Showing Up – The Back Story

I turned 70 last July and found myself staring my mortality in the face. I have been a computer programmer for almost 50 years. I have written many millions of lines of computer code and produced some pretty cool pieces of software, but who really gives a shit? The real question I found myself asking was, “How have I helped to make the world a better place?”

In fairness to myself, I have done a lot more than write computer code. I have been very active in the Mankind Project, staffed many training events, started several men’s circles and given generously of my time and talents; but somehow that does not feel like enough.

About a year ago, I realized that the work we do in the Mankind Project is all about teaching men to connect more deeply with themselves, with each other and with a deep sense of purpose and mission. MKP may be the finest leadership training organization on the planet, but we weren’t teaching men the basic skills of connection with other people.

As I thought about connection, I realized that I could develop a workshop of my own that could teach both men and women how to connect more deeply. I understand the business model: create material, develop presenters of that material and find people who want to learn that material. It’s pretty simple and I have done it before.

In the 1990’s, I traveled all over teaching technology concepts courses, first for Microsoft but eventually for myself. I developed my own course material, marketed it to clients like Intel, AT&T and the US Army and did pretty well for seven years before I got tired of being on the road so much of the time.

I started developing my course material about connecting and found several people who could help me teach it. I was on track to offer my first workshop in January. And then Trump got elected.

As I awoke the morning after his election, I realized that the opportunity of my life lay in front of me. My country has become so fractured that it now feels like two worlds colliding and I now faced a life-changing challenge. Would I feed the divide by getting hooked by a narcissistic psychopath or could I find a way to use what I was learning about connection to build bridges across that great divide?

The immensity of the challenge scared the wholly shit out of me, but I could not run from it. I realized that I must show up and face that challenge. I pushed forward with my course development with a goal of teaching my first workshop in late January, but somehow the marketing message I was sending wasn’t resonating with people. I only had five people sign up for the January course and as the date approached, I realized that I was missing something important. I simply wasn’t ready.

My material needed a major reorganization and rewrite, and I had to rethink how I was approaching both the course and its marketing. I canceled all of the scheduled events and started tearing my material apart. I realized that I needed help clarifying my message and my material and almost immediately, help appeared. I met a fellow who teaches people how to make their websites better and he challenged me to return to basics and clarify my message. Another close friend sat with me and helped me rewrite and edit my message over and over until it started to get very crisp and clear.

I got very clear on what I meant by “Wake up, grow up and show up.” And then another opportunity fell into my lap. I attended a gathering of the Mankind Project Elders from the Northwest and was given one hour to give them a taste of what I was developing. As my hour began, I asked the men to pair off with another man they didn’t know. I told them a story about how I realized that I had been asleep all my life, how I started to wake up. I suggested to them that they wouldn’t be in the room if they hadn’t already realized that they had been asleep but were now waking up, and I asked them to share with their partner their own awakening story.

Then I told them about my father and how he was so judgmental that when he died, he had pushed everyone including his entire family away with his judgments. I wrote “Judgmental” on a flip chart and asked them to name other behaviors that broke connection. They filled up the page in moments. Then I asked them to share a story with their partner about how they had demonstrated connection-busting behaviors in their life and how those behaviors impacted themselves and others. They got so deeply into their stories that I had a hard time getting them to stop.

Next, I asked them to name behaviors that deepened connection and again, they filled the flip chart to overflowing. Then they told their partners about the impact of using connection-building behaviors in their lives. Again, I had a hard time stopping them.

When they finally finished, one man pointed out that it was pretty easy to get vulnerable and go deep in a circle of men they knew and trusted, but they didn’t know how to do this without the “safe container.” I reminded them that personal safety is an inside job and that they could create all the safety they needed to meet someone and go deep in a Starbucks store simply by believing in themselves and developing their skills at connecting.

I told them about my neighbor who had a huge Trump sign on his property and how I had knocked on his door and said, “I am Bob Jones and I am not here to change your vote; but I would like to listen to you and try to learn how you see the world so differently than I do.” We spent the next half hour connecting across the divide of our differing perspectives. I told them that they too can show up and make a difference, that all it takes is learning to become aware of their defenses, develop deeper emotional maturity and step through their fears and go build connections. Yep, that’s it!

Well, I don’t yet have any proof that I can really teach men and women to build bridges across the great divide, but that is exactly what I intend to do with what is left of my life. I have built this website and my ConneXions Workshop with that goal in mind. I want to build connections across the great divide and teach others to do the same. Interested? Check out my Resources page where I have dozens of articles and links. Read my blog posts. Check out my ConneXions Workshop and see if it speaks to you. And most importantly, make a commitment to continue to wake up, grow up and show up as the magnificent person you really are.

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