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BetterMen on The Daily Show

February 5, 2010

Last Wednesday, the men of BetterMen were featured in a satirical look at men in our culture.

Though we felt it was a great opportunity to gain exposure for our circle, and for men’s work in general, not everyone agrees.

Some enjoyed the entertainment value and could appreciate the format of the show. Others objected to placing our work up to ridicule.

Here’s a link to the segment. Tell us what you think.

BetterMen on The Daily Show

Strong Emotional Support for Men

November 11, 2009

Friend and writer, Bruce Sallan, of A Dad’s Point-of-View, offers his thoughts on how the support of men has saved, and continues to save him, from himself. Great insight for all men. Enjoy and let us know how YOU feel.

 

Here’s Bruce:

Do men really have good support for emotional issues, on a regular basis?  When a man reaches a certain age and he’s depressed, he’s struggling with his place in the world, he’s going through family problems or a divorce, or financial and job worries, etc., where can he turn?  Add into the mix that he’s a single dad and has no immediate family around and you have my situation, a few years ago.

When my marriage first broke up, I was blessed to find a circle of men that supported and guided me through the horrible ups and downs that followed.  No, it wasn’t some beer-drinking group of women-haters, nor a drumming in Indian war paint Robert Bly-type of thing.  It was regular men, with regular problems, getting together and talking about the real stuff.

I’ve stayed with this group, through various incarnations of men leaving and joining, for going on eight years now.  Unlike the stereotype beliefs of men’s groups, ours completely supports parenting and a man’s relationship with his spouse and children.  But, unfortunately, this is unusual, as men don’t tend to maintain their close male relationships after they marry, have children, and get further into their careers.

This is a classic case where the men and women differ greatly, since women, even if they’re working, tend to maintain their female friends which provides a regular outlet, in which to vent, to discuss, to get feedback, and to get help.  It isn’t always healthy to go to your spouse with every question or concern you might have.  As women tend to be influenced more by their feelings, it’s really helpful to us male slugs, that they can bounce something off their friends, before hitting us with it.

Let’s say, for instance, that one spouse has gained a considerable amount of weight.  This is clearly a delicate subject and how the thinner spouse approaches this completely determines whether there’s any chance for success.  Let’s face it; certain subjects always seem difficult, like talking about one’s sexual intimacy or money issues.  Our communication can often be based on assumptions and things that have nothing to do with the other spouse.  This is where the feedback from the men in my group often seems to save me from myself before I swallow my foot whole, in the process of making a fool of myself with my wife or boys.

As this relates to parenting, I believe it becomes equally important for men to have other men to turn to.   Dads and moms are role models for their children.  Study after study confirms the importance of both mothers and fathers in their children’s lives.  We teach our children how to be the best men and women they can be.  Support from our same-sex friends is a useful form of checks and balances that our own instincts won’t always get right.

Also, and this is key to my marriage, I have these men to talk to before I allow a feeling to erupt into saying something or taking an action that I’ll regret afterward.  More often than not, the men will help me to see that whatever I think is such a big deal just as often is in my head or unrelated to me altogether.   This sort of help, in which my group sees clearly what I can’t see, is invaluable.  It is the classic case of being too close to the situation to be objective.

To be clear guys, I mean same-sex friends, not female friends.  Women friends will tend to tell us what we want to hear, to nurture us, when what we really need is a kick in the butt and a tongue-lashing.  That’s where men with men make a real difference.

It’s natural to react to our spouses and take it personally, but it’s better to talk it out with your male friends before doing something rash or impulsive.  In this regard, I credit the men in my circle with saving my dating relationship, during the rocky times, with my wife, getting me to the altar before she completely blew me off, and improving my relationship with my boys.

So, this post is a call to men out there to seek more male friendships, apart from male friends within other couples, foursomes at golf, other sporting associations, or via your work.  How many of those men really open up to you or vice versa?

I know in my previous work-life, within the corporate and cutthroat world of showbiz, that reacting off-the-cuff was usually suicidal.  Waiting another day and reflecting, seeking outside counsel, became essential to making good decisions and taking the right action.  I equally believe that we need to look at our personal relationships in the same light.

If you men don’t have men friends that you can really talk to about your life, then get out there and find them.  Start your own group at a local coffee house, away from the women, or through your church or synagogue.  Make the topics of discussion personal and don’t talk just business, which is the fallback talk position, after sports, for most men.  The men in my life support me, but they don’t coddle me or tell me what I want to hear; they tell me what I need to hear.  We all need that.

 

Commitment Before Ego

November 2, 2009

I’d like to share with you a tool that we use in our men’s groups when we find ourselves conflicted, angry, confused, or otherwise irritated with a situation.

The question to ask ourselves is this: is our commitment before our ego?

Our commitments are what define us as men. They’re how people learn to trust us, rely upon us, and to feel safe with us. Our commitments are black and white. Once we’ve made them, we no longer have to second guess them, reconsider them, or rationalize our way out them. In other words, once we make a commitment, that’s it, it’s done. Now we just have to figure out how to honor the commitment.

The bastard that keeps interfering with our honoring our commitments is ego. In this context, ego is all about you—what’s comfortable for you, convenient for you, satisfying for you, pleasant for you, etc. We find ourselves conflicted when we put our egos before our commitments.

For instance, as fathers, we innately understand our commitment to our children. When our kid has to be picked up from school, a dance, or jail, we do it. We may be annoyed or tired, but we’re not wrestling with whether to get in the car and take care of business. Our commitment to our children—for most of us—is black and white.

But let’s say you’ve committed to working out three times during the week, part of a larger plan to lower your cholesterol. But come Friday morning, you’re just not feeling it. So you convince yourself that it’s okay to skip today because you’ve earned it. Your ego just maneuvered in front of your commitment.

Another example. You’re struggling with your corporate job. The 9 to 5 has become 7 to 7. You find yourself complaining to friends and family…and your men’s group. You look like like crap, aren’t especially pleasant to be with, and you’re stuck in the problem. Guess what? You’re ego is before your commitment.

Your ego, in this case, is that little boy who wants to whine rather than find the solution. You can tell your ego is engaged because you’re only thinking about how this situation is making YOU feel.

Were you to examine the situation through a mature man’s perspective, you’d realize that your commitments here are about: taking care of yourself so you’re the father and husband you want to be, providing for your family, building a future that reflects the man you want to be, being in the solution rather than the problem, etc.

Once you’re reminded of your commitments, and you place them in front of your ego, you can get into action to make the necessary changes to be the man you want to be.

Where have you placed your ego before your commitment? Give us the details and tell us what you plan to do now.

Sweat Lodge: A Balance in the Aftermath of Tragedy

October 19, 2009

Friends,

The recent tragedy at the sweat lodge in Sedona—now three deaths—has cast an unfortunate and undeserved pall over all lodges and the sacred ceremonies held within.

The lodge plays an important and spiritual role at our BetterMen Weekends. Beautiful transformations in the men have taken place as a result of their experiences in the lodge.

Losing the ability to sweat, because of fear or ignorance, would be a tremendous loss for us, and for countless other men, women and children who honor this ancient ritual.

In an effort to enlighten and inform our friends, I’ve asked lodge leader and friend, Paul Perrotta, if I could include a recent email of his in our blog. Please pass this on. We look forward to your comments.

From Paul Perrotta:

Hi relatives.  I hope you’re all well.

I’m writing about the Arizona sweat.  I’m sure you’ve heard about it.  Very sad.  I’m sure it’s affecting everyone connected to any lodge and I expect you’ll be feeling the squeeze also, in one way or another.

When I heard about this incident I intended to aggressively pursue any information I could get to explain what happened.  I had many questions at first.

I read that some were treated for burns.  Drug and alcohol rehabilitation sweats run by traditionalists are the hottest I’ve been in and I’ve never seen anyone treated for burns.  I read that the people fasted for 36 hours before sweating.  What did they eat after? How long was it in between the fast and the food and the sweat?  What else happened during that time?  I read that the “self help guru” had been doing this for 6 years.  Once a year? Monthly? Weekly?  Did the people ask for help, and what was the response?

When I heard that the lodge was covered with plastic, and then I saw the picture showing that it was basically sealed in plastic, I was no longer surprised that people died in there.  I was in a lodge sealed in plastic one time.  Never again.  It was toxic and nasty.

I am in no way trying to minimize this incident, and, I know that drama brings adrenalin, which is addictive, and the press thrives on it, and fear is the hook.  So, I’d like to reassure you and remind you of some things that I hope will help maintain balance during the aftermath.

There are many thousands of lodges and leaders and it’s been going on for thousands of years.

Relatives, I’ve been sweating for 35 years.  I’ve been sweating regularly for 25 years and have been pouring water for nearly 20 years.  For the last 4 or 5 years, I’ve been sweating with about 150 High School seniors each year. This year alone Elissa and I have done over 40 sweats, so far.  Our last sweat was blessed with a sweet, tiny nine-year-old girl for the first two rounds.  I’ve known dozens who’ve been sweating all their lives, and with their families growing up.  I’ve known many sweat leaders and I’ve never heard of this before—though I did read this morning that seven have died in the lodge in the last 16 years, (in three countries, combined.)

It seems clear to me that the experience level of the lodge leader is the source of this tragedy. There are many novices out there who, from a naïve but very narcissistic place, hold the sweat lodge as an activity and an enterprise.  They think it’s just heating stones and pouring water.  It’s not uncommon for an accomplished practitioner of one practice to get a glimpse of how the sweat ceremony can enhance their own practice and think they understand enough to “pick up the bucket”.  This level of narcissism prevents them from humbling down into the role of student.  The awareness and willingness to surrender to an apprenticeship seems a thing of the past.

I’d like you to know that I’ve been sweating with public schools and government programs for 20 years, here and there.

Unlike most traditionalists I’ve known, I have been closely connected to many different kinds of lodges and I hope my training, experience, commitment and integrity will be a source of comfort for all involved.

In the end, I believe this tragedy will serve the overall good by thinning out those who make an activity or an enterprise out of the lodge and her ceremony.

If you feel it would be helpful, please share this with any who might be afraid of sweating based on safety.  If they’re afraid of sweating based on being afraid of their shadows…well…it’s a big club!

For those who have decided not to sweat again based on your last experience, or this incident, or whatever, Aho.  For those who have a heart for the lodge, I look forward to sweating with you again.

Much love,

Paul

Have a Love Affair in Your Home

October 12, 2009

I’ll forever be grateful to James, an elder in our BetterMen circle, for teaching us one of the most valuable lessons that I continue to pass on to the men. And that is, make sure there’s a love affair going on in your home!

Now, allow yourself to sit with this simple piece of wisdom for just a moment. Picture it. Is there a love affair going on in your home?

I offer tools to help men improve their relationships. And there are countless other teachers, books and seminars designed to keep our marriages strong, loving and vital.

But if we could simply maintain that love affair in our homes, wouldn’t that be enough? Wouldn’t that satisfy her? And wouldn’t that be the finest example for our children to witness?

For this post, please share any or all of the following:

  • how you maintain a love affair in your home
  • the trouble you’ve had or are having maintaining that love affair
  • whether you witnessed a love affair in your parents’ home and how that impacted you and your relationships

Remember, the wisdom you share will be valued by many, and the truth that you reveal will touch many hearts. So please, be generous and share yourself with us.

A little Romance…If you’re interested in learning about the lengths that romance writers will go to in order to understand the minds of men, join my monthly discussions (the second Wednesday of each month) at Romance University. This week we’ll be finding out what happens at our BetterMen Weekend retreats…or will we?

A Dad’s Letter to His 18-Year-Old Son

October 5, 2009

One of our jobs, as men, is to father our sons. It’s a challenge for us because we’re constantly faced with our own demons, obstacles, experiences, expectations, fears, self-doubt, and high hopes for our progeny.

And yet, many of our sons grow up to be fine men; often times, we believe, in spite of ourselves. But in fact, it is because we are their fathers (and other important influences) that they grow to be the men they are.

Today I want to share with you a letter written by a member of our BetterMen circle to his 18-year-old son. Rather than offering my feelings about the letter, I invite you to offer your comments and to share yourselves and your experiences as parents and children.

A Letter from A.M. in Colorado

Son,

A few thoughts for you to consider as we enter what will be your final year living with us:

You’re 18. That means in the eyes of the law, you are a man. You can go to war, be tried as an adult if you commit a crime, do your own thing (within reason), etc. From another perspective, though, 18 is just a number. Many “men” can live their whole lives and die at a ripe old age without ever having let go of the boy inside of them. Often, these are guys who could never make marriages work, don’t know their kids too well and end up sad and lonely despite whatever financial or career successes they’ve realized over the years.

Part of the reason for this is that men today often don’t get any cues as to when they’re supposed to start acting like men. You’ve probably heard of manhood initiation ceremonies in some cultures, where the 13-year old kid has to spend a night in the jungle, or whatever. And when he comes back to the village he is treated as a man, he acts like a man, and he sets aside childish things. There’s a lot of validity to this kind of ceremony, but we don’t use it in our culture. As your father and the main man in your life, it’s my job, then, to do what I can to help point you in this direction.

From my point of view, you have a few things you should be working on in addition to your “core” activities (doing well in school, your work, etc.) One of those is trying to discover a better way of managing your relationship with us, your family. As you’re no doubt aware, your biggest challenge is with your mom, and I would strongly encourage you to take ownership in improving this relationship as soon as possible. I think you can understand why this would be beneficial immediately, but it also has long-term ramifications for your future relationships with women. Whether it’s your mother, your wife or some other woman in your life, you have to understand that women are wired differently than men, and that not everything boils down to winning an argument. We have a saying in the men’s group I used to be part of, and it relates to arguments with our wives but it applies here as well: When you lose, you lose; and when you win, you lose. What that means is that even if you score that touché! point, and anyone might agree that you were, in fact, correct, if you’ve left your mom, wife, girlfriend, sister etc. feeling hurt and shit upon, you’ve lost, pal. And if you can’t work up the balls to apologize, you’ve lost even further.

Our antidote (or at least one component of it) to this is simple: Don’t argue. I know, it sounds impossible, but it’s not. Many of the men in the groups I’ve been in have tried this and found it to be a life-saver. Doesn’t mean you won’t ever have a disagreement, doesn’t mean you’re letting mom/wife/whomever walk all over you. It’s just a pact you make with yourself that if you love this woman, whoever she is, you’re not going to let your little boy inside argue with her and be a dick to her if he’s not getting his way.

I know mom has her unique way of looking at things and that it can be frustrating. I also know that pretty much any woman you ever encounter and have a close relationship will have a different but equally frustrating set of idiosyncracies and maddening ways of communicating and viewing things. As men, our job is to learn to appreciate these fundamental differences (even if we will never understand them), because the other stuff that comes with those relationship is so great, so important to our well-being. When we look at our mothers, for most of us that’s the woman who would walk through fire for us, cry because she’s proud of us, even visit us in prison if we screw up. Other than your wife – if you find a good one – your mother is your Number One fan and always will be. So why would you want to piss her off and make her cry for any reason whatsoever? Isn’t that unconditional love worth swallowing some of what you think is pride or knowing you’re “right” and letting things go once in a while in the name of peace and respect?

I’ll answer that one for you: Hell yes. You’re 18 now kid, time to start silencing the little boy. It’s not easy, I know, and it won’t happen over night and you will have slip-ups even if you commit to this. What I’m telling you is that it has to start happening, because your success in life depends on it – much more than your grades, the kind of car you get, the shiny furniture in your apartment. None of that stuff matters if you can’t realize yourself as a grown man, get past the little boy who needs always to “win” and can’t ever find it in his heart to apologize or recognize that his own actions are just that: his own. The little boy will always seek to blame someone or something – anything but himself. A man can be honest with himself and admit error and apologize. And believe it or not, it feels good to do so — a lot better than stubbornly hanging onto some righteous indignation that’s nothing more than a magnet for bad feelings, bad karma.

I would be very surprised to learn that you, upon reflection, see how you treat your mother as entirely OK and acceptable. I think you would also see, upon reflection, that an 18-year-old man and a 45-year-old woman see the world very differently, and that expecting her to see things your way all the time is unrealistic — and harmful. Regardless of who is “right” in all these arguments is besides the point: What I’m asking you to do is focus on what you can control, which is your own behavior. As soon as you start to say “But she said x, y or z …” then you’ve failed. I have talked to mom (and will do so again) about working to improve how she relates to you, but again, I’m asking you to work on your side — you can’t ‘fix’ mom (or anyone else).

One more thing: Tolerance is one of the greatest virtues we can hold as human beings — and often one of the most difficult for us to achieve, especially when we’re younger and very self-focused. Tolerance can range from not condemning a passerby who looks different than you to accepting that your wife inexplicably likes some cheesy painting of seashells on the wall in the bathroom. There’s that old Chinese saying about how the wise bamboo that bends with the storm outlasts the ‘tough’ trees that stand against the wind. Right now, I see you as that unbending tree, and your unyielding presence is damaging to yourself and those around you. True, you have only a year left here, but it’s my great hope that, with a little work, we can make it more enjoyable than it is now. Also, you don’t want to ride off into the sunset with a boat-load of bad feelings in your wake. As our picking up your brother at the airport Saturday demonstrated, we will still be there for you even if you’re pissing us off because you’re our son and we love you. But you have to give as well, and I hope you can find it in your heart to see where you’re at and how YOU can make it better.

Love, Dad

Let the Blog Begin!

October 1, 2009

Hello BetterMen Friends.

It’s time to share the wisdom of the men with all of you who support the work we do to be better men, husbands, fathers and leaders. We want to hear from our community of BetterMen, and from those who care about them.

We’ll post contributions submitted to us on all topics masculine. It’ll give the men an opportunity to share their thoughts, experiences, and wisdom . Essentially, it’s opening up what we do in our men’s groups so that everyone can benefit.

If you have a post you’d like to make, email it to wayne@bettermen.org. Otherwise, please make you comments like on any other blog.

As a matter of fact, we hope you’ll make comments now. Let us know what you’d like us to discuss. At the very least, let us know you’re out there.

And while we’ve got your attention, we’d like to report that our BetterMen Weekend was a tremendous success. Men from all over North America joined us in Santa Barbara for a transformative initiation into manhood. Thanks to all of you who made the event extremely powerful for the participants and our staff.