Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Woman's Touch

One  morning about three weeks ago, my 4-year old, who would typically go to school with bedhead that would make Don King jealous, emerged from the bathroom with a very wet and surprisingly well-combed head of hair.  He did this on his own, and my wife and I had no clue what brought it on.  After all, this was the kid that would run screaming through the house like his rump was on fire if we had even tried to put a few drops of water on his melon.  As I drove my well-groomed little gentleman to school, I continued to wonder about what caused this change in behavior.

Once I got to school and dropped him off, the reason became very clear.  It’s name was Olivia.

This incident reminded me of the tremendous power women have to influence men’s behavior.  Whether it be our moms, sisters, girlfriends, or wives, we as men owe a lot to women for civilized behavior.  If not for my wife, I’d probably look like this guy ---->


As we try to advance the men's fraternity movement, we could use some help from our female friends.  Many fraternities and fraternity men behave badly – being insensitive at best and harmful at worst.   A lot of these men receive an assist from women who let them off the hook. They let them feel no consequences for their boorish behavior.

The amount of influence that women have on men is so consequential, that they may be the best answer to creating a more values-driven fraternity culture.

So – I implore the undergraduate women reading this to do a few simple things to help us right the fraternal ship.  These suggestions won't take a lot of time, but you may change the course of history.  Here is what I’m asking you to do:

  • If you hear some fraternity guys refer to a woman as a conquest or a piece of ass, walk away.  And don’t return.
  • If the guest bathroom in the fraternity house reminds you of a port-a-potty on the last day of the state fair, stop visiting.
  • Please stop dating, hanging out with, or even acknowledging any guy who wears a shirt like this.
  • The same goes for any guy who can’t drink an alcoholic beverage without calling everyone around him “dude”, shouting “YEAH!” to his buddies every three minutes, or making nonstop guttural noises like a Cro-Magnon in heat. 
  • If you host a social event with another fraternity, follow your risk management policy.  Demand that the men follow theirs.  Or shut it down.
  • Practice your icy stare for those "educational" moments, such as when a man makes a demeaning comment about a woman's weight, tells an insensitive joke, or reads a Playboy magazine in front of you.
  • A formal is a tradition in which men act like gentlemen and women act like ladies.  Expect the former and do the latter.
  • Don't go to this (nor encourage any men's fraternity to refer to themselves as "nasty dogs"):
  • If your boyfriend is a hazer, ask him if that's how he'll raise his kids.  
  • If a fraternity drops by to invite you to a "Pimps and Ho's" party, don't cheer.  Or giggle.  Or even smile.  Wonder instead why you didn't tell them to get the hell out.  And then tell them to get the hell out.
  • Does your well-choreographed serenade feel and look like a lap dance?  Stop and think.
  • Brainstorm creative adjectives to call a man who brags to you about the award his chapter gave him for hooking up with the most women in the past week.
  • Drop hints.  Did your lawnmower break down?  I bet most fraternities are hosting a brunch for parent's weekend, don't you think?  Wow - that new yellow stain on your hat is the biggest one yet!
  • When a female friend of yours is absolutely wasted and being led away by a guy she just met, do what everyone else tells you to do: get her out of the situation.  Then find the guy, and in as public a way as possible, confront him in a voice that will haunt him forever.
  • Raise your expectations of how men should dress, how they should act, how they should talk, and how they should treat you.
  • Expect them to be fraternity men.  Tolerate nothing less.

Oh - and if appropriate, tell them their hair looks nice when combed.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Man of the Hour

My favorite musicians of all time - Pearl Jam - recently celebrated their 20th anniversary as a rock band.  Their music has meant a lot to me over the years, and I've been listening to them nonstop for the last week.  One song - a newer one - has been striking a louder chord with me lately.  It's a song Pearl Jam recorded for the soundtrack to the movie Big Fish, which was released a few years back.  The song is called "Man of the Hour" and it's sung from the perspective of a son recalling his father.  I feel it has some connections with leadership and fraternity, and hence, this reflection.

Below is a YouTube clip of a live performance of the song.

Listening to the song led me to wonder: why do we remember someone?  What do they do that etches them into our memory?  How did they earn our respect?  Is it about what they accomplished, or is it about how they lived?

To me, the song speaks of legacy.  It describes the attributes of a person who forever earns the moniker of "Man (or Woman) of the Hour."  The kind of person who others rise to greet when entering a room.  The kind of person whose actions and character distinguishes him/her.  The kind of person who is remembered as a powerful force, never hiding his/her convictions.

Tidal waves don’t beg forgiveness
'CRASHED' and on their way
Father he enjoyed collisions; others walked away


How does one come to be regarded in such a way?  Much of it is earned by accomplishments and in what manner those accomplishments were achieved.  We are drawn to stories of individuals overcoming hardships and strife to do something extraordinary.  I believe a Man of the Hour walks briskly past the shortcuts.  To be a Man of the Hour means choosing the more difficult path.  Legacies are reserved for those who step into the headwinds; who can look back and know that they were the principal author for their story.

Nature has its own religion; gospel from the land
Father ruled by long division, young men they pretend
Old men comprehend.


But it's also about helping others.  A cynical man stands idle and watches the young struggle with the same challenges he faced.  The sympathetic man works to remove those obstacles from another's path.  It's the compassionate man that finds a middle ground - that seeks to guide but not intrude.

And the road
The old man paved
The broken seams along the way
The rusted signs, left just for me
He was guiding me, love, his own way


To be concerned with legacy can be considered a selfish act.  But I've never seen it that way.  I see it as a motivator - a way to paint a future vision for how we want our story to unfold.  When I leave this place, I want to be regarded as the Man of the Hour.  I want my contributions to be felt.  I want to be remembered.

This desire actually pushes me away from selfishness and closer towards service.

The opposite is the man who is easily forgotten.  He is focused so inward that others barely notice him.  He may be funny, or charming, or self-assured.  But these attributes on their own do not mark those who are most highly regarded.

Consider your legacy.  What will it take for you to be a Man of the Hour?  How will you be regarded in that final fraternity meeting as an undergraduate?  Or when you return as an alumnus?  When others think about your accomplishments and your character, will they want to tell your story?

When you choose to take on a commitment - such as fraternity - do so with a desire to make your time there matter.  Do enough so that others will find it difficult to forget you.  When you leave the room - when you leave this life - make them want to stand up and applaud.

And the doors are open now as the bells are ringing out
Cause the man of the hour is taking his final bow
Goodbye for now.