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What Are You Withholding?

What Are You Withholding

I’m so stuck right now.

I’m sitting on a plane from San Diego to Chicago. I’ve been staring at my laptop for several minutes now, hands resting on the keyboard.

I’m just going to start, even if nothing good comes out.

Here it goes…

I want to write something that:

  1. Allows me to speak my truth about The Conference For Men
  2. Motivates men into signing up

Sigh. This sucks.

I used to enjoy blogging.

It was a fun way to share my stories, failures, successes, and key takeaways from life. All for the sake of giving the world a little glimpse into one man’s life who is doing his best to grow a little bit each and every day.

Now it feels like a chore.

The biggest stumbling block to my writing is trying to sell these tickets. I’m used to sharing everything and anything openly on this space. But now the pressure of creating words that will move men to sign up is stunting my creativity.

Something about it doesn’t feel genuine.

I’ve learned a little what parenting feels like from this experience.

Because for most of it, I’ve felt like that father who’s been working 80 hours a week just to put food on the table and keep a roof over his family’s head. And then when he asks his son to grab some milk from the store and he completely ignores him he completely loses it.

“Do you know how fucking hard I work every day to keep you and your mother and your sisters off the street? Do you think I like working two full time jobs just to keep this family from falling apart? And then I ask you to drive two minutes to the fucking convenience store and you ignore me because you’re too busy to look up from your Angry Birds game?!?”

I get it now. Damn, I have so much respect for the fathers of the world. They are the real heroes. Making a commitment to show up every day. Doing the best they can and failing all the time. And continually pushing forward.

But just like that overworked father who’s on the verge of breaking down, I’ve been operating from that place for much of the past six months.

From a place of fear instead of a place of love.

Wow. It feels really good to get that off of my chest.

In fact, it feels really good to be me 99% of the time. Except when I’m trying to sell tickets to this conference.

This past weekend I spoke in front of an audience of 400 magical human beings at the Martha Beck Coaches’ Summit. I debuted a speech called “A Life Without Secrets: The Truth Will Set You Free.”

It was the best speaking engagement of my life. I knew it from the minute that I walked on stage because for the first time I felt grounded and dropped into my body. There was no wobble in my voice. I didn’t forget my material, because my material was me. I just spoke my truth.

I talked about my journey from being a pathological liar who lied, cheated, and stole his way through his early twenties to becoming a man who thrives to be impeccable with his word in every moment. I talked a lot about shame and how the minute you share something, the shame often disappears.

As I looked into the eyes of some of the attendees I felt them saying, “Oh my god. He’s right. All I have to do is stop lying.”

It’s true. All you have to do is stop lying. Stop lying to your partner. Stop lying to your boss. Stop lying to your friends.

And stop lying to yourself.

So much of your suffering comes from lying.

From withholding.

I do this exercise with clients to get them unstuck or with friends to create a deeper connection between us. I do it with my partner when I can feel any kind of barriers or blockages between us.

It’s a simple question.

What are you withholding?

Here, I’ll model.

In this moment I’m withholding how hard this has been. I’ve had nothing but a streak of successes in my life and I’ve always told myself the story of “everything I do is easy.” So when this conference turned out to be way harder than I thought, a huge part of my identity died. And at times I felt like I was dying. I felt like I was going to have a complete mental breakdown. I thought I was going to get cancer or an ulcer or end up in the hospital. And I’m so glad it happened. I’m so glad I killed the hotshot, straight-A student in me. He was holding me back.

I’m withholding that we’ve sold 22 tickets to the conference so far. I was so afraid for months, that I kept dragging my feet on redoing our website. If I’m honest with myself, we’ve really only been marketing this event since March 1. But there is a momentum that is building around this event that feels like an avalanche. I’m excited to see how many men make it to San Diego in five weeks.

I’m withholding that I’ve completely let go of the outcome of making any money with this conference. My goal was to make somewhere around $50,000, which felt more than fair for six months of my life’s work. But even if I lose that much, which might well happen, it has been the greatest education I’ve ever gotten. Yes, I’ve swallowed the possibility of the worst-case scenario and I’m pressing on knowing that whoever shows up is going to be massively served.

I’m withholding how messed up my beliefs around money have been. I didn’t even realize that they were a blind spot for me until the conference. The fear that kept me paralyzed for months was the fear that I was going to run out of money. I’m attacking my money beliefs head on now, working with coaches and reading books on money mindset. I’m almost to the point where I can say with absolute certainty, “I Love Money!” Once I do, the ceiling on my business will be lifted and I’ll be able to welcome financial abundance into my life. Because the only thing keeping most of us from making more money is our relationship with it.

I’m withholding how rocky my relationship with David has been. I’ve been trying to learn how to be a brother to him instead of being his father. I’ve been learning how to let him fail, for the sake of his own development. But I might have done it too swiftly, which caused a deep divide between us for the past several months. We are better again, but clumsily learning how to be brothers for the first time. Tonight we got off the phone with each other I said I Love You and really meant it. We didn’t do that for months.

I’m withholding how much it hurts to be me sometimes. I regularly get emails or Facebook comments that make my heart hurt. I’ve done a great deal of work around this, but sometimes I get something that is so nasty that it ruins my whole morning. I get it though. I write about sex, money, death, purpose, and integrity. Of course people get triggered. I’m glad it’s getting easier though. And I’m grateful for the resiliency that I’m building that will make me a better husband, a better father, a better leader, and a better man for years to come.

I’m withholding how I’m financing the conference. I signed up for a bunch of 0% APR credit cards. I might have to liquidate one of my retirement accounts and just take the hit on the taxes. It’s been pretty stressful keeping it all together. But again, I’m getting an amazing lesson and being stretched in ways that I have never been before. And for that I’m grateful.

I’m withholding how powerful the weekend is going to be. I met with my core team on Monday and worked on creating an interactive experience that will move, stretch, grow, and expand the minds and hearts of the men attending. You develop competence by reading and you develop mastery by doing. I’d love to share what some of the exercises are going to be, but that ruins the surprise. But all I know is that those men are going to walk out of that room feeling a foot taller.

I’m withholding how magical my life has become. Miracles occur on a regular basis. Stuff that is so out of the ordinary that I’m afraid to write about them. But the fact of the matter is that the world is waking up at an exponential rate. People are starting to choose love over fear. And when you operate from a place of love and openness, the world reflects that back to you. And what was once impossible becomes possible.

I’m withholding how much I used to drink. I’ve been arrested twice for alcohol related incidents. I’ve ruined relationships. I’ve spent weeks at a time going out every night, drinking 10-12 drinks a night. There’s something in my DNA that makes me want to be the best at everything. Including drinking. That desire for achievement is quickly dissolving though. And so is my desire to drink. In this moment, I’m thinking I might not drink ever again. Who knows? For now I’m very comfortable operating in this world without alcohol.

I’m withholding how much I think about having babies lately. For most of my life I told myself that I would never have kids. But now it’s on my mind constantly. I think it’s a result of me getting my fill on partying, travel, sex, love, and adventure. It feels like the next big edge for me is to have children. But that’s one thing I’m definitely not running into without being completely grounded first. But the fact that I can say, “Yeah, I’m going to be a dad someday,” is a huge step forward.

I’m withholding how bad I’ve been at keeping in touch with my friends. I’ve had multiple friends write me lengthy emails on how I’ve changed or how I’m not showing up in our friendship. One of my mentors recently told me, “Mike, you’re one of the most relational people I’ve ever met.” Which is a skill that rapidly grew my business over the first year. But now that I’m not available in the way that I used to be last year, some of my friends are upset that I can’t be there like I used to be. Which hurts a lot. So I’m thankful for the ones who are sticking around. The ones who know I’m just doing the best that I can.

I’m withholding how much I dislike blogging now. I’d rather spend that same two hours connecting with one of my friends, moving my body, or sitting in stillness. I’m really starting to enjoy stillness. Being with myself. Being present to the world around me. Being present to my own experience. It’s a far cry from how I was showing up in the world last year.

I’m withholding that despite everything that is weighing on my shoulders right now, I know with absolute certainty that I’m going to be ok. No matter what happens over the course of the next two months I will walk away better because of it. I will always be able to create value in the world and therefore I’ll always be able to create money to support myself and my family. And that’s the greatest feeling in the world.

Life feels a little like riding a dragon right now. I thought I was steering him, but he’s steering me.

So I’m letting go of control, knowing that he’ll take me exactly where I need to go.

Everything is happening just as it should.

And with that, I’m out.

Wow, that worked. I got words on the page. Thank goodness.

So, tell me…

What are you withholding?

  • Tommy Jia


    Thanks for sharing this. Whoa, I resonated with so much of what you said. I really appreciate posts like this because it shows me that hey, this guy that I look up to, he DOESN’T have it all together, and he’s human, and the darkness I’m going through is a part of the process of the road less traveled.

    I’m rapping and lately I also have felt like I’ve just been dragging my feet forward just enough so that “I’m not giving up.” Scared to enter the next phase of my journey which will inevitably call on a greater part of myself.

    I am SO looking forward to this conference <3

    Some things I'm withholding:

    That my self-loathing thoughts have been a lot more apparent to me this past week, maybe it's the cleanse I'm doing. It's really… horrendous to have a voice in your head constantly talking shit to you.

    Yesterday I went to a speed dating event, and possibly for the first time in my life, I approached it with an outcome of "Just have fun and see if I connect with any of these girls." instead of trying to "fuck them." I spoke my truth, and some of these girls responded in a way that I've never had before. I got comments like " you're refreshing, you have great energy, you're hilarious," all by just being myself. I told one girl that I didn't want to go to her art gallery because I wasn't interested, and here I have this beautiful blonde girl trying to sell me on going to her art gallery- all because I chose not to be a pleaser. That's never happened before. And then things took a turn and my old conditioning kicked in. I asked a girl if she would kiss me, and by asking that question, I triggered in myself the feeling of being attached, which brought me back to the outcome of trying to bring girls back to fuck them, which caused self hate and criticism.

    I've been withholding that I've been trying to be like you. Copy your facial gestures, your tone of voice, the way you talk, hoping it'll make me more successful with girls. I notice that it's becoming a habit, I even did it on the call with my coach today. I need to be myself.

    With Love,

    • Mike Hrostoski

      Dude! I love it!

      I remember going out when I first started owning my truth, owning who I am. It was like an alternate reality. The good news is, you know how it feels and it will keep getting easier and easier. I still “fuck up” on a regular basis. With everything. But I’m pushing pretty hard in the areas that I’m looking to grow in.

      I LOVE that you’re choosing not to be a pleaser. That’s a muscle that when strengthened over time will give you a great deal of personal power.

      Note: it’s not being a dick. It’s just doing what you want and living YOUR life instead of doing what everyone else wants you to do. I’m still incredibly kind to everyone I meet. I just politely decline things that aren’t a Hell Yes.

      And thanks for sharing that piece about modeling me. it made me smile, haha. When I was learning how to talk to women I modeled the men that I wanted to be like. Brad Pitt from Ocean’s Eleven, Daniel Craig from the James Bond movies, George Clooney. I imagined what it would be like to walk in the room as them. Over time, I developed my own style and way of being.

      Awesome awesome updates brother! See you in five weeks. 🙂

  • Kendra Tanner

    Mike, thank you for this! I know you are a men’s coach, but this is such a great message for women too. I especially love your comment: ‘I talked a lot about shame and how the minute you share something, the shame often disappears.’ Not only does the shame disappear, but like you said, you connect. I experienced this first hand yesterday with my lifelong friend. I had never shared with her my past struggles with bulimia, and she would never have shared her current struggles with me if I hadn’t shared my past ones. We stopped withholding and it was beautiful. I am so glad you are getting this message out there to men. Sometimes it is easier for women (only sometimes 🙂 ) but for men I feel like there is even more shame. I’m a firm believer that freedom from shame is through community. Thank you for spreading this message! I’ll be sharing with my community. Kendra

  • TJ Nelson

    Hey Mike,

    I just gotta shout out that every one of your posts and facebook updates is keeping me on my path. Hard thing about posting stuff like this is a lot of people get a ton of value out of pouring your heart out and you don’t hear from the majority of your readers.

    I was starting to change my direction in life when I had a depressive episode from a combination of identity crisis and food poisoning in Chiang Mai. I just google searched something, saw you posted up a free consultation, and just said “Hell I need some help I’m going to get on the call with this guy.”

    On the call I was probably the worst I’ve ever been and it kind of sucks in a way you saw that side of me, because now when I talk to you I’m going to see that you know how weak I was in that moment.

    Then reading the book “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It” has been really a huge catalyst in the right direction. I was trying to get things. Trying to get girls to like me. People to approve of me. Then seeing your hardcore vulnerability and courage doing what you’re doing and reading that book I feel better than I have in a long, long time.

    I’m going out and hanging out with girls and just having fun. I’m not just trying to get with them to validate myself, and have actually denied the opportunity a few times because I knew it didn’t serve my self-love and purpose.

    Seriously, keep this shit up. When I was trying to start moving in this direction it was insane, then when I saw you being absolutely insanely vulnerable it made me realize there are other guys doing this and making it happen.

    I’ve been applying the advice in the books and spreading it around to other men. I’ve been telling other guys I’m going to your conference and telling them about you and the books you’ve recommended. These guys are reading these books and getting into self-love and growth. This is because of you.

    You’re an inspiration and I will see you in 5 weeks.

    • Mike Hrostoski

      No, it’s great that I saw the worst of you. Because now it’s all uphill from there. 🙂

      And I didn’t feel that from you. I think sometimes we overestimate how “weak” we look when we are down.

      See you soon amigo.

  • Michael

    Okay Mike, I’ll follow.

    I’m withholding how needy I’ve been my entire life. I’ve spent most of my time up until now changing who I am to try and please the people around me. I’ve been unsatisfied with who I am. Only now that I’ve recognized this am I beginning to understand who I am and what I want out of life.

    I’m withholding how I’ve had a tendency to think that I’m better or more worthy then other people. I see others who are living differently then me and different then my ideals and in my mind made them less then dirt.

    I’m withholding how much I’ve objectified women. I’ve in some shape or form I’ve lied and manipulated all the girls that I’ve been with up until now. I’ve withheld how unfulfilled these relationships make me. I still treat women like less then human. I met this really awesome girl the other day and she ended up inviting me to her party. I let myself think that I would be able to manipulate her or be cocky enough to get her into my bed unconsciously thinking that she probably isn’t very smart or human or whatever. I show up to the party and find out she’s actually this really amazing person with high standards for herself. I could barely bring myself to spend time with her and am still nervous if I happen to see her again although i would certainly like to.

    I’m withholding how much I judge people before I even know them.

    I’m withholding how much I have disliked myself. I’ve shamed my beliefs and desires. I’ve rejected material things and avoided eating fully because I thought that it was more spiritual. I’ve joined business opportunities that weren’t fully in align with who I am because I’ve thought that I wouldn’t be good enough until I was successful. I’ve completely set aside my needs in order to pursue something that I felt like I “had” to do. As a result I crash and burn.

    I’m withholding how hard it is for me to do work. I went through most of high school and the year and a half I went to University doing zero homework. I set out to learn about certain things (marketing, coding, business, blogging) and can barely get anything started. I’m beginning to suspect however that this is just because I either have no interest in them or because I don’t have more important needs met first. This is scary to admit because it almost feels like I’m putting off my “success”.

    I’m withholding how much of a good first impression I can make. I’ve talked my way into opportunities and bedrooms but I and the others soon realize that there is no depth where I am coming from.

    I’m withholding that I’m kind of using the Conference for Men as a crutch. The last day of the conference is my 21st birthday. I’m withholding how few friends I have and how unrespected I feel. I feel that if I didn’t have the CFM then I probably wouldn’t celebrate my birthday.

    I’m withholding how much I’m starved for connection. From friends and from women. Especially from women.

    I’m withholding how unworthy I feel. This has probably been a huge influence into why I’ve been so manipulative for a good part of my life.

    I’m withholding how to some of the most amazing people who have been in my life, people who’ve shown me nothing but love and kindness, I’ve returned only contempt.

    I’m withholding how disappointed I am at the best friend I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve literally never felt closer to someone before and now I struggle to accept his choices. In my mind he has thrown away his dreams and put money first. He has listened to everyone but himself. The spark that I used to see has dimmed and it hurts me so much to see him this way. I could be wrong.

    I’m withholding how frustrated I get at my roommates sometimes. I’ve just met them when I moved in with them about 8 months ago and I still don’t feel entirely comfortable around them. There are some things that I would like to discuss and reach an agreement on (keeping the house clean mainly) but I’m too scared to bring it up.

    I’m withholding how much I want to turn this into a blog post. Part of it is out of hoping that people will accept me a little more. Part of it is out of hoping that I can inspire even just a few people (I have a few in mind). I’m also scared as hell of doing it because I feel that a lot of people are going to reject me or that I’m going to hurt someone.

    Definitely feel a lot lighter after writing this. Thanks for being such an inspiration Mike. Really looking forward to meeting you at The Conference For Men.

  • Kat Bird

    This was a beautiful post Mike. We all see so many people creating an online identity that is a powerful sham. Everything is light and easy, positive and loving. It then makes us feel less than and like we must not have our shit together. It really is a disservice.

    I’m withholding that sometimes your authenticity pisses me off. It makes me look at my inability to put it all out there and show all of my cards.

    For years I used a persona of mystery to shut people, especially men, out and to protect my shy, soft underbelly.

    I’ve used my sexual power to intimidate, emasculate and manipulate men. I’ve also shut myself down sexually and shrunk my power to make a man feel more in control or to make him like me more.

    I’ve often engaged in random sexual encounters, running away before I was able to be ‘seen’.

    I have commonly fallen in love with broken men that need a lot of healing. I’ve lost myself in co-dependence and disfunction, slipping chameleon like into their lives.

    I often don’t tell people that I do healing work with men because I fear being judged.

    • Mike Hrostoski

      Wow. I can relate to a lot of this.

      For those of us who are activated sexually it’s that “Burden Of Bliss” that often times brings us a lot of pain.

      I’ve done pretty much everything you mentioned above, except with women. I too have fallen love with broken women that needed healing. I mean, we’re all broken to a certain extent, but to come into a relationship with the intention of “I can fix them” isn’t a very good foundation.

      But I’m glad I had all those failures to guide me back on the path and show me what DOESN’T feel good.

      Lots of love, you are extraordinary.

  • Mr.Mister

    Wonderful to see that you are coming from such a honest place.

    I’m withholding how much I miss a good relationship with a woman and how much it hurts not being able to make a connection. Even though I read a lot of books and made progress it still baffles me how little I know about meeting and attracting a girl. I’m withholding that I’m crazy scared that I’ll never be able to find someone and that I’ll spend my life alone

  • Gary Warren

    I hate trite, empty and gutless posts. This my friend is gutsy, painfully honest and burns with a certain clarity. Thank you for sharing this Mike. As a man and a brother I am inspired.

    I’m withholding how much my past loss has governed my present life. My failures are still gnawing at my insides, but I have refused to own it. I think I just admitted it to myself this week.

    I have been wrestling with a deep sense of cowardice and hiding. Delaying taking steps to establish a coaching practice and investing the time and the money to do so.

    I have withheld my best from my partner and my children, out of selfishness and self preservation.

    It hurts and I have had a stomach full, time to get raw and fucking change.

    Thank you bro.

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  • Peter Rubin

    Damn, this blog post is amazing. Thank you, Mike.

    What am I withholding? Let the unfiltered games begin…

    I’ve been withholding that I’m brand-confused. After having a successful coaching business for a year with a well-defined niche, that niche that brought me clients is feeling like a corset. I hate it. I’m starting to resent my career coaching clients and I want to blow the lid off this thing. I’m starting to… I said YES to offering a sex & relationship workshop later this month. But money fear keeps creeping in and watering down my vision.

    I’ve been withholding that I practice orgasmic meditation (OM), a conscious clit-stroking practice. I’ve been pretending I’m less deep into this path than I am. I’m on a family vacation in Hawaii for the week, haven’t OM’d in a 5 days, and I feel NOT myself. The spark is gone. I have fear that I’m addicted to women, sex, and orgasm.

    I’ve been withholding that I’m very attached to money. For the first time in 4 years since taking the leap from my corporate job, I’m actually making money. About 5K/month. I’ve been living with my parents for a year and I’m finally poised to move out… and pay insane Bay Area rent. I’m scared I’ll run out of money again, and that fear has a grip on me. I’m starting to make financial security more important than being on-purpose, which feels terrible, and which caused me to leave the corporate world in the first place.

    I’ve been withholding my authentic raw voice from my mailing list, some of my clients, my family, and some friends. I just led a workshop recently and was so fucking REAL. That’s my new bar. Anything less than that level of rawness is less than I’m capable of.

    I’ve been withholding my fierce competitiveness, my anger, my grief, my “don’t give a shit,” my “ouch,” my confusion and ambivalence.

    I’ve been withholding an email to you, Mike. I’ve been wanting to connect for a couple months now. I’ll send that now.

    Thanks for witnessing. I feel a lot better.

  • Kate Galliett

    found you via DiAlto…my god am I glad I did. I like rdng mens’ stuff sometimes b/c I feel like it might help me get an insight into the xy’s since, as an xx, I have no damn idea how your guys’ heads operate. not only have i gotten good stuff on that front, i’m getting amazing stuff like THIS article for myself! thank you for putting your shit out there and giving guidance on how to work with/through our own shit. majorly appreciative and so stoked to know about your content now~thank you!

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