Welcome to another podcast! And we’ll be talking about how coworking has been a lifesaver for our guest today, Mike LaRosa, author, and founder of Coworkaholic.com.
That’s right folks! You read that right, in this particular episode, Mike shares all about his experiences as a corporate employee in which we all can relate to at some point in our life. And he shares his struggles from quitting being a corporate employee to who he is now, and where he is now. And finally how coworking gave him a much more productive, fun and healthy way of working.
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When did Mike realize that he isn’t cut out to be a corporate employee?
“Very straightforward. I was your stereotypical, “successful corporate drown”. I had the office, had the expense account, the swanky client dinners.
Living the life and I was miserable. And I didn’t know how to process it.
I grew up the child of two entrepreneurs. So I never really had that traditional mom and dad vacation time, right.
So in my mind, being a corporate employee was the goal. And I snapped and quit. You know, it was April 20. It was 420. You know, I woke up and got totally high off my ass and I was miserable.
I was like, I just can’t fucking do this and I wrote a resignation letter, and I dropped them my boss’s desk.”
What was the AHA! moment for Mike in Coworking?
“One of those Fridays really, you find out that that prospect he thought was going to happen like they’ve decided that they’re not going to move for they’re not ready yet, and then you have some friend friends bail on you.
A spiral and I didn’t leave my apartment that whole week and didn’t leave my apartment Monday, Tuesday, and I had to go in on Wednesday because the client was going to be there.
And when I walked in one of the members said, “Hey, we were wondering where you were”. And I was like, but it was kind of like a, like, awkward like, oh, like, how? And I was like, Oh, they actually wondered where I was.
And that’s when I was like, I really do enjoy it this then I like can people learn about what they’re working on and realize that there is a benefit of that human interaction.
That was kind of freeing. Because we no longer had to worry about office politics, right?”
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March, 30 2020
Bernie J Mitchell 0:10
Welcome to Coworking Values, the podcast of the European Coworking Assembly. Each week we deep dive into one of the values of; accessibility, community, openness, collaboration, and sustainability. Hello boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, we’re here walking house for another Coworking Values Podcast. This is another one of our episodes that Zjelko and I have done in the Coworking Co-living conferences. My next guest needs no introduction. So Mike Rosa, what are you known for? Would you like to be known for?
Mike LaRosa 0:48
I’m known for being a coworkaholic and I would like to be known for helping more people take advantage and understand how coworking can help them personally professionally and just as a whole.
Bernie J Mitchell 1:07
So there’s the whole ‘how coworking saved my life’ thing. Did you first do that speech last year in Croatia?
Mike Rosa 1:15
Two almost three January 2018 at Nomad summit in Chiang Mai Thailand
Bernie J Mitchell 1:21
I’m here going “yes, me too”.
Mike LaRosa 1:25
It’s something that we do share, don’t we?
Bernie J Mitchell 1:27
So, how did it save your life? And then we’ll get into like building our resume live for the audience. Yeah,
Mark LaRosa 1:33
Very straightforward. I was your stereotypical, quote unquote, successful corporate drone. I had the office. I had the expense account, the slinky client dinners, living the life and I was miserable. And I didn’t know how to process it. I grew up the child of two entrepreneurs and so I never really had that traditional mom and dad have vacation time, right? So in my mind being a corporate employee was the goal. And I snapped, I quit. It was April 20. It was 4:20. And I woke up and got totally high off my ass and I was miserable. And I was like, I just can’t fucking do this. And I wrote a resignation letter, I dropped in my boss’s desk. He wasn’t in the office. I just walked out. And I said to myself, both my parents have their own businesses. It can’t be that difficult. And I very quickly found a contract to consult on but started working from home.
I had heard of coworking spaces, but I thought it was for tech start-ups. I thought it was the next Uber. I thought you had to be a coder and on a team. I didn’t process the fact that freelancers or independent consultants or contractors would be there, and so I found myself in a dingy English basement apartment in DC with little to no windows and little to no daylight. The running joke is that I used to watch all four hours of the today’s show and I’d get distracted. I put on 50 pounds. I was the first person at the bar for happy hour, because I’d been home all day and I just couldn’t wait to get out and go into the bar at 4:45 in the afternoon. It should not be the thing that motivates you to get showered and dressed and whatnot. And very quickly, I started struggling with work performance with this one contract, and then struggled to get some additional contracts. And I would blow off networking events or I would forget about networking, like breakfast meetings or coffee meetings because I was just in a very not so great place without knowing at the time, and it was a fateful client trip. Because the work I did had required travel, and we booked a venue that just so happened to be a coworking space that just had a large event space and I walked in and was like holy shit. These are not start-up people.
It was in Kansas City, Missouri. These are bookkeepers or consultants like me, and from that point on, I very quickly joined a space and engagement. I never understood how much human interaction of my job impacts right? I love going to the office and seeing my co-workers, and having lunch in the kitchen or grabbing a coffee. I just didn’t realize how much that contributed to my overall balance of being a human being.
Bernie J Mitchell 4:16
So Mike, when you arrived in the coworking space, was there like a mending time or process to do? The way you tell the story sounds like you landed and it came to as you landed?
Mike LaRosa 4:26
Good question. So we have been working out of this space in Kansas City, having that regularity of just, for that week and a half, of not having to work in your hotel room or not having to work at the local Starbucks. My client said, you know, this is kind of fun. This is kind of cool. I think there’s a space in DC that we should join and we’re all given membership and we can go together or whatever. And it was probably two to three weeks. The aha moment for me was when I had gone probably four out of five days for a whole week. And I had a really bad Friday. It was like one of those Fridays where like you find out that that prospect you thought was going to happen, like they’ve decided that they’re not going to move forward or they’re not ready yet. And then you had some frat friends bail on you, and I spiralled and I didn’t leave my apartment that whole weekend.
Monday didn’t leave my apartment, Tuesday, and I had to go in on Wednesday because the client was going to be there. And when I walked in, one of the members said, hey, we were wondering where you were, oh, and I was like, What? It was just kind of like awkward, and I was like, Oh, they actually wondered where I was. And that’s when I was like, I really do enjoy this and I like getting to know people, just learning about what they’re working on. And realize that there is a benefit of that human interaction that was kind of free because we no longer had to worry about office politics, right? Because intermingling in the office was always fun, but you always had to be a little careful. You always have to be a little guarded. If you knew what something that was going to happen. And not everyone in the office could know it quite yet, or I’m a little loosey goosey if I’ve had a couple of happy hour beers or whatnot, so, this was kind of like the benefits of just being able to talk to someone and not always be worried about well, what can I say? Or what can I not say as related to anything. Plus, when you would think you’re attritional co-workers, you might not want to share something personal and here there was less pressure because I don’t technically work with them. So that was kind of like the Ah ha. It was a path.
Bernie J Mitchell 6:43
For sure. So did you feel a change your mind and your brain?
Mike LaRosa 6:50
Yeah, I mean, everything. So, walking to the space meant I had to walk by the very expensive gym that I was paying a membership for, so if I was walking by it, I started going again, right, because I hadn’t gone for quite some time after quitting my job and so, you know, leave it to science that, it’s pretty scientific endorphins and all that jazz and being more physically active and not just the walking part, but also just being at the gym and being more social. And also, I had something else to distract myself with, other than being focused on going to happy hour, right? Or meeting up with friends in a social environment where there would be, various substances that were not best for me. And so, it was an overall lift, mentally, emotionally and physically. I lost probably, I think 12 or 13 pounds in that first month. And I hadn’t really stopped eating poorly or drinking too much, it was just from being active, because when I was working from, quote unquote, home; my head was in the fridge all day.
Bernie J Mitchell 8:05
Why did you find it hard to leave the house? I know that feeling, but I never know quite how to explain it to people, because people would be calling the house looking for a freelancer. What stopped you?
Mike LaRosa 8:21
For me, it was kind of like the snow, not snowball effect, those kinds of like the perfect storm, right? So my parents both ran their own businesses, my dad ran his out of the house. And so for most of my life, I knew his routine to be; hanging out in the kitchen having breakfast with me, and that if a client did call or if the phone rang, he could just pick it up wherever he was, but eventually, by 9:30 or so he would meander down into the office in the basement, and then he would be in that office working. But he and I are very different people, and I knew that but I didn’t understand. I never thought about, well ,for very different people, if that works for him, it wasn’t necessarily going to work for me, right. But also to make it even worse, before I had that really super, quote unquote, successful corporate job, I was a store manager at Starbucks.
I dreaded the idea of working at any cafe because the hassle of the noise, leaving your laptop on the back on the table, asking a stranger to watch it in downtown DC, you know, it’s everywhere, the bathroom without it being stolen, you know, fighting over the outlets dealing with Wi Fi. And then having met a store manager, I knew how annoying it was to have someone buy one cup of coffee and to sit at a table all day, you know, and I’d be watching people behind the counter, not following proper deployment and not doing their lobby slides and hearing the timer go off or hearing people not frothier milk, and air raid it so it would be screaming. So for me I think it was more complicated. I’m jealous of people who can work in capital phase. I don’t mind pushing out a couple emails in a coffee shop if I’ve got maybe 30 minutes to kill, but I can’t spend an eight hour working day or be really productive in that type of environment.
Bernie J Mitchell 10:14
Am I smart enough? Because I was a barista for a long time.
Mike LaRosa 10:17
It’s all about preparation.
Bernie J Mitchell 10:20
God, I get annoyed when I hear screaming milk.
Mike LaRosa 10:27
For those of you that don’t know, if you hear screaming milk, it’s because they haven’t properly aerated the phone.
Bernie J Mitchell 10:35
How about your productivity in the morning, when you get out the house, go to the gym? Because it sets your entire day off. What happens at home versus what happens when you make it out of the house?
Mike LaRosa 10:51
Being perfectly honest, I’ve always been an early riser, even when I was little, even when working for Starbucks, I used to be at work at 4:30 In the morning. So what I struggled with is, I would be up, but I wouldn’t get out of bed because my laptop would be right there. So I would just kind of pull my laptop, and I’d have the TV on. I mean, that’s a whole other topic; not having TVs in your bedroom or not having your devices in your bedroom. That’s another topic for another day. But I put the news on at 5am, but still be in my pyjamas, for sure, and in bed probably until about 9:30 or 10:00. I’d also be more inclined to possibly, my parents are going to be mortified. I mean, we’d wake and bake. And there’s a lot of people that work from home, especially in DC and I lived in a neighbourhood, and it was a time and a culture where dating apps are a thing so, they call it afternoon delight for a reason, but sometimes it would be pre afternoon delight.
Bernie J Mitchell 11:49
I know something like that.
Mike LaRosa 11:51
So there were just a lot of distractions, and I’ve always been a little bit of a procrastinator. I love working under pressure. Working in chaos, but I was creating too much chaos. And I was procrastinating far too much as well. So, that for me was the issue and it just became cyclical and it most definitely is a spiral. Because if you miss a deadline, or if you don’t come through on a client deliverable, like the way that you could have and you should have. It led me into a full blown depression, and then that just it’s like chicken in the egg, right? You’re depressed because you are depressed, and you are getting more upset at yourself for not being able to get out of it. And that was a really scary thing.
Bernie J Mitchell 12:41
That sense of dread, and spiralled and vortex is when one of us are mainly in London. That was the first coworking space I’ve been in full time, and that was in 2013. That saved my life, like going there every day and like a lot of stuff. You just described having that routine. And you just said you were depressed about being depressed, it’s like in Austin Powers when there’s like the fat guy. He’s like, I’m happy because I eat and I make him happy. And is really, you know, people go like, mental health day. And yes, people do very good stuff there, but it seems like a throwaway thing. And you what really shocked me is; I just started blogging about it, and the amount of people that have that, I can’t believe it. 30 people. That’s for another podcast, but the amount of people that struggle with that, like early morning, getting going and then they never get going and they hate themselves in the afternoon.
Mike LaRosa 13:45
And that never used to be me, right. I mean, I never used to have a case of the Mondays, right? Whether I was working at Starbucks, whether I was working in that role I had in the media company in the publishing world. I used to love to go to work. And I used to work a ton. I’ve never had a problem with doing 12 hour days. And part of my job was to socialize, right? I’d have to be on all the time. I’m not a wallflower. And so that’s what I think was most disturbing was because, without realizing it within a matter of a few months, I didn’t recognize myself from my weight gain, from my lack of maintaining. I always used to have the perfect haircuts, that was before my beard days, but I had this fatter face and my clothes weren’t fitting so then also, hello, your clothes don’t fit. So you don’t have to buy a lot of new clothes. If you’re not leaving the house to go to the office.
Bernie J Mitchell 14:41
Mike LaRosa 14:42
I’m just hanging out in my room, right? Like, you know, I’m just in my robe or my gym shorts, and it snuck up on me and then. To be honest, it was a good five to six months of just denial and getting upset about why are you not doing better and then beating yourself up for not, then improving. It was difficult.
Bernie J Mitchell 15:10
So it was like the line in the sand date where like everything magically started happening.
Mike LaRosa 15:15
Well, it really was. So we went to that coworking space in the fall of probably October of 2013. And at that time, I joined a coworking space shortly thereafter, when we went back to DC, and then had research coworking, I had a project that actually, we needed to figure out how to activate space in a building that was like government supported, that needed to have some public program and I immediately thought coworking could be a fit. o I did attend a coworking conference. But probably by the New Year’s It was like kind of like a new year’s resolution type thing, even though it’s chilly out, I started walking into the gym and walking in the space. So by January 2014, for sure. I just felt better about myself. And I started engaging with the members.
Six months later, I’m sitting at my desk, sitting next to these fellow coworking members who were older than I was, but they always looked like they had just walked out of a hot topic, and I didn’t really know what they did. They always had a lot of swag, and they always were going to these different events. Well, it was Adobe Radio, they’re like the internet’s number, the number one internet radio streaming company. And they overheard that I did events, and they had overheard that I had done sponsorship, and they had known me because they knew me as a member. And as a guy that would split a Chinese food order for delivery minimum. They didn’t know me through a professional networking way, and the kind of the changing course of my life was they said, Hey, our owner wants to talk to you. Can you hop on Skype?
It was Benji fucking Madden from Good Charlotte. And within a week and a half, I’m hanging out with him at Soho house in West Hollywood, and getting a killer gig, which led to me then working with the Smithsonian, which then led me to working in consulting for Google. And the rest is history. Right? And so it wasn’t immediate, but it was within at least 60 days or so of having that routine. I was in a better place to then present myself to be more professional. And then, within five or six months from there, they offered me the job because they had gotten to know me for who I was. Yeah, not because I had moved them with a cool business card at a networking event.
Bernie J Mitchell 17:44
That again, is the way it’s worked for me. And I feel much more comfortable getting to know people. Well, I ran a networking group in London for like about five years. And I knew everyone so it worked for me, but the whole you know, going “hello here’s my business card”
Mike LaRosa 18:07
It’s a red flag for me when I meet someone before I even know what they do they stick in my face.
Bernie J Mitchell 18:10
Yeah. But I used to stick in my events, like, come to my networking event. And please don’t stick your business cards in people’s foreheads scrappers kind of caught on. But, just in a human way I find it much easier. Meeting someone beforehand, and then they’re going, Oh, what do you do? Because then I feel like I don’t have to sell to them for much more, and I’m comfortable saying, actually, you know, I’m really good at this, but I don’t know anything about that. And I know it feels like an honest conversation rather than trying to squeeze it all in a pitch.
Mike LaRosa 18:49
Exactly. I didn’t get a lot of business from other fellow members. And I’m not here saying go to a coworking space. Anticipate you’re going to get business from other members
Bernie J Mitchell 19:04
And people miss out over
Mike LaRosa 19:06
100% and it’s because the intention is wrong, right? Because the talk I gave that led to this whole ‘how coworking saved my life’ spiel was not just how it impacted me. But then really good real life tips, tricks, and advice on how best to incorporate coworking into your life, and how to incorporate yourself into a coworking space. And so, just like you start a gym routine to lose weight, there’s a way that you can incorporate a coworking routine, right? And so if you’re lifting weights, you don’t want to do it the wrong way. And so if you’re engaging in becoming a member of a community in a coworking space, there’s also a wrong way of doing that. Right. And so, we talked about not being the guy that’s throwing the business cards out, or not being that person who’s expecting a member to help you for free right? There’s a big difference between commiserating over how difficult it can be to code or get a design element in Mail Chimp, right? And be like, Ah, it doesn’t suck. I hate that. Oh, but figured out how to do that, like, That’s a cute little quick conversation versus I just don’t know how to use Mail Chimp, you do Mail Chimp. Can you build me a template? Yeah, there’s a big difference there. So I think that that’s something that I don’t like.
I don’t overly use the word passion. But I see there being a purpose, not just promoting going to a space, but how to be a responsible member of a space.
Bernie J Mitchell 20:41
That sort of slimy expectation in business in general. Yeah. And I think you get, as you’re saying that I was thinking you get weeded out quite quickly in a coworking space if you go there and go, I’ve never had it happen, but imagine if a new member went around every desk and put their card in, I would like, kill it straightaway.
Mark LaRosa 21:02
You mean, you’ve been in your fair share of coworking spaces, you’ve never encountered someone that kind of, didn’t know where the line was. And sometimes it’s not their own fault. Yeah, they’re not self-aware
Bernie J Mitchell 21:16
I think it was usually communication. Yeah. I’ve had people that are at bad at selling, they offer their services out of price. There’d be like the community dinner, or lunch or something, and someone will say, Oh, you know, my child did this, and we did this and like Jason’s here today to talk about this. And it all goes round. And then suddenly the speaker will go like; we’re going to build a new website and someone will go, I’ve got a website, and just kills that, you know. Yeah.
Mike LaRosa 21:50
No, yeah. I mean, I think we’ve all encountered that in some way, shape, or form. I think that coworking just has an element that if you’re new to it, but Like I said, I don’t think it’s intentional. I think it’s just lack of awareness of how you’re coming across,
Bernie J Mitchell 22:04
Particularly, Mania, because that’s the deepest I’ve ever been a member of a place. Other places, I’ve been around a bit, but that was the one where I was like, signed up as a manager. Once everyone gets to know each other, it’s kind of a safe space to make a few mistakes, for sure. And people will go, ‘I like that’. They’ll pull you aside and say, you know, don’t put your banner don’t do the banner up in the bathroom.
Mike LaRosa 22:30
It takes a while though, for both like for both parties; for the person to feel comfortable enough to point that out right? without feeling they’re being impolite. I think, as I transitioned from doing events and media, and started working on some more coworking centric projects, something that Ronald from Sita said at an event once talking about this topic was; communities have an innate ability to cleanse themselves, and that if someone, after a while, understands that they maybe aren’t fitting in, they’re more likely to maybe move on.
So you don’t even always have to. I mean, if there’s a serious issue, unfortunately because coworking is now, far more mainstream than it was in 2013, there are unfortunately, poor behaviour issues that happen. So sometimes there are situations where you have to remove the member. But more often than not, no one’s going to be like dragging them out by their collar having to ban them, it’s more of the person might just kind of catch the drift, that maybe this space isn’t a great fit for them. So I just tried to offer some tips on being aware, so that maybe you’re less likely to pick the wrong space to start with.
Bernie J Mitchell 23:54
This, I think if you work out if you don’t fit in, because when you’re saying that, it’s like the people will leave your business cards on your desk. You just won’t feel the flow.
Mike LaRosa 24:09
Yeah. And that happens with anything, right? I mean, with different groups of friends are different, not just gyms but social circles. And you know, I’ve been on my fair share of social batch leagues and, or teams and batching social leagues, and there’s some teams that I only signed up for one season. And then it took me about two and a half seasons to find that one team and we played 10 seasons straight. And even though we’ve all moved away, we’re still friends. Right? So it just takes a while.
Bernie J Mitchell 24:39
The other thing just before we finish this, and I think going into a coworking space every day, you hear other people talking about business and problems and everything like that, and that helps. That helped a lot is that Oh, I’m not the only one that doesn’t know how to do that alone. Yeah, I’m not alone. And also, you will hear people just talk at a desk; this is how we’re going to do this. You go, Ah, that’s how you do it. And you don’t have to ask if I go, Ah, it’s very good for building your repertoire and confidence. So I have reason to suspect that my coworking saved my life. And like what’s the quick story around that?
Mike LaRosa 25:20
Yes. So I gave this talk at a conference that was all about being a digital nomad. So it was how I make all this money drop shipping and how I become a YouTube star, whatever. And this talk that I gave was more about the power of community and accelerated serendipity in coworking and then realize is going to take off. And so I recently been approached by a literary agent, and we are doing a pre order campaign. So how coworking saved my life. Surviving and thriving in the gig economy is a book I’ve started. I’m about halfway through it. It’s being pitched to publishers. And so it’s available for pre order $20. We’re doing a campaign that ends October 31.
There are some extra benefits. If you want to order two copies. Not only do you get two copies, but you also get a free 30 day membership to desk pass for you and a friend. So that’s what we’re calling the ‘friends don’t let them know this’ from coffee shops. I know this person I know. Yeah. So that desk pass is currently available in the United States in 13 cities. It’s like class pass for coworking. And so for a low monthly fee, you can have access to over 500 different coworking spaces in cities such as LA, San Francisco, Austin, your Chicago, Boston, DC. They have a wide variety of spaces, which is really cool. They’ve got some more traditional service office locations. They’ve all opened up Hot desking coworking spaces. They’ve got kind of like pop up, then use that now. They have daytime coworking. And they also have a really cool community element where they host a monthly meetup in each city, and it’s a free day. So you don’t have to use one of your credits, which is really nice.
Bernie J Mitchell 27:21
I know where can we find funding to the show notes? Get a pre order or crowd funder wants to return?
Mike LaRosa 27:27
So this is actually a pre order, because we’ve got pending deals with publishers already, because we’re working with a literary agent. So we’re just trying to show how many pre orders we can get to try to get a wider distribution on the book. You can just go to coworkaholic calm It’s a blog I started talking about coworking and traveling around the world, specifically using points in miles. I’m a travel loyalty program geek, coworkaholic calm and we’ve got a blog posts up there with a link to the pre order patient we can link to that book.
Bernie J Mitchell 28:03
Yeah, where else can we find you online?
Mike LaRosa 28:06
Basically the website. We blog daily there. We are on Twitter @thecoworkaholic and then we’re also on Instagram @thecoworkaholic . And in November, the plan is to be in Warsaw, we will be participating in not only Coworking Europe, but also the European Coworking Assemblies camp and Coworking Academy, so it’s nonstop coworking.
Bernie J Mitchell 28:32
Gee boy, what’s the camp? Tell us about that? Haha,
Mike LaRosa 28:35
Well, listen, I for the last five years or so, there’s been different organizations that host a camp around the conference and it’s kind of co-living short term. So instead of just being in a hotel room, they get really cool venues. Like one year was a boat, you know, one year was kind of a cool retreat house. Anyway, we’re in a hotel in Warsaw, we’ve got pretty much the whole place to ourselves, the year of coworking assembly is made up of some awesome people like you and me, but also that represent a wide array of the coworking industry. We all hang out in the academy. If you’re interested in opening up a coworking space, the academy will kind of teach you a workshop type instruction on you know the basics because the conferences are more of the higher level industry trends or data and whatnot. There’s not often a lot of one on one workshop. So yeah, that’s the shameless plug.
Bernie J Mitchell 29:37
The ideal case scenario for me is for people to come to the camp. Yep, come to the Coworking Academy and when you go to the conference, like after all that connection, you’ll arrive at the first day like hitting the ground running Yeah, although that awkward sticky business card in your head because you’ll be with us.
Mike LaRosa 29:54
You’ve already met people so it really is nice when high school starts for the year every year at the front, We show up a couple days early. Yeah, it’s kind of like that you get to at least have some friendly faces so that that way when you go to the Big Show, you know who to hang out with.
Bernie J Mitchell 30:09
I can’t wait again. Thanks for building up to that level, you know,
Mike LaRosa 30:12
There you go, team. There we go.
Bernie J Mitchell 30:16
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