March 8, 2023

Mike Liguori | How to Heal a Relationship with a Parent

Mike Liguori | How to Heal a Relationship with a Parent

Mike shares his insights on how to heal relationships with parents, drawing on his experience reconciling with his father during a cross-country road trip.

We interview Mike Liguori, founder of Live Your Truth Media and author of The Road Ahead and Miles Behind. Mike shares his insights on how to heal relationships with parents, drawing on his experience reconciling with his father during a cross-country road trip. Tune in to learn more about Mike's journey and gain valuable insights on how to mend relationships with your parents.

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Mike Ligouri: This idea came into my head, how long am I going to allow my dad to dictate the rest of my life?

I decided that I had enough of it. I had enough of me putting myself through the wringer. I had enough of putting myself down, making myself feel like I wasn't worth it, or I wasn't ever going to measure up to his expectations. And I said, why am I even talking to a man who I feel like doesn't know how to have a connection or a relationship with me?

And so at that moment in time, I was actually like, I'm going to call my dad up and I'm going to tell him, Hey, look, I just think it's best that we don't talk, that we don't have any sort of communication. Maybe I'll call him once in a while just to say hi. But the reality to me was just like, why even cultivate anything meaningful with this guy when all he's done is caused me pain?

Srini: I am Srinivas Rao, and this is the

Mike Ligouri: Unmistakable Creative podcast, where you get a window into the stories and insights of the most innovative and creative minds.

Srini: He has started movements, built thriving businesses, written best-selling books, and created insanely interesting art. For more, check out our 500th episode!

Mike Ligouri:

Mike: Absolutely, my pleasure Srini. I'm really looking forward to this.

Mike Ligouri: I'm so glad to be here. Thank you for having me.

Srini: Yeah, it's my pleasure to have you here. I was introduced to you by way of our mutual friend Oxhey, who has been a guest here more than once. And when Oxhey sent me your story, I was like, "I don't even need to read this." Soaky recommended you. I knew that you would be awesome, so no pressure at all. But you have a book out which we will get into, which is this really beautiful story about reconciling with your father. But before we get into that, I actually wanted to start by asking you, what is one of the most important things that you learned from your mother that has influenced and shaped who you've become and what you've ended up doing with your life.

Mike Ligouri: career?

Man, that's such a great question. First off shout-out to our friend Auction on Nav Vati, an amazing guy, and I really appreciate him giving us the connection. And in, in terms of my mom, the one thing that she taught me the most was perseverance. My mom, in the book, described her as a prizefighter, right?

Just going round after round. No matter how many times she's gotten knocked down and dealt with the adversity and the challenges of life, she's always been able to get back up and fight another round. And I've learned in my entrepreneurial endeavors, I've learned in my tours of duty with the Marines in Iraq, you just gotta keep going.

No matter what the setbacks are, or the challenges that you have, perseverance is key. And showing up every single day and just fighting another round. And I think that was the biggest lesson I learned from my mom. Yeah.

Srini: You actually describe your mom in the book and you say for a woman who didn't have a college education and whose sole priority in life was to raise two boys, mom always made sure we had what we needed.

Yeah. I think there was one other story about her that really struck me, and that was the fact that she had leukemia when she graduated from high school. And, I think most of us are obviously aware intellectually that, our time here is finite. The time that we have left with the people who matter most to us, is not guaranteed. And yet you've had the visceral experience of that. So I wonder when you have the visceral experience of walking somebody close to you, suffering like that knowing that there's a possibility that maybe they won't make it. What does that do for the relationship that you have with them?

Mike Ligouri: It definitely, how does it change it? Yeah. It definitely changes the dynamic. I think you start recognizing and realizing that our time is limited, and I'm watching my mom gets diagnosed with leukemia and just for context, at that time, I think she's about I wanna say close to 30 years, or excuse me 25 years, I believe. Yeah, roughly like 25 years of being cancer free. And at that time when she was diagnosed with leukemia, I believe there was less than a 40% chance of survival. Now I think that rate is in the 60, 70, 60 to 70% from what I've read briefly. To see that as a young man experiencing that with my mom and watching her go through that pain and suffering, definitely made me realize that at any point in time, The people that we love aren't here anymore.

I have this philosophy that life is actually long, but it's incredibly fragile. And so that perspective in itself has allowed me to really cherish the memories and the moments that I have with my parents, with my friends, and with my family. It's more about saying yes to adventures and opportunities and experiences because of the fact that life is long, but things are incredibly fragile

Srini: So this is something that I always ask people who have had to confront mortality head-on, whether it's their own or someone they love. Yeah. What decisions did you make about how you would live your life going forward when you were confronted with your mother's mortality?

Mike Ligouri: The first thing I decided was, is that I have to make my life full of experiences and memories that I'm gonna look back on at the end of my days because I believe that's the only thing that we're really going to be able to truly experience is the memories that we made along the way. Not the money, not the accomplishments, the experiences, the memories.

And I wanna be able to have a memory bank of those in my old age and look back on that and say, "Man, I did live the right way." And what I mean by the right way, is the right way for me. Not for anybody else, it's just how I deemed my life to be lived: a memory bank of experiences and adventures, things I said yes to, not living in regret.

And that's the thing that I really try to focus on specifically with that is, is this gonna give me an opportunity to say yes to an adventure? Is this gonna give me an opportunity to say yes to a memory that I'm gonna look back on and be happy in the old age that I did? And it's one of the things that actually led to my journaling.

Srini: You mentioned making the right choices for you. Yeah, and I think so often we can get caught up in making choices based on other people's expectations, whether that be our parents, whether that be our peers, whether that be society. And I wonder for you, like, how do you, for anybody listening to this, how do they let go of that idea of making decisions based on other people's expectations?

Because I think to some degree, we're all influenced by other people's expectations. We all want our parents to be proud of us. And yet sometimes, the things that would make them proud are not necessarily those things that are aligned with what we want to do or our own values.

Mike Ligouri: Yeah. And I definitely agree with you, especially about the parents' thing, and I'm sure you've, I'm sure you've read that too about this expectation that I had of my dad becoming somebody that I wanted him to be. And so for me, for most people, I would assume that the expectations that they live with are the expectations that their parents want them to act a certain way, to be a certain type of way, to go to school, to be a doctor, a lawyer, a police officer, fireman, whatever the case may be. But for me, in a lot of ways, my dad wanted me to act a certain type of way. But where the real challenge and the real friction was for me was I expected my dad to be a certain type of way. So we were actually doing that to each other.

And one of the things that I wanna share with everybody that's listening today is that the one thing that you can do right now is to drop your expectations. Dropping expectations is incredibly important. Now, do not confuse us with goals. Do not confuse us with your ambitions, but expectations. Sometimes what happens with expectations is that we project them onto other people. We often

Mike Ligouri: It is meaningful. Yeah. And I totally agree with you on that, and that was the same thing I had with my dad. So I'm in the same boat with you, is that, at what point when you get up in, you get up into your mid-thirties and your forties and even your fifties, the question you have to start asking yourself is that, how long are you going to hold onto this idea that somebody's going to be different, especially your parents? And do you really want to drag that type of weight through the rest of your life when you're trying to create and you're trying to manifest and you're trying to actualize all the things that you want? Do you really think it's possible that anybody out there, and for those of you listening, that anybody out there or even you, do you think you can really create the life that you want? Still holding on to the fact that mom grounded you from junior prom or she didn't let you play basketball, those types of things actually are so small in comparison to what they do to us as we get older, that we can't create the life that we want for ourselves if we're still

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Explore Again, that's Yeah, absolutely. We'll get into the book and your relationship with your dad because I think this was such a really thought-provoking book about reconciliation with a parent. But one thing I want to talk about is your military experience. What made you decide to become a Marine? How old were you when it happened? And I think so often for most of us, we experience the war through

Mike Ligouri: Yeah. I ended up joining the Marine Corps. I was a senior in high school when nine eleven happened. It was to me the day that defined my life. Up until that point, I was searching for a lot of meaning and purpose. And one of the things that I found was military service really gave me an opportunity to create a life for myself. I felt at that time being in my teenage years, that my dad and I were somewhat disconnected and I really didn't feel like I had a truly present father figure, and the Marines could be that for me.

There was, it was very much marketed towards young men and women looking for purpose and looking to do something great and also be a part of something much bigger than themselves. And I remember when September 12th happened, I went down to the recruiting station because I was incredibly emotional after watching the two towers burning.

I went down to the recruiting station and saw a line out the door of men and women in every single military branch recruiting office in the San Francisco Bay Area. And that was something I'll never forget for the rest of my life. And not only did I

Srini: One thing that I wonder about after 9/11 in this country, and unfortunately, to this day as a result of that, we have a lot of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim sentiment. And so, as somebody who is fighting a war in a country that is basically seen as the enemy, how do you find a sense of compassion for the people of that culture, who you know are not responsible for the damage that the people who caused the damage caused? Does that make sense?

Mike Ligouri: Does that make sense?

Yeah, it totally makes sense. One of the things that I told myself when I came home, and this was just through books that I've read and my own self-awareness and a lot with my spirituality and faith, is that every person deserves a chance. And to let a group of people whose belief system guided their extremist behavior or acts of hatred or judgment, I was not gonna allow that to lay judgment on the masses or the rest of the Muslim faith.

Or I wasn't even gonna let that fall on people of different skin color or of backgrounds, and I think for me it was coming from a place like I wouldn't want a couple of people who were white Americans to set out this idea that I'm a bad person just because of the color of my skin, or just because of where I grew up and the privileged life that I've had for myself and all of these things that I've been blessed with. But also all of these things that I know are topics of conversation. And one of the things that I really try to stress every single day is that, it doesn't matter to me in the let me, let me see how I can phrase this

Srini: Makes, yeah, no, that makes complete sense. Talk to me about the training because I've read David Goggins' book and I remember somebody asking me about David Goggins' way of living on a podcast. And I said, look, context matters. He's of course, David Goggins is the toughest fucking nails; he's trained as a Marine. I was like, I think there are valuable lessons in that book, we have to also consider the context in which that worldview was formed, which I think is so often overlooked when we think about the lessons we learn. But talk to me about what the training is like and what that creates for you in other areas of your life.

Mike Ligouri: Result of that training? Yeah. Physically it was one of the toughest fucking things I've ever done in my life. It was just God, it was just crazy. And it was more about endurance than it was actually about feats of strength. Nobody cared how many push-ups you can, excuse me, nobody cared about how much you could bench or squat or how much weight you could lift. It was like, can you run three miles? Can you do 20 pull-ups consecutively without breaking? Can you do a hundred sit-ups in two minutes? Can you run those three miles in 18 minutes for you to be in the top 100%?

Can you do your job being mentally fatigued and exhausted or can't even think straight? Can you do and get the job done? Can you do whatever it takes? The training was physical, but I think it was more mental than anything else. Going from having your name. To bring a third-person recruit, not knowing what it's like to wear civilian clothes for 13 weeks. And then you're wearing military uniforms and then you get your name back, but you still have a title. Now you've gone from recruit to private or private first class

Srini: You mentioned endurance and we had Chris Fussell who wrote that, one of those books was Stan McChrystal, I think they wrote two together. And I remember asking him about SEAL training and how, whether you could tell, who was going to quit and who was going to make it through.

He told me, he said, if I knew the answer to that, I'd be a billionaire. He said it's almost surprising that you have these huge people who look ripped. You think they're the ones that are going to make it, and they often end up being the ones that quit. Talk to me about that.

Is that the same?

Mike Ligouri: Case in the Marines too? Oh, yeah. There are definitely a lot of accuracies there. I'll tell you a story. We have a test in the Marine Corps called the Physical Fitness Test, otherwise known as the PFT. And it's just something that every Marine does to measure their fitness. I think that we actually tested for it every three months, and my memory's a little foggy, but I think it was every three months or six months, you did a PFT score and it would factor into whether you got promoted, whether you were within the standards of the Marine Corps of performing your duty. It would factor into a couple of other things because it was just about physical it was about physical wellness and also mental wellness, right?

So I remember that at this time I was in Okinawa, Japan, and we were running a three-mile, and I was like, I'm gonna break 21 minutes, three miles. And that was my goal. And mind you, I am not a runner, but I was so hell-bent on just getting a score where it was under 21 minutes to prove to myself that I could do it.

And I remember I came out of the gate

Srini: I, you mentioned Aha, who's out of his freaking mind? Let's be honest, like every time you hear about one of Aha's adventures, you're like, dude, I really hope you come back alive.

Yeah, I know. That's literally the first thing I think. I remember he showed me a movie once. I was like, ahh. I was like, everybody in this movie died. I'm never gonna

Mike Ligouri: Climb a mountain with you. Yeah. And I know, it's so awesome. That's it yeah. And that's the thing is, this guy's the size of our friend Ahe and those guys, it has nothing to do with.

And like that representation of, like, size does not matter in the Marine Corps. It's like the heart of a champion, it's like the mindset of a champion, the mindset of a Marine. And it's being able to know that, like, most people will quit on themselves before others quit on them. And when you get into the Marine Corps, you start recognizing that anything's possible for you as long as you commit and keep your mind to what your goal is.

Yeah. Speaking of that...

Srini: Of near-death experiences and people quitting on themselves before others do, one thing I heard when I asked a Navy Seal about this: "Weren't you ever in fear of your life?" He said, "The thing that keeps you from being in fear of losing your life is the fact that everybody has your back. That is just a given when you go into any combat situation. But, talk to me, did you have any experiences where you thought you were gonna die? If so, what is that like? I think it's one thing to see it on TV when you watch something like Saving Private Ryan, but it's another thing to experience it firsthand.

Mike Ligouri: Actually, experience it.

Yeah. There were a couple of times that I remember distinctly being in a war zone when I felt like I was going to die. And, without going too much into the details of those events, one of the things that I will share with you is that your life does flash before your eyes and you wonder immediately in those moments of near death what people will say about you when you're no longer here.

And I, it's all I could keep thinking about, especially the first time I got shot at. I remember distinctly thinking about if this is it, I'm 20 years old and we're getting shot at on this drive through this village in the middle of the night. And I'm thinking to myself at this moment in time as I'm also in this panic state of trying to figure out, like seeing these red and green tracer rounds going overhead trying to figure out like where these IEDs or grenades are blowing up.

The first thing I think about to myself is, is this the end? I never got a chance to fully live my life, but at least I know that I died doing the thing that I

Srini: Come back obviously, and one of the things that you say in the opening of the book about your father is that we have a historically rocky relationship that only found some common ground within the last few years. Safe topics were sports and making money; everything else we disagreed on--politics, faith, and nearly every single choice I made in my life. So I wonder, what was it that both prompted this book and made you finally say yes to your dad when he asked you to go on this road trip? Just for new people who are listening but don't have the context. Yeah, just the backdrop here.

Mike Ligouri: Yeah, absolutely. So I was living in Colorado at the time and, as I was getting older, one of the things I was finding was that life changes for you really fast and it goes incredibly fast. And one of the things I was thinking about at this point in time was, am I going to sit here and continue to have a relationship with the dad who I feel as though was never truly involved or present in my life?

And I was in a relationship at that time, I was running my business and I really felt like I was making ground, but I was making ground at an incredibly slow pace. And this was probably around late 2019, early 2020, when this idea came into my head that, how long am I gonna allow my dad to dictate the rest of my life?

And I decided that I had enough of it. I had enough of me putting myself through the wringer. I had enough of putting myself down, making myself feel like I wasn't worth it, or I wasn't ever gonna measure up to his expectations. And I said, why am I even talking to a man who I feel like doesn't know how to have a connection or a relationship

Srini: What struck me most about the chapters on the trip was that you were willing to ask him difficult questions, tough things that people would not want to admit to. And there are numerous lessons that he shared with you throughout the book. And just a few that really stood out to me.

I remember this line in particular when he says to you, "Son when you reach my age, there comes a point when you get tired of trying to fit everything into your life. It's just not possible. And sometimes you don't get to see what you want to see or experience, or what you want to happen."

When you understand this, you realize that you don't need everything. You don't need a whole lot. You have what you have. You're blessed for having something. Anything for that matter. Obviously, there are numerous other parts of this book that struck me, but I think the thing that I wanted to ask you about was that you had your dad write the Forward and, that really made me laugh because here, you are telling, writing about all the things that you actually despise about him, and somehow also, writing about healing.

So what was the experience like

Mike Ligouri: Bad? Yeah. When I asked him to write the Foreword, he said, really, you want me to write this thing? And I said, yeah, Dad, I think you'd be really cool. We went on a hell of a journey. We healed our relationship after thirty-plus years of pain and regret on my end for us to come to terms with each other and realize that we were more than just father and son.

We were best friends. And we had a conflict and we didn't become really good friends as close as we are now. And to give you context, I maybe talked to my dad maybe, probably once a week in high school when I was mad at him and there was a period where I didn't talk to him for a couple of years, and to now where it's like we talk every day.

I, when he first read that book he said it was very hard for him to read because he didn't realize how much pain he had caused me. And he also said, "Son, I think if this book is going to go out and help one person heal their relationship with their parents and take a road trip with their parents, whether it's

Srini: Beautiful? I can see now. I actually recommended you. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to join us. So, I have one final question, which is how we finish all of our interviews at The Unmistakable Creative. What do you think it is that makes somebody or something beautiful?

Mike Ligouri: Unmistakable forgiveness? I think the power of forgiveness lies in being able to learn to forgive yourself for human errors, for how you were made imperfectly, and for imperfections.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is from a guy named Peter Kron who says, "You, you are a masterpiece and a work of art at the same time." And I think that beautifully sums up the power of forgiveness. It is just being able to know that we are these works in progress and we are also perfect in the same way.

And being unmistakable means that you are able to forgive yourself for mistakes and choices that you make. You are also able to forgive your parents and forgive people that have wronged you, and learn to let that go so you can move forward and create a more expansive life for yourself. I think that's what makes you unmistakably amazing.

Srini: Again, I can't thank you enough for taking the time to join us and share your story, your wisdom, and your insights with our listeners. Oh. Where can people find out more about you, your work, the book, and everything that you do?

Mike Ligouri: Absolutely. First off, thank you so much for this amazing conversation. I really appreciate it and thank you so much. Your questions were absolutely powerful, so I appreciate you taking the time and energy to read this book. If people are interested in buying the book, and I hope you guys are, Amazon and Barnes and Noble have it. You can also go to my website, That's And you can also follow me on Instagram at mike_ligouri. Amazing.

Srini: And for everybody listening, we will wrap up the show. With that

Mike Ligouri: 600,000 work hours and 4 million saved in one

Srini: Yeah, 15.

Srini: It's funny to hear you talk about this because I think that, as I was going through your book, I was thinking about that and, I remember having this sort of moment in therapy when I realized I was like, my mom is never going to be the mother that I want her to be or expect her to be. And I have finally made my peace with that. And does that mean our relationship is perfect? Hell no. Yeah, we still get into battles over pointless bullshit. But I think that what ends up happening is you end up being a lot less harsh towards them and you don't hold grudges against them.

Cause I remember my sister and I having this conversation and I was thinking, oh, I'm the one who gets the brunt of all of this. And, I realized, I was like, wait a minute. This is just what we've got and we've gotta work with it. And at this point in my life, I'm like, okay, I'm 45 years old, am I really thinking she's suddenly just gonna turn over a new leaf and become the person I want her to be? No. And if I keep expecting her to do that, I realize I

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