Episode 533- Michele Harrison

Michele is a Learning and Development & Self Defense Instructor

Michele Harrison, Learning and Development Manager at Janover LLC, talks about her passion for Krav Maga and teaching self-defense, how it has given her discipline and patience in the workplace, and much more!

Episode Highlights
• Getting into Krav Maga
• Skills from learning self-defense that apply to her career
• Teaching self-defense
• Applying her self-defense skills in work presentations
• How both the individual and the organization play a role in workplace culture




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Michele’s Pictures

Live ground sparring during her brown belt test

Stick defenses during her black belt test

A gold medal win during a Muay Thai tournament

Michele’s Links


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    Welcome to Episode 533 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. And each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby, or a passion, or an interest outside of work. And to put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiate you at work.

    And I’d wanna just take a quick moment here to plug Michael Puck’s globaldogart.com. Michael was a guest on the podcast last year, and he’s a dog photographer. It’s his “and.” And he has teamed with other dog photographers to create globaldogart.com. It’s really cool ’cause research has shown that pictures of dogs increase our well-being, reduce stress. They foster social connections amongst people, promote trusting relationships in business settings. So why not pictures of dogs? Really cool pictures of dogs in the workplace or at home. So check out globaldogart.com. All the proceeds go to save 1 million dogs by 2030. So it’s a really good cause from Michael Puck who shared his “and” on What’s Your “And”?

    And don’t forget to check out the book as well. It’s whatsyourand.com. You can get the book there. And it’s available on Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, Amazon, Indigo, all the websites. So check it out. And don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week.

    And this week is no different with my guest, Michele Harrison. She’s a learning and development manager with Janover. And now, she’s with me here today. Michele, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?

    Michele: Thanks so much, John. It’s great to be here.

    John: Oh, this is gonna be great. We met at the Janover event that I spoke at, and I’m so glad that we’re able to make this happen.

    Michele: Yes.

    John: So I’m excited.

    Michele: It’s taken us a little bit to get here, but we’re finally here.

    John: It’s worth it. It’s totally worth it. And I have rapid-fire questions I probably should have asked you when we were hanging out, but I didn’t. And we’re gonna get to know Michele on a new level here. This is probably an easy one. Favorite color?

    Michele: Oh, blue.

    John: Blue. Solid. Okay. Mine too. How about a least favorite color?

    Michele: I’d probably say yellow.

    John: Yellow. Interesting. Okay. All right. A little too bright.

    Michele: Yeah.

    John: How about a favorite TV show of all time?

    Michele: Favorite TV show of all time would be The Wire.

    John: Oh, interesting. Okay. All right. There you go. That’s a great show. When it comes to puzzles, Sudoku, crossword, or a jigsaw puzzle?

    Michele: Oh, jigsaw puzzle.

    John: There you go. Pictures. Nice. Would you say you’re more talk or text?

    Michele: Text.

    John: Text. Okay.

    Michele: Yeah.

    John: How about a favorite actor or an actress?

    Michele: I’m pretty old school, so I would say probably Betty Davis.

    John: Wow! That’s really old school. Okay. But a really good pick.

    Michele: Yeah.

    John: That’s fantastic. Very good. Very good. This is an important one. Toilet paper roll, over or under?

    Michele: Always over.

    John: Always over. Are you one of those that changes it when you’re over at a friend’s place and they—

    Michele: Not a friend’s place, but at my own home, yeah.

    John: Oh, okay. Okay. All right. All right. Just seeing what level we’re at here. Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Michele: Definitely Star Wars.

    John: Yeah. I’m same. Yeah. Yeah. When it comes to books, audio version, e-Book, or a real book?

    Michele: I really like real books.

    John: Yeah, I’m the same.

    Michele: Yeah. Turn the page. Feel the paper.

    John: Yeah, definitely. How about a favorite number?

    Michele: 7.

    John: 7. Solid. Is there a reason?

    Michele: It’s funny. It’s kind of a neutral number. It’s not too low. It’s not too high. 1 through 10, it’s that neutral number.

    John: That’s great. Yeah. Yeah. It’s in the middle. All right. No. And 5 is too on point.

    Michele: Yeah.

    John: It’s like you can’t be the exact metal. All right. I like that. How about your computer? PC or Mac?

    Michele: PC.

    John: PC. Yeah. Definitely. And when it comes to your mouse, right click or left click?

    Michele: Oh, right click.

    John: Oh, right. Opening up all the menus and the cool stuff. All right. All right. How about prefer more hot or cold?

    Michele: Well, I live in Phoenix, so I definitely prefer the heat.

    John: Oh, there you go, man. That’s a next level heat right there. That’s impressive. Then you gotta eat some ice cream. Ice cream in a cup or a cone?

    Michele: Cone.

    John: Cone. Oh, nice.

    Michele: Yeah, every day.

    John: Okay. Every day. Right. There you go. I like it. I like it. You’re my kind of people. How about a favorite sports team?

    Michele: Oh, the Patriots.

    John: Oh, okay.

    Michele: Yeah.

    John: All right. Interesting. You’re one of those. All right.

    Michele: I am one of those.

    John: That’s all right. Yeah. You’re gonna act like the ’80s and ’90s didn’t happen.

    Michele: Very much so.

    John: Right, right. It’s the time being specifically the Belichick Patriots.

    Michele: Exactly.

    John: It’s really what we’re talking about. Tom Brady. And I think I got two more. Cheeseburger or pizza?

    Michele: Ooh, pizza.

    John: Pizza, okay. Yeah. Very good. And the last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own?

    Michele: I’d probably say my home gym.

    John: Oh, okay. All right.

    Michele: I spent many years building it, and it’s just a way to disconnect since I work from home.

    John: Very cool. And it ties in perfectly with Krav Maga, which is like I had never heard of before until we met.

    And I was like “Well, that sounds dangerous, but also really cool.” So how did you get started with that?

    Michele: So Krav Maga was a way for me to meet people. I moved to Phoenix in 2014. I didn’t know anyone. And I had taken martial arts as a kid. My family was military, so my dad got me into karate when I was young. And I’d always kind of wanted to go back, but I’d never lived in a city that kind of had a ton of options. And I’d read about Krav Maga before. And I was like “Well, maybe someone in Phoenix does it.” And it just so happened that I go to EVKM Self-Defense and Fitness, and our head instructor actually got certified in Israel and is one of the top rated instructors in the country.

    John: Oh, wow. And so, this is an Israeli self-defense?

    Michele: Yeah. So it is an Israeli self-defense. It was created by— I’m gonna butcher his name— by Imi Lichtenfeld, who kind of helped create it to kind of protect the neighborhoods kind of around that World War II era. And then when they moved people to Israel, he was kind of brought in to help train the military, make sure that everyone could defend themselves ’cause in Israel, everyone has to join the military. Doesn’t matter if you’re female or male. And so, they had to create a system that could be used by anyone.

    John: Wow. Very cool. And so, you just read about it and you’re like “Hey, I’d like to learn this one” as opposed to karate or whatever, like yeah.

    Michele: I did a lot of research before I decided.

    John: And what is different about Krav Maga to maybe other things as a person that doesn’t know much about any martial arts, I guess? I’ve seen Karate Kid and that’s about it.

    Michele: Yeah. Well, I think, for me, personally, what sets Krav Maga apart from some other martial arts is it’s very much a toolbox. So we teach you tools and you can use those tools to defend multiple situations. And everything is the simplest form. So it’s no complicated katas. It’s nothing that involves 10 to 15 steps. You should be able to get it in 4 to 5, if not much less.

    John: All right. Nice. And do you have any, I guess, like cool memories from since you starting to Krav Maga?

    Michele: Yeah. I would say, you know, one of the best things that has happened to me from being Krav is first off, you know, I’ve met some of my best friends there, some of the best friends I’ll probably ever have in my life. But I’ve also gotten many opportunities to go and train with some very well-known martial artist everywhere from UFC fighters to glory kickboxing champions, to people who actually were in the military in Israel. And just kind of getting those different perspectives and sharing that love of martial arts and self-defense and that body awareness has been really awesome.

    John: That’s impressive. I mean, yeah, to be around those people, but then also to train with them and to learn from them has gotta be really impactful. I mean, it’s learning how to play golf with professional golfers. Like just it raises your game.

    Michele: Exactly.

    John: You know, you just become better and that’s very cool. And then I know that the pictures that you submitted that people can see at whatsyourand.com, you’ve competed as well.

    Michele: Yup. Part of what we do in Krav is the expectation is that you should be able to handle yourself in situations at certain levels and be, not competitive, but be able to survive in other martial arts practices. So it’s not about being better than other martial arts. It’s about being able to challenge yourself and survive. And so, one of the prerequisites for getting your black belt is that you have to do an actual sanction fight, whether that be boxing, Muay Thai. So I did a Muay Thai tournament. And I won gold in my division.

    John: Wow! Congratulations!

    Michele: Thank you.

    John: So you didn’t even train in Muay Thai, but then you won it.

    Michele: Yeah.

    John: Which shows that the Krav Maga can translate to other disciplines, I guess, which is really cool. That’s awesome.

    Michele: And I think the great thing about Krav is that we’re very willing to pull things in from different martial arts. So we do pull in stuff from Muay Thai, from boxing, from Jujitsu. It’s kind of about what works best for everyone. And if another martial arts already knows how to do it, well, we’re gonna incorporate that.

    John: Well, yeah. Why reinvent the wheel type of thing, which is great, which I would imagine would be a skillset that translates to work a little bit. Or is there another skillset that you feel like that martial arts allows you to be able to do differently?

    Michele: I think the biggest thing has probably been I don’t allow myself to get as stressed about work stuff as maybe I used to when I was young and I didn’t know anymore. I think martial arts and especially self-defense, I work with a lot of people who have gone through really horrible traumas. I mean, for some people, there is a reason why they’re showing up every day to train, and it’s because horrible things have happened to them. And so, kind of my work motto, I don’t know if everyone will agree, but I’m kind of like this is not an emergency.

    There’s no such thing as a training emergency. We can always solve the problem. There’s always alternative solutions. And I think it’s allowed me to really remain calm when other people maybe have been panicking because a prominent rule of Krav is like address the immediate threat. So figure out what the immediate threat is and that’s the first thing that you need to address.

    John: I mean, which is such a great skillset to have anyway, but definitely makes you a better professional. And that’s funny how you were like I’m not sure if everyone would agree, but not everything’s in emergency. But really, sometimes things really are an emergency, but it’s also like the emergency isn’t as big as what maybe what some people want it to be. It’s actually the emergency is this little part and then the other stuff is just, you know, collateral or whatever damage. And it is cool that you do the self-defense instructor as well. And so, how long have you been doing that side of it?

    Michele: I have been an instructor since 2017.

    John: Oh, okay. And so, do you feel like you learn a little bit differently from teaching?

    Michele: Yeah. And it’s so funny because what I do for a hobby is kind of what I also do as a job, which is instruction, learning, and development. And I think what it does is you can have someone tell you how to do a technique and you can just do it like “Okay, we’re going to deal with a choke from the front today and I know how to do the defense.” But being able to explain to someone else how to do it when maybe they’ve never seen it before, I think it gives you a higher understanding because you start to understand why do we break things down certain ways, why do we explain it this way, because it allows for better learning. And we also try to incorporate like verbal learning, visual learning, and then learning through doing. So, it allows us to kind of touch all those points that all different people are in different ways.

    John: I love that ’cause you’re basically exercising that muscle outside of work so then when you come to work, you’re just better and stronger at doing the learning and development, so that’s really cool. That’s huge overlap definitely ’cause, I mean, you’re literally doing it, but that’s really awesome. And have you shared this with coworkers? Do they know about this like throughout your career?

    Michele: Yeah. So when I started it— It’s so funny that you ask. I talk about it at work because I’m very interested in what other people do as well. And self-defense to me is extremely important for people. And so, if me mentioning it just gets someone interested and even coming and trying one class, I’ve helped out someone in some way hopefully. So I’m very open to talking about it. John, I’ve actually used it in two instances. I used it once during an interview. I taught someone how to do a self-defense technique.

    John: During an interview? That’s awesome.

    Michele: During an interview. And then I have also— I used it in a cover letter.

    John: Nice. There you go. Like why not?

    Michele: Yeah.

    John: That differentiates you. It’s like there’s a lot of people that do learning and development, but how many people do learning, and development, and self-defense instructor? That’s really awesome. Was that your thinking of like help me stand out, help me differentiate?

    Michele: Yeah. It was a way to differentiate. We had to do a presentation. I had 5 minutes, and I couldn’t use like a PowerPoint. I couldn’t do anything like that. And so, I was like “Stand up. I’m gonna actually use you as my prop.” And she was very much just kind of like “Wait, what’s happening” and then was very— Like after I got hired at that job, she was very much like “I think I want my daughter to like do some self-defense. Can we talk about it?” And I was like “Yeah, like let’s definitely talk about that.”

    John: I love how the after I got hired at that job because most people are like “Oh, well, there’s no way she got hired.” No, actually got hired for that job. You know? And that’s the same thing as like with my comedy like at the bottom of my resume. You know, I had big brothers, big sisters, and professional standup comedian and then job offer, you know, because people wanna be around real humans that have other dimensions to who they are.

    Michele: Yeah.

    John: And that’s really cool, you know. And then her daughter wants to now get lessons from you. And it’s like “All right.” It’s not like a make believe theory that might work. No, it straight works, you know, like to differentiate yourself. And that’s super awesome and especially that you share it ’cause some people— I don’t know. You get in your own head of, well, you know, this has nothing to do with the job. They’re not gonna care.

    Michele: Exactly.

    John: They’re gonna judge me for not being very dedicated or whatever. And it’s cool that you never thought that.

    Michele: Yeah. I mean, I have had that experience before where I have had people question like if I was for the job because I had a hobby outside of it. And I was like “This is what allows me to like be the person you need in this role. I can be calm, I can make decisions, I can assess things because I go do all this stuff outside of work. And it’s never interrupted me doing my job.”

    John: Yeah, exactly. I mean, if you’re able to get your work done, then gloves are off. Like you’re fair game. Like whatever you wanna do type of thing, which I think is super awesome that that’s been your experience as well. And how much do you feel like it’s on an organization to create that space to ask and encourage people to share their “and” and how much is it on the individual to just put it in the cover letter and let it rip type of thing or just create that small circle amongst their peers?

    Michele: I think that it’s definitely a responsibility of a company to create an environment where people feel comfortable talking about themselves and not feel that it takes away from anything. Because if you can’t be comfortable being yourself in front of everyone, you’re not gonna feel comfortable doing the job or feel like you have the autonomy to do the job the way you need to get it done. But it’s also on the individual. That’s how you connect. So if you’re not wanting to make connections with the people you work with, then you’re not gonna share. But if you want to make connections, share what you do. I have found people who I didn’t realize did martial arts because I shared it randomly and then someone was like “Oh, I’m doing a jujitsu competition this weekend.” And I was like “I had no idea that you competed and trained.”

    John: And then best friends like for no reason out of nowhere.

    Michele: Exactly.

    John: You know? Like it’s just a new level of connection, and interest, and all that. And also, I think it’s huge for like a sense of belonging. Like I’m not alone here. Especially over COVID and all that, like just loneliness and all that. So yeah, no, it’s definitely a big. Do you have any words of encouragement to people listening that maybe are thinking like I’ve got a hobby, but no one cares ’cause it has nothing to do with my work?

    Michele: I would definitely say there is going to be someone or a group of people that you work with who do care, and who are interested, and who find it fascinating. It’s not gonna be everyone, but just keep sharing. And eventually, you’ll find that group that enjoys you for you and who you are outside of work. And it might introduce you to things that you didn’t realize. I have a friend who I didn’t know she drifts cars on the weekend. And so, I got to go ride with her and it was an amazing experience. And if we hadn’t like shared our hobbies with each other, would’ve had no idea.

    John: Yeah. And I mean, like the jujitsu one where it’s like “Oh, I didn’t know that.” And it’s by, I think, sharing yours first kind of opens the gates. It makes it safe and then it also makes— You know, the universe is a little out of balance. So now, they have to reciprocate. It’s like “Well, you gotta say something now.”

    Michele: And you need to celebrate the wins that you get outside of work just as much. Even something like “Oh, you bought a house? Like that’s amazing especially in today’s market.”

    John: Right. Especially in today’s market.

    Michele: Yeah. Why aren’t we celebrating that? Why don’t we know that? Like even simple things like “Oh, I finished my master’s degree.” Like someone saying that and being like “Yes, that’s awesome. You spent so much time in there.” “Oh, you won your jujitsu competition this weekend. That’s amazing. Like go out and do cool things, and do what makes you happy and what makes you excited.”

    John: Ah, I like that. ‘Cause in that excitement, then that energy you can bring to work. And sometimes work is exciting, but sometimes it’s not. Your “and” is always exciting. I mean, that’s always fun. That’s why you’re doing it. And so, you do it and then you get that energy, get the inertia built up, and then go do work and bring that enthusiasm to it. So I love that mindset. Well, this has been awesome, Michele. And I feel like it’s only fair that I turn the tables since I so rudely fired questions at you at the beginning. So we make this The Michele Harrison Podcast, and thanks for having me on as a guest.

    Michele: Yeah.

    John: So I’m all yours, whatever you got. I’m buckled in.

    Michele: Yeah. So, mountains or the beach?

    John: Ah, yeah. So I live in Denver and I can see the mountains right now from my office. So I’m a little bit spoiled on that. So I’d probably say beach only because that involves I’m on vacation, and it’s probably also somewhere warm and sunny, and good food, and all that. So I’ll probably say beach only because I’m spoiled with the mountains right here. But man, mountains are pretty cool, but I’ll say beach if I had to pick one.

    Michele: Oh, I love it. And so, you do stand up and that was kind of your “and.” So who is your favorite comedian?

    John: Oh, wow, that’s great. Yeah, I mean, probably I had to pick one, it would probably be Brian Regan is probably my favorite. But you know, I mean Chappelle and Bill Burr have been on fire lately, and I mean just so good. And then like just friends of mine that I was in New York City with like Nate Bargatze, and Ryan Hamilton, and guys like that. Tommy Johnagin who’s now in LA and like just anyone that does it, especially for a living. I mean, just hats off. I mean, kudos. Like whether it’s my style of comedy or not, it’s a crazy, crazy life and you have to be really passionate about it to do it.

    Yeah. I mean, I would say those. I mean, typically, the clean observational, you know, just looking at life a little bit differently in through a different lens than what you are in and also just a little bit of silly. Like Brian Regan’s always silly. There’s never an agenda to his comedy. No one’s getting offended. So that’s why I’d probably say him just ’cause it’s always good.

    Michele: So I’m glad you brought up Nate Bargatze cuz he’s one of my favorite comedians, but also the bit that got him well known, you know, the Cape Fear Serpentarium bit that he does—

    John: Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

    Michele: …so that’s where I went to college and I have been to that spot, the Cape Fear Serpentarium.

    John: Okay.

    Michele: I had been to it. So when it came on Netflix and he did it, I was telling everyone, I was like “I’ve been there. That’s a real place. I promise it’s exactly as he described it.”

    John: And that’s the thing, I mean Nate’s so good at just like being the every man of just like, you know— And the way he delivers, it’s just slow and deliberate. He’s just not overdoing it, but he’s also just describing something. Maybe you’ve been or maybe you haven’t, but the way that he paints the picture,—

    Michele: You’re there.

    John: …it’s real and it’s also through his lens of like “What the hell is this” type of thing where some people, whereas some people are like “Yeah, it’s normal. Whatever.” And then once you hear his bit, you’re like “Okay, now I can’t unhear this, we gotta go back and see what he’s talking about” type of thing.

    John: Yeah.

    Michele: Yeah. No, he’s great. So funny. Absolutely. Yeah. And a good guy too, which is always nice.

    Michele: Well, I thank you so much, John, for having me on the podcast. And hopefully, we can get you out to Phoenix to train one day.

    John: Oh, there we go. No, I love it. No, this has been great, Michele. And no, it’s just awesome to have you a part of What’s Your “And”? and yeah, so thanks for taking time and also just living the example

    And everybody listening, if you wanna see some pictures of Michele in action or maybe connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. And while you’re on the page, please click that big button. Do the anonymous research about corporate culture. And don’t forget to read the award-winning book. So thanks again for subscribing on Apple Podcasts or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.


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