When it comes to improving our lives and reaching our goals, we often think of changing our personal habits and routines. We think about ourselves, but don’t look outside ourselves. But my guest would say that if we really want to change and make progress, we also need to surround ourselves with positive, strengthening people, and in particular, five types of “allies of glory” who can truly help us be our best.
His name is Antonio Neves and he’s an author, speaker, podcaster, and success coach. Today on the show, Antonio and I discuss the importance of relationships in moving us forward in our personal and career goals, the difference between allies who facilitate that progress and the thieves who hinder it, and how to minimize the influence that the latter have on us. We then get into the five kinds of allies Antonio says we need in our lives, and he unpacks what each of these allies offers. We end our conversation with Antonio’s advice for how to find these allies and expand your social and professional networks.
Resources Related to the Podcast
- Antonio’s previous appearance on the podcast: #676 — Stop Living on Autopilot and Take Responsibility for Your Life
- Sunday Firesides: Relationships Over Willpower
- AoM Article: How to Cut Toxic People Out of Your Life
- AoM Podcast #559: How to Handle Difficult Conversations
- AoM Podcast #403: A Better Way to Network
- AoM Article: The Cabinet of Invisible Counselors
Connect With Antonio Neves
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Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: Brett McKay here and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. When it comes to improving our lives and reaching our goals, we often think of changing our personal habits and routines, we think about ourselves, but don’t look outside ourselves. But my guest would say that if we really wanna change and make progress, we also need to surround ourselves with positive strengthening people, in particular, five types of allies of glory who can truly help us be our best. His name is Antonio Neves, he’s an author, speaker, podcaster and success Coach. Today on the show, Antonio and I discuss the importance of relationships in moving us forward in our personal career goals, the difference between the allies who facilitate that progress, and those who hinder it and how to minimize the influence the latter have on us. We then get into the five kinds of allies Antonio says we need in our lives, and he unpacks what each of these allies offers. We end our conversation with Antonio’s advice on how to find these allies, and expand your social and professional networks. After the show’s over, check out our show notes at AoM.is/allies. Antonio joins you now via clearcast.io.
Alright, Antonio Neves, welcome back to the show.
Antonio Neves: Oh, what an honor. What a joy it is to be here with you again, thanks for having me.
Brett McKay: So we had you on last year to talk about your book, Stop living on autopilot, take responsibility for your life and rediscover a bolder, happier you. And in that book, one of the things you talked about, and getting started with these goals you have in life is to think about your relationships, ’cause I think a lot of times when people think about making changes in their life, they think about their personal habits, their routines, things like that, it’s all about themselves, but they don’t think outside themselves, but something you’ve been really pushing for a long time now is that relationships play a big role in personal development. Why are relationships so key in enabling us to change and grow?
Antonio Neves: Yeah. Well, first, you know this, habits and routines just aren’t enough, and it makes me think about this classic quote from Will Rogers, and he says, a man only learns in two ways, one by reading and the other by the association with smarter people. And I find that to be 100% true. And I’ve said for the longest time, the three things that will positively improve your life are the right people, the right people, and the right people. And just to back up a little bit, the problem, and this is something you talked about on this podcast, and I’m so thankful that you have, is that even prior to the pandemic, there are studies that found that loneliness was at epidemic levels in the United States. So much so that it was declared like a public health crisis. And it’s been estimated that one out of five, one out of five Americans say they have no one to talk to when they’re going through a tough time. And we know like just people’s mental health and substance abuse issues and burnout have just been on the rise, and that’s just been exacerbated.
So in a time when we straight up need each other more than ever, so many of us have been disconnected. And what I found personally in my life with the clients that I work with and through the hundreds of people that I’ve interviewed over the course of my career, if not thousands, that the right relationships and the right communities make us better. The right relationships, the right people, the right community in many ways are like what water are to a plant. Without them, it’s kinda like being in a dry desert where it’s hard for life to survive, it’s hard for it to grow, but relationships, community is the fuel that keeps us going, especially, especially during challenging times.
Brett McKay: Well, there’s that saying that you hear often in the personal development circles, you’re the average of the five people you hang out with the most, and I think there’s something to that. I don’t know if there’s been any empirical research done on that, but in my experience, that is true. I tend to act like or sort of model the people I’m around the most, and I’ve seen that in the lives of friends in high school, there’s always that moment where you see a kid, they go with the wrong crowd, for example, and they just… Their life goes a different trajectory compared to the kid who stays with a positive, uplifting crowd. Their life goes in a completely different trajectory because of the people they surround themselves with.
Antonio Neves: I agree with you 100%. And we’ve always heard that cliche thing is the five people you surround yourself with, now I think it goes beyond that, so beyond even the people you spend time with physically, I invite people right now just to pull out their phone and look at their last five text messages and ask themselves, were these text message exchanges, were they powerful? Were they positive? Were they empowering? Were they encouraging? Or no, were they drama filled? Was there gossip? Was it negative? Also, the people I spend my time with are the people that are in my ears. I’m fortunate enough, I get to spend a lot of time with you and your guests when I’m walking around, so these days, I don’t think it’s just the physical, but it’s also what we pour into ourselves through what we read, through what we listen to, through what we consume, text, et cetera. So it’s not just the physical, it goes so far beyond.
Brett McKay: No, I was having this conversation with my kids the other day about sort of educating your desires, and this idea, I was trying to get to them, there’s all sorts of organizations and people out there who want to change what you desire. We talk about advertisers, they want you to desire the stuff they’re selling, and so a YouTuber might be wanting you to listen to this idea. So I was trying to get home the idea is like you gotta be really intentional and careful about the things you consume or the people you interact with, because subtly, you might not know it or not, they are modeling a way of life for you, and if you want that way of life to be positive, uplifting and noble, enabling, then make sure you surround yourself with people, not just physically, like you’re saying, but also just in either the podcast, the YouTube channels you view, the things you read, make sure they are also shaping, directing you towards where you wanna go in life.
Antonio Neves: Yeah, I couldn’t agree 100% more. I think about even like my young kids, my wife and I, we have six-year-old twins, and based on what they’re listening to or what they’re watching, when they get to watch something, we can sometimes see a real profound shift in their mood and their energy. It’s the same thing with me when I listen to podcasts, I could be having a pretty bad day, but I can go on a walk and listen to a podcast and feel like I have a conversation with you or someone else and learn, and it can change the whole mood of my day. It’s the same thing when it comes to music, I love music, I like aggressive hip-hop music when I run, but let me tell you something, I do not wanna go into a meeting right after listening to aggressive hip-hop or rock and roll music. So what we consume, what we listen to changes everything about our dynamics and how we interact with the world.
Brett McKay: So in your last book, stop living on auto pilot, you talked about there are two types of people in our lives, relations we have. There are allies, those that we want allies in our lives, and at the same time, you say we need to get rid of thieves in our lives, what’s the difference between allies and thieves?
Antonio Neves: Yeah, well, the first time I came across this concept was way back in undergrad when I was on the track and field team at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. And one day my head coach came up to me, and after two years of being on the team, I was doing horrible, but he pointed something out to me, he said, “In two years of being on this roster, not once have I seen you spend time with those two guys.” And he pointed to two guys on the track, and these were two All Americans, two of the best athletes in the country. One would go on to compete in the Olympics, another one would go on to compete in multiple World Championships. He said, “In two years, you have not spent any time with these people.” And he said, “Instead, you’re hanging out with those guys,” and he pointed over to a group of guys that were hanging out on the high jump mat laughing and having a good time.
Now, here’s the wild thing, those guys on the high jump mat laughing and having a good time, they weren’t bad people, they weren’t committing crimes, but they were not All Americans. And in a way, Coach Shaw introduced me to this concept of thieves and allies. And I look at thieves, I call them thieves of ambition. These are those people that don’t encourage you, that don’t inspire you, they’re the people that don’t challenge you or push you or hold you accountable to be the best version of yourself. To get more specific, thieves are those people that in some shape or form, they always have drama going on in their lives. I guarantee people listening right now, you probably can identify one person in your life who always have some type of drama going on in their lives. And thieves are also people that, they’re what my friend, the author, John Gordon calls energy vampires. When you spend time with them, they wear you out. But on the flip side, we can spend time with allies, allies of glory, these are these amazing men and women that have a unique set of skills and expertise, and they encourage you, they inspire you, they challenge you, they push you, and they hold you accountable to be the best version of yourself.
These people, when you spend time with them, they don’t wear you out, they don’t drain energy from you, you know that they fire you up. These people don’t have drama going on in their lives. They have great things going on in their lives. I’ve had the opportunity over the course of my career as a journalist, but also as a coach, to interview and work with amazing CEOs, executives, politicians, Grammy and Oscar award winners, you name it. And there’s a reason why these super accomplished people, they work with coaches and they surround themselves with people that make them better. Allies, they provide objectivity, they can see things from an objective and unbiased point of view that on our own, we’re likely to miss. And what I’ve found over the course of my life, and I’m curious of your perspective, is that sometimes our family and friends can’t always play this role for us because they’re a little bit too close and they’re anything but objective.
Brett McKay: No, I think that’s true. And it’s also… They’ve got a relationship with the you of the past or the current you. And whenever you try to… If you want something different, that disrupts their relationship with you because it’s… Now things are different between you and them, and that can be uncomfortable, and so they might not outright sabotage you, but they’re not gonna probably encourage you as much as you’d hope they would.
Antonio Neves: Yeah, I think you put that perfectly in many ways, it makes me smile a little bit that many people who know us well, they have a vested interest in us staying the same. Because when we don’t stay the same, when things change, when we grow, when we find certain markers of success in our life, that can cause friction with them. In fact, I talk about how sometimes it can actually threaten people, it can scare people when we grow. And I think that’s not because it’s malicious, I think because in many ways, as they see us grow, they see us stretch ourselves, they see all of a sudden, wow, they’re spending time with these different… This different community now, etcetera, they’re listening to different things, they’re showing up to different events, what it does is that it can hold up a mirror to all the things that they’re not doing in their own lives, and that can cause some internal friction to happen and that’s when sometimes those passive aggressive comments can show up or, “Oh, you’re too good for us now. Slow down, you’re making the rest of us look bad,” that’s when those kind of things can show up, though they may not even be aware that they’re experiencing some internal friction.
Brett McKay: Yeah. There’s a mixture of envy going on perhaps, and I think a lot of it’s just fear. I think sometimes people get afraid that they’re gonna get left behind, and that can be frightening.
Antonio Neves: Oh, that’s spot on. It’s best when you hear something, and you’ve probably heard this over the course, as this podcast has exploded over the years, when you… “Oh, must be nice. It must be nice to have a top podcast.” Yeah, it is nice, but they don’t know about… They don’t think about episode one when there were only a few listeners or at the very beginning when you’re doing this and managing so many other things. And we have the opportunity, hopefully to invite them to go on that journey that we’re on, and they can join us as well.
Brett McKay: So you’re saying… And I think one of the things you’re getting at here, sometimes the thieves in our lives are often the people we have the closest relationship, we’re talking friends and family. So how do you… Do you have any advice on… I don’t wanna say… I don’t think you’re saying like, well, you just gotta cut those people off, you gotta cut your mom off completely, or this is your best friend, or even like you’re talking about those track buddies you hung out with, they weren’t bad guys, they weren’t… They weren’t doing drugs, they weren’t in jail, but they were holding you back in a way. So how do you get those thieves out of your life, but in, I guess, a humane way is what I’m trying to get at.
Antonio Neves: That’s a great way to put it in a… As a delicate way, in a humane way. First, and this is, I think the world would be much better off, all of us would be much better off if we were willing to have some tough 10-minute conversations. Right now, we all… There’s a tough conversation that probably needs to take place with your spouse, with someone in the office, with a friend, a family member that for whatever reason, we’ve been unwilling to have that tough 10-minute conversation. I think sometimes funny enough, that’s what being a man, that’s what being an adult is about. Being willing to have those uncomfortable conversations. To be practical, if there are some thieves in your life, folks that are draining energy and they’re not positive, what I recommend is doing exactly that, have a conversation with that individual, not a text message exchange, have a real conversation with that individual and invite them on the journey, let them know, tell them straight up what you’re up to, what your goals are, what you’re looking to achieve in your life. And this is the challenging one right here, also let them know what your expectations are for the friendship moving forward and go from there. What you’re doing is you’re not saying I’m cutting you off, I’m leaving you alone.
Instead, what you’re doing in many ways is you’re making an invitation for them to join you. And just the courage to have that conversation can positively change so many different things. It doesn’t mean that you’ll never see or talk to these people again, no, but if they don’t decide to go on the journey with you, what that will require for you to do is just to create some clear boundaries and decide when or when not you’re gonna be in certain people’s presence. And just briefly, you talked about family. Family, this one can be super challenging, obviously because they’re not going anywhere. Again, I invite folks to have that conversation with them. And if it’s a loved one say… And I talk to so many people, they’re like, “Antonio, I hear you on this, but guess who’s not on my journey with me, guess who’s been a thief?” They say their spouse, so you can imagine how tough that one is my spouse. So sometimes you have to go into counseling or therapy to get support with that. And if for whatever reason they’re unable to shift, again, there are some types of boundaries that need to be made and maybe even some big decisions down the road. So it’s not easy, but I’m inviting people to be courageous and to be bold, to be willing to have some tough conversations. The results of that conversation, they might just surprise you.
Brett McKay: I’m curious, when you had that conversation with your track coach about the thieves you were hanging out with, did that change your behavior, like you started hanging out with the All-Americans?
Antonio Neves: That changed so much. At that time, I was a walk-on. It was my sophomore year of college, I walked on the track and field team. I could have been cut at any moment from that team, I had loved track and field since seeing Carl Louis win four gold medals in Los Angeles in 1984, there’s nothing more that I wanted than that. And yes, that changed me spending more time with those allies, learning from them, seeing how they show up every single day, learning from their standards and their values, and most importantly, their level of commitment that I did not have. And what that led to, is two years, a couple of years later, I found myself an All Conference triple jumper. No, I never became an Olympian or NCAA champion, but I did become an All Conference triple jumper. I earned a partial scholarship, which was cool because my mom was paying for a portion of my tuition on a credit card at that time, and it showed me how to show up differently, and that has impacted my career ever since then. Coach Shaw and that message sticks with me every single day.
Brett McKay: Alright. So take a look at your life, look at the thieves, the people who are sucking energy out of you, like they’re those vampires in your life, maybe not… It’s not intentional oftentimes, but find out people who are kind of getting in the way of goals you have of improving yourself, and then if you need to, you have a tough conversation. It doesn’t have to be mean, just be like, “Hey, I love you, you mean a lot to me, but this is where I wanna go with my life, and I’d love your support. If you can’t do that, that’s fine, I completely understand.” And then establishing boundaries. That’s…
Antonio Neves: That’s it. And I also have to add, we’re talking about other people right now, but of course, it’s also important for us to be allies to others as well. We have to evaluate and audit our own behavior and say, “Hey, am I showing up right now as a thief to my friend, to my spouse, or am I showing up as an ally?”
Brett McKay: That’s a good point. Oftentimes, we think about other people being the thieves, but we might… Am I being the thief? Am I the energy suck here? It’s always good to turn that question on you.
Antonio Neves: Absolutely. A fun question to ask ourselves, and I do this in training sometimes, in organizations, is to ask the question, what shows up when you show up? When you show up, do things get better or do they get worse? Because we all can think of that example of… You’re at a party, you having a great time at the party, and then the door opens and somebody walks in and you see who it is, and you’re like, “Oh no, this party is about to turn a negative corner.” Or you’ve been in that meeting at work and it’s that meeting when progress is being made, people are making firm commitments, momentum is happening, and then that door to the conference room opens and that person shows up and you know all the progress we just made is gonna be lost because this person is gonna come in playing devil’s advocate non-stop. So what shows up when you show up? The goal for when we show up, and when people think about us is for things to get better.
Brett McKay: Yeah, you wanna be the guy that everyone’s excited when they show up and sad when you leave, you don’t wanna be the guy that everyone just gets bummed when you show up and are happy when you get out of there.
Antonio Neves: 100%.
Brett McKay: We’re gonna take a quick break for a word from our sponsors. And now back to the show. Alright, so we’ve been talking about thieves, let’s talk about allies, and you talked about this in your first book, but you’ve been flushing this idea out more, and you’ve been saying that there are five allies everyone needs in their life. And let’s talk about these five. Starting with the encourager. Who is the encourager?
Antonio Neves: Yeah, the encourager is that individual that does the work that a lot of people don’t see, but when this person is around in your life, you always seem to be at your best, I think about during tough spells, they’re willing to always support you with perspective and that unwavering commitment that they’re rooting for you, like in sports, this is that person that’s just consistent and not the MVP, but they show up, they have a strong 301 batting average, a high on base percentage, and they’re probably underrated in many regards, they’re consistent, they’re not fair weather, and when I think about the encourager in some ways, I think about this character in the Apple series, Ted Lasso in many ways, even though he’s the lead character in that television show, Ted Lasso is that encourager for everyone in his life, we could all use an encourager in our life.
Brett McKay: Who’s the encouraging in your life?
Antonio Neves: Wow, what a fantastic question. Well, one, I gotta say, I’m fortunate enough to have my wife as my encourager, and I’m just thinking about last night sitting on the couch with her while I was editing something that needed some love, and she is there to encourage me as an ally. I have a few, quite a few people in my life that give me a lot of virtual high-fives even when based… Somehow they know when I need it. And in the field of work that I do as a coach, as a speaker and an author, and maybe you can relate to this, a lot of the work that I do, it’s isolating. I do a lot of work by myself when I’m not on stages in front of a lot of people, and I think sometimes we forget that the encourager, which I consider myself needs an encourager, so who encourages the encourager? So I’m fortunate enough to have a good number of people in my life that do that.
Brett McKay: Alright, so basically the encourager is someone who you can go to, who’s going to give you those high fives, give you the pats on the back saying, Hey, you’re doing a good job, things aren’t as bad as you think. I think everyone has had those moments where, man, everything is just terrible. I’m not doing well. An encourager probably brings some objectivity to the scene ’cause they say, actually, things aren’t as bad as you think they are, you’re actually doing pretty dang good. That’s what they’re doing for you.
Antonio Neves: Yeah, they’re always rooting for you, it’s that person even when you have a bad day, even when you messed up, if you go have a walk with them or a beer with them, they’re not gonna sit there and tell you everything you did wrong, they may just sit there with you, they may just be there with, “You know that I’m here.” And sometimes those two words are powerful, I’m here.
Brett McKay: Okay, so this could be a spouse, it could be a friend, it could be a colleague. The next ally is the playmaker. What is the playmaker?
Antonio Neves: The playmaker is that person that we all have in our life that in some shape or form that they’re making some great things happen, is that person that has that infectious energy, and when you need a jolt of creativity, energy or motivation, they are your go-to person. The playmaker is interesting because they move fast and they don’t have a lot of patience for indecision, they regularly make decisions, they’re that person that remind you that if you miss a shot, just keep shooting. These days, when I think about the playmaker, and this may be a bit polarizing for some people, I think about people like Steph Curry or I think about even someone like Elon Musk, whether you like these people or not, one thing they’re gonna keep doing, they’re gonna keep shooting they’re gonna keep thinking big and they’re going to keep getting after it, and I think we need people in our life to keep us fired up in that regard.
Brett McKay: So these people, you’re looking to the playmaker to model pro activity in an action-oriented bias towards life.
Antonio Neves: 100%. They keep you moving forward, thinking forward, they’re not gonna let you soak on how you messed up, what happened yesterday, etcetera. And again, they have good things going on in their lives so that they’re a great model to keep moving and to dream big and to think big.
Brett McKay: As you’re describing the playmaker, I imagine that older men would probably find their playmaker in a younger guy. ‘Cause it’s like an older guy, they’ve probably done it all, they’ve probably… Feel like they kinda become complacent, but a younger guy, they’ve got nothing to lose, so they’re more willing to take those big actions, those big risks. I think there’s something to having those relationships with younger individuals, ’cause I don’t know if it reminds you… It’s kind of weird, ’cause I’m like, I’m getting to middle age now, so I’m like thinking about that sort of stuff. But it reminds you like yeah, you can still take action, there’s something about the energy you get from those younger people that can spur you on as well.
Antonio Neves: Yeah, I think reverse mentoring is so important, but odds are, we probably can think of certain stages in our life where we were that playmaker, I can still think back to moving to New York City with less than $1000 in my bank account with dreams of breaking into the television industry, and I was hungry, I was bold, I was courageous, I was optimistic. I think a lot of times, it’s funny now that you say that, a lot of times when people say things like, I miss the old days, what they’re really saying is, I miss who I was, how I showed up in the old days, ’cause I don’t show up like that person anymore.
Brett McKay: Right. So having yeah, that playmaker remind you about that can help you get that back.
Antonio Neves: Exactly.
Brett McKay: Okay, so we got encourager, we got playmaker. The next ally, you described as the facilitator, who’s this guy?
Antonio Neves: The facilitator is that person, they always can see the big picture and they can support you, and let’s say in managing the flow of information, you can probably think about this person kinda like a project manager, that they’re really good at knowing when you can speed things up or when you can slow things down, they can see things that you probably can’t see because they’re seeing the big picture. They’re also a great connector and they can provide really sound guidance and advice.
Brett McKay: So who are the facilitators in your life?
Antonio Neves: I have a few facilitators in my life, one of the key facilitators in my life is a dear buddy of mine, Bassam. Whenever I get in the muck, I get stuck in the rut, with an amazing skill, he can unpack all of that and help me see the bullet points and the connections and things that I can’t see. Bassam is brilliant at that. In many ways, my father, prior to him getting dementia, he was that person for me as well, that could see that.
Brett McKay: Alright, so the facilitator is the guy you’re gonna go to when you get stuck with a problem, you don’t know how to move forward, and they’re there basically to bring new perspective, help you, they’re able to connect dots that you otherwise couldn’t see or other people couldn’t see. That’s what they do.
Antonio Neves: That’s it. That’s the point guard on the basketball floor, they’re guiding the tempo of things, they’re at the top of the key, they can see things that you can’t, oh, there’s a double team over there, let’s call a brand new play to get you open and create an isolation. Sorry to get nerd on basketball, but yeah they’re that point guard.
Brett McKay: So this could be a friend, it could be a father, this could also be I don’t know, it could be a consultant you go to as well who specializes in… ‘Cause if you own a business, your problem, if you run a restaurant’s gonna be different if you run… I don’t know, you make metal siding, for example. So you might wanna try to find a facilitator in your respective field of work.
Antonio Neves: 100%. Right now, we’re talking so much personal about this, but another way to look at this is a board of directors… Or a personal board of advisors. That’s one thing that board of directors do. I have the opportunity, I’ve worked for startups. I’ve covered startups as a journalist when I was a reporter and correspondent with NBC hosting a business show for over three years, and one thing that they have are these amazing boards of directors, sometimes they’re six people, sometimes they’re 12 people, and one thing about about those six to 12 people, they all have different skill sets, they don’t need three facilitators or four encouragers that they bring each person in for their individual strength that they can bring to provide expertise to this team who’s looking to grow, scale and increase revenue, etcetera.
Brett McKay: Alright. So we’ve got encourager, we’ve talked about playmaker, we’ve talked about the facilitator, the next ally is the rock. What’s this guy look like?
Antonio Neves: The rock is the veteran, that’s that person that when all hell is breaking loose, that they’re that person that helps remind you what’s most important and to provide you with perspective, this is that person who has been there and they’ve done it, they’ve been there, they’ve done it, they are probably a veteran in some regard, they are a little bit older, you need this person to help keep you grounded and supported, and they help provide alignment when you think about your visions and your different goals. When I think about the rock, I think about Star Wars, I think about someone like Obi-Wan Kenobi. For some reason, when I think about the rock, when I visualize what this person can be, I think about someone like Morgan Freeman, just that voice provides perspective. The rocks in my life are individuals that are much older than I am, most of them, people who have worked in fields like I have, that can provide me expertise and guidance, whether it’s in the book world, whether it’s in parenting, whether it’s in leading a community. So I have those people and that they’ve done it, they’ve checked it off of the box, and there’s not much that’s going to surprise them. They’ve heard and seen it all.
Brett McKay: Alright, so rock, possibly an older mentor, the playmaker is a younger mentee who mentors you.
Antonio Neves: Exactly, exactly. I’ve never framed it directly like that, but that’s exactly what it is.
Brett McKay: I like that. Alright, so then the next one is… The next ally is the last one, is the bruiser, who’s this guy?
Antonio Neves: Oh, the bruiser, this is the one we tend to avoid, the bruiser is that person that straight up always hold you accountable. They hold you accountable to do what you said you’re going to do. If you tell them like, oh, I’m gonna write a book, the next question they’re gonna ask is, by when? When will it be finished? The bruiser are people that are metrics-based, and they measure success by the progress you do or don’t make, they’re that person that provides good friction. I’m laughing ’cause now I’m thinking about Liam Neeson, like in that movie, Taken. The bruiser. Let me give you a real life example of a bruiser. I’ve a dear friend of mine, I remember living in New York City and I was hanging out with some friends and we went to go get a happy hour and my goal was to have one drink, but you know what happens, you have that one drink and then your buddies, your friends are saying, Come on, just have one more, just have one more. And I was about to have one more drink, but there was something I wanted to do at home and finish that night, and my buddy came up to me and he said, Antonio, don’t worry about them.
Are they going to finish that project that you need to finish tonight? No, they’re not going to. You don’t have to make any excuses to go do what you need to do, get out of here. Just having someone like that in your life, it can be a game changer. And I have a few of those people, and we all need that person that’s going to provide some good friction on us.
Brett McKay: Alright, so the bruiser is the guy that holds you accountable to your goals.
Antonio Neves: Yeah, and I think one thing I wanna make sure everyone knows, as we describe these five types of people, I want people to remember that these types of allies, these aren’t always going to be our best friends. These aren’t gonna be people that we talk with every single day or kick it with all the time, but when it’s time to “play ball” these are the folks that they’re open for you to reach out to them and they’re gonna bring out the best in you, but they don’t necessarily have to be like your “best friends” and people you talk to every single day.
Brett McKay: And I actually think it would be counterproductive in some instances for them to be your best friend, because when you have a friendship with somebody, it brings in an element of you don’t wanna hurt the person’s feelings or you don’t wanna… You wanna maintain the relationship. Right, that’s important, which is… That’s normal and natural. Some of these roles, like the bruiser type or the playmaker, they might ask you or push you to do things that if you had a friendship with them would strain the relationship, but you need to do it nonetheless ’cause it would be good for your either professional or personal goals.
Antonio Neves: I agree. You think about relationships with, say your spouse. I can’t tell you how many times my wife has made suggestions to me to do X, Y or Z, and then I’m on a road trip and I’m like, Oh honey, I was talking to somebody on a plane and they said I should do this or stop doing that, and she’s like, Well, I’ve been telling you that for the past six months, but it’s so funny how sometimes when we hear that advice somewhere else, we’re willing to take heed to it and listen to it, but sometimes when it’s super close to it, as you mentioned, it doesn’t have the same effect.
Brett McKay: Well, I’ve seen that in my own life, in my own kids, especially my son, I’ll tell him, Hey, you should do this thing and he’s like, Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. But then when some other grown man says, Hey, you should do this thing, he’s like, Oh yeah, that’s the best idea in the world, that’s… Why didn’t I think of that before? And it’s like, okay. And that’s why I love it when my son interacts with other men who their goal is to grow and develop good young men, ’cause my son’s more likely to listen to that guy as opposed to me. I want the support, I want the help. I remember, I had this experience a couple of years ago when I wasn’t coaching flag football, my son’s team, but there’s another guy coaching, and this guy was great, he was a firefighter, and at the end of practice, he would teach a life skill, so he was teaching the boys how to shake hands and look people in the eye, and I remember this dad standing next to me, he’s like, This is dumb. Why would you like… I do that to my kid. And I was like, Man, I want my son to have that reiterated over and over, and I’m glad this guy is doing it ’cause he’s probably more likely to listen to that guy as opposed to me.
Antonio Neves: I’m so glad you just shared that. I mean, first I’m gonna adopt that. I help coach my son’s baseball team. And just learning that important life skill, but that is so critical, and something I’ve learned coaching my son’s baseball team, which by the way, has been one of the biggest challenges of my life, I’ll never forget when the head coach was out one day and I was so excited to lead practice, and it was the biggest hot mess I’ve ever experienced with some six-year-olds, but one thing I learned in coaching is that me and some dads, one thing we do in practice and in games is we focus on the other person’s kid, so Paul will focus on my son, I’ll focus on Paul’s son, etcetera. And to your point, when Paul is coaching my son, or I’m coaching his son, etcetera, they listen so much better, so sometimes I have to back away and allow that space for that to happen and not be mad at it, be happy about it, and it’s fun to observe them from a distance and see how they show up with others.
Brett McKay: Yeah, ’cause the relationship gets in the way. Because you and your son are so worried about, I’m gonna make my son feel bad or I’m gonna disappoint Dad, that it ends up that the coaching just goes nowhere, but if you have an outside person doing it, there’s not that weird strained relationship thing going on.
Antonio Neves: Yeah, I agree, and it makes me think about… This is kind of unrelated, but related, someone once said, your children reserve their worst behavior for you, but they show up amazing for other people.
Brett McKay: So here’s a question, do these different allies, they need to be different people or could they… One person take on two or three of these roles?
Antonio Neves: I think sure, depending upon the context of situation, sure, I think folks can play a lot of different roles, we all have different seasons in our life when different things are taking place, I’m playing certain roles with people right now as a father to new fathers that I couldn’t do obviously a few years ago. Now that my business is in a different place, I can provide some mentoring and some tips to folks that in the past I probably couldn’t, and yes, I do have some people in my life that can definitely fit multiple buckets here that I’m willing to lean on on different topics, I think the key thing is just knowing in your head like, what do I most need right now? That’s a question very rarely I ask ourselves, it’s a great coaching question, what do I most need right now? When you ask yourself that question, you can identify, do I need a bruiser right now, do I need an encourager, a playmaker, and then you can act accordingly and contact that person. But here’s the thing we have to remember that nine times out of 10, if not 10 times out of 10, people are willing to help us.
Like right now, people are like, I don’t know what you’re talking about. And people are willing to help us. And we must be willing to ask for that help. The hardest step in making this happen is picking up the phone and making a phone call or sending an email. Once you do that, things get pretty easy.
Brett McKay: So there’s something I wanna flush out there, I think it’s really important, what you’re saying with these allies isn’t that you need to have all five of these allies at all times of your life. It is, depending on where you are in your life, you might need this particular person, doesn’t necessarily mean… It doesn’t mean you need to have an encourager, playmaker, facilitator, rock, bruiser right now. It could be like this moment where you are in your life, maybe you just need a rock or maybe you need an encourager and find those people.
Antonio Neves: Yes, and to your point, intentionally right now, I’m investing a lot of time first adding value to these people, but also learning from a lot of “playmakers” right now. This is a season for me to think a little bit bigger in what I’m doing to add a zero to things, if you will, coming out of the past few years where I felt myself a bit on cruise control some, so I’ve been spending a lot more time with these playmakers that have made great things happen or are continuing to make good things happen, but right I’m not always gonna have all five people in my life at the exact same time.
Brett McKay: And then the other point you’re making… You made as well, I wanna just make sure people see that, not only look for these allies in other people, but also turn the question back on yourself, it’s like, Well, how can I be one of these allies for the people in my life?
Antonio Neves: Oh, we have to. We have to make sure we’re adding value, we’re providing the support, how we can be this type of individual for others, and that’s what I remind people that these people exist in our life, ’cause a lot of people are saying, that’s great, but where do I find those people? And we can talk more about that, but I’ll just say right now, former colleagues, former classmates, people that you’re connected to on LinkedIn, people you’ve met at events, etcetera, these people do exist in our lives, but it just takes a little effort to find them.
Brett McKay: Well, let’s talk about how to flush that, ’cause I think a lot of guys have difficulty making friends or expanding their professional or social network. Any like some brass tips people can do to find these allies?
Antonio Neves: Sure. First and foremost, if you’re just getting started again, if you’ve been isolated for a long time, like so many people, if you’ve been disconnected, I wanna give yourself some grace, some permission to have some grace and to be patient, and funny enough when it comes to making friends and creating communities like this, especially as we get older, it’s kind of like dating, making new friends, creating communities like this, so we have to be patient, we have to be interested, we have to make sure we’re also adding value, not just taking from someone. And again, it takes time so patience is key. So just some practical suggestions, just to surround yourself with allies, just to have a good community around you. The cool thing is that if you have a hobby or a passion that you’re into, there is 100% a community available around it, whether it’s in person or it’s virtual.
I don’t care if it’s golf, frisbee, computer building, if you’re into flying RC planes or Corvettes, guns, crypto, Jujitsu, I don’t care, Premier League soccer. There is a community around it that you can find, it goes beyond that, faith groups, rotary clubs, the City Council, coaching your kids’ sports teams, etcetera, most of these people in these communities that you can opt into, which is cool, opt into, are just a Google search away, but that requires some boldness and some courageousness on your part to be willing to do that first search and then to show up and show up again, even if that first experience is a little bit odd and you feel a little bit rusty and do I really wanna hang out with these people? And here’s another practical tip, this one we don’t talk about enough. Sometimes you have to write a check, like straight up, sometimes you have to write a check and you have to invest in yourself by joining a community, a dad community, or a community for professionals who are looking to do certain things. You have to write a check and invest in a group coaching program, club, class or something. I think we forget that sometimes that things change when we’re willing to invest in ourselves, and something energetically happens when you write that check or you see that deduction from that monthly membership coming out every single month, it makes you show up a little bit differently.
Guess what, you’re not going to miss that meeting, guess what, you’re not gonna miss those office hours or that happy hour because you are financially vested in being there. And the last thing I’ll say is if what you want does not exist, guess what? Sometimes you’re gonna be called to create what you want for yourself, you may just have to create what you need and then invite people, and it may start off slow and that’s okay, but you get that one person, at least another person, etcetera, before you know it, you could have a thriving community that’s together, supporting each other, making each other better, and celebrating one another’s wins, so hopefully those are some practical tips that folks can apply.
Brett McKay: Yeah, and I was thinking too, I imagine you’re not telling people or suggesting that people, they go out and they join these groups and they see some guy and you’re not gonna… You shouldn’t go out to them and be like, You know what, will you be my playmaker? I need you to be my playmaker. I don’t think it’s that, it’s saying, okay… Be social, just have a good time as a human being, form friendships, form relationships, and in the process, you’re gonna probably see people like this guy, this guy is doing stuff. So I’d like to just… Maybe I’ll go out to lunch with him and just talk about what he’s doing, I’m not there to get anything from him, I just wanna hear what he’s doing, and then maybe his energy of play-making will rub off on me. I think a lot of times when people hear about networking and creating, they either do it really awkwardly or they don’t do it ’cause it feels awkward. It doesn’t have to be awkward, I think what you’re providing here is a framework that you can lay over on relationships like, Oh, this guy, he’s a really great guy, I enjoy spending time with him, but he’s also a facilitator type, and he could help me in my business in this area. See what I’m getting at?
Antonio Neves: I agree with you.
Brett McKay: I’m trying to avoid people being like, yeah, just going up to you like, Hey, I need you to be my rock, and then people are like, What? That’s weird, I don’t want you to… Get away from me. Weirdo.
Antonio Neves: Yeah, please don’t do that. That’s exactly not what we’re saying. When we go into things with an agenda, people can feel that, they can smell that, they don’t wanna be around it. However, if we show up to any of these types of communities with the intention of learning, of growing and adding value, so many things can spawn from that, that’s why it’s… Once again, we have to be patient. What I want for all of us is that as you mentioned earlier, what shows up when you show up, I want us to be associated with greatness, when people think about us, I want a smile to come on their face, and I want them to associate us with greatness, and as I’ve built relationships around… My life time that have made a key difference in my life, I wouldn’t be talking to you now, I wouldn’t have experienced all the amazing things I have in my career without the relationships that I made, the key thing I did is I built relationships as I would always go into meetings, coffees, cocktails, events, and my energy has always been, I wanna learn as much about you, I wanna learn as much about your story, genuinely I wanna learn about these individuals who I spend time with.
And one thing about that is people love to talk about themselves, they love to share, and we can learn so much from someone else’s story, path, etcetera, and here’s what’s amazing, once you do that, at some point during that conversation or another conversation down the road, that person is gonna say, enough about me, tell me about you. What are you up to? What are you looking to accomplish? How can I be helpful? But that only happens once we build that foundational trust, which is so essential, which people try to circumvent via DMs, on LinkedIn or Twitter, and you just can’t do that. It takes time.
Brett McKay: So one thing I think it’s useful to circle up with you at the end is that while you’re looking for these allies in real life, you can find this sort of guidance inspiration from allies in the media you consume, so your podcast you listen to, books you read. One thing that I found really useful in my own life is reading the biographies of great individuals, ’cause it gives you a model of a life that you might want, and it allows you to look at your life differently, and there’s this idea that I got from Napoleon Hill that I really like, it’s create a cabinet of invisible advisors. So you think about who are the individuals that I admire and what can they teach me about different facets of my life, and so you study them, so it could be Teddy Roosevelt, Frederick Douglas, some great inventors, some great media mogul, study their lives and then see how you can get inspiration from them to improve your life. So I think it’s another way to look at allies. Well, Antonio, this has been a great conversation, where can people go to learn more about your work?
Antonio Neves: Yeah, just head on over to theantonioneves.com. Theantonioneves.com and you can find everything there.
Brett McKay: Fantastic. Well, Antonio Neves, thanks for your time, it’s been a pleasure.
Antonio Neves: I appreciate you.
Brett McKay: My guest today was Antonio Neves. You can find more information about his work at his website, theantonioneves.com. Also check out our show notes at AoM.is/allies, where you can find links to resources where you can delve deeper into this topic.
Well, that wraps up another edition of the AoM podcast. Make sure you check out our website at artofmanliness.com, where you can find our podcast archives as well as thousands of articles written over the years about pretty much anything you could think of. And if you’d like to enjoy ad-free episodes of the AoM podcast, you can do so on Stitcher Premium, head on over to stitcherpremium.com, sign up and use code MANLINESS at check out for a free month trial. Once you’re signed up, download the Stitcher app on Android or iOS where you can start enjoying ad-free episodes of the AoM podcast. And if you haven’t done so already, I’d appreciate if you take one minute to give us a review on Apple Podcast or Spotify, it helps out a lot. If you’ve done that already, thank you. Please consider sharing the show with a friend or family member who you think would get something out of it. As always, thank you for the continued support. Until next time, it’s Brett McKay, reminding you to not only listen to the AoM podcast, but put what you’ve heard into action.