Fall / Winter 2021 | A conversation with Mike Lee

 

 

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A conversation with Mike Lee

 

History of Soul CBD

Soul CBD was started by my sister and I, about three years ago. We didn’t think it would really grow to the size that it has developed. We fell in love with CBD and the benefits of plant medicine. I was a professional athlete for 10 plus years and had many injuries over a long, phenomenal career. I’m incredibly grateful for that, but what came with that, was a lot of pain. I then started searching high and low, for all different types of modalities, nutrition, supplements, and mindset. I’m basically a guinea pig constantly in search of things that will alleviate my pain. CBD was one of them and I loved it very much. Everything I was taking was non-THC because I was still getting drug tested by WADA and USADA before big boxing matches that I had. Falling in love with CBD in general and learning about how important nutrition and plant medicine is, is incredible because it was a big piece of the puzzle. 

 There’s never one thing that is the end all be all, at least for me, or people that have autoimmune issues like myself, chronic pain, anxiety, or whatever it is. However, finding those different modalities, everything from nutrition to mindset to physical modalities, and just turning over every single rock is very important. That was the birth of this company and I’m very grateful to say we’ve helped 1000s of people. We have a whole different array of products from tinctures, to gummies and sleep caps. I think, no matter what, you have to calm your nervous system down, get out of that fight or flight, sympathetic nervous system into parasympathetic, which CBD really helps to do. When you do that, you find that so many other areas of the body start to get into homeostasis and begin to heal. It kind of has this top-down effect that we’ve seen with not only myself but a lot of customers. I am grateful to help other people get out of pain and it’s been a really fun ride.

 

Mike’s story

 The stressors, not only physically but mentally, could have been a catalyst for my autoimmune conditions and a lot of pain for sure. I retired about a year and a half ago which is when I last fought. I look back now and it’s ironic that the thing I love the most in the world, ended up hurting me. I have broken ribs, broken noses, concussions, broken hand, and then I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease. About halfway into my career, I was about 12-0, undefeated, and on top of the world. I was fighting in Madison Square Garden and Cowboys Stadium, having a big career. Then all of a sudden, I started getting very sick and my body started shutting down. I spent two years in and out of hospitals, and out of the ring, then was later diagnosed with a couple of autoimmune diseases. One was Ankylosing spondylitis and the other was lupus. I now sit here today, years later, and really don’t associate with those diseases. I think that mentally when you attach yourself to something like that, it ends up digging in more and more. 

 Therefore, as I’ve learned more, I’ve started to disassociate from those diseases and just say that, I have chronic conditions and I’m continuing to heal and get better. I went from being in those hospital beds to being on eight different medications, feeling very hopeless, depressed, and completely addicted to painkillers. It was the darkest time of my life and I think it was that breaking point, where I knew that nine medications weren’t the answer. I knew that I had to do something different, to start to change, so I started to dive into the mindset, meditation, and breathwork. For my nutrition, I started changing what I was eating and how I was eating it. I learned about CBD, started doing IV therapy, ozone treatment and all these different modalities that I knew were low risk, high reward. Slowly, but surely, I started getting off medication and I got back into the ring. I did something that a handful of doctors said I could never do; I ended up winning nine more fights and fighting for multiple titles, including a world title, which was my last fight.

 I still deal with pain on a daily basis, but I think I’ve found different modalities that have started to help me and started to chip away. I went from those hospital beds where I was at my sickest, to back in the ring and fighting. Now post-career, I am finding different ways to heal naturally and it’s a constant journey. I’m not going to lie, but there are days I have flare-ups, where I get very discouraged, I’m in a lot of pain and life is tough. I think that through this process, I’ve learned about many other people that have dealt with pain, and how they’ve overcome it. It has given me hope and I think that one of the strongest tools that I ever found while lying in those hospital beds, diving in, reading stories and learning, was hope. I think that when you’re in pain, hope is one of the most powerful tools to get you out of it. For me, it was reading and hearing stories of other people that had overcome things in their life. Now I try to pass it forward, while I’m still overcoming pain and these autoimmune diseases. 

 I try to instill hope in people that felt like how I felt years ago, hopeless, depressed and like life wasn’t worth living. I’m grateful to be in a better place now, but as I said, it’s a constant journey. There are a couple of things I used to say before every single fight. You’re walking out of a tunnel, there are 1000s of people, you’re about to risk your life on stage and get hurt or embarrassed or whatever it is, in front of millions of people on TV. It’s a scary feeling as you’re coming out, but the one thing I would always say is, “Have fun! Have fun, baby!” It was like this mantra that I would say in my head or out loud, as I was walking in the tunnel with all the cameras in your face. I learned to take that phrase from boxing to my life and healing. What I mean by that is, I now try to “Have fun! Have fun baby!” as much as I can because I found that when you’re laughing or smiling, it makes pain much more manageable. It can be watching a stupid comedy on TV or being around people you love, and it’s those little things I started to do, instead of constantly sitting in my own misery. 

 It’s interesting how you go through a breakup or a sad time and you want to watch sad movies or listen to sad music. You can’t do that when you’re in pain, you have to switch that cycle of pain and kind of misery. One thing I learned was, if I’m in pain, I’m watching Will Ferrell movies, listening to a podcast that makes me laugh, or I’m forcing myself to do things that make me laugh, it ends up giving me momentum. That’s another little thing that, unfortunately, and fortunately, pain kind of taught me and helps me cope. I think it starts with the mindset of believing that you can get better and then working your way down different modalities. 

 Everybody is different; one generic prescription pill may not help you but may help somebody. I love to tell people that they have options because when you’re sitting there in a hospital room or in front of a doctor, and all they want to do is write prescriptions, you’re frustrated. You’re apathetic because in 15 minutes, they decided what’s right for you, instead of listening to how you’re feeling, what you’re eating or what your environment is like. That whole system of the Western medicine has obviously helped us live longer, but I think we’re sicker than ever.  I think people need to take health into their own hands and listen to their gut. That’s really what started to help me get better. 

 

Details about CBD

 I first started taking CBD non THC products in about early 2017. For me, I initially needed it because I had a lot of anxiety and I don’t know if that was because of the anti-anxiety meds I was on, the number of painkillers and all the medications and side effects. My anxiety started racing through the roof and was having full blown panic attacks where a couple of times, I literally thought I was having a heart attack. I was a 29 year old healthy young man, so I initially started taking it for anxiety and learning what CBD does. It activates the end cannabinoid system which is naturally occurring in all mammals. We’ve known about the end cannabinoid system for years and what it does, is it puts your body into homeostasis. For a lot of people, it calms down your nervous system, helps you focus and relax a little, at the same time. It also started helping my anxiety massively. It wasn’t until later that I started learning that CBD also has anti-inflammatory properties. 

 It’s a very beautiful molecule and plant. All our products are derived from hemp, and just to take a step back, CBD can be derived from marijuana or hemp. There are different cannabinoids throughout the plants, different terpenes, and all they have different effects, but can help you. What is important to CBD, is known toxicity, so you can’t overdose on it. That’s something I found extremely attractive, considering I could walk down to CVS right now, buy a bottle of Tylenol, take too much and kill myself. However, CBD has no toxicity and it’s shown on the liver, which I think is a beautiful aspect of it. We just found that it was something that was low risk, high reward and it helped a lot of people with anxiety and stress. I think anxiety and stress, tend to be the number one killer of people and it is crazy how most heart attacks happen on Monday. Most men suffer from heart attacks because of all the stress they put on themselves and they’re usually not vocal about it. 

 I think that there are different elements in this plant that are starting to calm down our nervous systems and help us. That’s what I discovered and why I decided to start the company. It’s important when you’re looking at the products you’re buying, to figure out what’s right for you. I’m not here to demonize THC which is the psychoactive element in the plant and is actually found in the hemp plant as well. It just has a much lower amount than the marijuana plant. THC has benefited a lot of people as well, but it’s just that for me, especially as a professional athlete, getting drug tested, was a no for me. Even now, I don’t tolerate THC because I tend to feel hungover the next day, if I take an edible or I smoke something with THC, but it does help a lot of people. Once again, I don’t want to demonize it, but what’s beautiful about CBD, CBN, and some of the other cannabinoids, is that it doesn’t have a psychoactive element to it, so it won’t get you high. 

 When you’re reading labels, make sure to see what you’re buying. Is it a CBD isolate, broad-spectrum or full-spectrum? When you have a full spectrum, you will have elements of THC in there under the legal amount. When you have broad-spectrum generally, that’s when the THC is taken out. However, the other cannabinoids and terpenes are in there. Then the CBD isolate is CBD only, so you know you’re not getting any of the other cannabinoids or THC if that doesn’t suit you. It tends to be a little bit confusing and the industry still needs a lot of regulation, but it’s important to read the labels and know where your product is coming from. All our products are double third-party lab tested, so we literally take the third-party lab testing from our farms and manufacturers and test those as well. We show certificates of analysis (COA).

 You have got to make sure, even if it’s not Soul CBD, that you find a reputable brand that’s showing COAs on every single product line. In those COAs, you can see that there are no levels of pesticides, heavy metals, and you have the amount of CBD in there, that they say there are. Unfortunately, I think a recent study showed upward of 70% of CBD brands aren’t properly reporting the number of heavy metals and pesticides, they’re cutting corners for margins to make more money. This is something I was taking every single day, giving to my family and friends, so I had to make sure that it was safe and effective. That’s something my sister and I stand by and are super proud of. There are other companies doing it as well, but unfortunately, are not many.  

 

Working with Angie to help the community

 From the get-go, we’ve always said: “Community first, brand second”. That has been very important for us, especially Angie who has such a vocal and amazing community of women that are starting businesses or helping other people heal. She throws these amazing events, where for example, two years ago, before COVID, she had over 2000 women come to see her speak. She has developed this incredible community that really launched the business, which I’m very grateful and proud of her for. We’ve really focused on what our community wants and I think when we’ve done that, it has just succeeded. We go to our community and we ask: What do you want next? What are your pain points? 

 Every single product that we come out with, is addressing a pain point. It’s not about what the margins are or if this will sell well in retail. It’s about what our community wants. They’re having trouble sleeping; how are they having trouble sleeping and how can we help them address that pain point. I think that’s how more companies should come at it. It’s a more empathetic way and ends up paying off in the end because you’re helping and you’re listening to your community. I think that’s important because now more than ever, the community is vital for people’s mental health.

How COVID affected the business

 I think we expanded during COVID because we are a direct consumer business, so we weren’t in retail. Secondly, people are having more anxiety and pain, unfortunately, more than ever. They were interested in natural ways to help with anxiety.  Turn on the news for 10 minutes, and you think the world’s going to end, so we did see growth in the business. For us; me personally and my Soul CBD team members, struggled to be on zoom calls all day and everything is remote. I think we miss that human connection and touch. I still do, and we’re not out of the woods yet. When we get to that point, it’s very important for our mind, body, and soul to connect physically in real space because Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, are not the same. Way too often, it’s just hurting us, especially our young kids. We’re seeing kids sicker than ever, so I guess it’s been good and bad in a sense.

 

Soul CBD products

 One of the key things we did on the website, made sure that when you click, are you dealing with anxiety, inflammation, do you need help with sleep, or whatever that pain point is, we have a product for you. We have the best-tasting CBD in the world and that’s something we stand by. We use essential oils and different elements to give that awesome taste because too often, many products taste like humpy. We are very proud of that, but one of the rituals we do with the oils is to teach people about box breathing, for instance, and I talked about breathwork earlier. One of my favorite breathwork sequences, that I used to do before every single fight, that I do now when I take a full dropper, a tincture of CBD, is called “The 478 breathing”. 

 It was developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, who’s a pioneer in this space, but it’s very simple in the sense that you go through three cycles. What you do is inhale for four seconds through your nose, hold for seven seconds, and then exhale for eight seconds out. Repeat that, maybe 2 to 4 times, but what they found is, when you do this seven-eight cycle, it’ll slow down your heart rate. It will bring your cortisol levels down and will take you from sympathetic to parasympathetic. It’s something I’ve been doing for years as an athlete, and I find tremendous success with it. We are starting to teach people that, when you’re taking CBD, before a bath, or whatever your mode of relaxation is, maybe add in a quick 60 seconds, 2 minutes maximum, of quick breathwork. This calms your nervous system down, to kind of prepare you for that moment, ends up stacking on top of each other and getting more momentum.

 We are learning about the power of breath, too. There’s an incredible book called Breathe by James Master, that I just recently read and is very popular right now. There is the intense, like holotropic breathing, or just totally managing and understanding that calm breaths throughout the day, will help your nervous system. I think we’re finding that there are so many things, whether it be breathwork, CBD, or meditation, that are free, all-natural, not super expensive, and low risk, high reward. I think that’s a beautiful thing because low risk, high reward is what people should be striving for.

Lessons from the ring to entrepreneurship

 It’s funny how boxing is just like entrepreneurship. I’ve gotten punched in the face, literally and figuratively, I’ve gotten knocked down in the ring in front of 1000s of people and gotten back up. I think my biggest lesson is; resiliency is grit. The ideology was ingrained in me, never to give up or quit, at a very young age. Whether I was getting punched in front of 1000s of people or in the darkest times, dealing with autoimmune disease, that resolve, and grit that I had, and continue to have, really saved my life. That’s one thing boxing has taught me, jumping into entrepreneurship; get ready to get knocked down. Get knocked down seven times, get back up eight. I think that’s the famous saying.

 

Vision for Soul CBD

 I want to grow the company and as I mentioned, we are helping 1000s of people. I think the vision moving forward, hopefully, coming out of COVID, is starting to educate people more. I want us not just to be a product company, but to be an education company, to educate people on how to get healthy in a natural way. Whether that’s with CBD or not, I see us more as a pain management company, in a sense. What I want to do is start getting out, telling my story a little bit more, and trying to help people if I can. I would want to use amazing platforms, to connect with human beings, and start to go to more events when things open up and help people get out of pain. The vision right now is not clear in terms of “I want to help this many people” but more like, let’s just keep growing. Let’s keep changing the narrative on CBD and the cannabis industry in general, to make it less taboo and teach people that there are all-natural solutions to pain out there. We just need to keep turning over those rocks and finding which one fits.

 What I want people to do is, open their eyes and understand that a lot of modern medicine now, is driven by money, unfortunately. Whether it’s these giant pharmaceutical companies or any of these other modalities where they make a lot of profit, I think people need to sit back and think, “Is this right for me? Is this driven by money? Do these pharmaceutical companies, which are worth billions of dollars, care about my health and safety?” I hate to say that, but it’s the truth. I was on painkillers for a long time, prescribed, and it completely started to damage my mental psyche and body. There are more overdoses and deaths from opioids in this country than we even talk about, but you don’t see it much on the news, with 1000s of people dying. My whole point is, when you’re in pain, have hope, there are natural sources, maybe not CBD and that’s fine. There are natural ways that you can start to get momentum and start to feel better. You just have to study, listen to podcasts and listen to your gut. 

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