The Uncommon Man
I continue to be intrigued by men who seem to grasp what they stand for. I mean really understand their deepest beliefs and hold on to them with passion and conviction and actually live a life that mirrors their true center.
Many of us have observed lately Tim Tebow, quarterback for the Denver Broncos. As I write this, they will be playing the New England Patriots and this game is expected to be the most watched one of the season. Whether you agree with his actual faith and specific convictions or not, most of us admire his commitment and dedication to his own core values and determination to live them out – even in the midst of his professional sports career, which only requires solid game playing and no attention to your character or lifestyle.
Men who stand for something and live out a chosen life, when that life represents deeply held beliefs that touch others with good and decency, become beacons of hope. Hope that real heroes may actually exist who light up the world with an inextinguishable flame – who send the message that our lives have meaning and purpose beyond the daily grind and value that transcends what often feels mediocre in our day in and day out.
I believe men are designed to fulfill deep purposes, sometimes life changing ones. To create, shape and mold a world of authenticity and value. Dignity, integrity, grit, spirit and uncompromising commitment to living effective, brilliant, generous lives that take others to new levels of inspiration and hope – my definition of masculinity!
Most of us want to define our lives with a crisp and resonant message that speaks to our strength, our capacity to write our own life script and saturate the world we live in with something special – that makes others take notice and want to import what we have into their own domain.
It’s not uncommon to hear, Republicans and Democrats alike, bemoan the death of John F. Kennedy. And wonder what might have happened to our United States had he lived. Why? Because he stood for something proud and hopeful. Asking only what we can do for others, not ourselves, sent a message like a shaft of shining light, of integrity, that this man argued that we might live by a different standard than those who clamor for personal gain and self aggrandizement.
Whether he lived it or not, he represented men who choose what to believe and choose well – not for themselves, but for dazzling principles that may bring brilliance to the sometimes dreary lives we lead.
These could be values that reach a nation or simply saturate a family with positive energy and love and the effect we can have raising our children. We don’t have to be President to manufacture an outstanding life of influence and devout effort for good. We can rock the world of a few or many – but it comes from a strategic place in the heart and soul, not by accident.
So the crucial question here becomes one centered on whether we live by deeply held, clearly defined, principles. Whether we are moving toward a clearly defined set of standards that don’t pop up once n awhile, but actually define our being.
I liken this to business strategy. In coaching men in leadership, I often evaluate their ability and that of their business, to set a viable, meaningful and competitive strategy and then also their capacity to execute that strategy. And so in our personal lives, I’m talking strategy. Do you have one and do you execute well, with initiatives that take your life where you want to go. Or do you reserve that concept to business or career – not your personal domain?
Most of us men never had fathers who deliberately taught us about internal beliefs and values, apart from trying to instill theirs into us. Some of us can identify role models who have come into our lives that gave us a sense of personal fortitude that hinged on ideals – and a belief we can live more meaningful lives by choosing a higher calling or path. That we can elect to live out values of greater magnitude and stature than what we may have thought out at the time or been aware of. They inspired us!
Yet at the end of the day, we have to decide within ourselves whether or not we want to choose that “inspired” life and what it will or could look like.
Is that a choice you want to make?
Does it seem like a tall order to fill, that just trucking along as always sounds a lot easier?
Really – does all this seem like a tall order to fill? Truly an order too tall? Maybe, but maybe not. I want to explore a few of the dimensions of how we define and live out an extraordinary life that captures the brilliance we have inherited, learned or as some believe, God has entrusted us with.
How Life Works – or Can Become
We will have to set aside the ordinary experience of daily life for a moment and dream. It all starts in the imagination, identifying the values we hold dear and selecting the ones that inspire us to become more. At the heart of it all? A desire to live brilliantly, to make a difference in the life or lives of others and an unquenchable motivation to define who we are – clearly and with a decisiveness that gives us personal power and the capacity to steer a course toward an outstanding life.
For me, I am sick of circumstances, family of origin issues and all other influences defining me and what it means to live as a man. What I can and can’t pursue in my dream to grow and mature. Sick to the bones!
So how do we wrap our arms around this idea and give it greater substance, even create a path toward fulfillment and a well-defined life – one we have chosen!
I used the analogy recently with a young man I mentor and coach of two rooms. Two distinctly different spaces we can step into and spend time in – that speak of more, of power and of courage.
The First Room
The first room, well that’s the one we find ourselves living in daily. It is what you have become as a man, complete with all the factors that have shaped you into the person you are right now.
For some, this room represents limitations – that life is what it is and can’t be moved in a different direction – at least not much of one.
In that room we find our fears, what stops us from dreaming, what keeps us stuck and what we are convinced defines our true identity. It includes all the ways we have dreamed before and stopped short in realizing. It may include anxiety that creates self-limiting beliefs about what we can achieve, that limit our ability to see possibilities for the future.
It may be the unfulfilling job we are in, the marriage that hasn’t become what we hoped for, the family we thought would be happier and more functional. Or it may be giving up on finding a truly satisfying life, one that screams for reaching a new potential, one set aside, abandoned or never acknowledged.
In that room we don’t see God’s hand and calling, what life beckons us to step into, what our true potential for success really is.
That room has boundaries that keep us from embracing hope, that put a lid on who we think we are and what we believe defines us in our core as men.
This room may be filled with doubt, messages that capture a short horizon that looms above and consistently speaks to the impossible, what can’t really change. How difficult or unlikely, in this space, to be a Tim Tebow or John F. Kennedy. In short, we experience a core too weak to seek out and capture an outstanding life, limiting our stature and momentum. Our core doesn’t drive us much – but sits in a chasm as if unreachable, drenched in fog.
If we continuously stay in this room, we live by limitations and the scope of our lives shrinks like a wool sweater in hot water. And we cease to really live – to embrace man-stuff that speaks of courage, resilience and fortitude. We lose our grip on masculinity and we stop shaping, pioneering and feel lost in our ability to change the world around us.
We give up on a better marriage, a more vibrant career, a more positive family atmosphere, a more significant influence in business and leadership! We limit and stop short!
For you see, if we, as men, don’t shape and spark life into a world often frozen with doubt and complacency, we lose our calling.
We lose our calling as men – to breach the known, bug the hell out of the status quo, and generate an insurgency that challenges the insipid, dreary lives of those content to live without dreams. Men create hope with absolute courage. And courage comes from knowing, deeply understanding, precept upon precept, what defines us. Our power comes from choosing and living our core! No other way!
The Second Room
For most of us, this means stepping into a different room, battling the way things always are, and designing a new frontier filled with something more – much more – that makes life exciting and worth living.
Imagine this room filled with a different perspective, a new, vivid and more inspirational way of thinking of our life as men. That we can move mountains, influence our marriages, our kids, our businesses. That we have begun to solve some of the harder puzzles and problems we face by defining, clearly identifying, what we stand for and wish to pursue. That we believe we can redefine how to live and influence others and ourselves profoundly.
So the second room, one we can choose to step into and inhabit, challenges the delinquency we so often live with where we have forfeited our calling, our power and what we can do to make a difference. This room, no shelter for those who have surrendered, decorates a man’s life with bold ideas and rich beliefs that speak of personal commitment to a higher calling. Comes with a boldness that captures a man’s vision for what can be. Takes him into a space where imagination and investment in living a consistent, chosen life saturate thoughts, feelings and goals. It is being alive, truly alive.
This room says yes to dreams, tackles limiting beliefs with a sharp sword and imagines living out a center that moves the landscape of life we live in.
The true masculine heart doesn’t seek peace but wants to shake up the sky with vivid impact, reaching deep within our own well and inspiring something bold, new and inspirational for ourselves and others.
Defining a New Path
So, how do we live differently, assuming we are motivated to live even more vibrantly than we do, to create a new horizon that reflects a higher calling?
Even as you read this, you may be thinking, “How lofty” or maybe even “Grandiose.” A few books I have read speak to this issue. One is “Good to Great.” Analyzing how companies become truly great, stand out amongst their peers, one differentiating factor is this: Great corporations set “Big Hairy Audacious” goals. They seek bold outcomes, not frivolous, band aids just to improve a little.
The same idea in “The Ten Times Rule.” Cardone challenges those who set marginal goals, arguing that small ones don’t really inspire us. They take us nowhere – primarily because we don’t shoot for anything that really motivates us or that creates momentum.
I believe this – many of us men, including myself, don’t dream big enough. And so we limit our potential. I refuse to live this way any longer. If I dream big enough, I won’t settle for internal values that are anemic and lack force. I won’t capture the possibilities that God and life have handed over to me.
So, first and foremost, we need to dream. Big enough to inspire us, large enough to make a difference, bold enough to require us to diligently find our courage and dedication, our innate power as men to shape our worlds. There may be much to learn in getting there, but we start the journey by creating vision.
Second, we must define our values, those that take us places beyond mediocrity. Values we refuse to sacrifice on the altar of complacency but challenge us to believe in greatness and convince us we can move into new frontiers. We need to get specific – pen in hand – and identify those values we live by and any new ones we want to integrate into our lives. We need to, over time, become crystal clear about what drives us. Because our center motivates us and compels us to live out a powerful life.
Third, we have to build a resolute life that strives to mirror what we believe. Our lives need to deeply reflect who we are, how we have defined our center. We need to truly inhabit the second room, to abandon the first one – I mean vacate, say goodbye, refuse to surrender to the rip current of how life has defined us to date. In the second room we hold onto those values we already hold dear. We recommit to those and plunge into new ones that will takes us places beyond today – touching others in the stream of life we define as our world. And we seek to live them out – proudly, boldly and visibly.
Fourth, and finally, we have to believe, really believe – have faith – that as men, we have a calling that goes beyond living unconsciously and reaches toward a future that eradicates mediocrity and creates fulfillment and prosperity. An aware life. A firm conviction that if I define and live out a radical core that embraces love and growth, I can change the world I live in – however I define that to be. Any belief that limits our trust in what we can build and influence in this life, deserves condemnation and suspicion.
So some key thoughts and questions:
Do you dream? I mean dream big? Or do you believe that is for fools?
Have you clearly defined your personal arsenal of crisp, well-defined values that lead and take you beyond? That embrace hope for a brighter future? One you have influenced?
Are you choosing to live a life that clearly mirrors your core values and beliefs? Do you walk the walk? Better yet, are you willing to start?
And finally, which room do you live in? Do you have faith that you can live in the second room, keep from being pulled into mediocrity and that your center, if lived out, will make a true difference in your life and the lives of those around you?
At some level, it comes down to choice. Will we “man up” and search for a clearly defined life where we take our most valuable possession, our inner will to live differently, strategically, and gamble. Gamble for our own life, believing that all bets are on one slot in the roulette table – the very number that defines my core, my center, my deepest values.
Will we step into the second room? Embracing new life with renewed precision and clarity. What a life this can be. I have the privilege of mentoring and coaching men who want to step into a different stream, filled with rushing waters that careen forward shaping the banks around them and moving toward an ocean of possibilities. I often see men discover their brilliance that capitulates to nothing and creates newness and fulfillment.
A Final Word
Imagine with me for a moment. You are sitting in a park, pondering this life you have been gifted and how you reach intentionally into your world, with more precision than ever before, more abundance and more choice. You do a “Tebow” – you know, the one where he kneels down in prayer. Regardless of your faith, imagine this. You kneel in adoration of how great life can be, how you’ve chosen to live it out with diligence and joy, and how God has shaped your spirit and given you meaning and purpose.
Someone walks up to you, the guy from the first room. He looks just like you, but nervous and a bit ragged – worn down. He’s all about holding back, comes up and sees you, wondering if you’re real or crazy. He stands only moments away, curious and puzzled a bit. He reflects on his life briefly, knowing the “Tebow” posture, whether his life measures up – really measures up. Perhaps he’s contemplated the second room, but sits unsure in his own indecision.
You, the guy from the other room, notice him, somewhat self-conscious. Yet you look up and smile, with perhaps a twinkle in your eye. He briefly sees inside your spirit. Somehow your red-hot courage leaks out, can’t be missed. You nod, acknowledging his presence, half way inviting this man – this unique man standing in front of you – to bow with you. You don’t go that far but he picks up on your presence – the bond men share when they band together for good. He can almost see the resolution that envelopes you. Man stuff – true grit and courage.
He knows that no one just bows in the park, in the middle of public, without some kind of commensurate muscle – man muscle. He knows you’re new to the second room and sees the true difference it has made. Full of deeper commitments, a passionate reason to live, a step through a portal that sees further than before, much further.
Trying on man stuff – seeking to know. To grasp. To shape. To kick ass – the ass of complacency and mediocrity.
You rip out a high five, impulsively, and two hands meet, creating a small clamor that dents the quiet, sullen day. A moment frozen in time, where two lives meet and ponder the unthinkable. To hold one another up and blaze a new trail. Standing together, ready to reshape the landscape we call life.