Over the last while, I have been struggling somewhat with this site, the purpose behind it and my reasons for writing.
The idea for this blog grew out of a response to the number of men’s magazines that talked about style, fashion and issues that matter to men, like career and fatherhood from a perspective that I felt was flawed. While all magazines in this category are designed around advertising and marketing the latest trends and designs in fashion, I felt too little time was spent talking about things that most everyday father’s were concerned about. Namely, stretching a budget by making lasting purchases rather than blowing it on trendy purchases, trying to pass on values and wisdom to children and learning to appreciate the world as a fine and beautiful thing rather than chasing around for what civilization has deemed to be “the finer things.”
I have enjoyed this journey, and I think these issues are still relevant, but my focus has changed somewhat, and I think it only fair to be clear about it, even if it will only be for my own benefit.
I have realized that I want to blog about more things than the original narrowly defined topics. I want to explore ideas about sustainability, cycling, music, art, family, adventuring, travel, and so many more topics as they appear. I want to begin playing again with other writing forms, like the ocasional haiku or lyric poem. I want to write about the rugged and the refined and not feel like I have to figure out whether it is an issue of style or substance.
So that’s what I intend to do. If you have followed this because you loved my articles on building a wardrobe, they will still appear. If you have been intrigued about my perspectives on teaching values to my children, those will show up too. But so will a myriad of different things, things that I value, things that are part of my personal journey through life as I struggle to become a man my children can be proud of, my wife can be fond of and my friends can enjoy spending time with.
And I think that is what being a man of style and substance is all about.
August always makes me contemplative. It is a time of both endings and beginnings, preparing for a new school year while squeezing the last bits of unbounded liberty from the warm days.
This year I feel more contemplative than most. Political and idealogical strife seem completely out of control, while, at the same time, my children seem optimistic and hopeful of the future.
I find my contemplative mood is most positively impacted by time spent surrounded by the beauty of nature. It changes with a kind of grace that I desire to emulate. The approaching season is embraced without while the ending season ia clu g to with just the right amount of tenacity.
Surrounded by such beauty, my own contemplative mood remains hopeful and keeps from becoming melancholy.
As our final post for June, let me offer a final suggestion for tackling the new and scary. Sample!
The concept of sampling is one that we relate to woth food. We try little bits of something, often many somethings, to discover new tastes and new fare. It isn’t a commitment to anything, and the opportunity to change and try other things still exist, but opportunities for trying things isn’t missed.
Sampling can apply to so many aspects of trying new and potentially scary things. Culture, language and of course food can all be sampled. And if you find something too scary, it’s only a sample. Try something else.
When was the last time you went someplace totally new? It could have been across town or across the country or even across an ocean, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that it was new, different, and out of the ordinary for you.
Remember, we have been talking about doing something scary this month, and visiting someplace new can certainly be scary. Even if language and customs are similar and shared, norms and expectations may be just different enough to cause you to question your comfort zone.
And in doing so, the man of style and substance learns, grows, and gains an opportunity to add to his style and demonstrate the substance of his character.
So, go someplace new.
In continuing with the theme of accepting challenges, I offer this one: start a conversation with a stranger.
We often avoid conversations beyond small talk in general, which is a shame. Conversation with new people often results in new insights, new understanding and, occasionally, a new friend.
I did this earlier today. At a meeting I sat down next to a total stranger. During the break, I started by asking her name. It was really that easy.
And then I listened. This is perhaps the scariest part of conversation, because after the first question is asked, it is completely out of our control.
And that’s why this challenge is so critical.
The man of substance does not wait for the right moment to begin something, he starts where he is and when he is! Things may not be perfect to act, but he can prepare. He may not be aware of everything that needs to be prepared, but he can gather information and plan. It may take time, but he will not miss the opportunity to do something worthwhile over time because he cannot do it all right now.
I threw out a challenge to my children today. I challenged them to bring their change home and gather it together for the next 18 months in preparation for some fine dining experiences on our next trip to Disneyland. It will take time, and we are starting small, but a man of substance understands that small actions repeated over time are what build a legacy.
Start small, if you must, but start now!
Over the past few weeks I have been getting hints from the universe, little messages that seem to be pointing me I the direction of accepting challenging, sometimes even scary things. Whether it has been a project so critical that I am afraid of messing it up or of allowing one of my children to make mistakes so they can learn their own critical lessons, these scary things sometimes paralyze me.
Not surprising, really. A man of substance wants to always be doing things effectively, so confronting situations where the outcome is doubtful and sometimes completely outside of control can be unnerving. But a man of substance also knows that the frightening things, the challenging things, those are the things that toughen and harden us for the ever increasing challenges of life. And doing it with style can only happen if we are willing to do it poorly first.
The next few posts will be devoted to challenging scary things. Hopefully you will enjoy this experiment; personally, it is a little scary to me. And that is why I am doing it.