Michael Gabler, also known by just his surname Gabler, is an American heart valve specialist and television personality known for competing on and winning the 43rd season of the American reality TV competition series Survivor. After being named the winner, Gabler declared that he would donate “100%” of the million-dollar prize to charities supporting veterans.

Listen to this episode of The MOVEMENT Movement with Michael Gabler about what happened behind the scenes on Survivor.

Here are some of the beneficial topics covered on this week’s show:

– How Michael is the second oldest competitor to win Survivor.

– Why your frame of reference changes dramatically after a traumatic event.

– How Survivor has come a long was as a reality show.

– How Mike was the first person in Survivor history to donate all his winnings to charity.

– How it’s never too late to try to achieve a goal on your bucket list.

Connect with Mike:

Guest Contact Info
Twitter
@Gabler1Mike

Instagram
@gablermike

Links Mentioned:
xeroshoes.com/sharktank

Connect with Steven:

Website

Xeroshoes.com

Jointhemovementmovement.com

Twitter
@XeroShoes

Instagram
@xeroshoes

Facebook
facebook.com/xeroshoes

Episode Transcript

Steven Sashen:

What do minimalist shoes and winning a reality show like Survivor have in common? Well, we’re going to find out that plus a whole lot more, including some behind the scenes stuff from both Survivor and Shark Tank with today’s guest on today’s episode of THE MOVEMENT Movement, the podcast for people who want to know the truth about what it takes to have a happy, healthy, strong body starting feet first. Wait, I got to turn my self view on, there you go. Starting feet first, because you know those things are your foundation. And also we’re breaking down the propaganda, the mythology, sometimes the flat out lies you’ve been told about what it takes to run or walk or play or hike, or do yoga or CrossFit, whatever it is you like to do, and to do that enjoyably efficiently, effectively. Did I say enjoyably? Don’t answer. I know I did.

It’s a trick question, because look, if you’re not having fun, do something different you are, you’re not going to keep it up if it’s not fun. Okay, I am Steven Sashen, co-founder and CEO of xeroshoes.com. I’m the host of THE MOVEMENT Movement podcast. We call it that because we are… We, and that involves, all of us are creating a movement about natural movement, letting your body do what it’s made to do without getting in the way and the we part, what you can do is really simple.

Go to www.jointhemovementmovement.com. You don’t need to do anything to join, you don’t need to pay anything, there’s no secret handshake, but you’ll find all the previous episodes, all the way you can engage with us on social media and other things like that, and the gist of it, basically, if you want to support what we’re doing, give us a thumbs up, like us, give us a review, give us five stars wherever, hit the bell icon on YouTube. I mean you know the drill, if you want to be part of the tribe, please subscribe. So let’s jump in. Mike, pleasure having you here. Tell people who you are and what you’re doing here.

Mike Gabler:

Hey, what’s going on, Steven? Thanks so much for having me, man. I appreciate it. I’m Mike Gabler, the AlliGabler from season 43 of Survivor. I’m the second oldest winner to ever win the show, and it was a fantastic epic adventure, and I’m so happy so many people were on it with me. That’s what’s amazing about the reality TV, is you have these big adventures and everybody gets to go on it with you. I mean, Steven, you were on Shark Tank, so you were more comfortable, although, I don’t know, being in front of those sharks, maybe I almost would take starvation over that, I don’t know.

Steven Sashen:

Well, I can tell you, as a former professional standup comic, I thrive on situations where it’s a high pressure thing with a seeming audience, so I had no problem. The difference between you and me, I mean, there are many, but in the reality TV context, is we just taped the show and then we waited to see if it was going to air. And then we had to, once it aired, we knew what the results were. Or no, once we… How’d did this work?

Once we taped, we knew what the results were. We couldn’t talk about it until it aired, and that was about six months later. But we didn’t have the ongoing thing that you did. So what was it like? When did you… There’s so many questions I want to ask. When were you taping, what was the delay between then and when things were airing so you could see how people were responding, and then what was the delay from the final episode or from when you taped the final episode, when you knew you won, to being able to say to everyone, “Hey, I won.”

Mike Gabler:

So, great question. And it was similar actually, even though it was a longer journey that I was on. So, last year, I took off in April, May, and they filmed it in April, May. I got back on June 1st, and I had to zip my lip and keep it under my hat for about six months, because December 14th was the finale. So the difference with Survivor versus Shark Tank is you’re on an episode and then, we’re on a season, so it’s like…

Steven Sashen:

Yeah, we’re one and done.

Mike Gabler:

One and done, and you guys did, even though I’m sure your presentation was probably an hour or so long, you had your 10 minutes on the show, and that got the ball rolling and got the word out about your amazing Xero Shoes and me, it was like every week. And what was weird about it too, and you can relate to this, you know what happens, but you don’t know how it’s going to be edited.

Steven Sashen:

Right.

Mike Gabler:

Right? It’s so wild.

Steven Sashen:

Well, hold on. Well wait, I’m going to make a note because I want to come back to that, and I don’t want to forget that. Hold on, hold on, hold on. Okay. All right. Please continue.

Mike Gabler:

Yes, you bet. I mean, the wild part was, it’s like watching… Like knowing that the score is, 32 to 30 in double overtime, but you have no idea what plays they’re going to show. And every week I was on the edge of my seat and I’m like, what’s the edit going to show, are they going to… I think these things are important, but are they going to show it? But the producers are Survivor doing a masterful job.

They’ve been doing this for over 20 years. I mean 43 seasons is the granddaddy of all reality shows, and what they like to do is, they don’t want to make it look like, oh, Gabler is winning, Gabler is winning, Gabler’s winning, Gabler wins. They want to make it look like, and they did. They had a great job where everybody at the end, the finale had five people in the finale, in which two got eliminated, and then you had the final three that battled it out. But it’s anybody’s game and honestly, it was pretty much anybody’s game. This season I thought was unique, and I know I’m a homer for 43 because I was on it but, it was unique in that they cast everybody on the show was a fan of the show.

Steven Sashen:

Interesting.

Mike Gabler:

Every single person, Steven was a huge fan of the show. I thought I was a super fan, Owen, other people on the show, absolute super fans. I mean, they knew deep, they knew like Tom Brady went to college at Michigan and they know survivor players. Owen would know, oh, Steve Sashen, he went to middle school and blah, blah, blah. His first dog was named Bruce. He knew all that stuff where I was like, I’ve watched every episode, I’m a huge fan of the show, but I was out outgunned by Owen on that one, and everybody on the season was.

So I think the fun part was, it’s almost like a rollercoaster ride in the new era because it’s faster, it’s a condensed version, but you know how a rollercoaster coaster goes, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, and it’s a slow ride up and then all of a sudden it goes. Well, because everybody was so sophisticated in the game and the gameplay, you didn’t have as much clumsiness as… People that come in there and they’re just like, oh, that person’s a villain, or that person’s really good at this. Everybody kept their cards pretty close to their vest until the rollercoaster dropped, and then it was just mayhem and craziness, and it really was a fun season to be on and to watch.

Steven Sashen:

So backing up to not knowing what the editing is… Well, I’m going to back up a half a step. So, let’s do… Again, so many things we could do. When we were in that interim phase between taping and airing, where again, we had no idea what it was going to look like. We can talk about the editing in a second. My favorite thing is we’re at a family event, I can’t remember what it was, and a bunch of my parents’ friends were there, a bunch of entrepreneurs, and they were all coming up to Lena and me saying, “God, you guys should be on Shark Tank.” And we’d be going, ah, that’s a great idea. And we’d just had to bite our tongue.

Mike Gabler:

Oh, how funny. And you had already done it?

Steven Sashen:

Yeah, we’d already done it. And see, here’s the thing with difference with Shark Tank, they tape more segments than they air. So while we knew what happened, we didn’t know if we were going to be on at all. So we took a vacation at the end of December, and thanks to the magic of frequent flyer points, we flew down to Ecuador to visit some friends, and while we’re there, we get an email saying, you’re going to be on in two weeks, ah. So I’m doing PR from Ecuador where there’s practically no internet connectivity. But again, but we didn’t know until the very end if we were even going to be on. And then there were some crazy things that happened.

I’ll come back to that too. But that interim phase is so interesting, I had an experience of this before we were on Shark Tank with Top Chef. So, there’s a local restaurateur guy named Hosea Rosenberg who was on Top Chef. And we were watching, watching, watching, and he decided to have a party at a local bar for the finale. And so me and Lena, a couple other friends, we went there and we’re sitting right next to Hosea and the whole episode, he’s just not looking happy. And so we’re thinking, ah, screw it, we’re just going to leave, we don’t want to be here when everyone gets depressed. And then they announce him as the winner and his roommates freaked out because they had no idea either. So, he really held his cards close to the vest.

Mike Gabler:

Wow.

Steven Sashen:

And that was super fun.

Mike Gabler:

You just said, it’s super fun and I think that’s really cool about it. So Jeff Probst, the legend, the myth, the everything that he is, he’s the ultimate Survivor fan and he’s the host of the show. When we were leaving, Jeff gave us a little bit of counsel, and we are contractually obliged, right? They will come after you…

Steven Sashen:

Hold on, hold on. You and I had the same contract.

Mike Gabler:

Yes we did.

Steven Sashen:

So, because, well, same producers. And in fact there’s a clause in our contract that said, we’re not going to hold them liable if we die on set. And we said, what’s going to happen on set that could kill us? They said, no, we cobbled this. We keep adding to our contract based on our existing shows. And the first contract was Survivor. So we had that same, you could die…

Mike Gabler:

Interesting. But I looked at that myself and I’m looking at it, mine was like 65 pages long, maybe longer, and you just have to sign it all, right? It’s whatever but, you’re looking at it going like, okay, huh, that’s sobering.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah. Well, so let’s compare notes. For us, if we told anybody what happened in advance of the show airing, we promised not that they could come after us, we promised that we would pay five million dollars, was that the same for you?

Mike Gabler:

Same, same. Five million dollars and there were pages of basically stick with not much carrot, but Jeff gave us a carrot at the end that I thought was really impactful to people like us, because, and your friend Hosea, because he said, look, obviously you’re contractually obliged, you can’t just say anything, blah, blah, blah. But just as importantly, and he said it, he goes, just as importantly, don’t ruin it for your friends and family because you want them on the journey, on the edge of their couch doing what it is, and that was pretty telling to me about the type of person Jeff is, because he’s a cool guy and he’s a fan of the show, he’s an ultimate fan. And he was like, don’t slip it out because you want your friends and family to be there on the edge of your seat. Like you were saying you were at Hosea’s restaurant and you wanted to make sure that, he kept it quiet so that when it happened everybody was like, wow.

And Jeff was right, and Hosea was right, and that’s kind of how you do it, I guess. So, the only people I told when I got back, well then was my wife, because I have to tell somebody. And she also signed the same stuff. And then I told my father who’s in poor health, so I just wanted to make sure he would know, but I didn’t tell him about the donation. I just told him about the win. And then we were in Houston together with my whole family, my mother on one side, my dad on the other side when the announcement was, and of course everybody erupts probably like in the restaurant with Hosea, and then I was like, wait, wait, wait, hold on, there’s something else coming up.

Steven Sashen:

It gets better.

Mike Gabler:

Yeah, so it was really cool. I mean, what a heck of an adventure. It was really neat.

Steven Sashen:

Well, for people who don’t know, so tell them how much you won and what you did with your winnings.

Mike Gabler:

Oh sure, sure. So the grand prize for being the sole survivor of Survivor is one million dollars. And I donated a hundred percent of it, every penny to veterans that are in need of help, I moved the million dollars into a direct access fund so it’s legally… Every penny, I can’t even buy a pair of Xero Shoes with the money. So it’s all in there, and I got a lawyer and an accountant to figure out the taxes so that there’s no issues with it, and that hopefully will get figured out here soon. And then we’re going to start donating. We’ve got some amazing charities figured out that are going to help a lot of veterans, and it’s just icing on top of the cake.

Steven Sashen:

When we turned down a $400,000 offer from Kevin, a lot of people said that we were insane. Now we knew what our valuation was. We knew it was easy to walk away from, but for a lot of people, 400 grand is a lot of money. Here’s two and a half times that, a million dollars, how do people react?

Mike Gabler:

It was… On the set at the time, because it was right at the middle of tribal council, we’re at the end of it.

Steven Sashen:

Wait, and you hadn’t warned anyone in advance that this is something you might do?

Mike Gabler:

No, sir. And thanks for making that clear. I didn’t want to tell anybody because I wanted to win on my own merit. I didn’t want people to go, well, he’s doing a good thing for people. And I also, I would’ve felt terrible using a patient population that I cared deeply about for my own gain. I wanted to win it clean and then do this clean, and that’s what I did, so the expressions on everybody’s faces, the tears in their eyes were all genuine and real because I dropped it on them literally one minute after Jeff announced me as the sole survivor.

Steven Sashen:

It’s brilliant. Now, as you just alluded to two things that other people might not know. So, one is what your actual profession is. Now, well… I’m going to do this, I can’t do this as one question at a time because there’s too many thoughts comes through my head. What your actual profession is, what your connection is to this veteran organization, and the other thing people must think is that you must be a bajillionaire because otherwise, why would you give away a million dollars?

Mike Gabler:

Sure, sure. Those are all good questions and let me just answer them in a row. So my profession is I am a heart valve specialist and I’ve been working in the medical world for about 20 years. I’ve been part of some new cutting edge technologies. I work on the device side. So, for example, there’s a little model right here of a transcatheter aortic valve, and…

Steven Sashen:

Wait, hold on, hold on. Wait, I got to pause right there. For people who can’t see this, it’s too bad. But is that the actual size of the aorta?

Mike Gabler:

That is your aortic valve size, and this is a 26 millimeter valve. So your valve and your heart Steven is either this big or maybe even a little bigger. The biggest size is a 29, which is just a few millimeters bigger. But this is a very common one. And this is a fuzzy Dacron like shag carpet, and it sits in the aorta like that in the aortic valve like this, and then your coronaries are above it. And if I turn it, the blood comes from the ventricle, the oxygenated blood comes through there and out the other side. And what my job is, I work with the heart teams and I read the films and I put together basically a battle plan for Dr. Sashen and I work with a very close group of folks and I go, I believe patient Smith is a 26 millimeter valve.

I think the access on the right side looks favorable and blah, blah, blah. And then you would look over it with your expert eyes and we’d discuss it if we had a conflict of opinion. And then you make the call, and then the case day, we do three to five of these a day. And I’ll take this big old valve because you’ve got four valves in your heart and I will crimp it down so small that it will fit into something about that big, which will go over a wire into your femoral artery while you are awake. The procedure takes about 45 minutes, and what we’ll do is we’ll snake the valve while it’s all crimped down teeny tiny over the wire.

We’ll cross the stenotic aortic valve, we’ll rapid pace the heart because your heart is beating like this, right? And what we’ll do is we’ll rapid pace it to where it just kind of flutters for about 10, 15 seconds. And while it’s doing that, we expand the balloon that the valve is on, crushing the native one to the wall, take it down, remove the system, pacer off. Heart starts again, two stitches in the groin, patient goes home the next day.

Steven Sashen:

Holy crap.

Mike Gabler:

It’s a miracle cure. It’s absolutely amazing. This technology and it didn’t exist 10 years ago. This is brand-new stuff.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah. Someone figured this shit out. I mean, this is incredible.

Mike Gabler:

It is absolutely groundbreaking. And the data has come in where it is superior to surgery. So now, I’m not saying surgery is bad because if you need it, you need whatever you need. But if you are a candidate for this, it is as good or better because you don’t have to have a sternotomy. We’re going bypass and all that other stuff.

Steven Sashen:

I mean, we got two more questions we’re going to answer, but I got to interject with this one. I was a pre-med for, well from being a high school through college, and then I decided not to go down that path. But in high school I was in a program, it was two classes per day every day, first two hours of the day… Or first couple hours of the day for the entire year, and we were working at National Label Medical. And one of the things we got to do is watch open-heart surgery, which was…

Mike Gabler:

Amazing.

Steven Sashen:

Mind blowing.

Mike Gabler:

Mind blowing, the heart is moving. You’re like, that’s the person’s heart, right there.

Steven Sashen:

Well, the first three pieces of open-heart surgery were the freakiest thing I’ve ever seen. So first, they use a laser scalpel and just get the skin out and it just kind of peels apart and you smell it. Then they take a fucking Black and Decker saw and saw through the sternum and you smell it. And then they take the rib spreaders to spread the ribs apart and you hear the cracking. But as soon as that’s over, it’s like, oh my God, this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.

Mike Gabler:

It gives you a… It’s just mind blowing. I’ve been doing medical surgery for over 20 years now. And I still get geeked out about it every time I see it because it’s just, I just am amazed at where technology and the expertise in knowledge that’s been building up over the years. It is amazing, and this new transcatheter heart valve, what they call it, transcatheter aortic valve replacement or TAVR. TAVR is something that did not exist, and sometimes you have to do the sternotomy and the rib spreading and all that stuff and there’s nothing wrong with it.

In fact, my uncle had to have his mitral valve repaired and there are some endovascular techniques that he could have used. But the best for his anatomy and everything was open surgery, and they did a phenomenal job and he is doing fantastic today so, I’m not against that, but I’m just making you aware, these are new things.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah, yeah.

Mike Gabler:

And it’s so wild because, Steven, we have to be mindful about what we are talking about in the room because the patient is awake.

Steven Sashen:

Awake.

Oh my god.

Mike Gabler:

It is. Yeah, we’re sitting there, “Hold on sir, you’re going to feel your heart flutter, this is the part where it’s going to flutter.” And it just basically feels like you’re got your breath taken away a little bit. But we give them a heads-up so they don’t panic during that procedure, because for 15 seconds, it’s almost like you, you almost, and it’s like, hold on, this is the part. And they’re just okay doing good, and then the balloon goes up, goes down, you got your new heart valve now, you got your new heart valve, and they’re just laying there… I mean, it’s freaking amazing.

Steven Sashen:

I have to have some eye surgery in a couple of weeks. And they said, we don’t have to do it for you, but sometimes we have to pull the eyeball out to do the thing and then put it back in. I said, if you pull my eyeball out and I’m awake for this whole thing, I go turn it around so I can look at myself, look at myself.

Mike Gabler:

Whoa.

Steven Sashen:

They said, we don’t have to take it out. I said, can you take it out just so I can do that?

Mike Gabler:

That is so… You know what we just met, right?

Steven Sashen:

Yeah.

Mike Gabler:

The fact that you would say something like that is the coolest thing ever. You’re like an interesting oddball, but I love you. I think that is the coolest thing. Yeah, dude. I would say too, that is really weird, but I like it.

Steven Sashen:

Well, when I had my knee scoped after blowing out my meniscus doing gymnastics 25 years ago or so, I said, I want to do it with an epidural so I can be awake during this. And halfway through the procedure, I said, can you pull the instruments out? Because I’m watching this on TV and they look like they’re the size of just giant pipes. They’re like minuscule, it’s so cool to watch. So whenever I get a chance, I want to see what they’re doing to me. When I had my shoulder put back together, I begged them, they’ll let me stay awake.

They said, nah, because if you move a couple of millimeters, it’s going to mess with us badly. So they knocked me out. All right. Backing up.

Mike Gabler:

Yes.

Steven Sashen:

Okay, so that’s, that’s your day job, which leads us into, I’m going to get back to the connection to the veterans, but that leads us into the thing where most… Well actually, wait, before I do this one, I was going to say it leads us back to the thing where people assume that if you’re in any way in the medical biz, have buckets of bills sitting under your bed.

But I wonder in the cardiac world, is there a similar, what’s the word I’m looking for? A similar description for the surgeons who do this work that there is for orthopedic surgeons where the line is in medical school, they’re strong as an oxen, half a smart. And if there’s any orthopedics guys listening, you know it’s a joke, I don’t know who you are. But I was going to… And that was my thing, I wanted to be an orthopod. So, I take that personally, is there anything like that in the cardiac world?

Mike Gabler:

There is. I would say that the cardiac surgeons are a lot like Tom Cruise on Maverick. They’re all like, they have to have that… They almost wear leather scrubs because they’re so cool, right? That’s the cardiac surgeons. Whereas the interventional structural cardiologists, because on a heart team that we work with for TAVR, we have cardiac surgery, interventional structural cardiology, anesthesia, et cetera. But then the cardiology, those guys are kind of like, oh, I’d probably put them as more Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the very first one with not Han Solo, what was his name? Who was…

Steven Sashen:

Yeah, that guy. I’m horrible with names all of a sudden.

Mike Gabler:

Harrison Ford. They’re Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark where they’re like, I think we can get through this, because they’re not the cutters, they’re the kind of endovascular wire catheter guys, and the surgeons are like, we will do it, we can figure out any… It’s all good. So those guys are… It’s like cats and dogs playing together. But that’s one of the beautiful things about the TAVR procedure is when we got FDA approval in 2011 for this, it was mandated that we do it with a heart team because it really brought… Where they were almost rivals, back in the day because the surgeons will perform a coronary artery bypass graft and the cardiologist will put in stents, so they kind of competed with each other.

This was one where we realized, the company I work with, which is Edwards Life Sciences, they realized that the best care for these patients was a multidisciplinary approach, and since we were the only people on the market with this, we were the first with FDA approval with this and still are, we’re the leader today, but we’re like, it makes more sense for patient outcomes If you get an expert surgeon with an expert cardiologist with expert anesthesia, and they all come together and collaborate in this thing we do. So, my normal day is, I do a valve conference in the morning, wherever the whole heart team gets together.

We discuss the patients that we discussed a few weeks ago that we’re doing that day, and we go through everything and then we discuss the future patients and we go through it and we’re like, their access, are we going to go trans carotid, are we going trans femoral? Most people, would go… 95%, we go trans femoral. But there are people that have bad access and things. So, it’s just been, I know it’s a really long answer, they’ve come together and what’s beautiful about it is, they become amazing, respectful colleagues to each other, and care has improved. People are getting wonderful care.

Steven Sashen:

That’s it. One of the other things, the other thing with orthopedic surgeon is, what I had in my shoulder done, I wanted someone who couldn’t carry a conversation, was just in the groove who did 10 of these a day, and that was my guy, and in fact, I mentioned that to someone who’s a friend of his who cracked up. He says, “Yeah, it takes a while to get him to be able to talk to humans.” When I got out of surgery, he comes in and says, boy, we did a lot of work in there. I said, I don’t know how I feel about you being so giddy.

Mike Gabler:

Yeah, I know. You’re like, well, as long as they’re smiling, that means they’re happy with the outcome, and that’s probably a good thing.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah, that’s a good one. All right. So, onto your buckets of money.

Mike Gabler:

Yes. Okay. So, I have a house payment, I have a kid in college, one more to go to college, I’ve got a car payment, could I have used an extra million dollars? Sure. But my family is a military family, I’ve never had the honor of serving. But to have the honor to serve those who serve us is very important to me. And 1% of our country protects the 99% of us. I have uncles, my father was a Green Beret in the Special Forces, and my uncles were a CB in Vietnam. They’ve done all kinds of things, and then I have a bunch of friends from high school that were in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we have an epidemic in this country where a lot of our veterans come home and they can’t get all the way home. They’re still stuck in the battlefield or they’re stuck somewhere.

And PTSD isn’t just with veterans, by the way. I mean, the worst day of your life is whatever tragedy happens to you, it could be a car wreck, it could be whatever it is. That’s traumatic stress, and humans are very hoping, capable, creatures in that we can overcome a lot. But some things are just so profound, or you’re so young that when you’re 19 years old, dealing with some of the stuff that these guys go through, guys and gals go through, it’s not easy. And then you come back and having PTSD, because I’ve actually had some from the operating room, and that’s an interesting story. So, one of our patients, and this is the veteran tie-in right here, okay? So, we’ve had many veterans that have come through that need heart valve replacement, and we’ve helped them. But there was one person in particular, his name is Lester Tenney, and he was a World War II Veteran.

He survived the Bataan Death March. 75 miles, no water, no food, no nothing in the jungle. After he was ordered to surrender 75 miles, then he went to a prison camp, which was notoriously bad from everything we’ve ever watched about that. Then he was put on a slave ship and taken to Japan where he worked in a slave labor camp for a couple years and was on the brink of death in 1945 when his slave camp was across the bay from Nagasaki. And he literally, with his own eyes witnessed, he didn’t know what it was, but he saw the mushroom cloud. He writes about it in his book, called My Hitch in Hell. He writes about his entire experience, and what’s really amazing about Lester is, in 1938, when he’s going off to… War was brewing, everything you could kind of see what was going on with Germany and Poland and everything was going on that side, and Japan was… We were at an oil embargo against them.

So he could see that writing was on the wall. And rather than just get drafted, he decided he was going to sign up. And like many young men, and at the time he went and got married to his high school sweetheart before he took off for war. And he thought about her every day when he was in the prison camps, in the slave ship and the slave labor camp. But he could not wait to get home and see her, that he gets home and see her. They told her in 1942, he was dead, she had remarried.

So he opened the door… Or she opened the door, they were obviously emotionally overcome. It was a shock to her. And then, imagine if your wife had been told that you were dead and moved on three years later and all of a sudden you show up like a ghost. She was crying and was really obviously very, very sad about the whole situation and freaked out. But Lester being Lester was like, you saved my life. There’s nothing to be sorry for, and I’m going to drink a little water.

Steven Sashen:

Holy molly.

Mike Gabler:

And he basically moved on with his life and created an amazing life on his own. Got a PhD, remarried, had children, and he wrote another book. So I love Lester, right? I love Lester. And I got to meet Lester and in 19… Oh, I don’t know, it was, well 2000, Japan had finally come around and said, look, we’re going to offer a apology to all surviving POWs who were mistreated and we’re going to fly you to Japan and we’re going to do this.

And Lester’s like, hell yeah, I’m going to that. But at the time, he had critical aortic stenosis and was not able to travel. And he was not a candidate, he was 88, 89 years old, was not a candidate for open surgery because he was just too frail. But Lester’s a badass, obviously. So Lester’s like, I’m going to find… So he was living in Southern California, he got online and he realized there was a SAPIEN Trial at Scripps Hospital, and he basically would not take no for an answer, “You’re doing me with this new transcatheter valve thing.” And we did, and he went over to Japan to get his apology. Then he came back and he helped us petition the FDA for approval. And thanks to Lester and many, many people, over 800,000 people have now been treated with transcatheter heart valves. And Lester, he lived about seven more years with that. He lived with an age of 96 and just an incredible human, and that was part of my motivation.

Steven Sashen:

That’s a mind blowing and wonderful story. So first of all, thank you. Secondly, I don’t think people can understand a lot about, I’ll say it this way. So, I was in China during the Tiananmen Square massacre. I got shot at and held captive with six guys pointing machine guns at my head. My best friend was there, same thing happened to him. We were both together abbreviating the story dramatically, or I’m abbreviating significantly, it’s a dramatic story. And after, so we got caught in this shooting spree, then held captive and blah, blah, blah. The point is not that. The point is after they let us go, realizing we were not Chinese, not reporters or spies, and basically yelled, go or we’ll shoot you.

Mike Gabler:

Oh my God.

Steven Sashen:

As we’re riding our bikes that had bullet holes in all the tires.

Mike Gabler:

Oh my God, seriously?

Steven Sashen:

We’re riding away. And I felt this endorphin wave when you’re standing in the ocean facing the shore and you feel the current water coming out behind you, and then you get hit by the wave over your head, that’s what it felt like in my brain. And the endorphin rush was so profound, I was thinking, oh, I don’t want to want this to happen, I don’t want to lose this feeling. I don’t want to lose what was going on. But then my next thought literally was, if this happened to me a couple of times, let alone a couple of times in a month or a week or a day, how would I ever come home and hear someone say something like, honey, the washing machine’s broken and not lose my mind.

Mike Gabler:

Right. And you’re older, although that was back in the ’90s.

Steven Sashen:

Well, I was 27, 28, I think.

Mike Gabler:

Right, right. Yeah, yeah.

Steven Sashen:

But nonetheless, this is a physiological thing that also, your frame of reference for what’s important changes so dramatically.

Mike Gabler:

Yes.

Steven Sashen:

That I’m amazed when people can come back, not when they have a hard time coming back.

Mike Gabler:

It’s amazing. It is amazing. And that is, we will have to talk about that another time because I am… My dad traveled a lot in oil and then we were in the military and then oil. I was in China in the ’80s just for a short time. And I had a pen pal that I used to write back and forth to, because we would practice English and talk about stuff, and I never heard from him after Tiananmen. And he was a regular writer and he’s… It just ended. And it’s just really tragic. That story to me that you told me is that you were there?

Steven Sashen:

Yeah.

Mike Gabler:

Oh my God, that is unreal.

Steven Sashen:

And what I can say is it’s not what people heard in both directions. I mean, the way it was presented here was very different than what actually we saw on the ground. And who knows what happened to him. It was a really weird and wild time. I mean I can’t… I’m grateful for it finally. Took a little while, not that long, but took a little while. But I mean, we were there, the famous picture of the guy with his groceries standing in front of the tank. We were in the royal palace or whatever the hotel was, I’m blanking on it now, watching that go down. And it was like, whoa shit. And it wasn’t the way people presented it, oh, it was a big democracy thing, it’s like, no, this is a guy who was literally coming back with groceries, crossing this major, major street and then sees the tanks and was just sort of overcome at that moment. And it was not some deliberate thing.

Mike Gabler:

Oh no. Yeah.

Steven Sashen:

That’s what made it even more amazing. It was just, holy crap.

Mike Gabler:

He was just doing the right thing. He put his life on the line for the right thing, it’s amazing.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah. There’s stories… Sadly, I had a lot of photographic evidence of things that no one’s ever heard of. And when we were captured, they found my camera and removed the film, and there’s no way to describe what it was. But anyway, that was my little bout. In fact, here’s a weird flashback, pun intended, or metaphor and pun intended, however you want to say that.

Mike Gabler:

Yeah, yeah.

Steven Sashen:

Got home and went to the movie theater and saw the first Batman movie. And there’s a scene in that movie where the muggers who killed Bruce Wayne’s parents, he points the gun at kid, Bruce Wayne, and the shot, they cut to the guy holding the gun. So the gun is facing you in the audience.

Mike Gabler:

Yeah, I follow you.

Steven Sashen:

I had to run out of the room.

Mike Gabler:

Yeah, and that’s PTSD right there, man. I mean, that’s really… I can only imagine how stressful that would be, and to your point, what if that happened to you for months on end?

Steven Sashen:

Well, and here’s the weirder part, just to dive into this for the fun of it. While everything was happening, from the moment we realized they were shooting at us, till the moment got on our bikes, and I had that endorphin wave. In fact, what helped me clear up any of the difficulty I was having dealing with this emotionally, was realizing the following thing. It was the most lucid and clear I have ever been in my entire life until I’m on my bike, and I had the thought, wow, we almost died. That’s when the endorphin rush kicked in. Up until then, I couldn’t have been calmer and clearer and more direct and more, I mean…

Mike Gabler:

Survival instinct.

Steven Sashen:

It was fascinating. And literally the only thought that I had, it was kind of a funny one, was… I actually had a lot of funny ones, may as well share those. When we’re running down this road that’s really, really wide and goes on forever, it’s Chanam. Suddenly we hear automatic weapon fire behind us, which by the way, sounds like popcorn. So, part of my brain says, ooh, it sounds like popcorn. And another part of my brain says, shut up and run, you idiot. And then I’m running. And my next thought, I’m hearing bullets going by us. And my next thought was, I’ve spent… I was 26. I spent 26 years denying my Jewish heritage. And here’s my potentially last thought guilt, because I think I got my friend involved in this. And then my next thought was, if I die, my parents are going to be so mad at me, which I thought was really funny.

And then while we were captured, they couldn’t open my fanny packs. They had two zippers, so you could open it up and split it, but they would just grab both and just move them back and forth. And I remember thinking, just like you did, I was thinking, this is funny, don’t laugh. And then I open the bag, they find my camera, they get very excited. And I’m thinking, I got a lot of stuff on here. I want to try and rewind the film. So I start to rewind the film, and then they hit me with a gun butt in the side. I had another post China moment where someone bumped into me in that same spot, and I kind of collapsed.

But as soon as they hit me on the side and grab the cameras, it’s like, oh, right, they make those here, they know how that works. So it was just lots of things.

Mike Gabler:

Yeah, they’re not messing around.

Steven Sashen:

But the thought that I had from the moment we hit the ground and waited to see what was going to happen, till the moment we got out was, in Buddhism, they say, your next rebirth is determined by your last thought. I hoped, I just want to know that I’m dying so I can get a good one. That was literally the only thought I had, it was weird. And that I had to keep my friend within visual distance. I didn’t want to get separated from him. But again, there’s so many pieces to that puzzle, I mean, this is every one of those is reshaping your brain.

Mike Gabler:

Yes, and there is a physical, the endorphin rush you talked about. It goes to the amygdala, and there’s other parts of your brain that literally light up. And right now, one of the groups we’re going to be donating to is, Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions. And what they’re doing is they’re experimenting with, psilocybin

Steven Sashen:

Psilocybin, yeah, yeah. I have a friend here in town who’s a former Air Force pilot, fighter pilot. His wife one day said to him, if I die before you, do you think you’ll cry at my funeral? And he goes, nah. And she’s like, wait, wait, slow down. She goes, what? He goes, I don’t think so. She goes, what are you talking about? About I’ve watched my best friends get blown up five feet away from me or fly into mountains. I mean, I’ve watched a lot of people die. That’s just not my thing anymore. And she’s like, I think you’ll cry. He goes, yeah believe whatever you want.

Mike Gabler:

Yeah.

Steven Sashen:

But he’s actively involved in that research. He started out doing meditation research for PTSD, and then once they’ve started being able to do psilocybin research and other compounds as well, MDMA, et cetera.

Mike Gabler:

Yes, yes.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah, he’s all in on that.

Mike Gabler:

Well, it’s helping people talk about the worst day of their lives. It’s helping them open up, because you can’t talk about things that are just too painful, some of them are, and to be able to use anything that will unlock the door and put you at peace to talk, because if you can’t talk about it, you can’t get through it.

Steven Sashen:

It’s more than that. I think it’s more than that. Because A, you can talk about it, you can bring it up and bring it out without the same emotional attachments to it, and it’s that phenomenon, it’s being able to bring it up where you’re not getting in that neurological loop.

Mike Gabler:

Yes.

Steven Sashen:

That’s what you’re literally, again, you’re reshaping your brain again.

Mike Gabler:

Exactly Steven. So, before I was talking about Lester and I was getting… We were both getting a little bit choked up with that story. I could be able to tell that story clearly without getting that emotional trigger that’s going with it at the same time. And for some of these men and women,

Steven Sashen:

Can’t do it.

Mike Gabler:

Coming back, it’s just so profound. And they just bury it down, or they’ll try to, I mean, self-destructive behaviors or other things.

Steven Sashen:

Well, and even that, look not turn that into something blamey, and I know you weren’t.

Mike Gabler:

No, no, yeah.

Steven Sashen:

So my best friend at the time was with me for this thing. And the differences in our experience were dramatic. He could barely remember it. So it was not a conscious thing to bury it just for whatever reason, his neurology, he couldn’t remember what happened. It was just gone for him in many ways, which was part of it made our relationship sort of dissolve for a little while till we reconnected about 20 years later. And because I just found it very difficult when I was having a hard time with it that I had no one to, I mean, the only other person…

Mike Gabler:

Oh, that would be difficult, right? And I’m sure that there’s veterans that are the same way where somebody remembers something happening and somebody else doesn’t and it’s very complex. The mind… People are very complex things. And to be able to get through that… And so Lester wrote that one book called My Hitch And Hell about his entire journey there, because I love Lester. I read his second book, because he wrote a second book I found out, I’m like, oh, there’s a second book. It’s called The Courage to Remember. And it was about his PTSD that he went through, because he was in a prison camp, a slave labor for five years.

Steven Sashen:

Jesus.

Mike Gabler:

And was tortured, everything else happened to Lester. Somehow the guy became an amazing… His attitude was amazing, he’s just a shining light. But he wrote this other book, and when I was reading it, I was like, oh, that sounds like me on some of this, or this is something like me. And I’m looking back and I realized that there were… I’ve been part of this cutting edge technologies for 20 years. And when we were doing endovascular aneurysm repair, there was a high morbidity and mortality rate. And when you have these new theory, new things coming out, part of it is, it’s good, but it’s like your first generation shoe versus you’re one now they’re better and you get better as you learn.

And there were some… And we used to do, also there were these, one of the stent grafts that we would do was for car crashes, because your seatbelt goes right across here where your aorta is. And a lot of times if you survive the car crash and you are all banged up, your aorta would be, not torn because then you would die. But it would be like… It would start to swell and it would pop.

And when it pops you’re done. It’s like a garden hose, it’s that big around. So we would go in, be called into these trauma cases, and we would put the endo graft, which is like a covered stent, a patch from the inside of the aorta, the big artery in your body. It’s as big as your thumb, by the way. And we would go in there and we’d put them in there. And there was this one 16-year-old girl that, I won’t go into the whole case, but it was traumatic. And it stuck with me for 17 years before I read Lester’s book.

And you know, come home from that, you work all night on that. It’s a horrible experience all around and we couldn’t even anesthetize her because she was so broken up. So there’s a lot of sound that comes with that, I’ll just leave it at that. I was up all night working on that, got home, and it’s my kid’s birthday party, and I’m not really there because I’m just drinking in the corner, it’s not a good… I mean it’s just… So there’s a lot of things. And in medicine right now, there’s a doctor named Dr. Bill Lombardi, who is leading this charge where, because they don’t really talk to doctors about coping with loss and things that are very important.

It’s like, how do we fix it so we don’t do it again? But it doesn’t really solve… It’s the science of it, not the art and the human part of it. So Bill Lombardi is working on that. Walter Reed is working on that. Where I’m working on it with my company now that we’re working on. And Larry Wood’s our president, he’s been a guy, he was there in the beginning. And Larry’s a guy that started in the mail room at our heart valve company.

And he’s been there for 20 something years. And Larry, being in the early days when we were only operating on inoperable patients, high, high, high risk, super high risk, because we were testing all this stuff out. And Larry and I were talking, and he’s even been through a lot of… There were things that came up, and our eyes were getting full and stuff because, trauma’s trauma, but our service people right now, there’s an epidemic in this country of suicide and self-harm. There’s some statistic I saw that was 22 vets a day take their own lives, and that is intolerable. That has got to stop. So, the million dollars is going to go help a lot of people.

Steven Sashen:

Oh, once again, thank you on behalf of people that I don’t know, which is a horrible, stupid thing to say. It’s like when people get offended on behalf of other people. So I’m being appreciative on behalf of other people, just the flip side of that coin. So this will be the most awkward transition I can think of to get back on to things that we were talking about before… But go ahead.

Mike Gabler:

You bet. But no, let’s talk about Survivor now too. So, going back to Survivor.

Steven Sashen:

Wait, hold on. Okay, wait, hold on. Let me tell you where I want to go, you tell me where you want to go. I want to hear more about the difference between the edited version of you and the real version of you at some point.

Mike Gabler:

I thought it was a good edit. I thought it was a very good edit. I think, you know me, if you watched the show, that’s me. I think they did an excellent job of showing me the only things that they did is maybe they would hide some of my strategy and some of the things because they wanted to keep… Because I’m on the couch, I’m like, what about that conversation I have with Jesse, or whoever. But that was part of the theater of the show and I get it, because they film 18 of us as it dwindles down, but 24 hours a day and the show is one hour a week. So, in 45 minutes if you take out the commercials. So you got to think that they have to leave a lot on the cutting room floor. But I thought they had an accurate portrayal of every single person out there.

Steven Sashen:

Interesting.

Mike Gabler:

I really did. That’s who they are. And I think Survivor has come a pretty long way. And it’s not, it’s not like a gotcha show. They show the organic experience of what happens out there and good, bad or otherwise, it’s truthful. It’s a real experience, it’s a real show, things are all real out there, and it was just, I’m so grateful for CBS and Survivor because it was such an amazing, amazing experience for me. And being an older player, I wanted the adventure, I wanted the experience, and I wanted to go deep into Gabler, me. And I did all that, and I came out the other side a better person. I’ve still got growth and learning to do, but I’m better than when I went in, and that’s all we can ask of any experience that we put our heart and soul into. And then to be able to do something positive with the winnings is even better. But if you go back to…

Steven Sashen:

Wait, hold on, hold on, hold on. You, you’ve ruined the show, you know that, right?

Mike Gabler:

How so?

Steven Sashen:

Because whoever wins season 44, if they don’t donate that money, they’re going to look like complete assholes.

Mike Gabler:

I’m the first person in the history of the show of 42 seasons. I’m the 43rd to donate their entire purse, and maybe it will continue it. And I don’t know, maybe if I was 25, I would’ve donated half of it. But I mean, I don’t begrudge anybody for anything, and I think that we’re all on our own journey. For my journey, this was the right turn for me, the right turn to do it. In fact a funny story, my wife and I, before I went on the show with a veteran buddy, a roommate of mine from college, we were joking around about like, oh, Steven, there’s no way you’re going to win this thing, but if you do win it, what are you going to do with the money?

And we were joking around like, oh, I’m going to buy a Zeppelin, we’re going to throw cookies out to people and whatever. And then we started laughing and then somehow we got on a more serious note, we go, what if you donated the money and you’ve got a military family, and we’ve got a lot of friends of mine. And I’m like, that’s an amazing idea. And we started talking about it. So I go on the show, I come back, see my wife, and I’m like…

Steven Sashen:

Guess what?

Mike Gabler:

I’m skinny, because lost… I was 200 pounds going in the show, I was 162 coming out. So I lost 38 pounds in a month basically. And she’s super skinny. She put her arms all the way around me and I’m like, I won. She’s like, no way. And I go, and I hope you’re also okay with what we talked about, because I did that too.

Steven Sashen:

And what was her response? I mean, obviously…

Mike Gabler:

She was, she laughed and she’s like, no way amazing. It’s so cool. So, it’s been really great and the amount of positivity and love that’s come back has been tenfold to what I’ve given. So I’m grateful for that, and Survivor was a real journey to get onto the show.

Steven Sashen:

So wait, I want to ask about that, but I want to pause. Have you set up any way for people who are inspired by what you’ve done to add on to what you’re doing?

Mike Gabler:

So I haven’t, in that I thought about creating a foundation, but there’s so many good foundations out there, that I am… I created a fund instead and the money’s parked in there, and I’m going to be donating two foundations. So what I’m going to do is I’m on Instagram and I’m on Twitter now, which is kind of new to me, but I’m on those things. I’m going to post once… I’m still figuring out the taxes right now because I’ve got to get W2. I’ve got a lawyer and an accountant figuring it out. But once I get it all figured out, I’m going to post the organizations we’re donating to, so people can donate to them, and I’m also going to be posting updates as we are doing things for veterans and people in need. We’re going to be posting that to where people will see that experience.

Steven Sashen:

I got another idea for you and pardon me, but I can’t help doing things like this. If there was a moment from Survivor something, you did, something you ate, something whatever, you could basically do something sort of ice bucket challengeish, when you get to that point of do that and then spread the word for whatever you’re donating to.

Mike Gabler:

Awesome idea.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah.

Mike Gabler:

It’s an awesome idea. I love that idea, actually. That’s a new idea. I didn’t think of that, that’s total yours. But I think that’s a really… It’s a fun idea, so I like it because it’s fun. I like it because people can also experience it and be a part of this.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah, exactly.

Mike Gabler:

And I think when you’re inclusive and you’re having fun, good things happen.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah. No. Well, and my pleasure. That was an interruption to what I was going to ask, was you were saying something about the audition process.

Mike Gabler:

So it’s quite a process. And then with COVID going on, because COVID was still in the thick of it during this, so I turned 50 a couple years ago. I was a huge fan of the show and one of my bucket list things was put an audition tape together and submit it to the Survivor by the time I’m 50. So I was turning 50, so my backs against the wall, I guess it’s this year. So, if you Google Gabler’s Survivor, you’ll see my audition video. It’s three minutes of power, it’s pretty fun. So I put this video together more for my friends and my family to have fun with it because it’s just like me being crazy. And it starts off with me… With my goats, I’ve got a couple goats out there, and the goats are right in the foreground, then I have Motörhead with Ace Of Spades playing, so it was all cool.

And then, sure enough, they called me. And I was going to be on 42, but what they canceled one of the seasons because of COVID. So then rather than put all the people that were going to 40, I guess would’ve been that group, instead of releasing them and putting them to the back of the line, Jeff put them to the front of the line, which is the right thing to do. And they said, Gabler, we’re going to call you back in a year if that’s cool with you. And I’m like, yeah call me back. I’ll be ready. So I just started training and then the next year they did call me back and then I finally got the nod February 20th that I was going to be taking off on April 1st.

But I had been training that whole time, which is where we are connected. So it’s a great backstory we’ve talked about. But that’s kind of where… So I bought a slack line for my backyard and tied it between two trees. And I started trying to slack line. And you need to be… I was at first doing, I’ve got a few props for me, but I’m trying to slack line in something like this, right?

Steven Sashen:

Oh yeah, no that’s not going to work.

Mike Gabler:

It’s not going to work.

Steven Sashen:

For people listening, I won’t mention the name of the shoe by brand, I’ll say it rhymes with Mocha and it’s a big, thick, heavily padded shoe.

Mike Gabler:

It’s a typical running shoe from the seventies that everybody’s kind of thought was, the more padding you had, the better. The problem is it completely changes your walk. It changes your balance and your core strength. So I experimented around, I was experimenting around with other shoes, because I’m like, I get to bring, they allowed you to bring two pairs of shoes to Survivor and one was like a water shoe and one was another shoe and it’s up to you whatever you wanted to pick. So I was like, I know how important your shoe choice, because I stand on my feet all day in the operating room.

So your shoe choice is very important, and then from being an athlete younger years all the way through, now. I know that your shoe choice is very important. So, I was looking at different shoes and different things, and I think it was my sister or my wife, but somebody sent me the Xero… Either that or maybe when I was looking for all these different shoes, Xero popped up on my feet or something. Somehow, it’s a little foggy about how I… I was checking out all these different shoes and I went through a dozen or more manufacturers to figure out the best shoe to bring. And I’m actually holding, this is the pair that I brought and there’s even some dirt on them. There’s still even some dirt from Fiji on these. This is the pair I brought with me.

Steven Sashen:

And so, again, wait, for people who aren’t watching. So that’s a pair of our Xcursion Fusion. So, all right, so

Mike Gabler:

Xcursion Fusion, I liked the tread on them and I liked some ankle support and they lace up, but I also liked their waterproofness. And then, you show on the thing, they just crumple up. There’s nothing to them. So I started practicing my slack lining in those shoes. And it was… Because I basically couldn’t use the big shoes.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah.

Mike Gabler:

I tried Vans, they don’t even have any support. It wasn’t the right way, I tried everything. Trust me, I tried… Because this is a really important competition I’m doing. And Xeros, when I put them on, I got on the slack line and it was better than bare feet. It was actually better than my bare feet. Because it gave me a little bit of protection, a little bit of grip, but I could still feel the wire. And I practiced the slack line hours a week and really built up my core, built up my balance.

I jogged in, I’ve got a little farm road and it’s like a half mile down and back, mile round trip. Then I would just jog that, I would take them on little hikes with me and build up the muscles in the bottom of my feet as well as… And what was interesting, so I was an athlete when I was younger, I had a lot of knee issues as well and hip issues, knee, hip, all the good stuff. And I had a couple knee surgeries for meniscus issues and stuff myself and skiing and whatnot. So then, I start wearing these and it’s a weird walk. It’s a different walk because we’re used to walking on these one inch pads under our heels and stuff. So you start walking a little differently. And my knee pain and stuff, which I was worried about, my knees going into the show, it disappeared.

Okay. I’m not saying it’s a cure-all, I’m just telling you it helped me. So that, and the fact that it helped me with my balance, it helped me with my core strength, it helped me get in touch with the ground in a more natural way. And one of the edits that was left out was there was a beam, a really thin beam that if you walked over it and you got to their side and you unlocked the log, it would split open, then everybody else could run across it. So, two of us were opted to go across the narrow one. And it was Mariah and myself, and we both got across, and my Xeros were, I believe we’re one of the reasons I had such good balance in there, because there’s a net, like a 10-foot fall and you fall into this net and then you basically, your team’s going to lose cause you got to go back and start over.

So it was really important, and I knew that was going to be coming sometime as Survivor. So my shoe choice was really important. The only mistake I made was for my second pair, I got a pair of those five toe shoes? The body glove shoes?

Steven Sashen:

Yes.

Mike Gabler:

So I got those and I wish I brought these.

Steven Sashen:

Aqua X Sport, I was thinking about that.

Mike Gabler:

I should have brought these, because see, the thing with these, they dry and the body gloves I had on my finger guys while they were fine, they never dried. And I was in the jungle and my feet started just rotting. I was getting jungle rot from wearing them. They were wet all the time. So I had to, once I realized that on episode two or three, you’ll see my feet are just rotting off, they look really bad. And I was wearing these body gloves, scuba shoes, if you will, every day. And because it was wet and then the competitions, I would wear my Xeros mostly. And it was a mistake. I should have had two pairs of Xeros if I ever go back again, that’s what I’m doing. So that’s what’s happening. That was my shoe journey, but it was so important because, and all the cast members were like, and we sit around and they were like, what are those?

Because they hadn’t seen them, right? Your logo is small and it’s black on black and they’re like, what are you wearing Gabler? And I’m like, dude, these are Xeros, man. Try them on. So people were trying them on and like, whoa, that’s a different feel, I’m like, yeah. So, for me, I became a big fan, obviously. And then you guys were nice enough when I got back to send me these bad boys.

Steven Sashen:

Alpine.

Mike Gabler:

Which is, yeah the Alpines, because I live up here in Idaho where it’s cold. And wearing those guys is just awesome, they’re great.

Steven Sashen:

Well A, I couldn’t be more grateful for all of your support with that, that’s totally awesome. I’m going to wrap this up and ask you this question. And I’ll reciprocate if you want. Give me one behind the scenes’ story that you’re not supposed to tell anybody.

Mike Gabler:

Well, okay. Well, let’s see, I don’t know about…

Steven Sashen:

Not even not supposed to, but, they don’t want you talking about behind the scenes stuff, but you know.

Mike Gabler:

Yes, okay, so I’ll give you a great one. So what happened was, there’s only so much time, but this season was really close, as I mentioned earlier, right? We’re a close bunch of people, yeah we were competing against each other, but there was genuine caring and goodwill towards one and all throughout. And if you watch the show, me and Ellie kind of broke… There was a trust break early, we had to go and we to came to a head at some point and there was a shootout. But earlier than that, and even in the middle of some of that, me and her were sitting there, and my daughter was a senior in high school last year and her prom was coming up and I was going to be gone for her prom.

I was on Baca Beach, and Ellie knew I was down that day and we were kind of adversaries, we weren’t, but we were. And she was like, hey Gabler, how are you doing today? I’m like, I’m having a tough day. This is my daughter’s prom, I’m missing it. I miss a lot of stuff because of my job, and I was just like, I’m missing another big, big moment. And Ellie was so cool, she goes, why don’t we do a Baca prom night? And we went down to the beach, me and Ellie, we went and got some snails off the rocks. Janine went and found some hermit crabs.

Owen and Sammy got a fire going, found a coconut. And we basically had no more than probably a mouthful or two of food. But we had this little prom feast. And then we danced under the stars on the beach and we did our little Baca prom night. And that’s some of the stuff that they don’t show because they want to show more of the drama on it, because there were other more dramatic things, but it was just a special bond of special people and we’re friends to this very day, everybody is very close.

Steven Sashen:

That’s awesome, oh, that’s great.

Mike Gabler:

Tell me one of yours, tell me one from Shark Tank.

Steven Sashen:

Well, my favorite… Well, there’s a handful of them because you’re right, it got edited way down just like yours did. In fact, when people watch, and if people haven’t seen it, you can go to xeroshoes.com/sharktank. But, my favorite was a disagreement that I have with my wife about whether she did or did not say something. So Kevin made us this $400,000 offer, he wanted half the company. We were offering 400 grand for… Or we were offering 8% of the company for 400 grand. And I eventually said, how about 10? And he said, ah, you’re crazy. I said, perhaps, but I don’t think so, but anyway, it was such a non-starter that we forgot he made the offer. And at one point Robert reminds us, in fact, it actually happened this way. Robert says to me, what do you think about those five toe shoes?

And I said, oh, there just creating a wave of awareness and we’re surfing on that wave. And he jumps out of his chair, yells, you have a perfect answer for every question, he’s mad. And I looked at him, I said, it’s our business. So then he says, well look, there’s an offer on the table. And we’re like, what? Oh right Kevin. So Lena says, and she does remember this, she says, so are you bringing anything to the table other than money? And he says, well, I’m a smart businessman, I’ve got a good Rolodex, and I remember her saying, “So nothing?”

Mike Gabler:

Oh man, zing. Mr. Wonderful you know. He deserves a zing now and again. It’s pretty good.

Steven Sashen:

Well in fact, so what happens on Shark Tank is all the Sharks, they’re trying to make good television for themselves. They’re trying to…

Mike Gabler:

For sure.

Steven Sashen:

It’s called Shark Tank, not Steven and Lena Tank. And so, they each have a line that they kept repeating over and over and over, because that’s the thing they thought would get them on TV. Kevin’s was, “I get it, I get it. It’s a bunch of Indians running around the desert naked on peyote.” Well, they cut out the on peyote part. But here’s the fun part, we get out of the tank, we walked back out after we turn down everybody’s deal and they stop us and say to Lena, “So what’d you think about Kevin’s offer?” And she says, if he thought we were going to give up half of our company, he was the one on peyote.”

Mike Gabler:

Oh, that’s a great line.

Steven Sashen:

I love this woman so dearly. And so that was really fun. And here’s the most interesting behind the scene’s thing, and I don’t know if you guys had anything like this. You get out of the tank and they make you meet with a psychologist.

Mike Gabler:

Yes, we did. We just wrapped up about two weeks ago.

Steven Sashen:

Now, our psychologist, I half joked, could have been replaced by a three by five card. And the three by five card, you just put it on your refrigerator and you read it every day, which is in six months, no one will remember what happened. For the next six months, you’ll be continually replaying this in your head, thinking about what you could have done differently, and I promise you that even if you had done all those things perfectly, it still might not have changed the outcome. If you just remember those three things, you’ll get over it pretty quickly or won’t bother you while you’re getting over it, and then you recover, and that’s been the case. What’d they do for you?

Mike Gabler:

So they had a psychologist, Dr. V, she was awesome. We met her before the game started. So to go on an island with 18 people with sharp objects and everything else, they want to make.

Steven Sashen:

In our version, I had this idea where I was going to make a comment about how strong I was and I was going to… Because I was dead lifting 450 pounds at the time and I’m five, five. And I knew Cuban was going to have a thing about that. And I said, I’m going to go put them on my shoulders and squat with them, and they went, “Don’t touch the celebrities.” So, that’s our version of sharp objects.

Mike Gabler:

Well, they want crazy people, but not crazy people. So, we had to do all these psychological exams. We had to meet with a couple of psychologists and psychiatrists. There’s a lot that goes on to getting on the show. But then there was this one lady, Dr. V. Dr. Veronica, she was our person and she was on site in case anybody needed to talk because the game is 24 hours a day, it’s nonstop. It’s really crazy, you’re hungry, you’re tired, you’ve got bug bites on your bug bites. I mean there’s all this stuff going on, plus you’re trying to get through to the very end by yourself. And there’s a lot with it. And then the show is crazy, and then because it’s a season instead of an episode, they had her available where she would check in with us once a month.

Steven Sashen:

Oh wow.

Mike Gabler:

And her last check-in was last month. And she was great. I’m older, I’ve been through a lot of stuff in my life and I’m just… Some of the people needed a little bit more, the younger folks… Because I can’t imagine doing that. The youngest guy on the show was 19 years old, Sammy.

Steven Sashen:

Oh that’s funny.

Mike Gabler:

And what a stud. He just was like, I couldn’t believe he was 19 because he was so above his age. And he’s a big guy too, but he was just mentally, I would’ve put him at 25. And it’s really funny because he falsely represented himself as being 22 and only a 19-year-old would fake their age at 22.

Steven Sashen:

To 22.

Mike Gabler:

Because to me and you, it’s like 22, 19, it’s the same. And here he’s like, I’m 22, it’s much older. I’m like, dude, you’re whatever. So, that was kind of funny. But he’s a great, great kid. In fact, me and him, he’d just turned 20, I’m 52 now. I was the oldest, he was the youngest. We were on Baca together from day one, an absolute champion, love him. And me and him may even do something together on reality TV in the future because he is just… It would be good TV because we’re different, but we’re quirky and fun.

And he is really competitive, so am I, and it’s fun. So again, many great friends, many great experiences, and I came out of there with several records. All-time Survivor Records and I was wearing my Xero shoes for one of several of those. I was wearing my Xeros when I won the very first individual Immunity challenge and shattered the record by about 30 minutes on the Grip Challenge. That was episode seven, I believe. And then I held the all-time record for fastest fire ever made on Survivor. I beat it by a minute. And I was wearing my Xeros and my… it was just all my…

Steven Sashen:

I’m not sure not they had an impact on that one, but okay.

Mike Gabler:

All I can tell you is they were my lucky shoes, man.

Steven Sashen:

There we go.

Mike Gabler:

I was just like, these shoes are here…

Steven Sashen:

There we go.

Mike Gabler:

I don’t even wear these anymore. These guys are in… They still have dirt from Fiji on them. And they’re still in great shape.

Steven Sashen:

Frame them. Frame them. Stick them in a box, frame them.

Mike Gabler:

I’m going to do something with… They’re in a box in the closet right now, but I’m going to do something with them. But I had to undo them just to show you Steven because…

Steven Sashen:

I love it.

Mike Gabler:

They were my… Just having them on because that was later in the season. I was just like, okay, I can do, I’ve won so many competitions with these on, I’m wearing them. And plus I, the other ones kept my feet too wet.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah, when I was a gymnast, I had a t-shirt. It’s like I had to wear that t-shirt day of the meet, no question about it.

Mike Gabler:

Right, there’s something about it.

Steven Sashen:

Well, and here’s the joke for me, I knew that it was just superstitious. I knew that it had no impact, but I enjoyed… And the night before meet, I’d always have spaghetti. And I just enjoyed, I mean it was very transparent, but I loved the ritual of it. And I think there’s a there, there for that. It’s not doing anything per se, but there is something for the ritual.

Mike Gabler:

Exactly. Like the balance beam, obviously the shoes were key on that. The struggles through the mud, the sand, lifting all the stuff, all that stuff was great. But having them on, even during the fire making challenge, I wore my challenge outfit. I had this camo shirt I was wearing, I had these short shorts, it looked like Officer Dangle from Reno 911. I had my Xero shoes on, and I just was like, I put on everything that I wear, because that was my ritual. Because I was thinking, maybe I’ll have my shirt off, I’ll do whatever, I’m like, don’t be hotdogging and don’t be gran… Just stay focused wear everything that you need when you go into battle, you’re going to battle here, and I don’t know, they were definitely, your ritual starts with your feet and it goes all the way up.

Steven Sashen:

I love it. Well Mike, actually, I’m going to close it with this thing. When we were chatting, you had sent us some pictures from the show and I said, hey, can we use these? And you said, not till the show finishes. It was at that moment. There’s a weird thing, having been on reality television, you watch reality television and you can tell how reality is being changed. You can just feel it. I hosted a television show way back when it was called Disc Doctors. It was Car Talk, but for computers, it was on television. And so we’d take phone calls and we’d answer people’s computer questions.

And I remember listening to Car Talk and thinking, God, how do these guys know so much? And the way we did our show is they’d call and if we didn’t know the answer, we’d research it and then we’d call them back and we’d do the whole thing. So after doing that show, I heard Car Talk and I could tell by the tone in their voice, they were doing the same thing. They didn’t know all this stuff in advance. They were actually just probably reading off a paper from someone who did the research and gave it to them. So there’s a similar thing with reality TV where I can just tell what’s going on. So when you sent me that email back saying we have to talk after the show’s done, I was like, oh, he won.

Mike Gabler:

You kind of know… Yeah, some of my friends would be like, Gabler I think you may have won, I think you may have won. I’m like, dude, me? Am I seriously going to win? Come on man, come on. And they’re like… And I usually say something like your other friend. I would go, hey, even if I get deep in the game, because at this point, it’s like mid-season, and I’m like, so they knew I was going to get somewhere into the… I’m like, hey, just getting as far as I’ve gotten, I’m pretty proud of that.

We’ll see, so they were almost like so self-deprecating that they were like, maybe he didn’t win, I don’t know. I kind of leave it out there. Because I wanted to keep him on the edge of their seats, just like your friend did, which was the way to go. And it just was really, what an experience. And that was Jeff again, because Jeff was like, don’t tell it, keep it… Don’t even hint, don’t even do anything, and just keep it as vague and I would say things that would throw people off my scent as best I could because it was for the betterment of the show.

Steven Sashen:

I just thought of this, one of the greatest outcomes of the show wasn’t even for me or Lena or our business. My parents, and this is going to sound mean when I say it and it’s not my intention, they were very social status conscious. And so they… And now I don’t have a thing about making my parents proud or whatever. I mean, I’m in my own little private world.

Mike Gabler:

We all want to do that, but yes, it’s like… you know?

Steven Sashen:

It’s just not my thing. I mean, my dad and I were kind of competitive and whatever, it was not a thing, but very socially conscious. And so they invited all of their friends over to watch the show. And I don’t even remember if we told them what happened, frankly. But they watched the show and all of their friends were really impressed with how we did on the show. So that gave them a big social status boost. And I’m so grateful for that because I would’ve never even thought to do something that could’ve helped them in that way because I don’t have that…

Mike Gabler:

You were just trying to win, you weren’t trying for your business.

Steven Sashen:

Simply, I don’t have that gene in me to care. But the fact that A, and my father also didn’t understand a lot of what I did in my life, but when we started the business, that was something that we could relate with or through. And so that whole thing of just being on the show, how we did, how that impacted our relationship and how that helped them in a way that was important for them. I was very, very grateful. And what it’s done for the businesses of course, is a whole other thing. I can easily say Shark Tank made us, and by us, I mean the company rich. If it weren’t for the show, we would’ve never even thought to try to build what we’ve created in the 10 years since. And so you know…

Mike Gabler:

It’s an amazing run. And it’s great to have platforms like that. And that’s why I think shows like Shark Tank or Diners Dives and Drive-ins and that kind of stuff, they really help people and get exposure to other people that want those things. And these new ideas come out and it’s an amazing, there’s and amazing technology platform now that they share and use, like Shark Tank is entertaining, it’s interesting, and it’s a launching pad for many really smart entrepreneurs.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah, it’s been a great gift. And we are hoping for a follow-up as well, even though we didn’t make a deal because we know what it would be worth to us now and worth to the number of people who could see it, 7 million people watching what we now have would be a really big deal. And our whole mission is just getting shoes on people’s feet so they can see how it changes their life.

Mike Gabler:

It’s a different feel. I mean when you put them on, it doesn’t feel, it feels better than bare feet, if that makes sense. But it also feels like that, and I mean you have to try them for a week to believe them.

Steven Sashen:

It’s the good news, bad news. The good news is the experience sells it. The bad news is the experience sells us. We have to find ways of giving people the experience when we’re not just ubiquitous, you can’t go into any store and find us. We’re getting there, getting there, but blah blah blah.

Mike Gabler:

If you guys go back to Shark Tank, you tell me, I’ll come running across the screen or something. I’ll do something.

Steven Sashen:

You know what? Oh my God, that is such a brilliant idea. I’m going to reach out to them as soon as… So now we’re in 2023. As soon as we have our 2022 financials published, because we have to wait till they’re published. I’m reaching out to the producer and I always do this every year. And I go, by the way, here’s how we’re doing, and it’s all because of you. But I’m definitely going to drop your name and say here’s who our guest would be, which would be a riot because of the overlap with the production of the show, that’ll be at Hoot.

Mike Gabler:

Hey man, I’m there. You let me know, we’ll get it done. I have my whole battle outfit in a box hasn’t been touched since then.

Steven Sashen:

That’ll be good.

Mike Gabler:

Officer Dangle, short shorts. So be ready because you’re going to see them. I have chicken legs and they’ll be shown, but I’ll be hoping they’ll be focusing on my cool shoes instead of my nobby knees.

Steven Sashen:

Well, as long as I get both your knees and your shoes, that’s all I care about. So, all right, well Mike, if anybody wants to follow what you’re up to so they can be more helpful to veterans or anything else, how can they stay in touch with you?

Mike Gabler:

I’m on Instagram and I’m on Twitter.

Steven Sashen:

What’s Your Instagram, what’s your Twitter?

Mike Gabler:

I think it’s GablerMike or hold on. I don’t know, man. I’m new to all this stuff. I should probably…

Steven Sashen:

I love that you have no idea.

Mike Gabler:

Yeah, I don’t know. I’ll have to email you back.

Steven Sashen:

Wait, hold on, wait, wait. No, no. I’m going to look, hold on instagram.com. I’m going to see if its Gabler…

Mike Gabler:

@Gabler1Mike. My Twitter is @Gabler1Mike and yeah there it is. So I don’t know if you can see that one.

Steven Sashen:

Instagram I’m just searching, I’m on another window here searching to see if I can find you. Okay. You’re not Gabler1Mike on Instagram, so I’m just going to…

Mike Gabler:

I think I’m GablerMike on Instagram. Let’s see here.

Steven Sashen:

You are. You’re GablerMike, G-A-B-L-E-R Mike on Instagram, and Gabler1Mike on Twitter.

Mike Gabler:

That’s me.

Thank you very much. Yeah, I’m on there. And those are the two best ways to keep up with me. And I am going to be posting the charities that we’re going to be donating to. And one of the things I want to know is, I don’t just want to write the checks and say good luck with it. I want to know, I’d like to know, and I also want to be involved.

Steven Sashen:

Absolutely.

Mike Gabler:

Let me be involved with these things and if I can help veterans by my presence or whatever I can do, you let me know. And so I’m going to be posting that on Instagram and Twitter as well. So I’ll be on there.

Steven Sashen:

Awesome. Awesome. Mike Gabler, it’s been a total, total pleasure. I hope everyone else enjoyed this as much. And just a quick reminder, go over to www.jointhemovementmovement.com for previous episodes, all the ways you can find us on social media. If you have any questions, comments, recommendations, you want to tell me, I got a case of cranial rectal reorientation syndrome. You can drop me an email at move M-O-V-E @ jointhemovementmovement.com. And most importantly, just go out, have fun and live life feet first.

 

 

 

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