Earlier last month, Gus Worland and Dr Tim Sharp aka “Dr Happy” released their podcast series “Be a Man”, brought to you by PodcastOne.
Although I highly recommended you take the approximately 30 minutes to listen to each and every segment, if you do not get the chance, then I plan to scribble my own takeaways from the episodes that impacted me the most.
Please be aware in some cases I have paraphrased but hoped to capture the sentiment of what was said.
Today’s summary is from the episode “Man Talk” with Tom Harkin, founder of Tomorrow Man.
Without spoiling it, Tom is the guru when it comes to breaking down, questioning and discussing what being a man truly is. So much wisdom came from this that I broke my own “10 points” rule and just wrote down everything I could! Enjoy:
- Guys tend to run away from events where men say what they feel - they have no reference point – until their own peers talk they cannot do this in their own lives.
- Solid Heroes as youngsters are vital - men look up to those that are a little older, healthy or unhealthy.
- When working with older males Tom is already behind the ball, catching up – whether it’s corporate, sports clubs, RSLs etc. a lot of 50 year olds will say “I have never spoken to anyone about this particular topic and been truly honest”.
- Men are willing talk, we just find it almost impossible to get into that right space – men gravitate to charismatic guys and in Tom’s workshops, if the “alpha male” buys in, other follow suit, we tend to need the “blokeiest” blokes to lead the way.
- Tom does not go into a session with any agenda – he poses tough questions to get me to question inside themselves.
- He can ask to the men “What would you rather be doing right now?” Then challenge those instinctive answers and gets the most alpha men to come up as volunteers, put on nail polish, banter then tell them they have to leave it on for 2 weeks – their demeanour changes to anger when this happens.
- Guys think they are the rule maker – they get pissed-off when they realise old stereotypes have them by the balls when they do not actually realise who put the “rules” in place.
- In one workshop a father was angry that his boy kept the nail polish on and in another, he had to get 250 father and sons together in collective discomfort, making them sit in circles facing each other.
- Tom’s main aim is to build an “emotional muscle” so when the big moments happen in life we are ready – men are generally building from scratch, the muscle is just not there.]
- Workshops and discussions like this need to be consistent, like a father that wants his talented son to train hard and regularly at footy each week, but strangely not train his emotions.
- Most dads would say hand on heart they want their young fellas to reach out - but most do not want to do it themselves.
- Tom gives AFL as an example – if your everyday man was called up to play in the AFL Grand Final they would not be ready – in society we do not put guys on the practice field or in game-time to be ready and the they are not conditioned so we throw them onto the Grand Final pitch when they have never played football.
- Masculinity now is a riddle and there is not just one type of it – Women’s range of what it means to be a woman has been expanded and they can express that – men have not fully expanded it.
- In his workshops Tom looks at principles, not defined attributes, so uses the same construct of “I’m my own man, so I am going to break the stereotype” instead of the traditional “I’m my own man so I’m going to live the stereotype”.
- Guys follow the man rule-book, the bottling up of emotion is huge and they have no normalised avenues – with teenagers emotion is close to surface as they have not “hardened up” yet, but guys in their 40-50s it has almost formed in stone.
- Generally there is a lack of emotional vocabulary with men.
- A basic first step is labelling the emotion to get past that first confusing step. but that goes against the unhelpful idea of masculinity.
- In the workshops there is a moment when the men “step to the line” – this exercise usually reveals 20% of men have had a dark moment in the last month and it is a big wake-up for the men and those around them.
- Thankfully the words depression, anxiety and suicide are becoming more and more acceptable in mainstream language and there is a need to say them.
- A powerful workshop example – a guy “lost his shit” at the start of it and said “you blokes are weak as piss” etc – it later turned out his dad had caused huge trauma for him by forcing him to do 15 years of boxing - the guy lost his trust in other men but woke up that day, BUT he will not change overnight so we have to be patient and careful.
- Every child and man needs training to talk with gravity and depth about things that matter – have the courage to step into that moment and take small doses of talking to your dad, brother, mate and building that emotional muscle gradually.
To listen to the full podcast episode you can access it here: https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/be-a-man/id1380932528?mt=2
You can also read more about Tom and "Tomorrow Man" at http://www.tomharkin.com.au/men/