Every Monday Matters Founder Matt Emerzian
Transforming the way you see the week so that… Every Monday Matters
Written by Nikki Jimenez
To many, weekends are the best days of the week, held far superior to any others, particularly in contrast to Mondays. But to others, like Matt Emerzian, Mondays are the best days – because Mondays are days of intentional service. It wasn’t always like that for Emerzian however, working in the entertainment music industry where the nights ran long and the alcohol, smoking, and partying overflowed. Surprisingly, Mondays were marked by anxiety and suicidal thoughts until it was introduced to him that he matters, that every Monday matters. The result is a non-profit organization that fuels a movement created to include everyone.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine in San Diego, California
Risen Magazine: Before Every Monday Matters was even a thought, you were in a very different place, where did your journey start?
Matt Emerzian: After getting my MBA from UCLA, I was hanging out with a friend who was in a band signed to Sony Records. We were sitting around on a Monday night, watching Monday Night Football, drinking beer, eating pizza, and smoking weed. In this really altered moment he said, “You know Matt, you just got your MBA from a top 10 business school so you must know how to manage people, right?” And I said, “Yeah, that’s exactly what they taught us.” We pulled out a pizza napkin and made an official contract on a napkin, marking the first night of a 10-year career in the music business. So after managing artists in Los Angeles, I was eventually hired by Robert Kardashian who owned a major music marketing company where [his daughters] Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney all ran the front office. I was still working with local bands but that [opened doors] to working on projects with U2, Coldplay, Tim McGraw, Avril Lavigne, Usher, and the Black Eyed Peas.
Risen Magazine: Sounds like quite the life! What changed?
Matt Emerzian: I’m working my butt off during the day and there’s a lot of going out at night, wining and dining. With that lifestyle comes partying, drinking, and for me, smoking marijuana—no other drugs—but also objectifying women. When you’re in it, it’s fantastic. But then, I woke up on a Monday morning one day to get ready for work and I thought I was having a heart attack. I went to the doctor and they did tests and said, “Listen, you’re not having a heart attack. You’re just having a really strong panic attack. Go home and rest and you’ll feel better.” I went home but it didn’t get better, it got worse. It turned into chronic anxiety disorder, 24/7. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t drive a car. I couldn’t look out the window when it got dark because I thought that the sky was falling.
Risen Magazine: What a wild transition and mix of emotions. How did you deal with the chronic anxiety?
Matt Emerzian: My parents ended up moving in with me. I was 32 years old at the time, but I needed help to get through my day. My mom’s best friend referred a therapist to me in Huntington Beach. One of the first times I was with her she gave me a book called The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. She said, “I want you to read the first sentence of the book,” which says, “It’s not about you.” She said, “This is going to be the motto for your recovery and until you understand that it’s not about you, you’re never going to feel better.” I didn’t understand that concept at all because I worked in a very narcissistic business, so what could I do? The therapist said, “This Saturday, I want you to go out and feed the homeless.” The next Saturday she told me to pick up litter on the streets and the next Saturday to read to elderly people. Over time, all these things started changing my heart and I remember realizing one day that this was my favorite part of the week.
Risen Magazine: Through this process of serving in some capability, you’re learning that it’s not about you. Did it all make sense then?
Matt Emerzian: The therapist suggested I learn why it’s not about me and challenged me to go to church. I was freaked out. This bass player was playing though and he was amazing. You could look at him and think, “This guy is cool.” He had his eyes closed and he played unbelievably. He didn’t think about what a single soul thought about him. He was led by the [Holy] Spirit. In that moment I knew I wanted that. I honestly didn’t even know what that meant at the time, but as I served on local missions, I came to understand a relationship I had with Christ. I truly understand that we are at our best when we are serving others.
The power of us individually matters. We can choose to ignore it or choose to be empowered and make a difference.
Risen Magazine: You quit the music industry and devoted your full attention to creating and writing a book about, Every Monday Matters. The book was published almost five years ago and in it you offer at least 52 ways to make a difference. What kind of feedback have you received?
Matt Emerzian: About a month after the book came out, I received an e-mail from a 24-year-old single mother driving in Palm Springs. She saw a car pulled over on the side of the road with a woman hanging out of the window. She decided to pull over to see if the woman was having car trouble. It turns out the woman was there to commit suicide. The woman who wrote me the e-mail told me that if it wasn’t for the book, Every Monday Matters, she would never have pulled over. I knew that there was something here. It was my God-moment to make Every Monday Matters my new mission.
Risen Magazine: Who is Every Monday Matters for?
Matt Emerzian: We wrote the book with the idea that it’s for everyone. You matter. You have a purpose and you can have a positive impact on the world. We got a call from a program that deals with convicted felons and we started using the book with men and women who were literally in handcuffs and chains. We shared this idea with them that they still matter. A man stood up and said, “No one ever told me that I mattered in life. That’s why I am where I am today.” And he started crying.
Risen Magazine: Because of the book, you’ve participated in various letter-writing campaigns, started curriculum in schools, and done various team-building events. What’s behind your slogan, You Matter?
Matt Emerzian: Some people think it’s a Monday makeover book. Look, here’s this day everyone hates, and all of a sudden – wow! Now we can love Mondays because we can do cool things! But there’s also this idea behind our slogan – You Matter. I think that so many people just don’t feel that way about themselves. For example, one of our Mondays is, to not flick your cigarette butt. We researched and found that annual cigarette butt litter, end on end, measures more than 2 million miles. That’s 337 round trips from Los Angeles to New York! In the beginning for me, it was about changing that number. But what I realized is that it’s not about changing the number, but the end results. If people understand that they matter and the things they do in this world make an impact, then they won’t flick cigarette butts anymore. You change it by going after the person, not the number. The power of us individually matters. We can choose to ignore it or choose to be empowered and make a difference.
Risen Magazine: What else have you learned through this idea that you matter, yet it’s not about you? Do you still have anxiety attacks?
Matt Emerzian: I really learned to appreciate God’s sense of humor, because sometimes I think that’s the only way I can handle some of the things that I’ve faced. “God, I get your joke and we’re going to keep moving forward.” [Laughs]. Do I still get anxiety? I do, sometimes. We get a lot of communication from students and adults who are struggling with things like depression, anxiety, not feeling like they matter, and suicide. I have so much compassion when I hear what they’re going through because I know exactly what they feel like. I’ve learned that anxiety is my kind of “Spidey-sense” in a way where God is speaking to me. It prompts me to stop and say, “Okay what are you not seeing right now, Matt? What’s not in truth?” Anxiety cannot live in truth so I think that the anxiety is a way to let us know where we’re not being truthful about something.
Risen Magazine: It’s wonderful that you’ve been completely transformed. What’s next?
Matt Emerzian: Looking back, my panic attacks were wild. At the time, I wanted to kill myself. I had no more joy in life. And now I look back and see that I wasn’t seeing it all. God definitely used that time to get my attention. [End of this year] we’re going into 1,200 high schools in Texas to spread this message that you matter and can make a difference. That’s seeing 3.8 million students! I’m looking forward to reaching more and more people through the non-profit. We’re excited to take on this social movement for all people, no matter who you are, how old, your race, or your gender. We want to make sure that people know; You Matter.
Exclusive interview originally published in Risen Magazine, Winter 2012