Jeffery Cohen’s Search for Meaning: Embracing Adversity and Delivering Value to Others


In a recent CoachYu show, I had the opportunity to talk to Jeffery Cohen on a very unique and interesting topic. The talk let us to conclude that as human beings, learning, growing, and then sharing what we have learned comes naturally and is unavoidable. It surprisingly aligned with my principle of Learn-Do-Teach, one of the 9 Triangles Framework, which is a stepping stone to becoming an authority in what you do.

jeffery cohen

Finding Meaning and Masculine Energy

When Jeffery Cohen was in his thirties and divorced and talked to his dad about his search for meaning, he was neither able to find it in pot nor in going to live with the monks in the mountains.

He actually didn’t know what he was searching for. The only thing he was consciously aware of was that he was emotionally suffering and wanted relief from it. 

Until his early forties, he was playing out his life’s course of becoming a father, a husband, a lawyer, and all those things, not principally engaged in trying to relieve emotional suffering as he was not even acutely aware of it. 

But there came a time when he became acutely aware of what most of us go through, which we call a midlife crisis. 

A very confusing and very destabilizing time. And in the midst of it, he got divorced, and that changed a lot of things. He became really aware of how common that is as he saw other men at that stage of their life, in their late thirties or early forties, going through a similar disruption and trying to fight it out.

So one thing led to another until he ended up in the company of Shamans and learning from them, traveling with them and receiving their rituals, and then teaching those rituals.

Like anything else, the more data you get in your head, the quicker your brain does pattern recognition. And over traveling a long way, he became acutely aware of the fact that what he was doing was ripening as a human being.

When he was about 41, he attended an Al-Anon meeting and found the guys to be funny, transparent, spiritual, and emotional. That brought a big smile to his face, and he realized that he really loved these guys as they were like him. 

That was the beginning of seeing himself in others. And then finding the compassion, connection, and desire to be in the company of good men.

And that really was the beginning of his marination process into a masculine energy and into becoming a man. That was when it all began.

The Power of Pain: How Trauma Can Transform and Empower Us

Most people are afraid of going there, wherever ‘there’ is, and the only thing that really gets them motivated to go there is the pain of ‘here.’

Until the pain of here becomes unbearable or undesirable, nobody will go somewhere they’re frightened to go. So, it’s almost like there is a need for pain and discomfort. 

Jeff learned to use and respond to that pain and discomfort, which he didn’t understand the value of it when he was younger. As with anyone else, he didn’t like emotional pain. 

Responding to pain creates momentum, a good course from which one can learn something, grow, and change. 

It fundamentally comes down to a relationship with life from interacting with it. Everything that happens is a gift, an opportunity. The Shamans have this word ‘Mosen Chak’ that really describes the fact that we encounter these disaggregating, disorienting kinds of traumas in our lives, and some of them are purposed towards reorganizing us in a much better way.

The car accident that Jeff was in when he was 22 created a trajectory that ended up resulting in him being in law school. Nobody would’ve bet that he would go to law school. But Jeff realizes that it was life giving him something that he needed, So he came to appreciate these traumas. People talk about traumas, PTSD, depression, anxiety, and all that other stuff that are reactions or adaptations to things. We all talk about it, and we all have certain experiences with it because we’re human.

But those traumas become superpowers. When we answer the call, whether it is our journey to find relief from a rough childhood, a business that tanks, or a relationship that goes bad, these are actually painful gateways that inspire us to take action.

And often, it’s twofold – to feel better and to learn so you can create a better outcome. 

Jeff didn’t realize the role of discomfort, pain, and trauma until he worked with it enough to realize that it gave him certain gifts and superpowers. There was a time when dealing with them was just about him trying to get out of it. But now, through his book “The Wolf That Wins,” he is hoping to help others normalize the process of becoming a human being.

The Hero’s Journey of Service: Embracing Adversity and Delivering Value to Others

It’s like a hero’s journey; the hero goes out, encounters the dragon, slays the dragon, gets lessons from doing it, and then takes those lessons back to their community. It’s a cycle. And so the hero becomes a conduit of value.

The hero simply puts himself into a position to encounter the adversary, slay the adversary, learn things, and bring wisdom and lessons back to the community.

So, the hero is simply a vehicle of service. What we generally do is encounter dragons, slay the dragons, and then look for another dragon to slay without understanding that the whole purpose of that drama is to obtain and deliver value.

It’s all about delivering and being a man of value and service to those that you care about and that matter to you.

You have to give it away. You have to make it in some sense, not about you because that whole focus on oneself is just inherently painful.

When Jeff turned 50, he had this inexplicable drive and desire just to give away everything that had been given to him. And it’s not like he’d read a book or decided to do it. He just felt the pull to it. So it was, like, time to do it.

Embracing Transformation: How Curiosity and a Growth Mindset Can Change Your Life

Jeff recounts a day when, while sitting on the patio, his wife was upset because one of their kids wasn’t further along than she wanted him to be. There was this orange tree in the backyard, and the oranges were green as they had still not ripened. He pointed this out to her and told her that her frustration was a bit like being upset at that tree because the oranges weren’t orange. 

So, transformation is inevitable. Every living thing grows and transforms if you stay in it long enough. The people that have the most fun with it seem to be people who really are curious. They just have this curiosity, and they like to learn. You’re going to ripen, and the person that you are today is not the one you are going to be in a year.

If you look at what your life is today, it’s completely a reflection of what you believe and what you commit yourself to. There are two ways to look at life; one is it’s happening to me, and the other is I’m actually creating it. Everything happens for us instead of to us.

The Importance of Knowing Your Ballast: Finding Joy and Resilience in Life

Is life happening to you or for you – it’s absolutely happening for you if you pull value from it; not just suffer, but grow. The natural human trajectory seems to be from victim to hero. 

When you’re a kid, you think the reason you failed a class is your teacher’s fault.

Then you get a little bit older, and you just prove over and over to yourself what you can do, what you can accomplish. Over time, you just become more and more of a hero in your own play. 

And if you’re not, then all you need is something really fundamental and pretty simple. You just need someone to talk to. No growth happens in a closet. The people that have the X factor in life are people that want to understand themselves and have some level of mastery over their minds. 

Women are more inclined to communicate with other women and have time with other women. Men tend to be, “I’ll do it on my own. I’m going to dig into being a doctor or a lawyer, or a husband or a father, and that’s going to get me where I’m going.”

But fundamentally, we’re like batteries. We have certain fundamental energetic needs, and we have to know what those needs are. And we have to recharge ourselves because nobody will do it for us. Nobody will know when we’re getting drained, and nobody will know what refreshes us, what recharges us. Nobody teaches this.

Jeff calls it ‘ballast.’ Do you know what your ballast is? Because if you don’t, then when your wife having a bad time, or you’re having a hard time at work, or your knee breaking, or whatever it is, you’ll be on your knees.

But if you know what you have to have and if you understand what you have to do to charge yourself, then you can withstand everything, and you can fill yourself up.

And that’s the responsibility. That’s one of the things where men get themselves in trouble. Typically, it’s with money, sex, and drugs. Those are the three things that we tend to get in trouble with. We just figure, “Hey, the way I’m gonna fill myself up, the way I’m gonna recharge myself is by being very wealthy, by drinking or doing drugs, or by having sex with women, including our spouses.”

Jeff’s ballast consists of buddies, hobbies, business, movement, and sleep. It could differ from person to person.

Every week there’s coffee or a meal, or a phone conversation, with at least one guy. He goes to the gym, goes to bed at a reasonable time, and loves healthcare businesses with really excellent people who are doing excellent things.

We get these early warning signs like resentment, exhaustion, or anger, which means we need more ballast. That’s all it means. We usually think it is something external, like that person upsetting us or that situation is upsetting. But you have an opportunity and the ability to withstand that situation and that person.

We try to make it complicated – have to learn a meditative technique, and you have to do it 20 minutes a day or remember a foreign language as part of your mantra, and you have to do this, and you have to get it just right.

But for most of us, it’s a lot more fundamental than that. Are you eating real food? Did you hydrate enough? Did you get some sleep? Have you had a buddy time with a really good buddy? 

Jeff shared his own experience when in the midst of doing all those things that we usually do in our lives and trying to get ’em all right and being stressed, one of the most fundamental things that really helped and brought serious joy into it would be as simple as sitting outside on the avenue downtown and just eating a scoop of ice cream. It was so effective, impactful, and delightful.

Balancing Doing and Being: The Trap of Constant Movement and the Importance of Prioritizing Happiness

There’s a belief that the more difficult it is, the more suffering that’s involved, and the better outcome you’ll get.

Again, it depends on your outcome. If your desired outcome is to be happy, then dial into your working day, every day, something that puts a smile on your face; because there’s dark energy and there’s light energy. And you’re not going to get happy by suffering. it’s not the right outcome. 

There are these people who do the cold plunge in the morning or are dragging giant chains around for an hour. They feel like that’s the only way because comfort leads to laziness and obesity, and not being successful.

Jeff feels there’s a place for it, especially to jump-start your day. Again, you need to look at what you need and when you need it. Within five minutes of waking up at 4: 30, his feet are on the ground and ready to walk to the gym. There’s something good that happens from that. In his experience, it puts him in touch with being powerful, strong, and forceful, which is a great medicine for not feeling powerful, strong, and forceful. 

So, if you’re feeling weak, depressed, or emotional, that’s a really great way to get out of those.

But the idea that life involves constant movement and constant doing is a form of suffering, too – a trap. There’s a balance between doing and being. Doing and creating the relationship of your dreams or the business of your dreams or the health of your dreams, and all that stuff is nothing if you can’t sit in the front porch and accomplish nothing.

And then we have a responsibility as well on an energetic level as to what kind of feeling and energy we’re bringing to others. And that has to do with what kind of emotional, energetic state we’re generating in ourselves.

So if you’re just upsetting the shit out of them because all you’re doing is being Mr. Anxious and Mr. Do, Do Go, you need to balance it out because you’re having an impact. You’re hurting people around you. 

The components of the ballast will change based on the demands of the time or your priorities. You can set ’em, but they’re gonna change. 

For example, when your wife gets sick and needs you, she has to be the priority. So, everything’s going to shift. Or you get bad news about your heart and your cardiovascular system. You’re gonna be tending to it, and you’re gonna shift your priorities. Or your business is tanking. It needs love, and it needs attention, you’re going to shift those priorities.

Trusting Yourself: The Power of Intuition and Self-Guidance

When people ask Jeff for guidance about anything, he tells them that most people are looking for guidance and questions and answers outside themselves; but they already have them. We all have this relationship with the source of all that information, whether you call it God or life; everybody has a different word for that thing that’s bigger than us that we’re connected to.

Actually,  we’re always getting guidance, getting messages. We’re always having instincts and intuition and getting clarity about what the next 50 feet should be.

But we’re just not necessarily listening, or we’re frightened to do it.

Jeff likes to remind people that they’ve got this. Encourage them to know what they already have. And to have the courage to do what they’ve already been called to do. Because that’s going to develop the muscle memory for trust, faith, and confidence. 

That’s incumbent on us, and we’re constantly being communicated like that. 

And the lessons that are right in front of them that might be hard are the perfect lessons in that moment. 

You’re in the perfect place right now to learn exactly what there is to learn right now.

So, stop being so hard on yourself and pushing yourself, and judging yourself for not being what you think you should be. 

The tree ripens the fruit naturally. We are exactly where we need to be.

The Importance of Embodiment: Moving Beyond Knowledge and into Wisdom

There’s a difference between knowing things and embodying things. To know something, read a book, but if you want to have it so that you can give it away, you have to go through it. There isn’t a shortcut.

We’re not wired to get information in our brains. We’re wired to get information and deep wisdom in our bodies to own it. That’s why the journey, the Hero’s Journey, it’s not optional, and a lot of people say, “I wanna talk to this one or read this book or watch this video so that I can avoid the pain.”

But you don’t avoid the pain. The more pain you go through, the stronger you get. 

And then you embody it, and then you have it. Knowledge is given, but wisdom is earned. You have to earn it. 

Make the best out of things. Pull the value out of it. Insist on learning and growing and then sharing it – that’s life, and that’s natural. That’s unavoidable as a human being.


It’s incredible to be able to step back for a moment in our busy lives and see that life is a gift that we can give to others because of what we experienced directly.

Pause. In your private time in the morning or whatever it is as part of your routine, look at the bigger picture, and tap into your inner spirituality or God or nature. 

Sometimes we need to look up for a moment and see the bigger picture. 

If you are busy working on your business, trying to do everything, but trying to keep your chin up and don’t want to admit that inside you have this kind of pain, find a man who represents the values that you admire the most.

They can have different beliefs, but they have to have the values that inspire them, like integrity, respect, honesty, and transparency. Make time together with men like that. There isn’t any substitute for the company of quality men. 

And it’s the most nutrient-rich environment. One could exist without it but couldn’t live without it. You gotta recharge your batteries.

About the CoachYu Show

In Coach Yu Shows, I interview people who are awesome and just pick their brains so that other people can learn from their years of experience or hear how they think about life.

And it could be about the American Ivy Association, or like this one, about the book Wolf That Wins. 

Our audience is twofold. One is business owners – could be those who own franchises, personal injury attorneys, real estate agents, or any other service, like home services

And then the other side is all of the workers. So we have a lot of young adults that are using social media. I have a million followers just in Pakistan. People that are learning how to do video editing. 

Like I have the number one best-selling book on social media right now on TikTok. Jake Paul is a number one influencer among young adults. If you’re a young adult, then this is the guy because he’s on TikTok, Instagram, etc. He and I put together a whole course that’s teaching young adults how to do social media for old people like me, and we’re bringing both sides. 

These young adults are teaching old people like me how to be on TikTok and Instagram and all that kind of stuff.

So, my audience is both of those sites. 

I had a mentor who, at that time, was the CEO of American Airlines. He convinced me to work at American Airlines, and that was almost 30 years ago. And I built one of the first websites back when it was CompuServe and AOL, and Prodigy before there was the real internet. 

Ever since then, I’ve always been a practitioner of building websites and doing social media, and doing things on the internet. I’ve taught other people how to do it.

Dennis Yu
Dennis Yu
Dennis Yu is co-author of the #1 best-selling book on Amazon in social media, The Definitive Guide to TikTok Ads.  He has spent a billion dollars on Facebook ads across his agencies and agencies he advises. Mr. Yu is the "million jobs" guy-- on a mission to create one million jobs via hands-on social media training, partnering with universities and professional organizations.You can find him quoted in major publications and on television such as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, and LA Times. Clients have included Nike, Red Bull, the Golden State Warriors, Ashley Furniture, Quiznos-- down to local service businesses like real estate agents and dentists. He's spoken at over 750 conferences in 20 countries, having flown over 6 million miles in the last 30 years to train up young adults and business owners. He speaks for free as long as the organization believes in the job-creation mission and covers business class travel.You can find him hiking tall mountains, eating chicken wings, and taking Kaqun oxygen baths-- likely in a city near you.