Are you filled with hope, confidence and an optimistic vision of the future? Inside the Conversation at The Good Men Project.
Publisher’s note: Every Friday, we hold an hour-long conference call for Premium Members and any ongoing contributors to The Good Men Project. On each call, we talk about different aspects of the changing roles of men in the 21st century. These posts are a glimpse into what is said on the calls. The post is not an actual transcript, but a summary of the ideas discussed, and not every person was quoted. If you would like to join in the calls, please consider becoming a Premium Member [click here] or a contributor [click here].
Lisa Hickey: Since it is the anniversary of 9/11, I think it’s appropriate to start of with a moment of remembrance. Reportedly 20% of the US population knew someone who knew someone who was hurt or killed in the attacks.
And to frame it in the conversation about men—if you look about and read about all of the hijackers, and all of the masterminds of the terrorist attack, they were all men. 19 men who were hijackers died. But if you look at the people who planned and actually built the World Trade centers—they were mostly men too. And if you look at the people who helped to rescue people from the Twin Towers—especially those who died trying to rescue people—the firefighters, the police officers, the paramedics—those are almost all men too. So in the end—3 times as many men as women died on 9/11. I want to be clear that many of those men died as heroes. And I think it’s important we recognize that fact. If something similar happened today, I’m not sure how much those numbers would have changed.
I will let that sit for a moment—but I don’t want to talk about something quite so catastrophic.
This is a conference call, and so I am going to talk about a conference I went to.
I went to a conference this week, #Inbound2015 and one of the keynote speakers was Seth Godin, whom I think has a brilliant way of framing ideas so they are easy to understand.
And he told a story, about a very famous research study that was done years ago, in the 70’s at Stanford. And in it a child about 3 years old was brought into a room and a marshmallow was placed in front of them. The child was told the researcher was going to walk out of the room, and would come back in 15 minutes. If the child did not eat the marshmallow, they would get a second marshmallow. If the child did eat the marshmallow, then that was it, no more marshmallows.
The fascinating part of the study was that the researchers followed up 10 years later on how well the children were doing in life. And they found that across a variety of metrics—SAT scores, health, grades, life goals—the kids who did not eat the marshmallow did better.
And Seth’s interpretation of the study was that the kids who did not eat the marshmallow were able to hold two opposing ideas in their mind “I want to eat the marshmallow” and “If I don’t eat it I will get more later.” And there is a quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald which talks about this as well: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
Seth Godin says that for any creative person, for any person doing work that matter, the two opposing thoughts are: “This might work” and “This might not work”.
When we talk about the changing roles of men in the 21st century, we are often asking men (and women) to hold two opposing ideas in their heads at the same time. “This is what I thought it meant to be a man.” “This is what it actually means to be a man.” After all, that is what the “breaking of stereotypes” is like “this is what I thought a man was like” vs. “this is what men are really like.’
And this of course is what the changing roles of men is all about. That you have a role that becomes a part of your identity, and then suddenly that role that you thought you were supposed to play changes and you have to hold two opposing ideas in your head “this is what I thought my role should be” and “this is what I see my new role could be.”
And so much of what we talk about on The Good Men Project can fit within this framework. Because men’s roles are changing—because that change is dramatic and happening fast—most of us have to hold two opposing thoughts in our heads about the way men used to be perceived and the way they are now.
This is true for many of the things we talk about. Take homophobia, for example.
Think about the way being gay was talked about in the previous decades of our lives. It was something so shameful it had to be closeted. People would use “That’s so gay” as a term of derision. People who actually were gay were bullied, teased, beat up, tortured and sometimes killed. Until recently, a gay person was unable to marry. No matter how you look at it, no matter how you look at the conversation that was happening not too long ago—and, I have to add, especially if you are a man—you were told at some point in your life that being gay is bad. In the not so distant past—it’s hard to think about any messages that said that being gay was good. And now—-in what is an amazing turnaround you are being told that gay is good. That, in fact, being gay is not in the slightest bit different than being not gay. Especially when it comes to being a man. Ok—maybe we’re not 100% there yet, but we should be.
And what that requires is the ability to hold two conflicting views in your mind. “Being gay is not good.” And “being gay is good.” And you have to walk away from the first and into the second.
And just like in the marshmallow study, I believe that the people who are able to hold those two conflicting thoughts in their head are happier, smarter, healthier, more at peace.
Seth also mentioned that he believes that the only work that matters is the work that changes people for the better. It doesn’t matter what you do—are you an artist? A doctor? A teacher? An engineer? You are an engineer and you build a bridge and that bridge connects people and improves their lives. You are an electrician and you walk in a room and you create light in a place that was previously dark. It is difficult to think about anyone who doesn’t do work that matters, that doesn’t somehow change people for the better.
And here at The Good Men Project, we believe the work we do matters. We allow people to hold those two opposing views of men in their mind, and step into the change that we believe is for the better.
Jessicah Lahitou: I study early education, and there is one program for pre-schoolers on self-control that helps them develop long term thinking and focus. And researchers have found the results to be amazing—that even at the pre-school level, the kids who were able to lear self-control were able to apply that skill in all areas of their lives. Kids can be taught, and it’s encouraging to think that people can be taught to hold these two ideas.
Rick Gabrielly: I saw videos of that marshmallow experiment, and what I wonder is if you checked on those kids today, the ones that ate the marshmallow–is what else did those people do? Did they take amazing risks, ore were they maybe super-creative, become entrepreneurs? As someone who might eat the marshmallow even today, I’ll just say that I have learned how to take a lot of the impulsivity these kids might have had and use it as a gift.
Sarah Suzuki: I work as an addictions counselor, and often the same leadership qualities go together with addiction and risk tolerance.
Patty Beach: There’s a body of work by Barry Johnson on polar opposites, and so much of what we are trying to do with the man-box is to manage that polarity. We can celebrate the differences as well as celebrate the similarities, and make both the masculine and feminine energies available to each person.
Cynthia Barnett: There are many layers of meaning in the same data, and I’d like to add that maybe some people from a very early age are instilled with hope, confidence, and an optimistic vision for the future. These children are, perhaps, confident that the greater good will follow.
Derrick DuPuis: I watched the movie “Inside Out”, and it really struck me as a parent. I have a 10 year old and an 8 year old. And in the movie, Joy is always trying to keep sadness away. But by the end, they realize there’s a place for all the emotions. And I think of this as I intentionally try to talk with my family. We talk about how is very important. Being present is very important. And understanding the consequences of your actions are important. Make a choice that you can live with.
Gina Raymond: Even as adults we are talk that we have to feel good all the time. It’s hard to hold on to the fact that bad feelings are a part of the human experience.
Derrick DuPuis: I like to look at the idea of the two opposing notions by taking a 360 degree look at things. For example, in a car accident at an intersection, if you are on the North West corner of the intersection, you might be sure the red car was at fault. But if you are on the South East corner, you might be equally as sure that it was the blue car. Or, another way to think about it is—imagine an apple sitting on a table, and two people on either side of the table. One person looks at the apple and he sees a shiny, perfect, unblemished piece of fruit. The other person on the other side of the table sees a big bruise where the apple fell, and maybe a worm peeking out. But if the people shift their chairs, they both see the same thing. That seeing both sides is the foundation of empathy. And maybe it’s asking appropriate questions, or really trying to see what the other person is seeing.
Cynthia Barnett: I like taking an ever expanding view of things. So I’m in my living room, but if we pull back you’ll see I’m in my house, which is on a certain block in the neighborhood, which is in North Carolina, which is in the US. And so, it’s poignant to think about 9/11 and how many men were impacted. But I bet if we stand even higher we can see how the second tier of rescuers were probably women.
Thaddeus Howze: I know that I see cognitive dissonance all the time. Why does this happen and why doesn’t anyone see the problem except me. And I think part of it is because in our culture, the people at the top, the people in power, know that they are doing something wrong. And the cognitive dissonance comes from people who don’t benefit from those actions, and when they ask why, they are told “we don’t know”. As an autistic man, I have no place for religion because for us, the universe itself is a higher power. My only higher power is science…when you look at things that last, you have to think “who does it benefit”. Almost every politician ends up flip flopping on issues depending on whether it benefits them. We have a society that is built around polarity, because polarity makes money. It’s also a tool to manipulate people.
Photo: katerha / Flickr
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