Mike Van Pelt is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, and men’s life coach leader. He is the founder of True Man Life Coaching and host of the popular men’s podcast, True Man Podcast. Mike has served in leadership roles for most of his career, bringing over two decades of engagement and expertise in account management, consulting, and leadership development.
Today, Mike joins the show to discuss the work he’s doing mentoring and guiding men, what positive masculinity means to him, and why so many men tie their identities to their careers.
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00:51 – Jonathan introduces today’s guest, Mike Van Pelt, who joins the show to share early financial lessons he learned, his entrepreneurial spirit, and his views on the wealth gap
15:21 – Mike gets vulnerable and opens up about his unique relationship with his wife and her career
19:59 – Why men tie their identities so closely to their careers
26:05 – Defining ‘positive masculinity’
29:00 – What Mike has observed about young men and their thoughts on what it means to be a man
42:07 – One thing we can do to find success and one thing to completely avoid
53:34 – One thing people don’t know about Mike that he would like them to know and the one question Mike would know the answer to
57:36 – Jonathan thanks Mike for joining the show and lets listeners know where to connect with him
“Now I view money as something that easily comes to me. I try to think of it that way rather than repelling it away from me.” (04:16) (Mike)
“I just thought everybody around me was the same way. And so, I didn’t necessarily think about who was rich or who was poor. I knew whose dad owned the car dealership down the street and whose dad was the attorney, but my view of them was we’re equals.” (07:23) (Mike)
“It gives me a really unique view and seat in looking at the world of masculinity and the world of issues women deal with, such as pay equity. So, I’ve had a unique view of that and I’m glad I did because it’s really opened my mind to what’s going on.” (25:33) (Mike)
“Masculinity is more along the lines of being real, being authentic, and being vulnerable.” (27:06) (Mike)
“Life is so short; it’s so tender. You never know when you’re gonna lose the people around you. And I don’t think we can ever lose sight of that. And as I get older, I tend to choose more wisely the people that I put around me or the people I’m exposed to. I like to say in my world, ‘I want more givers around me and fewer takers.’” (42:59) (Mike)
“You gotta take control over your own life because nobody else is gonna look out for you. They’re worried about themselves. At the end of the day, you are in control of your mind, your body, what you say, and what you do. And if you don’t take action to be present and positive, nobody’s gonna want to be around you.” (50:00) (Mike)
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Jonathan DeYoe: Hey, there. Welcome back. On this episode of the Mindful Money podcast, I’m chatting with Mike Van Pelt. Mike works with men. He’s an author, speaker, and leads men’s life coaching groups. He’s the founder of True Man Life coaching and the host of the True man podcast, where I got to be a guest recently, and I hope you’ll go check out my episode. Mike, welcome to the Mindful Money podcast, man.
Mike Van Pelt: I’m glad to be here. Thanks for inviting me in.
Jonathan DeYoe: I’m excited to have you, man. First, let everyone know where you call home and where you’re connecting from.
Mike Van Pelt: Yeah. So, my wife and family were just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, in the Kennesaw Marietta area. Really beautiful area. It’s summertime, so it’s hot. Lanta is what we go by this.
Jonathan DeYoe: Time of year and humid.
Mike Van Pelt: Yeah, well, right now it’s summer, so it is what it is in the south, right? You take what you can get. So, my wife Jill and I, we just celebrated 27 years of marriage, and on that very day, we dropped our daughter off at college. So, my daughter’s a freshman in college, my son’s a sophomore, and we’re at this interesting stage in our life where the kids are moving out. We’re making sure that our parents are comfortable where they are, and it’s that weird change of season that we sometimes go through in. But, yeah.
Jonathan DeYoe: Did you grow up there, or did you grow up somewhere else?
Mike Van Pelt: So, I grew up in central Iowa. I’m an Iowa boy now. I grew up in a big city of 13,000 people. So people ask me all the time now, are you a farm kid? And I’ve spent a lot of time on farms, but I was a city kid in a big city, a metropolitan city of 13,000 people.
Jonathan DeYoe: So, yeah, we didn’t talk about this. I’m from Rapid City, South Dakota, also from a massive city of, I think at the time it was like 40,000 people. Massive, huge.
Mike Van Pelt: Yeah. I’ve been to Rapid City, believe it or not. So there you go.
Jonathan DeYoe: So many people have. It’s like a place. Because you went to m Mount Rushmore, so you had to drive through rapid.
Mike Van Pelt: Yeah, on the way through the, uh. Oh, man. I had some friends that went to school in South Dakota, the hay capital of the world. I do remember driving through this place called the Hay capital of the world.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yep, a lot of hay. So growing up in Iowa, I’m guessing that lessons would be different than growing up in Georgia. But what did you learn about money and entrepreneurship when you were growing up?
Mike Van Pelt: Now, it’s funny, mom, do not listen to this podcast. You’re not going to like my answer. You know what, I didn’t really realize this until later in life that I maybe had some mixed feelings about money. And part of it stems from these old sayings that your parents sometimes say, like, well, money doesn’t grow on trees. My mom used to say all the time, we can’t sit in front in church. That’s where all the rich people sit, which was an interesting one. I don’t know why she said that. And then to this day, I have a tendency to always go to the back of wherever I’m sitting, um, almost unconscious. Although these days I chalk it up to hearing loss, but maybe that’s beside the point. But I didn’t really realize some of the views that had seeped into my unconscious about money until really my adult life. And it really started to show up as an entrepreneur and the way that I thought about money and the universe. And I’ve really had to change my thinking now because I had to come to that understanding. So now I view money as something that easily comes to me. I try to think of it that way rather than repelling it away from me.
Jonathan DeYoe: Let me tease that. Why were you repelling it away from you? What was the, uh.
Mike Van Pelt: Cause I think it was unconscious. I think that I had a negative view of money. I wanted money like we all did. Like, uh, we all do, right? I mean, you need money to live. But I don’t think I had a positive perspective of money.
Jonathan DeYoe: Is that the parable? Rich person eye a needle? I think.
Mike Van Pelt: I hadn’t really thought of that. Interesting.
Jonathan DeYoe: I think that’s where I got the negative view, was that parable growing up in the lutheran church, rich, uh, person. What is it? It’s easier for a rich person to get through the eye of the needle than it is for. No, it’s easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a rich person to get into heaven. I think that’s the phrasing or something like that.
Mike Van Pelt: Yeah. And I think that’s really interesting. That’s not where I got it, actually. But, I mean, you and I both kind of hung around the lutheran church, so I think that it was from the perspective of, if I look at it like, I can’t sit up front because I don’t have the money, it’s almost like, well, I don’t have money. I’m never going to have money, so I can’t sit up front. And then sometimes you allow that whole idea in church of, well, money is evil, right? Money is evil, if that’s what you believe in. But money is not evil when it can be used to serve God’s kingdom. And that’s a very important piece that sometimes gets left off the table.
Jonathan DeYoe: I would say that the phrase is actually not that money is evil. It’s that the love of money is evil. It’s like making money. Your idol is evil. And there’s plenty of parables, biblical parables, that are the golden calf, and there’s all that kind of stuff that talks about wealth is not good. So there’s a lesson in the christian church about wealth being bad. Do you think that when your mom said, hey, we can’t sit up front, do you think that was a, we don’t deserve to sit up front? And that sort of translates into that a little bit.
Mike Van Pelt: I grew up in the town of about 13,000 people, so, I mean, we were middle class best, right? But everybody around me was the same way, so I didn’t necessarily have my perspective of what wealth was much different. Now, one of the things I vividly remember, because back in the 80s, when the white leather Nike Cortez shoes came out and everybody was getting them, well, Mike had to get those Nike Cortez shoes as well. But my parents weren’t going to spend $100 on a pair of shoes. Okay. But when I finally got those Nike Cortez shoes, I slept with them. That’s how much it meant to me. Which seems kind of funny to say, uh, out loud, but I just. Did we all have our dude. Yeah, but, I mean, that’s what it meant to, you know, really, I just thought everybody around me was the same way. And so I didn’t necessarily think about who was rich or who was poor. I knew whose dad owned the car dealership down the street. And whose dad was the attorney. But my view of them was, we’re equals.
Jonathan DeYoe: What did your mom and dad do? Or your mom worked? Did your dad work? What did they do?
Mike Van Pelt: Yeah, so for much of my life, my dad was in the insurance business, as a matter of fact, and then he spent 20 some od years working in the postal service. My mom, while I was growing up, was a stay at home mom for a while, and then she was a business owner for about ten years or so. So, um, my parents were very active in our lives. They never missed a ball game. They were at every school event. I mean, that was just what I grew up around. They were very supportive of us. And honestly, I think that’s just part of the midwestern values that I grew up around. I can’t remember anybody else really even being any different. I mean, it just was what it was.
Jonathan DeYoe: The thing that stuck out for me was I also knew the attorney, and I also knew the guy that owned the companies. And my dad would always be really grubby, and he’d work really hard. And I remember he would come to the event, the game or whatever. He’d be in his overalls, he’d be covered with dirty, and the other guy’s dads would be in their suits and their ties and stuff. And then after the game, the other guy’s dads would go home for family dinner. My dad would go back to work. I remember that. Working really hard.
Mike Van Pelt: Well, there’s something to be said for that in the midwest, especially around the farms. I mean, back in the day. And the family farm that I grew up around doesn’t really exist anymore. I mean, these are mega operations going on in a lot of cases, but when you’re in a rural city in the midwest, you’re working early in the morning, you’re going late at know, you could be responsible for livestock, and they don’t necessarily feed themselves, at least not the way we feed them in the midwest. We really beef them up good, but it’s hard work.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. Hey, I’m curious. How did those experiences of, hey, I’m the same as you, your dad wears the suit. How did that experience translate into money beliefs later? And do you still carry that sense that we’re all the same, or are you seeing massive differentiation now?
Mike Van Pelt: I do see the massive differentiation, and I, uh, think it’s because now, when I was growing up, we didn’t have all the toys, right? There was no cell phone. And if you needed to make a phone call, you either had to go to the principal’s office or a pay phone. A pay phone, for some of you people is where you stick a quarter. And so we just didn’t have all the options. I remember when I got to high school, I said, dad, I want a car. My dad went, awesome. You need a job. And he cut a deal with me. He said, if you want a car, you get a job, you pay for the car, and I will pay for the insurance. That was the deal, and that’s what we did. And that did teach me some pretty good responsibility. But I remember working in the grocery store, we didn’t have all these things on the shelves like we used to. You, uh, go into the store now, instant food products and all this stuff. I mean, it wasn’t there. You picked a, b, or c, and that was your option, even for cars and all that. Now we have so much stuff, just stuff, and everybody gets stuff. And proof of that is. And as I’ve traveled around the country, I see the same thing going on everywhere. How about these storage facilities? Massive, uh, storage facilities being built everywhere. I mean, climate controlled. Uh, why is that? Because we have a lot of stuff.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. And one of the things I do with clients is somebody’s parents pass, and the thing that they loathe to do, the thing that the client hates doing, is going into the storage and cleaning all that out. And they have to. They got to go in. And this half goes to the garbage. This part goes to goodwill. This is the stuff I’m going to give to the kids and whatever, but we just retain so much garbage.
Mike Van Pelt: It’s a lot. And so people have a lot of stuff. But on the flip side of know, especially living in a large city like I live in, if I go down to Atlanta now, I’m way outside the city, downtown limits of Atlanta, uh, by design. But if I go to downtown Atlanta, I’m going to see a lot of poverty. I’m going to see people living on the streets, homelessness. And so it feels like in my lifetime right now, I’m seeing the biggest gap between wealthy people and poor people. And the skeptical side of me says, well, this is by design. Yeah, you don’t have to go down that road.
Jonathan DeYoe: You want to explore that some.
Mike Van Pelt: Well, I think that there’s a lot because we have so much wealth in the world because there’s so much money. And you see what money m does to politics. It skews it. And so the very people that we should have faith and belief that every one of our lawmakers is fighting for us on a daily basis. I was at my north cob rotary this morning. I sat right next to my state representative, who’s a super nice guy. But we should have the faith and belief that our politicians are taking care of us. But it’s hard to feel taken care of when they do book deal after book deal. They’re on every show that pops up on the news. Why would you do that? Well, in my world, as a coach and an author and a speaker, it’s called marketing. Why do you market? So you can make money. So I don’t think that our founding fathers would have ever. There’s no way they could have imagined the amount of wealth and things that are available, not just to the average person on the street, but our politicians. And there are things that have the appearance of being done for fear and control. I clean that up.
Jonathan DeYoe: No, we’re going to sort of steer back on. But there’s something I want to say first, and that’s. I think that 200 years ago, I think that you had the successful people of the day be appointed to run for office. And they were like, uh, I’m busy. I’m doing this other stuff. And then they ran for office. I think today it’s an avenue towards greater wealth. Being a politician is not an avenue towards necessarily doing good, though I’m sure some people have that belief and they pursue that. It’s also an avenue towards greater wealth for yourself and your family. And I think that’s the part that I find the most disturbing. And I’m not picking sides here. I think everyone.
Mike Van Pelt: I agree. And the funny thing of it is, you don’t have to pick sides on that one. It’s on all sides.
Jonathan DeYoe: It’s universal. Yeah, but really it’s also the human condition, because we see this difference, because we see all the inequality. We do want to take care of me and mine. That’s the rule of the day. How do I amass my own amount? And I’m frankly guilty of that. I want to make sure that my family is taken care of. Right. For sure.
Mike Van Pelt: Yeah, I’m in the same boat. But I also, and I commonly tell people I want to make an impact on the lives of men for good. Now, I can’t do that for free.
Jonathan DeYoe: Just before we go there, that’s what I want to spend the bulk of the time talking about, is to work with men and sort of some of that stuff. But before we go there, I want to hear, and this is what most intrigued me about our last conversation, was your relationship with I think a very successful woman and how that works at the home front, your wife’s pretty high power, right?
Mike Van Pelt: So my wife has been a leader, a senior leader in the, uh, organization for a number of years. She was a sea level person, and I’ve taken a lot from that. Number one, her work ethic, not just professionally, but as a mom. And all the things that she had to go through as a working woman in a high demand job and be a mom and be a wife at the same time is pretty incredible because she wasn’t just responsible for myself, the dog, and two kids. She was responsible for leading an organization. And at times, that was very difficult. And part of our story, why I’m even in Atlanta, is during COVID her position was very unexpectedly. They removed the position for a time and turned it over to somebody else. Well, they figured out what the world of COVID was going to do to everything, and it really threw our lives in a tailspin. But we maneuvered through. I just, I can’t even begin to tell you. Uh, we landed on our feet here in Atlanta. She’s got a new position, but I’m extremely proud of her and all of her accomplishments, and she deserves all the greatness that comes her way. And it’s just the, there were times when her name is, was, you know, Mr. Jill. I mean, people just knew me as, and, you know, at, uh, certain points, that was not the easiest thing for me to go through. But, yeah, it’s been awesome to be by her side now for 27 years and see her maneuver through all this stuff.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, you mentioned that the feeling that you got when you were at a party, when you were Mr. Jill, someone asked you what you did, right. Can you just share that?
Mike Van Pelt: Yeah. Well, there was a period of time where I was not happy with what I was doing professionally, and I was really trying to figure it out. I just could not fill that void inside of me of, like, what’s missing in my life. What’s missing. And my wife, at a certain point, because she had the job that she did, said, mike, why don’t you stay home with the kids and figure out what you want to do? And I did that. I went back to college. I got my undergraduate degree, and I really dove into the nonprofit world and was doing a lot in the community. I was doing a lot in my church. And I finally came to the conclusion, wow, I love the nonprofit world. I think I’m going to be probably, I could see myself being a nonprofit executive. This is just awesome. You get to help people so I’m like, what’s missing? I’m like, I could use my master’s degree. And I went back and got my master’s degree, and there was this period of time in there where I was getting my education, I was getting certifications. I was stay at home dad. But that void still was inside of me. And it’s because a lot of us, not purposefully, inadvertently, were raised as men to be the primary caretakers of our family. And I thought I needed to be the breadwinner. So the challenge that I went through was I wasn’t the breadwinner. I was a stay at home dad. And if people came up and asked me, because that’s what they do. What’s your name and what do you do? I struggled, and there were times when I literally could not get anything out of my mouth. I remember being at an event, and my wife started speaking for me because I couldn’t even say I didn’t have an answer. Uh, and as I went back out in the job market and tried to get a job, I heard a lot of no’s. And then I internalized that, and I just completely lost my identity. And that’s the challenge that a lot of men have, is their identity is in what they do.
Jonathan DeYoe: Productivity.
Mike Van Pelt: Yeah. And so, uh, I really struggled for a period of time with my identity and who I was and what I wanted to be.
Jonathan DeYoe: So, a couple of things. Where do you think we get that sense of our identity is tied to the work that we do? Thing one, thing two is, what other sort of indicators or markers of quote unquote success are there for men? Uh, I mean, these are the ones that, when they come, and these are the markers. Not after you’ve coached them.
Mike Van Pelt: Well, I think we get, as men, we get wrapped up in our careers, that just becomes who we are. And I think that as people, we make assumptions about people. Oh, he’s an attorney. He must have x, y, and z. Oh, he hauls garbage, so he probably lives in this piddly house. I mean, a lot of this is unconscious stuff that we think through, but I think for a lot of us, our identity is tied to our career. That’s where we spend the most amount of time. That’s where we work, uh, on whatever our craft is. If you’re a manager, you know, you want to be a better manager. And so that’s where we get wrapped up in, and it becomes important. So, like, in my case, my vision of where I saw myself because of what my skill level was, what I had the ability to do. The people around me were saying, mike, we want you to serve on our board again. We love what you’re doing. You’re a go getter. They were telling me something, and yet when I went out to try to seek employment, uh, they didn’t marry up at all. And so my vision of who I thought I wanted to be was different than where I was. Not that there was anything wrong with being a stay at home dad, by the way. I look back on that very fondly now, and I wish I would have been more present. And some people would say, well, Mike, you were pretty present. But my mind was adrift a lot of times going, yeah, but you could have this job, or, I want to do this, but I can’t get this. How do I get that? I. Now I look back on it, and I see where my kids are at, especially sending my daughter away to school last week. And those days are behind me now.
Jonathan DeYoe: How much do you think you’re at the party? Someone says, hey, what do you do if you just came right out and said, yeah, I’m a stay at home dad. Do you think there would be judgment if you just carried that with pride, all internal? Yeah.
Mike Van Pelt: No, it’s a good question. And I think what happens with guys, right, we bury stuff. We don’t want anybody to think that there’s always this fear of shame or guilt or whatever the case may be. Well, you don’t want to tell somebody that you’re a stay at home dad. You want to tell somebody, I don’t know what a great. You’re a doctor, you’re a lawyer, you’re the CEO of a, uh, company. You’re this astronaut. Something you want to say? All that stuff. The funny thing of it is, nobody ever had a negative comment. No. Most of the time, I got a lot of atta boys. And, man, I wish I could stay home with my kids.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yes.
Mike Van Pelt: But on occasion, there were comments that would come out. I remember we were going to get my wife, um, an update, and it was a luxury automobile. And the sales guy didn’t mean anything by it, but he said, well, it must be nice to have a sugar mama. Now, in my position during that time, he probably couldn’t have stabbed me in the heart any deeper. Uh, and I just remember sitting in the backseat of the car going, dude, that’s not what this is. And so on occasion, there was stuff like that. I remember being on a webinar with the university that I went to, and I put a question in the chat, what do you do about extended jobs? How do you even begin to answer that? And the guy that was doing the webinar, he said, well, how long have you been out of work? And I put it in the chat, and the guy goes, wow. When I see something like that, I think somebody’s probably either had a drug problem or an alcohol problem. And I remember hearing that and it just like, no, that’s not what’s going on. And I remember just logging off the webinar and putting it away. And sadly, it’s those little comments like that. Nobody meant anything by it, but it was those little pieces that kept coming at me that really stung.
Jonathan DeYoe: It speaks to sort of a deep cultural gender bias and expectation. I’m imagining your wife actually suffered from barbs all the time.
Mike Van Pelt: Well, in a different, um, was, I remember a couple of times her know, Mike, I need you to go get the kids from such and such. I got a meeting night. I can’t leave the meeting. And basically, the point was, I can’t leave that meeting because then I’m the mom. So it’s on both sides of the fence. And it’s really been interesting to me as I reflect over all of that. Now that we’ve kind of gone through some of that stuff and really moved on, it gives me a really unique view and seat in looking at the world of masculinity and the world of all the stuff going on with women in terms of pay equity and all these things. So I’ve had a unique view of that, and I’m glad I did because it really has opened my mind to what’s going on. It’s gave me a very realistic view of what’s going on for sure.
Jonathan DeYoe: I’m actually really sort of excited that you’re a leader in this space of masculinity. Ah. And I watch some of the stuff that my son brings home from high school. He thinks he’s being taught. And I worry a bit that we are lumping all masculinity in with toxic masculinity. And I have to believe that’s wrong. And you referenced this. What is positive masculinity?
Mike Van Pelt: I think there’s so many words I could throw at it. And typically I tell people, well, you’re going to have to define this for yourself. But I think it’s just being, if I had to say, as a dad, what does that look like? It’s being present, it’s being loving, it’s being joyful, it’s being positive, it’s being nurturing. All of those things are positive. Masculinity, not so much. I’m beating my chest. I can lift 1000 pounds. All of those things are cool, right? But masculinity is more along the lines of being real, being authentic, being vulnerable. If I fell down playing little league baseball when I was growing up, somebody would say, just rub it out. Commonly, we joke, don’t say ouch. Real ball players don’t say ouch. Stuff like that. And that’s just not true in life. Sometimes you just need to sit down and have a good cry, and that’s just the way it is. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with hugging it out with another guy. Um, we’re built for community, and that’s an important thing to note because as men specifically, we’re really good at isolating. Uh, I don’t like how everything’s gone down. And don’t get me wrong, it’s good to go for a walk in the woods every once in a while, but I’m talking about isolation as a bad tool. Like, I don’t want to be around people. I don’t want to do this. I’m going to internalize this. And when you do that, and I know this because I’ve done it, when you internalize the negative, you just feel so horrible inside and you can’t quite figure out, well, how am I going to overcome this? It’s just sitting inside you, bubbling out well on the outside, you’re trying to keep it all together, and, uh. It’s yucky.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, no, absolutely. And I’m guilty of it, too. I’ve done it, and I feel like I was trained and taught how to do it as a kid. And my dad, there was no, smack me down. He was a big hugger. Like, we hug all the time. Every time I see him, it’s been hugs my entire life. It’s like, he’s been a loving dude. But my coaches, my male teachers, you just kind of go through the whole list. Everyone comes out with this. Yes. Tough it out. Like, come on, grow up, be tough. And that’s just the normal thing. I’m wondering if. Do you work with all ages? I mean, um, I have a specific question, and I’m wondering if you can answer it. About younger men today, are they expressing more angst around what it means to be a man? Are they worried more about it than some of the older men you work with, or do you see a difference?
Mike Van Pelt: Yeah, it’s, uh, such an interesting question. I find myself talking about this more with some other coaches in the men’s community. My quote unquote target market, if I had to say what it is, uh, are probably guys in their forty s and fifty s that are trying to figure out what does that next phase of life look like? What does my legacy look like? I’ve been down this road here, and this is not going the way I want it to go and what does that look like? But the flip side of that is a lot of these younger kids, and I see this in my own kids, they seem to be a little bit more in touch with their emotions and things than I was when I was their age, because that wasn’t something that we talked about. Like emotion was not on the table, that wasn’t something that we were going to talk about. And they seem to be m much more in touch with their feelings and emotions, and they also seem to talk about things that I don’t know that me and my buddies would have ever touched on. So that’s interesting. Now, what worries me is where they’re getting their information. We didn’t have Google when I was 18, and so there were a lot of things that didn’t exist. So how they’re getting their information is of some concern. The other concern is, and, uh, I’m not pointing fingers when I say this, I’m just talking statistically, the level of divorce in this country is staggeringly bad, especially in the minority community. The lack of father presence is horrible. And so we’ve got a lot of kids that aren’t growing up with dads or they’re not growing up with full time dads. And I worry about that from the standpoint of, I think having a male father figure in the house is a very positive thing. I think the nuclear family is a very positive thing. And I understand there’s stuff that happens and things can’t get worked out, but the statistics coming at us right now are really bad. And so what I see happening with a lot of the young people is they think divorce is normal. I remember coaching Little League a number of years ago, and I said to a kid on our team, where’s your hat? And he goes, was at my dad’s house. Like, I was supposed to think that to him, that was normal. Like, I got stuff at my mom’s house, I got stuff at my dad’s house. I heard it. And I’m like, I don’t even get what he’s saying, right, because I didn’t grow up in that environment. And so there’s a lot of things pushing against kids. I have on occasion, I’ll get a call from a mother and she’ll say, so my son needs a lot of help. Now here’s the problem with that. Uh, in both those cases recently where it happened, it was a divorce situation, there’s absolutely no doubt that the son needed a male role model. In both cases, I declined because I said to the mother, will your son come to me and ask me for coaching help? And they were both like, well, basically my son didn’t even know you. I’m making this call and I’m like, I’m going to have to decline. Not because, truth, uh, be told, it tears me up to say that, yeah, of course. Uh, but the way I look at it is I need you to ask for help. If you’ll ask for help, then I know that there’s a good chance you’re going to put in the work. If somebody else drags you along, what do you expect? What’s going to happen with me? I’m going to drag you and we’re not going to accomplish anything, and it’s not a good use of our time. So I worry about things that are going on culturally, and there’s a lot that our kids are growing up with massive confusion on what’s real, what the.
Jonathan DeYoe: Truth is, because I know you work in group and I know that we’ve talked about this, most men, um, have never had another man that they can confide in. That just isn’t a normal thing. And I have a few and I’m meeting some more, and so I’m growing that little network of those kind of men. I didn’t have that as a kid. I did have a strong father figure that was supportive. But you’re competitive with your peers when.
Mike Van Pelt: You’Re a kid, you can be, uh.
Jonathan DeYoe: Faster and tougher and stronger and deal with more stupidity and this kind of thing. Have you ever seen anyone successfully create a group program for 18, 1920 year old men and sort of help them manage feelings, discuss things openly, be vulnerable with each other? Or do you think that’s like a lost cause?
Mike Van Pelt: I don’t think it’s a lost cause. I wouldn’t chuck it up to a lost cause. It’s interesting because it’s not something that I’ve spent a lot of focus on. I think that what tends to happen with that kind of age bracket is we’ve depended on the church to do that specifically years ago. Yeah, I mean, the kids are going know whatever, they’re going to youth group, uh, and we put them in that way. Well, again, you look at statistics. Barna is one of the big groups out there that does a lot of christian statistics. I mean, people aren’t going to.
Jonathan DeYoe: And there’s other institution Boy scouts, there’s other things where they would have lessons of, right, boys.
Mike Van Pelt: And you bring up a great example. So the Boy Scouts of America, cub scouts, all that stuff was just great training ground for it used to just be young boys. Now I guess girls can join, too. So great training ground, but I don’t think that’s gotten any easier to recruit in. The people that I talk to that are around Boy scouts, their numbers are way off what they would have been 2025 years ago. And part of that is, again, we got so much going on when I was growing up in Iowa, we did everything by seasons because you had, you couldn’t, there are certain things you couldn’t do just because of the weather. And so baseball was always during the summer, and we had our schedule during summer, and it was about a three month window. And when that was done, it was done now. And I’m picking on baseball a little bit now you have a travel baseball season that goes almost the entire year, right? So you got kids that went from, like when I was a kid playing probably no more than 20 games in a summer. Some of these kids from the parents I talked to, they’re playing 100 games a year. You got travel golf tournaments all over. You got travel cheerleading, you got travel this. And so the competition for all this stuff is, unfortunately, we’ve replaced and time with God that I think that these kids desperately need and faith, and we’ve replaced it with athletics. Now, when I was a kid, I probably would have loved it. Athletics was everything to me. But I think we’ve gotten, these kids have so many options. It’s a to z. It’s ridiculous. In fact, when we get my daughter settled down, she’s just started class at the time. We’re recording this on Monday. She’s four days in, and we’ve already taken a phone call. Hey, during January, I need to go because she’s in the musical performance. So during the summertime, these guys can go get jobs at Dollywood or Branson, Missouri, or the Black Hills, up in these places that have amusement parks or cruises and all this stuff. So we take a phone call already. It’s like, hey, over Christmas in January, I got to go to New York because we have to try out for such and such for the summer job. And I’m thinking we just get her into school and now we got option a, b and c coming down the pike. And I think that’s the society we live in. Unfortunately, what that’s creating, and I call this our fast food world that we live in, is everything’s fast food. Everything’s fast food. We’re always racing from the next thing to the next thing to the next thing to the next thing. And that’s not good. No, uh, it’s not good. And we don’t slow down and we don’t enjoy the journey. We’re just busy going from one thing to the other and our heads are spinning off as a result.
Jonathan DeYoe: At the same time, there’s also this. We get very focused very young. When I was a kid, and you probably had the same experience, I played baseball, I played basketball, I played soccer, I went skiing, I golfed. Uh, I was involved in six sports.
Mike Van Pelt: Boys, jack of all trades, master.
Jonathan DeYoe: I did it all.
Mike Van Pelt: Yeah.
Jonathan DeYoe: When my son and my daughter started growing up, they were like, we have to pick a sport when we’re nine and we get better at that sport and better at that sport and better that sport. And that sport is year round and it’s competitive. When we travel and we don’t do the other things, we have so much options, but we’re supposed to get to apply to college. You have to reach an advanced level of something, whatever the thing is.
Mike Van Pelt: Right.
Jonathan DeYoe: M so we sort of build this hyper, hyper, hyper focus on success and we lose the viewpoint of all the other options and things that are out there. And I think it’s important to have all this input, all this stuff. Try this for a bit. Try this. And I think we lose that.
Mike Van Pelt: It’s interesting. And I’m going to use my daughter as an example again. She’s a very talented musical performer. Her ultimate goal is to be on Broadway. And it’s just been such a treat to watch her perform over the years. So when she was going through this process. So her degree program is at BFA. That’s a bachelor of fine arts. That is a specialty degree. That is basically like saying, I’m going to University of North Carolina to play basketball or I’m going to Michigan to play football. It is, you are in a training field and that’s what you’re at school to do is to become a performer and they teach you how to do. So what’s interesting about it is we looked at all kinds of schools and oh, and by the way, when you get those degrees and you get into a program, you have to get into the school, which was not a problem. She was a high academic achiever. But then you have to audition to get into the school. It’s not like you get recruited. So in football, you get recruited at these schools, you got to go audition. And it is.
Jonathan DeYoe: I know all about it, man.
Mike Van Pelt: Just call me if your kids going down this road, I can give you a lot of, you know what my daughter finally landed on was, yes, I want to do this, but I want that holistic college experience. In other words, she didn’t want to go to school in New York City and be just in New York City at an acting school. She wanted the sorority, she wanted the football program. She wanted all the other activities to be there so that she could get a true college experience. Now, I hope she gets that. What a lot of people don’t know, the dirty little secret is that when you become a college athlete or you get into some of these programs, that is your life. You don’t necessarily get that other college experience because you’re getting trained all the time. I mean, when your class is over, you’re up at a dancing hall or a singing hall, and you’re working on the next performance. So the training, it’s just like football. When you get done with class, you’re going to. When I was in college, I was a manager on the basketball team at 03:00, at 02:00 in the afternoon, I was there an hour. At 02:00 in the afternoon, I was down at the gym turning on the lights, getting stuff ready for practice, and I was there till seven or 08:00 at night. And so it’s not your true college experience. But that being said, I’m, um, grateful that she had the wisdom to decide to try to take all that in as much as she could, and she’s going to benefit from that.
Jonathan DeYoe: So, total aside here. So, Eli, my son, is working on his second album, and he has guest artists on there occasionally. So your daughter’s vocals, strong? Oh, yeah, we’ll connect about that afterwards.
Mike Van Pelt: I love that. Yeah, that’s a good idea. That’s cool.
Jonathan DeYoe: That’s awesome. So there’s a ton of noise out there, and I want to sort of simplify this. Let’s pretend for a second you got a know in a group who struggles with how they define success in their own life, what’s just one thing that they can do or focus on that will give them better outcomes?
Mike Van Pelt: John, I’m a big believer that we have it on the know. It’s my job as a coach or a guide to help bring it out and so I would want to know how that person defines success. What does success look like for them? And then based on their answer, we would figure out what that looks like. Believe it or not, I think for success, for a lot of people, doesn’t necessarily look like the biggest boat at the marina, doesn’t necessarily look like the biggest house in the neighborhood. I know some people right now are going, what? Life is so short. It’s so tender, and you never know. And I know you know this very intimately. Well, Jonathan, when you’re going to lose the people around you. And so I don’t think we can ever lose sight of that. And as I get older, I tend to choose more wisely the people that I put around me, the people that I’m exposed to. I like to say in my world, I want more givers around me and fewer takers. M and I think about my legacy. I think about the impact I want to have on this world. And I get up every morning trying to move in that direction.
Jonathan DeYoe: Do you think that’s something? I think that generally, when we’re younger and we’re grown up, even maybe through our 40s, maybe through our fifty s, uh, we don’t think about. We don’t introspect. We don’t really go inside and say what’s important to us. What does success mean to us? And so I’m imagining that many people that come to you, that they’re, like, struggling. I’m not really happy. Um, maybe I’m making enough money, but there’s something just off about what I’m doing. And you say you need to go deep. They’re like, what? How do you navigate that?
Mike Van Pelt: I think what matters to you, what really matters to it’s too many people get caught up in this rat race of dang John down the street. Just got a wow, that’s a pretty nice looking car. And so we get caught up, and, uh, it’s a dangerous game to play. I had a God moment right as Covid was starting. That’s the only way I can call it. I had a big infinity QX 80. And I love that thing, man. I like a big, meaty suv. And I don’t even know that we’d had. Well, Covid was just becoming a thing. And I remember sitting up in my office at my desk, and all of a sudden, I was like, why do I need that thing? Why is that even a thing sitting in my garage? Because I have a big suv. I could put more gas in it. The tires cost x. Why do I need that. And I went online in that moment and did something I hadn’t done in probably over 20 years. I found a used Toyota Camry, and I went down to the Ford dealership the next day and traded my car in and bought a used Toyota Camry that my daughter now drives.
Jonathan DeYoe: I’d say that’s a buffett moment. That’s what I’d say that is.
Mike Van Pelt: Yeah. And by the way, Toyota Camrys are great cars, okay? So, to this day, I can’t with 100% certainty fully grasp why I did that. But other than to say, and that was, again, we hadn’t really shut down yet, everybody’s trying to figure this thing out. It was really early on, I think, what has happened to me by doing the really hard work and coming, uh, to understand that my identity isn’t attached to my job or a house or whatever, my identity is attached to my God, first of all. And so, coming to that realization, the things that used to matter to me, they don’t matter. And when money comes my way, that is my opportunity to impact the world in a bigger way. Uh, to me, that is a much bigger way to think, because we’re living in this story that was biblically created, and we get to play a part in that story. We all have a little story and a big story, and that’s pretty cool. And so how do you want that to go down? And that’s really doing the work. And why do some people do the work and others don’t? Some people don’t want to look in the mirror because they’re afraid what they might see.
Jonathan DeYoe: Right. It’s this whole values, purpose, values, uh, purpose foundation. You got to be introspective for that. That’s the one thing, right to do, be introspective. Now, next question is a follow on. What is one thing you see men do that ends up hurting them that they should stop doing?
Mike Van Pelt: They don’t take action on the positive, and they just sit and spin in the negative.
Jonathan DeYoe: So let go of the negative is. What do you mean by that example?
Mike Van Pelt: I think that for me, a lot of times I use me because I’m not afraid to talk about it. So for me, for too long, one of the things that I got caught up in was politics. For whatever reason, for some crazy reason, that’s just going to change the world. And I got way too caught up in it. And when I got caught up in it, then it was, I’m right, you’re wrong. All the time. I’m right, you’re wrong. There’s no way that you’re right. And what that created was anger, absolute anger. I can’t believe anybody would be that stupid that they would believe that way. I wasn’t even open to an argument.
Jonathan DeYoe: I think you’re talking about 80% of the country right now, probably.
Mike Van Pelt: But what I’ve learned to do was what I realized was how caught up.
Jonathan DeYoe: Mhm.
Mike Van Pelt: I was in all that. And I just released it. I released it. And so the funny thing of it is, I went from just like this avid news junkie to the other night. I walked in and my wife walked in the living room and I went, I don’t even know what’s going on in the world. And I flipped it over the news. And what tends to happen is I listen to about five minutes and then I’m like, you got to be kidding me. And then I flip it off. It’s like, enough. And the funny thing of it is, because I’ve done the work on myself, I don’t need that anymore. Um, and I’ve come to realize that most of what they’re talking about is just sensationalism to sell advertising anyway. So they’re not looking out for me. The only person that’s going to look out for me is me. And I think that’s an important thing for everybody but the men that I work for to realize is that you got to take control over your own life because nobody else is going to look out for you. They’re worried about themselves. And I don’t mean that to sound selfish, but I mean, at the end of the day, you are in control of your mind, your body, what you say, what you do. And if you don’t take action to be present and positive, there’s probably an alternative. And nobody’s going to want to be around you. Your relationships will be bad, your jobs will probably be bad. People want to be around people that are full of joy, have a smile on their face and have integrity and do what they say they’re going to do. And some of that stuff sounds really basic, but as true today as it.
Jonathan DeYoe: Ever has been, for sure. At the same time, I don’t disagree with that, but I want to bring in something we talked about earlier. And there is a very distinct inequality that we can see. There’s a very distinct, and it’s getting a lot more pressed today. So the fact that people feel left behind feeds the other side. It feeds the anger, it feeds the political rage. It feeds all this stuff. So to the extent I think you’re saying this that you can divorce from, that you can separate from just the engagement in the crazy and say, okay, what can I do? What are the actions I can take? That’s what we got to do.
Mike Van Pelt: I don’t mean this to get into a political discussion, but I think it is a good example.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah.
Mike Van Pelt: How much? I’ll just say that there’s a right and a wrong way to come over the border. You’re either legal or you’re illegal. Okay. How much energy is wasted on putting people on a bus and shipping them, um, off to another city? That’s ridiculous. That’s to prove what point, right? And so basically, what we’ve said is, who’s taking care of anybody that’s poor? Now, criminals coming over the border, problem. Most of the people coming over the border want a good life. They want a good life. Now, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. Okay. There just is. They want a good life. Why would you leave someplace and come to someplace different? Because they know what we have here. This is the greatest country on earth. And what’s interesting is, when I talk to people that have come to this country from other countries that live here now, I’m floored at how much more patriotic they are than the average american.
Jonathan DeYoe: Right? It’s interesting.
Mike Van Pelt: And so this is the greatest country in the world. Everybody wants to come here. Well, mostly. Although when I was over in Ireland, it was very nice. But, uh, they got their own great countries, they got their own challenges over. You know, a lot of people want to come here as they know. But what I don’t like seeing going on, and this goes on on both sides of the aisle. So I’m not picking on one or the other here, is we waste energy that doesn’t need to be wasted. My question is, how do we take care of each other rather than pointing fingers at each other? When we find leaders that figure out how we can all unify and stop putting silos around everything, now we’re on to something. So I guess I need to run for public office. I don’t know.
Jonathan DeYoe: I thought about it. I nicked that idea. Too much pain. Hey, before we wrap up, is there anything people don’t know about you that you really want them to know?
Mike Van Pelt: I always use this because it’s. I’m a huge fan of indie race cars. I don’t know why. Uh, I know that sounds funny. I once told my wife, I’m like, when I pass away, just spread my ashes at the speedway. I love cars. I love watching some of these car shows and these old muscle cars. And someday I’d love to have a 68 69, roughly time frame Ford Camaro. I’m a Mustang guy.
Jonathan DeYoe: Uh, I love the 69 Camaro, man.
Mike Van Pelt: But I fell in love with indie race cars. I had an uncle in Indiana and when we were kids we visited there and then we went to a couple of races and I absolutely fell in love with it. And I love those things. And so actually for a birthday several years ago, my wife bought me the Mario Ann, uh, dreddy driving school. And I got to hop in one of those cars at Charlote Motor Speedway. And I did top out at 158 miles an hour. And it’s literally one of the most scary experience of my life and thrilling at the same time, if that’s possible.
Jonathan DeYoe: I had a client, this is probably 15 years ago, who raced around the Sears point and he had a car and he raced Sears point and he said, jonathan, you want to ride along? I’m like, absolutely. That’d be so fun. Never again being a passenger going 150 mph around s curves, that is so terrifying.
Mike Van Pelt: What’s interesting is when you do this, they start you in pit lane. And I remember looking all the way down pit lane and all you can see is the outside wall of the turn. And I’m thinking to myself, what in the world did I get myself roped up in? And then the interesting part is, while you’re out on the track, they have a professional driver in a two seater taking people around the track. Now you have to hit dots in the turns and you have to stay within that area because the professional driver is, um, above that. So you can’t go above where those dots are because you’ll take some dude out. Now when you’re going 150 miles an hour and you see somebody pass you like you’re standing still, uh, that is quite a thrill. But I got to say, I literally thought I was going to get out of the car and see people laughing and pointing fingers because it didn’t feel like I was going that fast. So I got out of the car and I thought, man, I bet I didn’t get up over 65. I thought I was going to get out of the car and people were going to be laughing and pointing at me. And so I was quite shocked at how fast I actually went because they don’t put speedometers in there. You don’t know.
Jonathan DeYoe: You have no idea. Yeah, after the fact, you get to learn. So if you could get the truth about any single question in your life, um, I can’t give you the answer, but if you knew you’d ask this question, you get the truth. What would be your question?
Mike Van Pelt: If I could get the truth? My instinct was like, who shot JFK? I have a lot of questions for Jesus. I don’t even know where to start. I just have so many questions for Jesus. And it really stems from just what I do and how it all started and came about. And I’m fascinated that one man could walk the face of the earth and disciple twelve and create, huh. A world of believers.
Jonathan DeYoe: The first men’s group.
Mike Van Pelt: Yeah, literally was the first men’s group. And so I’ve become quite fascinated by that. What was that like? What was it like for the disciples to walk around with Jesus for twelve years?
Jonathan DeYoe: M. What was that like?
Mike Van Pelt: We can look into scripture and we get sneak peeks, but it’s like, what was really going on? What were they saying to each other? Like, God, can you believe that?
Jonathan DeYoe: When the cameras weren’t rolling, what were they saying? Right. I want to know the off stuff, so let people know how to connect with you.
Mike Van Pelt: Yeah, you can always send me an email, Mike, at ah, truemanlifecoaching.com. And my website is truemanlifecoaching.com and we’re always working on the website. My podcast is on there, the blog. I mean, we’re always adding something on there. And my books. So I’ve got some collaborative books that I’ve been a part of and my own book, which I’m really getting pushed on to get finished here before the end. Get that thing out for Christmas. So it’s a work in progress. So it’s all up on my website, though.
Jonathan DeYoe: Great. Good luck on completing the book, and thank you very much for coming on the show.
Mike Van Pelt: Uh, thanks for having me on. I had a blast. John, thank you.