01: What does it mean to be a man in the 21st century?
These interviews are taken from *The Men Alive Show*, a radio show that I hosted on UnTangledFM for a year. In it I talked to men and women about their lives, their views on masculinity and how their work influenced men.
The show looked at men who are making a difference, at how men are growing and developing and the effect this is having on society.
The world has changed over the past twenty to thirty years. The traditional role of a man has shifted beyond recognition. The old view of masculinity is all but defunct in most parts of the world. What does it take to be a man who is abundant, curious, compassionate and still a leader who is inspired and lives his passion?
These are profound questions that you as a man are confronted with, perhaps even on a daily basis.
With women today being capable of doing so many things for and by themselves, many man have begun questioning what is left. You may be one of them. Where women have made great strides and have stepped into roles beyond the traditional ones, like being the mother, the carer and the homemaker, the traditional role of men has hardly shifted. But faced with such a different environment, you may find that what you used to do and what you used to believe are no longer a snug fit.
With the world getting ever more automated, the disappearance of traditional jobs adds to the uncertainty. As does the fact that in many homes both partners are now bringing in an income, breaking with the long standing idea of the man being the provider—a role which has given men an identity for eons. Perhaps you worry about this or even find yourself unemployed already.
But we have our role models, haven’t we? We can always fall back on that. Well, not quite. The role model of the cowboy is outdated. As Mike Stevenson puts it “I thought The Searcher featuring John Wayne, was a fantastic film, but it was about this man that could not shed his prejudices. He was rigid, he was set in concrete.” That no longer works. Today’s ever moving and changing world is demanding flexibility on all fronts.
The role model of the New Age man doesn’t work any more either. That way of being doesn’t do justice to what Bill Kauth calls ‘a man’s fierceness’. Simon Drury, who works with men who face major changes in their lives, tells us that each individual has deep needs that have to be addressed, “People feel lost if they don’t feel they have anything to contribute.”
What it all boils down to, in my view, is that many men struggle in one way or another to find relevance, and that that is a topic that is getting more and more in their face, no matter how much they would want to will it away. It is to no avail. Whether you like it or not, men are more and more confronted by a nagging, inconvenient question: if not that, what then?
With a lot of men trying desperately—yet failing—to come up with their own solutions, it is no wonder suicide rates for men aged 45 to 64 jumped by 43 percent over the fifteen years to 2014. So many good, resourceful man with so much to give are taking their own lives because they feel irrelevant and they simply can see no alternative. This is unacceptable, we need to redefine our relevance as men—and we need to do it quickly. But to do that, we need a new vantage point, a new way of thinking, a different approach altogether. This is why this book is so powerful: you no longer have to go it alone: you have just been handed a whole collection of new answers.
In The Men Alive Show I took the listener on a journey and a quest of self discovery in understanding the new, and true, male experience. I hope that in reading this book of edited transcripts from the interviews I will take you on the same journey. I want it to teach you to step into your authentic nature and build relationships that are fun, fulfilling and full of live.
I interviewed sixteen men and two women and asked how they, based on their hands-on experience, redefine what it means to be a man in today’s day and age. All the men and women in this book are right out there, at the front of the pack, working with men every day, showing them a variety of ways forward. They are now here, together in one place, giving you the opportunity to digest their wisdom.
Each interview sheds light on what has made each of them into what they are today. They talk openly about how they have come to their insights and about what masculinity means for them. They help you move away from waging the fight against the empowerment of the feminine and step into your own adventure.
What I loved most about the interviews is that each of them came up with a different answer, and therein lies the power of this book. There is no ‘one way’ or ‘the way’. After reading this book, you have all you need to start your own journey of discovery. Equipped with this knowledge however, you have a far better chance of finding what you are looking for: a new—and true—male experience. This book holds an invitation for you to step into your authentic nature and claim your rightful place in the world in a way that is fun, fulfilling and full of live.
Each interview includes a practical tip of what you can do today that will set you off on your quest. One tip is very apt in the context of this foreword. It is by Mike Stevenson who says:
Here is my lesson: decide tonight to learn something new. Something that you’ve got no experience of, something that you have had absolutely no connection with. Decide to take that step and you will discover—by learning and by stretching—you will discover a new found energy and an extraordinary acceleration at having accomplished something that you didn’t know you could do.
I highly recommend you to read through this book. First of all it will give you peace of mind as you realise that you are not alone on this journey. Secondly, it will give you peace of mind to know that there are people out there who have spent decades to formulate a variety of ways forward—one of these might just be what suits you. Thirdly, it will give you peace of mind to know you are invited to embrace a new way of being. It is a very practical invitation, expressed in eighteen practical tips that tell you what you can do today that will make a difference in your life. I suppose this book could also have been called: eighteen ways to slay the dragon.
In my quest to introduce you to men out in the world who have found their vulnerability, their strength and compassion and who are using them to enable other men to grow and develop I present these interviews to you.