Speaking From The Heart About Male Mental Health And Philosophy With Andy Hall

Mental health is an important topic for me, especially male mental health. Breaking down the stigma of men having to grit their teeth and not show emotion is a cause shared by many and Andy Hall is doing his part through public speaking, mentoring and more.

I met Andy at a public speaking workshop and he inspired me to get up and speak about my mental health experiences and why philosophy has been a priceless discovery.

From there, I wanted to hear more about his story and in this interview we discuss being open about mental health, the transformative effects of Stoicism and how to grow old disgracefully.

Thanks for taking the time to chat Andy. Seeing as we met through a public speaking event and finding ways to feel comfortable being open, it’d be great if we could start with the story of Moderado and how you got into public speaking.

Moderado comes from the Spanish word for moderation. To me, it has similarities with the Scandinavian word Lagom, which means enough. At least, that’s what I was going for with how I approach life and business in that it’s about finding the right amount of balance.

This attitude connects with Stoicism and Buddhism, two philosophies which both emphasise moderation as a virtue and all that goes back to my public speaking experiences.

You heard me mention at the workshop that I started public speaking by accident. I don’t like labels but when people call me a public speaker I’m happy about it. It started when my mum’s mum passed, and I delivered a eulogy and I didn’t want anyone else to deliver it.

I was probably at my lowest point then. I think I was ashamed of my mental health back then and I felt vulnerable. But I still felt compelled to speak.

All this led to me being open with my son, who was a teenager at the time and afterwards he’d told me the talk sounded like a TED talk. That was a light bulb moment and I believe if you’ve got ideas worth spreading then you should go for it.

I love it when people can reach inside and find their own personal lessons to share for the benefit of other people.

You’re active with the TEDx programme. For those who’re unfamiliar with it could you explain how that is different from TED Talks?

So, I’ve previously spoken at TEDx Oldham and Bollington. TEDx is the smaller version of TEDGlobal, which is on the world stage, while TEDx is more about building local communities, allowing up to 100 people.

It’s also not for profit and is all about people sharing ideas and concepts with others.

Who’re some of your favourite public speakers and what do you admire about their public speaking styles?

I’ve got a lot of favourite TED talks. Tim Urban’s Inside The Mind Of A Master Procrastinator was brilliant because of the way he weaved in comedy and universal messages. I also like Simon Sinek’s talk on finding your why in business, a talk that comes from finding a purpose.

It’s remarkable that Sinek’s talk was a small TEDx conversation. It was very intimate with the way he used a flip chart and spoke from the heart.

The I Have A Dream speech from MLK stands out too. I especially love it because of the emotive language and topics that resonate on a human level. I don’t think it was driven by politics. It wasn’t ‘I have a plan’ or ‘I have a vision.’ It was I have a dream. And we all have dreams.

I have a coach called Andrew Thorpe and what he’s skilled at is helping people reach inside and find the best ways to tell their personal stories. He can find things that we wouldn’t normally find interesting to others and make those stories engaging.

So, I think great public speakers can hook their audience with raw emotion and being off the cuff. It’s not completely professional or polished.

I do agree with you and think it all comes down to resonance with public speaking. If you can find that one person to connect with then everything changes. We both like philosophy and have talked about Stoicism before.

How has Stoicism impacted your life?

I came across Stoicism through Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is The Way after the book was recommended by a friend. This was the first time I really understood what Stoicism was.

I’ve also digested Derren Brown’s Happy and it’s great that he leans into the history of the Stoics. His way of looking at the world is fascinating because in the book he examines life through scientific, psychological and philosophical perspectives.

I think this 2000-year-old wisdom is as relevant as ever. Stoicism feels like an antidote to anxiety and mental health problems. You had some incredibly wise and powerful leaders from centuries ago who were rulers and slaves and they were saying the same things.

Stoicism has also been dubbed incorrectly as being boring and unemotional. It’s the opposite, especially when choosing to live up to the four virtues, living logically and for the right reasons.

I don’t know if you have a similar view to that.

Absolutely. I think it’s important to understand the difference between the character trait of ‘little s’ stoicism where you just grit your teeth and don’t talk about how you’re feeling.

‘Big S’ Stoicism is a highly emotional philosophy because it teaches how to act appropriately in a situation and with the people around you. It can galvanise you to do a certain action and encourages the building of cosmopolitan communities.

Stoicism also comes into my next question and relates to exercise. You’re an Ironman athlete and it’d be great to hear what kind of mental practices you used during that training period.

There are some things you can’t fake your way through and an Ironman is one of them. To go back to Stoicism, I was conscious of the four virtues, especially courage and being clear on my purpose.

I was driven by a lot of things. It was proving something to myself, to men my age, to prove that people with mental health conditions can compete on that level. I was fuelled by some of the darkest times of my life and that motivated me to push forward.

I think you must be seen at your weakest to be at your strongest and there were times during the training I was crying. But I knew the pain would be worth it. It’s almost like being bipolar in the sense that we need to feel happiness and the only we can do that is by feeling unhappy in the moment.

And that was my attitude over nine months. The victory didn’t come in just crossing the finish line but in training hard to get to the finish line.

That is an inspiring story. You’re also part of a podcast called Talking Cod. What’s the inspiration behind the podcast and what themes do you talk about with your co-hosts?

The podcast started between me and my friend David Eccles and he got his mate Phil Birchenall involved. It was over the pandemic and we were throwing ideas around and jokingly said let’s start a podcast.

From there, we started experimenting and it was about three older guys talking about the world from different perspectives. My approach was how do we add values to listeners and from the feedback we’ve got it sounds like three mates having a talk in a pub. That’s a positive thing to hear!

So, there was never any real plan behind Talking Cod. It started as wanting to have fun and as our audience has grown all three of us have become more open to discussing topics like mental health and having new guests on.

In the description of Talking Cod ‘growing old disgracefully’ is used. I think that’s a great line and wanted to unpack what that meant to you, especially since growing old gracefully is the popular term.

To me, growing old disgracefully is about being more playful and childlike the older you get. It’s okay to have fun, to make mistakes and to stop caring what other people think.

Again, there’s the parallels with Stoicism in that you should only focus on what you can and can’t control. This also extends to my perception of what it means to be an older man in that we’re meant to be seen as providers and guides.

We can assume those roles, but we can’t be those things all the time. We find grace and disgrace in old age by accepting who we are and truly living what we believe.

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