But by the time he was 28, Hayes' life had come crashing down. He lost his job, his marriage fell apart, and nothing he tried seemed to lift him out of a deep unhappiness.
In 2012, the now 31-year-old travelled to the Amazon in Peru to seek out a shaman who he believed would have answers for him. Last month, Hayes self-published a book, Five Weeks in the Amazon to document his journey to self-discovery.
"I thought as humans, we're quite natural, and I figured what more natural place than the Amazon," he told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.
Hayes was diagnosed with depression in his early 20s. He said he tried to treat his depression naturally, through healthy eating and an active lifestyle.
"It didn't work. I could do all this hard work and still end up feeling devastated, and I wanted to figure out why."
He spent five weeks in Peru with a shaman, searching for answers.
"I was able to clearly separate what I now know is mental health illness and continue to go forward in my life while managing that and not let this unknown darkness take control."
After he returned from the Amazon, Hayes started taking medication for his depression.
He plans to continue travelling and writing. He has a one-way ticket to Thailand that departs next Saturday.
To hear the full interview with Sean Michael Hayes, click the audio labelled: Sean Michael Hayes finds healing in Amazon.