Hey man. I'm writing this for you. You, the guy who feels like he's got the weight of the world on his shoulders. You, the guy who feels alone and frustrated. Struggling. Directionless. Overwhelmed. Possibly misunderstood. Oscillating between anxiety and depression, desperation and despair. I'm not writing this to solve your problems. I'm writing to say I understand, and that you're not alone. Well, not exactly, anyway. Over the past few years, my Life Coaching business has seen a trend. More than ever, guys are burning out. And to be clear, these are strong, determined guys who would rather grind-or-die than punk-out and fail. There are a number of factors I could point to -- ranging from the CovID-19 pandemic and its social repercussions, to the plummeting stock market and its affect on personal wealth management -- but the truth is that times are no harder now than they've ever been. Rather, we're just experiencing a redistribution of the same old shit. There will always be hard times, and getting through them is always going to be the same: you fix what you can, accept what you can't. I would assume anyone reading this is familiar with the The Serenity Prayer, but if not, here's the most common version of it: "God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other."
The earliest recorded reference to this prayer was in 1932, a time of national economic crisis. Consider this excerpt from the FDR Museum page:
"In 1932, America was a nation living in fear. A global depression - the worst in history - had thrown millions out of work. Unemployment was approaching 25 percent. Factories were silent. Banks were failing. Farms were abandoned. And after three years of growing hardship, no end to the crisis was in sight.
As the people suffered, their government seemed paralyzed. President Herbert Hoover had tried unsuccessfully to combat the crisis. By 1932 he was discredited and reviled. As conditions worsened, many gave in to despair. But others clung to hope - for new leadership, a new direction, and, above all, for action."
In 2023, those of us working on the front lines of men's health and wellness are seeing similar trends. There is a public outcry for relief from what feels to the average guy like a bait-and-switch. They've been told their wholes lives that if they walk the straight-and-narrow, following certain and specific action plans, they will get certain and specific results.
Instead, they find themselves struggling to achieve happiness in their relationships, many dealing with the challenges of parenting in the modern era; losing the battle to inflation, and the exponentially rising cost of living; affected in some way by rolling tech layoffs; and grinding in vain toward ambiguous life goals; even while some unseen force sadistically continues to move the goal posts, fueling fears of conspiracy, and threatening a seemingly unavoidable dystopian societal collapse. And yeah, they're mentally checking out. Here's an example (shared with the author's permission). Literally AS I AM TYPING THIS, a client sent me the following message in DM's on our private Discord server: "Yo I’m sorry to bring this up but I have had like paralyzing depression all day. Barely any energy. Just trying to clean my place and do laundry is requiring massive effort. I meditated. Tried to take a nap. Still not getting energy back. Been weighing on me really fucking hard bc I feel like I’ve been fighting this shit like all my life. I guess it’s just another storm I gotta let pass. It feels like it’s been happening more recently. Idk if it’s COVID or what. I’m not trying to complain. I’m not suicidal but the “I don’t wanna be alive” feeling is strong. Didn’t want to tell parents but had to tell someone. Sorry burden you figured you're the closest thing to my therapist."
You just can't make this stuff up. This is a real guy, 31 years old, moved from San Diego, CA (where I presently live) back to PA (where I'm originally from) to take a "real job" putting his MBA to good use. The combination of the move, the new job pressure, parental pressure, struggles with self identity, loneliness, and a bunch of other unmanaged feelings -- the kind men are historically told we shouldn't even have, let alone dwell on -- is kicking his ass. So I responded:
"I'm literally writing [an article about] this as we speak.... hold on for screenshot. Ah fuck, tech issues. Anyway, you're not alone. Let me finish my article and send it to you. See if it puts a nice little 'Hello Kitty' Band-Aid over that gunshot wound you're nursing. In the meantime, bro either get outside or do some intense exercise to jack your vibe up. Real shit."
About an hour later I texted him to ask if I could post our exchange, and he said sure no problem, and told me that -- per my advice -- he was out on a run in the freezing cold (in gloomy-ass Allentown, PA). I told him "fuck yeah!" and sent a GIF of the iconic scene where Rocky punches slabs of hanging beef in a meat locker. I'm from Philadelphia, and gritting out hard times is a point of pride for us. Earning a Rocky GIF from a Philly guy is a high compliment. It says you chose to look the gloom square in the eye, plant your feet, double-down, and fucking FIGHT. And in a round about way, I guess that's the message of this post. Dude, I don't lack empathy. Trust me, I know how hard it is. I have war stories. I've been down so bad I never thought I'd see the light. But I did, and now I'm here. And even still, not every day is easy. No one, ever, stops dealing with shit. Why? Because dealing with shit is part of your experience here on Earth, no matter how cleverly you try to game the system. But HOW you deal with shit defines your character, and informs the quality of your life experience. So if you're feeling gloomy and miserable, man.... I get it. You're not alone. You're one of many, many men quietly struggling to manage feelings of fear, despair, futility, and overwhelm. But also, you have powers deep inside of you that you haven't unlocked yet. Easter-egg achievement levels you don't even know are there, and which only reveal themselves when you dig deeper than you ever have before. You literally have to fail. And THEN after failing, you have to grind. That's where the journey to this next level of strength begins. So bro, DON'T quit mentally. Don't give up. Don't check out. Double-down. You can do this. Even if "this" just means taking a shower, or folding your laundry. Any progress is good progress. You aren't alone. You're one of us. We're all going through this thing together. And the work you put in when no one sees you gives you the strength to model both grit and a positive attitude out here on the battle field, where real men are made. THIS is where you earn your street-cred. So man-up, homie. You're a winner. You're a leader. You've got this. And look.... if you feel like you might benefit from having a coach in your corner, and you have the means to invest in yourself, feel free to reach out. That's what we do here. But if you don't, or you're already a client and just having a bad day, take heart. This will pass, and you'll be better for it.