I've spent the last 11 years deeply involved in personal development – therapies, workshops, books; and teaching and coaching others is my work and business. The thing I’ve realised over time is that my biggest personal challenge is to take action in my life. Instead, I frequently find myself waiting for something to happen, distracting myself with unimportant things, or reading books or articles about really useful techniques that will help me to get on and do something. As a child I had very little awareness of my natural father and although I had (and still do) a step-father (who I call Dad), there was still something missing for me as a boy. I've never really been able to feel like a man and I'm having to make up being a father to my own children as I go along, because I didn't want to recreate my own childhood (very harsh) for my children. To me that feels like a lot of pressure and there are times when I really haven't felt up to it.
I've always been someone who holds back, particularly as a child, preferring my own company to that of other people. I have found it really difficult to connect with other people, particularly men. I found that it was much easier to talk to women and I have a wonderful wife who I've been able to hide behind for many years! I've done lots of work on this in the last few years and although I find it much easier now, there are still times when I hold back and don't participate, which is really frustrating for me.
This all came to a head in August when I realised that it was time to change, otherwise I'd end up living a very unfulfilled life. My daughter attends a Steiner School in Ringwood and I consider myself really fortunate to know a few of the Dads at the school who have already attended the Mankind Project New Warrior Training Adventure weekend and I'd also seen some amazing changes in a couple of them who attended earlier this year. It was a no-brainer for me, as I wanted these changes for myself.
As it's my normal habit to put things off for as long as I can, I made the call and booked myself in before I had time even to consider the thought “I'll do it next time”. It was the best decision I have ever made. The thing that really sealed it for me is how open, honest and welcoming these men are.
I could feel in myself a resistance to making a connection with them, even though I really wanted to. I could get so far, but then my old habits of holding back kicked in and I always felt like an outsider.
My wife thought it was very strange that I'd want to do the NWTA, but she's incredibly supportive and was able to trust that I knew what I was doing. To be honest, knowing nothing about it other than seeing it had worked for my friends, I really didn't know what I was doing or letting myself in for! What I did have, though, was the feeling that something big was going to happen in my life and that this would be a really positive experience for me.
I knew that it was likely to challenge and frighten me, so I wasn't going to take it lightly. I found the 4 week wait for the weekend quite frustrating, but actually it's really good for me to sit with the not knowing – I know from my work that it's much easier to make changes when you're uncomfortable than when you're comfortable!
Finally, the weekend was upon me and I travelled up to the MKP venue, the Comb, with four other men, which really helped to relax me. It also served to heighten my anticipation and discomfort about the unknown that was to come. The trip up there was a really powerful experience for me in itself. On arrival at the Comb I knew I had a choice to make: to either just see what happened, or to make a commitment to myself to get the most out of it that I possibly could. I'm happy to say I chose to really go for it.
My overall impression of the MKP weekend is one of immense personal challenge, but in an environment of care, attention and nurture to a level that I have never seen or experienced in my life. I felt accepted, appreciated and loved to a degree that completely took me by surprise and for the first time in my life, I felt like a man.
People have asked me loads of questions since I've been back, ranging from, “What was it like?” to “What did you do?” to “You seem in a really good space, what's happened?” My answer to each of them is that I've met a part of myself that I never knew existed – I'm in touch with something that really helps me and serves me when I need it. At times, it was really hard, but overall, a healthy mixture of frustration and joy! Plus, to top it all off, I met a bunch of other men who have similar feelings, frustrations and challenges as I do.
It's wonderful to realise that even the men who I really look up to and see as “Real Men” have their own challenges and issues around their identity as a man. My deepest truth is that I now know I have the power to chose whether or not I hold myself back. It's definitely a work in progress, but to have a deep awareness of this feels to me like freedom.
I still hold back at times and go through the usual kicking myself afterwards, but I'm able to accept that I'm still learning and that keeps me moving forwards.
The celebration evening is an opportunity to be presented to your tribe as a Man, something that I really enjoyed and I feel is missing from our culture now that we don't have initiations in our lives. I needed to be recognised and accepted as a man, in order to feel like one. I'm already reaping the rewards in my work – I'm finding that:
- I'm much more focused and able to help people in their lives
- I've stopped wasting time doing things that don't help my business or my family
- My clients are having a much deeper connection with me and getting better results
- And although I've always loved the work I do, I'm finding much more joy and happiness from it, which is making the distractions much easier to ignore.
I was never expecting a magic wand that would cure all my issues, but I've come home with a big stick to hit them with, which is good enough for me! I'm really proud of myself for having done it! The Adventure has the potential to be an extraordinary experience, and it certainly was for me.