Founder & CEO
I am Dustin Plantholt, born on August 12, 1983 in Oceanside, CA—a coastal city in San Diego County on California’s South Coast. I was a wild, spirited boy who came from a family riddled with severe dysfunction and generational trauma. My father was equal parts loving and angry and when he wasn’t in jail, he was stealing cars, racing dirt bikes, or shooting guns behind our house. My mother left my abusive father, moved away and left our family when I was a mere toddler—barely 2-years old. In doing so, our single dysfunctional dad took over parenting us. That is where my story begins. As we say at Life’s Tough Media... “EVERY story has a purpose!”
Three and a half years after my mother left, she returned into our lives. We were in foster care, as my father was in jail at the time, and the state of California was ready to put my sister and I up for adoption, so they went searching for any next-of-kin. My mother’s reason she gave them for leaving us was “personal” and only known to her. We were eventually reunited with our mother—flying 2,000 miles across the country. This is where we would spend the remainder of our childhood—with her and her new family.
Then sadly in August 2014, my big sister Tennille died tragically. This began my personal journey of dealing with a devastating loss. Tennille, who had taken care of me in foster care, died suddenly of a drug overdose.
It was in losing Tennille that led me to discover my purpose and from where Life’s Tough Media was born. Our network of shows—anchored by my inspirational podcast, Life’s Tough: You Can Be TOUGHER!—proudly highlights personal stories of strength and perseverance and are listened to now in over 80 countries around the world. Our network aims to inspire and motivate each other towards personal fortitude, healing, growth, and empowerment. Together we share experiences, strategies and skills aimed at building better lives, healthier relationships, and a kinder society, as well as inspiring a world of emergent leaders.
Past guests on our shows include some of the most inspiring people on the planet: boxing icon Evander Holyfield; entrepreneur & Priceline.com Co-Founder Michael Loeb; actor & bodybuilding legend Lou Ferrigno; renowned religious leader Pat Robertson; celebrated recording artist John Tesh; ground-breaking host Jerry Springer; the 700 Club; the illustrious late Mary Wilson from the Supremes; military legend Colonel ‘Godfather’ Ferrando; celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich; Platinum Recording Artist Wyclef Jean; legendary venture capitalist Tim Draper; and many more.
Together, we are sparking a movement and changing the world, one heart at a time.
It’s life … life is tough … but YOU can be TOUGHER!
And remember... everyone has a story and every story has a purpose!
Michael Dotsikas is a technology consultant, writer, publisher and public speaker, best known as the founder and owner of Business Systems Consulting, a leading technology firm that provides premium computer consulting services to small and mid-sized companies in the New York tristate region. Michael earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance and Information Systems from New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business.
As President of Life’s Tough Media, Michael directs the organization’s operations and business affairs; spearheads new initiatives; and explores new opportunities, potential partnerships, and collaborations.
In addition to his business endeavors, Michael is an award-winning children’s author with a passion for creating engaging, mindful stories for children. His critically acclaimed, Benjamin Birdie Children’s Picture Book Series, has received several industry awards and has garnered rave reviews from children, parents and educators alike. You can find out more about Michael’s children’s books on his personal website at https://www.michaeldotsikas.com.
Michael is also the co-founder and partner of Porch Time Publishing, Inc., a boutique publishing company whose mission is to help indie authors fulfill their publishing dreams. In sticking to its charitable mission, Porch Time Publishing donates a portion of the proceeds from the sale of every book to charitable causes—from organizations that bring awareness to the plight of endangered species to foundations that benefit children and their well-being.
Michael was born in Agrinio, Greece and immigrated to the United States with his family when he was four. He currently lives in Manorville, New York with his wife, Dina, and their two youngest of five amazing children, along with their two precarious little pups. Traveling and spending time with family and friends are favorite pastimes.
As Marketing Director for Life’s Tough Media, Alyssa specializes in branding, content creation and social media strategy—using her passion for writing to reach and inspire others.
Alyssa began working on her family’s hobby farm as a young girl and gained a wide variety of unique skills and life experience by the time she graduated high school. This strong work ethic, coupled with a complicated injury that left her facing chronic pain at the tender age of 8, has developed a resiliency and determination that fuels her relentless drive and makes her unstoppable.
After a painful betrayal in her marriage, she had to navigate the transition from being a stay-at-home mom, to a working, single mom, while being the primary caretaker of her 5 young children. Alyssa’s desire to help other moms find joy and meaning, despite life's trials and hardships, grew stronger as she did her own difficult work to heal after divorce. Through blogging, coaching and public speaking, she has helped dozens of fellow moms step up and find new and better ways to face the challenges in their own lives.
Alyssa currently lives in Indianapolis, Indiana close to her supportive parents. In addition to her fervent commitment to Life’s Tough Media’s mission to inspire and help others, she has big plans to expand her real estate investments and publish her first book. However, despite her entrepreneurial spirit, she considers being a mom her number one priority. When she’s not writing you can find her gardening, exploring local parks, or in an intense chess tournament with her kids.
Luis brings over 20 years of experience in the field of information technology and has a diverse background in corporate IT settings, with extensive proficiency in programming, databases, networking, enterprise computing, project management, as well as telecommunications.
As the IT Director for Life’s Tough Media, Luis finds it rewarding to utilize his technology and software engineering skills to further our mission of changing lives and connecting people.
Luis lives in Upstate New York with his wife and amazing son. When not in work-mode, he enjoys spending time with his family and experiencing new restaurants in New York and New Jersey. He also loves travelling with his family—exploring new countries and cultures.
Producer - Podcast
John is a digital creative focusing on photography, videography, and podcasting. He is known for his calm demeanor, comfortable presence, and confident “Get It Done” attitude. One of his favorite compliments is being described as an “Old Shoe”.
After spending many years in healthcare operations, John has focused his attention on helping individuals and businesses to get their message out. Through his creative company, Alston Carlisle llc, he removes barriers to success. Do you have something to say? John can help.
John currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife, 2 kids, and a dog.
Lead Video Editor
Manager of Podcast Services
Oryne Stewart’s introduction to the world of podcasting began several years ago. He has and continues to work both in front and behind the scenes. Utilizing his professional skills of counseling, he continues to help many create their personal sound and style. Oryne has a keen ability to recognize strengths and weaknesses and manage them both in order to obtain success.
Learning what it requires takes many hours of trial and error. Commitment and perseverance are two of Oryne’s strengths in which he applies to everything he does. Coaching, although known for sports is also beneficial in everyday life. As a life coach and counselor, Oryne brings his many years of experience to the field of podcast service management.
Oryne possesses the skills and has what it takes to help you become the podcaster you believe you can be. Providing support by acknowledging strengths and encouragement where there is challenge is what he prides himself in doing. Oryne’s motto is, “There is no I in team, only in win. Collective effort is essential to obtain success.”
Producer - Films
My journey has been one of trial and error. For the last fifteen years I've been involved in every aspect of video content production. I've done sales, pre- and post-production, and of course, directing. I have also shot a lot of the work myself, before putting together bigger teams with dedicated professionals such as gaffers and cinematographers.
It's very important to me that the people involved in a project are happy with both the process as well as the results. Some things will take more time than others, but with the right attitude and determination, we will surely achieve great things.
Some of the brands I have worked with directly or through an agency are Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein Jeans, Palladium Boots, Mexx Eyewear, HUB Footwear, Spinnin' Records, Musical Freedom, Dr. Hauschla, Red Bull, Patta and Karl Lagerfield.
Gregory Plotkin is well known in the video production industry for his hand-held camera work. His specialty is running AV for corporate events and live streaming. In his earlier career, Gregory worked in Los Angeles on films, commercials, TV shows and music videos. Some recognizable names Gregory worked with are Arnold Schwarteneggar, Alyssa Milano, Jonathan Silverman and Jane Seymour. We think Gregory developed his stealthy camera set-up and filming techniques from working on Candid Camera and Totally Hidden Video.
Gregory (aka Ninja Shadow) joined the Life's Tough team in October of 2019 as the camera operator for Cryptonaires. Ninja's compact camera, lighting and sound gear makes for a good travel companion for Life's Tough heavy travel and documentary schedule. Since Vegas, Ninja and Dustin have been busy filming documentaries traveling to San Francisco several times, London, Scotland and Liechtenstein. More travel is planned when things open back up.