It took hard work and dedication, but Matthew McCartney has gone from simply living to truly feeling alive — and he is determined to help you do the same. 

But buckle up, because it isn’t an easy journey. 

Today, Matt is a father, mentor, coach, outdoor enthusiast, and small business owner, but when asked, “who are you?” it still takes him a minute or two to respond. “It’s an interesting question, but a difficult one,” he said. “It’s one I ask my clients often.”

On a much deeper level, Matt is a guide and support system for men as they navigate change using lessons from his own lived experiences. Leveraging personal and professional traumas and a variety of recovery processes, Matt embodies post traumatic growth in its essence, and strives to assist other men as they navigate this for themselves.

“At the end of the day I think it’s all me,” he said. “I am who I need to be in each moment.” 

Although the path that got him here, like many, was not all that linear. 

Born and raised in Markham, ON, Matt graduated with a degree in Communications from the University of Windsor before obtaining a Diploma from the Ontario Police College. He had met his partner at the time, had kids, and to him, becoming a police officer in Toronto seemed like an appropriate next step. 

“It was this call to adventure, with a bit of challenge to it,” he said.

One of five boys and a son of divorced parents, Matt describes his upbringing as complicated, and for years, he bore witness to many traumatic events, both in personal life experiences and as an undercover police officer for 13 years. He obtained a number of certifications in active and tactical communication throughout his time as an officer, and he said for many of those years he felt like he was living a “movie life” — a container that helped him escape reality. 

It wasn’t until later that he realized it was actually escapism all along. 

“I did it very well for over 10 years, until it didn’t work,” he said. “Because it doesn’t forever.” 

It was tearing him up inside and eventually, it all started to unfold. He had this moment that to this day he can only describe as a full mental, physical and emotional breakdown. 

“It all comes to a head at some point, and it came to a head pretty dramatically for me.” 

He knew he couldn’t continue on this path any longer, and somewhere inside of him reminded him he had the power to choose differently, so he did. He chose to move. In 2018, Matt moved out of the city and north to the Collingwood area full time. He said it was a blessing; he found himself in a community that was healing and he finally felt like he could breathe. 

It was a massive shift, but it wasn’t enough. He said, “running from your demons, even geographically, never works.”

Thanks to an amazing support system he took a stress leave from the police force, sought treatment, quit drinking, and decided to prioritize his emotional wellbeing once and for all. He began doing landscaping jobs to pay the bills while on leave and given the way the region was growing at the time, there was no shortage of work available. He also took to it almost immediately.  “It felt right,” he said. “For once, something actually felt doable.”

Business picked up, and Matt realized he could manifest an income for himself in a way that might not be so linear, but he could guarantee it in a different way and “be his own stress” instead. Plus, he gets to spend his time outdoors and in nature, so he said it was an easy transition.

He started feeling better, stronger, creating a new version of himself that saw the world from a different perspective. 

“Literally the pendulum swung completely to the otherside,” he said. 

But something was still missing at a soul level. Somewhere along the way, Matt realized his desire to attend police college all those years ago wasn’t just for a sense of adrenaline and adventure, but a call to service as well. Matt knew deep down, he wanted to help people. 

“It was a call to help others heal,” he said. “How can I use all of this life experience I have gathered, and how can I use it to benefit others?”

And although a noble task, he said in many ways, it wasn’t for anyone but himself. “I don't ever want it to be misconstrued as selfish, but it was for me, first,” he said. “Knowing that helping others would be good for me, too.”

Through his experience undercover, coupled with personal traumas from his youth, he realized his calling might be in helping others heal in a more holistic way. Even more, he wanted to help men heal specifically, and offer them the type of support, male to male, that he always felt he was lacking. 

The more he believed in this, the more the universe seemed to conspire to help him make it happen. Matt said he couldn’t explain it, but he began to experience all of these synchronicities. 

“I started meeting all these wonderful entities, and this model of what I wanted to do started to form out, started to come to fruition,” he said. “So I just started to dangle my tentacles into all these beautiful things that were coming my way.”

And for him, that included the Collingwood Foundry. He describes it as “a truly beautiful community of like-minded humans who are choosing a path rather than the traditional,” he said. 

Around the same time, Matt felt called to see just how far he could push his limits, and through one of his newfound connections in Collingwood, Jennifer McMaster, a health promotion specialist, he learned of something called the Special Forces Experience. The experience is an 8-day undertaking and the ultimate experience for men looking for personal growth and the challenge of a lifetime. Matt embarked with a cohort of other men to Northern Ontario last October, unsure of what lay ahead. Unfortunately, he got injured on the first day, and wasn’t able to complete the rest of the experience. 

While frustrating at first, the injury allowed Matt to speak with other participants after they hit their breaking points, and it gave him the ability to understand what men really needed, and what he could really offer. 

He started a Men’s Group in Collingwood as a place for men to gather in person once a week to share their struggles and support one another. They currently meet Monday nights at 7pm at the Collingwood Foundry. Since its inception, over 20 men have attended. 

“Most men have no other men in their life they feel comfortable sharing things with,” he said. “I started it because I knew I needed it, too.”

The coaching side of it really took hold because of a mentor of his own, and his continued dedication to self improvement. “I’m still working on myself, too,” he said. Through this, he paired up with two coaches in the United States, Kayla Becker and Nick Kahule, and together with Jennifer, they founded the Thriving Man Academy, a 14-week program designed to help men “move from survival, to a state of thriving.”

They held their first cohort last June, and Matt was able to “get his feet wet” with one-on-one coaching and witness the impact his experiences and the lessons he has learned can have on other men. “Things just started to blossom,” he said. 

Matt still operates his landscaping business throughout the summer months, but he is excited to dive more into coaching and mentoring this winter. 

The Thriving Man Academy is launching a second cohort on Feb. 6, 2023 focused on helping men learn how to navigate between survival and creation mode and help men in all corners of North America become a better man, father, leader and partner. 

The program includes 12 online group coaching calls, access to four expert coaches, weekly support and guidance in a group setting to help men become less reactive and live their lives more intentionally and with greater ease. 

“Watching, observing and experiencing another human observe that levity that comes from believing that they can, believing in themselves… It’s an exhilarating moment when you watch someone go inside themselves,” he said. “You were living, now you're alive.”