Join us for an inspiring conversation with guest speaker Nick Nanton as we delve into the power of storytelling to create hope in your life.... See show notes at: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/creating-hope-through-the-power-of-storytelling-insights-from-nick-nanton/#show-notes
Join us for an inspiring conversation with guest speaker Nick Nanton as we delve into the power of storytelling to create hope in your life. Nick has created over 60 films and one sold-out Broadway show, with his work featuring remarkable people and organizations such as Rudy Ruettiger, Peter Diamandis, Operation Underground Railroad, folds of Honor, canines for warriors, and more. With over twenty-two Emmy Awards, impact 100 at the United Nations, three gold records, and recognized as a 40 under 40, Nick is a powerhouse in the film and documentary industry. In this episode, we explore how storytelling can be a tool for creating hope in your life, the impact of sharing stories about people who we may never hear about, and how to learn, grow, and transform through storytelling. Tune in to this episode to gain practical insights from Nick and discover how to leverage the power of storytelling to create a positive change in your life.
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Michael: Hey! What's up, Unbroken Nation! Hope that you're doing well, wherever you are in the world today. I am super excited to be back with you and another episode, my friend, Nick Nanton.
Nick is a multiple-time Emmy Award-winning director who has made a couple of documentary films that I'm absolutely in ve with and has an incredible story and journey. Nick, my friend, how are you today? What is going on in your world?
Nick: I’m doing great. I am here in hotel rooms, as you can see. I don't know. I don't live in a sketchy dark place like this, this is a hotel room in New York City. I'm here, filming for doing a documentary right now on add in a couple and we're not going to cover shoots one for Dick Vitality QV from ESPN and so I'm interviewing Robin Roberts from Good Morning, America. And then I'm also doing a doc with Chris Voss of never split the difference and we are filming actually with Brandon boss's son, who does a lot of work with them training NYPD, so, should be lots of fun.
Michael: Man, that just sounds like such an adventure. The storyteller and me is vehemently jealous of the fact that you get to have amazing conversations with people all day long. In a past life something, I don't really share on this show. I don't know if I actually ever said this. I was an award-winning photographer and I just love documenting capturing stories.
One of the things that sparked me to be very interesting that I heard you say and I don't know if this was in passing or a few this was really your experience. Was that you googled how to win an Emmy?
Michael: It is true. What was talk me through that process. Here's why I want to dive into this because I think so many people are like – I'm gonna pop on google, they're going to read this stuff and don't do shit about it, obviously that wasn't your case scenario. So talk me through that process.
Nick: Yeah, it was so, you know, one thing I so I've been a songwriter like whole life basically and we won this major International song contest like – it's been 20 years now, whatever, but I learned along the way from judging and I still ride a lot of country music, the guy ran a lot of Nashville. I do a lot of country and pop, but I learned along the way when they're like when trying to enter different things like half the time, you are probably more than half the time. You're out of the running before you even start because you'd enter the wrong way, like – you enter the wrong category, and so I do what I want just said, okay, if I want to go after this, like – if it's a goal because obviously, I mean, well, I think most people want professional validation, I think it's helpful in a lot of ways. I don't think you should rule your life, but it's helpful to make sure you're on the right track, right? But I just said, okay, let me get as much info as I can on this and we live in this age of this thing called the internet and there's lots of great information out there. So I just googled it and I mean, it said, one of the best things I got out of it was a contact of a lady who had been like – she had run a chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and she was I think I believe like –if I can be of any help, let me know you find in these circles, once you get into these circles, most people are actually willing to be helpful. It actually makes their job easier, if you don't enter the wrong category or you and your pitch fit about or whatever, so it basically said anyone can produce with where production is come to now with the decline in pricing of cameras and nonlinear editing on computers like everybody can make something that looks great. And so I mean the biggest future, If I said I was like focus on the story like you got to find a great story and I would think that is what I took out of that the most is like all right, I got to find the story, that is worthy of me telling and worthy of the world wanting to hear it. And then of course I had a contact to say, hey! if we want to enter this, you know, what would be the correct category over the years by the way, it's been hugely helpful to go to anyone who runs Awards, they have rules, right? And there's typically someone in charge of the rules that would love to help you, make sure you're not breaking the rules would love to help you, make sure that you're doing the right thing but it's so funny because we sort of, would think I don't know about you, but I would think like, oh, man, if I want to enter the Emmys, I can't talk to anybody there like they don't want to tell me the secrets or whatever, but it's not that way, and it's typically not that way with any sort of award body that I found, unless it's a secret society and then I don't know what to do it though so.
Michael: Yeah, totally, I agree with you. I think it’s a misnomer that people aren't willing to help you. I think somehow that's miss portrayed, call it through the media, call it through, the news, whatever it may be. But I have found that people are incredibly kind, incredibly willing, but you have to ask for help, like – you had to be willing to put yourself out there and go, hey, am I playing this game the right way?
Nick: Yep. So, that's a big piece of it and so big like multiple lessons I got out of that, but it's a funny, it is a funny line and gets lots of attention and it is true. I remember, I was on the airplane, I'm like – but let me look this up.
Michael: Yeah, absolutely. And like that's the thing to men, like – it's right there in front of you, do something with it. You know, one of the things that I'm really interested to talk to you about heroes, how you found storytelling through this form and what I mean by that is through documentary filmmaking, specifically being a director like what part of that is, so compelling to you? Because there's a level here we're in your position you have to experience both the best and the worst of humanity. What about this drives you to the place where you're like, I'm willing to dedicate my life to something?
Nick: Yeah. And so I mean, I think it was not intentional at all, by the way, I mean that I would end up doing as much of this, as I've been doing. I mean, quite frankly. I feel like I went to undergrad and law school and I'm a music guy. I really want to be a record producer, you know, record label executive songwriter and its really freaking hard. And so I just said, you know, man, maybe that's one things that prompted me to look into any some like man, I don't see a Grammy my near future, let me see what it would take to win an Emmy.
And so I just started, you know, I think I took all the things I learned from, my work and music and everything else and my branding agency that I built. And I just realized that if I wanted to make great films, I just need to build a great team and so, I started building a team and what I got fascinated by was obviously the quality of stories that out there and the quality stories that present themselves, especially when like now, that people know that I do this, like, they people who know me and I make documentaries, I'm typically the only person I know who makes documentaries, so, they bring everything to me and you get to pick and choose and go, Oh, that's cool or this, here's why that might not work or I'm not interested but I think I'll give you around about way to answer that. I just realized a few months ago that I like to learning, I really thought my whole life, I hate to learning like a legit thought, like I hate learning and I really realized, I really just hate learning in a desk for eight hours a day in school classroom, I was decent at it like, I went got through, got good grades went to law school, but I would go back and say, other than lunch and PE, there's not much. I enjoyed about any level of schooling like I just wanted to get done. I finished my undergrad in two and a half years actually stayed till another semester to finish in three or so, I could keep scholarship money and I went right into law school and like I just wanted to get done, I want to be done with School, I hated everything about it, than the people, I like the people and I had some good teachers on his stuff. I just did not love that process, but then I realized that the reason I love doing what I'm doing right now is because I actually am fascinated by learning new things and meeting new people and that's all I get to do like I get to have and when you have a camera with you get no one holds back because I'm not doing expose is I'm doing like, you know, we're storytelling and digging in. I do a lot of biographies, I do a lot of cause based stuff and it's like no one says, oh, yeah, you should talk to my he's a deadbeat over on Third Street, he's never done things like they're I'm doing Dick Vitale's document right now is like – Oh, yeah and I also want you to interview Shack and I also could you get Charles Barkley, Oh, and I'm really good friends with Kenny Chesney, could you grab him? And it's, like – the people I get to work with. And one of the delineations I make in my world is like I work with celebrity experts. I don't work with celebrities, I work with celebrity experts. I wanted people who are so good at what they do, there's such an expert or so good at it that the world cannot help but promote them and make them into a celebrity.
And so that's I really enjoy those conversations at the end of the day. I love people, I love helping people and so it's become this really interesting way of having this, super connected network of everything is just sort of one phone call or text away. And part of it is me pouring in and helping you'll honor someone story like Larry King like, when I told his story and then that in turn buys you Social Capital, if you will, like – I don't do it in a transactional way, but if I needed to meet somebody you need like, Larry would, you know, before he passed away was willing to make an introduction. And so I like people and I like learning interesting things and I like helping and so, to me documentaries are like, way that I can do it, it's like going on vacation, and you always end up with a highlight reel. That's like amazing because like everything you do is being documented and then you just get to show the best parts of it and you get to weave a story that the world, you know, I'm banking on the fact of the world of the interesting.
Michael: Yeah. And look and up ultimately at the end of the day and I think you'll agree with this. You don't know until you know, and that means you have to put out the work. And one of the things I think about frequently as you know, we're always on this journey of this trajectory of constantly failing and I think people don't necessarily wrap their mind around that in order to build your dream, you are going to have to fell about 10 bazillion times and I heard you say something, fascinating man, and it stuck with me for a while since I heard you say it and you were like, your first project should never be your best. And that to me was like – damn, that's so smart, man. What does that really mean? Can you break that down for me?
Nick: Yeah. I try to get so people are always like worried starting as the hardest thing, right? And anything like starting a podcast, starting like just turning on that video camera and speaking to it. I mean, we all hit these challenges daily, like it's funny. I'm working on building my YouTube channel because it's one of the only places in the world that you could put a video and you get paid for it, like there's it's so simple yet I never really focused on this and so I should. So the guy who's helped me build my YouTube channels, like, hey, man, you need to do some clips in front of a camera like just sharing some of your like thought, leadership and knowledge. I'm like, how do I do that? Like, you know, just even me I when I do this stuff all the time I speak to people I knew if I got do interviews, but it's just out of my comfort zone because I don't do a lot of it, it's like, okay. I got to figure that out, so the hardest part is starting. So what I reason I talk about, you know, I basically say, I know that you're not sure where to start and every time I get an email from a new script writer or a new photographer or a songwriter, typically, I get a lot of songs like people like, hey, check this out, what do you think and certainly starting early in my career and I get it.
And what I typically, they weren't where they needed to be, I mean, it's just most of the world isn't, most things are not Blockbusters or number one heads, and that's okay because it the only way to learn how is by doing like process will give you progress, you got to keep going, you got to work with people better than you, you got to just do a lot of it. And so, my way of inspiring people is like, look if I told you that song, you just sent me that painting, you just sent me or that documentary just sent me was the best one you ever were going to make, would you be excited or depressed? And it takes him a second to think about it? Because like first of all, I got excited as you like, but no it is that the last one you ever want to do or do you want to get, do you intend to refine this craft and get better? And inevitably the answers like, no, no, this is I'm just starting out and so exactly, so let me give you feedback of, don't worry about it, you're only going to get better from here. Your first one is going to suck, and let's just keep moving and just focus on constant movement generally getting better.
So that's sort of why I started talking about that concept of like making people think about like, hey, if the thing you just sent me was the best you were ever going to do, you're never going to do better than that in your life.
You be depressed or happy and it reframes people thinking about oh, this is a journey, I do have to start, I'm not going to be offended if I have room to grow and so that's really sort of where that concept.
Michael: Yeah, and I think that's such a powerful truism of life because I've never been good at anything the first time I did it never, you know, not even breathing, you know what I mean? You come out of the womb, you're like, all right, this is not working, let's figure this out. I think one thing is fascinating about you and I'd be curious if you'd be willing at happen in this little bit as this idea about self-awareness and you talk about this idea of being conscious and cognizant of your strength and your internal gifts so that you can bring value to the world and I run across people in my life and I go, this person is bringing value to the world by really tapping in and harnessing, the ability that they have and whatever avenue that is and I would put you on that pedestal all day long. How do you do that?
Nick: Yes, as soon as I was interviewing Daniel Negreanu, the thing is six times series of Poker championship and he dropped out of high school to play poker. So imagine having that conversation with your parents like no, no, I got a really this is much better than school, I'm going to go be a poker player, so just fascinating story anyway, and I asked him one question to ask you instead, Daniel, what do you think is the number one skill you must have to be a champion poker player? He goes self-awareness, like – he didn't stop, I was like again, follow-up question, do you not think that's maybe the key to everything in life and success? He's like – yeah, you're probably right. And so to me, it's just looking at, look, I have a lot of scars, I feel like from school and it was school, wasn't that bad? But like I'll go back to but I think it's such a formative part of our life and we're forced, we have these some thankfully, most of us have a few teachers along the way that really inspire us to do something great, but the rest of them. And I'm not blaming them they're like their job is to get people through their subject, through their grade move next grade and help elevate them. And it's really hard with, you know, 20 or 30 ducklings that have different personalities, different ISMS and I got ADHD and this kid over here is on the Spectrum, and this kid, you know, has dyslexia like whatever, right? That's really hard. But for some like, me that box, I figured out how to play the game in the box because we were sort of taught that we have to be good at everything like because you don't get celebrated if you get an A in English and D in math, you don't, because there's this basic skill, you need to know in math. I mean I would argue is trigonometry and basically need to know, I don't know, I don't have a good answer that, there's probably a great reason you do need to experience it before you can determine. Oh, I might want to be an engineer, but I think we a lot of us have this sort of baked in bias of, we got to be good at everything. And I think a really freeing moment is, when you decide not only you don't want to be everything like you realize, you physically can't. So what do I like to do I enjoy doing? What do I do well, that I wouldn't mind getting better at and I enjoy it. And so to me, it's just like working on those strengths and then like my whole career now has been figuring out what are my strengths and then one of my biggest weaknesses and who can help me with that couple concepts from Dan Sullivan, strategic coach, he's amazing, you know, who not how? I got to a point in my life now, where if I on to do something new, I go who can help me with this? Not, how do I do that? I go, who can help me with this? Who do I know who's done this before? Who do I know that can share their secrets? Or who do I know that can just do it for me? And then his concept of unique ability, which, you know, we have this culture of retirement, to retirement culture, like let's do our job until we don't have to do it anymore and we stepped in our job. Well, that's a miserable way to live, we could all agree to that. Like if you don't, if you want to do it, just why just don't do it. Now, I'm not going to tell you to be irresponsible, got bills to pay, mouths to feed kids, whatever like there's a road to this, but the road to that is starting to remove the things that causing you the biggest friction first, and then you'll realize it's just like remodeling a house once you've painted the cabinet's, you realize. Oh, man, the floor, doesn't look that great, then you redo the for? And then now you got a new cabinets new for and I got a Pinko doesn't go. And then, you know, if you're my wife, all of a sudden, you need a whole new house. I'm just kidding but this is how it works. Right?
And I give her a hard time about do, but I have a perfection complex when it comes to like, design and furniture and stuff, too, so it's at least half my fault but when we do this in our lives, we I understand there's a lot of things at play here there. I think that idea that anyone can do anything they want, I love the aspiration but I don't think it's realistic in a lot of ways, right? I mean, there's a certain like, I have limitations like, I cannot be Shaquille O'Neal like, I'm not going to get an MBA. I was not born seven foot six and eight hundred pound like just not going to happen now, could I find an alternate path I mean maybe but I'm just not that gifted at the game of basketball, whatever it is. And so I think just looking at, okay, what causes me the greatest friction, how do I remove these things? How do I start looking where this concept of unique ability to thing that I can wake up for the rest of my life to the day I don't wake up? And I'd love doing it more, it would provide more value to the world.
And then a third optional, most of us is not that optional but how might I get paid for providing that value to the world. It doesn't have to be a part of that, I mean, certainly certain, some people give up a career and go into volunteering and that's their unique ability is, it was really it doesn't require monetization, that's great too. So, I don't want to require that but I think not enough people look at that so, for me, it's just looking at, hey, what do I enjoy doing? And what do I seem to be good at? What could I enjoy the process of getting better at? And so for me, just to give an idea spent a lot of money and time, that's why it's so esoteric, like, my unique ability like what I do, I'd say between 75 and 90 percent of time, I'm just kind of trying to more is I try to have impact for conversations and meaningful conversations that lead to produced outcomes. So you reach out and your kind you said, man, I'd love to have you my podcast and it's okay, great, love to be on your podcast and so, you know, I looked you up and whatever and sounds great. And so hopefully, a meaningful conversation that's going to lead to the produced outcome of a podcast being released in the world and hopefully it helps somebody. If you had said, hey Nick, will you write a special report for me that I can send out to my… ? I would either say no or I'd say if it was worthwhile for the audience and who's going to help, I'd have a meaningful conversation with a ghost writer and a ghost writer would produce the outcome of this special report and a documentary.
I have a meaningful conversation behind the camera sometimes in front of the camera, sometimes I'd speak from stage, sometimes you podcast something to do interviews, and all I do is I stay in my lane and just try to have the most meaningful conversation I can.
One last tip and I will shut up and you can ask them a question, I've been a songwriter for years, one of the tips I got early on. When I was writing, you'll when you come into a song writers room. So in Nashville, we write typically two songs a day like ten or eleven am writing a 2 or 3 p.m., right? And it's like five days a week and that's just it's how it works and so you cannot wait for inspiration to strike, you have to create an inspiration.
And you know, you when you get invited into a room especially, the first couple times, like you feel a lot of pressure, what I got invited in or a friend voucher me where it's like, you feel I got to bring ideas, I got to bring really great ideas. And one of my friends told me what I was like, hey, man, you need to have good ideas, but the best writers always write the best song in the room that day. And it's always the combination of the people and energy, and what's going on, everyone's lives are going to create the song that your job is just to help uncover that day. So sometimes I get it, I came with an idea of everyone's like let's write that, let us write that but sometimes it's like, okay, cool and you got to just be open like what do you think you want to think? And so for me with having meaningful conversations, like with you in this podcast, like I don't prepare for these conversations, just not my style.
I have what, like a jazz musician would call riffs, I've got certain things, I can go to when it's an appropriate time to go. Oh, I got a story for this or constant for this or whatever but other than that, it's like I really the best way that I can serve, your audience is just to have the best conversation in the room today, which is you're following your lead and just going where it, where, where it goes.
Michael: Yeah. And there's a lot of gold and what you just said, in the biggest, take away from me, just in that and maybe it's because the last thing that I heard, right? You go, okay, and in reality, the way that you step into creating something powerful is that you have to, for lack of better term, you just got to show up and do it. On the days you don't want to, on the days, you do want to and every single day in between. I mean, that's the same way, I built a podcast, same way I wrote a best-selling book, the same way I've done all the things it's like – I don't want to sit down and write for four fucking hours. I can think of a million better things to do, but it's on the calendar, so you show up. And Nick that kind of leads me into this question that for a lot of people listening right now or watching, they're probably thinking like, man, this Nick guy, he's just one of the lucky ones, he must have everything handed to him. I mean, he's written music, he probably will win a Grammy one day, knows all these celebrities. Why are we even listening this guy right now, but I want to ask you this question because I think it'd be really impactful and beneficial for people to understand something. How much of this journey for you has been about getting out of your own way?
Nick: Oh! Man. I think, and in some ways, every part of it. So I what to share a lot of people as look, first thing when I talk to somebody like, you know either, I don't have a story which there's a whole I could go on a tangent on that for a while but I really need to start, I need to write that book, I need to give speeches but I'm not a great speaker like me, I got a list for me, there's I talk too fast, whatever, there's like I also people, when your mission and your message or more important than your ego, you just get out of your own way and you'll start, because if it's truly mission driven and if you really believe that you have the power to impact a million people or that if you were the one doing everyone's heart surgery as a surgeon, you would say 10% more lives, like – you're not going to worry about your delivery, you're going to worry about. Like I got to just get out there and get started and I got to start, you know, evangelizing for whatever it is, that I'm evangelizing for.
Like me a big thing, like – everyone has a story and everyone has a story that matters, and there's a series of events that led you and me to this moment today and without and not even being hokey about it, if we go back and actually think about those moments like an honor those moments, most of us have things that happen in kindergarten or first or second or third grade things in high school things in college that are driving us right now and we just haven't acknowledged it. Like I talk about it all the time, had a third grade teacher, tell me from the front of class, I was stupid and I was mad about it for a long time, I FedEx or a box of Emmys. She has no clue by the way. I think just having a bad day, and think this for most people, every time she's my mom and the grocery store shelves, that's I'm doing says, I was one of her favorites that, and for years. I've thought a grudge against this lady, but when I think about it, like perhaps, she is one of the people I can say, for sure that like – that drove me to prove to the world like to perform. Now, you got to keep that in a healthy balance because just performing and not enjoying your life or any of that is not healthy for anybody and you shouldn't just be get to run away from demons, but there's these moments that have led us to, to where we are today.
And so much of my like – look getting into emailing a lady at the Emmys for the first time was super uncomfortable. I mean getting on phone calls, sometimes the people you don't know or you don't know where their ideas going to lead and so I've just learned over the years, I mean a lot of its based on I'll my presentation of it is based on my faith, but you could extrapolate it, but I imagine if I want to accomplish the things that are for me, in life, I got to give got elbow room, I got to like stop trying to control everything, I can just got to show up and do the best I can and serve the best they can in the moments that I'm given and so that's what I try to do. And I mean, look, it would be silly for me to say. I don't have any talents or gifts that would be like disrespectful to even to the audience and in the same thing for you. I don't go around bragging about my talents and gifts, but certain things, come easy to me, come easier than other things, certain things I am terrible at.
And so to me, what I've really learned is collaboration like makes this all work. So if I want to accomplish something the best way to get out of my own way, is to go find mentors and people who can help me accomplish those things. And so, I think, what I really want people to take away is like, I'm different, then everybody like we're all different world different in each other, but it was definitely like I didn't have relevance in the business. I mean, I remember when I first started, when I was in music, I read a book that is as born in 1980, right? So I'm not that old but I'm starting to become one of the older ones in a lot of rooms these days but yeah, I'm 41, right?
So when I was like – in the mid 90s as we didn't have, we had like prodigy maybe AOL is coming online, but like there wasn't like you can go find anything you want on the world wide web. And so you would get books, you go to library books, or whatever and there's a book called, all you need to know about the music business by this guy, Donald S past and I think you still love a professor at USC or somewhere out there and like one of the things was like, Hey, if you want to have a career in music, you must have an entertainment lawyer. Well, I got the phone book and I was living in Orlando, there's like maybe three people, listen our entertainment lawyer, but we just had Matchbox Twenty just broke out of Orlando, and Mary three, which is like, there's a little bit of a scene or supposed to be Hollywood East, you know, Disney was building a studio, so it's a few people but like I had to, like call. And as a 15-16-year-old kid would pregnant no money and try to find someone who talked to me because this was my only way, this book says, I got to get an attorney. We just like, you just have to take these steps and they're uncomfortable conversations. I actually end up getting through to one guy and end up in a Bible study within 20 years later, which is funny. I was like – I was able to tell the group like he doesn't know who I am. I'm going to tell you guys, this guy's the real deal, he's a good dude, he took my call when I was 15 and he was Matchbox twenty's lawyer, and he walked me to the next few steps I can take to my career. But all this is all like I am not specialer, that's a terrible word, but I'm gonna is it intentionally, then anybody else here? I have taken, I had taken risks, some of worked out, some have not worked out. I think if the main thing I could tell anyone, if you want to be successful, I mean, self-awareness is huge. I mean, you can't just keep not getting any better or not having the town to do something I expect to be great at it, but I will say, I think an equal dose of perseverance is super helpful because you really only lose the game, when you give up and the rest of it is, you're still in the game.
So again, can sounds really cliché but man, there's no good reason why I should still be writing songs and trying to make it professionally, I just this last year, I've been writing since I was 15 and I'm 41 and I had my first commercial success probably last year and every time I went to Nashville, everyone had many reasons, my employees prior likewise, what's he doing? Like the questionable, like eventually, I did Rudy's documentary Rudy has a phrase tester life until it gives in like that's what I did.
I just kept going until someone gave up and they're like and eventually I got a great enough song and a big artist want to cut it in bubble. So now we have a few million spends on Spotify, but you still make no money from that. So the next step is we make some money and so anyway, hopefully I answered your question, lots of stories in it.
Michael: Yeah, you know, I love it, man. There's so many different ways, I can poke and prod this because I'm just like, yes, I get that. You know, one thing that comes to mind is this idea, really parlaying with what you just said about fortune favors the bold. And I think so much of my experience like this idea of like going back in time tracing all the footsteps to right now. I mean, it's taken me 36 years to get to this moment with you today, you know, and it took a lot of decisions, a lot of failures, a lot of doing things the wrong way. And most importantly, I try to teach this to my coaching clients, I try to bring it into my books, into my public speaking and everything that I do and it's so much about being a part of a collective to be able to create massive change in your life. And I know that you're big on this, you've mentioned, you know Community a couple of times here, but you said something I wrote down one time, you said; we are not self-made, we are community made. Go into that for me because I think it hits home for me in a way that I hope will home for other people.
Nick: Yeah, you know, I heard a few people say that they may be Arnold Schwarzenegger, sort of, got me thinking about this for the first time when it may, I think it was him, he said somebody like, there's this Western culture has the tendency to take any, you and make it singular. So if I say you, we go starting to me, it's about me. And so we have this really singular, focus on ourselves and we're all sort of born self-centered, right? Like I need milk and need food, I need whatever. And so at some point, I think a lot of us lose track of the fact that like whether, I liked the interaction with that third grade teacher or not, she helped shape who I was. And then beyond that people who like my parents, who sacrificed a lot. We were immigrants like to help me and my brother get to University and to get through University and to have food on the table, even if you were forsaken by your parents, let's say and you had to get a job to work, to raise yourself, to where you're like, you probably still had someone who took a chance on you and gave you a job. You probably had someone who modeled some good behaviors for you that you learn how to not recreate a broken past, that broken past that you were brought up in.
So we are the sum of it's funny because you can really break it down into simple as principal of sort of become a hokie self up from school. But you are the some of the nine people you hang out with the most but we are every one of us is the product of what we put into our heads.
And before I met Tony Robbins, I had hundreds of hours when I was training for tennis as a kid, my coach gave me Tony Robbins CDs, and like, you know, Tony Robbins was part of my mindset and then my tennis coach, who was nice enough to give me the pirated CDs, which I've had to apologize to Tony Robbins about that, we are made by our surroundings and by our community, and if you make good decisions, you try to remove toxic people and places from that community, they still do shape you though, by the way, they are part of your upbringing.
So I think it's just a very selfish way of looking at things to say your self made because you're not, I mean you nobody has done everything for themselves their entire life and a lot of times if you think yourself made more people than, you know, did things for you that you just never recognized.
So you probably owe a lot of people think use that you never took the time to think about.
Michael: Yeah, I could not agree with that more. I mean, there is a zero percent chance I'd be here talking to you without mentors, without coaches without teachers, who put me in situations at made me recognize the path I was heading down. I mean, statistically, I come from a zip code, I should be dead or in jail, I should have multiple felonies, at my life has been absolutely chaotic, things have happened in my experience that most people here and they go, that's a movie and I go, no, it's real life, like dark things happen.
And one of the things that happened to me Nick in my mid-20s, I just kind of lost hope man. I was in this position I had gone through Corporate America, I dealt with Childhood trauma and abuse and being homeless and doing drugs at 12 years old and I found myself in the money and I was like – oh money is going to solve all of my problems, turns out that shit ain't real because that's not how it works, and I just kind of lost hope for a while. And you talked about this idea that if we give people hope they can find their dreams again. How do you give people hope through storytelling?
Nick: And I think storytelling look, I love it and I say it to him too, but like Rudy, right? So most people have seen the sports movie. Rudy, has ran out of sports movies, really movie about hope and perseverance, but it happens to be backed by football. But if you were to break down, Rudy Story, the worst way possible, which is, probably how each of us break down our own stores because we're not megalomaniac swear, not narcissistic ego maniacs. And we just think my story is nothing special and because I lived it like we all think like other people's talents, like if you can play piano really it's not that big of a deal you just play the piano and but playing drums, like that's cool because it's because you can't. And on someone else's story school because it's not yours, you lived in, it's just seems normal, it's like just you could not live it, it's just what happened.
And so what I try to get what I try to get across, as you look at each of these things and the uniqueness in it and I forgot where I was, totally forgot. What I was going, sorry. What brought me to your question again?
Michael: Yeah, no worries, about hope and storytelling and you've talked to him rooting.
Nick: Yes, and so if you were to break that down the worst way possible, it's like this guy doesn't take the SAT or ACT, he somehow finds his way into Notre Dame and he walks on the football team. He never really gets to play, he does get in in one game and he makes one tackle like that is sort of the essence of Rudy at its lowest common denominator, but the way that story is told and the trials in it are what make it one of, I mean, it's the number one, most popular like sports movie of all time now. And so it's always in the top 10 lists, right? It's because of the way that story was told and so, to me, stories can give us hope to things we didn't even know we're possible.
So, like, for instance, I just told Anousheh Ansari story on my Sears and Amazon Prime, and she is the first private female space Explorer, well, I would before I met Anousheh, and Peter Diamandis, I did not know that there was going to be, there's going to be, she went to space, I think over 10 years ago, like that was a thing, even if NASA wasn't going to space, there were still ways to go to space, like that's inspiring.
Peter Diamandis, his story of funding the X Prize. As you don't notice the 10-million-dollar prize for the first private space ship that could do to suborbital flights within 10 days with reusable materials, is a whole thing as a ten-million-dollar prize. Well, Peter launched the X-ray and by the way, it became the technology that Richard Branson bought, it became Virgin Galactic and he just wrote on it for the first time you probably noticed and so Peter launches, 10-million-dollar prize and I tell this story in the film I made about Peter visioneer, Peter made this one surprised. You didn't have the 10 million dollars and he kept trying to raise a $10 and couldn't raise the ten million dollars and Peter ended up getting the 10 million dollars by buying hole in one golf tournament insurance. So like if you go to a golf term and there's a million-dollar purse of it all in one, they don't have a million dollars in the safe somewhere, they hired an insurance company to do the odds and they do it for a bunch of golf courses and everybody pays in their insurance and when it's some random time gets hit, the insurance company has enough money and they pay it out. Well, so Peters Mentor said, hey, let's go see how much we could get, these policies, let's go get an insurance company that will bet against us in this time frame and we just don't know how much the odds of space insurance is going to cost us well.
So when people see that story, it blows their friggin mind like you got what? And it makes for me, it's like, dude, anything is possible, there's always a way you can always find a way.
Now, it's probably not the way most people give up after two rejections or one rejection, but there is a way and you've got to just keep pushing to find it and so finding nuggets like that for me, that I can share with the rest of the world that no one has a clue about, like that gives so much hope, there's that on the very positive side and then I've done you a lot of work in human trafficking. I've done a lot of work with on an operation of ground railroad and I just releasing the my actually world premiere is this week in L.A. of a film called “It's happening right here” which is about human trafficking in America and how it's happening, how kids aren't really being, I mean, they're some of it happens but not nearly the percentage of traffic right now is not nearly the probably one of the lower percentages is like abducting kids dying their hair, kidnapping in for movie theaters, whatever it is, like, most of it's happening online now, with kids getting exploited through video, cameras on their cell phones, through things like TikTok and Roblox, and Minecraft and just things you wouldn't even think of. And so that sounds coming out and that is a dark subject but it still can provide hope because if I can give a parent the knowledge, like my biggest takeaway from that and I got two teenager boys and a daughter is 10 is like, look, number one, kids are going to make stupid mistakes like this is part of growing up, but we don't say it but we sort of expect our kids to be perfect. Right? But so, I can one of the ways kids get traffic today is, let's say, okay, you and I both been teenage boys, we understand what that's like, teenage boys, anyone has been a teenage boy understand this and the teenage girl you've ever interacted with the teenage boy, you understand this too, and I don't want to stereotype too much, but you get my point. If I'm a teenage boy and I've had a bad day and I post on Instagram or my story or whatever, life sucks me, my parents hate me or my girlfriend just dumped me or my whatever and I get in a DM, from some gorgeous person that I would be into and she's like, oh my gosh, you're so cute and she develops a relationship with me.
And eventually she starts sending me half naked to finally fully naked pictures if I'm in this relationship with her and I want to send them back and from the moment you send that nude photo or that compromising photo, you're done because all of a sudden, you realize that's not I wasn't really talking to that girl. I was talking to a 57-year-old man in iowa, or wherever, and he now says, hey, here's the deal, and I have a nude photo of you, here's what you're going to do for me. You're gonna masturbate every day ads on zoom at two o'clock and I'm gonna sell tickets, or you're going to send me videos, you're going to or I'm going to post this online, I'ma send to everyone in your school, I know all your friends are on Instagram, I can DM it to all them, I'm gonna tell your parents, I'm going to and all of a sudden this kid is screwed because they don't want to have the most awkward conversation they could ever have with either their parent or someone who might be able to help them. You know, they made one bet or a series or bad decisions which led to one really bad decision. And then the next decision really will dictate how much worse it gets.
And so for me, I hope everyone walks away with the fact that from this movie like look I tell my kids, I'm like never texts and want a picture of your junk, just don't do it and even when you do come, tell me because I will help you. I know it's the awkward conversation and I don't want you to do it but if you ever do, if you ever feel like you're in a compromising position, come talk to me about because one really awkward conversation with your dad and mom, I promise you as much better than millions of soul-sucking interactions with people who don't give a damn about you. And so, that's the message and I think I hope that will bring hope because prior to this, any parent, it's a broken subject, it's a subject that's really dark, they don't know what to do, they don't know what it is, they still think they're telling their kid, you know, and not that you shouldn't practice good safety. But like, you know, now it's so much more effort and so much riskier and creepier to buy a white van to lurk around movie theaters. No one even goes to malls anymore, right? But, so that even know the problem before and now I go through all the way to them having some realizations of like, oh, wow, not only should I be aware of what social platforms are things, my kids are using and what they can be used for. Like most people don't know is zoom, I mean make sense, once you hear that they sell tickets to child rape on Zoom because it's just a platform and so they use it that way. And so when you realize what it is, my hope is that it brings hope somebody goes, okay, now,
I can take the first step and starting to have some of these awkward conversations and like me, I showed the moon not to my youngest daughter, my two, teenage boys, I showed it to them when we were finishing up, moving on, like – to me, it gives a great starting point for a discussion. So my hope is it goes throughout schools and churches, and organizations to just help start these conversations. So, it doesn't matter whether it's a positive or a negative topic, storytelling can bring hope to it because you can see what others did. One I have a book called story selling one things we talk about is how to win an argument and the way the best way to win an argument is not to argue, it's to tell a story with the outcome you already know what the outcome is and then you get to say, and here's why the outcome what it is and there's never an argument. So then from that point on, what you're talking about because you cited a real example and you gave the reasons why it happened. And so storytelling allows you to do that allows you to lead people down, whatever path it is, that you want to lead them down and I choose to let people down pads of hope whether it's a bright subject or dim subject.
Michael: Yeah, and that's really beautiful. And I think so much of our Human Experience is recognizing that there's information on both sides and we often shy from the dark things and that's why like I love the documentary you did with Tim Ballard operation croissant because I looked at that and I was like, wow, look at what is happening in the world right now with child sex trafficking in the in light of the fact that we are now more evolved as a species than ever in history and yet it's still happening. And then now with it's happening here looking at, this is kind of what so fascinating to me Nick about Western Society in America particular in the way that we're sold this liar, this fathom that we are always safe, for always protected, America's were all the good things happen. And then what the documentary are working on now and now coming to release this week in L.A. and just go, man, that's not true, there is still darkness, but in bringing light to, that darkness was able to build what is next were able to cross those gaps, close those doors and help people going to what's next in their life. And that's a big reason that Think Unbroken my company, we donate to OUR operation under Ground railroad every single month through our programs, do the podcast, who is coaching because it matters, and at the end of the day, you know, I think so frequently, we get caught up in stuck in this idea that all of the bad things are everywhere else, and you're like, man, that's right next to us. And one of my missions in life, my number one mission in life is to end generational trauma in my lifetime. That's why I write the Books, that's why I have the podcast, that's why I speak around the country because I always think of a kid doesn't have to have a story like mine, that means I can tell my story to bring hope to people. So I'm right here with you, and I have a great appreciation for you (A) for putting yourself in a precarious and dangerous situations, but (B) and probably more so, being willing to shine light on the darkness because you can't bring anything out when it's hidden still. And so, I just want to commend you and applaud you and show you a tremendous amount of gratitude for being willing to do that. I know that you put a fucking bullet proof vest on to go in Haiti and do a raid like that takes fucking balls man, so thank you for that.
Nick: It was an honor to do it, man, it's those guys, do the hard work. We just had cameras, but it was it's crazy to see that stuff up close and personal and since then I've been with Tim and oh, you are to Columbia, Iraq, Mexico on different things and, you know, it's interesting how it's like anything else you just go in and feels right. I would tell everybody, like, never forced that stuff because things could happen but never really felt that in danger there's a couple moments when you look back, you like, oh wait a second but you know, you just do what feels right? And it was truly an honor, I mean Russell Brunson brought me in to tell that story, so I owe him a lot for that. It opened my eyes to a lot and yeah, man, I mean, people like you being brave enough to share your story of what you went through. You can't control where you came from, only where you go, right? And so what do you do with that, I think that's a big, big turning point for people, you got to decide what are you going to do with that? Are you going to continue to live a broken story? Or you are going to find hope in those ashes? And I think look unfortunately evil is always going to exist like that's just the way it is.
Human trafficking is just the one of the worst forms of bullying that there ever could be and so every time technology allows a new way for it to happen, there's going to be someone who's going to figure out how to do that and but our job as evolving human beings is try to say, all right, well, how can we equip people? How can we help those who've been drugged into it? And what can we do? How can we help? But I guess the end of the question I always try to ask is and try to remember to ask his like how can I best serve? Like I've always, even if I didn't know what to do next and you when the pandemic is like going to, if you're just paralyzed, it's who can I serve right now? And how can I serve them? Well, because when you show up in serve opportunity abounds.
Michael: Yeah, that's so true. And I'll tell you this, when I was in my darkest spot, when I was at my rock bottom. It was being of service that pulled me out of that and so I'm right there with you. And you need hope in your life, go serve other people because I promise you, your life will be different.
Nick, my friend, this has been absolutely amazing conversation before I ask you my last question, can you tell everyone where they can find you?
Nick: Yeah, I'm pretty much everywhere under nicknanton.com . If you are opt-in there you get more stuff. I'd love for you to like my Instagram and subscribe to YouTube and all the stuff that your interested in but nicknanton.com sort of has, if you are opt-in there, you'll get the updates on new movies and stuff.
Michael: Brilliant. And of course, we'll put all of the links in the show notes and go check out Nick on Amazon Prime, and cooperation truce on is on there right now. You can watch it for free as a part of Amazon or if they change the algorithm and now you have to pay either way go, watch it because it's an incredible documentary. Nick my last question for you, my friend is what does it mean to you to be unbroken?
Nick: You know that term reminds me of, the plotline, there's seven major plot lines in storytelling and there's one its rebirth. And rebirth is an amazing plotline, but it requires tragedy before you can be reborn.
So to me, be unbroken is acknowledging the broken pieces of your life and your story and then using those two, as you said to help others either, not make the same mistakes or identify certain problems earlier so they don't have to go through the same pain you have. Tell people look, first of all, everyone has a story that matters and like we talked about the moments that led you to hear the things that guy you to hear look like very clearly, there are elements in your life that make you the most uniquely suited person in the world to speak to your audience of people who are trying to avoid or fight or come back from these horrific events, and at best, you're giving you so when you said you're 36, you're given people a 36-year shortcut and so I like to think I'm going to be about 41 years shortcut. And every time I deprive people and you deprive people and then we'll listen deprives people, the sharing of the lessons you have learned, the things you have learned by living the number of years, you've lived you’re literally depriving them of a multi-decade shortcut.
And so I think unbroken is being willing to step out and share the broken parts of your life and as well as the things that you have learned to help create something new, which is not even about you, it's about creating new opportunities for other people.
Michael: Brilliantly said, my friend, Nick. Thank you so much for being here.
Unbroken Nation, thank you so much for listening.
Please, like, subscribe, comment, share, leave a review.
Tell a friend.
And Until Next Time.
My friends, Be Unbroken.
I'll see you.
Director and Producer Nick Nanton has created over 60 films and one sold-out Broadway show. He’s directed and produced documentaries on people like Rudy Ruettiger of Notre Dame fame, Peter Diamandis, founder of the Xprize and first private spaceflight; and on organizations like Operation Underground Railroad, Folds of Honor, K9s for Warriors and more.
Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.
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