5 Minute Interview: Tom Matlack
Alvin: Who are you, what do you do, and what do you enjoy most about it?
Tom: My name is Tom Matlack. I am a former venture capitalist turned writer and founder of The Good Men Project.
I am most inspired when I sit with a man who exists in a world that I know nothing about–whether prison, a Montana mining town, professional athletics, or with an autistic child–and he tells me the brutal honesty of his life. I learn something new and I am renewed by what I already knew about myself and men in general. We are all good. And under all the layers of things that don’t matter, we are all the same.
Alvin: Being a good man is hard work in your opinion what simple skills or talents are most essential to being a man today?
Tom: I like what one of our bloggers wrote a while back, it takes being the same guy no matter where you are. As guys we don’t much like to talk and we tend to compartmentalize. That means that discrepancies often arise in who we are at work and who we are at home. For me that was the root cause of all my problems. The inability to tell the truth. I find that the truth about myself has many levels, but by attempting to be the same guy with my wife, my kids, and anyone who I deal with at least I have a chance to get it right. I make a ton of mistakes. But lying about it isn’t one of them these days.
Alvin: What has been your largest step to manhood?
Tom: Getting sober. 14 years ago I found myself in a church parking lot calling my mom to explain to her how I had gone from being on the front page of the Wall Street Journal for being the 31 year old architect of a $2 billion deal one day and the very next day being thrown out of the house leaving behind two baby children. That was in September. That Christmas I didn’t get to see my kids. I woke up on December 28th, 1996 in New York City and realized I either had to summon the courage to kill myself or attempt to be a decent dad to my kids. That meant getting sober. I haven’t had a drink since.
Alvin: What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?
Tom: My wife sometimes tells me I am handsome. She is really hot so I take that as high praise…
Alvin: What do you like most about being a father?
Tom: That moment laying in bed with my 5 year old when I am half way through reading a book and I hear his breath deepen as he falls asleep next to me. I could stay there all night. To me its life at its very best. With my older kids (who are 16 and 14 now) its when they come to me with a serious problem looking for advice. Having heard pretty much every mistake that adults can make under the sun, I would like to believe that I have the ability to be a non-judgmental listener even for my kids. They know I am not going to preach to them. I am not good enough to tell anyone how to be good, even them. But I hope I can inspire them to find their own path.
Alvin: What has been the greatest experience with the good man project for you?
Tom: There have been so many but one definite highlight for me personally was starting our book tour inside Sing Sing with Julio Medina, one of our contributors who served 12 years there, talking to life-time inmates. I went in with the idea that it would make clear that absolutely no one, even convicted murderers, will be excluded from the conversation about what it means to be a good man. But the reality was that I was terrified. That place is straight out of the movies. They gave Julio a very hard time and, because I was with him, I got to feel what it’s like to be treated like an inmate. But when we finally made it into the room with the guys my anxiety melted. I was treated with kindness and, more important, those guys shared stories with me that made me weep with compassion. It made me realize once again that as men, and as human beings, we are all connected. I left inspired by those guys’ courage.0