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Ashley Heather, 50: Helping Men Open Up

Ashley Heather is helping men connect and open up to be more present in their own lives and the lives of their loved ones. He discusses community-building, taking on new challenges, and his approach to his next 50 years.

One of the great questions of our age is: How does one create a space for men to connect? It is not about being anti-women; quite the opposite. Connected, healthy men are much better husbands and fathers than unhealthy men. But it is a challenge, as getting guys to say yes to something new can be epically difficult. Ashley Heather has an attraction to challenges, to solving hard problems. As one of the most energetic doers I have ever met, and along with his family and work obligations, he has managed to create a vibrant guy-specific community, and one that could be a template for others to follow. 

Image by David Harry Stewart.

Ashley, how old are you?
I just turned 50, March 17th. 

How does it feel being 50?
It’s a milestone. I’m glad I got here, but it’s a little bit scary. I’m well into my back half, as I call it, so the back nine. 

That’s prompted a lot of introspective thinking: What am I doing? What’s my purpose? Where am I going? How am I contributing to my family and the people around me and the community? 

Pending a ski accident, car accident, or plane accident, hopefully I can get towards living to 100. So what’s different? What am I going to change? Who am I going to be? How am I going to learn from the good and get rid of the bad? I’ve got to kind of hone in on the vision of what I’m going to do with my time and give back and create some value for my family and community, and that’s what I’m now working on. 

What have you changed since turning 50?
The biggest thing I’ve changed is my mindset. I’ve been a little bit controlling in the way I’ve controlled my life and tried to control outcomes. And probably many people around me, whether they be colleagues or friends or my family. And I think the next 50 years is going to be a little bit less about control and more about openness and being there and putting things out there and letting them take their own path to some degree without having to try and manipulate the destination. 

How many kids do you have?
I’ve got three kids. So, active family life too. Yeah, I have a 14-year-old girl, a 12-and-a-half-year-old girl, and then a 9-year-old boy. Keeping me very busy, for sure, and my wife.

How do you manage all that?
It’s a constant challenge. It doesn’t help that all three kids go to three different schools. So, we’ve got 6:55 drop-off, 7:35 drop-off, 8:05 drop-off, three buses in the morning, and then the same in the afternoon. A lot of calendaring, a lot of text messaging, and close coordination with my wife. I’m essentially a professional Uber driver on the side. I spend about two hours a day in a car driving kids to different places and picking them up. But I get work done, get calls done, schedule things appropriately to do that in that time. And I’m just a busy person. I like accomplishing things, doing things, getting stuff done, rarely take vacations, rarely relax, which is maybe an issue I’m going to work on for my next 50 years.

You created No False Summit; what is that?
No False Summit, NFS, is a group that I created about a year ago when I moved here to Park City. Found that there were a lot of people, and mostly guys, who also moved to Park City and were struggling to connect and make new friends or make new business connections; it’s a new place. And so generally, it’s the wives or the women in our lives that are a little bit better networkers than the men. A lot of us are working from home, don’t have the same social interactions that we used to have.

No False Summit.

“It is essentially a community of guys who have got a common passion”

It is essentially a community of guys who have got a common passion. They’re entrepreneurs, they’re thought leaders, they’re innovators, they’re doers. And they’ve arrived in this beautiful, wonderful place, Park City, and they’re looking to make a difference in their lives, they’re looking to grow, they’re lifelong learners. And they want to be around like-minded people, and share ideas and help support other people. The name No False Summit came from the mountaineering concept where you look at the mountain, there’s the top, you climb, you climb, you get there, and you get to the top and it’s not actually the top, it’s called a False Summit.

The concept of No False Summit is a group of people brought together, common aspirations of leaving the world a little bit better than they found it and helping each other avoid false summits. So, to get to their real summit, whatever that is. We’ve got over 100 guys in the group and we’ve got some exciting meetings and get-togethers coming up and some big announcements that will be coming out more.

I’m excited. It’s been great so far, and I got a lot of great feedback from the work we’ve done. We’ve done some charity work as well, and just a great group of people.

You mentioned the wives, that women tend to have an ability that men don’t to make a connection. You’ve been successful in building this group of 100 people; what does it take to get men together to connect?
I think in life, to achieve anything big, it takes momentum. Momentum is the thing that drives us forward. There’s a fear of missing out and I think it’s good having a little bit of FOMO associated with something where there’s a shiny object, something exciting going on that I want to do. Our first events, I made sure they were very fun, they were different, they were unique, and there were things that guys would want to do.

The last event we did, that you were on the panel on, we got 55 guys in a room, and we held it at Intermountain Hospital there, and the medical institution was amazed that we got 55 guys into a room. They’re like, “We can’t reach these people. These are the type we can’t get to show up at appointments, or do anything because they’re busy either working or traveling or with their family and prioritizing that time.”

“The medical institution was amazed that we got 55 guys into a room. They’re like, ‘We can’t reach these people’ ”

What I’ve noticed with men is that they don’t like to ask for help, and the best way to engage them is to present a problem. Women don’t have any problem asking for help. What is it with guys?
You’re absolutely right. And I fall into that camp. I’m trying to be a little bit more vulnerable, trying to be a little bit more open.

We’re told by our parents: You’ve got to be successful, you’ve got to be the breadwinner, you’ve got to be the protector, you’ve got to accomplish this. It’s a very competitive world that we live in, especially America as a country and as an economy, and it’s competitive and knowledge is power and weakness is not. You show some transparency or some weakness, and somebody will take advantage; and we get enough cuts, slices through our lives of that happening, it puts us more and more into our skin rather than opening us up as humans and sharing more and being more vulnerable and accepting help from others.

Initially, I got a lot of pushback with this: “What do you mean guys only? What’s this guy-only thing? Why isn’t it — ?” And I’ve done a bunch of community groups in my life in different ways in my career, and they’ve always been mixed. Anybody-can-join kind of thing. But for the first time, it was like, “No, we really want to tap into what you’re talking about, this male issue of openness and how to get them open.” 

Even with best friends, you feel a little constrained with your ability to truly go deep and share because still there’s the bravado. So, it’s hard to find those little groups now. No False Summit is not supposed to be this men’s group of sharing all this emotional stuff, but it’s supposed to start opening up some of those pathways, mental pathways, communication pathways that maybe mini groups will form and we’ll sort of pepper it with different topics during the year that maybe help open people up.

Image by David Harry Stewart.

“True change, innovation, and growth come less from the best and more from implementing across the board”

So now you’ve just turned 50. Guys in their 30s and 40s tend to have a different orientation than people in their 50s and 60s. How do you characterize that?
Our brains change and the way we process things changes. I think it’s in the mid-40s that it moves, and the brain moves to this mentorship focus.

Until then, you’re consuming all the individual pieces of knowledge but it’s harder for you to put all the pieces together. But when you hit 45 and the way the brain changes, you’re suddenly able to see the big picture and you’re not necessarily the expert at all the little things. And so, I think, we’re in our 30s and 40s, we are just rushing to acquire knowledge and be the best of the best at whatever it is we’re choosing to do. And then suddenly it’s like, “Okay, it’s less important about the best of the best.” True change, innovation, and growth come less from the best and more from implementing across the board. 

Give me a quick bullet point of your business past.
Sure. So, I’m English. As a kid I wanted to go to the big city, and started working at Ford’s finance company; their bank, basically. I spent three years there and then pivoted into management consulting. I was a management consultant for four years in London, working with lots of big firms, helping them build processes and technology and different things. But ultimately got sucked into being an entrepreneur and wanting to move to America and join that entrepreneurial world.

The joke I make is: If you think about the A to Z of companies, A being the idea and the piece of paper and Z being taking a company public… my name is Ashley Heather, and I’m great at the A to H. I’m great at taking a concept that’s a piece of paper and building it all the way to maybe H. 50 people, 10 million in revenue. A business that’s operating and growing, has got clients. But then at that point, the journey from H to Z is less of an interest to me. I keep finding myself in this cycle of A to H’s. I’ve had about five different startups broadly in the technology, marketing, healthcare world, some successful and sold, some less successful and closed down. And I’m just actually starting my next venture coming soon.

And so, that’s what I love to do. I love to find challenges, problems, white space, things that haven’t been done before that tend to be very complicated. 

“I love to find challenges, problems, white space, things that haven’t been done before”

What are the three non-negotiables in your life?
Morning exercise, morning routine. I had some back issues a couple of years ago and I’ve resolved them all without surgery and medication, just doing stretching and yoga every morning for 15-20 minutes. So, that is a non-negotiable; seven days a week wherever I go, travel, home, etc. I would say that’s number one.

I would say family, three kids. So, time with each child, solo time with each child as regularly as possible. That might only be catching 50 minutes in the car on a pickup or something, but having some solo time each week with every child to just keep that connection and understand where they’re at with their lives. 

And then I like using this phrase: When was the last time you did something for the first time? So, this concept of constantly trying something new and not being afraid of trying something new, and I think I will continue to do even more of that in my last 50 years or hopefully, knock on wood, my last 50 years than my first 50 years. It’s easy to say no. It’s easy to be like, “Oh, I don’t know.” It’s harder to say yes and just lean into new things, especially as you get older. But I don’t want to become boring, sat on the couch, whatever, 70 years old. I want to constantly be stimulated and trying new things. So, I say always try to do new things and don’t say no and say yes.

Image by David Harry Stewart.

“You can ask for help, and you can do life with others around you”

Anything else you want people to know about?
You can ask for help, and you can do life with others around you. It’s not a solo job to keep yourself healthy, keep yourself engaged in the community, engaged for your family around you, and it’s important, and we don’t give enough time to it. We’re stressed, we’re working multi jobs, we’re drinking all the things, and we just don’t allocate enough time.

So, just having people try to allocate more time in this net demographic and plan out your next 50 years or 30 years or 20 years. I think if more and more people think they’re going to live to 100 or 120 or beyond, it’s going to really change the economy. Who’s working? Who’s not working? Who’s providing the revenue for that and the activities and the services? And you’re 60 now, you feel like 35, you’re 70, you feel like 45. Retirement is not 65 anymore. I mean, technically maybe it is, but not in the general sense of retiring from activities and life and work. 

So, it’s going to be a super interesting time for us all and lots of innovation around medicine and drugs and just wellness activities that we can be doing. I know you’re in the heart of that and doing some great work, David, helping share all of that with many people too, through this podcast and your blogs and your publishing. So, I applaud you for doing that. And I think there’s just a lot more that can be done. So, happy to be here on the journey.

Connect with Ashley:
LinkedIn
No False Summit

Image by David Harry Stewart.

See medical disclaimer below. ↓

1 COMMENT

  1. What terrific insights. Ashley is doing such great work getting men to connect to one another. So impressed. Doing new things–that’s something even younger folk fear and stop doing early.

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The ideas expressed here are solely the opinions of the author and are not researched or verified by AGEIST LLC, or anyone associated with AGEIST LLC. This material should not be construed as medical advice or recommendation, it is for informational use only. We encourage all readers to discuss with your qualified practitioners the relevance of the application of any of these ideas to your life. The recommendations contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or stopping any treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician or other qualified health provider. Please call your doctor or 911 immediately if you think you may have a medical or psychiatric emergency.

AUTHOR

David Stewart
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.

 

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