Motorcycle Mayhem

November 27th, 2013 by | Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »


Motorcycle Mayhem

A few years back my grade school age boys were throwing the football around on our quiet, cul-de-sac on a warm September day.   I was working in the house and heard a loud roar of a motorcycle going by.  I knew it was probably the guy who lived at the end of the street who was taking one of his new toys out for a spin, so I kept on with my work.

After the motorcycle faded in the distance, my boys ran into the house to tell me that the “guy at the end of the street” almost ran them over with his Harley.  My eldest son, who has always been a very reliable story teller, said that the guy rode dangeoursly close to them and just said “get out of the way kid”. 

I had an instant and immediate swirl of thoughts and emotions.  My first reaction of “how dare he endager the lives of my boys” moved quickly to “who does this guy think he is”.  My boys could see the concern on my face.  And I could see they were waiting for me to do something big and my initial reaction was to defend them.  But then fear set it. 

I didn’t really know the 50-something guy who lived at the end of the street.  We would exchange obligatory and neighborly waves as he would drive by our house. We would emgage in some small talk during trick or treating every October, but we never had a realtionship and I doubt he even knew my name. 

The “guy at the end of the street” is a well known power broker in the community.  He’s a turnaround artist who buys and sells underperforming companies.  I’ve read about him over the years in the local business journals.  He’s obviously very rich and successful and enjoys all the accoutrements of his triumphs.  The guy exudes a “Type A” bravado and a “bigger-than-life” persona that quite frankly can be intimidating.

Now from everything I could surmise about my neighbor, the potential for intimidating young kids was not out of the realm of possibility.  Heck, I have to believe intimidation is probably what he does best and has made him a boatload of cash over the years at his trade.

I knew what I needed to do – I needed to take my boys to the end of the street, knock on his door and straighten out the situation.  I tried to strengthen my own resolve by reminding myself that “I’m the CEO of a big and successful company and I’m kind of a big deal myself”.  Unfortunately, positive pep talks rarely work – and the fear gripped me even harder.  What would I say? How could I say it without being accusatory?  How would he react?

At this point the fear became even greater and I’m sure my boys could see my initial intensity drain from my eyes.  I could see they were waiting for their dad to defend their safety and their honor.  It’s what every kid expects and deserves from his dad.  My dad stuck up for me a number of times while I was growing up and it always made me feel like a million bucks.  But all I could do was focus on myself and wallow in my fear.  I quickly went over the details of the incident with them again and did my darndest to convince them that he wasn’t as close as they had imagined and that he was probably just saying “hi kids”. 

In other words….I did nothing.   In doing nothing I taught my boys some pretty miserable lessons about what a man says and what a man does in this world.  In one fleeting moment I taught them not to trust your own instincts, avoid conflicts at all costs and create delusional stories in your head to justify your pathetic actions.  It was the lowpoint of my manhood. 

I immediately knew I totally wimped out but still couldn’t muster enough courage to face my fear.  The regret from this small but powerful incident still plagues me today.  But I’m glad it happened because it smacked me right in the face.  It forced me to confront the deep-seeded suspicion I knew about myself.  Something I could never say out loud and truly admit – I don’t believe I have the stuff it takes to be a real man.

 Sure I’ve done all the things your supposed to do to as a man in our society.  I’m happily married with three great kids and a successful career.  I give back to my community and church.  I’m a former college athlete and now coach my kids’ basketball teams.  But in the deepest part of my psyche, I knew something important was missing.  Somewhere along the way, I must have missed out on some of the important genetic material that makes up a man.  For whatever reason, at my middle age, I had to face the brutal fact that in my own estimation I had never earned my “Man Card”.  I had to once and for all admit that I was utterly clueless about what true masculinity looks like and how to apply it in my own life.

 This transforming incident sent me on a personal journey to develop a masculine blue print for the second half of my life.  It was a driving force in my writing the book “Man Quest: Leading Teenage Boys into Manhood”.   My hope is that dads and mentors will pick up Man Quest and actively teach the ways of manhood to their young men…so they’ll never have to wonder if they have what it takes.

Where is Peter Lanza?

December 21st, 2012 by | Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

It’s been a week since the horrific tragedy in Connecticut and people are still trying to make sense out of what happened at Sandy Hook.   I’m sure the families of the victims are still in utter and complete shock as they bury their children.  In the coming weeks, as they move through the stages of grief, they will naturally focus more on why this happened.  They will want answers to their questions.  While there’s no making sense out of such a horrendous act, there’s somebody out there who has some important light to shed and could help with the healing.

I can’t imagine the pain and suffering Peter Lanza is experiencing right now.  As the father of the shooter he is left to carry the burden for what his son did.   Regardless of the extent of his relationship with his wife and son, he is in mourning.   At the same time, his life is now open to public scrutiny from everyone – forever.  Even though he provided his ex-wife with a beautiful home and a more than sufficient annual income, some have speculated that he abandoned his wife and son for the arms of another woman.  Others have said that he’s a workaholic who became consumed with his career over raising his emotionally needy son.  Some have advocated for just giving him grace and support as he grieves his loss.  Regardless of what you believe, one thing is for sure – in the eyes of many, Peter Lanza will be the villain and scapegoat for what his son did.

According to all accounts, Peter Lanza has gone underground to escape the media frenzy surrounding his family.  It’s clear he has consulted with a PR firm and attorney to determine a strategy for dealing with this unthinkable situation.   As history is a good predictor of the future, Peter Lanza will undoubtedly be sued by some of the families for his part in “raising a monster”.  And I’m sure he knows that.   He released a craftily worded statement shortly after the murders and we haven’t heard from him since.  The statement said the following:

“Our hearts go out to the families and friends who lost loved ones and to all those who were injured.  Our family is grieving along with all those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy.  No words can truly express how heartbroken we are.  We are in a state of disbelief and trying to find whatever answers we can.  We too are asking why.  We have cooperated fully with law enforcement and will continue to do so.  Like so many, we are saddened, but struggling to make sense of what has transpired”.

What was missing from his release was one very simple but extremely important word – sorry.    Without an apology, all the other words seem to ring hollow.   I’m sure his advisors told him not to admit to anything that might incriminate him in the future.  I think this is a huge mistake.  A simple acknowledgement of the horrific actions of a family member would bring some sense of comfort to the families who just lost a precious child.  While an apology doesn’t bring their child back or lessen their grief, it would provide some level of comfort to know a father was sorry for the actions of his son.   It’s one simple word.  Why was it left out of his statement?

People typically sue when they feel like there is silence and nobody is acknowledging the wrongdoing.  Sure, in our litigious society people will sue for just about anything.  But most of the time people just want somebody to be remorseful for the transgression committed against them.  I’m no legal expert but acknowledging his son’s crime and apologizing on behalf of the family would not be an admission of his own guilt.

Nobody can put themselves in Peter Lanza’s shoes.  I can’t possibly know the anguish he is feeling right now.   I don’t think anybody can completely blame him for going underground.  But I would advise him to rethink his strategy of bringing in outside “professionals” to water down his message to America.  Instead, I would advise him to find a way to open heartedly extend his sympathy and sorrow individually to each family.  It would be huge if he could reach out to each family of each fallen victim personally and share his condolences.  While I can only speculate that I might ever have the strength or stamina to do so, I would try my darndest to walk directly into the pain and suffering of each family and engage in the difficult conversation.  If I didn’t have the ability to reach out personally, then maybe I would write them each a note.  I don’t know exactly what I’d do, but there’s one thing I do know, silence only makes matters worse.  I have to believe that entering into the pain and suffering alongside the victims families would somehow help the healing process for all.

Like Peter, in difficult situations my first reaction is to run the other way and disappear as quickly as I can.  What I’ve learned through my many failures is that this instinct keeps me mostly weak and ineffective.  I now know that a man is made to move swiftly into the abyss and to do whatever he can to bring goodness and light out of seemingly impossible situations.  I’m very good at thinking through every possible reason why not to step into the pain of life.  But when I do lead with great courage – I never feel more like a man.  And I know my strength and vulnerability, when standing side by side, can bring healing and hope to the most desperate of circumstances.

Now I don’t have millions of dollars to shelter from potential lawsuits so it’s a lot easier for me to give advice.  But if I’m Peter Lanza, I have to imagine that protecting his net worth is not worth the piece of mind he could obtain by dealing head on with this situation.  I don’t think there’s any price tag on bringing some sense of healing to the families of the victims – as well as his own wounded heart.

An Open Window & A Steel Curtain

December 21st, 2012 by | Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

My all-time favorite television sitcom is a show called “The Wonder Years”.  It’s the saga of a teenage boy growing up in the late 1960s.  Kevin Arnold, the show’s protagonist, chronicles the inner thoughts and feelings of a middle school boy finding his way in a turbulent world.   Back in college, “The Wonder Years” absolutely captivated me and I’ve only recently figured out why.

 The truth is, there’s a teenage boy living somewhere inside all men.  No matter what age, in some way, we still see the world through the eyes of a 13-year old boy.  Yes, we walk around in big boy bodies doing our big boy things every day.  But if we are completely honest, we still desire for the world to be comfortable for us and for things to work out the way we want them to, which is the mindset of a typical middle schooler.  Like the adult narrator from “The Wonder Years”, I have a tendency to revert back to my teenage psyche to cope with life’s most pressing challenges.  Why do I do this?  It’s where I feel most comfortable.

Middle school was the last time in my life that my heart was so open to the possibility of what life could truly become.  At age 13, I was on the cusp of manhood, but I knew I was still a boy.  It was the last time in life that there wasn’t very much being required of me and it felt like freedom.  I recall feeling a huge anticipation of what was to become.  I felt like I was on the verge of something great but I was also scared and confused at the same time wondering if I had “what it takes” to be a man.  I remember wishing I could have stayed where I was – soaking it all in for a while longer.  The teenage years are in fact the “The Wonder Years” and I think that most men glamorize that time and subliminally want to stay there. It’s no coincidence that this is the perfect time to teach the ways of manhood.

There’s an incredible window of opportunity we have to equip our young men with all the tools they need for manhood.  Between the ages of 12-14, a young man’s mind and heart are wide open to learning from an adult male.  But most will require a push.  As they are on the precipice of responsibility, they will naturally want to pause there.  They will instinctively want to stay where things are safe, comfortable and easy.  Without the active guidance from an adult man, that is exactly where they will stay.  A lot of men, never really move off of that emotional mark and will spend their adult lives trying to recapture that false comfort.  Most of us will get stuck in a virtual teenage emotional time capsule – seeing the world through the eyes of a 13-year old boy.

This is why the active initiation of teenage boys is so imperative in our society.   As it turns out, the window of opportunity to impart the true essence of manhood to a teenage boy is over very quickly.  When a young man reaches high school, a steel curtain seems to drop down and put a seal on his concept of masculinity.   What he’s learned up to that point is pretty much the playbook he will use for the rest of his life. A man’s core masculine psyche is normally defined by the age of 15.  If you miss it, then his concept of masculinity is pretty much locked in and it’s very difficult to retrace those steps.  If you don’t believe me, then think about your middle school buddies.  Have they matured much over the years?  While their physical features have changed quite a bit, I would imagine they’re outlook on life is pretty much the same as it was in 8th grade.

This is currently taking place in my own family.  Last year my 14-year old son went on a trip to Haiti with his youth group and had a very powerful experience.  This year my wife is going to India on a mission trip and he wants nothing to do with it.  He literally said he’s going through his “self-absorbed” phase and if he ever does another mission trip it will be with his friends (not his mommy). It’s no surprise that my twelve-year old son is now begging her to take him.

This window of opportunity is over in the blink of an eye so we must act quickly. Most dads will miss it thinking that my “boy is too young” or “not ready” to engage in the intentional dialogue that a “Man Quest” requires.  Then before you know it, he’s developing facial hair, getting his first job, a girlfriend, a driver’s license, and the steel curtain drops down in dramatic fashion.  The window is difficult to recognize and it closes so abruptly that all dads, grandfathers, brothers, uncles and mentors must act quickly.  There’s no doubt that the longer you wait to relay a real and true definition of manhood – the harder it gets.

As it turns out, as a man, I am still wrestling with my inner teenage boy.  He’s still alive and well, but I am constantly re-training him on what it takes to be a man.  As it turns out, it’s never too late to teach him. When he wants to take the easy route and keep life nice and simple, then I challenge him to step up.  I don’t want to kill the Kevin Arnold who lives inside of me.  He reminds me not to take myself so seriously and to live life to the full – which every man needs.  He gives me optimism and a thirst for something greater – which I desperately hope for.  And from time to time when I am tempted to revert back to my selfish adolescent mindset, I remind the little boy to “man-up” and embrace the actions of a man.

Man Quest Guideposts (Actions of a Man)

1. Accept Responsibility

2. Lead Courageously

3. Pretend About Nothing

4. Journey With God

5. Protect Your Heart

6. Engage In Deep & Meaningful Relationships














































The recent murder/suicide by an NFL player has shocked the country and put a national spotlight on the issue of male violence in our society.   The statistics on American men and violence are getting scarier every day.  One out of every 75 U.S. males is currently incarcerated and every eight seconds a violent act is perpetrated against a woman in our country.  These frightening stats prove something that we can no longer ignore – American men are in crisis.


The problem is that most men, no matter what age, seem to see the world through the eyes of a teenage boy.  There are lots of little boys, walking around in big boy bodies, doing a lot of damage in our society because nobody ever told them what it truly means to be a man.  You can name any social issue in our society today and I can argue that the lies of false masculinity are at the root cause.


Very few guys are ever given a clear and compelling definition of manhood so we opt for the cultural definition of money, sex and power.  These cultural lessons are learned at an early age and reinforced by every beer commercial on television.  We’ve been bombarded with a 24/7 onslaught of lies, distortions and fabrications about what it means to be a man.  Nobody ever told us what a man should say or do in this world so the culture has filled in all the gaps.  And without anything real and true to believe in – we’ve bought into the lie.   There are lots of angry guys out there with a warped definition of masculinity that keeps them locked in a virtual teenage time capsule.

An Ode to Rich Rod

October 29th, 2012 by | Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Although I played basketball in college, people are often surprised to find out that my first love is college football.  I’ve been a Michigan fan since I was a young boy and remember sitting around the radio listening to Bob Ufer call the games – with a football in my hand.  When I finally went to my first game in middle school, I was already a diehard fan of the maize and blue and 100,000 screaming fans helped to seal the deal.

Michigan football provided me with some of my favorite childhood memories.  When I went away to college in Ohio and was feeling homesick, I would watch the game and it would lift my spirits.  When I lived in California, I would wake up at 9am, eat a bowl of cheerios, watch the Wolverines and think of home.  When I lived in Baltimore, I would travel down to the ESPN Zone in the Inner Harbor and plunge into one of the large recliners in front of the biggest TV screen in America.  Michigan football was more than just a sport to me, it was my passion – my obsession.

When things didn’t go well in my life, I turned to Michigan football to soothe my pain.  It has most certainly been my favorite escape.  Like any good drug, I’d get a temporary rush from a Michigan football victory and then a few hours later I would want another fix to keep the thrill going.  There’s a fine line between a seemingly harmless hobby and an all out sports addiction.  Can anybody relate?

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of my physical time and emotional energy watching, talking and reading about the Wolverines.  I’m one of those guys who loves the recruiting battles and scouring the internet to find out whether the maize and blue have a shot at landing the five-star recruit from Los Angeles.  I’d literally count down the days until I could find out where an 18-year old kid was planning on going to college.  I’d pour over the depth charts and injury reports so I could be up-to-date on the latest news.

When I moved back to Michigan ten years ago, the first thing I did was to order some season football tickets.  I remember dragging my five-year old son to the games and bribing him with snacks (he’d get one treat a quarter if there was no whining).  I told myself that we were spending quality bonding time together, but I think I was mostly giving him a sweet tooth. 

It was great to be back in the Big House again every other Saturday.  Even as an adult my emotions would hinge on whether the Wolverines were victorious over their weekly opponent.  A loss would take a good four days to get over.  A loss to Ohio State or Michigan State could take a month or so

Things changed for me when the University hired a new coach a few years back – Rich Rodriguez.  From Day 1, I didn’t like the guy.  He left West Virginia with an entire state ticked off at him.  His recruiting tactics seemed shady and his ethics appeared misguided.  And everything that came out of his mouth seemed off base or just plain arrogant.  To make matters worse, the guy couldn’t seem to get anything right on the field as he compiled a slew of lopsided losses.  It was downright painful.  But still I persisted

My drives to and from Ann Arbor became more discouraging.  After awhile, I wasn’t even happy when Michigan occasionally won a game!  All of a sudden one of the biggest joys in my life felt like just a big old waste of time and energy.

What happened to me?  I was no longer finding my sense of “life” and purpose from Michigan football.  I stopped pouring over the internet for recruiting tidbits and reading about the big games.  I stopped scheduling my Saturday activities around the Michigan games.  I even gave up my season tickets and started watching all the games on television!  Heck, nowadays, I just DVR the games and watch them in less time.  And I’ve become much happier.

Looking back, I’ve come to realize that my Michigan football addiction was tied directly to my longing for home and family.  For 20 years, I lived away from my home state and Michigan football was always my connection point.  No matter where I was living, I could always cheer for the Wolverines and it would anchor me.  When I moved back to Michigan, it took me awhile to realize I was home and I no longer needed a placeholder.

As a result of my epiphany, my Saturdays look very different these days – trips to the library or zoo with my three-year old, cheering on my boys at their sporting events, family brunch, a date with my wife, and oh yeah – an occasional trip to Ann Arbor for a game.  I’ve come to realize that my emotional tank is usually running pretty close to empty and I need to conserve what little I’ve got for the things that are most important.  I still enjoy watching football but I don’t invest so much of myself in the process.

 In life, pain seems to be the greatest driver of transformation.  As humans we tend to go along with the status quo and we rarely make big changes unless something rocks are world. I’d like to tip my hat to Rich Rodriguez for three horrific seasons of Michigan football.  He helped restore my sensibilities and re-direct me back to what life is truly all about.

The New God of Our Age

August 31st, 2012 by | Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The dawning of a new school year has officially closed the book on the summer of 2012.  The summer was filled with lots of fun and memorable times but I find myself longing for a couple of more bonus weeks to enjoy many of the traditional summer activities I never got to this year.  Can anyone else relate?

If I could take a re-do on my summer then there would be way more relaxing by the pool, backyard BBQs, family bike rides, concerts in the park, camp fires, amusement park excursions, fishing off the dock, Tiger games, walks for ice cream, boat rides, etc.  This year, we didn’t do much of the normal family stuff that makes a summer in Michigan feel so special.

How did the summer tick away so fast?  It seems like the kids just got out of school the other day and now they’re back again.  As I reflected back on the summer, I quickly realized that it all came down to planning and priorities. 

Back in the spring, Kristie and I sat down with the calendar and all of the proposed activities to map out the summer.  The first thing we did was to pencil in all of the boys travel sports schedules…big mistake.  After three weekends of basketball and another three weekends of lacrosse, our first non-sports related weekend happened in August!  From there we squeezed in a family vacation, youth group camps, time with grandparents, drivers training & team practices.  But at the end of the day, sports gobbled up 80% of our summer weekends and we were exhausted! 

While I absolutely, positively love sports, I don’t want them to be the epicenter of my family life.  There’s no doubt that much of who I am today is because of what I’ve learned on the playing field, but I place a far greater value on faith, family, and service.  We are usually very intentional about keeping our priorities balanced but somehow the sports schedule took over this year.

I know I’m not alone in this struggle.  American families spend more time on the athletic field than any other recreational activity in our country.  It’s amazing how much of our family life (and money) is devoted to our kids sports.  There’s no doubt the cultural tide has turned and youth sports has become the new God of our age.  Heck, during our six summer weekends of sports we didn’t make it to church one time.  How did my priorities get so out of whack?

Now, if I’m completely honest, I know there’s an unhealthy part of me that drives some part of my ego through my kids’ sports accomplishments.  I know my kids’ sports statistics should have zero impact on my mood, self-esteem or parenting.  It’s hard to admit this, but to some degree, their performance does impact me.  If my boys get more points or hits or tackles or goals, I generally stand a little taller that day (and I’m sure they can feel my approval).  Yuck!

This is not the kind of man or father I want to be.  I know there’s a broken part inside of me that’s slowly healing.  At the end of the day, I need to value my children for their own unique talents, gifts and individual spirits.  And I need to have my own passions, hope and dreams that are separate from theirs.

Turning the Light On

Immediately after I wrote the personal reflection above, I headed out to my 9th grade son’s tennis match.  By nothing short of a divine appointment, I sat next to a mom from the opposing team.  Every time her son hit a bad shot she sighed, gasped or banged the bleachers.  She literally made comments like “what the hell was that” and “get your head in the game”.  You could feel the tension – from both mother and son.  He kept looking over at her and scowling.   

When the first set was finished, the son came over to her and said “mom, I think you need to leave”.  The mom asked why and he said “because you’re scaring the hell out of me”.    She didn’t acknowledge his comments and went on about how bad he was playing.  He walked away in disgust.

The mom turned to me for some reassurance and asked “it’s good for them to feel a little pressure, right?”  She asked the wrong person.  I responded by saying “quite frankly, no, I don’t think so”.  I gave my observation that her son seemed completely freaked out by her negativity and was playing poorly as a result.  Needless to say, she was shocked at my blunt response.  I asked her to take a look at his slouched body language, contorted facial expressions and quick glances toward her at every missed point.  To her credit, she took a step back, watched with a different set of eyes and then completely agreed with me! 

I asked if her husband puts a lot of pressure on her son and she said “Ohmygosh, he’s ten times worse than me, he played college tennis, and built a court for him in the backyard”.  I encouraged her to work on becoming an emotional support to her son because all young men need to have somebody in their corner.  To her credit, she immediately changed her disposition and started encouraging him along.  You could see the spring in his step almost immediately and his play improved dramatically.

After the match was finished, I suggested my Man Quest book as a good resource for engaging with teenage boys and I wished her well.  She thanked me for “turning on the light” for her.  I chuckled because I know that I have to make sure to heed my own advice.

 Parental Reflection Questions:

1)      How much does youth sports/activities control our family calendar? Is that ok?

2)      When watching youth sports/activities am I enjoying myself or completely stressed out? What’s the source of the stress?

3)      How do I respond to my child when they don’t perform well?  Do I communicate my critique in an appropriate way?

4)      What does it feel like for my child to have me on the sidelines during a competition or performance? Encouraging? Stressful? Embarrassing?

5)      How much of my parental love, attention and affection is tied into my kids success (athletic, academic, activities, etc.)?

The Secret Thoughts of Teenage Boys

August 16th, 2012 by | Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

 There’s never been a more dangerous time to be a teenager in our society. The statistics on teenage drug use, depression, pregnancy, alcoholism and suicide are quite staggering and just plain sobering. Thanks to technology and the media, our kids are being bombarded with a 24/7 onslaught of fabrications, distortions and downright lies about what life is really all about….and they are buying it. The daily pressures on our teenagers today are more intense and destructive than ever before.

Our community is in shock over the suicide death of a Brother Rice student last week. People who knew this young man personally have told me that he had everything most high school kids could only dream of – intelligence, athleticism, friends, good looks and a loving family. I’m sure most people thought he “had it all” – but there was obviously something deeper that he kept hidden from the outside world.

The unexpected death of a young man with so much hope and promise should naturally rock the foundation of every parent and force us to ask the necessary question “what about my teenager”? The scary truth it’s very hard to truly know what’s going on in the hearts and minds of our teenagers, especially our boys.

The teenage years can be a crazy, confusing and overwhelming time as kids start the transition to adulthood. Nowadays, the pressure to perform academically, socially and with extracurriculars is way over the top. Everything seems magnified when you’re a teenager and the smallest of setbacks can start a downward spiral.

Back in high school I never shared my feelings…with anybody. My dad would openly lament how he wished he knew what was going on inside my head. My nickname back then was “The Fog” because I was pretty much checked out emotionally. Looking back I know why I felt mostly numb. Plain and simple, I was not living the life I wanted for myself and I didn’t know how to express it to those around me.

The teenage years tend to be a time of testing boundaries and finding new freedoms, but I remember just feeling lost.  I’m sure people around me would have said that I had it all.

In high school I committed much of my life to being a basketball star and earning a college scholarship. I spent a lot of time playing basketball even though it wasn’t something I particularly enjoyed. You see, I followed in the footsteps of my older brother and I simply wanted the same fatherly attention and affection that he seemed to get for his athletic achievements. I now know that I spent a lot of my time doing something I didn’t particularly like, to win something that I could never really attain. No wonder I felt depressed.

It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college basketball at Kent State that I first experienced freedom from the pressure and scrutiny I was feeling.  After three major knee surgeries in two years, the doctor told me that my career was over.  While I wasn’t purposefully trying to get injured, my knee problems provided me with a respectable way out of my situation. At the age of 19, when I couldn’t play anymore, I finally felt the freedom to start choosing the life I wanted for myself.  As a result, a whole new world opened up for me almost immediately and I started engaging in life in a brand new way.

Now the crazy thing is that freedom was in my grasp the entire time. But in my teenage mind, I didn’t feel like there were any other options out there for me. I felt like basketball success was my only path so I created a single mindset that propelled me forward to a place I didn’t really want to go. Like so many teenage boys, I kept my thoughts and feelings tightly under wraps.  

It appears from all accounts that sports and a pressure to succeed were not the mitigating causes in the death of the Brother Rice student. To the contrary, this young man spent countless weekends heading up north to fish or snowboard, and enjoying a lot of time with his family. Like so many other teens though, this young man was dealing with something on the inside that was weighing him down. So many times, it appears there is no logic or rationale in how teenagers view themselves and their life. In the psyche of most teenagers, life is lived in the here and now without much thought given to the future or the bigger picture.

So what’s a parent to do? How can we peer into the emotional lives of our teenagers and best support them through these challenging years? Well, the most important thing to do is to stay in the game with them – even when they try to push you aside and act like they want to check out on you. Be available and never just assume that they are ok.  Don’t stop checking in with them.

Here are a couple of simple, open-ended questions that parents can ask to “check-in” with their kids. It takes some parental courage to ask the questions because they may shut you down or give you the raw and real truth.  Regularly ask your teenager the following questions: 1) What would you add or subtract from your current activity list? 2) If you could wave a magic wand, what one thing would you change in your life? 3) Who are your true friends and who would you talk to if you have a problem? Now here’s the hard part. Once you’ve asked these questions, sit back and listen to their answers without problem-solving or value judgments (easier said than done). 

I think most would agree that our primary goal as parents is to raise healthy, well-rounded kids who can function effectively in the world. At the end of the day, they need to be valued for their own uniqueness and actively taught what an abundant life looks and feels like. And as they enter into the world, we can only pray that they will be able to stand in the storms of life that will surely rage around them….and reach out for help when they need a lending hand.


Equipping the Teenage Driver

August 10th, 2012 by | Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

 My almost 15-year old son started driver’s training this week so I took him out for a little test drive to get him ready to hit the road.  I was amazed at how little he knew about the intricacies of driving – blinkers, wipers, high beams, etc.  Then I flashed back to my first driving experience….

 At around the same age, my mom unexpectedly parked the car on an abandoned stretch of dirt road and announced that I was going to drive for the first time.  Her only real instruction was to put the car in drive and go slowly.   I was doing about 25 MPH when I came upon my first turn.  As I approached my left hand turn, I didn’t brake at all and just jerked the wheel and made a ridiculously sharp turn in our 1979 Green Duster.  We fish-tailed back and forth a couple of times until I managed to get the car straightened out.  To this day I have no idea how the car stayed on the road.

 My visibly shaken mother demanded that I pull over right away.  With tears and fear in her eyes she asked me why I didn’t brake while rounding the curb.  “Nobody ever told me you have to brake when making a turn”, I answered.  “Haven’t you been watching us drive all these years?” she wondered.  Somehow I must not have made the brake/turn correlation during my 15 years of back seat spectating.  I guess we only learn so much from passive participation.  And the same thing is true for fathering.

 As a father I spend way too much time “osmosis fathering” – remaining silent and expecting my boys to just watch me and “get it”.  I forget that these little formative minds are empty chalk boards needing to be filled with all the necessary information for life.  And it’s my primary job as a father to do so.  Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of ways to learn and role modeling is huge.  But the most important thing we can do as fathers is to engage our boys in active dialogue and proactively teach them the ways of manhood.  

 I grew up with a strong and stable father presence in my life but I have to admit until recently I’ve never felt like much of a man.  For most of my adult life I’ve pretty much functioned with the mindset of a teenage boy.   While I learned how to mask my insecurities with a cool and competent facade, I always wondered whether I had what it takes.  Sure I got married, had kids, bought a house, and developed a career.  I did all of the big boy things you’re supposed to do, but I always had a nagging suspicion that some vital masculine piece was missing at the very core of me. 

 You see, I never had a clear and compelling definition of manhood to propel me forward.   I didn’t have something real and transcending to pull me back when things were rough and I got off track.  One thing I know is that there’s a generation of boys out there who hunger to be taught the ways of manhood from a dad or male mentor.  And the lessons will not hit home if they are subtle or ambiguous…they must be specific, unvarnished, powerful and life-giving to hit home. 

 Because 99.9% of adult men don’t have a manhood paradigm of their own (I didn’t a couple of years ago), I wrote the Man Quest  book as a resource.  If you’re looking for a good place to start, check out the Man Quest Guideposts at  Remember, you don’t need to have all the answers to start a manhood discussion with your son, nephew, grandson, mentee, or student.  He will appreciate your willingness to start him on the journey.  He will be grateful that somebody went over the “rules of the road” before handing him the keys to his manhood.

New Hollywood Trend & “the End of Men”

July 31st, 2012 by | Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

 A couple of years ago, author Hannah Rosin sparked a firestorm when she wrote an article in the Atlantic Monthly called “The End of Men” where she proclaimed that the “age of men” has all but run its course  and women are taking over.  In her article, she noted that the educational tables have already flipped and in the next decade two out of three college graduates will be women.   As a result, women are landing many of the primo jobs and gaining power in our society (at the expense of men).

When I first read the article I scoffed and dismissed it as another shameless poke at masculinity. However, a new movie trend is causing me to stand up, take notice and concede that maybe Hannah was on to something.

In the past couple of years, an entirely new genre of movies has been introduced as a commentary on a growing trend in our society.  Have you noticed all of the recent movies about slacker sons who refuse to grow up and just want to live at home -sponging off their parents?  In the past few years Hollywood has pumped out such movies as “Failure to Launch”, “Step Brothers”, “Jeff, who lives at Home”, “Mamas Boy”, and “Cyrus” (just to name a few).  The amazing part of this new movie genre is that they are all comedies!  Isn’t if funny when grown men are trapped in their adolescence and paralyzed by the fear of their ability to function in the real world?

Madison Avenue has recently jumped into the “slacker son” market with both feet.   Have you seen the new commercial where the State Farm agent is conspiring with the parents to boot their grown son out of the house so they can better utilize his room and reduce their insurance rates?  Better yet, how about the KFC commercial where the parents come to the basement for a “better-grow-up-soon” chat with their video game playing “man-child” and he dismisses them without ever looking up from his game controller or his chicken nuggets?

When did it become culturally acceptable for post-college age men to choose to stay in the family nest instead of blazing their own trail?  I know the economy is pretty brutal out there but when did the “Go West, Young Man” spirit get replaced by the “Life’s Pretty Chill at My Folks” attitude?   There is no doubt that many of our boys are getting de-railed on the track toward manhood.  And the problem is much bigger then we realize.  Did you know an estimated one-third of all American men ages 22-34 still live at home with at least one of their parents?  If this trend continues to build then I would say the “End of Men” is well underway.

The most painful summer of my life happened when I returned to my parents’ home between my first job and graduate school.  After getting chewed up and spit out by corporate America, I retreated back home for a comfortable place to rest and re-group. My parents sent me a pretty clear message that “summering” in my childhood domicile was a very temporary situation and I needed to move on to something else.   I’m happy my parents knew that failure, hardship and pain tend to create the most fertile ground for growth – and they sent me packing.

Why are more and more American boys dropping out of life and seeking respite in their parents’ basement?  Some would point to a failed education system, a changing economy, violent video games, desensitizing electronic media, attention-deficit drugs, etc.  These factors may be contributors to the crisis but are not the underlying cause.  Quite simply, boys (and men) no longer understand what it truly means to be a man.

Historically, men have enjoyed an imperfect, yet defined formula for masculinity – our roles and responsibilities were pretty clear.  In today’s world, things are completely different, and the lines are quite blurry.  Men aren’t great at dealing in ambiguity and wading through the murky waters.  Sadly, in our confusion, today’s father has lost touch with the true essence of manhood.  And even more sadly, we’ve forgotten to teach our boys what true masculinity should look like.

Very few boys (and men) in our society have a clear and compelling definition of what it means to be a man.  In the absence of any real information, the culture is right there waiting to fill the void with a 24/7 onslaught of fabrications, distortions and downright lies.  Without anything real or transcending to build their lives upon, boys are becoming disillusioned and emotionally checking out of their own lives at staggering rates.

Just about every culture teaches their young boys what it means to be a man, except Western society.  It’s time for fathers and male mentors to start engaging our boys in the active discussion on what it means (and what it doesn’t mean) to be a man.  The only way to get our boys back on track is for older men to commit to taking the next generation of boys on Man Quest journeys to find the real and true pathway to manhood.


#1 Hottest Fathers’ Day Gift Idea for 2012!

May 30th, 2012 by | Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

I’m sure many people tuned into this post to find out about the hot new gadget to get dad for Father’s Day.   Sorry, but there’s no update on the newest in computerized grill accessories or digitized golf toys.  Instead, I wanted to share an idea for the ultimate gift – the one that more than pays for itself.  Unfortunately, there’s a major string attached to this gift – Dad doesn’t actually receive it until many years down the road.  In fact, with this gift, Dad needs to do most of the heavy lifting!  I know this isn’t sounding much like the traditional gift, but trust me – it’s the best gift ever given and ever received.

Probably the strongest desire for most kids is for their father to take them somewhere.  It really doesn’t matter whether it’s a ball game, an amusement park, the zoo – anywhere.  What this communicates to a child is profound – it says I’m worthy of my dad’s time and attention.  I remember those times when I was a boy that my dad took me somewhere and I had his full attention.  I’m not just talking about his physical presence because I had that quite a bit.  I’m talking about his full attention – when it was all about him and me.  Those were the special moments and memories I hold the closest.  As a grown man, nothing has really changed.  If my dad asks me to do anything – just the two of us – then I’m there – he simply needs to name the time and place.

As a father I am becoming more and more aware of my ability to be present with no presence.  I’m starting to realize how often I’ve emotionally checked out on my own family due to work, deadlines, or random worries.  Too often I’m there in body but my attention is far away.  I’m good at fooling myself into believing that just showing up is all that’s required and all that should be expected of me.  I’m becoming more aware that simply standing on the sidelines at sporting events or coaching isn’t good enough.  My family needs me to be available and present to the everyday things that matter to them.   When I’m focused on my future Fathers’ Day gift, the one I will hopefully receive in 15-20 years, I all of a sudden don’t feel too busy, tired or distracted.

What if, on this Father’s Day, dads around the world decided we were going to take our kids somewhere special and intentionally give them the gift of our presence?  When a man imparts his masculine energy to a son or daughter I don’t think there’s anything more powerful and life-giving in this world.  It’s particularly essential for boys.

In fact, what would happen to our city streets if more and more fathers took their teenage boys on Man Quest adventures – proactively teaching them the ways of manhood.  There’s no doubt that society and culture would be changed forever as a result.  When fathers move – good things happen.  Do you have 25 hours to take the Man Quest journey and bestow the mantle of manhood to your son?   A teenage boy who goes on a Man Quest journey with his father stands up a little taller and speaks a little stronger than one who has to figure the manhood thing out on his own.

So on this Father’s Day, instead of waiting on a new tie, a box of golf balls or some “Best Dad in the World” boxer shorts, I say we reverse things up a bit and start giving the present of our presence to our families.  Let’s raise our games and be resolved that showing up is only the starting point to becoming a great father.  Let’s make a pledge to be emotionally ready to take our kids to places that are true, noble, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.  These opportunities are all around us – every single day!

And one day, if we stick with it, many years from now, when we least expect it, maybe we will get our Father’s Day gift from 2012.  It will happen when we look into the eyes of our sons and daughters and we’ll know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we took them somewhere special – and that will be the greatest gift we ever receive.



Mothers’ Day – Part II – “Blazing a New Trail with your Teenage Son”

May 10th, 2012 by | Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

It has to be one of the most heart-wrenching things a woman faces during motherhood.  You spend years and countless hours of your life pouring into your boy – meeting his emotional, physical, social and intellectual needs.  Then one day, when that magic switch of puberty turns on, his focus turns inward, and you become “Mrs. Cellophane” – almost invisible to him.  Hundreds of millions of women, spanning the globe, since the dawn of time have felt this very feeling.

At this crucial point in a young man’s life, a lot of moms make the understandable mistake of moving closer to their sons – putting a full court press on and trying to restore the relationship back to a steady state.  Of course it’s natural for moms to want to coax their teenage boys back to that comfortable place where she is the “end all/be all”.  I”m sure for most moms it feels like you were just  kicked to the curb.

Everything is changing – their bodies, voices, preparing for high school, and new attractions to the opposite sex.  It’s all evolving and so must their relationships with their moms.  Do you know how uncomfortable it is when the hormones start raging in a teenage boy, with all these new found sexual feelings, and your primary female relationship in your life is your mother?! Can you say awkward?  Of course he is going to be asking for some distance!

But ladies, when your son starts to spread his wings you must recognize that your role as a mom is changing.  I know this message seems rather harsh and somewhat cruel.  But if you can accept the new place in his life, you can save yourself a lot of heartache and actually forge something beautiful and new.  Fighting too hard to hang onto the past can cause deep-seated bitterness and long-term resentment in a teenage son.  If mom doesn’t give the adequate space during a boy’s manhood transition feelings of anger and disappointment can develop and hang round the edges of a mother-son relationship well into adulthood.

Sorry, ladies. The next leg of your son’s journey requires active direction from somebody who’s been down the road he’s getting ready to travel. There are countless coming-of-age stories in literature and movies, tales where the boy sets out on a journey toward manhood. Luke Skywalker, Tom Sawyer, Frodo – of all the boys-to-men stories ever been told, I can’t recall one time where the boy asks his mom to show him the way.

In his book, Father Fiction, Donald Miller talks about growing up without a father and the deep masculine void he experienced through adolesence and beyond.  Miller recalled how his mom did the best she could to fill the gap, but just wasn’t equipped to give him what he needed to become a man.  Miller talks about growing up without a masculine model in his life and how it created confusion, skepticism, rebelliousness and self-doubt in the depths of his psyche.  It wasn’t until a male mentor stepped into his life in his 20s to show him the ways of manhood that Miller finally received the nourishment he needed for his masculine soul.

Around puberty, the best thing for a mom to do is to accept a different role in her son’s life.  You are still hugely important – but in a brand new way.  If your son doesn’t have a reliable and trustworthy male in his life then do whatever you can to invite somebody (relative, friend, sports coach, youth group leader, etc.) to take on an expanded mentoring role in your son’s life.  During adolescence, it’s imperative that a young man have a  relationship with an older man who thinks he is worth his time and effort.  Mom, openly acknowledge to your son that he’s becoming a man and that it’s ok for your relationship to grow in new ways.

Ultimately, young men need to hear the same thing that every man needs to hear – that you feel they are strong and capable and respected.  They need to be encouraged by their moms (and dads too) to get out there and try new things, because you’re his biggest fan.  And when your boy gets wounded in this thing called life, as he surely will, a young man needs to know his mom is not going to come and rescue him or fix his problem.   If he comes to you with his failures and troubles, you need to give him two very strong mom messages:  1) you’ll always be there to listen; 2) you believe he has what it takes to take on whatever challenge comes his way.