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Episode 31: Masculinity & Authenticity (2/2)

In this week’s interview with Mike Sagun we talk about masculinity—from boyhood to manhood. We deconstruct toxic masculinity and discuss how to nurture more emotionally fit men, from awareness programs in youth to promoting connection for happiness and longevity later in life. We also talk about the healing power of owning your failures and flaws, the definition of living authentically, and we learn how to craft our own purpose statement and discover our “ikigai.”

Mike Sagun is a men’s coach and the founder of The Unshakable Man, an organization focused on men’s total health & wellness, success, purpose, and fulfillment. Their mission statement expresses, “we believe a man must be introduced to various perspectives, experiences, and ideas in order to discover new and different ways of being a man. This is how a man challenges his sense of self and becomes unshakable.” _________________________________ If you’ve enjoyed listening, please take ONE minute to write a review for our podcast! We would sincerely appreciate it.  We would also love to hear your feedback. There is a survey on our website or you can email hello@bbxx.world. Any questions, concerns, ideas, or suggestions are always more than welcome!  To check out the show notes from our podcast episodes and learn more about BBXX, visit bbxx.world.

Sasza
So you mentioned earlier in your coaching, how one of your goals is to help people live their best lives. So while we are, you know, going through definitions here, I’d love to know how you would define living your best.

Mike
The first thing that comes out to me is acceptance of like, this is where I am and this is where I need to be. Living your best life is accepting what is in front of you accepting where your life is right now. And that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to make changes or that we need to be challenged or that we need to shift a little bit. Part of living your best life is accepting that you need to make some shifts and some challenges and you need to accept these challenges and move through these challenges. I also feel like living your best life is having healthy relationships is being fulfilled in your work. It is having a clear understanding Have the direction that you want to head in, and also being satisfied with with what it is that you have. And it’s not reaching out for more cars or more friends or for me more plants I’m such a plant horse. I always need more plants but but it’s really accepting that this one plant for me is enough or this car that I have right now is enough for me right now. And so I think we can get stuck especially with social media. And like the new like social media telling you like hey, look at all these people that are living their best life. They’re all smiles and shit. And like you could even like look at my I’m yo I am but guess what? I am totally guilty of that right? Like look at my fucking Instagram feed. I’m like all smiles and shit on there. But, but I will own it. I own right now that I am living my fucking best life. I am fulfilled, I am satisfied. I have healthy relationships. I have a beautiful, beautiful relationship with my husband. I am constantly being challenged, I am constantly shifting and growing. That doesn’t mean that I don’t feel stress, right? It doesn’t mean that I don’t feel loneliness, it doesn’t mean that I don’t feel sadness or anger. What it means is that I acknowledge that I have these feelings, I accept them. And I allow them to just be and that to me is like living my best life is that this is, this is what I have in front of me and this is what I’m going to accept.

Sasza
I think a really important thing I understood from that was acceptance, without complacency. So it’s that reflecting accepting understanding, but without simply allowing it to be that or enabling the continuation or unhealthy cycles. It’s with the intention to change the intention to learn and push yourself and grow and to improve, and to be moving in the direction that you want to be going. And this is something that I’ve mentioned before, but only because it really stuck with me when somebody wants asked, what percent of the time do you feel successful? And I said, Maybe 20% of the time and the other 80% of the time, like a failure. And then I paused and I, I asked them, what’s your definition of success? And they said, being content with the amount of progress you’re making in the direction that you want to go. And it was such I don’t want to curse. It just astounded me and it almost made me angry to think why has no one ever shared this life changing piece of information with me before? Why is that not the definition that we live by? Because by that measure, the numbers are turned, 80% of the time, I would say that, by that standard, I feel, you know, I don’t even like the word success. I don’t want to use it, but I am accepting and, you know, not necessarily complacent with I want it to be better, but I understand that it is the best I can do. And that 80% of the time I am doing the best I can do to move in the direction that I want to be going in. There’s that 20% left for improvement and to push myself and so I think the same kind of goes for living our best life and not, as you mentioned, misplacing judgments or anger on to other things. 

Sasza
It’s through that understanding and also, you mentioned social media and I don’t want to go on a rant but part of the process is being open about the fact that living your best life has nothing to do with not having social media in any way, you know, you can be depressed, you can have severe anxiety, but it’s the way that you cope with them. It’s the way that you integrate them into your life. It’s the way that you don’t let that affect others in a negative way by projecting onto them or blaming, etc. It’s the way that you are kind of constantly learning and growing and trying to improve and connect deeper. And so I’m glad that on your social media, at least you’re open because sometimes I don’t understand how people don’t know that. Instagram is just a privately curated Art Gallery. And it’s really great to have people share pretty pictures and where they look happy and great, but it’s also so important to understand that everything in life is filtered. Not just social media stories we tell emails we send, everything is filtered. Even just, it’s not putting whatever filter Instagram has on your photo. It’s the fact that probably 100 of them were taken and only one was chosen the filtering beforehand is even greater than that. That is actually done on the platform right now.

Mike
Yeah, I mean, we have a tendency to edit our words and edit things that we say and. And that’s also like, not our fault. Growing up like it. I always had a watch what I said. And of course, like, we had to watch what we say because we don’t want to hurt people. But that also, that also taught me that in moments where I felt angry, or I felt lonely, that I couldn’t say that out loud. I couldn’t express to someone that I was feeling lonely or that I was I felt sad or I felt angry because it made other people feel uncomfortable, specifically my parents, right? If I told my parents that hey, like, I’m angry right now, they would teach me to hide it. And so I learned at a young age to edit my feelings to edit how I felt. And that’s a disservice to me. That is not me living my best self. That is not me serving who I am as a person. And if I’m not serving who I am as a person, then how can I serve other people? Look on my Facebook or my Instagram feed y’all like this. There’s a lot of smiles on there. But I also talk a lot about my loneliness and the anger that I feel and the sadness that I feel and the challenges that I have in my life, and they’re all real, those are real challenges that I have.

Sasza
And I think as you mentioned that learning to self edit outwardly, but I think we also do. You know, people edit the stories that they tell them. You also mentioned earlier, you’re creating a purpose. The one that you created in the beginning of your journey to becoming a coach. And so I’d love to know how you would explain to some of our listeners how they could design their own purpose. And how to employ that and use that.

Mike
Yeah, I think we, you know, one of the most common things that guys come to me for is like, they don’t know what the hell they want in their life. And they have, like, live this entire life of like meeting other people’s expectations, mostly their parents, and then finding themselves in their 30s or even 40s. And like, they’re like, What the hell was I doing? Why am I doing this? And they’ve just like gone through the motions of doing what they thought they needed to do, and then come to this place of emptiness. And I always ask in my consultation calls, what do you want? And what is your purpose and majority of the time they don’t know Know what they want, and they don’t know what their purpose is. And I would tell you so my purpose, my coach, Marla, my very first coach, Marla pushed me to write a purpose statement. And I was totally resistant to it, because I did not believe that this was going to get me anything in my life. And so she pushed me to do it. And I did my homework. I was a stubborn student, and I did it anyways. And we took two set two coaching sessions to craft a purpose statement that really resonated with me. And the moment that I said, My purpose statement, I felt, Oh, that feels right, that feels different in my body. The purpose statement that I came up with is and it’s still my purpose statement today is I create safe spaces for men to think deeply about themselves and to live authentically. And she told me, use this as your mantra every morning when you wake up and use it as your mantra before you Go to bed. And she said, that’s all you need to do. Just do that. And I was like, wait, we don’t need to set any goals or like have to do this, but she was like, No, just do that, like, you’ll figure it out. And literally Sazsa like I’d said this for months and months and months. And because I have this purpose statement, I knew what direction I needed to head in a purpose statement is, it was it was my Northstar.

Sasza
Kind of directed everything

Mike
Right? It was my internal GPS. Right? It was like guiding me to to a destination and the beautiful thing about a purpose statement is, is that you might take a wrong turn, you might take the wrong exit, you might even get detoured. But guess what? Your internal GPS is gonna get you back on the path. It might take you a little bit longer but it’s okay because it will reroute you back to that path. But if you don’t have a destination or if you don’t have a purpose If you don’t know where you’re going, then you’re just walking around aimlessly, you’re taking the wrong exits or you’re just sitting in traffic, and you’re just waiting for that destination to come to you. And that’s not how it works. I do this powerful exercise with my clients and “Ikigai” is in Japanese. It literally means translated it means the reason for being and there is a community of Okinawans in Japan who are known for having the most people that live past 100. And if you look at pictures of these people, it past 100 they are vibrant, they are lovely. They are the best Instagram feed in the world. They are just so lively and they attribute their longevity to healthy communities, healthy friendships, eating well moving their body and their “Ikigai” or their reason for being. The reason for being is made up of four things, what you’re good at, what you love to do, what the world needs, and what you can be rewarded for or how you can be paid for doing it. And at the center of this is your “Ikigai”, it is your reason for being. And so if I look at my life, and I lay out all the things that I’ve done, all the things that I love doing my careers, all the people that I’ve helped, and I think about what I think the world needs, and what I know that I can get paid for, what is at the center of this is my coaching practice. I am really good with working with people. I connect well with people I especially know how to connect with men. I love love coaching. I love being I love listening to people, and I also love challenging people. what the world needs want for me, it’s I we need more healthy men, we need more emotionally fit men to help serve the rest of the world. And what I can be paid for doing this is I coach, right? That is my career that is my that is my job. If you do your yourself an exercise of listing all the things that you love, all the things that you’re good at what the world needs, and what you can be paid for doing that. You’ll find some commonalities and in the center of this Venn diagram, is going to be your “Ikigai”, your purpose.

 

Sasza
That’s amazing that trying to help people understand what you want and what your purposes you mentioned, Japan and the centenarians. And Sardinia and Island in Italy, similarly has a high number, but I think it’s mostly also the ratio of centenarians to the general population in such a state All in concentrated place. And studies have shown that a huge part of being able to age but also stay healthy, etc. So much of it has to do with and with having social support networks and closeness and connection and that in a place such as Sardinia, there’s more time spent sharing meals and in the company of friends and family and you’re more closely tied to people and you more organically and you know, with effort as well, but you’re more often seeing people and being around other people versus in a culture such as the US or other places where it’s more disconnected or you really have to put forth effort to spend time with people and it’s never as much time nor as much quality time. And so just having those social networks be such a huge part of health 

Mike
Yeah, I mean creating community is, is so, so important. And if this mentality of the lone wolf, you know, it’s like a lone wolf mentality or this mythology, it is just a myth, right? Like, we weren’t meant to go out life alone. That’s not how we survived as humans. That’s not how we became like top of the food chain, right? Like we weren’t doing all this, or we weren’t doing the hunting and the agricultural all by ourselves. We had a whole community involved. And what happened with with our society was we went from a farming community, from where young young boys were out in the fields with their fathers. They’re out hunting with their fathers to this industrialized revolution, where the fathers were going off and working in factories, and these young boys were left to their own, and then we’ve evolved into this tech culture where people are moving all over the country moving away from their families because of jobs, right, moving away from their communities because of jobs. And so we start to see that people are now migrating away from the center from their center because of their own needs or their own their own ideals. And what that promotes many times is it promotes loneliness, and it promotes this lone wolf mentality of like, I can do this by myself and I’m gonna get through this by myself. And what’s what’s also very scary is it to tie into the the men’s mental health statistics is that 75% of men who commit suicide don’t actually have a known mental health issue. One because maybe they’ve never asked for help and they don’t know what it is, but also maybe they just don’t know that they that they feel like this is the only way out That’s so scary because we are creatures that need people in our lives. And, and I think this is also why this this quote unquote men’s movement, this men’s work movement is exploding right now, where more and more guys are being drawn to communities of men, where we can share intimacy and be affectionate with each other and we could talk and listen to each other. Because this is kind of new for us in this generation men talking to other men and holding space for other men. That’s totally new. And when when we step into this for the first time, and we have the opportunity to be heard by another man that creates new pathways in our heart, new pathways in our brain to that teaches us Oh, this is okay. And this feels good. That’s the main thing they’re like this feels so good to talk about this. stuff. And that happens when we have community when we have trusted people around us that we can talk to. Because of science and because of medicine, where we are going to live we are going to be the longest living generation right? We are going to be like the average lifespan is gonna be like 90 and 100 for us. But what’s what’s ingrained in that and what we need to continue to mix in that is a healthy community of people that we can talk to that we can be with that we can just be. There’s this do you know, Blood Orange, the musician, Blood Orange, beautiful he produced for salons, but he has a track on one of his albums of a woman just talking about chosen family. And this has been a really strong topic for me lately. Because I have a strong chosen family, a group of people that I turned to often, who loved me and see me and what she says on this track is That the definition of family is being able to sit in space with other people, be completely uninhibited, without any judgment. Without any, you could, you can not have any kind of dialogue or discourse. You can just be and you can sit with these people. And it feels like love and it feels warm and it feels okay. And that’s what community is, is being able to just be with people. You don’t even have to say a word but you just know that there’s belonging there, that there’s connection, and that there is love. And that that is the antidote to loneliness. The antidote to loneliness is connection. We don’t need any medicines. We don’t need any antidepressants for that what we need is more trusted people in our life that we could turn to that will love us they will see us.

Sasza
You mentioned that when men come to you they often don’t know what it is that they want and what it is, you know what their purpose is. But I’m wondering what some of the most common questions they’re asking are because that might be what you know, they’re unknowingly seeking or perhaps knowingly, but I imagine sometimes they don’t even realize they don’t know that or need that. And so how would their needs or desires be expressed as questions and curiosities? And what is it that men are often coming to you? And actually asking on a surface level?

Mike
Yeah, one of the biggest questions that I get is, am I living the life of my own? Or am I living the life of others, like, Am I living other people’s dreams? And I asked, What do you want? Because it’s a really tough question for people to answer. Many people don’t know what they want. But if I ask that the inverse of that wishes, what don’t you want, they immediately know, they immediately go, I don’t want to be lonely. I don’t want to be insecure. I don’t want to have unhealthy relationships. I don’t want my partner and I to be in this this muck. I don’t want to be in this workforce. I don’t want to be doing this career anymore. Like,  they could just go off, on and on and on and on about what they don’t want. Right. And that’s such a powerful question. Because then it gives them it shines light on Okay, cool. Now you actually do know what you want. You want a career where you feel fulfilled, you want healthy relationships, you want to be in a relationship with your partner that is loving and non judgmental, or both of you support each other. And, and that is what you want. Okay, cool. Like, let’s work on that. Let’s get there. But uh, you know, you know, I think what what makes the What do you want Question really hard is feeling disconnected to who you are as a person. Does that make sense?

Sasza
Totally. Because I think there’s one thing to be said for feeling disconnected from other people and how much that can affect somebody. But there’s even more so or just as much to be said for feeling disconnected from yourself and how that can be kind of the underlying reason behind the disconnection from other people. And it’s having that internal Northstar that Ikigai. And so I think that that does make sense. I forgot to mention earlier when you said the suicide rates, that there are certain gender differences between rates of heart attack and stroke between men and women and you know the severity of symptoms, but there is also a differentiator in the likelihood of report. between men and women, and that can lead to men suffering more fatalities from things that could have been avoidable. Were they willing to have asked for help? And report pain and report to somebody in needing care and attention.

Mike
Yeah, one of my dearest dearest and deepest friends suffered a heart attack and didn’t know. He went a whole day and a half, went to work, felt the symptoms immediately when he woke up, went to work, did work, even went to a dinner that night, he was still feeling off the next day, he worked half the day and finally his wife was like, you need to go check your blood pressure out. He checked his blood pressure and, at like a Walgreens and they’re like, Oh my god, you need to go to the emergency room. Right? Now, like he was suffering a minor heart attack, and he didn’t even he didn’t know like he, like, didn’t know how to ask for help. Right? He also didn’t know that those were the symptoms. I think part of that is we as men, we don’t tap into our bodies as often. We don’t know how to feel our bodies. We don’t know how to like, do a body scan and say, okay, cool, what’s normal here and what’s abnormal here or what feels off? This is part of like what we teach at every man at the unshakeable man in my coaching practices, like, let’s first tap into your body and just like, name, the sensations that you feel you don’t have to attach an emotion but just name the sensations that you feel so that you can have physical body awareness. And that will teach you emotional awareness that’ll teach you what emotions you’re feeling. But first, let’s just tap into your body. What do you feel physically?

Sasza
And the importance to of having somebody to turn to to confide in or even, just to consult And perhaps not just limited to your romance you know, if in a case of a straight male, not just having your partner who is female to turn to having other men, other people who are close one, so your partner probably can’t be everything definitely can’t be everything you’re gonna need. And also for something in the case of, you know, health, even just something as basic as being able to ask somebody else who shares the same anatomy as you what is normal, what is not just having other people to confide in do whether it be, you know, for physical or emotional health and support. As we get ready to kind of close up I’d love to know how you think things with the men’s movement and you know what it means to be a man and all of this. How do you think things have gotten better and or worse?

Mike
So I think what’s gotten better is more and more men are realizing that there are more resources out there for them. There are more men’s organizations that have the mission to help men feel more connected to themselves and to others. I also feel that more and more men are accepting who they are, and realizing that they are flawed, they can’t do it alone, and that they need help. I also see a strong community of men feeling deeply, deeply connected to other men. And it isn’t it isn’t this competition anymore where, you know, men feel like they have to compete with other men, but actually, it’s more of a community of abundance. Isn’t it isn’t the scarcity. It’s more of a How can we Serve each other, how can we help each other? And so I am certainly seeing more and more and more men’s coaches, more men’s organizations that are essentially teaching the same kinds of values that I have for myself in my own coaching practice and organizations that I work with, that men need connection in their life. Men need to feel more connected to who they are, they need to feel more connected to their families, to their partners, they need to feel more connected to their work. And when when we can start to feel more connected with ourselves and to everything else around us. That really benefits everyone else. That really does serve everyone else and it does serve our world. I think where we where it gets tricky is questions like What does it mean to be a man and different people’s definition of what it means to be a man right. There’s certainly people who I disagree with who are on the social media influencer track  they still have this archaic view of what it means to be a man. I also follow guys that are like part of the red pill movement and the insulin movement and frankly, it just fucking disgusts me. If you haven’t done any research on them, like, prepare yourself and look into the red pill movement.

Sasza
What? I don’t even know what the red pill means

Mike
Yeah, look into it today.

Sasza
Oh, okay. Ah, I can already tell I know

Mike
You’re not gonna like it. You’re not gonna like it. And so there’s that side of it. Right. And so that frightens me but the reality is, is like I’m here to do my work. And my work is to love and to serve and to help as many men as I can in a loving and non judgmental way. That’s what my purpose is

Sasza
It’s an incredible purpose. It’s incredible.

Mike
Geeky guy, yeah. 

Sasza
One of my last questions was gonna be, you know, what do you think men today need? And what is your hope for them, but I think you kind of answered it there and a beautiful way connection. And I think that we all need that. And that is an incredible and such a valuable hope and goal for any and all of us to have in our lives. And really what we should be centered around in terms of our our Northstar internal GPS should be guided by connection. And the work we need to do is the understanding of ourselves in order to allow that in order to be able to achieve and create and kind of care for and cultivate those relations.

Mike
Yeah.

Sasza
Before we end, I have just a couple ideas. Never done a rapid fire but I wrote a couple. I just wanted to do this as an exercise to test it out. So here we go. Pizza or pasta?

Mike
Pasta

Sasza
Sunrise yoga or dancing till sunrise

Mike
Dancing till sunrise. 

Sasza
drink of choice 

Mike
Martini. 

Sasza
Hugs or kisses

Mike
Kisses

Sasza
Sex or intimacy. 

Mike
Intimacy

Sasza
nature versus nurture. 

Mike
Nurture

Sasza
Who is your hero? 

Mike
Mm hmm. Oh,

Sasza
who is he? 

Mike
Oh, wow. Kevin Lossit

Sasza
what kind of dog would you be? 

Mike
A Pitbull 

Sasza
Something you’re excited for in the next year?

Mike
Retreats

Sasza
And your favorite tough question.

Mike
What’s most important to you?

Sasza
Amazing

Mike
How about you. *laughs* Yay. 

Sasza
You did well. Okay, so this one is you just say it’s Association. You just say the first word that comes to mind. Okay. Okay. Ready? Culture 

Mike
Philippino

Sasza
sex 

Mike
love, love sex

Sasza
you

Mike
strong. *laughs* beautiful.

Sasza
Man 

Mike
lover 

Sasza
being a man 

Mike
empathetic 

Sasza
change 

Mike
transformation. 

Sasza
Hope 

Mike
Fuck yes. 

Sasza
BBXX

Mike
Changing the world

Sasza
oh so fun I love it! *laughs*

Mike
My god this is like that I felt more nervous in that that I did like this entire morning. There’s a lot of pressure there. 

Sasza
it’s high. 

Mike
Well yeah and also there’s like I’m like the thing that popped up on my head I’m like oh my god I am so vulgar and I am inappropriate and like it like the whole thing of like editing myself came up in my head and Like, I was starting to feel insecure about that. And I was like, fuck it sex. *laughs*

Sasza
Oh my god. Yes. Thank you so much for your amazing choices and associations and all the thoughts and reflections that you’ve shared with us today. This has been really wonderful and I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation and especially hearing from our listeners, kind of their thoughts and reflections that come out. 

Mike
Awesome, thank you so much Sasza.

Sasza
Thank you so much.

In this week’s episode, we sit down with Mike Sagun, a men’s coach and the founder of The Unshakable Man, to deconstruct toxic masculinity and discuss the importance of nurturing emotionally fit men by providing young men with mentors and emotional awareness programs. We also talk about the healing power of owning your failures and laws, the definition of living authentically, and the value of crafting a life purpose statement.

Troubling Statistics Surrounding Loneliness

Intimacy & Affection Among Men

Mike repeatedly underscores the lack of intimacy and a”ection between men, specifically within father-son relationships. He mentions the many stigmas attached to a”ectionate men, specifically homophobia. At The Good Men Project, they highlight three ways for fathers to practice showing a”ection to their sons.             

  1. Watch your language. Be wary of demeaning emotional expression as something that is feminine, “gay,” or un-masculine.
  2. Demonstrate appropriate physical touch with your male friends. Whether it’s hugging or wrapping your arm around your friends, demonstrate friendly affection with friends in front of your son.
  3. Express physical affection with your own father and male siblings. Display your love and a”ection for your own father as the ultimate model for your son.

Display your love and afection for your own father as the ultimate model for your son.

What it means to “be a man” is just that you are human.

Forgive Your Parents or Caregivers for Their Faults

Cultivating empathy and forgiveness towards your parents or caregivers for their flaws and the trauma they may have caused during your childhood is a crucial step for healing and self-growth. Blame perpetuates pain. By resolving our resentment towards our parents, we free ourselves from a victim mentality and break the cycle of emotional su”ering. The book Forgive Your Parents, Heal Yourself offers guidance and actionable advice for those ready to heal childhood wounds.

Understanding your flaws is one of the most important  parts of understanding yourself.

Write Your Own Purpose Statement

Mike emphasizes the power of crafting your own “life purpose statement” in order to gain clarity about your goals and to create a roadmap to achieving them. He references the concept of “ikigai,” a Japanese word that roughly translates to “reason for being.” In order to find your ikigai, identify what the world needs, what you love to do, what you’re good at, and what you can be paid or rewarded for doing. The cross section of these four areas is your ikigai. 

What Does It Mean To Live Your Best Life?

In our aspirational culture, we hear it all the time — “live your best life.” But what exactly does it mean? In Mike’s words, “Living your best life is accepting what is in front of you and where your life is right now. And another part of living your best life is accepting that you need to make some shifts—and then accepting the challenges.”

Mike’s Recommended Resources 

You might take a wrong turn, you might take the wrong exit, you might even get detoured, but your internal GPS will get you back on your path

More Resources & Research

About the Expert

Mike Sagun

Mike Sagun

Mike is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC), facilitator, and speaker. He works with companies like Dropbox, Google, LinkedIn, Kaiser Permanente, Kumu, and Saje Wellness. Before founding The Unshakable Man, Mike spent 10 years as a teaching artist, educating and coaching young people to make healthier choices for their lives. He’s spoken in front of thousands of people on stage with TEDx and TFCU. When he’s not coaching, facilitating, or speaking, you can find him leading men at retreats and EVRYMAN men’s group.

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