What’s your backstory?
When I was six years old, a class project about worms unexpectedly kicked off my journey toward discovering what true masculinity looked like and how I could attain it. I had never seen it in action, but I’d always had a great example of what it was not: my father. A night-shift worker who slept all day, he wasn’t ever terribly present. My parents were divorced, and when we were at my dad’s house, we spent the day in front of the TV or otherwise entertaining ourselves.
School projects occurred on Tuesdays, and since my mom was working, my dad agreed to join me. Even though he promised me he’d be there, when the time came for my class to start the project, I was the only one without a parent who had shown up. I was used to sitting on the front porch waiting for him (sometimes for hours), and I was used to entertaining myself while with him, but this was the first time he was a no-show in public. It was the first time I was seen by others as “that kid” whose dad didn’t show up when it mattered; my superheroes kryptonite had finally surfaced for other people to see.
He came to my mom’s house that evening and took me on a walk to apologize, saying that his alarm clock was broken again. I accepted his apology, but the seed had already been planted: I wasn’t as important as his sleep, work, friends, or anything else he had going on at the time (and never had been). I came back inside after he left and immediately said to my mom, “I don’t really think Daddy’s alarm clock broke. I don’t think it ever breaks, and I don’t think his car breaks down either. I just don’t think he cared enough to come.”
I know this is not an easy job. What drives you?
It dawned on me, as much as it could as a six-year-old, that my dad wasn’t the man who was going to show me what it looked like to move powerfully as a man in the world. That created a drive in me to understand what a strong man does look like so that I could give my future kids something I never had.
I didn’t truly pick up on any one man’s positive contribution to my life until I was a teenager. I continued to ask myself what the 40-year-old me would need in order to be the kind of father I wanted to be for my future kids. That was the lens through which I looked at (and continue to look at) male figures in my life, whether they are mentors or peers.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? What lesson did you learn from them?
My high school football trainer had accomplished a lot both athletically and professionally, and the way he treated his kids resonated with me. I watched as he took ownership of his troubled past, all of his previous failures and successes, and used them as stepping stones to become what I viewed to be the ideal man, the type of man I wanted to be. Unfortunately, just as I did with my dad, I got to the point where I saw my “hero” a bit too up close and personal and began to notice enormous holes in his character. Yet again, a man I once looked up to failed to fit the mold I had (probably unnecessarily) fit him into in my mind. From there, I realized that it was my responsibility to take pieces of the character of each man I encountered and fit those pieces together to create the man I wanted to be at any one point in time. As it still stands, 40-year-old Kyree Oliver is my current role model. I do everything I do today, in life and in business, in a way that will make him and his children proud.
How do you push through your worst times?
Mentors from whom I’ve taken pieces include other family members, coaches, teachers, and the fathers of some of my friends. I appreciate some for the way they conduct their businesses, others for the way they conduct themselves morally and ethically, some for the way they show up in their marriages, and others for the way they connect and relate to their children. I realized there would never be one “perfect” man for me to look up to, so the next best option was to find what pieces of each man I resonated with and took their example in one particular area, without judging or adopting their life approach as a whole.
Of course, even with great mentors and role models, it’s not always easy to be the person I aspire to be.
When challenges arise, I have learned to have a check-in with myself at least once a day (or whenever it pops into my head) to make sure that I am on track to becoming who my forty-, sixty-, and eighty-year-old self will be proud of. That requires the willingness to have a level of deep clarity and honesty with myself, and that’s a quality I had to develop over time so as not to trick myself into being too comfortable in any area of my growth. There is no such thing as too good of a man, so why not make this a continual process of honing and sculpting what that incredible man looks like?
The three pillars of masculinity by which I live are:
Soft Heart (Empathy)
Thick Skin (Emotional Intelligence)
Hard Head (grit, determination, sense of purpose)
By honing the practice of checking in with each of these pillars individually and gaining greater understanding of how they all fit together and how each one helps to inform the others, you put yourself in the best position to step forward and stand powerfully as a man in the world, which is the true definition of masculine/”Alpha male.”