Give The Young And Foolish Some Room To Grow

Experience is the hardest kind of teacher. It gives you the test first and the lesson afterward.
Oscar Wilde
As I look back at my youth, I usually end up with the same conclusion: “the fact that I survived into adulthood is amazing.” Regrets? I’m not sure I would call them regrets. All the foolish mistakes, wild adventures, and dumb decision I made growing up made me into the man I am today. If I’m completely honest, whatever wisdom I have now at this age is thanks to having been foolish during my youth. And then I look upon today’s youth and become saddened, not because of how they are, but rather because of how we are as parents.

My youth was made up off broken bones and a heart broken enough times to fill a Victorian library. It was made up of scars, physical and psychological, and enough secrets kept from the authority figures around me that I would have made any Italian Mobster proud. I learned that the world could be beautiful and devastating, uplifting and unforgiving, all at the same time. I took enough risks to believe myself invincible, yet the simplest things like walking up to a cute girl were terrifying. And it was all glorious, or at least as glorious as a tragic accident where the people involved survived could be.

It taught me that unknown roads lead to adventures, and adventures lead to unbelievable stories. It taught me that the only way I would to be heard was to speak up. It taught me that risk sometimes pans out while other times it meant getting hurt. And it taught me that with enough time, you can get over getting hurt. Scars meant bragging rights, respect can be earned by standing up for yourself, and knowing how to keep a secret forged loyalties.

Then I look at myself as a parent, as I know that my kids are now learning all those same lessons, and I find myself dealing with the personal terror of “letting go of the bike even if it means your kid falls down.”  We tend want to keep our kids safe, take on the world’s horrors and dangers for them. We want to keep them safe while at the same time provide them the best tools for them to make something out of themselves. But are we really providing them the best tools when we never let them learn how to use these tools? No matter how many times my martial arts maestro told me to keep my guard up, I never really did it till after I got hit… hard…  several times… on the face.

People don’t learn by being told what to do, but rather by being allowed to do.  They’ll learn even when they fail. This is especially true when they also learn what can go wrong by not doing. The lessons you learn best are usually the one that cost you. Yet we constantly try to keep our kids from learning that way, in a misguided sense of parental protection.

You can’t complain about a man who doesn’t know how to basic car maintenance, when you bought him a new car when he was 16. You can’t complain about a man who doesn’t know how to keep up a house if you never asked him to even take care of his room. You can’t complain about a man who’s entitled if you constantly keep bailing him out of trouble. We can’t really complain about men who can’t handle life’s challenges without calling out a parent who never let the kid face challenges by himself.

So, what can you do to prepare your kid for a stern world? All you can do is mentor them and become an example for them to emulate. All you can do is provide them with the tools they might need along their way. And at the end, all you can do is really hope it was enough and pray for the best while trying to be emotionally ready to let them learn from their mistakes.


The Rise Of Strong Women, Fall Of Soft Men, And Return Of Gentlemen

In soft regions are born soft men.
A few days ago, a video popped up within my media feed, an editorial closing, posing a question that keeps popping up, especially from the lips of women; “Have men become too soft?”

The presenter mentioned several causes for the rise of these “soft” men. Was it the wussification of men, as so many want to allege? Maybe everything would be solved if we could just get men to toughen up. Was it the demonization of masculinity so badly that being a man is now shameful? Maybe everything would be solved if men would start being proud of being manly. I don’t think either attitude will solve the issue.

At the end, she did mention what could be the key cause and actual solution to the problem. “Teach your sons to be men, because the women of the world are tired of the boys.” The problem was that for the longest time, society was in such a hurry to make men out of boys, that we never taught boys how to be men.

Consider that for the last couple of decades, men were told that their value as men rested on being better than other men. It rested on having financial stability through a good job; proven to the world through an expensive car and a nice house. It rested on how many women they can sleep. It rested in being able to get a beautiful wife when they finally decided to settled down. Then, it’s rested on having a family they can show off. Just consider at how we portray politicians and successful men. They stand proudly as their wife and kids become decoration around them, as proof of their stability. In the backdrop, we see either their homes or cars as prove of their wealth. The entirety of this kind of manhood rested on such a fragile foundation made up of external factors that even the most simplest of things caused their world to tumble down. This lead too many men into feel a sense of obsoleteness as soon as life threw them a curve ball.

If someone faster or stronger than him shows up, he’s no longer a man. If he became unemployed and loses his financial stability, he he’s no longer a man. If he gets shot down by a woman, he’s no longer a man. If his kids didn’t measure up to his expectations, he’s no longer a man. When you think about it, under this mentality, those things that “make him a man,” are also the biggest threat to his ideal of manhood. Unemployment, failure, divorce, “disappointing kids,” or simply being told “no” by a woman become a direct assault on their masculinity.

As a response to this attitude, we demonized manhood, or at least what was sold to us as manhood for the last few decades. Society went off chanting the damage these expectations placed on men, as we blamed everything on toxic masculinity. We did our best to swing the pendulum of manhood as far away as possible from the old traditions.  And as the pendulum started to sway away from this previous mindset, we began to praise any man who did things previously considered manly, followed up by shaming any man who expressed interest in any form of traditional masculinity. It was as if to avoid being a slave to masculinity, we now became slaves to “anti-masculinity.” Social media became flooded with men screaming “look at how sensitive I am” as if it proved to the world how they broke free from the bonds of manhood. At the same time, chivalry, and any other idea traditionally tied to masculinity, was shamed as sexist, at best, or toxic, at worse.

And then, slowly but surely, it happened.

We realized that we almost killed off what made men valuable within society and what made men of value. If before we taught men to be ethically infant brutes, now we created ethically infant milksops. We told men that the old traditions of honor and chivalry were harmful, and then wonder why men today feel like they have no purpose. We ridiculed the importance of honor, and wonder why we have men without loyalty. We demonized strength and wonder why men today have no valor. We, pretty much, castrated men as we told them how masculinity was bad, and then wonder where all the “real men” are.

In our haste to make men out of boys, we failed them twice. The first time, we failed them by creating brutes without humility, as we forgot to teach them character every time we taught them the value of strength. Then, in our attempt to fix it, we created sensitive men who were little more than useless as soon they faced a challenge. We forgot to teach them the value of determination and valor when we taught them about compassion. As some men grew disenchanted with society constantly telling them what it means to be a man, we’re now having to deal with a third group; men who are brutes in times of peace yet cowards in times of conflict, the worst of both worlds.

But fortunately, all is not lost.

Just as there has been a rise in true Strong Independent Women, men have been developing our own counterpart. We are witnessing a rise in men who’ve taken it upon themselves to bring back the old lessons personal character, to teach themselves how to be better men. These men realized that the problem wasn’t masculinity but rather everything that was edited out of masculinity. The solution didn’t lie in dismissing the lessons learned from the past, but rather taking the best lessons from the past while embracing the world of the present. Instead of ending up with the worst of both worlds, we began to strive for the best of both worlds.

In this process, men have begun to realize what manhood truly meant. It’s not about proving you’re better than other men, but about striving to be better than the man you were before. It’s about being able to stand before a challenge and push yourself. It’s not about making money, but about making a difference. It’s not about having a job, but about having the work ethic to get things done. It’s not about owning a house or having a wife and family. It’s about making a home, being a good husband and an involved dad.

Men have realized that it’s you should never become either a brute or a meek man exclusively. Instead, we are now seeing men who used to be brutes, yet strive to find their compassion and humility. We see men who used to be meek developing their determination and being empowered by the strength that comes from valor. It’s about growing stronger AND softer, and yet never compromising either. These men have taught themselves these lessons, and more importantly, are teaching these lessons to the next generation of men. And for the first time in a long time, we are seeing a rebirth of mentorship, as society is finally waking up to the importance of men becoming proper role models for boys, as they teach through example.

For now, we are few, but every day we are more. We are the modern Lancelots and Galahads, the new errant knights, who realized that we could be more than what society sold to us as manhood. We are the new philosophers, poets, and the warriors, as we try to bring back honor by reforging masculinity. We are the new Gentlemen of the Modern World.

And to the ladies having a hard time finding us, the worthwhile men … If it’s any consolation, men are having just a hard time trying to find the worthwhile ladies as well. Quality isn’t that common.

Bromances, Peer Pressure, And The Homosexual Terror

We always sort of flinch at this ‘bromance’ buzzword that’s come up… because of this homosexual terror that straight guys have. It’s ridiculous.
Simon Pegg
Society tends to form bonds through the act of casting aside anyone who thinks or acts differently than what’s “acceptable.” They will feel empowered by vulturing together, as they pray on anyone deemed as deserving shame; breading an “Us vs. Them” mentality, where “Us” is always right. We can see this behavior within most social groups, as power is maintained through the constant threat of social ridicule. Just look back at you’re school years, were the popular kids would gang up on the outcasts as a show of force. This has taught people to hide behind mock strength or to gravitate to cliques in a desperate need to find protection in numbers. This also taught people that the easiest way to keep everyone in line was through open shaming.

We’re more familiar with this concept when we view what girls have to deal with growing up. In their case, the behavior of girls is dominated through slut shaming by both boys and other girls. They are told how to act, how to speak, how to dress, and even what to think under the threat of being called a slut, irrelevant of how sexually active they actually are. But this doesn’t work the same way with boys, right? Boys can’t be shamed with anything sexual.

Although I previously wrote on how men ARE slut shamed, the reality of peer pressure among boys comes from a different word, even though it’s still about sex. Among boys, the biggest social threat isn’t if they’re “sluts,” or even if they’re weak. The peer pressure comes from questioning their sexuality with a very different perspective. They use the word “Gay,” as it assumes the notion that being gay is being less of a man.

“Gay” becomes an adjective used to shame boys into going along with the group. A boy has a best friend with whom they spend all their free time with, or could even call up for help to stand up to others? They must be gay. A boy cries? He must be gay. A boy says something nice about how another boy looks? He must be gay. A boy takes care of his appearance? Plays with dolls? Reads poetry? Get good grades? Likes theater? Or art? Or even music? The universal put down answer to all these things? Gay.

Before we rally behind the notion of how it’s boys hurt other boys, how the patriarchy and our male dominated sexist society is the one hurting men, keep in mind how girls will do the exact same thing to boys. A girl doesn’t receive the attention she wants from a boy? It must be that he’s gay. Rejected by a boy? It must be because he’s gay. If he likes to spend more time with his male best friend than her? He has to be gay, because that’s the only reason why he’d choose his friends over her. Doesn’t want to sleep with her? Obviously gay. Questioning a boy’s sexuality becomes a simple way some girls go on to control them. If he asks for her emotional support or calls her out for being abusive? Has to be because he’s gay, because a real man would be able to put up with her.

As a way to keep boys and latter on men in check, society ends up preying off the same insecurities that was bashed into their brains, as we created the need to prove their “Straightness” and an ingrained into their mind the “Homosexual Terror” (the fear of being viewed as gay). This has lead to some of men to be unable to handle their own sexuality in the cases of actually being gay. It also has a lasting damaging effect on straight men, as it creates a subconscious fear being viewed as gay, as they feel the need to prove just how straight they are. We see it in the constant need to validate their masculinity through signs of strength or sexual prowess. Some people might accuse these men of being homophobic, but the reality is quite different. These men know how society (both men and women) treats anyone viewed as a “lesser man” and are constantly told that gays are lesser men. (Read as “Be a Real Man”)

And before you assume that society had been moving into a more inclusive and accepting mindset as we become more accepting of gays, that we’ve moved into a less homophobic culture, the only thing we’ve done is to move into a more politically correct embrace of men’s sexuality. We still give an overwhelming importance to a man’s sexuality, as if it being gay or straight defines his manhood. We still make the constant sexual innuendoes of a couple of men being close friends. You see it with every famous on screen bromance, as suddenly the internet becomes full of fan fiction gay erotica about them. Any male celebrity who takes care of his appearance or is sensitive or emotionally open, the gay rumor mills will run on overdrive.

Fortunately, some men are actually starting to take a stand against this attitude. During an interview, Tom Hardy was faced with this kind of issue. The reporter kept throwing several innuendos about the possibility of him having a homosexual experience in his past. Mr. Hardy, with the sternest expression possible, bluntly shut down the situation with a two simple questions.

“Are you asking about my sexuality?”

The interviewer could do little more than change the subject, as trying to follow up on it would expose the notion that the actor’s sexuality defines the man’s masculinity. Do you know why Mr. Hardy’s confrontation of that type of question and that type of attitude was so important? Because his sexual experiences are NOBODY’S FUCKING PROBLEM. It won’t make him a better or worse actor, nor will it make him a better or worse man. And yet social media is obsessed in defining who is gay and who isn’t. We, as a society, need to change this. And we, as men, need to stop playing the “of course I’m not gay” game.

You’re Gay? Fine. You’re Bi? Fine. You’re Straight? Fine. Your sexuality should only matter to YOU. (and your partner, obviously) Who cares what others think? Placing your value as a man on who you’d rather aim your penis is a pretty superficial way to define yourself as a man. Most men understand that their sexuality doesn’t make them more or less of a man. Letting your actions be dominated by someone else’s opinion of your sexuality makes even less sense.

How can we stop playing that game? For starters, by not ostracizing anyone because of their sexual orientation. Stop putting so much stock on whether they’re gay or not. “Oh, but if they’re gay, they’ll hit on me!” has to be the dumbest reason to shun someone off. . That’s like saying you won’t be friends with a girl you don’t want to sleep with, simply because she might hit possibly on you at some time in the imaginary future. If anything, you should feel flattered if he hits on you.

From there, don’t let the idea of being called gay stop you…

Don’t let it stop you from telling your male friends how important they are in your life. The fact that they’re guys should never stop you. Keep in mind that adding “in a hetero way” is you pretty much admitting how you’re still being a slave to social shaming. On a side note, saying “I love you” when you’re drunk doesn’t count. Most people that need to be drunk to say “I love you” are the same people who say “I love you” to whatever bartender gave them a drink after last call.

Don’t let the idea of being called gay stop you from pursuing your dreams and passions. You love dance? Dance away. You like painting? Unleash yourself on a canvas. Music? Acting? Macramé? More power to you! At least you have a dream, a passion, and a purpose to pursue; which is a lot more than what most people have. Just make sure you have the dedication and talent to back it up.

Don’t let the idea of being called gay define how you present yourself to the world. Have no shame in being as eloquent or elegant as you want to. Last time I checked, your sexuality had nothing to do with how you dress, what your grooming habits are, or how you speak. Swearing while wearing a run down tee-shirt and sweats don’t make you any more straight. Neither does having proper diction while wearing nice shirt or pressed slacks make you gay.

If we want to move past this mentality, we need to move away from giving such an important role within our society to men’s sexuality. We need to stop feeding the trolls by assuming that men are defined by where they point their penis. We need to stop viewing men as slaves their dicks. Maybe if we stop telling men that they have no self control or that they need to prove to everyone their sexuality, men can show us that they are more than we give them credit for. 

I don’t want anyone to think that with this post I am excusing homophobia, or in any way denying it. Homophobia is real. There are people (men and women) who still discriminate against others based on their sexual orientation. This article should in no way make you think that we, as a society, are past it.

If you’re a guy who think being gay makes anyone less of a man, let me just tell you one thing. Gay men have accepted their sexuality in a world where closed minded bigots like you still exist. That alone proves they have bigger balls than you.


Create A Life...

Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.
Seth Godin
We’ve all heard that old adage, “create a life you don’t need a vacation from”. From a theoretical point of view, this sounds like something so simple; it’s illogical not to do it. Yet from a practical perspective, this can be a challenge so overwhelmingly impossible that we end up living within a life we can barely stand, just holding it together till the weekend arrives. And as Monday roles along, we caffeinate ourselves enough to do it again.

Here’s a reality we sometimes don’t want to acknowledge. We chose this life. We chose it with every action and inaction we have taken, with everything we put up with and everything we avoid. Just think of how many times you have complained about your job, or your relationships, or yourself. Now consider just what real actions you’ve taken to change them, fix them, or better them. Wishful thinking doesn’t do much if it’s not followed up with actions.

Take a moment to define the world you want, the world you really want. I’m not talking about fantasizing about winning the lottery so you never have to work again or randomly meeting a CEO looking to hire you as his successor because he likes your “spunk” or a Victoria Secret’s model who just happens to fall madly in love with you for whatever reason some disconnected RomCom writer can come up with. I’m talking about defining what would be the world you want, based on who you are and who you can become.

Some of these things are simple changes you can start right away. Others are more complicated and require a greater effort. Just keep in mind that you can’t change anything unless you realize what you want. Hate your job? Unless you can figure out what job you won’t hate, changing it “just because” won’t solve anything. Figure out what kind of job you want and then get off your ass and work towards getting it. Want to live a more active lifestyle or have a better body? Get off your ass and start working out. Want to have a more active social life? Get off your ass and go out to meet more people. Want to have a more romantic relationship with your spouse? Get off your ass and do romantic things. It’s not about moving away from what you hate, but rather towards what you want. And it all starts by getting off your ass.

You have to understand who you are and who you want to be. Change your life to fit the man you are and want to be. This means working for the life you want for yourself. You can’t complain about your life if you are a willing participant of everything you hate about it.


Hold On To That Instant

I believe enlightenment or revelation comes in daily life. I look for joy, the peace of action. You need action.
Pablo Coelho
A long time ago, when I was in my early twenties, I went through a really bad break up. For what seemed an eternity to me, and probably even longer for my friends trying to cheer me up, life just seemed dull and meaningless. The guy known for his hopeless optimism and constant sarcastic humor was gone, replaced by an angst melodramatic shell of a person. That was till I was almost run over by a car.

Bare with me…I promise there’s a moral to the story.

As I was crossing a local street without taking the proper precautions, I ended up in the path of a minivan. A second of tire screeching turned into an overly concerned lady apologizing for almost hitting me. I told her not to worry, that everything was fine and I was fine. And I smiled that half cocked smile of the overly confident smart ass I was back then (and still am today).

And for an instant, I realized I WAS fine. Everything suddenly fell into place as for an instant the universe, or at least my universe, made sense. It was like if someone finally pulled the blinds and I could see all the things I was previously stumbling over within the darkness.

I would love to end this story with the notion that from that instant forth, I was blessed with endless enlightenment, but those would be lies. The reality is that from the moment it happened, that light, slowly without my notice, started to fade away as I fell into old habits and old patterns.

I’ve been visited by similar instances several other times in my life. The only difference is that now I know that they are fleeting. So what I have done is to learn from those insights, squeeze them dry of any and all self-realization, extend their revelations as long as possible, and create a mental map of where I am, for those times when I find myself lost in darkness.

We are all gifted with those instants within our lives, and it’s usually when we need them the most. It’s in those moments when you find yourself lost, when you simply resign to stumble across life, that we accidentally end up pulling down the blinds from the windows. Call it a moment of clarity, self-realization, or enlightenment from above speaking to you, it’s an instant that provides you the knowledge you need to get back up, take a deep breath, and keep walking forward. Embrace it, relish it, and learn from it, for in that instant you will realize that you ARE fine. And you’ll realize that you can again smile that cocky smile of the confident man you are.


It’s Called A Partnership For A Reason

A man with dreams needs a woman with vision.
Back in college, during a lecture on how to manage Architectural Firms, one of my old mentors shared with us the secret to finding good business partners. Instead of gravitating to like-talented professionals, you should try to find your counterparts. If you’re good at designing, the others must be good at production. If you’re good at marketing, the others must be good in accounting. You might have the best product in the world, but without someone to sell it, it’s useless. You might have the best hustlers in the world, but without something to sell… you get the idea. When you understand how each person contributes to the partnership, you understand where you have duplicated efforts, what bases are left uncovered, and if you have expendable freeloaders. Only when you can cover all the bases between all the partners, can a business be stable and successful.

He concluded the lesson by emphasizing how this mentality goes into any partnerships, especially marriage.

We live in a society that promotes self-reliance and autonomy. We are grilled by life into avoiding at all cost relying on others; all thanks to failed group projects, bad roommate arrangements, and the ever constant posts about life’s “givers and takers” or about “reachers and settlers.” By the time when we’ve been properly indoctrinated into a self-sufficient mind set, we end up unable to understand why marriage is so difficult.

During that entire process of independence, we’re never taught to open up to others or to actually trust and depend on them. We are told that “love overcomes it all” as if love, a wonderfully ephemeral sentiment, was enough to overcome some very practical issues that happen within relationships.

Let me make something clear here. No matter how “complete” and well rounded you are, you have your strong points and your weaknesses. We want to believe that we’re so “complete” that sometimes being with someone with a different skill-set or a different mindset just exposes our shortcomings to ourselves, a mirror into our “weakness.” The insecurities then tend to flourish as we become defensive of our weak points or arrogant with our strengths.

You need to view your relationship like any partnership. You bring into the union your own personal weaknesses and strengths and hope they play well with those of the other person. It’s about moving past our inability to accept our short falls or dismissing our partner’s strengths. Instead, start looking at how you balance each other out and trust your partner to have your back, even if that means keeping you in check.

The dreamer needs the realist to ground him, while the realist needs the dreamer to fly. Maybe that successful person is constantly in business mode, yet what they need and crave in a life partner is a free spirit, someone that reminds them that life isn’t all work, that play is important. Maybe that “smart” person needs someone who reminds them that life can’t be overanalyzed, that some things simply are. Or that imaginative and creative person needs a pragmatic and logical partner, who can give them the necessary focus to fulfill their dreams.

It’s amusing how we are willing to understand this concept when we speak of businesses, as the social savvy marketer will partner up with the economy savvy number cruncher. Each realizes the strengths within their partner and weaknesses within themselves, so the power and command constantly shifts and flows between them depending of the situation and the needs. If this is so easy to understand as a concept when dealing with business partnerships, why is it such a hard concept to embrace when speaking of romantic partnerships?

We don’t need someone to complete who we are within a relationship. We need someone to complete the relationship based on who we are. We need a partner who can pick up the slack left by our own weaknesses, helping us to excel in our strengths. We need a partner, who can see what we can’t see, who can give a different perspective than the one we have. And we need to trust this person to hold their end of the bargain and that is willing to let us do the same for them.