Humpty Dumpty: Picking Up The Pieces

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We’re probably all familiar with the nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty, the egg-man who falls from a wall. As children, we learned some important lessons from Humpty. We learned about the dangers associated with heights. We also learned that eggs are fragile objects that can be safely dropped from heights during science class given the right resources (e.g. cardboard boxes, popsicle sticks, and packing peanuts). But, in adulthood, I’ve learned more lessons from Humpty. In case it’s been a while since you recited this little rhyme, here it is:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together, again.

Let’s break this down and track down some of the adult lessons that can be found within. There are only four lines, so this shouldn’t take long…right?

Continue reading…

Happy Birthday…from Facebook

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It’s been a while since we’ve posted anything. Life is hard, and we’ve been focusing on other things lately (like, since Christmas-ish). I’ve been focused on my marriage. Chris has been job-hunting/starting a new job. And Brian has up and moved to be a part of Desire Church down in Pembroke Pines, FL. I’ll forego reintroducing why Mannerd exists, and just get right back into doing what we are here to do.

I recently celebrated a birthday, and have now accumulated as many years as Baskin-Robbins has flavors. While birthdays as an adult don’t have the same level of excitement associated with them as they do for kids, it’s always nice to get together with (or at least hear from) new and old friends. Then there’s that other kind of friend: the Facebook Friend. I think we can all agree on the definition of the Facebook Friend. These are the people with whom we are barely, if even, acquainted. Sometimes, it’s an even lesser degree of connection. Maybe they’re just the friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend. Yet, because we accepted that friend request years ago, we’re now given the opportunity once a year to acknowledge the day they “burst forth from their mother’s loins”1 based on nothing more than a little red notification badge.

This year, I conducted a bit of a social experiment. A few days beforehand, I made my birthday private on Facebook. There would be no little red badge to notify everyone on my friends list of my further passage through the sands of time. The results were quite conclusive. I did not receive one single “Happy Birthday” on Facebook. These results perfectly mirrored my hypothesis. This might sound depressing and, in a way, I suppose it is. Without the reminder from Facebook, most of my friends, acquaintances, and even family members don’t know when my birthday is. I did get a handful of well-wishes, and because I knew they were more than a response to a notification badge, they meant a little more to me. Continue reading…

2014 Christmas Giveaway

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During this season of gratefulness and giving, we would be remiss if we didn’t thank those of you who have joined with us on our mission to strengthen male relationships. In October, we talked about extending a personal invitation to a friend that you’d like to partner with on this mission. I mentioned using a fountain pen to author that invitation, as it conveys intentionality to use a slower, more bespoke method of communication.

We’ve decided to give away a couple of goodies from The Goulet Pen Company to a reader of Mannerd this Christmas so that they can try their hand at this method of writing. We would love to send something to all of you, but that’s just not feasible with our budget. So, we’ve decided to handle this giveaway raffle-style. To enter your name in the drawing, just us on Facebook and comment on this post telling us about the most memorable Christmas gift you’ve received. We will be accepting entries until 11:59PM on Friday Dec. 12th, 2014. (If you’ve already liked us on Facebook, you’ll just need to comment on the post.) Now, what will you be entering to win? Continue reading…

A Simple Thank You

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Thanksgiving is just a couple days away. For many of us, this means traveling, family drama, overeating, and football. For some of us though, it means a weekend of loneliness. Some of you may not be able to afford the time off from work, or you don’t get holidays off. Some of you may be unencumbered by work, but are unable to afford the airfare or gasoline required to visit distant family. Some may have recently lost a loved one, so there’s going to be an eerily empty seat, and unfilled pauses in conversation this year. Others may not have family that accepts them as they are. This, combined with the upcoming season of hectic gift buying and other social expectations can easily become overwhelming.

We want to remind you that a simple thank you can go a long way toward making a friend, who may be dealing with feeling lonely and overwhelmed this holiday season, feel loved and cared for. Taking the time to remind a friend of why you are thankful for their role in your life in a personal way is a great way to reach out to them. I’m not talking about a group text message or email. Find the time to pull them aside or take them to coffee. Sit down and write them a letter. At the very least, give them a personal phone call, and spend some uninterrupted time telling them what they’ve meant to you over the last year. If you’ll be staying home for the holidays, maybe you could invite a friend who you know won’t be with family. There’s always plenty of food, anyway. Make an extra effort to make them feel at home. You may be the one person who reaches out to them, and that can make a huge difference in their outlook toward this season.

Punctuality: Why Time Matters

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Imagine a friend who always finds himself apologizing for arriving awkwardly late to scheduled events. Maybe you don’t have to imagine this scenario, because the person described is one of your friends. Maybe you’re thinking, “It doesn’t happen that often…” In that case, maybe you’re the friend who others mumble about while they look at their watch wondering why you aren’t there yet…again.

Much like money, the use of time requires discipline to avoid mismanagement. In all of our lives, time is a finite commodity. We’ve probably all heard someone say, “You can always earn more money.” However, time is non-regenerative. Unused time doesn’t roll over to the next day. We can’t earn more time. Unlike money, we can’t save up an account full of time to be spent on days where we come up a bit short. Our own time needs to be managed well, and the time of others should be respected. When we mismanage our time we send clear signals to others, especially those close to us. Continue reading…

You Need Other People

You need other people, and I’m not just talking about your wife, your kids, or a group of guys you can eat wings and watch the game with. All of those things are important, but what I’m talking about is having people who you can talk to about what is really going on in your life, people you can share your deepest longings and struggles with, people with whom you can share those emotions that you’ve spent most of your life pretending you don’t have.

It’s good if you can share those things with your significant other, because most of us don’t even do that. But you need to have men in your life that you can share with. I learned this the hard way. You see, a year ago today a judge signed his name and stamped his seal on the document that ended my marriage. Men often have a more difficult time dealing with and recovering from divorce than women. A big reason for this is that men tend to rely on their wives for all of their emotional needs, because we think it is weird or gay to share our emotions with other men. This means that men tend to suck at friendship. We are so caught up in being perceived as being gay, that we fail miserably at forming strong friendships. This is a huge problem, because low social well being is connected to higher rates of a whole host of health problems, as well as lower life expectancy. Continue reading…

Bias For Action: Just Do Something

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Too many men fall into the trap of waiting until things are just right, in order to take action. As a result, we spend a lot of our time drifting through life waiting for the right time to take action. Or, worse yet, we move from one crisis to the next putting out fires that wouldn’t have flared up to begin with if we had taken action to prevent them.

The Marine Corps has a concept they call a bias for action. They even list it as one of their core leadership traits. The idea behind having a bias for action is that it is better to make a decision now with the available information than to wait to have all possible information and a perfect environment before taking action. In the fast pace, high risk environment that the Marine Corps operates in this is the only way you can operate. If you wait to seize the initiative, or you stop moving forward it could easily get you and everyone under your leadership killed. Continue reading…

The Self-Control Muscle

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Self-control is usually only spoken about after the fact. After things get crazy, you might hear someone say, “Exercising self-control would have prevented [insert catastrophe].” In most cases, though, we simply don’t talk about it. We will attribute a loving family to luck, a rejuvenating relationship to character, or a successful career to time spent laboring. We explain these things in this manner because we are terrified of using the words self-control.  Thus far, my life has presented an exemplar vantage point from which I can study this phenomena.

I never met my father. I grew up with my Mom and older brother, and he moved out when I was twelve. I don’t remember having a meal together as a family after age twelve, and I don’t remember there being any structure for when things happened in my home. Most of the time I ate whatever I felt like eating, whenever I felt like eating. I slept when I felt like sleeping, and I woke only when I thought missing something would be detrimental to my future (based on my own definition of “detrimental”).

The second semester of my senior year of High School was 94 days long. I missed my first-period class 46 of those days because I felt like staying up till 3AM, and 7:30AM just didn’t fit that schedule. I graduated 94th in my class of 414 with a GPA of 3.44, and managed to get a full-ride for four years of schooling from an essay writing contest. The contest required five 1,000 word essays on five different topics. Of course, I wrote all five of those essays in three hours the night before they were due. I’m not sharing these things to brag or establish credibility. I’m sharing them to show that I had no understanding, practice, or concept of self-control…at least through age eighteen. Continue reading…

Practical Burden Bearing Pt:2

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We recently discussed practical ways that we could help bear the burden of dealing with online pornography for a friend struggling in that area. In this post, we are going to flesh out some ways that men struggle in the area of money management. We all deal with money, at least in our personal lives. Some of us even get paid to manage other people’s money. Much of what we know about money management comes from our upbringing. For instance, if you were raised in a home where flagrant mismanagement was the norm and impulsivity ruled, you may find yourself following along that same path. Or, your parent(s) may not have taught you much about how to manage money, so your concept is, “As long as the balance is in the black, there’s nothing to worry about.” Whatever part of your money management skills can be attributed or blamed on your upbringing, there comes a time when you have to take responsibility for the way you choose to manage the money that flows through your hands.

For me this time of reckoning came when the water got shut off at my house. I still want to deny a percentage of responsibility, but it did happen on my watch. It was at a time when my wife and I were still paying bills based on the current checking account balance. The water bill came in the mail, and I contend my wife brought it in from the mailbox and opened it. By my logic, when she opened the bill she assumed responsibility for paying it. She was blissfully unaware of this understanding. Days went by, and the bill re-surfaced on the kitchen counter. I realized it didn’t have a “PAID” stamp on its face. The due date was the day it re-surfaced, and so I logged into the online system and paid it. Problem solved, right? Wrong. A few days later, I learned that the online payment system is not instantaneous, but takes a few days to process. When weekends and holidays are involved, it can take even longer. I learned this when I woke up and tried to quench my sleep induced thirst with a glass of water, and was greeted by the sound of silence coming from the tap. In disbelief, I went and asked my neighbor if their water was working, because it must have been a problem with the water line. His water water flowing just fine. I called the water company and asked about the outage. They kindly informed me that when they weren’t paid for the service they provide, they turned off that service. I was forced to admit that my “system” for managing bill payments wasn’t working. With that, my desire to get a handle on our finances was ignited and I decided to do something about it. Continue reading…

What Does It Mean To Be A Man?

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Can I make a confession? Most of the time I don’t know the answer to that question. I used to think I was alone in that. I looked around at the other men that I knew, and it seemed like they had it figured out. Now, as I have grown to have deeper relationships with other men, I realize that most of us feel this way. Sure, we could point you to our favorite fictional or historical men (Ron Swanson and Teddy Roosevelt are clearly the best, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise), but what actually made them men? How do we live that out in our own lives? And most importantly — are they examples of men we should emulate?

I’m going to disappoint you now. This post isn’t really about answering those questions. There will be plenty of time to find those answers later, and no single article could ever hope to provide a comprehensive response. My purpose here is to show some of the core issues I think this confusion has caused in our culture.

Much of this confusion manifests itself in the prolonged adolescence seen in so many young men. Boys to Men has become Boys to Boys. Not so long ago, men in their early 20s had passed most of the core signposts of the transition between boyhood and adulthood — education, financial independence, marriage, and children. This is not to say that all men need to be married or have children. Having achieved these things doesn’t mean that you have become a man. There are plenty of boys with jobs and a wedding ring. I know. I was one. These are simply indicators we can use to look at the state of men as a whole in our culture.

Let’s first look at education. Men have fallen behind in almost every area of educational attainment. In the United States, men have fallen behind women in just about every major measure of educational attainment. Men have lower literacy rates, drop out of high school at a higher rate, and earn fewer bachelors and masters degrees. The areas where men still do well are in Ph.D.s and professional degrees, but women are projected to surpass men in these areas in the coming years.

Another worrying statistic is the decline in labor force participation amongst men. In 1948 86.7% of men were active in the labor force. This has steadily declined over the years to the point that, as of September of this year, only 69.1% of men were active in the labor force. This is even more worrying for men aged 24-54 where participation has fallen from over 97% in 1955 to 88.4% in 2013. These are men who should be done with their education and ready for employment, up through those men in their peak earning years.

When it comes to marriage, I probably don’t need to point out the stellar success rate that it enjoys in this country. More and more, both men and women are putting off marriage until later in their lives and those marriages tend to fail at alarming rates. Some of this is exacerbated by the above two factors. Men and women both tend to marry people who have similar education and income levels to themselves. And as men start slipping further behind women in those areas, young women will find it increasingly difficult to find suitable young men to marry. Divorce rates are also correlated with education level. More educated individuals tend to divorce less.

There are many theories about why men are falling behind, but I think many of the problems are due to a misplaced and delayed since of manhood. Many men are content to remain boys much longer than they used to, shut up in their parents basements playing video games until well after they should have finished their degrees and entered the workforce. Often, they don’t have any other notion of what it is to be a man. They are often forced to live with fathers who are simply not around, and must look to their peers to ground their sense of manhood.

We here at Mannerd are deeply concerned about these issues, and we aim to address some of the incorrect notions of manhood that lead to these problems. We want to equip men with the tools they need in order to achieve these things, as well as the skills they need in order to develop the deep connections to other men that they need in order to weather life’s many storms. We encourage you to evaluate how your definition of manhood was shaped, and then reconcile that against what you believe to be true. We’d love to hear your definitions, both past and present.