What is “male community leadership”?

The mission of F3 is to invigorate male community leadership. The vehicle for achieving this is small workout groups for men. But what does “male community leadership” actually look like? Let’s break it down into its component parts.

When you think of “leadership” in the workplace, what does it look like?

Some things that immediately come to mind are team members who actively play their part, follow through on commitments and are on-time / punctual. Work ethic and being selfless (there’s no “i” in team) feature highly. Leaders are typically well-presented and look the part. Leaders take the initiative without being asked. Different situations require different styles of leadership so good leaders find the right balance of autocracy and democracy, inclusion and empowerment. They recognize that sometimes it’s better to be led by others.

Who wants to serve a leader who’s disconnected? Effective leaders are passionate, present and engaged. They know the impact – both positive and negative – that their body language, written and spoken words can have. So they praise, motivate and encourage. They’re firm but fair, kind and empathetic. Doing the right things, even when others aren’t watching is something they take pride in. And when the going gets tough, they’re out the front challenging boldy.   

So if that’s what some of the characteristics of workplace leadership look like, let’s look at “community”. What is it? It’s people in your area of influence – kids, partner / spouse, extended family, friends, neighbours, others. Cambridge defines it as “the people living in one particular area or people who are considered as a unit because of their common interests, social group, or nationality”.

Do you think there’s any difference in what leadership at work looks like versus male leadership in the family and wider community? No. The same applies, except in a slightly different context.

Us men are part of family units that require us to play our part, to follow through on our commitments and be on-time / punctual. Work ethic and being selfless – living third – is something required on a daily basis. How can our kids take us seriously or be proud of us amongst others if we aren’t well-presented and look the part? No spouse enjoys nagging their partner about needing to take the trash out; men need to take the initiative without being asked. Being the micro-managing hubby or “helicopter parent” who is overly involved requires tempering and finding the right balance or empowerment. And then there’s the “mansplaining” … sometimes you just don’t know better and need to swallow your pride and be led.

Men, how can you expect to earn the affection, respect and trust of your spouse, partner or kids if you aren’t interested, present and engaged? Those around you need your positive affirmation and praise. And your kids seeing your trash talk on the phone to your buddies only sets a negative example for them to follow. Clean it up.

It’s all about authenticity. Not being two different people; one at home and another at work. It simply can’t be a case of striving to be out the front leading others at work, and then when you come home to your spouse, partner and kids to turn off the leadership switch at the front door, sit back and become homogeneous with the furniture.

F3 is about men striving to accelerate and achieve consistent performance – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Being tougher, fitter and stronger in order to be all-round better leaders for those around us – at work and at home. And then looking to see who, in society or the community, is being left behind (‘the six’), and how we can serve them.

This is male community leadership.

by Safari

Judging other’s personalities and excusing ourselves because of our circumstances

How many times do we attribute other people’s faults to their character, but when we fail at the exact same hurdle, we attribute our failure to our circumstances? This is the fundamental attribution error.

The other day someone was driving in front of me really erratically, all over the place. I got annoyed and was on my own, and was muttering unpleasant things about them under my breath: “he’s such a … ”, and “what a …”. You fill in the blanks.

Three days later I’m driving into Guildford, running a bit late, when a white van legitimately gets in front of me on a roundabout. How annoying ?! So before it’s got any speed up I legitimately overtake, getting back in my lane before the centre bollard in the road arrives. No rules of the road broken, but admittedly maybe a little aggressive.

The van driver was irritated at my perceived aggression and flashed his lights. I continued on my merry way.

Afterwards I felt convicted. It’s ok for me to blame the van guy’s personality for his driving, but then when I might be driving imperfectly, it’s ok and I excuse myself because of my circumstances (I was in a rush). He’s a …, but it’s ok because I’m a rush.

This is not ok. It happens in so many places of our lives; on the road, at work, at home. With our Ms and 2.0s, friends and coworkers. Even the strangers in the queue in front of us.

Leadership, as we all know, is setting an example, doing the right things, even when no one else is watching, and influencing others. Be careful and look out for when you’re attributing other people’s faults to their character, but when we do it, we excuse ourselves because of our circumstances.

by Safari

Making a living or a life?

Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating. Too often, we fathers, neglect it because we get so caught up in trying to make a living that we forget to make a life.

As a teacher we are told to be role models to the young people we work with in all we do; this is a key element of our professional standards. But I recently asked myself if I was doing the same thing in my personal life. I wasn’t happy about the answer when I was honest with myself.

So my resolution this year is to be a better role model as a father.

I want the way I conduct myself and how I act for my children to make an impression on them. With work commitments there could be days where I may only see my kids for half an hour. So that half hour needs to be highly impactful.

High impact needs to be in my behaviour, mood, attitude, and energy levels, as well as my physical appearance and how I look after myself. On the latter, I feel many of us neglect ourselves. There’s a difference between good physical appearance for vanity reasons versus for pouring into others more easily and fully. Unfortunately, we often forget that neglecting ourselves in these areas often has a significant negative impact on our kids. Maybe not immediate, but certainly down the line.

Being a role model is not about perfection; that is an impossibility. However, it is about trying to be the best version of yourself.

By all means make a living, but don’t forget to make a life.

by Beaker

This too shall pass

While the origins are not well known, a story was first documented in the early 19th century. It tells of a sultan who asked a wise Sage for an inscription to be placed on his ring which would help him through both good times and bad.

The sage inscribed the words “And this, too, shall pass away”.

This phrase, more commonly expressed in writing and song as “This too shall pass”, perfectly captures the impermanence of all things, the relentless and unstoppable human condition. We all are born, we grow, we experience emotion, we aspire to be more, we deal with conflict and then we die. We are emphatically impermanent, and so too can our troubles.

What may keep us awake at night one week, may not factor into our thoughts the next. Nobody on their deathbed regrets not spending more time in the office. Live life without regret, enjoy the impermanence of things; to fight the march of time is the height of folly. If life gets you down, this, too, shall pass away.

Your life is a road through rolling hills, you are not always the one at the wheel. You can choose to look to the horizon with optimism and excitement.

by Pasty

“You vs You” – huh ?

The other day I was thinking about what “You vs You” means. The more I thought about it the more I realized it’s about an honest response:

– An honest response to each exercise set by the Q or workout leader;
– An honest response to each pre-blast or workout invitation; and
– An honest response to all that life throws at us.

Within each workout we know in ourselves when we’ve hit our limit and need to dial it back a bit. And we dial it back because the consequence is undesirable – maybe feel (or be) sick, or worse, incur an injury. “You vs You” kicks in because we physically can’t do it or the intensity is too much.

Or if the exercise is too easy, “You vs You” involves checking your exercise form, whether you’re doing it right, and then modifying up. Why? Because with “You vs You”, no-one cares who’s first over the line to finish.

“You vs You” involves an honest response to each workout invitation. This is because the consequence of not turning up to a workout is actually pleasurable and gratifying … more time in bed, more time drinking tea / coffee, watching the news, etc. – the voice in your head that says “I need more sleep” is very powerful.

But unfortunately, we know all too well there’s always a consequence – although maybe not immediate. Look no further than the symptoms of Sadclown syndrome:

Symptoms of Sadclown Syndrome

Many people simply cannot beat the Sadclown on their own. They can put up a facade about how they’re coping or dress up why they can’t make it to the workout … but it’s super unhelpful because it prevents others from pulling up alongside them to help. Often we don’t realize when the wheels are falling off, until they have fallen off and we’re in the ditch. Pridefulness and putting up appearances is super unhelpful.

Outside of workouts, “You vs You” is commented on nicely in Pasty’s blog “Comparison is the Thief of Joy”. Every day we see social media telling us everyone else’s life is perfect or better than ours. However, comparing our insides to others’ outsides is deeply flawed.

The point is that we’re all made different. “You vs You” is about pursuing the best version of yourself and not trying to get a leg up on someone else, which in doing so makes them a loser. Everyone can be a winner. Who can you help win with you?

by Safari

Why “anti-fragility”?

We know what fragile means – it describes something that breaks under pressure or from shocks.  You might think the opposite of fragile is strong or robust – something that is simply harder to break.  The true opposite however is something that gets better from regular shocks, stress and uncertainty.

Antifragility is a property of things which increase in capability; to thrive as a result of stressors, shocks, volatility, noise, mistakes, faults, attacks, or failures.  The term was coined by renowned thinker, trader and flaneur Nassim Taleb (for more see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antifragility).

In a bio-dome experiment in Arizona, they found their carefully looked-after trees got to a certain height, but then just fell over.  The only thing missing from their environment was stress. In this case, strong wind to force them to become stronger (https://medium.com/the-ascent/bio-dome-trees-drop-dead-in-perfect-environments-9e738f325821). 

Life is not like living in a bio-dome, although we can seek to make it like one by seeking only comfort.  We will be better and stronger (more antifragile) if we seek discomfort – like F3 workouts – and better able to cope when the strong winds of life come for us.

by Nerd

Comfort, convenience and controversy

Who am I? Am I strong? Do I have courage? The measure of a man is not when life’s ‘gravy’ and going well; when things are comfortable and convenient.

Everyone has to overcome adversity, so the test comes with how we deal with challenge, adversity and controversy. Success is about how we let challenge, adversity and controversy mould us, not how we avoid it.

Will you let adversity break your will, or use it to strengthen your confidence and skills?

Adversity can make you stronger if you let it. Remember that “ships don’t sink because of the water around them. Ships sink because of the water that gets in them.”

It’s a mindset shift.

by AV

Guilt, Embarrassment and Shame

Guilt informs us that we’ve violated our moral compass; our sense of right and wrong. After we’ve done something bad it prompts us to reconcile and seek forgiveness. There may be feelings of regret afterwards, but over time they dissipate.

Embarrassment makes us feel like a line has been crossed – we feel picked on, stupid, ugly, worthless or humiliated. Although it’s unpleasant at first it doesn’t tend to make us think that we are personally defective or unworthy. It’s temporary.

And then there’s shame …

Shame is a negative evaluation of ourselves; a belief that we’re intrinsically flawed. It’s not about a single action; it’s about who we “are”. It’s primarily a feeling that says “there’s something wrong with me” and therefore “I’m unworthy of love or belonging”.

Guilt prompts us to ask for and receive forgiveness, whereas shame prompts us to hide and it refuses to be forgiven.

The anxiety of guilt is about the hurt we’ve caused someone or something, or the punishment that’s imminent. But the anxiety of shame is about the fear of potential isolation and abandonment, i.e. if we do not meet the expectations of valued others, we risk their rejection.

So at the heart of shame is a fear of loss of connectedness to others.

The response to shame is either:
1. Move toward – we develop patterns of compliance and approval seeking, becoming people pleasers often at the expense of our sense of self
2. Move away – we distance, avoid and hide
3. Move against –  we persuade, cause conflict, or attempt to change our surroundings to conform more with ourselves

The antidotes of shame are courage, compassion and connection.

Courage is taking action, even if you have fear. Doing it scared. You neutralize shame when you’re bold enough to bring your shame into the light and say it out loud to yourself and others. It loses its power.

Compassion is sensitivity toward emotional suffering. Treat yourself as you would the “me next to me”. We are our own worst enemy, so discipline yourself to speak kindly to or about yourself, instead of berating yourself with accusations or name-calling.

Connection is about meaningful links or associations with others. Shame relies on secrecy and hiding. It loses its power when you reach out. Reaching out to others builds solidarity.

The pandemic might have us physically isolate, but don’t disconnect.

by Safari, adapted from Faithwalking

All good things can be bad

A few weeks ago, an old workout friend asked me if I’d join him and a few buddies running the Boston Marathon in April 2022. There’s nothing better than a few guy friends getting together to conquer a tough challenge like a marathon. There’s bonding, camaraderie; it’s awesome.

I wanted to give an immediate “yes”, but a little voice in my head was waving a red flag.

It became clear to me that whilst marathons in themselves aren’t inherently bad, and are phenomenally good for health and fitness, my particular circumstances meant doing it would’ve involved big sacrifice on my time. For me, the training required would’ve impacted heavily on my kids, my wife, my job, my overall engagement and focus at home. Let alone travelling to Boston with all the uncertainty that’s currently associated with international travel.

It reminded me of how a good thing – the pursuit of a personal goal like health and fitness – can become a bad thing if it becomes all-consuming and self-serving, and for the benefit of nobody other than oneself.

When certain pursuits in your life become idols, they can become harmful. The mitigation is to have a strong “Why?” and for the answer to that “Why?” question to be “serving the Me next to me”, i.e. others around me.

All good things can become bad. Sharpening and improving oneself should be in order to be a blessing on those around us, not just in and for ourselves.

by Safari

Celebrate the small gains

Everyone tries to make improvements in one or more areas of their lives. Modern movies seem to portray the effortless genius hero who stridently aces their goal. Even older movies like Rocky have Sylvester Stallone training for what seems like a mere few weeks before taking on, and defeating, Ivan Drago in the epic fight.

Don’t get disheartened if you’re not seeing progress in your efforts.

It’s only the supremely talented who catch our eye on TV or social media. They make us feel inadequate; like our small gains are insufficient.

Just remember real progress comes in small continued efforts, forged into habits. Think about the small things you can do daily. How much improvement can you make each day? 1%, 2%, 5%? Whatever you choose, just think that over a week you’ll achieve 7x where you started.

That’s awesome; celebrate it.

by BladeRunner

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

“Comparison is the thief of Joy” is a quote that has been attributed to 100’s of people all the way back to the mid-19th century. Not always conveyed in the same way, but the sentiment being the same.

It is more true today than it has ever been.

It is well understood that the insidious algorithms of the internet tune in to our weaknesses for certain topics – from the innocuous fluffy kitten pictures through to right wing conspiracy. The algorithms watch, super cookies track, they learn, databases store and share, link you to subjects, friends, areas, shopping habits, health concerns, political leanings, weaknesses to exploit.

The algorithms reward your presence in their domain with gifts of information; true, untrue. It doesn’t matter, the outcome is the same – small surges of happy hormones, the feeling of belonging, of not being alone. This time spent being pulled into this world, is at best a waste of our precious time. More concerning, it twists how we perceive the world around us, resulting in a fixed mindset, unable to grow, unwilling to reason.

Social media platforms do this and more. The “social” element of social media reinforces comparison with others and the need to demonstrate to others that you are “living your best life”. It would take true strength of character not to feel a level of Schadenfreude while reading about the failures of “that guy” that you hated at school. This elevated sense of superiority and pangs of sneering delight are not conducive to good mental health.

Comparison is a thief of joy.

Then there are those same people that are doing well. Again, the strength of character is strong with those who can feel happiness while glancing at carefully curated images of success awarded by the universe to those that you judged to be undeserving.

Life isn’t always fair. Sometimes the worst people have the fullest lives, have wealth and happiness, perhaps leaving you feeling short-changed – inferior – as you list and compare your material goods, capabilities or even ability to make the right decisions. You feel a creeping sense of regret, loss of a life not lived. Perhaps left questioning why the universe wouldn’t put you ahead.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

There is no Karma. Sometimes life is unfair. Often you have little or no control over the actions of others. To think otherwise is folly. To compare and concern yourself with self imposed metrics is time wasted.

Challenge yourself not to compare your life to others. It has no benefit. There is only one person you should try to be better than – yourself. Keep striving to be fitter, healthier, more kind and compassionate, fairer, more engaged as a father and son, more caring as a husband, the best friend you can be, the supportive colleague that people remember.

Be better than yourself yesterday and enjoy how wonderful the world can be tomorrow.

by Pasty

Photo credit: TheBusyBrain

Play and Possibility – Finite vs Infinite Games

“There are at least two kinds of games,” states James P. Carse in his book “Finite and Infinite Games“. He goes on to explain: “One could be called finite; the other infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.”

Formal competitions, e.g. sports matches, are finite games. The point of playing is to duel, bring the game to an end, declare a winner or loser, game-over forever, and then move on.

There is a saying that “life’s a game”. It certainly is a game. But what kind of a game? Life is better approached with a view to keeping the game going, keeping yourself in play and keeping others in play too, i.e. as an infinite game. You can’t play life to just win and bring the game to an end. At best, that’s a zero sum game.

How are you participating in and staying in-play in the infinite game that is life? How are you bringing others along to remain in play long after you’ve gone?

The three key ingredients to winning the infinite game of life are fitness, fellowship and faith. Faith being a belief in something outside of or bigger than yourself, e.g. service, community, being better for those around you.

By Nerd