An indomitable force of nature. Sometimes you run into one. Today I had a long conversation with Michal Sopko. A Slovak whirlwind of ideas, concepts, energy and raw physical energy. His day job involves logistics, but as soon as he closes the office door he turns into a hiking, running, climbing, rugbying, cycling, wrestling philosopher. Who ever said you can’t be into sports AND be an intellectual. This guy reflects on the economy, the current Zeitgeist, relationships, shifting values in society, the decline of masculinity, the rise of insecure men, politics, humor, even linguistics (according to him the Czech language is the perfect language for clever humor). His cerebral boulimia is as raging as his physical wanderlust. This guy needs constant challenges to thrive.

He has rolled his passion into a company. Makes sense because the guy studied economics in Prague. He’s started taking guys on intense hikes to find their Ikigai. If you’re not familair with the concept you can read more about it here.

So what’s on the menu?

  • Michal  takes guys up into the mountains, the hike itself is physically challenging, but that’s just one aspect of the experience.
  • From start to finish Michal makes sure that participants are forced to be brutally honest about where they are in life, what they stand for, what their skills are and what they want to achieve
  • He’s not a therapist, but if he would be I am guessing his style would be ‘provocative therapy’
  • The goal is to find your ikigai, a Japanese concept that is sometimes translated as ‘a reason for getting up in the morning’
  • Hikes can take two to three days, sometimes longer
  • During the hike experts in different aspects of life join up and go through specific exercises with the participants
  • At the end of the hike participants accept a mission and a life statement, they get a token as proof they have participated, and if they have succesfully applied themselves, they can invite other guys to go on a hike

What’s the most outrageous aspect?

  • You can’t sign up for one of his hikes, or quests for the Grail, unless you were invited. More specifically: You have to be challenged to go on this quest by a woman. How this works in practice is a secret, but Michal was willing to lift a tiny tip of the veil: ‘There is a select number of ladies in our network who are allowed to hand out challenges to guys. They can choose the guys. The guys are pushed by our female cooperators to partipate. It’s also possible for any woman to buy these challenges and hand them to a guy that could benefit.’
  • Even crazier: Participation is totally free for participants! Although donations are welcome, participants are not asked to pay anything. The business model is based on something else. Michal is not willing to share the details of his business model online. All I can say is that it’s a great example of ‘out of the box thinking’.

I would link to his website, but it’s all very much ‘off the grid’ and at the moment he doesn’t need any website. You only have two chances to participate. Either you receive a challenge from a woman OR a guy who’s already participated can invite you to go on a hike. It’s useless to apply for a spot on a quest, you have to be challenged by someone to participate. One of the reasons behind this is that Michal isn’t looking for people who just want to hike. Although hiking is definitely a large part of the experience, it’s mostly a spiritual journey. You can compare it to a ‘rite of passage’ from boy to man. It’s not something you can apply for, you need to be chosen by the community to pass from boy to man and become a provider, healer, carrier of culture, society, manhood. ‘Too many guys live just for themselves, but you can never find happiness like that as a man. You are part of nature and you are part of society. Happiness comes from leading a life that you can be proud of as a man. And you will never achieve that by only taking your own life into consideration. Many generations have come before us and as men we need to have the feeling that we are standing on the shoulders of giants, that we are building on the wisdom of our ancestors, but also in congruity with modern day life.’

If you are a woman and want to challenge a guy you know, you can try and contact Michal, but his criteria for allowing that are rather, ehm, restrictive. If you want to try your luck, send a message through the form below. Be sure to explain why you want to give someone this challenge and how this person could benefit.