Alive and Real with Dai Manuel
Joining the ladies this week for a conversation is Lifestyle Mentor, Author and TedX Speaker, Dai Manuel.
Inside of this episode:
↣ Why Vulnerability is so Important
↣ Addiction and Recovery and how Rituals can Help
↣ What is “Alive and Real” in Dai’s Fatherhood Journey
↣ How Resentments and Acceptance can lead to big shifts – and so much more!
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Interview with Dai Manuel
Calla: We’ve been following you for a while. And you’re off of your TEDx. So I want to know all about that experience. But you know what, I’m going to ask you first. And that’s what’s alive and real for you right now.
Dai Manuel: I love it. You want to know what is alive in real free right now? The fact that my two teenage girls, my daughters, they’re 16 and 18. And it’s Bree in Chardonnay. So Chardonnay is 18 years old, and Bree is the 16 year old, and they both have boyfriends. Their first boyfriends right now. So that is very alive in real life. But also my eldest, this Friday not only goes for driver’s test to get her license, but she also has her High School Graduation. So it’s like, it’s just a full week this week. And it’s like, whoo!
Leanne: big life moments.
Dai Manuel: It is, you know, these massive milestones, right. And obviously, it’s creating a lot of nostalgia in myself, when I start to reflect back on when I was 18, many, many moons ago, some of those experiences and what it was like and trying to really be empathetic, but also equally excited for her. And just, you know, so it’s, it’s that’s definitely alive and real.
Calla: I can’t imagine. Do you feel prepared for the changes that are happening?
Dai Manuel: I was going to say, my, my wife, you know, Christy is phenomenal. And she, she was the eldest of five siblings, and as a result. Sorry, I should say six because she also has a half-sister, her dad remarried. And you know, just, she’s just great. She raised a lot of her siblings a lot of the time, right. And so she’s just got this head on her shoulders that is really good at just making sense and also seeing things before they happen. And I just, I feel so grateful to have her as a partner. Because if I was on my own try to do this, I might answer be very different. But I like to think I’d figured it out.
Calla: That’s honest and relatable. We need people. Well, it’s funny that you brought her up because kind of one of the big things throughout your TEDx was that question she originally asked you, right? Do you want to talk about that?
Dai Manuel: Well, you know, I think we all have certain habits, or we learn habits in our life, and the habits can be okay. But when they start to encroach on quality of life, quality relationships, or health, or well being, especially our mental health, we have to start questioning are these habits really that good for me, you know, should I be continuing down this path and the thing with habits, they become habitual, they become ritualistic, they become automatic,
Leanne: They sneak up on you too.
Dai Manuel: They do. You know, and it’s the little things that we do every day that actually make the greatest difference over time. And we know this, but we don’t really own it all the time. At least I didn’t. And the habit that took hold of me was this ritual around, distressing and decompressing at the end of the day and having a few drinks. It was something that I learned very early on, in my late teen years, as I went through a big lifestyle change and went from being morbidly obese to being a fit dude and having a healthy, active lifestyle. That took about two years to really live into that shift, and lifestyle, but also at that time, because I was very insecure and still had a lot of self-doubts, as well as, you know? I was naturally just introverted, which also led to some of those health issues that I battled with obesity. But I wanted to make some changes. And I learned later in my teen years, as all of a sudden, I was getting invitations to come and hang out with certain people, and they weren’t the right crowd. It was exciting. And I was like, Whoa, you’re talking to me, I can come here with you guys. And for them, you know, they smoke they drink. And that was just what they did. You know, and, and I wanted to be accepted. So I found myself starting to partake in some of the alcohol especially. And I realized pretty quick, you know, these insecurities seem just to disappear. I was like, wow, I feel I can talk to anybody right now. I’ve had a few drinks. I think it was just this weird sort of shift for me. And I and I tied a lot of those experiences to alcohol. And so, it started to reinforce certain aspects of who I wanted to be. And I believe that alcohol was the gateway to get me there, you know? So well into my 20s, as I started building and scaling my last company, I still continued this habit, you know, and then I met my wife, we had our kids young, and, you know, just continue to operate and function really well. As I used to say, you know, we worked really hard, but we partied harder, you know, and there was no balance. Like, that was the issue, there was no balance and, and it really started to encroach into my life. And here’s the interesting thing, right? Like, I was chasing titles. I was really looking for people to look at me and give me the accolades and affirmations and anything that would stoke my ego, that was what would drive me, so I was very sheltered still. I tried to hide what was happening within the home, right, what was happening inside our walls. And what was happening inside was I was just disconnected. I wasn’t always present for my family. They weren’t always getting the best of me. They were getting what was ever leftover at the end of the day. And, you know, just my kids were under the age of six. And there came this fateful day where my wife sat me down to tell me that, you know, what’s life going to look like when we’re separated? Because this isn’t working. And this is not a healthy environment to raise our girls. And I have to admit to you both right now, you know, at that moment when my wife even just said that, you know, when you get that pit in your stomach, and it just feels like an abyss, and it’s just like, Oh, my gosh, and you just feel like you’re slowly sinking into that. And I had that feeling. But what was driving that feeling was the fact that I couldn’t argue. I could not defend because there was nothing to defend. She was absolutely correct. And that was hard.
Calla: That will shut the ego down.
Dai Manuel: It really does. I was always somebody, and I worked in sales and marketing. And I like to think I can speak pretty well. And, and so I could always talk my way out of anything. But I realized I had nothing I could say at this moment. And, obviously, tears were shed on both sides. And because we’d already been together for ten years at this point. We had a life together, you know, and we still loved each other very deeply. And then she asked me a question. And this is the question I share, you know, in the TEDx talk, where she asked me, she said, “Dai, are you being the type of man you’d want your daughters to marry?”
And it’s like BOOM!
Calla: Let me serve you some humble pie.
Dai Manuel: Oh man, yeah and beyond, right? It was like, Yeah, it was. And I know, this is an awful pun and a bit of a dad joke. But it was a very sobering moment in my life, you know, where all of a sudden I realized that? No, I mean, if someone like me at that time, ten years ago, showed up on my doorstep, even if they showed up today with my daughters being 16 and 18. If they showed up and said, Hey, I would like to, you know, take your daughters out or get to know them better. I’d be like, no freakin way are you coming to my house, you know, like, get out of here. And yet, that’s who I was modeling. That’s who I was saying; this is a father. This is a husband. This is a business owner. This is a man. You know, like, this is what I was modeling. I was saying these things are okay. And at that moment, I just made a commitment to myself to go one year without drinking, and I also made the commitment to them.
I said, I’m doing this for me doing this for us. I’m going to remove this crutch. And you have to realize this, I’m 33 at that point when I made that decision 11 years ago, and you know, from the age of 17 to 33, the longest I’ve gone without drinking might have been a month, where I did a health thing, right? Abstain from alcohol for 30 days, you know, like, that was it that was the longest stretch ever from the age of 17. So we talked about these habits. Like, it was a deeply ingrained habit. And I realized those first three weeks of saying no more that I couldn’t do it on my own. I knew I needed support. I needed some help. And fortunately, I got some support and got some help. I started doing the inner work and started working on myself instead of working on my businesses. I was always thinking, work on the business, professional development, professional, develop, professional development, make more money, make more accolades!
Calla: DISTRACT, DISTRACT, DISTRACT.
Dai Manuel: Oh, man. Yeah. And so all of a sudden, I was like, you know, what, what if I turn the focus inward? What if I start to look at myself and my life and what I want? And hopefully, that was just, I mean, it was a great thing, but it was a lot of work, a lot of work. I would have rather just gone back to work, you know? But that other stuff. Whoo. Yeah, it made me uncomfortable. But, you know, it’s, it’s helped me become who I am now. And it will continue to drive me well into the future.
Leanne: Did you do that in a 12 step program process or your own way?
Dai Manuel: Well, you know, and I know, some people will hear this, and they may disagree. I have a lot of friends in various step programs. And because Also, my drinking would often lead to narcotic usage. You know, especially like cocaine-like, just as just the people I was
getting around, you know, these kinds of people are associated with this is just a normal thing. You do this on the weekends, and
Calla: Alcohol is only going to numb so much. So you look for the next thing, and then you look for the next thing, and then eventually, there’s nothing left but yourself, and you’re like, Oh, shit. Yeah, I’ve found myself there. I know.
Dai Manuel: Oh, well, I’m sorry to hear that. Like, it’s not an easy place to be. Yeah. But, you know, as I always joke, it was like, I felt like I was on rock bottom. And I said, even when I reflect on it, it felt like the rock was on me. I was under it, you know, and it felt very immobilizing. You know, there’s a lot of fear there. And especially the fear of loss, you know, losing my family. And, and because I already knew if that anchor was gone, this ship was going to be floating adrift, for who knows how long until it Maroons itself on some distant shore if maybe I’ll be alive, you know? There was a lot of fear and concern there. But it wasn’t fear driving the decision. And because I never felt like I was an alcoholic, I didn’t feel like I was an addict. The main reason being is I had a hard time accepting that I am powerless to this thing outside of myself. I couldn’t accept that. I couldn’t accept that I’m going to own this label till the day I die. I believe change can happen. I’ve seen it happen. It’s happened in my life, and seeing that in other people. To define someone and label them and to have to own that label and wear it almost like, with a button of pride, and yeah, I’m this many years sober, but I’m an alcoholic. Like, I just I couldn’t accept that. That was just me. Again, I think the program is amazing and can work for many people, but it just didn’t work for me. So like, for me, it was cognitive behavioral therapy, along with really just getting clear. If you’re familiar with logotherapy, you know, this idea of trying to align and gain clarity on what is my purpose? What is my meaning? What is it that I want, you know, for my life now? Those are big questions. And how many of us take the time to create the space to reflect and introspect on that question. To be honest, I mean, up to that point in my life, I don’t think I ever really thought about it. I was like, I just have to make money. I have to be successful. Just keep going.
Calla: You’re checking boxes. You’re doing good things, you know, you were successful in that. So that’s totally relatable.
Dai Manuel: It’s hard, though, right? Then you start to think about it, it’s like, well, I’ve checked off a lot of boxes and accomplished a lot. Why don’t I feel very fulfilled? Why don’t I feel very satisfied when I feel happy. And I thought I’d be happier by now. I mean, I won’t have to worry about I got everything to be grateful for yet. I just don’t feel connected to my life. I think that was also what made it much easier just to keep drinking, keep distracting myself, keep avoiding even acknowledging the discontent I had with my life at that period of time. So in reflection, I realized that there must be other ways for me to get some support because I did as I alluded to; it was like having a crutch in my life. It was my crutches. It helped me function and just be mobile. And as soon as you remove the crutches, I realized, boy, I got a pretty bad limp here. I’m going to have to learn how to function without this crutch. And, yeah, those first few weeks were hard. And I found a psychologist and worked with him for four or five months. We also found a relationship counselor for my wife and I to go to. After a couple of visits, it was determined by all of us that, you know, Christy, you’re okay, and Dai needs to do some one on one with them. So I stayed on and worked with her and then started to explore because now my mind was becoming clear. I reconnected with my health, and I focused on my health focus on my fitness again, making that a non-negotiable priority. Moving every day with a bit of purpose, I started doing some regular meditation, started journaling, and like all the things that we hear we ought to be doing, I actually just started trying them.
Calla: Yeah, I feel like I’m on that part of my journey right now, where I’m trying to, like, focus on that.
Dai Manuel: I think it’s great. And what have you noticed so far since you started?
Calla: How bad I actually am.
Dai Manuel: No, one’s bad.
Calla: No, but you realize where you’re lacking, though. But I’ve learned how much endurance I have as a human being. And I think that that’s exciting because I know that even if it’s a rough day, I know I’m going to come back tomorrow and keep going. So I think that’s been big for me, especially lately.
Dai Manuel: Yeah. I mean, I look at just humanity. I mean, we are so resilient. But, on the other hand, if you’re a climate change proponent, you know, like, we probably say, humanity’s been too resilient, you know, to a fault, because we’re just, you know, on top of the food chain, but man, we consume a lot. And there’s a lot of excess. Right. And, and I know, there’s lots of conversation around everyone who goes down that path. But ultimately, what I’m trying to say is that I think we have the ability to adapt very quickly if we want to.
I still think there’s a lot of choice that’s involved with, you know, either accepting that, hey, yeah, there’s some things I want to change. But I’m probably going to do things very differently than I’ve done before. And there, you know, so there’s that involvement of learning something new, or doing something for the first time and the frustration that comes with that, right. Just like I thought we were living in Bali for a couple of years, I was picking up surfing because that’s what everybody does around you. You surf, and you do yoga. That’s pretty much it. And I guess it’s Island Living, right? And yeah, man, I got frustrated. Like, it was hard as an older man and trying to learn a new sport. I never grew up doing water sports, you know. And so it was just, it was challenging. I never really got to a point where I felt like I could say, I’m a surfer, right? Like, it never got there. But it reminded me, and I think this is why it’s so good for all of us always to try to do new things. You don’t have to stick to it, but just try it, you know, because it is a little bit of humble pie. But also at the same time, it reminds us that, hey, you know what, I can learn new things, I can adapt, I can grow, I can continue to progress in my own life, as long as I’m willing to be an active participant, right? Those are the learnings that have come through some experiences since making that decision 11 and a half years ago, just to say, no more alcohol. I’m just going to cut that out right now. And, you know, just so you’re both aware, like, my wife and I, even when we came around to that one year of me saying, I’m not going to drink for a year, like we were talking about having a glass of wine to celebrate, and all that, and I got there. And I was like, you know, I’ve had so much growth in this last year. I just, let’s just keep going. Let’s just see what happens. Like, I don’t feel any need or desire even to have a drink, you know And, you know, 11, half years later, it’s still having fun, but I don’t say that to say like, Hey, can I have a pin, please? Do you know what I mean? I’m not doing it for the recognition. It’s different that way, you know, like, So anyways, I don’t want to go off on the programs or anything like that,].
Calla: It’s nice to know that it’s individualized. And I think that just shows that when that’s your intention, and you’re going to stick to it. And I think that’s what many people need to be able to make that catalyst of change. It has to be real with you. You can’t be doing it for the chip or the pin.
Leanne: So you mentioned you were overweight in high school, and that’s when you kind of started your fitness journey. But after you became sober, you said you kind of focused on your health more. Was that when your real love for health and fitness started, or when did that begin for you?
Dai Manuel: I always loved health and fitness. From the time that I worked through all those changes as a teen, I just got a lot of enjoyment from just moving, you know, like doing various like mountain biking, I love to do. Later I got into rock climbing, and I loved that and how my body felt when I was climbing up a rock face, you know? Even indoor climbing, you know? I just enjoyed that activity. I also enjoyed seeing the improvement, you know, coming back after a few sessions and then being able to do something that I couldn’t do previously. So I got a lot of fulfillment from that. And also got into martial arts, specifically boxing and kickboxing, and I just excelled. I did well with that. And I enjoyed it from the aspect of fitness like it wasn’t because I had animosity, right. It wasn’t like I was looking to fight. It wasn’t an aggression thing. It was simply an artistic thing. I didn’t have that kind of spatial awareness or control because I didn’t grow up playing sports like many other people. Because I was obese, I avoided doing sports. I avoided phys ed class, you know, like, I was the guy that would make excuses because there’s no way I’m changing in front of my peers. You know, yeah, I’ve done that before. It didn’t work out. So well. I still get teased about it. I’m like, I just so I was the cliche, you know, that it gets portrayed in the movies, quite often, the lonely fat kid that gets teased, well, that was my life. You know, like, that’s just what it was. And so, so looking to, anyway, to avoid any pain or discomfort. That was my goal. And so, as I got into my 20s and starting to explore all these other things that I started to get to know, my body was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it. And, you know, even and I think this is the thing that people still don’t fully comprehend even though my lifestyle choices, and like I said, Yeah, I worked hard, but I partied harder, you know, like that. I was still very active. So a lot of the perceptions of those that were inside even the people that have been here for quite a while. And when they heard the TedTalk and me being much more vulnerable and open about this story.
I first wrote about this on my website. I did a series called the addiction-free life series. I wrote a number of articles that sort of talked about some of the ways that I navigated these changes. And I remember people first meeting that or hearing me share, but it’s not like, I have no idea. There was no inclination that you were struggling, or you had a drinking problem, you know, like, and I guess I was just people who knew, yeah, just people that knew me people that were in our communities even but not people that I would say, go out and drink socially with, right. So I was pretty good at sheltering that part and only hanging out with certain people that knew that certain guy, and I had the moniker, you know, “Fun Guy Dai.” You know, that was, man, I remember going to conferences, and some of my suppliers would be working the show and walking around meeting everybody, and they’re always like, so where are you going tonight? We want to hang with you.
Calla: That must be exhausting to keep up.
Dai Manuel: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It really was but also this idea that there is this expectation of me now.
Calla: Yeah! How do you change that?
Dai Manuel: I did, you know, got to a point where I just, I’d go to conferences, but I’d be like, yeah, I’ll be hanging out here. But I wouldn’t be drinking, you know, and I wouldn’t be the one feeding the rounds. You know, like, I would normally only stay for a round or two, and then I ghost, you know, I pull a Houdini and just disappear. Like, I’d literally just go back to my room.
Calla: Relatable again.
Dai Manuel: Yeah, go for a workout. I was like, I don’t need to be here. After a couple of rounds, the conversation is not going anywhere, anyway. They picked up on that pretty quickly. It was interesting to see because I remember that there was a whole cultural shift internally, even in my own company. After that transition, I even talked about this later, especially a couple of years later, like our step-functions. Even like our golf tournament that we do every year, the alcohol bill was ridiculous. Like ridiculous, you know, and then to see as it progressed, we saw the alcohol bill cut by half as I made that change.
I was feeding rounds all the time, though. I guess if I bought another round, it gave me permission to have another drink. And so I got good at sort of playing the game. You know, I tend to allow myself to look like the hero, but while also serving my own selfish needs just to fuel myself with alcohol and so yeah, There are lots of little things, you know, but I’m like, Oh, well, it’s part of my life. It’s what I was like, and it was what I lived through. I was still doing a lot of good at the same time. But as I said in the TEDx talk, you know, my wife is very quick to say to remind me that, yeah, you’re doing all these great things, but just another night of you going out and disrespecting yourself our family. And you know, just not being someone of integrity based on what I would normally say, Are my values, and then all of a sudden, I do this thing, I even turn my cell phone off, so I won’t have to respond to her and say, Oh, my phone died. I’ve lost track of time. I’m so sorry. You know, like, you can only say it so many times. Come on. And so you know, it was just exhausted. I just put it that way. It doesn’t matter how good or great you may think you are and what you’re doing. All it takes is one bad event and one bad night to completely undermine and devalue all the good that you’ve done previously. And that’s what I really started to understand and appreciate: yeah, you know, one, one slip like that. That’s, that’s how you lose trust, right? It’s like, you can be someone that says something, and people believe that they accept it. But then you do something that’s completely the opposite of that. I mean, of course, people are going to be like, Huh, what’s going on here? I don’t know if I can trust you. I didn’t mean everything he told me before is even true. Like, and so I definitely felt at times, I was looking at double life.
Leanne: I’m so curious. You said you started kind of hanging out with that crowd in your mid-teens. So I guess it’s a two-part question. First, did your parents warn you about stuff like that? And then how do you parent your girls differently to make sure they’re, prepared for those kinds of situations.
Dai Manuel: So when I was nine, my parents separated. This is pretty hard. You know, like, I’m, again, I’m dating myself now. I’m 44. Now. So this is like, a long time ago. But it was a long time ago. I remember, there’s only one other kid in my class that had parents that work together still, you know, like, where today? I mean, it’s over half the classes are typically, you know, in households where they, they might have split households, you know, two parents that have both remarried or new relationships. Like, it’s just, it’s a norm now. It’s actually more than normal. It’s like, if you’re still together after 15 years, it’s like, Ah, right. My wife and I, we’ve been dating for 21 years. It’s quite a milestone. Did I plan for that? Well, I like to think that I wanted that. But you know, it’ sort of just a byproduct of the changes that we’ve endured, because we’re both very young people that who we met when, you know, 21 years ago, or more than 20. So my parents separated. And my dad had a practice. And he also just, he loved his work. He was a veterinarian and loved just everything that he did, you know, and he was very, very good at it, too. And I remember at his funeral, the number of people who came out, and just the positive words shared with me at his funeral four years ago, was just amazing. It was things that were shared that I was like, yeah, that was my dad? It was a really weird realization that I was like, I don’t know if I knew my dad, as well as I, thought I did. You know, and that goes both ways. You know, and that’s another story entirely. Still, it’s actually, you know, if we get on to the conversation of vulnerability, especially with men that there was a big piece of that my dad played in that he realized that, but he did, but so here, my parents separated. My mom just based on, you know, split households. I only see my dad every other weekend. So it was my brother and I, and t my mom. My brother was a couple of years younger than me, and my mom was leveling up her education to earn some more to better support us. So even though she’s working full time as a nurse, she’s also going back to school for her masters. The amount of time that our parents were around, we had a lot of alone time, you know, or time with a babysitter, and until we were of an age where we could be at home by ourselves. And so that was different. So we didn’t have a strong male figure in her life. My mom was occasionally dating. She didn’t remarry until I was like 19 after I’d already moved out of the house. So without that strong, masculine energy, let’s just say that That person that could be in my life to help me navigate some of these pieces, I found myself very much going with the flow of wherever everybody else is going. I definitely was someone that just would like I was easily influenced. And now because also people paying attention to me, invited me to do things, I was like, wow, this is so special. Well, I did, and it felt good. And I didn’t want to rock that boat. And even though there was something in me, I mean, I never liked smoking, I was as bad. So I was like, This is not a good idea. But also the drinking, I was just, I never really enjoyed it. But I did it. And I would often drink too much to the point where I’d get home. I still remember how to get home sometimes, you know. And, and so the discussion was there, but I was good at hiding. My brother, not so much, he was the one that would get caught in the act a lot of time, but I was good at just navigating it. But I was also still very responsible and very respectful because we had some really strong values in our home and how we were raised. So, you know, I became very good at walking that line, you know, and tiptoeing back and forth every once in a while.
Calla: I’ve got a child like you.
Leanne: I think I was a child like you.
Calla: I know I’m drawn to you the more you speak because I’m just like, yep, check that box in my life.
Dai Manuel: So that was it, you know, and my dad and I, I had a lot of resentment for my dad. It wasn’t his fault. He had to do what he had to do. I know that he and my mom fell in love. And my mom didn’t, my dad did and, and I resented him for that. I was angry. I was upset since I didn’t know how to work through that.
And on top of that, I learned to console a lot of my emotions through food and video games, movie watching, like, I just adopted this lifestyle. And that’s how I self-medicated, which probably was a big reason why I eliminated the food and got hold of that and started to really adopt a healthy, active lifestyle and started to feel a lot better. But all of a sudden, a new vices introduced right. And that’s where alcohol and just to call it well, it did you know, and it was because here I was I thought I reinvented myself, you know, I’m going to be this new person, this is who I am. And I just, I wanted the attention.
I wanted acceptance, and the people that were giving it to me, were they good people? Sure in their own right. But they weren’t positive influences. That’s for sure. And so back to your original question, you know, as it influenced how we parent, how we connect with our own daughters. We are definitely very open in our dialogue. So there’s nothing off the table. We like to ensure that our daughters can talk to us about everything and anything, you know, as much as they’re feeling comfortable with, and we just want them to know we’re here. My wife has certain conversations that are, let’s just say she’s more geared to having that conversation with them just based on her own experiences. And yeah. And I’m there to offer a lot of that strength and support.
Leanne: You’re in the background giving a thumbs up.
Dai Manuel: I am. You know, and I’ve recognized where my role is strongest and where I can add my own value. Oh, beautiful. Yeah, yeah. And, you know, there’s some of those conversations, and I learned that my eldest Chardonnays, she’s old enough now i don’t think she’ll mind me tell him the story. But I remember we had a little dog named Spencer, my mom’s since the dogs when we started traveling overseas. My mum then adopted her dog, and we don’t have the heart ever. I mean, it’s her dog now, you know, like this. Never come out. But Spencer is this little, this little Yorkie. I mean, it looks like a stuffed animal. So here we are, my dad was dealing with pancreatic cancer, and my mom was remarried, and my dad’s remarried. So we went back to be around him during those final six months, and during that end-of-life process, we’re staying at my mom’s, and we have Spencer there, and Spencer just tears out, and he’s got this thing in his mouth. Anyways, that’s when I found out my daughter had her first period, you know, was a dog turn around on my daughter as she was embarrassed, but I was like, it’s so good. Don’t worry. Yeah. Oh, my God. It was just it was funny. Like, I didn’t know. I had no idea my wife knew, but I was like, yeah, God told me, so it was kind of funny. But there’s been moments like that, you know, and yeah, even now, my eldest, like, I have to commend her, she’s just a very interesting person. Like, she’s a unique individual, but she’s also very much self-driven. And, you know, now with her first serious boyfriends, and they’ve been together for a bit, and, you know, she’s graduating this week and all this other stuff. So some big milestones are happening, but, you know, she wrote this big, long letter to my wife and I, and in this letter, I don’t know, yeah, she’ll probably not listen to this. So it’s okay, I can. I’m just going to say it anyway. So you never know. Why no, but I was just so impressed by this because she wrote this letter talking about, you know, just that she has these feelings that she’s here and her boyfriend. At this time, I’ve discussed being each other’s first. And, like, basically, this well thought out, well written out letter explaining so she could organize her thoughts. And she sent it to us when we read it. We’re like, Oh, my gosh, you know, she was talking about, like, birth control options. She wants to get tested. He’s going to get tests, like just all these things. I was like, No, when I was 17, almost 18, I would not go to my parents. My wife and I are very happy and very proud.
Leanne: You should be proud. That’s amazing. Because a lot of people I think want to be open parents and have their kids feel comfortable. But it doesn’t always translate to the child. That’s huge. And that’s also what I mean, that goes back to your TED Talk, being vulnerable, you have to be vulnerable to allow those conversations to happen. You’re clearly passing that down onto her. That’s such a vulnerable thing for her to write that letter to her parents, like, that’s
Calla: All you can be as proud at that point.
Dai Manuel: We did. When we first read it. I was like, wow, I did this. I was like, This is awesome. I was just like, whatever we can do to support her. It is her choice. She’s 18. She, I mean, yeah, it’s her body. And we think the guy’s amazing. We’ve hung out with his parents as well.
Calla: Yeah, it’s getting real.
Dai Manuel: So it’s like, this is great. You know, like, awesome, you know, and I know they got a camping trip planned in July. So I’m like, Huh? So what’s happening when you go camping?
Calla: Have a good time. I don’t want to talk about it.
Dai Manuel: Oh, my gosh, she’s pretty good at changing the subject. But I like to tease her.
Calla: what did they think of your TEDx?
Dai Manuel: I think you had an opportunity to do TEDx yet. Yeah. Now.
Calla: We like to interview people.
Dai Manuel: Okay, well, hey, listen, I believe everyone’s got a talk in them. You know, I had it on my vision board for like, seven years before I finally found myself going through the process.
Leanne: I want we want to hear about the process too. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. It’s,
Calla: It might secretly be on my board, but I’m not going to admit to actually saying it.
Dai Manuel: Do it! I think everyone’s got a message that can impact others, you know? I always felt the especially after going through these big, big shifts in my life, you know, I’ve learned a lot and experienced a lot. I discovered a lot about myself and other people along the way, based on some of the conversations that started to emerge. But, at the same time, I began just to be more vulnerable. Still, my own story, and because I found pretty quickly that you know when one person is vulnerable, give somebody else permission to be vulnerable.
Calla: This has taught us that, I think.
Dai Manuel: I bet. Yeah.
Calla: This is our weekly TEDx, we do.
Dai Manuel: The subject matter that you guys cover, I mean, it’s very broad, But it’s amazing. And it goes so many different directions, just based on what naturally flows. But still, there has to be a certain level of vulnerability for all parties to unfold naturally and create that safe space where we can feel okay to be open and not worry about being judged or having something that we share used against us. I know, as a man, those were always my concerns. If I’m vulnerable with this other guy, I mean, I’m already sizing him up as a competition. Like, I can’t tell him anything serious or real for me because I don’t know. Um, yeah. Yeah. And, and so, you know, I knew I wanted to start connecting with more men, you know because I didn’t have that many close male friends in my life. I even looked at my dad in his life. And, you know, he was very naturally introverted. Even when it came to what he did at work, his business partner was the guy who was out front dealing with all the patients and the clients, and he was in the back doing all the other stuff, doing all the surgeries. He loves to do the surgeries because it was just him and a couple of other texts in the room. And he could just do this.
What he knew, yeah, do you have to talk to anybody? Right? I get it. And I can see the benefit, right? I can see the attraction to that. And so, you know, if I think back to the TEDx, I just knew that at some point, I wanted to do it. But because of our travels, you know, when I quit a career of 17 years, my wife quit hers. And a few months after that, we pulled the kids out of school, and we gave away all our stuff. And we just said, well, let’s be a full-time family and go traveling, and we’ll figure it out as we go.
Leanne: Is that when you went to Bali?
Dai Manuel: Yeah.
Calla: Leanne, I feel like this is going to be you.
Leanne: I went to Bali a couple of years ago with some friends, and it is just jaw-droppingly unbelievably beautiful. It’s like, it’s never been anywhere. Like,
Dai Manuel: It’s a nice place. It’s a nice place to call home for a bit. And, you know, we knew that family, specifically my, I knew my dad was dealing with health issues, you know like he had some. So our first couple of years of traveling was just in North America-So we traveled all over the US and all over Canada, spring and summer in Canada, and usually any of the cold months down south. So we like to chase the sun as best we can ask Bali eventually. Yeah, after my dad passed, we went to Bali. And we were there for two and a half years -and then came back to Vancouver right before COVID. It wasn’t COVID. That wasn’t the reason that we came back. It was because our kids wanted to finish high school here. And so we always said to them, if they ever wanted to come back and finish school in Canada, we would honor it. And they played the card. They said yeah, we want to move back, and I was like, really?
Leanne: Honestly, thank God because if the timing were any different, you could be stuck in Bali during COVID. I don’t think that’d be a very good situation.
Dai Manuel: Well, I’ve got a lot of friends in Bali. Trust me; it’s actually a pretty good situation. It is. At first, there were a lot of unknowns, but now because it was a mass exodus. My friends say that they had traveled in Bali, like even 20 years ago. You know, they’re like, it’s Bali of 20 years ago. Like, there’s just not that many people. The beaches are empty and clean. So it’s, there’s some attraction, I guess it’d be like going to Disneyland right now. Right? It’s just like, yeah, it’s anyways, I digress. So here, I got back to Vancouver.
We were settling in during COVID. You know, lots of craziness is happening. Everyone’s like, what’s happening in the world are early, what are we going to do? You know, like, even my business? You know, I saw 80% of my revenues drop literally in a span of two months. And so there was a lot of like, oh, boy, what are we going to do? I sort of just fine-tuned. I eliminated some parts, and I just got back to basics. You know, what always seemed to work for me. I just got back to doing that. And, you know, pick things back up. Within another four months, I was right back to work, so you know, we were able to sort of bounce back pretty quickly. And I then also started to reconnect with the Toastmasters community. I’m a big believer that community is important. And for me, you know that 11 years ago, when I was making those changes, Toastmasters is one of the communities I started to participate in. And for those that don’t know, Toastmasters is a global organization. It’s nonprofit. But it’s there to help people become more effective communicators, as well as develop leadership skills. And I dove all in. I was like, Okay, I want to do this because I was naturally introverted. If I talked to more than two or three people at once, I’d get like, you know, just I’d get intimidated and tripped over my words. I want to be able to tell a story without all that stuff. And I loved it. Even when we lived in Bali, we started a new club there. We were actively involved in leadership teams for a number of other clubs. We were just loving Toastmasters again and got back to Vancouver. I was invited to do a talk at a club that I started over 11 years ago. And this is the craziest thing. The guy who was the first person I heard gave a Toastmasters speech at my first meeting. Alan Warburton, a retired principal, is now like a professional speaker. He was also the one that inspired me to want to be a speaker, and here it was, I came back after, you know, being away for a good period of time. And I turned out that Alan was now the owner, licensee holder for TEDx Surrey, or TEDx Bear Creek Park. And so, I was invited to submit an application, you know, and, and I was like, Okay, yeah, I would love to do it. Okay, I guess this is happening. And yeah, so I went through the application process. And you know that 300 people expressed an interest in being a speaker. They can
only select 12. And then they will get down to 60. Then they asked for the draft. And then we had to do a rehearsal, where we basically audition. We dry read through our talks or propose talks. Then they narrowed to 20. And then again, they do a final cut down to 12. So that takes a couple of months for them to go from the 300 down to 12. Once I get down to the 12, then you start almost a four, four, and a half month process of working with coaches and their teams 11 minutes or less. They prefer under 10. Mine was a bit over. If you notice, there are lots of pausing in my talk.
Calla: It’s okay, it was great.
Dai Manuel: That’s me. I just tend to pause, and maybe not today. It’s like a stream of consciousness today. But normally, when I’m talking, I like that.
Calla: Eyes on the prize when you’re on the TedX stage.
Leanne: Yeah, slow down. hoo-saw
Dai Manuel: I was trying to get my heart rate down, to be honest. It was just trying not to sweat.
Leanne: You were super calm. I would have never guessed.
Dai Manuel: I was definitely quaking in my boots. But it was Toastmasters, that conditioning, that support, that leadership, that I was able to absorb through all those years of participating in that organization. It definitely paid off. Almost seven months to the day, from the time I put in my application to the time I stood on that red dot, it was a long process. But man, was it worth it. It was so worth it. It was one of the best, as well as most intimidating, experiences in my life. But I learned so much, and I’m so grateful for that opportunity. And that’s why I recommend it to anybody and everybody, like don’t just go for it. You know, like if you’ve got a message, you got something that you want to share, share it, you know, start sharing it now. But look at the TEDx at the TED platform is a great way to get it out to a broader audience. And
Calla: Did you know what you wanted to speak about? Was there that pull on your heart?
Dai Manuel: Yeah. The last three years started while I was living in Bali. I invited a good friend of mine, Nick. I make mention of him actually in the talk. He was the first person I invited to participate in a men’s group that I wanted to put together called Mentorship Monday. Monday nights, a bunch of guys getting together for dinner and conversation, just to share what’s alive and real for them without any fear of judgment or ridicule or coaching or counseling. It’s just here just to express what’s going on for us, where we are at right now, and celebrate the wins as well.
Calla: You said that Vegas rules apply? That makes sense.
Dai Manuel: Oh, yeah. It has to because otherwise, we wouldn’t have space where people would feel okay sharing fully. But, honestly, in those three years, Nick was the first guy to say yes, and very quickly, you know, we realized we’re going to, we’re doing this together. So we co-facilitate, as well as. I don’t even like to refer to us as founders because it’s the community that founded it. We just happen to be two guys that had an idea and started inviting guys. And the other guy began inviting guys who invited the guys who invited other guys, and yeah, we’re in four different times.
It’s amazing how it works. The impact it was making in these people’s lives by showing up and having this great community where you could just show up and be you. Without any worry, no masks, no facades, no pretending to be somebody other than who you are. And it was radical, like just what was being said—observing, both as an active participant and just as someone who watches and is present to hold space for these other men. I was like, man; more people need to tap into this like this. What we’re doing is not rocket science at all. It’s so duplicatable. It’s funny like it’s so simple in design and effective. And so I wanted just to get the message out, you know, I knew that that was something I had to share. And so was it in my heart? Yeah. It was my head and my heart and my whole body that felt like I needed to tell this story. It’s been great. Some of the feedback I’ve received, as well as a lot of the new men that have come in and join our community, it’s just been wonderful to see because it’s the ripple effect, right? What happens on those Monday nights, and how it reverberates out into their lives professionally and personally, but also their communities-it’s just so cool to bear witness to.
Leanne: Have you noticed the stories change as you guys go along and have more meetings together? For example, do the stories go from “what I’m struggling with” and “what’s real” to “hey since we had the discussion, I’m now doing this.” Or is it coming back into the stories in the mentorship Mondays?
Dai Manuel: Yeah, it does, from the standpoint that we do tend to share updates, you know, we just naturally do it or tap into something that we may have said, maybe a month ago and be like, Oh, yeah, I remember I remember I shared this. But, still, you know, four weeks ago, a really cool thing happened, XYZ, you know. So again, we preface it with: “What’s alive and real,” right? You know, like, it’s, it’s literally whatever that might be right now in this moment. And it could be something amazing that’s happening in your life, or it can be challenging, like, we don’t want it always to be that we’re coming just to share our baggage, right? Like it’s not. And this is something that I experienced as men where I became very gun shy to even talk about the good things going on in my life. Because I was always concerned that the other men would think that I’m bragging, I’m showboating.
Calla: That’s ego again. It’s just another side of ego trying to get you from living your best life. It really, truly is.
Dai Manuel: And it happens, though. I experienced this when I started talking to the guys about this, and it’s like, boy, I feel the same way. You know, like, but this that’s alive in real friends. It’s like, man; I had a huge win this weekend. It’s like, here, this is what happened to me, it’s like, oh, my gosh, you know, like, and to be able to authentically see in the other men, and hear them speak. And it’s just so awesome. All I can say is just to know that they’re truly authentically happy for the person and what they’re they’re achieving in their life right now. And, you know, because we’re all there. And but we also know, the next week, I may not be sharing something very positive. It might be something negative that’s going on. But that’s, that’s life, right? So we got this sort of undulation of ups and downs, and side to sides and all that other stuff. But that’s what’s alive and real.
Leanne: So like, that, not to put like a negative spin on this or anything? Yeah. So say you are sharing a win. But there’s somebody who you can tell isn’t happy for you or isn’t meshing. So does that kind of weed itself out? Or how do you keep things the way that they started?
Dai Manuel: We might see that with newer people in the community. I’ll be honest, especially when it’s in person like it’s different on zoom, right? It’s just different. And it’s I don’t. I like being on zoom as well. But there’s something special about meeting with people in person and having that space. Like in person, because often it was the conversations that happened after our initial sharing, that was most inspiring and most connected, you know, and I find that with zoom, it’s sort of like, well, we ended and it’s like, okay, we’ll see you guys next week. You know, like, it’s
Calla: You’re left to just process.
Leanne: Yeah, it’s a little watered down.
Dai Manuel: But the newest people that would show up, they’d often show up and like, well, I’m here because someone else told me about it. I saw posts online or whatever, right? Like, it’s like, I’m here, but I don’t have any idea what I’m here for or what this is about. It’s the deer in headlights syndrome, right? The first person that goes and shares that night sets the tone for the evening. It sets the tone for the whole session. It gives permission to others to now open up as well. But I often find that first shares is often the one that sets a lot of the tone.
Calla: Yeah, it dictates how the rest of the conversation goes and what people are willing to share for sure.
Dai Manuel: Because we tend to riff off each other, right? We sort of playoff one another and share. We often get triggered or inspired by something that somebody said, and now it’s triggered something alive and real for us right now. We want to share something else. It’s our way of relating rather than coaching or counseling or providing advice based on what someone’s sharing. We’d rather focus more on the mentorship type scenario where it’s like, oh, yeah, no, me too. I’ve dealt with something very similar. And this is sort of how it shows up for me now, and here’s my experience. It’s not directed as, hey, you should try this. It’s just simply Hey, me, too. I know how you’re feeling. I’ve had a similar experience. This is what’s happened to me. And it was unreal for me. And so the people that are negative or very closed arms initially, if they don’t open up within, you know, first 20 to 30 minutes, the odds of them coming back for another session is almost zero. And they’re just not ready. It’s okay. Like, it’s fine. We’ll be here. And that’s all we do. We have the space, and we’re going to be there. Every week, if you want to come, show up. If you don’t want to come? It’s okay. But realize we’re here.
Leanne: Then they have a better idea of what to expect. So yeah, a more open mind.
Dai Manuel: For sure. It’s pretty cathartic. For one, you know, there’s that aspect once you start doing it. And this experience in Bali, we had a guy after the meeting, say like, you know what to share tonight, I’ve never said to anybody. And we were asking, like, Well, how do you feel about that? I feel so like, the way he equated is like, I felt I had a 100-pound backpack. And it’s gone. Like, it’s just not there to see the guy is it we’d have these hand gestures. And we would often use it because you don’t want to interrupt the flow, you know, someone’s sharing. It’s like, Hey, you got the conch, you get to talk, you know, like, we won’t interrupt one man speaks at a time, right?
And given that everyone else gives that man full attention. And so but we don’t want to interrupt that by like even saying, Oh, I get Yeah, you know, saying that, while he’s sharing, especially sharing something very, very vulnerable for the very first time, that can interrupt the flow of that share, or that that stream of consciousness. So we in place use hand gestures. And I remember that gentleman’s sharing, and you have a hand gesture, for really just being able to relate. Like, if we empathize or we’ve had something similar, it’s like, and I get you, well, well, yeah, like that. But we don’t have the hands. And we put the hands on the table in front of us, you know, some guys who put their hands I’m over half the guys put their hands out on the table. And he afterward said I had no idea that so many of the guys also struggle with this.
Calla: That’s very powerful.
Dai Manuel: It’s huge. Because so many of us think we’re on our own. No, no, I understand what I’m dealing with. It’s like, man, are we that special? Are we that much of a snowflake?
Calla: When I first started kind of like writing about the stories that I want to tell and things like that, um, that was one of the first things I realized, like I am not unique at all, like, I might have some things but like, no, it’s very universal, the themes that we all deal with throughout our lives. And I think the second I realized that it’s, again, that big piece of Humble Pie of just like, this is about a lot more than me, it literally has nothing to do with me. And I think that that’s exciting.
Dai Manuel: It is exciting. And that’s what I like to tell people regularly, and I want to remind them that, yeah, you know, we might have similar experiences. But, still, the way we share those experiences or tell of our experiences and the learnings that we’ve had through those experiences is uniquely our own, you know. Not everybody is going to relate to one person’s telling of that story, right, or those reflections. And that’s why I believe the more people that are sharing openly about these, it doesn’t matter if it’s a similar story to Xyz shared, it’s your story, and certain people will resonate with you. They’re going to get you where other people won’t relate with that other person that shared a very similar story. And I think we witnessed this all the time. Like, I mean, look at how many movie plots are there. Like if you’ve done any work with, like, around the hero’s journey, right? And Joseph Campbell, I don’t know if you guys are familiar with Joseph Campbell, but it is cool stuff, you know, back in like the 60s and 70s. This guy was like a researcher and historian, and he looked at storytelling through humanity. And he said, there’s only so many archetypes, I think it’s like nine, nine archetypes, nine sorts of storylines. So when you look at the hero’s journey, basically nine plots, it will ruin how you look at movies, be warned.
Calla: I’m familiar with what you’re talking about.
Leanne: There’s one movie plot, is what you’re telling me?
Dai Manuel: Yeah, pretty much. And the challenges will echo any of these archetypes, right? And once you understand the flow, it’s like, oh, man, it’s so cookie-cutter, right?
Calla: But you don’t have the same setting. You don’t have the same soundtrack, like all those different things, your environment, all of it.
Dai Manuel: All of it. So all these unique aspects make it truly can and No. And that’s why I think it’s so important for us is to be open and continue to share the stories now we don’t have to do it. We don’t have to do anything. But I know when we start to accept that and adopt a more open dialogue around some of the things we struggle with, but more specifically, how we navigated the channel. Lunch and came out of it, you know, wiser, okay, I’ll just say wiser, you know, that that that’s important to learn. Like that’s those are the life lessons that we can all benefit from understanding and hearing, and that’s why I think there’s never going to be a shortage of people who have stories that will impact our lives. We just need more people to share it, you know, and that’s why it’s incredible what you guys are doing with your podcast.
Calla: I was going to say, my hands on the table.
Dai Manuel: You’re doing just that. You’re capturing these conversations, you’re capturing these moments, and you’re sharing them openly to the globe. And I think it’s just wild. So cool. So cool.
Calla: Thank you.
Leanne: I heard you say that you are an introvert. And we talk a lot here about protecting ourselves against burnout and how we keep ourselves balanced, but still productive, but also sane. And you do a lot. So what do you do to keep yourself? How do you recharge? I guess?
Dai Manuel:Yeah, well, it shifts like this is not an excuse. But back in December last year was interesting, not only COVID there, but I got an infection, I needed an emergency surgery, which, you know, sort of threw me for a loop. And I also have a chronic autoimmune disease. And it affects me where if it gets lit up, you know, it really zaps me of my energy. And I then also had an epigastric hernia repair, which is a hernia, this usually right in the middle of your abs, you know, basically about three or four fingers above where your umbilical cord would have been your belly button. And so I had all these things, and it was like this perfect storm last year. Like, and, and so it’s you My health is falling.
I never felt so healthy as I did when I was living in Bali. And to be honest, my entire lifetime. I’ve never felt as connected to my health and well-being as I was when I was living. So I believe that a lot of the habits I had there can also be duplicated here. But, the year that we’ve had, like, everyone’s health has been challenged, we’ve all been challenged, we’re spending a lot more time than we care to admit, in front of these screens. With all the lockdowns that we’ve had to endure, you know, like, our mobility is decreased drastically, like, our mental health has been definitely challenged. So when I look at the last year, you know, I definitely had some aspects of my rituals challenged. And I like to think, hey, I’ve got the mindset, I know what to do. But still, I found myself also feeling challenged, just to take action to do what I know will make me feel better, you know. And so I want to disclose that because you know, even though I’m going to share some things that do work for me, and I’ve been consistent with him, not the way that I have been in the past. So, yeah, that’s full disclosure.
Calla: I love that you said that your rituals were disturbed, like, I’ve never heard it put that way. And I think that’s because it’s always like, I think a lot of the times to say it’s, oh, it’s not my schedule, or I can’t do that. So I love the idea of a ritual versus that.
Dai Manuel: And that’s that idea of sacred sacredness when it comes to these habits, you know, these ritualistic things that we do for ourselves, especially, it’s let me put it this way. There are certain things that if we do, we know we’ll never regret, ever regret, right? Like, well, as a, an example. So I often encourage people to learn to get back to healthy, right, just get back to feeling good. One of the easiest ways to start to do that, from a nutrition standpoint, is to start introducing a lot more green leafy vegetables, right, like, I know, it sounds almost cliche today, but yet, a lot of people still don’t do it, you know, or take the time to eat their veggies. And so I like to challenge people like make a salad that you’re super proud of lots of greens, lots of vibrant colors. And you know, some lean protein on there if you’re vegetarian or vegan, Hey, get some tofu, maybe some cedar plank salmon if you’re on the west coast, you know, look for something that is sourced locally and make something that you’re really proud of, you know, and have at least one a day, just one a day, that’s all just introduce that one thing and tell me you don’t notice some changes within a few days.
Here’s the thing. I’ve never had anybody reached out to me to say, “Dai, I had that salad for lunch today. Boy, do I regret it.” You know? Also, Exercise, right? We feel good. I know it’s challenging to get the body moving. A body at rest wants to stay at rest. But yet, when we get that inertia going, and we get the momentum going, a body in motion likes to stay in motion, too, you know. So it’s that idea of trying to get moving. And I’ve never had anybody messaged me to say, “Dai, man, I worked out today. Oh, I regret working out”, you know, we just don’t. I think if we start to look at the self-care rituals, you know, journaling, meditation, breathwork, mobility, training, and conditioning, fitness, just getting out for a nice walk in nature, having a great conversation with somebody, or listening to an inspiring podcast like yours, or you know, what, listening to a TEDx talk, like, there are lots of ways that we can feed our minds, our bodies, and our souls. Those are the things that just don’t worry about trying to do everything, just find one thing that you can do consistently, make it a ritual, make it something non-negotiable, and prioritize. And, you know, if you’re like me, and I’m very, you know, retentive this way, if it’s not on my calendar, it’s probably not going to happen.
I recommend, block your time, make time, something that’s tangible, you know, and if you can have a calendar or a day planner where you can block out and don’t be so prescriptive. Like, I’m going to exercise on a Stairmaster from 8:30 to 9, like, don’t, because you know, what’s going to happen? It’ll be 8:32, and you’ll be like, “oh, I’m late. Nah, forget it. Maybe tomorrow.” So don’t be so prescriptive, you know, like, create a window, it’s your hour for you, or half an hour, whatever you are willing to give yourself. Remember, you’re the only one who can give this to yourself is Self-care. That’s the thing, “self” is the big one.
Calla: Nobody’s going to put that on their schedule for you.
Dai Manuel: I was going to say, Cal, if there’s anybody out there that has a position in their company where they’re going to pay me to look after myself, I’m for hire, you know. But I have yet to find that job. But so we have to take it on our loss, right? Like, we have to own that. And so, give yourself that block time every day. Make sure it’s something in the self-care space that will feed your mind, body, and spirit in a real positive way. So you come out of that feeling charged, jazzed, focused, and ready to take on the rest of the day. You know, I guess that’s, that’s the best way I can sort of sum it up. I know, it sounds like, Oh, geez, man. He’s getting all excited about this. I am. Like, yeah, because it’s really simple. But simple doesn’t mean easy. And I think that’s what it’s like. Just tell me whatever the price is of the pill. I’ll take it. And then all my dreams would come true. And like, Well, I have yet to discover the pill. So it’s work.
Calla: Yeah, that’s like, that’s perfect.
Dai Manuel: I get off on these tirades.