Four years ago, I was approached by a couple of good friends about a new business venture. Since our past collaborations were always creative, successful, and tons of fun, I immediately thought I was game, but first I needed to know what it was about. They responded with a single word: MUSHROOMS!
Huh? I knew California laws were progressive, but hallucinogenics were definitely not my thing. After a good laugh, they told me it was not that kind of mushroom. What they were actually talking about was the Chaga mushroom, which they had been introduced to while producing a TV show in Alaska. Apparently, the Eskimos there make a medicinal tea out of it with some amazing health results. My immediate response was “I don’t even like mushrooms on my pizza,” which I know is a sentiment that many share today.
Mushrooms, anchovies or Ben Affleck—you either like them or you don’t. But at my age, you have to be open to new things. So, after doing some investigating of my own, I discovered Chaga offered more Good Will than I could have ever imagined. I soon learned this wonderous superfood was nothing short of amazing. Not only does it contain the highest antioxidant count on the planet, but the antiviral and health benefits were off the charts. As a personal trainer and a health coach for over 20 years, my entrepreneurial gears were churning. Then I tried Chaga myself in the form of a tea. Within a few days, I began noticing some intriguing benefits, including increased energy, deeper sleep, and more endurance during workouts. I knew without a doubt I had to get this to my clients and as many people as humanly possible. Ten days later, I was on a plane to Alaska with my new partners to meet Chaga harvesters with a pack of Alaskan huskies, a hammer, and a chisel!
I was feeling so very inspired on the flight north that I considered eating a mushroom omelet while watching Gigli. All right, maybe I wasn’t that sold yet, but I wanted to stay positive on my medicinal mushroom journey. After all, there’s no better feeling that being on the front wave of discovery, especially when it has the potential to change so many lives for the better.
I had never been to Alaska before, but stepping off that plane was a near-religious experience. Alaska had the kind of untamed beauty you only read about and here I was living it! It felt like karma or destiny was driving us. Within an hour, we located our guide, the huskies were harnessed, and with a “mush” we were off!
We soon arrived at a vast forest of endless white birch trees. Although I’d been shown photos of the Chaga mushroom, I still had trouble envisioning it. And then I saw one through the snow-covered branches. There was the black funky fungus and our new black gold.
It’s hard to explain how I felt in the moments leading up to my first harvest. There I was, fifty feet up an embankment as my ChagiT family formed a pyramid of limbs and backs to climb. I honestly thought of the Sistine Chapel and the famous Michelangelo fresco of the Creation of Adam. Was this as close as a living man could get to heaven? With chisel and hammer in hand, a quick flick of the wrist was all it took for that beautiful mushroom to tumble down. Once on the ground with it in my hand, my friends and I huddled together and shouted, “CHAGA!”
After riding that high throughout the day, we eventually returned to the hotel to celebrate our new venture together. And once I found myself in my cozy room alone, I decided to chance fate one last time and rent Gigli. After all, if I could be so wrong about mushrooms, maybe the world could be wrong about this cinematic masterpiece.
In hindsight, I’ve learned not everything pairs well with mushrooms. But in business as well as life, you have to open yourself to opportunity to see what’s waiting for you out on the horizon. Because once you step out of your comfort zone and open yourself to new experiences, anything is possible. Now, my future might or might not include mushrooms on my pizza, but with some ChagiT in hand, I know I’ll have excellent digestion.