Some of us have outrageous conversations with our family and friends. And this conversation between Movember co-founders Adam Garone, his brother Travis and their mates Luke Slattery and Justin Coghlan is no different. In 2003 they had the brilliant idea of bringing back the iconic moustache as a fashion trend from past decades. It would go on to become the face of men’s health—literally! Could you imagine if it was any different?
There have been numerous men throughout history that have positively changed the world whilst rocking a moustache—Albert Einstein, Freddie Mercury and Mahatma Gandhi just to name a few.
To add to that list is Adam Garone who served as CEO of Movember up until 2016.
“We created some basic rules which still stand today and they are: start the month clean-shaven, rock a moustache—not a beard, not a goatee, a moustache—for 30 days of November,” says Garone during his 2011 TEDxToronto talk. “We agreed that at the end of the month that we would have a moustache themed party, award a prize for the best, and of course, the worst moustache.”
Prior to Movember there were no charitable causes specifically related to men’s health.
A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that men die five years sooner than women. The study also revealed that men were more likely to die as a result of unintentional injury and suicide as compared to women.
Diana Sanchez, Associate Professor from the Department of Psychology at Rutgers University, and Mary Himmelstein, postdoctoral scholar from the Rudd Center at the University of Connecticut, suggest that the differences in life expectancy between men and women are more than physiological.
Their 2014 study found that men who believed that they must act brave and self-reliant had more barriers to seeking care than those who did not endorse those beliefs.
Self-care avoidance can have impacts on men’s health. Thus, it’s important that men are comfortable speaking about their symptoms with their doctor to get the care they need.
Human connection can be one of the most powerful yet priceless gifts we can offer one another.
In the US one of their most significant holidays is at the end of November—Thanksgiving. It’s holiday a not about presents, but about showing gratitude for what you have in your life.
“It’s a time to spend with your family, so most people in the US travel home to be with their family, and spend those sort of four days with them,” says Garone.
“And because Movember interrupted that, and we had so many people, so many men emailing us, and saying, ‘Hey, I can’t go home for Thanksgiving dinner with a moustache,’ and we obviously encouraged them to do that. And to have a conversation about men’s health and why they were doing it.”
After Thanksgiving the foundation would receive a flood of emails thanking them because for the first time ever their family had a conversation about men’s health. They discovered a grandfather had prostate cancer and a son was able to encourage his dad to get screened. It’s these conversations that can save lives.
As the old adage goes ‘humans are social creatures.’
Research conducted by Movember found that men aged 35-54 reported that they had no friends to have a serious discussion with (11 per cent) which was more than double those aged between 18-34 (5 per cent).
- Go for that hobby or activity you enjoy as these can cultivate friendships through shared interests.
- Quality over quantity. Organise to catch up with just one friend at a time.
- Supplement online communication with face-to-face interactions.
- Don’t stop making an effort.
During Garone’s time as CEO he knew about the importance of social relationships which then led to a programme that helps men with just that.
“One of the programmes I initiated while I was at Movember was called Movember Rated Barbers.”
What may come as surprise to most people is that barber’s are one of the people in the community whom men feel comfortable having an open and honest conversation with. Movember began offering online training to barbers to teach them how to have conversations around men’s health.
“They’re essentially armchair psychologists. We go to the barber every four, five, six, seven weeks, and you typically see the same barber so it’s a really ideal check in,” Garone tells me.
Whatever was going in the lives of the men having their haircuts, they knew that they would be supported and not judged.
Movember, in their own ways, are helping to create healthy discussions around men’s health. As I chat with Garone, he tells me more about the inspiration for Movember.
“Part of the inspiration came from the women around us, and all they were doing for breast cancer.”
The humble moustache created the vehicle for men to open up around challenges in their life. Since 2003 the organisation has funded more than 1,200 health projects for men and boys around the world for: 1) Prostate cancer; 2) Testicular cancer; 3) Mental health and suicide prevention.
Garone is passionate about all three, but the one he is particularly passionate about is the latter—mental health and suicide prevention.
“Opening up, being vulnerable, not being afraid to be vulnerable, not being afraid to ask for help, and actually seeking help, are key things that men typically don’t do. So this is so much about empowering men to do that.”
In 2005, Nathan Tomlin—a family man, had been experiencing depression particularly after the death of his mother. He had written a note before he was considering of ending his life.
Tomlin then received an unexpected life-saving text message.
“That kind of was a catalyst for me to stop the process of what I was doing,” Tomlin told 10 daily in an interview.
The note Tomlin wrote back in 2005 has been adapted by the Movember Foundation for the Grow A Mo, Save A Bro initiative.
His note has also been spray painted on a wall of Melbourne’s iconic Hosier Lane to spread the message that it is okay to ask for help.
According to statistics from Movember, 75 per cent of suicides in Australia are men.
Tomlin believes that men can demonstrate strength by asking for help.
“The strongest men these days are the men who are actually going up and approaching the guys from Movember, they’re approaching Beyond Blue, they’re approaching counsellors.”
Tomlin is a regular family man who became a significant ambassador for Movember. That is what impresses me about the foundation—regular people sharing why they’re passionate about men’s health.
“It was always interesting, when I moved across to LA, which is the entertainment capital of the world, and everything here is about celebrity, I’d often get asked, “Who’s your celebrity ambassador?” And I’d say, “We’ve got four million of them.” And it’s every Mo Bro, and every Mo Sista that does Movember. In my view, they’re a celebrity and an ambassador,” says Garone.
Since the humble beginnings of Movember, the foundation has caught the attention of some pretty influential people over the years.
In Australia, there’s Mo Bro Sasha Mielczarek from the 2015 series of The Bachelorette. Sasha has been growing a moustache every year since 2004 following his father’s battle with prostate cancer.
There’s also Mo Sista and former Miss Universe Australia Olivia Rogers. Although Rogers and her dog Ziggy can’t grow a mo, they can certainly run for the cause. Last year the Mo Sista ran 120km during November to raise funds and awareness for men’s health.
As Garone and I sit and chat, he tells me about what he discovered about himself after being CEO for more than a decade.
In business and in life there is inherent uncertainty. What helped Garone overcome uncertainty was having crystal clear vision.
“What does this thing look like in three or five year’s time? Like is it a 30 person organisation, what’s your role in the organisation, how big is it, what customers do you have? What does it look like? Paint that picture and make it crystal, crystal clear.”
Remember how we mentioned that Garone served in the Australian armed forces? What he learnt during that time also taught him how persevere through uncertainties.
“No matter what contingency you have planned for, *sugar, honey, ice, tea* goes out the window, and then you have to adapt, improvise, and overcome, to achieve that mission, and then that becomes a key part of leadership, and how you survive the uncertainties.”
Garone has certainly come a long way from the 18-year-old version of himself that finished high school to join the military. The words of advice Garone has for him is:
“Chill out man, just chill out. Like enjoy the ride more. Don’t be so focused on the destination, enjoy the ride. Enjoy the journey. Never wish away days or months, because you wanna get through first year or second year or whatever it is. Enjoy the moment, enjoy the journey more. There’s some really good stuff ahead of you that will come, because you’re gonna work hard, and be good at what you do. Just enjoy the ride a bit more, than what I did.”
A recurring theme amongst the work Garone has done with the military, Movember and his current consulting business is that he is all about serving others. Success is not about how far you go in life. It’s about how many people you brought with you.
If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.
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In what ways do you show service to those in your life?
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