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  • Hey, it’s Marie Forleo and you are watching MarieTV, the place to be to create a business and life you love.

  • You know, my guest today found himself riding high on some career wins, but inside he was

  • feeling empty and alone. He’s here today to share some lessons he’s learned about

  • how the masks that we can all wear keep us from being our best.

  • Lewis Howes is a former professional football player turned lifestyle entrepreneur. He’s

  • the author of the New York Times bestseller, The School of Greatness, with a popular podcast

  • of the same name. Lewis is a contributing writer for Entrepreneur and has been featured

  • on The Today Show, Fast Company, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and Men’s Health, among others.

  • His newest book, The Mask of Masculinity: How Men Can Embrace Vulnerability, Create

  • Strong Relationships, And Live Their Fullest Lives, is available now.

  • Hey, Lewis.

  • Good to see you, Marie.

  • So good to see you. I’m so excited that were finally doing this.

  • Me too. Thanks for having me. Of course. It’s been, it’s been a while,

  • so I want to start at the top with this book, The Masks of Masculinity. Tell us what was

  • the inspiration to write this one? Because it’s a departure from your last book and

  • most of the topics.

  • Yeah. The inspiration came from a darker pain that I think youre aware of that I started

  • talking about a few years ago where my whole life I felt like I needed to achieve certain

  • things, to fit in, to be accepted, to be welcomed as a part of the communitywhether it

  • be in school, with classmates, to teammates in sports, to the business world. I always

  • felt like I needed to fit in. And by doing so I needed to prove myself to the people

  • to fit in and to be accepted.

  • And so I was very driven to achieve, and it worked. That drive allowed me to get certain

  • results, but every time I achieved those results I never felt happy inside, I never felt fulfilled.

  • I didn't feel like, “Oh, I've figured it out now that I’ve got this thing.” Like

  • I had inner peace. I never had inner peace. I felt like I was always alone, always suffering

  • and resentful and angry when I would achieve. It was almost as if like the moment I achieved

  • the things I wanted to achieve, I was the least happy. And I never understood why. So

  • I said “I need bigger goals, I need bigger dreams. I needmaybe it’s not big enough.”

  • Right?

  • Right. Like youre not dreaming big enough.

  • Yeah.

  • You don't have the vision big enough.

  • Exactly. So let me keep going.

  • Yeah.

  • And so in my 20s and late 20s I just kept going bigger and bigger. And still, every

  • time I would achieve something or certain marks that I set for myself, it wasn’t enough

  • inside. And I didn't understand why. I just figured this is the way it is. This is who

  • I am. This is what life is all about.

  • And I didn't have that awareness until fourabout four and a half years ago, kind

  • of everything went south for me. You know, I was achieving at the highest levels in my

  • business. I, you know, I was achieving athletically my dream playing with the USA Handball team.

  • I had, you know, the beautiful girlfriend. I had like what – I had a lot of money.

  • What a lot of guys would think of like that "He’s made it. He’s making it." But

  • I was in a terrible just darkness inside. I didn't know how to handle my inner world.

  • My outer world looked good. My inner world was sick.

  • I think it’s interesting just to note for folks, because a lot of us, you know, especially

  • when you don't come from a lot and, you know, doesn't matter if it’s middle class, poor,

  • anywhere on that spectrum, and then you start to achieve. It’s like a lot of people go,

  • Oh, it’s easy for you to say.” You know, “you have all the things now. Oh,

  • but boo hoo inside.”

  • But I think it’s important to make the point. I’ve certainly noticed this from so many

  • people that I’ve interviewed, books that I’ve read, folks that I know in my personal

  • life, that no matter how much is happening or appearing to happen on the outside, it

  • cannot make up for some of the deep pain and suffering that’s happening on the inside

  • that a lot of times you just don't know about.

  • And a lot of the people that are so driven, that are successful, usually comes from some

  • type of darker pain or something to prove.

  • Yeah.

  • Which was where I was coming from. So it all kind of came crashing down whenit’s

  • funny, because I’m having like a deja vu moment with you. Because I actually was sitting

  • with you I think at a coffee shop nearby when I was like, “you know, I’m thinking about

  • moving to LA.”

  • Yes.

  • Do you remember this conversation?

  • Totally. Of course I do.

  • I was like, “What do you think? Give me your advice, because I really look up to you

  • and I appreciate your wisdom.” So I was like, “What do you think? I’m in love

  • with this girl. Like, I don't know but things are going well here in New York City. She

  • wants me to be in LA. I don't know what to do.” And youre like, “You know what?

  • Just go for it. Like, just go for it, because you don't want to regret it.” And you told

  • me to really listen to my intuition. And I was like, “You know, maybe I’ll try it

  • out.” You know, I wasn’t sure. I was kind of torn. You told me to go for it, and I did,

  • and I’m very glad I did because it allowed me to openit got me to my darkest place.

  • Yes.

  • It allowed me to see what was working and what wasn’t working.

  • Yeah.

  • And the relationship was very toxic afterwards, but I didn't know how to emotionally communicate

  • in the relationship and express myself in a healthy way.

  • Yeah.

  • So when things weren’t going well I just didn't feel like I couldn't even talk to her.

  • I felt like I wasn’t able to express myself for whatever reason. And what I would do is

  • I would take that anger out into the world. I wouldn't be angry with her or get in a fight

  • with her. I would take it out in the sports world when I was playing basketball, in business

  • with my friends. I would take it out elsewhere on people.

  • And I was very angry, resentful, and passive aggressive. And so the relationship was very

  • toxic for me because I didn’t know how to emotionally communicate. I was angry, resentful,

  • my business relationship was crumbling, and I started to get in a lot of fights. I started

  • to get very aggressive with everyone. Any time someone would attack me or give me a

  • comment online that I didn't like or saygive me feedback,” it was like I had to defend

  • myself with everything. The point where I got in a fight on a basketball court, and

  • that literally shook my world. Because I could have lost everything. You know.

  • It was a fist fight.

  • A fist fight. A physical fight. For months it was like I was walking down the street

  • looking for people to look at me weird so I could fight them. I kind of had that aggression.

  • I was like, “You trying to look at me? You trying to step to me?” or whatever. And,

  • you know, finally in this basketball game I got in a fight. And I gave myself the justification

  • that he hit me first, so it was okay to hit back. Right? Since he hit me first, it was

  • okay to hit back. But I didn't know when to stop. And I finally got pulled off the fight

  • and I looked at the guy and saw his face completely, you know, just bloody. Blood all over the

  • courts, all over my hands. And I started shaking. And I was just like, you know, “what did

  • I just do? What did I just do? Everything could go wrong from this moment forward.”

  • You know, the police station was actually right across the street from this place. And

  • I was like what happens if they saw this? Whatyou know, what if I go to jail?

  • I actually ran home like a coward. I couldn't even face him or anyone else there. I ran

  • home like a coward, washed the blood off my hands, looked at myself in the mirror, and

  • was just like, “Who are you? Who are you? What are you doing? Why are you so angry?”

  • Like, it all started to come together where it was the catalyst for me to start looking

  • within. Kind of months and months of this toxic relationship, this being aggressive

  • with people, constantly being defensive online or offline, that moment was the catalyst for

  • me to say, “Okay, I need to look within and start seeing what I can do to do things

  • differently.”

  • So that’s when I, you know, hired therapists and coaches and went to emotional intelligence

  • workshops, started asking my friends and family for feedback. I said, “Give me feedback.

  • I want to hear how I can be better.” I think for so many years I didn't want anyone to

  • tell me how to change. I just said this is who I am. Accept me for who I am.

  • Yeah.

  • And that was the catalyst for me wanting to talk about this. Because during that process

  • of opening up myself and learning about why I was so defensive or guarded or aggressive

  • my whole lifenow, listen. I was a very loving, fun guy. You knew me before then.

  • Absolutely.

  • Always loving and fun, but it was like those moments where I was triggered, it was like

  • I didn’t know how to turn it off.

  • Yeah.

  • And I never understood why.

  • And then it sounds like from reading the book, there was also a pivotal moment as you were

  • searching in your own journey and starting to discover, “oh, my goodness. How do I

  • release this anger? How do I not have these triggers? How do I find real happiness? Because

  • all the bullshit materialism clearly ain’t doing it.” You stumbled upon a documentary

  • that made a huge impact.

  • Yeah, yeah. The Mask You Live In is a powerful documentary that started having these conversations

  • more and more. With boys, with teens, with men in prison, with all types of men and boys

  • about how weve been developed and conditioned to become men in a certain way.

  • How ... what it means to be a man in our society, specifically in America. And I think my whole

  • life I was conditioned a certain way to act and to not act. You know, when youre 7

  • years old and your parents tell you to go be kind at school to kids, and then you're

  • trying to be nice to people and express yourself and you get shoved in a locker. You say, “okay,

  • I don't want to do that anymore if I’m not gonna be accepted.”

  • Yeah.

  • Not saying that happened to me, but that’s just kind of like the pattern that kids go

  • through. Where theyre generous, theyre kind, theyre compassionate, theyre caring,

  • maybe they show emotion, and then they get made fun of.

  • Yeah.

  • You know, in the sports teams growing up you weren’t allowed to show emotion. You weren’t

  • allowed to cry, because men don't cry. And the names that youre called for even acting

  • like you have any emotions or like youre sensitive at all was that you were less than

  • a man. They would call you all sorts of names. And so just to fit in, just to be accepted

  • by your peers, you had to act a certain way to be cool or to fit in. And I think for me

  • that carried on into other areas of my life. I couldn’t just turn it off after those three hours of practice.

  • Yeah.

  • Then it was with my family at home. I had to act cool. It was with my girlfriends, I

  • had to act a certain way. It was with guy friends. I never fully opened up with guys.

  • I didn't have one good guy friend where I could tell anything.

  • I think 50% of men feel that they don't have a guy friend that they can share stuff with,

  • whereas women in general, I see you guys getting together every day and talking about things

  • youre insecure about and the fears you have and frustrations youre feeling from

  • relationships or life or image issues or whatever it may be. Youre talking about these things.

  • Whereas I personally never talked about them. And a lot of the guys that I grew up with

  • never talked about any of their insecurities or fears or doubts or concerns, because that’s

  • not what it means to be a man. Youre not allowed to show vulnerabilities, at least

  • growing up the way I did.

  • And as I started having these conversations with other men I realized, wow. This is like

  • almost every guy that I meet faces this. Except for a few guys who grew up like on a farm

  • or like in a spiritual retreat center where their parents were so loving and open and

  • wanted them to be more expressive. But for the majority of guys that I know and that

  • I grew up with, that wasn’t the case.

  • And when I started opening up, you know, four years ago I started telling people that I

  • was sexually abused and raped by a man when I was five years old. And this is when everything

  • started to shift for me, because that was the secret I was unwilling to share, and that

  • secret just manifested into toxicity inside of me where I didn't know how to express myself

  • in a loving way when I was hurt. So the opposite of love is some type of anger, passive aggressiveness,

  • frustration, and that’s the only way I knew how to communicate when I was feeling pain.

  • And I think there wasand as I started to open up about this and share with my friends,

  • with my family, and then more publicly over the months, something incredible happened.

  • So many men would open up back to me. You know, I was terrified to tell people what

  • had happened to me, because I was so ashamed. I felt guilty, I felt insecure, I felt like

  • no one was gonna love me anymore. They weren’t going to accept me. But when I started to

  • share, men would tell me their deepest, darkest secrets, their biggest insecurities, their

  • pain, the things they suffered with, and they would tell me, you know, “I’ve judged

  • you for so long and now I trust you. Like, I fully trust you now.” Men were like, “I

  • will follow you anywhere now that I know this about you and youre willing to talk about it.”

  • I would get emails and just essays from men saying, you know, “I’ve been married for

  • 25 years. My wife doesn't know that I was sexually abused or that I went through this

  • other thing.” It wasn’t always sexual abuse, but the men have gone through a lot

  • of things that they feel like theyre unable to express and talk about.

  • And I realized, wow, the more I start to share with my friends and family for them to actually

  • see me for the first time and just know me, know what I’ve gone through, know what I’ve

  • felt, I feel like I’m finally able to be myself. And the more I started to share, the

  • more I started to heal, and the less those moments or those insecurities had control

  • over me. I was able to take my power back, and it’s been an amazing transition.

  • And so I felt like this was more of like a responsibility for me to talk about this thing.

  • Over anything else I’d do, this was more of a process for me to talk about this, for

  • me to continue to heal, for me to hold myself accountable. Because even though I started

  • to share and heal, last week I’m getting triggered and like aggressive and angry. And,

  • you know, passive aggressive still.

  • Patterns exist, and especially ones that weve had over the course of our lives.

  • Exactly.

  • You know, 10, 20, 30, 40 years youve been doing something one way, it isit’s

  • a journey and a process to start to unwire that stuff.

  • Exactly.

  • So I love that though, because there is something I think really powerful, right, about like

  • taking a stand and saying, “Okay, I’m gonna talk about this and I’m also gonna

  • use this as an opportunity to hold myself to a higher standard. I might not get it perfect,

  • but at least now I’ve declared like, okay, this is what I’m working on. This is what

  • I’m gonna share. This is what I’m gonna keep sharing. This is what I’m gonna keep

  • going for in my own life.” I think that that’s incredible. And I want to put this

  • in a larger context.

  • So beyond your own journey, and were touching upon this a little bit, but what do you see

  • and what have you seen from writing this book and from talking to so many men and boys about

  • what’s not working for them in terms of our culture today?

  • In general men don't feel like theyre allowed to express themselves in a more vulnerable

  • way because of whatever conditioning theyve had. It may be them from their peers in high

  • school or sports or parents saying, you know, “boys don't cry.” Whatever it is that

  • they heard or people said or something that was conditioning. And it’s translated into

  • the rest of their life. At work, in business, relationships.

  • You know, I’ll speak for myself, I came from a place of win-lose. I had to win in

  • sports, and if I lost it was an attack on my identity that I wasn’t good enough. And

  • so I took that in every other part of my life. In relationships with girlfriends, I had to