December 16, 2013

What Motivated Men Can Create!

In the video below, you can see and learn about one absolutely amazing world men have created. The video does raise an interesting question for me:

What kind of world could men create
in support of young males,
if they were inclined?




The very short story is this amazing work of art and craftsmanship was created because two brothers in Germany went looking for a place to show their hobby. Soon they were joined by men from other 'Model Railroad Clubs' and other craftsmen. Some were electricians, model makers, carpenters, and computer programmers. Ten years and 500,000 working hours later, the Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany is now the city's most popular tourist attraction with over a million visitors a year.

A TINY portion of the place!

Currently, the Miniatur Wunderland is comprised of 8 miniature worlds, it has 13 kilometers of track with 900 trains, and whole cities full of animated activities. There are subways, cruise ships, and the most recent addition, a fully functional airport with planes that look like they actually take off and land. You can see firetruck going to a fire, police cars stopping traffic, a game in the sports stadium, a rock concert, and there is even a chocolate factory that delivers a mini-chocolate bar to the viewers! The creativity in the details are extraordinary. You can watch a 24 hour day pass by in just under an hour, with all the locations, including the airport, lighting up for the night. You really do have to see this one to believe it.

After seeing it, I wonder if you'll be left with the same questions. What could engaged and motivated men create for young males if they were inclined? What could happen if men shared their hobbies and then invited men and young males to get involved? In addition to the shared guy energy, just imagine what the young males learn about construction, math, science, engineering, art, and working with others to create something wonderful. Just imagine what they could learn about men and manhood!

Do you know of a group of men and young males gathering around a common interest like Miniatur Wunderland? If so, share it with me and I'll run up a blog post about them.

Do you have an interest, talent, or hobby you might share with some of the men and young males in your community? I can assure you there are men and young males out there who would be interested. You never know what can happen when you just risk being open, available, and visible.




If this clip doesn't show up use this link.



CONTACT: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm available to help bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

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December 5, 2013

Ancient Ball Courts - Young Males - Testosterone and Some Hard Questions

When it comes to young males, there is a good reason the word testosterone starts with the word test! Testosterone is that chemical that starts pumping through young male veins in early adolescence. It's THE man-making substance, and it causes all manner of chaos for the young guys, their families, and the community.

Both men and women produce testosterone, males just make more of it . . . a lot more. Out of our evolutionary history, it's the chemical that helped males to be successful in hunting and combat. If all that wild-boy energy is contained and directed, hunting and combat were very important roles in the life of the community.

Testosterone is known as the aggression drug and during puberty, young men experience 5-7 surges of the chemical per day. This drives all sorts of chaos in their bodies. Generally speaking, young guys will often experience an uncooperative voice, acne, spontaneous and embarrassing erections, hair growth, bigger muscles, major growth spurts in body and limbs, and general confusion about all the changes.

Along with the physical changes comes rolling emotions with mood swings between anger and frustration, sullenness, to a sense of confidence and strength, sexual energy, and feelings of god-like power.

They also have a drive to test themselves, either digitally or in the real world, and in this quest they are often competitive and even combative. Sadly, the flood of testosterone hits a young man at a time when he has less than a fully developed brain (pre-frontal cortex). That's the part that guides complex decision making and the future consequences of their choices. The result is one slightly foolish, physical, and potentially very dangerous creature on your hands. That's where ball courts come in to play.

On a recent trip to northern Arizona, I visited the ruins at the Wupatki National Monument. It has been a cultural crossroads and considered home to a variety of people over many thousands of years. About 800 years ago, it was home to 85-100 people, with several thousand more living within a day’s walk. What caught my attention was a structure I had seen in other parts of Arizona and even in southern Mexico. It was the ball court.

After a little Google research, I discovered there are remains of over 220 ball courts at sites like Wupatki all over the southwest and in other parts of the United States. In addition, there are more than 1,300 ball courts found in Mesoamerica, the region that extends from central Mexico all the way south to Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica.

The oldest known ball court is approximately 3,400 years old. Some form of the game is believed to have been played by the Olmec, Toltec, Maya, and Aztec. It appears that as soon as they invented rubber, a ball was created, and the game commenced to be part of what was then civilized life. We're still throwing balls through hoops and around fields today.



No one really knows when or where the game got started. There is also no agreement on why the game was played. I think it was testosterone. The book Lord of the Flies, by William Goulding, is about a plane carrying a group of young British boys that crashes on an island in the Pacific Ocean. They commence to create a boy-culture complete with their own clothing, art, language, laws, and young male aggression. We see the same thing happening today with street gangs.

If a culture wasn't at war, and that chemical was pumping the young males full of competitiveness and aggression, you had better find a way to help them burn it off or there will certainly be consequences.

The ancients have long known this fact of young male life and they developed cultural structures, rituals, and ordeals perfectly suited to a testosterone-filled young man. Ball courts and the competitions they inspired must have saved countless lives, channeled wild-boy energy, and gave the young men a ladder of achievement they could follow to be seen and honored by their community. I think the ball court played an important and boy-civilizing role in history.

We still have plenty of ball courts, and wherever there is even minimal equipment, the young guys are still called to them. What seems to be missing is a way to incorporate these places and the heroic young players into an honored place in our communities.

Where is the Young Male Place in your community?

In your world, where can young guys go to burn off energy, engage in friendly competitions, have that kind of fun, and not attract negative attention?

Where can the young guys in your world be seen and honored for their power, physical capacity, creativity, bravery, and willingness to take risks?

If we don't have places like that, what's a young man to do?



CONTACT: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm available to help bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

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November 26, 2013

A Man's Suggestions For A Young Guy's First Date

The following is from contributor Andy Roy of Powerhouse Programs in Brisbane, Australia.



In late October, in a Man-Making Blog post titled: Advice For A Young Man's First Date, our good buddy in the USA, Earl Hipp, quoted an article we posted on our Facebook page. Earl is the author of the book, Man-Making, and has worked with men and boys for over 30 years. The article was written by a mother to her son and titled, 10 Things a Boy Must Know Before His First Date.

This got me thinking a bit deeper about advice to young males. I liked the letter by the mother but wondered if young fellas today would read it and get it, so I replied to Earl, . . . it has some really lovely points, but it is written by a woman, and some boys will pay it zero heed. Perhaps a man’s voice to compliment the list and say similar things in a different way would help boys understand or ‘get it’.

So Earl asked me if I’d take a whack at a blog post describing a list a man might offer his son, or any young man, on the occasion of a first date. Here's my whack!


Son,
I’m proud to see that you’ve grown and matured into the fine young man that you are today. On this happy occasion of your first outing with a young woman, I'd like to offer a few suggestions. It has been said, and I agree, that one true measure of a man is how he treats women. I know that you are a good person.
"Son, I’m proud to see that you’ve grown and matured
into the fine young man that you are today."
However, there are some pitfalls along the way to learning how to treat women where even good men can find themselves in difficult places they could not have imagined. So here, in no particular order, are a few suggestions. They reflect my own learning and growth, and some, or a lot of it comes from getting it wrong myself!
  1. Look her in the eyes, don’t stare, but when she is talking to you look her in the eyes. It’s not natural for most blokes but it matters to most females. If you find this difficult to hold for too long, try looking into one eye at a time or at the tip of her nose, or her mouth.

  2. Get to know her as a flesh and blood person. Less flesh and more blood really. Who is she? What does she like? What matters to her? What are her experiences of life? What are her hopes for her future and dreams for the next week, year, or the next decade? Look for common ground in areas like her music, interests, friends, experiences. Showing interest in her will make her feel special and valued, and you may just find you have things in common.

  3. Breathe! It can be easy to feel swept away in her company. Treat her with respect and if you catch yourself feeling overwhelmed, remember she is human like you. Imagine you are talking to someone’s daughter, sister, or a friend. In truth, she is someone with needs, challenges, and gifts like you and the rest of us.

  4. Compliment her and value her opinions. Inquire deeper when she shares something of herself. This is not prying but being interested in her and what makes her tick.

  5. She is not impressed by you talking about yourself all the time. When boys talk, it's often about conquest and achievements. Big noting (bragging) shows insecurity and a need for a ‘me focus.’ Be interested in her and who she is. Let her do most of the talking… breathe, relax, and be yourself. If she asks, speak more about what you love and enjoy doing (your own dreams for the future), she may find that more interesting than your accomplishments.

  6. Take a risk to be vulnerable and humble. Tell her about some things that might be a little hard for you to talk about, like a current challenge in your life, a time you made a mistake or when you were embarrassed.

  7. Laugh at yourself; don’t be too important and serious. If you are drawn to each other for a second or third date, you need to be comfortable with each other. Don't pretend to be someone you're not by putting up an image you think she will like. Personal honesty always comes across the best.

  8. If it’s not meant to be, if you’re not a good match, be grateful for the opportunity to have spent time with her. It might hurt a little to get some rejection. Think of this as practice that will help you to be better prepared when you meet a young woman who’s a better match for you. Females talk with each other about these things and she may well have a friend she wants you to meet. If that were to happen, what would you want her to say to her friends about you?

  9. Be true to your word. Showing up on time is honorable and when all else fails, a man’s honor is what will carry him through. If your first words are ‘sorry I’m late,’ it’s not a good start and says something about you.

  10. You have a flood of testosterone flowing through you. If your main thoughts about her are about having sex, use your other brain! Sex for the sake of sex can leave you feeling empty and unfulfilled. She is not a trophy you can talk to your mates about. I promise you the memory of your first sexual experience will be with you all your life. Make it an experience you will feel proud of and with someone you care about as a human being. This means making sure the timing is right for you both.

    If she instigates sexual contact be very careful. This might say something about her insecurities and one hot moment could change both your lives forever. Some women have confused sex for love and give sex as a way to get love. I’d say, just enjoy her company this time and get to know her first. If you find out you like her as a person, I'll be very happy for you and you'll have had a really great first date.
This list could be much longer and I don't consider it to be ‘the complete guide’. These words are what come to me when I think of what I would have liked to know at your age. I do know the young man you are, and I know you will do your best and probably the right things. Mostly, I want you to know I love you, I'm excited for you, and proud of you. Have fun, and if you're willing, come tell me how it went. It’s important to me that you know I'm here for you whenever you might need me.

Love, Dad




As a father of 2 daughters (20 and 8), and 4 sons (17, 15, 13, 11) this is a timely exercise. When I reflect on my young adulthood, a letter like this (despite its discomfort) from my dad or older male would have been quietly well received.



Andy's letter does raise some great questions:

Did anyone give you any advice prior to your first date?

If you can still remember, how did your first date go?

What would you add or change on Andy's list
if you were called to support your son or other young man
going on a first real date?

Send you comments to me or post it in the comments section of this blog post.



CONTACT: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm available to help bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

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, use this link for a free subscription.

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November 17, 2013

Books, Workshops and Creepy Movember Facial Hair


Man-Making Ebook: I'm happy to announce the second edition of the Man-Making book is now available for the Kindle from Amazon.com at this link. At present, you can get it for $2.99 U.S. It's my hope that this ebook will make it easier for my non-U.S. partners in mission to get access to the book.

I'd like to see a global army tackling what I call the epidemic of lost, damaged, and under-male-nourished boys. If you're in the U.S., you can use the same link to order the print version for just over ten dollars U.S. plus shipping.



Raising Our Sons Workshop: I've partnered up with my friend, Tim Wernette, a gender-equity educator, and Marilyn Heins, a retired pediatrician, author, and newspaper columnist, to present the Raising Our Sons workshop. It's from 9 to noon on Saturday, November 23, at the Tucson, AZ, YWCA.

While this workshop will only be of interest to Tucson locals, I'm mentioning it here as an example of what a few people can do to shift the public conversation. We want to move away from the too prevalent nightly news version of out of control young males as a community liability, and talk about the problems facing parents and young males today. We want to speak to the things we can do to support "our boys," and to help them become the best men possible. The often quoted phrase attributed to Frederick Douglass couldn't be more true in our time: It's easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. You can read an article about the workshop in the Arizona Daily Star at this link.

Is there a location in your community where you might host a conversation about how to support boys on their challenging journey toward manhood? If you want to brainstorm possibilities, send me a note. You may be surprised at the turnout if you raise that flag.



CREEPY MOVEMBER FACIAL HAIR
We're now half-way though Movember. If you haven't heard by now, Movember represents the combination of the words Moustache and November and it's also the name of the month-long and global movement inviting men to grow MOs, or mustaches, to raise awareness of men's health issues. Why raise awareness? Men die, on average, five years earlier than women. Many of the reasons have nothing to do with biological factors, but are more about men not taking their physical and emotional health seriously. For a description of the behaviors killing men off early, some dire statistics about men's health, and a description of some of the events and activities in the U.S., go to the U.S. Movember website.
Men die, on average, five years earlier than women.
Many of the reasons have nothing to do with biological factors . . .
Even though it's mid-month and you haven't started your Mo yet, this hilarious "Stashdance" video from Nick Offerman may just inspire you to begin! In addition to promoting awareness of men's health issues, the benefits he describes for growing a Mo may surprise you (don't miss the ending).


If this clip doesn't show up use this link

Finally, more in service to vanity than Movember and men's health, here is a clip from The annual World Beard and Moustache Championships. If you're looking for ideas and your beard grows really fast, check this out for inspiration!


If this clip doesn't show up use this link



CONTACT: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm available to help bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

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, use this link for a free subscription.

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October 25, 2013

Advice for A Yong Man's First Date

I can still remember my first kiss. It was on a first date of sorts when I went to a movie with a GIRL! I might have been 13 or 14, I don't know exactly. In truth, I was so uncomfortable (in a good way), I can only come up with a few of the details. I can tell you the name of the theater, that I borrowed the money for the tickets, we sat near the back, she smelled like a goddess, and that I had to dig deep for the courage to put my left arm around her shoulders.

It was about halfway through the movie and my left arm falling off from the cramp, when we somehow turned to look at each other. In that instant, a sweet but oh so brief kiss just happened. I don't know who kissed who, but I doubt I was the initiator. Nothing was said about the kiss after the movie and I have no recall of my life for the rest of the day, only that I had a happy feeling.

That was a long time ago and life was simpler then. The degree of my innocence back then is astounding compared to what young men see and know today. In 2013, young guys are inundated with media images and music lyrics about sex and relationships. They often get advice about women from their equally uninformed peers, most of which is not especially helpful and sometimes just bad data.

Today our young males have the likes of Google and Bing search engines, which can provide enough information on gender biology for guys to become gynecologists. With all that information, it's still easy for too many of our young guys to be confused about what it means to have intimate connection to another person. We see it in the papers when it goes tragically off track and we wind up with victims, perpetrators, and lives in ruins.

If a young man comes from a home with good relationship role models, or an adult willing and able to have the important conversations, they are very lucky indeed. For the rest, like so many aspects of manhood, too many young males are left to just figure out the notions of love, sex, intimacy, and relationships with women on their own.
. . . too many young males are left on their own
to just figure out the notions of love, sex, intimacy,
and relationships with women.
I loved it when my brother in mission, Andy Roy, sent along a link to a website offering young men "10 Things a Boy Must Know Before His First Date." Andy and his partner, Stephen Halsall, run the very successful Powerhouse Programs in Australia. They do Rite of Passage programs for young men, parent training for raising young males, and great school-based training for teens (including workshops on sexuality). Like Andy, those of us who work with young men know they (still) need a lot of guidance on even the most practical and mundane parts of a young man's life. The first date is no exception.

Here are the first five of the list of 10 first date suggestions from the website, Helene's Legacy. They describe what the author believes a boy should know prior to his first date with a girl (or change the language for your romantic partner of choice). The whole list is great, and I'm sure you could add a few more:
  1. The goal of this evening is to spend time with a nice girl. It's not a notch in your belt, or the first step on the road to going steady, or even necessarily the night you'll have your first kiss. Take your expectations down a peg and you won't be so nervous.

  2. When trying to decide between dressing cool and dressing casually, go with dressing clean. She wants you to smell nice. That means you need to shower too.

  3. When you go to pick her up, don't wait in the car for her to come out. Go right up to her door and be ready to introduce yourself to her parents. If her dad answers the door, shake his hand. It won't hurt to call him "sir" either.

  4. Hold the car door open for her, and make sure to ask "all set?" before you slam it.

  5. As you leave her house, smile, make eye contact with her, and tell her sincerely that you're glad she is there.
To see all of Helene's ten suggestions you can visit her website.

In response to the list above, Andy said, ". . . it has some really lovely points, but it is written by a woman, and some boys will pay it zero heed. Perhaps a man’s voice to compliment the list and say the same things in a different way would help boys understand or ‘get it’."

One man's take on the same advice for young males is from Alan Smyth. Alan is a dad with a daughter and a Young Life Regional Director trying to reach lost kids in LA. He is also the author of the book, Prized Possession - A Father’s Journey in Raising his Daughter.

On his blog myfatherdaughter.com, Alan wrote 10 Rules for Dating my Daughter. While it was written in jest, it definitely has a more aggressive take on the "first date" list. Alan was quite surprised at how many responses came back that he actually put the rules on a tee-shirt and offered it for sale. While the list and shirt were meant to be humorous, Alan says he's glad, "This light-hearted shirt is bringing thousands of Dads further into the important conversation of their role with their daughters."


Now that you're in that teenage frame of mind, can you bring back the memory of your first date? What age did it occur? Were you prepared for the experience, and did it go well? What feelings did you have during and after the date? Did anyone other than your peers talk to you about how to handle yourself on the outing or were you "just figuring it out" on your own?

Most importantly, there just might be a young guy in your life somewhere who'd benefit from a conversation about your first date experience, if you're willing.



CONTACT: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm available to help bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

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, use this link for a free subscription.

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October 17, 2013

A Father's Gifts to His Son

At The National Center for Fathering (NCF), they believe ". . . every child needs a dad they can count on." For NCF this isn't just a great idea but a real goal. Ever since the organization was founded by Dr. Ken Canfield as a nonprofit, scientific and education organization, they have been offering very practical and research-based training to support father (and grandfather) involvement with their sons.


On the NCF website you'll find a small mountain of information about their seminars, their small-group training, the WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads Of Great Students) program, a library of articles, a link to their daily radio program, and how you can sign up for their weekly e-mail.

One of the Man-Making Blog subscribers and a true brother in mission, Joseph A. Schrock, sent along this wonderful list, titled "8 Ways Fathers Benefit Boys," he found on Fathers.com. It's from The Fatherless Generation Foundation, Inc. In a world where we have an epidemic of under-male-nourished boys, this list below is music to my ears.

As you read this list, remember that while an involved father is the most potent man-making force in a boy's life, the other men of his village have countless additional gifts for the young man. You won't have the same clout as "dad," but by being intentional, you too, can help shape a young man's life in these same ways.



8 Ways Fathers Benefit Boys

Countless studies have shown that growing up with a father increases a boy's school performance and decreases their risk of committing a crime and abusing drugs and alcohol. Here are eight more ways dads influence boys—whether they live in the home or stay involved on a regular basis.
  1. Shape their identity. Boys look to fathers in their search for self. Without a father, boys have a harder time defining who they are and who they want to be. A boy's search for himself starts with his father.
     
  2. Help them belong. The need to belong to a family or tribe is a powerful force in boys. Having a father in the picture gives them this sense of alliance. Studies show that boys without fathers are more likely to join gangs—because they have to look outside the family for social acceptance.
     
  3. Influence their values. Boys with fathers are more likely than their fatherless peers to have economic stability in the household. This gives them a sense of self-worth. There are other values fathers shape: work ethic, having a healthy relationship, and persevering.
     
  4. Demonstrate character. Boys look up to their fathers and imitate what they see. Fathers can model good character traits like integrity, honesty, courage, restraint, fairness, foresight, and citizenship. When fathers are absent, boys look to celebrities, popular musicians, or sports figures for character cues.
     
  5. Teach respect. A father who does not show up for his boy epitomizes disrespect. Present fathers, on the other hand, can actively teach respectful behaviors such as listening, trust, tolerance, politeness, and understanding limits.
     
  6. Fill the void. Boys without fathers often feel as though there's something missing, which is why some fatherless boys turn to sex, pornography, violence, drugs, alcohol, or other self-destructive behaviors. Having a father helps boys feel complete.
     
  7. Balance ideas about sex. Boys without fathers have a lot of unanswered questions about sex. A side effect is that they don't talk about sex and don't get the practical advice that would carry them into healthy, fulfilling relationships as men. Fathers can give practical advice about girls, sex, wet dreams, contraceptives, pregnancy, and other topics they are not likely to discuss with their moms.
     
  8. Give them love. Boys who don't have involved fathers often view love as vulnerability and trust as a bad thing. Fathers show boys that love means satisfaction and completeness.
Does this list cook up anything in you?

If your father was not involved with you growing up, 
where did you learn these important life lessons?

Share your thoughts with me in a quick message.



CONTACT: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm available to help bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

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, use this link for a free subscription.

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October 8, 2013

Taking Young Men Fishin' - With A Mission!

I've written before about how my boyhood was blessed by my neighbor, Mark Moore, who loved fishing. He was that one man who took a lost, frightened, slightly wild, but very alone young kid under his wing. He probably saved my life in the process. Mark was the guy who took me on my first fishing trip.


I can still remember the first time we went fishing. Looking back, for a 9 year old boy it was wildly exciting experience! Especially for a city kid who never much got away from the hood. I remember seeing the lake at the end of the long wooden dock, with the soft morning sun just beginning to reflect off the water. Everything was still, almost magical. Mark's old wooden fishing boat was waiting for us, and after it was loaded with the tackle box, a white cardboard box of worms, miscellaneous gear, a net, rods, the gas can, and a cooler with beverages and lunch, we finally got in the thing.

I was sitting in the bow, on a square, red cushion. Mark sat in the back, where he commenced to start the engine. I can still remember the smell of gas from the old Johnson motor. Mark pulled on the starter rope a few times, futzed with the choke, pulled some more, and spoke some manly incantations over the thing until it finally sputtered to life.

The next thing I knew we were flying across the lake. I remember watching the water off the bow of the boat and feeling that freshest of fresh air on my face. It was thrilling enough for a city kid who had never been in the middle of a lake. When we were finally delivered to the "right spot" on the reedy part of the lake, Mark and I commenced the process of going after the meat . . . well, fish. That's when my moment of truth arrived.

I was allowed to hold a very sharp fish hook, and invited to load it with a wiggling brown worm. Now I'd fried a few ants under a magnifying glass, and killed my share of bugs, but this was my first lesson in using a live creature for bait. With that trial successfully passed, we spent the rest of the morning learning to cast, untangling line, and mostly watching our bobbers.

There was the the thrill of the catching and then learning to get the hook out of the mouth of a creature who was staring at you. And then the joy and relief (for me) of releasing the fish back into the lake and watching him swim away. I only got one fish that first trip, but loved the anticipation, and getting about a thousand "nibbles."

This was an adventure filled with awe, lessons, fun, and complete boyhood pleasure taken in the company of a man who was teaching me important lessons about life in the process. Not just how to fish, but about planning, preparation, safety, patience, compassion, nature, motors, mastery, and enjoying quiet time in each other’s company.

When I heard about how my brother in mission, Mustapha Mahdi, was starting a program titled, Fishin' With A Mission in Atlanta, my memories got stirred up and I was eager to learn more. Here's the description he sent describing his group's first outing:



A group of 8 men and 12 teenage males ignored the dark clouds and rain and showed up at the Juvenile Court Office at the Fulton County Courthouse. It was all because they wanted to go fishing. We were headed to Lake Altoona, Camp High Harbor to jump start "Fishin' With A Mission...to save our sons." We left Atlanta at about 9:30 in the morning and by the time we got to Lake Altoona, it was still cloudy but the rain had stopped.

Many of the kids had never been fishing before and most had never caught a fish. With help from the men, the young men learned to set up a rod and reel, how to put a worm on a hook, how to cast, and then how to wait patiently for the fish to bite. During the waiting times, in addition to the joking and banter, we got family updates from the boys, learned about their plans for the summer, as well as touching on "boys to men" issues, like respect for women, relationships, plans for their future, and responsible fatherhood.
When one of the guys actually caught a fish,
the shout could be heard for miles . . .
When one of the guys actually caught a fish, the shout could be heard for miles, and the kid's smile was priceless. One young man caught a huge soft shell turtle, a large mouth bass and about 7 brim. He says, he's the man now...because I, the leader, only caught two! For me, the most memorable words came from a boy who didn't catch a single fish but said this was the first time anyone had taken him fishing and he can't wait to go again because it's just nice to get out of the house.

The scenery on the lake was breathtaking. The time with the men, new skills learned, and bragging rights for many, guaranteed the boys are already looking forward to the next trip. I have to say that I had fun too. Again, this experience for me is more proof positive that all our sons and young men want is our time.

I’m grateful to the fathers who showed up, men who chaperoned, the Andrew and Walter Young family YMCA. We were blessed by a Facebook friend, Mr. Gordia Ammons, who made a $200 dollar donation to purchase fishing rods, reels, and supplies we can use again and again. Also, a special thanks to Aaron Zerkle for hosting us at the YMCA Camp High Harbor. All these men actually made the trip possible.



Mustapha says that at it's core, Fishin' With A Mission is about saving our young men from drugs, gangs, violence and teen fatherhood. It's about preparing our young men for manhood and responsible fatherhood with the involvement and guidance of responsible and involved men. With that in mind, he's hoping the fishing trips will be held every month. He's also holding on to the idea that at some point he'll be able to take the whole tribe on a deep sea fishing trip.

Do you have a fishing story from your background? If you missed out on that experience, how does that feel? Do you have a skill set which, if shared with a group of young men, might create a life-long collection of happy memories?

We can all do something for a young male or group of guys somewhere in our community. If you’re curious about how to get started, give me a shout and let’s see what might be possible. I can promise that if you can get past your fears and inertia, as it is with just about any work with young men, you too will have a potent and memorable experience.



CONTACT: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm available to help bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

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September 22, 2013

The Ever Forward Club - The Power of One Man

I met Ashanti Branch in July of 2013 when we were both “outlander” staff men at the YMAW, or Young Men’s Adventure Weekend, held near Vancouver, British Columbia. Ashanti is currently a Vice Principal at the Montera Middle School in Oakland, CA. He was using his summer being Ashanti, and accumulating rich experiences, ideas, and new skills to take back to Oakland to increase his impact on his community.

Ten years ago Ashanti founded The Ever Forward Club (EFC), a not-for-profit organization in Oakland, CA. The program was started to support young men of color in high school who were failing 50 percent or more of their classes.


In the last ten years, Ashanti has put together a solid, school-based program that's had an amazing impact on countless numbers of kids, a couple of inner-city schools, and their surrounding communities. Over the years of tracking the progress of their EFC participants, they have recorded some incredible statistics. In the past eight years:
  • 100% of the EFC members have graduated high school.
     
  • 90% of the EFC graduates attend 2 or 4 year colleges after high school.
     
  • 1000+ students, faculty, family and friends have participated in their Annual 24 Hour Relay Challenge which promotes community building and healthy living.

If you work in this field, you know the power in those numbers and the many small victories it's taken to achieve that degree of success. It’s easy to see why Ashanti Branch is on my list of heroes and a brother in mission. His current goal is to bring the EFC to 20 middle schools and 20 high schools by the fall of 2015, potentially supporting as many as 1,000 individual students! I have no doubt Ashanti will reach that goal!

I recently spoke with Ashanti to learn more about what he's learned in his 10 years with The Ever Forward Club. In the recording below, you can hear how the EFC got started, how it’s grown, and about the four core principles of Academic Development, Personal Development, Community Development, and Family Development, that have made it so successful.

You’ll also hear how Ashanti’s 'young male' literacy has evolved over time. I just love the part where he tells us what keeps him in this challenging work. If you like hearing about real man-making, this short clip will be very much worth your time.

Click the arrow to start play (may take a second to load)



If the player isn't visible, click on this direct link.

If you took the time to listen, you’ll see why I so respect and honor Ashanti for his powerful dedication to the young males in his world. Makes me wish I had an Ashanti in my life growing through my teen years. What I love about his story is that it’s another tale of how much difference one very motivated man can make. In ten years, Ashanti Branch has touched thousands of lives, and the positive reverberations of that impact just can’t be measured. AND, he’s just getting started!

You can learn more about The Ever Forward Club on his website, everforwardclub.org, or you can email Ashanti directly.

If you’re inclined to make a donation in support of one very reliable man-maker, working in extremely challenging circumstances, and getting extraordinary results, I know Ashanti will put the funds to good use. You can donate at the FirstGiving donation site, or make a check out to Warrior Films c/o Ever Forward Club, and send it to The Ever Forward Club, Ashanti Branch, 7514 Holly St. Oakland, CA 94621.



CONTACT: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm available to help bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

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September 13, 2013

Teen Boys - Grief and Loss

My Friend Bruce
My pal Bruce died unexpectedly a couple weeks ago at age 79. He was a very good man, wasn’t supposed to die, and I’m still in shock. At his service, just days after his passing, all of his family and friends tried to find a way to cope with the idea he was not going to be with us any longer. It’s still hard and will be for a while.

Grief is difficult business for which most of us have little preparation. At the service for Bruce, I was able to touch a deep well of grief, not just for him, but for all the other good friends and family that have passed. It actually felt really good to let the tears fly, use lots of tissues, and just be a very sad mess.

It wasn't always that way. As a young male in an alcoholic home, there were lots and lots of disappointments, and big personal losses too. There was the death of my grandfather, my much loved dog, my mother, dear friends moving away, and the heartbreak of my first teen love affair ending. Those were all big losses for an innocent young man. To make it worse, I faced those tragedies alone, without any guidance, grief tools, or support.
You’re on your own, just deal with it.
In fact, the absence of any support, or even positive role modeling around dealing with loss and grief, communicated a pretty clear message: You’re on your own, just deal with it. I did . . . and became a kid who was emotionally bound up, pressurized, and lived with a thick veneer as a shield over all that anger and sadness. Like so many kids I see today, out front I wore an “I’m OKAY” mask.

I met Bruce’s teenage grandson at the funeral. He didn’t cry either at the funeral service or at the cemetery. When I spoke with him about the loss of his grandfather, I could see the over-wet eyes of someone holding it all back. He said his grandfather’s passing was a very sad thing, but that he was doing OK. In that moment, I wondered where all his grief would go and how it would ultimately be expressed. I was reminded of a quote by William Pollack, in his book Real Boys : Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood. His quote says, "If we don't let our boys cry tears, they'll cry bullets."

On rites of passage weekends for boys, there is often a grief process of some sort. I’ve seen it in programs for 9-12 year-old boys, and a different version on a teen guy's passage weekend. The idea is always the same; help kids understand, and maybe express grief and loss. In age-appropriate language, the messages we try convey include:
  • Loss is a normal part of life.
  • It’s a good thing to talk about your feelings of loss and grief. 
  • Having feelings of sadness is normal (even big feelings). 
  • Anger is a common, normal, and healthy response to loss and grief.
  • Grief and sadness can go on for a long, long time after a loss. 
  • Guys cry, it’s just fine, and it’s good for you. 
  • Unexpressed grief can sometimes come out sideways, and hurt others. 
  • And that with the support of your community, it’s a good thing to honor the loss with an appropriate ceremony or ritual.
Hearing those messages early in my life would have lightened my load of emotional baggage considerably. It would also have been very helpful to have developed some emotional vocabulary, learned how to get and use support for the hard parts of my life, and especially, given my young self permission to cry real tears.

Way back in 1995, I wrote a book on grief and loss for teens. It’s still selling well. It's titled, Help for the Hard Times – Getting Through Loss. If you know a young person dealing with a big loss, or if you work with young males, it’s a good book to read and maybe share. It’s never too early (or too late) to help kids learn healthy ways to cope with the really hard times.



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August 29, 2013

Boys Who Need Men in their Lives - Bad News and some Really Good News

First the Bad News:

Australian Chris Lane, 22, died from gunshot wounds on Aug. 16, in Duncan, Oklahoma. Lane had moved to Oklahoma to play baseball, and was staying with the family of his girlfriend in Duncan. He would have been a senior at East Central University this fall. He was shot in a random drive-by shooting by 3 teen boys who told police they were bored and had simply decided to kill someone for the "fun of it." Now Lane is gone and the 15, 16, and 17 year-olds are charged with murder. In a press conference Duncan District Attorney, Jason Hicks, said, "This is not Duncan, Oklahoma."

After years of working with young guys, it's always a surprise to me how shocked people are when these tragedies happen. Of course it's always wrong, often horrific, wrenching, and it messes with our protective delusions that boyhood should be a great time in a teenage boy's life. It is for some. But there are so many young guys disconnected from their community, bored, lost in their lives, and they are often angry and restless. Add guns to that mix and there can only be big trouble.

James Johnson was the man who called police four hours after the boys shot Lane. He said the shooters were outside his home with guns. Minutes later the boys were arrested with a handgun and a shotgun in their car. Johnson believes they murdered Lane as part of a gang initiation and had also targeted his son. In the video below, listen to what he says about out-of-control and lost boy shooters:


If this clip doesn't show up use this link.
. . . they are all good kids, they just don't have
any male figures in their lives . . . no men.

BUT WAIT! Now for the Good News:

In the same week, I was sent some information about another, happier story concerning men and boys. A group of men from the Boys to Men Organization in San Diego, California are doing something critical for the boys in their world. It's called the School Group Mentoring Program. Every week these dedicated men are showing up at middle schools, high schools, and foster care facilities to give teenage boys a community of men who listen, encourage, and believe in them.

Here is how they describe their program on their website:

In 2009, Boys to Men began an after school group mentoring program in San Diego targeting “at-risk” middle and high school boys. . . . The group aspect of the weekly meetings gives boys access to a variety of male role models. These men show up consistently, tell the truth about their struggles as men, ask the boys what kind of man they want to be, praise them for their unique gifts, support them when they screw up, and encourage them to become that good man they all want to be. . . . When we invest in our boys, and support them at this critical time, the payback will last a lifetime!­­

Here's some interesting data on the boys who have participated in these school programs. They have:
  • Improved their GPA by an average of 57%.
  • Reduced their discipline referrals by 79%.
  • STAYED in school. (Boys to Men students had a 0% dropout rate. The school dropout rate was 35.5%.)
An interesting side note is that 75% of the boys in the program are growing up without a father in their home.

The men from Boys to Men, San Diego, raise money to fund their school programs in a uniquely California way . . . by surfing! They call it their 100 Wave Challenge. In the video from last year's event below, you can listen to what these men and young men are saying about what it's like to be in a community where the men are showing up for the boys.


If this clip doesn't show up use this link.

Their 4th Annual 100 Wave Challenge will be September 21st at Mission Beach in San Diego. Each surfer has sponsors who have pledged financial support, and the guy has 12 hours to catch 100 waves. The average time to catch and surf 100 waves is 6 hours. It's truly a heroic effort that can only be accomplished with the support of their fellow surfers, their friends and family on the beach, and knowing the funds raised will be put to such a good cause.


If you like what they are doing and can't get there with your board, consider sending them a donation. Because as they said at the end of the video, " . . . every boy deserves a good man in his life!"



CONTACT: Send Earl a message. I'm interested in your thoughts on man-making. Also, I'm available to work with you to bring the right form of man-making to your community or organization.

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August 24, 2013

What Kind of Man Do You Want To Be?

I've just had the pleasure of participating in my first ever Google Hangout conversation. The hangout was hosted by Marie Roker-Jones, of the Raising Great Men blog, and Dr. Vibe, host of the online radio show, The Dr. Vibe Show for Black Men, and those who love them. These very good people are part of the growing man-making community, doing what they can to support boys, young males, and men, on their journey toward a positive manhood. I was a guest along with filmmaker Joe Brewster, of the film America's Promise.

The theme was, "What Kind of Man Do You Want To Be?"

You can listen to our conversation, Part I, in the video below. We kicked around some big ideas about the challenges facing young men today.


If this clip doesn't show up use this link.

Part II of the conversation had Marie and Dr. Vibe interviewing three very bright young men, Edmund Adjapong, Karl Rivera, and Good Men Project writer, Kevin Carty. These young men responded to questions about messages they got as young men about manhood, dating, their conversations about men with the women in their lives, the role of education in shaping a young male's vision of manhood, and much more. These guys offered a very clear view of manhood as experienced by young, college age men. These are voices from an age group we don't get to hear from often enough.

You can listen in on their conversation in this video:


If this clip doesn't show up use this link.

Anything come up for you after listening to these conversations? If so, send me a quick message

If you or someone you know has something important to say about man-making, let me know. I'll add them to my list of people for future Hangouts or audio interviews.



CONTACT: Send Earl a message. I'm interested in your thoughts on man-making. Also, I'm available to work with you to bring the right form of man-making to your community or organziation.

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.

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August 15, 2013

Tattoos, Young Males, and A Way Back

Getting a tat (tattoo) can be an impulsive act, an artistic expression, a symbol of membership or affiliation, a historical record of the wearer, or simply a gesture that carries deep personal meaning. The tough thing about tats is that they stay when you and your life go on.

The history of the word tattoo is commonly believed to come from the Tahitian word ‘tatau’ which means ‘to mark something’. Regardless of where the word comes from, the practice is believed to be well over 5000 years old, and it is found in many ancient cultures.

One important historical use for tattoos or body scaring has been the marking of a young man’s body to honor his crossing into manhood and his new status in the community. The pain associated with this act was considered one of the ordeals required for a successful passage into manhood. The bearer was then instantly recognized in the community as a man with the status and responsibilities that went with his role.

Sadly, in the same way, tattoos are used today to claim membership in a street or prison gang. Gang tats, as in ancient times, can display a lot of information about the wearer. They can identify the gang, the wearer’s skills, where they are from, the type and number of both criminal activities and jail time. Even the size and where on the body the tat is placed carries meaning.

It’s not my place to judge the choice to tat or not. But I do like the idea that when a young person decides to check out of the gang life or when they get out of jail, not only can they sometimes find a fresh start, but the physical story of their past can often be erased from their skin.

Gang Rescue and Support Project (GRASP) is in Denver, Colorado. It’s an intervention program for young people 14-21 who are at-risk, in some way, of gang involvement. A big part of why GRASP is successful is because it’s run by ex-gang members who have gotten out of the lifestyle and turned their lives around. They know first-hand the dangers and challenges of stepping out of gang life and they can and do help.


Just one of GRASP's services is tat removal. In the video at this link, you can watch as ex-gang members get their tats removed and talk about the impact on them. As you will hear, getting tats removed is an important step, physically and emotionally, on the path out of gang life. What GRASP is doing is powerful work that can reduce violence and criminality in our communities. More importantly, it will save kid’s lives.

For more information, check out the GRASP website or give them a call at: 303-777-3117.

Check out these solid messages from GRASP in the clip below:


If this clip doesn't show up use this link.



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August 3, 2013

Stupid Boy Killing and Some Hope

RANT WARNING: OK, I’m sad and pissed off. I’m writing today in a burst of emotion and don’t feel like I want to make sense. I mean the world doesn’t make sense to me right now. So I’m just putting it all out here.

In today’s paper there is a story about a lost seventeen year-old boy who helped mastermind the robbery and unintended killing of his own grandmother, by himself and his boy pack.

Grandma was great. She was a positive force in her neighborhood that helped with mowing, looked after others' houses, and shared her peach crisp recipe. She volunteered at her church and helped with Vacation Bible School. She had played a role in raising her grandson and was a big support to the family after his mom divorced his dad. Grandma was even trying to get her grandson help for his drug use. As the article reported, her grandson and his siblings were “the love of her life.”

The grandson and his teen boy pack of three plotted a robbery, stalked her house, and then broke in. The oldest boy in the pack then cut grandma with a knife and forced her to write him a check for $1500. He then stabbed and strangled her while the grandson played lookout. It’s all stupid, stupid, stupid, horribly tragic, and profoundly sad.

So yes, I’m upset this whole sad drama has come to pass. I’m also sad about the other articles in the same paper describing other stupid young guy’s actions. Shootings as part of the too common, “Lord of the Flies” style gang theater, and reckless driving involving a crash and a death.

We know the pre-frontal cortex in teen male brains is not fully wired. The dudes can’t always think through the long-term consequences of their actions. That’s why dumb but exciting activities somehow make sense to them. In truth, the young guys are handicapped individuals until sometime in their mid-twenties. They deserve our love and some compassion, but they also require our constant attention and guidance. The thing that makes me really angry in the article about the grandson is that again, I got to read the too common adult disclaimer, “I didn’t see it coming at all.” Really, give me a break!

"I didn’t see it coming at all."
Really, give me a break!

Seemingly every day in the press, online, and in the “news,” we are presented with more evidence that too many angry, lost, under-managed young guys, in packs or alone, with access to drugs, who can drive cars or get weapons, are going to find a way to create havoc in their lives, and inflict unbearable pain on their families and in the lives of those in their communities. What the adult is really saying in that brief disclaimer is some version of: “It’s not my fault, I didn’t want to get involved, it’s not my business, someone should have helped that kid, kids these days, I’ve got my own problems,” and, “it’s not my responsibility.” I’m tired of hearing those responses. Those phrases are most often spoken by people whose lives haven’t YET, been messed up by an out of control young male.

As a Man-Making Blog reader, you know my response; it’s, “Do something! Please!” I do what I do with young guys for a lot of reasons, but on top is the fact that I do feel some responsibility and I don’t like these uncomfortable feelings that are the cost of inaction. When I read these sad stories, at least I can say, “I accept some responsibility, I’m glad I’m involved, it IS my business, and I can and do make a difference in the lives of some young men.” What if you and all the other Man-Making Blog readers, and all your men friends felt the same and did something for a kid somewhere? What would that world look like?

In January of this year, I did a Man-Making Blog post about the Continuum of Involvement, from the Man-Making book and my Man-Making trainings. The basic idea is that there is a continuum of action options for those of you who may be willing to do something. It all starts with the smallest of gestures, low personal risk and little time required. Check out that post, and then see if there isn't something you’re willing to do. Or contact me and let’s see what might be possible for you.


I believe they are all “our boys,” I know they need good men (like you) in their lives, and I can promise there is something you can do today to make a difference, maybe THE difference. I'm dedicating my next steps to this kid's grandma.



CONTACT: Send Earl a message. I'm interested in your thoughts on man-making. Also, I'm available to work with you to bring the right form of man-making to your community or organziation.

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