When you believe that whatever you’re doing is tied to a purpose much bigger than yourself, great things start to happen. Todd Dean, CEO of Sanjara Wellness Elevated, is tied to such a purpose. Sanjara is a treatment facility and spa that unites Western medicine with Eastern practices to facilitate healing of the mind, body, and spirit from such ailments as depression, trauma, addiction, loneliness, obesity, and other disorders. Todd reveals that with his past issues with women and alcohol, a big part of him just really wasn’t happy with himself. So he met with a counselor and that took him down a path of learning about addictions and of learning to love himself. Today, Todd wants to provide the same beneficial healing for others who are struggling with issues.
I was very fortunate to do a podcast with a guy who I’ve known for a long time named Todd Dean. Todd is a very entrepreneurial sort. I met him originally many years ago where he was running a venture fund, matchmaking entrepreneurs with people with money investors called Keiretsu Forum out of Seattle. He moved to Sun Valley. I was in Sun Valley and we skied for a day and we hung out. I asked him why he loves Sun Valley so much and he just had all the highlights and pointers on why Sun Valley is such a magical place. I decided to move here and that’s where I’m broadcasting from. With Todd, we’ve got into some really amazing, fascinating stuff. He laid it all out there.
He’s had some issues in the past. We talked about those things. It’s really transformed in what he is doing now, which is building a huge $250 million Sanjara Wellness Center to treat all kinds of different things. From depression to health issues, suicide, everything that you can think of in terms of trying to get people out of the dark place and back on their feet. He’s spearheading that project. We talked about it quite a bit in detail. He was open and vulnerable of sharing his soul. Please remember to go into iTunes and rate and review. It really does help. We continue to build our momentum and I love that. If you want to sign up for my newsletter, you can do so at MarkPattisonNFL.com. Currently I’m training to head up to Alaska to climb Denali. I’m trying to ramp up a bunch of these different podcasts as we go. We’re very fortunate to be sponsored now by Violets are Blue Skin Care. On that note, let’s talk to Todd.
Listen to the podcast here:
Wellness Elevated Through Loving Oneself with Todd Dean
I’m really excited to have Todd Dean on the pod and get into this. Todd, how are you doing?
Mark, I’m doing fantastic. Thanks for having me.
You and I had known each other from Seattle and I had reached out to you and said, “I’m coming to Sun Valley, I’d love to connect.” We did and we ended up skiing together. You had recently moved over and you’re selling me on why you love Sun Valley from a Seattle perspective. You and I knew each other from back in the day when I was pitching companies and you’re running a venture forum for entrepreneurs to come pitch their ideas.
Here I am and I’ve got to point to you as one of the key influences why I’m sitting here in Sun Valley. It’s guys like you who have a great spirit and have a zest for life that really attract me to certain places and to certain people. There are a lot of reasons, but I just really wanted to be part of this community. You’ve been so great about welcoming me into this amazing area and introduce me to other people. I thank you for that.
We also have our Montana connection as well.
I’m going to do this pod a little bit differently. I received an interesting email from you and it just struck me as maybe this is a great place to start. It says, “Am I excited to show you what we’ve accomplished. Before I do, I want to tell you something very personal. When you believe that whatever you’re doing is tied to a purpose much bigger than yourself, great things start to happen. I am tied to such a purpose. I believe in my heart that Sanjara will positively affect each person’s individual journey, and in turn, every relationship and aspect of their life.
We all have issues and struggles. We all need some form of help, some need more than others. Sanjara Wellness Elevated will provide beneficial healing to so many. We will make the difference.” That was written by you. You also said this since you authored it is, we all go through struggles. The first question and the obvious question I would ask is, what have your struggles been in the past?
I was in a long-term relationship, specifically in 2005. It was with a woman I fell in love with and in that, I had my own issues. What would happen is she’d get upset, break up with me in that first year. I would go off to my own place and I ended up either going to a bar where I can end up with some gal. After the end of the year, things came into the surface between us around this issue on my end. She said, “Either you go get help or I’m out of here.” I went and got help.Addiction starts between the ages of zero and three. Click To Tweet
Help you do what?
I met with a counselor. Her name was Sue, and she was at Bellevue. Sue sat down with me and she said, “Are you serious about this?” That was her first question to me. I said, “Absolutely.” I knew that I’d had issues around my life, around women and alcohol and just ups and downs of life. There’s a big part of me that just really wasn’t happy with myself. I said, “Yes, I’m serious about this.” She says, “If you’re serious about this, it will take you three to five years to get to the starting line.” I remember thinking, forget that I’m going to knock this out three to six months and I’m not kidding. Five years later she was right. That took me down a path of learning about addictions. My own addiction specifically. It took me down a path of learning to love a man before learning to love a woman in my life. It took me down a path of learning to love myself, which I think many of us hear that all the time. It’s a daily journey for me every single day.
A lot of these things came to me in terms of going towards the light, after I was 50. If you would have told me when I was still living in Seattle, tons of friends living in a house, married with kids, the whole thing, that I would be in Sun Valley, Idaho, owning a home, talking to you about all the stuff, running a podcast, I would have said you’re nuts. That’s part of life’s journey. Things happen and you really have to figure those things out as you go. During that five-year journey, what were the things that led you to finding your light or finding your purpose or putting your feet squarely on the ground? Why did it take five years?
Prior to that point in that relationship, in the early ‘90s, when I was in my twenties, I knew I had issues. I did seminars, Tony Robbins, I did the Landmark Education. I went to counseling. I remember sitting with some counselors and I remember thinking, “Does this person really know their stuff?” That might’ve been part of my stuff too. Through the years, I was just always on this journey, a quest, whether it’s reading books or going to seminars to try and figure my stuff out. In 2001, which is one of my low points in my life, I was drinking a lot, I was meeting a lot of women. I was out partying all the time. I was really lonely and isolated. You’d think just the opposite because I was out so much and people said how connected I was. I had this player image of getting what I wanted, but I was just very self-centered and self-absorbed.
I didn’t grow up with religion. I remembered finally reaching the point where I thought, “I can’t do this anymore.” I got down on my knees and said, “If there’s a God up there, if there’s a higher power, I need some help.” Believe it or not, things got worse. I prayed some more and then I started going to church. I started volunteering at the men’s homeless shelter down in LA Avenue called Cityteam. Slowly my life has progressively started getting better. I started my own company which took off. I made a name for myself in the Seattle Northwest market. That was part of my spiritual journey, which led me into the 2005 and 2006 timeframe where then I started learning about my addictions.
When I say addictions they are plural. I believe we all have addictions. In fact, you’re sitting here next to me, with my two Starbucks cups so that’s obviously one of my many addictions. The question isn’t whether we’re addicts. My question is, “What are our addictions?” I’ve got involved with counseling and I started learning about my alcohol and issues around women, specifically codependency, wanting validation from women specifically and people. I’m a big Facebooker as part of my codependency of wanting that external validation, instead of really looking in the mirror and realizing that it’s right there.
You bring up an interesting point because you’re not alone in this. There are so many people and guys in particular that I’ve known that they’re chasing their tail. It’s a bad circle. You’re out going to bars and you’re drinking too much. You wake up the next morning, it’s late and you’re not feeling well. You’re out there and none of these relationships are permanent. There’s no substance of what’s going on, especially with your life.
That’s where I think this whole thing about trying to become very purposeful because where that purpose comes from, then your whole drive and your whole focus, really gets directed towards that one singular activity that you’re trying to go after. The other stuff is, it’s hollow. I’m not preaching to you here at all by any means, but that’s just what I’ve seen over my life. One of the things that has really been a blessing in my life and I thank my parents, I thank God and I thank the higher being and that is that, I was born with some athletic talent.
I happen to be channeled around super positive athletic physical coaches in the world of football. In order to keep climbing the pyramid, which I was very fortunate to go to the top, you couldn’t lead a lifestyle beyond discipline, stringent, physical health, and wellness. Otherwise, there’s just too many guys trying to compete to be where you are at. I don’t know if I would have been in that path or not in that path, but I just thank my stars that my addiction was working out and driven around that whole concept of accomplishment. There have been plenty of guys who have also done that and also have addiction guys who I played with. Drug and alcohol issues which ultimately led them out of the NFL. At the end of the day, you just really have to get back to the thing that you talked about, which is what is your center?
Along that lines, I do a lot of life coaching. I think it’s really counseling, but I’m not a licensed therapist. Life coaching is being able to identify the patterns in individuals that we all have. You brought up performance or achievement athletics and always learning. One of the things I just recently learned about was performance addiction.
What does that mean?
A good example is Michael Phelps. People look at additions as these issues with us, but the reality is addiction start between the ages of zero and three. I remember trying to understand that correlation as I went down this own path in our lives. What happens is that between ages zero three, is that trauma in life happens. It happens to all of us. With infants specifically is that if, for example, the baby’s in the crib and the parents are arguing in the room next door about finances. That baby or infant is going to internalize that as there’s something wrong with that baby. Even as young children, they have to figure out something to fill that unloved or that brokenness with something. What young children fill in this with is being funny, smart, athletic, musically talented, and even bad.
By the time the child is in junior high or high school, and let’s say that you’re a top performing athlete, a top skier or you’re into drugs or alcohol, all of those are mechanisms to cope with the feeling of unloved or the brokenness of that individual. I highly recommend watching this YouTube video. I think it was ESPN that did an interview on him. I look at an Olympic athlete and that individual is pushing their bodies to the absolute physical and mental limits to make up for the brokenness.
I believe that he ran into a major alcohol issue, not this last Olympics, but before.
What happened was, as he won more gold medals than anybody in the history of Olympics, what happened after that Olympics? He crashed. His addictions, which he’s public about, were alcohol, sex, and drugs. He went to a wonderful center called The Meadows and got the proper help and guidance and structure that he needed. In the next Olympics, what’s amazing is he still won. If you look at his interactions between himself and Ryan Lochte and the other teammates, it was totally different because he was coming from a different place life. He slowly being in touch with himself and not be so self-absorbed in his addictions and his own substance in life.
I can’t speak for women at all in any way. I was listening to a Tim Ferris’ podcast. He’s talking to Katie Couric. They were talking about some pretty amazing issues. They got into Katie’s husband who passed away unfortunately at 42 from colon cancer. Tim was relating back about some people that passed in his life, there were about two and they had cancer. The whole point of all this is that the shield or the layer that he has in front of them and so many guys do that.
Rather than just feel what’s going on and really embracing that moment and just letting it fully affect you for whatever that means to him. For so many different guys, rather than just be open and just let it come in and if you have to cry, you cry and if you laugh, you laugh and go on and expression how you feel about that person rather than keep it all in because it’s going to go somewhere and it’s going to come out somewhere. I think that’s what you’re talking about. It just manifests itself in different ways.
A lot of times, I thought I could control or manage my life with my addictions, I’m telling you right now, it’s impossible. When I finally came to the point where I realized that my addiction was more powerful than I was, that that was a turning point in my life. I’m a big Facebooker and Facebooking to me is about looking good. We don’t post the stuff when we’re struggling with finances, relationships, drugs, or depression. When we get into recovery work or into proper counseling or guidance or even a men’s group for example or a women’s group, that’s where a lot of the work really develops. That’s where we mature and learn more about ourselves and also with our fellows.
I’ve talked about this before on another podcast. I was going through my split with my ex and I was down in Tanzania. I decided to take on this journey. At the podcast and public speaking and Facebook, nothing was in the picture which says, “I need to go out in this journey because I’m going through a tough time. What I learned more than anything on that journey,” especially when I was coming off and I had to overcome a bunch of stuff. Actually, the more vulnerable that I am as a guy, the more enriched life it has become for me.
It took me 50 years to figure it out. The deeper relationships that I’ve formed because I will have been willing to just lay it all out there. People are going to judge me however they want to judge me. I don’t really care and I know what I walk into a room with. The shedding of all this internal stuff going on in my stomach and stuff breaking around the back of my head and everything, it’s just rewarding. What Has Sun Valley in this journey for you done in terms of helping you to heal to where you are now?
First of all, I’ve been coming to Sun Valley since I was a child. My aunt and uncle live here. We’d come here winters and summers growing up and then I bring my family here. I found a house down at Warm Springs, right on the river. Just a beautiful home. I wasn’t looking for this house, it just fell on my lap. I met a guy skiing and long story short, I thought I’d use this home for a number of weeks out of the year. I came in here and I didn’t go back to the rain in Seattle. It wasn’t planned. I kept my place in Seattle through September. I would occasionally go back. I just felt this spiritual calling to be here. I didn’t know this until after I moved here where they say that there’s something spiritual about this valley. It’s spiritual and healing, both. Sun Valley also has the most recognized wellness festival in the country as well, the top festival in the US.Deeper relationships form when we’re willing to lay it all out there. Click To Tweet
What time of year is that?
They just moved it to July. They have all different aspects of wellness, as far as speakers, events and activities, and so on. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the wellness festival happens to be here. It’s just a much greater calling and it wasn’t planned at all.
Where I originally met you, which I think ties in what you’re doing, was through the Keiretsu Forum. I know that you’ve also been a professor at the University of Washington teaching aspiring entrepreneurs how to actually do a successful startup. Going back to the Keiretsu, why don’t you explain what that is really quickly and what you experienced over those years?
I’ve got involved in startups 2000, 2001. In 2004 and 2005, I started a venture capital fund in Seattle because I realized how hard it is to raise capital. When I was doing that, I heard about a group called Keiretsu Forum out in San Francisco. I flew down and met with Randy Williams, a phenomenal wonderful man. I was really impressed with the quality of the organization and also who the investors were. It’s a bunch of names that some of the audience would know of and most that they would not. They were committed to helping startups and investing in startups, which in my opinion is the foundation of this country. I took it back to Seattle. People said, “What’s the word again?” I said, “It’s Keiretsu.” They said, “How do you spell it?” I did that and then I ran that for several years. We funded 104 companies a little over four years.
The whole idea is you’ve got people out there with ideas and what they need more than anything is capital to get those ideas off the ground. What you did is you were on the other side. You’re the matchmaker. You brought in a bunch of investors around Seattle and Bellevue.
It’s like a Shark Tank on steroids. I have 320 investors in the Northwest. These were from the very affluent to maybe some was worth $2 to $5 million. It could be someone running an early Microsoft or it could be someone that had their own business doing $20, $30, or $40 million a year in revenue. It was really a mixture of men and women both, a cross section as far as individuals. On the investor side, which are called, Angel Investors. That was my goal is to really source and find those Angel investors. As far as the deals, we have a very structured process of how they were vetted and then they’d present in front of the investor group once a month and they still do, if not the largest group in the world.
I can’t remember how long each entrepreneur would have to pitch.
I think it was 10 minutes pitch and a 10-minute for Q&A. It’s 20 minutes in total.
That’s hard to do too when you get up there and like what, where, how, when, who. It will spit it out in ten minutes and just make it really compelling. It’s a skill. You’ve been involved in the startup. You know how to lift something off the ground, you’ve matched a bunch of different companies, you’ve seen a bunch of success on what’s worked, what hasn’t worked. You’re bringing those talents, and your personal journey into this new project, Sanjara Wellness Center. This is the happy spot. This is positive stuff that’s all coming together and converging in this wonderful valley that you talked about. The wellness festival is landing here and has been for a number of different years. Tell me how all this stuff ties in together and what you’re trying to accomplish?
I’ll share a little bit about the journey. What I realized is that when I left Keiretsu Forum in 2010, what I realized is that we didn’t necessarily get the returns that I necessarily wanted to see. You fund 100 companies, you’d think you’d have a couple homeruns and some really nice things, but we didn’t. I started looking at that and I’m like, “Why are we not getting the returns?” I narrowed it down that we would do four months, six months of due diligence per company. We put anywhere from $0.5 million to $4, or $5, $6 million into a company, but we never assessed the personality of a CEO.
What I realized is that to be a CEO of a startup is an addiction in of itself. I’ll give you some real clear examples. What happens is that when you start a company with a startup, if you had one in twenty, companies that was in business two years later, that’s a phenomenal success ratio. I think the odds are considerably less than that. The point is you have better odds in Vegas than you do starting a company. What rationally-minded person would ever risk everything where the odds are that far against you, yet you think you’re that one? A CEO risks everything, their family, their finances, their relationships, everything at the cost of being a success. The reality is the majority of startups fail.
I started four different companies, and one was a failure. I’d raised a bunch of money and I fell into some bad times. As I was emerging out of my haze and my realization of my strengths and weaknesses, I found that one of my great strengths which propelled me in the NFL, which propelled me through a couple of these different businesses which were successful, was my refusal to give up. It’s helped me in the mountains too, when things are against all odds. What I also found was one of my great weaknesses is my refusal to give up. Sometimes you just got to know when to call it and I wouldn’t. Which is like, “I don’t care. I’m going to be the last guy standing.” That’s a disease and that’s a problem and that’s something that I had to really come grips with.
When did that start as a child, of not giving up?
It really was applicable to me in sports, even though things started off fairly rosy for me. This is like in my third, fourth, fifth, now, I’m in sixth grade and I’ve been the star and this is relative to little kids, but the new coach didn’t play me. I was the benchwarmer. I was the last guy picked to go out there. The parents we’re like, “What are you doing?” It was really humiliating for me. I wanted to quit. My dad wouldn’t let me quit. He said, “If you want to quit, you can quit after the season, but you’re going to see this thing through because you made a commitment.” I think that stuck with me for the rest of my life.
Your dad wouldn’t let you quit?
Yes. He made the right decision.
Your dad wouldn’t let you quit. If you were to quit, how would you feel?
I think that it would have been a short-winded win of like, “I told you so” The long-term would have been major regret.
Let’s say you’re a kid, you’re not going to quit. Let’s say hypothetically you did. How would you feel if you quit?
I felt very empty. I was hurt probably more than anything, my ego was completely bruised. I was embarrassed, all those things.
Yeah, maybe. It wasn’t coming from my dad necessarily. It was coming from the coach. I don’t know how to answer that exactly.
If you were to bring that full circle, and this goes back to Michael Phelps and even my own personal journey is that we live our alliance out of these addictions and this performance or whatever the issue is. The root of it is we don’t feel loved. When you recognize that and then you’re able to truly dive in and start to love yourself and you can look at Michael Phelps and he is able to win the gold medal, but not having to do it from a place of feeling unloved. The same thing with CEOs. An addiction has some plus sides to it. They’re really good liars. They know how to multitask.
One of the biggest strengths of a CEO and I think in our society, one of the big things around children is ADD and ADHD and we medicate our children when in fact, there’s not one CEO that I know that’s not ADD or ADHD. The very quality of what it takes to run a company, we want to medicate our kids on, which is that creative aspect. Addictions have plus sides but conversely, they have downsides. Part of Sanjara and part of my mission in life and my own personal journey is to mitigate risk, mitigate the downside. That’s what I work on every day is through meditation, through talking to men, through recovery work, and being healthy. Those are all things where I’m making risks and what it does is it allows me to be more in touch with my feelings. It allows me to live a happier life, be more at peace, and be more respectful to people. I try and pay it forward every single day.
I think you are paying it forward by creating this new wellness center. It’s a big project. Describe what this is going to be, what the intent, who the audience is, and why is it going to be such a great asset to this amazing community here in Sun Valley, Idaho?
When I moved to Sun Valley, I didn’t plan to work here. I’ve been involved in a lot of things. I still get a lot of entrepreneurs that come to me with these inventions and ideas and I just don’t get excited about that anymore. I feel like I’ve seen it. That’s not what floats my boat anymore. What does float my boat is really moving the needle with not just one person but a group or a mass of people or a community or a country. I don’t have to talk about the press or politics for people to recognize all the dysfunction and all the brokenness. What I don’t hear are the solutions.You have better odds in Vegas than you do starting a company. Click To Tweet
Tell me what the solution is? What are you offering?
Sanjara will be a wellness retreat. We call it Wellness Elevated. If you’re familiar with resorts like Inman, One&Only, Canyon Ranch, Miraval, these are very exclusive high-end resorts. Quite frankly, it is for the affluent. We’re building a retreat, a resort, a wellness center geared for the upper echelon. There are a couple of reasons for this. Number one, because I’m a business guy and I’m here to make money. I want something that’s going to grow and prosper. Not necessarily just for my own personal but from the standpoint of something that’s going to grow beyond and create a legacy.
Number two, when the owner of Hershey candy bars passed away, he left his trust to support a school in Hershey, Pennsylvania for low income kids. That trust has grown to a multibillion-dollar trust. They still serve inner city children in schooling, mentoring, and structure. It’s just a wonderful story where the corporate didn’t take over the greed of what Hershey’s dream was. With this wellness center, I definitely want to have a scholarship program set up so it’s not just for the affluent. The middle income and lower income have the ability to come to the center.
For example, if it’s a woman that’s living in Rainier Valley in Seattle, she is working two or three jobs., She’s got two teenage kids that are having problems. If she doesn’t have the ability to get the resources that her kids need. With Sanjara, we’ll have a scholarship program. My goal is 20%, 25% of the clientele medium to lower income offset by the higher income. When we’re working on our stuff, income is irrelevant to our issues. Sometimes it perpetuates the problem.
The wellness center will be centered around helping people with depression, with drug and alcohol dependency issues, with, what else?
We’re leading with brain technology. There’s a lot of cutting edge technology out there right now. Paul Allen has put a lot of money in the neuro institute. There are a lot of technologies out there specifically dealing with the brain and specifically dealing with PTSD and trauma. Getting back to what I was talking about earlier with the children and infants, zero to three, what happens is when that trauma happens, it physically affects the brain. As we get older and as life occurs, triggers come up and that causes our reactions.
For example, someone that has anger issues, they don’t have a choice to not be angry because of the trauma in their childhood. There are things that they can do to help with that, but the majority of the population are just going through life and they’re not aware of how to fix these problems. The brain technology, there’s EMR, there’s EFT, brain spotting. We want to lead in with a cutting-edge technology specifically dealing with PTSD and trauma.
Number two is on addiction. Addictions are actually more common than not. It doesn’t matter whether it’s overeating or anorexia or whether it’s drugs or alcohol or sex or gambling, or work. It doesn’t matter. The characteristics of addictions are all the same. The only exception to that is sex and meth, which have a little bit of a different effect on the brain but the characteristics of the addictions are still the same. The third area is depression and suicide.
We live in Sun Valley, it’s a beautiful environment but we have some of the highest suicide rate in the country. Ski resort towns have higher suicide rates. Suicide and depression are both correlated to childhood trauma. The fourth area is mental health. There are some great articles coming out right now about dementia being correlated to trauma, and so does ADHD being correlated to trauma, borderline personality disorder correlated to trauma. We’re not going to be a mental health hospital by any means, but we will have the doctors, the clinicians and the structure and the environment to work on all of these addictions.
You’re setting the bar high, which is amazing. Going back to that email, that newsletter that I read in the opening, this really points back to your purpose and driven by that goal of helping others, paying it forward, the words you used. How long is this going to take to put together?
It may take four to five years to really get everything rolling up. Where the doors are open and the public has access to it. We are fundraising for this property that we’ve identified. I’ll lock that up as quickly as possible. We’re really in a capital campaign right now but there are a lot of moving parts. We have a lot of really high qualified people. One of the gentleman that built Blackcomb Whistler is one of my advisors, one of the gentlemen that’s the director of operations of the top rehab/wellness centers in the country. We’re assembling the top of the top so that we have the right structure in place to support this audience, the clientele.
It’s just an amazing project which takes a lot of vision. It takes a lot of moxie to pull off, considering the size of Sun Valley, Idaho. Sun Valley is such a transient spot. There are so many people all over the world coming and especially peak seasons, winter and summer. It’s an amazing destination. I was talking to somebody else and I said, “What do you think makes Sun Valley so amazing and interesting?” They were talking about the energy in the vortex of the valley. I take a shower and at the back side of the shower is a big window, and I’m staring right at the mountain. How can you not be fired up about looking at green trees and birds chirping and snow? It’s just incredible.
We had the eclipse here this summer. I didn’t expect such a spiritual experience when the eclipse happened on the top of Mount Baldy. It’s absolutely indescribable. It was so far beyond what I expected.
On that note, you are a very special guy and you’ve got a tremendous vision. There’s going to be so many people that will indirectly benefit from your big goal of bringing this wellness center here to Sun Valley. I think it’s where preparation meets opportunity. We go back and we didn’t talk all about your background. You’re a business guy, you’ve been around startups and this is a massive startup, but that’s what you need, big visions.
This isn’t about my ego, it’s not about me making money. This is really about building this facility and seeing what happens with it. I trust that regardless of what happens, it’s going to be something much greater than expected.
I can’t wait to see it. I’m a permanent resident now in Sun Valley. The last parting comment I want to say is how much I totally appreciate you baring your soul and laying it out there. It’s hard to do but that’s where the real growth and the healing begins is when you’re willing to do that. I applaud you for opening up on this podcast.
Thank you, Mark. Thanks for having me here.