Mike Forrester is a men’s transformation coach based out of Wichita, Kansas, who also hosts the “Living Fearless Today” podcast. This fall, he’s launching an internet radio station called MensMentalHealth.fm.
“My passion is helping men to grow by overcoming fear, anxiety and depression,” he explained. “Those things nearly destroyed my marriage as well as my relationship with my four children, who are now adults.”
When Mike turned 50, that’s when his heart came alive after years of being dormant and just going through the motions of life.
“Everything changed for me in 2008 after I was laid off my job in information technology,” he explained.
Mike endured a rather traumatic childhood during which he was disowned by his parents. That led to unhealthy relationships as he got older. His family situation was so unstable that Mike had to impose boundaries on his parents regarding the level of interaction they could have with his own children.
“They were alive at the time, but not active in our lives,” Mike said. “Today, as a grandparent myself, I do not understand their behavior. Having grandparents involved in a child’s life creates a complete paradigm shift in the lives of both.”
Giving up the security of a paycheck
After losing his job, Mike moved his family to Wichita in 2009, where he continued to work in a corporate job before venturing out on his own as an information technology (IT) consultant.
“That was scary because I didn’t have the security of a paycheck,” he explained. “I know having a paycheck really isn’t security because you can be laid off at any time, which I found out myself a few years ago.”
As a consultant, Mike visits a client site to not only address the pressing IT concern, but to figure out ways to equip and empower an entire team to become stronger.
“It’s not really normal for consultants to work that way, but it was absolutely welcomed,” he said. ” I was having conversations with staff who wouldn’t normally approach management with problems due to the corporate hierarchy.”
In 2017, Mike transitioned from being an IT consultant to coaching men regarding life issues. Since he had been doing it during his spare time for almost a decade, coaching was in his heart.
“I was already helping missionaries transition back to the United States after working in the field,” he explained. “It required me to have compassion and use my listening skills to help someone walk through an unfamiliar or uncomfortable transition.”
Mike described himself as an absolute jerk when working in IT, and he brought that attitude into all his personal and professional relationships.
“I came from a point where my parents constantly told me I was a mistake, that I didn’t matter, and that I would never be of any importance or offer anything of value,” Mike explained. “You can imagine what that did to me. I wasn’t self-confident and I had a lot of self-doubt. Those negative thoughts fed my belief that I was a victim, like Eeyore from ‘Winnie the Pooh.’
“I saw everything being done against me and nothing done to help me,” he added. “On the other side, I was the Hulk who was mad about how things were going. I wondered why I could not catch a break.
“I thought everyone around me was living the life they wanted, but I was stuck,” said Mike. “That thinking created a mental pattern, or rut, of behaving and reacting in a certain way.”
Mike’s son once admitted that he avoided being around his father because Mike was so authoritarian. The boy knew he would be the recipient of his father’s anger.
“That’s not something any parent wants to impart to their children – a feeling of being hated and not welcome,” said Mike. “Because my kids thought I would hit them with both barrels, instead of creating love, I created distance. That applied not just to my children, but to my wife as well.”
An intimidating presence
Mike’s insecurity prevented his wife from growing into the person she was meant to become.
“I was intimidating because it masked who I was,” said Mike. “I gave others the impression they had to play small because I played small. I wasn’t much help building up others.”
Since he was so distant, Mike was on the edge of divorce and destroying his relationship with all four children.
“Because of the lessons I learned in childhood, I knew asking questions or seeking help made me a failure. I was not allowed to fail,” he explained. “I would never admit I was struggling with something and needed help to get past it.
“It wasn’t until I reached a point of absolute frustration that I took a risk and finally started asking for advice from some guys at work,” he said. “I’d ask, ‘I see your relationship with your wife and children is very different from what I have. I want what you have. How do you do it?'”
Taking a step away from his comfort zone to ask for help was intimidating and scary every time he did so. However, because he saw results that were different from what he expected, Mike was motivated to keep seeking help and applying what he learned.
“I compare it to the scene in ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ where Harrison Ford steps into a chasm even though he’s not sure anything will catch him,” said Mike. “Emotionally, that’s exactly what I felt like. I kept telling myself I would be rejected by these guys just for asking questions. As a man, I felt I should already know this information.”
The way people treat and talk to themselves is often much more harsh and cruel than they are with others.
“It wasn’t until I started asking questions that I began to switch the way I saw myself. What I was experiencing enabled me to gain traction and see things change at home,” he explained. “Things can’t change until we are willing to address what’s happening within us, rather than blaming others.
“When we tell ourselves, ‘When my parents change, then I’ll change.’ Or, ‘When my wife changes, then I’ll change,’ we give away our power,” said Mike. “It is literally a cop-out because you’re conveying an attitude that you didn’t need to invest time or energy. Often it comes from fearing that if you try and fail, then you have no other options.”
A tendency to control
Because Mike had such a difficult relationship with his own father, that transferred to an unhealthy relationship with God, too.
“I didn’t need another demeaning, angry father. I already had one,” Mike explained. “I did not see God for whom God is. I was so insecure that I was unable to give away what little control I had.
“As a result, I was micromanaging and manipulative with others. So, the idea of trusting a heavenly father and giving up my control to him was very disconcerting and scary,” he added.
As Mike became aware of his tendency to control others, he worked to reduce it, especially when it came to parenting his own children.
“I don’t know if we’re ever outside of parenting responsibilities. When my adult children bring something to me, I will ask them, ‘Do you need assistance or were you just telling me about it?’, Mike explained. “Sometimes, they just want to be seen and heard, very much like we wanted to be at that age. Other times, they admit they don’t know what to do.”
Coming to grips with aging
“Ironically, in this season, we also have parents who need care,” said Mike. “So, I don’t know there this empty nest is. I’m beginning to think it’s mythical, like a unicorn, because I’m not finding it.”
A few years ago, Mike and his wife had to help one of their parents transition into an assisted living facility. As much as it was a huge blessing to help them through the transition, it was also an eye-opening situation for the couple.
“We’ve had time to evaluate our lives and ask if this is where we want to be as we continue to age,” said Mike. “I’m 52 right now. I can look at where my parents were and say that’s not at all where I want to be at that stage. Nor do I want to wait until the 11th hour to make some tough choices.
“I want to enjoy whatever time I have left, whether it is six months or 16 years. I want to create memories with my wife, children and grandchildren,” he added. “So, if I want those things to come about, then I need to take care of myself as I travel down that path.”
Mike noted that requires more attention to detail than just creating a goal and envisioning it coming true “someday.” For example, if he said he wanted to head to the beach, then which beach and in what direction from his home in Wichita, Kansas?
“By saying we’re going to go to Miami or Newport Beach, Calif., just having a specific goal and direction is much more powerful than saying ‘I don’t want the life my parents had,'” he explained. “Knowing our objective empowers us to ensure we arrive at that destination rather than another place we didn’t intend to go.”
A new start for men
When men are younger, like in their 20s and 30s, they often need guidance regarding the next step to take. However, when men are in the 50s or older, they may realize they’ve been wrong in so many ways in the past that they need considerable help to get a good start to a better second half.
“We often get to this season of life and know we are not where we wanted to be. We wonder how we wound up here? That kind of introspection can be helpful,” said Mike. “We can also find ourselves in situations we never expected, like being laid off and losing the identity we held for a long time.
“It creates a void in our lives which forces us to ask, ‘Now what?’ At that point, men are often more open to evaluating their lives, and receiving guidance regarding what to do,” he explained. “Many times, we want to do it as a lone wolf, because that was the pattern modeled for us.”
There is a difference between being laid off and being pushed to the sidelines. In one instance, people are told their services are no longer needed. In the other, they are delegated with less and less responsibility so there are fewer challenges. Then work becomes a drudgery.
“It’s one of the saddest things because you’ve gained years of experience and knowledge. So, you don’t want it to go to waste,” said Mike. “As we are retiring or being pushed out of jobs we love, it’s important to look for opportunities where we can still share our wisdom and experience.
“There are people and organizations desperately looking for what you have to offer. When you find those situations, you will not only find a purpose for your life, but you can also watch those people and that company flourish,” he added.Mike Forrester
Just because a man is pushed to the sidelines before he is ready to get out of the game doesn’t mean the game is over. Older men need to look for those younger teams or players who need the experience, wisdom and perspective only a seasoned citizen can provide.
“It’s a treasure hunt for sure, but it’s a game-changer for you, the people and organization you get to help,” said Mike.
The need for supportive community
When people have a sense of purpose and a desire to do something special with their lives, they also require a supportive team backing them. Without that type of encouragement, chances are strong the people around them a will drag them down.
“There have been times in my life when I’ve hung around the frat boys and the misery-loves-company crew. But, I don’t need to be reinforced by those people,” said Mike. “Nor do I need to medicate with alcohol, get drunk and forget about my problems.
“I need healthy people around me who not only want more for themselves, but will encourage me to do more with my life as well,” he added.
An accountability group or relationships can help call men out in a healthy and caring manner. It is much more energizing being around dreamers and possibility-thinkers than it is to associate with people who think you’re an idiot and treat you that way, Mike said.
“I needed people who were willing to pull me aside and say, ‘Hey, Mike, I saw how you treated your wife or the way you interacted with your children. I know you can do better,'” he explained. “There are still things I am blind to seeing, for which I need people who will help me continue to grow.
“As awkward as it is for someone to speak those words, it is also awkward to receive them,” he added. “It puts us in a very vulnerable position. Yet, it’s a game-changer which helps us elevate our game.”
Mike asks men if they would rather have people shouting directions to them from the base of a mountain, or have someone alongside them while climbing to the peak?
“Personally, I would rather have one man willing to speak into my life who actually sees me for who I am and knows what I am capable of becoming,” said Mike. “I’d prefer one supportive relationship to an entire group of drinking buddies who don’t want me to succeed because I will make them look bad by comparison.”Mike Forrester
When coaching men, Mike serves two roles. He helps them identify things they can pursue with purpose and passion. Plus, he helps them break lies or agreements they made with themselves over the years.
“They go hand in hand. Being able to let go of what you believed in the past, helps you move into the future,” said Mike. “A lot of us set our dreams aside because we didn’t believe we could ever achieve them.
“However, when you paint a picture of the value of your purpose and what gets you fired up, it helps you discover your true self,” he added. “If you picture jail bars around you, that identity can serve as a prison to keep you trapped in your current situation. You will never really discover who you could be by doing work you love to do.”
One of the most crucial questions men need to ask of themselves is, “Am I willing to do the work it would take to put myself in a place I want to be?” The answer will determine if you remain where you are now, or rise to a new life.
“There is always a cost to taking action as well as a cost to not taking action,” Mike said. “It’s the reward you want rather than the regrets.
“You do not want to get to the end of your life with a litany of regrets because you chose to play small,” he explained. “It’s horrifying to realize that you could have had what you dreamed of enjoying, but you were afraid. You have power to decide to take action.”Mike Forrester
A stocked refrigerator, freezer or pantry
When Mike was a child, he grew up with a very controlling mother who would keep a lock and chain around the refrigerator to prevent her children from getting food. It had a major impact on his behavior and decision-making as an adult.
Consequently, as a parent, Mike always kept his refrigerator, upright freezer and pantry stocked because he was fearful of not having enough food.
“We wound up having 5-year-old meat in the freezer. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be grilling and gnawing on a 5-year-old steak,” said Mike. “But it gave me a sense of security as an adult that I didn’t have when growing up.
“I realized, I was putting food in a freezer that I never intended to eat, but it was there as a security blanket,” he added. “Our experiences drive how we respond to situations and life in general.”
How a man reacts to a situation is often tethered, like an anchor, to his past. It can impact business decisions, what he does at work, relationships and everything else in his life. It also clouds his perspective for today.
For that reason, Mike said it’s vital for men to see how far they have come from where they were even a few years ago.
Haunted by discouragement and loneliness
Although many men are haunted by discouragement, loneliness and depression, Mike said there is an antidote which works rather quickly.
“All those things are lessened as soon as we step out and be productive,” he explained. “We don’t like being isolated, but we often foster that kind of environment by decisions we make and actions we take.
“When I was investing 14 hours a day trying to find my worth, I wanted to be with people. But, I didn’t want to get away from what gave me identity,” he added. “It creates a dichotomy where men decide to stay with their addictions instead of pursuing healthier alternatives.”
When people understand their purpose and have a reason to move forward to do things which bring them joy, that often offsets any depression they may experience.
“It’s a vicious cycle. When people don’t think they have anything worthwhile to do, they believe a lie that nobody wants them,” said Mike. “However, once we change our actions to align with our purpose, it’s easier to get away from video games, TV or whatever else occupies our time rather than engaging with other people.”
Simply having a purpose will get you to a different point, but it may not happen overnight, he noted. Sometimes, it may require the help of a doctor or therapist to talk through issues creating a mental block or triggering the depression.
“A person’s diet and even lack of sleep can trigger depression,” said Mike. “I was getting four hours of sleep a night, but wearing that like a badge of honor. It was part of my identity. I’m still working to reclaim my health because of what I did to my body.
“You might not notice any effect from getting less sleep after a night or two, or even a few weeks,” he explained. “But, over time, that habit will erode you like the Grand Canyon.”
‘Living Fearless Today’ podcast
On his podcast, “Living Fearless Today,” Mike interviews other men who have experienced a variety of challenges. Whether it is an addiction, fear, anxiety, depression or any of the other things men face, he likes to bring those topics into the open.
“Too often, we think it’s just me and that nobody in the world can relate to my experience,” said Mike. “It could be your neighbor, a co-worker or someone who lives five houses down from you. But, I assure you, there are other people close to you who are going through that same situation.
“When we shine a light on the issue and realize others have the same problems, it gives us hope to lift ourselves out of the pit we’re currently in,” he added. “We can start addressing it because we know other men have walked the same path and overcome the problem. Because they are in a different place today, we have hope for a better tomorrow.
“Together we can get over those hurdles. Just seeing someone who has already done it helps create a vision and desire for us to live fearlessly,” said Mike.
The best stage in life
For Mike, being over 50 has been the best stage of his life, so far.
“I have never been more excited or engaged in my life,” he explained. “With the friends and family who are with me now, it just makes me even more excited about my future.
“I was playing small for a long time, believing lies I told myself, and trying to do life alone without a sense of purpose or value to my life,” said Mike. “It hurts to know I could have changed the trajectory of my life much earlier.Mike Forrester
“I know I hurt my children because of where I was personally, but they have forgiven me, thank goodness. I consider that a huge win,” he explained. “If given a choice, I would rather not have put them through that situation.”
Mike encourages people over 50 to list all the things which bring them even a spark of energy and excitement. Often, people have hidden or buried that desire for many years.
“Ask your family and friends what they feel brings life to you. They can usually tell what things you seem to do with ease,” said Mike. “Often what we are passionate about is right in front of us, but we have blinders on so we can’t see it ourselves.
“We often diminish the value of gifts we have by saying things like, “This just comes easy, it was nothing,'” said Mike. But, what comes easy to you, is often where you are gifted. When you align your values and purpose with your gifting, you will see life-changing results in you and around you.”
A purpose cannot be imposed on someone. It must come internally first, before evidence is visible on the outside.
“If we are happy, fulfilled and vibrant, that’s going to play out in what we do,” said Mike. “Then ask people to come into your life to help you live it out and bolster your purpose.”
People can connect with Mike by visiting www.hicoachmike.com.
“Just reach out and connect. I would love to have a conversation to ask ‘Where are you at?’ and ‘Where do you want to go?'” Mike explained. “Often, all we need is to take that first step to get moving. Then, continue taking steps to build momentum. Soon, you’ll get to a point you never imagined was possible.”
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.