Mark Fujiwara is a director and financial advisor at Baird. Being able to support speakers in sharing their powerful point of view is an honor and I had the privilege of sitting down with Mark to discuss how his vulnerability impacts lives.
Share a little bit about your personal story of mental health challenges.
I have struggled with mental health challenges, as long as I can remember. Phobias at a young age, anxiety, and sometimes unexplained depression. My parents were of Chinese and Japanese descent. In Chinese culture, a physically sick child was a knock on the parents not keeping them well. A mental health “sickness” was one where not only did it look bad on my parents but because it was mental not physical, you definitely did not mention something that the child could very well not have to disclose. In Japanese culture, the male never showed any weakness no matter how injured or sick they were. Therefore, to disclose a weakness that was in the mind was strictly forbidden.
I continued with anxiety and depression which were usually exacerbated by somewhat traumatic experiences such as a break up with a girl, pressure to get good grades for college, playing in a big game. I remember facing a lot of anxiety as the starting pitcher on the baseball team in high school as a senior. My first full blown panic attack happened when I was in a mastermind group of ten and was in a small room and the door shut. We were supposed to stand up one by one and tell the group who we were and what we did. I remember feeling as if it were life or death to get out of there but at the same time I didn’t want anyone to know what was really happening inside of my head. After that moment, I avoided any type of speaking in front of any group. I also developed a phobia for flying on airplanes, riding in cars on freeways, and agoraphobia.
Trauma always brought out an increase in depression and anxiety. I went through a tough divorce and what led up to it was traumatic in itself.
How did you make your way out of that struggle?
I returned to my three Japanese principles of Ikigai, IchigoIchi-e, and Shoki. Purpose, presence, and consciousness. In the moment of my lowest point, I was so far away and had been drifting farther away from those three principles. My most important role in my life was and still is to be a role model parent. At the time, my two kids were 11 and 13 and I felt I was far away from being a role model to that. There was a crucial moment where I looked out 10 years from that point. Two roads: one where I shook this up and bounced back to where I became the role model to them like before or the other where I continued down this downward spiral and would be so far away from being a role model to them or worse yet not be around to be their dad. I had a moment where I started evaluating my role models specifically getting themselves out of a rut, downward spiral, trauma. Jia Jiang’s 100 days of rejection was who I kept going back to and that’s what inspired my 100 days of being uncomfortable.
It takes a lot of courage to create a place of safety for yourself to share publicly, Mark, how did you find the strength to do that?
It took 46 years and a personal 100 day challenge to get uncomfortable for 100 days in a row, I would not have ever revealed it to anyone. Toward the end of the challenge, my uncomfortable task of the day was calling my cousin Gail, the family matriarch, the strongest soul I know. Gail then shared with me that she too had the same mental health struggles. This was the most pivotal moment of my life. For the first time in 46 years, I didn’t feel alone. I now had a close family member to talk about this. I now felt at ease to share with others. My doctor got me on a low dose of antidepressants and along with my psychotherapist they told me how often this happens to so many people. As I began to share more with others, the safer and more motivated I was to share my mental health struggles. In every situation, the individual I share with always has someone close who has mental health struggles and half the time they have dealt with or are still dealing with those struggles.
Why was sharing so important?
This moment also led me to show up as my true self from that point. I felt like for the 46 years preceding I was not telling the truth. When clients asked me what my charitable causes were, I would never say mental health even though I have donated thousands of dollars to causes for suicide prevention and mental health. I feared that the client would find out I had mental health. I now am completely truthful when asked. This has also led to me being completely my truest self to all those around me. When I show up in this way, everyone around me benefits. It gives them the permission to share, to be vulnerable, and in a lot of cases it helps build trust and bring calmness into the conversation.
How have you seen your vulnerability support your overall success?
Speaking my truth is about being vulnerable. It is an incredible form of therapy and feels so productive. By being vulnerable, I allow others to open up the same. The more this occurs, the more we are able to destigmatize mental health struggles. My goal is that mental health struggles are openly shared similar to having the common cold.
Mark and his team consult family offices, fast tracking entrepreneurs, and wealthy families. He is the author of Superior Results: Maximizing the Value of Your Family Office Just Like the Super-Rich and a guest instructor of the Global School of Entrepreneurship for courses on family office and mergers and acquisitions. With his wife, Amy, Mark co-heads, A Reading World, a non profit focussed on building libraries and supplying books for schools in Uganda. He lives in Marin County, California, enjoys spending time with his wife, Amy and three children and training for the upcoming national senior games track and field sprint events while finding new ways of getting out of his comfort zone and full flow.
WRITTEN BYTricia Brouk