Today, we’re interviewing Corey Michael Blake. It’s difficult to put a label on Corey — he’s many things: an entrepreneur, an actor, a director, a storyteller, a CEO, and an all-around great guy. I might add — I’m giving him the title of having the most contagious laugh of all time, something you’ll get a taste of during the podcast. Corey is a soulful human being, full of deep insights and someone who is constantly pushing himself to learn and grow.
He’s a student of the power of Vulnerability, and we dive into a tour of his life and the many experiences and lessons that have led him to where he is today. Corey’s guiding principle of life is to Lead with Love — a learned skill that requires consistent practice. Whether you’re a CEO looking to up-level your leadership, or you’re searching for a more meaningful existence at this thing we call life, this episode is loaded with authenticity and realness. Enjoy this episode featuring Corey Michael Blake.
- 3:50 – Reflecting on 2016
- 7:00 – The game “Vulnerability Is Sexy”
- 7:26 – Discussion on vulnerability
- 11:26 – How the Meisner Technique in acting contributed to Corey’s sense of being present
- 18:00 – Childhood moment where he felt a true connection to staying present
- 20:42 – The experience of living and working as an actor in L.A.
- 23:52 – Starting Writers of the Round Table and Round Table Companies
- 26:52 – From The Barrio To The Boardroom: Meeting Robert Renteria
- 34:12 – Creating children’s books and coloring books warning kids of gangs & drugs
- 35:11 – Corey’s inspiration for novels marketed toward children
- 38:32 – Round Table Companies
- 44:25 – Love as a guiding principle
- 51:10 – Values pasted to a wall versus living them
- 55:20 – The power of the pause
- 59:11 – Having a support system in experiencing life breakthroughs
- Corey Michael Blake’s first interview with Y Scouts
- From The Barrio To The Boardroom
- Round Table Companies
- Vulnerability Is Sexy game
- Corey Michael Blake TEDx Talk
Corey Michael Blake Podcast Interview
You started the Vulnerability Is Sexy game in part through a KickStarter campaign?
Yes, we did a KickStarter campaign in 2013 that was successful. Then, we decided to launch this campaign to activate and excite our network and to at least know from a resonation standpoint what we were looking at. That proved successful.
Let’s talk about vulnerability, given that it is such a huge part of who you are and what you stand for. As you retrace your life as a student of vulnerability, is there a particular point where you recognized this was going to be a pursuit for you?
I look back at my time in L.A. I was in Los Angeles from 1996 until 2005, and I kind of shifted from acting being my priority to wanting to be a more prolific storyteller, and wanting to be more involved in the production. Really, I wanted to manage more of the process and support the level of quality that I was excited by. During that process, I created two storytelling companies prior to RTC. Both of them failed, and ultimately “imploded” because I made bad decisions in terms of who I got romantic with.
That period of my life was wrought with desperation and hunger and passion and pain and self-torture. It was a really dramatic time in my life. And during that time, I felt deeply connected to some of the people around me. The acting technique I was learning when I lived in L.A. was called the Meisner Technique, and it was about stripping away language and being with people in this energetic exchange. We would have 20-minute exchanges that would stay with me all week and live in my body. I got addicted to connection, and addicted to being in those moments where we feel so much — whether it is incredible love and attraction, or deep sadness triggered by an exercise. Being in those truthful moments, at that time, was life-giving to me.
So when you ask that question, I think it was that period when that addiction began and eventually blossomed into using it in a healthy way — with what I do now through the company.
During your time in L.A., you were in a really well-known Super Bowl ad for Mountain Dew, you were in the movie “Fight Club” — you’ve done some pretty cool things. Is the chaos of L.A. what most suspect it to be — with the politics and perceived superficial nature of L.A. and the acting community? What was your experience?
I don’t believe it is that for everyone, but I do believe it was very much that way for me. I had a strong hunger to be successful out there, and I brought my very competitive nature. As a result of that, when I look back at my time there, I describe it as this: I became what I thought L.A. wanted me to be in order to get where I thought I wanted to go. It was pulling me into the commercial world, and I certainly didn’t go to L.A. to be a commercial actor. But commercials pay really well, so I found myself building a career being a spokesperson for major brands.
It was exciting to audition for the work and to get the work — until it hit a point where it just wasn’t anymore. When I started producing and directing some projects, I found auditions to be a distraction. I found myself angry when I was stuck in traffic heading to an audition that was taking me away from what I really enjoyed — which was more control over my creativity. As an actor, I felt like a tool for other creative people. It was very disconnecting for me, and it was what started pushing me away from continuing in that regard. If I had gotten serious regular roles, or a major film, that might have changed — in which case I might have had more input.
I found that Wanted to be part of a project from start to finish, and that meant I had to change my direction.
Is that realization what led you to Writers of the Round Table and eventually Round Table Companies?
Not strategically. But if I look back on the path, I had been successful at commercials. I didn’t need a day job, because I got to study acting and rehearse a lot. I saw this 45-minute PBS documentary while I was in college on a guy named Harold Clurman, who started the Group Theatre in the 1930s. That went on to become Broadway, and then Hollywood. He described himself as a “generator.” He was not the best actor or the best director. But he was the person who brought the talent together to create art about what was important to speak of during the day. I had an epiphany moment in L.A. — that’s who I want to be.
So I invited nine of my other classmates to join me at Mammoth Lake in a lodge. Eight said yes. We went up there for a few days and started the first iteration of a storytelling company. It was such a stunning, loving experience that it became my new addiction. From there, we started making films and winning awards at film festivals. That led to the understanding that my work would need millions of dollars behind it in order to be seen. Or, I could ultimately create a lot of stuff that would sit on a shelf. That was eventually the reason to transition over to the writing world and to books — which became the impetus for Writers of the Round Table. On a much more modest budget, you can create something to go out into the world and start changing lives.
Is this where you ended up connecting with Robert Renteria? Talk about the From The Barrio To The Boardroom foundation.
I started Writers of the Round Table in a very practical way. I recognized that I was leaving L.A. Also, I was getting married and I needed to find a way to generate income that wasn’t tied to Los Angeles. Once, I think I was playing around on Craigslist and I was applying for writing jobs that looked creative. I found there were all kinds of writing jobs I could do, that I was curious about. Originally, I founded the business as a conduit between writers and businesspeople who needed quality writing. I wasn’t just an agent where I would find work for someone and say, “Good luck.” Instead, I became integrally involved.
Eventually, because of my L.A. background, my storytelling and my theater degree, Robert Renteria crossed my path. He was looking for someone to help him with his biography. At our initial meeting, when Robert talked about the life that he had lived and how he wanted to use that to inspire people, I got emotional when I talked to him about helping him paint that picture. We worked for a solid year and a half putting that first book together. That kicked off a new addiction of creating things that pushed people to make dramatic changes in their lives.
These graphic novel translations of popular books, and this idea of leveraging a pictorial version of stories to market in a new way — you’ve been very successful in that realm. What inspired you?
Around 2010 or so, we would have conversations with all our staff members and call it “dreaming time.” We wanted to know what we weren’t doing that we would love to do. Our creative director said he loved comic books, and he wanted to get us into that area. Lo and behold, as a result of that conversation, someone approached us about creating a nonfiction comic book series based on bestselling business books. We had some initial dialogue, but this person decided to go with someone else. But because our creative director expressed how valuable it would be to him, I fought for it. I told this person I respected his decision but we stayed in touch. I asked if he had feedback for our process.
A month later, he came back to us. We did three prototypes: Dale Carnegie’s “How To Win Friends And Influence People,” Dale Covey’s “Seven Habits,” and we did “Think & Grow Rich.” Eventually, we parted ways with the comic book company and created Round Table Comics. Suddenly, we were off to the races doing our own series. We’ve done a whole bunch of them for disabled children, helping kids to understand the disabilities they face.
How would you best describes what Round Table Companies is and does?
We’re an amazing, brilliant company, but we’re nontraditional. Nothing else quite like us exists in the world. We were born as a book-writing company; that was our first love. Helping people write the book they were born to write. We write very moving, emotional, page-turning books. Then, we built out a whole array of services for thought leaders. How do we support them and their brand identity? How do we support them in telling their story in different ways so people want to read the books?
I describe the book as going to bed with someone. When you first meet someone, you can’t invite them to bed — that’s an intense request. So how do we create an ecosystem around the thought leader so that people go through the whole stepladder. Flirting, talking, dating, getting into a relationship with the brand to the point where they then want to curl up with the book. Hopefully, by the end of the book, they feel like their life has changed as a result.
That blossomed into finding other creative ways we can support them. That grew into illustration, comic books, and graphic novels. Then, because we were attracting world-class, amazing, talented people — we realized we had access to incredible levels of genius, especially in the coaching world. We started hiring more coaches, and getting into the world of executive coaching — helping people to tell a new story. Then, it opened us to how storytelling can shift a culture. How can storytelling help amplify what a business stands for so that the world can truly see the essence of the company, and know if they want to be a customer or if they’re totally repelled?
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