s2 Ep6: wayne taylor

Average Joes founder Wayne Taylor has seen the devastating impacts of social isolation on men’s mental health. What started as an off-the-cuff invitation for blokes to get together each week to enjoy a beer and chicken wings at a local pub has evolved into Average Joes, a national movement with international aspirations. Hear more about the power of connection with Wayne’s interview with Roxanne McCarty-O’Kane by clicking on the video link above, or read on for the full interview transcription…

Roxanne – Hello everyone and welcome to the latest episode of The Phoenix Phenomenon. My name’s Roxanne McCarty-O’Kane and once again bringing you another incredible interview with someone who’s doing some amazing things in the world. Today with me, I have Average Joes co-founder, Wayne Taylor thanks for joining us, Wayne.

Wayne – Absolute pleasure, Roxanne, good to see ya.

Roxanne – Excellent, yeah, good to have you. So Wayne’s, Wayne will tell you more about the journey that led him to creating Average Joes and what it’s all about. But basically it has linked him with the desire to really connect with men on a personal level and to help them to unload the worries, that burden. A lot of men of all ages in this day and age. The core of relief I believe is just to, suicide prevention and in 2017, 3,128 Australians killed themselves and 75% of them were men. The rates are increasing year on year and it really is a cause that’s dear to Wayne’s heart, so thanks for joining us, Wayne. We’d love to hear a bit more about what it was that led to the creation of your men’s connection group.

Wayne – Yeah, absolutely, well what I’ll do, I’ll start about how Average Joes began. Well it’s still a very young movement or a young organization, you might call it. We began back in August of last year, 2018. I’d recently met a real estate agent and instantly hit it off as pretty good friends and over a period of about six months, we decided that every Wednesday we’d just meet up have a beer and a chat together, just him and I. One purpose of it is to build a relationship, but two, get to know each other more and just, and see what we can do as being a part of the community and just the general man chat kind of thing that we would have. And one day we meant to get up and we went to this pub that we liked to go to and we sit down, we order some chicken wings, can you believe it? Just simple chicken wings. And the lady said to us, she goes, oh, if you come every Wednesday, these things are half price. And so, we kind of looked at each other and said, well we’re gonna be here every Wednesday from now on and so we had. So for a few months on end, we got together every Wednesday at the same time. We’d order these chicken wings and have a beer and have a chat. Now, one day I said to him, I said, mate, I said I wonder how many blokes out there don’t get a chance to do this. And when I mean a chance to do this, I mean, just sit down and chat. Just sit down, open up, talk about life, life’s battles. The things that men face in life, the issues that come against us. I wonder how many men don’t get a chance to just do this, one on one, one on three or a group, regardless. I said, I want to put a call out there on the community board, on Facebook, and anyone there that’s local to us and to this pub, that every Wednesday, we’re gonna be here. And if they did want to come and sit with us and have a chat, we’re open. You know, and I’ll put a few little pointers in there like, you know, there’s no need to be alone, there’s no need to do it depressed and be home by yourself. Come and have a beer and some chicken wings with us. We’re always gonna be here and if you want to have a chat, we’ll have a chat. I honestly didn’t realize how, the most simplest concept, the most simplest idea, absolutely was just taken by the community. And I put it on the community board and literally within minutes, I had private messages sent to my phone and I had requests for interviews from the newspaper. And saying, oh we want to come and do an interview on what you do. What we do, we drink beer and have chicken wings. I don’t think there’s an interview in that, come and write an interview. So he did, he came down, within 15 minutes he was here. Took a couple of photos and said, what’s the purpose and why are you doing this? I said, well this is how he and I started. We just got together for a chat, one on one. We put the call out that if anyone wants to come and join us they can. He said, what a great, simple idea. I’m gonna run with this story. And we said, well you can do what you like, long live the story. Literally the next day, here’s the front page of the paper and it said, two average Joes breaking the stigma on men’s mental health. And I rang my mate and I said, have you seen the paper? And he said, yeah. I said, one, I love the name Average Joes. I said, but two, apparently we’re breaking the stigma on men’s mental health and he said, bloke, I guess know it probably wasn’t how we intended to start this, but what it’s done is it’s opened our eyes to what the community and what people and what men in particular are craving. Not only was it the men that sent us messages. I had so many messages from women saying, if only something as simple as this existed two months ago, 18 months ago, two years ago, my husband probably wouldn’t have killed himself. He would’ve had somebody he could go to to talk to. And, I merely, it’s just 12 hours from Wednesday to the Thursday interview and I’m receiving 20 messages a day. And I rang my mate and I said, mate, it, this is unbelievable. I said, I’m getting messages from people, I did not realize that this was such a need in the community. So, that starts and the next week it kind of just took off and that was only August. Now since August, we’ve had, I think we have seven, seven Average Joes groups running now across Australia. We’ve got two more about to start in Perth, one in Melbourne, one in Tasmania. I was on the phone to a guy this morning, he’s gonna start one in New Zealand. Oh, wow. One of them was done in Kenya. Well, the interest of, and I’m saying to people, well what is it that you’re wanting to do? And they say, we just want to do what you’re doing. It’s such a simple idea, a simple concept of just creating an environment where men are comfortable to come in with this idea, and with this concept behind it, that I have a comfortable place that I can come to, I can talk, I can chat and I can go. And that’s exactly what we’re creating, a simple, that kind of atmosphere. And, I remember growing up in the 80s, I think I shared this story before, I remember growing up in the 80s as a kid and this program or this scheme or something, whatever you want to call it, came out called Neighborhood Watch. And it was these little badges that would sit on people’s letterboxes. And you could walk up and down the street and one in four, one in five houses, would have this little white and green badge that said Neighborhood Watch. And what that symbol meant and what we could identify through it was, if I’m a young kid and I’m lost or I need to use a phone to call my mom or I’m a little bit scared and I don’t know what to do, that badge on the house’s letterbox said, this place is a safe place that you can come into. You can come and use the phone, you can come call your mom, it’s a safe zone. And what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to make Average Joes that kind of thing. A place where, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, men can go, and one of the slogans we’re trying to really, really get to takeoff is look for the shirts. Because our symbol, you can see on my hat here and my shirt, it’s a symbol where three or four, five guys in every group are wearing a shirt. So men can come into a pub, come into a cafe, and they can see a group of 18 guys sitting around with a couple of shirts on. And this shirt, this emblem, this badge, this branding says, this is a safe place for men to come in, to have a chat, to unload. It’s a private place, it’s a place where you can literally share off your heart. The conversations that we have are very raw, they’re open, they’re straight to the point, there’s stuff that not normally gets spoken out in public areas, especially in front of children or women. Not that they’re bad but they’re just men topics that men need some other men to talk to and relay. And, so that’s how Average Joes began and that’s the branding that we’re trying to make it, you know, identified with is that kind of place. And in regards to the suicide, suicide awareness, suicide prevention and things like that, I had a really, really hard think and a long think about it. I’ve done a lot of research, a lot of reading on it. And what I’m finding when it comes down to suicide is, the government is very quick to throw money at programs that deal with the end result. In other words, men that are suicidal. Now, we’ve got, we’re throwing money at helplines, we’re throwing money at counseling services, we’re throwing money at all these things that deal with the end, right at the end. But, I think what we’ve failed to see is that there’s a journey that men take before they get to the end. Before I had an orchard and I love walking to my orchard, and I’ve got a beautiful big, you know, trees full of oranges. And I walk down and back and I’m an orange, love oranges and all my trees are growing oranges. But all of the sudden, I got a tree that’s growing apples. I can keep the tree and complain and go, Oh no, it’s bearing the wrong kind of fruit. Now if I want to kind of deal with the issues by just picking apples off of it, I’ll be there forever. Because the apple is connected to a vine which is connected to a branch which is connected to a tree which is buried in the ground and getting watered and fed by something to continue to grow. And I think when we focus on men’s suicide and suicide prevention, if we’re gonna deal with the end product by just trying to pick the apple all the time, we’ll be there forever. What we’re trying to do with Average Joes, is we’re trying to bring it back and focus on the vine, focus on the branch, focus on the tree and focus on the roots, like where are all these things coming from? In the process of doing that I’ve discovered that it’s an absolute, it’s a long journey with a quick ending. And the journey involves loneliness, depression, rejection, issues in relationships, media, all these things. Now, how ever the tree’s built up to bear that fruit can be a whole different bunch of things, you know? That this tree might be bearing an apple but the vine might be the wrong relationship which is connected to what the media’s telling us and how are men supposed to live and when you gotten fed this, connected to this, you’re gonna go and sit and talk it through. And if all we’re gonna do is focus on trying to pick the apple off the tree, we’re gonna be there forever using up a lot of time, a lot of resources, or just killing it. So what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to bring it back by going, well you know what, let’s target these issues and these conversations that men don’t like talking about. You know, and what we’ve discovered is in conversations with men, men all joke about the topics that they seriously want to talk about.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Wayne – And what I mean by that, is ’cause my background as a plumber. I still own a plumbing business. I go to job sites quite regularly and I deal with tradesmen every single day, day in, day out. And, men will sarcastically joke about what they deep down want to talk about. Because that’s the way that men try to bring it up. Men don’t want to you know, put somebody out of place or be that guy that’s like, oh yeah, I’ve got issues. Men don’t want to do that. So men jokingly about it, they’ll joke about sex or they’ll joke about you know, at-home or their career or they’ll joke about something. But deep down it’s ’cause they really want to talk about it. So when I’ve sat at the movies, what I hear and go outside and catch the galore, yeah, bla bla bla, you know, my Mrs. Oh well now, tell us about, tell us about what’s ruined Mrs. Oh, oh, um, yeah, well, uh. And all of the sudden they’ll want to open up because it really is on their heart, you know? So, what we’re trying to do is now we have groups. I’m coming up with topics and I go, okay, we’re gonna do a topic in our meetings this week. And we’ve got a group chat that all their hearts are in and we’re trying to create topics that go, you know what, instead of me coming in presenting, and a harness with a lot of you know, like men’s groups, suicide prevention groups or anything these groups put a title to that man, it’s one person sharing and trying to teach other men. Now, yes that works to some degree but what I have found is that, I’m 39 years old, okay? Now, you can’t buy experience. Experience comes from time, trial and error, risk. Experience comes from so many things. Now at 39, I’ve experienced a lot but I don’t know what it’s like to be 50. I don’t know what it’s like to be 60, I don’t know what it’s like to be 70. I know what it’s like to be 39 because I’m 39 now. Now, if I’m just gonna run a men’s group, a prevention group, any kind of these kind of groups and just try to share from me all the time, look, it gets a little bit of result but that’s not the result that we’re trying to do. The purpose behind what we’re doing in Average Joes is we’re trying to get men to understand that you’re either have gone through, going through or going to go through something that one of us here has already gone through. So when you can draw from other people’s experiences. That’s where we find answers. Men have this natural ability to problem solve amongst themselves. I married into a family and I married the eldest daughter of three girls, okay? Now, family heartaches, come Christmastime, we organize a big family trip and everyone drives from all different places and we get to the destination. The first thing men do when they go to the car. Oh yeah mate, how long did it take you to get here? Oh, twelve hours and, you know, 20 minutes, geez you should have taken this road, oh really? No, no, go the back way through. All of the sudden, men just want to learn from each other you know, and teach each other and grow from each other. Men just naturally do it. Men just naturally go, how’d you do this? No mate, do it like this. Oh yeah, I’ll try that. Oh really, yeah. That’s how men do it. And that’s why men, when you put a man in a position where he can use his hands, they love it, they love problem solving. So, what we’re trying to do within Average Joes is go, you know what, here’s a topic. Our group did a, I run two groups at the moment, or three groups actually but the two main ones that I run on the Wednesday, so I come up with a topic, we’ve got, I think the youngest guy that comes is 20, the oldest is I think 85. Now there’s a lot of life experience in an age group. A lot of life experience. So I’ll come with a topic. So last, so we started this series called controversial signs. So our last week I come with the signs, alright guys, controversial sign for the week. Happy wife, happy life, what are your thoughts. So I start with the youngest guy, he’s not even married yet.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Wayne – I start with the oldest guy, he’s been divorced twice. And I go, what are your thoughts, happy wife, happy life. And it opens up so much discussion on, well my first wife this and I used to focus on this but I’ve learned with my second wife that if I just do this, and it’s great for these 20 year olds to hear this. Because he’s never engaged, going, I never thought of this stepping into a marriage, these are great ideas. It says to someone like myself, wow, I’ve started to hit that middle road of being married. You know, this year I’ve been married 19 years. I’m hearing from a guy who’s been married 40. So when you put men together and you realize that hey, he’s either gone through, going through or gonna go through the same thing as me, what’s your thoughts, I want to know. And so instead of just trying to learn from one person, it’s a total open table to go, alright, what’s your thoughts? And we go around the room. And quite often, like even yesterday, alright, 85 years old, walks up and goes, I’ve got a topic for today. I said, great, tell us your topic. Well, this, bla bla bla, okay. Well and it was about domestic violence. So I said okay, matey what’s your thoughts? Yep, what’s your thoughts, yep, cool. And as soon as we leave, we’re only there for an hour, as soon as we leave, I get instant messages from people. Mate, that was unreal. I never thought of what this, it was just good how so and so said this, unreal. So we’re trying to go you know, what Average Joes is everything man. Let’s draw back from dealing with suicide and suicide prevention itself, let’s bring it back two, three, four steps and go, let’s deal with it at its root, let’s deal with it at its tree and go, okay, well what are some things that men go down this path, loneliness, depression, let’s talk about these topics. And so one of the things were trying to, I guess, stay away from is Average Joes is a place where you go to if you’re gonna kill yourself.

Roxanne – Yeah, of course.

Wayne – That’s not even close to what we are. We’ve got guys that come and go, you know, it’s not even me, I’m not here because I’m suicidal, I’m here to make mates. And that’s exactly what it’s about. Everything man, we talk about all those different things. So, I have had, I have had an instance when I was growing up, that little bit about myself in my history and how I just came to this place, I actually pastored in a church for many years. So my background was in the ministry for quite some time, up until about seven years ago when I left the ministry all together. Now, I ran a men’s group, this is going back, this is year 12 now, so 12 years ago now. And, I had this young guy come in, literally seemed like he had it all together. Dressed well, looked the part, this. And I was, all I ever did was just give him my point of view. This is what you do, this is what you do, this is what you do, right? And I never gave the guy a chance to open up to talk really, to learn from each other. Because it was just the one way that I thought was the only way. Just do it like this, this, this and that’s it. And, not knowing any underlying issues or thoughts or problems this guy had. But he was 22 and he walked in front of a train on purpose to end his life and it did, it killed him. And it was a wake up call that, what goes through the mind of a 22 year old. 22 is just, at 39 now, 22 is the start of life. It’s the beginning, there’s so much and when I talk to guys, 60, they go, 39, mate well that’s your starter figure. There is so much that we look back and go, life is just beginning. If you think, if you think what your issue, your thought, your problem, your circumstances now, is it really that bad? You’re giving yourself an absolute, permanent solution to a very temporary problem. And so it’s put me on a journey, I’ve always loved, I’ve always loved doing things with people. I was taught at a very young age from a guy that I absolutely admire, still to this day. He was actually the minister at the church I was with. He taught me from a young age that life is about others. And it really has become a motto of how I try to live, that life is about others, life is about other people. The most joy, the most happiness you get, isn’t when you receive anything tangible, it’s when you receive that feeling of being able to impart and impact and change someone’s world. And one of the things that he used to teach me was you may not change the world, but you may change someone’s world. And I think that’s a great motto, and a great slogan to live by. Is that life is about other people. It really is and as selfish as it may sound, it gives me the greatest feeling. So, if we’re really after these great feelings in life, I want to feel great so I want to go and get, obtain wealth or obtain this or, the greatest richness in yourself and the greatest joy and happiness comes when you help other people. It’s, you can’t explain it. It really is that enjoyable and I love it. My wife’s so supportive of what we do at Average Joe’s. She’ll be like, oh, you going again tonight? I’ll go, yeah, it’s my third one this week but I enjoy it. And the vision that we have for it and how the doors that are opening for us now, the vision that we have for it is phenomenal. We’re working on some things, we’re working on an app where you can get an Average Joes app on your phone and for example, the cost to a travel is part of my business so I travel to Sydney every two to three weeks. So what I do, if I’m out of town, I can jump on the Average Joe’s app and I can type in the post code and it will show Average Joes meeting near me. And I can go, oh great, there’s one tonight where I’m driving through, I’m gonna pop in. I can go in, I can see the shirts tonight now, they’re just walking to that pub or walking to that cafe, seen this bunch of shirts, I can walk in, walk over to the table, go, hey guys, introduce myself and I’m amongst what instantly feels like a family. And that’s the vision for it, that’s where I try and take it.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Wayne – I’m sorry if I talk, if I’ve spoken too much. No. No, you’re just sitting there.

Roxanne – The passion’s tangible, I love it.

Wayne – I’ll ask you some questions or else I’m gonna keep on going.

Roxanne – I guess you fled into the feeling of family and you know, you mentioned how there is such a big age range you know, the people are young men in their 20s and men in their 80s. I wanted to get a sense from you, you know, some young men or men from any age, for that matter, might feel a little hesitant to come in but I know from speaking to you beforehand that you know, they may kind of be a little bit mates to start with, but because of the environment that’s created through the process and what you do, it doesn’t take long for them to really sort of feel into it and really relax and get the benefits straightaway from their first connection with you guys.

Wayne – Absolutely, look, with the younger generation, my thought is this, what better place to walk into a comfortable environment with closed communication circle so we know that, hey guys, whatever is spoken in this group stays in this group, we can talk open, we can talk raw. If I’m an 18 year old, young man, and I’m seeing a group of men that are 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, it would be ridiculous to think that that wouldn’t be a good place to go and sit. Because you’re learning from men that have been there. You’re learning from men that have gone through what you’re about to go through. So, to think, oh, I’m gonna hang out with a bunch of oldies, that’s not the case at all. Look, the groups are so vast in age, that it’s absolute perfect environment for younger men. Because a younger bloke walks in, he’s like, aw yeah, I’m going through this at work. Mate, you’re two years into your work, you’re two years into your apprenticeship, you’re two years into it, this is what I’d do. When I was a second year apprentice, I did this, bla bla bla bla bla, I made these changes, I did this, I altered this. Oh wow. Like, it is the perfect environment for a young man. You’re learning from men that have been there. Absolute men that have been there. I say to my kids, I have four children and my daughter’s 15 and I’ve got three boys below her. And I say to my kids, I say look, if I’m walking across the road and I get hit by a car, and I hobble back with a big wonky leg and I’m bleeding and I’m broke and I say to them, hey listen, don’t cross the road, it’s so busy, you’re gonna get hit by a car. It would be ridiculous for them to go, Mm, I know it looks pretty bad, but how about I go and experience that for myself. It’d be like, you just saw me get hit by a car. You just saw. So, what I try to say to my kids is, hey, I’m all for risk, I’m all for your experiencing life. But if I’ve gone down this path and I turn and go, guys, seriously, this is a dangerous path, avoid this path. Why would any person with any kind of sanity would go, you’re right? Actually I’ve seen it, I’ve seen results of drugs. I’ve seen the results of alcoholism. I’ve seen the results of domestic violence. Why would I choose to go down that path so that then I can say, oh yeah you’re right. Why not just take their word for it and go, hey, actually I can see the results. Mate, I want to learn from that, I appreciate that, exits. My wife used to laugh at me, because, oh, sorry, you gonna say something? That’s alright. I was saying at least we turn on the thing you know, I mean, there are so many support services out there, counselors, you know, doctors, professionals, but what I wanted to ask you is why it is so much more powerful to hear it from you know, Average Joes, from guys who have you know, actually walked the path themselves rather than, I guess being, you know, told to like they’re a you know, the professional, you do that, a teacher and they’re the student, you know, and how that dynamic makes it so much more palpable.

Roxanne – Yeah, absolutely. Look, I think, again you could probably go back to that one word which is experience. We have a lot of men come in that go, ah, yeah my, I’ve been a bit depressed lately, you know, and you say to them, I say, are you gonna see any counselors?

Wayne – Nah, God no, I’m not doing that. There’s a natural wall that comes up where men don’t want to go and see professionals, look, to some degree, I just want to make this clear, to some degree.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Wayne – Men don’t want to go and see professionals. Which is why we want to stay as average as can be. Literally, we want to remain as Average Joes, because what you’re getting from it is men that have experienced it. It’s a lot different to men that just want to teach it. It’s, you know, if, my background being plumbing, okay, I’ve got the experience in it. So for me to go and show you and teach you plumbing, you could take my word for it ’cause I’ve been there. I’ve been there for 20 years, I’ve experienced for 20 years. Compared to someone who’s gone and just read the textbook and going, hey, I just watched this YouTube video and I’ve read two textbooks on plumbing, let me show ya’. If I had the choice, I’d be like, ah mate, this guys been doing it on the tools for 20 years, you’ve just read a book. I appreciate it, if I get stuck, I might give you a call but just for time being, let me go and have a chat with this bloke because I’ve seen some of the plumbing he’s done and it is fantastic. So, I think that’s what we’re aiming for as one of our strengths within Average Joes is… we don’t tell people to stay away from professionals at all. There are professionals for a reason. And I, my hat goes off to them. Some of the stuff that they go through, fantastic. But what we’re finding is that, if the men aren’t seeking that, men aren’t wanting to go to it, a lot of men do that and it’s fantastic, you see a lot of testimonies come out of it, men’s lives that have come away positive, fantastic.

Roxanne – I was gonna say, do you think maybe it can also be a bit of a stepping stone for them, you know, that they’re stepping into something like Average Joes, the environment and they’re getting a feel for how, how it feels to unburden themselves and how it feels to have that connection and then maybe if they feel like they need more, they can go and seek that.

Wayne – Absolutely, and when we, especially now we do get the messages sent a lot to us. And there’s been a couple where I said, hey listen, your probably in the position where you might want to seek a little bit more professional help. Someone who actually expert in study of what you’re going through. Have you had a chance to chat with them? Now I have been thinking about it. Mate, if I was you, I’d take the next step and go and have a thorough chat. So, again, like we support all that, we really do. But I guess our strength is in, is the experience that the men have gone through. Yeah. So, you’re hearing from first hand experience.

Roxanne – Absolutely. Excellent, and I’d love you to share, last time we spoke, you were mentioning how, you know, the whole, are you okay, you know, asking the closed questions when you posed that to most men. I’m generalizing, Yep. I’m not a man, you can correct me if I’m wrong. But you go, oh how you going and their like, yep, and that’s it.

Wayne – They go. But it’s, you know, and you said you know, it’s all about the open-ended questions and there was a particular question that you are a big fan of, that really encourages you know, an actual answer rather than, yep, I’m good or you know, things are special.

Roxanne – Absolutely. Yeah, I’d love for you to share with us about that.

Wayne – Absolutely. Well look, I, yes look, I’m gonna stir the pot here, I know I’m gonna stir the pot because it is a bit of a platform and a bit of sleight, I’m really gonna attack to be honest. I don’t like the are you okay day. I simply, I’m being honest, I don’t like it. I like the fact that there’s awareness, and a push behind it is awareness. But asking a man if he is okay, instantly puts him in a position to give you a one word answer. And the moment you give a man an opportunity to answer with one word, he’s gonna do it. Hi mate, you okay? Yeah. He doesn’t even think about what you’re really asking. He hasn’t really taken in what the question means. Men have already, have got these big shoulders and these big, like able to just absorb and to wear these things for so long, that they don’t want to open up in a simple, one, you know, oh mate, are you okay, yeah, you, yeah. Because we do get men that come into Average Joes and for example, I won’t mention his name, but this one guy come and he said, look, how does that work on the are you okay day? And this lady asked me, are you okay? And I said, no. And he goes, and all of the sudden, this lady stood back, and he goes, and now, I’m the weirdo at work. He said, I’m treated as the weirdo. Now, I think that, well look, I understand the why, behind the whole are you okay day, but where are the results? Where are these, maybe there are, I’m not seeing it. The experience of people, the feedback I get from people, aren’t experiencing it. Because when you get a man, you give that man an opportunity to give that one word answer, that’s what he’s gonna give you. What we try to do in Average Joes, is we’re trying to cut that out. The general, when we get together, when the tables are growing at the start, it’s, that is a very simple gesture. Hey mate, how ya doing, yeah, good, cool. But when we start, we like to go, alright mate, tell us about your week. Okay, well, good. I know it was pretty bad, actually. What happened Monday? Well, he’d name is son or what happened at work, you’re all of the sudden, you’re not giving a man that opportunity to just give you a, yep, good, thanks, we’re gone. So, we’re diving that little bit deep and saying, you know, you tell me about your day, you tell me about your week. I mean, just, I want to know. And so, the are you okay day, in my personal opinion and the testimonies and that then we get back here in Average Joes, it isn’t working, it’s not working. Because you do get people, we used to get it, when I ran the business back in Sydney, we had got a substantial sized company. And so we tried to take on the whole are you okay day and I’d send it into my main guys, hey guys, you know, let’s take ahold of this are you okay day, and you’d see it, two blokes and a you. Trudge on along, hey mate, you okay, yeah, you okay, ha ha ha. And it’s taken like that.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Wayne – It’s not taken seriously. And even if deep down, one of them isn’t okay, he feels that he’s not in a position to say he’s not. But then, like my other friend, when you do say, actually I’m not okay, all of the sudden people are like, oh, oh, what have I gotten myself into? Start dealing, yeah. How can I reinforce an okay. So, obviously the purpose behind us creating that environment is for men to go, listen, tell us about your week, we want to know. Tell us, start with Monday. Monday through Wednesday, come on, you got 10 minutes, tell us about your week. Ah, well, Monday was pretty terrible. And then someone pipes up, oh yeah, I had that same experience. We had, the very first week that Average Joes began, there was, a really interesting story, but this is how it puts Average Joes in the perspective of really what it is. So we go in first week, we had a real influx of people ’cause it made media, it made news, it went through the Internet quite fast. So we had quite a good group the very first week. Now, I’ve walked up to the bar to order a beer and I met these two guys that have also walked up at the same time. They’re part of today’s group of Average Joes. Now they’ve never met each other and I had never met either of them. So all three of us, we’re all new to each other. So we’re at the bar, oh g’day, oh yeah, nice to meet you, what’s your name, yeah, cool, having a chat. I started to talk to one bloke and he said, oh yeah, I battle a lot with depression. He said, it’s really, it’s been hard, you know? Talking about this, talking about that. Started to open up a little bit more and I said, look you know, there’s been quite some times even just this past year, he said, where I just want to end it all, and I’ve considered it, I’d go down into my basement, and I plan it, but I just don’t go through with it. I don’t why I don’t go through with it but I just, I always pull out at the last minute. And I don’t end up killing myself. And the other guy, he says, well you know what, he said, I’ve been on the same thing. He said, I find myself quite depressed and I question, he said, is it easier to leave this world, is it much easier? Now, he’s not even 30 seconds into explaining himself on how he deals, you know, what he’s going through. And bloke number one, he pops up again, and he says, oh, mate, when you’re doing that, what I’ve found is you know, filling up your calendar and getting better friends and bla bla bla and giving this guy answers. Now, two minutes ago, this was the guy that was saying he wants to end his life. He’s now giving advice to this other guy. And I stopped him, I said mate, do you see what you’re doing? I said, this is the purpose on what we’re doing here in Average Joes. Your, he’s going through what you’ve just gone through. And now here you are giving this guy one on one pure experience, first hand experience to this guy on how you battled with it and how you got through it. And he stopped and he said, I see what you’re trying to do here. He said, I see what you’re trying to do. I said, that’s what we’re trying to do. It’s that, it’s getting the men together that are doing it all of life together and going, I’ve been there, this is it. So, getting back to, sorry, the are you okay day. Yeah, not a fan, but to be honest, it doesn’t work. It simply doesn’t work. And we can try and convince ourselves that it does. I’m not seeing anything. Yeah, okay. And coming back to the process, depression process, tell me about your week, do you find that among the group, you might even get some men who wander in to kind of check it out, they may not actually realize, I guess the strength of what it is that they are experiencing until they get that chance to verbalize it and to get it out in that group environment.

Roxanne – Do you find that they’re, you do see a lot of light-bulb moments during those kinds of questions?

Wayne – Absolutely, you sit on advice, absolutely. I’ll give you a perfect example. So just yesterday, so one of the things we try and do when we do an Average Joes is, obviously, there’s a lot of walking up to the bar, grabbing a drink or grabbing a coffee or whatever. So when you wan to do a bit of a scope around the bar, and we look for blokes that are sitting by themselves. So just yesterday, I walked up and I ordered a beer and I turned around and here’s this bloke in the pub, by himself with a beer. So I walked up and I said, mate are you having a beer by yourself? And he said, yeah. I said, mate, don’t ever drink by yourself. I said, we’re the Average Joes group, bring your beer over with us and sit at the table. And he goes, oh, what do yous do? I said, mate, we talk everything about man. He goes, really? I said, yeah. And he goes, ah, maybe next time. I said, no problem, so I went on back and sat back down. Five minutes later, he walks over and he said, is this what you do? I said yeah, and he goes and this is what you talk about? I said, yeah this is exactly what we do. He goes, wow, he said, I wanna come back next week. So, that’s just a simple, he didn’t even stall, like 30 seconds ago conversations. But the regulars that are there, especially me, I’m probably the biggest light bulb though because I love it. Especially when a topic all riled up and I hear, you know, wow that’s a great thought. I don’t know how many times I’ve said, geez that’s a great thought because it really is. Look I can’t, you can see that I’m passionate about these people and I want men to experience it. Going back to the days when men would talk amongst themselves, empower one another, encourage one another, lived with a purpose. And it’s, what we’re actually finding, we had done two meetings yesterday and the sad truth of what we’re really starting to discover is men are starting to feel like they’re being disempowered. Men feel like they’re losing their voice, their own voice in the community. And, it’s paying its toll and the result is suicide. It really is, where the topics that get, like again, the topics that get brought up, that lead down to these discussions. It was a real eye opener to hear that, we’re feeling disempowered, feeling like our voice in the community is no longer relevant. And it’s sad, and I mean this in no disrespect, I really hope this comes out the right way. But it seems as if the last 15 or 20 years, we have tried to empower women so much that men have felt disempowered. Men have felt like they don’t have a role in the home anymore. They don’t have a role as a father or as a husband. They don’t have a role in the world and men are feeling not respected, not welcomed and not needed and in doing so, men feeling this way, they feel like they don’t have a purpose to live. And it’s, so I don’t know how I got off to that subject with them but that’s what we’re finding so.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Wayne – Yes, there are the light bulb moments, to answer your question, a lot of light bulb moments. You see it on their faces. Especially the older blokes. It’s, you would think that getting to an age of 85 or 80 that, you know, you’ve experienced everything, that, they’re the ones that message a lot. And they can get a lot out of it. A lot of light bulb moments, so.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Wayne – Yeah. I can’t help but talking to you.

Roxanne – Stop apologizing, it’s fine. And yes, obviously from the get-go, this concept in this movement has been just exploding you know? You’re expanding, not only around Australia, but now looking at New Zealand as well. Excuse me. International growth already and we’re not even 12 months in, what, on August last year, so yeah, I would love to hear your, you mentioned before your grand dream plan, you know, being able to go anywhere in the world and being able to connect with an Average Joes group and just have that sense of like-mindedness scattered everywhere. But, yeah, I would love to find out what’s next on the horizon for Average Joes for this year. You mentioned the app, a few more groups going on, how can people get involved and really help this movement to grow?
 

Wayne – Yeah, look, I guess one of the biggest ways that people can be involved in this is to contact us and ask what’s involved in hosting one of these things. Because when you realize how easy it is, it’s really, it costs nothing, local businesses love having us there because we instantly grow their business. Because once a week we’re bringing about 12 guys in there. So local business love having us there. Hosting, it costs nothing, it’s so easy, it doesn’t require you to have a doctorate, you know, a what do you call it, anything. A label or a title of any sort. It lit, we are after the most average people there are. Because what I’ve found is that, the moment you’ve a, I’ll give an example, I was talking to an older gentlemen the other day in the park up at, Malabar Beach and having a bit of a chat and I started by saying to him, so mate, tell us about your week. And he goes on and about 20 minutes in to his talking and he stopped and he looked at me and he goes, I’ve never opened up like this to anyone before. He said, you’re not a priest are ya? I said, no, I’m not a priest. And he goes, oh good ’cause if you were I would stop. And I, it made me realize that men want to talk to men. Men don’t necessarily want to talk to men that have a title, a label, a doctorate, the this, the that. Because all of the sudden there’s this off gap, that they’re like, okay, you’re an authority over me. You know these things, I’ll take your advice, you couldn’t walk away. Men want to talk to the average Joe, just the average bloke. Me, I can’t be any more, I’m the most average bloke you’ll meet. I talk of the most ocker Aussie accent, I… do everything meant, like I’m not anything, I don’t have a label and I think that’s what the men love is that it’s that simple that we don’t carry those doctorates. So the people that want to get involved and help and you know, be involved or even host one of these things. It requires nothing of you other than, one hour a week, sitting down, having a beer or having a coffee. Literally, when I host ours, the most I talk is, alright gents, tell us about your week. Hey great, fantastic. Hey bloke, topic for today is this. Right then, we’ll start with you. That’s it, it doesn’t, it like there’s nothing else required. I throw on a shirt which I provide, I buy all these shirts myself. I provide everybody, anyone that wants to host an AJ’s group, tell me your shirt size, I’ll send you a shirt, you can have a hat, I’ve got hats, shirts galore. I’ll send you a shirt, I’ll send you a hat. We do have a little thing that we have [not Crowded] called a code of conduct. Which there are just, there’s only five very, very minor things that we do hate. When I host one of these events, five very simple guidelines we want you to do, you know? One of them is, this is not a place to sell a product. You’re not trying to use this as a place to sell you know, your hidden agenda, you know? It’s also not a place where you bring about your own religious thoughts and your own religious ideas. Keep that outside of the Average Joes, this is not a platform to preach your belief. We’re literally are average Joes, that’s what we are. We’re not trying to, you know, so keep that to yourself. And please you know, respecting the place that your in. So they’re very, very simple guidelines that just got, hey you know what, I want to host one of these things, what’s involved, like very simple. Tell us your shirt size, pick your venue, I’ll chat with the owner of the venue, see if they can promote it with us, we’ll contact local media, we’ll get a try and get a paper shoot for you so your community knows your there. I’ll come down for the first three, four, five, how ever many you need. Let’s get it going. So even down in Sydney, like I’ve been to I think five of the ones in Sydney. Down in the first year I started and now they, now I’m a thing, okay, right. I’ll see photos, a week when it’s finished, they send a photo, they post it to the Facebook group and it just puts a smile on my face. Big photo of men that belongs. We’ll just get together going, what a day, so as far as getting involved, it’s very, very simple. It’s, not much to it.

Roxanne – Excellent, that’s great. And for–

Wayne – Did I answer your question?

Roxanne – Yeah, absolutely. And for those who are watching that are you know, really feeling that they, that they want to connect as a, you know, as a participant, I know the app is on the way but until that arrives, what’s the best way for them to find out where their closest Average Joes meeting is?

Wayne – Okay, the biggest channel that we’re using at the moment is your Facebook page, which is just called Average Joes. We have an Average Joes closed group also on Facebook where men can jump into the closed group, ask any questions, you know, then so it’s more of a discussion or a topic kind of thing. But as far as our page that carries our branding and our promotions and what we’re doing and what we’re all about, is your main Average Joes page which literally is the black emblem with the white square. So once you talk on Average Joes on Facebook, very, very easy to find. Everything goes through to me and also to Elliot, who, he’s the other coach behind the wall of AJ’s. We receive everything,

Roxanne – Get poor Eliot, we get through we didn’t mention it all together.

Wayne – Eliot very much did we. Yeah, who, who? Yeah, I did actually tell him about today but he couldn’t even make it in today anyways, so. But he’s a good guy. He’s good, he’s really good. So that’s it, so have a good Facebook at the moment, we’ve got a website that’s nearly finished. It’s just been, to be honest, it’s just been so overwhelming that we’re trying to keep up with the pace that it’s trying to keep us growing but we’re just trying to keep up. So, it’s fantastic. Great place to be in.

Roxanne – Absolutely, that’s excellent. Alright, and just wanted to see if there were any other, I guess, words of wisdom you wanted to leave our listeners with today. I’m guessing you know, your call messages that you know blokes, you don’t have to do it alone, there’s communities there that you, you know, everyone has experienced similar things to what you have but you can put your own spin on that ’cause, yes.

Wayne – Yeah, absolutely, I guess if I could leave with one message is that Average Joes is not about suicide prevention. It’s about men living there best, most impacting, purpose driven lives. That’s what it’s about, it’s everything men. When we deal with these call issues way back here, it solves the issue way at the end. So it’s not about a place for down and outers. It’s not that, but they’re, those people are welcome, we’re all welcome, it’s for all things men. We talk great topics, we go to some great chats, it’s a fantastic place to be. So men, get involved. Please, contact us, hit us up on the Facebook or send me a private message. It’s so easy to host and you will love it. Make great friends, it’s such a great place. Where you’ve wanted to be.

Roxanne – Excellent, thank you so, so much for your time, Wayne, I really appreciate that. And such an amazing message to be able to share as well.

Wayne – Now, fantastic. Thank you, Roxanne, I really appreciate the, just the support you’ve given, I do appreciate it.

Roxanne – Excellent, alright, and for those of you watching or listening at home, excuse me, I’m getting croaky now. Thank you again for joining us for another episode of the Phoenix Phenomenon. We will continue to bring many amazing interviews like this into the future. So if you want to make sure you don’t miss any of them, Like and subscribe and you will now keep abreast of all of these amazing things that are happening within our communities. So thank you again, Wayne. I hope you have an amazing day.

Wayne – Likewise, thanks, Roxanne.

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