I spent six years as the manager of some of Toronto’s most popular restaurants. Restaurant work was zenith-level for a people pleaser like me. On my feet for hours and hours a day, I'd give all of myself to be The Guy to everyone around me. For my bosses, I got to be the dependable guy who would do nothing else other than prioritizing work and the business, and ultimately their dreams. To my staff, I got to be the problem-solver guy who seemed to have an answer for everything (especially when I didn't). For the guests, I got to be the hook-up guy. I could snag you that last-minute table, or style you out on a special occasion. Hell, I remember literally training my staff to need me. “Text me at any hour, any day, about anything you need.”
All of this “the guy” cosplay funnels back to the same place—I was living a life propped up by seeking external validation. I had spent a lifetime up until this point honing my social skills and building a life of interests that looked good on the outside. Being liked, being accepted, being seen as successful—these were the things that were important to me. They seem to be important to most of us, right? But in truth, I was anxious, hyper judgmental and sad.
And it wasn't until the pandemic hit and work was shut down, hangs were on hiatus, and my income dried up, that I was body-slammed by reality. My kingdom of validation was closed too. I didn't have work to scratch the itch of being needed and wanted. I didn't have money to buy expensive clothes and stroke my cool-guy ego. I didn't have casual run-ins with people at the coffee shop who would for sure tell me what I'm doing with my life was interesting and important. Once I was cut off from the external, my entire world felt like it was crumbling, and the house of cards began to fall.
I was a thirty-something man and I didn't know how to care for myself. I didn't know how to process what I was experiencing. With nowhere left to turn to on the outside, my only other option was going inside. Having built a life of avoiding that very thing, naturally I was skeptical. I wondered, “what would looking at myself actually fucking change?” But I couldn't have been more wrong.
Wracked with confusion and pain, I made one small but crucial decision. Send one email. That's it. That's how I first started to show up for myself, by sending one email. It was an email to a life coach, whom some of you here may know. In it, I outlined my story thus far. I was terrified and lonely, lost and despondent about my future. I told him I wanted real change. That the path I have been on wasn't the one I was destined to continue.
I wanted a new career, a new set of challenges, and my deepest desire: a new way of living. The wildest thing at this point was the moment after I hit the send button. I felt proud. Deeply, genuinely proud of myself. I couldn't believe I had done it! I had just told someone the truth about what I was going through. What I was feeling. And what I wanted.
What came back to me after that email, was something I had never experienced. Someone was willing to help me achieve it all. The only catch was: I had to do the work, he couldn't do it for me.
That email quickly turned into a Zoom call, and that Zoom call quickly turned into a weekly thing. I jumped all the way in, headfirst and then some. I figured screw it, I already know how three decades of not doing this feels. I snapped up his offer and joined a men's group. It's in that group I learned that getting vulnerable isn't weakness—it's actually the most badass display of strength I've witnessed and experienced. You want a real high? Get radically vulnerable. Bear your soul and get messy in a group of men. I promise you there isn't anything else like it. It's in this group I became aware I had some anger inside me that needed a voice.
I spent time getting in touch with a younger version of myself at 18, the age I was when my mother died of cancer. I was scared and overwhelmed and shockingly pretty pissed at both my mother and myself. Fast forward a year, and I was beating the shit out of pillows on Zoom in front of a bunch of dudes. I was challenged on my bullshit. I shared things that I thought were unforgivable. I cried for the first time in years. I was letting my true self be seen—warts, lumps and all and I was being accepted and loved for it. Soon, I started to feel more alive than I'd ever felt.
As I got in touch with my insides, all of the vitality and creativity and freedom I had sold down the river ages ago, started to flood back. I was tapping into my most renewable source of energy, myself. And the critical part for my future—I could now turn that wellspring of uncovered parts of myself towards the life I wanted. I created space to articulate the work I wanted to do. I set boundaries around how I wanted to live. I determined what I wanted to do with my time. Once I was able to get clear on these things, they all began to dovetail poetically into what I do now: coach.
I haven't just changed my life by going inward, I have transformed it. I went back to school to study coaching. I picked up golf again after a 20-year hiatus. This month, I've started working with my first client. I now have brothers across the U.S. and Canada, all who see the authentic me week-in week-out, and love that guy. I am happier, more engaged, vibrant, understanding, and satisfied in all areas of my life than before. My work, my relationships, my marriage, have all thrived exponentially from my willingness to go inside.
I can tell you this, going inside is electrifying work, but it isn't for the faint of heart. I had spent my life trying everything I could do to avoid it. But what could possibly be more powerful than tapping into your life force for no one, other than you? I was able to rediscover the passion and purpose that were lacking in my life for years. And now I have a mission: to help and guide other men wanting the same for themselves. If there's one experience I want for you, it's this: the power to transform is within you. And by showing up for yourself you make it happen.
Turn off the TV, put away your phone, and just stay with yourself ... even for 10 minutes. Let your mind wander and ask yourself what you want out of life and how you can work to achieve it.