Skip to main content

Edition 225 – Men’s Health

COVID 19 has wreaked havoc through our lives over the past 3 months like nothing else I can remember in my lifetime. It’s impact has been brutal and swift, yet it’s consequences for individuals, businesses and economies will have repercussions that last for years.

As I wrote in Growth Edition 221 (The Weight on your Shoulders – Wednesday 6th May, 2020), family business owners are dealing with a multitude of issues and concerns in order to find a way through the pandemic. It’s incredibly sad to hear that, for some, the weight has been too great.

Twice in the past three weeks, I have heard stories of two family business owners who have endeavoured to take their own lives. One, a gentleman in his early 60’s, was someone who worked with one of my family business clients for over 30 years. The first generation in this family business has seemingly known him forever. The second generation grew up seeing this gentleman as someone they liked, trusted and respected. He gave no indication to anyone as to what he was thinking or the struggles he was facing. Sadly, under cover of working late at night, which was not unusual in his industry or his business, he took his own life, parked up in an industrial estate. I’d never met this gentleman. However, so crucial was he to the work undertaken by my clients, and so well respected was he, that his name often popped up in meetings to the point where, whilst I didn’t know him, I felt I’d always known him.

The second, a young gentleman of only 40, is someone I have met, having been associated very closely with another of my family business clients for 15 years. They were mates, had been business partners, and worked together in their now separate businesses, referring work back and forth to each other. His cry for help was a text message notifying his wife and a few others that he could no longer go on. By what can only be described as a combination of timing, luck and the power of modern technology, his credit card was traced to a motel located more than an hour from his home. Miraculously, he was found by the police in time and is now receiving the care and counselling he needs to help him through.

In my lifetime, I can’t remember any examples of people I have known, or know of, that have attempted to take their life. To have two in the space of three weeks has been a jolt to the system at a time when our worlds have been tipped upside down.

As a man, I can tell you that men are not great at reaching out for help. They’re not great sharers of their thoughts, for it exposes their vulnerability. They don’t talk because they don’t want to be judged. A lonely silence is maintained by men, even though in reality, their minds are not silent at all, but constantly ticking over with thoughts and worry.

For over 30 years, I have worked with a lot of family businesses. One of the biggest observations I have made is that men, in particular, identify themselves first and foremost from the perspective of their business. They describe who they are from the perspective of their business. They perceive themselves based on the success, or otherwise, of their business. A lot of the relationships they have formed, and are close to, revolve around business, be they employees, clients or business partners. Their identity can almost be consumed by their business.

This period of social isolation has been very difficult for a lot of people. However, speaking from the perspective of a male, and observing what is happening not only amongst my own family business clients, but the relationships that each of my clients have with others, men have struggled tremendously through this period. I know myself that when I finally recommenced face-to-face meetings with clients four weeks ago, I realised how much I had missed the physical connection. Phone calls, emails and Zoom are no match for being in the same room as each other. It’s not just about business – it’s about connection as humans.

My advice today is for men. Check in with the other men in your life, for no reason at all. Pick up the phone. Better still, set aside half an hour for a coffee or a beer. You may never know the lasting impact that attempt at connection might have with another man in your life.

Success is not about the trappings of wealth.
Success is enjoying what you’re doing, surrounding yourself with people you enjoy being around and having a sense of purpose, every day.