On International Men’s Day, we caught up with Chief Executive of West Lindsey District Council, Ian Knowles, to discuss a number of topics, including male health and the importance of role models.
International Men’s Day is marked around the world on 19 November, highlighting the positive value men bring to the world, their families and communities.
Read on to see our full chat and catch-up with our Chief Executive:
If you could give one piece of advice to young men/the younger generation, what would it be?
Ian: Make sure you ‘choose’ your life! It is easy to just go with the flow and accept what is immediately in front of you. If there is a particular activity or subject that interests you don’t be put off because your friends don’t want to join you. You will find more friends as you follow your passions and interests. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take people with you in life. Good friends will support your interests even if it isn’t theirs. I am lucky to have friends I have known since I was 4 years old still in my life, but we have all followed very different paths in our professional lives and in our ‘out of work’ passions.
If you don’t understand what I mean then try a poem called ‘The Choosing’ by Liz Lockhead. It finishes with the line ‘… and wonder when the choices got made we don’t remember choosing’
Who was your main male – and your main female – influence/role model growing up and why?
Ian: I had a number of role models for different things. I am a big fan of Elvis Presley and when I learned more about the man behind the myth his commitment to being himself and to sounding like anyone else always struck me as being a strong character trait that I would like to emulate. But as we know Elvis had many other flaws which one would not wish to emulate.
Other role models include: My Dad he was a steel worker and a good amateur footballer, he showed me what it was to have a genuine work commitment but to balance that with life outside activities. His two football quotes to me that can relate to other areas of your life (sometimes) – ‘Don’t let them know it hurts!’ ‘And go in 100% and you won’t get hurt!’ The latter referring to tackles on a football pitch but I found it’s true in life more widely – if you give 100% to everything you do you won’t get hurt.
I had a number of female characters in my life that set good examples for me:
My mum always put the family first and showed what it was to be a family. A working mum she balanced a senior office manager role with cooking/house work and looking after two children and never complained. We always had a summer holiday and Christmas was a big family occasion. My mum had great resilience and determination and I know I get some of that from her.
I always admired both my grandmothers for different reasons.
My maternal grandmother was the mother of five and was very house proud. Everyone was always welcome and the kettle was always ‘just off the boil’ ready to ‘mash’ (make) a cup of tea or coffee. She was always smiling and content with what she had – I don’t remember my Grandmother ever wishing for anything more than she had – A great trait to have as it means you are never longing for something or to be somewhere else. Contentment with what you have gives great peace of mind. It can often feel tough to be content whilst you might be striving for something more but accepting the present whilst you build a future is one way to enjoy life to the full.
My paternal Grandmother was also a hard worker having been a conductor on the trams in Sheffield. My grandmother showed me what it was to have a good time and enjoy the moments you have available to you. Be that having a singsong or dancing the ‘closh’ (a fore runner of line dancing). My Grandmother was a regular at her local social club until she passed in her 80’s. She was never one to turn down a Guinness!
It’s important to recognise that I have been selective on my influencer’s traits. I am sure that none of them were perfect and all will have had faults. I share with you here what I took away from those characters.
What is one thing you do to keep yourself mentally healthy?
Ian: I find my mental health goes hand in hand with my physical health. Five years ago I got into the habit of being up at 5am and being in the gym at 6am. I have found that practice to be something that gives me time in the morning to reflect and consider the day ahead whilst waking up my body with a run or a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) class. I find building in time for myself, having time to reflect or meditate can really set me up for the day ahead.
How important is it that men feel comfortable speaking out e.g. if they are struggling?
Ian: It is important that men find the right language to be able to speak out about how they feel and importantly how others make them feel. It’s too easy to pass comments off as banter or ‘we were just having a bit of fun’ – It’s no fun if it’s at your expense.
As young men we are often told not to cry and whilst I value my Dad’s comment ‘don’t let them see it hurt’, it has to be recognised as a tactic for overcoming the opposition, it does not mean don’t share the pain with your team mates. I know I have been fortunate in life to have good friends and family who I have felt able to talk to and share thoughts and opinions in a safe space without judgement or penalty. We should all find ourselves that safe space and be able to work out our deepest fears to be able to live life to the full. It again comes down to looking at who we choose to have around us and knowing who we can trust.
Importantly it’s also about recognising that others need that support and being able to offer that safe space to others when we can.
We caught up with Chief Executive Ian Knowles as part of International Men’s Day.