Is Men’s Work Dying? Or Does it Just Need an Extreme Makeover?

Marc Quinn, David Chang, & David Cates, post EMC

For me, the term “Men’s work” is dead. For others it’s still alive and well.

WTF? Seriously? C’mon, I just let go of another identity a few months back. Again? Yup, more personal shedding what no longer serves.

This past weekend 40 men’s leaders and 6 women answered the call to be a part of the Evolving Men’s Conference. The context? Some of us thought it was to “evolve masculinity.” For others, the hope was to plan a bigger conference next year. Others didn’t know what the context was.

I visioned this conference with a few very bold expectations (the other men had their own wants as well, some the same, some different. These were just mine).

  1. I wanted to get male leaders to collaborate.
  2. Originally I wanted a bigger conference in 2011 but many folks told me to drop this pre-conference and see what the other men wanted. I acquiesced.
  3. I wanted to have us birth a single, new masculine paradigm that we could all rally around and get behind.
  4. I wanted us to evolve masculinity in a tangible way.
  5. I wanted women to help us with this bold agenda.
  6. I wanted to share how the deep feminine would be pivotal in the new masculine way moving forward.

Number 1 and 5 were the only expectations that were met. The rest were dropped. As Bill Harryman said in an email to me: “it wasn’t at all what I wanted or expected, but it was EXACTLY what I needed.” And further, I would add, I think almost everyone received what they needed, and not necessarily what they wanted.

We had lively discussions about the masculine and feminine within us and outside of us. We engaged in conflict, told the truth, held back, cried, laughed, danced, listened deeply, co-created, did business, and finally took some action.

What emerged was far better than what I had hoped for.  Without giving you the blow by blow, here are some highlights and what I believe is emerging:

1. Men’s work is dead. The old way we have been doing and selling men’s work is toast and no longer sustainable. Some men will continue to “do men’s work” and even call it that. For me, the associations are too linked to the past of “wound worship” and drama.  Men’s work has been synonymous with support, therapy, and other “wimpy” stuff most men simply don’t buy, nor are they interested in hearing about it.

Moving forward, most of the men there will be “selling” their product and services with a lot more awareness (see below). To me, this is a huge win because ultimately it will mean more men are drawn to inner work through channels and subjects that actually interest them.

Whether or not men’s work continues, remains to be seen.

2. Many seeds were planted instead of one. Instead of birthing a monolithic new paradigm about masculinity that we should all follow or rally behind, what came forth was many men carrying their own inspiration to follow what matters most to them!  No one single vision emerged. Several themes emerged that I believe will see some follow through. For example, reaching men through fatherhood, creative entrepreneurship, networking business events, and a global men’s network.

One highly charged break-out group discussed masculinity, privilege, and culture in depth and there may be more that comes from that conversation.

3. Telling the truth by being oneself. Most men did agree that transparency outside of “men’s weekends” and the privacy of their own home is a good edge to explore. Being truly genuine, off-line and online all the time, is what will show men that it’s okay to tell the truth. I trust it will give more and more men “permission” to be honest about their real life challenges. We must make it compelling by demonstrating in public that we can be super honest about our lives—the highs and the lows without coming across as wounded or broken.

By not talking about ourselves in an honest way all the time, we continue to give our parents and our culture power over us.  If we subscribe to the notion that “it’s personal and private” we rob others the opportunity to know and even consider that it’s okay to talk about what is really going on.  When men see another man “being real” and opening up, it invites and inspires him to do the same.

For example, I had my own personal process that was quite intense. I raged, I screamed, I cried. For better or worse, it opened the door for other men to do the same during the conference.

4. Including women. By including women in this weekend, most of the men realized the shear wisdom and value of having our sisters help us move forward both together and separately. Women are a critical part of men expanding and the women at our conference held up the mirror with grace and deep support. Morever, men must realize that women still have the purchasing power in this country. Many men come to find men’s work through the women in their life. Without women, we are sunk.

5. Being okay with not having a clue. Having several men, many of whom were elders who have done men’s work for many years say by the end of the conference, “I don’t know anything” was a big shift. For the older generation of men to embrace the new and to embrace the unknown is the necessary open door for whatever needs to emerge next.

6. Basic marketing. Throughout the weekend, all of us were challenged to drop the touchy-feely, spiritual jargon that we use to “sell” our products and services and instead repurpose our language in order to meet men where they are at with their genuine wants and desires rather than what we think they need (marketing 101). Using “men’s work” to help men open their eyes, simply does not work. Basic market research of everyday men interested in our unique niche will be a critical step moving forward. To assume that I think I know what men want or need is simply naïve of me.

For example, Seth Braun and Marc Quinn are looking to reach men through creative entrepreneurship and helping men implement their life’s purpose successfully by learning how to be an entrepreneur.

7. Global Men’s Network. This is quite possibly the most far-reaching outcome of the weekend and what the Evolving Men’s Conference may morph into. Christopher Kyle, perhaps myself, and a few other men are committed to taking on a large umbrella organization that could oversee men’s organizations and perhaps each year may hold a men’s leadership council to collaborate and share best practices, leverage collective wisdom, and to further the consciousness of men everywhere.

8. Collaboration. I learned that collaboration is hard and it takes some effort. I understand why sometimes I would rather work alone. Going it alone can seem easier at times. I began planning this conference last winter and enlisted a team to collaborate with me. The facilitation team of 7 men that slowly assembled was extraordinary.  I’ve never facilitated anything with seven other men. By the end, we were like family.  As the weekend wore on, the facilitation team grew to include several other men eager to contribute.  Over ten of us ended up steering the large group and other leaders drove their conversations in smaller groups.

It really took letting go of the reins and opening up to other strong minds and hearts to allow seven-ten of us to complete the weekend. This was frustrating for some. One man commented that there were too many cooks in the kitchen. Another man thought the facilitation sucked and that he could do a far better job. For me, in the end, I think we kicked ass and I was trusting that what was happening was right on, however imperfect and sloppy we were at times. We modeled collaboration among men quite well!

That’s about it! I’m sure other men had other insights, so please share below if you were there. Or, send me over what you got and I can add it here. I will also post this on the EMC webiste.

Men gathering in circle will never die. Men coming together to heal, laugh, fart, cry, and rage consciously is one of the most powerful forms of communication, listening, and witnessing that I am aware of. We men will always do this. How we open our circles to new men is the issue and I am prepared to let go of men’s work as I know it in order to do that.

And, stay tuned for what is emerging and new for me personally. I am going to let this one burn for a while, then see what arises from the ashes.

25 Comments

  • Samtackie

    Reply Reply September 29, 2010

    Wonderful, I missed it.

    “MEN-WE CAN DO BETTER”

  • Boysen

    Reply Reply September 29, 2010

    Rock on. I knew you would complete that pass.

    In the interest of one of the things that I brought as really important to me over this weekend – Transcend and Include. Men's Work is alive and thriving and growing and SO IS the new paradigm and language and opening. We stand on the shoulders of powerful men and women, who will always call this 'men's work'. There is room here for all of us (no matter what we are calling all of us). I agree that our presentation and language will shift … and the most powerful stand that I can think of is to do the VERY difficult work of bridging the gaps between world views and offering one another the gifts that we bring.

    I witnessed much of that this weekend.

    Evolution Happens. Leaving one group out on the island while the rest of us keep mixing it up is going to lead to some ugly and divisive mutations. I don't want that. In MKP I see intergenerational and multicultural circles growing and thriving. That is the modeling I'm looking for.

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply September 29, 2010

      Love it Boysen. Your perspective is KEY to this conversation. Thanks for what you state here. I'm not leaving any “group.” So long as we have the Global Men's NEtwork or whatever, I'm under that, seeking to bridge, love and collaborate.

  • Luke

    Reply Reply September 29, 2010

    Jayson, it's great to get your thoughts about the weekend and the state of “men's work.” You've captured a lot of my thoughts about possibilities for the future. I sure wish I could have been there. I have been thinking a lot about the new forms of men supporting and challenging each other. I suppose the basic “wound worshipping” events have their place as an introduction to something more generative — and I respect them for their ability to reach a broad audience — but there is something more creative and cutting possible I personally am much more interested in the conversations about innovative collaborations with those of us that value the deep feminine and masculine and communities based in gifting. Looking forward to seeing how this unfolds! Keep it coming brother. luke@lukeentrup.com

    • Boysen

      Reply Reply September 29, 2010

      I spy a Kauthian. 😉 – Luke I REALLY want to connect with you soon!

      • Luke

        Reply Reply September 29, 2010

        Ha! Yes, Boysen, It's true, BK holds a sweet vision. Although I'm probably more Burner / Block-ian (Peter Block).
        It would be *great* connect soon.

        • Boysen

          Reply Reply September 29, 2010

          Well, BLOCK ON then!

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply September 29, 2010

      Thanks Luke! great perspective.

  • Seth

    Reply Reply September 29, 2010

    Great post here Jayson.
    I was angry before I came to the event, angry at the event, and heck, I am still angry!
    The conference was a great mirror for me.
    There was some bitter medicine and I am noticing a need to slow down and integrate all that I was able to witness.
    What has been true for me is:
    1. I am working with men, but I don't call it anything. It is just “a program for men.”
    2. That men and women I work for love that I am pretty transparent and it makes my job more fun. I don't have to spend a bunch of energy pretending to have my life figured out.

    In the final analysis, I think I pushed myself to hard to get there this year. I was cranking out project after project up until the hour I left, worked while I was in Boulder (before and after the days) and then came home to work and family commitments.

    My big lesson here is, how can I help other people live with health and human potential when I have forgotten how to fill my own cup?

    • Boysen

      Reply Reply September 29, 2010

      THAT is a GREAT lesson, imhfo. And my hand is raised!

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply September 29, 2010

      Seth.

      Ha. glad you got the goodies, painful as it was to get em. I felt that from you the whole time. Didn't feel great on my end. Had me wanting to pull away from you honestly.

      I can relate in my own way. My cup feels pretty drained right now. I worked my ass off for months to see this happen. I now, I'm super tired and frustrated. Exhausted.

      I dig your truth, I welcome it and value it.

      keep on loving YOU. fill that cup. I'll do the same. Thanks for that.

  • Lightbirdone

    Reply Reply September 29, 2010

    Beautiful, Jayson. Clear, honest, and direct, as usual. Keep up the good work!
    Robin West

  • Dan

    Reply Reply September 30, 2010

    Jayson,

    I really enjoyed the wrap on the w/e. Thx! Also, I thought it so true your comment about women helping us find our way. Without my wife I would never have found and pursued the path I am on; aligned with this work…….huge! Very grateful.

    Dan

  • Graham Phoenix

    Reply Reply September 30, 2010

    OK, Jayson, I think that Men's Work is dead, certainly for me in the version I saw in Boulder. I came home feeling dead and inspired, dead for 'men's work' and inspired for my own work. The collaboration sucked, for me, little direction and too much 'creating a container'. Let's face it I see myself as a man, I like to move forward, create and achieve something. That I will do but not via the collaboration model I saw. “We modeled collaboration among men quite well!” That I totally disagree with. I have been involved in many collaboration groups (not about men) and they can really rock.

    It was not lost on me that while I was away I received a pained email from a female reader desperate about the man she wanted a relationship with. He was a man frozen, unable to take a first step because he didn't know how to be a man and was scared to find out. That is what is out there for me, men who need help. Not wounded men who want to sit around in a circle crying for themselves, but men out in the real world who are shit scared. If we can't help them…

    I'm glad to hear you are going to focus on being a dad, I know you will be great at it. What worries me is what happens to men after their dad's have finished with them! Where do they turn then?

    You can see the take I had yesterday on the conference at http://malexperience.com/2010/09/evolving-men/.

  • David

    Reply Reply September 30, 2010

    “Men's Work” is a tool-belt full of bizarre-looking tools that the guy on the street can see no use for. Good luck selling it to anyone but workshop geeks.

    http://deepmasculine.com/2010/09/30/guys-the-google-search-term-aint-mens-work/

  • Jason Lange

    Reply Reply September 30, 2010

    Congrats, sounds like an amazing weekend. Hope to attend the next!

  • beth hanishewski

    Reply Reply October 1, 2010

    Jason, I appreciate your raw real post. I do not think men's work is dead – in fact 20-30% of my coaching practice is men who are serious about living on purpose. I am not sure which women you are enrolling, but I remember offering to speak to your men's groups and you were not interested. In a different city I lived in I used to offer free intro evenings called “winning with women” and I too, thought no one would show up. I was wrong. They did. Men, in my humble opinion, are hungry to know what makes women tick, what pisses them off and most importantly, how to please them without feeling castrated. They don't necessarily want to find this out the way women do. Sitting in circles and going away for the weekend to talk about their feelings isn't cool to most men. In my experience, men open up to women way more than to each other. So if you want to truly live your purpose, I suggest you partner (more) with women in this work.

    • Graham Phoenix

      Reply Reply October 2, 2010

      What you say about what men want strikes a chord with me. I also agree that most men are not the 'circle sitting' type. What interests me most is that you find men open up to you as a woman. I'd love to hear more, where can I contact you.

  • Listen

    Reply Reply October 9, 2010

    Jayson.

    I wish you'd write more about what a new 'masculine paradigm' would mean to you, personally, and would like to hear, too, what your definition of 'men's work' (dead or alive!) is.

    I'm a woman. I wasn't at the conference, and thus want to be cautious in my assumptions about what was discussed, but as someone interested in feminism and the balance between masculine and feminine principles–as well as the collective historical relationship between men and women–in our culture and on the planet I'd like to participate in the discussing ensuing from it.

    Speaking personally, I sometimes find it hard to stay open to men's circles. In many ways I've come to experience the whole of our society as a 'men's circle''–most especially in areas of power, such as business, politics, religion, and mainstream academia–and so a conference on 'men's work' for anything other than a broader equality and the liberation of women feels equivalent to a conference for Caucasians seeking to 'evolve whiteness.' I say this with my tongue partially in my cheek (certainly the burden of privilege is a real one, and one I'd not want to deny), but there's a seriousness to the criticism, too.

    I have a few nascent thoughts around the need for men's work as a separate category that would thus allow for a more neutral or balanced human 'default' when it comes to psychology / spirituality / personhood, but would love to hear your views. And thank you, again, for convening this.

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply October 11, 2010

      Listen,

      I hear you. I think I will write a post in reply, rather than try to capture it here. You bring up excellent concerns and observations.

      In short, there is a big difference between a “conscious” men's circle and an unconscious one. The patriarchy is an unconscious one based on disembodiment, disconnection, and perpetration. However, not all men fit that. Embodied, open hearted men see and experience the world much differently.

      • Listen

        Reply Reply October 12, 2010

        Thank you for this! You brought me to the embarrassing realization that there's a very real difference between masculine power structures / patriarchal systems and the work and experiences of individual, human men (and the groups they work with and within) on the planet. I do hope you write more about it, in that case, as I'm sure that I'm not the only one to confuse the two, and that the more men and women alike who can differentiate the systemic from something more personal, the better.

        Thank you again. I'll look forward to your post.

  • Listen

    Reply Reply October 12, 2010

    Thank you for this! You brought me to the embarrassing realization that there's a very real difference between masculine power structures / patriarchal systems and the work and experiences of individual, human men (and the groups they work with and within) on the planet. I do hope you write more about it, in that case, as I'm sure that I'm not the only one to confuse the two, and that the more men and women alike who can differentiate the systemic from something more personal, the better.

    Thank you again. I'll look forward to your post.

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