Men's Health Month: In Interview With Dan Williams and Paul Vedder

Men's Health Month: In Interview With Dan Williams and Paul Vedder

In honor of Men's Health Month this June, we sat down with mental health and wellbeing advocates Dan Williams (EOS Worldwide, Without Fear), and Paul Vedder (VXIT), to discuss just that! 

Here, unfolds a candid discussion of the myriad challenges that accompany manhood, how to navigate these hurdles, and whom to turn to when needed. 

Q: Thanks for joining us today. To jump right in, we need to ask - how hard is it for men to openly talk about stress - and how they're truly feeling? How would you both describe this culture? 

Dan: As humans, we fall into this really aggravating state of comparing suffering. And the worst part about it is, people will quite often have the opposite reaction and think to themselves, "I can't talk about it because my suffering is not as bad as yours." Or on rare occasions, people also say, "You know, I've had it worse," and that stops people from connecting. 

And so, personally, I tackle these things upfront. I share in the hope that others will share. And every time I do, it becomes easier. It's never easy. It's simpler for me to talk about it because I have my thoughts organized now. 
I think we need to take responsibility for ourselves as much as we do for those around us - and I'm not saying this from an ego, I'm saying it as a responsibility to society. I've spent a lot of time in sporting clubs; delivered talks to cricket and football clubs, and when I do, they're often the most engaged - I look around the room, and it's 95% male, and there's an opportunity there to address this. 
If I look back as far as my father's upbringing; he grew up on a farm, and the cows had to be milked. It didn't matter how you felt, they had to be milked. And so, he didn't complain because it had to be done. And then when he moved to the city later in life, those behaviors stayed with him.

Whatever the job is, your vocation, whatever it is that's in front of you - just has to be done, with no excuses. And that pattern started long before, even with my grandfather - I can't remember him ever missing a day of work, but I also remember him being tired all the time because he had two jobs. The first was was earning a wage to put food on the table, and the second was doing whatever else he could to provide - and that was, quite often, running a small business from home. And so I have fond memories of my level of respect for him. But I also don't have fond memories of him taking care of himself - and that's a cycle that needs to be broken.
It's compounded by our visibility into other people's lives through social media and LinkedIn, and some people try and deny that. It sets an unrealistic expectation of what we should be doing and what we should be saying,  and what the topics of importance are - and that's part of what I've been working on the last couple of years, is to shift the narrative, and I'm seeing LinkedIn gradually becoming a little edgier. 
I think we're starting to see improvements in the messaging, but we're yet to see an improvement in the statistics. Over the last 12 months, and of course, statistics are usually lagging unfortunately, but in 2023 alone, nine people took their life every day in Australia. We have a small population, and relatively speaking, seven of these nine people were men - 

So, it's not getting better. We're getting better at it. And so I'm pushing really hard through Without Fear, knowing that I may never sit under the shade of that tree I'm planting right now but I have a son, he's 10 years old, with his own journey, and actually talking to him, is so important. 
I think for a lot of people, it also comes down to worthiness - and often, people don't feel like they deserve certain things. And so, they swap that with other things; they substitute things, justify it, and bring the idea of balance in mind like "eating something might make me feel good." Whereas actually, the thing that's really going to make me feel good, is to do something hard or expensive, to focus on wellbeing - and it's quite often expensive, and people should never really put a dollar figure on that. There are also so many tools that are free too. 
Paul: Yeah! I think there's a stigma around men talking about their emotions - that's the first thing. Second of all, men are not usually vulnerable. And if you wanted to boil it down to biology, a lot of the time, the world is on our shoulders; generally speaking, we're the leaders in front of the pack having to protect the rest of the pack. 

The old saying, "It's lonely at the top" is true because when I can't figure something out, I just have to figure it out - it's like failure is not an option. I think men, in general, are also good at just stuffing down deeper whatever's bothering them; you kind of just swallow it, and move on - that's just how men operate. 
Unfortunately, it's how we're wired, and it's not a good thing because we need to be able to feel those emotions. Now, when we start to feel those emotions, we can put ourselves into positions of now dealing with something else - we tend to turn to some sort of an escape. 
For me, my escape of choice was alcohol. Eight years ago, it was just in excess - every day, and that's the only way I knew how to cope with it. I was in bad shape, I was 30-35 pounds heavier than what I am now. The tipping point for me, was when I got into an argument with my wife and punched a hole in the wall - that was my absolute rock bottom.

It was a long, six-year journey. When I found 75 HARD, I started getting my health in order. At this time, we also found a podcast called 'Anatomy of Us,' where my wife and I ended up doing some coaching, and forming a friendship with Seth and Melanie; their vulnerability and transparency helped me to understand that I wasn't alone - and they gave my wife and I the tools to work through our marital problems.

Although I still drink, I had to change my relationship with alcohol quite a bit. Before that, I felt like I was stuck in this carousel, and there were days I woke up and I was like, even though we had a business and it was successful - I felt like, "this is my life?!" I wasn't happy. I decided I wanted a better marriage. I wanted a better relationship with my kids. I wanted a better body, I wanted a better business -

And again, going back to men - I think that there's a direct correlation when we master our bodies, we can master the things around us.

Drawing from your own personal experiences and continuous journey of self-improvement, what are some of the habits or activities you've implemented to keep you on track? 

Paul: What I've found is, for me to be in a good place to deal with the stress that's coming at me, I have to be proactive about it. And what that means is, saying no to alcohol more often than not; it's eating a good diet, it's moving my body - walking, lifting weights, running, mountain biking, snowboarding, all of which I do, so staying active and making sure my health is good (making sure I get good sleep and also waking up early to get some me-time) -
I actually do cold plunges now! And so when I stack all of those wins up against a day that's stressful - the "stressfulness" part of my day, is easier to take in than when I'm not doing those things. I also do a program with my wife every year called 75 HARD to reset my brain, and to help me get back to where I need to be.
I just need that refocus. And the good news, is that over the trajectory of the past eight years, I've improved and I'm progressing - that's what's important. It's progress not perfection. 

Before I went on this journey (75 HARD), I just didn't know what to do with the problems that were surrounding my life; affecting my marriage, how I felt about myself - I struggled with anxiety. To help, I found some podcasts, got myself a counselor, and I found some tools to help me work through all of this - and to actually navigate some of the things that I was going through.

Once I learned that I had the ability to fix the things in my life that I was going through, and to fix the things that I didn't like, I just started to attack those very things. Of course, there are days when I still struggle, but things are definitely progressing in the right direction - and that's what's most important.

So, if we focus on our own health and that means physical, mental, and spiritual health - and not just from my perspective, but from a woman's perspective also, I think it just gives us confidence. It does something to your psyche when you're feeling strong and able bodied. You don't have to be an athlete but if you look in the mirror and don't like what you see - that's an internal struggle and it's not a good thing. So, if I'm in shape and able bodied - I can protect my family and that's just something that's important to me. 

Dan: For me, it comes from my personal journey of not being okay for a long time and pushing that down deep inside - and not really completely understanding it. From when I was a child, I always appeared to be a bit of a ratbag; restless, short-tempered, all these sorts of things. And the older I get, the more I learn, the wiser I become, and the further back I look and realize - I was a really anxious kid that had a lot of that bottled up inside of me. And that was never dealt with.
And so, I grew up to be somewhat of a withdrawn teenager, probably more withdrawn than most. I think it kind of got labelled as a phase that didn't get dealt with either. And so finishing high school, I just appeared to be lazy and disinterested. I was even diagnosed as having chronic fatigue and glandular fever, and other things, and that wasn't what was wrong with me - I was depressed, and that wasn't dealt with either. 
Then I went into building a professional career on a really steep climb, with lots of external markers of success, a business growing enviable; soaring business, lots of happy customers, happy team members, peers, business partners, and so on. All the while, I had all of this stuff that I'd never addressed and I got to a point where I acknowledged there was a problem. But I wasn't comfortable speaking about it, and I thought to myself, what if they don't want to work for me? What if they're afraid and having to start walking on eggshells around me and start adjusting their behaviour? I was really fearful of that. And so I started helping a social enterprise focussed on men's mental health just as an outlet, and it was there that I started to feel better the more I spoke about it. 
This outlet gave me wings, and so I started to talk to people around me when I realized, there are actually a lot of people in fear of speaking out about their mental health. And as an EOS Implementer, I have the privileged position of interacting with business leaders and business owners on a daily basis. I found a high percentage of the people that I shared my story with, had a story too. And they too, were in fear. 
When a personal life event happened where I nearly lost one of my children, it caused me to reevaluate everything in my life - and I thought, I need to be well enough to be there for my kids. So, I started speaking up and some people didn't cope with it, and I learned a lot through that, and others did too. 
Fast forward to a couple of years later, I thought, I've had a lot of these conversations - it's time to be more deliberate. And so on World Mental Health Day in 2022, I launched a social enterprise called Without Fear, and I've been having deliberate conversations ever since.
Movement is critical, belonging is critical as well. So movement and walking with someone, is next-level; walking with someone who cares about you and that you care about is really next-level. And if you can turn that into a community of walking with a few people that are all doing it for the same reasons, these are really simple things that we can all do - and that doesn't require any of us to go above and beyond what we can already do.
I also think we should never underestimate the power of that interruption in your day because it's a positive interruption; breaking whatever cycle that you're in, and there are lots of obvious benefits as well as being in the sun, breathing in fresh air - all of those simple smaller movements as part of your daily habits, also contribute to the bigger cycle of change within us.

Q: For men who are currently facing these challenges or are yet to face them, and are striving towards overcoming these obstacles - recognizing that it's a journey, not a final destination - what words of advice would you offer?

Paul: All it takes is action. Mel Robbins says that motivation is bulls*it, and it is! If you wait until you're motivated, you won't ever start something. So you just need to start. 

If you're stuck in a rut, even going for a 30-minute walk - see how that changes your day, maybe have a little more water than you normally would, get hydrated. I think if you start to do all of these small things, it's preventing a fire from happening in the long run - you start to get up, go for a walk, throw on a podcast or walk in silence; whatever you do, you're going to find these changes to start to replace all of the other things in your life that aren't serving you. 

I have to say, move your f*cking body (and you can edit that however you want)! I'm in a few community groups, and I often ask everyone, "Did you move your f*cking body today?" Just move your body! Even if it's just a little, it's a start! Because I think physical health really is the starting point, and I'm convinced it's not a man or woman thing - it's just really important. 

On making all of these changes and getting the support you need, at the bottom of it, really, lies this question to yourself - why wouldn't you want to have a great life? Why wouldn't you want to feel good about yourself? Have a great relationship with yourself? Your spouse/partner? Your kids? Why wouldn't you want to have that?!

Dan: I always say, we have a tendency to go to a doctor if we have, or feel like we're developing, a chest infection. But just imagine if we went to see a doctor as soon as the cough started instead of waiting for it to inevitably become a chest infection, where now, you need antibiotics - 

And so, we can apply that thinking to our mental health. If you've got a seasonal feeling of not feeling great, or you're feeling the blues, go and get help before it becomes a full-blown, depressive episode that is no longer linked to any timing or season (before being trapped in that hole). 

I think that's an opportunity because I've personally had both good and bad experiences with mental health professionals and medical professionals, but it was a General Practitioner (GP) that I first spoke to about my own mental health issues. 

As an investment in myself, it took me a long time to actually have less ego about going to bed early for example, it's not a badge of honor not needing sleep or not going to sleep. Removing the ego was a big turning point for me, and I also started going to the gym a couple of times a week not because I want to be a bodybuilder but because I'm investing in myself.

As I've said before in my emails about the L10 meeting (EOS), we implement deliberate movement where exercise is part of how we measure a successful clarity break. We measure that as well as to make sure these things are happening regularly, where Without Fear interconnects to normalize the conversation that then benefits the very people that I'm coaching as an EOS Implementer. EOS is just the vehicle, I'm grateful for it; it's a set of tools - and it's proven. It's a vehicle for me to help people, and that's a privilege that's never lost on me. I take great pride and responsibility in that. 

Q: How would you describe the amount of stress involved with specifically working in the MSP industry?

Paul: It’s just non-stop! Being in the tech space for over 17 years now - when I was an in-house IT guy, I definitely had a lot more time on my hands. But now, as a Co-Founder & Chief Experience Officer (VXIT), we're managing 60 different businesses across 12 industries so we never really know what we're coming into contact with each day. We're trying to put out fires, but we're also trying to prevent them from happening all at the same time - 

It’s go-go-go! I’ve been exposed to, and have worked in other industries, but I’ve never seen a pace like this. It’s interesting because we're servicing businesses that are making the world go round. So, you know, nothing can wait and nobody ever calls us and goes, "Hey, everything's working," you know?! It's the exact opposite: "Hey, it's on fire. We need you."

Dan: There are countless studies around how productive you can actually be; how much you can actually produce in a day - and it's probably a single-digit percentage on what you thought it was. You can only really concentrate on something for a really short time, and it's something like 15 minutes. You can really only concentrate on something singular focused for a short amount of time. And anything beyond 90 minutes has a significant diminishing return.

Keeping that in mind, breaking up the day, and realizing that it's actually an investment in your productivity and being able to silence your ego that says, "I need to do all of this stuff, and produce all of this stuff," yes, you can do it - but you'll do it better if you take a break every 90 minutes; step outside, face the sun, close your eyes, and recharge those batteries. 

Instead of having that extra coffee, go for a walk because it will have the same effect. Coffee for example, doesn't make you less tired, it just delays that fatigue.

In the industry, it's often an ego thing, in particular, that I see. As a leader myself, I'm not interested in input - I've never measured input, it's always output. If you can do something in 15 minutes, I'd happily pay you a day - 

For me, it's always been about output but people are still obsessed about how many hours long you worked on a project - and that's a laughable one. If you're suffering or feeling weighed down, it probably means you're doing something wrong or not doing the right job. I often say to individuals in leadership teams who are constantly fatigued, exhausted, and who don't feel good about their work - maybe you're doing the wrong work? 

That's something we talk about in EOS - right people, right seat. Maybe you're in the wrong seat? Instead of just trying to hope that one day, it magically changes and you'll find the time. If you keep kicking your mental health needs aside, then further down the road, it becomes a lower and lower priority and ends up blind siding you - 

And we need to break that cycle.

Q: And finally, for anyone reading or listening - what would you like them to take away from this interview? 

Paul: I think coming to this realization is the hardest part - that's number one. When I punched that hole through the door, there was not a single ounce of any intention to hurt my wife. It was the look of horror on her face that made me realize what a monster I was, and had become over the past few years. In that moment, I knew things needed to change but I didn't know how, which brings me to number two - 

We have to do it together. You can't do it alone. When I was deep in all of these problems, I was struggling. I felt so alone. 

Now, I look around me and I have people next to me that are doing the same things that I want to do; we're pushing each other altogether, and keeping each other accountable - and it's amazing. Luckily at that time, my buddy sent me a marriage podcast called 'Anatomy of Us,' I listened to it, and it all came together knowing that there were other people out there going through the same hurdles. That really brought about the start of a huge change in my life (we're even best friends now). 

And having a community isn't just "a nice to have," you need it. It's impossible to get through this without it. We were created to be in tribes since the dawn of time. It's so important to have people around you with similar motives. As the old adage goes, "Show me the five friends you're hanging around, and I'll show you your life."  

If we talk about being complacent - we're never still. If you think of a car, you think of drive, neutral, and reverse. Neutral really doesn't exist in life because even if you put a car in neutral, chances are, it's going to roll backwards! So, if you take your foot off the gas - you're not always moving forward, you're sometimes moving backwards. You're always treading in some sort of direction and it's either positive or negative. It's our choice to choose which gear. 

Dan: If you want to think differently, spend time with people who think differently. If you want to learn something new, learn from someone who knows how to do it better than you. There's no shame in looking at things, asking questions and being curious about how other people have overcome things. 

Mark Manson really gave us the right language to use around what's really important. I often talk about 'the disappointment panda' going door to door telling people bad news from Manson's book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

There's also a lot to be said for teaching each other to be more comfortable; doing things with no expectation of a return, but also not knowing if it's ever going to have a positive impact, or going to help someone, yet doing it anyway. And that's definitely something that my mother taught me from a young age; to just be wholehearted, and if even one per cent of your time spent has helped someone - then that's enough.

Finally, don't underestimate the power of a text message. It'll take 15 seconds. It doesn't need a response, but just sending someone a text message to know that you thought of them, that you care for them, or that you're there for them, can be incredibly powerful. 

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We've collated the following list of resources provided by Paul and Dan, that may be of interest to you -

✨ Resources: 

🐺 Join the movement to end the silent crisis | Without Fear: 
🏋️‍♂️ Coaching | Leading with EQ: 
🦋 Podcast | The Imperfects: 
💡Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) Worldwide:
🔌 Commit to the Clarity Break:
📚 Book | The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson: 
🧘‍♂️ Challenge | The 75 HARD challenge: 
💪 Podcast | Andy Frisella's 'Win the Day': 
💑 Podcast | Paul & Robin Vedder: Saving a Marriage on the Edge (Anatomy of Us): 
🪴 Podcast | Growth Mindset, Marriage, Money, and Alcohol with Paul Vedder (Anatomy of Us):
▶️ Video | Mel Robbins - "Motivation is garbage":
🗓️ Event | World Mental Health Day:

📞 Support:

AU - 
🦋Beyond Blue: 
🔆 Lifeline:
👐 Suicide Call Back Service:
US - 
☎️ 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline:
🗣️SAMHSA National Helpline:

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On behalf of the Payments team here at ConnectWise, we are deeply grateful for the invaluable insights and contributions of Paul Veddar and Dan Williams. Together, we're committed to breaking the silence and fostering open conversations about mental health and wellbeing.

Please be aware that the content presented in this post does not originate from mental health professionals. If you or a loved one are grappling with mental health challenges, it is highly advisable to seek guidance from a trained professional.