Founding father of Toms footwear went on a males’s retreat with different entrepreneurs to fight his loneliness and despair: ‘I lost a lot of my clear meaning and purpose’

After Blake Mycoskie based Toms in 2006, he rapidly rose to entrepreneurial stardom. Recognized for its buy-one give-one mannequin, the slip-on shoe model grew to become a staple of consolation for the younger and the previous who appreciated the model and philanthropic effort. The model donated over 100 million pairs of footwear by 2020, in line with their web site. 

Nonetheless, when Mycoskie bought a 50% share of the corporate, valued at $625 million, to Bain Capital in 2014 and stepped again from his management position to turn into the corporate’s “Chief Shoe Giver,” he discovered that entrepreneurial success solely will get you to date. 

“I lost a lot of my clear meaning and purpose,” Mycoskie tells Fortune

For the final decade, Mycoskie has handled intervals of despair and loneliness, primarily on account of how tightly he had tethered his id to the model he as soon as helmed. In a 2016 op-ed within the Harvard Enterprise Evaluate, Mycoskie wrote that he started feeling “disillusioned” regardless of immense success. “I had lost my connection to many of the executives who were running daily operations. What had once been my reason for being now felt like a job.” On the time, he had taken a sabbatical to consider his subsequent steps.  

He concluded the op-ed optimistic about his objective to increase Toms to a roastery enterprise, donating water to these in want with each espresso bag bought, however his loneliness and despair persevered.

Mycoskie’s loneliness additionally stems from being considerably of a nomad. Having just lately settled down within the Bay Space together with his household, he says he doesn’t have the shut friendships he wishes. 

His emotions of disconnection lastly propelled Mycosckie, who, in March of this 12 months, discovered from a pal a few three-day all-men’s retreat in Austin, Texas, hosted by Junto, a group for males to enhance their psychological well being. He signed up and packed his baggage. 

He was launched to different males, many entrepreneurs like himself. Mycoskie participated in workout routines round emotional intelligence, relational management, and private integrity—Junto’s three pillars of nonviolent communication. Facilitators talked with the boys about methods to have troublesome conversations, particularly with a associate, methods to observe versus choose, speak about emotions quite than flip to anger, and methods to articulate wants and requests. “That was something I had never heard of,” Mycoskie says. “We each brought up an example in our life where [conflict] would happen. It gave us a real model that we can use both in work and leadership, with coworkers, employees, and boards of directors.” 

Discovering connections and group might have been extra useful for Mycoskie than that sabbatical from work. 

“What caused me to go is just kind of feeling a little bit stuck and a little bit in a rut,” he says. The retreat didn’t give attention to males’s bodily strengths or skilled resumés: They spoke of their challenges, not their titles. “We were asked not to talk at all about what we do,” he says. That was a very highly effective factor.” 

Loneliness within the nook workplace 

Mycoskie’s experience is not an remoted one. Everybody, regardless of their gender id and title, can face loneliness, and underrepresented workers expertise way more obstacles to the nook workplace. Nonetheless, male leaders say they really feel disconnected and face immense stress to symbolize the stereotypical, impassive powerful man.

Andrew Horn based Junto in 2017 after noticing a essential want for connection amongst males, which has turn into extra obvious amid the broader loneliness epidemic—40% of males say they by no means speak about their psychological well being. 

Retreats have gotten one approach to fill within the hole as extra males are open to discovering areas to attach and be emotionally susceptible—many for the primary time. 

After internet hosting his first occasion with eight males in New York Metropolis, Horn noticed the transformative energy of feeling related and aimed to assist males present up authentically within the areas they dwell, work, and serve in. 

“There was just a level of realness that came out of it,” he tells Fortune. “From that first moment, I felt so clear that there was something special about this type of space where men could come together to be completely transparent.”

Men during a Junto retreat partake in a writing exercise.Men during a Junto retreat partake in a writing exercise.
Males throughout a Junto retreat partake in a writing train.


Creating house for males to share their feelings helps them present up extra authentically and domesticate objective, Horn says, who hosts the corporate’s quarterly retreats. The choice is damaging. Suppressed feelings may cause individuals to behave out of anger and lead individuals to dangerous alternate options to numb the ache, like self-medicating, says Matthew Hodgkin, a therapist at Lightfully Behavioral Well being. 

“We become safer people to be around,” says Horn.

“Emotional mastery,” as Horn places it, helps individuals handle feelings like loneliness in actual time. Taking time to acknowledge and mirror on the less-than-glamorous facet of life is part of mastering the thoughts. 

“If I’m feeling angry, if I’m feeling sad, if I’m feeling shame, those things are going to imprint onto our thoughts and onto our actions,” says Horn. “Do I want that to happen consciously or unconsciously?”

Studying to open up 

Being susceptible typically feels scary at first move, and Mycoskie was not resistant to the phenomenon. 

“You’re kind of looking around the room, you’re kind of wondering, ‘Am I in the right place?’” Mycoskie says of the retreat expertise. “There’s a certain set of doubts. Do the guys have the same challenges I have? Is this going to be meaningful?”

Finally, although, Mycoskie shared what he was grateful for and his emotions of despair and loneliness after shifting on from his enterprise. “We all had some commonalities that we could really unpack together,” he says.  

After the retreat, whereas not naive to imagine it’s a fix-all, Mycoskie, whose firm has since been taken over by collectors to restructure debt, mirrored on methods to discover extra objective. He’s toying with beginning a training enterprise to assist different entrepreneurs and plans to take the communication classes into his marriage. He additionally sees areas for males to problem instilled narratives about masculinity as essential for bettering psychological well being outcomes, relationships, and management. “Anything that you’re going through, there’s a very good chance there’ll be a couple, other men, at least, going through the same thing,” Mycoskie says, who seen how genuine communication could be the antidote to loneliness. “You’re not just thinking about it in a silo by yourself.” 

Whereas males’s retreats can price a pair thousand {dollars} for a weekend, Horn hopes to make “emotional mastery” extra commonplace by giving teams of males the instruments and curriculum to do that on their very own time—in or out of the workplace.

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