“When I was a teenager all I wanted to do was listen to punk, skateboard, hang out with my friends and work on interesting and creative projects. I think a midlife crisis is just when you realise that you were right in the first place”.
I posted the above as a status update on Facebook about 4 years ago. It was, and still is, the most ‘liked’ status I have ever posted. Why? Because it’s a little bit funny and a little bit self-deprecating? It can’t be as it is neither that funny nor that self-deprecating. I believe that is was popular for the very simple reason that it is true, and that I have enough friends of a certain age that can relate to that feeling of wanting to reconnect to a simpler time where energy came from passion not promotions, and play was…well it was just that..play.
So is this a crisis or is it an opportunity?
CJ Jung says that “midlife is the time to let go of an over dominant ego and to contemplate the deeper significance of human existence.” However, type ‘midlife’ into Google and you’ll see that the first thing that comes up is midlife crisis! In our culture this mid-point of the lives of men has become synonymous with affairs, sports cars and generally making fools of ourselves by trying to “recapture our youth”. However, even a cursory knowledge of the ‘hero’s journey’ or narrative structures will show us that this midpoint in a person’s story is when he enters the ‘belly of the beast’ and makes the decision that this will either make his tale one of victory or tragedy. Even in more modern reworkings of the ‘hero’s journey’, such as Hollywood’s ‘Eight Sequence Structure’, we learn that the ‘Mid-point’ of the story is when the hero replaces the desire for what he ‘wants’ with the desire for what he ‘needs’. Interestingly, in the eight sequence structure the mid-point reflects the end, tragedy in the middle means a tragedy at the end and vise versa . These mythic structures are how we understand our world. So why is the mid-point of our lives are treated as some sort of comic situation? Why are most suicides in the UK middle-aged men? I believe it is because we are focusing on the wrong story. There is no midlife crisis! We just reach a stage in our lives when we have learned the skills we need, we have shaped our adult lives in one form or another and , after spending twenty or so trying to get what we ‘want’, are now looking for what we ‘need’. This is not a crisis, this is an awakening. This is the part where we get to stop being in reaction and start carving out our lives as we actually always wanted them. The crisis comes when we lose sight of that, or worse, we lose sight of what it is that we ‘need’ and just looking for new things to want.
So what do we need? I have worked specifically within the arena of men’s personal development for over 15 years, have spent well over 1000 hours in group or one to one sessions, and have worked with hundreds of men. What have I learned? I have learned that men really crave are four key things. Unsurprisingly these are the same four things that a boy needs, love and connection, security, community and something to do. Basically what most men ‘need’ is to feel safe while they do something with others that will either bring them love, connection or show love and connection to those that they love. It’s pretty simple isn’t it? You don’t believe me? OK.
Recently I am proud to say, as part of my ‘midlife crisis’ I returned to skateboarding. Skateboarding was something that played a massive role in my young life and was one of those things that I put down when it was time to get serious. So have I gone back to it because I am trying to relive my youth? No! I have gone back to it because by skating I get to do something with others, build friendships and get to be part of a community. OK so the safety bit isn’t there…but that comes from my fantastic wife these days and the knowledge that I am loved. Through returning to skating I have come into contact with dozens of men of a similar age that have also returned to it. What have I found? Much the same as I have found with my personal development. Men thrive within a situation where they can be active and productive within a community that they feel loved and supported in.
So what do we do to promote that? Well I have a simple mission. My mission is to connect men with a sense of purpose that encourages them to build community and satisfy their emotional and creative needs in a way that enriches their own lives and the lives of those around them. My first step on this mission, in additional to the relationships I build with men on a daily basis and the work I already do within male transformation, is bringing all that I have learned around connecting men with their life purpose, reconnecting them with a sense of play and power and bringing it together into a 2 day course that I feel will dramatically enrich the life of each man that attends it. This 2 day experiential workshop uses individual exercises and group facilitation to look at what you have learned so far from life’s journey, what you want from this stage of your life and how the decisions you make now will shape the rest of your life. From this place we will re-examine our view of midlife and develop tools to make sure that we enjoy a ‘midlife thrive’ that enhances the rest of our victorious life.
If you would like to find out more about this course then please click here
I have also set up an online project called ‘The Magnificent Man Project’. ‘The Magnificent Man Project’ is an online community whose mission is to create a supportive space for men that want to make the world a better place by encouraging each man to step into his magnificence. This space is used to share stories, articles, inspirations, projects, or to ask for what we need to step into our magnificence and encourage others to do the same. The Magnificent Man Project is open to men of all walks of life regardless of faith, ethnicity, age, class, sexuality or ability.
If you would like to join this community then please click here
Of course along the way I will be encouraging as many men as possible to listen to punk, skateboard, hang out with their friends and work on interesting and creative projects.
If you are interested in one of my courses or ongoing coaching, want to go skating, or just want more information about my mission and what I do then please do drop me a line.