Why asking for help from my community was a leap of faith that paid off

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I may as well have put “I have failed” on the LinkedIn post, or even just shared a naked picture of myself, when I wrote these simple words: “The Book of Man needs help”. 

Arguably that would have felt more comfortable than admitting I needed help with my business – an online publication I founded to counter the tired narrative of traditional men’s magazines. I mean, I don’t know much about business (clearly), but I do know going public with your struggles is not the done thing.

Especially as a man in business. You’re supposed to be a thrusting, perma-grinning, nicely suited operator, with all the answers, a ruthless game-face and any cracks in the armour swiftly covered over with a bit of Succession’s Logan Roy alpha aggression; deny it and fire anyone who says any different.

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The Book of Man aims to encourage men to open up

However, times are changing. There’s a sense on that app and beyond that we are in a more forgiving era, professionally speaking, in which help is out there if you need it.

Instinctively, we are becoming increasingly aware of this in terms of better general workplace support for staff. But also on social media, where the explosion of mental health awareness in recent years has encouraged people to be a bit more honest when they’re experiencing difficulties.

The Book of Man aims to encourage men to open up in this way and so it seemed appropriate to practice what we preach.

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I revealed we were in trouble and had run somewhat aground

Yet, since we are men, that “cry for help” post was something which produced a great deal of anxiety and outright fear, with a side dish of humiliation. “What will people think of me?” I asked, over and over again.

As it turned out, they thought quite well. No sooner had I revealed that we were in trouble and had run somewhat aground – and that I was burning out badly – that I began to get messages back offering support.

Some messages were from people I knew and regular contacts; others were from people who I’d lost contact with and even folk I’d never met before. They came from those with an interest in men’s matters, in start ups or just people who liked or commented on the post to show solidarity and encouragement.

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This is not merely a business thing, this is a life skill

The strange power of vulnerability struck me at that point. How a sudden and unexpected honesty – a glimpse behind the brave façade most of us put on in our daily lives – can really hit home with others and move them to not mock but help you. 

Perhaps it’s because we have all been there, we have all struggled, that we feel great empathy with those who are willing to admit it.

This is not merely a business thing, this is a life skill. It’s thinking about the public conversation we’re all having around mental health right now and asking how you can have that conversation on a personal level. The only real route is for someone to put themselves out there and admit to a problem. Break the ice before it cracks.

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I had the benefit of easy access to a slick app to help deliver my message

Of course, how you go about that requires different methods. While my expression of business woe was painful and deeply tied up in me emotionally, there was a slight remove because it was about my job and not a personally traumatic issue. 

I also had the benefit of easy access to a slick app to help deliver my message in a way that would be met warmly by other people. Having a moment of personal revelation to a friend or friends, in person, can be a lot harder.

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A new environment can really mean a new you

One of the ways in which conversation can easily be facilitated is through travel, adventure and the outdoors. When you go outside your daily routines, away on a holiday or a weekend break, it can act as a breather and a rare moment of perspective

The sudden relaxation – along with, you know, a few cocktails on the beach, or in the jungle for that matter – can mean a willingness to reflect on your life and talk openly. 

The importance of this cannot be overestimated. A new environment can really mean a new you, because new experiences and new people come into your life to stimulate different behaviours and remind you that there’s more to you than your life back home.

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After journeying into LinkedIn, we now have some help

Travel broadens the mind, yes, but it also broadens emotional expression, too. And those people with you, in this new space, are right there with you – shoulder to shoulder, side by side – sharing the same experience.

Journeying into LinkedIn, deep into my iPhone screen, is hardly the same, but it does require a step outside your usual comfort zone – and that sometimes, is all that’s needed.

As for The Book of Man, we now have some help, we now have support, and the odd thing is, it was waiting there all along.

Martin Robinson is editor of The Book of Man, founded to counter the narrative of traditional men’s magazines. He has previously written for Flash Pack’s Man to Man series

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Images: courtesy of Martin Robinson x The Book of Man

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