Michael Ventura is a Man of many talents and gifts, from being an award-winning entrepreneur and creative director, to a healing practitioner forming strategies for Fortune 100 companies, and now currently serving as a Adjunct Professor teaching Empathic Design at Princeton University. In 2004, Michael founded Sub Rosa, a strategy and design studio that focuses on helping brands form creative and strategic practices with empathic design at its core. Bearing a strong connection to community and nature, Michael and his wife, Caroline, also run a shop and gallery in New York, which serves as a place for communal gatherings and human connection. If that wasn’t enough, his desire to leave the world in a better place than he found it has seen him serve on the boards of numerous organizations and non-profits: United Nations Department of Public Information’s Tribal Link, The Burning Man Organization and The Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, to name just a few. It should come as no surprise that Michael is our Man Of The Week, read on to discover what an inspiring role-model Michael is for Men today.
What do you do? (Work)
The short answer is I help solve problems. A longer answer is that the way I do this varies considerably depending on what part of my work we’re talking about. For the past 13 years I’ve run Sub Rosa, a strategy and design studio that works with brands to help them explore, learn, and grow into better businesses. Additionally, my wife Caroline and I run a home interiors shop and gallery in the West Village. The shop is really a community gathering space where so many people we know and love find a way to spend time together and connect. Lastly, I have also spent over a decade studying and then practitioning a variety of alternative and indigenous medicine modalities. I treat about 15 people each week across a spectrum of physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges they are facing.
Why do you do it?
I think I’m genetically wired to do this. My whole life, I’ve always been a pretty empathic person. I feel a lot of stuff and I try my best to harness my own capacity for problem solving to fix the challenges that get presented to me.
How do you make a difference in the world? (Work, business, life, family, self)
Ooof. That’s a big question. I guess for me, making a difference isn’t always about the big, seismic moments. Sometimes it’s the little things. The small, 2 or 3 degree turns you make that end up changing things for the better somewhere down the line. I hope that being intentional, thoughtful, and considerate of those I interact with helps each of them to go through the daily round a little better than the day prior.
What are 3 defining moments in your life?
– Meeting my better-half back in 2005. Caroline is the perfect partner who truly understands all of my strange idiosyncratic ways and helps me to live the life I want to live. I try my best every day to reciprocate.
– Realizing in 2009 that I needed to learn alternative medicine from some of the amazing healers and shamans who were working on me. Their guidance, collaboration, and belief in my work is something I carry every day.
– Bouncing back from tough moments in my own life, my business, and my personal relationships. There isn’t a date for this. These are defining moments that occur all the time. Life is unexpected. It’s challenging. But it’s also amazing and lessons await us around every turn.
What is your life purpose?
To be open to possibilities, work diligently at improving myself and the lives of others, and to embrace and spread kindness.
How did you tap into it?
It wasn’t a thunderclap. It was (and is) a slow boil. Most of my twenties (like a lot of people) were about exploration, failure, and finding a way to chart the course of my life. Constant self-observation mixed with a healthy dose of humility and forgiveness were (and are) a big part of it.
Who is your Role-Model or Mentor?
I don’t really have a “mentor” per se. Lessons come from everywhere. Being involved in fairly diverse types of work and thought, I don’t think I would have been well served with a singular mentor guiding me. My family, my spiritual community, my dog, my plants, and my friends are all teachers – and I hope my lessons will continue to come from such a wide array of participants as my life goes on.
Do you have any daily habits? If so, what are they?
I do a variety of alternative medicine and wellness work every day. This includes meditation, qi gong, tai chi, and a host of other practices depending on what the day calls for. In addition, I try to spend at least a quarter of my day outside whenever I can and I walk as much as possible.
When do you know your work/life balance is off?
I feel it in my bones. My body gets sluggish and my mind moves slowly. It’s usually a sign I need to cut and run for a few days – getting myself to a quiet place in nature – be it the desert, the woods, or the ocean – typically resets my clock.
Vulnerability is a challenge for most men – share a vulnerable moment from your life with us.
My wife and I have been together for 10 years. We’ve been married for 7. We’ve seen great couples come and go through those years and we’ve had a few rough patches ourselves. We got married kinda young and we were still figuring ourselves out, nevermind figuring out each other. As a result, there came a point where we needed to get really raw and open with each other about the people we had become, what we were getting rid of, and what we wanted to grow toward. We both knew that in the discussing of this moment of transition, we might find we had grown apart. But to not discuss it would have been even tougher in the long run. Good news is, we worked through our own evolutions and got to understand each other even better in the process. Had we not been willing to be vulnerable to each other and to the potential outcomes that might result, we may not have made it.
What did you learn from it?
If you are or were going to be a mentor for another man, what is one piece of advice you would give him?
If you don’t get into trouble you’ll never get out of it. Challenge yourself but don’t be too hard on yourself either. Take risks and learn from failures. Enjoy successes but only for a moment. No one likes an asshole.
How do you be the best partner (Boyfriend/Husband- past or present)?
Think before you act, listen before you speak, have sex after a fight, tell her you love her in imaginative ways every day.
Do you support any Charities or Not-for-profits? (Which one(s) and why?)
A big part of our work at Sub Rosa is focused on supporting charities and NGOs. I am a formal and informal advisor to a multitude of organizations that I know and love. They include The Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, The United Nations Tribal Link Foundation, The Burning Man Organization, Esalen Institute, and a series of social initiatives being run out of the White House.
If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
“Long as I Can See The Light” by Creedence
Where do you see yourself in 3 years?
I’m not really a planner. I’ll be where I need to be.
What legacy do you want to leave for future generations?
I’m less concerned with my own legacy. What I’d like to ensure is that I’ve made a difference in the hearts and minds of those I’ve met, that I helped them to get through this life a little easier, and that maybe I’ve inspired them to do the same for someone else.
What One book would you recommend for any Man?
“Shadows on the Path” by Abdi Assadi