This is one of the most difficult articles that I have ever written…
In fact, it’s taken me nearly a week just to write these first two sentences.
Chester Bennington, the frontman of the enormously popular rock band Linkin Park was found dead in his apartment in an apparent suicide.
And while the news of his death hit me hard, what disturbed me the most was that the events that transpired didn’t really shock me.
Each of the people mentioned above was a star…
They were loved by thousands, if not millions, and they created a lasting impact on countless lives.
Each ended their own lives.
They had everything… Or at least, it seemed like they did.
By all societal standards, they were successful and had made it in life.
They had the money, the fame, the friends and, in Chester’s case, six children and a happy marriage.
But even with reaching the pinnacle of success in their lives, they each decided that committing suicide was more bearable than continuing the life they were living… A life that millions could only dream of.
I won’t pretend to understand what it was like for any of these stars, and I certainly won’t pretend that I know what was going through Chester’s head when he decided to take his own life.
But I will say that the slew of recent celebrity suicides, specifically male celebrity suicides bring the topic into the spotlight and very few media outlets are talking about the rise of male depression.
While it was well known that Mr. Bennington struggled with clinical depression his entire life (which apparently stemmed from his sexually abusive childhood), I believe that his death should make us all consider a much deeper question…
Why is it that so many “Successful” men decide to take their own lives when it seems like they have so much to live for?
That is the question I will be tackling in this article.
Many of you reading this might not be struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, but you undoubtedly know someone (perhaps a friend or brother) who is…
And if you do, then this might be one of the most important articles you ever read.
*Disclaimer: I am not a certified medical practitioner and I will not be speaking on the topic of clinical depression. If you or someone that you know is suicidal, please get professional help immediately. I am only here to provide my honest opinion about an issue that is close to my heart. Do not use this content as medical advice*
A Few Startling Statistics About Male Suicide
Before we can discuss a potential solution to this problem, we must first take a look at the problem itself.
Most of you know that suicide is becoming a more and more prevalent issue… Especially for men.
Suicide rates have recently surged to a 30-year high, and while most of you reading this probably know that suicide and depression are real problems… I doubt many of you know just how real it is today.
Just take a look at the statistics below to see if it changes your perspective on the severity of depression and suicide.
- An American commits suicide every 12.3 minutes
- 30.6% of men will suffer from a period of depression in their life.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals ages 44 and under
- Suicide claims over 43,000 lives each year
- Men are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than women
- The rate of suicide is highest in middle age men (white men in particular)
When you objectively look at these statistics, you should be left scratching your head in confusion…
We’ve all been lead to believe that most suicides are the result of clinical depression.
However, when you look at the statistics about depression, you will notice that the rates of depression are actually higher in women than in men.
So if this isn’t a purely clinical issue, then why is it that men nearly 350% more likely to take their own lives?
While there is no clear cut answer, I believe that the crisis stems from the societal pressures placed on men and the broken script which we are all taught to follow.
My Thoughts On Chester Bennington’s Suicide and the Epidemic of Male Depression
I want you to pause for a moment and reflect on your childhood.
As a boy, it is likely that your father (through no fault of his own) likely drilled the following lessons into your head.
Just shut up and do the work
It’s a man’s job to provide
You’ll never make any money doing that
Why don’t you go get a real job?
Over and over throughout our childhoods, we were indoctrinated with a toxic view of what it means to be a man.
We were lead to believe that our worth as a man is directly tied to how much money we earn and how well we follow the “script” laid out by society.
Go to college, get a job, get married, settle down, have kids, buy a house with a white picket fence, invest in your Roth IRA, retire at 60… Die.
Fortunately, the rise of entrepreneurship has begun turning this script on its head. However, the vast majority of men in the Western world still adhere to this broken system for living.
And what’s worse is that they still feel the pressure to live up to the other expectations set by their families and friends.
Beyond the realm of earning money and building a profitable career, men are placed under significant pressure to live up to other societal norms and expectations.
From marriage to having kids to enjoying certain pastimes, everything that men do is under the direct scrutiny of their friends, families, and society.
And here’s the thing…
Many men are well suited to follow and excel within this script.
I know plenty of men who love working their job, love their families, and find massive fulfillment in what they are doing in this world.
But I know just as many men who don’t and are sick and tired of it…
I get emails all the time from men who tell me that they hate their lives and their 6 (or even 7) figure career and what they really want is to travel the world or be an artist or work with a charity…
But they feel so much pressure from the rest of the world that they don’t believe they can follow their hearts and pursue their dreams.
They still believe the hype that to be a man means you have to follow the “script” society pushes onto us from kindergarten.
And look at where it’s gotten us…
Arriving at the Promised Land And Realizing… It Sucks
In the statistics above you will remember that the demographic with the highest rate of suicide was middle aged men.
Why do you think that is?
Do they simply succumb to the notorious “Mid Life Crisis”?
Do they feel trapped by middle aged responsibilities?
Are they simply frustrated with where they are in life?
But I believe that all of this stems from one simple fact.
They followed the path laid down by society without considering whether or not it was truly in alignment with what they wanted and valued.
And when they finally became a “success” they realized that they were no more fulfilled at 40 with $100,000 in the bank and a leased BMW in the garage than they were flipping burgers at the age of 20 with only $13 to their name.
They spent so much time, money, and energy in pursuit of something that didn’t really matter to them.
They worked tirelessly working long hard hours to achieve goals that they didn’t truly care about to buy things they don’t need to impress people they could give two shits about.
And they wasted half their lives working towards a dream that was never truly their own…
They have the big house, sports car, beautiful wife, and 2.3 kids.
But that was never what they wanted!
When they got to the promised land… They realized that it sucked.
But instead, the societal and familial pressure got the better of them and they relegated their dreams to the belief that “someday’ knowing damn well that “Someday” will never come.
Now, let’s be clear.
I am not suggesting that working a job or making money are necessarily bad things.
I think they are a necessary part of life.
But what I am saying is that too many men are allowing the world to dictate their happiness instead of choosing themselves and taking responsibility for their own fulfillment.
And as a result, depression and suicide are on the rise, and they don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
In fact, it’s only getting worse.
Success without Fulfillment is the Ultimate Failure
Once you understand that the software most men are running on is outdated and downright dangerous, the question remains…
What are you going to do about it?
Will you continue living your life the way society has told you that you must?
Will you roll the dice and live a life that you know will be unfulfilling simply because it’s the “safe” thing to do?
Or will you make a change?
Will you take charge of your own life, your own success, and your own happiness?
I hope that you will…
And here’s how.
Defining Success for Yourself
The first step in breaking out of the societal traps we have all fallen into as men is to take a step back and define success for yourself.
What does success look like for you?
Not for your mom or dad, not for your friends, and not for society… For you.
Seriously, I want you to take 10 minutes right now and find somewhere that you won’t be disturbed.
Bring a pen and a piece of paper and answer the following questions…
1. What makes me come alive?
What are the activities and pursuits that make you feel on fire and on purpose? What would you do each and every day even if you received no money in return?
What are the hobbies and passions that you have loved since childhood but convinced yourself that you couldn’t make any money with?
Be honest and vulnerable here… No one is reading this but you.
Don’t filter yourself and don’t try to be realistic.
Realistic is just another word for mediocre and if you are reading this, I know that you want to live an extraordinary life without bounds… Not an average one.
2. What do I hate?
Just as important as knowing what makes you come alive is knowing what kills you inside.
Is it working an office job? Having your schedule dictated by “the man”? Being trapped in one location?
What are the things that you are actively working to avoid?
3. How Do I Want to Be Remembered?
I want you to imagine that you could travel 50-100 years into the future to the time of your death… And by the way, you are going to die (which is something to keep in mind as you ponder these questions)
Imagine that you could sit at your own funeral and listen to your family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances talk about your life and legacy.
What would you want them to say?
Would they say that you were a “Good boy” who did what everyone told him to do, had a nice home in the countryside, and a 6-figure job that he didn’t enjoy?
Or would they say that you marched to the beat of your own drummer? That you were a visionary? A man with a contagious passion and zest for life? A man who knew what he wanted, and did whatever it took to get it?
What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?
Do you want to be remembered for your accomplishments or your impact? Do you want to be remembered for the contents of your bank account or the contents of your heart?
4. Write Down Your Own Definition of Success
There are certain immutable laws of the universe…
Among them are the laws of gravity, thermodynamics, physics, and mathematics.
2 + 2 will always equal 4.
If you throw a ball into the air it will always come down on earth.
And if you are driving a car down the freeway, there is no way to halt the car’s momentum without using an outside force like friction.
But guess what?
Success is not one of the laws of the universe.
It is not something that is objectively mandated by mother nature.
And it is not something that anyone can objectively define for you…
Success is something that you must define and create for yourself.
And it is up to you and you alone to decide what it means to live a successful life.
What if I Don’t Know What I Want?
Whenever I host live seminars or go through a coaching call with one of my clients, I have noticed that there is a common phrase repeated over and over again by men, especially men when it comes to the topic of success, fulfillment, and passion…
I don’t know what I want… I don’t know what my purpose is, what my passions are, or what makes me fulfilled.
Personally, I think that you should challenges this statement one hundred times over…
Most people who claim they don’t know what they want are lying to themselves because they are too scared to admit what they really want…
It feels too far out of reach, too impossible to attain, and frankly… Too unrealistic.
If this is the case… Then I defer to the video I shared above.
However, for those few men reading this who genuinely feel lost and unsure of what they should do, what would make them feel alive.
I have a challenge for you…
Go on an adventure.
Your new purpose is to create your own purpose.
It’s to experience life as fully and as openly as possible.
Your purpose is to live a life of fun, excitement, and joy until you find that thing (or those things) to which you are willing to devote your life.
Life is short…
And no matter how successful you become we are all doomed to the same fate.
Death shows no mercy and chooses no favorites (billionaires die too).
We are all on this planet for little more than the blink of an eye and then we are gone…
And while some people find this realization scary and depressing.
I believe that it’s liberating and freeing.Because here’s the thing…
You are going to die. I am going to die. Everyone you love and hate will die.
Meaning that ultimately, you have nothing to lose…
Death is the worst fate that there is… And it’s guaranteed to every single one of us.
When you internalize this, you realize that risk doesn’t exist, failure is an illusion, and that the only thing you should worry about is squeezing as much juice out of this one lifetime as you possibly can.
You’ve got one life, one shot… Give it all you’ve got.