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Meeting Mike King

Todd Astle, Mike King and Ryan Astle.

They often say "You should never meet your heroes" because there's the fear that they may disappoint you by not living up to your expectations.

"They" obviously had the wrong heroes. On Friday, Todd and I met with Mike King and he is what can only be described as a legend of a human. Down to earth, quick-witted, generous to a fault, and very authentic. His wife Jo, who also met with us, was every bit as impressive, a lovely person who is clearly a bedrock of support for the work Mike is doing in the mental health space.

Anyway, I should probably provide some context as to why we were meeting in the first place. As part of our first BetterMan event Quiz and Some Other Shizz we managed to raise $1200 for the I AM HOPE charity which Mike King fronts, and Jo also works for.

A week or so after the event Todd emailed I AM HOPE to say that we had $1200 to donate and ask if there was anyone in Christchurch that we could give it to. CEO, Troy Elliott quickly replied saying that “Mike is in town on Wednesday. Would you like to meet him?”

Queue many excited gifs on our BetterMan WhatsApp thread.

Unfortunately, Mike texted us on Wednesday morning to say that his flights were changed due to the weather and could we do Friday instead?

After Todd replied straight away saying "of course", we didn't hear anything on Wednesday or Thursday. I was starting to think that due to the sheer amount of people that Mike must have to meet each and every week that he could be ghosting us.

I feel horrible for admitting that now after it being so far from the truth, and how generous Mike was with his time.

Anyway, Todd messaged me early on Friday to say we were back on.

Queue more gifs. I think we've clocked all of the WhatsApp excited ones.

I have to say that when we walked in Todd and I hardly recognised Mike with his majestic white mullet. As context, it was as part of the Blonde Mullet Brigade - a fundraising and awareness raising exercise for Gumboot Friday. Personally, I'm a fan and think he should keep it.

Given we have some overseas followers of BetterMan, for background Mike King is the preeminent mental health ambassador in New Zealand. He’s a former stand-up comedian and tv personality who has openly discussed his struggles with drug addiction and depression. He has raised millions of dollars to enable counselling for over 10,000 young New Zealanders.

Understandably I was a little nervous meeting a titan in this space given we're just starting out on our journey but Mike and Jo quickly put us at ease and were so open and easy to talk to. We yarned about all sorts from Brene Brown books and docos to Mike meeting Jonah Lomu, from the fact that Mike's Dad is buried in the same cemetery as my grandparents to how to role model vulnerability and imperfection to our kids.

Mike and Jo were also hugely helpful in their recommendations about fundraising, building partnerships but especially in terms of some of the messaging they had recommendations on.

Mike went into a zen-like state before pronouncing "What is a BetterMan?".

To which he answered (and I'm paraphrasing) "A BetterMan is an authentic man. An open and honest man. A man who is being true to himself. A man that is living the life that he wants to be living and not one that others are dictating to him."

He followed up with, "A BetterMan is not a perfect man. Perfection doesn't exist. A BetterMan is anyone on a journey to getting better each day."

"You can put that on your website", Mike grinned.

So we have...

I was fortunate enough to see Mike speak a few years ago so part of the reason I was excited to meet him was to give him a card and letter to thank him for the positive impact that he is having on people's lives. For me personally, I think I'm a better colleague, partner and father because of what I learnt during Mike's speech. I felt compelled to share with colleagues what I had learnt, so sent the following email "Mike King's mental health tips" to my colleagues. The conversations that stemmed from that and the connections I built lead me to start being more open, vulnerable and wanting to positively impact others. Ultimately it has led me down this BetterMan path.

The meeting ended with hugs, photos (I feel bad for not getting one with Jo so feel like we need to have another catchup. Mike, Jo - keen? ), and Mike offering to not only send us a stack of the kids' books that he has written, but also to tell us that he loves the road that we are on and is happy to help where he can.

After leaving the cafe, Todd and I then proceeded to stand outside our cars for about 30 minutes, mouths agape in shock and excitement trying to unpack what just happened. We're blown away at just how helpful and receptive everyone has been towards us so far; drunk on the power of possibility of where this BetterMan adventure might take us.

And that was all before we received Mike's incredible text message.

Tune in next time for that one. Sorry, clickbaity I know, but I'm tired and need some sleep.

Peace out,



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