How do you help men understand and face the mosaic of pieces that make them up — some good, some bad?
175 years ago, Walt Whitman exclaimed: “I contain multitudes!”
Modern psychology is now proving that there is no singular self, but rather an interior constellation — often at odds within itself. Every culture has a version of the old ‘Angel & Devil on our shoulders.’ Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde in the West. A Cherokee story of two wolves fighting within every man. Which wolf will win? Grandfather instructs: “The wolf you feed.”
Purpose Mapping labels these: Essence & Shadow. Their observable behaviors: Strengths & Downfall. I created this Map of Psychological Wholeness over 30 years of intensive study, distilling over 1000 books on philosophy, men’s studies, modern neuroscience, positive psychology, and entrepreneurial success — all tested in the lab of rigorous personal experimentation.
But we don’t stop there. Identifying one’s Essence, Strengths and Downfall is just the mechanism for painting our Shadow (or blindspot) into a corner where we can get a grasp on it. Facing and owning this very real part we’ve hidden, repressed, and denied since childhood — the part unacceptable in our families, schools, society — is the definition of true power.
Joseph Campbell taught: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek.” Jung called this treasure — this energy and power locked inside our Shadow — our inner Gold.
The last step of the process is channeling that Gold into our Strengths. We know from fMRI brain scans that the Flow state — feeling our best and performing our best — occurs just 4% beyond our comfort zone. So when we redirect that liberated energy, attention, and power into the things we do that feel best, that’s where a man comes FULLY alive.
That’s the formula. That’s how we help a man understand and face all parts of himself.
“Midlife brings us face to face with our mortality through breakdowns in health, wealth, relationship, or self-identity”
What parts do men have the most trouble with?
Facing our Shadow is scary. We learned to hide, repress, and deny this part of ourselves in childhood and we built an ego persona around being “good boys” for so long we forgot this raw power still exists within us.
Actually, though, it’s harder for men to face the blinding brilliance of their inner Gold. Which is why I think we bury it so deeply we lose touch with it. Midlife is a chance to reclaim this power and our life-renewing Gold.
Making that power safely accessible for men so they can bring it to the world through their next incredible contribution is the reason Purpose Mapping exists.
What motivates a man to face all these parts of themselves?
Inspiration or desperation. Success gets boring. It’s not enough. There has to be more.
Midlife brings us face to face with our mortality through breakdowns in health, wealth, relationship, or self-identity. For many men, there’s a woman amplifying these messages. She may say it directly or in some peripheral way:
“Wake up. Focus. You’ll not live forever. Time is short. There’s more for you. Go climb your 2nd Mountain. Seek fulfillment. Meaning. Purpose. Legacy. Don’t languish and die on top of ‘Success Mountain’ …a soft, comfortable failure of your greatest potential.”
“Everything we do comes down to providing a safe container for a man’s midlife transformation so it doesn’t become a midlife catastrophe”
How do you help them through what could be a pretty tough process?
Safety. Everything we do comes down to providing a safe container for a man’s midlife transformation so it doesn’t become a midlife catastrophe.
A caterpillar knows when it’s time to enter its midlife process. It doesn’t melt down out on the edge of a tree branch; it creates a safe container for that process to take place. We very intentionally provide this safe container. Because, just like puberty, you can pretend it’s not happening… but it is. Nature always wins. It’s just a question of how elegantly you go through it.
The other thing is guidance. The breakdown before the breakthrough is disorienting. Between the 1st Mountain of success and the 2nd Mountain of purpose and lasting fulfillment is a dark valley …with a dragon (the Shadow). Going it alone is scary; often messier than it needs to be.
The good news is, we know how to battle dragons and recapture their gold. We’ve walked the path hundreds of times. Just like a great fishing guide, it’s simply easier, quicker, and more rewarding with expert guidance.
Truthfully, it’s not as scary as it seems, but men don’t know this because nobody talks about this. There’s no map. So we help men create that map for their unique Journey beyond success.
“Aligning one’s Vision, Mission & Milestone with one’s existential Purpose helps men focus on one tiny next action step each day”
Is the map a vision of the future? And if so, how do you help them move forward into the unknown?
Great question. While Purpose Mapping does result in a clear 3-5 year Mission as part of the overall 1-page map, it’s really more of a decision-making framework.
As I learned from one of my coaches, “Dream bigger than you’ve ever dared and take tinier steps than you ever imagined possible.”
Aligning one’s Vision, Mission & Milestone with one’s existential Purpose — which brings us fully alive — helps men focus on one tiny next action step each day. That’s how a man moves forward into the unknown. He simply takes the next clear action step. It works like magic.
It seems that men are programed to achieve at higher and higher rates; then, for some, there is a sort of collapse. What happens there?
When successful men reach the top of their 1st Mountain, they often go from playing to win — full out, hard charging, making it happen — to retiring in spirit and playing ‘not to lose’ because they’re tired of the battle. And rightly so.
Many collapse on top of the 1st Mountain. But midlife is about renewal and the 2nd Mountain is not the same grueling fight of a climb. It’s a challenge, but it’s the kind of challenge a man relishes because every day is intrinsically rewarding.
So, we give a man the space and deep listening his soul needs consolidate, recharge, and locate an inspiring next adventure that integrates everything he’s accomplished thus far and focuses him on his greatest contribution yet.
“What comes beyond success is self-actualization and beyond that, self-transcendence”
If a guy can’t be the star anymore, or doesn’t want to be, what is left for him?
Another great question. This is a phase-of-life thing. There is a time to fight and climb and rise to the top. In Maslow’s hierarchy, success is labeled the “ego achievement” stage.
What comes beyond success is self-actualization and beyond that, self-transcendence. Once a man has accomplished what he came here to achieve, he hits an existential tailspin of sorts.
The 2nd Mountain is no longer about ego. It’s accompanied by a deep relief that “my life is no longer my own… I serve that which is greater than me.” This is legacy.
A man who doesn’t get the memo that there is indeed a 2nd Mountain will burn out on the golden hamster wheel of success, thinking that’s all life has in store. Or he’ll do something wild and stupid in an earnest attempt to get his spark back.
Mature men go beyond Success Mountain; they traverse the dark valley, fight the dragon, and emerge a newer, much larger version of themselves.
There are terrible stats out there on male loneliness and depression in later life. Any insight on that? Solutions?
It’s truly heartbreaking. We are wired for tribal society. A million years of evolution can’t be overwritten in 300 years of industrial society. Let alone the last 30 years of deeply fragmented digital society.
Men Need Men
As I mentioned in my last interview: Men Need Men. All ages, all stages. Peers and multigenerational mentoring. In person and in spirit. We lost the mentoring pyramid of boys, young men, adult men, grey hairs and white hairs. We need to feel other men’s presence in our world. We need to observe and support one another’s Journeys. This is not a luxury. Our thriving depends on it.
David, you and I met in an international group of over 500 successful, heart-centered men. If men are interested, I’d invite them to check out our Saturday meeting at http://Metal.men, request a guest pass and say Craig Filek or David Stewart sent you.
Why is it so difficult for men to make new connections later in life and what should they be doing?
It’s difficult for a few reasons. Our fathers didn’t show us how. For them, midlife was the beginning of the end and we watched them decline “over the hill.” Whereas now, midlife is clearly the beginning of a whole new phase of life.
It’s also difficult because until we reach the top of the 1st Mountain, we’re competing with every other man. That’s what testosterone breeds in us. When testosterone dips in midlife we become more connectable. We can start to champion others. We can slow down and breathe together. It’s a different phase of life — time to learn some new tools, meet some new brothers and do life in a different way.
Harvard’s 85-year study on men found that: “Positive relationships keep us happier, healthier, and help us live longer. Period.”
Like anything else in life, get after it!
Craig Filek is serial entrepreneur with 29 years of Men’s Work training. His leadership & facilitation skills were forged in the fire of empathic intuition with an eye for empowerment & flow. Billionaires, executives, founders & innovative teams around the world seek Craig’s guidance when making life-changing decisions.
Connect with Craig: www.PurposeMapping.com/ageist