James O'Connor on hitting rock bottom and coming back up

James O'Connor on hitting rock bottom and coming back up

Real STUFF 101 with Hunter:

Renegade Rugby Red's star James O'Connor

James O’Connor blew my mind. As a guy who has experienced more highs and lows than most people his age, he is super clear on who he is, how he got there and what's important moving forward. After playing for Australia in front of thousands of fans as a youngster, James was a party boy, a model, a substance abuser and spent time in jail. This conversation tears through assumptions about masculinity and what it takes to walk the hero's journey. Mental health, intuition, drug abuse, and healthy relationships are all on the table in this feast of a convo. With a good dose of open-minded spirituality to boot.

James’s career has not been without controversy, with incidents involving drugs and alcohol making headlines. He tells me, “I pretended I didn’t care about anything, I lost interest, I was rebelling against it and made some terrible decisions. Nights out, I started drinking a lot more, doing stuff like that — I just started spiralling.” He also opened up about struggling with depression, particularly during long spells on the sidelines with injury, and how the organisation Saviour World helped him to reignite his career. 

Earlier this year, James reached his 100th super rugby cap, an achievement he calls “one of my greatest feats… almost closure to a chapter in my story”. So how has James hit rock bottom and come back up? I'm pulling out a few of the pivotal moments here to give a deeper dive into this phenomenal conversation:

  • how do intentional choices work?
  • what is the warrior archetype and why is it still relevant?

  • as we ignore the universe for the metaverse what happens to our spirituality?

Rising to our choices, rather than falling to them.

(hint: intentionality gives you fresh choices, everyday... mmm fresh)

Are you wired to please? Both James and I grapple with this one! It feels good to make others feel good... like a little rat wheel spinning out frenetic goodness. But when all our energy is fuelling other's needs, pleasing becomes a poison. How can we be more intentional about way we bring joy to others? 

Choices are generally made through a series of short-cuts zapping through the brain (scientifically speaking!). We're busy, we need to decide fast. We get it. The issue is that choice short-cuts are often not choice. They might be formed by innate and learned biases, or by a false belief about a situation, or by reacting under pressure to choices we would never otherwise make.

Here's some tips on making intentional choices:

  1. Pause and play it out. Think about what this choice will mean a day from now, a year from now, a lifetime from now. Does it still look fun?
  2. Unplug the ulterior motives. Disconnect for a moment to understand the connection between what people want from you, and what they want from themselves.
  3. Take of the mask. Unless you can be real in the moment of choice, the choice probably doesn't reflect the real you.

James says it brilliantly: "I was given every thing I could possibly want... to destroy myself."

Why are archetypes relevent today?

(hint: master the subliminal Warrior Archetype with STUFF's natural deoderant)

The warrior archetype is one of society’s protectors. Representative of physical strength and prowess, the warrior will stand up for the rights of others and for the things they believe in. We talk about how today, masculinity can feel like it's under attack. That's because warrior traits like these have been used for bad, rather than for good. Society still needs warriors. As James says, it's all about balance. 

Warriors are prepared to defend those less able than themselves with a loyalty, toughness and a willingness to fight to the death if necessary. It can also seem that the warrior actually needs a battle in order to find fulfillment in their existence. When we think about integrating the masculine and the feminine, there is a beautiful saying: 'Don't give a sword to a man who can't dance.'

If you're manifesting your inner warrior archetype, here's some tips:

    1. The warrior possesses a gift for quick but rational thinking and has good instincts – so listen to yours!
    2. Check your response to conflict. Warriors have fast reflexes and often react by doing battle. Do you have the balance of ying and yang that allows you to act greater good?
    3. Strength and power are beautiful traits, we just need to harness them in ways we are proud of.

The universe vs the meta verse

(hint: we can give you STUFF for your face but you need to take care of stuff for your brain)

We have lived in harmony with the planet for most of our species' existence, it's only the past few decades we've overstepped boundaries and fallen out of balance with nature. James and I discuss higher consciousness, whether you name that as the universe, Mother Earth, or one of many Gods, the point is that we live in heaven on earth, if only we would slow down, get out in nature, and live with more intentionality.

The metaverse is coming for us, and the pleasure centres of our brains are just a mixing desk of buttons waiting to be pushed by scary smart geeks in Silicone Valley. To hear tech CEOs talk about it, the metaverse is the future of the internet. Or it's a video game. Or maybe it's a deeply awkward, worse version of zoom. Hard to say. But there's a lotta hype (and money) funneling into the metaverse right now and it's worthwhile looking at who's funding our new world... short answer? People who want to take our metadata and track our needs, fears and desires, in order to more effectively sell us things.

Living with intentionality beats living inside the internet. We get so much back by loving and protecting the incredible world we have all around us. This world is literally in our nature. Choose your verse! Or at least make it a sic mashup!

Thanks for listening and hit me up if you have any feedback, suggestions or guests you'd love to hear from.


We’re proud to partner with The Man Cave, a leading preventative mental health and emotional intelligence service for young men. For every $1000 in sales, STUFF sponsors one boy to experience one of The Man Cave's life-changing mental health programs.


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