Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Jim Young of The Centered Coach Is Helping To Change Our…

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Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Jim Young of The Centered Coach Is Helping To Change Our World

Follow your strengths–and let others follow theirs! Many, many years into my working life, I was given the guidance that when we get to focus the majority of our time on things we do well, and that we like to do, lots of good things happen. Our stress goes down. Our productivity (and happiness) goes up. And our managers barely even need to manage us.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Young.

Jim Young is an executive coach, facilitator, and speaker who leverages his experiences from the corporate C-Suite to cure burnout for leaders and organizations. His book, Expansive Intimacy: How “Tough Guys” Defeat Burnout, helps men create a roadmap for more fulfilling lives. You can learn more about his work at

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up outside of Boston, living somewhere around the poverty line in an affluent suburb. My single, in-the-closet mother was raising me and my older sister on a bus driver’s salary. It wasn’t pretty. Between the rage that I realized many years later she had been repressing, as well as the constant worries about money, and the abusive boyfriend that lived with us for several years, we lived life on a very uncomfortable edge.

As a shy, sensitive boy growing up in that house, not to mention the hyper-competitive social environment of a wealthy town, I really struggled to identify who I was supposed to be. One day, at the age of 9, my mother made it clear. After kicking out that abusive boyfriend, she let me know that my role was “man of the house.” That only made things worse.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

Reading wasn’t encouraged much in my household growing up, so my story is from my early adulthood. I remember picking up a copy of Paolo Coelho’s book The Alchemist many years ago. I was looking for an escape and had heard it was a cool story. What I didn’t realize until I’d read it was the powerful message it offers about the journeys we take through life, and how so often the treasure we seek is closer than we think.

That story, in part, helped me rediscover passion in my life. I’d long been a person who thrives on using a mix of empathy and humor. Yet I couldn’t see how I could make those a part of the work I did in corporate leadership roles. And so one day, finally burned out of that world because I couldn’t be myself in it, I left to start a business that is based on those two core gifts: empathy and humor. (That career move eventually led me to write the book, Expansive Intimacy: How “Tough Guys” Defeat Burnout!)

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The mistake I look back at and laugh about now is from when my father-in-law asked me about my career ambitions. I was a bit of a slacker back in those days, but I wanted to impress him. So when he asked me what I wanted out of my career, I responded with what I didn’t want instead. I told him I didn’t want to wake up early, put on a tie, and go into an office. Of course, that’s the exact routine he’d been following for decades! I not only managed to offend him, but I’m pretty sure I planted a deep question in his mind about what his daughter was thinking!

The irony of that story leads to what I learned. Because I quickly realized that I’d offended this man, who seemed incredibly successful to me, I changed my plan. Yup. Within a few months I was getting up early, putting on a tie, and going into an office. The lesson took me a long time to figure out, but it was that our intuition matters.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

For decades I’ve witnessed men struggling to keep up with the “status game” that society tells them they have to play. It shows up in strange ways, because men don’t want to be seen as struggling, lest they be shamed for not being man enough. The book I’ve written tackles the issue of shame-induced burnout for men straight-on, and offers a scientifically proven (and universally desired) antidote to bring men back into balance.

By helping men–and in particular those who are business leaders–defeat their burnout via expansive intimacy, I aim to create a massive ripple effect. When leaders, most of whom are men, value their employees fully and offer them the conditions to thrive, they create a happier and healthier group of people, who are then prepared to spread their positive energy to even more people.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

To me, the most interesting story is the one I call “The Trash Man Hero.” It leads off Chapter 5 and it tells of how a lifelong pattern was created within me when I was 9 years old. In a stressful moment within my household, my mother declared that I was “the man of the house,” a declaration that I didn’t challenge. Instead, I took it silently to heart, and for the ensuing few decades stayed true to the idea that I could handle anything because I was “the man of the house.”

As I researched the book, I mentioned this concept to others. In almost every case, the men I interviewed who have experienced burnout can point back to the “burnout seeds” that were planted in them much earlier in life.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

A few years into my new career as an executive coach, I noticed something. About 80% of the clients who had found me were male leaders dealing with burnout. Now, I wasn’t describing myself as a “men’s burnout coach” at that time. Nor was I actively marketing myself to find such men. They just kept finding me. And once I made that realization, it occurred to me that the book I’d been waiting to write for many years was now at my fingertips. These men had found me because I was once like them, and now am not. I have overcome burnout.

Less than one year from that insight, my book was published.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Among the men who has impacted me the most along my journey is a man who goes by the pseudonym Kenneth T. Foy. Kenny is a guy I met about 10 years ago through a local community organization in my hometown. I was there seeking support at a time when my life felt incredibly difficult. One of the pieces of advice I was given by this organization was to develop a mentorship with someone who I admired.

After a few months of meeting with this group, I decided to ask Kenny if he would be my mentor. This moment was scary for me because I’d had very few trusting relationships with other men. In fact, I’d been thinking of going with a female mentor. Yet there was something about Kenny’s gentle strength that drew me in. Gratefully, he accepted my offer. Over the ensuing years I learned about core life principles, such as humility, patience, and honesty, that nobody had ever helped me understand. Ten years later, I’m proud to know that much of what I wrote about in my book was inspired by Kenny’s wisdom.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

  1. Practice fully human leadership. By that, I mean modeling behavior that represents the full range of the human experience. Rather than promoting pseudo “tough guy” behavior that shuns emotions, overemphasizes power & status, and seeks to control others, fully human leaders allow people of all types into the conversation, recognizes that we all have ups & downs (aka, “feelings”), and that we’re at our best when we are connected and working together.
  2. Acknowledge that it’s ok for men, just like everyone else, to have moments when they need help from others.
  3. Take active steps to create organizations, groups, etc. that promote real, honest, meaningful exchanges between people of all types.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

There is a famous mantra that says leadership is about getting things done through other people, rather than doing them yourself. I am a fan of that, and I’d add something else. I think that the best leaders create the conditions for “We” conversations to be happening all the time, instead of the “Me vs. You” conversations that tend to emerge so easily in human organizations. The former conversations unite, reminding us that we’re all on the same team and that we’re striving towards a common goal. (** GREAT leaders make sure people across the organization understand the “Why”, help them get clear about the “What”, then turn them loose to figure out the “How”.)

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. There are endless paths that lead to the mountaintop. Growing up in a pretty homogeneous town, I didn’t get enough exposure to the numerous alternatives that existed for my future. Had I known that I could skip college, or go later, or turn to a vocation that I was drawn towards, I think I would’ve avoided a lot of the confusion and stress in my life.
  2. Ask for help, because it creates dignity. For the first several years of my career, I stubbornly kept my head down in an attempt to figure everything out on my own. It was only later when I realized that providing help to others is one of the most satisfying things a person can do. It offers a moment of dignity to the helper to know that their gifts are appreciated.
  3. It’s ok to have three (or more) careers within your career. I went into the working world thinking that my father hadn’t “lived up to the standard” because he’d bounced around to a few different types of jobs–first a mechanic, then a bartender, then a corporate marketing guy. I thought I was supposed to do it “better” so when I bounced from sales to IT then out of that into coaching, I had to reconcile that it was, in fact, ok to explore and adapt.
  4. Most leaders aren’t trained. I went through the first two thirds of my early career confused. People who were in important leadership roles seemed to make the strangest decisions. They contradicted themselves from one proclamation to the next. They told me to act one way, then acted completely differently. What I eventually realized–actually after I had become a leader–is that the leaders were often unprepared to lead! I, myself, had been promoted into leadership because I was the next highest person on the ladder, not because I’d received any specific training on how to be a leader! (Ugh.)
  5. Follow your strengths–and let others follow theirs! Many, many years into my working life, I was given the guidance that when we get to focus the majority of our time on things we do well, and that we like to do, lots of good things happen. Our stress goes down. Our productivity (and happiness) goes up. And our managers barely even need to manage us.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“This Too Shall Pass” — I actually have the initials “TTSP” tattooed on the inside of my left forearm at an angle perfect for me to view. I refer to this as my permanent reminder of impermanence. I lean on this expression all the time to remind myself that life continues to flow through us. We cannot effectively stop that flow. If we try, it exhausts us and creates stress that eventually becomes unmanageable. If instead we allow life to flow through us, we find that the waves we get to ride bring us to unimaginable heights, heights that match the difficult depths that we must also allow. This lesson has washed over me for years. As I allowed my heart to break, it opened wider to let more people in.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Ohmygod, Dave Grohl!!! Not only is he one of the coolest rock ’n’ roll musicians of our time, but he’s also incredibly funny, thoughtful, and unafraid of dealing with topics that many people feel scared of. I created a playlist that accompanies my book, and about a quarter of the songs are from Foo Fighters!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

The hub of any and all of my online work can be found at

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Jim Young of The Centered Coach Is Helping To Change Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.