When MyPillow inventor, spokesman and CEO Mike Lindell first moved to Chaska as a child, he felt like he didn’t fit in. He recalls riding the school bus one day, traveling down Highway 41. Boys threatened to beat him up.
“I said, ‘Hey you guys, I betcha I can climb out this bus window.’ I jumped out of the window to show off to the kids,” Lindell said.
Fast-forward half a century, and that very story made its way into something bigger: a book.
Every day for a year, Mike Lindell pressed “record” and started talking. Stories, memories, whatever came to mind. After another six years of writing, he had them all bound together.
“The inspiration was to help people, to give people hope,” Lindell said.
The book, titled “What Are The Odds? From Crack Addiction To CEO,” was released in December 2019 and it came after battling decades of drug addiction, alcoholism and gambling. Carver County provides the backdrop for much of Lindell’s life.
Lindell now has 10 years of sobriety — and a business selling millions of MyPillow products to boot.
The Chaska resident tells his story in the book, from childhood in the 1960s; to drug addiction and back; to building his company. He found alcohol while a student at Chaska High School and started using cocaine at one of two bars he owned, Schmitty’s, he relates in his book.
The gambling started around age 15 with card games and sports teams while working at the Flying Cloud drive-in theater and Cooper’s grocery store. He’d soon start owing people thousands of dollars from gambling. First $12,000, then $25,000, drinking to “numb panic.”
After stealing checks from a gas station cash register and running from police, another bar owner told Lindell he’d never be able to live it down and he should leave town.
“I never thought he would be where he is today, to be honest with you,” said Joe Schmieg, who is now vice president of sales at MyPillow.
The two went to Chaska High School together.
“I’m still kind of numb over the deal where MyPillow is today and how big and successful of a company it is,’ Schmieg added. “I still can’t believe it.”
Today, Lindell continues to live in Chaska.
DRUGS & HOPE
In his book, he describes going to rehab in an effort to stay out of jail, starting a two-decade long process of other programs for his crack addiction.
“I’ve had so many one-in-a-million, one-in-a-billion things happen,” Lindell said.
It isn’t until the last few sections of the book where Lindell talks about his turnaround.
“It’s a true story. A real person in the real world,” he said. “Any entrepreneur out there can never give up, at every walk of life.”
Friends have seen Lindell at every walk of his life, from a struggling teenager to an addict, to a parent, husband and CEO.
“His life has been quite a roller coaster,” said friend and MyPillow employee Brad Carlson, whose brother married into the Lindell family.
Carlson said he knew Lindell when he was using, drinking and gambling. They worked together, traveling to casinos to do business.
“He would come with me and help me with the events and stuff, and he’d gamble. He was definitely gambling,” Carlson said.
But in 2009, after 25 years of using, that all stopped.
“I chose a Thursday as my last day as an addict. It was Jan. 15, 2009 … I told (a friend), ‘I’m quitting today,’” Lindell stated in his book.
“Pretty much (he) just said, ‘Oh I’m done,’ and that ended that. Once he decides to do something he does it,” Carlson said.
Now Lindell wants to help others recover, too. It’s something he always had a hunch he’d be able to do, even while addicted.
“I would quit someday and I would come back and help them all,” he’d tell his friends.
In a few months, he plans to launch Lindell Recovery Network. Lindell said the network includes thousands of partners, from churches to faith-based treatment centers, aimed at helping people overcome addiction.
“This is going to be the best online help in the history of addiction coming out,” Lindell said of the two-year project.
He plans to employ thousands of ex-addicts that have “had their heart restored” and help “millions of people.”
It’s a move that doesn’t surprise those close to him.
“He has such a good heart. He’s always doing things for other people,” said Rob Way, who says Lindell is like a father. “When people have issues he will get involved.”
He’s continuing work on “Level Headed,” a religious podcast that deals with a myriad of daily life issues.
“It’s hard to keep up with him,” Way said. “He works so much. I’ve never been at a company where the CEO is arguably the hardest-working person in the company.”
Lindell is planning to play himself in a movie based on his life. He expects it to be complete in the next two to three years.”It’s going to be a very high-budget blockbuster,” he said. “It’ll be the most talked-about movie in history.”
As far as politics, he has his sights set on a busy few months.
Lindell has been a long-time supporter of President Donald Trump. Trump has given the MyPillow CEO shout-outs at rallies and they’ve met a number of times.
Lindell said Trump has asked him to run his Minnesota campaign. Along with summer fairground visits in support of Trump, he plans to tour the state in other ways.
“I’m going to be doing revival rallies, talk about addiction, talk about politics. I’m going to talk about all these things where I’m going to speak in each town in the spring,” Lindell said, noting he’s planning to visit about 20 cities.
He’s also considering running for Minnesota governor in 2022, though he hasn’t committed.
“I’m thinking about that very strongly. I’m going to see how all this other stuff goes … but that’s quite a ways away. I’ve got a lot of praying to do, but I’ve got kind of a feeling,” he said.
When asked about his political platform, Lindell said he’d focus on “fixing” the inner city, black unemployment, school systems, lowering taxes, addiction and “common sense things.”
“There’s still a lot to be done and I’m just blessed that I’m able to be a part of it all,” Lindell said.