Help for Men Over 30 with Unfulling Career, Addiction and Marriage Breakdown with Aaron Solly

Episode #31 – Show Notes:

Aaron is a wellness coach for men and specializes in men over 30 with various issues.  He is also an author and has a 6-month plan to help men find solutions with specific challenges they are faced with today.


[Music intro]

The 8th Level Podcast is about being self-employed, entrepreneurship, and managing our online business. It’s also about connecting to our souls, having the right mindset, and self-care. My name is Lourdes, and I am the host of this show. Thank you for listening to this episode today!

Today, I am joined by Aaron Solly. He is a best-selling author, mental wellness coach, and a founder of the Engage Coaching Group. He’s located in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. At 37 years old, he found himself overwhelmed in a deep depression and going through marriage breakdown. His world was falling apart all around him. He came to the realization that needed to stop asking himself “why is this happening to me?” And start asking “What is this for?” Today, he specializes in helping men over 30 who are experiencing an unfulfilling career, addiction challenges, and marriage breakdown.

Lourdes: And Aaron, thank you so much for joining me today! How are you?

Aaron: Doing great, thanks so much for having me!

Lourdes: So tell me, what exactly do you do with coaching the guys that’re 30 and over?

Aaron: You know, I have these men that seem to be drawn to me and coming to me, and they… Some of them are going through career challenges, so they’ve been in their career for 10+ years, and they earn a good living, but they’re just, they’re not fulfilled. They feel like there’s something bigger for them to do, or they might have this desire to help other people, so they’re trying to steer their career in the direction that’s more aligned to their values and what they’re passionate about. And then I’ve had other men come to me that’re, they’re dealing with addiction challenges, they’re using addiction as a way to avoid what’s really going on and the struggle they’re facing, and so I’ve been able to work through their challenges and get to the heart of what’s actually going on and be able to focus on that and work through that, versus using something like alcohol to mask it.

Lourdes: So they’re not like drug or alcohol, they’re not?

Aaron: Yeah, one of my clients is a recovering alcoholic, and he’s now been 2 years clean after working together with him.

Lourdes: Do they also go to AA meetings, or is it something that you actually help them more with?

Aaron: Yeah, I encourage them to access other resources to help them. So AA definitely is an avenue. And then my client that I was helping found that it was helping him with some aspects of it, but there’s other things that he recognized he needed support with, and he wasn’t getting it there. So I was able to help combine, he’s getting the support there, and then also be able to focus on the things that he wanted to put his energy into.

Lourdes: I am so glad that I found you and you coach men. I don’t find too many coaches that’re specific for men. So when you mentioned that you also help men with their career changes and struggles with their careers, and they’ve been doing it for about 10 years, tell me, did they start because it was something that was forced upon them, because their parents made them go to school for it? Why would somebody hate their, or want to make that career change?

Aaron: I think it’s a number of factors. But one of them is, their parents put them down this path and encouraged them to go a certain way, certain profession, that was secure. That was gonna make them a good income, good pension, good benefits. And so they went down that path, did the schooling, and then once they finished all that and got into the actual career and what the career involved, the actual day-to-day aspects of it, they realized that it really wasn’t fulfilling their passion. There was things that they wanted to make a difference that they dreamed about doing.

A lot of the guys I help are, inside themselves, they’re helpers, they really want to make a difference. And when they’re in a corporate world, some of them realize, they come to the realization that they only have so much control of what they can do within the corporate umbrella. And they’re recognizing that, “OK maybe I didn’t look at the values of the organization, really look at what’s really going on by the leadership teams, and assessing are they actually in alignment with who I am?” And it was more about, this is a job, I gotta get good income, a lot of them have families, they gotta support their family. But they’re recognizing that “OK, something’s… I don’t wanna keep doing this for another 10 years, something’s not right here. How can I either shift within the organization I’m in, or look at other avenues outside of it?” Some of them want to start a business, some of them just want to be with a company that’s more aligned with who they are.

Lourdes: So some of them that have families, and probably have a spouse, do they talk to their spouse about this, or is this something so deep felt within them that they confide in you?

Aaron: Well, what’s interesting is one of my clients was actually referred to me by his spouse. [Lourdes laughs] I presented at a real estate office at a sales meeting, and I was asked to come in and speak about mental wellness. And then one of the realtors came up to me and said “Y’know what, I think my husband could use your help with his communication and his career, and he’s running into challenges.” And so, sometimes it’s actually the spouses that end up referring their partners to me. And then other times, they’re at the point, because of the age that they’re at, that’s why I tend to find that helping men over 30, they’re at that stage where they’re ready to get help.

Cause y’know, stereotypically, there’s a lot of people that say that men aren’t ones to ask for help. And there’s some truth to that, but I also think that there’s just, a lot of the men that I help, and even my own journey, I kinda felt like I have to do this on my own. And I didn’t know that help was an option. And then I recognized as I got older myself, that there was moments where when I asked for help, it was actually hugely beneficial to me, so there’s gotta be other men out there that are at a point where they recognize “OK now is the time.” Whether it’s that point within the career that they’re having a challenge. For me, it was actually going through a divorce, and I’m like OK, I can’t do this on my own, I need to get some additional support to get through this.

Lourdes: I was gonna ask you what your challenges were earlier, when you mentioned that some men have no courage or don’t want to get support. But you said for you, it was divorce. Were there other things that made you figure out when you needed help, and how do men, do they reach the end of their rope to finally reach out and ask for help?

Aaron: I think everyone’s a bit different. I always found that I was more or less OK for help, but there were some elements that I wasn’t. So my own personal growth, I read a lot of personal growth books starting in university, Tony Robins, Jack Canfield, Wayne Dyer, all the Hay House authors. But I wouldn’t go past that, where there was the opportunity to go to a workshop, and that actually instilled a lot of anxiety in me, just to get into it with a group of people and share what was really going on. So it took me a while, so I’d journal a lot, and I’d do the exercises in the books I’d read over time, and I’d just start to test things a bit, and then there’d be short little windows where I would actually test it out in my work place or with some friends or family. It would come to a point where I’m like, OK I just gotta take this step into that uncomfortable zone outside my comfort zone. Public speaking is a great example. I avoided public speaking all through university. When I was selecting courses, I was analyzing the courses based on the participation levels.

Lourdes: [Laughs] Are you serious? Oh my gosh!

Aaron: Yeah, like if it was over 10% or there was like a presentation required, I was like OK I’m not gonna do that course. And I took business, so by third and fourth year, I was running into some challenges because I had to take – and I took HR, which it was training, negotiation, conflict resolution with unions, and y’know, it’s people. So you have to be able to communicate. So I unwillingly did presentations in university, and I just had this anxiety in me of presentation anxiety, and just people are gonna see me making a mistake. And then fast forward out of university, back, it was probably about 7 years later, I find myself working for a professional speaker. And all along the way, I’m like OK I gotta go to Toastmasters, and I’d look up Toastmaster meetings, and then I’d find a reason not to go.

Like I just went OK, it doesn’t work in my schedule, I have other things going on. But then I find myself working for a professional speaker, and he’s like “Y’know, you should go to Toastmasters.” And I’m like uh… And eventually he said “I’m gonna take you to a meeting, and you don’t have to do anything.” And that’s what my main worry was, I’m gonna go to this meeting and I’m gonna have to get up and present right away. He’s like “You don’t have to. As a guest, you can sit at the back of the room and just observe, and you don’t have to get up in front of the room.” So I went to this meeting with him, and I just planned to sit in the back of the room, and then they have, I don’t know if you’ve been to a Toastmasters meeting, but –

Lourdes: Oh, I’m a member. I am a member!

Aaron: You’re a member, yeah. So you have the table topics where you have two minutes to go up and talk. So they encouraged me to just go up, and it was a very safe environment. That’s one thing, once I got into the room, the people were just having fun, I watched how they were giving feedback to everybody, and it was so safe. And they said “Hey Aaron, do you want to come up and just try this? You don’t even have to do it for the full 2 minutes, just give it a shot.” And so I went up, and I did it. And I don’t remember what I said, it was about I think planting pots at home, gardening at home or something, but I did it. And I’m like OK, that just gave me the courage, I can do this. And then I actually invested a year in Toastmasters after that, and I did all the initial…

Lourdes: Pathways?

Aaron: The pathways, and I did actually some of the competitions, and then I spoke at one of the conferences. So it just took that extra little, I found it was more just trust in the people I was with. It was an element of it, was just making sure I wasn’t gonna be ostracized or judged for not making it, being able to do it. And it was such a safe environment, that it really helped me. And so I’ve used that along the way to just remember that when I’ve run into my own struggles. And I use it with my clients, just getting them to take a little baby step that’s safe for them. So that they can see what it’s like, and then decide. Is it OK to try this baby step, and in most cases it is, and then they can work on that and go to the next one.

Lourdes: So, Toastmasters is a group setting, and I also just joined actually, about 6 months ago, for the first time. I’ve only done 2 speeches, I didn’t get into that competition part, and I’m just debating. What I am learning is how to structure a speech. So I went up there a couple of times, and the nice thing is, when I joined Toastmasters, I joined from Zoom. So I did participate in the table topics, which like you said, it’s only 2 minutes, and they surprise you with a quick question and you have to come up with a quick answer and answer it within a 2 minute time frame. So that got me interested, but then when it was time for me to join, I joined. And I decided OK I’m gonna do my icebreaker speech, remember that one?

Aaron: Mhm, yeah.

Lourdes: So I decided, and I had a mentor, and she said when she did her first speech, it wasn’t on Zoom at first, because this was before COVID days. So they attended in person, and she told me she did hers in person, and she was nervous as heck, and I said “Y’know what? I’m gonna go in person.” Cause now we have hybrid meetings. You can attend online, or you can attend in person. So every time I have my speech, I always attend in person, because I believe there’s a different dynamic than hiding behind a camera and doing your speech, right?

Aaron: Definitely, yeah.

Lourdes: So, you’re telling these guys to do baby steps, are you doing this in a group setting? Like Toastmasters, we have group settings and you feel safe. And the guys that you are helping, are you doing them in a group setting, or a one-on-one setting, how do you work on this?

Aaron: Before COVID, a colleague and I had actually a men’s group that we were running, and we were able to do that for a short period of time. But since COVID, I’ve just gone back to one-on-one, and I’ve actually found that, I do love the group settings, but I do find that for me, working one-on-one with a client, I just find that I can get, I can help them… It just seems to work better, at this point, as one-on-one. But I do wanna go back, cause I have seen my own benefits of being in a group setting. Cause then, in that group setting when other participants are people to hear from other people and connect with other people, I find that there’s an extra element of growth that can happen. But at this point, I’ve just been helping people one-on-one and then through my online course.

Lourdes: I can’t imagine doing group setting. I’m like you, I have anxiety in group settings. And we all do personal development I believe, most people I know do, but when we work on ourselves and then we need help, oh my gosh Aaron, there’s no way I can be in a group setting! I don’t mind being there if I have a bag over my head and nobody sees me. It’s a scary thing, isn’t it?

Aaron: It can be for people, yeah. It took me a long time to be comfortable with it.

Lourdes: What helped you become comfortable with it?

Aaron: It did. It took that leap of faith. And when I was going through my divorce, the group setting I went into was a workshop that I never thought I would’ve ever gone into before. Cause it’s called The Awakening, and it’s the organization where I got my counseling diploma from. But I just did a weekend workshop to start, and it’s… You don’t have to do anything. They tell you that, you don’t have to participate if you don’t feel comfortable, you can just be in the circle. And it’s amazing actually, when you hear other people speak how it can bring up an emotion, it can bring up healing for you just by recognizing that someone else is going through something similar to what you’ve gone through. And that actually gave me the courage to participate in different opportunities during the weekend and uncover some things about myself that I’d never worked on before. And it was probably a key indicator why I found myself going through divorce.

Lourdes: Is that Awakening for men only?

Aaron: No, no, it’s for men and women.

Lourdes: Oh, nice. So how did you find them? Were you just doing some research, or did someone tell you about it?

Aaron: Yeah I found Clearmind, they’re based in Vancouver, BC. And I’d never heard of them before, but they’ve been around for 30 years, 20, 30 years or something. And I just had a Facebook ad came up, and they were doing every Monday of an evening lecture that they’d do you can come out and just hear a lecture on topics related to relationships or your own personal growth. And so I went to one or two of those, and then I found out that they train counselors, and I was looking for a counselor to help me with my divorce, and I ended up finding Satu, who was my counselor for quite a number of years at one of those events. And so she supported me one-on-one, and then over time got the courage to go to one of their weekend workshops. And then after that, decided to take their 3 year program, which you can do to become a counselor or just for your own growth, and it was amazing. Cause the first year you work on yourself, the second year you work on supporting others, and then the third would do leadership, and you lead those group dynamic settings, you lead those, which is a skill in itself.

Lourdes: Wow, that sounds fantastic! So I looked at your online program, and you have the Engage, Connect, and Grow, can you tell me about that?

Aaron: Yeah so, the online program is based on my book by the same title, Engage Connect Grow, and I broke it up into three sections so that it’s all focused on journaling. Because journaling was a tool that really helped me start to self-reflect and start to gain little bits of confidence along the way in myself, just doing things on my own. So, the section on Engage is really about, it’s really that awakening. It’s deciding to engage in what’s really going on, and not necessarily take action yet, but the action is more around just accepting “OK I’m gonna start looking at things differently from a different lens.” So part of it is actually looking at experiences from the past to reflect on how they may actually connect to where we’re at today.

And so, I know there’s a lot of debate on counselors focused on the past and coaches focused on the future, and I believe that there’s actually a benefit of looking at the past. It doesn’t mean you’re spending a lot of time in the past, but there’s behaviors that we learned from our parents, from our other peers and role models from the past, that are actually indicative of how we’re behaving today. And if we can re-learn those patterns and gain more perspective of it, we can actually then connect to who you really wanna be, which is the second section of the book. So we’re on Connection, looking at values, looking at beliefs, looking at the core of who we are, and connecting to that so that we can effectively connect to others properly, and in a way that’s genuine and authentic. And then the Growth section of the book is around taking action. Based on the patterns that I’ve followed and I want to change, and who I want to be now, what’re some steps that I can take to move forward? And what’re some communities, what’re some groups that I can be a part of that are more in alignment with who I am, versus this mask that I’ve been wearing all this time that I was trying to be someone that I really am not.

Lourdes: Online when someone signs up with you for coaching, I noticed that you had some modules. Is that something that someone who signs up with you to get coaching services also go through the modules?

Aaron: Yeah, I have a 6-month program, so people that join the 6-month program can have access to coaching with me and have access to the online course. It’s a self-study course, but having the benefit of working with me as they go through the exercises. People can just take the course on its own, and you have access to all the modules on your own. If people are at the point where they just want to work self-study. And then there’s a discussion session inside the course where students can interact with each other and myself and ask questions if that’s where they’re at. There’s options there.

Lourdes: And what kind of course is it?

Aaron: So it’s an online course, it’s based on the chapters, it’s basically the chapters of Engage Connect Grow, and I’ve recorded videos and I’ve uploaded the exercises. Cause every lesson in the 52 lessons has exercises for people to do on their own, and I’ve actually created it for teams. So if somebody is part of a book club and they want to do it as a group, or if an organization has a team and they want to actually go through the growth as a team, the teams can actually answer questions as a group as well.

Lourdes: When someone joins your online program only, and you said they can just take your course by itself, I noticed that you also had on your copy online that you can get confidence. How would somebody get confidence with getting an online course?

Aaron: What I – And this is based on my experience and the men that I’ve been working with, is I’ve recognized that there’s an opportunity to take a step towards being more confident. And so the idea behind the course is working on the exercises as a way to help with self-awareness, self-reflection, and to be able to gain new perspective, which can help with confidence. If somebody is not fulfilled in their career, and maybe they’re having trouble using their voice and speaking up. Y’know, when they’re in meetings, other people are the leaders or sometimes the loudest voice in the room tends to navigate where the conversations go, so the idea behind someone taking this course that wants to work on being able to step into using their voice is they can do the exercises and start to reflect on “OK so what did I learn about using my voice as a kid? Oh OK when I spoke up with a kid I was actually sent to my room or punished for it,” so maybe that’s what’s coming up. So how can I approach this differently? How can I maybe speak to my manager, and not talk about the past, but just say “Y’know what, I wanna have an opportunity to speak up in a meeting.” And work with people within their company, work within the organization saying these are things I’m working on, after they’ve done their own work, it enables them to then take steps on their own.

Lourdes: I’ve gotta ask you, how do you manager your time, and de-stress when you’re not working with clients?

Aaron: I love going for walks. At my age, I’m gonna be 48 this year, I love playing basketball and I was pretty active when I was younger, but my body is just not, I end up injuring myself.

Lourdes: I get it.

Aaron: So I love going for walks, bike rides in my area. We live in an area near the ocean and near parks, so I love getting out and being active, but just being active in nature is what I really enjoy doing. And whether it’s with myself or with my kids, just getting out and going to parks.

Lourdes: How do people get your book?

Aaron: It’s available on my website,, or it’s actually on Amazon as well, you can search for Engage Connect Grow on Amazon and find it there.

Lourdes: Great, and are you working on anything right now?

Aaron: Right now, I’m just, I have this desire to just be able to help more and more men with thriving more in their life. And so I have this resource that’s available on Facebook. You go to Engage Coaching Group on the Facebook page, there’s the three keys on how to master thriving in your personal, professional, and family life, and I’m just looking to get that resource out to as many men that are looking to thrive more and maybe are struggling with how to do that.

Lourdes: So you have a Facebook page is what you’re saying?

Aaron: Yeah, there’s an Engage Coaching Group Facebook page. They can access that resource there.

Lourdes: Great, I’m gonna have to ask you for the link so I can put it in the show notes. And we’re just about at the end of my interview with you, and I thank you so much. But, before we go, I ask everybody a weird or funny question. So are you ready?

Aaron: I’m ready, let’s do it.

Lourdes: Would you rather be able to talk to land animals, animals that fly, or animals that live under the water, and why?

Aaron: Oh wow, that’s a great question, I love that question. I would love to talk to animals that fly, cause I’ve always been fascinated with eagles. And we happen to – During COVID we moved to an area where I live that has a lot of eagles in the area. Whenever I’ve gone camping I’ve loved watching eagles, but we get to even watch them even more, and I’d love to be able to talk to them and hear their story and what they’re up to, and what it’s like to be able to just fly. They just take off and fly so high above everything, but it’s like, to view the world from that view, it’d be amazing.

Lourdes: You’re so lucky you get to see more eagles. I have not seen one. We have to go to certain parts of the river in the winter, and it’s like, too cold for me to go out there and stand around. But yeah, so that’s a cool answer! So thank you so much! Can you tell us again where to find you or your website?

Aaron: Yeah the website is

Lourdes: Thank you again, and have a wonderful day!

Aaron: Thanks so much for having me, I really appreciate it! Thanks so much!

Lourdes: And join me next week, when I talk about planning and scheduling your day!

[Music outro]

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