Rules for Life

Mental Health with NHL Champ Theo Fleury

Standing at 5’6” and weighing in at 150 pounds, your chances of making it into the NHL, the most elite hockey league in the world today, are slim. Back in the late 1980’s, when the league featured a much more physically punishing game and the average sized player was 6′ tall and 200 pounds, your chances of making it were approximately zero. That’s one of the many reasons why Theo Fleury is such a remarkable individual. Not only did he break into the NHL in 1988, but he did it with an exclamation point, featuring speed, tenacity, incredible skill and a flare for the dramatic.

Once you get to know Theo’s back story, you understand why he was able to make it on to the largest hockey stage in the world. Not only did he make it; he thrived. In 2006, Theo completed a career that included a Stanley Cup championship (1989), an Olympic Gold Medal (2002) over 1,088 career points in 1,084 games, and nearly 500 career goals. Outside of being born with incredible athletic ability, the reason he was able to succeed as an underdog was mental fortitude.

We caught up with Theo last week to discuss the current state of the world, mental health, and what it takes to achieve your goals in life. Some of the raw knowledge this man was able to share can certainly help any man be a better version of himself.

EM: How are you doing and what are you up to?

TF: I was pretty busy working as a motivational speaker until covid-19 hit, but mostly I’ve been busy with one on one coaching and hosting my podcast the “Theo Fleury Podcast” .

EM: What are your feelings on the current state of the world, as many are feeling lost and hopeless?
TF: I work in trauma, mental health, and addiction; all three are connected. This (covid-19 pandemic) is the most traumatic thing to happen since World War II. Anyone who experiences trauma will also experience emotional pain and suffering (i.e. mental health challenges). To me, the importance of staying connected closely to people is understated because talking about feelings is a stigma which we mental health activists fight through every day. These are challenges that we unfortunately can’t figure out on our own; we can’t outthink mental illness. What helps you get out of a tough place is the ability to talk and share. Using meditation, yoga, and exercise can help exponentially.
EM: Can social media help?
TF: Yes, if used in a good way. Conspiracy theories can put you in a bad place! Apps like Calm and The Tapping Solution are ones I use when I’m struggling. Their technology is great.
EM: Lots of men are having a tough time right now due to covid-19, with finances taking a hit and depression kicking in. What are some ways for handling this?
TF: You won’t get well if you don’t try something different. The definition of insanity is the repetition of the same actions while getting the same results, but expecting a different outcome. Change. Get yourself into a comfortable routine every day. Do something for yourself and for your mental illness. “Find Your Five”. Find five people and stay in contact with either one, or all five, on a daily basis, no matter how you feel. Develop a habit of connection. This is the greatest tool helping you overcome mental illness. Depression wants you isolated.
There’s a saying that goes like this: thinking about the past is depression, and thinking about the future is anxiety. The ultimate state of mind is trying to find a place in the present to work on things to keep you focused on today rather than yesterday or tomorrow.
Do this by meditating, exercising, and checking in with people. Get online and involved in a mental health group. When the body is stressed it produces cortisol, which is acid in the system. In the state of stress, no other chemicals work in your body. The way to stop cortisol production is to be connected. Once you are, it will dissipate and allow you to be more aware and present.
There are layers from childhood, adolescence, and adulthood that have caused your body to be in shock. This is trauma. Traumatic experiences can be subtle or extreme, i.e. a breakup, divorce, death in family, being bullied. It’s important to realize there are lots of ways the body can get shocked. It takes work to “un-shock” it. The way to do this is therapy. Talk about what  happened to you. If you hold it inside, it can cause emotional and physical problems. People don’t understand that even things like back pain can be coming from emotional shock. It shows up in the body in all different shapes and forms (like brain fog). Internalizing everything and trying to outthink mental illness is a rabbit hole that only get worse. Reaching out and staying connected to people is the best way to overcome this.
EM: Do “real men” cry?
TF: Crying is part of life. Sadness is an emotion we all feel, and crying is a great healing mechanism, which is the reason we have it. Sometimes we need to express that emotion. I grew up in a tough love “suck it up” era and we weren’t allowed to express the emotion of sadness. This caused me a lot of problems, as I suppressed that emotion. When you suppress sadness it turns in to anger, and then rage.
EM: Our page is all about helping to develop strong men physically, mentally and emotionally. What would you say to inspire young men, as you were potentially the “biggest underdog in NHL history”
TF: Everything that happened in my life I manifested myself. From a young age, I knew I would play in the NHL, and nothing would step in my way of achieving this goal. I used positive self talk.
The greatest phrase is “I AM ____”; it’s really important. The need to put in hard work is never going to change.
You need to do the work. I have a couple kids and I teach them that “working the least hours and making the most money” doesn’t work. You need hard work, dedication, and devotion. These things  will make you successful. You’ll face adversity, but embrace it. It’s a gift to see how far you can push yourself. I was playing a physical sport and the average size was 6′ 200 pounds. I was 5’6 and 150 pounds. Physics said I wouldn’t have success. But when I looked in the mirror I saw someone highly competitive and willing to do whatever it takes to be successful. It’s all about attitude. If you practice negative self talk, that is exactly what’s going to happen. Talk to yourself in a positive way, and that will happen as well.
 24 Feb 2002: Theo Fleury #74 and Joe Sakic #91 of Canada celebrate after receiving their gold medals in the men’s ice hockey gold medal game of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games at the E Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Canada defeated the USA 5-2. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images
EM: Do you have any advice to those out there being told they’re not good enough?
TF: (That statement is) Projection. It’s no way a reflection of you. It’s a reflection of the person saying it, and what they’re going through.
I’ve never listened to the noise. I’ve always had a belief in myself that I could do anything if I put my mind to it. The mind is powerful, and can be a detriment or a gift. The brain is Velcro for negativity, which is a survival system.
It takes 5,000 positive thoughts to undo one negative thought.
If you think negative, you will be negative. Keep telling yourself things like “I am good enough”, “I am lovable” and “I can accomplish anything” and you’ll keep these negative thoughts out of your mind.
I was fortunate to be surrounded by great people when I was growing up. These people gave me positivity, love and support, but it did not start in my home. I grew up with parents who were addicts (dad was an alcoholic and mom was addicted to prescription pills), which created chaos and insanity at home. I found my happy place at the hockey rink. I was lucky to be around a group of people (coaches, teammates, and their parents) that instilled the core values in me that I live by today. If you’re going through a tough time, put yourself out there, connect with people and be fearless.
EM: You’re very outspoken about politics on social media (Twitter: @TheoFleury14 and Instagram @TheoFleury14). What are your thoughts on the current political climate in North America?
TF: I’m a conservative. The liberals in Canada and the Democrats in the US are completely out of control and insane. They’re drunk and addicted to power. This is not the world we grew up in. I’m a guy who always worked hard. I don’t want or need help from the government. I don’t need people to think for me. These two parties think they’re the ultimate human beings and they know what’s best for everyone. I didn’t grow up in that world. I can think for myself.
There are consequences and laws to live by and if we break them, there are consequences for actions. It is complete insanity that “the guy here” breaks laws and ethics violations on a daily basis without any impunity or accountability, because the media kisses his ass, and because of this we can never find the truth. This is the biggest thing with covid-19; we don’t know the truth because they have politicized covid-19. By keeping you in fear, then I can control you. It’s the oldest trick in the book, and it’s failed every single time and cost millions of lives. Why does your life matter more than mine? The people running these social platforms are traumatized people addicted to power and haven’t worked on their own shit.

EM: Theo, as a huge hockey fan it was an honor to speak with you today. Thanks for your time, and be well.

For more information on Theo Fleury and his coaching, please visit www.theofleury.life