Celebrating International Men’s Day at Distinctly
November is a key month for raising awareness of men’s physical and mental health. It also celebrates International Men’s Day globally on 19 November each year to recognise the cultural, political and socio-economic achievements of men.
So following on from our International Women’s Day blog back in March, we’ve asked the men in the Distinctly team to share a little about the male role models that have inspired them in their lives.
My inspiration is Arsene Wenger. As an Arsenal fan, I’ve always had great respect and admiration for Arsene. When he first took on the role of Arsenal manager, he was largely derided by the media for not having enough experience of the English game. Throughout his time at Arsenal, he stuck to his principles and delivered fantastic results year after year. Of all his qualities, it was his desire for professionalism and integrity that stood out and something I have adopted throughout my career.
A carpenter by trade, my grandad, Derek Clay, built his own bungalow with my nan in Dunstable and is an all-round family man. Close to death back in the 70’s with bacterial meningitis, he survived. But he lost all feeling in the left-hand side of his body. This didn’t stop him though: when we were younger he played football, golf and any other sport that we were interested in. As is often said, ‘a generation built of different stuff’ – my grandad is a true inspiration to me.
David Goggins is a pretty funny, straight-talking guy who believes you can do anything you want fitness-wise and is one of the world’s best ultra-endurance athletes. “You just have to tell your brain to stop listening to your body and just get on with things.” This ethos and conviction helped me to get through the Barcelona marathon this year! For anyone lacking motivation to exercise, I recommend following his Instagram account @davidgoggins for motivating mantras and fitness advice.
A bit closer to home, I would have to say my grandfather, Lewis Atkinson. I never got to meet him but his backstory is remarkable, particularly around Remembrance Day (also in November on the 11th). His ship was torpedoed during World War II, leaving him stranded on a lifeboat for a week in the Atlantic. Yet he made it through that, and went on to have a very full life with a family, running various small businesses and a post office. His resilience and determination are what inspire me.
My dad, Brian Cassidy, not only played rugby to a high standard, as well as over 430 times for his club, Old Emanuel, he also rarely missed a game that my brothers and I were involved in. Even when we were playing at different grounds on the same day, he’d find a way to support us all. He has set a great standard for commitment to excellence in sport, and I try to carry that with me in all areas of my own life.
As a fellow cricketer, I pick Sir Ian Botham for a number of reasons. His playing style was ahead of his time and I think he would slot into Brendan McCullum’s Test side very nicely now! Many people still talk about the 1981 Ashes Series when Botham scored 149 not out, off 148 balls. Botham has also achieved a lot off the pitch: raising millions as a charity fundraiser for Bloodwise and the Beefy Foundation, as a crossbencher in the House of Lords since July 2020, for his stand against racism, and his long-standing friendship with Viv Richards, cemented by the Richards–Botham Trophy (for winners of West Indies–England Test series) named in their honour.
Captain of the England Cricket Test team, Ben Stokes, is an English cricketer who plays for Durham CC and the England Twenty20 International team. Ben Stokes is an inspiration, as despite incredible highs and lows, both personally and professionally, he has navigated everything to become arguably the world’s most successful all-round cricketer. He has the ability to produce his very best under the most severe pressure – as demonstrated at the 2019 Cricket World Cup and 2022 T20 World Cup which were both won by England. He’s different gravy.
Actor and comedian, Ricky Gervais is at the forefront of British comedy today. He co-created, co-wrote, and acted in The Office and Extras, as well as created, wrote and starred in Derek and After LIfe. He has won multiple BAFTA, British Comedy, Primetime Emmy and Golden Globe Awards. The reason I nominated him is becuase he’s not afraid to see the funny side of the hard things in life. Similarly, he can approach taboo topics and make them accessible to everyone, using humour and also sadness to make a point, often in a carthatic way.
Billy Connolly takes life in good humour, approaches all things with positivity – even his ill-health. As this quote sums up: “Symptom spotters among you may notice that my left is different from my right. It is just one of these things. Parkinson’s disease. I suffer badly from the disease… My wife puts on my clothes in the morning and takes them off at night. It is a jolly life. I have got no complaints.” From a working-class background, he’s enjoyed considerable success as a comedian, actor, writer and musician, but has never forgotten where he came from. He promotes togetherness and finding common ground in all walks of life, and also acts as a figurehead and spokesperson for many alternative and minority groups who lack a voice.
With a Russian-Kazakhstani wife and a keen interest in geopolitics, an admirable figure who immediately springs to my mind is Alexei Navalny. It takes incredible courage, selflessness and true patriotism to become involved in any activism in Putin’s Russia (from Pussy Riot to everyday people taking a stand). Navalny, although not perfect, is an inspiration for many living under a tyrannical, murderous regime. By being eloquent and media-savvy, he’s reached millions and opened even the most blinkered eyes to the reality of Putin’s rule. His success in exposing this reality makes it unlikely that he’ll ever be released from prison while Putin remains in power.
Having come from a family with little money, dreaming of becoming an F1 driver was a long shot but Lewis Hamilton did all of his talking on the track to become statistically the greatest Formula 1 driver of all time. He has performed consistently at a high-level season after season and fought off the competition to achieve seven world titles. A real inspiration to watch. After being robbed of an eighth world championship at the end of 2021 in controversial circumstances, many would have walked away from the sport. However, Lewis Hamilton returned and is now even more determined to win a record-breaking eighth title. I admire his strong, positive mindset and ‘never give up’ attitude. Something we should all strive to achieve.
A golfer that exudes passion, dedication and self-belief is Gary Player. The South African retired professional golfer is widely considered to be one of the greatest golfers of all time. He won 18 major championships including all four majors – a career Grand Slam. His story of sleeping on the beach before his first Open, highlights his resilience and desire to win. I also admire his infectious passion for fitness, even as a man who is now almost 90 years of age.
Frank Lampard is a retired professional football player who became a legend at Chelsea after winning countless trophies and breaking numerous records. Although he wasn’t the main team captain throughout his career, he was still a huge figure and character on the pitch and in the dressing room at Chelsea. He is considered one of the best midfielders of his generation, but it is his professionalism and attitude that I admire the most. After multiple shortcomings, he always fought back and pushed the team forwards, and now continues in this vein as a professional football manager.