In this episode of the Better Man Podcast we’ll be exploring why the idea of “toxic masculinity” is obscuring positive expressions of masculinity, and what it really means to be a man. There might not be somebody better suited toward this conversation than my guest on this episode, Ryan Michler, the founder of Order of Man.
What makes a man? Today’s guest, Ryan Michler, has been working to answer this question for years.
Ryan is a husband, father, Iraqi Combat Veteran, and the Founder of Order of Man. Ryan grew up without a permanent father figure and has seen first-hand how a lack of strong, ambitious, self-sufficient men has impacted society today.
He has made it his mission to help men step more fully into their roles as protectors, providers, and presiders over themselves, their families, their businesses, and their communities.
In today’s conversation, Ryan and I take a deep dive into what exactly masculinity is–and why there’s nothing inherently “toxic” about it, contrary to popular belief. We explore some of the very real threats and challenges affecting modern men, get to the root of what masculine emotions really are, and discuss how to use these feelings to take steps forward–not back–each and every day.
The Better Man Podcast is an exploration of our health and well-being outside of our physical fitness, exploring and redefining what it means to be better as a man; being the best version of ourselves we can be, while adopting a more comprehensive understanding of our total health and wellness. I hope it inspires you to be better!
Use the RSS link to find the Better Man Podcast on other apps: http://feeds.libsyn.com/404744/rss
Watch a Clip From Episode 010
Key Takeaways with Ryan Michler
- What it means to be a leader in a relationship (without being a dictator or tyrant).
- Why every decision is a trade off–and how to recognize the autonomy you have over your life and deal with the consequences when you can’t be present for everything and everyone.
- Why masculinity is neither toxic nor good–and why the way we utilize our masculinity is much more important.
- How our society and the rise of fatherless homes has set young men up to fail in adulthood.
- Why masculinity has more to do with how you perform an activity than the activity itself.
- Why we conflate masculinity with a lack of emotion.
- How to recognize negative emotions, stop feeling shame, legitimize your feelings, and find safe outlets for them before they become bombs.
- How Ryan works through self-limiting beliefs.
- The biggest struggles Ryan sees with the men he works with.
- Why Ryan thinks jujitsu is overlooked or undervalued by most people.
- Why all men cry–except emotionally unhealthy ones
Ryan Michler Notable Quotes
- “If you’re a painter or a photographer or an artist or a musician or a professional or a chef, you’re not less manly because you’re doing those things. It doesn’t make you less manly at all. If you’re protecting, providing, and presiding then 100% I consider you a man. You’re doing what needs to be done.” – Ryan Michler
- “You have to be willing to look foolish if you want to be good at anything. You have to be willing to be not so good at it for a while.” – Ryan Michler
Dean Pohlman: All right, guys, it’s Dean. Welcome to the Man Flow Yoga Podcast. I am super excited for today’s guest, Ryan Michler of the Order of Man. Ryan, thank you for being here.
Ryan Michler: Dean, what’s up, man? We are talking about it’s been like three years. It’s crazy how fast time goes, man, but yeah, I love to join you on the podcast.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. Thank you. So, Ryan and I have known each other since, I don’t know, 2017 or something like that. I think you had me on the show to talk about The Yoga Fitness For Men book. We talked about yoga for men just in general, and I have been really inspired just looking at what you’ve done over the last couple of years. I saw that in the beginning of this month, it’s February 2022 for whenever you’re listening right now but you reached the top 20 in podcasts. I mean, that’s amazing. You mentioned it took you seven years but, hey, I mean, you stuck to your brand. You didn’t change the brand and you got there. So, first off, that’s inspiring, and congrats.
Ryan Michler: Well, thanks. Yeah, it’s been a cool journey, man. Yeah, seven years is a long time to be doing it, and I feel like even just now, we’re starting to see that exponential growth that I’ve wanted to see for so long. You know, we’ve always grown at kind of a linear pace but it’s for whatever reason, over the past I would say six to eight months, it’s really started to grow exponentially. And I’m really proud of what we created and an honor to be able to do this work for sure. But yeah, I mean, if we’ve done this in seven years and now that we’re seeing this growth, I can’t wait to see what the next seven years hold.
Dean Pohlman: Oh my gosh. Yeah. It’s going to be crazy different.
Ryan Michler: 100%. Yeah. For sure.
Dean Pohlman: Well, I know I want to get straight into this. We got a lot of questions to talk about, a lot of personal questions to ask you about masculinity and emotional well-being because I think that’s like, how do you embrace masculinity, what you think masculinity is but also have an emotional side because that’s so important to having good health. So, I’m really excited to get into all of that and I want to hear your take. But first off, I want to start kind of with your book, Sovereignty: The Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Men. And this is kind of what I assume to be your manifesto. And there’s a lot in there and I’ve read kind of an overview of the book. And rather than get into every aspect of it, I want to focus on what you mentioned, which is how we frame a lot of external threats but really, they’re internal threats. And I was wondering if you could just talk a little bit more about that. What are these internal threats that men face?
Ryan Michler: Well, in the book specifically, what I do is I address this concept of sovereignty and how we as men relinquish control over our lives to outside factors. So, this might be giving up some sort of autonomy to a boss or an employer, even our government. I see that a lot of times like, “My government’s going to save me. They’re going to rescue me. They’re going to serve me,” and we know how that pans out. I also see a lot of men give over the authority of their own lives to their wives and children. And I think this is the best way to do it but the problem is that if you’re hoping that somebody else is going to lead you effectively, then really you don’t have any ability or power or authority to affect change in your own life. Essentially, you’ve hamstringed yourself because you’re waiting for your wife to be a “good wife” or your boss to be a “great leader” or the government to do what’s in your best interest. And you have no control over other people.
Influence? Absolutely. You can influence people but you can’t control them. And so, in the book, what I talked about as being one of these greatest threats is the idea that you’re going to give control over every facet of your life to something or somebody else. And I really make the case that men need to take control of their own lives and then let the chips fall where they may from there.
Dean Pohlman: And so, I want to get into a little bit of that. So, there’s a difference between giving up control but also in just completely disregarding your wife and doing whatever they want.
Ryan Michler: Of course. Yeah.
Dean Pohlman: So, how do you lead your family while also making sure that your wife has a seat next to you in the driver’s seat, or if she’s sitting on your lap in the driver’s seat, or whatever metaphor you want to use here?
Ryan Michler: Sure. Yeah.
Dean Pohlman: But how do you go about doing that?
Ryan Michler: Well, I mean if we’re going to use that metaphor, I drive. Like, I drive. My wife sits in the passenger seat next to me and we hold hands and we talk and we have fun. But I’m driving the bus like that’s the dynamic for us, and that works really well for us. And so, what I have to do as a husband and a father and a business owner and a leader in my community is ensure that I’m taking care of myself to the best of my ability so that I can be an effective, righteous leader for my wife and my children and the people who are relying upon me. But I also try to be humble as best I can. My ego gets the better of me just like anybody else but I do want to be humble and recognize that I don’t know everything. And so, I want my wife to share her perspective and her insight and her unique experiences in the way that she views the world, which sometimes is completely different than me so that I can make sure that I’m taking all of the people that I’m responsible for and taking their feedback and their desires and wishes into consideration as I work to lead them righteously.
But yeah, I am the leader. Like, I make no qualms about that. And that works great for our dynamic but that doesn’t mean I’m the supreme authority. It doesn’t mean I’m the dictator or the tyrant. I’m the leader. I’m trying to do it in righteousness, which means I actually have to care about the people I’m trying to serve.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, absolutely. So, are you the leader in every aspect or are there certain things that you give? You know, your wife is in control of this situation. I’m asking that because I’ve noticed in my relationship with my wife, especially since we’ve had kids, there are certain areas that we have kind of developed leadership roles in. So, for instance, like anything that has to do with our home, like expanding our home or looking into projects, that tends to be something that I assume the mantle on. Whereas with Marissa, she is in charge of Declan’s doctor’s appointments, and whether or not we do like he’s in speech pathology right now because he’s a little bit behind on speech. So, that was her decision, and she organizes that and manages that, and delegates it to me sometimes. So, is it everything or for you, is it like do you delegate, so to speak as well?
Ryan Michler: Yeah. No. We have different roles and responsibilities but ultimately the buck stops with me. If things go sideways, nobody’s going to look to the woman and expect her to have things figured out. Like, when stuff really hits the fan like everybody looks to the man. So, the buck stops with me. Now, that said, a great example of this dynamic in our home is that my wife, we homeschool our kids. We have been for the past three years now since we moved to Maine, and she is primarily responsible. Now, I don’t even want to say primarily. That doesn’t do it justice. She is almost exclusively responsible for teaching the children, working out their curriculums, doing all of that. She’s a homemaker so she does 99.7% of the cooking and the housekeeping. She does all of that but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a decision in those things about where we’re going.
So, yeah, there’s definitely an element of delegation but, again, it all stops with me. Like, I need to ensure that stuff’s getting done. I don’t need to do it all but as the leader of our home, I need to ensure that all of that is getting done and do it in a respectful way. Again, this is not about being a tyrant. I feel like when I step more fully into my masculinity and I lead the way that I’m born to lead, that allows her the space to do the things that she wants to do. I get so frustrated in society now where any woman who is a homemaker or a housekeeper, generally, I think is looked at less favorably. Or you’ll hear comments like, “Oh, your husband’s just keeping you down,” and, “Oh, you should be so much better in the workforce.” And I can’t think of anything more noble and righteous than for a woman to make that house into a home and raise her children in righteousness. That’s not to diminish a woman who wants to go out into the workforce. I’m fine with that, and I think there ought to be some fairness built around that, for sure.
But I feel like I want to be a champion to some degree for women who want to stay home and rely on their husbands to create enough space where they can do that and really be feminine in their role. I just get so frustrated when society says that, “In order for you to be a strong, bold, courageous woman, you have to act like a man.” I don’t subscribe to that. I don’t believe that for one bit. I think my wife is strong and bold and courageous and lovely and beautiful because she’s a woman and she’s feminine, and I honor her for that. And it isn’t inferior to what I do as a man. It’s different. That’s all.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. I like that, that it’s not inferior. It’s different. Yeah. And just to kind of give you some perspective, I grew up in a household where my mom was a career woman and she worked really hard. She was a nurse and then she decided that she wanted to become a lawyer and then she became a lawyer. And so, to me, and I just want to share this perspective just because I don’t know why but I kind of grew up with that what we would associate as this kind of I don’t know if you want to call it feminism or you want to call it whatever but I kind of grew up with that. And now I’m coming kind of into this world of getting exposed to new ideas like you’re talking about right now. And I’m trying to reconcile them. I’m trying to understand, “Okay. Yes. Like, gender roles have existed for a reason but also people are different and it’s not just women fit in this box and men fit in this box.” So, I’ve been trying to kind of work that out for myself. And it’s just been really interesting learning about different perspectives. That’s really all I had to say.
Ryan Michler: You’re not wrong. I think everybody, men and women, we all fit into different boxes. I can speak in broad generalities but this is typically how it’s gone and, of course, throughout history. But, yeah, my mom primarily raised my sister and I on her own. So, there were times where she was working two, three jobs just to make sure that the mortgage was being paid. So, I come from a background where there was a woman, my mother, who was out into the workforce but I can pretty well bet, in fact, I should have this conversation with her that given the opportunity, she would have loved to have stayed home to make the house a home and to raise her children and to be supportive and nurturing, and those things that generally women excel at. Again, I’m not going to make the decision that a woman going out into the workforce shouldn’t be doing that. But the other side will do that. The people who are like onboard with this woman empowerment thing, they don’t mean women’s empowerment. What they actually mean is go out into the workforce and be a man.
Because if they truly meant women’s empowerment, they would say, “Well, girl, we want you to do what you’re best at and we want to help you create an environment. And if that means you want to be the best homemaker possible, the best housewife, the best mother to your children, we support that.” But the women’s empowerment movement does not support that. That’s not what they support. They want women to go out into the workforce and forsake their families, forsake their responsibilities, and their obligations, and relationship with her husband and go out and be men, and I have a problem with that.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. I can see how there are some perspectives that could be over there. I’m going to hope that they’re kind of way over here, way over on this side. And hopefully, I think most people, I think the majority of people are, let’s say, kind of in the middle where I like the idea that you said that let’s empower women if that means they want to be a homemaker, great. If that means that they want to go out and be a CEO, great. But I think that we tend to look at the extremes on either side and then associate that with kind of the entirety of that movement. I think that goes both ways.
Ryan Michler: Yeah. Well, the reason it is, is because we don’t take issue with anything in the middle because it’s pretty aligned with ours. So, we do take issue with the things that are extreme relative to our perspective. So, yeah, I take issue with those extreme views. But if a woman says, “Hey, you know what, I want to be in the workforce and I want to run a Fortune 500 company and I want to do X.” Cool. Well, by all means. But you know, I don’t think you should complain when you find out that you didn’t have the opportunity to raise a family or you were not as close to your kids as you want it to be. Because life is a series of trade-offs. And this goes for men too. If you want to go out into the workforce, then the tradeoff is that you’re not going to be as present with your children.
But there’s this thing in society of like we can have our cake and eat it too. No, you can’t. You have to make decisions in everything that we do is a trade-off, and we can either be willing to make that trade-off or not. But I think we do need to acknowledge what it is and a woman who’s going to go out into the workforce and spend 40 years trying to become a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, all the power to her. But she’s going to be an inferior mother but she’s just not going to be present as she could be. We’ll take issue with that but that’s the reality.
Dean Pohlman: Well, the reality is it’s the same for the dad in that situation, right? He’s not going to be present for his kids. He’s going to be gone. And hopefully, there had been some sort of conversation between the partners there and they’re like, “Hey, I’m not going to be here as much.” Okay. I like that part.
Ryan Michler: And as a man, if you have a responsibility to provide financially, let’s say, for your family and that’s resting on your shoulders but you also have this desire to be there and present with your kids, then get so good at work that you can take time off so you can coach little Tommy’s baseball team or you can go to little Susie’s dance recital. And that’s what I do. With very rare exceptions do I miss things. I had an opportunity to go on a hunt last year and I had a plan for a while and my son’s first powerlifting competition came up and I called the guys I was going to hunt with and I said, “Look, I got to bow out of the hunt, man. I want to go do this but I got to bow out.” And he was totally understanding and accepting of that because I make decisions on my own like I don’t put it on anybody else. I don’t complain that the meet is on that day. I don’t complain and expect everybody else to shift their hunting plans around me. It’s like, no, I can’t make that. It’s not even I can’t. I won’t. I’ve made that decision.
Dean Pohlman: You’re not going to make that the priority.
Ryan Michler: Exactly. You know, I make those decisions consciously. And then I live with the trade-off and the trade-off is I go to my son’s meet but I don’t go hunt. That’s okay. I’m okay with that.
Dean Pohlman: Got it. So, a lot of this is accepting or a lot of this is recognize the autonomy that you have over your life and then dealing with the consequences.
Ryan Michler: Well, yes.
Dean Pohlman: Or the trade-offs, so to speak.
Ryan Michler: You have to acknowledge those because if you don’t, then you don’t think that you have to make any sort of sacrifice in life for something that’s meaningful. And we always have to sacrifice for something that’s worth pursuing in our lives. So, yeah. The other thing I don’t like is, and I say this occasionally and I just said it a minute ago, well, I can’t go on a hunt. Well, that’s not true. That’s actually not the story. The story is you’re not going to. But we use words like words are important. So, if you say you can’t, why can’t you? Somebody holding a gun to your head, like are there catastrophic consequences? Or is it that you choose not to go on the hunt?” Because if you’re making that choice, then use that verbiage because that’s more accurate.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I like that you mentioned that, “I’ve started doing a lot more,” instead of saying, “I can’t do it,” I’d say, “I’m not going to make that a priority. It’s not that I can’t do it. I just I’m not going to make that a priority.
Ryan Michler: Of course, you can. Right. Of course, you can do it but you chose not to, which is also okay but own that.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. Awesome. So, I want to get into masculinity. I’m just going to consider you the expert on masculinity. And this is…
Ryan Michler: Don’t consider me the expert.
Dean Pohlman: I’m going to consider you, what’s the word? The practitioner of masculinity?
Ryan Michler: Okay. Well, I appreciate that but still, that pays way more service than what I deserve. Okay. We’ll take it for now.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. And it’s interesting to me because I’ve never rarely do I think about masculinity. I don’t think I’ve really thought about masculinity until I started reading and so I got into reading books a few years ago, reading different kinds of books other than like Harry Potter and World War II stories. And I want to kind of talk about this with a little bit of context in today’s conversation. And what are some definitively good aspects of masculinity and what are some aspects of masculinity that could be perceived as negative?
Ryan Michler: Well, I’ll say it this way, masculinity is neither positive nor negative, like it’s not. Masculinity is amoral. Well, let’s take this, for example. Let’s take aggressiveness because I think generally people would associate that with masculinity. Would you agree, aggressiveness?
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I think we can put that under the masculinity.
Ryan Michler: That’s not to say women can’t be aggressive. It’s such a masculine virtue. It’s a masculine characteristic. So, let’s take aggressiveness. Well, if you’re being aggressive and you’re running around in the street and beating the shit out of people that you just randomly see on the street, you’re being aggressive. But like I think we could all agree that that’s probably not a great way to harness your aggressive nature. But if you’re aggressively pursuing a criminal or you’re aggressively pursuing your career aspirations or aggressively pursuing some other your ability to go out and run a marathon sub-four hours, is that bad? No, that’s actually very constructive. So, same with violence, same with stoicism, same with competitiveness, same with courage and risk-taking and the ability to tell the truth and vigilance. You know, people tend to oftentimes put that in a negative connotation. Violence is not negative if it’s used to subdue an enemy.
You know, if somebody breaks into my home and I violently react to that threat and I subdue or neutralize the threat, was my ability to administer violence, righteous or evil? I think most of us would agree that that was righteous use of violence. Stoicism, which is often misunderstood but the ability to understand your emotions, to control, to harness them, not to subdue them. That’s what people think. That’s not stoicism. Okay. There are times where I cannot be overly emotional. There are times where I do have to keep my emotions in check, and I have to be stoic and I have to be firm and resolute, and I have to put on a face of confidence so that the people I’m trying to lead have a level of belief in me and hope for what we’re trying to accomplish, even though I might be scared out of my mind. I can’t show that in the moment. But then there are also times when I’m having a deep and meaningful conversation with my wife about the fears I have for our children, where I think I need to open up and be a little humble and express some of my emotion. Or when I’m thinking about my father who died three years ago, I get emotional.
Now, if I’m on this podcast and I’m crying and I’m babbling, and I can’t put together a coherent thought because I’m thinking about this, that’s a problem. But if in the right moment, I’m expressing grief and sorrow and loss and sadness, that’s healthy. So, masculinity, there’s usually two sides to the coin on this one. Either people will say, “Well, masculinity is toxic. It’s inherently toxic,” and other people say, “No, masculinity is good. It’s always good. It’s the best thing ever.” No, it’s neither. It’s amoral. It’s how we as men utilize our masculine characteristics. And that’s actually what defines us as men. So, I think about it in the context of male and then masculinity and then man, so male is biological, period. That’s it. It’s purely biological, DNA, chromosomes, reproductive organs. It’s biological. Masculinity is also based on biology. It’s our hormones, and it’s the way that we were introduced to those hormones in the womb and then even afterwards into puberty. And that’s what makes us masculine.
And then manliness or being a man is the way that we harness our masculinity for productive outcomes for ourselves and other people. So, you can take a very masculine man, a guy who by any objective measure is somebody who’s very strong and rugged and tough and resilient and gritty and athletic, and that guy can be a complete a-h*le. Is he being a man? Or let’s say that guy is so consumed with all of that, that he’s living in his mom’s and dad’s basement and he’s 35, 40 years old. Is that guy being a man? No, he’s not being a man. He’s masculine. He’s a male but he’s not being a man. That takes something so much more than just your biology and your chemical makeup.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. I’m really glad you brought that up and explain that that way because I think I hate to say the word, I hate to say the phrase, right, toxic masculinity. But I think that phrase came up from just men who are trying to be alpha males and they might be doing things that they think are masculine but they’re really just, like you said, they’re just being an assh*le.
Ryan Michler: And so, is that just being an assh*le or is that toxic masculinity because women can be assh*les too, right? They might express it differently but I know plenty of women who behave in some very strange, to put it mildly, ways that I would not consider womanly behavior. So, the problem I have with the term, toxic masculinity, is that it’s been weaponized at this point to attempt to paint all masculinity as inherently toxic and destructive. And when I say that, people will say, “Well, nobody really thinks that.” Really? Well, the American Psychological Association came out with a quasi-survey or study I think this was probably two years ago, and I quote, “Masculine characteristics, competitiveness, dominance, aggression, stoicism are inherently destructive and dangerous to our young men.”
Dean Pohlman: Wow.
Ryan Michler: So, you’re telling me that the organization that determines much of the way that young boys are treated psychologically in this country, if they believe that but you’re telling me nobody else really believes that masculinity is inherently toxic. That’s a governing agency for the way our young men are treated psychologically. Come on now. This is permeating more and more of society. It’s a problem.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. I mean, I’m just thinking about that and thinking about what that means and also thinking about kind of like other people might have said, like to what extent has that permeated? Yeah. I need some time to process that one so I’m just going to – I’ll just tell you…
Ryan Michler: That’s why no. I mean, these are important things to consider but I can tell you, even within the school system, it’s a big problem. You know, when you look at even elementary kids, think about the rate of young men being medicated and sedated with harmful drugs and chemicals that we don’t actually entirely know the long-term ramifications of because they’re loud and rambunctious and competitive and physical. And yet we tell them, I’m saying collectively, to sit down, shut up, and act more like girls, and if you don’t, there’s a problem with you and we’re going to medicate you to force you into compliance. That right there is a direct assault on masculinity.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I can see that. Yeah, that’s scary if you look at it like that.
Ryan Michler: That’s the way we should look at it because that’s exactly what’s happening. It’s very frustrating. You know, you look at the rise of fatherless homes. You look at the rate of even violent crime and criminal rate and drug use and suicide rates like there’s an issue with boys and men. There’s an issue and it isn’t toxic masculinity because why do we see increasing rates of this just now? It’s because society is trying to subdue it and strip fathers away from their children. And we’re left with a generation, millions and millions of young boys who have masculinity coursing through their veins but haven’t learned from men how to harness those traits for productive outcomes. So, what do they do? They turn to violence. They turn to crime. They turn to drugs and sex and alcohol abuse because they don’t know how to utilize that masculinity that’s in their veins. It’s tragic, and it’s dangerous for society,
Dean Pohlman: So, they need a proper outlet.
Ryan Michler: They need an outlet and they need a man to check them. So, there’s been studies of one famous study and I’m just paraphrasing here. There was a herd of elephants where all the bulls, the male mature bulls had died. And so, there was a bunch of adolescent male elephants roaming around causing chaos and destruction and tearing things apart. And they introduced mature bulls into the herd, and it checked all of the youth.
Dean Pohlman: Wow.
Ryan Michler: There’s a quote and I can’t remember if it’s either a quote by somebody specific or if they’ve just said it’s a proverb at this point that – how does it go? I have to think about this now because I had it on the tip of my tongue. I’m going to paraphrase it. It says something like if you leave the boys unchecked, they’ll burn the city down. They’ll burn the village down just to feel its warmth. Because they don’t know, they don’t understand the ramifications, and there’s no man in place to teach them, “Hey, we don’t do that.” Like, when my boys, for example, will rough house and play, they’ll fight, they’ll push each other, and they’ll get sometimes violent. I’m like, “Hey, look, there’s a line. Okay. And here is the line, and here’s how we do it. And here’s why we do it. And here’s where it is.” But if you don’t have that as a young man, you’re never going to figure out where that is. And then you’re just going to think that you can get what you want by bullying and pushing other people around.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. I’m thinking of how I grew up and I’m thinking of just subconscious beliefs that I kind of adopted and one of them is this idea of violence is never okay. And totally random memory but I was in jury duty selection and the case was for a – it was for self-defense. Guy was on trial for – and he was trying to convince the jury that it was for self-defense. And they were asking the potential jurors, what issues do you have with this? And I’m kind of like, “Well, you know what, I kind of grew up with the idea that violence is never acceptable. You know, I’m thinking like I don’t think I’d be able to be impartial to this case because I think there would always be some point where you could de-escalate the situation.” And I’m not saying that’s right. I’m just saying that was what my kind of subconscious belief was that just violence wasn’t okay. And I’m seeing that kind of within this broader idea that we’ve gotten to this point today where the necessity for violence isn’t what it was, let’s say, 100 years ago. Or like let’s go back and just say 500 years ago.
But there is still potential for it. And as men I think and just as people in general, I think we should be prepared to be able to defend from that. But I think I’m sure you’ve given this some thought but that could be part of the why masculinity is being looked down upon because violence isn’t as necessary as it was. I don’t know. Do you have thoughts on this?
Ryan Michler: Okay. So, well, here’s a thought, and I’m just kind of thinking of this as you say it like I think a lot of people in society that say that society is male-dominated, right, like much of society is dominated by men. Let’s just agree for the sake of argument with that for a second. I don’t necessarily agree with that but let’s just for the sake of argument say that that is the case, then why are crime rates going down? Why are medical advancements going up? Why is general abundance and wealth improving? Why do people have more access to clean water? Why is there less violence? Like you’re saying, it’s a male-dominated world and masculinity is inherently toxic so why is everything getting better? Help me understand, right? It’s like you can either have one or the other like it’s either not all male-dominated or men are actually producing more favorable outcomes. I think both probably exist but both are probably true. But yeah, what was the original? It was just something I was thinking about. What was the original?
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. I was just kind of ruminating on how…
Ryan Michler: The violence. Yeah.
Dean Pohlman: Violence just isn’t as necessary as it used to be or it wasn’t as prevalent. And I think that could be a reason why…
Ryan Michler: Isn’t that great?
Dean Pohlman: …we’re discouraging masculinity because, hey, you actually don’t need to, you know, you probably don’t need to have the ability to defend yourself or to protect yourself in a violent way compared to when…
Ryan Michler: Yeah. You don’t until you do. Like, you’re absolutely right until you’re wrong, and I don’t want to be wrong in that moment. So, last year, I’ll say the story but I got into an altercation at a gas pump last year, something completely stupid. And the guy threatened me and he started to threaten my son who was with me at the time, which I was not going to have. That isn’t something I tolerate. So, I get out of the truck. I’ve got my firearm on me and I’ve been trained in jiu-jitsu like I’m not saying that I’m the epitome of being able to administer violence the right way but I can handle myself and I get out of the truck and I’m like, “Hold on a second. This is stupid.” Like, I’m either going to kill this guy or he’s going to kill me in front of my son like over a gas pump? Like this is crazy. So, I was able to hold myself back but had that situation escalated, you’re damn right I want to be in the position where I can protect myself and other people.
We also had somebody try to break into our home. This was a couple of years ago. Fortunately, there are security systems and things in place. You know, we’re intact and made sure that wasn’t the case but, yeah, I want to be able to administer swift, decisive violence on behalf of myself and my family. And I think that doesn’t do…
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. I think that’s important.
Ryan Michler: There’s no harm in trying to make yourself more capable of doing that. Like what’s the negative outcome of learning jujitsu? What’s the negative outcome of learning how to handle a firearm? What’s the negative outcome of being aware of potential threats? Zero. What’s the negative outcome of not doing that? Well, potentially you’re going to put yourself and other people at risk. It’s the old adage. It’s better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.
Dean Pohlman: I mean, yeah, and that just comes and the issue isn’t whether or not you have the skills. The issue is if you would be if you don’t have the sound judgment to use those when they’re not needed, right?
Ryan Michler: Well, and de-escalation is the first thing.
Dean Pohlman: I’m thinking of Mr. Miyagi here, right? Like, yes, I can kill him but I won’t.
Ryan Michler: No, that’s right. Then that’s what I was saying about the gas pump like I could handle myself. I don’t want to be in that situation because I know the consequences of it. The most violent men I know, and I’m not saying that in a negative way. Like the ones who have killed people, warriors, martial art, like the most violent men that I know are some of the most kind, controlled people that I know. You would never have any idea that they’re trained killers because they know the results. They know the degree to which the game is played, and they’re not interested in that bet unless they absolutely have to. And if they have to, they’ll do it decisively, they’ll do it quickly, and it will be over fast. I can guarantee you that.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. Thank you for that. So, I’d like to get into kind of masculinity and, well, one really quick question before I go into masculinity and emotion because I think that’s a really cool topic but does masculinity have more to do with the activity itself or is it the manner in which the activity is performed?
Ryan Michler: I would say more of the manner. So, I’ve had a lot of people ask me, for example, this was just a couple of weeks ago. A guy messaged me and he’s like, “Hey, Ryan,” if I remember right, I think he either wanted to paint or do photography but he wanted to be an artist of some sort and he’s like, “I really want to do this. I’m just worried it’s not masculine.” “What? What are you talking about? You’re saying painting is not masculine? Like, painting is not genetic. It doesn’t have chromosomes. It doesn’t have a little pair of balls on it or not. Like it’s not masculine or feminine. It’s just painting. That’s all it is.” But we get into these things where it’s like, “Well, I’m just going to be viewed as less masculine. Some of the best painters in the world are men, and they’re still masculine.” Some of the best cooks in the world are men I would consider very masculine, very manly. So, when I define manliness, I define it as the ability to protect, provide, and preside over yourself, your loved ones, the people you care about, and those that can’t do it for themselves. That’s how I define manliness.
I didn’t say that you had to be a professional kickboxer or somebody who’s climbed the seven highest peaks on each of the seven continents. No. I said protect, provide, preside. If you’re a painter or a photographer or an artist or a musician or a professional or a chef, you’re not less manly because you’re doing those things. It doesn’t make you less manly at all. If you’re protecting, providing, and presiding then 100% I consider you a man. You’re doing what needs to be done.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. And I ask that because I think a lot of people get the perception that being a man is about, “I go hunting, I’m going to go camping, I’m going to train firearms, I’m going to lift weights,” all these things that are and they don’t consider or it doesn’t seem like the consideration is so much in how. It’s just I’m going to do these things because I think that makes me manly. And that’s kind of what I…
Ryan Michler: All the things that you mentioned I like personally but I also picked up the guitar. I like doing that. I also like having conversations like we’re doing right now. I like to watch movies with my wife. I like to color with my kids like there’s so much. Yoga is actually a great example of that. Like, generally, people would say that’s not manly, right, I assume?
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, no. I get that. We still get that.
Ryan Michler: Right. So, tell me what’s not manly about it? You’re making yourself stronger. You’re exercising discipline. You’re stretching out your muscles so now you’re more capable, you’re going to be more athletic, you’re going to live longer. Are you going to be healthier? You’re going to live a more fulfilled life. Like, what about that is unmasculine?
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. I mean, I have no answer for you because there is none.
Ryan Michler: Because you agree, right? Yeah, exactly.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah.
Ryan Michler: But we do. We get caught up into like, well, you have to do this and like I think everybody should go hunting. I do think that. I don’t think you have to be a hunter but I think at some point you should probably go hunting and try it. I think you should probably know how to use a firearm. Like, I don’t expect that you have an arsenal in your basement. But like you should know how to use a firearm. That seems like a basic skill. It’s like swimming to me. It’s like I don’t particularly enjoy the water. It’s not my favorite thing. But like I know how to swim because if I’m ever in the water, I want to know that I’m not going to drown so I learned to swim when I was a kid, right? It’s the same concept.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. And just to touch on the hunting firearms, I grew up in a suburb and we weren’t anywhere close to anywhere where you would be able to just go out and hunt. And I think both my mom and my dad were taking camping as they were kids and they just didn’t like it, so they didn’t do it with me. So, a lot of these activities, and if I’m being honest, I kind of get self-conscious because I don’t go hiking or I don’t go camping. We really rarely do. I think I’ve done it probably three times and I’ve had a good time while I do it and I don’t have a firearm. I think I’ve done some rivalry at summer camps when I was like a teenager but I don’t have a firearm. And I haven’t practiced it. I haven’t learned it. So, there are some things that, I guess, yeah, I guess I kind of bring that up just because I’m like self-conscious about my manliness because I don’t do these things and…
Ryan Michler: I mean, it’s easy for me to say I don’t think you need to be self-conscious but if you’re thinking to yourself, maybe I should then I think you should. Try it. You know, it’s the same way, let’s take a guy who’s always been into martial arts and hunting and camping and firearms and all this other stuff. If that guy has a desire to paint a picture, then I think you probably should do that. Or if you want to buy a camera and learn how to do landscape photography and that’s a concern. That’s a deficiency. You’re like, “I don’t know how to do that,” then you should do that, and then you should just see and if you like it, you can double down. And if you don’t like it, you’re like, “Cool. Tried that. Wasn’t my thing but I tried it. I’m more capable now.” I don’t think you have to be self-conscious about it but I think being aware of it and saying, “Okay. Well, I never have done that. Maybe I should go to a firing range and do that,” I think might shore some of that up.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. It’s cool. All right. Now, let’s get into this. I’ve warmed you up. Let’s get into this. I’m going to crack you open. That’s not the right term but I’m going to make you talk about emotion. And first off, if you’ve ever seen Ryan on social media, it’s really funny because he actually doesn’t know how to smile. He has these wonderfully stoic faces and the camera is always moody and there are shadows, and the wisdom is etched into the lines of your face.
Ryan Michler: And the beard.
Dean Pohlman: Of the beard. Yeah. I used to have a two-foot-long beard like ZZ Top style. So, just keep that in mind as I’m asking him these questions. So, I grew up, I think I subconsciously adopted a lot of beliefs about being a man and just not being emotional. And I don’t have, I think I just kind of grew up in that. My dad never had a lot of serious conversations with me. I think I’ll probably have to ask him this, at some point in the next 10 years about his own relationship with his father but I think a lot of that stemmed from him just not wanting to be the father that his dad was to him.
A lot of it was I think he was controlled a lot by his father. I think that’s reflected in the way that he raised me. He didn’t really give me specific advice a lot. He kind of just encouraged me to make my own decision and he would repeat that. Just make a decision, make a decision, make a decision. And that was kind of his way of like, “Just figure it out yourself like go off and do it on your own.” And I think a side effect of that was I developed this idea subconsciously that I was supposed to be an emotional rock. And I was praised a lot for it or I was rewarded kind of for it kind of like what I thought to be stoically moving forward and people would compliment me and I would kind of just say – I would like to keep my face straight and just kind of nod my head. And these were things that were kind of rewarded. And now over the last few years, I started therapy in 2018 just talking about how I feel, and that’s really hard for me. Like, maybe you’re not in that situation but for me, just talking about how I feel was really hard at some point. I’m like I don’t really know what I’m feeling because there is this wall. There is something that shuts down when I get into feeling these vulnerable emotions or feeling tenderness. And so, I guess my kind of question for you there is, why do we conflate masculinity with not being emotional?
Ryan Michler: I think we do that because there are times where we can’t afford to be emotional. Like, that’s 100% true. Like, there are just times where it’s not appropriate to display and express your emotions. You know, we’ll go back to that a violent encounter or you’re leading in a very important meeting. You can’t be stumbling around bumbling all over your words like a crybaby like that’s not going to cut it. That’s not going to get the job done. And so, it’s an element, I believe, of leadership that when people look to you, they’re expecting you to be steadfast and resolute like that rock because that instills a level of confidence and faith and trust. But that’s not to say that there aren’t times where we can experience that but if we’re making our decisions solely on emotion, we’re going to miss a large part of the response and stimulus that could help us make better decisions. So, I tend to look at emotions like a vehicle on a dashboard, and I actually talk about this in Sovereignty.
You know, you’re driving down the road and let’s say you’re driving from here to there and your fuel light comes on. It says you’re out of gas. Okay. Well, you’re not going to grab the wheel of your truck, swerve it off the side of the road, and wrap it around the next tree that you see because you’re pissed because the light went on. No. You’re going to say, “Okay. Well, something’s wrong. Oh, that light went on. What is that like? Oh, it’s the fuel gauge. Better pull over the next gas station and put some gas in my truck.” That’s what a reasonable, rational human being would do. And it’s the same thing with emotions. When you’re angry, it’s okay to be angry like there are some things to be angry about. Okay. Some guys will say, “Well, I punched the wall because I was angry.” No. Anger doesn’t force you to punch the wall. That’s an unhealthy response to your anger.
Instead, maybe I’m angry and I don’t know why. Let me sit here and think about, “Oh, I’m angry because I got passed over for the promotion at work that I felt I was entitled to. And so, maybe now out of either talk with my manager about why I got passed up in a healthy way or go back to the drawing board and learn some new skills so that the next promotion that comes available, I’m going to be the one to get it.” That’s a way that your emotions served you but walking into your boss’s office and punching him in the nose is probably not going to help your cause very much. It’s an emotional outburst. It’s a reaction versus a response. So, yeah, look, when people say, “Well, men are emotional,” that’s stupid. Like, we’re all emotional and we have those emotions for a reason. Whether you believe that we were created in the image of God or that we’ve evolved into who we are now over millions, if not billions of years or somewhere in between, we have emotions. They’re there. It’s undeniable.
So, rather than just trying to suppress and pretend like we don’t have them, let’s use them. Let’s try to understand them. Let’s fit them into the framework of our decision-making process and then make better decisions that’s going to serve us and ours more effectively.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. So, just to touch on the anger piece, I recently figured out that I had a lot of shame behind my anger because I don’t know why. It was a combination. I think there was an understanding that anger was a secondary emotion in a lot of ways like anger is what happens when something doesn’t go your way or your expectations aren’t fulfilled or like when there’s a threat on your view of the world or something that you want, anger is what happens. But I also didn’t kind of recognize anger as a legitimate emotion. It was something that I experienced and I would say, “Why are you angry? You need to not be angry and to stuff that back down.” And what would happen are these like these emotional outbursts where all of a sudden, my wife asked me, “Hey, can you do this before dinner tomorrow?” “I have been doing that. What are you asking me?”
Ryan Michler: Right.
Dean Pohlman: Just these outbursts where I’m like, “That’s not a healthy response.” And I think it was due largely to a huge part of that because I just totally delegitimize anger in my head as something that was wrong. And so, a lot of what I’m trying to do now is understand like, “Hey,” like when I’m angry, like not being shameful, not feeling shameful about it but saying, “I’m angry right now. I am angry. I feel angry. I’m feeling this anger. I’m feeling like this kind of bubble up. I’m feeling my chest get big and I’m feeling my shoulders and my neck get tense. And I’m going to just kind of live in this for a little bit. I’m going to make sure that I don’t punch a wall or break a window but I’m going to experience this and then I’ll kind of let it simmer down. And then I’ll say, “Okay. I was angry. I experienced that. What was that anger?” So, yeah.
Ryan Michler: I mean, I think we need to be okay with being angry or jealous or envious or sad. These what we would normally consider negative emotions, they aren’t negative. It’s a little indicator on your dashboard. “Hey, we need to check in on something. Something’s going on right here.” And then you have an outlet for a productive way to deal with it. So, my wife does a lot of food preservation and canning, and so she’ll get those mason jars and she’ll put whatever fruits, vegetables, all kinds of beans or whatnot in there. And then they have to vacuum seal a lid on it so that it will stay good. So, she puts it in her steamer and she turns the stove on and she has the steamer on there. And then there’s this little valve on the top of the steamer, and that little valve is just letting some of the pressurized steam out of the – not too much but just the right amount because if it’s too much, then it won’t seal correctly. If it’s not at all, it quite literally turns into a bomb because there’s no outlet for that pressure.
So, we need to have outlets for that pressure, whether that’s yoga or jujitsu or going for a walk or writing our feelings down or a combination of those and other strategies is that little release valve that keeps yourself from turning into a bomb, a ticking time bomb, and you just let some steam out. You experience it. It’s okay to be angry, sit in it for a little while so you can figure it out but let enough steam out so that you don’t turn to that bomb and explode on the next person to, unfortunately, walk by your path. There’s probably going to be somebody you care about. It’s going to be your wife. It’s going to be your kids. It’s going to be a friend, and you’re going to release that bomb on them. You don’t want to do that.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. I’m glad you brought up outlets because I’m kind of curious, well, I guess what would you consider acceptable outlets for? I don’t even know if that’s the right question to ask but what are acceptable ways for men to have emotional outlets or to be able to experience things that would not be considered masculine, things like sadness, things like complaining? Is that giving you enough to go on? I’m just trying to ask.
Ryan Michler: Yeah. Sure.
Dean Pohlman: Okay. Cool.
Ryan Michler: When you say appropriate, what I think of is things that are going to be healthy for you in the long term. So, this could be, I mentioned a couple, going on a walk, going on a run, journaling how you feel or what you’re experiencing in the moment. I personally, the best outlet for me is jujitsu because I get to go in there, I get to exert some physical stress and burn off some of those cortisol levels and all this kind of stuff that brings my stress levels down. And I actually go get to vent some of that frustration out on another human being who actually may be going through the same thing I am right now. It’s in a controlled environment, right? It’s not a free for all. We’re not there to hurt each other. But yeah, I’m there to physically exert myself over another human being and they’re there to do the same thing. And so, that outlet has always been very, very productive for me. In fact, my wife knows like if I haven’t been training for a while, she’s like, “You need to go train tonight.” Even if I don’t want to, she’s like, “No, you’re going. You have to go train,” because she knows it’s a little release valve.
Dean Pohlman: Because you’re leaving the house right now.
Ryan Michler: That’s right. And so, that’s that little release valve but it could actually be just something as simple as just get out of the environment, right? So, if you’re at home and you and your wife are arguing about something and it’s turning into a heated debate and it’s going the wrong direction, “Hon, I got to table this for like a half an hour,” and you just go outside, tinker around your shop, go for a drive. Go for a walk. Change your environment. Get out of whatever’s causing that. And then you can start thinking about it, “Oh, you know what, man, she was really right about that one thing but on this thing, I still feel like we’re not on the same page, and I want her to understand that perspective of mine.” And you think about it with a clear perspective. Here’s what you can’t do, though, because this is opening the valve too much. Sometimes we open the valve too much and we disengage entirely, right? So, you open the valve too much and then you actually defeat the purpose of canning the food, which is to seal and preserve the actual food.
If we’re using that analogy, if you open the steam too much and you never return to the conversation, you’re deflecting and you’re running away. It’s escapism and you’re not actually creating what you want to create, which is a thriving relationship or a successful business or a healthy body if you always disengage and open that valve up too much.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. I think it’s a great answer. Thank you. So, I wanted to ask you about your own personal journey with your own mental, your own emotional well-being. Can you give me an example of maybe a self-limiting belief or something personal that you had to work through and how you did that? What were some of the behaviors or what process did you utilize to kind of work through? If you would consider it a trauma, then let’s call a trauma or if it’s a self-limiting belief, let’s call it that but I just like to see if you could talk about something personal from your own life.
Ryan Michler: Yeah. I mean, patience has always been something I’ve had to deal with. I want what I want. I want it right now. I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to have to wait for it like I want it now. If I want it, I want it now. There’s actually some redeeming qualities about that because it drives me to doing something to have what I want. But then I lose my patience when I’m not experiencing the result as quickly as I would like. And then it usually manifests itself in me blowing up at one of my family members. That’s just how it goes. And I’ve recognized that. I acknowledge that and I’m better than I used to be but I certainly have a long ways to go. But what I’ve done a couple of things is to try to have more realistic expectations around the success or whatever I’m trying to achieve. And that usually means that I’m bringing in an outside perspective who’s been down that path before.
So, if, for example, I’m going to start a podcast and I have an expectation that it’s just going to blow up like within the first month, and it doesn’t, that would typically be a very frustrating thing. But if I bring in counsel who says, “Hey, this is going to take you two years to build. And I know you’re going to be frustrated. I know it’s not going to feel like you’re having any growth but it’s going to take you two years.” Got it. Now, I have a realistic expectation of what that’s going to take, and that allows me to be more patient with my pursuits, right? The other thing that I’ve done is that I notice that I get very impatient when there’s a lot of stuff looming over my head. So, if I didn’t get everything I wanted to accomplish for the day or I have a very busy day like today is and I don’t give myself enough lead time or buffer time between meetings and dealing with the inevitable little things that come up throughout the day that you can’t plan for, I get very short with people.
And so, one thing I’ve started to do is if I say, “Hey, it’s going to be an hour meeting.” It’s like, okay, give yourself an hour and a half. If it’s a two-hour meeting, give yourself two-and-a-half hours, right, and create those buffers and those margins because I might have to answer an email or there might be a little fire, a little mini fire that I need to put out. But if I don’t give myself the space and the margin to do that, then I’ll blow up. And then the third way that shows up is that if I don’t get my work done that I say I’m going to do, then that spills over into other facets of my life. So, I might be eating dinner and be very frustrated at dinner with my family because I know I wasn’t as productive as I needed to be today. So, I’ve really made a conscious effort of, in fact, right here, I’ve always got my planner within arm’s reach and I follow this thing religiously. I go through it. I’m super productive during the day. I cap out the end of my day and roll it over to the next day the things I didn’t get done, and that allows me to be fully present in the moment with the people that I care about when I’m there.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. I think that’s great. That’s something that I like to do a lot of too. And I’m thinking because I can really relate to those days when you want to get more done and it’s at the end of the day, you’re like, “Oh, it’s dinner already and I have to…” Do you tell your wife and do you tell your kids like, “Hey, guys, I’m sorry, I’m in a bad mood. I just didn’t get as much done as I wanted to do today,” or is that something that you keep to yourself or something? Do you put it in your notebook? Or like what do you…
Ryan Michler: Yeah. I don’t do that. If like, for example, if you know, I’m working and dinner is going to be ready at 6 and I’m still working a little bit, maybe on some things that have been looming over my head for the day, I’ll come down and eat dinner and try to be as present as I possibly can because my kids don’t care that I didn’t get as much done at work today. Like, that’s not an excuse they’re really going to understand, right? So, I’m going to go there. I’m going to try to be as present as possible and, in that moment, I might say, “Hey, hon. You know, like, I’m going to come down, eat dinner with you guys, spend some time before the kids go to bed. But tonight, like, I actually need an hour tonight after the kids go to bed.” She’s like, “Oh, yeah. That’s cool, I’ll do my own thing.” And so, we do that once, twice a week maybe where it’s my time to – and she has time too like it’s important for her to have that as well. I’m thinking that maybe she didn’t get done because she’s home with the kids all day.
Dean Pohlman: Yes.
Ryan Michler: Anybody with kids knows how that goes. It’s like, forget about your own plans. They got plans of their own. And so, she can’t do her own things. Like the other day, she was thinking to herself or I saw a book on the kitchen counter. I’m like, “Oh, what’s this book?” She’s like, “I’m almost done. I need like an hour,” and I’m like, “Well, go take an hour.” I go, “I’ll hang out down here.” And she’s like, “No, I can’t because I have to do X, Y, and Z.” And so, at night I’m like, “Well, just go read the book like we don’t need to be together every moment of every day. So, why don’t you just go read? I’ll do my own thing.” She’s like, “Do you care?” I’m like, “No, that’s good for you, and it’s good for me. So, all good.” So, those are some of the ways we deal with it.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. That’s just the last point on there. So, my kids haven’t gotten to the age where I’m like I can have it. He’s 20 months old or almost 21. I don’t even know anymore but he’s – I have to do the math.
Ryan Michler: Almost two.
Dean Pohlman: He’s almost two. But something that stuck out to me is your wife can understand this concept of I didn’t get enough done stress or I need to work more but I’m trying to be present. But, yeah, it’s not something you can convey to your kids. So, you’re not able to have like that. They’re not adults yet. You can’t like treat them the same way. You can’t have maybe that same level of openness.
Ryan Michler: Yeah. Well, that and there’s some grace afforded by your wife when you can’t get all the work done. Now, if it happens all the time, there’s going to be less and less grace afforded. But if it happens periodically or occasionally, she’s going to get it. But your kids don’t get that. They’re like, “Oh, dad’s not here. He must not love us.” And I don’t ever want that to be the message they pick up. Every time they’re misinterpreting that but I don’t want them to pick up that message. And I’ll even communicate, “Hey, kids, I do have a lot to do tonight but I want to be here and present with you guys. So, if I seem a little distracted, that’s why but know that I love you and I’m here with you guys and I want to be here for you.”
Dean Pohlman: Okay. All right. Thanks for clarifying that. I’d love to hear about kind of your experience with The Iron Council and just talk about some of the struggles that those guys are going through. What are the big struggles that you see kind of over and over again in conversations that you’re having with the men in your tribe?
Ryan Michler: Yeah. I mean, confidence issues are usually the biggest. Guys really struggle with confidence, with themselves, with the way they show up, with their bodies, with their businesses, even inside their relationships. And so, I think what a lot of these guys are looking for is a path, the framework, definitely the accountability and the brotherhood, the camaraderie with other guys. But ultimately, I think what they’re after more often than not is feeling confident in their action, that they’re taking the right actions, that it’s leading to a result and they’re actually experiencing those results in their lives.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. I can hear that. Let’s talk emotional, mental. I guess you can put the confidence into mental but what are some of the emotional conversations that come up in these discussions? What are some of those big topics?
Ryan Michler: Well, when guys are dealing with loss, there’s a lot of guys in there that are going through a divorce or a separation, men that have lost loved ones, maybe just that uneasiness or that unsureness about themselves, that’s that confidence issue I was referring to. And most of our conversations, not all, but most of our conversations are directed towards action. So, if somebody is feeling they aren’t confident with their performance, then it’s, “Hey, okay, like what are you going to do about it?” Because as soon as you start working on it, you’re going to feel better, 100% you’re going to feel better as you start working on it. So, most of our conversations around mental and emotional health are centered around taking action towards the right objective that these guys identify for themselves. And lo and behold, they feel better, right? I think that’s how we operate. You know, but there are other things like loss. You lose your dad, for example. Okay. “What are you going to do about it?” is probably not the most empathetic answer you can give to somebody as they’re going through a loss.
So, in that moment, it’s just being there, “Hey, man, sorry for your loss. What can we do for you? How can we pick up the slack? Are there other things that we can help with?” When it comes to a divorce or separation, a lot of our conversations are driven towards working on yourself because what a lot of guys will do in those moments is they spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get her to change or to see how they’re changing and it’s all centered around her.
Dean Pohlman: I’ve heard you talk about that a lot.
Ryan Michler: Yeah. So, what we do is say, “Hey, get the fixation off of her as best you can because it’s hard, and put the fixation on yourself. What can you do to improve your fitness? What can you do to improve your finances? How can you improve your skill set so that you can get that promotion at work? What can you do spiritually? Do you need to go back to church? Maybe it’s been a while. Don’t medicate with drugs and alcohol and pornography. Let’s replace that with working out and eating right and exercise.” So, it’s all centered around, in that context, it’s more centered off taking the focus off of her again outside of your control and putting it where it belongs on your shoulder as a man.
Dean Pohlman: Got it. Okay. Thank you. I know we don’t have a ton of time and I want to go through these rapid-fire questions as quickly as possible.
Ryan Michler: Okay. Yeah.
Dean Pohlman: Or as quickly and thoroughly as possible, if that makes any sense.
Ryan Michler: I say efficiently is what I say.
Dean Pohlman: Efficiently. That’s the word I’m looking for.
Ryan Michler: Hits the quickness but also, we want to make sure we do it right.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. So, what do you think is one habit, a belief, or a mindset that has helped you the most or has helped you significantly in terms of your overall happiness?
Ryan Michler: Well, I’ll say this first. I don’t like the word happiness in this context because I’m not pursuing happiness. I’m pursuing fulfillment because when I think and maybe it’s semantics but when I think of happy, I just think of somebody sipping margaritas on the beach and like that would be fun for a day maybe or an afternoon.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. I guess what I’m asking is kind of like, let’s say, if you just wake up and you’re feeling physically great and you want to put a 0 to 10 number, 10 being the best, zero being, “I’m contemplating suicide.” And you want to put a number and you want to get that number as high as possible, just feeling good about yourself, fulfillment, happy, healthy, whatever.
Ryan Michler: Fulfillment? Yeah, yeah.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. What’s one thing that’s been super helpful for that?
Ryan Michler: You know, I alluded to that earlier. It’s using this planner and it’s not this – it’s using a planner. It’s not this planner. It’s a planner.
Dean Pohlman: It’s that one. It’s the leather-bound planner.
Ryan Michler: Exactly. I don’t care what one – if that one works, cool. If it’s something else, cool. It doesn’t bother me, whatever. But it’s planning every single morning without fail, taking 10 minutes or so, “Hey, what do I need to get done? What’s the priority? What am I going to accomplish? If I miss something, what’s it going to be? When will I do it? Figuring out my calendar? What events? What podcast do I have today?” Coupled with doing that on the back end in the evening. “So, okay, you know, I did these things. I didn’t do that so I need to roll that tomorrow and tomorrow I have an appointment at 9:00 and noon and 2. And from 10 to noon, I’m going to do these emails and from 2 to 3 or whenever my next podcast or appointment is, I’m going to follow up on this project I’m working on.” And I do that at night, too, so that when I come in the morning, I’ve already got a head start. I might need to tweak and adjust some things based on emails or something that I thought about throughout the night but I’ve already got a head start on where I’m going. So, when you couple the beginning and capping your day with some sort of planning system, man, that’s going to make you unstoppable.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. That’s something we’ve talked a lot about. It’s kind of the – you’re familiar with the work shut down process from Cal Newport. Have you heard of that?
Ryan Michler: I mean, I know Cal but I don’t think I’ve heard of that process itself.
Dean Pohlman: Okay. I think it’s called work shut down or like evening shut down or something like that but it’s exactly what you talked about. It’s figuring out where did I leave the day? What am I going to do tomorrow? Shutting it off and being able to be present with your family.
Ryan Michler: Yeah, man. It’s powerful.
Dean Pohlman: So, next question. What do you think is one thing that you do for your health that’s overlooked or undervalued by most people or by other people?
Ryan Michler: I would say training jujitsu. I mean, not a lot of people train martial arts for various reasons. But you know, I’ve been training hard for almost three years now, about two-and-a-half years and I trained four to five days a week, and it’s a big part of my exercise and physical fitness regimen but also my mental-emotional health. And that’s the part people don’t see. They get the physicality of it but they don’t see the mental and emotional health of it but it just made me a more well-rounded person. It’s made me more patient. It’s that little release valve as I get frustrated. It’s a way to actually band with other men. A lot of guys struggle. You’re asking earlier, a lot of guys struggle with finding other men to band with that are doing things they want to be doing. Martial arts is a great way to find other men who are interested in the same things you are. And you know because it’s a bit of a litmus test that they’re there because they want to improve themselves, and they’ve proven just by being there that they’re willing to do difficult and uncomfortable things. So, I built a lot of camaraderie and brotherhood with guys I never would have met in any other way.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. It’s a really good point. Next question, what is the most stressful part of your day-to-day life?
Ryan Michler: Well, it was writing a book because I just finished the first manuscript for my second book, and it was very, very stressful for me.
Dean Pohlman: Been there. Very stressful.
Ryan Michler: Yeah, you get it. But that’s done now. So, I really feel like the last two weeks has been a weight lifted off my shoulders.
Dean Pohlman: You did 60,000 words, I think. Is that what you said?
Ryan Michler: Yeah, just over 60,000 words in 60 days. So, that was a stressful run.
Dean Pohlman: Wow. It’s like a writing challenge.
Ryan Michler: Yeah. Oh, it was, man. It was. Outside of that, the biggest thing I’m focusing on now is improving the quality of the things that we put out there. So, it’s the lighting and the technology and the podcast studio and the audio and then making sure that we have editors and video producers to be able to put the right content out there. And those things are stressful but good stress like stress that I like because it means we’re trying to improve things. It’s not a chore. It’s not something I despise. It’s something, yes, stressful but I like doing it because I know the outcome is going to be amazing.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. You can definitely tell. You know, when you look at your stuff, you can tell that the video editing, the photos, it’s all very well done so it’s showing.
Ryan Michler: Thanks, man. Yeah, I appreciate that. We’re definitely working on that.
Dean Pohlman: Last question, what do you think is the biggest challenge facing men and their overall well-being right now?
Ryan Michler: Ego. It’s ego. It’s always ego. You know, you have to be willing to look foolish if you want to be good at anything. You have to be willing to be not so good at it for a while. And I’ve met a lot of guys who could do some real good in the world, whether it’s starting a business or getting their fitness in check or getting their finances in order or whatever that aren’t doing it because they’re afraid that they’re going to be looked at as dumb or judged or criticized or mocked, and you will. That’s the problem. You will. You’ll have all of that. You’ll experience all of it. But if you want to grow and you want something special, you’re just going to have to face the reality of it and deal with it and know that the best people, the masters that you’re inspired by were willing to look foolish. Like, if you’re looking at an author in that, “This guy’s an incredible author,” I guarantee that person has had a book that flopped.
If you’re looking at a podcaster, “Oh, that guy’s, oh, he’s such a great podcaster,” well, I guarantee he’s had to work through that and he struggled. Or you see a guy who is the pinnacle of his financial or his physical wellness, okay, well, I guarantee you that guy has had injuries that he’s needed to overcome or he used to be fat and now he’s not. You’ve got to start somewhere and that ego is really detrimental to your well-being and your fulfillment since we used that word earlier.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I can see that. Well, that’s a great conversation. I was completely engaged the entire time.
Ryan Michler: Good.
Dean Pohlman: Thank you very much for that, Ryan. I’m curious, what are some episodes that you’ve done over on The Order of Man Podcast that you think would be kind of relevant or be kind of similar to kind of some of the topics that we’ve covered here, if people wanted to get into stuff a little bit more?
Ryan Michler: Yeah. I think I’ve done a couple of interviews with Jocko Willink that are really good. Those I think I’ve done three or four now. Those are really good. I’ve done two with John Eldredge. He’s the author of Wild at Heart. That book transformed my life literally.
Dean Pohlman: I just bought that book because I saw you state him. I’m like, “I’ve heard about this book enough times. I got to read it.”
Ryan Michler: You got to get it. It’s such a good book. The first time I bought it, I was reading it on the plane. I was so engaged with it, and then as we were landing, I put it in my seatback pocket and we landed and I left and I left it there. I was like, “Oh!” So frustrated. I had to buy another book because I was so like captivated. I couldn’t read it for like three or four days. I had to wait for another one. Yeah. So, we’ve done two with John Eldridge. Those were really good and along the same lines is what we’re talking about here. Stephen Mansfield, got some great conversations with him. I mean, we’ve had so many incredible guests on at this point.
Dean Pohlman: You really have.
Ryan Michler: It’s just wild to think about the people we’ve had on.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. I was scrolling through your guest list. I was like, “Oh, they had him? They had him and him too?” I was seriously impressed.
Ryan Michler: You know, who’s really good is Jason Wilson. If you guys don’t know Jason Wilson, that actually would be really good because we were talking about emotions. He wrote a book called Cry Like a Man and I had him on the podcast. Man, that one’s powerful. Go listen to that one. You’ll like that.
Dean Pohlman: Okay. That was one of the questions that I had that I didn’t ask because I asked it another way. My question was, “Do real men cry?” I’ll just ask him. We’ll go through him.
Ryan Michler: Ask him. But, I mean, the answer is yes, of course, like every man cries.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. Unless they’re emotionally unhealthy, which I did for a while but working on it.
Ryan Michler: Yeah, maybe, but even still like, yeah, I mean, maybe. I don’t know. I cry. I don’t cry a lot but you know, there are moments where I cry and I don’t consider myself less of a man because of it.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. Good point. Well, where else can people find what you do? What’s best way to keep up with you and Ryan?
Ryan Michler: The podcast is probably best if you go to Order of Man wherever you listen to podcasts. We’ve got all those. Outside of that, you can follow me on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter, @ryanmichler. My last name is M-I-C-H-L-E-R and then OrderofMan.com is our headquarters so you can find everything we’re doing between those few resources.
Dean Pohlman: Awesome. Cool. Well, Ryan, thanks again for an awesome conversation today. It was great. I learned a lot. I’m looking forward to staying connected with you in the future and seeing out all the content that you’re putting out. So, thanks again.
Ryan Michler: Thanks, Dean. Appreciate the opportunity, man. Great to talk with you.
Dean Pohlman: Guys, thanks for joining us for the podcast. We’ll see you in the next episode.[END]
- Order of Man
- Connect with Ryan on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter
- Sovereignty: The Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Men
- The Iron Council
- Cal Newport
- Jocko Willink Episodes on Order of Man
- John Eldredge Episodes on Order of Man
- Wild at Heart: Discovering The Secret of a Man’s Soul
- Stephen Mansfield Episodes on Order of Man
- Jason Wilson Episode on Order of Man
- Cry Like a Man: Fighting for Freedom from Emotional Incarceration
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