Episode #25: What Men Don’t Know About Men – Leading and Evolution with Matt Auron
Caneel Joyce: Welcome to Allowed. I’m your host, Caneel Joyce. If you are a man or someone who works with a man, then this episode is really, really important for you to listen to, because our guest Matt Auron founding partner of Evolution, is here today to talk to us about the man’s journey.
Matt Auron: Yes. We’re going to talk about men, we’re going to talk about leadership development, and it will be in some ways as or more useful for women, and those that support men. In terms of understanding what that journey is like and some insight into the dynamics of it. And in some ways I think it would be more useful but also for men to understand the developmental stages that they go through, and some of the dynamics that we kind of understand our culture in broad strokes like the midlife crisis, like young men being out in the world, conquering in some ways that are less healthy or helpful. All of those things we are going to provide context for.
Caneel Joyce: It’s an incredibly useful layer of insight and perspective for our female leaders out there as well, who are working with men, and relating to them. And this provides a lot of secret keys I think.
Matt Auron: Yeah.
Caneel Joyce: Let’s start the show.
Caneel Joyce: Today, we have on the podcast my friend and collaborator Matt Auron. He’s a managing partner and the co-founder of Evolution and this is a firm and coaching organization that supports senior leaders in fast growing companies. It helps these companies to scale into their potential with long-term sustainable success. Matt’s combination of deep intuition and organizational experience and behavioral science is going to be very, very apparent to you, and it allows him to design powerful customized development solutions for Evolutions’ clients and his list of clients is quite impressive.
Caneel Joyce: He’s worked with Slack, Snapchat, change.org, Coursera, Tile, Eero, Collective Health, Dropbox, Radiology Partners, and a number of others. I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with him at companies like Amazon and he’s one of my favorite guys. So I’m really excited for him to be here today. I just want to quickly mention that they also have a venture arm, which is really interesting. Evolution Ventures it is an early stage venture fund, that combines coaching with financial investment. And this is for seed and other early stage companies.
Caneel Joyce: So if you are the founder of one of these seed stage companies and you’re interested in getting connected, please contact me. Before coaching Matt did have a corporate career. He worked at DaVita Healthcare Partners. This is a highly progressive culture focused fortune-500 healthcare company. He was their senior director and global lead on their wisdom team. And there he helped to steward their culture globally, and it’s one of the most profoundly amazing cultures that he really, really helped to shape.
Caneel Joyce: It was awarded Training Magazine’s top 125 for the five years that he helped to lead it. Really an impressive guy, a musician, a yogi, and an artful fun person who blows my mind every time I talk to him. I’m so excited he’s here. We’ve had a number of Evolution coaches on the show. We’ve had Luke, Simon, David, Christine, and another managing partner Janet. Today is the man who helped to put that incredible collection of coaches and trainers together. Matt, welcome to the show.
Matt Auron: Thank you. Great to be here.
Caneel Joyce: Let’s begin as we usually do with a check-in and just as context for our listeners today when we are recording, this is Wednesday, April 15th and this episode will be airing in a couple of weeks from now. So like I’ve been saying for the last month on all of these episodes, we don’t know what the world will look like when it does air. But here in Los Angeles where Matt and I both live, we have been in a shelter in place or safer at home, we call it down here for about a month. And Matt and I both have two young kids. So we’ve been home full families and altogether.
Caneel Joyce: So that’s some context for where we are today and I just want to share that as an acknowledgement of our inability to predict where things are going and what might be most relevant to you at this point. But like all of our COVID-19 era episodes, this is an episode that is relevant regardless of what’s happening in the world. And it’s also happening in a human context we’re about to live, so all right, lets check-in Matt.
Matt Auron: I’m feeling peaceful and present. I’ve been working out pretty regularly in my backyard. It’s like one of my pillars of support so my body feels pretty good and I feel pretty alive. Like many people I think, I’m feeling the sweetness and the connection of family time, and the not having to get on airplanes or be away from home. There’s a part of that, that’s super nourishing and peaceful. But it’s also this kind of strange mix of anxiety, economic anxiety and health anxiety and watching kind of the structures of our culture fall. Things that seemed kind of permanent and in some weird subconscious way, felt like they made reality safe, right?
Matt Auron: Silly things like, “Oh yeah, the NBA, it’s always there.” It’s like, “Nope, no baseball this year”. It’s kind of like weird to have that hanging over my head and to think about not traveling for 18 months or whatever. And so I’m grateful, present, peaceful. And then there’s this ambient anxiety that I have that is fairly generalized, but certainly there’s a lot of like acute spikes, like my cousin having COVID, or clients leaving or Evolution as a whole being really under a good degree of pressure just like everybody else’s. I think I’m feeling all that, but I feel pretty good and super happy to be here in connect.
Caneel Joyce: Thanks Matt. I’m so happy to see you. So the other thing that as I’m checking in here I’m present to, is our mutual love of Pearl Jam and the fact that they were going to play at the forum tomorrow.
Matt Auron: I know.
Caneel Joyce: And now we’re not going to get to go.
Matt Auron: I know.
Caneel Joyce: I am so bummed.
Matt Auron: I canceled the appointment with my Pearl Jam buddy Nick and he sent me back a bunch of like hateful react cheese middle fingers. I was like, “I know dude.” The new album is incredible.
Caneel Joyce: Is it?
Matt Auron: Yeah.
Caneel Joyce: I haven’t checked it out yet, no.
Matt Auron: Yeah, it’s something, I mean it’s clear they took seven years and the craftsmanship that went into it and the production and the thoughtful song writing, it is like in a way maybe their best. I think since Yield.
Caneel Joyce: Oh, that’s amazing. I’m so unplugged from pop culture. You have no idea. I have no idea what’s happening out there except for the news.
Matt Auron: It’s good.
Caneel Joyce: Yeah, it is good. It does feel good. So, okay. Yes. So, that’s happening. That’s a sad thing. It might’ve been the last time we were together physically, I don’t know. You were playing guitar and we were up in Utah at Powder Mountain and got to do a little Pearl Jam riffing together. That was so fun.
Matt Auron: That was amazing. Yeah, right. I know. I miss that. I miss that. I haven’t really been played a bunch of music lately either. The parent band that I play in, yes, I play in a paired band with other preschool parents at my daughter’s school.
Caneel Joyce: The mother lovers.
Matt Auron: The mother fathers.
Caneel Joyce: The mother fathers.
Matt Auron: Plus, right before everything’s shut down. We played this like massive 40 songs set for the fundraiser and it was a ton of work. Very fun. And I was like, “God, I need a little break.” So I kind of got it.
Caneel Joyce: Yeah. Needing a little break. It’s so interesting. So in my check-in, I can say I somehow set up this year so that I would have so much less travel than I ordinarily do. I pulled out of a bunch of things including, a few sources of community and you know one of them being, I decided to change the nature of my partnership with Evolution. And so that last retreat that we were on, our last partner gathering in person, I knew that there was this kind of vacuum opening up of what’s going to come in, is going to be things that come in through whatever life is sending me. And I’m not going to be flying up to the Bay Area once a month to meet with my coaching group. I’m not going to be going to these partner gatherings.
Caneel Joyce: And it was all kind of mysterious. I wasn’t even exactly quite sure of why that was where my intuition was sending me. And now here it is, we’re all grounded. And using my kid’s bathroom the other day and it’s where I keep my suitcases and I noticed I haven’t touched them in months.
Matt Auron: Yeah.
Caneel Joyce: And I don’t need to have them in the bathroom anymore. I could actually put them in the attic or the garage and wow, that’s a big change. So I’ve really been looking forward to more time at home, so as I’m checking in today, I just feel that combination of groundedness and stability, and also this stirring that I have every time I get to spend some time in my garden, in my house, without structure as much around my time. And I’m very much looking forward to this conversation knowing especially that what we had planned to talk about, is super relevant right now. Super, super relevant right now.
Caneel Joyce: And that the context is really different. So I feel stirred and I feel very happy to see you, and excited for the mind blowing conversation that’s about to unfold as it always does with you. So welcome to the show.
Matt Auron: Thank you.
Caneel Joyce: So today we’re talking about men.
Matt Auron: We are talking about men. Yeah.
Caneel Joyce: Can you tell us the story of men and manhood and how that got you started with the work that ended up being Evolution?
Matt Auron: Yeah. You know, I didn’t think about it in that way, but it is in the bones of Evolution for sure, because Jeff Graber and I met in a men’s group in 2006 in L.A. We had both just moved here and got to know each other in a very, very deep way, and practiced personal growth with each other for eight years or something, really seven years before we started working together in earnest, and we’re kind of on parallel tracks in some ways. And he started coaching and I as well, because I was in grad school. But yeah, I’m still in a men’s group. How many years later? 14 years later.
Matt Auron: And it’s just a huge cornerstone of my support and it’s a way that I have kind of learned about my own operating system and deconstructed what it means to be a man and masculinity in our culture. And just had a lot of growth right over the years. And so it goes all the way back to my early years, which I’m kind of happy to talk about and how it tracks with a lot of men and just even like coaching a lot of leaders and founders that are male. It’s not that different. I mean they’re wrestling with some of the same things that the men in men’s groups, when I was just 20-years-old, were wrestling with.
Caneel Joyce: What is a men’s group? I actually had not heard of men’s groups until shortly before I joined you at evolution. Tell us what that’s about.
Matt Auron: Yeah, just a little bit of history. I mean, so second wave feminism in the late ’70s right? Started leveling at men like, “Hey, you’ve got all this institutional and structural power and yet you’re dying earlier. You’re committing higher rates of suicide, more violent crimes. Basically, what is this inner life of men? What’s going on for you?” And men started just inquiring into like, “Yeah, what’s the soul of a man and what is it like to be a man?” And they started gathering in Northern Minnesota, what was called the Minnesota Men’s Conference led by a poet named Robert Bly.
Matt Auron: And it really found this body of work where men were exploring what it means to feel and have emotions in a masculine way, around what it means to grow into maturity as a man. And they quickly discovered five or six years in that there used to be these structures specifically for men that were built into the culture, which were initiatory. Where men would have this like demarcation line from boy to man.
Caneel Joyce: These are rites of passage kind of thing?
Matt Auron: Yup. Yup. And in tribal culture, yeah, there’s all these stories about the uncles would come in the middle of the night and rip the boys out of their houses, where they were living and take them and put them through trials.
Caneel Joyce: Sounds like hazing.
Matt Auron: Well, I think that’s kind of the modern view of what initiation is, right? It’s frat houses and it’s juvenile. But really what that mechanism did is it took boys, right? That were immature to men that were mature, that were of service, that were for the greater good, that were doing something that was based on stewardship. Right? And so that was basically lost in the industrial revolution. And a separate conversation, but at least culturally women had a pathway for moving in some biological ways from being a girl to a woman, and also support structures that kind of facilitated that.
Matt Auron: And men used to, and then men started leaving the house to go work in the office, and boys were kind of left to themselves and there was no one there really to teach them saying like, “What does that actually mean to transition to be mature? To be present? To be kind of a steward of your family, of the community?” And so a lot of the gang culture that you see a lot of the aberrant behavior and kind of the hazing style initiations. It is really just this culture of immature men that we have. Because there’s no mechanisms.
Caneel Joyce: What is an immature man? What distinguishes immaturity? I’m hearing about what maturity is, but what’s the opposite?
Matt Auron: Well, number one, I think it’s understanding how you feel and what you think and the ability to explicitly talk about that and use that to connect with another person and to be conscious and choiceful about that. The second one is getting outside of yourself and living for something or someone else, right? Truly being of service. And the way our culture works with male privilege is, it makes it even worse because men can kind of just live for themselves and they’ve got all this privilege and they don’t really have to like think outside of themselves or grow up really.
Matt Auron: Because the culture just supports them in their own privilege. So anyway, mid-80s, a bunch of training started that basically filled that void, where men could learn about themselves, learn about their emotions, learn about accountability and integrity, learn about personal mission. How to grow up and live in the culture today and with the tools that it means to be kind of a modern man versus a tribal man, right? Because they are slightly different, right? Mechanism of boy demand kind of is the same thing.
Matt Auron: And over the adult lifespan you really see it hit at a certain point and it’s kind of become kind of a cliché. We’re at kind of midlife, men will go into themselves and do a bunch of self-discovery and there’s actually like biological reasons for that too. And the initiation where it used to be for a 15-year-old, is now happening for men much later in life generally.
Caneel Joyce: Wow.
Matt Auron: Yeah. Yeah.
Caneel Joyce: Is this related to Peter Pan syndrome?
Matt Auron: Well, yeah. I mean that’s a specific form of, I guess neuroses. Jung and others talked about that too, where they’re in this kind of innocent, naïve, self-driven state in perpetuity. And yes, most of those men need to have a wounding and testing experience where they’re kind of brought to the edge, where they kind of break apart and that part of their ego’s destroyed and then something else comes out of it. But yeah, that’s an extreme version of what I was talking about.
Caneel Joyce: So going back to then the origin of Evolution, somehow this men’s work that you got involved in, in your very early days led you to creating Evolution. Can you just share a couple of minutes of that story, how that happened?
Matt Auron: So I really invested a lot and got turned on to a lot of personal development in my late teens, the story that kind of opened things up for me, was reading the Way of the Peaceful Warrior. I can trace my path literally back to that book and it’s an incredible primer. And I remember reading it and the hair was standing up on my arms and feeling like my life was changing as I read it. Right? Especially the way it’s written for a 16, 17-year-old young man. It blew me away. And I was really at that time, transfixed by altered states of consciousness, and this way of thinking and being that was really quite Eastern and sort of exploring transcendental meditation and shamanism and the Silva method and different forms of personal development.
Matt Auron: And I started meeting with this native American Vietnam, a prison counselor guy named Ted in Minneapolis. And Ted just fed me different things and he’s like, “Hey, there’s a…” He gave me this brochure and the brochure said like, “How’s your life on it?” And said the Mankind Project on it. And I had met him through my mom’s therapist, who I can kind of thank for a lot of this, also gave a book called Iron John.
Caneel Joyce: Yes.
Matt Auron: And it was a big book in the early ’90s, pretty landmark in the culture, this retelling of the old, old story from Germany in the middle ages or beyond really, even earlier about the archetypal aspects of masculinity. The wild man, the Prince, the King, the queen, all these different things and how they make up different parts of the masculine soul or psyche. And I read that and I was like, “Oh”. So there’s a whole line of inquiry around what it means to be a man. And then I saw the brochure sitting there and I’m like, “Whoa, it’s a men’s weekend”. And I went to the men’s weekend.
Matt Auron: And I showed up with my guitar ready to hang out, but you get there and I arrive at the door, and I went in this little phone booth space with this big, he looked like a Russian bear wrestler. He had this big stalling mustache, and he was like six foot three. And I’m in this little phone booth and he’s just staring at me and he’s like, “Why are you here?” Right? And it was the exact opposite of this hangout guitar and tennis weekend that I thought it was going to be. The rest of that experience is that intense. It’s very, very in your face. Very traditionally, I would say masculine in that way.
Matt Auron: And so I started to go through it and there was actually a moment where kind of the pinnacle of the weekend, they give you an opportunity to look at the deepest part of your shadow that you can access, and where it originated for you. And I remember the first guy that stepped out in the middle of the carpet to do his work was this guy Bruce. I’m still connected with him and it was a piece of work. I won’t talk about it, but he just crumbled talking about this event that had happened to him.
Matt Auron: And I had never even fathomed that that level of emotionality or that level of story or that level of pain occurred in any human. And I certainly had it, but being a three in the Enneagram, like in a performer, I just had no sense of what was going on inside of me. And I remember taking a couple of steps back and being freaked out of my mind, watching that level of intensity. And at the same time, again, that experience of all the hairs were standing up on my arms saying, “This is the place,” right? “This is the place.”
Matt Auron: And so when it was my turn, I went right up against the edge of trust and found a way to kind of open my heart and feel safe to express how I felt in the middle of 40 men.
Caneel Joyce: Wow.
Matt Auron: And I was never a kid that cried in the playground. I never really felt safe to kind of express my inner world, if anything, I just tried to perform and look good and be the best and be number one. So kind of fast forward to the end of the week and there’s this beautiful silent ritual that ends, where you’re kind of making eye contact. And I remember just starting and looking into the eyes of those men, and there was like 70 or whatever in that weekend, and just feeling like my walls were starting to crumble.
Matt Auron: And by the end of it, it was like I was racked with such intense grief that I had probably been holding for years, that me and this guy from Thunder Bay, we were like leaning into each other, just sobbing into the parking lot. And I just knew, I was like “My God, there’s this entire world out there that I had never imagined in myself and others,” and it was so powerful and so intense, I just knew that there would be a part of me that would do that for the rest of my life and that was it. I was done.
Matt Auron: After that, I started doing the weekends. I started leading the weekends. I started doing other modalities and gestalt work and stuff and that kind of fast forward led me to where I am today in what I do.
Caneel Joyce: And this weekend, this is the… What’s the name of this weekend is part of the Mankind Project?
Matt Auron: Yes. It’s called the New Warrior Training Adventure. It’s through the Mankind Project, was this giant nonprofit? There are others that are similar, I would say not as intense, but The Sacred Sons is another one.
Caneel Joyce: And this is the thing that is so striking is you’re telling me that going to this Warrior Weekend to be a man and you leave sobbing and leaning on another man. And I think for most Americans that just seems like such a paradox.
Matt Auron: Yup.
Caneel Joyce: And perhaps even really unappealing to a lot of men.
Matt Auron: Yeah.
Caneel Joyce: You know, my husband is also a type three and that might not be appealing to him that-
Matt Auron: He and I have the same enneagram type, same wing probably.
Caneel Joyce: Yeah.
Matt Auron: It is unappealing though. And the thing is, is nobody’s saying that you should then just wallow in that forever. Right? Because that’s the thing is if you haven’t cried your whole life, well there’s probably going to be a bunch of grief that’s going to come up, right? And then, yeah, what do you want to do? And we know, right? And you can even read in emotional intelligence that repressed emotion stays in our body, as chemical deposits, adds to the stress response, builds up as chronic inflammation, right? And dot, dot, dot, long-term chronic disease and all of that. Right?
Caneel Joyce: Yes.
Matt Auron: And so moving emotion through the body is a good thing. We know that now through neuroscience, right? It’s like 100%. So let’s just say that. The question of after that, what are you going to do with your life is a damn good one. And you have to answer that too. Right? So the weekend, I would just say for any of the work that we do in coaching, this is like not specific to any gender. It’s like clean yourself out, understand your operating system, but then what’s your purpose and what’s your mission? Because all of that crap stands in the way of you being full in the world.
Caneel Joyce: Yes.
Matt Auron: That’s the thesis of what we do.
Caneel Joyce: It is, and that’s what’s so different. I think about the kind of coaching that we do from straight performance coaching or habits coaching. And it’s very much about unlocking your essence. Not fixing you or just sharpening your saw, because the saw that you’d be sharpening is rusty and kinked and hard to find, and broken until you have done some of this deeper work. And really they go so very much in parallel. It’s like how do I use my instrument?
Matt Auron: I think it’s interesting people that have big personal growth experiences and healing, sometimes objectively on the outside are less successful. They end up starting a flower shop or whatever. And it’s because so much of our success and the culture is driven by lack, right? It’s like your father standing in front of you, watching you every single day judging you as you grind, grind, grind, grind, grind. Right? Or the part of you that feels like you’re not good enough until you get X or Y.
Matt Auron: But the success once you do the work is more pervasive, peaceful, sustainable. It looks different. But we’ve got a culture that by the way, socializes men not to feel, although that’s slightly changing, and socializes this shadow driven success, I think in a way, that’s not useful. The giant reframe, and I think one of the benefits of the era that we’re living in with the quarantine and whatnot is all of those walls are tumbling down. And hopefully some of them will remain, because Jimmy Fallon is like sitting there and his iPhone shooting whatever and his wife and his kids and he doesn’t look perfect. And I think like that’s good. That’s really good for the culture.
Caneel Joyce: Yeah. Yeah.
Matt Auron: Yeah.
Caneel Joyce: There’s a poem that was posted in Evolution Slack the other day around the temptation to buy back into all that ambition. That’s part of our capitalist culture of, “I can use this time at home in COVID era to get better at a million other things.” “And how do I monopolize on this moment? And how do I seize the day and use all this “downtime”?” Which the downtime is not necessarily something that’s in my life. I think those are the young kids in homeschooling and stuff. It’s a really different story.
Caneel Joyce: So somehow this is the foundation, I know a lot of the men who are in Evolution have also done this men’s work, but I’d love to hear about how it shows up for you in working with leaders. And you’ve worked with some really remarkable companies, and been part of incredible journeys of companies growing extremely quickly from very small to IPO. Maybe share a bit about some of the types of clients that you’ve worked with and how does this play into their journey?
Matt Auron: Yup. Yeah. What I would say is the beauty of MKP is its grown. It’s like a tree root, just like as it was in the 60s that’s grown into many different things. Shadow work, women in power, there’s a training called the Inner Yoga in the Northwest. The practices that were developed that they stumbled on, that are a blend of gestalt work and neural linguistic programming and somatics is undeniably brilliant. It is the most dynamic form of healing, of emotional integration that exists. It takes gestalt and goes another level. It takes voice dialogue and goes another level.
Matt Auron: It just takes basic dialogue and goes another level and is a highly experiential form of emotional and personal development processing. And so being socialized with that, and then Jeff and I being in a men’s group together, which essentially takes those practices and works, right? And it’s the same, similar level of intensity but a little different because it’s week in, week out. It’s as much about accountability and real time talk about what’s happening with your spouse or your kids or something. Right? The weekend blows open the door and then you do these follow-up.
Matt Auron: But that’s my base. Everything on top of that… I mean I’m glad I went to grad school after that because, I know all the theory, but the, how to deal with somebody at their deepest, deepest levels of processing like I can, “Hey.” And it’s not an academic or abstract thing at all. Right? And so my preference when I’m working with people, is there will be a time, and I think this is very… It’s in Evolution’s DNA, that we are going to go deep, and it’s not going to be every time. A lot of times it’s in the kickoff when we’ll do like a three hour session and pull apart your operating system, include the Enneagram, we refer to that, it’s a personality instrument, which I think lends itself to depth. You can go to-
Caneel Joyce: We’ll give a link to some resources about that in the show notes as well if your curious.
Matt Auron: Yeah, cool. Enneagram Institute. But we’ll take all of that and we’ll help a person. I’ll just say that. But normally a leader deconstruct who they are. And a lot of times there is emotions with that and realizations about their personality and life experience, and how they’re showing up now. And they’ll start connecting these dots and this light bulb will go off and when the light bulb goes off a lot of times, there’s a dropping into emotion where they’re just like, “Oh my God.” And that then will cycle, right?
Matt Auron: They’ll have a tough conversation and they’ll come out of an experience where they were really thrown in a board meeting or something. And then we’ll go back into the depths. And the thing about coaching that is so powerful, and that I think one of the hallmarks of Evolution is that, the depth serves the impact. So we may be talking about something very profane, like prep for a board meeting, or the design your team, or your goal and business goals. And then there’ll be this threading back to yourself that happens in your own operating system, in your humanity.
Matt Auron: And then the linking of those two. And it’s very interdisciplinary and that’s why I think coaching is so compelling. And in some ways is a more modern integrated form of therapy or counseling, if I can say that. Although that might frighten people where they’re like, “Well, coaches aren’t therapists,” and that’s not what I’m saying. But what I am saying is that it includes healing and integration in service of impact.
Caneel Joyce: I think in those moments when you’re going into the depth and you’re doing it in the safety and presence of a coach who has practiced being in the depth, it can give you a sense of safety there, that you may not have experienced before. And in spending some moments in depth like that and in the depth of your feelings, gives you a tolerance, an ability to hold space for intensity.
Matt Auron: Yeah.
Caneel Joyce: And for in particular the types of intensity and emotions that you used to avoid. Right? Not just your own but other people’s.
Matt Auron: Right.
Caneel Joyce: And so, so much of the way that many of us have lived is we make our plans, we design our organizations, we run our meetings in a way that helps us zig-zag around things that we don’t want to deal with. Around conversations we don’t want to have, and things we don’t want to see in other people. I don’t want to see so and so feel awkward about this, or so and so cry or get angry at me. I’m just asking for their listeners, think about it. How much of the way that you’re organizing yourself in your own personal leadership, and your life and your company, is driven by this kind of avoidance. And what if you could actually just go for the impact that you want to create and feel very safe holding space for all of that?
Matt Auron: Yeah, we talk a lot about the shadow as you know, and talking with Luke and others, right? It’s a big part of our practice at Evolution, which are the parts of yourself that you hide, repressed and deny.
Caneel Joyce: Yeah, it’s episode number two of Allowed and it was Luke talking about shadows, fundamental.
Matt Auron: Right. And so you allow it in and there’s trapped energy there, and it allows you to be full and use actually that consciously versus unconsciously being driven by it unconsciously for good. And if you think about the men are traditionally, although it’s getting better, right? If you think of like Ross cuddling with Joey and friends in the 90s, that was like a significant touchstone for men saying like, “Okay, it’s okay to touch. It’s okay to feel all those kinds of things.”
Matt Auron: It started to kind of change male being the kind of dominant and privileged gender, organizations are constructed in that cultural narrative, which is there’s like one emotion, basically anger, right?
Caneel Joyce: Which by the is a very useful emotion and often it’s not used effectively.
Matt Auron: Totally, totally.
Caneel Joyce: Topic for a different show. Yeah.
Matt Auron: Healthy anger and boundaries and all that. Yeah, I know, I love it. So you’ve got this kind of the way organizations have been designed is basically replicates the patriarchy, and one of the ways to deconstruct the patriarchy is feeling your feelings. Because it is counter-cultural, it allows in all this other stuff. Diversity of views, diversity of other cultural narratives, yin, traditionally feminine energy, let’s just say like there’s two energies in the world and men and women can have both, so it’s not about gender, but you’re allowing this other kind of viewpoint in, and there’s just a more full expression.
Matt Auron: And I think it’s really important to think about as people are listening, that personal development and understanding yourself, feeling, expressing emotions is good. But you also then have to answer the question of like, what I’m feeling clear and clean. And we’ve all had that moment on the beach or staying on top of a mountain or sitting out with tea at a deck where we’re like, “This is what I want to do. This is the impact, and I have a vision for how I’m going to achieve that.” Got to answer that question too.
Matt Auron: And I think the shadow of personal development communities, including the Mankind Project is even though they espouse mission, there was an indulgence in personal process, and eventually you just got to say like, “I get it”. You may have that wound for the rest of your life, but what are you going to do in this one? So living purposefully and of service, and of mission I think is the way. And it just so happens, right? Kind of we’re bouncing with men, but again, a lot of the clients that I support are obviously men.
Matt Auron: When men reach midlife, their testosterone starts to drop kind of at 35, and then their estrogen levels are able to come up. They’re able to access different parts of their brain. Neurons are connected when they have children that aren’t normally there, that creates this ground to feel. And then the inquiry into like, “Okay, so it’s not just about making money or title, what else do you want to live for?” And that is profoundly dysregulating for most men to the point of, some of them aren’t able to get themselves out of that.
Matt Auron: And they just start drinking or they fall down a hole, or they fall into depression or they leave their marriage. And the second half of their life becomes a lot more tragic than it needs to be.
Caneel Joyce: Oh wow. And so many of the men that we support, maybe partly because of the industries that we tend to work with, I mean we tend to work with technology companies and venture backed companies. And many of these founders are really young when they begin having the role of say, CEO, COO, CTO, and they haven’t yet been through midlife. I’m wondering if you could give us a bit of a sense of the roadmap of what does it tend to look like as a male leader approaching midlife is also leading a company. Are there any connections there that you can help just to help you feel a little bit like, “Oh, this is actually… I’m on a purposeful path and this is normal even though it’s feeling really hard right now?”
Matt Auron: Yeah. And again, we work with high growth companies, venture backed, Evolution exploded in 2015 working with Slack and Snapchat. And then it’s just been kind of consistent after that. We’re in companies as big as Dropbox and Glassdoor, all the way to seed stage. But mostly in venture, mostly in tech and healthcare. And that kind of pressurized environment creates kind of… And this is another conversation, but a really unique opportunity for development. So yes, there are stages.
Matt Auron: There’s a book by a guy named Daniel Levinson called Seasons of a Man’s Life. He’s since written one for women, because the irony of kind of the inquiry into the masculine soul was a kind of gender biased, sexist inquiry. In the indulgence and being able to kind of explore that and having the culture say like, “Yes, feel and take as much time to pull yourself apart and let’s just understand the male life.” Right? But thankfully we’re getting better with that I think. But it’s a good book. And it builds on Erik Erikson’s stages of adult development, and the age of essentially 20 to 40 is a building age.
Matt Auron: And it’s important to establish your career, make money, find a domicile, build your nest basically, build a social network that can hold you, essentially grow out of your parents’ house or wherever you were living, and construct your own, you know? And so that is generally where many of our founders are and it’s like that is to use your word allowed. It’s actually quite important to let that happen. My therapist when I was like in my 20s, I was like a bit of a term called a flying boy.
Matt Auron: I was just going around doing different personal growth things and meanwhile, my finances were a mess and I was kind of bouncing job to job, and she’s like, “You have got to create the container of your life. I know it’s not fun. I know it’s not sexy, but that is the developmental challenge for you as a 25-year-old man.” And I think it was like still on my parents’ cell phone plan. Right? I was privileged enough to have that. But there’s a lot of people now that stretch their adolescents well into their early 30s, which is cool that our culture has that for the privileged set. And right? It delays this individuation that needs to happen.
Caneel Joyce: Individuation, define this please?
Matt Auron: Yup. Individuation it’s a term, it goes back again to Jung and it talks about the psyche constructing itself in opposition to another. This is who I am and it is literally the building, the construction of your ego, right? And it’s important, right? And so that way standing on a stage in front of people, at a Pitch Fest or being a Rockstar front person, right? Leading a company like that is okay. And many of them are able to do that and still be of service and still do personal development.
Matt Auron: But then for most of us around 40, we’re going to be confronted with the next stage of life, right? Which is a dysregulating transition time, where all sorts of things happen. A lot of times preceded by something physical like, “Oh my God, this thing is happening with my body. What is up with this? I’m not superhuman.” And because most men I think are not in touch with their body, and are not generally socialized to do self-inquiry. And even the founders that we coach, many of them are still especially male, just laser beam focused on their achievement that comes to a crashing halt.
Matt Auron: And the individuation, the ego structure ironically starts to crumble. And that is an important thing that crumbling is an important thing.
Caneel Joyce: The ego as I understand it, is the thing that allows you your essence, your interior life, that you kind of have no choice about. It allows it to navigate in a social world. It allows it to protect itself from others and somehow seem logical in a world of really illogical, internally inconsistent social rules. And it’s the thing that really lets you form relationships so quickly or at least to communicate, right?
Matt Auron: Yeah.
Caneel Joyce: So the ego crumbling is a really traumatizing, scary experience.
Matt Auron: Yeah. It can be. And it depends how high you are, how much it does. A lot of times or just maybe a better metaphor is there’s an operating system layering that happens. It doesn’t always need to be traumatic.
Caneel Joyce: That’s good.
Matt Auron: Yeah. But there’s an old story about men specifically coming into Jung’s office and being terrified, like being in some kind of thing around their mortality or existential anxiety. And he would pop a champagne bottle, because he knew that it was the beginning of their journey into a life of greater service and meaning and presence. And so if you have someone that can support you in that, right? And that’s where it’s really important, like the crumbling on its own and the, I’ve got to do it all myself kind of mentality that a lot of us have, and certainly men are socialized to have, does not work.
Matt Auron: It must be contained and mirrored back. And you need to be in the center of the village. You need a guide, someone holding up the mirror that will hold you, so you can then reconstruct yourself in a healthy and more complex way, where you still have all your talents, you’re still able to achieve. But you’re also able to be more fulfilled and do it in a more sustainable way and likely more of service and more connected and emotionally available. But it’s rocky for a lot of people and especially if you haven’t done any work.
Matt Auron: I think personally I’m not immune from it. I think hopefully I’ve got support structures, and I’ve got tools that will help me navigate it a little bit, but there’s still going to be thrash, you know? And the important thing, my friend Snake… Yes I have a friend named Snake, always talks about is men kind of start to go down as women start to go up. Women tend to come into their power around 40 in a way. Right?
Caneel Joyce: Heck yes.
Matt Auron: And yeah. And so there’s this kind of joke about like, “Well wait a minute. Why are older men dating younger women?” It should actually be the other way around, because when men are ready to be in their warrior and achieve, there’s some biology and there’s also some socialization behind this. Women are ready to connect and relate.
Caneel Joyce: And this is age, roughly?
Matt Auron: Twenties, we’re talking 20s-ish into 30s, right? But then what happens is right family happens and the kind of the relational social neurons are kind of hit with women and the biological role is achieved. And so they’re kind of like trains passing each other in the night where men start to feel and do arts and slow down and then women are starting to go into their power. And it’s a bit of a tragedy as that happens. And it’s great in that way, but holding it consciously just like we do and just knowing that that is a pattern and that it’s okay. Right?
Matt Auron: And hopefully our culture will be able to support women coming into their power at that age, and men to go into their eminence and depths of inquiry. That broad generalizations here. But I do think there’s a lot of truth to it.
Caneel Joyce: I want to bring this back to business for a moment and then I want to talk about deep. So when a man as a leader has done this kind of inquiry and he’s gone into the depths and he’s worked with a coach, what is he capable of in relationships inside of an organization that was not possible before?
Matt Auron: Yup. One empathy, right? It’s like you can’t empathize truly, if you can’t feel super important, it just doesn’t work right? Again, there’s all sorts of neuroscience behind that, right? Your social receptors get turned on. Like when you feel the parts of your brain that are flooded, you’re able to kind of then understand other people and manage relationships a lot more effectively.
Caneel Joyce: Communicate more effectively, probably motivate people, inspire, hold people accountable.
Matt Auron: Yup, influence, social psychology is all influence and that’s built on our social receptors, which is built on the limbic response, which is built on how I feel, right? It’s related to how I feel, how I feel about you. Do you care about me? Do you get me? Do I trust you? All of those kinds of things. So if you shut that off, if leadership is social psychology and social psychology is influence, and influence is predicated on empathy and emotionality, right? You just follow that chain back. Your leadership is dramatically impacted by your ability to feel yourself and feel other people. Right?
Matt Auron: And for most of the people we work with and you know this well, there is this turn from, “I’m the person designing the product to, I’m the person leading people designing and building the product.”
Caneel Joyce: Yeah.
Matt Auron: And that is a radical change like radical, especially if you’re the technical co-founder. Because you’re not building the thing anymore. You’re leading the people building the thing, and that’s a completely different skill set is a human skill set. You’ve got to learn about humans and most importantly the human you’ve got to learn most about is yourself. That’s your way in.
Caneel Joyce: Yes. That is the work. It’s the work in the kind of psychological sense, but it also is actually your job. And it’s so disorienting because you’re thinking, “I’m not getting any work done. I’m spending all my time in meetings and one-on-ones” that is your work at that point.
Matt Auron: Yeah, yeah.
Caneel Joyce: And so you know you can actually enjoy it and find the intellectual stimulation in it when you do the work.
Matt Auron: Totally. How do I unlock this other person? How do I send a ripple across the team so there’s some velocity so they feel great? How do I connect to people so they feel enough trust that they can have powerful, tough conversations? How do I walk into a meeting and say as little as possible and have maximal impact? I mean, these are things that you get the benefit of, but you’ve got to do the work first. And the work first tends to be a little messy, because it is not linear. And for a computer science degree person that is used to only working with a part of their brain that is very linear and analytical, it feels really strange and weird.
Matt Auron: And we’re not asking again for indulgence, we’re asking for integration. And when you integrate the analytical brain and the emotional brain, that is a super powerful combination. And your leadership just like rockets. And so that’s what I meant earlier when I’ve talked about the venture stages like seed A, B, there’s a leadership challenge at each one, which is a different podcast we talked about and an initiation, right? Going back to that old way of… Initiation is old way of beng, to new way of being, old operating system, new operating system.
Matt Auron: So really around A or kind of B, especially by the time you get to B, it’s like that train has passed. You are leading people, you’re leading fuzzy, subjective feelings people. You’re spending all your time coaching and in one-on-ones and meetings, like you said. And becoming more skillful in the human dimension allows you to be successful unless you don’t want to right? Then just become an architect and have somebody else do the role. But for most of the people we work with, they want it and we support them in that.
Caneel Joyce: Yeah. All right, before we leave, I was hoping you could talk a little bit about Deep and I actually don’t know the status of what you’re thinking about doing about deep. But Deep is an experience that it was really one of your pieces of art, I think, and one of your babies. And it relates to a lot of the things that you’ve shared today. And I’m actually seeing how it even relates to your initial Warrior Weekend. So tell us about deep.
Matt Auron: Yes, Deep is a approximately 72 hour intensive experience for founders and leaders and VCs. It’s held in Maui. You are instructed to arrive at a certain point, and then after that the process is a mystery, and it is a complete digital detox cut off from the world. So you get a notebook basically that’s it. No magazines or even books for that time, it’s also mostly an essential silence other than the processes.
Caneel Joyce: Wow.
Matt Auron: And it is mirrored and it’s been kind of woven throughout our topic. It mirrors the Hero’s Journey Experience, Hero’s, Heroine’s journey. So the call to adventure, the meeting of the guide, the descent, the ordeal, and the return. So that’s super structure. That’s in a lot of myth.
Caneel Joyce: We went Deep into the Hero’s Journey with David also from Evolution, who’s also been a part of creating deep, right? That was in an episode. We’ll link to that in the show notes. It’s a great episode.
Matt Auron: Yeah. And so the process is meant for people to engage with their deepest sense of purpose, and being of service in the world. And people have left with, Brian Garrett from cross-cut as an example, radical and transformational views of the impact that in his case, cross-cut ventures could have on the portfolio in the venture community at large. That was way more of service, way more integrative, way more sustainable. And it came from, that’s like at the end of the process from him going through his own journey, and confronting a deep part of his shadow.
Matt Auron: And it’s done in a very design, forward, evocative way that uses kind of magical realism. Like the actual space it’s done, feels like you’re in this altered reality. Right? And that’s all I really say. You should do it if you want to do it. And I would say Evolution does another one called Restore, which is a meditation retreat, very similar, but it is a hardcore in silence, meditation receipt.
Matt Auron: And then there’s another one that’s coming online whenever we’re able to do this stuff again called Ascend, which is an outdoor wilderness experience, initiation. Climbing essentially a dormant volcano and exploring deep purpose in that way. And so those experiences are designed, I would say, in the most experiential way. Rarely are you sitting down and having someone lecture in all of them. And it’s designed really as a way to kind of find and unlock parts of yourself, so you can be of maximum service in the world. As an offering to hold kind of the deep waters that will kind of supercharge your coaching and your role.
Caneel Joyce: Beautiful.
Matt Auron: Yup.
Caneel Joyce: So we’ll kind of track that as the state of the world evolves and as there are more announcements about Deep I’d be happy to share those with our audiences for they’re really interested.
Matt Auron: Yup.
Caneel Joyce: Oh Matt, it’s been so beautiful having you here on the show today and seeing your face, and I just wish I was there to give you a big hug. What a useful conversation. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience or any resources that you’d like to point them to before we part?
Matt Auron: I certainly would take the Enneagram Institute follow that link, there are, and I’m happy to provide some links for different men’s resources as well. Maybe you can do that just as a kind of a reminder. When we’re talking about sociology and we’re talking about like broad macro behavioral science, we are talking about trends, right? So everything that I was talking about are these broad stroke themes. It doesn’t apply to everybody and it’s useful I think to break out a part of our identity from time to time and deconstruct it, right?
Matt Auron: So if you’re a man, it’s useful to look at like how am I programmed? Why? What does it mean to be a man? But that isn’t the totality of your experience. And it doesn’t stop there, then you have to go to being a human, right? And ideally we live in a world where gender isn’t such an intense construct, and we can’t just be humans with humans. And even the concept of gender is, is fluid and open. But given the degree of socialization and biology that comes with it, it’s really useful for men and those that love men to understand that about them, and understand the stages and how that impacts how they show up in the world.
Matt Auron: And so it’s always there and just an encouragement for the men listening, and the people that are supporting men, to get clear on what you’re living for, right? Why are you here? You will die at some point, maybe soon. And given that, when people look back at you, who were you and what did you create? And then number two, do whatever you need to do to go deep and understand the things that are blocking you from doing that. And a lot of times are very personal and painful. And number three, find some support to do it.
Caneel Joyce: Yeah.
Matt Auron: Do the work. If we all kind of follow that trail like the world evolves.
Caneel Joyce: Damn straight.
Matt Auron: Yup.
Caneel Joyce: Great, Matt well stay safe and happy. Pull out your guitar if you’re so inclined and great talking to you. We’ll catch up.
Matt Auron: Thanks.
Caneel Joyce: We’ll catch up soon. Thanks.
Matt Auron: See you later.
Caneel Joyce: Listeners, thank you so much for making time to be here today. I really am hoping that your family is well and safe and you and your loved ones are as well. And that you are feeling inspired to go deeper and feel those feelings that Matt was talking about. I will link to several resources in the show notes, many of which were mentioned in the show. We’re going to be linking to evolution.team/deep and this is where you can find out about the retreat. I also wanted to mention that something that’s in the works currently between myself and Evolution is we’re putting together a women’s circle, an online virtual coaching experience.
Caneel Joyce: Somewhat similar to my Forward Fearless Program, but really focused in particular on women. And this would be a small group coaching experience. I’ll link to that as well in the show notes. And if you’re more curious about it, please send me an email. You can contact me on my website, caneel.com. The show notes are at caneel.com/podcast where you will find links to the Mankind Project, to the Warrior Weekend, to some of the books that Matt mentioned. We want to clarify that, that Jung, the psychologist, anthropologists that so much of our work is based on, which Matt mentioned several times, his name is actually spelled J-U-N-G, and we’ll link to something about him as well so you can check him out.
Caneel Joyce: And then lastly, lots of episodes from the past in Allowed came up today, where you can go deeper into the Hero’s Journey, and shadow in particular are ones that I really, really encourage you to go deeper into. And we’ve had a number of Evolution coaches on the show, Luke, Simon, David, Christine and Janet, and now Matt. So as you can tell, this is an organization I care deeply about. And if you’re interested in getting connected with a coach, contact me. I can have a chat with you and make a recommendation about a person that I think might be best. Or you can go to evolution.team.
Caneel Joyce: All right, have a great week. Come back next Tuesday and if you’re interested in seeing this episode live, the actual conversation on video recorded, which goes a little bit out of order of this one, actually if you’re curious about how it changes over time, you can check it out. It’s going to be on YouTube and we will link to that as well from caneel.com/podcast.
Caneel Joyce: I’d love feedback on the videos if this is a useful format for you. It’s a thing that we’ve really been investing more in and if it’s useful to you, that would be really good feedback for us. So let us know. Take great care of yourself.