This took guts…

Soldiers, Drinks, and My Messy Thank You

but oh man… it was totally worth it. I need to A) start loving people like this and B) be more open to following the promptings of the Holy Spirit in my life.

Is there someone or a group of someones you know who would say that they feel forgotten? What can you do to show them some lovin’? How can you help them feel remembered?

You Have Exactly Enough Time

The following post is from Mark Henson of the Spark New Thinking blog. Mark is the “chief imagination officer at sparkspace, the most exciting retreat center on the planet.” I had the pleasure of hearing Mark speak earlier this summer when he came and did a one day retreat at the university where I work. It was a great seminar and I already blogged about it here. As someone who tends to struggle with balance, over-committing, priorities, and contentment from time to time, the following post was exactly what I needed to hear when he published it this past Tuesday (which coincidentally is both my busiest day of the week and the day that has seemed quite cursed for the last several weeks).

You Have Exactly Enough Time
There is a piece of artwork from the very fun and amazing collection at Storypeople that says:

“Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life.”

We’re crazy busy in both our professional and personal lives. We rush from place to place, project to project, checking our smart phones in between meetings (yes, even while driving) just to make sure we don’t miss anything. And God forbid we don’t respond to someone’s/everyone’s urgent request within milliseconds in our completely electronically-tethered world. So we type our thumbs to the bone, we make special trips to Staples to look for a bigger inbox, and we’re late for dinner because, well, we have WORK to do.

Then there’s little Timmy’s soccer, baseball, football, lacrosse, swimming, violin, trumpet, piano, karate, dance, gymnastics, art, and advanced nuclear physics classes. All between school and bedtime.

And, don’t forget: you’ve got to volunteer for the food pantry, the homeless shelter, Habitat for Humanity, Church, the old folks home, the latest disaster relief, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, and the International Society For Crazy Busy People. Yes, I made that last one up, although I’m thinking of starting a local chapter anyway.

Finally, don’t forget to update your Facebook and twitter status at least 7.3 times per day or you’ll look like a total loser who simply doesn’t have much going on in his life. Because it’s not enough to be busy, it’s critical to let the world know just how busy we are.

Why do we do all of this????????

Because it’s all IMPORTANT, right?

After all, if it wasn’t all important, we wouldn’t do it, right? RIGHT???

Admit it, you smiled at those lists up there because your lists ‘aint all that different. And you do it all because it’s all important, right? (Another smile, perhaps?)

“Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life.”

Confucius said it another way: “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

Excellence at work (or home) does not come from being busy, it is the direct result of spending our time on the truly important things. To be amazing at what we do, we have to break free of the unimportant things. That’s counter-culture, counter-intuitive, and just plain hard…at first.

Busy rarely equals productive or effective.

Can you be busy being productive? Absolutely, but only after you’ve stopped being busy with all the unimportant things. You’ve had days where you were just rockin’, haven’t you? On those days you produce more in that single day than you normally do in an entire week. On those days, you drop all that stuff you normally label “important” and you focus relentlessly on being excellent, producing quality, and getting things done. That leaves pretty much zero time to do anything else. What happened to all that other “important” stuff? Hmmmm, maybe not so important after all, huh?

To practice what I preach, in order to write this article I’ve eliminated several “important” things I was going to do today. Because writing this article is more helpful, productive, and important than pretty much everything else on my list. The funny thing is, when I get back to my list I’ll end up eliminating half of it because I won’t have time to do it all. And the world will keep spinning anyway.

If you haven’t done so already, start evaluating all the things that fill up your time and take up your energy. Interrogate each item as if it was a potential life-threatening enemy: “Are you truly important, or am I just pretending that you are? If you’re not, you’re gone, amigo!”

Try it at work today. The next time you catch yourself doing something that’s busy but really not important, drop it. Trash it. Completely black it out on your to-do list with a Sharpie.

Because you (only) have exactly enough time for the important things in your life.

Guilty, convicted, and inspired sir. Thank you for your insightful ways and your positive aura.

Less is More

Though I sometimes fail, I try not to spend too much time on Sunday blogging or doing other things that require mental or physical energy. In that spirit, instead of writing a post today, below is an excerpt from what I consider to be one of the best blogs out there on living a simple life:

a brief guide to life

less TV, more reading
less shopping, more outdoors
less clutter, more space
less rush, more slowness
less consuming, more creating
less junk, more real food
less busywork, more impact
less driving, more walking
less noise, more solitude
less focus on the future, more on the present
less work, more play
less worry, more smiles
breathe

And as always, these rules are meant to be broken. Life wouldn’t be any fun if they weren’t.

This list couldn’t have come at a better time for me. With the exception of the one about driving less, these are all habits I’m trying to cultivate in my life right now with varying degrees of success.

Enjoy your Sunday. Eat good food today. Speend time with friends and family. Take a nap. Be still. Carve out some time to reflect on your life. Go for a walk. Read a book. Play with your kids. Be a man.

-M&M

Best of the Week

After a short hiatus, Best of the Week is back on Finding Manhood. For my entry, I give you this great jewel from Carlos Whittaker of Ragamuffin Soul:

My 6 year old looked at me in the eye today and asked me if I would go out on a date with her.

I told her yes.

In the back of my head all I knew is that I have a flight to catch and 55 phone calls to make.

2 hours later there are 55 people mad at me for not calling them back and I am late to my flight…

But she…

DSC_6142

…is in love with me and they never will be.

When you work for yourself, are behind on the mortgage, have sickness in the family, have a client waiting for something, are a lonely stay at home mom, or any other “grown up” problems…

Remember…

Your six year old will not remember those problems, just that her dad said “I’m busy”.

Los

Thank you Los for your wisdom, your authenticity, your always great photography, and your manly ways. Well done sir. Well done. Keep up the good work.

**********

David here with my selection for Best of the Week. Though it might surprise you to find a post by a woman about a woman at Finding Manhood, some of the implications of the post are directly related to Michael’s initial and recent thoughts on balance.

Here are some excerpts from Erin at Unclutterer.com in her article “What’s keeping you from climbing Kilamanjaro?”

While having tea with my aunt a few weeks ago, she told me the story about how she climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro when she was in her 20s. I’d never heard this story before, and my jaw dropped numerous times as she shared the once-in-a-lifetime experience with me…

My aunt has a house and a full-time job and a husband and two grown children. She’s not a travel writer and she doesn’t have a job in any way related to the travel industry, she’s simply a travel enthusiast. When her children were young, she and her husband took them along on all their adventures…

Seeing the world is at the top of her list of what matters most to her, and she has made it a real priority…

…What is cluttering up your time and keeping you from your remarkable life? Now is the time to clear the clutter and get started on your way up your own Kilimanjaro.

Find the full text of the article here.

As Michael declared in the posts I referenced earlier, not buying into the myth of balance actually gives you more than it takes away. And maybe your Kilimanjaro doesn’t involve the risk of frostbite or 19,000 ft. vistas; but being the best dad, employee, or husband is just as adventurous and courageous.

Thanks, Erin, and thanks to your aunt. Keep up the good work.

Best of the Week

Great post from Matthew (or is it Matt?) Fowler from Developing Character, which is a relatively new blog. Not a lot of content there yet, but give this guy some time. He obviously has some wisdom to share.

His post on Monday titled, All Sorts of Shiny Things, was a great reminder to me that real men are content.

Since this is an area I sometimes struggle with, I really like to read about other men who seem to be fighting and winning a similar battle against discontentment in their own lives.

As I’m fond of saying, enough of my rambling, here’s a snippet of the post:

All Sorts of Shiny Things

A lot of people my age spend a lot of time thinking about stuff they want. Everybody wants a fancy new car or a nice house or the big screen TV, right? I won’t lie, I think about that stuff from time to time. A lot of my friends are either done with their formal education or close to it and have either been working for a while or are in search of their first big job that comes with a nice big paycheck. There’s nothing wrong with having a healthy income and I certainly don’t begrudge anyone who makes more than I do…

I was on a date with a girl a few days back and she was talking about a car she planned on test driving… she asked me what my dream car was. I couldn’t answer. I really didn’t know. I bought a truck a few months ago, a 2008 Toyota Tundra. I’d wanted a truck for a few years and saved up enough money to pay cash for it. So I guess that’s my “dream car”. But then again, if it got totaled tomorrow, I don’t know that I’d shed any tears over it. It’s just a car. Stuff can be replaced. Bottom line is I’m content with the “stuff” I have…

There are still things that I want. Hopefully one day I can buy a house and have a family to fill it. I’d love to take vacations and see the wonders of the world… every time I see something and say “It sure would be great to own __________”, I need to stop and remind myself that the “stuff” I already have is more than enough and if I think I need that one extra thing to make me happy, I truly never will be.

Click here to read the entire post.

Well said sir. Well said. Here at Finding Manhood, we’re firm believers that real men are content and that content men are happy men.

Keep up the great work and best of luck to you in your ongoing journey and struggle to find contentment! I, for one, am on that same road with you.

**********

A lot of the posts on this blog are reflective and abstract (though not all–we do give some practical tips/advice!). So I thought I’d point you to a post (written longer than a week ago…the rules of this series are flexible!) by Alvin Mitchell of All SWAGGA which offers lots of easy-to-implement practical suggestions for ways to love your wife. In fact, he gives you 100 such ways. I’ve excerpted a few of his ideas below:

1. Massage her feet after a long day at work

12. Reveal your strengths and weaknesses

19. Start traditions together

59. Speak up, let no one speak ill of her

76. Model a strong set of core values

96. Encourage her to hang out with her friends

A wonderfully practical list, great for purposes of evaluating myself (how many of these do I already do?) as well as spurring myself to be a better husband (how many of these could I add?).

Great list, Alvin. Your wife is a lucky lady.

Read the list in its entirety here.

Best of the Week

Today is our second installment of Best of the Week, a series in which Michael and I give excerpts from and links to posts from the last seven days of blogosphere activity that we think best represent the ideals of manhood.

For my part, I’m offering a double helping. (You’re welcome in advance.)

First is a post from Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz and most recently A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, among several other books). In the post I excerpt, Miller describes the end of an all-male outdoor trip (they rode horses, fished–sounds awesomely manly). During the culminating moments of the trip, the incredibly successful men end up talking about how their wives are the basis for their success. It was an important reminder to me of how significant a role my wife plays in my journey to manhood–and how thankful I should be for her.

Your Most Important Business Partner May Surprise You

…This past week I visited a friends ranch where he’d invited some guys to go fishing.

…It happened to be only men on the trip because we were looking for some good guy time. All of the men on the trip had succeeded in business to some degree

…You’d think they would have talked about the stock market (they’d done a bit of that, to be sure) or potential investments, but when my friend asked them what they wanted to share about their lives, about the decisions they’d made, most of the guys talked about their wives. No kidding.

…The book of Proverbs weaves business advice and relational advice together like threads of a rope. It’s fitting, then, that our final conversation with each other was about the beauty and brilliance of a woman, because that’s exactly how Proverbs ends.

The full post is here.

**********

Post number two is not from a blog, but it resonated so strongly with me that I have to link to it. It’s football offseason time right now, which means most fans are either waiting for the release of NCAA Football ’11 or Madden ’11, or they’re poring over preview magazines. But right now, the players–particularly college football players–are puking their guts out in conditioning programs. (Please consult Michael for detailed descriptions of such sessions on the elite high school level.)

This article looks at the coach of the strength and conditioning program for Notre Dame. Whatever you think of the school, my guess is you’ll come away from the article admiring this coach. Paul Longo seems like someone who knows how to motivate men while respecting their dignity and growth. That’s the kind of leader I want to be.

Strength coaches doing heavy lifting

…The second of three rough-and-tumble boys growing up in Detroit, Longo arrived as a 155-pound running back/wide receiver at Wayne State University in Michigan. By the time he graduated, he was hooked on the gym and the idea of being a strength coach. He first worked as an assistant strength coach at Wisconsin before moving on to Iowa, where one of his pupils was an undersized walk-on defensive tackle named Bret Bielema. He helped put 100 pounds on Bielema, now the head coach of the Badgers.

…The stat you will hear quoted often in the fall is this: Kelly’s Central Michigan and Cincinnati teams were 42-1 when taking a lead into the fourth quarter. The credit for that late-game toughness goes to the Longo Method.

“The fourth quarter,” Long said, “is where it really shines.”

…The Haggar Fitness Center comes with a state-of-the-art sound system, satellite radio and multiple flat-screen televisions. None of them was on when the Fighting Irish players reported for the first day of summer conditioning earlier this month.

No thumping music. No ESPN. No distractions or artificial stimuli. And no barking by Longo.

…It’s the same later on the practice fields, when Longo sends the players through sets of 350-yard sprints. Other than blowing his whistle and calling out time intervals, Longo doesn’t do much talking and does almost no exhorting.

“I want them to run on their own gas,” Longo said.

The full article is here.

**********

Michael here and for my best of the week contribution, I come a little closer to home.

In addition to being a really good man, father, husband, and leader, the CFO of the university where I work is also (surprisingly) a really good and insightful writer. Now, I know accountants are typically not known for their word-smithing capabilities, but my friend Jeff is the rare exception.

He doesn’t post very often (after all, he does wear a lot of different hats and still manages to find time to get up and go running most mornings). But when he does find the time to blog, his posts almost always make me think and reflect on my own life. Technically this post did not happen in the last 7 days, but’s it’s so good I have to share.

Be Still

I love early mornings, especially as I “mature” in years. Mornings are uber quiet, and have a unique “still” quality about them. Reading, thinking, walking, praying, or enjoying a good cup of coffee, the morning is unlike all other times of the day. You can feel the stillness.

No TV blaring, kids are asleep (like most of us should be more often) no traffic moving, few people out for any reason; just the strong hushed presence of the wind and the early morning song of the birds as the first rays of light creep over the horizon. I can feel the stillness, and I can sense that God is all around me, not hidden or drowned out by other noise and activity.

Psalm 46:10 came to mind this morning:
“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

I need to know that. I need to celebrate that. I need to proclaim that.

I should be still more often.

Well said sir. Well said. For an accountant*, you my friend, are a pretty wise dude. Thanks for your example.

This is the full post in it’s entirety, but here is a link to his full blog.

*No disrespect meant by that comment. Please don’t stop signing my paychecks.

Best of the Week

David and I have been talking about doing this for a little over week now, so here goes. From here on out, or until we get tired of doing it, Finding Manhood will consult the last 7 days of blogosphere activity and share the post or posts that we think best represent the ideals of manhood as we see it here on the blog.

For our inaugural best of the week post, I give you a few choice morsels from a great jewel of masculine wisdom from Aaron Conrad:

What You’re Hiding

This probably falls under “Too Much Information”, but I have got some ugly feet. I mean my dogs won’t be winning any “best of show” anytime soon. Part of it is that they are built like Fred Flintstones and the other part is the byproduct of running and half marathons…

…Truth is I hate this time of year. I’m jealous of all the people with really skinny feet that wear flip flops all day. I actually enjoyed the Crocs craze a few years ago because it hid my puppies but I still got to be part of the summer footwear scene…

…I think my Flintstone Casper White Feet with 3 Purple Toenails are just one thing I try to hide from others. It’s my attempt to be perfect and not show some imperfection. But I bet if we took a feet exit poll, most people I run into in the summer wouldn’t give a rip about my choice of footwear…

…This is just one area that I need to stop trying to hide… others are bigger and will be much harder to let go of that imagined control over. There is freedom in doing so. There is a realization that people either won’t care as much as you think they will about (insert insecurity here), or they will care MORE because you were open and willing to share it…

Read this post in it’s entirety.

Good stuff sir. Good stuff.

*****************

And now for David’s contribution.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of my favorite blogs is The Simple Dollar, a personal finance blog done very well by Trent Hamm. (It’s a popular blog, so forgive me if you already visit it.) Though Trent does deal with the nuts and bolts of budgeting/saving/investing/frugality, many of his posts focus on the psychology of changing behavior.

Since becoming a man is all about growing and changing–at least as I see it–I thought you might enjoy this post from Trent. Here are, as Michael eloquently phrased it, some “choice morsels” from the post.

Saying ‘I Will Do It In The Future’ Is an Excuse for Failure

There are countless things that we ought to be doing now, but instead of doing them, we simply say, “Our future self will do it.”

Guess what? Our future self is pretty unreliable, too. He/she doesn’t think that the task in hand sounds like much fun, either, and he/she is just as likely to put it off as you are.

If you’re in debt and want to fix it, start fixing it now.
If you’re overweight, start eating better and exercising now.
If you’re not saving for retirement, set up retirement savings now.
If you want to get household tasks done, do them now.

If you won’t make the change, your future self certainly won’t, either. By skipping out now, you’re telling your future self that not doing it is just fine.

Read the entire post here.