Pivotal People

From Hopelessness to Purpose: Mark Bannon's Transformative Journey of Faith and Healing

January 13, 2024 Stephanie Nelson Season 2 Episode 68
Pivotal People
From Hopelessness to Purpose: Mark Bannon's Transformative Journey of Faith and Healing
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What if you could halt the ceaseless hustle, confront your past traumas, and find a new purposeful path? Our guest today, Mark Bannon, bravely faced his past and found an unexpected lifeline amidst the chaos. As an author, speaker, and professional coach, Mark shares his transformation from a relentless workaholic to a man of faith and purpose. He takes us through his journey of writing his forthcoming memoir "The Boy from the Cave: A Soul-Stirring Journey from Hopelessness to Faith" You'll get insights into his childhood, the traumas that triggered his relentless work-desire, and the subsequent epiphany that made him hit the pause button and reexamine his life.

Join us as we explore the significance of addressing past traumas, mental health, and finding balance in life, with personal stories from yours truly. I'll share my personal journey towards spirituality and the peace I find in nature, alongside the changing attitudes towards therapy. As we navigate through our shared experiences, Mark unveils his 16-year immersion into Eastern philosophy and spirituality, leading him to find refuge in Christianity. He urges listeners to explore the Bible on their own, sharing how his faith shapes his daily existence. Don't miss this enlightening discussion highlighting hopelessness, purpose, faith, and personal growth.

Download the first 4 chapters FREE Here: https://markabannon.com/sample-chapters
Connect with Mark at https://markabannon.com/

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Speaker 1:

Well, I would like to welcome Mark Bannon to the Pivotal People Podcast. Welcome, mark, it's great to have you here.

Speaker 2:

Hello Stephanie. It's a pleasure to be here.

Speaker 1:

I met Mark gosh maybe a year and a half ago at a writer's workshop. Mark is a writer, he's a speaker, he's a professional coach. He also has decades of experience being an incredibly successful business person, and the reason he agreed to be on the podcast today is because he is coming out with a great book. It's actually his memoir and it's coming out in August. It'll start selling in June and you want to pre-order the book so that they don't run out of copies. I have read the book I've actually read it twice and it is the most interesting memoir, not only because he has an incredible history there's so much to learn here but because he is so honest. He does not sugarcoat anything. I would recommend this book to anyone, mark. I'd like you to, and I'll you know. I've set in a nutshell incredibly successful. When Mark does something, he is all in His childhood, really, I think groomed his work ethic. So, mark, before I go any further, could you tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are and describe what I'm talking about here?

Speaker 2:

Okay, well, first thank you for that introduction and it's a pleasure to be here. First off, I'm married to a beautiful woman, my wife Amy, for 35 years. I'm the dad of two grown children and I have a great granddaughter, one amazing, beautiful granddaughter. Congratulations. Yeah, it's real exciting. And so I live in the foothills of Colorado now and I kind of hit a big pause button a few years ago when I started the project of writing this book. As you stated, I was pretty active in business through my life. I was actually to a fault. I was a workaholic. I worked 60 to 80 hours a week. I traveled nonstop. Road warrior they called it in the days, and we were proud of that then, not so proud of it now, but I was on the road for about 200 days a year and in essence, you know, really trying to, you know chase dreams and be productive and all these things that society, or perhaps I told myself. But in reality I was kind of running from a whole bunch of childhood trauma, from dysfunction and from a lot of shame that happened in my childhood. So about two and a half years ago I decided I would quit, take a pause, and I dove into it. I said, I'm going to write a memoir, I'm going to just sort of examine the story and while that turned out to be a bit more of a project than I had anticipated, it opened up a lot of portals to the past and yeah, so that's kind of who I am now and where I came from. There's a lot to talk about with that childhood stuff, but go ahead.

Speaker 1:

Well, what I think is fascinating in your story is that you know your childhood. You didn't have any control over what happened in your situation, and we're going to talk a little bit about his childhood, so everyone understands what we're talking about. The book is called the Boy from the Cave, from Hopelessness to Purpose, and so, as we do, we all respond to our childhood experience and it manifests itself somehow in our adulthood. I'm just curious, mark, with all of your training, have you done the Enneagram? I have. Are you an eight?

Speaker 2:

Very good. What gave it away Well?

Speaker 1:

and the thing I like about the Enneagram is that it kind of gives us the starting point and understanding why we are the way we are. It's not a good or a bad thing. We all have a healthy version of those traits and unhealthy version. So, for example, an eight would be a very driven, successful person, which Mark is, total great work ethic, and this just sort of reminds me of the Paul story, the Road to Damascus. So Mark did everything. Society said he was super successful he's not going to tell you super financially successful. He ran businesses. He started companies, unbelievable multimillion-dollar companies. He started from the ground up and, as you said, it took its toll. You were gone 200 days a year. I mean that's difficult for families, but if you turn it around and you say you know you were led to faith in Christ at a very late age, at 55, I believe it was that is correct. And God pointed you in a different direction. And it's so exciting because I've watched him. I've watched him for a couple years and now I'm looking at this and you know where is God pointing you. He is using your wonderful quality of being a driven Enneagram 8 to lead people to him. That's what this book does. This book points us to God from very understandable, realistic experiences. We all have. The world's telling you you have to be successful and they measure that in dollars. So you were simply responding to what most people are responding to and you've turned that around. You've taken this wonderful drive you have. You've written a book that is really good and I'm going to tell you people I mean he has done tons of training to write this book. He has hired professionals to edit this book. This is a good book. He just didn't throw it out there. He applied his Enneagram 8 to writing a really good book. So as you wrote this book, you opened up in the beginning about your childhood. Can you tell us a little bit about that so people understand who you are?

Speaker 2:

Yes, I will. So one of the things I'll mention first is the subtitle of the book from hopelessness to purpose. I recently changed, as it went into the final edit phase, to a soul-stirring journey to faith. So when you talk about Paul and the Road to Damascus, yeah, I was raised in faith but, as we'll get into a little bit here with the story, I very much ran from God and I've heard a lot of people talk about being angry with God. Oh, I'm angry with God for this. I was never angry with God at all. It's actually quite the opposite. I felt unworthy and I felt a lot of shame. So I kind of ran from God, and that Enneagram 8 is something that I'd love to shed a little bit because, you know, it's been this thing that's followed me my whole life. But to get into it, I was born into a very normal middle-class family. I'm the youngest of five children. I have four siblings, three sisters, amazing sisters and an older brother, and at eight years old our life was turned on its head and we went from living this normal life, going to parochial schools and the picnics and all of the stuff that the normal childhood things and we ended up in just poverty. Living in a concrete bunker in the woods of New Hampshire. The title of the book is the Boy from the Cave and it's a story. The cave was actually a concrete foundation of a house that was never built. So my dad went through some stuff in his life. He had his own journey and at 40 years old he quit his job, sold our house, cashed in his retirement, packed us all up in a car and he bought 85 acres of woods in New Hampshire and he moved us up there. The problem was there was no house. He had this dream of building a campground. So we started out living in a tent in the woods no running water, no electricity and everything that goes with that and eventually started building a campground and a house and all this stuff. But we ran out of money and ended up in poverty. Now he was a very proud man and we kept this a secret from the world. We were deep in the woods so no one could see our cave that we called it. It was basically the foundation of a house that would never be. We started with dirt floors with no running water. My mom ended up doing three and four serving jobs waitress jobs at the time. We got thrown into dire situations and it was literally a fight to survive. So at eight my brother was 10. We became responsible to cut enough wood to heat and it was just really several years of very difficult trauma. My dad was desperate. He was already had his own unmet childhood trauma to a significant degree and it was just the era where you just didn't talk about that stuff. Mental health was not a term in the 60s and the 70s. There was no such term as work-life balance and he was a very proud man. So we hit it and we learned of shame. And it's odd what happens to us in life, all of us this book is it's a story, but it's my story, but it's everybody's story. It's unique in its happenstance but it's not unique in its circumstance All of us in life will be thrown curveballs. All of us. Everyone listening today is going to have a season of hardship at some point in their life. Some people will have a season of hopelessness. You know, we're all going to suffer from some sort of illness at some point and, as they say, nobody gets out alive, type thing. So anyway, this life became very traumatic. It became very difficult and by the age of 15, in the beginning of my sophomore year of school, I ran away and went off on my own. Now, I did finish school, I did end up going to college. I did all these things through sheer perseverance that I had learned in the hardship of the cave, but all the while I thought I was striving to achieve things. I was really running from things and I was running from these demons, and so I worked very hard, kept very busy and just, you know, they catch up with you eventually. And so, as you said, it wasn't till I ended up with a great life in a lot of ways Of course my beautiful marriage and family and children, and some business successes. You overstate them. There were more epic failures than there were successes. Trust me, I think I blew up my world many times more than most people searching for this purpose. You know, I always felt called. We all feel called. We all know in our hearts that we were created for a purpose. I believe that. I believe everybody feels it, and so, today, this book, the reason I wrote this book, it's really to speak to people that are in their 30s, 40s and 50s, that are in the throws of balancing family life and careers in a very noisy and chaotic world today and I think what happens to us is, you know, in spite of our achievements, it's we kind of lose touch with who we are and what we were created to be, or who we were created to be. So this book is kind of a come along story. It's not a self-help book, it's not a how-to book. It's actually an entertaining if you read, like the glass castle, jeanette Walls, or educated by Tara Westover. Kind of a story about dysfunction. So I, just with very difficult, with total vulnerability, I tell this story of my story and people will relate to it in their own way, in their own story.

Speaker 1:

So you know it's interesting because I've read both of those books and you're right, this is right in the same wheelhouse as those books and, as I said, I couldn't put it down. But you bring the reader into your story Because, as you said, everyone can relate. And if we could do a little color on your childhood I mean some of the examples here you learn this incredible work ethic. Now, you were in poverty. When you say in poverty, you know your mother is waitressing trying to keep where you lived. You couldn't see where you live from the road so people didn't know you live there. At what age you lived 14 miles from the McDonald's, right, and you got a job at McDonald's at the age of 13. Even though you had to be 15, I think the manager looked away on that and you work so darn hard. His last name is Bannon. There were five siblings. He was the youngest one. His other siblings had all worked at various you know fast food places in town. In a very small town in New Hampshire there is an expression called work like a Bannon. The kids worked so hard. Your sister, your oldest sister, would waitress and she would sneak money into your father's desk to help the family pay for things. So when we're talking about working, you hitchhiked 14 miles into town for your McDonald's job and at night they would hitchhike home on a country road and if there were no cars, you just walked home. You're talking about a 13 year old kid, so you're kind of minimizing, but all five kids worked like that. The parents work like that. Your dad had a job. It had to be difficult. But what I think is so neat about your whole story, Mark, is that you and your siblings are so close to each other. You all love each other so much. Your book is dedicated to them. Your relationships were forged together through this experience. That's clear, but not to minimize. But most people don't have this kind of a childhood experience. Yes, it's traumatic, but you said you want to shed the Enneagram 8. I would say no. I would say simply redirect that to the positive, which is what you were doing helping people find the purpose. I have this question I thought about what advice would you give your 25 year old self, now 25, just for everyone to know, he left at 15. He went to work for a real company, busting his tail at the age of 15. They couldn't believe how hard he could work. So by 25, you were rolling in the money, you were successful. So no college degree.

Speaker 2:

So tell us where you were at the age of 25 professionally and personally At the age of 25, the McDonald's story is interesting too, because I actually used my sister's social security number. This was back in the 70s. OK, statute of limitations is over, you're able to get a job right. But at 25, I had. At that point I was kind of in my really reckless stage of life at the age of 25. I was determined to never look in the rearview mirror when I ran away. I vowed never to look back and I always felt as though there was someone that was going to pull the rug out from under my feet. That had been the story of my life. You know, when you thought you were safe and you didn't even know of things like hopelessness. You didn't know of hope or hopelessness at eight years old and yet it was taken away from you. So by the time I became 25 and went out, I'd been out in the world for 10 years. I had been working hard and I was kind of at a state of mind there of take no prisoners and just kill or be killed. It was do or die kind of thing. So I was on this mission. Now I always had instilled in me from my parents a great level of integrity and work ethic. So there were no. In spite of huge recklessness that I entertained in the book with including numerous near-death experiences, in spite of that sort of recklessness, I always had a foundation of values that was instilled by my dad, which I didn't recognize until later in life. But the advice I would give to my 25-year-old self is really just to stop running, turn around and face these things. So for people out there that are working to achieve success and so forth, for that 25, 30-year-old I mean, it's very important to connect with your faith. I think that for me, which happened later in life is a very important thing, because that pause, I would tell myself, to find balance. I would say, balance yourself and your body, your mind and your spirit, and those are big catch-all phrases that we hear a lot. But simply taking rest for your body, getting rest I worked all the time so there was no rest. And getting out for me now, like I live in the foothills of Colorado, communing with nature, is such a place where I feel the presence of God and it just restores my soul when I'm out in the quiet and these foothills, to me it's just heaven, if you could describe a heaven. To me, it's where I am right now and so, but back in that day I was so focused on these boxes that we had to check off that. Life told us. You've got to get a good job, get a house, get a family, support them, be this, go to school, get your degrees, and I think so many of us today are working so hard that we forgot who we are, and so the biggest thing I would say is to just take a pause and connect with nature, balance your life out, get some rest. And I think, really importantly, what I've learned now is that what we ingest mentally and emotionally is so important, and I was ingesting a lot of fear, I was ingesting a lot of competition, this and that. So mental health is an extremely big issue for us. So I would just say, be cognizant of what we're ingesting. What are we watching, what are the relationships we're choosing to be in, what are we taking into ourselves? And take a pause from that and think consciously about what you're actually ingesting into your mind, and certainly therapy. This is a word that didn't exist when I was a kid. In fact, my dad came through the Great Depression. He went into World War II at 17 years old. He was the son of an Irish immigrant. He had a brutal childhood himself. He was a tough man. He drank a little too much, being polite and there was just no. It was the old pick yourself up by the bootstraps, don't be a sissy, you're a man, you're this and that, and this was a message I carried with me. So I never examined mental health. I never would turn around and face the demons, so to speak. I just kept running. And as you get older you just get exhausted. You cannot outrun it, you cannot outwork it, you can't outdeny it, you can't outthink it. When you have unmet trauma and dysfunction and things, my advice to myself would be stop running, turn around and face it and just be with it and so forth.

Speaker 1:

Fortunately, that is so good, mark, that is so good. I just made a little note of that because that is gonna be your highlight reel. That's beautiful, because back then I mean, we're the same age. Therapy was for people who were really messed up and if you did therapy you would never tell anyone. But today it is so much more accepted, in fact, when I hear someone's in therapy, I think, oh, they're healthy. I actually think the opposite. I actually think, okay, they're facing the hard stuff, they're healthy. So you went through a stage. At what point did you really start seeking out spirituality? Because this is where a lot of young people are today, so a lot of people who are in their 20s. I've spoke to a man recently on the podcast talking about this generation. They have lots and lots of questions around spirituality and faith and God, but they don't necessarily feel safe or asking the church for the answers to those questions, because they've been disillusioned by issues that we see in the media you were also searching for. You said you were raised Catholic, you were kind of. You didn't feel worthy of that. You didn't feel worthy of God. So you were looking for your worth, as so many of us do in your work. You know I understand that must have been very difficult for you to go to school in your childhood with the secret at home, looking around at the other kids feeling less than so. Your ultra success in business. You were way more than so many of your peers and, by the way, your successes were a little more than equal to your failures. You can't succeed if you don't fail. So he's humble. But at what point did you say, okay, I am seeking spirituality, because you were all in on that too.

Speaker 2:

Yes, so I went through life and in all of this work and all of these achievements and so forth, I always felt that, no matter where I was, I always felt there was some place that I was being called to be. And, as you mentioned, you know, I grew up and there's so much good in the churches, but there's also, you know, the churches are people, they're run by human beings and people interpret the scriptures and the word and the message and everybody's a little bit different and God speaks to us differently. So I had gotten a lot of mixed messages in my upcoming in from religion, not from faith. Faith is that connection, faith is the opposite of fear to me, but not from my faith. I never lost my faith deep down, but I certainly lost my religion and so I went searching. I actually, at a point in life I think a lot of us do this we're looking for that quick fix pill, we're looking for Nirvana, and I came. I fell into a period that was very popular back in, you know, a couple decades ago or whatever, maybe even 1015 years ago, speaking this Eastern philosophies, you know, I, you know we're going to meditate and and it what happened was for me, I heard this message that was really sounded cool to me. It was this this you know we, you don't have to call God God, you can call it. You know energy, creation, life, whatever he, she or it may be to you. And and it was all this stuff about manifesting your destiny and you can create and you can do this stuff. Now I am. There is a lot of merit to positive thinking, but at the end of the day, it's a, it's a message that's that was doomed for failure because the curveballs will come and there is no quick fix pill. So my message in the book really comes down to the fact it's not about avoiding the pain, it's not about outsmarting it or outrunning it, it's not about avoiding challenges in life. It's having the substance and the foundation for the perseverance that you not only can endure it but you can take those hardships and create something very good and powerful from it. So for me it took a long time. I am the guy that touches the hot stove over and over and over again. So what happened with me is I got really into this Eastern philosophy and being that in the gram eight if you're going to do something.

Speaker 1:

Oh big, all in.

Speaker 2:

So I went all in. I actually went on a 16 year journey, yeah, deeply into. First I started looking into shamanism and Taoism and Buddhism and I ended up on Hinduism and so forth and I went yeah, I did the whole bit went to India, stayed in our shrams, I got certified as a meditation instructor and I are a to health consultant. I went to seminars. I read every book there was to read. I read the Bhagavad Gita and all these, the Upanishads and the ancient wisdom and all of this stuff. I hiked in the Himalayan mountains and I even dunked in the Ganji River.

Speaker 1:

And his wife went with him too. So the woman is a saint, I must say.

Speaker 2:

She is a saint.

Speaker 1:

She is stuck in there through some wild rides, but you know what God is just so clear in your story, mark, because that whole journey led you to him.

Speaker 2:

It proves that God has an incredible sense of humor, right, because what he did is he used that journey to bring me to Jesus, right? So what happened? Real quickly give this story. But what happened was, in all of this, I'd been 16 years into it and I was going to find this perpetual peace, I was going to co-create my existence and life would be bliss and everything would be fine and I would be at peace. And so what happened was I met this guy from India. He actually came to work with me and I looked at this guy and he was born in India, raised in Hinduism and so forth. And I looked at this guy and he just glowed, he had this light coming from his eyes. And I'm working with him and I start telling him about my journey in India, everything I know, about the Upanishads I'm speaking Sanskrit phrases to him. I'm talking about the faith, the artis, the you name it, the whole bit. So after about two weeks, he just would encourage me that that's great brother, tell me more, tell me more. And finally, after about two weeks, I looked at him and he looked so peaceful and internally I was saying it, I was talking the talk, but I really wasn't walking the walk, I really didn't feel peace. I really kept. I just was still fighting to stay ahead of it. I was still seeking and searching. So I finally looked at him and I said you know, I'm a fraud man. And he goes what do you mean? You're a fraud. And I said I'm talking the talk about all this stuff. I've been 16 years. I have been quote unquote religious about pursuing this spirituality and I'm not feeling it. I'm not at peace. And you're at peace. I said what's your secret? And he looked at me and he smiled and he put his hand on my shoulder and he said I'm glad you finally asked brother. He said I'm a Christian and I almost fell over. And he said he said you want to know the secret to peace. And I said, coming through my shock of hearing this. He said I converted 26 years ago. He said read the Bible. And I'm like what he said, read the Bible. And I said well, wait a minute. He said you've done all this reading. You study for four hours a day. You're reading all this stuff. And he said have you ever read the Bible? And I'm like well, no. So he said read the Bible. So that's what started it and I picked up the Bible and so in my book I don't do a lot of preaching, I just share my story. And going back to your original question of how people are feeling so misdirected and so forth or confused with the messages coming out even from a lot of the churches, is, honestly, my advice is just really read the Bible. The Bible speaks to us. It really is the living word. It's hard to describe it. It sounds odd that I'm even saying it at this point.

Speaker 1:

I completely agree with you. I have this experience too. It's like, rather than hearing, an interpretation always goes like going back to the user's manual. Whenever I hear something, someone's theology, a friend says something and I haven't read it in the Bible, I say I haven't read that before and she'll say I know, it's just kind of what I came up with in my head. We don't know what people come up with in their head, but when you read the Bible you're hearing it straight from Jesus. You know, read the words in red, but I love this because Mark is all in. He is so authentic. So when your friend told you read the Bible, he picked up the Bible the next morning at roughly 4.30 AM when you get up. And he has read it every day since. Maybe you've missed a day or two, I'm not, but the point is is that he actually did dig in and read it and I love what you're saying, the living word, because every time you read it, you can read the same verse as 100 times. It speaks to you differently, because God is speaking to us differently. We're at a different point in our lives.

Speaker 2:

And the churches are great and I do go to church. I found a great church and we all have to find the church that speaks to us and faith is really big on my life. And, yes, I do read the Bible every single morning. I get up every single morning. It's eight years now, seven and a half years, and I spend the first hour of my day reading the Bible. I've read it cover to cover, I highlight it, mark it, and every single day it touches me differently and there are many days that I feel nothing, but I read it anyway because I know it's going in there. But I think you did a. I listened to a podcast, I think, a couple of weeks ago. It was Bonnie Gray, and you talked a lot about the church and the faith. I think what happens is and one of the issues that I'll probably touch upon in my next future books are mental health and the church, because there's so many of these messages that come to us that say oh, brother, just pray, you need more of the Holy Spirit and let me put some hands on you and this and that. And it's true, we all need faith and so forth, but we also need mental health care. We also need to address trauma and dysfunction that occurred in our lives, and it is probably not a person that's listening to this podcast that has not had a season of hardship and hopelessness I can't imagine. And most people I find, after talking about stories, have had trauma. And it doesn't matter how we define it. It's not a matter of degrees or this story is this much bigger. It's how it affects our life and our being going forward. So, and especially in this busy and noisy world. So my advice is obviously don't short your mental health pursuits and just kind of double down on faith, check it out, bond with nature, feel your heart, connect with yourself. When you get rest and when you bond with nature and when you connect with God, it helps us to feel who we are and it helps direct us. So my book basically proves that God has an incredible sense of humor. He will use anything to bring him back to us. He absolutely never abandons us, and it's never too late, because I'm the guy that came to Christ again at 55 years old.

Speaker 1:

At 55. But I have a feeling you might have another 50 years in you, so I think that your message is going to reach a lot of people for a long time. This has been so great to talk to you and you actually have on your website. I think you have some free chapters. I do.

Speaker 2:

My website is mark at markabannoncom, so it's just simply my name M-A-R-K, middle initial A, Last name B-A-N-N-O-N. Dot com. You can download some free chapters the first few chapters. The book will be coming out in early August and pre-sales will be starting will be happening in June, so I'm really excited about it. It's really an honor to be here, and if you visit my website, you have to join my mailing list to get the free chapters, though it's actually a good mailing list because you send out some really cool inspirational videos and you're walking in the foothills.

Speaker 1:

I live in Colorado too, so I can totally relate to the bonding with the nature, but well worth it. You can also. You have information. You can text CAVE C-A-V-E to 44144 to join, and I'm putting all that in the show notes so people can find your book, they can find your website, they can find your blog and they can also find out how to get you as a speaker. So I think people are going to want to hear from you. I have noted like three parts of our conversation that are going to be highlight reels, so I appreciate it and I have sons in the 20s who are definitely going to be listening to this podcast episode. So thank you so much and I look forward to hearing how the book does.

Speaker 2:

Thank you so much. Thanks for having me. It's been a pleasure, it's been great. Thanks, take care. Bye.

From Hopelessness to Purpose
Finding Spiritual Balance and Overcoming Challenges
Journey to Peace