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How 'Tiger King' Changed My Life

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

On the joys and necessities of escapism during challenging times. Sometimes, rather than running around and trying to fix all your problems, you just need to turn off your brain.

For the last month, the situation with COVID-19 has gone from bad to worse. It has been insane to watch this develop practically overnight. The pandemic has gone from something I thought would simply blow over to the cancellation of all of my speaking engagements to a total lockdown.

As expected, the news and the media frenzy are over the top. I mean shocking stories and stats coming in from all angles and all channels. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TV… just can’t escape the hysteria - or even the legit and depressing statistics.

For my sanity, I try to limit reading about these things to two times per day. Once in the morning and once at dinner is enough to keep you informed without causing yourself too much anxiety. I also found myself not wanting to write or speak about what's happening because I worry about contributing to the noise. But, my lovely book editor has been asking me to keep writing about the virus. She keeps saying that people need to hear from me during these times, but I think she is just personally curious about my thoughts.* So I keep writing because I still quite haven’t learned how to say no, especially to nice people like her. Thanks, Vince Poscente!

In addition to these pandemic pieces my editor has me writing, I am also working on two books. One is a self-help book that is actually relevant for the current pandemic situation (more later), and the second book is my memoir, which I am working on with the amazing ex ESPN journalist Ashley Fox. If you know my life story, you know that working on this project is an extreme sport. It’s absolutely mentally exhausting. By the end of the day, I just end up staring at a dot on the wall, just trying not to feel or think.

And if that wasn’t all, the folks that I work with in the speaking and event industry, like Susan Lauterbach from Red Propeller (sorry to call you out - I love you!) are asking if I have a speech ready that’s geared towards pandemic and the current situation. Her interest and drive are absolutely amazing and tells me how strong event planners, meeting planners, and speakers bureaus really are. Hear me out: yes, we are all talking about nurses and doctors, truckers, grocery store workers, and farmers, but let’s talk about meeting and event planning heroes.

While you are home confused wondering what to do, wondering what to think — these guys are already planning. They are planning for the future. They are planning events where YOU will show up, be inspired, motivated, taught the new, latest and greatest information to help YOU process and understand what has just happened and what is happening. They are planning events online and offline that will help us all through this surreal time. Their efforts will help you personally, help your corporation, help leaders, and managers, and sales groups. It will help everyone, including the economy. These guys are planting the seeds of hope now - during the toughest times, and pushing us - the speakers, the motivators, the educators - to keep going. To keep working. To keep pushing ourselves so we can do what we do best: help and inspire.

Like every one of these amazing speakers, motivators, and educators, I also have to pick myself up by the bootstraps and internalize this information, think about the current situation, think about the future, and figure out the best way I can make a difference in your life and your business. My advice comes from my own personal experience and study, and wouldn't mean a lot if I couldn't put it into practice myself.

During this time though, it's a bit of a challenge. Working on these speeches leaves me consumed with overpowering emotions, especially because the pandemic has brought up a lot of similar feelings and angst from my genocide days. There are many similarities between a genocide and a pandemic. This situation is eerily familiar and going down that same road leaves me emotionally drained. Again, more on this at a future date.

To make matters more interesting, our twelve year old, who is normally in school, has been home non-stop, 24/7. Which is interesting. All of you that have kids at home know exactly what I mean. As much as I want to write about it, I really can’t because I have no words to describe the amount of questions, interruptions, and inability to understand, “Please don’t interrupt me, I am working.”

At this point, I would like to take moment of silence for all the teachers around the world who have chosen to do deal with these children voluntarily. Please join me.


(Thank you.)

Another fascinating side effect of having a twelve year old at home is that the TV is ALWAYS ON. For someone who doesn’t watch TV, this is mind-numbing. The noise that keeps coming from the living room just penetrates my brain and makes me want to run.

Which is how last Friday, after particularly long and exhausting week of “the world,” by 9:30pm I was ready for my bath and bed. It was time to turn off the world and just rest my mind for a minute. What I really wanted to do is turn off my brain for the weekend and think about anything other than what was going on in my head and the world around me. I wanted to escape my current reality and just to get a little break from all of it. It was all weighing heavily on me, and I just needed to reset.

As I am lying in the bath trying to calm the noise and sync my breathing with the quiet whisper of the candle, my partner, Lea, suggests we watch a reality TV show. At that moment, if someone had come in and offered me a gun to shoot myself with or the option of watching a realty TV show, without hesitation, I would have chosen the gun. But again, because I still don’t know how to say no, especially to nice people, I say: “Reality show?! Really?! I am just so tired of TV, it’s been on all day, and it’s just too much noise in my head. But tell me, what’s it about?”

She explains it’s about big cats, like tigers and lions, and it also mentioned Big Cat Rescue, which happens to be about twenty to thirty minutes from our home. Her pitch intrigued me, because we have been toying with the idea of getting an exotic cat (no, not a lion or a tiger, please don’t write to me about it). We had considered volunteering at the Big Cat Rescue. It’s so close to home, and we love animals. Utterly exhausted, I give in and agree to watch this show, happily planning to watch the first five minutes and pass out.

But…..the show started….and within thirty minutes, I was hooked. The show has so many things in it that are shocking; it is literally listed in the dictionary next to the word "train wreck." By the time I finished the first episode, I was HOOKED. I kept pausing the show just so I could take a moment to laugh and also process what I had just seen before I allowed new information to enter my brain.

I kept doing this throughout the show. It was one shocking thing after another, one plot twist after another. Just when you thought you saw it all — BAM! — another plot twist. Another shock. From a missing millionaire, Cuban mafioso (known to us as Scarface), cults, narcissism, homicide, suicide, polygamy, orgies, political campaigns, Michael Jackson’s crocodiles, con artists, conspiracies, murder-for-hire, country music videos, golden nuggets - you name it…this show has got it all. Oh yeah, and there are tigers in it, too.

Halfway through the show, I didn’t know it yet, but I was changed. I couldn’t stop watching, and I had completely forgotten about COVID-19. I forgot what year it was. Honestly I forgot where or who I was.

I was completely 110% consumed by this show — it was just me and the show. Everything else disappeared. I didn’t feel the pressure. The sadness, the worry about COVID 19 and our collective futures. Just for that moment, I was transplanted somewhere else. To a completely different world unknown to me — which honestly could have been on a different planet — although it is happening literally twenty minutes from my house.

I ended up binging the entire series and watching it until 5 A.M. Utterly exhausted and mesmerized, I fell asleep like a baby.

Upon waking the next morning, I noticed something was different. Even though I only slept for a few hours, I felt better. Happier and ready to seize the day. Even though I had stayed up all night, I felt like I had gotten a full night of deep sleep.

Binging the Tiger King docuseries provided me with a much needed distraction from the same things we keep hearing everyday. It allowed my brain to rest from the constant bombardment of incoming and outgoing “useful information” related to the pandemic. Tiger King truly reset my brain and allowed me to step back just long enough to give my mind and my soul the needed space to heal.

I am sure like me, you probably need this space as well. You need something that will let you forget COVID-19 and this pandemic and allow you to immerse yourself into something else. Some other world. For many people that may be a book, or a game. But whatever it is, please make sure you take your time to step back.

We don’t know how long this will last.

We don’t know if this is a sprint or a marathon.

We don’t know type of rebuilding awaits us after it’s all over.

So please make sure you take care of yourself. Make sure you give yourself permission to laugh. To do something crazy like staying up all night watching Tiger King. Step off your soap box for a moment and find reasons to laugh and have some fun. When we are rested and happy, we can be a lot more productive and effective.

Trust me when I say all this: it's not only my job but my life mission to help people find the time, space, and tools to disengage themselves from society's programming, figure out what really matters to them, and live out their life purpose. I take this all very seriously, so if I am telling you to take a break and watch bad reality TV, take it to heart. The pandemic has created an opportunity for many of us to slow down and evaluate how we live our lives, but it's still stressful - make sure you are giving yourself a break, too.

*Lovely book editor here! Maja is one of the few people I want to hear from during this time. She's been through something similar - but way worse - and has a legitimately informed and constructive perspective. - KCG


About the Author: Maja Kazazic is an internationally recognized motivational speaker and author originally from Mostar in former Yugoslavia. During the Bosnian genocide, she and five friends were caught in an RPG explosion. Maja was severely wounded, and all of her friends were killed on impact. Maja was later evacuated to the United States for extensive medical treatment. She re-learned to walk, attended college, and, in 2006, founded a successful web development company. Today she lives in Florida with her family, including her service dog, Rosie, and is an active kayaker, tennis player, and golfer. Maja has been featured in Reader's Digest, Good Housekeeping Magazine, Fox News, BBC News, Discovery Network, the Philadelphia Inquirer and more and has delivered her timely messages to clients from organizations big and small all over the world. 



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