I was traveling in London 3 months ago and didn’t get the chance to go to gym. It was TORTUROUS. That’s all I wanted to do! I was able to get one workout in, but I spent most of the time going to our corporate office for training.

Near my hotel I saw a pretty brunette gal who was glancing at herself in her pocket mirror on my way to work. She was liberally applying makeup to look…just right. She glanced not 2 times…but 5 times! She almost walked right into traffic because she was so obsessed with her appearance. Ridiculous right?

just_right_girl
The girl in London kind of looked like this. It’s stock photo.

Well, it reminded me of myself. No, not the makeup bit. The mirror glance and walking into traffic part. Everyday I look at myself in the mirror to make sure my clothes fit right in the arms, shoulders and butt..not just twice but many many times. Sometimes it feels like my jeans aren’t fitting, and I feel a strong urge to take them off and try on a new pair.

Then I notice my shirt isn’t fitting just right. It’s not tight enough, did I lose weight again? But I’ve been going to the gym all week! I ate 3 cookies at work yesterday, a bowl of teriyaki and then made 2 chicken breasts for dinner. Maybe it wasn’t enough. So I take off my shirt and I look in the mirror. I have to check if you can see my ribs.

I look to see if you can see any bones poking through, and I when a take a closer look, all I can see is a frail 14 year old boy. It’s been 15 minutes and I’ve missed the bus. I’ve always been self conscious about my weight.

Growing up I was teased quite a bit for my weight. I once had a kid in school ask me if I just got out of Auschwitz. What a dick.

I learned to accept the jokes and even laugh at myself, it was the best defense I could think of. I’d post pictures of me flexing with my rail thin arms on the now defunct MySpace, with the caption “I’m ripped!”. But at school I wore long sleeves under my t-shirts so no one would make fun of me. I stayed at home a lot. I didn’t want anyone to see me. My body didn’t look just right…

just_right
No filter, flexing photo…Mar 2006

On the last day of high school one of the football players wrote in my yearbook, ”Hoping to see you as a professional bodybuilder in 10 years.”

Of course he was joking, but wouldn’t it be funny if I proved him and everyone else WRONG. Thus began my journey of bodybuilding at 18 years old.

It was hard at first. I walked into the Bellingham Fitness club with long pants and surprisingly, a short sleeve shirt. Clearly everyone was looking at me. I couldn’t tell if the voices were from them or in my head.

“Oh, he shouldn’t be here.”
“Look at that kid”

I grabbed a black free weight, 20 lbs, and tried to do a curl. I couldn’t even do it. That left 15, 10, and 5 lb weights, which aren’t colored black. They are colored neon pink, green, and purple. They draw a lot of attention and I’m pretty sure they are marketed toward women. Guess I’d have to start somewhere.

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Example weights I started with…yes these really exist

That summer of 2008, before college, I went to the gym 3 days a week for 1.5 hours a day and gained 10 lbs. My body began changing but I still didn’t feel just right. So when I got to college, I continued my tradition of lifting 3 days a week for 1.5 hours each.

I entered college at 110 lbs.
I left college at 125 lbs.

pjimage
Freshman Year College (2008)  vs. Senior Year College (2012)

But even at 125 lbs I still wasn’t the ideal weight for my height of 5 foot 7. My body could improve more. I still didn’t feel just right.

After college I began aggressively going to the gym, skipping out of happy hours and events with friends, just to maintain 3 1.5 hour workouts a week. I’d weigh myself religiously, the scale, a gauge for how my day would go.

Down 3 lbs, I would feel like a internment camp prisoner.
Up 3lbs, I would feel like a professional bodybuilder.

The next day I’d get to work, feeling amazing, and then all it would take was an offhand comment to get me obsessing over my weight again. “Michael, you look really skinny in those jeans.”

After that I’d run to the restroom and look at myself in the mirror looking around the corner to see if anyone was coming in. I’d look at every part of my body to see if I really did look skinny. Then I’d get home, take all my clothes off and stand in the mirror, looking at my body, torturing myself.

Not much has changed since high school and I’m left thinking…

How much more will I have to eat…
How many more times will I have to stand on the scale…
How many more times will I have to look in the mirror…

Till I feel, just right.

How many more glances will that women take in her pocket mirror…till she feels just right?
How many more times will you glance at yourself…till you feel just right?

Why is it so hard to feel just right? Why do we torture ourselves this way? Trying to reach for the unattainable ideal. For what?

To get hit by car?
To miss the bus?

Just right doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion. It’s like trying to divide by 0. No matter how close you think you are getting…you won’t make it. So look up from the pocket mirror before you get hit by a bus. And get your loose fitting jeans back on before you miss the bus. There’s a whole lot of life out there. And if you are dead or late will it really matter what you look like?

juist_right_kid
When I had never heard of being “Just Right”…July 1999

You know I was talking to my friend Tom last month.  He rents a houseboat off Westlake. His hobbies include taking selfies with his cat, choosing the perfect Instagram filter, and living vicariously through his friends on Facebook.  When I got to Tom’s house he was busy with another hobby of his; online dating, but he looked upset.  So I said, “Tom, what’s wrong?

He said, “Michael, no matter what I dating app I choose I just can’t seem to find love.  No matter how many times I swipe to the right, no one will swipe me back.  I’ve posted pics of me hiking Mt. Si., pics of me holding my landlords dog and even a photo-shopped picture of me with a six pack.  It’s hopeless, I wish there was better app out there, an app that would truly show women the real authentic me!

mt_sipic
“I love outdoor activities, date me.”

At that moment I knew I needed to help Tom but I also knew that Tom was not alone there was many other men and women out there who were feeling “Swipeless in Seattle”…And you might be one of them yourself.

Hello Everyone, My name is Michael Valeri and today I’d like to share with you a revolutionary new dating app that will change that the way we romantically meet.  An app I like to call “Unfiltered”

The technology is based off 200,000 years of data and research in which we have found a way to create and interaction so organic that it feels like it’s happening in real time.

I know, it’s hard to believe that technology has really come this far and I’m happy to announce that I can provide a demo of it right now. Here’s how it works. First you filter for potential matches using a feature we like to call Ocular Tagging which requires you put your phone in your pocket and look around.

Once Ocular Tagging spots a potential match. you simply walk over and use a feature called Oral Linguistics which by the way is super intuitive.

“Nice to meet you Mary….” What brings you today’s event?”

meet-for-the-first-time
Oral Linguistics and Ocular Tagging AT THE SAME TIME!

While waiting for a response you’ll be able to use a feature called Kinesics. Now, not all of our users will know how to use this feature or what it means for that matter but over time the application gets better at Kinesics…an amazing process we like to call COGNITIVE ENGAGEMENT.

If Kinesics shows interest you are ready to use our patented G.A.P technology also known as “Growing a Pair” which works like this:

“Would you like to go out this Friday to a Toy Story Movie Marathon at Marymoor Park at 7:30PM?”

Now the app doesn’t guarantee a match it’s up to the recipient to respond but this time they will need to respond to the person and not pixels by looking you in the eyes and telling you “YES” or “NO”

Now if the potential match says YES you get to move on to a date! From the date you will determine what traditional dating apps call a match %, but what we call Oxytocin Assessment. But what if they say NO?! Oh dear what do we do!

THAT’s OK! Because we have a user base of over 7 billion people, which currently includes married individuals too, if you are into that kind of thing.

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Our Diverse User Base! Wow! Even children…weird

Ah yes, I see you skeptics out there.  You want to know if this ACTUALLY REALLY WORKS.  What proof do I have? Well here are what some of our customers and industry experts had to say..

 

  • Wired Magazine said, “This is the best use of technology we’ve seen since Adam met Eve.”
  • And your Grandparents said, “Without this app, you would have never been born!”

Incredible right!  But what did Tom have to say about his success with the app?  Well I have a note from Tom and here is what he had to say…

“Hi Michael,

I decided to try your dating app….and let me tell you…there was a lot of bugs. How in the hell did you even ship this product?  When I used the feature Ocular Tagging, the only match I saw was my cat. The only way I could find more potential matches was to leave my house. That doesn’t seem very user-friendly.

Once I got out of my house I saw many women outside..I was either too self conscious to approach or the application would FREEZE when I tried to use Oral Linguistics. No words would come out of my mouth…I felt like a total dope. Don’t you guys have a QA department?!

I also found it difficult to use Kinesics. What is that again?

However, I began to get used to the bugs in the dating app and began to realize something….

This dating app does what no piece of technology COULD ever do.  If we show people the bugs, the blemishes, the unfiltered image; we show vulnerability and when we show vulnerability we can truly show people the real authentic me.”

-Tom. H”

I remember being in 6th grade…and my teacher (whose identify I will protect), Ms. T, was going off about the importance of preserving the Earth for future generations.

I was rather tired and yawned rather audibly…it’s wasn’t particularly thrilling.

She looks at me and says, “Michael…that was incredibly RUDE!.”  

I responded…”I’m sorry I was tired…I had to yawn.”

7th_grade
My 6th Grade Photo…Sept 2001

She told me it was important to cover my mouth when yawning. “Ok”, I said…”I’ll be sure to always cover my mouth when yawning in the future Ms. T.”

She then started asking the class what things we could do to preserve the Earth.  And as you would imagine the responses were uninspired, like kids reciting their ABCs.

  1. Recycle!
  2. Compost!
  3. Stop driving
  4. Don’t use hairspray

I sat there in a catatonic state. This wasn’t the first time I had heard about the importance of recycling. Then everyone started yawning..and I covered my mouth to avoid future wrath.

I was getting awfully sick of hearing the same rehearsed responses. So I waited till my yawn was over to throw my hand up…

Then I told Ms. T…”Why don’t we send all the garbage to space?”

Ms. T glared at me. “Excuse me Michael…but that is completely RIDICULOUS…we couldn’t possibly send all the garbage in the world to space.”

I then replied…”Why not?”

spacegarbage2
Disposal Program if I was President

She said, “I’m not going to explain why…but that is a very INAPPROPRIATE answer….and very off topic.”

“Ok…well then why do I need to be FORCED to recycle”

“So you don’t care about about your grand kids?”

“I won’t have kids…I’ll be single my whole life.”

“Oh so you don’t care about anyone else’s children.”

“Not particularly.”

I used to leave crumbs on the dinner table…it was a lot of work to wipe them off.

I did a lot of that in my college fraternity house… a Jewish fraternity to be more exact.  I’m catholic, but with a nose like this it’s easy to see why I was recruited.

21st_bday
Me on my 21st Birthday, Feb 2011

Our fraternity was called ZBT, or Zeta Beta Tau.  In the greek community this was construed to Zillions Billions Trillions or….Zero Boners Touched.  What do you expect from college kids?

This particular rainy night, I had been assigned to clean all the pots and pans after dinner…but it was also finals week.  I hated cleaning…I never felt responsible for the mess since I was in the library most of the time studying. In the past I either paid someone off or didn’t do it all… I did not have time tonight scrub baked ziti off a pan… so I left my dinner plate, newspaper, and crumbs at the table and immediately snuck off to the library…

A couple hours later I came back to ZBT, the smell of stale beer filled my lungs as I dragged my muddy shoes through the entrance, up the stairs, and down the hall to my room.. The house was eerily quiet…. I thought…as I sidestepped over some red solo cups, a partially eaten plate of baked ziti…and a used condom…disgusting I know.  Upon reaching my bedroom door, I saw a newspaper, tacked on my door, and a message scrawled in black sharpie…

“DO YOUR CLEANING, LOVE GESTAPO”

What kind of sick joke I thought?  A gestapo reference….in a Jewish Fraternity?…that’s not kosher.  I was disgusted, I hastily entered my door code and yanked the handle…the door did not open.

I tried..again…people have called me impatient…1…3….5…4..deliberately…yet again it didn’t open. The code was changed..and I had been intentionally locked out.

Of all nights, WHY FINALS NIGHT.  I had only skipped kitchen duty 2 or 12 times this quarter…

So I started talking in my outside voice as I walked down the halls of the fraternity, banging on everyone’s door at  midnight, “MY DOOR IS LOCKED. CAN SOMEONE LET ME IN MY ROOM I HAVE A FINAL TOMORROW”…

At that moment… a bedroom door opened in the hallway…and my fraternity brothers marched out one by one, in a single line…

  • Jeff Gorman appeared first…or as we called him Jeff Goldblum
  • Jeff was followed by Cohen, Sam, Kris, Noah, and a large cloud of smoke

The gestapo had arrived.  “You have the wrong guy, I’m not even Jewish!!,” I screamed…

fraternity-brothers
ZBT Alpha Mu Fraternity UW, March 2010

They grabbed me and pushed me against my bedroom door, and unlocked it…

With the gestapo holding me….they pushed me into the dark room…I waited…and the lights flipped on.

I looked on in disbelief as my entire side of my room had been saran wrapped….and piled from floor to ceiling in crumpled up newspapers…I pulled the plastic barrier down as my fraternity brothers looked on in elation…the newspapers began to avalanche…

gestapo_new

Who did this?  Who was to blame for this?

The answer hit me as if the newspapers were rocks…

I’m to blame…for the dirty dishes….the red solo cups…the partially eaten ziti..but not the used condom…c’mon guys give me more credit

I had been so focused on my grades…my own self interest…that I didn’t once consider helping out…I had made as many excuses as there was newspapers littered across my floor.

That was the day I realized I wasn’t the center of the universe…and that my lack of responsibility had consequences….

gestpao

 

Now the newspaper that was tacked on my door hangs in my studio apartment.  And I do my best to make sure there are no crumbs on the table.

I get a carpool to Bellevue every day from my buddy scott…scott is in mid to late 40s. When Scott drives me to work it reminds me of when my Dad would drop me off at school.

When Scott is driving me to work we have many passionate discussions on …women…politics…and Toastmasters speeches. Sometimes we’ll even scream in the car…and spit will hit the window.

I always ask Scott for feedback on my speeches…and he usually gives me generic responses like…it sounds good…or keep up the good work…but this last week it was different…

I had been working a speech for the past 3 months entitled…Deja Vu…I won’t get into the details of that speech just yet…but I had been rehearsing it for a awhile…and started rehearsing the speech in scott’s car…

“Have any of you ever had the feeling…like you’ve lived the same moment…multiple times…like when a friend tells you a story you’ve heard before…or you feel like you’ve walked down the same road…again and again…”

Then Scott says…”Michael Angelo…can I tell you something….”

I said…sure…waiting to hear some feedback on my incredible speech…

“Quit talking at me…I’ve seen your Toastmasters speeches…and they all sound rehearsed…they all sound monotone…just like this one…you need to have a conversation with me….you have to stop talking at me…”

I’ll be a honest…it was a bit rough to hear…but I wanted to hear more…because if I want to get better…I need to hear the honest feedback…

“It’s about how you say something Michael Angelo…it’s not what you say…but how you say it…”

If I say…”Hey..Michael Angelo…you’re a really great guy…. Vs. “Hey Michael Angelo….you’re a really great guy..they sound different they have a different meaning.”

You’ve got to put passion behind your words…it has to sounds less rehearsed…it has to sound more like you.

While hearing Scott tell me this…I started to actually get Deja Vu…and remembered all the things people had told me over the years…critical things…that were hard to hear..but that made me a better.

Like when my gym teacher encouraged me to…”stand up straight” when I slouched into class

So I told him….”No…No I am being myself…and I being genuine…I do have passion…really I do…It’s just hard for me to be myself in front of a lot of people…but I have been genuine and they don’t all sound rehearsed…I mean what about the all or nothing speech…out of the weeds.”

He gave me a look and said….”That….that right there…remember how you felt…when you were telling me that…and think about that when you give your next speech.”

Oh….I get it.