Letting Go

a fine post by Paige Burkes (see link):

There I am: clenching with my white-knuckled fist, holding on with the grip of death.  I can’t let go.  Everything will fall apart if I let go.  The branch is slipping through my fist, cutting into my skin as I try to hold on even tighter.  I’m scared.  Scared of falling.  What kind of doom will I face?  I….can’t….let….go…….

The branch slipped through my fingers and I was on my own. 

But I didn’t fall.

Instead I was buoyed up into the sky like a helium balloon, zooming upward.

I was flying!

And I was laughing!

This was a dream I had the other night.

Fear Blocks The Flow

While I’ve learned to let go and trust my intuition and the powers of the Universe in so many areas of my life, there’s one area where I’ve continue to struggle.

I’ve finally come to realize that by trying to control, gripping, and holding on so tightly, I’m blocking the flow.  Blocking the great things waiting for me.

It’s time to let go.

Letting go is scary.  Releasing our perceived control is frightening.

But what are we really scared of?  That we can’t dictate the future?  Newsflash: We never could.

Receiving The Signs

I was asking the Universe for signs, messages that could help me to understand what I need to do and feel to shift in this area of my life.  That’s when I received this dream that I remember so vividly (I rarely remember my dreams).

At the same time, for no physical reason, I began to experience intense back pain.  From working with this emotional issue before, I knew it was my monkey mind freaking out because I was demanding change in this area once and for all.

I meditated and focused on the pain in my body.  I spoke to it to better understand what its message was for me.  I spoke softly to it to reassure that crazy monkey that all would be well. 

Just relax and let go.

It took almost a week for my crazed monkey mind to finally release its grip on my back.  And it has taken another week before I could move freely in the ways my body is accustomed.

The Process of Letting Go

Whenever I feel my fears start to well up, I remember my dream and repeat my positive mantra:  There’s always more than enough.  I am good enough to receive the best.

Letting go can be a process with baby steps.  Or it can happen all at once.  It simply depends on what we allow.

My mindful mind wants it to happen all at once because it’s all so silly.  But my monkey mind continues to screech in protest.  As I continue to remind the monkey that change is going to happen whether he likes it or not, he’s quieting down.

I’m letting go.

My mindful mind continues to flash the scene in my dream of me flying higher and higher, laughing the whole way. 

I know it to be true.  And it feels really, really good.

When I release my grip, when I trust in my Higher Self, when I let go and fly, the world changes and magic happens. 

I can’t wait to see what wonders await me.


SHE LET GO …. without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of the fear.

She let go of the judgments.

She let go of the opinions swarming around her head.

She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

She let go of all the “right” reasons.  Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask for advice.  She didn’t read a book on how to let go.  She just let go.

She let go of all the memories that held her back.

She let go of all the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.

She let go of all the planning and all the calculation, about how to do it just right.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.  A smile came over her face.  A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and moon shone forever more.

Written by Ernest Holmes (1887 – 1960)

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Go West and Do Something with Horses

the great story of Paige Burkes, excerpted from this article (see link):

This is the story of an accountant run amok.

A woman who had her life planned out, mapped out, short-term and long-term goals set, thought she knew exactly what she wanted out of life, and was on the fast track to success in her career.

Then she woke up one morning and said, “What the f**k!?”  And her life changed forever.

The Question

My journey begins as a senior manager at a big public accounting firm in Boston.  I was on a mission to become a partner faster than anyone else ever had.  When it was clear I was about a year away from that, this nagging voice in the back of my head started asking, “Is this all there is to life?” I started to closely examine the lives of the partners I worked for and hoped to hell that I didn’t end up like them.  I wanted so much more.

Around that time I was offered a short-term position as the CFO of a company.  I thought that maybe working on the inside of a company might be different than auditing one so I accepted.  And I could always go back to the big firm when this project was over.

Within a couple of months I was miserable and knew that this wasn’t “it.”

Stepping Into the Unknown

I had made enough of a move to realize that I couldn’t go back to the big firm.  I couldn’t accept mediocrity for the rest of my life.  I had no idea where to go or what to do next, but I knew I couldn’t go back to where I came from.  It was just too painful.

This was the beginning of a huge shift in my life from being the incredibly organized, planned, and thought-out person to someone who learned to go with the flow and trust my intuition.

My husband at the time was a pilot.  He was based on the island of Nantucket, off the coast of Massachusetts.  Not knowing where to go next, I packed up our apartment and put everything in storage and moved to Nantucket.

I waited tables at one of the two restaurants open on the island that winter (big jump from corporate big shot).  Never let your ego believe that you’re too good or too big for anything.  That job opened many awesome opportunities that I never could have planned for.

We lived in a B&B whose owner let us run it for the pilots who needed an overnight place to stay.  I learned about the B&B business and decided that it wasn’t something I wanted to do.

The First Big Adventure

Just before Christmas I was sitting around at the restaurant after work with the other staff.  Another waitress said she was going on a trip to Costa Rica in a few weeks and the friend that was going with her bailed. She didn’t know what to do.  I thought, “Costa Rica has always been on my list of places I’d love to visit.”  So I asked if I could go with her.  She was ecstatic to not have to cancel her trip and I was about to cross something off my bucket list.

We left a few weeks later with our backpacks, a hotel reservation for the night and our Lonely Planet Guide.

It was the most amazing six weeks of my life.  I learned the magic of serendipity and happiness when I let go of plans and stopped trying to control things.  The experiences I had and the people I met were so much better than anything I could have planned.

Listen To That Little Voice

When I returned, I knew I couldn’t stay on Nantucket forever but didn’t know what to do next.  Around that time, my intuition started to scream at me, “Go west and do something with horses.”  My logical mind replied, “Where west?  It’s awfully big.  And what with horses?  There’s a lot I could do (even though I had done nothing with horses except some trail rides at camp when I was a kid).”  My intuition wisely replied, “You go figure it out.”  And I did.

When your intuition speaks, LISTEN and ACT on it.  It always has your best interest in mind.

I informed my husband that we were leaving in two weeks.  He asked, “Where?  And do what?”  I had always been the one with very clear goals and plans so he thought I had everything mapped out.  I got the “deer in the headlights” look when I responded that I had no idea but we just had to go.

Go West Young Woman!

Two weeks later we packed my Jeep and headed west.  From Boston we headed straight for Colorado.  We explored Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and northern California.

My intuition said that “something” would pop up along the way.  And if it didn’t, we would end up at my brother’s place in San Francisco.

We explored some amazing places but nothing popped, and I landed at my brother’s place for a couple of weeks.  I explored San Francisco and did online research to find something “west and horses.”

Getting Way Out of My Comfort Zone

I discovered an outfitting school outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  This is where you live in a tent in the deep woods for a month and a half and learn how to cook over an open fire, pack horses, hunt, fish, and be a guide.  This is serious outdoor living and I was intrigued.

Mind you, I was a major city girl who thought, “Ewww!  Dirt and bugs!” at the thought of camping.  But now I was open to anything.  And now I was going to be the female version of Jeremiah Johnson.

I called and registered at the last minute.  Upon arrival at the camp, I found that another woman and I were the first women they had ever had at this school. It had run for 25 years!

It was another absolutely amazing experience.  I learned levels of self-sufficiency that I never thought I had in me.  Going from city girl to this, doing it really well and loving it, I knew I could handle anything that would ever be thrown at me.

What’s Next?

By the end of the training, I knew I didn’t want to be an outfitter.  I remembered a vacation I took a couple years before to a dude ranch in Telluride, CO.  I remember looking up at the peaks and the amazingly blue sky thinking, “I have to be here.  I don’t know how or when, but I have to be here.”  (It’s that little voice talking to me again.)

Well, two years later I was there asking for a job.  Funny how the universe works.  Understandably, they told me to get lost (in a very nice way) since they only knew me as the city slicker guest I was.

Next, I called the Colorado Dude Ranchers Association and asked if they knew anyone hiring.  They said that, since it was very late in the hiring season (late May), there’s usually nothing available but they happened to know of a ranch looking for a manager.  Perfect!  I’m a manager!

I called the owner and talked for a couple of hours.  He invited us to the ranch where we spent a few days.  At the end of the second day he said, “Well, why don’t you stay.”  And we did.

I learned the ropes of all the positions at the ranch that summer.  Every time I took guests out for a ride I would say (sometimes to myself but usually to the guests), “I can’t believe I get paid to do this.  Other people are going to offices and jobs they hate and I get to be here.  Amazing!”

As fall turned into winter, the guests disappeared and my weakening marriage fell apart.  He wasn’t up for this new lifestyle that I was so passionate about.  He returned to Boston and we got a divorce.

I was alone at the ranch and it was the most peaceful time of my life.  Some guests that would come for a night or two would ask me if I was scared to be there alone.  They thought it was like that movie, The Shining.  I would always laugh and tell them I was more scared in a city than I ever am in the woods.

Off to More Adventures!

After a year at the dude ranch, I knew that wasn’t the “west and horses” that I was looking for, so I moved on.  Next, I worked at CSU’s equine facility feeding horses and mucking stalls while I worked with a trainer training horses.

This was followed by another manager position at a unique horse ranch in California.  Neither of these were “it” either, but I continued to learn new things from my different experiences.

Are you getting the picture here?  Life is a series of experiences that all have meaning.  In order to know what you want, you must have a lot of experiences that help you narrow things down.  None of them are bad.  None of them are failures.  Each one helps you to put the pieces together a little better.

And as you put the pieces together, the picture in the puzzle changes.  What’s good for you and what you want will change over time.  It’s perfectly normal.

Keep stepping out of your comfort zone and having more amazing experiences.

Settling Down

While I loved the outdoor life, I was tired of taking care of other people’s horses at other people’s places for minimum wage.  I wanted my own place and my own horses.  I felt that the only way I could get this would be to return to a corporate job, but to live where and how I wanted.

Six months later I found a great job.  With paycheck in hand, my new husband and I (met him at the dude ranch) went house hunting.  It took a lot of searching but we found our dream house on 20 acres in the mountains of Colorado.  We got our own horses and he even got mountain lions!

Knowing that I didn’t want to make the hour and a half commute every day, I negotiated with my boss to work from home one day a week.  Then, I pushed it to two or three days a week.

The days I worked from home, things were flexible.  My husband and I would go for long walks each day and spent lots of time together.  I made telecommuting flexible and seamless so that usually no one knew whether I was in the office or not.

Near the end of my eight years with this company, I worked it so that I could be home full-time. And I was the VP of Finance with a staff to manage.  Many would say that it’s impossible to work this kind of job remotely.  I knew it was possible and I made it happen.

Over the last five years I’ve had other jobs and have taken time off, but we live in the same amazing house with fabulous views, wildlife everywhere, and now three little kids who share our slice of heaven.

Sharing My Lessons to Help Others

A year ago I started my blog to help others see the possibilities for great things in their lives.  My writings there have been an eye-opening process for me.  I learned how much of myself I was still hiding behind the corporate persona that I wore so well.  I’ve learned how much better I can connect with and help others by dropping all the personas, being myself, and telling my stories.

Now I’m in the process of re-making myself into a leader of those looking to live happier lives.  Teaching people how to find and live the happiness that’s inside of them.  That’s my passion and my new career.  And I know that anything is possible.

Many people think they could never do many of the things I’ve done.  I didn’t think I could do them either – until I did them.

  • Leaving a successful career.
  • Making major leaps out of my comfort zone multiple times.
  • Creating my own lifestyle.

People may question why I wanted to do many of the things I did.  I say, why not?

I remember a phone call with my mother when I was at the dude ranch.  She asked, “Don’t you think you’re being a bit irresponsible?”  I thought that was the most bizarre question.  I answered, “Absolutely not!”  I thought I was doing the most responsible thing ever—making the journey to find myself and my passions and live life to the fullest.  It’s the only way I could be happy.

 

Post-Masculinity

Excerpted from a brilliant article by Manson (see link):

A New Masculinity

Beginning about a year ago, I became obsessed with the question of whether a universal masculinity exists or not. [ ]

You may think this is a funny thing to start obsessing about. But in hindsight, it wasn’t odd at all. For one, much of my social experience the five years prior, and this very website, were rooted in my experiences within the pick up artist (PUA) movement. One could easily argue that a large component of the PUA experience, if not the defining component, is helping men discover and get in touch with their masculinity in order to attract and sleep with more women.

The movement focuses on cultivating conventional masculine behaviors: being socially dominant, leading, establishing strong boundaries, pushing one’s will onto others, objectifying and achieving progress. Non-coincidentally, adopting these new behaviors often leads these men to greater success with women.

[ ]  After all, back when I was meager, passive-aggressive and whiny, women were repelled from me. When I began to behave in a dominant, assertive and pushy manner, women began sleeping with me, people began listening to me and internally, my behavior felt right on a deep level.

Then in late 2009, I began to travel all over the world. And within a few months it became impossible to ignore: masculinity and dominance are culturally relative. In America, most women consider me to be cocky and aggressive. In some Asian cultures, women even found me to be brutish and intimidating. Yet in many countries such as Argentina or Ukraine, I came across to women as sensitive and respectful. Hell, many of the women in Brazil are more sexually assertive than I am. And in Russia, when I told a girl I was seeing that most women in America find me to be too aggressive, she began to laugh in my face.

“You? Are you serious? The reason I like you is because you’re so sensitive and attentive compared to Russian men.”

[ ]  One of the beautiful yet horrifying aspects of traveling all over the world is that every time you step off the plane you set yourself up to have your assumptions shattered. It happens regularly. This was one of them.

The first lesson of this experience was what is known in social psychology as assortment theory, or what I refer to in my book as “Demographics.” The concept is a scientifically observed phenomenon where behavior by one person will naturally screen out and only attract people of that similar behavior.

[ ]  In my case, back when I was a meager, passive-aggressive, whiner, I only attracted women who corresponded to those traits: i.e., not very attractive women. When I began behaving in a dominant and assertive manner, I began attracting women in the US who sought out those dominant and assertive traits — which tended to be the hot, feminine women who were sick of dealing with wusses all the time. But then, when I went to Russia and was suddenly considered passive and sensitive, I attracted women who sought out those more passive and sensitive traits — who coincidentally also were hot, yet well-educated women who were sick of the Russian men acting like drunken pigs.

The point of assortment theory is that there are no (or very few) absolutes: no matter how you alter your behavior, that behavior is always going to naturally attract one subset of people and repel or simply not interest the majority.

[ ]  Throughout all of these experiences was the implication that not only may there not be a universal masculinity, but that conventional masculinity is not universally attractive, something feminists have been saying for decades.

In fact, when I posed this question to a feminist writer earlier this year, she responded with exactly that: it feels like typical masculine traits are universally attractive because every woman I’d been with had been attracted by my masculine traits. It doesn’t mean that women couldn’t be attracted to me for other reasons. In short: assortment theory.

But if masculinity is culturally relative, then why are so many people (both men and women) lamenting the seeming loss of masculinity in our culture? Why are sociologists putting out books about how we’re losing generations of men to “guy culture?” — men who don’t want to commit themselves to anything but playing video games and drinking beer? How does that explain the disaster that’s become the dating and marriage market in the US?

And cultural relativism can’t completely explain it. If it did, men would simply adapt with new norms and move on. To a degree we are. But developmentally, we’re not. We can’t ignore that we ARE biologically different. Men have ten times the amount of testosterone pumping through us, which makes up bigger, stronger, urges us to take more risks, be more violent, less empathetic, want more sex, and achieve greater feats. This all on average of course, and there are exceptions. But the point remains. Everyone seems to agree with the sentiment that western men have lost something in the past few generations.

I saw, and still do see, a lot of the nascent men’s trends (everything from PUA to Maxim-type magazines to shows like Mad Men) in the west as a struggle to reclaim some sort of lost masculinity of the past 50 years. But what is the nature of that struggle? Is retaking a masculine identity a matter of shifting cultural norms? Or is it biological destiny?

The answer it turns out, is a little of both (as usual). And I’m not the first person to ask these questions. Anthropologists and psychologists have been digging into this one for decades.

Rites of Passage

Camille Paglia once wrote, “A woman simply is, but a man must become. Masculinity is risky and elusive. It is achieved by a revolt from woman, and it is confirmed only by other men.” Say what you want, but both Freudian psychologists and many anthropologists back this up. Whereas a woman’s femininity is implicit by simply being and birthing, a man’s must be proven through action.

(Another Sidenote: I realize that women struggle with their own feminine identity issues. I don’t mean to downplay them. But they’re different. And we’re talking about masculinity here, so deal.)

Modern Freudians believe the defining emotional struggle for men is of emotionally disassociating from the safety and care of the emotional (sexual?) attachment with their mother. This disassociation plays out sub-consciously through various life experiences that establish emotional and sexual independence. Men who succeed in establishing their independence are free to fully function as men, whereas the men who never completely escape their mother’s grasp flounder endlessly and ineffectually throughout their lives, struggling to act independently, eluding success, and many times failing to move on to establish a family of their own.

Examples of this disassociation process include masculine propensities for competitive achievement, sexual conquests, professional success and wealth, political power, etc.  [ ]

Anthropologists have found that this process of disassociation plays out in men in every culture. What changes is how the process plays itself out, and to what degree. For instance, indigenous tribes in Eastern Africa require adolescent boys to be tortured and maimed publicly to certify their masculinity, whereas Spanish men are forced out of the house at an early age and expected to become breadwinners early on. Japanese men are put through excessive schooling and expected to achieve a certain academic standing.

What’s interesting though is that any one conventional expression of masculinity is not universal. Tahitian men lack any sense of machismo and are considered quite lazy by comparison to other cultures, but the men there still express their emotional disassociation in other ways, primarily through social groups and organization. In Trukese culture, it’s accepted that men will be come drunks and excessively violent with each other in their early 20′s. Many hunter-gatherer societies tie masculinity to the ability to hunt and catch food. Our society, up until recently, usually attributed manhood to a man’s ability to accumulate and provide wealth and resources.

So the conclusion is that the psychological development of masculinity is universal, but the way it manifests itself is different from culture to culture.

After surveying dozens of cultures on their beliefs and practices of masculinity, anthropologist David Gilmore came to many of the conclusions mentioned above: that there seems to be a universal drive of autonomy among men worldwide, but the way they express that autonomy differs from one culture to the next. Also, this autonomy seems to always be up for debate and has a need to be confirmed by other men in each culture.

[ ]  Gilmore’s theory, set out in his book Manhood in the Making is that the severity of masculinity in a culture — and the chasm between gender roles — is proportional to how treacherous the environment in which that particular society exists is. Cultures that are constantly warring over territory, who have limited resources and have to battle the elements or nature have some seriously hardcore conceptions of masculinity. And rightly so. When you’re constantly defending your only sources of food from invaders and wild animals, you need men to step up and be warriors and protectors. Men are more biologically suited for that, so deeper gender roles become established.

Meanwhile other cultures which are isolated, have plenty of resources, and not threatened, the men are usually comparatively passive and relaxed. Again, there’s a lack of economic need for diverse gender roles, so society adapts.

The idea that social norms and culture are influenced and created by environmental conditions and economic realities is not a new or controversial one. It’s an idea that the scientist Jared Diamond recently popularized in his acclaimed books Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. We don’t make up our ways of life in a vacuum. They develop and evolve out of economic necessity.

The Crisis of the Western Man

If you’re reading this site or even remotely taking me seriously right now, you may be one of the many who has the sense that something’s amiss with Western men. Sociologists have been fretting about it for an entire decade now. Entire self help industries for men have sprouted up. Demand for men’s dating advice has surpassed women’s dating advice. Communities such as the PUA movement have formed and thrived. In a celebrity-scape of Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake and “The Situation,” there’s not a legitimate masculine role model to be found anywhere. Hell, even feminists began fretting about 10 years ago, with writers such as Christina Hoff Sommers and even Naomi Wolf lamenting that boys have begun falling behind in school at every level. US universities are currently 55% female. Girls are outperforming boys in almost every subject and have moved to being even with them in the math and sciences. In 2010, for the first time in American history, women out-numbered men in the workforce.

Feminism has often been blamed for these changes. And indeed, in a society where men used to derive their self-worth from making money and establishing good careers, suddenly having women as their competition (or bosses) can sabotage that search for meaning. After all, the point of men pursuing achievement and success so much was to assert their independence from women — now, with women as their peers, it kind of undermines the developmental effect.

But I don’t think feminism is the root cause for modern masculinity’s turmoil. In fact, I think it’s just another effect of a deeper underlying cause. Remember, Gilmore asserted that gender roles break down in societies which experience greater security and resources. They’re no longer as useful.

A lot of feminism’s triumphs can be attributed to just that. Beginning in the mid-20th century, technology had largely taken over the role of homemaking. Cleaning the house, washing the clothes and cooking dinner took 1-2 hours whereas in the past it had taken an entire day of hard labor. Women had access to pre-heated ovens, electric stoves, dishwashers, toaster ovens, vacuum cleaners, etc. There was no more need for them to stay in the home all day. In fact, one could argue that modern women went through this same identity-level crisis generations before the men did. What had defined them as a gender for centuries was suddenly rendered unnecessary. Between technological advances in the home and birth control, women were able for the first time in history to exercise complete control over their bodies and their time.

These same economic realities are now applying to men. Historically, men attached their entire identities to their careers and professions. That’s who they were. That’s where they derived their sense of self-worth. And that’s how they asserted their emotional autonomy.

But in recent decades, the career-man is almost a myth. People often spend only a few years at each job. Many jobs have been outsourced or automated. The economy has tanked a couple times. And now women (or the wife) are working just as hard (or even harder) than you. That’s no longer a very stable sense of identity. And not a reliable way to express emotional autonomy.

Take a man who works a standard corporate job and makes a decent living. Let’s say this man is totally reactive to his environment and the people in his life. He did well in school because others told him to. He got a nice job because his parents wanted him to. He did what his bosses said to get promoted so he could make more money to provide for his wife and family.

In 1950, the this man would be considered a raging success. He’d actually be celebrated as a proper example of what a man should be. The fact that he doesn’t like his job is irrelevant. The fact that he’s his boss’s whipping boy wouldn’t matter. He brought home the bacon and had a proper, respectable identity.

But today, there’s a strong and powerful cultural under-current that this man is considered a jailed failure. He’s stuck working a job he hates for people he doesn’t like for money he doesn’t need, just to give it to a woman who doesn’t need it and is likely to divorce him anyway. Whereas it used to be enough to simply get a paycheck and bring it home, that doesn’t cut it anymore. That’s not good enough. Anyone can do that now, so it’s not a viable way for a man to disassociate, to declare himself independent and powerful. In fact, it’s the opposite. He’s taking the safe route. The route that no longer validates his masculinity or helps him assert his autonomy.

So what’s the result? Generations of financially successful men who are pushovers, who don’t assert themselves, can’t get a date, and end up obsessed with sex and/or embroiled with mommy issues. Sound familiar? Our society has evolved to a place of more luxury and security, and therefore the previous rites of passage men utilized to establish themselves have washed away and left a muddied, incoherent masculinity behind.

A New Masculinity

One thing that surprised me when I sifted through a lot of feminist writing this year was how often feminists would wish that men would step up, shake off the shackles of their failed gender roles and shape new identities for themselves. I have to admit, it bridged a lot of apparent gaps for me. I think feminists miss the fact that we’re trying; we’re just not trying to do it in a way that they expect or necessarily like. But they are right. Men need to step up and define a new masculinity for themselves. We need to stop floating aimlessly through our lives, reactive to the world and what’s happening in it.

I spent most of the last five years operating within a men’s movement full of men obsessed with asserting their emotional independence. Sure, the motivation and inspiration behind it was sex and women, but it had long been clear to me, that at the core of it, the PUA movement was a method for men to vicariously find that emotional independence and validation from other men that they had missed growing up — whether it be because they grew up without a father around, because their career path turned out to be stifling and unsatisfying, because their relationships consistently fell apart due to their neediness, or whatever.

Feminists were often (and still are) perceived to be “the enemy,” scapegoated for the tattered state of modern masculinity. But if you take the time and side-step past the rape culture paranoia, some of the patriarchy lunacy, and a lot of unnecessary soap-box speeches, then you get to the heart of that movement: economic and social realities forced women to confront and transcend what defined them as women, and now it is time for men to do the same thing. And right now we’re sucking at it.

Most current men’s self help movements are rife with “woe is me” pity parades, and bizarre forced rituals (drum circles, sweat lodges, etc.) that are painfully anachronistic and ineffective. The pick up and dating industry indirectly leads a lot of men to establishing powerful and independent identities, but it’s also weighed down by misogyny and men fixated on superficial sexuality. Magazines such as Maxim, GQ, FHM, and others prey on men’s most immature impulses by plastering half-naked, airbrushed women across their pages, while hocking overpriced shit down your throat in a constant attempt to re-establish the failed-state of masculinity’s past: that a real man buys expensive crap and fucks hot girls. Hit it or quit it… broski.

Television shows and movies have seen a throwback period of masculinity with powerful male characters in popular shows such as Californication and Mad Men. But men such as Hank Moody and Don Draper are caricatures — idealism sketched onto a screen, with deep flaws. Draper exhibits an independence and strength that leaves male viewers in awe and female viewers in lustful shivers, but at the end of the day, he’s ruthless and gutted of any deeper empathy. The sexual chaos and wit that permeates Hank Moody’s life would make any man envious for a moment (myself included). It’s impossible for a man to watch Hank and not immediately desire the same kind of boyish freedom he exercises around the women of Hollywood. Yet, Hank too, is a complete emotional fuck up: substance abuse, an ex-wife he can’t stop cheating on, a daughter he sucks at raising, a career scarred by underachievement.

Don’t even get me started on Jack Bauer.

The point is, as a culture, there’s a void where our masculinity used to be. Created by the absence of our fathers, the futility of conventional career paths, the inundation of a feminized pop culture, this generation of men is floundering and has been for a while. It’s no wonder we’re staying unemployed, single, having more casual sex and playing more video games than any generation of men before us. It’s no wonder that feminists are writing 20-page articles in places like The Atlantic freaking out that all of the single men are either “deadbeats or players” and that many women are actually consciously choosing to stop hoping for marriage.

So what are we supposed to do?

Remember, the key universality is defining an emotional independence for ourselves followed by validation from other men. Simply making money isn’t enough anymore. Buying nice things isn’t enough anymore. Achievements and conquests by themselves aren’t enough. Perhaps you’ve done many of these things, and you have felt it. Having money and nice things is nice, but it doesn’t make you feel like a man anymore. Something’s still lacking. We live in such a culturally relative post-modern world that all of these things are only as valuable and recognized as those around us make them.

What I offer is the idea of a post-masculinism, an idea of masculinity that includes conventional masculinism (dominance, achievement, sexual pursuit), but is not confined by social roles or expectations. One man’s right of passage may be building his own boat and sailing across Lake Michigan. Another man’s rite of passage may be writing and publishing a novel. Another man’s may be living in on a beach in Cuba and volunteering with starving children. The common denominator is that we set out to establish ourselves as emotionally independent through our actions. The common denominator is taking action as individuals.

Since there’s no longer any socially universal norm for masculine achievement, we are the first generation of men that must create our own. And what’s more independent or emotionally liberating than that? It’s a true expression of your individual power and your masculinity.

But this isn’t easy. And in many ways, we’re ill-equiped for it. Just as women were ill-equipped to supersede their roles in society, we are as well, just in different ways. Striking out on your own path and creating your own rite takes courage, ambition, technical skill, all conventional masculine traits. But it also takes introspection, emotional awareness, vulnerability and a willingness to fail — traits most men are not accustomed to.

Entrepreneur and business writer Gary Vaynerchuk often speaks of the idea of personal brand. He claims that in the coming age of social media, our most important asset is going to be our own personal brand that we present to the world. I see the concept of post-masculinity in similar terms: it’s not enough to simply be a bread-winner, to be a provider, to be a walking paycheck anymore. It’s like Tyler Durden says in Fight Club (the perennial movie of post-masculinity if there were such a thing): “You are not your job. You are not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis.”

Our canvas is ourselves and we’re all artists. The developmental blueprint is that there is no blueprint. There’s an individuality and eccentricity that we must all cultivate and contribute back to society. Throughout human history, men always had a clear a concise path laid out before them. We’re one of the first generations that doesn’t. You can do or be anything you want in any capacity that you want. So create your own standard and then surpass it. Psychologically that’s where we derive our worth and our value. Right now simply following the path our fathers and grandfathers laid out before is not working. It’s time to blaze our own trail.  

The Answer Lies in You (Me)

excerpted from this article (see link):

* * * * *

The following words were written on the tomb of an Anglican Bishop in the Crypts of Westminster Abbey:

“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world.

“As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But it, too, seemed immovable. 

“As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.

“And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed my self first, then by example I would have changed my family.  From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed the world.” 

* * * * *

Most of the things that we do is only focused upon feeding our egos because we think that will complete us without realizing that we ourselves is a complete entity and what we must do is to improve ourselves and that doesn’t mean getting signature clothing or owning fancy cars. Of course fancy cars can make a difference in convenience but where it goes wrong is when we are lead to think that we are not worth anything without them. It starts when we have no proper foundations to trust ourselves therefore we switch to materialism. We have to remember that no amount of wealth and jewelries can define a person although we cant deny that we do need some material things for survival like food, shelter and decent fallback wealth to be able to sustain our needs upon retirement or calamity; it is definitely not the same with materialism and it is not easy considering that most of us are exposed to billboards and programs that are designed to make us loose our self esteem if we don’t have what they have to offer. This mentality is what makes most of us unhappy making this world mostly unhappy.

* * * * *

So my friend this is what I will leave you with a declaration written by Virginia Satir in response to a 15-year-old girl’s question, “How can I prepare myself for a fulfilling life?” 

“I am me.  In all the world, there is no one else exactly like me. There are people who have some parts like me but no one adds up exactly like me. Therefore, everything that comes out of me is authentically mine because I alone choose it.

“I own everything about me—my body, including everything it does; my mind, including all my thoughts and ideas; my eyes, including the images of all they behold; my feelings, whatever they might be—anger, joy, frustration, love, disappointment, excitement; my mouth and all the words that come out of it—polite, sweet and rough, correct or incorrect; my voice, loud and soft; all my actions, whether they be to others or myself.

“I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears.

“I own all my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes.

“Because I own all of me, I can become intimately acquainted with me. By so doing, I can love me and be friendly with me in all my parts. I can then make it possible for all of me to work in my best interests.

“I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me, and other aspects that I do not know. But as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously and hopefully look for the solutions to the puzzles and for ways to find out more about me.

“However I look and sound, whatever I say and do, and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is me. This is authentic and represents where I am at that moment in time.

“When I review later how I looked and sounded, what I said and did, and how I thought and felt, some parts may turn out to be unfitting. I can discard that which is unfitting and keep that which proved fitting, and invent something new for that which I discarded.

“I can see, hear, feel, think, say and do. I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive, to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me.

“I own me and therefore I can engineer me.

“I am me and I am okay.”

 

The Thrill of Working

excerpted from this article (see link):

[ ]  But at some point, for many people, the thrill of working even the most interesting job may come to an end.

At that magical and terrifying point in a job, your mind starts to race. If you’re sandwiched between a wall of debt and the cliff of an expensive lifestyle that you locked in for yourself back when the job seemed fun, the joyless job can be quite scary. You’ve got no options, but you need the money, so you have no choice but to continue the dance.

If you’ve thought ahead and set yourself up with just a bit more freedom  – skills in other areas, friends in other companies or industries, or savings that will get you through a year or more of unemployment – the feeling is somewhat different.  Now the realization that your job sucks can serve as more of just a kick in the butt. Motivation to start looking around, stretch your wings, and embark on a challenge of finding new employment – a challenge that will benefit you anyway.

The ultimate situation, however, is to be working for the sheer joy of it to begin with. You’re learning and staying challenged at all times, because if you fail to do that, there is no pretending that you are not a complete fool for taking that job when you didn’t need the money. You can afford to set your standards higher, which in turn may actually make you work harder.

Would a financially independent person really sit all day in a cubicle and surf mindless websites while answering the odd email and pretending to work? NO! She’d either get some really good and meaningful stuff done, or she’d go home and read a book while dipping her feet in the swimming pool. There’s no need for in-between fakeypants work when you are working for the joy of work itself.

So that’s my answer to all the commenters on other websites that say, “But I don’t need to save for early retirement – I love my job so I’ll never need to quit!”. I’m glad that you are so confident, because loving your work is a great thing. But do you really want to lock yourself in by maintaining financial dependence on your job? Wouldn’t you rather be forced to love your job even more, by having the option of the feet-in-the-pool novel reading always looming over your head, keeping you honest with both yourself and your coworkers?  [ ]  

 

Hefner

Hugh Hefner (see link):

“We like to spend most of our time inside. We like our apartment. We enjoy mixing up cocktails and an hors d’oeuvre or two, putting a little mood music on the phonograph, and inviting in a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, and sex.”