January 25, 2010

Blessing Boys

In the soon-to-be-published results of the annual survey of my blog readers, I received some wonderful compliments. It made me feel good. It's nice to be affirmed. I'm sure you like it too. For today's typical adolescent male . . . it can be a critical need.

Think about it. Where in your community can an adolescent male go and feel welcomed and connected to the people around him? A boy might be part of a church group, on a sports team, or something similar, but in my experience, these kinds of involvements are for the few, the lucky.

What is more often the case is that many adolescent boys feel invisible, surrounded by sources of negative attention, and live as outsiders in their own town. They wander the neighborhoods, empty lots, shopping malls, and parks looking for those few places where they can go to express their restless and physical energy without getting in trouble. For too many young males, the sense of being outside, disconnected, invisible, and irrelevant is enormously painful. As an adult male, there are a few simple actions you can take to ease this common form of boy pain without much effort on your part.

In the Man-Making book there are two steps prior to Blessing boys. I call them Seeing, and Acknowledging. Very simply put, when you are around boys, look at them and nod with a smile. Easy right. If you want to go the extra step from Seeing to Acknowledgment, simply say, "Hey guys." Or you could ramp it up by finding something interesting and positive about them and just say it . . . Hey dude that was really and awesome board maneuver... seems to me like you're defying gravity. Or, Dude, that pierced lip must have hurt when you had it done, you must be some kind of brave? ANYTHING positive you say, will be water in the desert for most young lads. Seeing and Acknowledging also happen to be easy and low-risk ways to step into intentional man-making. Try it and see what happens.

Blessing is the next step up, and goes beyond the positive comment in passing. It’s an intimate and positive statement about a young man’s value, potential, person, or power . . . and it’s designed to touch the receiver at his core. Dustin, a twenty something who contributed to the Man-Making book said, "On my graduation day, my school superintendent totally surprised me when he congratulated me. He said, 'Dustin, I hope we get more kids like you at our school. You are going to do great in life.' It was extremely uplifting and I will remember his comment for the rest of my life."

Blessing happens when an adult male catches a boy doing something especially well or identifies one of his positive attributes, skills, or tendencies. The man then names what he sees and adds a statement of value. In the process the boy is not only acknowledged, but is further elevated to a place of esteem. If you actually know the young man or he is part of your life in some way, your observation will have the weight of your history together hanging on it. The better you know the young man, the more you get him, the more potent your blessing will be.

One of the reasons blessings are so powerful is that they’re uncommon. So seldom are blessings offered that some of us, many years later, can remember special blessings we got from men in the past. For the same reason, it’s very possible that your blessing of a boy will be his first or will become the powerful memory that will stay with him a lifetime. Blessings provide so much transformational energy for such little effort it’s amazing they’re not a bigger part of all our lives.

Here is a video about an amazing teacher who has blessing down to a fine art. In the clip, notice the expressions on the kid's faces when they are complimented.. If you watch it to the end, you'll see how the ripple effect of goodness can make a huge difference in some lives.

Is there a young lad in your life you can bless today? This week? Will you?

If the clip doesn't show up, click here.

January 19, 2010

Earl On The Radio - Becoming A Better Man

Myself and my friend George Daranyi, Chairman of The ManKind Project, (MKP) were on the "Daily Male" radio show here in Tucson. We were promoting the work of MKP and the importance of initiating men and boys into a solid version of manhood. Here is a link where you can hear the show on the MKP website. At the bottom of the page is a player where you can hear the broadcast on your computer. I'm pretty sure the readers of this blog will find it interesting.

with George Daranyi and Earl Hipp

MKP is in the business of initiating men on their New Warrior Training Adventure (NWTA) weekends and then helping them integrate their rite of passage experiences in Integration Groups. Simply put, I-Groups are regular meetings with other initiated men to help sustain the momentum of the weekend's discoveries and intentions.

I've had the pleasure of both attending and staffing the NWTA experience and loved it all. When I'm paying attention, I'm constantly being presented with large and small opportunities to grow into a better man. The NWTA was one of many very helpful experiences that have moved my life along in many dimensions. For example, my NWTA experience helped me to form a personal mission and commitments that lead to the writing of the Man-Making book. It resulted in connections to countless solid men, my direct involvement in the lives of lots of young males, the creation of this blog, and you reading these words right now. Amazing how taking a small step like the NWTA could shift my life so much and touch so many lives.

On this page at the MKP site they list the cities, all around the world, where you may be able to step into your own NWTA. Check it out, you never know the difference it might make in your life and the difference you might make in the world around you.

January 8, 2010

Whoa, Slow, and Go Foods and Gingerbread

I don't know about you, but I ate too much over the holidays. So many of the family gatherings and meetings with friends had something do to with food. I loved hanging out with family and friends, but all that goodness was associated with eating a little, or a lot, of something sweet or wonderful. So as the new year starts, I'm hitting the club, watching my food intake, reconnecting with my activity program and trying to shed a few pounds. Old story.

I'll confess that I intentionally worked hard to restrain myself over the holidays, and I did do better than in previous years. From my "hold back" perspective, I did have occasion to wonder what lessons we were unintentionally giving the kids about food during all those festivities. For example, our holiday began with what is becoming a tradition of building a gingerbread house with the little ones. It was literally and figuratively a sweet time with them, but it was so NOT about eating your vegetables. Good foods did show up to be sure, but it was amazing to me how much the holidays were about sweets. Apparently I'm not alone in my concern about the messages around food young people are getting.

Research done in 2006 by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, concluded that children’s exposure to television advertising for non-nutritious food products is a significant risk factor contributing to childhood obesity. While major food companies such as Kellogg, General Mills, Conagra, and PepsiCo banded together in 2007 and pledged to stop advertising unhealthy foods to children, a recent Children Now report says that, nearly three out of four (72.5%) of the foods advertised on television to children are for products in the poorest nutritional category. That's the category they call Whoa foods. Children Now says, Advertising for truly healthy foods, such as vegetables and fruits, known as “Go” products, is virtually invisible. Commercials for such foods account for only 1% of all food advertising to children.

It has been a constant theme of mine that adolescent males are constantly watching the men around them to craft their vision of manhood. I know that also works for a man's relationship to food. I think a good New Year's intention for me is to better manage my own consumption, and then to be especially vigilant about my food choices when young guys are around. I will also choose healthier locations for lunch when I meet with the guys I mentor. I'm even thinking that a cooking lesson for a group of young dudes could be a helpful and interesting activity.

While I'm sure not going to mess with holiday traditions, next year I think a new cooking adventure with the grand kids is in order. We'll prepare and eat something fun, festive, and nutritious . . . to balance out that gingerbread house.

What lessons are your food choices and behaviors 
teaching the young people you know?

January 3, 2010

Who Mentored YOU?

One of the quickest ways to invite men into man-making is to get a bunch of them in a room and then ask them to talk about their mentors . . . the men who were influential in large and small ways in shaping their lives for the better. Uncles, neighbors, coaches, teachers, a boss, someone's dad, the guy at the local store . . . the list is endless. If it goes on for a while, quality remembering will begin to unfold memories which still have the power to wet a man's eyes. In those moments, there is no question about the importance of a caring man being involved with a young male.

Because January is National Mentoring Month, and January 6th just happens to be the sixth occurrence of Thank Your Mentor Day, I'm inviting you to remember a man or men, other than your father, who showed up for you when you were an adolescent. I asked this question of men when I was doing the research for the Man-Making book. To get you warmed up, you can read some of their responses at this link.

If you'd like more inspiration, check out the Who Mentored You? website hosted by the Harvard Mentoring Project. On their site you can listen to audio interviews about the special mentoring relationships of familiar celebrities such as Maya Angelou, Tom Brokaw, Ray Charles, Richard Dreyfuss, Clint Eastwood, Gloria Estefan, Quincy Jones and many more.

The lesson in all these stories is everyone has or had mentors. Some of them were intentional, some official, and some so informal we may not realize the impact of the relationship till late in our lives. In case you do remember an important mentor in your life, the good folks at the Harvard Mentoring Project have put up a special webpage where you can leave a written tribute to that person. I think it's a great exercise I guarantee will warm your heart.

Of course in honor of Thank Your Mentor Day you could also call or write your past or current mentors and directly acknowledge them for the gift of their influence. The next best thing to thanking one of your mentors this month would be to find a young guy and let him have the gift of your influence.

Happy New Year


Happy National Mentoring Month.