December 22, 2014

What Men Really Want!

If you create an anonymous way for men from around the world to speak their personal truth about what they really want, for themselves and the world, you wind up with a deep look into the masculine heart. That's what the hashtag #malewishlist has become.

. . . a deep look into the masculine heart.

The short story is a few good men decided to use the Twitter platform in February 2012 to reach out to men using the hashtag #malewishlist. I was so impressed with what came pouring in, I did a Man-Making Blog post on some of the contributions. It was a very moving list. You can read about those men and the #malewishlist original story at this link on the Man-Making Blog.

Since 2012, the #malewishlist has continued to accumulate tweets. In this season of commercialism, with what I think is a pretty shameful lust for gifting people with material things, I thought it might be nice to revisit the notion of what men want as a way to bring a different perspective to the holidays. I guess this is my holiday letter to you and yours, holding up a vision for a world we all might co-create.

. . . a vision for a world
we all might co-create.

The list is just below. If you're a man, it should straighten your spine a little and have "oh yeahs!" going off in your head. I felt a little sad, too, because of the long way we have to go to get to the world these men have envisioned. Selfishly however, I love that it's so long and that so many men are speaking out.

If you want your voice heard and have additions to the male wish list, you can post them to the Twitter hashtag #malewishlist, add them to the comments section of this post (online), or send it along to me and I'll add it to the comments for you.

Thanks for the gift of your support, all year!

Earl Hipp


The Male Wish List
  • For every boy and man to have at least one person to whom he can reveal himself fully without fear of rejection.

  • For all dads to feel empowered to care for and connect with their children and feel supported in their efforts to do so.

  • To always use the "privileges" given to me by patriarchy to advance a just society.

  • For men to be able to speak up about any personal pain and be met with something other than harsh judgement for "failing at manhood."

  • Not to be seen as a potential abuser (pedophile) because I'm a man, but someone who is safe for young people to be with.

  • To live in a world in which tenderness, compassion, and sensitivity are no longer regarded as primarily feminine qualities.

  • To experiencing joy and happiness without external cause.

  • That more men would learn to talk openly about sex with their partners rather than resorting to lazy substitutes.

  • To live in a world in which greed, avarice, venal stupidity, and amoral self-interest are punished rather than rewarded.

  • To love myself enough to allow myself to fail and make mistakes.

  • To know our real strengths as men and not be afraid to use them.

  • To not feel like I’m a rapist every time a woman walks the same route as me after 9pm.

  • To live in the world imagined by John Lennon.

  • Not to be regarded as culpable or responsible for bad acts committed by other men or groups of men, now or in the past.

  • For more men to realize their parental love means so much to their kids, despite what anti-dad types say.

  • To be accepted for who I am rather than how well I fit into the cultural box.

  • For more men to realize that working themselves to death is not the best way to meet the real needs of their families.

  • That men not have their value judged by the size of their libido or their pay check.

  • That every man would have at least one compassionate witness to his pain and confusion, someone he knows he can always count on.

  • For fathers to be emotionally healthy, present and available.

  • To know and trust that I can be strong and powerful without hurting others.

  • To see the collective of men as "the brotherhood," not "the competition."

  • For men, women, peers, and culture to STOP telling boys that 'BIG boys don't cry.' It is a lie - we DO cry and need to cry.
  • To be able to cry without shame or fear when feeling sadness, grief, disappointment, weakness, or loss come up.
  • To remember that failure and rejection do not reduce or diminish me as a man, but are pathways into my own strength and wisdom.

  • That men would increase their empathy for self and others.
  • To celebrate the fact that I am a man and be proud of my masculinity.

  • That men would be able to gently hold other men and be held by them.

  • To feel safe being emotionally vulnerable around other people, to feel loved, connected, and accepted for who I truly am.

  • To touch without fear, to feel without despair, to dream without nightmares

  • To hold onto my courage as I allow love into my life.

  • To have friends who say 'get up' when I feel like giving up on something which is important to me

  • That men would begin to realize they need to evolve, to change, and to take responsibility for feelings, behavior, and talk.

  • I want sanity and peace of mind. My head feels like a blender that's stuck in the on position.

  • That men would listen to their bodies rather than build their bodies and embrace softness rather than rigidity.
  • I wish all men would be softer with each other. The English male stiff upper lip is a heavy burden.

  • Validation of my belief that many men are eager to open up and will share what is in their hearts.

  • That fewer boys will have to wander alone, unsupported, in the never-never land between boyhood and manhood.

  • To lead the kinds of lives that will make young boys feel eager to grow up and join our ranks.

  • To meet a woman with whom I can share my self-awareness, and enjoy intimacy, both spiritual and physical, without fear.

  • That we as men re-learn how to take our boys out and initiate them into the brotherhood of man - and into a sense of their own maleness.

  • To have an honest conversation with anyone in my family, without fear of repercussions, about my life, who I am, and what I feel.

  • To live in a society that considers grieving as a healthy part of a man's life.

  • I wish for the end of violence against women worldwide - I wish for the end of corporate backed war.

  • That no boy will ever be as lost, as damaged, and as alone as I was at age 14.

  • To be unapologetically ourselves as men.

  • To be able to enjoy watching kids play in the park without being seen as threat or weirdo.

  • To feel that my sensitivity is an asset rather than a weakness to be feared and hidden from others.

  • For men to reward/encourage sensitivity, empathy when they see it in other men.

  • To know I am seen, valued, and appreciated as a man not only for what I do, but for who I am.

  • More men to help lead the way by their force of caring, personality and manhood.

  • To love myself enough to feel tired and then rest instead of violating my boundaries for the sake of work, work, work.

  • To feel the same openness and acceptance from my gay community that I have from the straight guys I've done men's work with.

  • A movement of men that work together and support each other for the greater good.

  • To be accepted as the men we are, imperfect human beings, with our unique strengths and weaknesses.

  • To be able to hear men speak from their deep inner self, I want to know all men better.

  • To wake up in the morning and feel blessed for being born the way I am.

  • For more progressive males who have no problem challenging sexism.

  • For more discourse on domestic abuse of men.

  • To have open, honest, meaningful interactions with other men on a regular basis without having to pay for a weekly men's group.

  • To not be left out of business 'rapport' building because you do not play golf.

  • To feel afraid and incapable, and be comforted.

  • To not be pigeon-holed as only interested in sex and beer.

  • Not to be assigned the role of dragon slayer because of my gender.

  • To connect more openly with other men and to allow their support into my life; to create more community with like-minded men.

  • To live in a world where power is just another word for love in action.

  • For good men to start showing up for young males. I'm tired of hearing about the creepy ones!



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December 16, 2014

Holiday Gift Advice: Avoid Spray on Manhood for Teen Males!

Many older men can remember getting Old Spice aftershave for a Holiday gift. It's a long-standing tradition that began back in grandpa's time and was handed down through the generations. Because it was such an easy guy's gift to get and give, Old Spice became the common smell of "manhood" for a couple generations.

I thought Old Spice had been lost in the sea of more trendy lines of men's fragrances now available. So I was surprised to learn the Old Spice tradition is being upscaled with a fresh and clever approach to a new generation of young males. Old Spice is calling it Smellcome to Manhood.




We all know young dudes will never be able to spray on manhood, but apparently, in addition to its other deficits, the adolescent male brain is unable to sort out reality from clever marketing promises. Even I have to admit the Old Spice folks have come up with a very creative approach to a young man's desire to be seen as manly.

Check out this video and watch for the gender interplay between the men and women, messages about emancipation from mom's world, and the hints of the benefits young guys might get if they smell right:


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

The good news about this campaign is that it brings the idea of a young man's rites of passage into the present day conversation. The Old Spice folks even had a contest for a Smellcome to Manhood Kit that contained some of what they considered to be manhood essentials:

  • Old Spice Re-fresh Body Spray - the spray on manliness stuff.
  • Old Spice T-Shirt – with a manly chest tattoo.
  • Old Spice Branded Earbuds - because real men isolate (?).
  • Bear Paws Meat Carving Tool - Well, meat, I guess, is for men.
  • Duct Tape Art of Manliness Book - No comment, I like duct tape.
  • “Scent Responsibly” Instructions - About time, see below.
  • Smellcome to Manhood Certificate - Because someone has to say you're now "A Man."

I love the "Scent Responsibly" instructions. The overall goal of the instructions is to prevent the juvenile over-spraying epidemic. That's where young guys tend to overdo a fragrance in order to increase the amount of manliness they are projecting into the world.



This holiday season, I'd pass on the Old Spice tradition and skip the gift of stink for your young man. Instead, make a commitment to teach young lads to hike or how to build a campfire, grill meat, fix a toilet flapper, or change a car or bike tire. Encourage them to take education seriously, to trust older men, be respectful to women, and feel good about being male without enhancements. There's a much longer list, of course, but the idea is to launch them on a real journey towards manhood and save us all from the adolescence fragrance cloud being marketed as spray-on manhood.



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December 2, 2014

How Circles and Rites of Passage Weekends Transform Young Men

Two Thoughts on Transformation:

1. The Power of a Circle: A recent article in the Minneapolis StarTribune describes an interesting use of group circles in schools. We all know about the existence and dangers of cliques in high school. In some communities, for young guys, they are called gangs. In this case, there were serious tensions, sometimes leading to fights, between African-American students and the Karen community of recently arrived refugee students from Myanmar. There are about 8,000 Karen refugees who have settled in Minnesota over the past decade and most of them are in the east metro of Minneapolis.

Multicultural Leaders group at Roseville High School - (Photo David Joles)

The StarTribune article describes how a high school junior named Soe from the Karen community approached his teacher with a proposal. Rather than continue to feel the discrimination and get in fights, he wanted to talk. It wasn't long before a circle of "Multicultural Leaders" was convened and a conversation between the young men of the two cultures got started. That initiative has blossomed and now includes additional schools, and other minorities in the dialogue. Sitting across the room and listening to each other has reduced racial tensions, led to cross-cultural friendships, stopped fights, and maybe it will even keep teen gangs from being formed in the community.

. . . maybe it will even keep teen gangs
from being formed in the community.

In my experience, when young men, or any group, come together and have an honest and open dialogue, they always learn this one valuable lesson. Soe said during the conversations, he realized everyone liked similar sports and music. He said, “We found out we are not different that much. We’re almost the same, except for the color of our skin.” That is real transformation.


2. The Power of a Rites of Passage Weekend: If you take what happens in a young guy's circle, add about 20 -30 good men, run it for a weekend, conduct a continuous series of challenging physical and emotional experiences, add in some ritual, toss in some fun, teen food, and fires, the impact on the young men (and the old guys) is also powerful.

The video clip below is from Boys to Men Arizona. It will give you a brief sense of what happens on a passage weekend and the impact on both the men and the young guys. Some of the activities may look strange to the outsider, but the events and processes are all designed to speak directly to the young male reality. As one man says, "We use the fun part to get to deeper stuff that's inside these young men."

Listen closely to what the young guys say about their experience. A well run rites of passage experience, like the impact of an on-going support group circle, can have a life-changing effect on a young male.


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

A great scenario for sustaining a young man's growth would be for him to come out of an ongoing school (or church, or community) support circle, experience a weekend passage event, and then return to the circle of support to build on his self-discovery and commitments. Or like the Arizona men, meet with the guys a couple times a month to hang out, have an adventure, eat some food and check in about what's going on in your life. Time with men willing to have fun AND be real is part of what creates the transformational juice.

. . . it wasn't just crap,
it was real!

If you hear the call to be part these kinds of experiences, give me an e-shout, or check out the website of Boys to Men Arizona. I can guarantee you the men showing up for this work with young guys are gloriously imperfect men just like you and me. Your masculine hardwiring and willingness to take the risk are the only credentials you need. There may be a group like Boys to Men Arizona or something similar near you now. It just also might be possible for you and a couple men you know to get something started that will serve the young males in your part of the world. It really could be that simple!

What I can say for sure is the young guys are waiting!



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November 26, 2014

The Season of Gratitude


In the U.S., Thursday, November 27, is Thanksgiving Day. For most, it's a time of family, food, and, sadly these days, shopping. However, I want to take the meaning of the holiday literally and use this moment to express gratitude, real thanks-giving.

I feel quite blessed to have your support.

This blog's subscribed audience is about a thousand and growing. I know there are many other site visitors who pass by regularly. Taken together, you make up a good and loyal group, and I feel quite blessed to have your support. It really does make my heart sing to know there is a global collection of people who care enough about our young men to let these posts into your lives a few times every month.

I'm grateful for the possibility that some, or even many, of you are already involved in some form of Man-Making. Or because of what you read here, some of you will be moved to take an action in support of a young man. Now that deserves some real thanks-giving!

So, in this season of gratitude, let me simply and directly say, Thank You!

Earl Hipp



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November 20, 2014

Father Hunger, Son Hunger, Two Songs, and the Father Wound

I was in a men's circle last night. It was a meeting for men interested in working with young males. To help men get anchored in the teenage male experience, they were asked, "As a teen, who were the men who were, or were not, there to support you?" It was a rich conversation and, as is always the case, men learned that when we speak our "truth," when we are real with each other, we are all way more alike than different.

As a teen, who were the men
who were, or were not,
there to support you?

One of the common themes that showed up in the conversation was about the father who was physically present but emotionally distant: workaholic, alcoholic, womanizing, angry, sometimes abusive, and/or a man without any skills for intimate connection. One man labelled him a ghost father, visible, but was not really there. For some men, it felt more confusing, painful and damaging than having a father who just left, leaving a fatherless boy.

Men, sometimes teary, talked about the profound longing for time and connection with their dad, the most important male in a young man's life. They described how, without this man's guidance and direction, it was so easy for a life to take a wrong turn. Each man, in different ways, and for different reasons, spoke to deep father hunger that was never satisfied, and the wound they have carried into adulthood as a result.

Daddy, where are you?

The film clip below is titled Papaoutai and performed by a Belgian singer named Stromae. It was sent to me by a brother in mission, Andrew MacDonald, who lives near Ottawa, Canada. Loosely translated, Papaoutai means Daddy, where are you?. I don't speak the language of the song, but no matter, it's message is painfully clear.

In countless young guy circles, I've heard "Daddy, where are you?" asked many times by so many young men . . . too many young men. It's at the literal heart of what I often call "the epidemic of under-male-nourished boys." Men and young men carrying this kind of father wound may find Papaoutai hard to watch, especially the ending.


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


As almost a direct counterpoint to Papaoutai, I want to offer up another song. This one comes from the other direction, a song about a father hungry for time with his son. Mark Chandler, in his song Making A Man, is speaking out for so many good men cut off from their sons by life's circumstances. Mark is a military officer approaching retirement. It's been difficult to get time with his son because for three of the last eight years, Mark has been deployed. On top of that, he's been divorced for the last four years.

Mark feels the core message of the song is it takes a man to make a man, and it's what "poured out of him" when he was longing for time with his son. Again, for men and young men carrying a father wound, Mark's longing, love, and commitment, as expressed in this song, may dampen your eyes.


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

To connect with Mark Chandler, visit his Facebook page.

These songs represent two very different and profoundly deep calls for connection between fathers and sons. When that bond is broken, everyone suffers. What's left for us to do is to support men and young men who've been damaged in that unique way. Today, in so many ways, we're paying the social costs of not offering that support. We can do better and we must.



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November 14, 2014

A Young Man's First Shave and A Different Movember Challenge

A strange wave of joy and sadness hit me when I noticed a can of Barbasol shave cream in a friend's bathroom. I had seen it there before, but this time it took me right back to my early adolescence and those first few times shaving. I've written about that sad rite of passage event for me in previous blog posts. I guess the impact of that time in my life is still very much alive in me.

The feeling of joy was from the memory of all that white and fragrant foam in my hand and then all over my face. And I do mean ALL OVER my face. Somewhere underneath all that white stuff hid a few tender facial hairs signaling, not the need to shave, but the first hint of approaching manhood. I don't think the foam helped me get a better "shave," but it was a helpful guide showing the path the razor had taken.

I can also remember a rather evil green liquid aftershave. When the shaving ordeal was over, I'd put some of this potion on my hands and rub it on my face. I then had to endure the rush of burning pain as the liquid met up with all the dings the razor had left behind. I'm sure it made me smell odd at best, but in my naive adolescent mind it all made me irresistibly manly.


...in my naive adolescent mind
it all made me irresistibly manly.

The sadness in that Barbasol moment was not so much about the painful nicks from poor shaving technique or even the resulting shameful face dotted with little pieces of Kleenex. I felt sad because, in that important moment in my life, I was again left alone to figure out another aspect of manhood. In a way it's like a first menstrual period for a girl; it was an occasion that begged for guidance. My only real guides were the terrible shaving commercials of that era. As it was then and is still the case today, what I saw on the screen was seductive, but really poor training for real life and manhood. Here's an example:


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


If you haven't heard, "No Shave November" or Movember is when men don't shave for 30 days in order to grow a moustache (Movember = Moustache + November). It's a global campaign designed to invite conversation about men's health and to raise funds to improve the lives of men affected by prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health problems. Think of it as the male version of the pink ribbon breast cancer campaigns. The Movember Foundation, the leading global organization, has raised $559 million todate and funded over 800 programs in 21 countries. If you want to get involved, you can visit the U.S. Movember website or just Google Movember and your city, state, or country. It's a very good cause.

...here's a different Movember challenge for you.

But here's a different Movember challenge for you. Use the idea of Movember, or just beards, to start a conversation with an adolescent male in your world. Ask him if he knows about Movember. Ask him if he's shaving, how did he learn, and how is it going? Tell him your story of learning to shave and your approach today. If you know the young guy is an under-male-nourished kid, all the better.

Sure, the young dudes can find the information about shaving themselves. However, showing an interest as an adult man in this part of a young man's life, or starting a conversation about this common male issue, carries a lot of weight. It really doesn't matter exactly what you talk about. The important thing is the fact that you are recognizing his emerging manhood and offering some support. In this way, you'll be honoring this young man's small but important rite of passage, and possibly passing along some needed shaving tips.

If you didn't get any good training on how to shave or how to teach a kid how to shave, Shaving Tips for Teen Guys is one of many great websites.

If you have a first shave story, please send it along. I'd love to hear it, and if you're willing, I'll post it in the comments to this post.



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October 25, 2014

Protecting Our Young Men From The Call To Jihad

There is a lot of talk in the news today about how young men are being "radicalized" by religious extremists and being seduced into going off to fight wars in foreign lands. It's a sad story to be sure, but it's a very powerful call for young men.

The call to Jihad, at its core, is really the same call young guys hear to join street gangs, to join our military, or even to be on a school sports team. These organizations put out a call to action that matches up perfectly with the psychology and physiology of our adolescent males. What our young guys hear is a call to be a warrior. The surprising thing for me is not that some young men are answering that call, but that even more young men aren't responding to that message.

If we want to prevent our young men from being lost in tragic ways to the warrior call, we have to learn a little about the adolescent male experience, and then come up with alternative activities that really speak to them. Here's a four-item, short course in what I've learned about why our young men are vulnerable to extremist messages or any call to become a warrior.

. . . why our young men are vulnerable
to extremist messages
or any call to become a warrior.

1. The Biological Imperative: From adolescence to around the mid-twenties, young males are biologically vulnerable in at least two ways that set them up for a warrior call to action.

They are experiencing something like seven to ten surges of testosterone a day. Testosterone has been referred to as an aggression hormone, and it causes young males to feel powerful as their muscles are getting stronger and their sexuality is emerging. Testosterone drives a combative nature and hungers for physical activity, testing through competition and physical challenges, to demonstrate skills and prowess. You can see all this working on neighborhood basketball courts or skateboard parks.

The second biological issue is a young male's well researched and poorly wired prefrontal cortex. Simply stated, it's the part of the brain that helps them to think through the consequences of their choices. Sadly, up until the mid-twenties (and possibly beyond), this part of the brain is still under construction and is marginally functional.

If you take this biological picture as a whole, you come up with a very restless young guy, who is feeling powerful beyond reason, who is naturally combative, ready for action, and who isn't thinking clearly about his choices. This is the perfect young warrior.

2. Tribal Nature: Simply stated, guys need a tribe. Men have operated in packs for eons. Look at the fans in any sports stadium. You'll find mostly men, wearing similar colors, and cheering on "their" team. This sense of belonging, membership, and being part of a pack, is very masculine behavior. For the young guys, being part of a tribe, having an identity as a member, is pretty important.


Males also like hierarchies, think of a military or bureaucratic structure. In a hierarchy, the pecking order is clear and a guy's place in the order of things is laid out. Beyond just belonging in a pack, you know your place in the masculine order of things.

Being in a male tribe gives a young man access to the book on manhood. A tribe gives a young man a smorgasbord of men he can look up to for guidance. He's surrounded by masculine role models and men who may teach him important life skills. There may even be a path of testing or ordeals necessary to achieve full membership and acceptance into the group. This is a perfect match with a young man's need for challenges and proving his worthiness.

Tribe = the book on manhood!

Getting blessings from older men and ultimately acceptance into the adult male club, getting a place around the fire, or honored status in the pack, is a big hunger in young men. A Jihadist group, street gang, or football team all meet the young guy hunger for a tribe.

3. Honor, Respect and Contribution: What our young males want is to be seen (at all) and then respected for who they are and for their unique gifts. They want to stand for something, and if it's a good or noble thing all the better. And though you might find it odd, young guys want to contribute, to make a difference, to be in service. After a community service project, I've see young men smile and stand straighter in the sunshine of gratitude expressed by the food shelf staff, habitat house owner, or elder food delivery service.

They want to stand for something. . .

What too many young guys get in our communities today is pressure for invisibility and often no young guy park or guy place to hang out. Their graffiti "art" is criminalized and over-painted as soon as possible. Their appearance is ridiculed and their music often disrespected. They slink around in alleys, the woods, or at the mall trying not to attract negative attention. So if someone offers them honor, respect, and an opportunity to contribute to an important cause, why wouldn't they say "yes."


4. Hope: Too many young men simply don't see any kind of a desirable future. There is little hope for good work, advanced education, or any legal economic success. Without those things, the idea of being a family man, father, provider, husband, are all just distant concepts for other people. So many young men have been fatherless or under-male parented and don't have good role models for any life but the street. Living with chronic hopelessness as the background to your life is sad business and makes angry and resentful young men. If someone shows them a quick path out of that place, and offers some hope of reclaiming self-respect with a few goodies attached, why wouldn't a lost young man choose that path?

There are lots more reasons many of our young men are vulnerable to the call to warrior. Whether or not they make good choices is really up to us. What is clear is that our young men need our support, intentional guidance, positive community, and especially good men around them.

When it comes to Jihad, like Ebola, we don't have to wait till the epidemic of under-male-nourished boys is at our door and starts taking even more of our young men from us. We can start acting now. It's not really that hard to do, we just have to be willing.

If you want to talk about what you, your group, or your community can do four young men, give me a shout and let's talk about what we can create. The young guys are waiting and the time is now!



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October 19, 2014

How to start a Man-Making Movement

I'm all about inspiring others to take the risks of stepping forward to try a man-making activity. From witnessing countless men trying to find a way to show up for young guys, there are two things I know to be absolutely true. The first is that it's really hard for men do it wrong. In fact, when a good man steps forward, it most always leads to making a positive difference in some young guy's life, and him becoming a better man in the process. The second truth is it's really hard for men to get beyond the initial fear of looking bad or sounding foolish.

. . . it's really hard for men do it wrong.

Here is a funny and inspirational video clip that pretty accurately describes what it takes for a man to start a movement. It also shows how, if a person can find the courage to move past his fears, his actions can organically grow into a movement others may join. Look closely to see who, in addition to the guy who takes the first big step, shows up to make the big difference between success and failure.

Hope this inspires you to do something in service to yourself, men, and young guys today!


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

If you want to talk about easy, low-risk, man-making options that may be possible for you, give me a shout and I'll brainstorm with you.

Another thing I also know to be absolutely true is there are young males in your community who are at this moment waiting for you to get up and do something!


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October 11, 2014

President Obama Speaking Truth to Young Men

In the video clip below, President Obama is talking about the My Brother's Keeper Community Challenge he issued in September of 2014. He is speaking to the progress being made in calling men into service to young males. He describes a very long list of organizations, agencies, cities, and businesses that are all starting initiatives in support of (mostly) young men of color.

The President says America is realizing we won't succeed as a country unless our young people are successful, and that's why he's putting out this call to action. It's a beautiful thing to hear, especially for those of us who've been in man-making work for a long time.

What I liked so much is that he leads with his own very personal story of being a fatherless boy and support he got from his single mother and grandparents. It's a familiar story to those of us in the man-making field, but wonderful example of real vulnerability and hard truth-telling from a very powerful man.

. . . a wonderful example of
real vulnerability and hard truth-telling
from a very powerful man.

In the Question and Answer time, the President continues to tell it like it was when he admits to being a young teen male without direction, other than "misplaced goals" focused on basketball. As he got into high school and even in early college, the President confessed he didn't take his opportunities seriously and was "enjoying myself a little bit too much." I really liked his admission that, with all his privileges, many "second chances," and having access to advanced education, he was still very much a lost young man. That condition didn't change for President Obama until his twenties, when the young male brain starts to get better wired. That is when he started to look toward the future and take himself and his life seriously.

. . . the President confessed he was
"enjoying myself a little bit too much."

You will hear the President answer hard questions, like the one about how he learned to be a good father when he only met his dad once when he was 10. He speaks to the values all parents should teach their kids, and the power of an involved father or, for fatherless young guys, the importance of a caring adult man in a young boy's life.

I think the President Obama modeling truth-telling in this video is inspirational. That and the My Brother's Keeper Community Challenge are great gifts to man-making from the President of the United States.


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

You wouldn't be reading this at all if you didn't already care about what happens to our young men. If you're already working with some young guys, why not share the video with them and get their reactions. It's a powerful call to positive manhood from a very important place.



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September 30, 2014

Rites of Passage for "Tender Warriors"

The Tender Warrior Association (TWA) is a non-profit, group mentoring organization, serving male middle school students, ages 11-14, who are from Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, D.C. TWA is the inspiration of Jeff Robertson, it's Founder and Executive Director. While TWA was incorporated in 2008, Jeff has been on a hero's journey of Man-Making work for the past 20 years. Today, TWA consists of 3 major components, Outdoor Adventure Activities, Ivy League College Tour Program, and a powerful honoring event called the Tribe 7 Ceremony.

Outdoor Adventure Activities: The men and young men meet on the second Saturday of the month for fun and some time for just hanging out. While the activities vary, Jeff believes in getting his young men out into nature as much as possible. On any given Saturday, they may be playing sports, heading out for camping, or hiking. Whatever the activity, there is always time toward the end to circle up for a conversation about some aspect of becoming a man.

The Ivy League College Tour Program: When funds are available, men and the young guys head out to visit new cities and take a look at life on New England college campuses such as Princeton, Harvard, and Yale. Their next college visit will be a guided tour of Dartmouth College, including lunch on campus, and tour of the city of Hanover, New Hampshire. As a bonus, they are hoping to tour NBC studios in downtown New York City. These trips provide the young men with a look at the world beyond their communities and always expand their horizons and view of what's possible.

. . . powerful expressions of
acknowledgement, caring, and blessing
are focused on the young man.

The Tribe 7 Ceremony: The Tribe 7 Ceremony happens early in a boy's involvement with TWA. It's a ceremony in which a young man is witnessed and honored for crossing an important line on his journey toward manhood. The family of each young man is supported in finding 7 men from his circle of extended family, friends, faith community, school, or his neighborhood. These men agree to participate in the ceremony and to support the young man in the days and years ahead. Jeff says in a world where men are often absent in many parts of a boy's life, it's sometimes a big challenge for a family to even find 7 men who will step up. However, when the men are found and the Tribe 7 Ceremony is possible, there are powerful expressions of acknowledgement, caring, and blessing focused on the young man. The boy is always deeply moved as are the men and families participating around the edges of the event.


The video below is just a short segment of a Tribe 7 Ceremony. In it you can actually see the ritual working its magic on everyone. The young man, thirteen-year-old Shariff Levine, is at the center of it all, nervous but beaming. The men, sometimes also feeling a little awkward, each have 2 minutes in which to accept and commit to the role of man-maker in Shariff's life, bless the young man, and present him with a special object to which the man has given special meaning. In the ceremony, each of the candles and the swords has special meaning which is explained to the initiate. They represent values such as strength, passion, determination, courage, confidence, and there is even one for the young man's "unknown potential." As you watch, can you begin to feel the power of what these men are focusing on this one young man?



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

I don't know about you but I was blown away by Jeff giving Shariff a gift of opening a savings account for a college trust fund. It also warmed my male heart to hear the men surrounding Shariff pledge to be there for him as he moves toward manhood. Who among you wouldn't have wanted that in your life as you were entering adolescence?

On September 30th, Jeff Robertson is being honored by the Architect of the Capital for his innovation in creating this group mentoring organization for young boys of color. He is one of my Man-Making heroes and truly deserves all the recognition he gets (and more)! Speaking of more, if you like what Jeff is doing you can donate to his work. The donation request on the TWA website is for $7, but whether it's $7, $70, or $700, you can be sure it will be put right to work setting young men on a positive journey toward manhood. You can reach Jeff at (301) 442-7760 or visit the TWA website at: tenderwarriorjr.org to learn more about their programs.

Trust that you and your men friends
are hardwired . . .for this work . . .

If you are inspired by Jeff's example, gather up some of your men friends and see what you might create for a young man in your world. In addition to Jeff's example and others I've described on this blog, here is a "how to" article describing a passage event I created with some men friends years ago for one of the men's son.

Anything a group of good men
do in support of a young man or group of young men
simply can't fail.

Anything a group of good men do in support of a young man or group of young men simply can't fail. Be prepared for this work to feel a little awkward because it's been so long since this was a normal part of life for men. Trust that you and your men friends are hardwired, deep in your male psyche, for this work and will know the right things to do and say. Be ready to be amazed by the young men's reaction, what happens to your male heart, and the positive reaction from the community around you.

If you have even a little desire to do something and want some guidance, contact me. Right now there is something every man can do in service to young guys. It's time for men to go to work. The boys are waiting and, as men, we do know how to do this!



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September 23, 2014

Boys, Boobs, and Saying "Yes!"

I still remember my first touch of a naked female breast. It was in the back row of a dark movie theatre when I was maybe twelve. I was on an early adolescent date of sorts and I didn't really have a clue about what I was doing. I remember it took all the courage I had to make my way through a long run up of incremental steps to get to the object of my desire . . . that breast. I was with a girl just a little older than me who somehow managed to pretend none of it was happening, didn't say "no," and seemed to like the attention.

The breast, . . . was indeed
wonderful and otherworldly for me . . .

The breast, while it was indeed wonderful and otherworldly for me, was really just another player in the drama. I was already being propelled by my young male biology and in the grip of an ancient gender dance. Up to that moment in my life, I had NO actual experience with breasts or any other element of female anatomy. I also had no real understanding of what was going on in my body. In short, I didn’t know what I was doing or even why I was so magnetized by those breasts. I was simply operating on pure male instinct and loving it.

In my young male world at that time, there were early rumblings about girls' body parts, "scoring," and things vaguely sexual. Those ideas were mostly joked about in my young boy pack. The fact the guys a little older than us were very focused on girls wasn't lost on us, but no one in our age group really had a clue why. We knew something was going on but it was all a vague and exciting mystery.

The internet has changed everything. Today, kids with even a little sexual curiosity can go online and find all the information on the topic they can handle. An unsupervised adolescent male today can easily find enough information to become an amateur gynecologist. The good and the very bad information is all easily available. Because of how much questionable and blatantly bad information about sexuality is out there, adult guidance is even more important now than ever.


Sadly, too many parents are not having "the talk" with their kids . . . in time. A recent survey of parents and their 13 to 17 year-old kids published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (as reported in U.S. News and World Report), speaks directly to the need for an ongoing conversation about sexuality with kids. In the Talking Parent, Healthy Teens survey, just some of what they discovered included:
  • Almost half of teens had intercourse before their parents got around to talking with them about sexually transmitted diseases and birth control.
  • More than half of the teenagers had engaged in genital touching before discussing birth control effectiveness, resisting pressure for sex, and the importance of condom use with their parents.
  • Girls were more likely than boys to have had talks with parents about sex.
We all know someone has to talk with our young guys about these issues. Mark Schuster is one of the authors of the Talking Parents, Healthy Teens survey and is a co-author of a helpful book titled, Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex (but Were Afraid They'd Ask). It's perfect for parents trying to gear up for having "the talk" with their kids. If you're a parent of a young male, read a book, if necessary, and start the conversation with your young man. There is just too much at risk to pretend our young guys aren't going to be sexual.

When considering these conversations with young males, the questions of how to talk about sex, when to bring up the topic, who should be having the conversations, and what the content about sexuality should include, combine to create an extremity complicated matter. These questions are beyond the scope of this post, but I do feel those of us working with young males should be talking among ourselves and with the parents of young guys about how to raise the topic.

That all said, there may be a conversation parents and those of us working with the young dudes can have right now.

The California legislature has just passed a bill that clarifies what it means to have consensual sexual activity. “Activity" means not just the act of intercourse, but all the steps that lead up to two people getting it on. Here is a lot of information on that legal initiative.


This legislation begins to move the discussion out of the realm of someone having to say “no” and instead now requires both parties to say "yes," and keep saying yes as things progress! That means, "continuous, affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement by each party to engage in sexual activity.” Now that kind of agreement would have made my approach of a long run of incremental steps to get to the object of my desire, unacceptable. I’m thinking that would also be true of a lot of the strategies used by young guys these days.

. . . our young guys will need to know
how to have a
sexually intimate personal conversation.

Adolescent male sex impulses can be a lot like a snowball rolling downhill, gaining mass and momentum along the way. Given that fact, it’s going to take considerable guidance to make sure our young guys and women are safe in this new day of positive consent. In addition to managing powerful personal biological drives, our young guys will need to know how to have a sexually intimate personal conversation. We can and do need to teach them how to do that.

In our school-based and other circles with young men, personal truths are often spoken. When trust has been formed, there is a level of personal honesty, emotion, and real vulnerability that is often shared. The challenge will be to get young guys to bring this form of intimate exchange into their relationships with women . . . and to do so in the heat of a sexual moment.

There is plenty of grey area remaining between the California law’s legal consent requirements and the reality of human sexuality. But requiring a series of yes's along the way is a good start. Laws regarding consent won't stop someone intent on dominance, manipulating a partner, or committing sexual assault. Just having this issue in the public view can be a good reason to bring up the topic with our young men.

If all the barriers to having these intimate conversations can be overcome, discussions about having a healthy, mutually respectful, and positive relationship with a sexual (or any) partner can be launched with our young men. I say "Yes" to that!



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September 10, 2014

Saving Lost, Angry, and Confused Young Men

As you may know, I love the stories of one man, against all odds, stepping out to make the world a better place for young men and the rest of us. Ashanti Branch is one of those men, and I've written about him previously. I bring him to your attention again for your inspiration and to tell you about a way you can support his powerful mission and very good work.

By way of background, Ashanti was raised by a single mother on welfare and, at 6 years old, had to become the man of the house. Like myself and so many men in that situation, Ashanti had no male guidance, and says he, ". . . was left to figure manhood out by myself." He became an angry, lost, confused middle school kid, who was failing and headed for disaster. Luckily for Ashanti, there was one teacher who saw something special in him and gave him just enough caring support and encouragement to help him dig out of the hole he was in. Ashanti says that teacher, ". . . saved my life." And that's why he's showing up so powerfully in the lives of high-risk young guys today.

. . .supporting young high school men of color
who are failing fifty percent or more of their classes.

Ashanti's mission is to ". . . create a world of freedom by encouraging youth to break their chains." You can hear how his passion for this work comes through in this interview I did with him in 2013. In that conversation, Ashanti describes his Ever Forward Club, in which he's supporting young men of color in high school who are failing fifty percent or more of their classes. His success rates in moving kids from a path of almost certain failure to a college track are spectacular.

Because of his amazing success statistics, passion, and purpose, Ashanti has found his way to the TED stage where he's reaching an even larger audience. His TED talk is in the video below. In a strange and sad twist, the audio from his TED talk wasn't recorded. But lucky for us, one of his supporters captured most of his presentation on an iPhone and that's what you'll see. The quality isn't the best but his presentation rocks! His leading story about primate research, bananas, and young guys is heartbreaking.



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

YOU can support Ashanti and his work by making a donation on his Indiegogo fund-raiser campaign page . If you want to go the extra mile, send this post link to your Facebook friends and let's see if we can help Ashanti realize his vision of supporting 100 young men in Ever Forward Clubs in 10 schools by December 2014.

While each of us could do a little something to support the young men around us, most of us can't step into the front lines of man-making like Ashanti. What I'm sure, however, is through your donation, you and Ashanti will soon be making an important difference in the lives of otherwise lost young men in the Ever Forward campaign.



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August 13, 2014

We Got This - Young Dudes Cleaning Up the Hood!

Why would fifty young males actually show up to do some cleaning at 8 AM on a Saturday morning?


If you've been reading the Man-Making Blog for a while, you know I'm crazy for the stories where one man gets an idea and winds up changing the world . . . or at least the lives of people in his corner of the world. This is one of those stories and the man, one of my heroes, is Andre Ellis from Milwaukee.

Andre in black hat
In a story by WUWM - Milwaukee Public Radio, Andre is described as a playwright, a community gardener, and the man behind the "We Got This" program. As is often the case, the idea for a program to support young black youth actually came to get Andre, but he stepped up to grow and develop the idea.

It began last spring when an 11-year-old named Jermaine got arrested for breaking and entering. Jermaine is from a part of Milwaukee where thousands of the men are currently or have been in prison. It's a place with few jobs, lots of poverty, drugs, violence, and all the things that go along with those conditions.

When the boy's mom came to Andre with the sad story of her son's arrest, he was able to intervene with the police and get him released. Andre offered Jermaine $20 if he would meet him on a Saturday morning and do some "cleaning up where he messed up!" Jermaine did show up and worked hard alongside Andre. They had some great conversation and the two guys bonded some. The following Saturday, Jermaine showed up with 5 friends all ready to work . . . and get paid.


Andre saw what might be possible, put out the call for men and money, and the "We Got This" program was launched. On a given Saturday now, up to fifty young men show up and are put to work cleaning up their community. They are mentored along the way by some of the men from the community. Not only is this a rare opportunity for young guys to become a part of community life by being in service, but they get the additional benefits of being around good men too. The twenty bucks doesn't hurt either.

"I am great. I am mighty.
I am awesome. I am magnificent....”

You can read the whole story on the WUWM website. On that page you can also hear the audio report and, in it, hear Andre pumping up the young men with inspiration and guidance. The boys follow his lead and chant, "I am great. I am mighty. I am awesome. I am magnificent....” This is one beautiful story of a good man caring about a young guy and being willing to step into action.

Andre is making a huge difference in the lives of many young men and in the life of his community. At the same time, I am absolutely certain that the adult men working with him in the "We Got This" program with him are getting the gifts of brotherhood, pumped-up male-esteem, and the respect and gratitude of their neighbors. These brothers are doing men's work and everyone benefits when that happens and when men say, "We Got This!"

Everyone benefits when men say,
"We Got This!"

Just imagine what you and a couple of your men friends might create for a few of the young dudes in your community. If, after reading this, you have even a hint of "maybe I could do something," contact me and let's kick some ideas around. I know two things for sure: Because you're reading this, you are the man for the job, no question. Second, I'm just as certain there are a few young guys out there, right now, waiting for you to show up.



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July 23, 2014

The Man-Making Power of Fathers

You've heard me say it here before, "Fathers are the most powerful man-making force on the planet . . . IF they're involved with their sons." Here are a few selections about fatherhood, and a much deserved shout out to engaged and committed fathers, and those working with them.



Being An Imperfect Father: Louis Szekely, known by his fans as Louis C.K., is a Mexican-American comedian, screenwriter, producer, film director, actor, and now, father. For Father's Day, he came out with this funny but intensely personal video (below) about what it means to be a real father. I love the truth-speaking and personal vulnerability with which he owns his lack of perfection as a dad. This is especially touching because C.K.'s parents divorced when he was ten and he said, "his father was around but he did not see him much."

. . . what it means to be a real father.

I think his admission about being a gloriously imperfect but committed father helps those of us who had complicated relationships with their dads to find the path to forgiveness. In giving us this little piece of truth about fatherhood, he gives every man, doing his best as a father, permission to hang in and keep going in spite of self-doubts or even other people's judgments.

Thanks C.K.



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



How Movies Teach Manhood: Colin Stokes is a father who is concerned about the images of manhood today's films convey to his young son and other boys. In his TED video, How Movies Teach Manhood (below), he says in films today it's too often the case, ". . . if you're a boy you're a dopey animal, and if you're a girl you should bring your warrior costume."


He also describes how fathers can be a good example of manhood and why dads need to manage the "Netflix queue" to be sure their sons are watching films with positive messages about manhood. In the TED talk clip below, I don't agree with all his examples, but I really like his invitation to fathers to be intentional about managing the flow of ideas their sons are taking away from films (and other media).

As Colin Stokes suggests, it's important fathers ensure their sons learn positive lessons like: cooperation is heroic, relationships are important, both genders can share power and be leaders, and women should be respected. It would be great if our young males felt this vision of manhood was more manly than just defeating the villain and getting the girl.



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



Support Groups for Dads: There are many good men working in support of fathers and families. Here are two good examples:

Haji Shearee directs the Fatherhood Initiative at The Children’s Trust, in Boston, Massachusetts. Haji is a licensed social worker whose goal is to strengthen families by increasing father involvement. Haji does this by facilitating father's groups. As a result of his work in those groups, he has just published the book, Facilitating Fathers' Groups: 22 Keys to Group Mastery.

In a recent Man-Making Blog post, I described some of the common elements of support groups for men and young men. Haji says while his book is focused on groups of fathers, it will be helpful to anyone doing groups with men and young guys. His book is available at Amazon now.



"A toolbox approach to fatherhood
in all its forms."

Fathers on the Move: Two solid brothers in mission with The MensWork Project are conducting a Fathers on the Move workshop. They are billing it as, "A toolbox approach to fatherhood in all its forms." The workshop will invite men to review their life’s journey and how the various aspects of fatherhood have impacted their lives. In a supportive group setting, men will explore personal experiences around topics such as:
  • The impact of your dad on your life, the outcomes, and your current options.
  • You as a father (or perhaps grandfather now) and the variety of feelings you are carrying about this role.
  • Your children’s experience of you as a father – including blended and step family situations.
  • Opportunities for enhancing/applying your fathering skills for your children/grandchildren.
The workshop is being facilitated by Geoff Paull and Wes Carter, men who each have a successful history of presenting personal growth workshops for men. I have no doubt that these two good men will deliver on their promise to help any man build his fatherhood toolbox, increase fathering skills, and change the direction of his life going forward. If this sounds good to you, and you are going to be in or near Perth, Australia on the 31st of August 2014, give them shout. Geoff Paull – contact@mensworkproject.org, or Wes Carter - menswork@iinet.net.au



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