Joe Truax Of The Humble Lowly Company On How Authenticity and Vulnerability Pay Off and Help You Win Personally and Professionally

An Interview With Maria Angelova

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In my relationships, I like to communicate at the beginning the things that could potentially harm the relationship down the road. I’m a big fan of being open and honest and allowing the other person to choose to stay in the relationship based on what they know. That way if they fall in love with me, they love me for me, and not some fake person that slowly changes to become a person they were not prepared to love. It has worked wonders in my life.

Being vulnerable and authentic are some of today’s popular buzzwords. It may seem counterintuitive to be vulnerable, as many of us have been taught to project an air of confidence, be a boss, and act like we know everything. In Brene Brown’s words, “vulnerability takes courage.” So is vulnerability a strength or a weakness? Can someone be authentic without being vulnerable? How can being authentic and vulnerable help someone grow both personally and professionally? In this interview series, we are talking to business leaders, mental health professionals and business and life coaches who can share stories and examples of “How Authenticity and Vulnerability Pay Off and Help You Win Personally and Professionally.” As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joe Truax.

Joe leads the fastest growing men’s mental health awareness and support movement on earth; it’s home-base is r/GuyCry on Reddit. He is uniquely qualified to lead it being that, in his 39 years, he has faced incredible adversity and has overcome almost every challenge that life can throw at a person. Yet, being bitter will never be an option for him, and he hopes to show the world how cultivating integrity, genuineness, honesty and transparency — as well as being kind, patient, empathetic, understanding and loving — transforms lives, garnering you incredible respect, helping you to nurture invaluable relationships and ultimately gaining you a quality of life that you will greatly desired to wake up to each and every day. It’s all about becoming unburdened.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Thanks for having me. This is kind of long, but I think you will appreciate it. I hope you will at least.

My first memory was of my mother walking out on my dad, my brother, and I. That traumatic event caused my brain chemistry to change and I became highly hyperactive. When I was 7, my dad met my stepmom, who had 3 boys of her own. After a few months, my dad pulled me to the side and told me that he could no longer take care of me, that I was too much for him to handle. He said that I could either go to a foster home or see if my mom would let me come live with her. I said I wanted to try my mom, and he called her. She answered, I asked her if I could come live with her, and she said yes. The next morning my dad took me over to her house, which was only 20 blocks away, dropped me and my suitcase off on the curb, and drove away. This was the first time I seen my mom since she had left us when I was 5.

From 7 years old until I was 9, things were great. It was just me and my mom and we had a good relationship, but then she met my stepdad, and everything fell apart. He moved us from Grand Rapids Michigan, to Grand Ledge Michigan. I went from living and enjoying riding my bike all over my hometown, to being brought out to a farm that was 5 miles outside of town and located on a 55 mph road. A road with no shoulder, and I was not allowed to walk down it. I was by myself out in the middle of nowhere and my parents wouldn’t take me into town. Then when I was 11, my little brother was born and I was all but forgotten. I was emotionally abandoned. I threatened suicide, and the next day at school, at lunch, a police officer came over to my table while I was eating, told me to stand up and turn around, put handcuffs on me, and lead me outside and put me in the back of his car. He did this in front of the entire school. It was so embarrassing. He took me to my home where my mom was waiting for me in her station wagon with a black trash bag of clothes. She took me to Rivendale Psychiatric Hospital in St. Johns Michigan. I spent the next 13 days there being a guinea pig. When I finally went home, I was on a drug called Depakote, and it made me lose control of my tongue. My mom made me go to school like this and it was so incredibly embarrassing as well. I refused to take the medication after a week though.

After that, life just got worse until I was 14. That’s when my stepdad tried provoking me to hit him. He would get in my face, make crazy faces at me, and I would push him away. He had me trapped in a corner. He did this probably 15 times and each time I would push him away. My mom ended up calling the police. When they finally showed up, the arrested me for domestic battery. Little did I know, that every time I pushed him away, I was pushing him into the corner of a shelf. He had 15 little puncture marks on his back. I have no idea why he didn’t get arrested. It was clear that he was the aggressor.

I ended up doing 11 months in juvenile hall — juvie — when I was only supposed to do 4 and a half months. I just couldn’t get my act together in there and I was very rebellious (as you can imagine from the life I had experienced up until that point). When it all finally clicked, I just became mellow and 4 and a half months later, was finally released. I went back to my parents for a week, but it was no home of mine anymore, and they ended up sending me back to juvie. I stayed there for a few weeks and was then sent to a foster home. I did 6 months in foster care before I provoked my foster dad into pushing me into the stairs. I went back to juvie while I awaited the next move.

I was offered Job Corps and when I was accepted, I went down to Edinburgh Indiana to Atterbury Job Corps Center. That is where I started using drugs. I was 16 then. Job Corp is no place for a 16 year old. The age range is 16 to 24 and no 24 year old has any right being around a 16 year old. It’s a terrible place. I ended up getting my GED and Culinary Certifications there, but got kicked out right after obtaining them. I got into many fights while there. That’s when I joined the Army. I was 17. It didn’t last long though. I have 7 developmental disabilities, and ADHD does not get along with the army. I got kicked out 15 days before the attack on 9/11, and from there, I was an 18 year old with no street smarts, a bunch of disabilities, a drug addiction and no family. Not a way to start adulthood. I ruined my credit, started doing cocaine and smoking crack, and shortly after, while still 18, became homeless and went to jail for trespassing in an abandoned apartment unit. It was winter and I was cold. After I got out, I ended up stealing a car to get out of Michigan .

As you can see, life had not been kind to me. It only got worse as I got older. I’m now 39 though, and my life has finally begun to equalize. And, after all that, I still keep the cheesiest, most smiliest smile on my face as often as possible. That smile is there because I’m thankful for the adversity I have faced. I’m now mature enough that I’m able to help guide others when they are faced with the above situations, as well as so many others that happened after I became an adult. After all that has happened to me, I am still a good person and have love in my heart.

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

“Even though you can’t be perfect, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to be perfect.” I coined this saying 6 years ago when I started my transformation. And though I have erred along the way, every day I wake up trying to be better than I was the day before. The goal of this quote is to help me not be reactionary, but instead, to be mindful of each step I take in life. As an example to others, it’s all about paying close attention to myself and maintaining self control and discipline. And that is not always easy as an infallible human being. Regardless, I don’t let my inability to be perfect — nor any setbacks that might occur — deter me from growing. Not only for myself, but for all of the people I interact with each day. We are not living just for ourselves. Everything we do affects someone. I choose to positively affect everyone I come across. That is, until they show that they do not appreciate my positivity. If that is the case, I move on from that person. And I do such quickly.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Not really, no. I walk my own walk and am not really influenced by the outside world. Philosophy is dangerous, and really only benefits the philosopher. Think about it; how many self help gurus are there? How many people have they actually affected positively? The very small percentage of people in the world that are truly happy are not happy because of a self help guru. They are happy because they are, like myself, unburdened. So no, I don’t pay attention to things of this world because they distract, apply pressure, divide and discourage. I like my life free of those things.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Let’s begin with a definition of terms so that each of us and our readers are on the same page. What exactly does being authentic mean?

I have incredibly strong beliefs about showing kindness and love to others. I try my best to make sure that every action I take benefits the people that are stepped on and mistreated in this world. My actions show my core values, ethics, morals and principles. I live what I believe, and I walk my talk. And when I step in a way that is against what I believe, my conscience is sorely affected. So, to me, being authentic means that what I believe shows in everything I do.

What does being vulnerable mean? Can you explain?

I like to think of it as not being afraid to give information about yourself that can be weaponized very easily. Myself being a most-of-my-lifelong drug addict, with multiple felonies and having been to prison twice, normally, people in my shoes would not want that information to be known. Normally. And that is because this current system that we live in is not designed to forgive. It is designed to oppress. If I were to try to get a job in the corporate world, I would be immediately denied. Even though I’ve already paid for all of my crimes, the payments I’ve made will never be enough; I am not allowed to live a normal life. Knowing that makes me no longer afraid to give up that weaponizable information. What could you possibly do with it that would make my life worse? Ever since I’ve come to that realization, I no longer care about what anybody thinks about me. I have to make my own way. And I am. As an example of how to make it the correct and good way.

What are the positive aspects of being authentic and vulnerable? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean?

The good people of this world respect people that don’t hide their pasts. Since I’ve started GuyCry, I have been attacked by those who do not want this thing to succeed. I was tricked into doing an interview that sounded genuine throughout the whole thing. And so they asked me questions, and I gave them incredibly honest answers. I spoke about some of the things I’ve done for drugs. Only at the end did I find out that it was a ruse and I ended the interview without arguing. I just hung up. Afterwards, the interviewers tried to use the things I said against me in the comments. But you have no idea how many people stood up for me because I didn’t hide the things that I did. The attackers didn’t have a leg to stand on. And I was so proud of the people who stood up for me. Right then and there, it was validation of my desire to be vulnerable.

From your experience or perspective, what are some of the common barriers that hold someone back from being authentic and vulnerable?

Fear. Fear is the thing that prevents us from being who we really are, and from sharing who we are. Fear of alienation, fear of anxiety, fear of hate, fear of oppression, fear of discouragement, fear of this current economic system, fear of embarrassment, fear of loneliness, fear of bigotry, fear of racism, fear of bullying, fear of pain, fear of death, fear of, fear of, fear of… And I’m sure we can all relate.

Here is the central question of our discussion. What are five ways that being authentic and vulnerable pay off, and help you win, both personally and professionally?

  1. In my relationships, I like to communicate at the beginning the things that could potentially harm the relationship down the road. I’m a big fan of being open and honest and allowing the other person to choose to stay in the relationship based on what they know. That way if they fall in love with me, they love me for me, and not some fake person that slowly changes to become a person they were not prepared to love. It has worked wonders in my life.
  2. Professionally, the more transparent I am with what I’m doing, the more people get behind it. Honestly, there really has never been something like what I’m doing, being led by someone like me. Something of this magnitude, being led by anyone else, would have failed by now. And we know this to be true because nothing like this has ever existed. People are afraid to stand up. But I’m not. Because there’s nothing anybody can say about me that I have not already said about myself.
  3. Another personal example is being vulnerable in front of my family members. You are not attached to your family. You were simply born into it. By being vulnerable, I have been able to decipher which of my family members are good and who is bad. Come to find out, they’re all bad and so I don’t speak to any of them. And the win is that I don’t have to concern myself with the burden of them; of the burden of their toxicity. If they would have been good people, then at least I would know I had good people in my corner. There’s an old saying that goes “I can do bad all by myself.” My addition to that quote though would be “but with good people in my life, I can do great.”
  4. Professionally, I’m gaining the trust of so many people. And I need that trust because we need donations. If I’m not trustworthy, if I’m not walking the vulnerable walk that I’m walking, and showing my authenticity in all of my actions, then I’m just another talker. And although talkers get funded, walkers get FUNDED, and, will continue to get funded forever, as long as the impact is being made.
  5. Personally and professionally, I’m creating hope. By walking my walk, I’m showing other people that it’s okay for them to do the same. We no longer have to rely on the system of things in place in order for us to make it in this life. I’m running a box outside of the box; A system that runs parallel to the current system. We aren’t battling the other box though; we would lose that battle. Their box has unlimited resources. Our box is just another option for those who don’t have any other options. An option for those who have been stepped on their whole lives and are not appreciated and live in despair, only existing and surviving. Our box is for them. And our box is kind and loving. Anybody’s invited, but they have to meet the kind and loving criteria first. People can change; and hopefully our box helps them to desire to do such.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Well thankfully, I actually am running a movement — GuyCry — and it is all about teaching men how to be better men. When men are better, everything gets better. Better communication, better relationships, better husbands, better dating pool, better child rearing, better governing, better teaching, better emotional intelligence, better understanding, better appreciation, better praise and better growth. All of those things equate to a better future for all of us. And it all starts with normalizing it being perfectly acceptable for men to show emotion when needed.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Ukraine’s President Zelensky. He has shown incredible courage in the face of adversity. You can just tell that he is powerful in authenticity and vulnerability. He’s not afraid to reach out for help and say what he means. I’m a big fan of “say what you mean and mean what you say.” He is all action. And I am a big fan of his.

How can our readers follow you online?

www.reddit.com/r/GuyCry or www.guycry.org.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Much obliged :) Guiding people down a better path is so rewarding. We are having such a good time. People are healing.

About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at angelova@rebellious-intl.com. To schedule a free consultation, click here.

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Maria Angelova, CEO of Rebellious Intl.
Authority Magazine

Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl.