Five Searing Documentary Movies Every Man Should Watch

Five Searing Documentary Movies Every Man Should Watch

Author Jay Cradeur Shares Five Powerful, Educational, Introspective, Fascinating And Compelling Documentaries That Will Challenge You.

I love to watch a great movie. There are few things is life that give me more pleasure.   I usually watch in the evening at the end of the day, lying on my bed, my MacBook propped up on a pillow, my reading glasses on and earbuds firmly in place.  A movie, done well, can transport me to another world. Normal reality ceases to exist. I am there, in the movie, with the characters, living their life, experiencing their joys, fears and tears as we march together for a couple of hours, hand in hand on this crazy train ride called life. Documentaries have the rare opportunity to not only transport, but also whack me with powerful and potent doses of reality. I learn, I may cringe, I may be inspired and I may be saddened. Regardless, after a great documentary, I am changed. While watching all of the five documentaries featured here, I took a deep dive into myself. I made realizations and expounded on profound truths. I hope you do too.

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Senna (2012)

This movie focuses on the life of Ayrton Senna who was an Formula One racing car driver. He won the world championship three times before his tragic death at the age of 34. The movie also focuses on his rivalry with Alain Prost. This movie will inspire you. Before I saw Senna, I had no idea of the extent of the physical toll car racing exacts on a driver. Indeed, it seemed many of Senna’s racing wins were a result of pure self-will. If you are like me, and you never heard of Ayrton Senna, nor knew much about Formula One racing, then you will be astounded and impressed on many fronts. The conclusion of the film both angered and saddened me.   I am feeling thoroughly tossed just now remembering this film.

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When We Were Kings (2002)

I am a huge Muhammad Ali fan. I remember being a young boy, attending a Boy Scout meeting in the sacristy of Christ the King Catholic Church, and ducking outside so I could listen to the first Ali Frazier fight (called the Fight of the Century) on my little AM radio. This movie captures Ali past his physical prime, but firmly embracing his mental mastery. The Rumble In The Jungle in Zaire, Africa is one of the sports most legendary fights. Ali’s opponent, a young and angry George Foreman, was the heavy favorite. Ali was the fan favorite. The entire country of Zaire supported Ali. Who knew what Rope a Dope was nor how Ali would use it to win this magical fight? Rarely do we get an inside look at the the profound impact of words and energy on the trajectory of an event.  Featuring commentary by George Plimpton and Norman Mailer, this film will have you on your feet. “Ali, boom-bah-yea”

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The Act of Killing (2013)

I watched this film about a year ago. It is hard to shake. It is a tough film to watch. This documentary features Indonesian death squad leaders and challenges them to reenact their mass-killings in the style of American movies. These leaders were never prosecuted, and are still treated as heroes in their home country. This movie is a deep dive into the heart of darkness. It is a study in the way humans can compartmentalize and justify unconscionable behavior. In much the way factory farms kill animals without as much of a thought for the well being of the animals, these leaders clearly demonstrate the same kind of disconnect from their human prisoners and victims. It’s all just another day in the office. While watching this film, I evaluated and reassessed the depth of darkness that lives in me.

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Meru (2015)

I just watched this movie last week. The documentary is about three men who undertake to climb and summit a never before summited mountain called the Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru located in northern India. Remarkably, one of the climbers, Jimmy Chin, did all the photography. How he was able to climb in those conditions and capture such gorgeous images, is absolutely astounding. When you see the weather and the terrain, you will marvel at the rare opportunity we all have to share in the journey. This film will inspire you like few others. The challenges of the mountain and a few other unexpected and potentially tragic events all add to a powerful tale of overcoming all odds to accomplish what seems impossible. We get a birds eye view of mountain climbers breaking the four minute mile. To experience what it is to sit in a tent that is literally hanging on a sheer rock wall, thousands of feet above the ground, was worth the price of admission. But make no mistake; this film is so much more.

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Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (2007)

My favorite film of all time is Apocalypse Now Redux. Hands down, there is no other movie that dives into the human condition like this film. “The horror, the horror.” This documentary is the behind the scenes look at what it took to get the film made. As I learned, the movie could very easily have never been completed. There were many unforeseen challenges, delays, illnesses and actor demands, any of which could have derailed the masterpiece that is Apocalypse Now. This movie teaches the power of one man with a clear vision. Francis Ford Coppola kept moving forward, never gave up, believed in his project, and finished the movie. Lesson learned!

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Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)

This movie is about men and their relationship to work. This movie is also about dedication to one’s craft.  This movie will make you hungry not only for sushi but also for your passion to do what you do well. Jiro Ono is a master sushi chef, world renowned, who has been doing the same thing day after day for decades. The film allows Jiro to share his philosophies, his rituals and habits, and his impact on his two sons. You will also gather a wealth of knowledge about sushi. Don’t miss this one.

Today, online, there is a plethora of fine documentaries available for viewing. When looking at all offerings from the perspective of the masculine, these five are the ones that most dramatically jolted me into a new way of seeing the world and my role therein. There are three more outstanding fims that I want to mention for they just barely missed the cut. Blackfish will have you thinking about what it means to be held in bondage. While the film is about whales, you can’t help but ask the question, “How free am I?” Earthlings is a brutal and challenging film about how humans treat non humans. It is startling, disgusting and poignant. This film pushed me over the edge to become a Vegan. The final honorable mention goes to the film Restrepo, a movie filmed in the Korangal Valley of Afghanistan. The two filmmakers embedded with an American Army unit and present to us the horrors of war unlike any other film. It is real and gritty and honest. We get to know the guys, and experience their fears and profound grief for the loss of their brothers.


The article originally appeared on the Good Men Project Website.

How Looking Death In The Eye Changes A Man

How Looking Death In The Eye Changes A Man

Author Jay Cradeur shares the five searing lessons he learned when he faced death.


Seven months ago, I was in the peak of health.

At 56 years of age, I had lost 45 pounds, dropping from 235 lbs. to 190 lbs. I had never spent even one night in a hospital. I had no major illnesses nor broken bones. I was working out each and every day for one hour at the Duangtawan Hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Then I slowly began to have challenges urinating. I could pee, but I had to really work hard at it. I visited the doctor at the clinic on Loi Kroh Road and he conducted some tests and determined I had BPH (benign prostate hypertension) aka Enlarged Prostate. This is a condition that affects 50% of all men over 60 years of age. As the prostate grows, it tightens on the urethra, which is the vessel through which urine flows. Little did I know that the next seven months would take me to the darkest and deepest grief, pain, suffering, and depression. I will forever recall saying to myself with crystalline clarity and sanity, “Death would be better than this!”

I was put on a gurney, stripped down to my blue Bob Dylan T shirt, had a catheter inserted into me while two Thai nurses worked on my stomach to get every drop of urine out of my bladder.

The Thai doctor prescribed a medication similar to Flowmax. I took it each night and for three months, everything was great. I was peeing normally and everything seemed right with the world. Then, towards the end of August, the lights just went out. I was not able to pee. For two long days, I tried hard. Think about the time you really had to pee, but you had to wait. Perhaps you were driving, and you had 10 minutes until the next gas station.  Imagine that feeling for 48 hours. I pushed with everything I had to squeeze out a few drops. I doubled the dose of my medication. I took a shower every hour to loosen up my muscles, and relieve the incredible pain I felt. Then I would sleep for 15 minutes until the pain returned. Then I went back into the shower. I began to feel my bladder, tight as a drum, protruding from my stomach. After two days of sheer misery, I jumped into a tuk tuk (Thai taxi) and said “Hospital.” I felt very alone in a foreign country and deep into a crisis for which I could see no end.

Upon arriving at the hospital, I urgently and with great desperation asked for some kind of drug to take the edge off. Instead, after a short interview, I was put on a gurney, stripped down to my blue Bob Dylan T shirt, had a catheter inserted into me while two Thai nurses worked on my stomach to get every drop of urine out of my bladder. At last I felt relief. The nurses were both quite animated for they had never seen anyone have such a large quantity of urine in his or her body. They squeezed out 2000 mls, about two and half times the normal quantity for a bladder. As I began to feel the relief of pressure, I did take note of this rather unique situation in my life, lying naked as a jay bird with two petite Thai nurses up on the gurney with me, kneading my stomach with great enthusiasm like it was a wad of dough. I live for those unforgettable moments.

In the face of pain, despair and depression, what is it that a man most desires?

Over the next three months, I was in the hospital five times. I had approximately 30 catheter insertions, three different UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections), a 60 minute dose of Morphine (awesome), one green light laser procedure to repair my prostate, two ultra sounds, one CT scan, one less kidney (I learned I was born with just one kidney), a 36 hour flight back to San Francisco with a 17 hour overnight stay in the Taiwan airport, and a few other medical issues (bladder distention, enlarged ureter, etc.) which further complicated my bladder and prostate condition. I could have died there in Thailand. Had my bladder burst I would most likely have died. There were moments, sitting in the shower with water falling on me, at times crying and others shrieking, when I would have chosen death. I learned it is difficult to remain positive and life affirming in the face of constant and severe physical pain.

That is the back-story. What interests me now that I appear to be on the other side of the trauma is this: what did I learn? What does one learn in the process of accepting that death in a quick moment is a legitimate possibility? It is a rare opportunity that most of us don’t get. In the face of pain, despair and depression, what is it that a man most desires? Does a near death experience make any kind of lasting impact that results in changed behavior? Here is what this man learned:

One: An appalling amount of my life is lived in reaction to fear.

“It is such a waste. How much have I missed?” Just after a moment of despair, I experienced the pain of a life lived sloppily and lazily. While I have done much examination of self, I clearly saw how still, after all these years, and after all the weekend events and daily meditation, and all the talk and writing and engaging, a still significant segment of my life is dictated by fear. Instead of recognizing the fear, and taking action in spite of the fear, I turned and took the easier, more comfortable and predictable path. I particularly saw this in my work choices and pursuits. Had I died, I would have known I could have done so much more with my gifts.

Two: My work does not have to be my passion.

Piggy backing on number one above, I have spent so much time pursuing my passion, that I have taken my eyes off the prize. The prize is time and money to spend when I have time to do the things I want to do. Rather than passionate work, I need work that fully engages me, keeps me interested, has value, and very importantly and in my case, until now undervalued, it pays me well for my time. I am not going to be Bruce Springsteen no matter how much I love guitar, great lyrics and rock n roll. But I bet I could have been a great agent. I don’t have a passion to be an agent, but I would have been fully engaged, used my gifts, and been handsomely compensated. The bottom line for me is this: it is time to get to work and generate significant revenue and then spend the money with the people I love, eat the food I want to eat, and see the places I want to see. It is time to stop dicking around.

Three: If I had one last month on the planet, what would I want?

This one surprised me. I would have thought I would want to be with my family, or my children, but that is not what I felt in that moment. Yes, of course, I would want to say good bye to my loved ones and my friends and give them a chance to say their good byes, but once that was complete, I would get on a plane, pick up my favorite travel partner, and go to my chosen destinations to see sights, eat great food, get massages, share laughter and intimacy, drink a bit, and thoroughly relish the most wonderful parts of a life well lived. I would then die happy.

Four: Life is short and I truly don’t know when it will end.

It seems like this would go without saying, but each time I dance with death, I get to a deeper understanding of this truth. Nothing is secure. We are all specks on a rock hurtling through space. At any moment, it can end. At some moment, it will all end. Every relationship, every activity, every love, every moment will cease to exist. We don’t know. I don’t know. Security is an illusion, and security mutes my desire to be fully alive. The message to me is this: Grab life by the tail and don’t let go until I have to.

Five: Regretting anything from my past is an insult and a slap in the face of life.

How much time have I wasted thinking about how I wished my life turned out this way, or that way? “Why did I pass on the job? Why didn’t I fight harder for that woman? Why, why, why?” What a freaken waste of time! This hit me hard in those savage moments of pain and suffering. I realized my life is what it is. I am here because of everything that came before me. My judgments are plainly irrelevant in the face of the facts. I am here now. So be it.

I am not out of the woods. However, I am on the road to recovery. As I put it to my guy friends, I am now peeing like a Viking. The first time I peed after the surgery, I felt like I was holding onto a fire hose. I haven’t peed like this since I was a young boy. I may need one more procedure to repair my distended bladder, injured during my traumatic 48 hours in Thailand. But I am confident all will be well. My energy is returning. Here, today, I am writing for the first time in several months. I am at a crossroads with choices to make, and it feels good. I have and continue to experience a transformation. My life will never be the same, and I am excited to take action on what I learned. The pain of the lessons has made an indelible impression. Let’s see who I am now.


The article originally appeared on the Good Men Project Website.

Do Men Ever Stop Thinking? Is There A Masculine Path To Joy?

Do Men Ever Stop Thinking? Is There A Masculine Path To Joy?

Life as a path of joy. “The What? How do I stop the damned thinking”

I think too much.  At least, I think… I think too much.  When I think of my childhood, I am saddened at the current state of my own internal affairs.  I remember riding my bike, the wind blowing cool in my face, and pure adrenalin excitement pumping through my veins.  I didn’t stress over the height of the curb.  I didn’t give a thought to my physical condition and how I would make it all the way to the grocery store and back.  I never considered the possibility of a car wiping me out.  Truly, as I look back, given all the amazing and often life threatening experiences I had, I must have been doubly blessed by angels.  Where did the angels go?  Where did those experiences go?  Where did I go?

It is an impressive accomplishment, and even more so for men, to retain our childlike qualities.  Wonderful timeless qualities such as curiosity, wonder, innocence, and passion in the moment come to mind.  I recently saw an interview of the French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, who is considered the greatest photographer of the twentieth century.  What a life he led!  He spoke about his experiences traveling the world, engaging in conversations with Henri Matisse and Picasso.  I particularly noticed one statement he made.  Twice, during the interview, he said:

“Thinking can be a dangerous thing.”

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Not once, but twice!  This concept was something he had obviously come to grips with early on in his life.  He kept talking about the subtle textures of the life experience, and how his job as photographer was to feel when the moment was right to click his camera.  He repeatedly said it was all about feel as he gently rubbed his fingers together.  I began to think (there I go again) about how this concept could apply to my life.

If I remember the best sex I ever had, there it is.  Joy.  Actually, if I remember just about any sex I have had, there it is!

Can I live with less thinking and more joy?   Ah yes, Joy.  Having a good time.  Enjoying myself.  Bringing a smile to the face of others.  Feeling a lightness of being.  While this is not my normal operating system, I do know joy.  I have experienced its elusive and always glorious nature.  Still, joy feels like a foreigner in a foreign land.

Take a deep breath here Mr. Jay.   You may actually enjoy this.

Where is the Joy?

If I remember the best sex I ever had, there it is.  Joy.  Actually, if I remember just about any sex I have had, there it is!  If I remember the birth of any of my children, there it is.  If I remember how I feel after an initiation ritual, there it is.  If I remember how I feel after making a big sale, there it is.   If I remember sitting around a campfire with my close friends, there it is.  If I remember how I felt when I looked at the scale, and I had achieved my 3-month weight loss goal, there it is again.

Now it is the time for joy in all it’s glory: ongoing, ever lasting, and full on.

Memories of Joy

I notice that all my joy comes as a result of an experience, and more specifically the memory of those experiences.   In the moment, I think.  How do I  stop the damned thinking?  Seems I have never been much of a “smell the roses” kind of guy.  Growing up as a male in America, I was taught to have goals, work hard, achieve great things, and then take on the next project.  There was never much emphasis (actually none) on joy.  And I know I am not alone.  Having spent 15 years of my life in men’s transformational weekend events, I can tell you there is not much joy among the brothers.

Calling in Joy

I call in joy.  I call in my joy.  I am too old to do things I do not want to do. If I want to do something, then I will do it with joy in my heart.  I call in joy that is not dependent on a situation, an accomplishment, nor another.  I call in joy as my way of being.  Today I say to myself:  “I am joy!”   While this will no doubt make some of my buddies want to vomit, I am too old and too tired to keep pushing a boulder up a hill.  Rather, I will follow the boulder down the other side of the hill, and smile all the way to the end.

Embrace The Unknown

So what do you do with an over active thinking mechanism?  I believe we all have to sort that one out for ourselves.  It would seem that recognizing my left brain dominant situation and committing to a life of more feeling is the first step.  I find myself increasingly drawn to situations that I can’t figure out.  I am drawn to matters of the spirit and the lives of mystics.  I participate in group events that produce a tangible energy I can feel.  Then I remember, bit by bit, what I am here to do.  I keep jumping back into the fire, to feel the fire, and keep some of the fire in my heart.  And if I see you on my path (which is your path), and we feel the same thing together, truly it is a most glorious heartfelt connection.  I live for those moments.  We are all teachers for each other.  If only we can stop thinking about how to get more than we give.  Thinking can be a dangerous thing, even in the ditches and on the side roads of life.

Dare to be Happy

Taking a stand for joy requires some courage.  Dare to be happy.  This affirmation will require discipline.  This way of being is not for the dramatic, the emotional, nor the weak.  It takes some balls to say “I choose joy.”  Try it out and really mean it.   Just for today, greet every experience with joy.  When your husband or wife or boyfriend or girlfriend does that thing they do that you hate so much, greet it with joy.  Transform your experience.  When you lose that sale that you were counting on, bring joy rather than disappointment.  When the waiter brings you a cold hamburger, can you experience joy rather than anger?  When you realize this life, this one glorious life that you have, when you realize it is all going to come to an end, can you still greet each day with joy?  Through heartache and betrayal, through hurt and failure, will you chose joy?

No Regrets

There was a time when I thought talk of joy was utter bullshit.  I would say to my brothers, life is about challenge, life is about burning, and unearthing those searing bits of my unconscious, and reliving past painful events, so as to become the hollow bone through which spirit may freely flow.   I have done all that.  It was hard, and at times, brutally painful, and it required a powerful vision to stay the path.  Occasional exuberance was a welcome by product of the work.  However, as one who has walked the path for three decades, I can now say there could have been more joy.  Hell, there could have been a whole bunch more joy.  I am not one to lament the past, but there is a truth to be gleaned from my own experiences.  I never chose joy in the past.  Today I choose joy.

I tell you, I hear you snickering on the sidelines.  I know well of your feelings of derision.  “Has he lost his mind?”

Yes I have.

It is about time!

The article originally appeared on the Good Men Project Website.

What Walter White and Breaking Bad Taught Me About Being a Man.

What Walter White and Breaking Bad Taught Me About Being a Man.

“Say My Name!” Author Jay Cradeur shares some lessons learned from Heisenberg aka Walter White of Breaking Bad.

I was and still am a huge fan of the television series Breaking Bad.   I have shared this series with many friends over the years and relived the excitement vicariously as they share their experiences of the television series.  For those of you who missed the meth fueled phenomenon which spanned 5 seasons, Breaking Bad featured a marvelous main character named Walter White who was played by Bryan Cranston. Walter White was a chemistry high school teacher, who discovered he had terminal cancer, and decided to use his chemistry knowledge to become the worlds premier meth cook. As the series continued, Mr. White, as he was often called by his erstwhile partner and former student Jesse Pinkman, he also became a dealer and fugitive from the law. The series could have been called “The Transformation of Walter White” as this was the most fascinating aspect of the series

Walter White created an alternative persona for his meth activities, a nom de plumb. He called himself Heisenberg, and the combination of his persona and growing urban legend transformed Walter White into one of the most fascinating characters in the history of televisions. Here I will share just five of the messages I gleaned from my near religious and zealous viewing of Breaking Bad over a spectacular five seasons.

#1. Do what you are good at!

In the beginning, upon learning of his cancer diagnosis, Walter White only wanted to make enough money to cover his medical expenses and leave his wife and two children in comfort. As the series progressed, it became clear that at this final stage of his life, Walter White discovered something at which he excelled. His meth took on a blue tinge, and the purity and effectiveness of said meth was legendary. Everything that followed through the series was born out of Heisenberg’s expertise and now fully utilized talent. Making meth was not work for Walter White. He loved what he did and he did it better than anyone else.

For me the bottom line is this: “Don’t waste my life doing things that I am not good at, only to make a buck. Life is too short.”

#2. Work is an essential part of a man’s life.

This may seem obvious to some, but I feel it is often overlooked. During my time in Chiang Mai, I saw many men who were retired. They did not seem happy to me. They lost their passion and their drive. They had silenced their inner warrior. Men need something to do, something they can own, and something that allows them to express their talents. It is how we are wired: we like to be in the game. While Walter White was a good chemistry teacher, it wasn’t until he began cooking meth that he found his true magic. His gifts immediately shined through. His life transformed in many way.

#3. Be willing to negotiate most everything in life.

Breaking Bad is a drama, and as such, there are many clearly unrealistic situations which Walter and crew had to overcome. There were many times when I said to myself, “how does he get out of this one?” And right up to the final scene in the finale entitled Felina, Walter White found a way. There are many times in my life in which I have accepted the status quo, even when I wanted something else. I did not open my mouth and suggest an alternate plan. I did not think about how a change in plan could benefit all those involved. In Breaking Bad, I saw how quickly things can shift when someone is committed and willing to take action to achieve a goal.

#4. It’s about the money.

Spoiler alert: By the time we get to the last few episodes, Walter White has amassed a fortune of roughly $ 90 Million. In the end, his primary goal was to provide for his family and ensure his son and daughter would reap the rewards of his work. Money is a measure of energy, and so money is one of many measures of a man’s quality of life. There is also a “satisfaction” currency, a “travel” currency, a “balance” currency, and a “relationship” currency. However, money is still the primary societal measure of a man’s success.  If I really want to do some amazing things in my life, I need money to do it.

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

#5. It’s not about the money.

Paradoxically, working hard just to achieve wealth seems to be a rough road to travel. Most men look to do something they either a) are good at or B) truly enjoy or C) are good at and also enjoy. Option C is the best of both worlds. In the case of Walter White, he had both in the final years of his life. He took great pride in his meth empire, and relished the fact that he was the king of meth in the United States. In the final scene of Breaking Bad, Walter White ends up where he started, in a meth lab. He fondly touches the equipment and remembers some of his past exploits. He does not think about the money, but rather the things he did and experienced he shared.

In Walter White we see a man dealing with life according to his own rules, running roughshod over any and all masculine stereotypes.

Breaking Bad is the greatest television series of all time. As a passionate Sopranos fan, this is saying a lot. Both series feature strong, powerful and deeply flawed main male character. While the travails of Tony Soprano were indeed fascinating with all the Mafia characters and woman and violence, the steep arc of Walter White from pedestrian high school teacher to multi million-dollar meth dealer held me far more engaged.

Each episode of Breaking Bad had memorable “aha” moments. Great series do that. If you have not watched Breaking Bad, put it next on your to do list. I am excited for you. In Walter White we see a man dealing with life according to his own rules, running roughshod over any and all masculine stereotypes. I found it refreshing and inspiring to see and experience a man who felt completely free to pursue his work, dangerous and illegal as it may have been.

The article originally appeared on the Good Men Project Website.

Every Man, Every Day, Should Ask Himself One Question

Every Man, Every Day, Should Ask Himself One Question

Author Jay Cradeur shares a moment to moment choice which directly impacts a man’s experience of life and lover.

“Only mystery makes us live. Only mystery.”

Federico García Lorca

I am an arrogant bastard. I know this about myself, and I have worked hard to be less arrogant and less of a bastard. Usually I am fairly palatable. Still, on occasion, I can easily slip into my arrogant bastard persona, and my life takes a decidedly mundane and now predictable turn for the worse. “Know thyself” is a mantra with which I have learned to live. I am aware that we all have a dark side, and the better we know it and embrace it, the more powerful and self realized we can walk the earth. This has been true for me, and I see it in every man I have met along the path.

“Pursue, keep up with, circle round and round your life, as a dog does his master’s chaise.  Do what you love.  Know your own bone, gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.”

Henry David Thoreau

I would posit that the opposite of being arrogant is being humble. When I am humble, grateful, and appreciative for all that life has to offer, my life works in a much more magical and unpredictable way. When I am humble, women seem to respond much more positively than before. There is a sense of wonder I feel in my humbleness that escapes when the arrogant bastard returns. He is always knocking on the door, but humbleness keeps his pleas to a low and forgettable level.  The question that keeps me in the sweet spot is this:

“Am I open to life?”

When I am humble and grateful, much of life is magical, and mystical, and often beyond my comprehension.

Can I remain a student of life? Can I marvel at the mysteries of life? Can I treat my relationships as fresh and alive? Or do I feel I know everything? Do I think I have it all figured out? Do I know my partner inside and out, and there is no room for discovery and revelation? One set of questions works, and the other set of questions does not work.  My old sales manager use to say this to me:  “When you are green, you’re growing.  When you are ripe, you’re rotten.”

This article is an invitation to stay open. Take a look at your hands as you put them palms up. This is a great pneumonic device. Are you an open hand, or a closed fist? I know that when I am open, I capture so much more of this amazing life experience. When I am humble and grateful, much of life is magical, and mystical, and often beyond my comprehension. This is where I chose to live, unless I get in my own way. William Blake used a powerful expression in his poem, London. The expression is “mind forged manacles.” I can choose whether I will be a prisoner of my own mind, a subject of ego.

“In every cry of every Man,

In every Infants cry of fear,

In every voice: in every ban,

The mind-forg’d manacles I hear.”

From the poem London by William Blake

In the movie, Meet Joe Black, William Parish, a wealthy titan of industry played by Anthony Hopkins, is speaking with his daughter. He is sharing his thoughts about her boyfriend. He shares that he is concerned she has chosen her boyfriend because he is a good fit, but there is no passion. She feels she is doing the right thing, picking a guy who is her social match.  However her Dad implores her to stay open for someone else, because “lightning may strike.” William Parish tells his daughter he wants her to be open for real love. He says:

“I want you to levitate.

I want you to sing with rapture

and dance like a dervish.”

Open hands or closed fist?

Am I open to life?

The great poems, the great pieces of literature, the world’s great art, they are all born out of nothing. An author, a painter, a sculptor, they sit in front of a blank screen or canvas or slab of clay, and they remain open to a special spirit to inhabit them and guide them to create beauty. The same is true for each and every one of us, if we but remain open. When the fist is closed, nothing can enter. All entrances are shut. Life simply repeats, as we have known it. Relationships, in this environment, often wither and die from a lack of new energy. A relationship lived as stifling suffocation is no way to live. It is a slow death, and eventually, one partner will have to break out and get some fresh air.

“Men are like fine wine. They start out as grapes, and it’s up to the women to stomp the snot out of them until they turn into something acceptable to have dinner with.”

Dave Barry

Staying open is an opportunity to turn on your music device, listen to Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love, crank the volume way, way up, and let the wall of sound envelop you.

I have observed that when I am open, I am vulnerable. As a man, this can be uncomfortable at times. I prefer to be in charge, to know where I am going, and to be leading the way. Being open requires a paradigm shift. It requires an appreciation of vulnerability as ultimate strength. It demands that we value the unknown over the known. My old teacher, author Stuart Wilde, said our greatest strength is our vulnerability. Remaining vulnerable, especially for men, is a challenging road to hoe. And for that reason, it can also be the most satisfying.

Living in the question of “Am I open to life” requires a subtle shift in perception. Vulnerability does not mean weakness. This is a common masculine response and misconception. Instead it means being willing to move through life with what Shunryu Suzuki calls “beginner’s mind.”  Staying open is an opportunity to turn on your music device, listen to Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love, crank the volume way, way up, and let the wall of sound envelop you.  Staying open is a que to the universe, inviting into your experience all that life has to offer.

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. ”
― Shunryu Suzuki

Am I open to life? I invite you to ask yourself this question often and in earnest. Take notice of how this impacts everyone in your life. I believe every moment is a moment for ongoing transformation. Each moment is a choice. Each moment we can feel a spirit inside of us that longs for connection and expansion and realization. Or we can pretend we have it all figured out, and be resolute, and plod on through. Perhaps our primary job is to stay open, keep our mind and body receptive, and watch as life gifts us with joys and pleasures and wisdom unimaginable.

The article originally appeared on the Good Men Project Website.

Sean Connery’s Never Fail Secret to Embrace Her Heart Every Time.

Sean Connery’s Never Fail Secret to Embrace Her Heart Every Time.

Author Jay Cradeur shares the one surefire thing you can do to make her day, open her heart, and see her smile. It is easier than you think and it works every time.

“Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them. And it’s much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world!”     Neil Gaiman

This is an article about gifts and generosity. It is about giving, and not expecting anything in return. Let’s begin with a movie. I have watched the film Finding Forrester at least 10 times. As a writer, every time I watch this gem of a movie, I continue to gather little nuggets of wisdom about the creative process. Sean Connery stars as William Forrester, an older man who wrote just one book in his career, a Pulitzer prize winning book called Avalon Landing. After some 30 years, he had never written another book. Instead, he became a bit of a recluse due to some unresolved personal issues, and lives in a small inner city apartment across the street from a basketball court. He reluctantly takes on Jamaal Wallace (played by Rob Brown), a young black man, as his protoge.

“You can always tell what kind of a person a man really thinks you are by the earrings he gives you.”  Audrey Hepburn

For all the writers out there (and aren’t we all writers?), William Forrester emphasized the importance of writing more and thinking less. As he said, if you sit at the typewriter or keyboard, Type! Begin typing even if you don’t have anything to type.  Soon something will start to develop.  I have put this to good use.   Second, William Forrester said the best part of writing comes after the first draft is complete.  Once the first draft is done, he could then go and read it through for the first time. When I heard this, I completely agreed. There is no better feeling that to pound out a 1,000 word article and then stop, take a short break to make a fresh cup of coffee or tea, and then get back to the screen to read through the first draft. It is one of the best life experiences. Only a writer will appreciate it, but appreciate it we do.

“But, I learned a few things along the way which might be of help with this young lady you’re always talking about.”

However the biggest takeaway from the movie is a little bit of dating advice he gives to  Jamaal. William and Jamaal were talking about writing, and presenting to a group, and then William said, “But, I learned a few things along the way which might be of help with this young lady you’re always talking about.”  William Forrester then  said something I have never forgot and I don’t think you will either:

“The key to a woman’s heart is an unexpected gift at an unexpected time.”  

William Forrester in Finding Forrester

“Unexpected gift, unexpected time.” Those words are now locked into my memory. I recommend you lock them in too. I have included the YouTube video of this two minute scene at the bottom of this article for your viewing pleasure. Better yet, rent or download the movie. It is a classic.

William’s advice does raise a question as to what is the most appropriate gift to give to your partner. According to author Gary Chapman in his book, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, there are five different ways that we can communicate love, but only one or two for which your partner will respond. The five love languages are:

Gifts –

Your partner most appreciates physical gifts like books, earnings, chocolate, jewelry, or flowers.

Quality Time –

Your partner most appreciates it when you spend time together without interruption, so a gift of a weekend out of town (read this article on Weekend Getaways if this is you), or even an afternoon at a spa where you can get a couples massage.

Words of Affirmation –

Your partner appreciates when you say or write and share words that let her know how much you love her. You might write her a poem, or simply tell her how amazing she is and how lucky you feel having her in your life.

Act of Service –

Your partner appreciates it when you do the dishes, paint a room, change the car oil, etc. “Honey, I love you and I want to paint the baby’s room, which color do you like?”

Physical Touch –

Your partner wants to feel you, and feel your touch. I recommended giving her a 30 minute (or 60 minutes if you are up to it) massage. Or maybe taking a walk and holding her hand will do the trick.

Stroke my hair and I will purr like a cat. Tell me I amaze you each and every day and I will rearrange my life for you.

Figure out which one your partner best hears and appreciates. Also figure out which one you hear and respond to most clearly. It is wonderful to have this understanding so you know when you give that unexpected gift at the unexpected time, your partner will really feel it and appreciate your generosity and consideration. Personally, I am a touch and word guy. That is what I like. Put your arms around me and tell me how you feel. Stroke my hair and I will purr like a cat. Tell me I amaze you each and every day and I will rearrange my life for you. That is all I need. Gifts, time and service don’t do much for me. We are all different. Don’t make any assumptions. Ask your partner the question.

That is it. Let it rip. Find out what she likes. Get the gift. Surprise her with what she most wants, when she least expects to get it. You will be pleased with how well this works. If you do offer your partner an unexpected gift at an unexpected time, come back here and comment how it went over. Tell us what type of gift you gave and what kind of response you received. I wish the best of luck to you all.

Finding Forrester Video Clip:

The article originally appeared on the Good Men Project Website.