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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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Welcome to tales that tethr, a series written by and for the tethr community. If you’d like to share your own story of strength and support, click here. Today we’re honored to share Jake's story.

When I think of my mental health or wellbeing journey, I think of failing Kindergarten! This was the year we realized I was Dyslexic. It was also when I began cultivating the ability to respond to adversity in an empowering, productive way. Adversity can bring us down and make us feel less than, or empower us, propel us forward and contribute to our uniqueness. I didn't realize this till years later, but the ability to RESPOND, not just REACT to events, feelings, emotions is a SKILL SET that anyone is capable of learning.

This skill set has allowed me to persevere through 14 years of battling Chronic Illness and into launching my own business to help others move from surviving to thriving. I've had countless turning points during those 14 years and everyone seemed to involve (1) OPENING up; and (2) LETTING GO... letting go of feelings, emotions, EXPECTATIONS, relationships, etc. When it comes to struggle and change… A LOT feels out of our control, but we ALWAYS have the ability to CHOOSE to STAY OPEN, to share, to forgive, and to let go.

My Dad always told me, "It's not what you know, but what you don't know and how to find it out" (keep in mind this was before google).

I've been extremely fortunate to have support from a young age. I realize not everyone gets this and I've been intentional about never taking it for granted. When I experienced that first major fail (because I couldn't color in the lines and refused to wear normal clothes to school), I was fortunate to then go to a school that focused entirely on Dyslexia.

This environment is largely what helped me embrace failure, experiment and explore and find out who I was. My Dad always told me, "It's not what you know, but what you don't know and how to find it out" (keep in mind this was before google). While it may be a silly saying, what I took from it was STAY CURIOUS. I felt supported to LEARN, GROW, EXPLORE, and to always embrace my true self.

To be honest, I wouldn't change a thing. While this journey has been extremely challenging, that's life and I wouldn't be here today in a position where I could help others if I hadn’t endured this myself. One of the most helpful things has been HAVING AN OUTLET. I began drumming the year I failed Kindergarten as a way to cope with my struggles, channel my frustrations and feel MYSELF despite circumstances.

To be honest, I wouldn't change a thing. While this journey has been extremely challenging, that's life and I wouldn't be here today in a position where I could help others if I hadn’t endured this myself.

No matter how sick or down I got, I ALWAYS made sure to keep drumming. I've been known to go outside, set my kit up on random street corners, and just PLAY in every city I've lived in. Not only did this HELP ME cope with adversity, sink into a flow state and find relief, but it's allowed me to inspire countless people to take a break from the chaos of their lives, pause and enjoy the moment.

Enduring adversity naturally boosts empathy and makes you FEEL more for others. So I've always had a drive to help. At first this was through music. Both as a performer and as a band manager, I worked to create shows that would bring people together and allow them to be present and free.

From there I began working in Experiential Events in the Action Sports Industry where I was able to help execute larger-scale events to bring people joy. However, I was very secretive about my battle with Invisible Illness during those years. Things took a turn for the worse and I hit rock bottom. I HAD to tell my employer. From there I began openly SHARING my struggles. I noticed lots of people coming to me, thanking me for sharing and letting me know it's helped them.

At the end of the day, a bulk of the people facing adversity WANT and NEED to be HEARD and VALIDATED. Peer support is not necessarily a doctor, therapist, parent or really anyone ready to TELL you what to do.

I began connecting with more Chronic Illness people and doing whatever I could to help them. I was having incredible conversations and connections, but if i talked to those same people 6 months later they were in a similar position. When I finally got myself to a strong enough place, I began training as a Transformational Coach and realized I could work with people in a way that would not only delivered short-term change, but long-term TRANSFORMATION. I launched my Coaching practice in November. I feel beyond grateful to be doing this work. The change I've seen in people's lives has been monumental and continues to encourage me to grow in order to help even more!

At the end of the day, a bulk of the people facing adversity WANT and NEED to be HEARD and VALIDATED. Peer support is not necessarily a doctor, therapist, parent or really anyone ready to TELL you what to do. Peer support involves LISTENING and just letting you know you're HEARD, your experience is VALID, you're NOT ALONE. The act of SHARING your struggle with others and CONNECTING over the struggle is what helps you feel SUPPORTED and can bring you out of the darkness and into the light.  If you struggle with any of these things, then tethr is a MUST. Validation. Trust, Honesty. Support. Vulnerability. Connection, the orange circle means you are HEARD, your experience is VALID, you are NOT ALONE, I SEE YOU and I'm here for you!

Jake recently joined the tethr community this March — welcome to the community!

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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.