December 29, 2008

LAAMB-ing and not FRAP-ing Boys

Out of the Boys to Men network has come a beautifully simple job description for a man who is mentoring a boy. It's called LAMMB-ing. It stands for Listen, Accept, Admire, Model, and Bless. It's something that most men can do without much effort. This man-making job description is easy enough that it might help to take away some of the fears so many men carry that prevent them from mentoring a young male. Like the one that says, "Who I am and what I know is not enough to be a man-maker for a boy."

As I write this I'm having the feeling that I too, would like to be LAMMB-ed more often. That even in my elderhood, I still hunger for men in my life who will listen to me without judgment, regularly admire my gifts, model behaviors I can learn from and absorb, and who will drop the occasional blessing on me. Who of us reading this wouldn't feel safe, cared for, and blossom in that kind of relationship?

In addition to the sweet "to do" list inherent in LAMMB, two of my man-making heroes, Edoardo Lippolis and Collin Irish at Threshold Passages, Inc., have added another acronym that takes the art of man-making up a notch. It's the very intentional avoidance of FRAP-ing others.

FRAP stands for Fixing, Rescuing, Advising (unsolicited), and Projecting. In general, these are behaviors that mentors try to stay away from in a mentoring relationship. The goal is to create an environment in which LAAMB can occur, and which creates inclusion and healing. In my experience, there is a beauty in the gentle support described by the LAMMB behaviors, and real danger when I man feels compelled to direct a young male's path through life. The problem shows up most often is when the young man is making poor choices. Those behaviors call up the latent parent, therapist, cop, or all those other potentially inappropriate and possibly damaging roles men can play. The temptation of course is to be seen as all knowing by having all the answers, even if you have to make up something that just sounds smart. Men never do that . . . right?

To avoid FRAP-ing someone, the men at TPI suggest waiting until the young male is "soliciting advice of his own volition." When that happens, and IF the man really does have solid information, he can share it with the young man. If he does not have solid information, he points the lad to someone who does. Not only does this process keep the relationship comfortable for everyone, it also gives a man the opportunity to model humility and the importance of asking others for help.

While each element of LAAMB and FRAP could have a short course all to itself, taken literally and applied, they provide the basis for safety and trust in any relationship.

If you want to know more about LAAMB-ing, FRAP-ing, and the Rites of Passage Adventure Weekend being offered by the men at Threshold Passages, Inc. check out their website at:

And then why not start LAMMB-ing the boys that cross your path . . . starting today?

December 17, 2008

Appropriate Rites of Passage
for Men and Boys

Wes Carter, a friend and long time advocate of men and boy’s work, told me that a much loved elder for many men in Australia, Don Bowak, died last October. It happened just a few days before the publication of his remarkable book, Marking Life’s Stages: Appropriate Rites of Passage for Men and Boys. The book is a wonderful treatment of that subject and a fine tribute to a very good man. My copy of Don’s book has many bent pages, marking the place of ideas I want to return to in order to soak up the wisdom. Here is one example of many that I liked:

One of the things I hope the men’s movement can avoid is the creation of a new stereotype. We have moved beyond both ‘Macho’ male and ‘Sensitive New Age Guy.’ Neither of them satisfies us, nor will any single replacement. What we need to develop are masculinities which delight in their varied identities and creative energies . . . I prefer the idea of a masculine field, one that embraces a wide range of masculine tendencies . . . The creation of a new set of values for the field of masculinity will be the task of all men. No one man or any elite group can achieve such a thing. But each of us can say what is of value to us and thus make out contribution to the dialogue . . . .

Don’s thoughts on the power of rituals, using “intention and metaphor” in creating effective rituals, building the ritual community, opening and closing ritual space, and even the shadow side of ritual, make his book a solid read. If you are interested in building powerful and transformational containers for rite of passage work there are pearls in this book you won’t want to miss.

The book is not yet available in the US, but for $25 US (includes shipping), you can order your copy of this book from the Pathways Foundation in Australia by sending an email to

I honor the memory and spirit of Don Bowak. In his life and work many have been and will be considerably blessed.

December 10, 2008

Band of Brothers: Older Men Learning to Bless. . . and Step into their Right Male Place

Witness the opening of the hearts and minds of men. Men finding themselves, so they are prepared to bless and support boys. It's a beautiful thing.

If the video is not visible, you can view it at this link.

Is there a hunger for this in you?

December 7, 2008

Man-Making Survey Results

Thank you all for your responses. I heard from an amazing %10 of you, almost 50 replies in less than a week! I received wonderful affirmations, inspirational statements about your interest in man-making, great suggestions for new content, and a couple of powerful challenges. I’ve made a full copy of the survey results available to you at this link. But here is a short sample of your responses to the three questions:

1. “What kinds of Man-Making content do you find most interesting?” While I know this was a limited and “forced choice” question, your responses brought the following responses:
  • Rites of Passage - 29
  • Men's Stories - 27
  • Mentoring - 24
  • Men's Development - 20
  • Activities for Boys and Men - 18
  • Related Research - 18
  • Men's Group References - 16
  • Guy Humor - 13
  • Inspirational Content - 13
  • Single Parenting of Boys - 11
  • Book Reviews - 10
  • Sports and Man-Making - 7
  • Boy's and Men's development, as intertwined and ongoing - 1
2. “Why do you stay subscribed to this blog?” This question brought what I consider to be heartwarming responses such as:

It makes me feel good about being a man.

To hear about the community of men and boys.

I pass along the info to my son who has custody of my grandson who lives with his grandmother and I while our son is in school.

I work with kids and I'm always open to new ideas and concepts that might help me to do that the best way possible

It inspires me to believe that I can make a difference in life-as I am.

It connects me to a community that doesn't exist elsewhere for me.

It provides wisdom I would never have access to.

To understand men's views feelings, reasons they do what they do.

3. “What's ONE thing I can do with this blog to make it better for you?” This important question prompted two pages of really great suggestions. A very short summary of those would include:
  • More ideas on how to recruit men to volunteer
  • Invite men's comments and get a dialog going
  • YouTube videos with rituals of men from around the world
  • Bring more ugly truth about the true state of affairs with boys & men
  • Offer some content about man-making from outside the USA
  • Get more authors involved and contributing
  • Examples (and pictures?) of families and groups doing rites of passage
  • Interviews with people working in the field
  • Stories from the boys that have gone through passage rituals
  • Infiltrate the 'inner cities' – let’s hear more from men of 'color'
  • Tell us about Sports and Christianity, Christian men's groups, initiation within the west (Jewish), hunting and manhood, war and manhood
In the future I will do my best to respond to your comments and suggestions. In the mean time, please consider this your blog too. The man-making challenge is too big and important for one man’s view and voice to prevail. Please send along any content you feel your brothers (and sisters) in mission may find interesting. We'll all get the benefit of your view, and more boys and men may be served in some way as a result.

Thanks so much for your support, your contributions, and for caring about boys.


December 3, 2008

This one is about YOU!

After publishing this blog for almost five years, it's time to get to know YOU, the almost 500 subscribers. This blog has an almost zero unsubscribe rate and new people are joining all the time. That makes me happy. It means the content so far is on track, and more people are becoming interested in this important cause.

This quick, 3 question survey will help me decide the future content direction for this blog. Add your responses and then hit the "submit" button on the bottom. Anything you're willing to offer will be much appreciated. I'll report on the results in a future blog post.

Thanks for your eyeballs, comments, feedback . . . and most importantly, thanks for caring about boys.


FOR EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS: If you have trouble view the form in the email post, just go to this link and fill it in online.

November 29, 2008

Are Fathers Really Necessary?

What do Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, President Elect Barack Obama, and cycling great Lance Armstrong have in common? They are all very successful men and they were all raised by single moms. Congratulations to their moms and all single moms. They are my sheroes, for their selfless commitment in the daunting challenge of raising their children alone. However, for one author (and a number of people I’ve heard from) the existence of very successful men raised by single moms raises the question if fathers are even necessary for turning boys into solid and capable men.

Peggy Drexler, author of a book called Raising Boys Without Men: How Maverick Moms Are Creating the Next Generation of Exceptional Men, feels that while boys benefit from being around men, they flat out do not need fathers. What she claims in her book is that we shouldn't worry about fatherless boys because they will seek out the male influences they need in the world around them.

For the record, I do agree with Ms. Drexler that boys need good men in their lives, but I DO NOT AGREE with her premise that fathers are unnecessary. I think fathers are the most potent man-making force on the planet. I also feel that males raised without involved fathers, while fully capable of successful lives, live with a hole in their male psyche. I believe they have undefined masculine hungers that go unfulfilled in their lives. I believe they live with unanswered questions about their core masculinity, and a more feminized view of the world. I know because I am that kind of male.

One of the most interesting discussions I’ve come across on this complicated topic was in an article in The Washington Times by Roland Warren. It’s titled, “Despite Successes, Boys Need Fathers." We’d expect Mr. Warren to take an opposing stand in that he’s the President of the National Fatherhood Initiative. Without stealing Mr. Warren’s fire and spoiling the read for you, just one of the things I like about his thinking is that he feels, "Can single mothers do it?" is not the right question. From there he offers a variety of very helpful perspectives I think you’ll find very interesting.

What do you think, are fathers necessary in men’s lives? Leave a comment on this blog post.

PS: Just one of many conferences put on by people who firmly believe in Fatherhood is the Minnesota Fatherhood Summit. Their theme for this year's meeting is, Male Socialization: Building Fathers of the Future. If this concept calls to you, maybe you'll hold a meeting or start your own conference . . . that is how these initiatives get started, and just imagine the spin off man-making energy that will result!

November 10, 2008

Finally A Male Ringtone

Hey... this is a blog about men, boys, male culture right?

For that reason, I really do have to report the availability of a "guy ringtone."

I'll put it in the adolescent humor category, which makes me very happy when I'm around it.

Check out this clip and see what you think.

If the clip isn't visible here, go to this link to see it.

I'm just the messenger!

PS: Send me examples of what you'd consider appropriate "guy humor" and we'll run it up.

November 3, 2008

Joseph Campbell on a Boy's Rite of Passage

This old clip of Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers still works on me. Especially the photo towards the end showing a man restraining a boy for the ritual "trial."

That man's eyes say it all...

If the video doesn't appear click here.

Do you remember a rite of passage into manhood event? Comment below or here if you're not on the blog site.

October 29, 2008

October 23, 2008

When Did You Become "A MAN?" - Again

If you can't tell, I love this topic. I think it's interesting and a little scary. If you're over 25 and don't think you're a "man," or an adult, then what or who are you?

Neal Conan, the host of National Public Radio's great Talk of the Nation show, recently did a program on the topic of when a person becomes an adult. It's a great question when so many "young people" seem to be living a delayed adolescence . . . into their 30's and beyond.

On the show Neal talks with three authors with books related to the topic, and a college professor doing research on the subject. They were trying to see if they could discern that "magic moment" when a person crosses the line into adulthood. To listen, click this link: Rites of Passage: When Are You an Adult?

The interview reminded me of the question I ask of the men who were contributing to the development of the Man-Making book. I asked them, "What was THE moment in your life when you knew, for sure, that you had become a man?" The responses were amazing. How would you answer that question?

Because most of us are living in cultures where we have lost track of how to solidly initiate young males into manhood, the heart-felt truths men revealed are not surprising. After thinking about your answer to that question, go to this link and read what other men have said about crossing the line into manhood.

If the exercise above stirs your male pot in some way, either click on the comment link below, or send me your answer to that question and I'll add it to those on the Man-Making website.

October 17, 2008

The Boy That Is Possible - IF You Believe

If this clip doesn't just make your heart swell, you're a lost cause.

Ten year-old Dalton Sherman, a fifth grader, was the opening keynote at a big beginning-of-school pep rally for the Dallas Independent School District. He was speaking to thousands of people. I just know he's had good people on his side, helping him get to this place. The result is living proof of what is possible when a boy believes in himself.

Check out this clip . . . and then tell me what you think by clicking on the comment tag below or sending me an email.

(If the clip isn't visible, go to this link to see it)

All I can say is I BELIEVE . . . in Man-Making.


October 10, 2008

What Men Can Do For Boys

Here is a solid example of what committed man-makers can create when they put their minds to it.

Boys to Men is an organization focused on rite of passage weekends for young males that I have mentioned here previously. On the weekend of September 13-14th, a group of 8 men 12 boys from the San Diego chapter went on a overnight in a wilderness area. They had the intention of having fun and hanging out together. Having fun included the possibility of actives such as driving golf balls, playing football, cooking and sharing meals, hiking, napping, laughing, and then building a sweat lodge and sharing the hot, darkness.

All that came to pass. Joe Sigurdson (on the left in the photo), one of the founders of Boys to Men, described it this way. ". . . we had a glorious triumphant time together. We worked side by side building our lodge. Then we played some football, ate dinner, and spent hours sitting around the fire telling the truth. We got up the next morning, heated up some rocks, and did a powerful sweat lodge where boys and men honored their loved ones, forgave what needed to be forgiven, and released what was holding them back. All done with great conviction and sacredness."

Every time I hear about man-making weekends or men and boys heading off for time together, some old and primitive part of me is called up. I feel a hunger to be included and I get terribly jealous that I couldn't attend. I'm thrilled for all the men and boys who shared in these outings. The boys are lucky to have good men around them willing to make time for these fun but terribly important male adventures. The men, I know from experience, are also seriously gifted from the exposure to boy energy, playfulness, and challenges.

These men and boys, and thousands of other guys are also lucky that men like Joe Sigurdson and Craig McClain possessed the instincts and courage to stand up and start a movement that is transforming male lives all across the planet.

While these men are on my heroes list, you could be too. All you have to do to get started on the path is to see if a few men and adolescent males around you might like to go have some fun on an overnight some place a little remote. Masculine gravity will take care of the rest.

To learn more about this past weekend, email Joe. To learn more about the Boys to Men organization, visit their website.

September 30, 2008

Best Buy and Teens?

Best Buy is now supporting teenagers. No, not giving them money to buy geek toys, but in helping them to feel good about being teenagers. In what is both a subtle marketing strategy and a website dedicated to teen empowerment, they have launched

On this site teens are encouraged to share their opinions, and to step forward and make a difference in their schools and communities. They can even cast votes on where Best Buy donates some of it's charitable funds.

They are currently running what's called the IMHO @15 Survey. They are asking teens for their perspectives on the upcoming presidential election, and more. They also promise to summarize the collected data and share it with people and groups in positions to act on behalf of teens
and ensure their collective voice is heard. Totally cool.
They have a chat room where teens can have discussions about the current state of US politics and the candidates, and in the tradition of social networking sites, there is a place teens can post "profiles" and a photo.

There is even a blog teens can post to with categories like Politics, Environment, Music, Relationships, Technology, Games, and Movies.

It's barely off the ground, but it's an interesting approach to teen-esteem . . . and brand recognition. I love the subtlety of the phrase, "How would your parents know what to buy without you?" Now that's real teen empowerment.

September 28, 2008

What Are We Doing to Our Boys

In a recent Newsweek article titled, "Struggling School-Age Boys," the author says that today, ". . . one in five boys has such serious behavioral and emotional issues that their parents are talking it over with their pediatrician . . ." Apparently, the problem is that we've been blaming boys for their behavioral problems and the medicating them for ADHD as a solution. The more complicated but much more kind option is to look at what's happened to boys over the last ten or so years in schools and in their families.

The article suggests we may not be raising and educating our boys in ways that are appropriate to their natural processes of development. Maybe, just maybe, the wholesale drugging of boys isn't really the answer. Maybe the world of constant activities, competitive pressures, little creative play, and lots of study just isn't working for a whole lot of boys.

You can read the article at this link. The author of the article, Peg Tyre, is also the author of the book, "The Trouble With Boys: A Surprising Report Card On Our Sons, Their Problems at School and What Parents & Educators Must Do." Click here to find it at

September 23, 2008

Enough Said

Dear Earl,

I got an e-mail from a friend today pointing me to your Man-Making blog and it made me sit down and cry. This is so needed.

I raised two children as a single mother, the oldest being a boy who took his life at 26. He hungered for his father all his life and his father just couldn't be there for him as a good mentor. It was terrible to be with his father the day we read our son's suicide note. Six months later his father took his own life.

Now I try and help my daughter and her two girls try and understand and to go on.

God bless you for your great contribution to our society. I hope men get the message.

All Gods Blessings


September 4, 2008

Group Mentoring with Boys

I'm a huge proponent of groups of men and boys hanging out together and having the occasional adventure. That's how it used to be in tribal cultures, and in small agricultural communities. The men were around, visible, and they often engaged young males in the work and play of the community. When the men went away to cities, factories, and offices, all that changed. But that's another topic.

An amazing amount of man-making goes on when boys can regularly see men in action and learn from their behavior. When a boy feels his body chemistry changing, when he has a clear sense that manhood is calling, often without realizing it, he's naturally drawn to the men around him for lessons and role modeling. That's when group mentoring can have a powerful impact in a boy's life.

In my programs, I often get questions about what can men do with boys. My answer is anything, something simple, and not necessarily a big deal. The most important thing is for you and your men friends to be yourselves and allow the boys to hang out or tag along. For boys, a group of interested men represents a huge smorgasbord of learning opportunities. Nothing special has to happen, and boys will get what they need. That said, if men want to do something with boys, there are a multitude of options.

At this link you'll find a PDF article titled What To Do With Boys. It lists a sampling of the many activities I've heard about that have resulted in successful group mentoring adventures. I also list a few questions to ask boys following the activity to deepen the man-making lessons available.

I'm pretty sure that when reading this list, the boy in you will get excited and want to head out. You could honor him and release your inner man-maker by getting your buddies together, finding a couple of young lads, doing something, and seeing what happens.

August 31, 2008

When Did You Become a "Man?"

In my research, I came across a surprising number of men who never felt they had crossed any clear line marking their entry into manhood. If you look very closely, you can find some rites of passage in modern culture. They are built into the structures of many youth serving organizations, and others are found in some religious communities. Nevertheless, for so many men, nothing major ever happened to mark this important crossing, and as a result, questions about their core manhood are left unanswered late into life.

Hard questions I ask of men in my workshops are:

What was THE moment in your life when you knew, for sure, that you had become a "man"? Who was there? What was done? What event, action, or ceremony took place so that you knew a line had been crossed and you were now a "man" (or at least more man than boy)?

If you can't remember any defining moment, how do you feel about it now? How do you know if you are a "man" today?

You can read men’s responses to these questions on the Man-Making website at this link:

I challenge you to take just a moment to think about this part of your journey to manhood. How would you answer those questions? How has your notion of being a man been shaped by the rites of passage that did or did not happen?

Some tribal cultures have learned the importance of drawing a hard and deep line for boys to cross. Sometimes that line is marked in a young male's flesh. Here is a website that claims to show The 5 Most Terrifying Rites of Manhood from Around the World, and another that has to be among the most painful at this link.

While most of these are very hard to watch, I wonder if a painful crossing into a certain manhood isn’t better than none at all.

What do you think?

August 14, 2008

Getting Boys to Read – Gore and Farting?

In an August 8th Wall Street Journal article, the author, John Hechinger, claims that really gross books may be part of the answer! He the article explores the challenge of getting boys to read and what publishers are doing to reach out to them. Hechinger discovered that, Publishers are hawking more gory and gross books to appeal to an elusive market: boys -- many of whom would rather go to the dentist than crack open “Little House on the Prairie.”

The article explains that, Prof. Wilhelm tracked boys' reading habits for five years ending in 2005 and found that schools failed to meet their "motivational needs." Prof. Wilhelm discovered that Teachers assigned novels about relationships, such as marriage, that appealed to girls but bored boys. His survey of academic research found boys more likely to read nonfiction, especially about sports and other activities they enjoy, as well as funny, edgy fiction.

If you have a boy in your life you may want to read the whole article at this link. You may also want to pick up a copy of Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger by Kevin Bolger, and do your own research.

August 8, 2008

That Frustrating Teen Brain

While you may have heard about some of the research regarding the development of the adolescent brain, the folks at the MIT Young Adult Development Project are collecting the research data in one place for us.

On their website you can learn about how the adolescent brain develops from back to front. That means that the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for judgment, managing emotions, and complex thinking, doesn’t fully develop until the mid-twenties.

As the MIT-YADP people describe it, young adults have “. . . a kind of mental "visor" that screens out some kinds of phenomena while letting in others for consideration. As development unfolds, one can "see" and think about more and more complex phenomena such as abstractions, relationships, and moral problems, and offering more and more powerful thinking tools.”

As a number of researchers have suggested, the insurance and rental car companies have it right. The teen brain isn't fully mature at 16, when they are allowed to drive, or at 18, when they are allowed to vote, or at 21, when they are allowed to drink. In fact, it's not fully wired until they are closer to 25, when they are allowed to rent a car and their insurance rates begin to get reasonable.

Visit the MIT Young Adult Development Project website for a great short-course on the young male brain. It will explain a lot about teen behavior and maybe replace some frustration at their choices with understanding and even compassion.

August 3, 2008

A Boy's Natural Life Stages

On of the contributors to this blog, Peter Young, suggests the book Natural Learning Rhythms: Discovering How and When Your Child Learns by Josette Luvmour. It’s one of a number of books about the Natural Learning Rhythms philosophy. In the book there is a section that covers Ritual Rites of Passage, which Peter says describes developmentally appropriate ways of celebrating a number of landmark points in time for both boys and girls.

The NLR philosophy is based on over 20 years of research and fieldwork, and the author claims that it, “. . . enables parents to understand the psychological, emotional and physical components of optimal well-being in children.”

The EnCompass Institute, started by the author, offers programs based on Natural Learning Rhythms concepts. At the Institute’s website you can find an interesting description of their, “. . . four primary life stages in childhood.” They describe their model this way:

  • The first starts at conception and continues to approximately 8 1⁄2 years old. We coined the term BodyBeing.
  • The second is from 8 1⁄2 to 12 1⁄2 years old. We call this stage FeelingBeing.
  • The third stage goes from the ages of 12 1⁄2 to 17 1⁄2. This stage is called IdealBeing.
  • The last stage starts around 17 1⁄2 or so and ends around 23 years of age. We call this stage, ReasonableBeing.

If you’re interested in EnCompass Institute's description of these stages of child development, read the brief description of their “Central Tenants ” on their website.

Whether you agree with the NLR model or not, it’s another approach that reminds us of how critically important certain influences are at just the right time in a young person’s life.

July 28, 2008

Why Mentor Boys

Occasionally, I do a post about the picture above my desk of Lee Boyd Malvo, the young man of Washington Sniper fame, with his mentor, John Allen Muhammad. It's a photo that motivates me by reminding me, everyday, about the hunger young males have to be seen, valued, and directed by men. His mother, Una James, said that her son Lee had spent most of his life seeking a father figure. This mentoring story is tragic and dark testimony about the lengths to which young males will go for blessing and guidance from men. There are too many of these stories.

July 9, 2008

Boys Will Be Boys Photos

This is the most recent addition to my collection of Boys Will Be Boys photos. I'm guessing it reminds you of the kind of trouble you got into when you were a "normal" adolescent male. I can remember getting caught stealing candy, jumping from high places, sneaking into the girls bathroom (not sure why), and other forms of (innocent) young male adventure and self-discovery.

If this brings back a memory from your history, please share it in the comments section for this post on the Man-Making blog site. Or email your story to me and I'll post it for you.

If you come across a similar photo, please send it along to me. This archive will make a great slide show one day that is sure to stir men's hearts. More to come.

July 3, 2008

News Anchor Cries about Boys and Men

Two of my heroes are Joe Sigurdson and Craig McClain, the founders of the Boys to Men Mentoring Network. What they started 11 years ago now spans 23 US cities and 3 countries. You can read about their very good work at the Boys to Men website.

They were recently interviewed on Fox News in their community. Their description of the initiation weekend, and what happens to men and boys that are involved, actually brought the anchor man to tears. THAT is a true representation of the power of this work.

Check out the interview at this link and then see how you react.

PS: Check out some of the other videos while you're there.

June 30, 2008

Raven Training for Pre-adolescent Boys

Raven Training is a weekend adventure for pre-adolescent boys, ages 10 to 12, that takes place in a natural setting, on a beautiful plateau, about 45 minutes from Ashland, Oregon. Unlike the more serious, focused, and purposeful right of passage events for older boys on the edge of manhood, this one is a little sweeter.

For example, one goal of the Raven Training experience is to affirm and develop a boy’s emotional literacy through games, adventure, and teaching stories (including one story which takes the whole weekend to unfold). This part of the training is built on the idea of a developmental stage called Feeling Being, by Ba and Josette Luvmour, authors of Optimal Parenting: Using Natural Learning Rhythms to Nurture the Whole Child. With that concept in mind, the boys are nourished by age appropriate emotional training and caring mentors who model what men look like when they enjoy their feelings and each other.

The training also includes plenty of other adventure camp training that is perfect for young boys. They learn basic survival skills such as building a fire with sticks, finding water & food, the art of camouflage, and how to build a forest shelter. In addition, they do a couple of other things I think are unique and very helpful for emerging males:

Interconnectedness of Life: Because boys are becoming aware of their own mortality, they discuss the interconnectedness of all stages of life. While this occurs in a variety of ways, in one process the staff men share what it is like to be living at the various ages that are present on the weekend. This usually spans the ages of 11 through 75 years of age. That way the boys get the Big Picture of the male universe.

Your “Genius” Revealed: Another element I really like is that each Young Raven is partnered up with a weekend mentor. At the end of the weekend everyone attends a feast on Sunday afternoon in honor of the boys. At that time, in addition to hearing the ending of the unfolding weekend-long story, each mentor shares a story he has been writing about his young weekend mentee. In front of a huge community of men, younger and older boys, the story about the boy is told, celebrating him and describing his “golden essence” (genius) to the gathered males. What a powerful blessing that moment must be for each of the boys.

In my heart I feel the rightness of doing different trainings for boys at different ages, and I really like the idea of starting with the much younger boys. That’s how it has been for centuries in tribal cultures. That way, when it’s time for the more serious initiation of crossing into manhood, around seventeen, and the men come for the young males in the darkness of the night, it’s men they trust who spirit them away and who will be tasked the serious man-making.

The Raven Training is not advertised because as Peter Young says, “We have no problem finding boys, we are only limited by the number of adult mentors we can find.” Given the man-making power of this training, and the impact I know it has on both men and boys, I wish it was available in every community.

To learn more about Raven Training, contact Pete Young, at:, or call: 541.951.7949

June 17, 2008

Man-Making in South Africa - A Man-Making Poem

Usiko is both an organization and a program in South Africa which deals with youth at risk and young people in conflict with the law. Started in 2000, they state that they are in the business of . . . healing youths by taking them through our rites of passage programs, giving them both the confidence and skills to become leaders in their communities.

Usiko was established in response to the legacy of apartheid. The painful socio-economic disparity that still exists between rich and poor, typically following racial lines, as many of the disadvantaged communities continue to suffer from high alcoholism, unemployment, low income, low educational levels, domestic violence, child abuse, and the prevalence of gang cultures.

On their website, they quote an old Zulu saying: You are the stories you make about yourself. They believe that young people in disadvantaged areas… join gangs because they need to build both real and magical contexts for themselves in the absence of strong family bonds. They need to make stories about themselves.

At Usiko camps, by using . . . ancient and modern rituals, powerful real-life experiences, mentor support, and the balm of affirmation, we help young people create new stories about their lives. Stories with different outcomes. Our programs are the most powerful buttresses we know against the lure of gang life. They work - spectacularly.

On the Child justice link on their site you'll find this poem. It's a tragically eloquent description of what happens in young males when Man-Making comes from the dark side.

I have been sent to
Sea Point Police Station,
Where I was beaten by civil servants,
I have been to Polsmoor Prison,
Where I was sodomized
And left bleeding
On the damp floor.
I have been to
Places of Safety and Reformatories
Where I was hardened by
Warders and fellow inmates,
Where I learned to hold on
To what was mine and take
From those who could not fight.
I am now the perpetrator of violence
And not the victim.
On the streets
I am a law unto myself.

June 5, 2008

Stand Strong - Be Brave - Men Don't Cry

All boys need men in their lives.

Some need them more than others.

May 27, 2008

Iron Men and Superheroes

A contributor named Jeremy sent me a link to the fun clip at the end of this post about Ironman and the development of his amazing suit. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I love the notion of super guys who can just handle it all.

In my time it was Batman and Superman. To look back at them now, it's clear they did steroids and had a strange habit of wearing their underwear on the outside of their tights. They had few friends and seemingly no interest in women... but they both had a powerful grip on my young male psyche. Ironman is just the next iteration in what I’m sure will be a long line of super guys… and gals.

At the same time that I love the super guy fantasy, I seem to be in the business of getting men to shed some armor, be a little vulnerable, and allow themselves to become some young guys hero… maybe not so super, but a powerful role model just the same. I like to tell men that the man you are right now, with all your perfections, maybe because of your imperfections, makes you a perfect candidate to be a man-maker and powerful role model in some boy's life.
Young males don’t really want a superman, just a normal man in their lives who can see what’s amazing, and powerful, and awesome about them!
If you listen closely, there is a line in this clip that says, Ironman. . . becomes a superhero through what he is able to create. I’m certain that every man reading this has that power too.

(Click here for the Link to the clip)

Who were your SUPERheroes?

Who were the regular men who showed up for you
and became real life heros?

Comment on the blog or send me you responses and I'll post them on the Man-Making website under What Men Say: Men's Stories.

May 19, 2008

Man-Making Questions for Men

My audiences, single moms, and most mentoring organizations are all asking the same question, Where are the men? Part of that answer is that so many men are lost . . . to this work, to our communities, and most tragically, to themselves.

I've often used the metaphor of a pressure cooker . . . solidly built, impenetrable, and with the contents inside under pressure. It's hard to get to know these men and harder for them to know themselves. And hard too for them to consider a connection with an adolescent male who is sure to stir the contents of that tightly sealed pot.

For so many men, that time spent between boyhood and manhood, on their journey to manhood, was filled with feelings of embarrassment, fear, isolation, confusion, pain, and for some flat out shame. . . just for starters. To be sure, most men have plenty of upside memories of cars, girls, a tribe of young males, sports, trips, sexual experimentation, hobbies, crazy risk-taking, and all the fun that was had. But it's the painful memories lurking and locked in beneath the surface that can create a powerful force for resistance to a man's involvement with boys.

One strategy for calling the men to this work, IF you can gather a group them in one place, is to get them talking about the old days and the carrying on they did as adolescents. Get them remembering and telling stories about the fun times, and then ask them questions about what else happened that was difficult. If the gathering is a safe container, and the men feel a comfortable with each other, rich, common, and often emotion laden stories will be unfolded. A common male history will be shared that can emotionally unpack men, allow them drop some of their defensive armor, and re-connect with all those complicated feelings that filled their young hearts. In the process of remembering and releasing, men often become less fearful and more open to the gifts waiting through involvement with young males.

To help with the process of opening men's hearts and calling men to this work, I'm offering a list of Man-Making discussion questions. These are the same questions I asked of the men who contributed their personal stories to the creation of the Man-Making book. You can read all the responses to these questions in the What Men Say section of the Man-Making website.

If you have a chance to pose these questions to a group of men, please do share with me how it went. I'll publish your response here as a lesson for all of us.

Another option, if you're feeling courageous, is to take yourself to the What Men Say section of the Man-Making website. Read one of the questions that speaks to you and explore the contributed responses. Better yet, answer the question yourself and send me your response. I'll be happy to publish it here and add it to those on the website.

I'm almost certain that this action on your part, like just about any involvement with adolescent males and man-making work, will most likely melt and reform your masculine heart in at least some small way.

(Here is the direct link to the PDF document titled Questions for Men about Man-Making)

May 7, 2008

In Honor of Single Moms

My work is to call men into service to boys on their journey to manhood. Along the way, I've met lots of single mothers. Those I've met do their very best they can to make it all work, raise good kids, and often do that under enormously difficult circumstances. It is a very challenging thing to be a woman alone, raising kids. Mya Angelou says everyone needs heroes and sheroes, and from my perspective, single moms are my complete and total sheroes.

So in honor of Mother's day this year, I want to honor and bless Single moms everywhere . . . for keeping it all together, for being strong and courageous, for heroically and unselfishly giving of yourself to your children, and for caring so very deeply about them.

Thank you for being you and doing your best!

From my conversations with single moms, it's clear to me that many understand and feel the man-hunger in their adolescent sons. They also know how hard it is to get good men involved with their boys and they are always on the look out for opportunities to make that happen. I do offer some suggestions about how to do that in the Man-Making book. But in this post, in support of single moms, I offer a PDF document with a list of Man-Making Books for Single Moms. Some of these books speak directly to single women raising solid boys when there aren't men around to help.

If you know a single mom, be sure to offer her a blessing on Mother's Day. If you're a man and know a single mom with a son, talk to the mom and then if it's OK, engage her son in some large or small way. You can be sure the boy is waiting for the men (you) to show up, and I'll bet the boy's mom will deeply appreciate your involvement.

Do you have a story about a single mom with a son, and men that did or did not show up? Add it to the comments below or send it along to me for posting in the Men's Stories section of the Man-Making website. I feel these are stories we all need to read, understand, and let into our hearts.

April 28, 2008

Why Men DON'T Mentor Boys

Right now, there are thousands and thousands of boys on waiting lists for male mentors. Add to that all those young males who desperately need mentors and are simply going without. That situation is why boys, single parents, and mentoring organizations everywhere are asking the same question. Why aren't men stepping up to this important work that only they can do?

In the research for my Man-Making book I asked men a lot of questions about their journey toward manhood. In question ten I specifically asked them to . . . look deep in your heart. Ask yourself, "Are you actively involved, in some way, large or small, in the life of an adolescent boy? If you are, I thank you . . . If you are not mentoring a boy, help me to understand why not. Some of the responses are expected, some lame excuses, and then there are those that can only be classified as tragic.

To help men, parents, and mentoring organizations better understand the forces of resistance most men are facing when they are invited to step into mentoring, I’ve done two things:

First, I’ve summarized men’s responses in this PDF document titled, Why Men Don’t. If you’re a man, I encourage you to read it, reflect on it, and see if you can find yourself in the responses. Helping men understand their resistance factors is an important first step toward working through them.

Secondly, I’ve created a presentation for mentoring organizations. I call it Recruiting Man-Makers.The goal of this session is to think about how to target marketing messages directly at men’s resistance factors, and come up with innovative approaches to invite and attract men into the role of man-maker for boys.

Check out the article and the program description. I’ll be very interested in your comments.

You can read some of the research questions I used in the What Men Say section of the Man-Making website.

April 19, 2008

Rites of Passage - Mentoring - and Golf

Marcel Proust said the real journey of discovery is not in seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes. That is what has happened to me as a result of my involvement with man-making activities. Now, everywhere I look, I’m seeing boys, seeing opportunities to affirm young males, feeling the sadness and tragedy when I see the report of a boy self-destructing on the evening news, and even seeing the power in rites of passage activities watching golf on TV.

When Trevor Immelman put on the prestigious Green Jacket at Augusta, GA, after winning the Masters Golf Tournament, it was the final act in a powerful rite of passage into a very select men’s circle. After years of preparation, instruction by mentors, endless practice, countless personal and professional trials, he was tested at the Masters by the best golfers in the world… including Tiger Woods, and he came out victorious. It was indeed and initiation by fire.

What I loved about his story was that Gary Player, himself a three-time Master’s champion, had taken Trevor under his wing and intentionally mentored him in the years, weeks, and just prior to the fierce competition of the Masters tournament. Player even called Trevor’s cell phone as the tournament was heating up, when he had a chance of winning, and left a message telling him to believe in himself and that he WOULD win his first major title on Sunday, the final day.

After putting on the green jacket, Immelman dedicated his victory to his family, but also to Gary Player. He said that, [The message from Gary Player] meant an awful lot to me. I played it to my whole family on speaker-phone. But Mr. Player has been at me all week since we played together here on Tuesday, telling me to believe in myself and that I am good enough to do it.

I am absolutely certain that the words of his beloved and respected mentor were pounding in Trevor’s ears as he approached those last few challenging, no, terrifying holes that stood between him and his lifetime dream. For me, with my new eyes, this story is more proof about the power of heart-to-heart, one-on-one, man-making and rites of passage. It made me very, very happy.

If you saw this victory, what was your reaction?

Who was there for you in the way that Gary Player was there for Trevor Immelman?

Is there a young male around you who could use some informal coaching and the occasional blessing?

April 13, 2008

Doing SOMETHING for Boys

There are a number of versions of this quote and I like them all: None of us can do it all, but we can all do something. That is what came to mind for me when I read this story from National Public Radio's Storycorps page. It's about a 31 year old social worker name Julio Diaz who lives in the Bronx, New York.

Julio gets off the subway on his way home from work with the intention of going to his favorite restaurant for dinner. That's when he encounters a teenager with a knife and, believe it or not, a chance to become a first class man-maker. By not fearing the young man, being able to see the man-hunger in him, and reaching out, he had an enormous and positive impact.

I really recommend this story to you. I don't know if I'd have had his presence of mind, or his courage. But Julio is certainly a role model for us all. Proof that everyone can do something for a boy or boys.

If you have a story like this, send it along. I'll post it to the growing collection of similar stories from men on the Man-Making website.

Link to the NPR Storycorps story:

March 29, 2008

Sweet Sixteen and Man-Making

With the NCAA, Sweet Sixteen Basketball tournament building up to an exciting conclusion, I’m reminded about how powerfully team membership and the direction of a solid coach can positively shape boys into good men.

Seeing these young men playing their hearts out and knowing that behind each kid is a story of personal triumph reminds me of the film Coach Carter. In the film, coach Carter is played by Samuel L. Jackson who does a great job of portraying the fierce high school basketball coach who requires his players sign written contracts in order to play. The guys have to agree to respectful behavior, a dress code, and maintaining good grades to stay on the team. When the team’s grades dropped below the contract level, he benches the whole undefeated team, locking up the gym and even missing critical games. In the face of an angry mob of parents and school officials, he stands his ground and holds on to his values about the importance of education for his players.

Coach Carter and many films like it point us all to a powerful lesson about men being man-makers of boys that is still very relevant today. The film is based on the true story of Ken Carter who, in 1999, was a sporting goods store owner that took on the job of basketball coach for his old high school in a poor area of Richmond, CA.

Have you had an experience like that on a team? What lessons did you learn?

Do you have a favorite film about how being on a team with a good coach can turn young males into young men with self-respect and strong and positive values?

I have listed some films for young guys on the resources page of the Man-Making website, but I’d like to hear about your favorites. You can post them in the comments section of this post or send them to me and I’ll add them to the blog and website.

March 24, 2008

The Guy's Hikes - Tucson

In the Man-Making book I write about a form of involvement with men and boys that is built out of a man’s interests and unique experience. I call it Create-Your-Own Man-Making. In that section of the book I profile a number of men who have found a way to include men and boys with their passion for activities like building computers, wood-working and boat building, reading, sports, and even sports car driving. These are a form of “if you build it they will come” and it really does work.

I love hiking and, as you might guess, I love seeing a line of guys snaking up a trail and heading out on an adventure. It’s something males have done for eons, and it feels “right” to me deep in my male bones. So this March, for the fifth year in a row, I ran up a flag for men and boys interested in hiking. I've been calling it the Tucson Guy’s Hike.

This year we had enough boys, dads, “uncles,” neighbors, and over all interest to do two hikes, three weeks apart. We did one mostly fun and playful hike as a warm up and for the younger guys. A few weeks later we did a much bigger hike in 85 degree weather on a seriously butt kicking trail. On each hike about fifteen males showed up, headed out, reached the summit, and returned victorious.

In each case, there was sufficient physical challenge, camaraderie, natural beauty, dangers (the remote possibility of mountain lions and rattle snakes), learning about the desert, hiking, geology, gear, and traveling as a male tribe, supporting each other along the way.

The victory photos alone tell the story. The award ceremony and the honoring of the boys by the men at the hikes finish really ramped up the impact of the experience for everyone involved. Here is a link to the photos from the more difficult hike.

I’m telling you this first of all because I’m still glowing. As I’ve said before, these experiences always melt, reform, and grow my masculine heart. But more importantly, I'm sharing this story because I am absolutely certain that you too have gifts to share with men and boys. I'll bet that you have a skill, hobby, interest, passion, or special knowledge . . . something around which you could gather a small tribe of males if you were willing to start small and take the risk. My first hike was three boys and four men.

At the end of the last hike, during the check-out circle, each male was asked to name a feeling and the best part of the hike. Most named fatigue in some form. What I loved the most was when the boys expressed feelings of pride (earned), strength, happiness, awe at their accomplishment, gratitude for the opportunity . . . and when they excitedly asked, as they always do, When can we do this again?

Do you know a man that has created something like this for men and boys?

What similar experiences have you had and what was the impact on you?

Please share those stories in the comments to this post or send them to me and I’ll post them.

Then, take a moment to consider what you might create.

March 17, 2008

Boys and Basketball and Heart

I have a small mountain of posts I could put up today, but this video, sent along by Steve S., so warmed my heart, I chose it immediately.

As a writer, I'm ususally trying to make a point. With this post, I'm not at all sure about the point the video makes . . . or that it even needs to make a point. When I talk about being involved in boys and men activities, I say that my heart is regularly melted and reformed. That's the feeling I get when watching this clip.

If you don't see the image, go to this link:

What's your response?

March 7, 2008

A Boy's First Shave

This link about a boy's first shave was sent to me by a contributor because it reminded him of an important rite of passage in his (or any boy's) life.

Sitting here, I can remember the feeling and fragrance of mountains of creamy smooth menthol foam shave cream on my face and the glow it left when I was done. It may have actually been more about those sensations than removing the fuzz I was considering a beard in those days. But I was shaving, taking part in a masculine ritual, and definitely feeling more manly.

The article actually has some great advice and information I wish I knew when I was first starting to shave. That I didn't get that transmission of important male knowledge (and a lot other information) is more testimony to how absent the men in my male tribe were. I'm sad about that today.

It's also somehow strange and a little embarrassing that this important information is located on the Woman Republic website.

When you were on the brink of manhood, who taught you to shave and other important and practical guy skills?

February 26, 2008

Mentoring Heroes and A Give-Away

Kilbarchan is the oldest continuously-operated residential facility for children in the United States, and is currently managed by YCS, Youth Consultation Service. It was established as an orphanage in 1831 and currently serves boys ages 12 to 17 years old, who are unable to live in their natural or foster homes.

A group of men in that community decided to become man-makers for the lost boys at Kilbarchan. I consider these men as some of the heroes doing this important work and I want to share their story. The following is from Greg Zimmer who is speaking for the group:

Six years ago, myself and a group of men from the Mankind Project got together to do some mission work at Kilbarchan, a local home for "troubled" young men ranging in age from 12-17. Most of the boys had been victims of some form of neglect or abuse and often were under rather heavy doses of medication.

The idea we had was to visit the boys monthly, and to be positive male role models for them. We usually brought a "program" or activity session of some kind. These included activities like picnic table building, basketball clinics, (legal) graffiti lessons, poetry night, astronomy night, magic shows, and much more.

The sessions were greatly enjoyed by the boys, but the most obvious result of the visits was how the boys looked forward to seeing the men. After one of our early meetings in which we all had a great time, one of the boys asked the men, “What took you guys so long to get here?” In six years, we’ve only missed one month and that was simply due to a scheduling conflict. The MKP men have become one of the most stable and dependable parts of the boys lives.

From the men's side, we often hear comments like, "nothing I've ever done has given me more of a feeling of accomplishment than when we bring some fun into these kid's lives…" or "this is what MKP mission work is really about."

In order to make it possible for other groups of men to create similar programs, I’ve put together a "template" that shows what we learned in our years at Kilbarchan and how we grew the program into its current form. I’d be happy to share that template if you contact me at the phone number or email below. We would welcome the opportunity to help anyone set up a similar program in their community.

Greg Zimmer – 973.427.8000 – email:

February 16, 2008

A New, Year-Long, Rite of Passage for Boys

When I speak to groups of men working with boys, whether it's in mentoring organizations, at churches or conferences, or just groups of men who want to do something for adolescent males, there is always the question of what to do with them. Often, the path that question takes is, how do we keep these guys entertained? While I think that's a fair question to ask, and indeed some fun is important, I think if a young male is on the brink of manhood, it misses the mark a little.

I feel that mixed in with some boy fun, there should be serious lessons about manhood and an opportunity to talk with men about the big issues in life. A few mentoring organizations approach that challenge head on, but it seems to me that too many of them leave it to chance. I'd like to propose the creation of a year-long rite of passage initiation, that is relevant to the times. A path that guarantees boys are exposed to some of the important issues and events that will impact and shape their lives.

I'm suggesting a monthly theme or event for boys and men that is followed up with a group meeting to talk about what happened and help the boys process their experience. I'm trying to stir your thinking here. Consider the impact of these kinds of experiences on an adolescent male:
  • A visit to a jail or prison

  • Working for a day on a Habitat for Humanity home build

  • Going to a stockyard where animals are butchered

  • Visiting the local firehouse, learning about the gear, skills, and hearing stories

  • A conversation with residents at a battered women's shelter

  • Visiting a Vet's hospital where they can talk with severely injured veterans

  • Helping out for a few hours at a nursing home serving a meal

  • Job shadowing - go to work with a man

  • Hearing from women recovering from being prostitutes

  • Feeding people at a homeless shelter

  • Spending a weekend night at the police station

  • Playing paint ball... after a discussion from a veteran about shooting at others

  • Hearing a speaker from Alcoholics Anonymous or Debtors Anonymous

You get the idea, and I'm sure you have ideas you could add. Ideally, when processed in a multi-generational group of males, these experiences would drive powerful discussions about life, manhood, profession, relationship to women, and responsibility.

After a year or so of these experiences, some opportunities for fun, and directly and indirectly learning from men across the discussion circle, an adolescent male, I think , would really be ready for some form of crossing into manhood ceremony.

What do you think?

What activities would you add to the list?

How would your life be different today if, as an adolescent, you had been surrounded by good men with the focused intention to teach you about life and the journey toward a positive manhood?

Comment on this post below or send me an email.

Please consider sending this along to a man you feel might be interested. We are all learning how to do this from each other, and we need all the good men we can get.