more on being a man

This is the third installment in my series on being a man. If you have been following this series, you will know that it is a reaction to the attack on masculinity. Being a man has become taboo and traits formerly known as “masculine” are under attack as toxic. I have detailed and acknowledged a few that are indeed toxic and have tried to outline “good” masculinity and the traits that define a good man. So far I have listed Honest, Accountability, Integrity and Humility.

Let me continue.

Work Ethic.
There is an old saying. “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will feed himself for life.”
Why is this significant today? Hard work is under fire in this country. Young people are told that they have to go to college and consequently the trades are suffering. They are told that the dirty hands of the working man is somehow crude and beneath societal standards. Consequently, the unemployed guy with the Philosophy major and 100k in student loan debt is having his power shut off by the guy who went to work for the power company right out of High School, did an apprenticeship, has no debt and is earning 80k a year. Hard work is not a bad thing. Would you rather wear a suit and earn 50k or overalls and make 100k?

There is a push in this country towards Socialism under the guise of Democratic Socialism. I get it, our system is not perfect. There is inequality in all areas of society; income, gender, the list goes on. In many ways it is unfair. Our system is based on free markets and industry which are driven by the workers. At the heart of any booming economy is the drive of the workers to succeed. Because men inherently want to earn, to succeed, to achieve, to accomplish and to win. Not to win against each other, but to collectively win over complacency and the need for a handout. A real man will always choose to work for his paycheck over having one handed to him. The best beer is the one that is placed on a sweaty forehead and then twisted open with dirty hands.

Do more than the bare minimum. Someone will almost always appreciate the extra effort. Don’t just show up, make your mark while you are there. Be a great worker and a greater co-worker. At my Dad’s funeral, several of his co-workers showed up to pay their respects. I asked them one question,
“Was my Dad a good co-worker?” The unanimous response was that he was the best.

The thing about work ethic is that it tends to be learned early on, usually from the father. Myself, I was raised by a man with a tremendous work ethic and I would like to think that I grew up with a similar one. I always wanted to be the best, to be valuable. My dad always said “be the guy that when he calls in sick, people notice”. But you don’t need to learn it from your dad, some people are born with it and others develop it out of necessity. But it is definitely generational. If you come from a long line of dependency, it is much more difficult to develop a killer work ethic. But it is possible.Which brings me to my next, related topic.

Grounded.
A good man is grounded, feet firmly planted on the ground. The best way to get somewhere in life is to know where you come from.

It is said that the best father can come from two things. A great father or a terrible father. Either way, the tools are there to do a great job. You just have to know your roots. Humility, work ethic, the entire way you carry yourself comes from having a healthy knowledge of who your family are and where they came from. Heredity motivates us to either maintain the good or change the bad and a good man is capable of both.

My father had a terrible upbringing. His family was very poor. Welfare and alcoholism were prevalent. Instead of falling into the same trap, his upbringing motivated him to do better. Consequently, I was raised with a better life and I was motivated to do the same for my children.

A man with a healthy goal for the future must have a solid appreciation and understanding of his past.

more to come…


Another day at the office…a Mike Valentine tale

Mike Valentine pulled his car into employee parking at 7:30 AM. Hung over with a sour stomach and a dull ache in his head, he was tempted to stay in his car. He couldn’t chalk today’s early arrival only to mere dedication, although he was in the mood to turn things around. It was also the fault of his good friend alcohol, who had begun to affect his sleep. While still wonderfully useful for knocking him out each night, remote in hand on the sofa, it had begun to affect his ability to stay asleep. He slept fitfully and often awoke before dawn, sometimes feeling as if he would be better rested if he had stayed up all night. Today, he had resigned himself to no sleep when he woke at 5 and decided to go to work.

Still, he was glad to be early. He had been dancing on the brink of tardiness lately and that was unacceptable to Mike. He was well-respected at his job for his work ethic. Part of his lore, over many positions, was that he was the first one in, and quite vocal about those who clocked in exactly on time. 15 minutes early is on time, on time is late…don’t ever forget it his father had always said. This mantra had served employers past and present well.

He walked through the parking lot, made some small talk with the security guard at the gate and went inside. He went about his morning ritual. He turned his computer on in his office and while it booted up he went to make a pot of coffee. He then went to the sales department “bullpen” where his reps sat and he collected the sales logs for the previous day. He expected his staff to have the previous day’s activity ready for him first thing each day. He was a flexible man in many areas but not this one. He wanted to know what his people were doing, when and how well they were doing it. He believed in accountability and he had a healthy fear of not knowing what was really going on. If Mike was never asked a question he couldn’t answer about anything in his department, it would be too soon.

Three reps had their reports in their outbox waiting for him, Tracey’s was not. He would have to deal with that today.  He scanned the reports as he walked through the dark office to the coffee pot, poured a tall mug of black coffee and headed to his office. The next part of his routine was to compare the sales logs to previous ones, stored in a neat folder on his desk, looking for the famous “mail-it-in” from his reps. His lengthy experience as a Sales Manager had taught him that employees get burnt out, tired of no’s and begin to write in false stops to pad their days work. Mike Valentine didn’t look for these to punish his reps, but instead to catch sagging performance and slumping morale before it became problematic. Unlike most managers, Mike wasn’t a hard ass. He was a nurturing, helpful “working manager” who stayed on top of things. He wanted his employees to succeed.

If he found a problem he would pull the rep in and talk to them, only disciplining if it is a recurrent problem. His method of detecting “rep fraud”, as he called it, was to make follow-up calls to customers thanking them for meeting with his rep. Occasionally he would hear “I didn’t meet with that rep yesterday” and Mike then knew he had a problem. His reps knew that he did this, some finding out the hard way, so it didn’t happen often. Today, everything checked out based upon his initial scan.

He then went to his emails. There were a bunch of interoffice memos, many of which had nothing to do with him. He responded to the ones that applied to his department and deleted the rest. One email, sent late last night was labeled Golf Tournament. Intrigued, he opened it. It was from one of his best and favorite dealers in Western MA, the area’s biggest Ford Dealer. Mike had struggled over the years to get a piece of their formidable business and he was moving in the right direction. He dreamed of getting all of it. His auction would really be on the map if such a high-profile dealer were to sell all of their cars at his auction. It sure wouldn’t hurt him professionally as well. The tournament was to benefit the Boys and Girls clubs in town, a charity that the owner was notoriously passionate about. Would he like to sponsor a foursome? Mike printed it and pushed it to the right side of his desk, he would ask his manager for permission when he got in.

Immersed in the remaining emails, he was interrupted by a knock at his closed door. He could see that it was Tracey by the mass of red hair visible through the small window of his office door. He told her to come in.
“Good morning” he said without looking up.
“Good morning” she replied. She handed him her sales log from yesterday. She was off the hook for today Mike thought to himself. “I went home from my final stop last night, it made more sense given where I was.”
“No worries” Mike replied. “What’s up for today?”
“I’m headed South today. I’m leaving now. I just wanted to get this to you.”
“I appreciate that. Call me from the road if you need anything.” Mike occasionally felt warm towards her despite their notoriously antagonistic relationship. Maybe she’s coming around, Mike thought to himself. Yeah, and if pigs fly out of my ass I’ll have free bacon for life.

She nodded and left the office.

more tomorrow…