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On our podcast ‘Tales That Tethr’, tethr Founder & CEO Matt Zerker interviews entrepreneurs, experts, thought leaders, and regular people about what is means to be a man, the challenges that modern men face, and how to overcome challenges and live life in a more connected and authentic way.

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This year, I had the opportunity to (safely) join a Sabbatical Session at the Modern Elder Academy located in Baja California Sur.

Founded by Chip Conley, Jeff Hamaoui, and Christine Sperber, Modern Elder Academy began as a Life Transitions resort where 'Modern Elders' could attend weekly intensive programs and an ocean side retreat to have transformative experiences. At MEA they teach an approach to life transitions with three things that seem to be missing in the everyday world — awareness, celebration, and usable tools.

Like most of us — whether it is due to the pandemic or not — MEA found itself in a transition period this year. In response, the innovators developed an opportunity for people to come to Baja and join Sabbatical Sessions.

At age 32, I was the ‘youngest modern elder’ in attendance. As a recipient of many challenging life transitions in my twenties, including the loss of my brother to cancer, finding my father to suicide, and surviving a fatal accident my dear friend did not, I felt deeply connected with everyone that had consciously chosen this experience. As a peer with no certifications or higher education, my mission for tethr is to explore, learn, and experiment in all areas of wellbeing. I aim to consciously curate and create an experience for tethr members that has the capacity to truly change their lives.

I have spoken in the past about the “two lonely’s” in life:  You feel the first lonely when you decide you want to change. This is when your habits and mindset no longer serve you or your circumstances. The second you feel after you’ve started to make changes and notice that not everyone in your life has come along with you.

No matter where you are on the day you download tethr or arrive at MEA one truth is clear: there is something so powerful about having a community surrounding you as you commit to growth. If it can be one that champions your discomfort, celebrates your biggest failures, and creates a safe space for you to honor a life transition  — like me, you may start to feel that #magicexists.

In the spirit of this, I want to share 7 takeaways from my experience. As you might have guessed, they are connected to some of the extraordinary people I had the opportunity to meet. Thanks to this blog, I’d now like to introduce my tethr family  to some of my new life-long friends.

1. Spying on the divine with Chip Conley: the power of nature

Chip, is a mentor and friend who took time this year, like on our IGTV, to aid my personal growth as well as help me see the possibilities of our tethr app family. Needless to say, Chip has taught me enough for a separate article. For now I want to share a simple and much needed life long lesson.

The takeaway: There is so much to learn from nature. Yes, the sky, the trees, the plants, and animals. We need to schedule time to let nature be the teacher. To be in AWE. More importantly to feel AWE. Schedule 30 minutes to silently walk in nature this week. I didn’t expect my walk to end up featured on Chips’s Wisdom Well blog. Like I said, there is lots to learn from nature.  

2. A perspective shift with Shelley Paxton: sabbatical vs self-isolation.

Shelley, the former CMO of Harley Davidson worldwide, was in residence as a guest lecturer and a friend to all. Her book, Soulbbatical, highlights her choice to be the Chief Soul Officer of her life and teaches you how you can too. This may sound a little woo but I assure you it is grounded in Shellys authenticity, extreme honesty, and willingness to use the word fu*k.

The takeaway:  Purpose, meaning and gratitude all found their way into Shelly’s talk but my biggest takeaway is that she empowered me to recognize the opportunity of the pandemic. Yes, we get to choose. A time for self-isolation or some overdue self-love and learning? Make a choice: wait out self-isolation or embark on my own Soulbbatical during the quarantine and lockdowns that awaited me when I arrived back. Who’s in?

Spoiler alert: I chose Soulbbatial and I am reading the book too.

3. Connecting science and your soul to see results with Justin Michael Williams

Justin, who has dedicated his life to empowering people through music and coaching, was the youngest on campus until I arrived. Why do I bring this up? Because he was there to teach us all.

The takeaway: as he explains in his book, Stay Woke, there is a way to use science and your soul for everybody. His teachings make it easy to find what works for you. Let go of the frustration of what “woke” looks like and wake up to the things that actually serve you.

4. Enneagrams with Drew Newkirk

Drew, a licensed practitioner and creator in New York’s West Village, inspired almost everyone on campus to identify their enneagram number. Drew and I also deeply connected on the mission to get more men to share about mental health.

The takeaway: Drew will say himself that we are ALL every number, but finding a common experience like taking the test and doing some self-thinking around it brought us all closer together. Yes, here is the link to the test.

5. ‘Not networking but connecting’ with Jeremi

Jeremi, an established founder and start-up genius, was someone that many whispered “I should chat with”. I’ll be honest, I felt a professional duty to talk with him and learn what I could. But something in me didn’t want to network, I wanted to connect. Stupid business or an approach to a more soulful life?

The takeaway: The personal is the professional. Lean into connection over duty, it’s the highest reward long-term investment. We are not our jobs and in giving that to ourselves we get to gift it to those we meet. Just connecting, laughing, and getting to know Jeremi personally turned out to be just the advice I needed at that moment.

6. Listening with Jeff and Christine and Balancing Rocks (no stacking!)

Co-Founders of MEA Jeff and Christine guided two conversations together during my time at the academy. They impacted how I will look at life in the coming months. Focusing on the value of active listening, appreciative inquiry, and how continually ranking your core values can help with impactful decisions.

The takeaway: take some time today to be a good listener, write out the values you want to honor most in order of importance, and let them guide you in your upcoming decisions. Also try to balance rocks, yes you heard me. The activity taught me more than most college courses I've taken.

7. Getting stoned off the stars with Patricia Larson

Patricia was at MEA as a resident artist. At 70 years young, she became my closest and most meaningful connection. Quiet chats, laughter, and a lot of active listening left me in absolute awe of this amazing woman. On one special night, we went into the organic garden and she taught me to get “stoned off the stars”  — no drugs needed. Just the commitment to stare and consider infinity until you lose your sense of self enough to not take life so seriously.

The takeaway: Always find time to listen, laugh, and stare at the stars until you realize what really matters in life.

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There are many more things I could share. I could go on about the amazing organic food and the power of supporting your body and mind as a whole system. The clarity, energy and focus I got from it. The power of the ocean to calm you and inspire you at the same time. Magical hikes and sunset meditations. All I will say for now is thank you. I understand how fortunate I was to have the experience, especially this year. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to relive these connections and reflect on what they taught me.

Honor the journey,

Addison Brasil, Co-Founder

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tethr is the first peer-to-peer support platform that connects men for open conversations about real life. We provide men with a safe, barrier-free online space for open dialogue and genuine support, allowing men to connect deeply with themselves, other men, and everyone their lives touch.