Following is the full text of Michael Brody-Waite’s talk titled “Great Leaders Do What Drug Addicts Do” at TEDxNashville conference.
Hi. I’m Mike, and I’m an addict.
And 16 years ago, my daily habit was to use alcohol and drugs from the minute I woke up to the minute I passed out at night. All I wanted to do was get and stay high.
I was kicked out of school, couldn’t keep a job. I was kicked out of my house. I didn’t even have any money, and so the only money I could get was what I stole from my friends.
I didn’t even have a belt. I’d use a piece of rope to hold my pants up. And my story is not unique. 46% of adults say they have a friend or a family member that’s addicted to alcohol or drugs. And that was me.
And I truly believed that I would be dead by the time I was 30. So, I know after saying all this, what I’m about to propose is going to sound a bit confusing.
I believe leaders should run their organizations like addicts. Addicts aren’t like everybody else. We use all the time, or we can’t use at all. So we have to do recovery the same way: every single day.
And when I got clean, they told me there were three principles that were so important if I didn’t practice them on a daily basis, I wouldn’t live. They told me I had to practice rigorous authenticity, I had to surrender the outcome, and I had to do uncomfortable work.
Now, these principles didn’t just keep me alive. This story isn’t about how I overcame addiction and despite that went on to become successful.