The Soul of a Man in a Soulless Bureaucracy

Grinding it out, day after day, and digging deep when you’re exhausted.

What if you grind it out day after day according to a kind of plan and you work at a job you like—you don’t love it—but you like it OK and it pays the bills and it lets you feed your family?

Or maybe you liked it once for what you knew it could be and it has lost its edge but you stay because you promised others you would?

What if you are careful because you know others rely on you?

All of this is courage, too.

You have to be disciplined and you have to be steady and you have push down the more savage inclinations of your nature every couple of days, or weeks or months, depending on the kind of personality you have. You stick it out day after day because you know that if you sacrifice your wife and children benefit.

 

What about that kind of courage?

When I was studying Chinese at the Defense Language Institute I was in class with a guy I really let get under my skin.

Wait– originally I had written “…a guy who really got under my skin.” I changed it because words shape how we think and it’s better to recognize that we have the power to let others bother us or not.  Control the language and you control the argument, even if the argument is with yourself, so be careful what you let yourself think.

Combat Arms Army Officers—if they are worthy of the name–  don’t tend to be weak personalities. One of the officers in my Chinese language class had studied Chinese for the Army before, was a New Yorker,  had served as an enlisted man and had successfully made the jump from NCO to Commissioned Officer, not an easy transition. He had many admirable qualities, but I found him hard to work with. Later we became reasonably good friends and developed a kind of mutual respect, I think.

I hope he’s reading this now.

But when we first started working side by side at DLI we rubbed each other the wrong way.

We were very different kinds of men.

He was from New York. I was from Virginia.

He was older than I by some years. He was a little more pragmatic in his leadership style. I was still idealistic. We were in a little bit of a pressure cooker because we were studying a difficult language with some very smart young students and we all wanted to be our best.

He had studied Chinese before and was a very good linguist.

In addition to studying the language and having to succeed academically we were all kind of driven personalities in a way.

He was disciplined. I was a little out of control.

It almost came to blows, which shows you how silly it all was in hindsight.

I romanticized being an officer. I had some very high ideals about what it meant to be a tank officer and serve in the Army. In his own way I think he too had some very high ideals and our two sets of ideals came into conflict.

 

The Most Difficult Form of Courage to Master

In desperation I went to seek the counsel of our Senior Instructor. He had been an Infantry officer in the Army of the Republic of China on Taiwan. For those of you who find modern Chinese history a little confusing, the Taiwans were the ones the U.S. backed and who lost the war against Mao and the Chinese Communists in 1949.

This old soldier had seen a lot. He was an emissary from a different time.

He was a very dignified old gentleman and I admired him very much.

He had been through a lot and was a patriotic American.

I told him I was having a hard time with my classmate and he listened very respectfully. He knew I myself was difficult to work with and I think he wanted to say what he had to say carefully.

His reply to my dilemma was exactly what I needed to hear.

He said he had noticed I had been having problems with my classmate and he said,

“Of all the forms of courage, the hardest one to master is the courage to endure.”

Is that Chinese or what?

It seemed a very Chinese way of looking at things and I had never thought of grinding it out day after day as a form of courage but of course it is.

 

Your Masculine Soul in All Its Complexity

Men all around the world do just that. We go to jobs each day and we work and we exercise self-discipline and perseverance and patience. A close friend of mine once said he knew what my job was, after all; it was to keep my mouth shut.

He nailed it. When we work for others and serve, sometimes we have to keep our mouths shut and grind it out.

We are complicated creatures and we never do anything of any significance for just one reason. But I think the question I would ask is this: When we do that day after day how does it affect us? When we do it more than we do anything else, how does it affect us? We’d better be aware of that, too.

I get the impression as I look around that our willingness to slug it out day after day in silence is without a doubt heroic but to do that we must push other qualities down. The benefit of doing so is that we discipline the dangerous sides of our nature. The liability of doing so is that some of our finer more energetic qualities also get pushed down and if we let that happen for too long we weaken them and the world loses just a little more fire. Are these the only options men should have?

 Here’s the question I will leave you with.

Do you grind it out because your actions serve you and others or do you grind it out because you have no other choices?

In this world at this time I assure you have choices. The number of choices you have is mind-boggling but it takes vision and courage to face them and start to develop them. Everything you require to engage your life on a broader more brilliantly lit stage is within your reach, but first you have to know what’s possible.

The significance of choices you make and the potential you have to change the world have never been greater. The potential is frightening in its significance. The savage joy of being a man means you can change worlds if you choose to do so.

 

 

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What I know as a man I wish I knew as a child.

Private actions have public consequences: Treat women better.
I was born in 1960, was a teenager in the 70s, a young adult in the 80s. The sexual revolution was nothing compared to its fallout in the 70s and 80s.
As a boy and young man I was not taught how powerful my interaction with women was. I wasn’t taught to manage my appetites, emotions, desires. Each of these affects the others. All  have a compounding affect on the serious decisions men must make about health, wealth and networks that make a high quality life possible or frustratingly unattainable.
The consequences of what we do in private affect others for years.
Command yourself, you can command any situation.
Men and women struggle with different difficulties. I won’t speak for women.  My work with men teaches me we struggle with two overriding difficulties: Lust and Anger.
Lust for things, attention, money, power, women and some men lust for men. No matter. All the same appetite. Moderation tempers those desires. Without it you’re a prisoner and will never be free.
Anger about our shortcomings, injustices we have suffered. Anger about our place in the world. Anger is like gasoline– put it in the right container and it fuels a powerful engine. Let it flow throughout your life and it destroys everything you treasure.
95% of happiness hinges on one decision: Who we marry.
Men aren’t taught to manage their sexual appetites. I wasn’t. I wish I had been. We aren’t taught the beauty and majestic stability of monogamy as a choice. A key enemy of wealth is… Divorce. A key enemy of boys’ stability is… Divorce. Absent fathers. If men want to deserve their rightful place in societies we must tame our emotions and treat women better.
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Why does working in an office sap us of our courage?

 Why does working in an office sap us of our courage?

I can’t figure this out and it’s making me crazy.

Why is it that working in an office seems to sap us of our courage?

Maybe it doesn’t sap you of your courage and if that’s the case you’re lucky or tougher than I am but for some reason it seems to me that the grind of working in a bureaucracy and having a soft job takes it all out of a lot of us.

Why is that?

I think maybe it’s because we don’t have to make mistakes to succeed.

Let me see if I can explain.

 

First of all, I don’t have this figured out.

And I feel a little embarrassed about the name Authentic Masculinity for the company I started, but more on that in due course.

One of the best men I know, in fact, one of the men I call My Ten Best Men came to a Bond Fire about a year ago and said as he was staring into the fire that working in a bureaucracy was turning him into a weaker man.

I wondered long and hard about that and wonder about it still.

Here in Virginia there’s a lot of snow falling and I lay awake early this morning enjoying the fact that I was warm inside with my wife and children but it’s always fascinated me that we are separated from brutal cold and crushing conditions by this thin sheet of glass.

But more on that, too, at a later date.

But I woke up this morning trying to think through why it is that we get ground down by doing things that are safe and predictable.

 

What can we learn from Mr. Incredible?

When we become good bureaucrats it seems we lose something central to being who we are. You hear a lot, you read a lot about lives of quiet desperation and becoming little grey men in raincoats. My favorite example of this from modern entertainment is Mr. Huff in “The Incredibles.”

Mr. Huff is Bob Parr’s boss. Bob works at an insurance company and is doing a heroic bureaucratic thing by helping an old lady with her claim. He tells her how to circumvent the insurance company bureaucracy.

Mr. Huff, a small man, controls Bob and tries unsuccessfully to reduce Bob to an insignificant man. Bob ultimately throws Huff through all the cubicle dividers and gets fired, of course.

It’s a great movie. I love that movie.

If you remember, Bob Parr is a Super. He has super powers.

We all have super powers. Learning how to access them is the stuff of magic and enables us to regain our lives.

Bob Parr has to keep his super powers hidden because using them scares others and his powers are at their finest, he is at his finest, when he is living his life out to its fullest.

Rescuing, fighting, laughing, taking on the bad guys and helping the weak and innocent.

 

Vital powers exercised along lines of excellence in a big, big life.

It reminds me of my absolute favorite definition of happiness, which is, “The exercise of vital powers along lines of excellence in a life affording them scope.”

Vital powers. Lines of excellence.

A life affording them scope.

We are meant to live big lives and do our best and exercise our most vital powers.

Bureaucracies don’t let us do that. They crush us because over the course of time we make increasingly less important decisions that are safer and safer and safer. And if we become good bureaucrats we seem to have lost something that makes us better men.

I know you may not care, but I launched Authentic Masculinity because I want to encourage men. I chose the name Authentic Masculinity not because I think I am authentically masculine but because we are at our best when we are connecting in an authentic way and living lives of authenticity in the sense that we are working it out in the company of other men and facing our demons and trying to be better.

Better every day.

It’s not complicated but it’s hard as hell and we make mistakes and we get up again and we try the next day.

If that describes you I admire you. Don’t quit and don’t think nobody notices because somebody does. They are all around you and they’re watching you and need your good example so keep going.

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Very Excited To Have Launched A New Project: www.authenticmasculinity.com

Ladies and gentlemen;

Thank you for dropping in. On January 1st of 2015 my great good friend Jonathan Frappier and I launched a new project. It is called Authentic Masculinity ( www.authenticmasculinity.com ). It is our goal to create the world’s premier on-line resource destination for men who seek to be better men.

Authentic Masculinity is based on what we have learned from The Ten Best Men experience and what we affectionately call The Bond Fires… social events for men, where strong, like-minded men can network, laugh, socialize and offer each other advice and camaraderie.

Please take a moment to visit us at www.authenticmasculinity.com and sign up for our weekly on-line magazine, Pro Victoria, at www.authenticmasculinity.com/subscribe.

If you would like to reach me, feel free to email me at shannon@authenticmasculinity.com or shannonmcgurk@gmail.com

Thank you–

Shannon McGurk

 

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Are You An Authentic Man? 3 of 3

Are You An Authentic Man? 3 of 3

Do you have these 16 (TIMELESS) qualities of an Authentic (Victorian) Man?

Test yourself against these questions to find out.

This is the third post in a three-part series on how to be authentically masculine.

I am troubled by much of what I see passing for masculine these days.  Too often I see scenarios of the feminine defeating the masculine (which is silly, of course, since masculinity and femininity are complementary, not in competition) or scenarios in which good, solid, admirable masculinity is treated with derision.

My response was to ask if what was once considered masculine—at a time of unapologetic, chivalrous, courteous masculinity– is still considered masculine.  I think it was the Victorians who really understood how to celebrate what is masculine, so I chose the Victorian age for my source material.  It was a sort of experiment in which I decided to ask the question, “Is Victorian masculinity relevant to today’s world?”

I could think of no better Victorian model of masculinity than Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If”,  so I chose to list, in my own words, the qualities Kipling lists and comment on each of them to see how they would be received by a modern audience. 

Some of the readers of my posts picked up on the Kipling connection immediately.

The first man to do so was one of The Ten Best Men I know.

Other mentors from whom I have learned much and who informed my commentaries on the qualities Kipling promotes in his timeless tribute to masculinity:  Aristotle, Shakespeare, Jim Rohn,  Jack Burress  McGurk, Sterling Mutz, Sean Connery, Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill and  Ian Fleming.

So… here is Part 3 of 3:

Eleventh, Recognition That Money is Not Real. Material Wealth is Temporary. Do you own your money or does your money own you? Do you own your car, your boat, your house, or do they own you? These are important questions because they get to who we are as men.  They answer for us the question, “Am I my own man to command?”  Do you use your possessions to control people, influence people, and intimidate people?

Aside from the very real fact that the U.S. economy is based on fiat currency that has no intrinsic value (that’s for another discussion at another time), all material wealth is temporary. There’ s a great saying, “Never love anything that can’t love you back.”

Material wealth can make life pleasant, but never let it own you.

Twelfth, Never. Complain.  Do you complain?  Stop. Decide today never to complain. Not when you lose, not when you’re tired, not when you’re in pain, not when you’re afraid. It doesn’t help you or anyone around you. It weakens you and weakens them. When you complain you just feel like… a complainer.

There is a very important difference between complaining and holding someone accountable or having high standards. You can apply high standards and bring an unacceptable situation to someone’s attention, but always do so in a positive way.

The complainer is the one who just wants to complain and doesn’t want to fix the problem.

Never. Complain.

Thirteenth, Endure. Can you grind it out when things are tough? Can you hang on simply by strength of your will? When you are in pain, do you endure by strength of will? Do you quit easily? Alternately, do you know the concept of “Winners quit?” This is knowing when to stop doing what is not working.

Endurance is not something we hear much about these days.  Many successful men say that their willingness to endure hardship and disappointment was their single biggest cause of success.  We hear a lot about overnight success and instant millionaires but these successes are rare. When they do occur they frequently become nightmares because the people who succeed quickly are not prepared to manage the decisions that come with success. Those decisions require time and effort to learn.  Setbacks teach us wisdom. Having enough setbacks requires you endure and push through difficulty.  In the army some soldiers said, “We don’t need to train to be miserable.” While we should not train solely to be miserable, we should recognize that hardship teaches us to function cheerfully when we are miserable. It strengthens our mental toughness.

Find joy in enduring through hardship.

Fourteenth, Be Courteous. Courtesy is different from politeness. It involves extra effort, it means you are being courtly and going out of your way to make others feel welcome, confident and safe.  Are you courteous to all you meet? Do you treat lawyers, waiters, professors, C-level executives, teachers, workmen, bellmen, luggage handlers, doctors, garbage men and senators with equal courtesy?  Do you treat everyone with equal courtesy, no matter what they can or cannot do for you?

A great business man, in comparing the national economy to a tide, once said, “When the tide goes out you can see who has been skinny dipping.” He meant, of course, that people frequently live on borrowed money, borrowed means, and use credit and artificial wealth to appear other than what they are. You may be surprised to learn how many men of great character occupy modest occupations. It is one of the benefits of an economic downturn is that we learn humility. We get to enjoy discovering men’s better natures when they, we all, experience setbacks. 

When we treat all men with equal dignity we learn more.

Fifteenth, Guard Your Heart. Are your feelings frequently hurt?  Do you take offense over insignificant slights? Do you imagine insults where none exist? 

Some of this may be due to an over active ego or insecurity. However, if you seek to love others, which does take courage, you will open yourself to being misunderstood. Be ready. If you seek to love you may indeed find yourself hurt. Be tough while you love.

Recognize that if you care about others you will learn a lot but sometimes you will see the less attractive sides of human nature inspite of looking for the best in all men.  There is a Spanish proverb that says to lock your heart with seven locks, both to protect yourself and to protect it.  If you know yourself and know others and that we are all equally weak, you won’t be surprised at anything people do… so they won’t be able to hurt you.

Protect your heart without becoming hard-hearted.

Sixteenth, Moxie. Gameness. Keenness to Fight. Do you have the will to fight and win? Do you take winning, however you define it, personally and seriously? Have you allowed yourself to be lulled to sleep by a bureaucratic culture that prizes safety above all things? 

We live in a time when job security is the most dangerous condition you can prize. Relying on someone else to provide for you is a very seductive concept, but what you lose when someone else provides you with a job is the confidence in yourself to find your own way.  It is wise to use a stable job for limited objectives. It can provide security for your family. However, never forget that the rug can be pulled out from under you. If that happens you will have to rely on your wits and your determination to provide for yourself and those you lead and love. That requires resourcefulness, determination, grit and vision. Cultivate those qualities and you will triumph.   

When the chips are down and it looks like everything is lost; dig in and give it all you have.

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Are You An Authentic Man? Part 2 of 3

Are You An Authentic Man? 2 of 3

Do you have these 16 qualities of an Authentic Man?

Test yourself against these questions to find out.

 

Sixth, Courage to Dream. Do you have big dreams? Do your dreams inspire you to work toward them? Do you believe a better day is coming? Are you optimistic? Do you have the courage and confidence to improve? Yourself, the world around you, your future, the futures of those you love and lead? A man who faces down his fears can have the courage to dream and believe a better way is possible; a better day is coming. He is confident he can overcome any obstacle he faces.

 We live in a hard world, but the world has always been hard. We live in a challenging economic climate, but the economic climate is always challenging, more or less. It is easy to allow the world to steal your dreams. It is easy to become discouraged.  Fighting that discouragement and making a decision that tomorrow will be brighter because of your effort and determination to make it brighter takes courage. Make no mistake; authentic courage to dream is based in reality. We must work and work hard to realize our goals and dreams, but it begins and ends with our own willingness to dream and believe a better way is possible, a better world is within our grasp.

A better world is possible. Be courageous— work toward great dreams.

Seventh, Prudent Decisiveness. Are you a deliberate thinker who takes action when the time is right? Do you think a problem through, plan for the solution you want, think the plan through and then, importantly, execute? Do you use your ability to think as a spur to take action?

Thinking is important, but it is easy to think too much.   It is very seductive to tell ourselves, “Well, I had better weigh this more carefully.”  Learn to strike a careful balance between thinking something over, giving it a good analysis, but then taking action. Don’t let thoughts master you, master your thoughts.  It’s important to think but don’t let thinking be an end in itself. It is results that matter and actions determine results.

 

Think carefully, then… act.

 

Eighth, Recognition That There is no Such Thing as Failure, Only Feedback. Do you give in to discouragement easily? Do you give in to discouragement at all? Do you allow setbacks to dampen your enthusiasm?  Do you allow yourself the luxury of discouragement?

What we call failure is often the best thing that can happen to us. It causes us to change what we are doing. You may have heard the saying, “Pain is the best teacher.” It doesn’t mean pain is good, it means that feeling pain causes us to change. But failure is a myth unless you quit.  Do you allow the feedback of temporary delays to defeat you? Remember that if you seek to live a life of any significance whatsoever you will not achieve your goals with ease. Life is not easy and has never been easy. It’s not meant to be. We are meant to struggle and go against the tide. It’s what we are built for.

Delays are not denials. Failure is a myth.  Never quit.

Ninth, Willingness to be Misunderstood.  Do you crave understanding? Is it important to you that others think well of you and not mis-judge your motives? Do you worry overmuch about what others think?

Don’t worry too much about what other people think of you. Most people don’t think of us at all. More often, we use this as an excuse to delay our own action or to delay making the changes we know we really do have to make to get our lives in order.  Be willing to be misunderstood. That willingness is healthy;  it will help you not to take yourself too seriously.  If you are charting your own course, if you are making changes in your life, recognize that others will notice. The conclusions they draw may surprise you. Remember, it’s none of our business what others think of us.

Be careful whose opinion you value.

Tenth, Self-mastery When Your Life’s Work is Destroyed.  Perhaps this is the ultimate test. Are you at a point where you are re-making your entire life? Have you seen things that matter to you destroyed? Are your beliefs being attacked, maligned, mis-interpreted?  Is your marriage or relationship with your children under stress or attack? Are you re-building the foundation of your life?

Many of us are, now, in this economy.

Your entire life’s work may have come crashing down around you since 2007 and maybe you’re re-thinking it all.  Our global economy is undergoing fundamental change. These changes are far-reaching. They are affecting men’s and women’s lives, how we relate to our employers, how we do our jobs, how we build our businesses, how we parent, how we think about the world we live in. In this time of change you may have lost everything. If so, has that loss caused you to quit?  Have you quit on yourself, your marriage, your career?  Accept the loss, no matter how huge or significant, as reality and a hard, cold slap on the face. Let it wake you up and cause you to re-consider. Treat it as an opportunity. In this economy you can afford to think globally. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what other challenges you face. This is the best time to be alive on this planet, ever. 

Get up. Get moving. It’s a bright new world.

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Are You An Authentic Man? Part 1 of 3

Are You An Authentic Man? 1 of 3

Do you have these 16 qualities of an Authentic Man?

Test yourself against these questions to find out.

First, Self-Control. In the midst of chaos can you keep your sense of self-mastery? When everything is going badly around you, when everyone you see is losing his focus, losing his temper, can you remain calm? When your own situation is going downhill quickly, can you keep your self-control? The ultimate test is this: when men and women around lose their grip and blame you, can you keep from reacting?

Self-control is important in a man. When we lose our balance and self-mastery, we tend to turn violent. When we lose it, we frighten those around us. We hurt those we love and lead.

The man who cannot command himself has no right to command others.

Second, (Quiet) Self Confidence. Do you believe in yourself?  Do you know yourself well enough, as a man, to trust yourself to do what must be done? Painfully, sometimes the ones we love lose faith in us. When this happens do you still trust yourself? Do you have the rock-solid confidence to believe in yourself when those you love doubt you?

(Quiet) Self Confidence means we don’t boast. It means that in our darker moments we are strong. If weak, we know how to strengthen ourselves. We know how to find the resources we need to regain our footing. If you are a man striving to be better and who falls (as we all do), you know you must recover often. Doing so strengthens you. It strengthens your self-confidence.

Falling often tends to make us a little less boastful.

Third, Patience. Does waiting wear you down?  We live in a world of instant gratification. Social media, cellphones and the internet constantly push into our homes, our cars, our personal lives. They tell us we can have anything we want immediately. We can become envious because it seems everyone around us is getting everything they want. They achieve where we fail. Does waiting for your plans to reach fruition wear you down? Does waiting tire you? If so, it is a warning sign to strengthen our stamina, our ability to grind it out and not be weary. This requires a change in our thinking.

Patience differs from perseverance;  it requires enduring boredom.  It may seem nothing is happening while you wait, but think of the roots of a plant in winter. You may not see the growth because it’s happening below the surface.  Invisible growth precedes visible growth.  If you are impatient, you’re not alone, but recognize that as men we must learn to bear difficulties patiently (and without complaining, ever) and turn them to our advantage.

 Ultimately, waiting makes us stronger.

Fourth, Unwillingness to be petty (when others are being petty). Conviction not to belittle ourselves.  When you hear someone lying about you, when you hear someone criticizing you unjustly, are you tempted to respond in kind? It is easy to respond in kind when you are being lied about. We want to lash out and be vicious. This is a dangerous trap. Sooner or later it always traps us, not those we seek to harm because we think they have injured us.

Unwillingness to be petty changes all of this. Instead of lying in response to lies, or being cruel in response to cruelty, ignore the lies, ignore the criticism. Regain the initiative. Take positive action. Go about your business cheerfully. Decide to rise above criticism and lies. It is a waste of time to respond.  Forcing yourself not to respond strengthens you.  A man’s actions reveal his character. When others lie or engage in petty criticism it reveals their character, which you cannot change. Any hope of change lies in setting a better example.

Set a better example. You’ll be glad you did.

Fifth, Conviction not to hate. Are you big-hearted? Generous? Do you want to share the strength you have? Do you want to become strong so you can share that strength? We all have the ability to choose kindness over unkindness every moment of our lives. Kindness descends from strength. You have heard it said that hurt people hurt people.  Remember that when others are hateful, when others are hurtful, it comes from pain in their own lives that causes them to be small minded, small hearted, grasping, mean.

Decide today not to give in to any kind of hatred or anger.  Learn to be bigger than those around you.  Strengthen yourself to help others. Being in a position to help others is liberating.  Deciding not to be critical of others, not to find fault, frees us from small thinking and small living. You will always find what you look for in people. Look for the bad, you will certainly find it. Look for the good, and you will certainly find it. 

Be charitable when others are not.  But don’t let it go to your head.

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Great Moments of Decision

“There is often a conspiracy in each man against himself; he hunts for excuses to cover up his disobedience, but in a single moment, life can be changed– not by pulling oneself through the power of one’s own will,  but by a response to Heaven’s inspirations which leave the deserts of the world behind.” — Fulton Sheen

Asking Many Questions

Do you get the impression that someone is waging a battle, now, against you?

Is someone ridiculing what you believe in?

Is someone making a punchline of who you are as a man, father, husband, brother?

Do you get the uneasy feeling that we, as men, have allowed unhealthy circumstances to develop around us and that over the last few years things have gone a little too far in the wrong direction?

If so, the sad fact is that people ridicule what they have no faith in. I think many people have lost faith in men.

We Ridicule What We Have No Confidence In

If you feel like things are a little out of balance between the sexes, you are not alone. I certainly think things are out of balance, so even if it is only you and I, you are not alone, brother.

Maybe it’s because what we all rely on to reassure us in any society is under assault. We  have hesitated to stop that assault in little ways in our daily life. What really got my attention was when Camille Paglia wrote on the denigration of men. You can see her article here:

 http://ideas.time.com/2013/12/16/its-a-mans-world-and-it-always-will-be/

People around us– in the news, entertainment, advertising, the schools…sadly even young men– ridicule some of the most important ingredients of a good life. They are ingredients that are… masculine.

Clarity. Decisiveness. Commitment. Honor. Chivalry. Courage to confront danger. Self-control. Selflessness. Courtesy to those weaker than ourselves. Generosity. Stoicism.

My own experience has been that if I try to promote these qualities in a public setting I encounter sympathy from many men, but also skepticism at best, ridicule at worst.

Is it time for us to take action?

I think it is.  I can no longer remain silent. I cannot afford that luxury. The fight has come to my door. The denigration of men in our society– indeed, around the world– threatens my family. My sons, certainly. My daughters in a more insidious way but no less certainly. This denigration of men threatens you and your loved ones, too, whether you know it or not.

Built for combat. Built for joy.

As men, we are constructed a certain way. We are made for combat, to confront difficulty. This doesn’t mean we should pick fights, obviously, because we are called first and foremost to make war on our lower nature. We must have self dominion. Prudence. Judgment. But we are made to confront and establish clarity. In this situation I think it calls for us to start a conversation and then… to suggest solutions. Clarity brings us joy. Clarity brings us order so we can find a way forward, but sadly, or perhaps, happily, we have to fight for that clarity now. Will you join me in a conversation about what it means to be a man? Will you help me to frame this discussion and then help me to propose practical solutions to the problems we face, our loved ones face, our societies face? It’s global. It’s big. It’s time.

Be bold. Be authentic. Be masculine.

 

 

 

 

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Some Excellent Feedback from a Close Friend on “10 Ideas That Really Work”

I recently met with some college students to talk about how they can get an edge in this incredibly tough job market. I posted the comments under “10 Ideas That Really Work: Getting A Sharp Edge For Your Job Interview” and invited a good friend to look at it.

He is one of The Ten Best Men in My Life and I learned, again, why.

His observations are pure gold. I include them here with his permission. I realized as I read them that I don’t want to make any mistakes that set someone else back so I must be more careful.

Take all of my suggestions with a grain of salt.

Apply them to your own situation as you see fit.

Here is the excellent feedback from an experienced friend I trust and admire:“If this is directed to young folks, we can start off by telling them to leave all their electronic junk (phone, etc) in the car. They are interviewing for a job. They better be respectful or that will be the last time they see the inside of that office. And I’m not just talking about talking or texting. I’m talking about the annoying beeps, buzzes, and fancy ring tones.”

“Which leads me to the second item which I think we discussed. Younger folks are losing the skill of talking with people. In person. Not texting. Not email. Not Twitter. Not any other form of communication other than talking in person. This connects directly to another item you mentioned – listening. “Eyes are the soul and window to the heart”. This is a reason why I hate texting, emails, etc. Of course there is a place for it such as here. But it is being used, or I should say overused, to the point younger folks are not only losing the art of interviewing. (They are also) becoming impatient, writing and spelling poorly, on and on.”

“Self-deprecation. Need to be very careful with that. Although I can kid around with friends, in a professional setting such as an interview I want to be perceived as self-confident, can get the job done, etc. Of course I realize doing this you do not want to cross over the line and come across as arrogant, over confident, etc.”

“Silence. Another fine balance that is an art. I’m not talking about sitting around with The 10 Best Men as it’s a free for all have fun atmosphere. I’m talking about in a professional setting. So the balance comes in with not waiting too long and appearing like you’re trying hard to search for an answer, or blurting out an answer and appearing impulsive.”

Enough said.

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10 Ideas That Really Work: Get A Sharp Edge For Your Job Interview

Where are you in your job search?

Do the two major shifts in the US economy have you concerned?

Does the single biggest shift in the global economy in the history of the world have your attention?

If you’re competing for a job give yourself a sharp edge.

1. Added Value Networking. What is it and what’s the biggest myth?
Added Value Networking is presenting yourself to those in your network and networks you build as a listener who seeks to help them. This can lead you to a very good job. Your willingness to help is the value you add.

What’s the biggest myth?

The biggest myth of Added Value Networking is that to be effective and to win you have to bring tangible value—a skill, credentials, your labor– to the other person. This is not true. You have great value by virtue of your network and other intangibles which you may be unaware of. A closely related myth is that the person you are reaching out to (especially if he or she is successful) will be too busy to help you.

The key is to establish an authentic connection with the person on the other end and then uncover what problems they are facing. The best way to do that is to reach out in sincerity and candor and ask them how they achieved the success they have achieved. Ask them to tell you their story. Here’s the trick, though—you must do this with zero expectation of return. This may seem counterintuitive but it is essential. Information travels at the speed of light but decisions travel at the speed of trust. For a great read on this, consult The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey.

Ask to hear their story. If they tell you their story you have earned the special privilege of asking a follow-on question: “What is the biggest problem or challenge you and your business are facing right now?” If you have earned their trust and they answer that question you are on very solid ground. Final step—write a hand-written note to them and put it in the mail within an hour, then keep track of that connection. Treat each connection like gold.

2. Courtesy. How is it different from being polite and does it really make a difference?

Courtesy separates you from the rest of the people others encounter. It’s true in daily interaction and it’s true in a job search.
Courtesy comes from the word courtly. It’s one word removed from “having courtly bearing or manners.” It’s personal, ladies and gentlemen. Courtesy is making someone else feel the importance and dignity of being a special human being. It is within our power to make others feel this way. If we can do this we can make authentic connections. There are ways to build authentic connection through words and phrases. Try this the next time you board an airplane. Tell the flight attendant, “Whatever they pay you, it’s not enough.” This is true, and if you speak it with conviction that flight attendant will appreciate your willingness to say it. When he or she responds pleasantly with a smile (tired or otherwise), offer to surrender your seat for anyone else on the flight that may have special needs. Make that offer and mean it. It will help that professional, it may make a big difference in another passenger’s life, it will allow you to experience humility and kindness and it will put you in a position to earn trust.

In a job interview you can demonstrate courtesy by standing when someone else enters the room. You can demonstrate it by the clothes you wear or by writing a hand-written thank you note to the secretary or anyone else in the company with whom you came into contact.

3. Humor. What’s appropriate?

Humor is powerful and, as such, should be used only with the greatest care. The most reliable care is that which we learn from experience. Remember, too, that humor (like music) circumvents reason. We may find ourselves laughing at something we should not.
The safest humor is simply to be cheerful and it will take you a long way.

So, what humor is appropriate in the job search? Any humor that is inclusive, self-deprecating or kind. These are not perfect examples but they are suggestions on how to apply a light touch with a smile to a situation that may otherwise be awkward, otherwise.
A simple example of inclusive humor: When someone jokes about or criticizes another person in an awkward situation, simply say, while smiling, “Ouch. Well, we all know how that feels.”

An example of self-deprecating humor: If someone criticizes another person, for example an NFL Quarterback after a close game, you can say, “Well, I know when I was a professional NFL Quarterback…” and you don’t even have to finish the sentence because people will finish it in their own minds for you. You can also say, “Well, being perfect myself makes that especially difficult for me to watch.”

Kind humor is simply observing, “We’ll all get there together,” to just about any exasperating situation. Of course the best humor is humor that you develop over time through your own experiences, but having a mentor or coach who is good natured and has a good sense of humor helps a lot. Find one. They’re out there.

Finally, my wife has a saying she teaches our children:
“It’s not funny unless everyone is laughing.”

We discourage cruel humor in our home, but even so it sometimes makes its way in.

4. Aggressive Listening. Can you use it to pace the conversation?
You certainly can. Bear the following in mind the next time you are sitting across from a potential employer.
Listening is a lost art and, like punctuality, it is the courtesy of kings because it is a simple and practical way of being courteous to others. Listen patiently and listen with all you have. Use your eyes to listen. Use your body language to listen. Use silence… to listen.

The Powerful Pause.

A very useful and under-used courtesy to deploy is a Powerful Pause. The next time you are talking with someone and he or she seems to have finished speaking and you are tempting to speak, wait. Pause just 2 or 3 seconds before responding. In those 2 or 3 seconds, which can seem very long indeed, the other person may say something else, they may add a thought you’d otherwise not have heard. It doesn’t hurt (physically!) to extend the silence to 5 seconds or more, but it can be excruciatingly painful in a social sense because we have become so unused to the beauty and power of silence and we rush our conversations.
Make silence your friend and learn to be comfortable in it. By slowing down the pace of your conversation you slow the pace of the other person’s as well. It relaxes the discussion. Silence is respectful.

5. The Art of Follow-up. What’s appropriate?

The follow up is powerful, as well. Some in sales have said, “The fortune is in the follow-up.” Setting up a follow up call removes anxiety and clarifies the situation. Make this process your friend.
We have many ways to follow up with each other. Today let’s discuss the two broad categories of follow-up: Hard and Soft.

A Hard Follow up is when you schedule a specific day and time at which you will call the person you have been meeting with. It may go something like this:
You: “Amanda, it’s been great talking. Let’s talk next week. When is more convenient for you, Monday or Tuesday?” (always give them two choices)
Amanda: “Tuesday.”
You: “Would you prefer we speak morning or afternoon?”
Amanda: “I’m jammed in the morning, so how about the afternoon?”
You: “Great. 1 or 3?”
Amanda: “Give me a shout at 3.”

A Soft Follow Up is similar, but essentially you can put it in place in one sentence, like this:
You: “Amanda, it’s been great talking. If I don’t hear from you by Tuesday at 10 I’ll give you a shout, OK?”
She: “Sure, sounds great.”
If Amanda says anything to delay the process you can respond with, “Fine by me, I just like to make certain things are clear as we move forward,” and then ask when you can expect to hear from Amanda or her representative.

6. Body language. Can you use it to build rapport?

Body language is a little tough to explain clearly in a short article like this, but suffice it to say that most of our communication is non-verbal. How you carry yourself and how you interact non-verbally in a close space, as are most job interview spaces, can make or break the interview. Be aware of the emotions you are experiencing and be attentive as you listen with your eyes to the other people in the room. Mirroring another person’s body language (moving as they move but only a fraction of a moment after they do) is a useful technique but use it carefully or it can backfire.

7. Get paid, but what’s the word never to use when negotiating your salary?

Salary negotiations are complicated and books have been written about them. Here are two good guidelines to start with: Whoever mentions a number first usually loses the advantage and try not to use the word salary. If you use the word compensation instead you give the future employer a lot of options and may ultimately enable them to craft a solution that is far better for you. Another very powerful tool is simply to say, “You know the market better than I. I trust you to make a reasonable offer.” Then ask about their social media strategy and where they want to be in 2 years.

8. Differentiate yourself and be memorable. How do you do it?

One of the best ways is to ask well informed questions as you get to know the company and the industry the company trades in. Research the company and research the people you’ll be meeting with, then ask questions based on what you have uncovered. Ask questions that reveal you want what is best for the person you are talking to. A bold technique is to ask the individual what his or her professional goals are. You can say it this way: “Amanda, as I learn more about this company it occurs to me you yourself may have some goals you are trying to reach. May I ask how I can help your team to get where you are trying to get them?”

9. What do my clothes say about my judgment?

The clothes you wear are one of the first most reliable indicators of your judgment. Remember that the clothes you wear indicate what you think of those around you. It has been said they are an indicator of where you think you are going in life. A very good book to read, even after all these years, is John Malloy’s “Dress For Success.” Learn how to use clothes to give you a sharp edge.

10. Social Media. Is it destroying you without your knowledge?

Social Media—and here we mean Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and even, to a lesser degree, YouTube or your own website—can be as beneficial or as detrimental as you choose to make them, but by being careless they can do extreme harm to the persona, the face you present, to others around the world. They give you access to a global market but they also enable a global market access to you. Be mindful of what you post on your Facebook page and be mindful, too, of your privacy settings.
Like email and money Social Media tend to make us more of whatever it is we already are.

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