“How do you feel about yourself as a man in the world today?”
I have been in hundreds of men’s groups and men’s weekend events, sitting in a sacred circle, asking this tough question. My answer and your answer are a good indicator, akin to taking your masculine temperature, of how things are going. Note to women: the majority of men do not feel very good about themselves as a man in the world today. If we men are honest, we fall short. If we did not fall short somewhere, our lives would not be very interesting. We men like projects. We like to have a goal toward which we can march . We men may be confused by our dual and seemingly incompatible roles of being strong and being sensitive at the same time. We are challenged by the demands of family and work, and very often mired in self doubt and fear. Are we living up to our own expectations? Can we?
These are questions I struggle with and thought, what the hell, why not share these with the world? That is a big “gulp” moment, but such is the life of an author. Remain vulnerable and humble and grateful.
I offer 5 questions I ask myself. These are on my wall and I see them every day. I find it helps me to get a bearing on my life path. There are no right or wrong answers. Like meditation, all there is to do is observe what comes up. If something is triggered, then you may chose to take some actions to rectify that which is at issue. These are questions I struggle with and thought, what the hell, why not share these with the world? That is a big “gulp” moment, but such is the life of an author. Remain vulnerable and humble and grateful. On to the questions.
Am I an honest man?
“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything” – Mark Twain
Let’s jump beyond the obvious forms of dishonesty such as an affair or material theft. The real question for me is, do I tell the truth? When it comes to telling the truth, I admit that I am a liar to myself. I tend to tell myself things are better than they really are. I tend to be dishonest when it comes to assessing and taking action to resolve problems that come up in my life. Rather than address key challenges head on, I push them to the side until they reach crisis mode. This is a subtle, yet pernicious form of lying.
My internal lying shows up in the way that I appear ungrounded. I don’t carry a certain weight. That makes me a lightweight. I am not a solid man. I am inauthentic.
Here is the ridiculous thing I observe about lying to myself. For a long time, I actually thought I was fooling everyone around me! I have come to realize everyone close to me can see when I lie to myself. My internal lying shows up in the way that I appear ungrounded. I don’t carry a certain weight. That makes me a lightweight. I am not a solid man. I am inauthentic. I appear to be a bit of a con artist. I suffer from imposter syndrome. This all leads to a lack of trust in myself, which bleeds out to everyone in my life. Are you honest?
Clearly, if I cannot be honest with myself, how can anybody trust me? In social situations, I am trustable. I can show up on time. I can share my honest opinions. I can do what I say I will do. However, when the going gets tough, those close to me do not feel confident that I can truly, no bullshit, be counted on. In our men’s group, we often discussed the scenario of being in a war during a firefight with two men, literally back to back, with life on the line. Can you trust your brother to have your back? Can you trust yourself to have your brother’s back? This is a serious question. Are you the man who will stand in the fire and endure the heat, or will you throw in your cards and walk away?
“When the shit hits the fan, some guys run and some guys stay.”
There is a great scene of Al Pacino in The Scent of a Woman (video link below) in which he expands upon this. “When the shit hits the fan, some guys run and some guys stay.” When you made the commitment to love her till death do you part, was that a conditional promise in your mind, based on your wife being a certain way? What if things change, as they often do? How much can your woman share of herself and trust that you will stick around? Are you trustable?
Am I taking full responsibility for my life?
“If it’s never our fault, we can’t take responsibility for it. If we can’t take responsibility for it, we’ll always be its victim.” — Richard Bach
Do you realize all your emotions, thoughts and feelings are your own? When your woman says that thing (and we all have that thing, don’t we?) that sets you off, are you willing to sit with the feelings, and accept them as your own? Are you going to deal with the issue internally rather than blaming someone else? During men’s group sessions, men often rail against their wives or girlfriends or partners. A man may say, “She told me __________, and that really pissed me off. And then she did this ______________ and I was even more livid!” At this point, I tell the man to stay with the feelings, and forget about her. She is not the issue. She is the catalyst (and a wonderful teacher), but all the feelings are our own to manage and process. This is a tough lesson, and it usually takes hold for just a few minutes, for ours is a culture of blame. Do you blame someone else for your feelings and emotions? Are you still blaming your parents? I ask myself, am I a responsible adult male who accepts that all the stuff that gets stirred up within is my own? In fact, it is the source of my greatest moments of awakening. Am I truly responsible?
Am I a solid provider?
“What does a man do Walter? A man provides for his family. And a man, a man provides. And he does it even when he’s not appreciated, or respected, or even loved. He simply bears up and he does it. Because he’s a man.” — Gus Fring, Breaking Bad.
This is a tough question for most men that I know. It is the toughest question for me. I have earned great sums of money in my life, but I have also spent great sums of money. I am not a solid provider. The answer to this question is also a strong indicator of your capacity to be a good husband and a good father? Are you? When your child asks for financial assistance, are you there for him or her? If your good friend in Madagascar needs your presence, can you drop everything, jump on a plan, and spend some time with him in his dire moment of need? When you retire, will you and your partner be set for life? Does your partner live with financial stress? Does she live with the burden of your shortcomings? Are you solid like a brick house? Or are you financially shaky like a house of cards?
Chris Rock… shares how nobody seems to appreciate the man for providing. “Nobody ever says, Thanks Daddy for knocking out the rent!”
In most relationships, providing is the man’s job. Chris Rock presents a great comedy skit about this exact scenario. He shares how nobody seems to appreciate the man for providing. “Nobody ever says, Thanks Daddy for knocking out the rent!” (Video link below). It is a great 3 minutes of comedy and truth. It is our job to provide. Are you doing your job? Are you a solid provider?
I have observed that the greatest men in my life, and the greatest men I have admired through their words, all have a powerful unquenchable desire to learn more about themselves and about all human beings. Naturally as a writer, most of my heroes are authors. These men like Thoreau and Whitman lived with a few seminal questions: What does it mean to be a human being? What exactly is this experience on Earth? Why am I here? Who am I? What is a right and honorable way to live?
When you come to the end of your days, will you look back and marvel at how far you have come, or will you instead wonder where the time went? Are you a man of knowledge?
I have found meditation, group workshops, writing, reading, interaction with the feminine, and my close male relationships are all sources of greater awareness and self-knowledge. Women can tell the difference between a man of depth and a man just piddling about in life. What is your big picture path? Do you have one? When you come to the end of your days, will you look back and marvel at how far you have come, or will you instead wonder where the time went? Are you a man of knowledge?
These are my questions. I share them with you. I invite you to live within the question. How do you fare? As I ask these questions, I am guided to keep striving forward, making tweaks in my life as I see necessary. I once heard Werner Erhard call this trim tabbing, making small adjustments, or iterations in life, and over time, great things are accomplished. I hope you experienced some value from these questions, and find some areas that you might trim tab as well. Finally, I invite you to be gentle with yourself. These questions are not designed to make you feel bad or shameful or guilty. If you find an area that resonates as an area for improvement, it is a time to be grateful for such a huge opportunity in your life. You would not be reading this article unless you wanted some little piece of wisdom. Reading an article on this website is a good sign that you are on your way, as we all are, to being good and honorable men!
I was twenty-two when I began working at Leo Burnett, a prestigious advertising agency located in Chicago, Illinois. I was in the account executive training program with fifty or so other new college graduates from around the country. During one of our training session, a senior executive then stated what now seems fairly obvious:
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
I now look back on that statement as a profound truth because there is something inside men that wants to fix things, even when they are not broken. Let’s call that certain something that lives inside of you and me, The Fixer, a unique aspect of ourselves that we can use to our benefit or detriment.
Men Like to Fix Stuff!
Let me tell you about The Fixer and see if you can relate. The Fixer is a determined fellow. No matter what, he wants to fix. The Fixer loves a good problem. The harder the problem, the happier The Fixer! Without a problem, The Fixer tends to fade into the background. However, make no mistake; The Fixer is not going to give up. If there is no problem, The Fixer will more often than not create a problem just to keep himself occupied. One target on which The Fixer places a big bull’s-eye women. Many men have a strong desire to fix their woman in a misguided attempt to make their own lives better. What can we learn from this?
#1 – Don’t Try to Fix Her.
The pertinent question here is – Why does she have to be anything different than she is? She is not broken, so why do you want to fix her? I suggest that if you are trying to fix your woman, you have not fully settled into your masculine core. Whatever dissatisfaction you are feeling about your woman is your dissatisfaction. Rather than trying to fix something that is already complete and whole, begin to work on that part of you that doesn’t feel complete and whole, with or without a woman.
#2 – Accept the Truth: SHE is Not Going to Change No Matter What You Do.
You have got to surrender to the truth.
And in that moment of realization, you may choose your woman exactly as she is. This was my experience. It was like a breath of fresh air.
Don’t expect your woman to change. She won’t. This expectation is a sure formula for thwarted feelings and frustration. She isn’t broken. And she doesn’t deserve your judgment or condemnation. She certainly does not deserve the self-righteous feeling coming from you that she isn’t good enough as she is. It is time to be responsible for your own feelings of self-worth, and stop projecting them upon the world and specifically upon your intimate partner.
I realize I have said the same thing three times now. The reason I do is no one believes it. Guys think they can change a woman. It’s a subtle form of masculine insanity. I know men that have been with the same woman for ten to fifteen years, pecking at their own chests, suffering while waiting for their women to change. At some point, the suffering becomes so great that a stark realization takes hold. “Why am I doing this to myself?” “She isn’t going to change.” And in that moment of realization, you may choose your woman exactly as she is. This was my experience. It was like a breath of fresh air. Once I made the choice to accept a woman as is, she transformed as if by miracle. But in “reality” she didn’t change. I changed. And in that moment, the whole world changed as well.
#3 – She is Your Mirror.
Another paradigm to embrace is this: Your woman is challenging you, reflecting your deepest truths and wounds, and whether you realize it or not, you want and need the internal growth she fosters in you. Painful? Sure. You get angry? Of course. But ultimately, you chose each other for just that reason. The relationship serves you both by exposing those dark issues of yourselves you may never have seen without sharing a life together. Out of the darkness comes those crystalline moments of clarity and bliss and transformation.
#4 – Look Within, and that Will Transform how You Experience Her.
A man who is fully settled into his masculine essence realizes that his woman, among many things, is in part a brilliant reflection of himself. She is your mirror. And if you don’t like the image you are getting back, the answer does not lie in breaking the mirror and then trying to glue all the pieces back together. Instead, going deep within yourself is the place to put your focus. Anytime we look to external sources for our gratification, we are in trouble. We can’t change or fix most external forces. Life is loose and out of control. When it is time for your transmission to break, it will break. Time for the flu, so be it. Life throws us all kinds of curve balls. As men, we have a choice to observe and respond to what is happening all around us and marvel at the mysterious and magical nature of it all, or we can get frustrated and angry and place blame. I assert this paradigm shift is what transforms boys into men.
#5 – Every Woman is a Goddess. If You Don’t See it, It’s on YOU.
How can we expect women to blossom into their full radiance when they are being told, directly and indirectly, they aren’t good enough?
It is a challenge to find a man who truly respects the wisdom of women. Most men, mired in the pathology of patriarchy, can’t see clearly through the darkened lens. Until a man surrenders to the power, divine connection, and creative force of a woman, and is humbled by the living goddess within the feminine form, he will hold a women as less than who she is. Social conditioning makes it so. She feels it as a dismissal.
Women living fully within their power are the most beautiful beings in creation. Only a humble man will ever experience the joy of co-creating with the feminine in a true organic partnership. How can we expect women to blossom into their full radiance when they are being told, directly and indirectly, they aren’t good enough? Constant pressuring to become a new and improved version of themselves only leads to resistance and despondency and retraction.
Don’t look out. Look within. After many sessions of deep introspection, you may realize that The Fixer is just The Trickster in disguise. The truth is, you don’t need to be fixed either. It is all just a ruse to challenge you and keep you distracted and off purpose. The Fixer is just one of many personas of the ego. When you realize he doesn’t need to exist, you pass. When you take responsibility for your own experience, life begins to show up as a synchronistic symphony of glorious moments. You will wonder where this rich vibrant life you are feeling has been hiding all this time. And the woman who has patiently been waiting for you to appear will show up again as the goddess she has always been.
Author Jay Cradeur raises some questions about what we know and what we think we know.
During the past month, I have been driving for both Uber and Lyft. It’s sort of like being a taxi driver and therapist in one job. Driving people around, one begins to notice trends, similarities, and common responses. For example, I have observed that many men get loud and aggressive (and obnoxious) when they drink. Women tend to get silly and chatty (and flirty). When I talk about my 15 months in Thailand, everyone (and I mean everyone) says that they want to do the same thing. When I share about my Facebook consulting business, everyone (and I mean everyone) says they would like to have their own business that would allow them to be in charge of their own time and have more freedom. Observing life as I do, I began to wonder where do all these behaviors and ideas originate. In other words, whose agenda are we living? Or to put it even a more direct way, whose life are we really living?
During a recent drive, I listened to one of my favorite podcasts, WTF with Marc Maron. I love this guy and hope to meet him some day on my own podcast. He is me with a tad bit more addiction and darkness. On this day, his guest was Crispin Glover. You may remember Crispin Glover from movies like Back to the Future (“you are my density…”) and The River’s Edge. Crispin Glover is fascinated by and dedicated to the eradication of propaganda. They spoke very passionately about how the corporate funded movies present a very specific way for men and women to live and relate to each other. As I thought further about the podcast, I become unmoored. I asked myself, rather dumbfounded, “Is anything that I think truly my own, or am I just a puppet on a string?”
I have a very strong desire to travel back to SE Asia, live in warm sunshine, spend time with my favorite woman, eat fresh food, swim in the crystal clear water, and wake up happy. Do I want this? Or do I think I want this because I have seen it in movies and been brainwashed to think this is a wonderful way to live my retirement years. I wonder… The thought that my entire life has been a manipulation leaves me reeling with doubt and seething with anger. When I hear that 85 people in the world own 50% of everything there is to own (Source: Oxfam), it makes sense that those folks are manipulating the masses to keep us content and malleable.
What do I truly want? What do I truly believe? What do I truly know to be true? These are big questions. Perhaps asking these questions will not bring me any closer to contentment or happiness. However, I want to know! There is something in me, and perhaps in you, that wants to understand how I have been manipulated. Perhaps in the understanding of the manipulation, I can be freed of it, and live a life with my own thoughts, my own desires, and my own truths. That sounds like an essential goal worth going for.
Author Jay Cradeur shares his observations of five must see Academy Award nominated films.
Movies feed my soul. Rarely am I happier than when I can lie down on the bed, my head propped up, trusty Mac Book pro at my side, and a good movie cued and ready to play. The anticipation is wonderful. Rarely am I completely satisfied, but indeed, each movie provides a message or gift of another’s wisdom. As the Academy Awards roll toward us each year, I attempt to watch all the pertinent films. The viewings help to assuage my Christmas holiday malaise. Here are five films at the top of my viewing list and a brief take away message for each.
The Big Short.
If the movie Wall Street proclaimed, “Greed is good” then the message of The Big Short is greed is not so good, and does in fact destroy lives. We see the dark side of Capitalism. We see here men’s obsession with wealth. Since so many lost so much in the financial collapse of 2008, this film provides a powerful explanation of how blind greed by a few can impact the lives of millions in a moment. This movie features outstanding performances by both Steve Carell (who in my humble opinion should have been nominated) and Christian Bale, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
The sexual scandal of the Catholic Church has now been well documented. It took the work of a very dedicated newspaper team in Boston to the bring the story of sexual abuse of young boys at the hands of priests to the light of day. We observe in this movie the power of men’s desire for the truth. We observe the incredible harm and destruction of shame in a man’s life. While Spotlight is exciting to watch, the film does not let you forget how much damage was done to young boys who became men all over the world.
Here again we see the dark side of men. One man captures, imprisons, abuses and steals every dignity from a mother and her young boy. This movie impressed me with the simple beauty of life, which I tend to take for granted. Rarely do I consider the freedom I have to walk out the front door of my home and see the trees blowing in the wind or the sunlight breaking over the horizon. This movie also reminded me of the innate desire of the human spirit for freedom. Upon completing this movie I was left with the feeling of sadness for the devastation one human being can wreak on another.
This little movie, Trumbo, was a surprise. I did not know anything about it. I should have know that if Bryan Cranston (of Breaking Bad) was involved, I would love the film. I did. I laughed. I cried. I cheered. This film is a testament to the power of a man living to his ideals while others wilt to the social pressure of the tribe. Trumbo was a communist, a writer, an activist, a father and a husband. During the course of being a blacklisted screenplay writer, Trumbo remained resolute in his beliefs, even languishing in prison for several years, before being completely exonerated. Great film. Great performances. Bravo Bryan Cranston!
As I watched this film, which I believe deserves the Best Picture honor, I felt the constant presence of three men: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy and Director, Alejandro G. Iñárritu. This movie requires your dedication. The Revenant (one who comes back from the dead) demands your attention. It is an all consuming experience, one you will not quickly forget. Man versus nature. Man versus man. Man versus death. Man versus bear. In The Revenant, we see the power of man to survive, and live, and pursue revenge. This film will carry you away to a land of bitter cold, unforgiving enemies, and lost love. In the end, I feel this movie is about a father and a son and the power of that bond. God help any man who breaks it.
There are quite a few fantastic films up for awards that I have not mentioned. These five inspired me. These five taught me lessons. These five most questioned the meaning of being a man in the world. Check them out. Enjoy the films. Get lost in somebody else’s vision. Pick up something here and there. Happy New Years. And the Oscar goes to ….
Author Jay Cradeur explores themes of a man’s life with the words of poet warrior musician Tom Petty (with video links).
“God, it’s so painful when something that’s so close is still so far out of reach.”
Tom Petty, American Girl (Video here).
Last night, after a long and stressful day at the auto dealership in search for a metallic grey 2015 Toyota Prius, I lied on my bed and hunkered down to watch the four-hour documentary on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers titled Running Down a Dream. If you graduated from high school in the 70’s or 80’s, you will most likely enjoy the film and the music, and learn something about the man who wrote (and continues to write to this day) all those amazing songs. This article is inspired by the lyrics of Tom’s songs, which cover many topics none the least of which are desire, waiting, self knowledge, silent power, and inner contentment.
“There was rock and roll across the dial, when I think of her it makes me smile.”
Tom Petty, Dreamville
We all have something don’t we? We all have something we want, but we just can’t seem to get it. Or, once we get it, we want something else. It is the never-ending cycle of desire, satisfaction (which is rarely as good as we had expected), and then renewed desire for something else. Try these on for size: We love someone, we want someone, but can’t have them. This is classic unrequited love. We want to lose those extra 20 pounds and get into the best shape of our life, but can’t (or won’t) do it. We want to have $1,000,000 in our retirement fund so we can stop working and live in decadent freedom, yet it seems so far away. Plug in your own desire. Love, health, and money usually top the list. We all have them.
“The waiting is the hardest part, every day you get one more yard. You take it on faith, you take it to the heart, the waiting is hardest part.”
Tom Petty, The Waiting (Video here)
Anything worth having or doing is hard. This is fact. Writing a book is hard. Being married is hard. Saving for retirement is hard. Creating the body you desire is hard. The good stuff does not come easy. It requires an understanding of the concept of delayed gratification. For years I talked about writing a book. It wasn’t until I sat down in Phuket, Thailand and wrote out a work schedule over 3 months. I then worked my plan and typed on my laptop each day and the book Radical Freedom was actually written and published. The same goes for losing 40 pounds. Every day I went to the gym. Everyday I ate a high protein, low carb diet. Over a year, I dropped the weight. There is a myth that once you find your passion, your work will always be a joy. This is utter nonsense. Work by its very nature has certain challenging by products, namely, monotony, boredom, struggle, and self-doubt. Understanding that anything worth having is hard and requires a powerful commitment is a necessary step toward achievement and fulfillment.
“It just seems to useless to have to work so hard, and nothing ever really seem to come from it”
“Just wonderin’, waitin’, worryin’ about some silly little things, that just don’t add up to nothin’”
Tom Petty, Here Comes My Girl (Video here)
Know thyself. This is easier said than done. Do you know what you want? If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there! In the process of learning about myself, I found that the high’s were not so high, and the lows were not so low. I made discoveries. Life established a more even keel. Over the years, I had learned what triggered my lows, and took a good hard look at the root of the upset. I also learned what produced the outrageous highs in my life, and began to temper them with a solid dose of reality and an understanding that nothing truly makes that big of a difference in my life. I may be a hamster on a wheel, but I know I am a hamster on a wheel.
“I got my own way of praying.”
Tom Petty, Southern Accents (Video here)
In the process of having desires, learning more about ourselves, understanding that having what we want takes focus, work and time, and achieving some of our long term goals, we begin to develop an inner strength which I call silent power. Life is about to get very interesting. Suddenly the pursuit of external objects and the desire for love and the need for security become secondary to our internal landscape. Instead of looking out for validation and satisfaction, one begins to look within. For many, this type of rebirth occurs in a church setting, and for many others it occurs sitting on a mediation cushion or at a Buddhist temple in SE Asia.
“I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings. Coming down is the hardest thing.”
Tom Petty, Learning To Fly (Video here)
Is this the ultimate goal of life? Is the life of Siddhartha the role model for a fully realized life? In Herman Hesse’s classic novel, Siddhartha experiences the delight of every human desire and then realizes there must be something else. Off he ventures in search of himself. In the end he achieves enlightenment simply by observing the river and realizing we are all a part of a whole interconnected life. Desires come and go. They do not impact the silent power that lives within. Nothing impacts the inner life. This is the lesson and the state of grace some achieve. It is a love affair with none other than life itself.
“I wanna free fall out into nothin’ Gonna leave this world for awhile”
Tom Petty, Free Fallin’ (Video here)
Life is so amazing, and interesting. The more I look at it and write about it, the more I realize there is so much more to it than I could ever have imagined. When Tom Petty sings about free fallin’, I wonder if he is touching on the lessons from Siddhartha. For some, desires drive a life. For others, desires come and go. And still for others, life is a free flowing dance, a carnival show for our amusement, the ultimate free fall. Regardless, all of it fantastically coexists and drenches us like a Louisiana rain.