For the latest Nicolas Alexander Q&A, I sit down with Alex Manzi who is the creator of Dreamer's Disease, which is an unbelievable podcast designed to inspire you to become the best version of yourself.
I have to say, Alex is one of the most genuine, wise and positive guys I have come across. In the Q&A, we kick things off by getting to know Alex a little better, before discovering what Dreamer's Disease is all about and discussing the important and intriguing topic that is mental health.
Alex is someone who openly talks about the turning point in his life, where he felt at his lowest and darkest as well as the long and liberating process he went through to get himself to where he is now. It is that process as well as the many inspirational stories he encounters through the podcast, that make Alex a man worth listening to.
Alex's mission is a relatively simple one, being that he wants to inspire and help as many people as he can. Therefore, if you are feeling a little lost or perhaps struggling with something right now, then I encourage you to find some time to read this Q&A as I have no doubt it will help you, just like it has helped me.
Here we go...
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in North London in my family home.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
When I was growing up I wanted to be a footballer, like most young boys but as I got older I never really knew what kind of job I wanted to get into or what career, but knew I wanted to work in and around the creative industries.
I didn’t go to University so when I left school I ended up working in an art factory making blank canvas frames for artists, then I ended up getting a job in Marketing & Events, then Advertising and later on in Social Media Production.
Do you have any special talents that not many people know about?
I’m not sure if it’s a special talent but I can complete a Rubik's cube in around 2min 30secs – I set out to learn this in 2019 and ended up completing it before the year even began!
What are your 2-biggest/proudest moments/achievements to date?
I would definitely say reaching 100,000 downloads on my podcast is pretty huge – I would never have thought it when I started out.
And secondly, I coached a kids football team for 9 years, from when the boys were under 8s, right up until under 16s and that was pretty incredible to watch them grow into young men and also decent football players – every match we won or trophy we earned was a proud achievement.
Your Top 3 game/life-changing books you have read?
This list could be wayyyy longer than 3!
But right now, I’d say;
Tools of Titans – Tim Ferriss (this is just full of all kinds of wisdom or gems – a must-buy for anyone who is into their own personal development).
The Way of the Peaceful Warrior/Celestine Prophecy (I’m cheating a little here but these books are very similar and provide you with a great perspective on life and the understanding of it, through their engaging stories).
The Mask of Masculinity – Lewis Howes (this book is a game changer on opening up the conversations around masculinity and Lewis has been a bit of a mentor to me so I always want to shout him out).
Favourite podcast aside from your own that you try to listen to on a regular basis that you feel brings value each and every episode?
I’m going to have to go for 2 here, but Lewis Howes’ School of Greatness as it’s always full of incredible guests and wisdom and then The Receipts which is my favourite UK podcast – 3 girls who have unfiltered discussions around life and their learnings, it always has me cracking up in the gym!
What is your current occupation? What does an average day look like for Alex Manzi?
Currently, as writing this I am doing some freelance social media work to help pay the bills while I focus on growing my podcast ‘Dreamer’s Disease’ and also work on building my positive mindset coaching business.
My mornings are filled with going to the gym, meditation, journaling and reading.
Then I go to work.
And my evenings are filled with podcast recordings, coaching calls and making content to help promote my podcast.
Do you have a role model/mentor that you look up to or learn from?
As mentioned before Lewis Howes has acted as a bit of a mentor for me, either through digesting a lot of his content or his advice over email.
My old boss and friend Ben was amazing for my life, he put so much faith in me in my early 20s and taught me so much about the working environment. He’s one of the most creative and hard-working people I know.
And my coaching mentor is John Dashfield, who has over 15 years experience and we have regular catch ups and will be doing some work together in the near future.
If you could go out for a few beers with 3 people dead or alive who would it be?
The Rock - I’ve admired him since his wrestling days and love his work rate, passion and positive attitude towards all of it.
Arsene Wenger – legendary football coach of my favourite team Arsenal – his nickname is ‘The Professor’ for his philosophical approach to the game, a very wise man who I’d love to sit and talk about life with.
And then the last one I’m torn between Oprah and Jay Z, I think both of their journeys have been incredible and they’ve paved the way for so many people in their own individual ways, but I think I would lean more towards Jay Z as we could chop it up about music and would also love to pick his brains on business.
Do you have a mantra or daily reminder that you live by?
The classic “Trust the process”, it’s been a mantra I’ve always tried to live by and increasingly so in the most recent years. Funnily enough, I recently had a Tarot card reading and this came out as one of my cards!
But overall, I try to see the positives in life, I don’t like dwelling on the negatives too much but I will always acknowledge them.
The best piece of advice you have ever received?
Someone said to me recently “what’s real will flow like water”, in the sense that anything that feels right in life should feel free and easy. Obviously, everything comes with its battles and struggles but if it still flows then you know it’s the real deal. This is so good, I’ve saved it as my phone screensaver for a daily reminder.
I have learnt that you love to travel. What is it about travelling that you love so much?
I love seeing new places and absorbing different cultures, different ways of life. I’m actually off to Japan for 3 weeks in March. There’s so much for us to see and experience in the world that I want to cover as many places as I can, it’s the only thing that I tend to spend my money on.
For me, it’s a great way to learn and have the time to plug back into the matrix of life by allowing myself to shut off from the noise and busyness of everyday life.
The first 3 items you have to have in your suitcase when travelling?
Portable phone charger – I pretty much document everything on my phone.
Comfy footwear – usually trainers to walk around in.
My glasses and contact lenses, otherwise I’m not seeing much while I’m away lol.
Your favourite holiday destination and why?
I love skiing. I’ve just come back from a short trip with my friends and it’s my perfect holiday. Being out in the open, whilst being active and exploring somewhere new in the mountains, it’s the best. And the food is usually pretty good in ski resorts too – even if it can tend to be a lot of pizza, burgers and beer!
Two destinations you have not been to yet, but can't wait to get to?
South America as a whole is right up there on my list; there’s so much culture in South America that I’d love to explore, from the Amazon to Iguazu falls to Machu Picchu. I nearly went and travelled around it for a few months a couple of years back but the timing just wasn’t right for me as I was just about to launch my podcast.
And secondly I’d say Egypt, I’d love to go and see the pyramids – the whole Ancient Egyptian culture fascinates me. If I could go back in time, I would go and see how they built the pyramids with such perfection all those years ago.
Do you have any goals for 2019?
Mainly to invest more in myself by being braver with my decisions and applying my time to build up my coaching business – I want to get to a point by the end of the year where I don’t have to rely on freelance work any more and can be completely self-sufficient.
Tell us a little bit about Dreamer’s Disease?
Dreamer’s Disease started out as an idea off the back of me getting into more and more reading, listening to podcasts and really investing in my own personal development.
I came up with the idea as I was listening to a lot of motivational podcasts like School of Greatness, How I built this, Tim Ferriss etc and it occurred to me that I was only listening to American podcasts with big American guests and I wanted to learn from people in the UK who I looked up to. But I couldn’t find the type of podcast I wanted to listen to, so I started it myself.
The idea firstly was a space for me to learn from interesting conversations and get motivation from the guests, but as the podcast developed, it became a place to inspire and motivate the listener to live out their dreams and as I got further down the line, I started having deeper conversations around what the guests have experienced, their struggles and how they’ve learnt to overcome them, whether it’s through therapy or self-help or a change in mindset – the interviews are now as much about the guests mindset as it is about their story.
And then there’s the second part to the podcast which is the ‘In Focus’ sessions where I delve into one topic at a time and give some of my experiences and learnings around it, for example, it could be about positive mindset, not letting challenges get in your way, benefits of meditation, etc.
As for the name, Dreamer’s Disease, has a double meaning – i.e you could be someone who is addicted to living out their dreams or the flip side is that it’s the disease of dreaming that causes us to live unhappy lives because we’re too content with the dreaming and don’t take the action towards them.
You mention that when you were at your lowest point, it felt like you were constantly under this dark cloud. What was causing this feeling?
For me, it was a feeling of being lost. Lost in life, lost in my work, lost in my relationships. I’d lost all sense of who I really was on the inside and this was causing friction within me – I was too busy chasing status and jobs and always wanting more that I wasn’t able to be content with what I did have and where my life was.
I bottled everything up over a number of years until it got to a breaking point in front of my girlfriend of the time which is when I openly admitted - out loud and to myself - what I was going through on the inside. This moment was the lowest I ever felt and the moment that opened up my own eyes to the battles I had been going through. I was around 25 at the time.
From your experience, what do you believe are the most common causes/reasons for why men start to have this feeling?
I think it’s down to a number of things, every guy is obviously completely different in their own experiences but also the way society tells us that we need to be, plays a huge role. And if we don’t feel like we meet these standards we beat ourselves up about it, because men don’t talk about these feelings.
We’re taught that it’s a sign of weakness. Ever since we were young kids we’re told “boys don’t cry” etc and what essentially happens is that we don’t learn to properly deal with our emotions, so we grow up with a lack of emotional intelligence
How important is it to be able to identify/recognize what it is that is causing you to feel this feeling of negativity/depression? What can be done to help try and identify/understand the cause if you do not think you know?
For me recognizing is the first step. I always talk about Recognise, Accept and Grow.
Firstly, you need to be able to recognise your feelings and emotions – I talk about self-awareness being the key to the door which opens up your world of personal development.
Once you’ve recognised the feelings, you learn to accept them - it’s ok to feel whatever it is you are feeling, both good or bad.
Once you can accept the feelings, you can let them pass – and this is where your growth comes from.
The only cause of these feelings comes from within our own thinking. We’re taught that external factors contribute to our happiness, but they don’t. Our happiness and wellbeing only come from within. Everything we experience only comes through our own thinking and our feelings.
In your opinion, how important is it to speak with someone about the way you are feeling? If you are going to talk to someone, should it be anyone in particular?
I think most people find it hard to speak about these feelings, again because we are taught that it is wrong and we’re scared of showing weakness, plus we feel as though we are going to be a burden on the person we are talking to.
If you aren’t feeling quite like yourself or you’re feeling down or you’re just having a crappy week, it’s so important to just reach out to a friend or family member or whoever you feel comfortable speaking with. If you don’t quite feel comfortable doing that then you could also try writing down how you feel, this might give you more confidence in speaking to someone in the future but whatever you do, please do not keep it all inside of you and to yourself. I did it for so many years and it did me so much harm.
Looking at this from the other side, how can you tell if someone in your life is suffering from a mental health problem and what should you do?
Check in with your family and friends, ask them what they are going through even just you asking a simple question could provide them with a moment of relief. If someone doesn’t quite seem to be acting like themselves be sure to speak with them.
The scary thing for me was that I hadn’t even recognised in myself what I was going through so chances are your friend or family member could be in the same position.
The world we live in today is a crazy one, to say the least! And the world of social media I think is both a blessing and a curse. In your opinion, what is the best way to both use and look at social media?
For me having a background in working in social media, I think I have become quite good at detaching my feelings towards it and living my life through it. It’s important to remember that what you are seeing on social media is only the highlights, you aren’t seeing the full picture of anyone’s life. Absolutely no one.
And don’t make any comparisons to yourself and people you see online, it’s a natural thing – I still do it all the time. Comparison is the thief of joy
Why do you think men, in particular, are typically hesitant when it comes to talking about their feelings/mental health?
I think it goes back to not wanting to show weakness and growing up not being taught how to deal with our emotions. As kids we’re always shown and taught to gloss over our emotions and sweep them under the carpet – the problem is that carpet gets pretty full.
Personally, I have on numerous occasions questioned whether my own mental health issues warrant me going to seek out professional help. Can it ever be too early or wrong to seek out a conversation with a therapist/psychologist?
I think everyone should have some form of therapy/coaching. It’s good to have a safe, non-judgmental space where you can explore your own thinking and feelings, learn about yourself and how to deal with & talk about what you’re going through.
I tried therapy and it just wasn’t for me, I felt as though I was under a microscope looking for a problem to what I was feeling linked in my past and I ended up finding way more benefit from shifting my own perspective on life and understanding. And that came from a form of coaching and educating myself.
But one day I’d like to give therapy a go again, as I have spoken to many people who have had some huge benefits from it.
We all have busy lives and I thought your recent podcast with Haydn Elliott raised a very interesting discussion around the similarities of exhaustion and depression. For those who have not heard this before, could you provide a quick explanation of this?
Haydn explained how his psychotherapist told him about the similarities in the feelings of depression and exhaustion, there’s a lot of crossover between the two. So what could be a feeling of depression could actually mean you are burning the candle too hard at both ends and need to indulge in some more self-care.
I believe that everything in life is about balance and having enough self-care in your lifestyle has huge benefits. I personally incorporate a healthy diet, daily meditation and regular exercise to help keep me balanced.
What simple actions can someone take to improve their mindset?
Meditation has been a game changer for me, I do it every day for at least 10 mins.
As mentioned above, exercise is great too as it releases all kinds of endorphins into your body and keeps your body active.
Also showing more gratitude for what you have in your life can have massive benefits.
And then the 3 things I mentioned earlier of Recognise, Accept and Grow – these 3 principles have changed a lot for me.
But the real key is allowing yourself to live more in the present and doing more of what you love.
Top 3 self-help books that you recommend anyone who is struggling should read?
Really great ones to help shift your mindset are:
The Miracle Morning – all about changing your morning routine to set you up in the best way possible for your day.
Ego is the Enemy – an interesting view on the way we experience life.
The Path of No Resistance – an understanding of how the thought/feeling connection creates our experience of life
In your opinion, is depression something that can be overcome and left behind or is it something that we have to learn how to live with?
I believe it is something that we learn to live with, we learn to become comfortable with. I still have days where depression and anxiety creep in but I can deal with it a lot better through recognizing the thoughts, accepting them and letting them pass.
For anyone who has just finished reading this and has yet to really start to deal with their personal issues, what is it that you would like to say?
Whatever you are feeling will pass, focus on the things you are grateful for in your life and remember that life is only experienced through our thoughts and feelings.
Oh and the only moment you only every live in is right now. There’s a great part in The Way of the Peaceful Warrior where the wise old man explains the answer to these two questions “What time is it?” and “where are you?”
The only two answers to these are “now” and “here”.
If you would like to check out the Dreamer's Disease Podcast, click here.