STUFF from Hunter:
Tips on hacking our own masculine stereotypes with Tom Harkin from Tomorrow Man
This poddy with Tom Harkin is a masterclass in owning our shit. Tom is a really good friend and someone that has constantly inspired my journey. But bigger than that, Tom has impacted the emotional journeys of hundreds of thousands of boys, young men, and high performing executives of both genders. He has shaken generations from stringent stereotypes and helped them become more authentic versions of themselves.
This week I break down the key lessons from Tom's heartfelt personal stories, so we can create new stories for ourselves.
- Be brave enough to take down the walls we've built around our vulnerability
- Find a practice to slow down and be with our best thoughts
- Learn how to ask your mates if they're okay (no but really)
There are some people you just sit down with and cut straight to the Real STUFF. Tom is one of those men. I’m so grateful to have him in my life and to be able to share some actionable top tips on owning your shit.
Who built those walls anyway?
(don't sweat it, taking down walls is easier than putting them up)
Growing up in Frankston, Tom found himself becoming an integral part of the Reach Foundation, a movement started by Jim Stynes and Paul Currie to inspire young people to believe in themselves and get the most out of life. Tom describes himself as an introvert, with a Mum who taught him to be a warrior in the world. Some kids get off on drugs, some of us like to game, but Tom was chasing a way to understand himself, and the bigger story of the human condition.
When I asked Tom about his journey to self acceptance he told me that finding ways to break himself open was his ‘crack’. Tom travelled half way around the world to do hard core acting classes, not with an ambition of scoring a lead role, but to understand the script humans are unwittingly conditioned to recite.
Tom was intent on breaking down his own walls to better serve humanity. When one of the instructors sat down with him he was ready to tear down the walls by force. But she told him “the thing about walls, is that they're there because somebody built them.” With some breathing and deep reflection Tom was able to understand the kid who’d created the fortress, and rather than forcibly dismantling the walls through blood sweat and tears, he was able to just let them fall.
Listening to Tom it occurs to me that we spend so much of our energy trying to keep our walls up. It’s counterintuitive but “being more” does not necessarily mean “doing more”. Sometimes owning our shit happens in the process of letting it go... of letting the walls fall down, and the stuff we're hiding from bubble up.
Being with our best thinking and slowing the flow.
(whether it’s in a float tank or a straight up bubble bath we need to ease the mental stream)
Throughout the conversation Tom and I chat about high performance teams and the need to keep up a strapping pace as leaders of organisations focused on reach and impact. Tom reminds me how difficult it can be to build wellbeing into our lives, even though mental health is such a big part of the space we work in.
I ask Tom what advice he has on slowing down. He admits straight up at being crap at meditation, but talks in depth about how dangerous it is to spend so much time with our rushed and reactive thinking. Tom dives into his practice to access his wiser self, noting that since having kids and running three businesses he has never had less time to think. All it takes though is a couple of days at a random Air BnB with a pile of sticky notes. It’s amazing how a state of calm and creativity is often right there under the surface, if we just take a moment to clear out some noise.
On looking after the mental health of our mates, Tom has some excellent insights having run workshops for men all around the world. He tells me about a group of blokes who meet at 5 pm for a beer every single night without fail and have been doing so for years. But in a workshop they discovered two out of the three are dealing with some heavy shit that no one else knows about. Tom recounts how the friends swore that the conversation would be different From now on. He tells me that it’s not about the asking that is the issue. Anyone can say are you alrigtht mate? But it takes a real man to ask a second and third time. And understand that even though it might kill the buzz, sitting in the awkward ness is better than sitting in pretence that everything’s okay. Tom asks us all, do you care more about your mate?or about feeling comfortable?
Learn how to ask your mates if they're okay
(no but really)
Tom raises a great question: when we sit with our mates every single day, but they have stuff going on that we don't know about, what are we missing? How are we so distracted by banter, being cool, and pretending we have our shit together, that we don't even really know what our mates are going through? I ask Tom where he thinks we can start being better mates and his answer is pure gold.
“Ask yourself, does being a good mate, have a higher value to it, then feeling comfortable all the time, and never, never feeling awkward with my mates. Like, I feel like we've all got to go to be a good mate, awkwardness is a part of it, and to be honest, to be a good partner. Awkward, awkwardness is a part of it."
Tom has such great practical advice on this.
- Go first. No one opens up to someone who acts like they've never struggled.
- Be willing to care more about your mates than you are about staying comfortable. Awkwardness is the cornerstone of any real conversation about emotions.
- It's not about that first question. It's about staying and asking the second and third question, creating a safe space for truth to sit.
Ultimately, owning our shit is a process. And processing our shit requires a few key things: the ability to face it and let it go; the ability to sit with ourselves without distraction as uncomfortable things come to the surface; and the ability to talk honestly and openly with mates and create the space for all of us to be more real. Thanks for reading.
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.