Coach Jeff shares his personal story and journey as a coach, helping men navigate the challenges of being a man in today’s society.
He delves into topics such as finding peace and well-being beyond daily tasks, understanding what it means to be a man today, and how to bring unique traits and abilities to the table healthily.
He also touches on integrity and offers advice to women who may have men in their lives who could benefit from attending a retreat like this.
- 1:15 – Jeff’s story and how he got started in coaching.
- 3:29 – Shining a light on who we are and how we act.
- 7:03 – There’s so much in our peace and well-being that goes beyond our day to day tasks and busyness.
- 10:07 – What does it mean to be a man today?
- 13:25 – There’s another study that I’ve been looking at a lot lately that doesvetails very well with this.
- 15:57 – How do we help men find a healthy way to bring all of these unique traits and abilities to the table?
- 20:51 – Where do you want to go?
- 23:54 – What does integrity mean to you?
- 28:18 – What would you say to women who have a man in their lives who should attend this retreat?
Notes from the Show: Episode 30
- Year of Living Danishly [Amazon]
- Gender Impact Study [Instagram]
- Coach Nick Papadopoulos, Host of Dudes of Disruption Podcast
- Science Says We Get Less Creative as We Age [Inc Magazine]
- Original PNAS Study [PDF]
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Connect with Jeff
Jeff is gifted with 20+ years of integrated start-up experience and expertise in transformational spaces, business and technical operations, and leadership.
He is more than an Executive and Leadership Coach. He’s a pioneer for open-hearted connection. His process is immersive and transformative, that’s why he created SEA LEVEL, to evoke the personal power in individuals and organizations alike, building frameworks and tools designed to have you execute on your vision at an accelerated pace.
Episode 30 – Full Transcript
Aaron Lee 0:01
Welcome to the new generation leader podcast, we’re giving you the tools you need to lead in the digital world ready to reach your true potential. This is the new generation leader podcast.
Aaron Lee 0:16
Welcome to Episode 30, I am really excited for this conversation today with Jeff. He’s gifted with 20 plus years of integrated startup experience expertise in transformation in business, technical operations, leadership, but he’s more than just an executive and leadership coach. He’s really a pioneer for open hearted connection and his immersive transformational process. What he has created at sea level is really interesting. And we have a great conversation about his process, his why of what he’s doing to evoke the personal power in individuals and organizations alike by building frameworks and tools that help you execute on your vision at an accelerated pace. He sees a world where everyone gets to be fully expressed. And I think you are going to hear that in our conversation today with Jeff Sikorsky. Tell me a little bit about your story what you do.
Jeff Zacharski 1:15
Yeah, absolutely. Well, one, thanks for having me on, Aaron. I mean, we haven’t had the opportunity to connect for too much. And it’s just really great to be on here. The podcast is absolutely awesome. So for those listening, my name is Jeff Zucker ski, and I am an executive and leadership coach. And I also run men’s transformational retreats down in Costa Rica, and in Guatemala. And I think a little bit about my story, which got me here was that, you know, I was finding myself repeating a lot of patterns and relationships and in business and career, and at that time, it just felt serendipitous, I didn’t actually see a whole lot about what was actually going on under the surface. And so I started working with a coach about this was about seven or eight years ago. And in working with a coach, I was able to really dive a lot deeper into my subconscious patterns and stuff like that, that allowed me to really see that actually, what was happening in my career was also happening with my well being, it was also happening with my romantic relationships, whichever one you looked at, essentially, at the end of the day, I wasn’t fulfilled in any of them. And I was getting sick and tired of feeling like I was playing the same game running the same rat race over and over and over again. And when I started working with a coach, I started to untangle some of that. And in doing so I really got connected to that, hey, there’s a different way to support people like outside of giving advice outside of oh, you should go do what I think you should do. But it was really important that a coach was able to help me untangle and dive into my own wisdom and take some of my subconscious stuff and bring it to the surface and give myself some agency again. And in doing that, I just realized, wow, there’s a difference that I can make. For other people. This is what I’ve been doing most of my life, I just didn’t have a term for it. And so what I learned is like, wow, this is really what’s been missing for me is making a difference for people that want to make a difference in their lives and their careers and their families in the world that kind of goes on from there. And from there, I just never looked back, I went back to school, I went got my coaching certification, I built my business. And I guess seven years later, here, we are just at the beginning of this working with clients, running retreats, and just live in.
Aaron Lee 3:29
That’s awesome. I think one of the things that you mentioned, it’s so key we don’t often think about is from our own personal experiences, there is a side to who we are to how we show up to how we act and interact that if we can shine a light on it, it illuminates a side of life that we don’t talk about, we typically don’t teach about. And I find those are the conversations that are most enriching, most rewarding with clients, when we do talk about those things. And like you said, the very discipline of coaching, there’s the whole spectrum of coaching from copy paste, what I did, you should do the same thing to the other end of the spectrum is, is really finding and identifying, letting you work through the wisdom within. And I think there’s something to bringing both of those worlds together that lets us have conversations about what’s going on inside of us that maybe it came from our family, maybe it came from our culture, our community, our education, spirituality or religion, any of those dynamics around us. All of that teaches us some odsonne shoulds but we’ve got to unpack that and really understand why am I the way I am and part of that comes from that side. Part of it comes from unique wiring and gifting and it’s exciting to see all those worlds come together. So what kind of stories outside of yourself have you started to see as clients go through this same journey that you went on personally.
Jeff Zacharski 5:04
Yeah, well, I think at the end of the day, a lot of this work is really getting people you see you said a word that I think is really used a lot in the transformational space, which is shining a light on things and bringing people to their gifts. And where I’ll take from that is that a lot of this work is helping people get back to who they really are uniquely, and from their essence, who they are. And combining that deep work with also supporting them and creating the going after the results or the things that they want to create. Because I inherently believe that we’re all creators. And what I know about some of the stuff that we’re talking about here is that a lot of the way that we’ve go about it I work specifically with men, I think men are unique in this way is that there are social constructs societal construct, just the way that men are brought up in an environment where they believe certain things about themselves that they’re not enough. And this is in general for everybody. But whether they believe they’re not enough, or that they have a fear of failure, whatever this is, but the environment that we as men and women grow up in, helps us build habits, behaviors, hardwiring, that we start making decisions from as we go through life, and they can get us pretty far. But inherently, the problem is, is that their subconscious, and so that they’re inherently limited. So when I work with people, a lot of it is okay, let’s help return your to your gifts, let’s shine the light on that. Let’s enhance that, let’s bring that out. And let’s take it the look of the things that you might not know that you’re doing. That is actually making it more frustrating, less fulfilling, more difficult. And when I talk with people, I will tell you, when I’m possibly working with a new client, I never have anybody show up that says, I want a life that is less fulfilling, that is more difficult. And that is more strenuous on my nervous system.
Aaron Lee 7:03
There’s so much in our peace and our well being that goes beyond our day to day tasks and busyness. I did a workshop with a client team the other day on finding your sense of peace and a holistic sense of peace. And this was in the healthcare arena. So obviously, they’ve had a profound lack of peace over the last few years. Sure. So as we discussed that on the individual level, we got to talking about peace related to place, and this Danish concept of hookah. And it’s the warmth of home and just that overall sense of, hey, I’m home, and I’m at peace now. And this is a good place and a rejuvenating place for me. And somebody in the room came up to me afterwards and said, Oh, you need to read this book about hookah. It’s called The Year of Living Dangerously. And so I started it last night. And this author writer spends a year following moving from London to Denmark, and already so interesting, because I didn’t quite realize, but even in the introduction, she’s drawing a distinction between what life is like in Denmark, a slower pace, less stress. So I’m interested to get the rest of the way into this book, but continuing to pursue that idea of finding peace and balance and like you said, less frustration, less banging our heads against the wall, less stress, we’ll drop a link to that book in the show notes if any of you are interested in reading it. So as you’re thinking about and working with men, I want to hang out there for a mentor. My wife sent me a post study from the early 2000s. Okay, I don’t know if you’ve heard this study. It was a group in the UK. And they put kids in a house alone with no adults. They taught him to cook, and then they put them in the house for not sure how long they were in the house. One house was 10 Boys, and one house was 10 Girls, okay. And the boys house, they never cooked a meal. They drank coke and sugar and just sat around, played video games in the girl’s house did art. They had fashion shows they had charts and organizations. And so I’m sitting here thinking and we have two girls, they’re eight and 11 right now. So I’m sitting here trying to think as we watch them grow up, what is it that’s really going on at the kid level that you put 10 Kids preteens in a house together and already they’re showing such distinctions and differences about society and gender roles. So dive into that with men and leaders a little bit and what you encourage guys to wrestle with and work through it and overcome, as they say Start this exploration.
Jeff Zacharski 10:01
Yeah. Well, it’s interesting. So I haven’t heard that I’m sitting here listening to you talk about it. I’m like, I know, he’s about to ask me a question about what I think about this. And I’m just like, wow, this is so interesting and unique. It’s interesting, because I hear in the way that this story is presented, I hear more like responsibility and homebody on like the girls side, as far as this story goes, and I hear more just like, lack of responsibility, and play on the other side. And I think when you look at masculine feminine responsibility, I think falls heavier on the masculine side. But if I take a look at this a little bit deeper, I do think that there’s an era where boys are brought up without a positive masculine role model, and that they actually are brought up around more women or feminine energy type creatures. And so I think what’s getting stimulated in them. And what I seen is this idea of more creative, more right brain more play oriented activities, and a little bit less, I guess, on the left on the less on the structure on the responsibility of what integrity really means. And how I see that playing out is that especially in where we are in society, with how everything is branching out, I do think that there’s some confusion that exists among men and the wide spectrum of answering the question, what does it mean to be a man and you know, there’s a lot of stuff out there that points blame based on fatherless households, and all of this kind of stuff, or just simply lack of masculine role models. And so when I think of this, I hear these boys were just out playing and boys will be boys is one of the statements that gets thrown out a lot, but I hear them being in play. And what I see and what I talk to in a lot of men is that as they get older, this idea of play actually has to go away, because now all of a sudden, like the man is the provider, it’s got to get the career got to move. Next, I gotta be the one to lead and carry all of this stuff forward. And not that that’s good or bad. But what gets left behind is a lot of the creativity, what gets left behind is a lot of the art. And I think that that is missing, generally in this as a part of a daily life of men. And when I work with C suite executives, when I work with men, even in the creative field, what I noticed is missing is that there is missing this divine sense of play and innocence that was lost a long time ago. But what they do have is they have the drive, they have the ambition, they’re going after success. They’re trying to make money they’re trying to provide for their family. But without the joy without the play. What I see is that frustration, that disconnection, that lack of fulfillment, that burnout, so when I hear this story, I’m like, looking at the start of the ages of the story that I just told where it’s like, oh, yeah, I’m expressing myself, I’m playing, I’m being innocent. And then as people grow older, inside this context of what it means to be a man, that starts to fall by the wayside, and gets labeled as feminine, so people kick that out of who they are as a man, and that just gets sucked away. So I think that would be how I would I was a long version of this, but how I would kind of respond to that story.
Aaron Lee 13:25
There’s another study that I’ve been looking at a lot lately that I think dovetails very well with this. And the study follows levels of creativity. And kids come from early childhood, through high school age, and creativity just takes during those years. And so it’s interesting, we’ll link to that study, as well in the show notes. But you think about how much we lose, not just growing up and moving through life and things being refined in in who we are. But it’s also simply a loss of what might actually be there. Under the surface that we do. As you said, From the outset, we’ve got to rediscover and find and mine out what’s actually there so that we can rediscover that. It’s interesting, the mixing of of all of these stories together. So we’re thinking about creativity, we’re thinking about men, this story from from Denmark and this writer that moved, they moved because the writers husband got a job with Lego. And so she refers to him as I think Lego man for a while in the introduction once he gets this job offer so they’re moving to this place of to find peace and balance in their life, but also because he gets a job but the job is with a toy maker, and not just any toy maker, but one that I think if our house is any indication, they’re doing very well. What they’re making him produce In, we just finished the last of the new Christmas gift LEGO sets this week in our house. So it’s given me lots of fun throughout the years from when I was real little kid and now being able to have that same experience as an adult now with my kids, the same as my dad did when I was a kid. So it’s an interesting thread. We’ve somehow woven together between Denmark and men and all sorts of subjects. So
Jeff Zacharski 15:27
yeah, and I hear for you, it sounds like you’re really able to rekindle some of what you’ve experienced as a kid, as a young boy, as a grown man and father, and the list goes on and on. And I think the thing that you’re pointing to is, I mean, what I hear is you also allowing yourself to engage in that the way that you used to, and that that’s not always available, or people don’t always make that choice to add, re add that back into their life.
Aaron Lee 15:52
Yeah, it’s good to rediscover those things. I think one of the important conversations to think about and consider is how exactly we can help men find a healthy way to bring all of these unique traits and abilities to the table. Nick Papadopoulos has a podcast and speaking series, calls it dudes of disruption, that he’s talking about how men can be men, but doing that in an appropriate, healthy way that’s bringing value and vitality and health and well being to every circle of our worlds. So what are you seeing what kind of transformations have you seen as you’ve worked with clients in terms of that masculinity, and where we see it sometimes express itself in a toxic way, but walking with somebody on that journey to health and balance and well being?
Jeff Zacharski 16:52
Yeah, well, I think pointing out something you just said was, how do we support like, creating an opportunity for men to be men? And it’s like, well, who’s also say what that is? I think there’s a lot of books out there. There’s a lot of people with a lot of opinions, you know, there’s history, there’s all of these things that we can pull from that happened before this moment, that contribute to the definition of what that is of, you know, men, being men, just like we said, when the 10 boys that were in the house, I even said the statement like oh, well, boys will be boys like, there is an actual social construct around masculinity and what it means to be a man, as far as like walking through that, I think, to me, it really requires, it requires a few things. One is it requires community. If there’s one thing that I know about men, one of the biggest thing that plagues men, is not having safe trusting relationships, where they can actually feel that they can be vulnerable. So community being number one vulnerability, the ability to be vulnerability to be seen and to be witnessed as Number Two. And three is bringing back some of that stuff that we talked about that people lost, that men lost, or they let go, whether it was by their environment, where it was sort of like squeezed out of them, because they were shamed for being creative, or stepping out of a box of whatever traditional masculinity might have looked like in their household or their neighborhood, or something like that. But when I work with people one on one, a lot of this is a slow unfolding, it’s a peeling back of the onion, it’s going back to these aspects of themselves that they’ve shut down, or that they’ve let go, and then actively walking with them over months and over a year sometimes to really redevelop and really intentionally bring that back to the surface. And that’s historically been a very effective way. But what I’m actually finding is the missing component of that piece, right? There is the community aspect. I have this safe relationship with a client and we get to have conversations one on one, but it is just that it’s only one on one. And so what I’ve seen is by introducing the community element by introducing the Brotherhood element of it creates that Trifecta where you can create trust and safety, you can create vulnerability through community, you can bring some of that innocence back, you can bring some of that play back. And it gives a space for men to actually step back into it. And like really light it back on fire, which is one of the reasons why that retreat aspect exists because it allows men to step away from their life for an entire week, put down their responsibilities, step away from their obligations, step away from their distractions, all the things that keep them from being in getting in touch with that piece of them that we’re actually really talking about. And it gives them a seven day stretch to really be with it and to practice it and to let it unfold and to be encouraged and appreciated and all of that and what I see is like that that foundation, then the ability to reintegrate and to step back into their lives, with their families, with their careers with their communities. And now they have something to build on. Because now they’ve been given themselves the permission to explore and discover that piece, and to integrate it back into who they are. And what I see is on the other side of that, is they’ve dug up this really grown version of that child that got left behind. And now they’re able to combine that with all of the things that they were up to as being a father as to being a leader that’s committed to doing amazing things in this world being prominent in their communities. So I think that’s what I see when I walk along is what’s really missing today is being able to be vulnerable, to have community and to really bring the discovery of that innocence in that play back.
Aaron Lee 20:50
Maybe you’ve just covered so much.
Jeff Zacharski 20:53
I do that, unfortunately, sometimes.
Aaron Lee 20:57
There are so many paths to go down.
Jeff Zacharski 21:00
Where do you want to go?
Aaron Lee 21:01
I’ll highlight a couple of the really high points that I heard you say, number one, talking about community, I think you’re absolutely correct. And I wrote about that in the new generation leader from the perspective of let’s find a place around a table and actually get to know people and thinking through in my own life, how few times I’ve actually sat down at the dinner table in the home of someone, not only have friends or neighbors, but also people have different perspectives, cultures from different regions of the world. And so the few times that has happened, those are powerful experiences. And when we don’t get them we don’t get to experience that that false sense of community. You’re absolutely right. The second thing I kept thinking in my head as you got started and and you kept coming back around to it is this idea of masculinity and what is it and toxic masculinity, it’s almost the toxic unhealthy version has been held up as a everybody needs to come be this, this pulled everybody away from who they truly are, in every way, whether it’s what they’re gifted at, or their true creativity, or tenacity or whatever the gift is that people bring to the world, trying to be something that we’re not, is never going to work no matter what that is. And so I think that’s a, an incredible journey of rediscovery, one of my favorite authors, or favorite quotes from an author is from Parker Palmer, in let your life speak. And he says something along the lines of look back to some of your earliest impressionable memories. And those are the things that really come alive and spark that passion, the drive the sense of purpose in your life and in your world. And it’s along the lines of the geeky guy or Venn diagrams of what the world needs where you’re gifted. Lots of people have talked about that from a different place. But what did happen? What is your story? And how does your story better come alive to make a difference, make an impact and change the world? And I think everybody has that deep within them the power to change and make an impact in the world around them?
Jeff Zacharski 23:26
Yeah. What are some of the things that you’ve because I get you sound like somebody that also keeps evolving and keep doing the work? So what’s some of the stuff that you’ve even discovered as of lately?
Aaron Lee 23:35
That’s a really good question. One of the lessons I keep having to remind myself is, and the clock is ticking, my kids are only going to be in our house for so much longer. So yes, there are things I want to do. Yes, there are ideas that are visions I have that I want to pursue. But at the end of the day, for this season, I need to be rooted and grounded here. And that’s, that’s the priority, and I just need to own up to it. As we’re recording my oldest birthday is tomorrow. So her birthday, and the youngest has a gymnastics competition. And I had a couple of guys I work with schedule a meeting, right in the middle of the day. And I’ve gotten to the point where I’m comfortable saying, hey, because of this value, family, kids, I probably won’t be on that call. Whereas previous me probably would have tried to split the difference and not been present in either place.
Jeff Zacharski 24:35
Yeah. But I’m curious like what has because I hear it’s a value for you. Right? And I hear even in your language like there’s still the word probably. And so I’m curious for you. What has the boundary be probably
Aaron Lee 24:50
Yeah, I say probably now is a joking. Probably won’t be on there.
Jeff Zacharski 24:55
Got it. Got it. Okay, but in reality, I’m not going to be you’re not going to be there. Yeah,
Jeff Zacharski 24:59
I think that’s important. Because when I think about even if it’s just perception, right, because I get your joking about it, and I get how sometimes even the nuance of our language can get in the way of the strength of our intention. And I think about the times where I may like, soften my language with myself, which allows me to let myself off the hook from one of my values, or it’s like, let me soften the way that I deliver this to you, because I don’t want you to respond in a way that’s unfavorably, but at the end of the day, then I’m not saying what I think or like what I believe, are actually telling the truth, or actually telling the truth. It’s like, 99% of the way, but I’m just gonna, like omit this tiny little thing, you know, and it’s like these little power leaks that can exist. But when the reality is, is if we’re fully authentic, like, we never even have to think about the little power leaks, which I think is a really important thing for anybody but men, specifically, when it comes to this idea of what also what does being an integrity mean, like, what is being at peace with myself? I mean, I know for me, if I’m integrity, then I can be at peace with myself, because I’m not lying to myself. I’m not lying to anybody else. So a little bit of a tangent. But that’s
Aaron Lee 26:13
not a good one. Yeah. I sent that. And you always worry, well, how are people going to perceive can’t be at the meeting. And one of the guys wrote back, and he said, I totally understand thanks for the update family first. And he gets it not only from an individual level, but he works for and has worked in President Obama’s fatherhood initiatives in local community efforts. He’s made that his life purpose, it’s also helpful to have back to your earlier point, it’s great to have models in front of us who are showing us how to be and lead and live. And he’s a great father himself, and has made I don’t know how many fathers he’s made an impact on himself throughout the years in his training. So Well, Jeff, he talks a little bit about the retreat, and this process and the journey that you walk with men on between the retreat and coaching, how are you connecting with men and and what can they do to reach out to get in touch with you?
Jeff Zacharski 27:16
It’s a great question. I mean, I have a big vision this year to continue to build this global community of men that are interested in to doing work and community. And some of that’s going to be through events that I will be hosting here in the States. But you know, the things that are right on the books right now are the men’s transformational retreats. And right now they’re being held in Costa Rica, not sure when this one’s going to air, but we do actually have one coming up on March 3. And you can imagine for just a moment, like going completely off the grid completely remote into the jungle of Costa Rica, where your alarm clock is likely a howler monkey, you know, you get up get some cacao, you meet with your brothers, you don’t have to do email, I mean, you don’t have to manage kids or any of that kind of stuff. But once a week of work, and I don’t mean that in the career sense, but just really deep work and connecting, nourishing your body relaxing and being challenged. So, you know, I where I would direct people, if this is at all interesting to them is to check out the C level retreats. And the best way to get there is WWW dot c level retreats.com. The C is spelled s e a. And, you know, my email is all on that there’s ways to contact me if people just want to drop a note. But if people are really feeling called if men are feeling that, like 2023 is the year that they get to become that version of themselves that they’ve been kind of holding out on. I recommend going and checking it out and just apply join us in March.
Aaron Lee 28:54
That’s awesome. So I’m gonna ask one tweak or nuance to that question course. So we have been in women listening, what would you say to women who have a man in their lives who they think should be there, or should start following what you’re doing?
Jeff Zacharski 29:15
Yeah, it’s a really good point, because I do encounter a lot of men that are interested in something like this. But the reason why they don’t think that they could go is that they aren’t sure that they would feel supportive. There’s a couple things. They’re not sure that they would be, be supported by their partner, by their wife, if that’s the case. And I think just in general, women are more likely to seek support and sisterhood than men are to sink vulnerable relationships and brotherhood. And so I think for the women that are listening, one, we have a women’s retreat. So if you want to get all fancy with your divine goddess, like come on down, and we’d like to encourage your home has been your man your boyfriend to drop into their heart to create deeper relationships to be able to create deeper levels of intimacy, let them know that and let them know that you highly support this opportunity. And I think encouragement actually feels like a very nice way of creating that opportunity or getting a kick in the butt. I mean, everybody knows that. It might be a handhold it might be putting on a boot and kicking them out of plane down to Costa Rica.
Aaron Lee 30:30
I don’t know, a little tough love never hurt anybody to each his or her own for sure. That’s awesome. Well, we’ll link to all of that in the show notes at NewGenerationleader.com/30, or episode 30. Jeff, thanks so much for being on the show today. I think this was like many of our recent conversations, a wide ranging meandering conversation that went a lot of different directions covered a lot of ground, but I think it’s good, it’s necessary. And it’s important here in 2023 and beyond for us to to build up and strengthen each other in the best way that we can. Yeah, absolutely.
Jeff Zacharski 31:08
And thanks for having me. Aaron, this was a great conversation.