October 24, 2011

Grounders: Boys, Men, and a Baseball Adventure

With the 2011 World Series in the air, it's a great time to think about baseball. I remember the fall pick-up games in the evening at the local park when I was a kid. Cool nights under the lights, smell of leaves in the air, the hard feel of the ball, and all the fun of having every young male from my small tribe gathered in one place to play the game. Baseball was a big part of so many boys' lives as they were growing up. The connection to other young guys, the physical activity, a code of behavior, being on a team, competition, and often having good men on the sidelines creates a very compelling mix for a young male, and good for him too.

Tom Slone is a man who loves baseball, kids, and he also understands the critical differences good men can make in boys' lives. When he put those passions together, he wound up creating an amazing adventure in which three men accompanied a pack of boys, to see 10 Major League Baseball games, in 10 different cities, and they did it all in 21 days! You have to love boys and baseball to pull that off.

Because Tom is also a mentor, business man, and natural teacher, he consolidated the story about the boys and baseball centered adventure into a book titled Grounders: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Journey of Baseball, History, and Mentoring. The book is full of great baseball tidbits, fun boy-on-the-road stories, and 33 life lessons drawn from their trek. Lessons which can improve anyone’s batting average in life.

Some of the wisdom embedded in Grounders lessons include pearls such as, “It’s OK to Look Back at the Past, Just Don’t Stare; “Help People Be Successful; and one of my favorites, “The Power of Recognition.” As with most of the 33 lessons in the book, the boys on the trip got a chance to experience The Power of Recognition working in real life. During the trip, one of their challenges was to catch people being good at what they do and then actually write them a note of affirmation. Tom helped the boys to learn that by appreciating others, you earn their gratitude, and you get to feel good too. Nice.

The heart of the book for me is how much Tom and the other men care about their young male traveling companions, and how they keep the boys thinking about the men they will become. As they travel from city to city and visit different ballparks, we go along as Tom pulls life-lessons toward the boys. He’s not only offering these young guys the trip of a lifetime, but in so many ways, he makes sure they extract important notions about life that will help them on their journey toward manhood.

In my research with men for the Man-Making book, “the coach” is often described as someone who had an important and often life-shaping influence in their lives. In Grounders, Tom and the other two men not only show up as great coaches, but also as allies, mentors, friends, and co-journeymen on one amazing baseball expedition.

If you like baseball and the idea of helping boys become good men, you’ll love Grounders. You can learn more about Tom Slone at the book’s website and you can order the book from Amazon at this link.

LIKE: If you enjoy this blog, please visit the Man-Making Facebook page and click the "Like" button.

TWEET: Sent this post along to your friends or follow me on Twitter!

SUBSCRIBE: If you're not yet a subscriber to the Man-Making Blog, and you'd like to receive these posts by email 3-4 times a month, go to this link for a free subscription.

October 16, 2011

Your iStuff, Steve Jobs, and a Man-Maker

You may not realize it, but you wouldn't have all your Apple iStuff if a very good man hadn't stepped up for Steve Jobs and the boys in his neighborhood!

In the October 6th issue of Computerworld's on-line newsletter there is an interview with Steve Jobs from way back in April of 1995. In the exchange, Steve talks about how his dad, Paul, a machinist, was very gifted working with his hands. He had a workbench in his garage where, when Steve was five or six, he partitioned off a small section of it for Steve. They spent a lot of time together tinkering with things, including some very basic electronics. But it wasn't until his family moved to Silicon Valley that Steve really discovered his passion for electronics and building things, thanks in large part to a man named Larry Lang.

Larry Lang was an engineer at Hewlett-Packard, a ham radio operator, and really into electronics. Here is how Steve describes Larry's unusual introduction to the kids in the hood:
What he did to get to know the kids in the block was rather a strange thing. He put out a carbon microphone and a battery and a speaker on his driveway where you could talk into the microphone and your voice would be amplified by the speaker.
That introduction worked. One man, sharing something he was interested in with the kids in his community, as they say, launched a thousand ships . . . or in Steve's case, lots of iThings. As a result of that initial encounter, Larry and Steve struck up a friendship and this led to Steve being introduced to Heathkits. Steve said, "These Heathkits would come with these detailed manuals about how to put this thing together and all the parts would be laid out in a certain way and color coded. You'd actually build this thing yourself."

Steve's confidence grew as the Heathkit catalog became familiar territory. Out of the time spent building things with Larry, Steve said he learned, ". . . what was inside a finished product and how it worked because it would include a theory of operation." And maybe most importantly Steve got, ". . . a tremendous level of self-confidence, that through exploration and learning one could understand seemingly very complex things in one's environment."

If you ever wanted evidence of the power of a good man to have a positive influence in the life of a boy, and even the world, Steve Jobs' story about Larry Lang is a solid example. Please do realize that you, being just the man you are today, without any special training, could be the Larry in some boy's life. If, like Larry, you find the courage to share yourself and your interests with the boys in your world, who knows the difference you will make.

"Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma -- which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

LIKE: If you enjoy this blog, please click the "Like" button below to support the Man-Making Facebook page!

TWEET: Sent this post along to your friends or follow me on Twitter!

SUBSCRIBE: If you're not yet a subscriber to the Man-Making Blog, and you'd like to receive these posts by email 3-4 times a month, go to this link for a free subscription.

October 10, 2011

Tribal Circumcision and "Flying Foreskins"

Tribal Circumcision
I have previously written about and offered video clips describing how painful rites of passage for young males have prevailed over time and in many cultures. The boy's initiation ceremonies among the Xhosa tribe is another a good example. In this tribe, a boy is not differentiated from a girl until he has been circumcised. For young Xhosa males, as you might imagine, they actually look forward to this change in their status and they are willing to face any trial required, no matter how difficult, in order to definitively cross the line into manhood.

For the Xhosa males, their circumcision is only the first step of the ordeal to achieve manhood. After the actual operation, they begin a 10-day period of healing and additional trials. This includes many deprivations including being fed a coarse and half-cooked porridge meant to symbolize their "half-cooked" status as not-yet-men.
. . . being fed a coarse and half-cooked porridge is meant
to symbolize their "half-cooked" status as not-yet-men.
After the healing period, there is a community feast, but these new men must continue to remain separated from their friends, family, and community for another two or three months (although today that time frame is often shortened because of the demands of modern life). Eventually they return to the village as men, with full rights, privileges, and adult male responsibilities. I found it interesting that, as part of their return, the initiation lodge where the circumcisions took place is burned and their boyish past symbolically goes up in smoke.

Tribal Ritual in southern Zimbabwe
A recent New York Times article describes the critical importance of male circumcision in the prevention of H.I.V. in men. Since 2007, the practice has been recommended by international health authorities who say it reduces the risk of infection by sixty percent. The Times describes the campaign in South Africa where 600,000 men have had the procedure. While that sounds like a lot of men, it represents only 3 percent of the male population and a small step in the direction of H.I.V. prevention. The goal described in the Times article is to circumcise 20 million men in 14 African countries by 2015.

Dr. Robert Bailey, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois, claims the most progress is being made in Kenya, where some 330,000 men have had the procedure. "We're hacking away at it every month," Dr. Baily is quoted as saying. "Those foreskins are flying."
In spite of the pain and discomfort of ritual circumcision, it appears it is indeed very important for millions of men. In addition to being a component of the ancient and sacred work of making men out of boys, "flying foreskins" are saving lives.

LIKE: If you enjoy this blog, please click the "Like" button below to support the Man-Making Facebook page!

TWEET: Sent this post along to your friends or follow me on Twitter!

SUBSCRIBE: If you're not yet a subscriber to the Man-Making Blog, and you'd like to receive these posts by email 3-4 times a month, go to this link for a free subscription.

October 5, 2011

MDI - Success for Men!

For our young males to survive on their journey toward manhood, much less be there best, they will need good men to support them. That's easy. For that reason, I like to occasionally like to profile organizations that are building good men. MDI is one of those organizations. It's open to any adult man who seeks to live a purposeful, passionate life, and seeks to achieve new levels of personal success. It is a group committed to helping men dream big, become successful, and to become leaders in their communities. As they say, Our Mission is to cause greatness by mentoring men to live with excellence and, as mature masculine leaders, create successful families, careers and communities. To me, that is a call to become the kind of man our young males can look up to.

The Men's Hut
In so many ways, this group reminds me of the ancient men's hut. The men's hut was sacred male territory. It was the place where men gathered, and I can only imagine schmoozed, bragged about the hunt, farted without reserve, talked about women, learned guy skills, complained about the young males, found support, and shared their fears about the challenges facing them in their world. MDI is somewhat like that. They say, As an organization we believe that true wisdom comes not from a single source but from the diverse viewpoints of our community of men. Sounds tribal, interdependent, and collaborative to me.

The men of MDI gather in teams consisting of 5 to 25 men per team and meet regularly in men’s homes, places of business or at public meeting rooms. Regionally, the teams are aggregated into Divisions that can be as many as 200 men. Those meetings make for one very large men's hut and the gathered masculinity is powerful force for supporting men in general and for making a huge difference in community life.
This year MDI is hosting it's 3rd annual international convention in Las Vegas, at the Rio Hotel and Casino, on October 21-23rd. It's a meeting where a man can learn how to:
  • overcome obstacles
  • discover and serve your higher purpose
  • understand who you truly are, at this moment in time
  • positively embrace fear and failure
  • mentor young men
  • create, maintain and escalate successful long term relationships
I understand you also will have the opportunity to play a little golf, go rock hiking or climbing, play some poker, visit the roof-top cigar lounge, and meet some very good men. If you're interested, go to the convention website. If you want to know more about MDI, send them an email and someone will get right back to you.

If you know of an organization you feel is building good men, send me the information and I'll help spread the word. The world needs good men, and I know the boys are waiting.

LIKE: If you enjoy this blog, please click the "Like" button below to support the Man-Making Facebook page!

TWEET: Sent this post along to your friends or follow me on Twitter!

SUBSCRIBE: If you're not yet a subscriber to the Man-Making Blog, and you'd like to receive these posts by email 3-4 times a month, go to this link for a free subscription.