I’m a very blessed and lucky guy. My life is full. I’m blessed with a wonderful wife, opportunities, meaningful work, and a host of friends. I was prompted to think of my male friends today as I listened to a recent podcast. One of my favorites over the years has been Hidden Brain by SHANKAR VEDANTAM. This particular episode, Guys, We Have A Problem: How American Masculinity Creates Lonely Men struck me as significantly meaningful.
Here is the episode in case you care to listen.
In short, the episode details evidence of deeply held feelings of friendship, lovingly expressed by boys from a young age to mid-teen years. Then things change. Adolescent boys become influenced by culture. A broken masculine culture that begins to penalize them for their affection for their best friend.
This post is a simple shout out of appreciation for my friends. I come by my appreciation honestly. I had a dad that made guy friends. He was a man’s man so to speak, not perfect but he cared much for his friends. He was a fireman and perhaps that environment of comradery was conducive to friendship.
Friends were a challenge for me as a kid until I ended up in a small rural school in Harrisburg Missouri. The kids there were, for the most part, lifers. They had grown up there and hadn’t moved around a lot like I had in the years leading up to 8th grade. They accepted me instantly. It was six months before I realized that many of the kids in my classes had parents my father had gone to middle and high school with in the same community.
Over the years, the kids there, especially the guys, made it easy for a shy, backward guy like me to become more confident and accepting of myself.
As I graduated high school, I wanted to continue to hang out with these close friends. Thank my lucky stars, the guys I wanted to hang out with were college-bound, hence, so was I. I suppose had they gone into the service or decided to rob banks, I would have done that as well. This is how badly guys want to belong to a group. No surprise here people. Plenty of research supports this obvious point. It was only in 2013 that I learned it was my mom who made sure the family re-located back to Mid-Missouri where my dad’s people were and where he had grown up. The move changed my life and set me up for a lifetime of friendships.
As an adult, I can honestly say, I’ve been blessed to have been surrounded by great men friends. In hindsight, they were so wise that had I listened to and taken their advice to heart, my life would have been much easier. That’s a mistake I won’t make again. When men I trust choose to offer me needed counsel, or I choose to seek it out, I am far more prepared to take their advice at this stage of life.
When my friend, Elliott Cunningham chooses to spend his valuable time mentoring me in marketing and life, I pay close attention. His integrity, life’s successes, and wise counsel are key components of my future successes.
When Don Thomas offers to bring me in on a networking event, I’ve learned to try to find a way to say yes. Why? He always has my best interest at heart.
When Keith McCeney spares a few minutes with me to drop pearls of wisdom on life and business, I drop what I’m doing because if you knew what he has going on in his life and how he’s managed to stay on the right side of the power curve in the midst of it, you would as well.
When my friend Jeff Thornhill shares openly his loyalty to me as a friend and expresses a desire to cultivate and care for that friendship. I’m moved. I don’t always move the deck chairs of life around and respond appropriately but I can promise, I’m paying attention to his caring attitude and heart.
When my friend of years and sometimes colleague, Dr. Shawn Mathis shares wisdom stemming from his life’s lessons and his time studying at Oxford, I trust his insights and value his time. He would be one of my eulogizers in the event I precede him in death.
Tom Truitt, a music industry pro here in Nashville never fails to assist me in ways that are more meaningful than he knows.
Tom Kiermaier has helped me in ways that make him a 2:00 am in the morning type of friend.
Same with Hemp Meadows. Hemp and his wife, just like Tom K and his wife have fed me, helped me, supported me, and motivated me when I was at whit’s end.
Peter Marcum, ditto. This group of guys, damn, I just can’t believe how blessed I’ve been.
When I seek some technical advice, personal counsel, menu thoughts, or just need to chat with someone smart, Jim Stelluto never fails me.
When my friend Charley McPherson, a brother from another mother calls me, I answer. His example of marital loyalty, brotherly love, and passion for life and love make me a better man.
When I think of friends, I think of my time in a men’s group of 14 years. Every Thursday morning at 7 am sharp I attended a men’s group. It was secular in nature with the exception of an opening prayer and a closing prayer. The programs were all laid out in advance and every individual participant knew when his Thursday obligation was scheduled. One was expected to be prepared. I took that group for granted. I was not the man I needed to be at that point in my life. The lessons though, how valuable. Much of what I ended up finally understanding about being a man, a good man, I learned from my time with those fine gentlemen.
Today, I continue to purposefully cultivate new friendships with great men. There are two men in a dinner group in which my wife and I take part. Over time, I look forward to becoming closer to Jonas and Mike in that group. This will take effort on our parts. Intentional time together over coffee, a beer, or just a text or phone call habit cultivated properly.
One of my current honors is taking part in a group cultivated by my friend Angus Nelson. I’ve never met any of the participating men in person but thanks to Angus’s professional method of facilitating discussion and activities in a virtual environment, there is a chance these men or some of them will become friends. It is through his connecting us in a proactive way and providing a track for us to connect around, the connections will likely lead to friendships.
I could go on and on about the list of guys who I consider true friends of mine.
My brother Jeff gets a mention as well. While he’s not “chosen” family like the rest of these guys, there is no doubt, Jeff has been there for me. He is a friend, not just a brother.
I have always heard that in order to have friends, you first have to be one. I have friendships that far transcend my efforts to have been or be one. I am so very fortunate to have you men in my life.
I hope to continue to cultivate our friendships. I hope to continue to cultivate many more friendships that at present, I don’t even see or know about. Guys, I encourage you. Please connect with men you admire, trust, and care about. Don’t take their ongoing presence in your life for granted.
We need one another. We need one another so we can be better men. Better men for our families and friends, our country’s and our neighborhoods.
I’m sure I’ve missed mentioning men that deserve far more than I have given over the years. Blessings to all of you.
Know this, I love you. Each and every one of you.