SUPPORT - especially for high-achieving men can be an unfamiliar topic. We as men are taught to value isolation, suppress our feelings, work hard, and don't ask for help. Even for a guy like me, who came from totally supportive parents, it can be hard to admit to ourselves that we need support. This is not the way.
I had the honor of engaging in a massively impactful weekend on January 6th-8th down in Manzanita, Oregon. The organizers held this second annual Breakaway Weekend aimed to bring men from varying arenas to learn, share, support and commit to massive growth in 2017.
I was asked to be the keynote speaker for the 3-day weekend and speak on Bio-hacking, Self Optimization and Meditation. In addition to the workshops, I did 12 1-on-1 coaching sessions that were very deep and intense. The 14 of us came from all walks of life: Innovative cannabis products, filmmaker, franchise development, corporate health and wellness, creative directors, adventure photography, execs, sales people, former pro football players and leaders. One clear common denominator was that each of came with the expectation that we would take away tools, tactics and accountability that would drive us forward in our lives.
And guess what? We can transform...but without support the task is much harder.
"No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main."
Sometimes as men, we just need to know that someone else is going through the same changes. Or has desire to. We need to know that there are other men looking to better themselves. Connecting with like-minded men in-person is part of our DNA. We evolved in tribes, going out on hunting expeditions and building societies with our hands, with other inspiring men by our sides. We learned to value critical thinking, achievement and work ethic. And, we have the luxury of tapping into that primal programming in order to use it to our benefit. But, the catch is, it's how we show up in person that activates the DNA, not by spectating.
FACEBOOK doesn't count. It just doesn't. We can't effectively connect with other guys online and expect to institute sustainable changes. It's too easy to talk a big game without action. It's too easy to let meaningful connection live only in the virtual world. Because our bodies connect to our minds, and because there is an actual energetic exchange when we're in the presence of other physical beings....we gotta show up...in person. Additionally, we are not who we say we are on facebook. We create a narrative of who we are on facebook. We show the best of ourselves and rarely allow others to see our bumps and bruises. I'm guilty of this too. How can we really connect and get the real support we need when we're not being truthful with who we are. Folks will debate me on this, but to a certain extent this is true for all of us.
When we show up, embodied in the presence of another person who is on our same page, the connection means more. We've all been in situations when we were looking for a meaningful connection, or support - then someone walks into our lives, and things click. Whether it's a significant other, lover, friend or family member, we can all remember that physical feeling we got when we were around that person. We felt supported.
Another key element to being able to receive support from another is our willingness to be vulnerable. When we drop our created walls and our accepted social norms and we're really unguarded present in the moment that's where we can grow and connect. At that time when we're open and honest with ourselves that's when we can feel supported. When others are there to help us, support us and connect with us - our ability to be vulnerable is critical.
Researcher Brene Brown gives this TED Talk entitled "The Power of Vulnerability" that is really cool. Especially for men. Many of us, if not all of us are told not to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is a weakness. Men are supposed to be strong, independent, isolated and unwavering. Society upholds these values and spews them upon us for us as little boys to make sense of. Even if you have wonderfully supportive parents who instill vulnerability in you, you still have to make sense of advertising images that tell us that it's not ok to cry or be tender, or be vulnerable.
SIDE NOTE: I come from the school of thought that little boys are born with a primal imprint to be physical and strong willed. Girls too of course, but boys especially. Much like the evolutionary adaptation that rewarded support and collaboration among men - I truly believe that boys are born with certain innate qualities that allow them to thrive. I take myself as an example and my son as an example. As many times as my wife and I make space and nurture vulnerability, kindness and tenderness, my son catches himself crying and stops himself. He takes pride in being tough, although he doesn't talk about being tough, his actions speak it. He's seen me cry, but still there is something in there that he tries to stifle.
Vulnerability is something that takes nurturing. Meta right? We have to place more of an emphasis on allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and open to support. We have to be open to being supported by the people around us. We have to de-program ourselves and allow ourselves to receive support from trusted sources. On that note, make sure that the people whom you are turning to for support are doing it authentically: not for some rush from being a part of drama OR energy vampires that feed off of your emotions. This ties into surrounding yourself with people that love and support you already.
"The strongest love is the love that can demonstrate its fragility. "
Paulo Coelho - author of The Alchemist
Since it is my aim to write blog posts that are immediately useful in your life - the question is, how can we get the support we need?
ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED
Especially for men, since we're told that we need to go it alone, it's important to foster meaningful relationships with other men that we can count on. We're the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, so find people and foster relationships that fuel you and bring you up...foster relationships that support you. Once you have these people in place, ask for what you need. If you need perspective, ask someone for theirs. This group could be people you'd like to be friends with or it could be people already in your circle where you can strengthen or deepen a relationship.
NOTE: This is challenging. Especially for guys. One surefire way to gain support, perspective, wisdom and a plan forward in your life it to hire a coach. This is the heart of the value I bring to people's lives. During a coaching session with me, you'll bring forth the aspects of your life you'd like to change, and we brainstorm how to get what you're after. Then we create an accountability structure where you use me to stay accountable to yourself. IT'S EFFECTIVE...
When we're clear about you need, the people in our support network know how they can be for us.
"I really just need to vent."
"I'm in a tough situation, can you give me your neutral perspective on a thing?"
"You are someone who I admire and appreciate, can I get your take on something?"
"Hey man, I know you're busy, but can you give me a hand this weekend?"
And of course, it's a two way street. Giving support to the people in our life is just as important as receiving it. We also learn how to be there for others, and in turn learn how we can best be supported.
Whether it's a problem that needs a solution at work or a challenging situation with a loved one; asking for what we need is a simple and effective way to grow. It starts with our ability to be vulnerable, admitting that we don't have all the answers and being open to receiving wisdom or presence or love.
My experience with the extraordinary dudes from Breakaway was an eye opener. These truly innovative, driven, high-achieving men from all over the country made a huge impression on me. They showed me how elite performers can be humble, open, vulnerable and push their boundaries with the help of other dynamic men. This was a very unique experience, and an environment from which real change could launch for each of them. Every one of these guys was open to receiving support, new information and perspective that they could implement into their lives.
These guys had a lot of answers, but they also had the humility to know that they didn't have ALL the answers. I learned a lot from them and they learned a lot from each other. It made me realize that we can all be more open, and use our vulnerability as a strength.
Asking for support will be a new skill for a lot of you, but once you're clear about what you need, you'll find that loving, motivated people in your life are ready to be there for you.
Try it out.