Prior to founding his company, Connor Beaton held an exciting and distinct background ranging from opera singing to technology management. His professional diversity, as well as his awe-inspiring ability to master his own life, have enabled him to stand at the forefront of a successful organization so strongly committed to connect likeminded world-changers. ManTalks was created out of Connor’s passion to empower others, and has since been a space for the modern man to evolve through authenticity, community, purpose and accountability. What follows is his take on culture, leadership, and self-confidence.
Can you share with us a little bit about your background, and how ManTalks came about? My background is an interesting one. I went from working construction in Northern Alberta to singing Opera and traveling all over Europe, China and North America, to being a Sales and Operations Market Manager for Apple Inc. (Totally normal progression I know.)
In Opera, I learned about being the business. We were always taught that work ethic is everything and that there is always someone waiting in the wings to take your spot. I learned the value of dedication, passion, being more prepared than you think you need to be, being professional, and how as an artist, much like an entrepreneur, you ARE the brand.
I went through a really challenging few years where I struggled with addiction towards the end of my time singing and found myself at rock bottom, living out of the back seat of my car because I was too proud and stubborn to tell people (who loved me) what was going on in my life.
Finally, when I pulled myself out of that place, I started connecting with the guys in my life and found that many of them were struggling with things behind the scenes that no one knew about: debt, financial ruin, cheating, drugs, drinking, depression, and even suicide.
In one conversation which would change my life forever, I told one of my closest friends about my battle for the past few years only to have him break down and admit that he had tried to take his own life less than 2 months before our talk. I was shocked. I realized that there were a ton of guys who weren’t talking about the real shit that was going on in their lives and decided I wanted to do something about it.
I set two goals for myself: 1- Work for Apple (I wanted to learn business/culture from the best.) and 2- start a personal growth organization for men to connect and have real conversations about their lives, their wins, and their challenges.
Two months later, I was working for Apple. A year and a half after that, I started ManTalks. After less than 2 years of ManTalks being created, I left Apple to grow ManTalks worldwide.
What key takeaways about business and culture were you able to learn from working at Apple? Great question! Let’s start with the culture side of things, because this is what I think makes Apple such an exceptional business. The people are the foundation. Apple culture is something that few really get but many are naturally drawn to. Why is this?
Simple: clear values and beliefs. The company revolves around key thoughts and values which make up every decision, product, marketing campaign, training, and conversation between consumer and company.
Think Different. This isn’t just about having crazy scattered thoughts, it’s about distilling literally EVERYTHING down to its core. Want to launch a new initiative or training program? What makes it different from a normal program or training? Is it aligned with the core beliefs and values of the company? If the answer is no or maybe to any of these questions, you go back to the drawing board.
The culture also exists to attract and breed the exceptional, or at the very least this is what it is designed to do. High performers are drawn to the company because it has a purpose, direction, and you feel good being a part of it. The company is designed, essentially, as a giant community. You see and interact with people who not only share a similar passion as you, but people who are dedicated to achieving similar results (results about performing at a certain level.) This is something so many companies try to do, but fail miserably.
The plain and simple difference between most company cultures and Apple (in my opinion) is summarized by this: Motivation versus inspiration.
“High performers are drawn to the company because it has a purpose, direction, and you feel good being a part of it.
Most companies end up motivating their employees instead of creating the space for inspiration and innovation to happen. This is only possible with a certain degree of autonomy and freedom. To truly feel, see and believe that you have an impact on the direction of something SO much bigger than yourself. And this is what Apple has done and continues to do- create a culture where every single person has a voice in the direction of the company.
From a business perspective, their model is simple: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” -Leonardo DaVinci
They only do a few things, and each of those things has been stripped down to its essence. From a business perspective, they also take a different approach from the sense that they (Apple as an entity) will create the direction of an industry or product. Instead of spending billions on consumer testing, they will often create what people want and haven’t even become aware of (yet). This is why they have such a unique impact. Most companies create because of what consumers say, whereas Apple creates from a place of knowing a direction.
They also aren’t afraid to invest heavily in their people’s development and satisfaction. From the CEO to a part time employee working fifteen hours a week, everyone has exceptional benefits: mentally, physically, and emotionally, which add to the value of working for the company.
“This is why they have such a unique impact. Most companies create because of what consumers say, whereas Apple creates from a place of knowing a direction.
What areas of your own life have evolved since the birth of ManTalks? Literally every single aspect of my life has grown exponentially. My community, health, mental wellness, focus, happiness, relationships, finances… All of it.
I believe that when we undertake an endeavour such as this, it challenges us at a the core of our being. When we start a business, have kids, and tune into our life’s work or purpose, that purpose can only evolve or grow to the degree which WE are willing to evolve and grow. I have had to drop the ego and develop a deep sense of humility (not that I don’t have an ego.)
So many people are confronted about their life’s work because it means they need to grow out of their comfort zone, they need to start believing in themselves in a way which is foreign. This is simultaneously the greatest challenge and greatest gift we can receive. After all, that is why everyone is seeking: to know that we matter, that our life matters, and that at the end of it, it will have been for some purpose which is bigger than our bank accounts, houses or fancy cars.
You have such a strong commitment to assisting others develop in not only their personal lives, but within their organizations as well. I believe that kind of commitment is what being a leader is all about. But diving deeper into the definition of leadership, what other attributes define a true leader? First off, I love leadership. Love it!
I’ve had the chance to teach university classes about leadership, and always start with the definition (which most people don’t know.)
Leadership is a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.
A true leader is influential, in a positive way. He or she has vision (which not everyone has) and can communicate that vision in a powerful way which unites and directs people into the common goal of the vision.
Leadership is about intuition, listening to your gut or inner wisdom (whichever label you prefer.) Leadership is about having the wisdom of the right direction for the cause, company, or relationship, and then being able to communicate and influence people to engage in that cause.
Some of the other important attributes which often get overlooked are things like listening, extreme ownership and extreme reliability.
Listening is key, as it creates the space for others to feel they can really relate to you. Listening without your opinions or judgements and being able to hear the other person without making them feel wrong for their opinions or insight. This creates deep trust and respect.
Extreme ownership is also a powerful tool, recognizing that at the end of the day, as the leader, you are responsible for literally everything that happens in your team, company and relationships. Everything. This is a tough concept for people to grasp at first sometimes, but once implemented, it is undeniably powerful as people in your organization will begin to follow suit.
“Leadership is a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.
Is there maybe an example you could share of a time when you made a mistake as a leader, and were able to fix things solely by accepting responsibility? So many to choose from…
I think I’ll share my insight into creating the ManTalks mastermind and the structure for it. We have events in Vancouver, Toronto, L.A., and are expanding into Miami, Ottawa, Calgary, San Fransisco and Seattle (with other cities on the way) and in January, launched a mastermind for the guys who wanted to be a part of something bigger than themselves. I created it because many guys were looking for a brotherhood, a group of men who were all committed to being great dads, exceptional husbands and meaningful leaders in business, the ones who get remembered.
When we launched the mastermind, I had created a structure based off of some previous groups we had run, which had yielded some incredible results for all the guys involved. I merged our model with that of some other mastermind groups I’ve seen and been a part of (like Entrepreneur Organization and Napoleon Hills groups.) I felt like the structure I had built wasn’t strong enough on its own, and integrated these other pieces thinking it would give the groups a stronger sense of accountability and connection.
After a few months, a few of the guys challenged me and gave me feedback saying that changing the original structure (the one I had built) and adding in these other pieces had taken away from the connection in the groups.
I sat down with all of the groups separately (there were 5 by this time as we had a lot of members who had already signed up,) and took full responsibility for the lack of depth within the groups. Even though I wasn’t leading half of the groups, I still owned the fact that there was a breakdown. Everyone was surprised by this and started speaking up about the fact that they too hadn’t been making as much of an effort as they could, and had been putting the blame on the structure rather than doing anything about it.
We pivoted back to the original structure and the results were incredible. One guy’s business dramatically changed and is now far more successful than ever before. Another one had some serious breakthroughs in his finances and paid off a ton of debt. Another started a new company all because of this concept of extreme ownership.
Moral of the story: be the first domino.
“Be the first domino.
A big part of ManTalks is about engaging in bold conversations. Have you always been confident when adding your voice to meaningful discussions? How does one build this kind of confidence to speak up and express their ideas in these conversations? I was pretty outspoken as a kid and wasn’t usually afraid to share my voice or insight. I definitely went through a phase where I felt as though my insight or contribution wasn’t of value, and I struggled to feel as though I had anything meaningful to give to conversations and groups.
I started to feel like that was hurting me more than anything else, and decided I would do 30 days of rejection just to get it out of my system. I would approach women and ask for phone numbers, make completely unreasonable requests of people (knowing they would say no,) and applied for jobs I had no right applying for, all in an effort to get over the fact that sometimes people were going to say “no.”
My career in opera showed me that your voice is a powerful instrument or tool with which you can create connection or separation with other people.
I have a saying, “Our need for acceptance is so powerful it can make us invisible in this world.”
You can either live for others’ acceptance or you simply accept yourself. One will make others happy, and the other will always make you happy.
But how does one build confidence in this area? 3 things:
1. Start to notice the voice in your head that is concerned with what other people think.
2. Ask yourself “What would I say or do if I wasn’t worried about what other people would think of me?”
3. Do or say it!
I know it seems simple, but life is complex, and our job is to simplify the chaos, not adding to it.
“My career in opera showed me that your voice is a powerful instrument or tool with which you can create connection or separation with other people.
Your 30 day rejection approach is definitely a bold one, but I believe if anyone decided to give it a try themselves, they could really come out on top and overcome the fear of rejection. Is there a similar challenge or approach you’ve taken on that has impacted your life for the better? I have two for people to choose from. They have both changed my life.
First: The “I can do that challenge.”
If you don’t want to do the 30 day rejection challenge, this is (in my opinion) even better! Imagine believing in yourself so relentlessly (not blindly) that you could do anything and everything. What would you do differently? How would you show up? Feel? Think? Try? Experience?
This doesn’t mean you should try to jump off a building and believe you can grow wings on the way down. Your desires still have to be based in reality.
BUT, what if, for 30 days, you just believed you could? You could ask that guy or woman out at the coffee shop, that you could ask for that raise, run that 10k, get up at 6 a.m. and hike the mountain, go sky diving, write the poem to submit for publication, or sing at an open mic night? Is it really so crazy to believe that you can?
We live every day trying to decide whether we can or can’t do something. And sadly for most people, they land on the idea that they can’t.
The average North American will live about 27,350 days. Wouldn’t it feel amazing to live for 30 days believing you are capable and deserving of doing everything you want?
Of course, this takes real courage, bravery, and a dash of insanity because some of it might not work out. You might audition for an acting role out of your league and not land it, but at least you believed you were worth it. You might ask someone out and get a no, ask for the promotion and get a no, apply for the job and get a no… But just remember, we are creatures of free will and other people have the opportunity to choose for themselves, you don’t control that part.
I bet there are people reading this who thought of the very first thing they would do
The thing which they have been scared to do because they have been thinking I can’t do that…. I’m not _____ enough. Great! Make that day one and from there.
Second option: The Creative Conquest.
Here’s the deal: everyone is creative. Everyone. And most people feel as though they want to be MORE creative but don’t know how, or where to start.
For 30 days: write 2-3 pages a day, every day. Just write. Anything.
Could be the rant going on in your brain, telling you how stupid this is and how writing 2-3 pages a day is dumb… Just keep writing. It could be about your boss being an ass, or a poem about your wife’s eyes, or an ode to your dog… The point is, you create every day.
Then, once a week, you take yourself out on a solo creative date for at least an hour. You go take photos, try a painting class, take a pottery session, dance, sing, go to the theatre (not movies,) or write a haiku while sitting on the beach at sunset. I recommend that at the beginning of the 30 days, this is the very first thing you schedule and make it set in stone. DO NOT miss these.
Creativity is a vehicle for us to grow, believe, dream, innovate, and stretch the boundaries and confines of what we think is possible.
And finally: if you do one of these challenges, I want to know! Hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and let me know how it’s going. I love being witness to people’s personal expansion and want to see what results get sparked from these activities.
“The average North American will live about 27,350 days. Wouldn’t it feel amazing to live for 30 days believing you are capable and deserving of doing everything you want?