Michael Maddaus


Michael Maddaus has navigated life’s ups and downs with grit and resilience like few people you’ll ever meet. While trapped in the horrors of a poor and abusive alcoholic upbringing, Michael evolved into an outstanding juvenile delinquent which led to 24 arrests and 5 reform school sentences.

To avoid prison he dropped out of high school and joined the U.S. Navy. After the Navy he obtained his GED, and after one year in a junior college was admitted to the University of Minnesota, and ultimately was accepted into their medical school. Following 7 years of clinical surgical residency and 3 years of research he joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota medical school and over a 20-year career, in addition to developing a robust clinical practice in complex and advanced minimally invasive surgery of the lungs and esophagus, became a full professor and vice chair of the Department of Surgery where he held the Garamella-Lynch endowed chair, and became the program director of Department of Surgery's general surgical training program.

Despite all the successes, the original personal growth, excitement, and rewards of his career faded, replaced with a slow but steady disillusionment and burnout. Then, major back and hip surgery, coupled with easy access to prescription narcotics, created the perfect storm for addiction, and over 18 months a slow downward spiral into the hell of addiction took over his life.

His inability to free himself from the grip of addiction was stunning, given Michael's demonstrated ability to overcome so many other challenges. It was a devastating personal fall.

He entered into the Hazelden treatment center for three months and after discharge he retired from surgery to focus on his health and family, convinced his "personal operating system" - borne of his early years and surgical training and culture - had somehow propelled him into the path of addiction. Although the 12 step program provided the critical support and structure for his early recovery, he was thirsty for new skills and habits that could help him develop a new personal operating system. Then one day his daughter sent him a video of the results of a study on gratitude in a group of Boston College students. The science of gratitude was, to paraphrase the artist Leonard Cohen, "the crack that let the light in" to Michael's world.

That video sparked the flame of interest that led to Michael attending mindfulness and self-compassion retreats, teacher training in self-compassion, and to begin working individually with other surgeons who were struggling with the same personal issues of burnout and isolation so prevalent in medicine. Ultimately, he formed a group with these surgeons that meets twice monthly for two hours where, in an atmosphere of confidentiality, they can really connect, talk openly about their personal and professional struggles, and gain guidance from Michael about his knowledge of resilience building habits.

Over time Michael has incorporated 8 critical habits into his new "personal operating system" and has found them, as have the other members of his surgeon's group, to be life changing. His personal experience and observations convinced him of the profound value of these 8 habits and led him to undertake an in depth scientific review of the 8 habits and to write a review of them entitled The Resilience Bank Account™: Skills for Optimal Performance, which has been accepted and will soon be published in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery.