Hey man, so we're here again. I say "again" because, as many of you know, Man-UP! Life Coaching (MULC) was established in 2013 and this March (3/19/24, to be exact) we celebrate 11 years of service. That's a lot of guys, and a lot of New Year's resolutions. Now as a coach for men, you would think that our value-ad for a guy spending between $5K-$10K a year on self improvement would be -- above all else -- a notable increase in the client's annual productivity. I mean, in theory that's the whole point of a coach, right? Pay someone to teach you how to get better faster, and to gain an advantage over the competition. And sure, that's partially true. For example, there are guys who have joined our coaching culture specifically to accomplish goals they've otherwise failed at. These include things like:
Getting in better shape. Fat guys want to be skinnier. Skinny guys want to be more jacked. Weak guys want to be stronger. Old guys want to feel younger. Show me a guy, I'll show you someone who either secretly or not-so-secretly feels inadequate in the physicality department.
Finding a better job. How many guys do you think are walking around right now feeling like they're making enough money, are content with what they do for a living, genuinely enjoy their work environment, and feel perfectly secure in their career trajectory? In my experience, fewer than 1%. So yeah, that's a definitely thing.
Improving relationships. Men in traditional relationships struggle finding personal fulfilment, while also trying to meet their partners' seemingly impossible lifestyle expectations. So it's common for guys come to coaching hoping to fix their relationships the way you'd go to a mechanic to fix your car. And the guys who aren't in relationships apparently don't get how real the struggle is, because they're all whining about being alone instead of enjoying their freedom; experiencing extreme fomo (thanks in large part to the influence of social media); and throwing money at anything that will get them female validation. Trust me, it's a global epidemic.
Getting "Unstuck". I hear this one all the time. Dudes of all ages -- meaning 20-something to 60-something -- are pissed off at themselves for having a bucket list of goals, yet ultimately not making any significant progress addressing them. And worse, they often develop bad habits in an effort to offset feeling like shit for constantly coming up short. They feel depressed, so they hire a coach to literally force them to be accountable. That's why the brand Man-UP! Life Coaching is still appealing a decade later, and probably always will be. My average client's inner dialog is always a variation on the general message: "I'm sick of being stuck. I need to stop being a little bitch and man the fuck up if I'm gonna break this cycle."
So okay, as a coach you start there. The fat guy who wants to lose weight. The introvert who wants to be better at talking to women. The guy with so-called beta male syndrome who wants to develop what he considers to be alpha male characteristics. You find out what the client wants, map out a plan for making incremental improvements, and start on your journey together. And at first he has beginner gains, which results in him absolutely loving you. He'll tell you that coaching is the best choice he ever made; that it's the best money he ever spent; he'll start telling friends and family that he's working with a coach and really feeling a new lease on life, and so on. This is the dating phase. He's been immersed into something new, and for the moment it's working. Submersion is something different. We'll get to that later. For now he's stoked on his initial growth, and that's great. And as happy as I am for him, I know something he doesn't. I know what it's like to coach clients for 2 years, 4 years, 6 years, 8 years. My average client retention rate is at least 12-24 months. I know what happens when the romance is over, and the old habits of self defeat start settling back in. I'm telling you, every guy who comes through this system necessarily hits a plateau. And when he does, that's when the real work begins. I mean look, I've had guys drop lots of weight on my watch. I've also had guys go from skinny to jacked. I've had guys go from wallflower to charismatic extrovert. I've had guys 10x their income, get C-suite jobs they never thought they'd qualify for, etc. Yet it's always the same. They get the thing they wanted, but they're still unhappy and can't figure out why. It's like the classic Faustian bargain where someone sells their soul for material gain, only to realize too late that they've made a grave mistake. And then there are the guys who never leave the station, because they lack discipline and just aren't doing the work. Either way, you end up with a demotivated guy on your hands who was expecting coaching to be his magic bullet, and now he's back to feeling directionless and discouraged. Your job at this point is to rip the Band-Aid off and tell him straight, "Look man, you don't hire a coach and tell him what you need. You hire a coach to help you discover what you need. There's more to this than just goal-setting. There's self-work, and that's a vulnerable process." And in my experience, that conversation will usually go one of two ways. One: he taps out, offering a bunch of excuses for why he isn't willing to move forward. Two: he doubles-down and says, "I'm in, coach. Let's go. Take me to the promised land." The first guy isn't ready, plain and simple. There's no amount of persuasion that can keep him onboard, and if you push too hard he'll accuse you of aggressive salesmanship. You just have to let him go. Maybe he'll come back, maybe he won't. More likely he'll keep going around the base of the mountain, consuming all the self-help content he can get his hands on, jumping from coach to coach, religion to religion, trying different diets, going on ayahuasca retreats, microdosing psilocybin, etc, etc, etc. Seekers are gonna seek. It is what it is. The second guy is the reason I do what I do. He's not a seeker, he's a finder. If I can help this guy crossover and find what he's really here for, he can then do the same for others in kind, which is the higher purpose of coaching. And no, I can't take him there. I can guide him, at best. Because what he doesn't know that he doesn't know -- and what a qualified coach mentor offers his client, if he's truly worth his salt -- is the revelation that success isn't at all about productivity and checking boxes. It's about self-acceptance.
Again, for emphasis: It's about self-acceptance.
It isn't by accident that I chose Michael Jordan as the avatar for this article. I originally consulted AI to generate an image for this blog. My prompt was:
"I would like an image of a man reclining. Aspect ratio should be roughly 16:9. This image will be used on an inspirational blog for men, suggesting that while New Year's goals have their merit, there is nothing wrong with using your downtime to chill and enjoy doing nothing. I would like the image to be somewhat realistic, and appeal to men who are between 30-50 years old, in good shape, making good money."
There were several iterations, mostly terrible, but I got it to create something I nearly settled on. This guy:
But it missed the mark for me, so I Googled stock images of a dude sitting on a couch using an iPad. The moment I saw the still of Michael Jordan from the Netflix docuseries "The Last Dance", I knew I'd found the emblematic image for my New Year's piece. I'm not sure how much you know about MJ as a person, but he's a really polarizing character among those who've managed to get close to him. On the surface he's a legend. He'll go down in history as one of the greatest basketball players of all times. He's got everything the average guy imagines he would need to be happy in life. But he isn't happy. There are scores of anecdotes from people he's worked with about how conflicted MJ is as a human being. Yes, he's successful. But there's a critical difference between success and happiness, and this is the crux of my message. I said earlier that new MULC clients get a sense of lift from their initial immersion into our coaching program. I also said that submersion is something different, and is the next step of the journey after you've necessarily hit a plateau (keyword: necessarily). Well, submersion in this case means epitomic self acceptance; and here the term "self" requires reframing, as what is commonly called the "self" is actually just a child process of a higher "Self". I apologize if this sounds high-flown. Just as the map is not the journey, some things are better understood through practice than through rhetoric. And until you've experienced it, the idea of becoming completely submersed in a new way of being can seem terrifying. The ego (a term I'll use lightly here) has a caustic reaction to this state of submersion, which it experiences as a tortuous exercise in "selflessness". Similarly, when we meditate, the moments where the ego is toggled off -- which it experiences as "mindlessness" -- are actually the very "mindfulness" that practitioners work to achieve. This is why the seeker is, by definition, eternally doomed to seek but never to find. With the ego as his compass, he attempts to achieve the benefits of higher knowledge for utilitarian purposes. He asks, "What can the power that is supposedly inherent in meditation do for ME?" And there it is. When you say "ME" in this context, who or what exactly are you referring to? At the risk of waxing evangelistic here, I'm going to posit that -- without practice -- you do not fully understand who or what you really are. I say this because to understand is to accept, and when you fully accept what you actually are, you also accept with profound clarity what you aren't. You aren't imperfect.
Now seriously, just take a second to grok that. You aren't imperfect. If true, consider how many things in the world that you perceive would necessarily need to change for this statement to make sense. After all, you see a world of imperfect things. So how do you change them all? Well, you don't. You change how you see them, which means changing your limiting beliefs about who you imagine is seeing them.
That's why the featured image says "Do You Bro". The literal message here is pretty simple: Do whatever makes you happy. If you want to grind, grind. If you want to chill, chill. But the deeper message is really the point of this article, and more, the point of coaching at its foundation: Rather than trying to do things to change you, do you to change things.
When I say "do you", I mean practice being you, which is done best in stillness. And by "submersion", I mean do it all the time, no matter what activity you happen to be engaged in. Practice inner stillness all day, every day. No, it isn't easy, which is why a coach is invaluable. A coach who has practiced can help you develop the proper mindset for achieving personal success, which is of course peace. Start with seconds. Progress to minutes. Then hours. Then days. Weeks. Months. Years. The rest works itself out. And hey listen man, this doesn't mean you can't do all the stuff. Of course you can. Life is your dojo. Just understand that no matter what stuff you do -- whether it's getting after it at the gym, or chilling on your couch dicking around on your iPad -- it's your mindset that matters. Practice, practice, practice.