The real Mike Lindell is much more than pillows and politics. Set aside what you’ve heard lately, and take a peek into the unseen world of MyPillow’s CEO. Mike Lindell loves God and his country, and desperately wants hurting people to find Jesus. He isn’t picky about his coffee (as long as it’s black), or his food runs (“get me a burger or whatever”), drives a Dodge pick-up, sings out loud to the Bee-Gees, and poses happily with his family on their annual hunting pilgrimages to the Dakotas. This is what many love most about him: his relatability. Given the current narrative however, you may be asking yourself if you can still connect.
Not long ago, I simply knew Mike Lindell just like everyone else. I hadn’t a clue about his beliefs, personal life, or preferences. The MyPillow guy was just a ubiquitous presence blaring from my television set, a grinning cardboard cut-out stationed at the mall. Unlike much of the world, I didn’t even own a MyPillow until just a few years ago.
For me, his ever-present cross necklace was a bigger beacon than his bedding, forever dangling outside his trademark dress shirt. I wondered if it was ‘legit.’ It is. I’d later learn the QVC story that confirms it.
That symbol of Christianity, worn so unashamedly, was what prompted me to start researching the most famous Minnesota pillow purveyor. Why did he trumpet his faith so loudly and so proudly? I needed to know. Soon, I was blindsided by his story of radical freedom from crack cocaine and other addictions. After years of struggle, he said a simple prayer and woke up set free. I could relate.
I discovered we had comparable calls. The pillow wasn’t his only claim to fame – he carried a much greater mission: to lead people out of addiction. We also shared similar stories of deliverance; I’d been rescued by God from fifteen years of alcohol abuse in 2003 after an extended blackout at the Minnesota State Fair. Though we had Minnesota residency and radical freedom in common, meeting him in person seemed an unlikely dream.
My career was born out of a rabid zeal to help people, but I’d traveled an arduous road in a line of work with a high burnout rate. After counseling people with addictions for over a decade, by early 2017 I was beaten down but still believing. I alternated between exhilaration and despair; desperately needing to see the world of addiction recovery through fresh eyes and a novel approach. I was tired of downplaying what God had done, of diminishing my deliverance, of marginalizing the fact that I truly was freed by just a simple prayer – never to return to that old lifestyle again. Mike Lindell had experienced this, too.
Mike Lindell’s story of recovery from crack cocaine addiction was the catalyst that birthed a dream I couldn’t escape. I wanted to work for him. “Oh Melissa, you’re so benevolent,” a former client had laughed after growing weary of my unbridled enthusiasm for helping the addicted – which later turned to constant litanies about the world of MyPillow (“He hires felons! And addicts! He is a second-chance employer!”). I’d learned these facts through my internet travels, as I tried to keep my hope of working for Mike Lindell alive. I’d soon learn the big break would not happen on my timeline. His pillow empire continued to elude to me – its network of nearly 2000 employees an eclectic bunch of immediate family, long-lost friends, and former addicts he’d known since high school. I had no “in.”
Once I gave up trying to make something happen, the pieces started falling together. One year later, I found myself in Mike Lindell’s board room – most definitely one of those divine appointments he discussed in the press. It mirrored his experience of being in a similar situation with Donald Trump before he became president. Surreal.
Mike swept in fashionably late with cell phone in hand, his notorious laugh filling the room. Completely disarmed, my nerves melted away. He really was just a guy from Minnesota, and quickly launched into an animated description of his soon-to-be-birthed platform for addiction recovery. I sat with rapt attention, wondering where it was all going.
“Well, I want to hire ya,” Mike concluded, as I sat there speechless.
“You do? Don’t you want to ask me anything? Have an interview?”
“I knew I wanted to hire ya,” he chuckled, “Your name has come up three times in the past week! Do you know the odds of you sitting here right now? This is a divine appointment!” Indeed.
Before leaving, I awkwardly shared my most impactful take-away from our meeting: “The way you are just so…yourself, makes others feel they can be themselves, too.”
“People say that a lot,” he affirmed.
The initial roll-out of the Lindell Recovery Network went off without a hitch: vetting treatment centers, visiting Adult and Teen Challenges and Salvation Armies, partnering, collaborating, gathering a video presence, building a platform and a database. Mike had many other priorities, but his heart always returned to helping people out of addiction.
I remember a work trip to Dallas, an adventure filled with many meetings and a new group of heavy-hitters (Mike knows literally everyone!) I hadn’t met. As the night grew long this introvert was spent, but a large gathering waited in the hotel restaurant. Mike and I shared the elevator on our way to get ready for dinner and I admitted I was just too exhausted to join everyone. I was throwing in the towel and going to bed. I feared he might be disappointed, but his only concern was what I would eat.
“Uh, I have some beef jerky in my suitcase,” I stammered, embarrassed.
He wasn’t having it. “Oh no no… you need to at least order some room service! You’ve had a long day!”
When one of our beloved employees passed away after a short battle with aggressive cancer, Mike without hesitation sent a large sum of money to the family. He paid for repeated hospital visits for an employee I counseled who was battling liver failure. He called a young man who worked in one of the factories who had relapsed and pleaded with him to return to the Salvation Army. Without a second thought, he purchased a car for an employee when he learned the worker was walking several miles to get to work. It wasn’t about the money. No one else saw him do these things.
While at an event in Rochester, MN for a prison ministry, I witnessed Mike’s generosity in action. Before his speech that evening, he spent hours at a local halfway house the ministry operated, interacting with residents, laughing, telling stories, and offering encouragement. After his speaking engagement, he continued meeting people, signing things, listening to excited pitches for new products, and posing for pictures. This human interaction clearly fueled him. He never appeared bored, weary, or annoyed and remained late into the night, until the last selfie was snapped, the final story shared. I was exhausted just watching him!
I have experienced the real Mike Lindell, and he’s not just “as seen on TV.”
And personally, he has let me know I am more than just a number, not just another name on the MyPillow employee roster. During the height of the COVID-19 crisis, my future with our newly birthed nonprofit – the Lindell Recovery Network – seemed very uncertain. I remember sitting at the kitchen table, writing out bills and worrying, wondering if I would have a job much longer. I called Mike, seeking a large dose of sunny reassurance, but he was a little more stoic. “I can’t promise anything,” he admitted. “But I am going to try and find something else for you to do.”
As MyPillow shifted to mask production to address the pandemic, I fretted and obsessed that the “fluff” (me) might soon be gone. Then Mike called a few days later with an offer. “What do you think about taking calls?”
The arrangement was perfect, especially with my kids now engaged in remote learning. For four months, I fielded incoming customer service calls from home for MyPillow until we were able to resume normal company operations. By mid-summer, I was ecstatic to return to our primary focus of launching the Lindell Recovery Network. Mike’s excitement for it had not wavered one bit.
“This is going to be the most amazing addiction help ever!”
And we were back at it.
I have seen the real Mike Lindell. He eagerly welcomes former addicts, felons, and those with “issues” into his company with open arms. He’s a master at giving people the benefit of the doubt. He will never judge you.
The working from home gig had been a dream come true. See, I’d grown accustomed to making lunch for my kids, answering a school question between Zoom calls, and just being in their midst throughout the day. Sooner or later in-person school would resume though, and I feared they’d become latch key kids like I’d once been. When I approached Mike to share my fears and to ask if I could continue working from home indefinitely, he responded without hesitation.
“Of course you can, family is what’s most important.”
Mike Lindell continues to celebrate things from days gone by in corporate America: Christmas bonuses, fancy birthday cakes from local bakeries, a simple text message when you’ve been sick, Bible studies in the board room, heartfelt prayers and employee potlucks where his booming laugh shakes the walls and his endless stories bring down the house.
And yes, he is loud and animated, intense and opinionated – but it is all genuine and not for show. You’ll get the same Mike Lindell whether the cameras are on or they are off. He is fearless – never concerned about what the opposition will say, and his optimism never wavers. Instead of stressing over how others will react to what he’s doing, he focuses on what God will think. He will fight to the death for what he believes and models an admirable tenacity and steadfastness. He truly knows who he is in God’s eyes. In a culture that tirelessly screams to look for meaning and belonging in things, positions, possessions, or other people, Mike Lindell is unwavering: one of the rare few asking God the important questions instead of looking to the world for answers.
Case in point, a QVC interview years ago – where the staff insisted he tuck his cross inside his shirt before they went on the air. Mike told them to stuff it, in no uncertain terms, and was ready to walk off the set until they shifted course and honored his request to wear his cross proudly.
You may disagree with his politics, but I’m convinced that if you could see his heart, his party affiliation wouldn’t matter so much. We need more people willing to take a stand for what they believe, the precious few who won’t shrink back when the symphony of the world is out of tune with them.
Mike Lindell models an inspiring authenticity and candor. He is a role model for family and for faith, for people addicted and free, for rags to riches, for dogged perseverance. I have seen the real Mike Lindell, not just the one seen on T.V. and I am proud to work for him.
Melissa Huray, MS LADC
Lindell Recovery Network