October 18, 2016

When Did You Become a "Man?"

Back when I was doing research for the Man-Making book, one of the questions I asked men was, "When did you, without question, become a man?"

It's really a great question for the times, in part because of the many, confusing, and often contradictory notions of modern manhood. Some men took a stab at an answer by mentioning important moments in a guy's life such as, having first sex, getting a license, getting married, becoming a parent, going to war, and so on.

But without a clear line to cross to definitively answer the manhood question, their responses most often reflected uncertainty, a little guy-shame, and some hunger for something deep inside that was missing. The most honest, and the most common, response was some version of, "I'm not sure I'm a 'man' yet today!"

"I'm not sure I'm a 'man' yet today!"

Over the years in this blog I've profiled many different groups that offer some form of a ritualized passage experience for their boys (and men). For all that activity, it's really just a start, as though we're just beginning to realize the importance of this work and its impact on the male psyche. You have to look hard to find communities and tribal cultures that have a long and deep history of this initiatory technology.

In a few places these rituals have survived into present time. What I love about them is that wherever they are performed, and however unusual they may appear to our modern eyes, they do provide a clear answer for the man or men involved as to when the manhood line was crossed.

"When did you, without question,
cross the line and enter man's world?"

What is your manhood story? When did you, without question, cross the line and enter man's world? If you don't have an answer, like so many other men, you might feel just a little lost on your journey toward manhood. And with so many men feeling trapped in the never-never land between boyhood and manhood, how can we ever expect our adolescent males to find the door to the men's hut without guidance?

When you have a moment, check out this National Geographic Video talking about a rite of passage event of the Dogan people in Mali. It's called the Dama, and it's importance for the men, and the whole community, is very clear.

The Door to Dogan Manhood


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

If you want to talk about how to create a rite of passage event for some of the young males in your world, give me a shout. A continuum of possibilities are waiting, experiences that vary from very brief and simple moments to something a little more involved. None of these actions are beyond you and a couple of your men friends.

How do you feel about the fact that your emerging manhood was not recognized and celebrated in your teen years? If you have a lingering hunger for that experience, perhaps it will drive you to action. It's the best way I know of to plug up those leaks in your male psyche. Trust me, you are hardwired for this work, and I know the boys are waiting.



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September 27, 2016

Helping Boys Cope with Grief

Robert Lucas lost his dad. His father had a long illness before he died, but that only made a wrenching loss a little easier to take. Losing your father is always a big marker in a guy's life, but it can be especially difficult for an angry eighteen-year old young man.

We all know loss and grief are a common and normal part of everyone's life. But for a young male, with limited emotional vocabulary and just as limited cultural permission to show up sad and vulnerable, the big losses can create a pressure cooker of big and complicated feelings. A big loss like Robert's can easily send a kid over the edge into some form of darkness.

Robert was lucky. He had spent three years with the Boys to Men Mentoring Network of Virginia (BTMVA). That's three years to learn all his feelings were welcome in their circles. With time, he was able to unpack and unpack his considerable anger. He learned he was not alone with the hard parts of his life, that he was accepted no matter what, and that he had other young guys and a tribe of good men around him for support. All that came in handy when his dad died.

Here is a collage of photos from various BTMVA events that include Robert and some of the men and boys from the group. The joy of connection and belonging is obvious.


Robert wrote a rap song/poem to his father to offer as his eulogy at his dad's funeral. When he stood to speak at the funeral, he asked ten of the BTMVA men to stand behind him to literally have his back in the most difficult of moments. If you read the lyrics closely, you can hear a brave young man trying to cope with the complex collection of thoughts and feelings that came with facing the death of his father. Here, in his own words, is what Robert said:

It been a long time coming!
Pop as I write this letter to you Understand tears was shed Hearing those four words your father is dead Gone off this earth It's crazy thinkin you gone yeah it hurts But honestly I can't be selfish Looking in your eyes pops you was lifeless Couldn't stand up and barely walking Couldn't speak you were barely talking 5 long years seeing you suffer

Witnessing it made me strong it made me tougher So many memories you share with me I still remember long summer you me and the PS3 Face bright joyful heart Our bond can never be torn apart

Dad it's still very hard to comprehend Your gone and I'm the sky you ascend No stress no more worries nor no pain

Imma be alright and gonna maintain Still thankful you seen my graduate I had to finish couldn't hesitate Thanks for giving me all that knowledge Pops I promise you one thing I'm heading back to college I'm ready to carry on the lucas legacy

I still remember those things you said to me "Jr watch your friend they you closes enemy's" this worlds crazy so be prepare mentally Some people real those relationships meant to be Some wait till you turn your back stab you and say that Dude dead to me Tell People what he did and straight fled the scene He said jr let me break it down let me explain

I said yea pops I'm listening heart filled with pain He said I been alive a while Seeing walk across that stage made me proud you should have seen my smile If only you wore my shoes probably couldn't last mile He said times is getting rougher Situations tougher All this fighting I'm doing doc said I prob won't recover So you the man that means take care of your mother

After the funeral service, BTMVA hosted a meal at a local restaurant attended by Robert's family and many of the BTMVA boys and men. His community gathered around him in support. It was as beautiful as these difficult moments can be. But for so many other boys like Robert, who are angry, pressurized, and alone, it often turns out quite different.

Robert is a success story!

The good news is Robert is a success story! He has graduated high school and will soon be moving to Pennsylvania to live with his Mom. He intends to honor his promise to his dad to attend college. He has found his heart and voice, and instead of stuffing big feelings behind a mask of teen bravado, he shared his story with the world. He asked for support, and leaned on his friends in dealing with this huge challenge. These are important life lessons he's learned at a young age.

Stories like Robert's are not uncommon in the Boys to Men network, or in the many other places where men are showing up for our boys. Here's another story from a past blog post about a boy who had to put his horse to death, and how a circle of men and young guys helped him cope.

. . . I know the Roberts of the world are waiting.

In writing this now, I'm feeling the sadness of the losses in my life as a teen that I had to face alone. I always wonder who I'd be today if I had found the support and caring for the hard parts of my life that Robert was lucky enough to find. But then, that's why I'm involved and maybe why you're reading this! Give me a shout if you're interested in joining other men in this good work. I know you won't regret it, and I know the Roberts of the world are waiting.



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September 21, 2016

Boys, Tears, and Money



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

I have been working with young males for more than fifteen years. Much of my time with boys has been spent within the Boys to Men Network. On many occasions, I've shed tears when witnessing the raw pain and courage of so many young men. On passage weekends or sitting in a school circle, I've heard countless boys share their stories of loss, abandonment, abuse, and family dysfunction. I've been a witness to their struggles to just cope in their complicated worlds of school, relationships, and the streets. I'm way biased, but just like the video showed, I believe a lot more of our boys need what these young men are getting.

. . . a lot more of our boys need
what these young men are getting.

I've also witnessed men's hearts be opened as a result of exposure to the vulnerability and brutal honesty of the young men they encounter in this work. While I know the adult male attention is good for the boys, this work also creates better men. I know I am a better man for my involvement.

Over the years in this blog, I've profiled lots of good and worthy groups of men who are showing up for boys in different ways. But in this post, I'm going to be a little selfish. I want you to know about two organizations that are very close to my heart. Because of my personal involvement, I know the impact on real lives these organizations are having. That's also why, for the first time in the history of this blog, I'm doing what is a little uncomfortable for me. I'm asking you to consider a financial donation.

The Desert Men's Council:The Desert Men's Council (DMC) in Tucson, AZ is where I give most of my time in schools and on outdoor adventures. DMC is holding their Annual Bike for Boys - Bike-A-Thon this Saturday. It is hoped this event will raise enough money to add at least two schools to the six we are already serving. Your donation, no matter what amount, WILL help this important work go forward. I know they need the money and I support them financially. If you're willing, here is the donation link. If you miss the Bike-A-Thon deadline, you can always donate on the DMC website or just give me a shout.

Boys to Men USA:Last fall I was part of a group of men from around the United States who formed Boys to Men USA. The fourteen community-based, USA centers, like DMC in Tucson, combined their experience and passion to form a national not-for-profit corporation. The goal of Boys to Men USA is to share best practices, standardize our offerings, and ultimately serve boys in even more communities.

This October the Boys to Men USA 2nd Annual Summit gathering will be held in Tucson, AZ. Because of the financial challenges of volunteer-based organizations, some of the centers are not able to send representatives to the Summit. If you want to help grow this evolving network of dedicated men, you can make a small donation on the Boys to Men USA GoFundMe page. Even small amounts will help, and be a vote of support.

If you're not able to support young guys directly,
. . . support the men who are . . .

You wouldn't still be reading if, at some level, you didn't hear a call to action, a call to help our young men. If you're not able to support young guys directly, you can support the men who are doing that work by making a small donation. I know every donation made to these two organizations will play a role in making a young man's life better.

Thanks!



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September 6, 2016

A Powerful Call to Men to be MEN!

Denis Waitley
This video is the most beautiful call to man-making I've heard in a long time. It's by Chaim Dunbar. He is the founder and CEO of We Be ONE, ". . . a multicultural unity movement. Unified with the awareness and understanding that we are all individual parts of one human family."

If Chaim's video doesn't
touch your masculine soul,
you may not have one.

I'll let Chaim speak for himself in the video below.





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


Onward my brothers, the world is waiting!




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August 20, 2016

A Man's 500 Ton Initiation

In a recent blog post, I wrote about how a young fisherman was initiated into his profession with a trial by waves, tobacco juice, fish guts, and heat. It was a tough rite of passage. In many professions we still see some form of testing, formal and/or informal, required of the beginner or novice in order to earn the full acceptance and privileges of man's world.

At the end of that "fish guts" post, I asked you, the readers, to let me know if you had encountered any ordeal, testing, or initiation into man's world as you went through life. One reader, Brian E., sent along this story about how he earned the respect of the men in his world of work with BIG cranes.



Hi Earl, part of my passage into manhood was about earning acceptance into my profession. I was 28 when I joined the International Union of Operating Engineers. I started as a journeyman apprentice at a crane company and, initially, my company would use me as a "yard kid." I would help the mechanics, run for parts, pick up trash, and so forth. To prove myself, I would always go beyond my regular duties to straighten up the rigging and do a good job of keeping the yard organized.


Liebherr 500 Ton Crane
The company was in the business of delivering, setting up, and operating the large cranes you see on big construction sites. One of the crane operators took notice of my work and told the office that he wanted me to become his new oiler, even though other journeymen wanted that position. An oiler has a lot of responsibility, everything from driving the crane to the site, positioning the crane on the site, and helping place the counter weights during setup and operations. So it was a kind of compliment to get picked.

...only two men ever made him cry...

This operator was nice, but was often a real jerk. While he'd compliment me every once and awhile, if I did something wrong he would yell at me and really make me feel less than human. If he caught me without a rag in my hand and not cleaning the crane while he was operating, he would yell "if I'm working, you're working," and slam his door closed. I didn't like getting yelled at so I didn't make the same mistake twice. He would tell me that I was getting off easy and that he had it a lot worse from the operator who taught him. Once he told me that only two men ever made him cry, his dad and the operator that taught him.

I'm a pretty smart guy. I knew he was really teaching me to become a darn good hand who can work anywhere and be accepted by the elite in my trade. A lot of it had to do with safety, because my profession is very dangerous. In the past ten years, I've seen many men with missing fingers, men who have been crushed, and men who have died. Behind all that gruffness, he was actually protecting me, maybe keeping me alive.

I became a better man . . . because of him.

I appreciated the tough love, and I know I became a better man, coworker, and crane operator because of him. Like I said, I didn't get a lot of compliments from him. However, when I recently went to my old company and worked with him for a day, he told me he really missed having good help around. Coming from him, that meant a lot to me.



If you're paying attention, you'll often hear these initiation stories and their impact. They are most often about building up new guy and preparing them for success in their future. If you have a story about this kind of "welcome to man's world" in your life, please send it to me. If you're really motivated, give me a shout and let's talk about how you might create an intentional passage experience in the life of a young man you know.



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August 11, 2016

When Young Men Enter Man's World!

The YMAW, or Young Men's Adventure Weekend, is held every year in a primitive, lake-side forest, outside of the city of Vancouver, British Columbia. I've been on this amazing journey to manhood adventure, been changed by it, and have written about it previously.

There is just something about the chemistry of a large, multi-generational pack of men in a wilderness setting that is transformative. Just guys, being a little wild, having a lot of fun, all while taking young male lives seriously. I tell you it makes my masculine heart sing!

Check out this video and see if you don't feel a call to be there.


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

Like all the males involved, I, too, am always touched deeply by my time in this kind of man's world. While the advertising is always about showing up for the young guys, the truth is all the males involved are changed for the better by the experience. In the afterglow of these kinds of events, I'm always left wondering what would my life today be like if I had been surrounded by, and cared for, in this way by so many good men? Who would you be today if this was part of your story?

Who would you be today
if this was part of your story?

These kinds of Rites of Passage events in man's world are going on regularly, around the U.S. and the world. Even if you have to travel a half a world away to attend, I highly recommend adding it to your masculine bucket list. I can say with some authority this experience will change your life and will make you a better man.

You can give me a shout and I'll help you find an event somewhere that's a fit for you.

The YMAW 2017 will be held on July 7, 8, 9th, and registration is now open. You can get more information and contact the YMAW guys through their website or by visiting their FaceBook page.

I don't think you'd be reading this far if you didn't feel the stirring in your male soul. The young men and this adventure is waiting for you to say "yes" to the call you hear.



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July 20, 2016

A Rite of Passage Ordeal by Fish and Tobacco Juice

Finding different ways to honor a young man as he moves through various benchmarks on his way toward manhood is just a good and maybe important thing to do. Over the years, I've written about many of these transitions and made suggestions about how to amplify them with attention and sometimes a little ritual.

Here is a link to some 60+ Man-Making Blog posts about different passage experiences. The posts cover everything from birthdays, a first shaving lesson, getting a driver's license, to the more serious rituals for "crossing the line" from boyhood into early manhood for an adolescent male. In each of these moments, something changes in a young man's life. If the men in his world are aware and engaged, there is an opportunity for them to honor and celebrate the young man. Who among you got enough of that when you were growing up?

Sadly, intentional Rites of Passage
for young men
have largely disappeared.

Sadly, intentional Rites of Passage for young men have largely disappeared or are very under-played in our culture. While there are a few organizations that offer them, most of our young guys are left with few choices as they are propelled by their biology toward manhood.

One common option is self-initiation, often involving dangerous and very high-risk activities. You'll see competitive and "I'll show you" kinds of foolishness, fueled by testosterone and guided by a poorly wired teen brain.

Then there are peer initiations through things like hazing, gang challenges, ordeals and the trials required of boys and men everywhere to gain membership to what I call the men's hut . . . the place where manhood is conferred and honored.

Tribal Initiation 1975
On a recent vacation trip, I came across a good example of how one profession tested the new guy. Last summer, I was listening to an old fisherman speaking at the fishing museum on the shore of Lake Superior in Bayfield, Wisconsin. He was describing the challenges of fishing on the big lake, and the seaworthiness of the Lake Superior gill net fishing boat. It had an all-metal construction and an odd whale-like shape, perfect for riding large waves. It could also quickly become a completely enclosed workspace if the conditions required, complete with a small coal stove for heat. It was a boat perfectly designed for working the cold and often stormy seas fishermen often encounter on the big lake.


When I inquired, the old fisherman said they had a special way of initiating the new guys into the profession:
When we had a new helper on the crew, we’d wait for a good’n stormy day for the “welcome.” As part of the tradition, someone would kindly take the new man out for a large and greasy breakfast. Then, as we were heading out, we'd send the new guy below to work on the nets. He thought he was getting off easy because he was going to be out of the bad weather and be warm and dry.

When the boat was really pitching and rolling in the big water outside the islands, one of us old guys would go down to chat with him and commence with spitting tobacco juice on the hot stove. That pungent fragrance, along with the heating of the wooden floor, with its years of accumulated fish gut residue, would rise up a stink you could smell in a fog bank long before you could even hear an engine.

This ordeal by fear, sea, and odor always brought the new guy to his knees. Us old timers, after having a good chuckle, always felt new respect for him and went easier on him after that.
The old fisherman was laughing during the telling of this tale, most likely because he and many generations before him had experienced this uncomfortable ordeal. It was a Rite of Passage which earned the poor initiate a degree of acceptance into that world of men. While some form of testing and trials have always been part of initiatory experiences, today we have the opportunity and freedom to create what's best and relevant for our boys in each community.

If you have a similar story of an ordeal you faced at some point in your life to gain entry or acceptance to man's world, I'd love to hear it. You can send it to me or add it to the comments section of this post.

Personally, I'm all for intentionally creating positive passage experiences for our young men. If you're interested in how to do that, give me a shout. Let's all try to find a way we can notice, name the transition, and honor young men as they move along on their journey toward manhood.



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July 3, 2016

Men Helping Boys on THEIR Journey To Manhood

With one simple question, a Sudanese refugee named Ojulu Agote changed the course of my life and set me on the path to becoming a better man.

As a volunteer for the organization that brought Ojulu and his family to the U.S., I was meeting with him to help him settle into Minneapolis. Specifically, I was considering how to get him and his family the things he needed to make it through a brutally cold Minnesota February.

In Africa, Ojulu's family had experienced the horrors and dislocation of tribal warfare, all the abuses of years in a refugee camp, and now, here he was in a big American city with their clothing, a lamp, mattresses on the floor, and little else. He and his family were living in a cockroach infested, one-bedroom apartment, and were facing a mountain of practical needs. When I asked Ojulu how I might help him in his new world, the first thing he said was, “Will you teach my son how to be a man in your country?”

Will you to teach my son how to be a man in your country?

Here was a man who literally had nothing, yet at the top of his priority list was finding a male elder who could guide his then four-year-old son Okugn toward manhood in this new world. Ojulu felt if his son did not make a successful crossing into manhood, everything he had fought for in getting his family to this country could be lost. He knew that while his love for his son was powerful, his son needed the support of other men in his new village.

In truth, I was shocked by Ojulu’s request. I don’t remember my exact reply, but I do remember feeling embarrassed and strangely inadequate. I had no children myself and up to that point, had never played an intentional mentoring role in any adolescent boy’s journey toward manhood. My truth in that moment is that I was actually afraid of accepting the responsibility to be a mentor to Okugn. There had been no caring, involved, and supportive adult men around me as a boy so I didn't have a model for the mentoring role Ojulu was asking me to play. I didn't believe I had the skills or experience I thought the job required. At a deeper level, I didn't believe I was good enough to guide anyone's son toward manhood. His words touched something deep, sad, and confusing within me, and led to a quest that ultimately change the course of my life.

. . . I didn't believe I was good enough
to guide anyone's son toward manhood.

For advice on how to respond to Ojulu’s request, I began talking to my men friends. I also started a website to collect stories and suggestions from men from around the world about their path to manhood and how they would respond to the challenge from Ojulu. Ultimately, I began examining my own adolescence in depth and in doing so, unearthed old and primal feelings of anger and sadness. I realized that in many ways, as an adult man, I was still wearing the mask of normalcy I learned to put on over all the pain I experienced as a boy.

In the responses to my questions to men, I learned I was not alone in feeling not qualified to mentor a boy. By societal standards, as a man in the world, I was doing great in my profession and in my relationships. The truth underneath all that was a sense I had never acquired that mysterious collection of male skills, knowledge, clarity of life purpose, or the core confidence that makes up a mature and realized man. Like so many of the men responding to my questions, I never felt I crossed a line or was witnessed and acknowledged for entering man's world. As odd as it sounds, I could not say with any authority I was in fact a "man."

As odd as it sounds,
I could not say with any authority
I was in fact a "man."

Ojulu’s question about mentoring his son became a launch pad from which I set out to discover and become the man I wanted to be. That was over twenty years ago. As a result of this quest, I have found a personal mission for the third thirty years of my life, a mission of service that finds me in the role of connecting good men with boys and young men wherever I can.

My journey of self-discovery led to launching the Man-Making blog in 2004, and publishing the book Man Making - Men Helping Boys on Their Journey to Manhood in 2006. In addition to doing my best for Ojulu's son, I have many mentoring relationships with young men. I have also joined with other men to build group mentoring organizations that operate in communities in the US and around the globe.


I'm not saying all this to brag. Rather I'm standing as a model for men who've not yet come forward to become a man-maker for a young man or boys in their world. When you risk becoming a man-maker at any level, the male hardwiring for guiding and supporting young males naturally shows up in you. You soon will feel the rightness of your involvement and find your place in the male order of things. From my time on these passage weekends, on adventure outings, and in school circles, I've witness this happen to countless men. In fact, it's the most selfish reason I do this work, I'm a much better man as a result.

JourneymanUK Passage Weekend
Ianto Doyle is involved with JourneymanUK, an organization doing Rites of Passage experiences and other group mentoring events with men and young guys (more about this below). In a recent exchange, Ianto said for men to discover this generative quality of masculinity that resides in them they must spend extended time with young men. It's in the process of being with young males that "manhood" will be called out of them.

It's in the process of being with young males
that "manhood" will be called out of them.

In my case, my first step toward becoming a man-maker was the result of Ojulu’s question. A question born of tribal wisdom that called me to the ancient and necessary work of guiding young males on their journey to manhood. But what about you? I don't think you'd still be reading this if you didn't, at some level, feel the call to man-making. My hope is that you hold that feeling gently. Then, when the man-making opportunity shows up, and it will, you'll step into your journey of discovery.

At this link is a beautiful story about a man, maybe a regular guy just like you, who stepped up when the invitation to step into man-making presented itself. It's my hope that when your chance comes along, you too will accept.

To read some of the other stories men have sent to me about their man-making experiences, go to the Men's Stories page on the Man-Making website. I you have a man-making story to share, send it along and I'll add it to the growing list.

To learn more about what the men of JourneymanUK are doing, visit their website. Their next Rites of Passage weekend is the 8th - 10th of July near Stroud, UK. You can also email Ianto Doyle, I know he'd love to hear from you.



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June 19, 2016

An UN-Father's Day Message

Fathers, for better and worse, are THE most powerful man-making force on the planet. In this dad season, good fathers are my heroes, and certainly deserve high praise and celebration. That said, here's another way to think about Father's day.

. . . that stew pot of memories
called "Dad" . . .

As the commercial messages about Father's Day bring fathers and fatherhood into sharp focus, for me that stew pot of memories called "Dad," with its very mixed bag of confusing emotions, gets seriously stirred up. From my childhood through adolescence, my dad was lost in his marriage, was sick, and in the throes of alcoholism. While there were some gifts from him, too often he treated me horribly and I've been finding my way back ever since. Even though I know my father was the best dad he was able to be, I'm left feeling the complicated remnants of rage, love, sadness, hopelessness, and a kind of father-hunger driven emptiness at my core.

After years of self-discovery work and digging around in my family history, I've been able to find some true expressions of my dad's fatherly love. Like water in the desert, I treasure those few positive memories. Taken together, they form a small shield I can use to protect myself on Father's Day. At this point in my life, I'm exhausted by both talking and not talking about my dad issues. But when the third Sunday of June approaches each year, for me it's an Un-Father's Day. I find myself looking forward to the relief on the day after Father's Day when it all goes underground again.

In this dad season, I'm also very much reminded of the many men, adolescent males, and young boys I've come across in my man-making work who don't have any good dad memories at all to use as a defense on Father's Day. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I think of all the really bad dad stories shared across a circle by sobbing guys.

I'm just saying,
I've heard lots of really bad dad stories.

I have heard from countless men, young men, and boys who have never known a dad because he simply wasn't identifiable, because they were adopted at birth, or because of a court ordered separation from their fathers. There are all the dads who left during pregnancy, or the dads who were shot in the hood from gang violence. Then there are all the kids whose dads are in jail, or lost to PTSD or substance abuse. I remember a soft-spoken boy of ten whose initiation name was Steel Heart. He was in the room when his dad killed himself with a shotgun blast to the head. I'm just saying, I've heard lots of really bad dad stories.


I always wonder if just the idea of Father's Day results in re-wounding these fatherless males. I wonder if the day stirs up their deep, confusing, profound, and very well-defended sense of abandonment and father-loss. For them and me, again this year, it will be very much an Un-Father's Day.

So on this Father's Day, if you have the good fortune to have a good dad to honor, count yourself as lucky, and don't miss a chance to say thank you. However imperfectly he fathered you, he was there and doing the best he could do. He deserves to be thanked and celebrated. Thanks Dad, I love you.

After honoring your father, please take a moment to allow into your heart all those tragically abandoned or under-fathered young guys in the world around you. The boys, young men, and men who won't feel those good-dad feelings on Father's Day. Remember that on Father's Day, and every other day of the year, these guys will experience a profound hunger for the blessings that can only come from having a caring father in your life. Remember all the boys and men who, maybe like me, are just hoping all this complicated emotional dad business will pass by soon, go back underground, and that life somehow will get back to a survivable normal on the day after Un-Father's Day.

. . . I believe there is/was a father who loved you.

On my Un-Father's Day card I'd write:
Today I honor good dads everywhere. Thanks you for all you have done and will do. Blessings also on the dads who in some way checked-out, who walked or were not available to their sons, and on the sad legacy they have to live with as a result. And especially, blessings on confused, sad, and dad-hungry males everywhere. Buried underneath all the drama and tragedy that kept you and your father apart, in my heart I believe there is/was a father who loved you.


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May 29, 2016

Welcoming Young Men To Man's World

I believe men are hardwired for initiating young males into manhood, and if a hundred or so males of different ages were shipped off to a remote island, all the right things would eventually happen.

I believe men are hardwired
for initiating young males
into manhood.

Shortly after all the guys arrived on the island, a male hierarchy would quickly be established. All manner of tasks and challenges would be offered and met. Important survival skills would be taught, games and competitions would happen, and there would be a good deal of joking around, farting, and general playfulness.

Along the way, some serious conversations would take place, and important bonds would naturally occur. At some point, the young men would eventually be invited into the men's circles, and it would be a life-changing experience for everyone. I know that scenario is true because I've experienced it many times. Well, maybe not a hundred guys and not on an island, but almost!

Sadly, most men have forgotten their role and responsibility for this ancient and sacred man-making work with young males. The good news is there are places you can go to remember and relearn.


One place is the YMAW, or Young Men's Adventure Weekend. Imagine almost a hundred males, young, old, and older, gathering deep in a wilderness forest outside of Vancouver, British Columbia. It's camping around a large clearing, next to an impossibly beautiful lake, with big mountain backdrop, and in a very old forest. It feels primitive and a little wild just as you'd expect man's world should be. While the events that make up this experience are pretty well scripted, there is a lot of room for male chemistry to work it's magic on everyone.

Here's some beautiful photos from the 2015 YMAW that really tell the story visually.

For a more energized taste of the experience here's a video clip from a past YMAW. The theme for the weekend that year was Voyagers, and the young men were invited to see themselves as explorers and adventurers on their quest for manhood. In addition to the fun, watch for the caring conversations, the challenges to teams of young men, the forest background, and the incredible food! I especially love how the young adventurers arrive in Man's World!



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

This year the YMAW is being held July 8th - 10th and a spot for you, and maybe that of a young man you know, are waiting. The men who come from distant places are called outlanders but they are treated every bit like a very welcome guest. When you go, the YMAW men will connect with you in advance and assign you a weekend buddy to make sure you have a solid man at your back from arrival to departure. Your ground transportation and gear needs will be handled, so all you have to do is jump in and savor the experience. I've been there, experienced their caring treatment, and loved every minute. It's been going on for over 25 years so I can say these men really know what they are doing.

If you want to combine a trip to a truly beautiful place while hanging out with men in the business of changing young male lives, you really should take a trip to man's world at the YMAW. For more information on attending, or just to talk with the YMAW guys about this kind of man-making work, visit the YMAW website. You can also contact one of the YMAW founders, Brad Leslie at bradleslie@telus.net. I know the YMAW men will be happy to hear from you.



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May 3, 2016

Initiating Teenage Lads in the UK

It makes me happy to know that men around the world are supporting young guys on their path toward manhood. It's good work for men and always good for the boys. Dick Baker is a leader and mentor with JourneymanUK in Stroud, Gloucestershire, Great Britain. This is his story of how he found some direction for his life when he connected with other men and formed a group to initiate boys.



As I approach my 50th year, I feel grateful for an amazing first half of my life. I have always been an optimist, taken opportunities, and just gone with the flow. In many ways this has served me. But it was in my mid-thirties, after my wife and I had moved our family across the country for a better life, when I started to have questions about my purpose in life. Who was I really and how was I showing up in the world? Why had I spent so long without ever really asking these questions? I didn’t really know where to go for the answers, but having put out the questions, the answers, of course, came . . . just much later in life.

. . . an initiation of sorts in 2009
helped me to understand a lot more
about what it is to be a man.

As it turned out, going through an initiation of sorts in 2009 helped me to understand a lot more about what it is to be a man in today’s world and gave my life some meaningful direction. Some answers came as the result of my accepting an invitation to join other local men on an Inner Mentor Training (IMT) hosted by a Boys to Men leader from the United States.

Part of the IMT training was remembering what my teenage self was like. You see, my teenager didn't have many male role models to guide him. I hadn't learned to really trust myself, be true to myself, or even to accept myself. While there were men in my life, none of them took on the role of being a mentor and guide. I realized that if men had chosen to be involved in my life when I was a teenager, I might have stepped into early manhood more consciously and at the right age. I would have found I had real gifts to bring the world, was a person of value, and had men as guides for those difficult years.

To be honest after the IMT training, I was left feeling sad I had to wait to almost mid-life to find these gifts in myself. So when the men from Stroud were riding home from the training in a minibus, we all talked about how we might create something for teenage boys in our community. By the time we got home the seeds of movement were planted and JourneymanUK was born.


We held our first Rite of Passage Adventure Weekend in the spring of 2011. Since then our core of about 20 men, supported by many others, have done four passage weekends and held space for 52 boys to ‘initiate’ themselves on their way to manhood. After their weekend the boys earn the title of Journeyman or Jman, and there are now two Jman group mentoring circles for boys in Stroud and Bristol that meet regularly.

A Group Photo of the Whole Tribe

I recently asked a young man who went on his passage weekend in 2014 for feedback. He was still feeling the impact two years later. He said, “It hit me later on. When something comes up now, I understand it better. I think oh yeah that’s what Journeyman was about. It's like an epiphany! I’m feeling the benefits even more now."

. . . none of the men in JourneymanUK
can ever know what the impact
of having had this kind of initiation
earlier in our lives would have meant.

Like me, none of the men in JourneymanUK can ever know what the impact of having had this kind of initiation earlier in our lives would have meant. Yet, as we hold the space for today's boys, lovingly yet fierce, vulnerable yet standing strong, and often playful, we know we are doing important men's work and making a positive difference in the boys' lives. Today I know 52 boys who won't have to wait till mid-life to know they are seen, deemed trustworthy, appreciated, and have good men at their backs. In these experiences, I know I am not only serving the boys and thus the community, but healing my inner teenager along the way.



I've been on many passage weekends and each time I'm reminded that initiating and supporting young males moving toward manhood is really important and natural men's work. It's often life changing for the boys, and very good for the men, too! Even after fifteen years in the work, these weekend events always melt and reforms my masculine heart and makes me a better man. I'm thinking that's what's happened to Dick and the other men of JourneymanUK, and I hope you get a chance to discover that for yourself.

You can contact Dick Baker to learn about his experience at dick.baker@journeymanuk.org. On the JourneymanUK website you can learn more about the organization and their upcoming Rites of Passage Adventure Weekend on the 7th – 10th of July, 2016.



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April 20, 2016

The Male Emotional Suppression Cycle
and Human Volcanoes

I'm sitting in a boy's high school group across the circle from a young guy whose eyes are darting around the room. He is unconsciously biting his fingernails, and his right leg is continuously bouncing at a ferocious pace. Let’s call him Joe. Looking at Joe, it feels to me like I’m watching a wild animal that has been backed into a corner. I’ve known that kind of agitation as a teen and recognize what’s underneath. For the first few weeks of the group, whenever it was Joe’s turn to speak, he’d usually say there's nothing much going on in his life. We see a lot of guys like Joe.

Looking at Joe, it feels to me
like I’m watching a wild animal
that has been backed into a corner.

So much of what happens in the group is about working against the male stereotypes that say, man up, be tough, don’t show your pain, and just play hurt. It’s those messages that are at the core of Joe’s limited ability to really understand and work with his internal emotional life. More about Joe at the end of this post.

Teenage males like Joe have no choice but to live through the often difficult challenges of their home life, complex and mystifying social relationships, academic demands, and the multiple losses that are a common part of a young man's adolescence. Without a safe place, permission, and support to risk emotional expression, the internal pressure can only build. With no positive avenues for release, they become emotionally pressurized like Joe, a kind of human volcano. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised to see impatience, restlessness, anger, bullying, explosive violence, or the even the darker side of unexpressed feelings, hopelessness and depression.

With no positive avenues for release,
they become emotionally pressurized like Joe,
a kind of human volcano.

Mark Greene is the Executive Editor at The Good Men Project (GMP) and the author of a great new book, Remaking Manhood. In an article for GMP Mark offers us a beautifully simple graphic which begins to explain the trap in which young guys like Joe and so many men, are caught. It describes how, starting from early childhood, boys are taught to suppress their emotions and narrow their range of expression. Mark calls it The Male Emotional Suppression Cycle (MESC).


Some real life examples of the costs of The Male Emotional Suppression Cycle for men come from an article and video recently published in the UK HUFFPOST Lifestyle section. In the article by Kenny Mammarella-D'Cruz, titled Man Up!, he describes the wrenching emotional impact of a significant loss in his family life when he was a young man, how poorly he dealt with it, and the costs to him well into his adult life.

Kenny was also one of the men profiled in a powerful four minute documentary on BBC3 Online titled "It's Tough Being A Man." In the short video below, thirteen men describe the pressures they faced to be silent in the face of trauma in their lives, and why for them, it's tough being a man in Britain today.



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

I'm hoping you're beginning to understand the importance of helping young men like Joe to get an early start on developing an emotional vocabulary and the ability to be vulnerable enough to use it in the right places.

You might be happy to hear Joe has continued to attend the school support group. It has taken weeks for him to learn to trust the men and other guys. The stories others have shared helped him to know he’s not alone in what he’s facing. Over time, Joe has given us a peek into his world. Gradually we’ve learned about his absent parents, his need to be always on guard in his violent neighborhood, and the very real fear he carries for his safety and that of his little brother and sister. Joe has started to unpack himself, decompress a little, and in the process, developed some allies who understand and care.

If guys (of any age) can find their way to a safe, non-judgmental, and supportive group where emotional truth is shared, there is enormous normalizing and healing power available. When that happens, men and boys no longer have to be alone with their fears, traumas, or shame. As a bonus, they also find a place to celebrate their joys and successes. I'm pretty sure there's a group like that near you if you can find the courage to go looking.

And then, how about showing up for the Joes in your world so they don't have to wait until mid-life to unpack themselves and find good adult male allies? If you’d like to talk about how to start a group for young guys, send me a quick message. All it takes is the courage to take the next step in that direction, and you just might find yourself making a big difference in some male lives. You can be sure the young men are waiting for you to show up!



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April 4, 2016

Boys, Men and the Father Wound

One element of the school support circles training for men is to invite them to revisit their own teen years. There are activities to help them remember and reconnect with the bittersweet, painful, and often confusing time in a man's life. Doing this increases a man's connection to the energy, feelings, and stories of today's young males.

While the clothing, music, and language has changed, the boys in our circles really are simply younger versions of the men. With a few exceptions, the boys bring the same challenges, hungers, fears, pain, confusion, and hopes for their future the men experienced in their teen years. When a man is clear about his own teen history, it’s easier for him to keep his unfinished business separate from those of the young guys across the circle. It creates a more compassionate, empathetic, and caring mentor.

One important aspect of the training is to look at the relationship between the man and his father. This relationship, for better and worse, is at the core of the man a boy will become. As the men share their experiences, the whole range of possible relationships with fathers is revealed. We hear about present and loving dads, ghost dads, who are there but in all ways unavailable, and the angry, damaging, addicted, demeaning and destructive fathers. There are stories about the unknown fathers, men who abandoned the young man and family early in the boy's life. These kinds of tough stories are what I call the father wound.

In the school data from The Boys to Men Mentoring Network in San Diego, 73% of the boys in the program do not have a father active in their life. In addition to fatherlessness, it's common that the young guys in our circles don't have any positive or durable adult male relationship for support. This is what I often refer to as the epidemic of under-male-nourished boys.

. . . 73% of the boys in the program
do not have a father active in their life.

In preparing for a recent training, I came across some powerful words about the confusion and complexity surrounding a man's relationship to his father and his father wound. They come from the 1999 movie, Smoke Signals. The film tells the story of the relationship between a father, Arnold Joseph, and his son Victor. The story unfolds after Arnold has died, and Victor and another young man from the reservation, Thomas Builds-the-Fire, set off to collect Arnold's pick-up truck and ashes.

Victor remembers his father leaving him as a child, and that he was an alcoholic and abusive father. He just drove off one day and never came back. On the road trip, the two men remember Victor’s father, but their memories about Arnold are very different. Victor learns many new and even some positive things about his father during this journey. In the end, he begins to better understand, forgive, and grieve his father's loss. Here are the questions he speaks in the final scene of the film as he tries to find his way through the complicated feelings of his father wound.



How do we forgive our fathers -- maybe in a dream?

Do we forgive our fathers for leaving us too often - or forever - when we were little?

Or maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage?

Or making us nervous because there didn't seem to be any rage at all?

Do we forgive our fathers for marrying or not marrying our mothers?

Or for divorcing or not divorcing our mothers?

And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth -- or coldness?

Shall we forgive them for pushing -- or leaning?

For shutting doors or speaking through walls,

Or never speaking

Or never being silent?

Do we forgive our fathers in our age or theirs?

Or in their deaths, saying it to them or not saying it?

If we forgive our fathers, what is left?



The poignant statements above accurately describe the complexity and confusion many adult men are still carrying about their fathers. In the training, some men surprise themselves with the depth and variety of feelings that come up during these conversations. I remind men the young guys are sitting in this same emotional confusion. The difference is the boys don't have the maturity, emotional vocabulary, or even permission to touch their father wound.

In the training, from a place of shared understanding and compassion, as a group we make a commitment to support all “our” boys in our circles. We want them to know they are heard, understood, cared for, and honored for standing strong in the face of their considerable challenges. We want them to know, without question, they have our support.

When a man holds this kind of attitude for the boys in our circles, it opens a door for healing his father wound, and it can be a life-giving gift for each boy he encounters.

I believe you wouldn't be reading this far if you weren't interested in this work in some way. You can go to this link to learn more about a school mentor's job description or you can send me a note and we can talk about what the next possible steps for you might be! I know you're the right man for the work and I'm just as sure the boys are waiting.



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March 14, 2016

A Mom Wants Heroes for Her Son

I got a challenging message from the mom of a ten-year-old boy named Aaron. Melody K. wrote, I find it hard to raise a boy to be a man and male mentors are not easy to find. There seem to be lots of resources to help women and girls but not much for boys and men. Even our local Boy Scout groups have more moms than dads involved. My son needs to have good male mentors and some positive male heroes he can look up to. Can you profile some of these men?

Some of our military men are really heroes and would be great role models. Another good example was Quannah Parker, the last war leader of the free Comanche. He had a very difficult life on the plains and was focused on helping his people withstand the challenges to their way of life. He was also a brave warrior.

I'd like to read about lots of positive male role models, all with their own unique strengths. Their stories would be so encouraging to boys like my son who are looking for guidance and thinking about what kind of man they are going to become.




Here's part of my response to Melody: First of all, I believe ALL men are role models for boys because as young males approach adolescence they start watching and emulating the men around them. Like it or not, while they may not yet be heroes, all men are in the business of mentoring boys, whether they know it or not.

. . . all men are in the business of mentoring boys
whether they know it or not.

As I look back on my life the real hero for me was the man who lived next door. Mark Moore was the father of two girls and I know he liked having a young guy around. He knew about the alcoholic messes that happened in my house and, without saying much, he took me under his protective wing.

I can still remember the winter day Mark showed me his tackle box, a thing of mystery and things masculine for sure. I spent many days that winter waiting for late spring and the day Mark and I headed out to go fishing, with all the adventure, things to learn, and the beauty of nature. I learned to put a hook on the line, add the bait, and then how to be patient while waiting for your dreams to come true. Sometimes we even caught fish and I had to learn about life and death. Mark also invited me into his garage woodshop where I learned about tools, planning, building things, and starting over when necessary.

I wrote a blog post about Mark Moore in 2010, when I learned about his death, because, while I didn't realize it at the time, he taught me so much about being a man without even trying. He was and is my hero.

. . . he taught me so much about being a man
without even trying.

For better and worse, there are always men in the media for boys to watch. Way back when I was a kid, I had superheroes. I’m old enough to remember the early ones like Lone Ranger, Sky King, Superman, and Batman. While those shows were much less graphic, sexy, and violent than today's versions, my heroes were always strong, clean, and capable. They were constantly busy nabbing bad guys and doing the right thing for the people they served. They didn’t swear, always stood for positive values, and were always humble about their good work. Life was so innocent back then!

When training men to work with young guys, I like to ask them about their heroes. The hero question is actually number 7 on my list of Questions for Men which you can find on the Man-Making website. The question is: As an adolescent boy, who was one of your male heroes from film, music, sports, or television? What did that man teach you about manhood? Was there another man who was less visible and maybe less famous who stood out for you? What did you learn about being a man from him?

. . . who are your male heroes today?

So dear reader, let's help Melody and her son Aaron out. Do you have your own stories about men, or a special man, who has inspired you? Who were your heroes growing up and who are your male heroes today? What good men, real heroes, or positive role models have you come across in your life, film, TV, or in books? Send a paragraph along to me and I'll publish them (anonymously if you like) on this blog. I'll also add them to the Men's Stories collection evolving on the Man-Making website.

For the record, if you're a man and reading this post, you are my hero! It's because you wouldn't be here reading this unless you've heard the call to Man-Making, however faint. Reading these posts IS a step toward increasing your young male literacy, moving you closer to action in support of a young guy . . . and maybe becoming some young guy's hero!



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