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Beating the loneliness epidemic

Did you know there is an epidemic that impacts half of all CEOs and is as dangerous for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day? It’s the loneliness epidemic. In this episode, we’re having an honest conversation about the current friendship recession and loneliness epidemic with the award-winning journalist, best-selling author, and founder Antonio Neves. 

Trigger warning: Before we dive into today’s episode, please note that this episode contains conversations and statistics around loneliness, mental health, and suicide. If you’re not in a place to listen to this, we truly understand and encourage you to skip today’s episode.

Antonio is the author of “Stop Living on Autopilot: Take Responsibility For Your Life & Rediscover a Bolder, Happier You,” as well as the founder of Man Morning. According to the Internet, eight years ago he was living his best life. He was a successful speaker, married with young twins, and had a nice house with a picket fence. But the truth was that Antonio felt isolated from the rest of the world. Listen to his story and how he changed his life for the better. 
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The ‘friendship recession’ impacts CEOs at all levels of success

There is a misconception that successful people do not struggle with loneliness or experience the impacts of the ‘friendship recession.’ The truth is that this epidemic impacts CEOs and business owners at all stages of their journey.

The friendship recession especially impacts men. Considering that 80% of all suicides are committed by men, this is something we shouldn’t take lightly. Research backs up the notion that men do not share what is going on in their lives and struggle with making authentic connections.

Overcoming the loneliness epidemic

Antonio experienced his own version of the loneliness epidemic eight years ago, even though his life looked perfect from the outside. Thankfully, a couple of experiences helped him get out of the loneliness bubble, including weekly meetings with a group of friends that he was able to be vulnerable with and share that he wasn’t doing well.

Why you need community as a business owner

Inspired by his weekly meetings, Antonio founded the community Man Morning. He believes that everyone needs to find friends that they would be willing to have breakfast with at seven or eight in the morning. 

The reason to prioritize breakfast meetings is that the conversations you have at breakfast time are different from the conversations you have at after-work drinks. Additionally, for busy independent business owners, especially those with families and other responsibilities, the odds of meeting with friends get slimmer as the day goes on. Scheduling that time in the morning ensures that you maintain those strong connections that can combat loneliness.

Another reason to seek out deep connections as a business owner is that it’s too easy to tell people you are fine when you are actually struggling. The reason business owners often say, “I’m fine,” is not because they don’t want or need help, it’s because they are high-performers who feel guilty about having complaints. 

As a friend, one way to combat the “I’m fine” conversation is to respond by saying, “I hear you saying you’re fine, but that is not the energy I’m feeling from you. I’m hearing that something else might be going on.” Asking follow-up questions is a powerful way to check on your high-performing friends who seem “fine.”

How to create intimacy as a leader

As a business owner who carries heavy responsibilities and leads team members, it can be hard to create intimacy with others. In your leadership role, one way to create a safe space for your team members is to tell them that it’s okay for them to not be “fine” around you.

In your personal life, you can also build intimacy by being the first one to be vulnerable. The more you are willing to share, the more comfortable your friends will feel sharing with you. Mutual vulnerability is also a great reminder that you are not the only one going through what you are experiencing.

Taking personal responsibility for your life and committing to yourself

When you feel lonely, it’s easy to feel like a new job, zip code, or more money will solve your problems. The truth is that loneliness is an inside job. No one can care more about your life than you do, and you owe it to yourself to take personal responsibility for your life.

Committing to yourself is not a one-time thing. You have to recommit every day. As a business owner who is often taking care of everyone else, you owe it to yourself to take care of yourself first and protect your energy source. It’s crucial to love yourself and serve yourself the way that you love and serve others.

After serving others all day, business owners can easily give themselves and their loved ones the exhausted versions of themselves. Antonio combats this by prioritizing his morning workouts, stopping work at a certain time of the day, eating nourishing food, and surrounding himself with people who make him better and clap when he wins in life.

Great friendships require effort

When you are succeeding in your life and business, it’s easy to feel like you have a ton of friends cheering you on. However, the true test of friendship is seeing who is still there for you when you are not at the top. 

Great friendships require effort and are built on inconvenience. It may feel inconvenient to pick someone up from the airport when they could call an Uber instead, but as soon as your friend gets in the car and you start having a great conversation, you forget the inconvenience. 

The importance of mentors

Working for yourself can be lonely, which is why it’s important for independent business owners to seek out mentors in their field. Having someone to talk to that is in the same boat or a few steps ahead of you can help you feel less alone.

A mentor is someone you listen to, whether or not you know them in person. For example, you may view Natalie and Antonio as mentors because they speak into your life through their podcasts. 

Sometimes you have to write a check to gain a great mentor, and that’s okay. It might be difficult to feel like you can spend money on a coach or mastermind group, but you are actually making an investment in a better version of yourself. You are making an investment to become a better business owner, spouse, parent, and friend. 

What differentiates businesses that succeed and the ones that fail

The people who are truly committed will succeed over people who aren’t. It’s easy to register an LLC and create a logo, but it’s not so easy to recommit to showing up every single day. The people and companies that win are consistent. They may have a big end goal, but they spend their day-to-day focusing on the small things that move them forward. That’s the difference Antonio sees in businesses that succeed and the ones that fail. 

Important sections of this conversation

  • [1:20] The friendship recession
  • [3:53] How Antonio got out of the loneliness bubble
  • [6:30] How to find community as a business owner
  • [10:38] The two most dangerous words someone can say
  • [14:14] How to create intimacy as a leader
  • [15:48] Taking personal responsibility for your life
  • [20:19] Loving yourself the way you love others
  • [25:54] Finding friends who support you in high and low seasons
  • [27{25] Friendship requires effort
  • [30:04] The importance of mentors
  • [33:57] What differentiates businesses that succeed

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