Sinister 7 50 Miler

I just need a fucking win.

That was the attitude I went into Sinister 7 with. In November of 2021 I took a fall on a training run and exacerbated a chronic hip/SI joint issue. I went to physiotherapy and tried massage, stretching, yoga and albeit sporadic, I did do some physical therapy exercises. Nothing seemed to heal the pain. I switched from running to cycling and even took extended periods of time off to see if rest was what I needed. Nothing worked. My Physio eventually referred me to my Dr., who ordered an ultrasound which revealed a torn ligament in my SI joint as well as some mild arthritis and glute strain. He prescribed a cortisone shot to manage the pain. This was February of 2022. 

I’ll admit I was hoping for a miracle cure. I did not get it. I got some relief and was able to continue running. Eventually, it felt like the pain moved from the joint and was now more soft tissue issues. Back to physio, some dry needling and a relentless commitment to my physical therapy started to show some improvement, though I always knew it was there. 

I signed up for an early season 50km, Diez Vista on the west coast to see how my glute/SI would hold up. I wanted to see before committing to any more races. Diez Vista was cold and wet but went incredibly well. My injury actually seemed to improve post-race. Go figure.

Michelle and I had already secured accommodations for Sinister 7 weekend in Crowsnest Pass knowing that if I couldn’t run we would volunteer. So when we started to see bibs come up for sale and I was feeling much better we made the plunge. 

Michelle picked up a 50km bib and I snagged a Sinister 7 50 mile bib. Boom! We’re back baby! At least I hope so. I’m not sure I realized how deflating not being able to race for a year really was. I briefly debated tackling the hundred miler again but knew the smart thing to do was to do the 50 miler and work hard for a successful race. 

I hired a coach, committed to my physical therapy routine and started to be a little more mindful of what I ate. Training was going well. I hit a few PB’s for the fastest 5km and 10km. Add a little elevation now that we have a place in the mountains and I was feeling pretty stoked come race day.

Sinister will always hold a special place in my heart. It was where I completed my first 100 miler and also the course that has taught me the most lessons on my 3 previous visits. The 50 mile course covers half of leg 4, all of legs 5, 6, and 7. It would be fun to run these legs in the light of day instead of overnight on tired legs as I did in the 100 miler. 

My goal at the start line was to be able to run strong without the injury hampering my efforts and to finish under 15 hours. After all if I am coming back for the hundred, which I need to finish under 30 hours, then I had better be able to do the 50 miles under 15 hours. The start line was full of my Edmonton run community friends and I was looking forward to starting with my friend Tania who had also run the Diez Vista race with me. 

Sinister 7 50 mile

I also was well-equipped to document my journey. I had my iPhone on me, my new GoPro Hero 11 as well as my Insta 360 camera. I’m sure I looked ridiculous. Stay tuned for the video to follow. ;0)

The gun went and we started up the hill to connect with Leg 4. About a kilometer in we hit the single track and the subsequent inevitable race start bottleneck. I have to admit it felt a little odd doing the “death march” so early in a race. The terrain soon opened up to the double-wide road and the runnable section started to see the racers spread out a bit. I ended up running with a guy who recognized me from my YouTube videos and learned a little of his story (I’ll leave it out as it is not my story to tell.) The camaraderie on the trail is always one of my favorite parts of a race. Michelle likes to tease me about all the friends I collect on the trail. 

“Hi I’m Mike. Will you be my friend?” 

The good news is that almost all trail runners will answer an enthusiastic “yes” to that request.

The beginning of our race was the last 12km of Leg 4. Highly runnable and relatively flat. It was fun to reminisce about the three other times I had raced that leg. I usually come into TA 4 / 5 at sundown and make it a challenge to see if I can finish the leg before I needed a headlamp to see. Today this would not be the case, as I would be coming into the transition area around noon. 

Leg 4 elapsed time: 1:36:55.3 

I finished leg 4 feeling incredibly fresh and did a quick refuel on bananas, watermelon, orange and finally took some banana bread to go. I had been using a 500ml Soloman filter flask for hydration so far, filling from the creek on the way. I did not need to refill my 2 liter bladder and headed out quickly on Leg 5. This would be the first time I would see leg 5 in the light of day. I was really excited. Leg 5 is 27 km and the first 8km are relatively flat. At least that is what I remembered. Turns out the flat is a little more inclined than I realized in the dark. Still it was mostly runnable at the start. 

When we turned off the road to the campground I knew we would start to climb a bit so took out my poles. It was at that moment I realized that I actually had packed Michelles poles in my quiver. They are 10cm shorter than mine. Oops! All I could think of was the fact that meant she now had poles that were 10cm too long for her. I thought “Oh shit, she is not going to be pleased!” Turns out I was wrong. While she noticed they seemed long she did not make the connection to me accidentally switching poles. I can assure you those poles will soon be color coded!

Leg 5 can be extremely wet and muddy as much of it follows a quad track in the bush. It was nice to be able to see it in the daylight this year and be able to navigate around some of the knee-deep mud bogs that I had a hard time avoiding in the dark.  I was moving well and at some point realized that I had not even noticed my SI as an issue! Great news!

I came into TA 5 / 6 feeling really strong and much to my surprise saw Tania still at the TA. Friends Janelle and Kirk were there crewing her and Janelle jumped into action to assist me as Tania went out. A quick refill of the bladder and flask along with some more fruit and banana bread. I sat in Janelle’s chair while she got my drop bag and I changed socks. Soon Janelle started to shoo me out of the TA. Her husband Kirk, not a runner, started to tease her about giving me a break. We both assured him that it was indeed time to kick me back out onto the course. 

Leg 5 elapsed time: 4:36:11.6

Leg 6 is one of the hardest on course with 31.9km and 1400 meters of elevation. Most of that elevation gain is in a 4-5km section. Leg 6 is where I blew up twice on my 100 milers. It is arguably the most scenic leg of the course and the views from the top are mind-blowing. I get emotional just thinking about it. The top of leg 6 is special to me. The first year that was when I knew I would not finish on time. I called Michelle from the top in tears, telling her “New plan. There is no way I will make 30 hours with my trashed feet. I just need you to get me out on Leg 7 before the cutoff because I did not come here to run 93 miles.”

Michelle and I have hiked the leg together since then, and in 2021 it was where I bonked hard and missed the TA 6/7 cutoff time. I love/hate that leg. Mostly I love it. This year I got to run it with my new friend Harold from Saskatchewan. Harold and I paced pretty well together and he had never done the leg. I think he was pretty in awe of the climb. We traded leads as we went and close to the top we were passed by the first 100 mile relay runner. Unbelievable! Shortly after the lead runner passed us, number 2 and 3 came racing by as well. 

We paused at the top to rest and to take in the views. Then we started the gnarly descent down the other side of leg three. Harold was a mountain goat going down and I struggled to keep up. I have always said “I suck on the technical descents.” This time I was mindful to change that inner dialogue. “You are much better on the technical descents this year.” was a much more useful mantra. 

The inner dialogue can easily run away on you in an ultra. 

“You’re not bad Mike you just need to be a little more courageous with your footing.” 

“What the fuck are you talking about Mike, you are one of the most courageous mother fuckers I know. Now get moving!”

Harold had said that he hoped to be 6 hours on leg 6. It is a goal that I think I was afraid to set for myself given the struggles I’ve had on leg 6 in the past. I started doing the math. If I could finish leg 6 in 6 hours then a 14 hour finish was possible. Fuck yeah! Let’s do this mother fucker! You’re so much stronger this year. You are more experienced and you know this course. Let’s go!!

Ah shit, now I had to push for a 14 hour finish. I remembered my friend Priscilla who had just come in 8th female at western states and asked myself what she would do. “She’d race this and run as hard as she could.”

Fine! I’ll push. When I left checkpoint 6b after the big descent, I was quickly reminded of the subsequent big climb. Not out of the woods yet.

Top of Leg 6

“Move with intention, Mike. Move with intention.”

“It doesn’t have to be fast. It just has to be consistent.”

I stopped thinking about time and just focused on moving as quickly as I could. The last section before CP6c was a flurry of activity with quadders racing the dirt road we were running. It was not pleasant eating all that dust but what can you do. I knew Michelle would be finished her race and would head to TA 6/7 to crew me out on the last leg. Just then my phone went off. A text from Michelle asking where I was and letting me know she was at the TA. I waited until I hit CP6c before responding. 6C is 7.5km from the TA so I knew I would be about an hour in. 

Doing the math in my head again I realized that would out me at TA 6/7 about 10:30pm which would then give me about 2 hours to finish leg 7 to hit that 14-hour mark. 

Leg 6 elapsed time: 6:03:10.2

Slightly slower than I had hoped but better than expected. I came in just after 10:30pm. Michelle changed out my socks, cleaned my feet and took my camera as it was now dark. I added my waist lamp to the mix so I could see the trail on leg 7 easier. It was about 10:45 pm when I left. Not the best transition ever but I was moving well. I gave Michelle a kiss and said I will see you in two hours at the finish line. Not daring to hope for a faster time. Leg 7 is the easiest leg on course but that doesn’t make it easy. It is only 11 km but there is still a lot of climbing to do. Then the technical descent in the dark on dusty, slippery rock. I ran with a crew from Grande Priarie for a bit and pushed past them telling them I wanted to crack 14 hours and needed to hustle. 

I thought I had dropped them but eventually Tom from Grande Prairie caught me again and passed my as we left the CP7a. We raced the last 6 km to the finish line and I was elated to come in feeling strong whooping and making Michelle and I’s trademark “KawKaw!!” which we use to ID each other. She replied and I raced across the finish line. I knew it was going to be close to that 14-hour mark. My watch was not accurate as I forgot to start it right at the start line. 

I took my finisher’s medal and beer, gave Michelle a kiss and went to sit down. Our friend David came up to report my official time….


Damn! My mind started jumping to all the places on the course where I could have shaved off 3 ½ minutes. Not that it mattered. Holy shit did that feel good to crush my 15-hour goal and still feel incredibly strong.  

2024 hundred miler… here we come!

How you do anything is how you do everything

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”

This mantra has become front and center in my world of late. It is a reminder for me that there is no cheating the process. There is no way around “doing the work.”

This is most tangible for me in my physical fitness though it is applicable in my personal and professional life. When my alarm goes off at 5:30 in the morning, my instinct is to hit the snooze button. To start my day procrastinating.

“How you do anything is how you do everything, Mike”

The little voice in my head reminds me. With that, I curse that little voice and begrudgingly put my feet on the floor. I’m out the door for my run before 6am. This morning is a hard one—a progression run. My coach has prescribed paces at the upper end of my ability that I know I will not likely hit.

Ramp up in 10 steps
1.00 km @ 06:15 min/km
1.00 km @ 06:01 min/km
1.00 km @ 05:45 min/km
1.00 km @ 05:33 min/km
1.00 km @ 05:23 min/km
1.00 km @ 05:09 min/km
1.00 km @ 05:00 min/km
1.00 km @ 04:46 min/km
1.00 km @ 04:33 min/km
1.00 km @ 04:21 min/km

It would be easy to “phone it in” and simply go through the motions to check off the run and move on.

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”

Do the fucking work Mike. The first 7km are relatively easy. It is the last three that make me literally want to vomit. I’m out here now. Let’s get it done, and the rewards will come on race day when I am that much better prepared.

I think of Courtney Dauwalters blistering pace and new course record over 100 miles at last weekend’s Western States Endurance Run. I think of my friend Priscilla who placed 8th at WSER. What would they do for those last three clicks? The effort expended here will have a direct correlation to how I do come race day, just 10 days away.

“How you do anything is how you do everything!”

Habits are not just about what I do but also about how I do them.

I want to build a habit of pushing hard when the going gets tough. A habit is not something I do once in a while but rather what I consistently do.

Cultivating a habit of perseverance in the face of adversity is why I run ultras. To practice. My ability to persevere in the face of adversity has gotten me through so much in my life.

A near-death car accident at 17
A 240 million dollar Ponzi scheme that nearly bankrupted me and many I love
My divorce
The murder of my girlfriend

And a myriad of other trials and tribulations over the years.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

How will you persevere today?

Cultivating Non-Judgmental Listening Skills: A Guide for Male Leaders in the Workplace

Steve (fictional name, true story) had fucked up in a big way. He knew it, and as the leader of the organization he worked for, I knew it too. What I did not know, however, was why this had happened. The mistake was big enough that he could have, and possibly should have been, terminated with cause. Fortunately, I had the awareness to suspend judgment of the event and listen to the whole story.

The short and anonymized version is that Steve had a mental breakdown and ended up on suicide watch at the hospital. It was this temporary breakdown that had caused the mistake, which I also knew was very out of character for this team member.

By practicing non-judgemental listening, I was able to get the full story. Who knows what might have happened if we had terminated Steve because of this error? Instead, we helped get Steve the supports he needed, and he went on to be a valued team member for many years to come.

As human beings, we tend to place judgment on what we see, hear, experience and even what we feel. Our minds, ego and the need to be part of a community (tribal tendencies) can make us judge quickly. Developing self-awareness and empathy and practicing non-judgmental listening effectively counteract the natural tendency to judge. By consciously challenging our biases and being open to diverse perspectives, we can foster a more inclusive and understanding society.

As a lifelong student of effective leadership strategies, here are some valuable insights on a crucial aspect of communication that can transform your workplace dynamics: non-judgmental listening. In today’s fast-paced world, where diverse perspectives thrive, fostering an inclusive environment and understanding the concerns of your team members becomes paramount.

  1. Embrace Empathy: Empathy is the cornerstone of non-judgmental listening. Cultivate a genuine desire to understand and connect with your team members. When engaging in conversations, please focus on the speaker’s emotions, body language, and tone to gain deeper insights into their perspectives and concerns. Empathy allows you to transcend preconceived notions and truly grasp the experiences of others.
  2. Drop Assumptions and Biases: To practice non-judgmental listening effectively, you must consciously let go of assumptions and biases. Approach each conversation with an open mind, free from preconceived notions about gender, age, or background. Recognize that everyone brings unique experiences, and their insights and contributions are equally valuable.
  3. Create a Safe Space: A safe and inclusive environment is vital for non-judgmental listening. Encourage open dialogue, where team members feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and concerns without fear of judgment. Foster an atmosphere of trust and respect where diverse viewpoints are valued and appreciated. By doing so, you empower your team to share their authentic selves.
  4. Listen Actively: Non-judgmental listening goes beyond merely hearing words; it requires active engagement. Practice active listening by giving your undivided attention, maintaining eye contact, and providing verbal and non-verbal cues to signal your attentiveness. Ask open-ended questions to encourage deeper reflection and understanding. Remember, practice the pause; silence can be powerful, allowing the speaker to express their thoughts fully.
  5. Suspend Evaluation and Respond Thoughtfully: As a leader, it is natural to analyze and evaluate situations quickly. However, during non-judgmental listening, focus on understanding rather than evaluating. Suspend judgment and avoid interrupting or imposing your own opinions. Respond thoughtfully, acknowledging the speaker’s thoughts before offering your perspective.
  6. Seek Feedback and Learn: Continual growth is a hallmark of exceptional leadership. Actively seek feedback from your team members on your listening skills. Encourage honest conversations about improving and creating a more inclusive environment. You set a powerful example for others by demonstrating your commitment to personal development.

While non-judgmental listening is not gender specific, in my experience, it can be more challenging for men whose natural tendency is to want to fix things.

Creating a list of how to practice non-judgemental listening is relatively easy. What is hard is actually putting it into practice. If you have taken any leadership training, you likely know most of these points. My challenge for you this week is to focus on employing all of the techniques above in all of your conversations. The first step to change is awareness. At the end of your day, reflect on your interactions and rate yourself on these six items. You can use this worksheet to track your progress.

I’d love to hear how these work for you.

Men, It’s Time to Stop Hiding

Last week I had a beautiful reminder of one of the most important aspects of healing, in particular for men. I attended a fundraiser luncheon for the Little Warriors Be Brave Ranch. The Little Warriors is an organization that creates spaces ( and programs for children who are victims of childhood sexual abuse. Their mission is truly inspiring. I was honoured to be able to attend with hundreds of other supporters. This was their 10th annual luncheon and a real milestone. 

I forget how much I enjoy getting out and networking with others in this kind of community environment. I had been invited by a friend who had been trying to get me to join her for a few years, and the timing never worked out. The sense of community in an environment like that is quite remarkable. This a stark reminder of what we have all missed these last few years with COVID removing so many of our in-person events. 

As human beings, we are hard-wired for connection. I work primarily with men and can see the effects of profound loneliness that many men feel, yet few are willing to admit. Most of us won’t admit it to ourselves, let alone those around us. I was intrigued to see this year’s keynote speaker, Paul Young. Paul is a New York Times Best Selling author of “The Shack.” more interestingly, he is a man who was willing to share his own journey of childhood abuse. 

Paul shared a lot of nuggets of wisdom in his speech. He is a fabulous storyteller, and I can always tell an author by the wonderful turns of phrases they use to describe events, locations and people in their stories. Paul did not disappoint in this regard. 

At one point, he shared a story about a shameful act that he had done and how coming clean meant admitting to his family and friends what had happened. He told the story of sharing what he had done with his father-in-law. I will not do it justice, but how he phrased the scene painted a colourful image. “When I told him what happened, I watched his heart break, seep out his eyes and roll down his cheek. No judgement, just love.” Again I am paraphrasing, Paul was more eloquent than that. It was a powerful moment in the story.

He told stories of shame and guilt and the difference between the two. “Shame is ‘I am something bad,’ and guilt is ‘I have done something bad.’”  He talked about forgiveness and he talked about healing and love. He talked about the lies he had hidden behind and how to heal himself and his relationships, he had to become a ‘truthteller.’ 

There were many powerful takeaways from his presentation. The one that stood out the most to me was his simple statement, “The unrevealed remains unhealed.” In the context of men and masculinity, truer words have not been spoken. As a man, I know that I feel an inordinate amount of pressure to “be strong.” And while I think that “being strong” is a virtuous pursuit, I also believe that most define strength incorrectly. You can see 15 minutes of my thoughts on this in my TEDx “Redefining Badass: The Way Men Think About Strong is Wrong.” 

Many view strength as ‘sucking it up,’ burying or avoiding much of what we actually feel. We think vulnerability is weakness and wear many masks to avoid showing what is happening inside us. We armour up, wrap ourselves in material pursuits and addictions, and carve away some of the deepest parts of ourselves lest we be judged ‘unmanly.’ We talk of courage as if it is all about pushing through and ignoring our trauma. Real courage is about having the strength to drop the armour, put down the masks and stand in front of that mirror raw, naked and fully revealed.

Our scars define us, they make us who we are. They are not something that needs to be covered up or ignored. They are to be explored, accepted and integrated into our whole self. “What remains unrevealed remains unhealed.” One of my favourite quotes by Eckert Tolle is, “With awareness, there comes choice. And so you are able to say: “I allow this moment to be as it is.” And then, suddenly, where before there was irritation, there is now a sense of aliveness and peace. And out of that comes right action.” 

When we bury our true selves and hide our scars, we do so to the outside world and ourselves. And when we hide from ourselves, there is no chance for change.  

Cultivating Resilience in Your Team: A Leader’s Guide to Navigating Uncertainty

Four Ways to Build a Culture of Resilience

I was 28 years old, at the peak of my career. I was making more money than I had in my life and, quite frankly, more than I would have imagined possible a few short years earlier. I had moved to a new town and was about to launch a new branch office set to lead the charge into a new province. Life was good. Until it wasn’t. It was October 3, 1997, when I got the phone call from the BC regulator. Eron Mortgage, the company I worked for, had been shut down for good. I would later learn this was the largest mortgage fraud in BC history—$240 million. A giant Ponzi scheme, it seemed. I was a new face, in a new town, with a new fiance; not only had I lost my job but also millions of dollars. 

If ever there was a time for resilience, this was it. But, of course, I had no idea this was just the beginning of what would become a journey of resilience building in my life. While the details of my story may be unique, the need to adapt to unexpected change is not. No matter how well we script our lives, we can’t avoid the inevitable suck. This is true whether we are talking business or personal. 

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need to be resilient. However, we appreciate that we don’t live in an ideal world. Challenges are inevitable regardless of how we plan, organize, and work our organizational plan. So the question becomes how can we create a culture of resilience within our organizations? 

The difference between successful and unsuccessful organizations is how well they adapt and cope with change. 

Here are a couple of well-known examples:

Netflix was a DVD rental-by-mail service which faced competition from established players like Blockbuster. However, Netflix adapted to the changing market and shifted its focus to online streaming, which became its primary business model. This move allowed Netflix to expand globally and become a leader in the streaming industry.

In contrast, Kodak failed to adapt and eventually went bankrupt. Kodak was a dominant player in the photography industry for many years, but the company failed to keep up with the shift to digital photography. Despite inventing the first digital camera in 1975, Kodak was slow to embrace the technology and instead focused on its traditional film business. This ultimately led to the company’s downfall, as it failed to adapt to the changing market and lost its competitive edge to newer digital camera companies like Canon and Nikon.

So how do we cultivate a culture of resilience within our organization? 

Here are four things that are Paramount to developing a culture of resilience within any organization. 

Curiosity over Judgement

We open possibilities by looking at the adversities thrown at us through the lens of curiosity rather than judgment. We create the opportunity to learn through the process and avoid being crippled by fear, doubt and indecision. Cultivating a culture of curiosity over judgment starts at the leadership level but will require an organizational shift in mindset. When the storm hits, we must ensure everyone on the boat is rowing their oars in the same direction. As leaders, we must cultivate curiosity through the good and bad times. 

One way we can inspire curiosity is to invite it. We can ask our teams what they are curious about when we launch a new initiative. Invite curiosity, welcome questions, and encourage challenges.

Psychological safety 

Dr. Amy Edmonson codified psychological safety as the belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes and that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.

When we create a psychologically safe environment, we allow our teams to speak up during times of crisis. We allow our people to use their skills and talent to help us navigate the crisis collectively. Empowering our people to take action without fear of reprisal creates a sense of agency, ownership and purpose, allowing individuals to be more resilient in navigating challenges and change. Knowing that ideas, beliefs, questions and concerns can be raised directly helps create a space of certainty within an otherwise uncertain world. 


In the absence of information, people will fill in the blanks on their own. This can be incredibly damaging in times of crisis. In periods of uncertainty, while people are looking for clarity and direction, more communication from leadership is needed. Communication doesn’t necessarily mean that we have all the answers. It simply means that we as leaders are communicating the answers we do have and the questions we are still trying to address. This kind of communication, coupled with psychological safety, will further empower our teams to co-create solutions as we navigate through crises and challenges. 

In 2008 I was the CEO of a national mortgage brokerage. That happened to be the year the world saw the global financial system collapse. Ensuring we communicated with our staff and customers throughout the unprecedented economic crisis and financial collapse was critical. Even when we did not have answers, we still communicated. 

Creating intentional spaces for our teams to unpack whatever is going on allows communication to flow in all directions. Communication is not just about sending information out it is also about creating an environment where your team can actively share information, ideas and feelings.

Emotional Competence

Emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

As leaders, this is one of the most powerful tools in our toolkits. When it comes to building a culture of resilience, we also need to foster an environment of emotionally connected (emotionally intelligent) individuals. When times are challenging, people react in different ways. Understanding what drives those reactions is vital to navigating change. You have likely heard me before talk about how emotions drive decisions, decisions drive behaviour, and behaviours ultimately determine our results. It is essential to understand our emotional makeup and those around us so that we can take action proactively rather than with a reactive approach.

One way leaders can help create emotionally connected team members is to start significant interactions (meetings, one-to-ones, etc.) with a “check-in.” A brief one or two-word “What feeling is coming up for you right now?” check-in can create a practice space for emotional intelligence and help foster psychological safety.


As you can see, all these competencies require ongoing practice. These are not tools that are simply pulled out when the need for resilience arises but skills that require continual practice. The time to learn how to swim is not when your boat capsizes. The time to learn to swim is before you get on the boat. The same holds for building a culture of resilience within our organizations.  

Intentions Over Outcomes

I have written a bit on why I stopped using the term goal and shifted to a new paradigm of finding alignment with outcomes. Language matters. When I shift to setting an intention rather than obsessing about an outcome, I commit to how I am going to show up. I do not commit to a result that is often largely out of my control.

This mental shift has been incredibly liberating and a welcome way to remove unhealthy stress in my life. It doesn’t mean that I do not hold myself accountable to how I show up. It just means that commit to the process, not the result. The following story of an ultramarathon I ran Easter weekend was a great example of this concept.

Shut the Duck Up! How to Manage Negative Self-Talk Holding You Back

“You’re in a fight against an opponent you can’t see, but you can feel him on your heels can’t you, feel him breathing down your neck. You know what that is? That’s you, your fears, your doubts and insecurities all lined up like a firing squad ready to shoot you out of the sky. But don’t lose heart, while they are not easily defeated they are far from invincible.”

That little snippet is a line out of one of my favourite motivational short videos. There was a time when I would watch this clip daily. That line really resonated with me. It was a great reminder that all of that negative self-talk was just me.  A reminder that I control that. I get to choose what that voice says and even how that voice says it. 

Manage Negative Self-Talk

Last night at our Connect’d Men’s group, we talked a little bit about that voice. The stories that we tell ourselves. The stories of unworthiness, the stories of not belonging, the stories of “I am the only one.” Those voices can be debilitating when they are at their worst. The problem gets compounded when we, as men, are loathe to acknowledge the voice because we are supposed to be “strong”. We are supposed to be confident. We are supposed to have it all together for everyone around us. The truth is the more we fight those voices and try to forcefully remove them the louder they get. 

Self-compassion is not typically something most men that I know are very good at. That voice in our head is not often gentle and kind. It is usually pretty brutal and vicious. If we are not careful, it can become crippling. 

This weekend I am running the Diez Vista 50km trail race in BC. I have not been running regularly for the last year and a bit due to a torn ligament in my SI joint. This is the first race I have signed up for in a long time. I had a tussle with that voice in my head yesterday. It started telling me all of the reasons why I shouldn’t have signed up for this race. All the reasons why things were going to go wrong.  

Managing the voice in my head

For many years I did not acknowledge that this voice existed. I was a “man” I would power through. I was a business leader; I was an industry leader; I would outwork the voice, and I would “suck it up.” I suspect you know that inner dialogue. While that may have worked for a time, it was a taxing way of dealing with it. Always a fight, always a battle. It was exhausting. Once I began to recognize and acknowledge that voice in my head, I started to have some power over it. 

With awareness comes choice.

Once we acknowledge the voice and start to recognize when it shows up, then we can be proactive in managing it. 

One of the instructors in my graduate program on Executive Coaching had a simple phrase they used to quiet the voices that I really enjoyed. Last night as those voices rattled around in my head, I was reminded of this phrase. I hopped in the hot tub last night to be greeted by the image above. I’m at Mom and Dad’s place, and this cool little duck bobs and weaves around the hot tub, dispensing the pool chemicals needed to keep the hot tub clean. Instantly I could hear my instructor’s mantra.

“Shut the Duck Up!”

This was the phrase she used to silence that inner critic. Imagining that voice as a little duck quacking in her mind. She even went so far as to have a little rubber ducky sitting on her desk to remind her to tell that voice to “Shut the Duck Up!” when it got too loud. I love simple, actionable mantras to keep me grounded. This is one I use often. 

You’ve Got to Name it to Tame it.

I talk about the “name it to tame it” strategy, a term coined by Dan Seigal when it comes to managing our emotions. This strategy can also work well for managing your inner critic. One of the guys in our peer group last night shared a strategy they use to manage that voice. They let that voice speak. However, they give it a name. They name their voice Elmer Fudd, and when it speaks they hear it in his classic cartoon voice. Obviously, the voice has a lot less weight when such an iconic cartoon character speaks the words.

Another mantra I use to manage that voice comes from Dr. Daniel Amen, author of “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life.”

Kill the ANTs

ANT is an acronym for Automatic Negative Thoughts. You know, those voices we have been talking about, the automated response that is often “I can’t…”, “I’m not good enough….” If your brain is a supercomputer, then self-talk is the operating system that runs it.  

Moving Forward

My challenge for you is to start to notice when that self-talk starts to pop into your head.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

Carl Jung

Once you start to notice the voice, you can start to recognize the triggers that activate it and start to practice proactively managing it. I have given you three example strategies above but the truth is that we are all unique and we all have to find the things that work for us. The trick is to make it a regular practice with intention. 

If you want to dive a little deeper into self-compassion, I highly recommend checking out Kristen Neff’s work at She has a lot of good information and some great practices you can employ.  

How Stories Can Motivate Men to Prioritize Mental Health

I could sit here and share statistics with you all day that tell you why Mental health is a critical aspect of our overall well-being. But, the fact is it is often overlooked, particularly among men. I could tell you that based on a recent study of men in the workplace:

  • 55% of men reported being lonely.
  • 49% of Men surveyed scored in the range of probable depression
  • 68% feel uncomfortable asking for help
  • 46% Never ask for help
  • 42% reported behaviours suggestive of hazardous drinking or active alcohol use disorders.
  • 35% experienced thoughts of suicide or self-injury at least a few times a week.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 was experiencing psychological pain so intolerable that they could feel themselves falling apart.
  • 1 in 3 expressed hopelessness about the future, feeling that it was impossible that things could change for the better or that they could achieve their goals.
  • Approximately 1 in 10 men endorsed strong feelings of hatred, disgust, and shame towards themselves.
I could tell you all of these facts, but the truth is that while statistics may not lie, the stories inspire action.

While statistics may not lie, it's the stories inspire action.

As someone who works with men on their mental and emotional fitness and has seen the consequences firsthand when a man’s mental and emotional fitness is neglected, I cannot overstate the importance of encouraging men to prioritize their emotional well-being. While statistics don’t lie, the stories truly inspire action.

Why Stories Matter

Stories have been used to inspire action for centuries. From religious texts to fables to biographies, humans have always been drawn to narratives that highlight the triumphs and struggles of others. 

But why are stories so powerful?

For one, stories engage our emotions in a way that statistics and facts simply cannot. When we hear about someone who has overcome any mental health challenges, for example, we feel a sense of empathy and connection to their experience. This emotional connection is critical when it comes to motivating ourselves and others to take action.

At our recent Love Letter to Men: a conference on men’s mental health, we heard many stories from various men. 

Clint Malarchuk’s incredible story of trauma, attempted suicide, and subsequent recovery gave us a powerful example of what is possible. Hearing about someone who has successfully managed their mental health helps us believe that we can do the same. This is particularly important for men, who may feel like seeking help for mental health issues is a sign of weakness or failure. When we see examples of other strong men who have taken care of their mental and emotional fitness and improved their lives as a result, it helps to break down those barriers.

Stories show us what is possible in our own life. They allow us to see ourselves in others and provide hope for a brighter future. A powerful story can help us reduce the stigma that often comes with mental health challenges. Our stories also help us connect to a sense of community. 

Examples of Inspiring Stories

What do inspiring stories about men and mental health look like? Here are a few examples:

Kevin Love: The NBA star made headlines when he wrote an essay for The Players’ Tribune about his struggles with anxiety and depression. Love’s willingness to open up about his mental health challenges helped to break down the stigma and encourage other men to seek help.

Wesley and Salvi: Two men at our Love Letter to Men conference who shared their story of attempting suicide and subsequent recovery were remarkable. I know there were lessons shared that I will never forget. You can watch a recording of their story here.

Daniel Sundahl: Dan is an artist and first responder who shares his story with a powerful photo art collection. You can find his work on his website here

These are just a few examples, but there are countless other stories of men who have taken care of their mental health and improved their lives. By sharing these stories, we can inspire others to do the same.

How to Share Stories Effectively

Of course, simply sharing stories isn’t enough to create meaningful change. To truly inspire men to prioritize their mental health, we need to share stories in a way that resonates with them. Here are a few tips:

Use relatable language: The average dude does not want to hear academic jargon while listening to stories. Find language that is accessible and relatable to your audience. Avoid jargon or technical terms and use everyday language that men can easily understand.

Highlight the benefits: As men, we are often motivated by tangible benefits, so it’s important to emphasize the positive outcomes of prioritizing our emotional fitness. This might include improved relationships, better job performance, or a greater sense of purpose.

Address common concerns: Many men hesitate to seek help for mental health issues because they worry about being perceived as weak or vulnerable. Stories of “Strong men” who have taken action tackle these concerns head-on and demonstrate that seeking help is a sign of strength; we can help to break down these barriers

Various resources are available online on how to effectively tell stories. If you are a leader (and we’re all leaders) that wants to impact men and mental health, learn how to share great stories. 

Is Vulnerability in Leadership Bullshit?

Audio Blog

I have been a student of leadership for over 30 years. In recent years there has been a lot of talk about the power of vulnerability in leadership. However, many leaders I work with are highly skeptical about this concept. 

I hear a lot of similar viewpoints. “Yeah, they say that is what they want in leadership, but then as soon as we show any signs of weakness, we get trampled!” Despite all the research supporting the power of vulnerability in leadership positions, there is still hesitation in demonstrating it from those at the top. When I started to lead in a business context, I was terrified to show any vulnerability. I believed my team would lose faith in me if I did not appear to have all the answers. 

It took a long time to unlearn that. But, if you are subordinated to a leader that purports to have all the answers, you should rethink your position. A quick Google search can unravel even the most bulletproof display of bravado. Nothing erodes faith and trust in leaders when they spew about things they do not know. 

Vulnerability in leadership also needs to be coupled with authenticity. Leaders who employ false vulnerability as a tactic are quickly found out. The incongruent nature of their being will quickly sour even the most loyal followers. 

There is a plethora of research on the topic if you need empirical data to support the need for vulnerability in our leaders. However, I am not a researcher, and I prefer to show you based on my experience as a business leader for over 25 years and, frankly, what I call common sense. So let’s talk about what I have seen.

Some of the benefits of vulnerability in leadership:

  1. Vulnerability fosters trust
    Leaders who bring vulnerability to the workplace allow themselves to be seen as natural, fallible people. Authenticity builds trust within teams as they can see their leaders are not putting up a false front and are willing to admit their shortcomings. That is why we have teams, isn’t it? To provide support and diversity of skills to fill in gaps.
  2. Vulnerability can lead to better communication.
    When we, as leaders, are open and honest about our thoughts and feelings, it encourages others to do the same. By modelling the way, we create a culture of open, direct communication that allows for a deeper understanding within a team. As a result, it fosters more effective collaboration.
  3. Vulnerability can create a sense of psychological safety.
    When leaders create an environment of psychological safety, it leads to innovation and experimentation. When a leader is willing to share their shortcomings, it allows team members to more readily take calculated risks, which can contribute to the organization’s growth.
  4. Vulnerability fosters connection
    When leaders demonstrate vulnerability, it can create a sense of belonging amongst the team. This feeling of connection makes a more cohesive team and is a fantastic recipe for preventing burnout and excessive stress amongst the team.
  5. Self-awareness is the foundation for leadership.
    There is a level of vulnerability required for us to see our shortcomings. With it, growth becomes more accessible. When we dare to drop the armour and honestly assess our abilities as well as our weaknesses, it allows us the choice to improve. With awareness comes choice. 

Now that we have discussed some of the benefits of vulnerability in leadership let’s talk about how to do it. It may seem a little counterintuitive to think there can be a wrong way to do vulnerability, but there most certainly is. I believe this makes people skeptical about the power of vulnerability. 

Vulnerability is not:

  • Standing in front of your team and saying, “I have no idea what I am doing.” even if you don’t. There is a way to admit your uncertainty without undermining your team’s confidence. 
  • Spewing out all of your personal problems in the workplace. Where appropriate, it may make sense to share some personal struggles if they impact how you show up in the workplace; however, your team is not your therapist. 
  • Owning everyone else’s mistakes and shortcomings
  • Sharing everything without any boundaries

What vulnerability should look like:

  • Sharing your thoughts, feelings and opinions even if it goes against the grain. Having the courage to say, “I may be wrong, but…” can lead to a raft of others nodding in agreement. So many times, we all think the same thing but are afraid to say it. 
  • Have the courage to challenge the process even when you are uncertain.
  • Seek genuine feedback from the team
  • Ask for help. I have seen many times when things went awry because a leader did not dare to ask for help from their team. 
  • Encourage vulnerability in others. Creating a culture of safety and openness leads to a more inclusive, and supportive workplace. 
  • Maintain accountability and appropriate boundaries. Vulnerability in leadership without accountability and boundaries is a recipe for disaster. 

The bottom line is that vulnerability in leadership can be a powerful tool that fosters authenticity and trust. It can inspire others to take risks, create a sense of belonging and lead to personal and professional growth. In addition, vulnerability in leadership builds strong relationships within the organization and a positive team dynamic when appropriately done.

Like any other leadership skill, vulnerability takes practice. Unfortunately, I still do not get it right every time, but I am willing to experiment and repeat it. 

What is your influence?

On September 1, 2022, my 21-year-old son left to go to University 5000km from home. As a father, I am incredibly proud to see him spread his wings and blaze his own trail. It is also a little sad and a lot scary for me as well. When he left, I wanted to give him something that would memorialize this time in his life and serve as a reminder that I will always be there for him. No matter how far he explores, he will always have a home to return to.  I bought him this compass as that symbol and had it engraved with “Stay True, Love Dad”. I gave him a handwritten letter explaining the significance of the compass. I explained that a compass represents safety and protection. I reminded him to stay true to who is and the values he has been instilled with. I wrote about the power of leaning on your values to guide you when navigating stormy weather. I shared the guiding question that a friend shared with me. It is one that I regularly use in my quest to become. 

“What would the man I want to be, do in this situation?” 

I reminded him that life will get difficult; there is no getting around that; however, in my experience, almost everything beautiful is on the other side of something shitty.

As he sets sail on his adventure, I am proud to see many of my values reflected in the man he has become. I am reminded of the importance of modelling the way for others. I am reminded that our words and actions influence the world around us.

The question then becomes, what do we want our influence to be and how do we become intentional about that influence? 

So as you set out on your journey this week, I challenge you to reflect on the values that guide you and to become intentional about the kind of influence you want to have on this world.

Are You Having a Midlife Crisis?

Is it really a midlife crisis?

Many men spend most of their lives trying to live the life they believe they are supposed to live. They are supposed to be the provider, the protector, the ‘man’. Most do this at a great cost to self. They suppress their own needs, wants and desires in order to be that version of self they feel like society wants them to be.

At some point this becomes problematic and requires adjustment. However, most of the time when men start to make that adjustment it gets labelled a midlife crisis. They start to experiment with what makes them fulfilled and sometimes that can be challenging. The real crisis is a society that demands men hide who they really are in order to fit some societal narrative of what a real man can be. Love to hear your thoughts. Drop me a note in the comments below.

Men’s Mental Health: Self Awareness Is Key

This one little shift will drastically increase your ability to reflect and grow. This little tip for me was a real key in moving from self-reflection to true self-awareness. When it comes to building resilience and strength so much of it comes down to the language we use as we explore. In order to build our emotional fitness we can amplify the impact by shifting the questions we ask as we reflect.

Men’s Mental Health: Be Somebody’s Larry

When it comes to men’s mental health we all need somewhere to unpack what is going on in our lives. The challenge often can be that finding those spaces to do that is difficult. As men, we tend to like to “fix” things. This often kills the space required for exploration of feelings and patterns of thought. In this short video I share a beautiful story about finding that space to unpack.

Men’s Mental Health Week

Men’s Mental Health: Why Emotional Fitness Matters

Why do so many of us men resist the mental health label? This is a conversation we need to have much more of. There are some unique societal pressures on men that create some unique challenges which ultimately require us to take some unique approaches when it comes to men’s mental health.

Men everywhere are hurting. What are we doing to address the pain men feel and the harm they can ultimately cause when that pain is not dealt with?

Learning to Embrace the Suck

The difference between a good race and a bad race is all about how you manage the (inevitable) pain.

Chris McCormack

I first came across the term “Embrace the Suck” in the context of Ironman Triathlon. My daughter gave me a henna tattoo that made that proclamation across my forearm when I competed in my first long-distance triathlon. I had no idea how important this phrase would come to be in my life. It has become a daily reminder to me to lean into adversity when it inevitably shows up.

We can carefully script our lives as best we can to try and avoid the “suck” but the reality is that life often has other plans. That hot August day in Penticton, reading those words tattooed on my forearm while I was cursing my life choices, helped set me up to navigate unimaginable adversity 3 short years later. I thought those last 10km of that iron-distance triathlon might be the most challenging thing I would ever face.

I was so, so wrong.

Embrace The Suck

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