All posts by Brian

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

bias-for-action

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…

What Does It Mean To Be A Man?

pyramid-of-success

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.