs, what you see on the surface is just scratching the surface. So, it could be huge, giant, massive ice underneath the surface and it could be like in your case it was the divorce and the depression and all these other things that were down below the surface that you weren't going out there and plastering all over social media. “Hey, look at me, I'm getting a divorce” or whatever and that's typically not what people do. I feel like a lot of times people who are getting onto social media and they're seeing how great everyone else's life is, they start to feel worse about themselves because they start comparing themselves to this picture perfect life that they're seeing in their friends or celebrities or whatever or whoever they might be following.
Scott DeLuzio: 17:54 That's not reality. Everyone has crap going on with their lives that they're trying to go through. And like you said, mental health is an ongoing thing that you're constantly working on. If you were to equate it to dieting or losing weight or exercise or whatever, if you were to just go on a binge diet and lose a bunch of weight and then just go back to your old eating habits, well that weight's coming back and probably then some, so, the same thing with mental health. If you just let that go, it's going to only get worse. Even if things start to feel a little bit better, if you neglect it over time, it'll start to get worse.
Cory Miller: 18:39 It's funny that you mentioned social media because if you'd go to my Instagram today, right now, you’d think, “oh, Cory, he's got all this stuff buttoned up. Oh, he's got a beautiful family, which I do by the way, I'm so thankful for my family, a loving wife and things like that. But you get this distorted picture because that's not the whole thing. That's not the whole picture. That's the stuff I choose to put out. One reason I do give the caveat that I say I'm sharing the story about my mental health in the past deeply in the past is because I'm not encouraging people to say below the iceberg share all that, on full blast that from the mountain top on social media, I'm not at all suggesting that. We do have the inverse that most of the things we see on social media are just this curated version of what I want you to see in my life.
Cory Miller: 19:31 That's still true for me, too. Now though, I've gathered enough support elements to get help with the things privately, confidentially with the things going on in my life. They just don't happen to see. I grew up as a cynical Gen Xer and still am and I guess I know the people that have the most perfect persona online or in public I always say, “Even the best relationships, even the best lives still have hurt, still have struggles, still have suffering going on somewhere under there. That's just not chosen to be broadcast those.
Scott DeLuzio: 20:11 I totally agree with that. I'm not necessarily saying, go air all your dirty laundry on social media or whatever just to make yourself feel better or whatever. Because I don't think that's going to be the solution to the problem. I think it's important to understand that when you are on social media that it is, like you said, a curated version of somebody's life that's out there. They're not going out there and putting all the negative stuff that is below the surface on that iceberg stuff onto social media. It's important to recognize that for our own sanity and mental health that what you're looking at is the polished A game, if you will. And it's not picture perfect, necessarily.
Cory Miller: 21:00 It's the frame for the portrait of a glimpse of life that doesn't share the entire fullness of what's going on in anyone’s life at any point. You're right.
Scott DeLuzio: 21:10 Exactly. I think I'm going back to what you're talking about in regards to having that support group or have that network of people that rushed into your life. You said your parents were some of those people who rushed in when everybody else would seem to be rushing out. It's important to recognize those types of people in your life. Who are those people that when stuff hits the fan are going to be those people who run into your life to help you, to pull you back up when you fall down or whatever? I think that's an important thing and I think that's through a lot of aspects of life too. You and I both run businesses and I don't know about you, but I don't think I could really be all that successful if I was to be doing everything all on my own.
Scott DeLuzio: 22:12 Everything from the marketing and branding to tech support and product development and all these other things that go into running a business, accounting and other stuff like that. Doing all of that on your own, you might be okay at all of those things and maybe really good at one or two of those things but you're not going to be great at everything and I think your business would end up reflecting that. It's just going to be an okay company. It's not going to be a great company if you try to do all of those things yourself. But if you surround yourself with great people who could do great things in those different areas, those are the types of people who will basically bring your company up and make it a great company.
Cory Miller: 22:57 Exactly. I shared this recently that one of the hardest things in my entire life but It’s also given me the greatest joy it’s one that I still struggle within me to do this, but is to ask for help. I've been married now, obviously remarried now and my wife, Lindsay and the times when I just said I'm struggling and I need some help. Allowing people the joy of giving help to me it's so easy for me. Scott, like I am driving on the road, see somebody that's run out of gas or something and I'd never pick up hitchhikers with my kids in the car by the way, ever; however I have on occasion, picked up and said, “hey, where you going?”
Cory Miller: 23:46 And help them get to their destination. I feel so good when I'm able to do something as simple as holding a door for someone as they're walking into the mall or some store. I love giving generously of my life but it's so tough to receive it, to think to receive it up until the point in my life when across the threshold and had been able to say, I need help. I need your help in my life, to whoever that is a counselor, my parents, whoever, friends. And then be on the receiving end of giving and generosity. And a friend of mine said that, “if you're not able to ask your best friends, the people that love you most for help, you're robbing them of the joy of being there for you.
Cory Miller: 24:35 I think about the times that I've allowed help, for me to ask and then to receive help from others and support. There's a great joy. There's a humanity in there that you're seeing the fullness of it, not just the giving, but also being willing to say, I need it. I need to receive that kind of support is a great joy. And it's a message that I want to share more and more, need to share more and more publicly because the times that I have lowered shields for my ego or whatever is when I said I need help. And then gotten it from people that love me, that people rush in when you need help. It's another side that's pretty beautiful to sit down and humanity and fill that warmth and love and support.
Scott DeLuzio: 25:19 Absolutely. And I think that that's such a great important topic to discuss. There are so many people who probably feel like, “oh, I don't want to go ask so-and-so. Whether it's your spouse or your friend or even a counselor or whatever. I don't want to go ask for help because now I'm a burden to this person. Now they have to worry about my problems or whatever.” And that couldn't be further from the truth. I think what you were talking about is that people actually feel good to see you, getting better and knowing that they played a part in that whether it's a big part, small part, or whatever it may be. People feel good, generally when they are able to help other people. I think a lot of times, that macho, manly man mindset that people end up having, we don't want to put that out onto anybody else.
Scott DeLuzio: 26:23 We want to carry the burden of our own problems. We don't realize that we're robbing someone of that joy to be able to help us out with it and everything. It's just such a great concept. And I know for myself personally, I sought some counseling after I got back from Afghanistan and just making the appointment, just picking up the phone, making the phone call to make the appointment that very first appointment was like a tremendous weight was lifted off my shoulders because like I was saying before, like with moving furniture out of a house, I'm not carrying all that weight anymore and somebody else is going to be there to help out. That person I've gotten to know over the years, that I spoke with and they enjoy helping other people and it's like you said, it would be robbing people of that joy to be able to help them.
Cory Miller: 27:20 If you think about specifically the veterans, like yourself and others that hope and hear this and take steps to alter their mental health and to get support. You are carrying so much on your shoulders in that moment when you're able to take it, you're being crushed under the weight of what you're carrying internally that no one else may even know about. The moment you're able to have that sense of relief. I've experienced it so many times in my life where I'm taking it on my shoulders, I'm trying to carry that furniture by myself. I'll carry that heavy lift in the house. And frankly, there's some things too that our friends and family aren't trained to help with. That's the role of the counselor for me is there's somebody who is professionally trained, licensed has taken a code of ethics or severe consequences that they fear for what they're supposed to do.
Cory Miller: 28:16 And the last benefit is when I unload something to my counselor at Thanksgiving, I don't have to say, could you pass the cranberries? There are some things that deep in the dark stuff that maybe my family isn't the appropriate person, people to talk to about that. They can know that I'm hurting, that I'm suffering and struggling and help me in that regard. But some of the big, dark stuff that I need a professional when I sit across the room from my counselor, by the way, his name is Kyle. I share something deep and dark and never have to think about some business partners and team and things like that when sharing your mental health story or my mental health story.
Cory Miller: 29:01 For instance, when I talked to a counselor about the things underneath the surface, I don't have to worry about those things. then I've got a guide, an expert guide who has specifically been trained with years of training and experience to help navigate those things and to recommend options, to seek and get help. To those options out there is so vital. And so that's one nuance I will say on the end of the iceberg stuff is there's still things that I might choose to say I'm hurting to my wife, but I might go to my counselor and say, this is something I'm actually working through. That's pretty dark down into the iceberg.
Scott DeLuzio: 29:44 Right. That's one of those things with normal communication with your spouse where you don't want to necessarily hide the fact that you're hurting from them because that's not going to help anybody. But like you said, you don't necessarily have to go into those deep dark details with them either because they may not know how to respond appropriately. Not that they wouldn't respond from a place of love or whatever. They obviously would want to help you but they're not the licensed, professionally trained counselor who would be able to give you better direction and better guidance, impartial guidance, in terms of what you're supposed to do, where somebody else, even if your spouse is trained professionally, there may be that emotion there, where they tell you to do one thing and maybe it's not the right thing, but it's just that emotion that might push them in that direction to tell you that one piece of advice versus another. So, definitely talking to someone professionally, I think is incredible advice to have there.
Cory Miller: 30:55 I've got the relationship with my counselor now where I've been with him for nine years now and that if I need to get in to see him, I can text him and pretty well within 24, 48 hours or so, have me in there and be able to talk with them. And that's so key. I've referred people locally in Oklahoma to counselors and the biggest question is where do I start? How do I get a counselor? And I will say on the nuance of finding a counselor or a licensed professional counselor, that you might find somebody that you just don't fit with. And that means find somebody else. Go find somebody else. Don't just say, well, we just didn't get along. Okay, well that could actually happen. I've seen it happen and know it can happen.
Cory Miller: 31:46 The great thing is you get to say, “I'm not going to see anymore. I'm going to go find somebody else and no harm, no foul.” And so, make sure there's a right fit and I don't know of all the resources available to veterans. I hope there is. But there's somebody you can talk to a chaplain and get a referral or some colleague that you might trust to get that kind of referral and then figure out, interview them, test them, make sure that it's the proper fit. And they understand that particular issues that you might be struggling with. So, you at least get that help that you need and support that you need.
Scott DeLuzio: 32:28 I know for myself, I went to the Vet Center, which is basically a place for counseling for veterans for mental health issues and things like that. It just so happened that the first guy that I spoke with, we hit it off and he was able to help me out with issues that I was having at the time and we really clicked. But like you said, it may not be that way with everybody. You may go and talk to somebody and they may not be the right person. So, ask for somebody else if you're at the Vet Center or find some other counselors, there's plenty of organizations that are around that offer counseling services to veterans and even to non-veterans.
Scott DeLuzio: 33:21 And it doesn't matter, necessarily, if they are a specialized in veterans, with veteran issues or not. Find the person that counselor who's going to work for you and talk to that person. Like I mentioned earlier, I don't cut my own hair because if I did, I would look ridiculous. But if I went to go get my hair cut and the person didn't cut my hair well and it just didn't work out right, I wouldn't say, “well, that's it. I'm never getting a haircut again.” I would find somebody else who can cut my hair better. So, to me, it's a little bit silly to say, “well, this one person didn't do a good job for me, doesn't necessarily mean that no counselor out there ever will be able to do a good job with you and walk you through the issues that you're having. So, absolutely, 100% agree with what you just said there.
Scott DeLuzio: Well, it looks like we are actually coming up on time here with this episode. Cory, was there anything else that you wanted to say to veterans who might be listening or family members who might be listening to this? Also, if you want to, let us know where to find you.
Cory Miller: 34:39 I think first and foremost I hope, at least I did when we met in Phoenix years ago, Scott, but is to say to those who have served our country, men and women, thank you for your service. The second is if you're hurting, there's something going on under the surface, please take a first step, call a counselor, talk to her friend, but don't keep it all bottled up, locked up inside. And, like I mentioned with the iceberg that was threatening the town in Greenland is so many times in my life I haven't realized that by locking all those things inside myself, I was causing more harm to the people I love most. I know there's somebody listening today that needs to take a next step or a first step. Please I implore you to do so. Scott, you've made this podcast available to help, to be dedicated, to help people with that message.
Cory Miller: 35:36 I hope many, many veterans that are listening and might be struggling with something, take that first step today. That would mean my biggest thing that you can forget my name, you can forget my story. If you take that first step toward healing, towards support that you rightly and justly deserve, specifically as a human being, but also as a veteran of our country and our military service, please do so today. Those you love in our world would be better for it having a healthy you in this world. Then you can find me as always at Corymiller.com. That's my main site. I hit the contact form. You can find my Twitter and all that kind of stuff through there. And as always, I love talking with people. I'm not a PR professional trained counselor, but I love sharing resources as I can and hearing stories is always of people that have found healing and support and care for their lives and it really inspires me.
Scott DeLuzio: 36:35 Well, Cory, thank you for joining us and telling your story. I really appreciate you taking the time to share that with us.
Cory Miller: Thank you, Scott.
Scott DeLuzio: 36:44 Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcasts. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website, driveonpodcast.com. We're on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at Drive On Podcast.