December 31, 2007

Thank you for a great 2007.

Blessings on you, yours, our world, and your man-making in 2008.

In service and gratitude,

Earl Hipp

December 23, 2007

A Man-Making Holiday Story?

As you well know, in this blog I am all about calling men into action in service to young males. From this perspective I see an enormous variety of approaches to both keeping boys out of trouble and launching them on the path toward a positive manhood. But every once in a while I come across a man who, on his own and through personally heroic efforts, simply heads out to do what needs to be done. One of those men is Mustafa Mahdi, the spiritual force behind The Rising Son, Inc. in Jonesboro, Georgia.

Mustafa caught fire 10 years ago at the Million Man March. He came back from that event on fire and started working with single parents and young men in his community. The result is The Rising Son Young Men's Development Center ( Today, this organization, on a shoestring, is providing after school daycare, tutoring, mentoring, rites of passage events, a small summer “camp,” field trips, and lots of positive attention to many boys.

Mustafa was a contributor to my Man-Making book, and has been a my supporter for almost two years. I have profiled him previously in this blog as a man who, against incredible odds, is making THE important difference for many young males. If you want to learn about just how passionate one man can be about saving young guys, I highly recommend you read his most recent letter to me (at this link).

I’m telling you this because at this moment, The Rising Son, Inc. needs your financial help. While the details are in his letter at the link above, Mustafa needs to raise $5000 to keep the doors open into next year. There is rent coming due, an ailing 1985 van, more kids showing up, and he can no longer afford to make up the shortages from his personal income.

In the almost four years I’ve been doing this blog, I have never put out a request like this. I’m choosing to do so now because this is the season of faith, a time for gifting with an open heart, and because he is a very good man saving boys’ lives. Mustafa says, “It's very hard to let go of my dream to help the boys in our community.” I want to do what I can to help him hold on to that dream. Maybe you will too. Who knows, the Rising Son could become one of those holiday stories with a very happy outcome.

"No one can do everything, but everyone can do something"

The Rising Son, Inc.
Young Men's Development Center
6906 Tara Boulevard, Suite #9
Jonesboro, Georgia 30236
678) 933-9677

Feel free to email me with questions, and blessings on you and yours this holiday season.


December 6, 2007

A Lost Puppy Kills Eight

He was 19 year old Robert A. Hawkins of Bellvue, Nebraska. Sure I'm angry about his horrific, violent and very adolescent act. Eight lives... could have been your family or mine. Just stupid.

His landlady described him as "a lost puppy that nobody wanted." He wasn't tolerated at home, lost his job at McDonald's, and had recently broken up with his girlfriend. He was yet another boy "with emotional problems," gone hopeless and angry about the cruelty and abandonment that will certainly be discovered as the story of his life.

I'm left with some sense of responsibility as a man and a lot of questions. Did I/we let him or the multitude of boys like him down by not showing up in their lives? Is that an exaggeration, too big a job? Should we be doing something. How many boys like Robert need to wave this bloody red flag before we get it. I guess I'm grieving... angry, sad, and in shock... again.

Take a quiet moment to honor the lives lost in Omaha . . . and be sure to include Robert. He was not a bad kid, just a lost puppy.

Hug your family and friends right now, and then find a loner boy somewhere and hug him in some way too.

And always, always take an adolescent with a gun seriously.

Love... Earl

December 4, 2007

Putting Men Together

After the last blog post I got a great comment from Carl K. In it he shared this story that he said, "found me when I needed to hear it." I felt the same way. Here it is:

A father, paging through a magazine one day, came across a map of the world. He thought this would be great to give to his 6 year old son as a puzzle, so he cut the page into lots of pieces, and asked his son to put it together. He figured that it would take quite a while and was proud that he could give his son a decent challenge.

The boy was up to the challenge, and 10 minutes later proudly told his father that he had finished it. The amazed father could not believe that he could have finished something that should have taken hours. When he asked the boy how he finished it so quickly, his son replied,” I found a picture of a man on the other side. As soon as I fixed the man, I found that the world was also fixed."

To learn how to "put men together" so they'll be willing and feel able to show up for boys, check out the Man-Making book.

November 27, 2007

Why Men Don't

I'm getting ready to be a staff man on a December Boys to Men initiation weekend in Arizona. Again, there is a chance that the young males who've been chosen, and are already looking forward to the experience with nervous excitement, will be let down by men. At this moment there is some question about whether or not there will be enough volunteer men to staff the event.

I'll own the fact that I do carry a high degree of passion about this work. Over the years I've seen the incredibly positive impact of these weekends in the lives of all the males involved. I also carry a judgment that guiding boys on the path toward a positive and meaningful manhood is ancient and sacred men's work and responsibility. So it's easy for me to be sad when enough men don't show up.

WHY MEN DON'T: In case you're curious why men are not showing up for boys, in droves, all around the planet, here is a PDF article I've written titled, Why Men Don't. It's a summary of responses from my research about the fears, concerns, and vulnerabilities men expressed that keep them from showing up for the many under-male-nourished boys around them.

Another place to learn about the barriers to involvement for men is in the What Men Say section of the Man-Making website. In question 10, I asked men about their resistance to this work with this, "I ask you to look deep in your heart. Ask yourself, 'Are you actively involved, in some way, large or small, in the life of a boy?' If you are, I thank you. If you are not involved, help me to understand why not." You can read men's responses to this question here.

Some of the fears men expressed are appropriate, such as their concern about the sick norm in our culture that causes people to raise an eyebrow when an adult male shows interest in mentoring boys. Other fears and concerns speak to how terribly disconnected men are from both their power as initiators and the terrible need for their involvement.

YOUR COMMENTS: I'd be interested in your perspective. You can comment below on the blog, or send me an email. If your an adult male and you're not mentoring a boy or boys in some form, what are your fears and concerns, what's in the way? By starting with this piece of men's truth we may find the way to get more men involved, and boys served on their mutual journey toward mature manhood.

November 16, 2007

A Hopi Elder Speaks

“You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour. And there are things to be considered . . .

Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader."

Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, “This could be a good time!"

“There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are torn apart and will suffer greatly.

“Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above water. And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, Least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

“The time for the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from you attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

“We are the ones we've been waiting for."

-- attributed to an unnamed Hopi elder

Hopi Nation

Oraibi, Arizona

October 31, 2007

Journeyman - Documentary Film Premiere

It's finally happened. Some very good men have created a film that goes right to the heart of Man-Making. It's titled Journeyman. It is premiering in Minneapolis on November 15th, but will soon be available on a DVD. You can read all about the film, see a clip (bottom of the page), and soon be able to order the DVD at the producers website,

In you're involved in man-making work in any form, want to call men to serve boys, or just want to see what the bleeding edge of this work looks like, check out this amazing film. It's not Hollywood, but I guarantee it will change the lives of those who see it.

***** Highly Recommended

Remote Rites of Passage

This is one sacred rite of passage people rarely get to witness. It's usually done when no women are present. It's all about true male power and control, however remote.

Watch this and see if it doesn't hold some truth for you, even if you can't remember the transmission of this core masculine knowledge.

October 21, 2007

The Cost of Fatherlessness & Heroes

Brother Mustafa F. Mahdi is one of my Man-Making heroes. He is the founder and spiritual glue at The Rising Son, Inc. Young Men's Development Center, in Jonesboro, Georgia. The center's mission is to "reduce fatherless families by providing programs and activities designed to prepare young men for the challenges of manhood and responsible fatherhood."

In an world where the most common response to young males seems to be putting them in prison, Mustafa and his co-workers provide and amazing array of services through the Rising Son. After school and Saturday academic mentoring, summer day camps for boys, a Faithful Fathers mentoring program, and the Pathways to Manhood Rite of Passage program . . . just for starters.

As their website points out, "...our program provides Mentors to guide young men successfully on their "Journey to Manhood". Teaching our sons to be men before they become husbands and husbands before they become fathers, will break the devastating cycle of fatherless families."
"To be a man, you have to see a man"
To measure the challenge that this very good man and his allies are facing, check out the statistics just below, taken from their website. Because of the faith, courage, and relentlessness shown by Brother Mustafa and the good people at Rising Son, they are all my heroes and role models for all of us.


85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes (Source: Center for Disease Control)

90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census)

71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (Source: National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools.)

75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes (Source: Rainbows for all God's Children.)

63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census)

80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes (Source: Criminal Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26, 1978)

70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept 1988)

85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home (Source: Fulton Co. Georgia jail populations, Texas Dept. of Corrections 1992)

The statistics above show that children from fatherless families are:

* 5 times more likely to commit suicide.

* 32 times more likely to run away.

* 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders.

* 14 times more likely to commit rape.

* 9 times more likely to drop out of high school.

* 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances.

* 9 times more likely to end up in a state-operated institution.

* 20 times more likely to end up in prison.

October 4, 2007

Be Very Afraid of Men!

In a recent post I profiled a September 6th, Wall Street Journal article titled Avoiding Kids: How Men Cope With Being Cast as Predators, written by Jeff Zaslow. In another article by Jeff, with the same theme, his title asks, Are We Teaching Our Kids To Be Fearful Of Men?

The article opens with this, When children get lost in a mall, they're supposed to find a "low-risk adult" to help them. Guidelines issued by police departments and child-safety groups often encourage them to look for "a pregnant woman," "a mother pushing a stroller" or "a grandmother." The implied message: Men, even dads pushing strollers, are "high-risk." Are we teaching children that men are out to hurt them? The answer, on many fronts, is yes. I really encourage you to read this article. As you’ll discover, Zaslow is naming a very dangerous trend.

The core message of the article is embedded in a quote from Peter Stearns, a George Mason University professor who studies fear and anxiety. Sterns says kids end up viewing every male stranger as a potential evildoer, and as a byproduct, there's an overconfidence in female virtues.

As a result of reading the piece I wrote to Jeff at the WSJ and thanked him for again identifying this alarming tendency to demonize men. I also asked, and challenged him, to use his position of influence to offer a counter point article. I suggested he profile just a few of the many good men who have overcome these formidable barriers and who are heroically committed to helping adolescent males step out on a positive journey toward manhood. We’ll see if he takes up that banner. But even if he doesn't, you can.

I challenge all my male readers to find something you can do, today, from your position of influence, to have a positive impact in the life of a young male? Will you overcome your own resistance, take a risk, make a difference, and buck the trend that is trying to cast all men as dangerous or uncaring?

The Man-Making book is full of suggestions for what you might do to get involved. I like to say that from the suggestions and examples offered up in the book, every man will find something he can do, regardless of his current level of commitment to this work. Just because I'm so worked up about this article I'm offering the Man-Making book to my blog subscribers at half-price. Here's the special link. Let's build an movement that fights this destructive notion about men and masculinity. Or how about just helping the boys. They are waiting.

September 11, 2007

Now It's Your Turn

Please help me populate a page on the Man-Making website titled: Men's Stories about Man-Makng. I want to profile some of those amazing moments when you, as a man, had a positive and transformational impact on a young male.

It's sometimes easier to tell the story about when you were positively impacted by an older man. ALL men have those stories if they look deep enough, and they are still collecting them if they're lucky. I have a place on the website for those stories too. But this time I'm asking for something harder . . . recognizing your own man-making power.

Maybe it was when you were a coach, a volunteer, something you did in your spiritual community, an experience with young male relative, and exchange with some guys in the "hood," or just hanging out when there were boys around. When did you compliment a young dude on his clothing, show a kid how to do something, lead an adventure, or role model picking up some trash or otherwise do the "right thing" in front of some young guys? Tell me about the "small" things you don't think are worth mentioning, like complimenting a kid once when he made a hot skateboard move, or when you simply said, "hey guys," to a pack of young males passing you at the mall.

I know that there have been those moments for you and each one makes a small but positive difference in a boy's life. It would make my day to have to post one little story from each of almost 500 readers.

If nothing comes to mind, take a risk. Go do something today and then write and tell me what happened. Tell me what you saw in the eyes of the boys and how it made you feel. You have man-making power and potential, go use it.

Now it's your turn.

PS: Do boys a favor and share this blog with some good men you know. We need an army.

September 6, 2007

Men as Predators

OK, I'm angry. This article in the September 6th Wall Street Journal, titled Avoiding Kids: How Men Cope With Being Cast as Predators, will help you to understand just how bad it is for men who are considering becoming mentors. It's an enormous tragedy that when we are suffering from an epidemic of under-male-nourished boys, men who ARE motivated to help have to be careful about how they show their interests. It's a twisted world.

I'm curious to know how male readers feel about being a man after reading this article. You can share your thoughts by clicking on "Comments" below.

August 29, 2007

Torn Flesh and Manhood

I'm always a little shocked by stories rite of passage rituals that involve tearing flesh as part of the path to manhood. There are countless examples both ancient and modern. What moves me is not the imagery of the pain inflicted. It's the power of the commitment, of both the men and the young males involved, to do what ever it takes to turn boys into men. I think those rituals represent the critical importance of man-making for these cultures.

What follows is a modern story taken from the unlikely source of the Sidney (Australia) Morning Herald Travel Blog for Wednesday August 29, 2007. It describes the experience of a white man visiting a small African village, and being invited to a man-making ritual.

While in Uganda on a tour out to see the mountain gorillas a few years ago, we stopped off for a few nights in a tiny village called Sipi Falls, which is a fair way off the beaten tourist track. There we were quite a novelty, and easily got chatting to some of the locals.

Curious about the group of teenaged boys we'd seen marching through the streets in traditional dress, we asked a few people what was going on.

"Oh, it is our tradition," one man told us. "It is to mark their journey into manhood. Tomorrow they will all get ... How do you say it? Circumcised?"

Yes, circumcised ...

"Do you want to come along?"

How do you turn down an offer like that? So the next day a group of about six of us, clearly the only white people in the entire village, followed everyone else on a pilgrimage along dirt roads and through banana plantations, before arriving at the site of the ceremony, where, as the token mzungus in town, we were honored with a front row seat.

There, 10 boys lined up, naked, in front of the waiting crowds, and were circumcised by an elder. Standing, clutching a length of wood in front of them, not one cried out, or even flinched, instead fixing a steely gaze on the audience. One by one, as they were given a nod of approval by an elder, they raised the piece of wood above their heads and let out a triumphant scream, echoed by the crowd.

We walked back to the campsite in silence.

What is the impact of this story on you?

August 12, 2007

A Trip to Boy Heaven

A recent article in the August 12, 2007 issue of Time magazine titled The Myth About Boys; David Von Drehle tries to help us all find some hope about the "boy crisis." The author takes the perspective that so much of what we’ve heard about the challenges facing today’s boys isn’t all THAT bad.

Von Drehle agrees that the boys are struggling, but argues that the glass is really half full vs. half empty. Try this on, “Is it bad that more boys are in special education, or should we be pleased that they are getting extra help from specially trained teachers? And haven't boys always tended to be more restless than girls under the discipline of high school and more likely to wind up in jail?” I don’t know about you, but that approach didn’t help me to feel much more hopeful.

He goes on like that for four pages, trying to find hope in the small details. He says condom use is up for boys, and that in 1984, 1 out of 3 young black men ages 18 and 19 were neither in school nor working and now it’s 1 in 5. You’ll have to read it for yourself. I commend him for trying to be optimistic, but naming small gains in a huge struggle doesn’t qualify as myth busting for me.

He did accomplish two things with his article worthy of note. First he brought more people into the boy dialogue, always a good thing. But most importantly, he identified a spectacular camp for boys under the title, A Trip To Boy Heaven. Indeed, the Falling Creek Camp for Boys in North Carolina is actually bursting with perfect boy activities, in a perfect wilderness environment, and it’s all driven by boy-literate staff. Not only will the video on their website make any man wish he was a boy again, but Von Drehle has (unwittingly)pointed out that the Falling Creek Camp is exactly what an educational system should look like if it really wanted to educate and motivate boys. Now THAT idea really gives me hope.

Check it out and tell me what you think?

August 6, 2007

Men - Collapsing / Rebuilding Bridges

(Short Speech Warning)

Tragically, due to a lack of political will, passing the buck, and a “just get by” approach to transportation funding, a bridge that was a critical piece of the infrastructure of life in our community suddenly just went away. People died and were injured, everyone is in shock, bodies are yet to be recovered, and lives will be seriously disrupted for years to come because of this loss. It is powerful testimony to how easy it is to take the really important parts of daily life for granted. I'm happy to report that Gwen, I, and all our family and friends are safe . . . but I’m a mess.

I find that I’m living with all the uncomfortable but normal feelings that come with grief and loss. Maybe you are experiencing some of this too. On and off I’m feeling sad, very angry, confused, powerless, vulnerable, and a little lost. I know I’m not alone, and I pray this event will launch much needed dialogue about infrastructure . . . not just transportation, but our core national values. That is not what this post is about however.
I pray this event will launch much needed dialogue about infrastructure . . .
I realized that I have those same feelings every time I learn about the loss of an adolescent male to homelessness, violence or the prison system. In too many of those stories you can find the predictable tale of critical bridges to positive adult male influences which, for those boys, have just gone away. Lives tragically lost because of denial, lack of will, a sense that it’s someone else’s job and we can just get by. It's that infrastructure that needs addressing.

These days I’m choosing to NOT take the easy path of denial, powerlessness, and pretending that, as an adult man in my community, I don’t have some piece responsibility for that situation. I’ve stepped into action, the only antidote I know of to living with the feelings of grief. I’m “seeing, acknowledging, and blessing” boys everyday in the ways I discuss in my book. I’m mentoring half a dozen young males to different degrees. I‘ve written letters-to-the-editor, articles, a book, and this blog. I realized that I’m doing the things I can do in order to re-build those critical and life-giving bridges between good men and under-male-nourished boys. I’m not saying this to brag, but to identify what one man can accomplish once he decided to step forward.

I know I’m not alone. This blog and the Man-Making book profiles many heroes in this work. For the most part, they are regular guys who decided to do some little thing and then masculine gravity took over. But we need more help; the problem is too big.

My prayer is that you find the thing you can do to help re-build this critical piece of your communities’ infrastructure. We can't leave it up to "them." There is little question that your involvement, even in some small way, will be life giving, possibly life saving, and change two male lives for the better.

Thanks, I feel a little better.

July 25, 2007

I dare you to watch this video to the end!

The YouTube video below, is from Canadian Director Frederick Marx. It gives you a glimpse into the transformational power of a Boys To Men initiation weekend. That's a weekend where the lives of all males that attend are forever changed. Trust me, I've been there.

I DARE you to watch this short clip and not be deeply moved, have your heart melted, remember your boyhood, and not feel like you want to make a difference in a boy's life.

If you are so moved, contact information to learn how you might become involved is at the end of the clip. Or you can send me an email and I'll hook you up.

Like I said, I dare you.

(If the post doesn't show up, go to this YouTube link:

July 16, 2007

Golf and Man-Making?

In the Man-Making book, one of many approaches for influencing boys that I suggest to men is to take something you're interested in and find a way to do it that involves young males. For example, I like golf. I've had a lot of fun with young dudes at mini-golf, on the driving range, and even on the occasional par 3 course. But when it comes to character education and golf, I was very impressed when I heard about the work of the First Tee Program.

First Tee was started in 1997 by the World Golf Foundation. They have the support of countless corporate sponsors AND the PGA and the LPGA, whose golf pros are directly involved in the program. Today they have 205 chapters and over 1.5 million kids involved.

In their life skills education training, along the way to learning how to play golf, they focus on nine pretty impressive core values:

1. Honesty - the quality or state of being truthful; not deceptive

2. Integrity - strict adherence to a standard of value or conduct. Personal honesty and independence.

3. Sportsmanship - observing the rules of play and winning or losing with grace.

4. Respect - to feel or show deferential regard for; esteem.

5. Confidence - reliance or trust. A feeling of self-assurance.

6. Responsibility - accounting for one’s actions. Dependable

7. Perseverance - to persist in an idea, purpose or task despite obstacles.

8. Courtesy - considerate behavior toward others. A polite remark or gesture.

9. Judgment - the ability to make a decision or form an opinion. A decision reached after consideration.

This organization is in 38 states and 4 countries. They focus on all kids 8-18, with about half of the program participants being minorities. If you golf and are even a little interested in man-making, you might want to check out this organization at:

July 4, 2007

A Great Summer Book for Boys

The Dangerous Book for Boys, by Conn and Hal Iggulden is not at all dangerous. In fact, this is the perfect book for the young adolescent male, the book I wish I had when all the days of summer were stretched out in front of me. It's full of fun and the special kind of man-making knowledge that is guaranteed to keep a young male glued to the book. See if the following chapter headings don't stir your interest:
  • Five Knots Every Boy Should Know
  • How To Play Stickball
  • How To Build A Treehouse
  • Questions About The World
  • Fossils
  • The Golden Age of Piracy
  • Timers and Tripwires
  • Famous Battles
  • U.S. Navel Flag Codes
  • Juggling
  • Insects and Spiders
  • Secret Inks
  • Navigation
  • Navajo Code Talkers Dictionary
  • Girls
  • First Aid
You get the idea, and that's just a small sampling of the joys that await inside the book. You can order it directly from, or go to the book's website to learn more. On the book's website you can even download an award certificate to present if your young guy reads enough of the book (you decide) to have met the Dangerous Book for Boys Challenge.

I'm guessing that the content of this book will take you right back to your boyhood when knowing all this cool stuff made you a god amongst your pals. The book will also create a thousand opportunities for adult man-makers to engage the boys in their lives, talk, "do stuff," build things, and have a LOT of fun in the process.

If you were looking for an easy entry into man-making, this book could just be it.

June 22, 2007

Boys to Men Weekends

The Greater Washington Mentoring Network, an affiliate of the national Boys to Men Mentoring Network, has a great promotional website for their October 2007, Rites of Passage Adventure Challenge Weekend. As you move through the pages you'll see many pictures that offer you a glimpse into the activities that occur on a boy's initiation weekend. You'll also find some answers to common questions men have about involvement in the weekend experience and the on going mentoring of boys.

Check out their website and then check in with yourself to see if something in your hardwiring hasn't been touched in an important way. This group, and many like it would love to have you involved.

If you need a little more inspiration, check out the two powerful video clips on the Boys to Men Mentoring Network website. Real boys, real stories, a powerful call to action.

"As adolescence ends—if there is no effective initiation or mentorship—a sad thing happens. The fire of thinking, the flaring up of creativity, the bonfires of tenderness, all begin to go out."
– Robert Bly

June 11, 2007

Pathways to Manhood Camp

One of the solid organizations I profiled in the Man-Making book is a group out of Australia called Pathways to Manhood. They were recently written up in The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper with a fine description of their Boys to Men retreats.

The article discusses the shift that they want to see happen on these adventure weekends. The movement ". . . from boy psychology to man psychology. Boy psychology is: It's all about me. I want acknowledgment, I want power, I'm the center of the universe. I don't take responsibility for my actions and I want a mother. Healthy man psychology is: 'I have a vision, I do something because I believe in it, power is for the good of those around me, it is for sharing. I'm part of the universe, I take responsibility for my actions and I'm looking for a relationship with the feminine."

Follow this link to the article. If you've never been part of this kind of experience, it will give you a limited peek into the process, and probably set you up to want something like it for your self!

May 24, 2007

A Man’s Hardwiring

In a book by Joseph Campbell titled Primitive Mythology - The Masks of God, there is a chapter called The Enigma of the Inherited Image. In this chapter he talks about how newly hatched sea turtles have built into them a natural “quest for the not-yet-seen.” At birth, they already possess instinctual survival behaviors that cause them to pop up through the sand and run, “. . . like a field of sprinters at the crack of the gun, and make for the heavily crashing waves as fast as they can, while gulls drop screaming from overhead to pick them off.”

Campbell says, “There is no question here of learning, trial-and-error; nor are the tiny things afraid of the great waves. They know they must hurry, know how to do it, and know precisely where they are going. And finally, when they enter the sea, they know immediately both how to swim, and that swim they must.”

In the scientific study of animal behavior, the turtles are utilizing an innate releasing mechanism. In other words, they are instinctually utilizing their hardwiring to respond to circumstances they have never before experienced, in order to guarantee the survival of their species. There are many examples of this kind of behavior in the animal world.

One of the premises I offer in the Man-Making book is that men and boys are hardwired in this same way for important and necessary actions between them. This is why, at the onset of adolescence, boys begin to pay attention to men. They instinctually look for clues about what it means to be an adult male; how to feel, think, emote, laugh, posture, and relate as a man. They know something amazing is going on inside them, and consciously or not, they know men have their answers.

I believe that men possess complimentary hardwiring. Just one example is when a man is in the presence of someone else’s, slightly-out-of-control boy. In that moment most men will “light up,” possibly give the kid a look, have feelings, and then act on them or not. In their genes, men understand this adolescent boy energy. Whether they are conscious of it or not, they are uniquely prepared to contain, manage, and direct its flow.

When men trust their hardwiring and step into some form of action, it feels right to both the men and the boys. Ask any of the males you know who’ve experienced it. The boys get and absorb precious gifts, critical knowledge, and necessary skills for their successful journey to manhood. The men get clearer about their place in the male hierarchy and fill in critical blanks in their mature masculinity left over from their adolescence. When that happens, I call the result Man-Making, men helping boys on their combined journey to manhood.

When men don’t trust their hardwiring, don’t show up at the critical times in boy’s development, boys are lost. Boys, like a baby sea turtles, born into a world with a sky full of seagulls overhead, some will make it, some die, some adopt horribly misshapen notions about being a man, and too many wander aimlessly in the never-never land between boyhood and manhood . . . some times for ever.

If you’re a man reading this, you know it’s true. Your hardwiring is telling you so. What do you want to do about it?

April 27, 2007

Face of the Wolf

This hard to read but oh so sweet story is from a passionate man-maker, Colin Irish. He shares one brief moment on a rite of passage weekend run by men like Colin for boys. The story gives us all a peek into the work his group is doing initiating boys into manhood. On reading it, you'll begin to understand why, once exposed to this work, boy’s and men’s lives are changed for ever.


He stood in front of me shaking slightly. I noticed the little tremors in his hands. He had arrived the night before wearing impressive black make-up, but the events of the day had wiped most of it off his face. Some of it was on the sleeve of his gray hoody. He tried to keep his face blank. I could tell it was taking a lot of effort. He looked nothing like the men I'd seen come to this kind of circle before. However, he was standing up in front of everyone, as brave as any one of those men. And he was 14 years old.

"What's your new initiation name?" I asked. "Wolf," he answered. I nodded. "It fits.” I saw his mouth try to curve into a smile, but he put the blank face back on in an instant. He was good at that – a valuable survival skill for his life most likely. "Wolf, tell me your story.” He took his time getting started. Everyone waited as if silently telling him that he was important. I could tell it had been a long time since he'd gotten a message like that. He told his story - his father gone, his mother checked out, and his own attempts to stop the pain. It's a story more common than I am comfortable with, which is why I was standing here with him. He worked his way through it and got to the end. I helped some, but not very much. As the mask melted away, all of his struggles were right there just under the surface. There was no need to dig.

"That's really clear, Wolf. I get why you're sad and angry. It took lots of courage to tell that story and it takes lots of courage to live it." "Yeah," he said as he wiped his eyes. The last of the make-up smeared over his face giving him a truly wolf-like visage. "Is there anyone here that would like to bless Wolf's courage?” Everyone came forward. The process took 5 minutes, but the honoring and blessing lasted for 25 minutes.

Working with boys is different than working with men. For the boys, the traumas of youth are happening now. There hasn't been enough time to hide them beneath layers of denial and unconsciousness. Just observe how most teens dress and you can see it all displayed on the surface. Also, the magnitude of a small course correction has much more impact for an adolescent than for a man. I wonder what would have been different for me if I had a circle of men and peers hear my true story...and then bless me for who I am. What would be different for you right now, if a circle of men had stood with you back then?

Threshold Passages, Inc. (TPI) needs men like you who are willing to stand in the circle with boys - men willing to honor and bless.

Reclaiming Your Teenage Fire - Mentor Training - June 8-9, 2007
Boy's Rites of Passage Adventure Weekend (RPAW) - August 9-12, 2007

Collin Irish
TPI RPAW Coordinator
Denver, Colorado

April 22, 2007


I rarely post twice in a week, but I've been stewing about another lost, young male shooter, the student from Virginia Tech. I'm still in shock. The more I take man-making seriously, the more I let myself actually feel the sadness and hurt from these too-frequent experiences. Each time this happens it also increases the responsibility I feel for the next lost boy I encounter, and that is a good thing. But that is not what this post is about.

Today I got a very helpful email from Antonello Vanni, a man-maker in Italy. He said, I think we should remember Professor Liviu Librescu because he's an example young people have to look at.

Antonello is right. In an age where you have to dig deep to find real public heroes . . . people of integrity, solid values, courage, compassion, and visibility in the world, Professor Librescu does stand out and should be held up for emulation. He was a brilliant, 76 year old, concentration camp survivor and husband and father, with everything to live for. Yet he didn't hesitate a minute to throw his body in front of the shooter as he attempted to enter his classroom to kill his students. His action saved many lives but cost him his own.

I have encountered many very good men (and women) engaged in man-making work. Indeed, they are my heroes and sheroes. But when someone like Professor Librescu shows up on the national media, it gives us all an opportunity to name his act and person heroic, and point that out to the young people around us.

Who are your national heroes? Whose leadership gives you hope? Could you so quickly choose to be heroic as Professor Librescu did in saving his student's lives?

Good questions to keep in mind as makers of men.

April 20, 2007

A Wish for the Young

An ally and man-maker in Capetown, South Africa, sent along this wonderful statement titled, We Wish the Young to Outdo Us. It's taken from a book written in 1921 with the title, The Home Kindergarten Manual.

In the language of that period it's speaks an ancient and clear truth about our hopes and dreams for all our children. It is also the wish that is at the heart of the Man-Making book.

We Wish the Young to Outdo Us

What do we wish that they should be?

If forced to reason about it, we say they ought to be what we have found by experience it is prudent and wise to be; and they ought to go one stage beyond the stage we have gone.

But we cannot conduct them beyond the stage we have reached. We can only point and say, “Here are the boundaries which we have reached; beyond is an undiscovered country; go out and discover it. We can furnish you with a few probabilities; we can supply you with a few tendencies; we can say to you that we cannot go with you; we can say to you that that we think wisdom points in this direction; but we cannot guide you; we must part with you at the door; and bid you Godspeed. But we want you to go on; we do not want you to stop where we stopped.”

March 31, 2007

2007 "Guys Hike" Completed

Every year I sponsor a boys and men hike when I'm in Tucson for the winter. This year was the 4th annual event. Twenty-two courageous males headed off into the Sabino Canyon wilderness for a spectacular day of hiking, playing, boulder hopping, stream crossing, waterfall dipping, guy humor and just hanging out. Butts were kicked by the heat and hike, but a very good time was had by all. Boys were thrilled and men's hearts were softened by the boy energy.

Check out the photos at this Shutterfly page. Click "View Pictures" and then on the next page click "View as slideshow" in the top right.

What one-day event that helps boys hang out with good men might you put together?

March 19, 2007


In my research I've learned that it's hard for emotionally wounded men to feel "put together" enough to offer themselves to boys. That's why organizations and books that help men heal are ultimately very good for adolescent males. Doing that work opens hearts, develops emotional vocabulary, drives catharsis, and contributes to a man's mature masculinity.

One book I recommend is on the topic of an enormous wound for most men, the loss of a father. Neil Chethik's book, Fatherloss, "...offers a fresh view of the male grieving process and practical advice to help guide sons through the loss of their fathers, no matter what stage of life the son is in when the death occurs." As Neil points out, "In the worst of circumstances, the loss can propel a son toward despondency; in the best, it can inspire in him a new appreciation for his life and loves, and move him with urgency to make the most of his remaining years."

How a man moves through this major grief experience will have a lot to do with how he shows up in his life and for the next generation of males.

Check out Neil's Great book.

March 12, 2007

The Mankind Project

It takes men to guide and initiate boys into manhood. One of the organizations I belong to, and which is mentioned in the Man-Making book is the Mankind Project. Their New Warrior Training Adventure weekend is an initiation experience for men. I recommend it.

One graduate of that weekend experience is hosting a blog that I find both inspirational and motivational. It's a compelling mix of thoughts, quotes, poetry, and other reflections on manhood. If you'd like a little inspiration around your masculinity and a look through the eyes of an initiated man, check out his blog.

Old-faithful Wolf - the author of this blog has a mission statement for his blog that I love. It reads, "Changing me, men, and the world, one blog post at a time." I wish him my best in that challenge.

March 6, 2007

Boys Will Be Men - Book

This book by Paul Kivel has been recommend by one of my contributors. It speaks to the pressures to conform to the many negative stereotypes that today's boys face.

Paul is a social justice advocate and has written a book for parents who want to raise the "
critically thinking, socially-invested men we need for a multicultural and democratic society."

If this resonates with your parenting philosophy, check it out and then tell me what you think.

The "Guys" Hike

This March 25th will be the happy day the Fourth Annual Guys Hike head's out. I've been sponsoring this event every year and just love the result. It's an easy and "low commitment" community experience for men and wildly fun for the boys (and men). And I just love how primitive it feels to be part of a group of men and boys walking single file in the mountains with a challenge to face.

Here is how the announcement for the hike reads:

Again, this year:

  • A group of group of men and boys will head off into the Sabino Canyon "wilderness" for a (not too) challenging 4-5 hour hiking experience that promises to have sufficient challenge, adventure, and beauty to be memorable.
  • Stories will be told, the natural environment explored, desert hiking skills taught and everyone will have the chance to support and be supported by others.
  • At the hike "summit," there will be celebration, a picnic lunch, and the big vista victory photo.
  • Young males will be watching the men for clues about manhood, and the men will be reminded about the competitiveness, playfulness, and sheer energy of adolescent males.
  • Men will create new connections or strengthened existing relationships with the young guys they brought and the other males on the hike.
  • Some men and some boy's lives will be profoundly impacted.
  • Everyone will have a lot of fun.
Do you think there is a "one-time" event you might sponsor in your community that would connect good men with other men and boys? I guarantee it's a big win for everyone.

Click here
to read all the details about the event.

February 9, 2007

US Guys

There is a new Guy book on the market. If you want a wild read that explores the Very Broad spectrum of mainstream masculinity, US Guys is for you. Author and Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Charlie LeDuff takes you on a trip across America. He experiences and reports on the Burning Man festival in Nevada; a sad-hearted Russian clown in a traveling circus; takes part in a cavalry charge down the Little Bighorn River with war reenactors; joins a C-level professional football team; infiltrates a West Oakland bike gang that holds fight parties; travels with Appalachian snake handlers and tent revivalists; and covers a cowboy love story at a gay rodeo.

It's not a book for everyone, but I really do like the adventure and the broad stroke with which he paints the concept of masculinity in America. Check out the book at

February 7, 2007

87 and A Man-Maker

In the Man-Making book, one of the ways I talk about being a man-maker is by doing nothing! That's because all boys are hardwired to watch older men for clues on how to be a man. Check out this TV news report about how one 87 year old is shaping lives just by being his glorious self. And then remember, the boys are watching you.

January 19, 2007

A Boys-to-Men Initiation Outcome

A Boys-to-Men initiation experience can be powerful for a young guy. When he was seventeen, Mike E. attended a rite of passage weekend put on by the Boys to Men Mentoring Network of Minnesota. Following that experience he wrote a very compelling poem which, to me, describes the kind of "opening" that can occur for a young male at these events. You can read a copy of Mike's poem here.

To learn more about BTM-MN, check out their website.