Flying Through Life

Being asked to write a brief article for The ManKind Project magazine, Spearhead, is an obvious privilege, yet I didn’t think it would be quite so difficult. I have been caught up in the minutiae of trying to remember my training, what were the challenges and what did the weekend do for me? Looking back, all I remember is that my weekend was early in March 2010, it was bitterly cold, and I went through a process that was to have a huge impact on my life.

Everyone experiences the training in different ways. I left with a gem, a lens to look through life with, something that has become a kind of mantra for me, and that challenges me to be everything I can be. It’s simply: “What kind of man do I want to be?” Of course my shadow comes and bites me up the arse from time to time but it’s pretty consistent and the more I commit the more I notice a shift. It is so subtle that I don’t know it is actually happening. I have to reflect back and look at the last few months to see how my life is radically changing. OK, so I’m 40 and might be having a midlife crisis, but it is precisely this lens that is going to get me through any challenge.

What kind of man do I want to be? It is such a provocative question and yet has guided me so successfully to date. With an addictive personality, I have used it to deal with so many of my demons.  Before I went on the training I was smoking a packet of tobacco a week, drinking a double espresso (before I could function in the morning) and my psoriasis was so bad that I actually accepted that sooner or later it would cover my entire body.

It’s funny looking back, because I didn’t consciously say “Right I am going to give up cigarettes, or coffee, or whatever.” I totally realized those vices just didn’t suit me anymore, and were no longer part of my life. Consequently, there was nothing really to give up….. and my psoriasis is now clearer than it  ever has been.

This mantra infiltrates every part of my life. It’s so prolific, that I can’t hide from it. I have committed to be everything I can be, and therefore the challenge is always there and I can’t turn back. I was at a party tonight with my two boys and someone offered me a pint. I started salivating at the thought of it, but the truth be known I had an article to write and next week is particularly important for me, so this little voice said “Have a cuppa instead.” I guess you would have to know me to understand what a huge breakthrough this is for me.

Professionally, I have been a CSR consultant for the last 7 years, looking at how businesses really embed sustainability through employee engagement. Although worthwhile, I have never gone “Wow, I love my job”. I have always been envious of those who have. I feel like I’ve been pushing rope uphill for so long, or walking through thick treacle. I just resigned myself to the fact that I was bloody lucky to have a job, especially my own and just hung in there. Knowing how frustrated I’ve been, a friend rang me up and asked if I’d heard of LEAD, an organization facilitating leadership on sustainable development.

Cutting a long story short, I duly signed up and within a month I was booked onto the course. Within the first few days I started asking myself those inevitable questions like “Who am I? What do I value and what does leadership mean to me?”

Within a week, I returned home, met with my business partner and pulled the plug on a seven year business. So, I am at a massive crossroads in my life, and feel that I’ve thrown myself off a very large cliff and am currently in mid flight. It is an emotive place to be but one full of opportunities. If I am honest I feel a little schizophrenic, because depending on when you get me I am either over the moon with possibilities, or deep in despair at my predicament. Luckily, it is much more the former than the latter, but as one good friend said to me, “Jono, you are simply in the chaos phase, and out of chaos magic happens.”

MKP has given me a tool with which to navigate through life’s trials and tribulations. And above all it has taught me the importance of having men in my life. I was blessed to have Alan H (RIP) as my mentor and friend. He stood with me and guided me with such integrity and commitment that I was blown away to receive such genuine love and support from another man.

After the New Warrior Adventure Training (NWTA) I asked him where he was from and he said near Bath. I gave him a gentle smile and told him I was, too. I now have the joy of being part of the Bath iGroup. On my first visit, I remember walking through the woods, the smell of wild garlic pungent in the air and as I came round the corner there was a group of men sitting by a fire in a clearing and one of them playing the harp. It doesn’t get better than that!

Jon E