Wednesday, December 4, 2013

End of Competition With Other Men - E.L.

Our newest post comes from a wise and thoughtful member of Men's Wisdom Works, groups for men in Asheville.  You'll find his post both enlightening and insightful.  I hope you enjoy his unique perspective on his transitions through life.

I'm 82 years of age.  I'm pretty sure I'm retired, but less sure of how and when that happened.  Maybe the better question is, "How often have I retired".  I looked up the word retirement and the definition I like best is: "withdraw to and from a particular activity."  "Wow", I thought, "I've done that a lot of times.   It describes me."

As an architect, at 29 I formed a multi-state company which designed building complexes in the Eastern U.S.  After two decades I turned the company over to associates.  Six years after the first beginning I created a company that engaged, through partnerships, in owning large scale buildings.  It grew into a successful venture, but at age 55 I wearied of that as well.  I created lesser ventures and served on several boards of private and public corporations. Then that bored me.  Come to think of it I earned my last degree at 65, and left academia for good, and I stopped my 60 year pursuit of tennis rankings at age 76.  So what are all these departures called?

Unable to decide whether I am retired or just someone with a short attention span, I examined these experiences looking for a common thread.  Then I discovered the common thread woven throughout my various career pursuits. It is "COMPETITION."  Whether for grades, points, money, prestige, a mate, honors, a ranking...every activity from which I retired was filled with competition.  And in the decades I refer to, every bit of this competition I was engaged in was with, or against men.  It is this competition with men from which I retired. 

This retirement led me to new experiences, including a particularly unique adventure in a men's group that flies under the flag, "Men's Wisdom Works". The emotional environment of this group of 11 encourages men to invest in mutual levels of trust that lead to an exchange of views and experiences in ways which foster well-being in men.

Any semblance of intentional therapy is purposely avoided, but there is no doubt that what is gained by the men in the bi-monthly meetings and our spontaneous and enjoyable breakfast gatherings contains the power of significant change.  Out of our shared reflections we receive insights into the strengths, fears, unspoken wishes and disappointments, and shortcomings and successes that we each struggled with, or achieved.  We come to know each other not as the WHO or WHAT we have tended, as adults, to present ourselves as, but THE ONE WITHIN that we are.  It is a safe process for discovery because we men are not competing.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Brotherhood - Nick J.

Today's entry comes from a man who joined a newly formed group more than a year and half ago. Let's hear what he has to say about his experience in Men's Wisdom Works - Chuck Fink

"I joined one of the MWW groups about 18 months ago. I was interested in meeting new people and exploring topics that could be shared in confidence and with honesty. Over these past months through the dialogue within the group, I have come to not only respect the different personalities within the group but to care about them as individuals with very different life experiences than mine. Through that sharing there have been insights I have gleaned about myself. I have been given the opportunity to talk about things I would not ordinarily share.

There is laughter, humor, pathos, moments of silence as you know you are listening to a very important sharing from someone else. Bonding is a hackneyed word and greatly overused. But bonds of friendship have been formed and I believe if I said I was in trouble and asked for help, the 10 other men in my group would each respond by saying 'what can I do for you'. 

None of us would give up the group meetings, the informal breakfasts we have, some volunteer work we do as a group. This is one of best things I have ever done for myself. All one needs to do is be willing to keep confidences and to open and share as you feel appropriate." 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

We're Older Men, and We're Just Fine.

It can happen to any man.  Indeed it happened to me.   Turns out my story is far from unique.

Retirement loomed on the near horizon.  My wife wanted to cash out from her job at age 56 and move to Asheville, NC.  At 58, I was NOT ready to retire and was not sure about moving.   I figured I could easily transfer my human resources & management consulting practice to our new home town.  In support of my wife I pushed that we should buy our house a couple of years prior to moving.  

My wife developed a list of 30 new adventures and activities she’d pursue in retirement.  And my plan?  Do the same work, just in a new place.  I wanted to leave business travel behind and focus just on local clients. 

The proverbial ton of bricks hit me once we settled in Asheville.  Our adopted home town lacked a corporate presence.  What had I done to myself?  I left a thriving business behind to find no business here.   Then the depression hit.

I became cranky, dispirited, and dull.  My focus waned and my anxiety grew out of control.  I missed my my clients, my business connections, my sons, my friends, and my familiar stomping grounds.  My new life turned out to be a nightmare.

From boyhood on men learn to suppress emotions.  You know, “just tough it out”.  Like most men, I was conditioned to think “Men don’t cry” and certainly don’t share their feelings.   We’re taught to network for business reasons, but we don’t know how to approach other men for support.

One of my wife’s 30 activities was for her to start a pet care business.  With that in mind she asked me to attend a program called, “Marketing to Boomers and Beyond.”  The keynote speaker was an executive from AARP.  Something he said sparked an epiphany.  He claimed men and women experience similar anxieties as they enter retirement, but women handle these retirement challenges much better because they socially network while self disclosing more comfortably and readily. Women have many more coping resources available to them, he continued, and they are much more likely to take advantage of those resources than are men.   So, I turned to my wife and whispered, “That’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to start groups for men in retirement.”

To get the men’s groups going, I interviewed experts on aging and retirement and they sounded the warning siren.  Many said, “Great idea and it is much needed, but it will never work.  Men don’t do that self disclosure stuff.”

Skeptics have always driven me to reach higher plateaus.  This was no different.   I resolved, “I’m going to do this and it’s going to succeed”.  Thus, I created support groups for men dealing with transitional issues in retirement, Men’s Wisdom Works. 

I’m Chuck Fink and during the upcoming weeks I’ll be featuring stories by some of the hundred members of Men’s Wisdom Works.  You will read how these men’s groups help members thrive as we grow older.  In future blogs we’ll describe how and why our groups flourish and the difference MWW made in their lives.. For now I can tell you that medication helped me cope with my emotional downswing, but it is Men’s Wisdom Works that took me from despair to hope.

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