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Mission

The Marriage Plot & the End of Men, Part II

December 21st, 2010 // 8:26 am @

This is a follow-up article to this article.

The Rise of Women

In 2010 America saw more women than men in the paid workplace for the first time. In the wake of this major development, business is evolving in several significant ways.

For example, columnist Jennifer Braunschweiger has outlined many changes ahead, including the following:

  • The growing popularity of replacing flextime with “Customized Career Lattices” where employees can increase their work responsibilities for a time or scale back to emphasize family or other life events for a time.
  • The widespread growth of home offices. This is a huge trend, and according to Braunschweiger, some companies (such as IBM) have as much as 40 percent of their labor force working off-site.
  • A move from face-to-face to results-based evaluations which downplay the “old-boy network” and emphasize actual performance on the tasks assigned.
  • An increase in parent-friendly laws that allow employees the latitude to care for family needs first.
  • Another author suggests to women employees: “do your most important task first thing” and schedule your day so you can leave work early. And it is now considered okay for women to wear the same exact outfit on Tuesday that they did last week.

These represent a growing mental shift in America’s corporate culture, but the office isn’t the only place changing in order to accommodate the rising influence of women. The newly popular buzzword “femivore” is defined as: “A highly educated opt-out mom who stays home to raise the kids, vegetables and, increasingly, chickens.”

More and more such women are having an impact on society in the home and beyond, and numerous publications provide on-going advice, recommendations and tips for the femivores and the millions of work-at-home women careerists. These include Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Country Living, Whole Living, Better Homes and Gardens, Real Simple, Redbook, More, and many others.

For example, each month “The Careerist” column in Marie Claire gives advice on work.

The November 2010 focus is on “The Careerist @ Home,” and provides a number of guidelines for work-at-home women, including how to best show off your books to visitors and keep all electronics in one area to increase floor space5 — and perhaps also to separate work from private life. The next page provides guidelines for an efficient and effective wardrobe for those who work from home.

Another article proclaims that

“…women are on a tear right now, shrinking the wage gap and even out-earning men at the entry level,” and then outlines various tips for wise female financial planning in challenging economies: don’t use debt; freelance on the side; sell yourself; plan for retirement; sell your old and unused books, dvds and cds online; be upfront about your goals; scale back; and sell overpriced gadgets like your iPhone.

The trend of the “two-half-income household” is returning — where partners both work half time and take care of the home half time, and participants say such an arrangement reduces stress and increases the quality of life for both men and women.

Another significant trend is the growth of “Intentionals,” who sometimes call themselves “non-moms” for their choice to not have children. There are over 1.5 million American Intentionals, and the non-mom fashion is articulated in books like Two is Enough, The Childless by Choice Project, and Childfree and Loving It.

These trends show that women have more options than ever. At home and in the workplace, the status of women is rising across America. Some would say, “It’s about time!” and most men and women agree that increasing opportunities for women is a great accomplishment in the modern United States.

On the world scale, some major philanthropic organizations, including the Carter Center and Buffett’s NoVo Foundation, emphasize donations that empower women and girls. A donation to a woman, according to Peter Buffett, “ripples out in ways that it just doesn’t when you give the dollars to a man.”

As for women in business and government, when asked if they are generally different than men, French Finance Minister Christine Lagard said:

“Yes…I think we inject less libido, less testosterone, into the equation….It helps in the sense that we don’t necessarily project our own egos into cutting a deal, making our point…convincing people, reducing them to, you know, a partner that has lost in the process….

“I honestly believe that there is a majority of women in such positions that approach power, decision-making processes, and other people in the business relationships in a slightly different manner.”

She noted that there are male and female exceptions to the rule, but that these generalizations are usually accurate.

Gender Roles in Pop Culture

Popular culture is alive with changes in this Rise-of-the-Women era. Women, whether at work or home, are bonding in increasingly high numbers via e-relationships. The old cliché that when men stress they go somewhere alone and when women stress they meet together and bond is being leveraged by the Internet.

On average, women visit a social networking site 5 times a day, 64 percent of women consider themselves a bit addicted to such sites, and most women have between 100 and 300 friends on their sites. The average young working woman spends over 2 hours a day surfing the Web and another 90 minutes a day emailing. Surfing the web at work is good for your career, women are assured.

Women’s clout is on the rise at home too. With over thirty years of the pro-choice/pro-life debate putting women firmly in charge of pregnancy, some men now complain that they want more children but their wife has the uterus and all the power.

A heralded new book, Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff, reintroduces perhaps the greatest classical feminist of Western Civilization, and the movie “Easy A” takes The Scarlet Letter to a new generation — with a very different cultural spin.

As for men, this year’s pop culture is rolling out Boardwalk Empire (an HBO series about male-dominated 1920s Prohibition culture), Lonestar (about a con artist lying to the two women in his life; critically acclaimed by the experts but cancelled after just two weeks), and Michael Douglass as the iconic man at his worst in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” (where he and others play the Wall Street “fat cats” storyline right out of the White House’s worst nightmares).

The stereotypes are captured in the comedy Running Wilde: responsible, capable woman meets playboy, self-centered man. It’s the same concept as the hit Cougar Town.

This theme is repeated often in each week’s primetime television: Castle, The Good Wife, Psych, Lie to Me, The Mentalist, Modern Family, Bones, Parenthood, Life Unexpected, House, 90210, 30 Rock, and many others. In Glee and Desperate Housewives the stereotypes are epic.

The overall message? Men are flawed, and women are strong and responsible but need several good friends to make everything all right. Book titles cited in recent women’s magazines include:

  • Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend ;
  • Best Friends: the Pleasures and Perils of Girls’ and Womens’ Friendships ;
  • The Decision Tree: Taking Control of Your Health in the Era of Personalized Medicine (features guidelines for including your online network of friends in your health choices);
  • The Positive Power of Negative Thinking (celebrating the idea that venting to friends can help women in many ways)
  • The Twisted Sisterhood: Unraveling the Dark Legacy of Female Relationships.

Girls’ magazines also offer articles on dealing with your BFF, BGF, and ongoing “Friend Maintenance.”

For any guys who don’t know these terms, they stand for Best Friend Forever, Best Guy Friend (not a boyfriend or involved with the girl in any kind of romantic relationship), and the ongoing necessity of working on, planning, fixing, and sustaining relationships with close friends. The to-do lists are long and impressive.

Women work on average nine hours more per week than they did in 2004, 20 while still doing as much non-employee work in the home. Men, on the contrary, do less housework when they are unemployed or underemployed. And as a result of the Great Recession and high unemployment, this is impacting a lot of households.

Pop culture does have a few men who are “the good ones”—like Chuck, Smallville’s Clark Kent or “McDreamy” on Grey’s Anatomy. But good men are rare, the current plot assures us, as most males are selfish, uncommitted, cheating and a lot like “Mad Men” characters.

Fortunately, in the new post economic-collapse culture, women have their group of friends to depend upon. Such friends are mostly other women, but can also include a close, platonic guy friend like on “Hellcats,” “Stargate Universe” and nearly all reality shows.

New Rules

In the entire top-tier movie and primetime schedule it is rare to find functional, happy, supportive married couples. Instead, the following rules seem to guide our current entertainment culture:

  1. Marriage is the end of romance, or at least the end of high ratings (this has a long history in primetime television);
  2. The exception is where marriage is a place of cheating or other major conflicts (e.g. Glee, Life Unexpected, Private Practice, The Good Wife, Desperate Housewives, Brothers and Sisters, Modern Family, Parenthood, Stargate Universe, Undercovers, Covert Affairs, etc.).
  3. If a marriage is working, some big problem — usually secret to all but the viewer — is lurking or exploding the relationship (e.g. Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Undercovers, No Ordinary Family, Friday Night Lights, Covert Affairs, Gossip Girl, 90210, One Tree Hill, etc.)
  4. Single life is more romantic, a lot more fun, and, frankly, better than married life (see Desperate Housewives, Brothers and Sisters, all the CSI and NCIS programs, Hawaii Five-O, The Event, Gossip Girl, 90210, House, Chuck, Chase, Castle, Bones, Parenthood, Life Unexpected, and pretty much every reality show).

These themes are reinforced by nearly all primetime programs. In wikinomics terms, the overwhelming presence of these themes and the rareness of counter examples is a major message. In short, primetime television has adopted the culture of daytime TV. We are way past the “nudge” or “tipping point” which sways culture with little things. The trend is now the culture.

The men and women in Bachelor Pad, Jersey Shore, The Apprentice and Survivor seem to have it all figured out — just be selfish. Or even more profound, the lead character in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” talks about money like it is a lover. He refers to money as “she,” and describes the challenges of making relationships work.

Maybe drawing conclusions about male or female roles from the entertainment industry is dangerous, but even Napoleon knew that a nation’s music and stories are more powerful than its armies. These movies and TV programs are popular for a reason, and even if most Americans don’t adopt the values they enjoy watching, certainly some things do rub off on the culture.

The End of Marriage

Why then is marriage portrayed as so unromantic? Undesirable? To be avoided?

We have to ask ourselves if this is a new feminism: “We don’t need men in our lives. We get more degrees than men do, we have more jobs than men do, and more of us are managers.

Many of us get paid more than our men, and eventually as a group we’ll get paid more than men in general. So, men have a choice: They can be what we want them to be, or they can hit the road.”

The story is frequently repeated in our entertainment: see Private Practice, Cougar Town, Fringe, Human Target, Eureka, No Ordinary Family, Desperate Housewives, 90210 and so many others. Repetitive, perhaps; but these are our prime time. It is what it is. We watch what we watch.

But, on the other hand, could the marginalization and vilification of marriage be a new paternalism of some sort? Is it men saying, “Fine. You want to be equal? Well, why don’t you just be in charge? We never liked responsibility anyway. We’ll just make money and play — through our twenties, thirties, forties and, in fact, always. Good luck with that equality thing…”

Historically many analysts felt that marriage tamed men, made them less selfish and more helpful to the women and children in their lives. It had its share of structural problems too, most obviously from dominating men who were tyrants in the home or at work.

But is the new view of romantic and married culture rewriting the ideal for man as well-funded playboy? And if so, is this new version something women (or men) really want?

Popular entertainment portrays flirting as romantic, dating as romantic, and even weddings as romantic. But marriage after the wedding is rarely depicted as a romantic endeavor.

And how about the commercial advertisements that appear in between scenes of the programming? In fact, very often marriage is represented on screen as the end of romance. Marriage is rendered as full of problems, hard, and more often than not just plain bad.

In the male/female debate, it seems we’ve lost the main point. The older version of equality feminism, whether you liked it or not, at least had the merit of believing that a woman could “have it all.” It was at the very least adult: Men had responsibility and power, and women wanted the same opportunities.

In contrast, today’s model says a woman can have a career, money, power and friends, or kids, vegetables, friends and chickens, but why on earth would she want the complication of a husband?

And as for men, well, “boys will be boys” — let them play, spend away their money pursuing fun, and depend on them for nothing. Men may “want to be in relationships,” but marriage is another issue.

This is a sad brand of feminism indeed! If men and women have lost the dream of marriage as the ultimate romantic love, if real estate, promotions, more money or even raising the kids have become the ultimate ideal, then our society has truly lost something of great value.

According to the new values, there seem to be three great overarching rules for women: 1) never date someone who ever dated your best friends, 2) your girlfriends are the only ones you can really depend on, and 3) you have to be selfish in romantic relationships to avoid getting hurt.

The result? Pretty much everybody gets hurt. A lot.

So where are we heading in modern male/female relations? The trends seem to indicate that men will be even less inclined toward or committed to marriage, and women will earn more.

Men and women will expect less and less from each other, except in marriage — where the expectations will be unrealistic, unfulfilled and frequently short-lived.

What an irony! Even as feminism seems to be obtaining many of its most cherished goals, the male/female debate may just be starting.

The next natural step for women [having progressed through A) underprivileged, B) seeking equality, and C) increasingly equal] is to D) Demand that men be a certain way in order to fulfill women.

For example, there is a growing push by some women for states to enforce laws against infidelity.

The culture is increasingly centered on getting, taking, having, receiving. The debate seems to assume that romance, love and marriage are all about what “I” can “get” from someone else.

Children and youth are raised to think about what kind of boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife they want to have — with little attention to what kind of girlfriend or husband they will be.

We are trained to approach romance and marriage for what we can get out of it — not for what we can give.

Our popular culture reinforces this self-centered view every night in primetime and on the big screen in theaters and homes across the nation. The youth are watching; and so are their parents.

Ironically, the many books and articles on how girls and women should treat their BFF are mostly about giving. Indeed, if women and men just applied this same advice to how they treated each other, some significant male/female conflicts might quickly disappear.

But such advice is about friends, not romantic interests. In the latter, self-centeredness is the name of the game in our current pop culture.

Personally, I do not believe that the “typical man” as portrayed by our modern entertainment accurately reflects the many hardworking husbands and fathers across the nation. Nor do I accept that the Real Housewives are a true portrait of America’s wives, mothers or single women.

These are just shows and movies. Unfortunately, they do have a major impact on how we view our spouses, friends and ourselves.

And more to the point, where are the other true role models, ideals and icons which we should idealize and seek to emulate? Can we aspire to an ideal we do not even imagine?

Earlier generations studied and debated (as part of the culture, not during a two-week segment in high school) the romances and marriages found in Shakespeare, Austen and Bronte, among others. They compared the good with the bad, and contrasted the various types of romance, marriage, male and female relations and roles.

These things were seen as entertainment, and were compared and contrasted with the numerous real-life relationships children witnessed in their community.

Little of this exists today. The entertainment relationships are those on TV and in movies, and we seldom see other romantic or marriage relationships outside of our own home.

Children and youth very rarely directly witness their teacher, coach, church leader, mayor or even neighbor in a relationship with her spouse. All relationships seem single — or at least detached.

In short, we may be facing less the end of men and more the end of marriage. For example, where Austen ended Pride and Prejudice with a discussion of the Darcy/Lizzie married life, the movie versions nearly always end at the wedding or even the engagement.

This is “formula” for many movies and television programs now. It is also the plot of nearly all contemporary teen literature — it ends well before or at a wedding.

Over and over, in many ways and from numerous directions, the message is repeated: romance is fun, but marriage is a bundle of problems and should be avoided or at best endured.

Divorce is often portrayed now as the beginning of freedom, romance, happiness and wisdom. Rare exceptions to this plot (like the functioning marriages found in White Collar, Chuck, Covert Affairs, Undercovers, Parenthood, Friday Night Lights and No Ordinary Family) notwithstanding, marriage is out of vogue in America’s pop culture.

Is this just entertainment, or is it real? The rise of reality television has boosted the popularity of tabloids which tell us the “real” stories behind our favorite reality shows, but if reality shows are real, why do we need tabloids to tell us what is really going on?

Round-the-clock sports channels tell us what the athletes are doing, tweeting, and thinking at all times, and our cell phones are set to chime whenever someone in our social network has a new thought.

But American couples spend less than 16 minutes a day talking to each other — and over half of this time is spent on scheduling and finances. Clearly marriage is facing challenges.

The Newest “New Feminism”

The gains of feminism are many and have blessed today’s woman with a lot of opportunities barely dreamed of three generations ago. Nothing should take away from this positive progress for women, and we should praise the pioneering women who struggled and sacrificed to bring these changes.

I think most people today want a nation where husbands treat their wives as true equals, and where wives do the same with their husbands. I doubt many moderns feel that women shouldn’t enjoy truly equal treatment in business, compensation, promotion and other career opportunities.

These gains have been a great blessing to our society. But what kind of society are we creating when many women and men no longer seriously idealize “having it all?” What is the future of a nation where the following phrases are common:

“I’m too busy with my career to get married. Besides, I’m having so much fun!”

“Why would I get married? I have all I need, including children, without it.”

“All my married friends are overworked, fight all the time, never have enough money, and hardly ever have sex. I’ll pass.”

“Marriage sucks everything good out of the relationship.”

“Divorce is the best thing that ever happened to me!”

“I love the single life! Why would I give up my freedom?”

“Don’t put up with that crap! Just get divorced! Being single is so much fun.”

“Marriage is so hard. Why bother?”

Note that each of these could have been said by a man or a woman. A feminist, anti-feminist or even a chauvinist could easily utilize any or all of these phrases. Certainly there are many who do want marriage and are actively seeking it. Still, these contrary views are not limited to a rare exception.

Perhaps we aren’t at a new age of male/female conflict at all, but at the beginning of a truly post-feminist era where the “enemy” is lasting marriage.

Of course, as I said above, weddings are still popular fare among women and pop culture, but the years and decades after the wedding — not so much. Young women have long called their wedding “the best day of my life,” which makes one wonder how they feel about the many years which follow.

For a lot of people in our society, the new mantra could well be: “I am single, hear me roar!”

If this is the new divide of male/female relations, it doesn’t bode well for women or men. As for children, they had better get used to being raised by a society of single parents.

During the decline of Rome, and later just before the French Revolution, upper-class women delegated nursing the baby and tending children to others in order to spend their time in society.

Men and women during these eras routinely slept around, emphasized increasing their power and wealth, and spent little time with their children. As family naturally collapsed under such traditions, the nation soon followed.

Interestingly, as family connections failed and fidelity within marriage was considered quaint and even ridiculous, national leaders took the same view of their responsibility and fidelity to the national treasury.

Without deep loyalty to spouse and family, little was left to the nation as a whole. Leaders spent nations into bankruptcy, weakness and collapse. The most important lessons are taught — or not — at home. This simplistic truism is a reality in all of world history.

Still, the ideal of effective marriage remains popular in many circles. The several, albeit few, good marriages on television and at the movies show that many still idealize great marriage.

Indeed, outside of Hollywood and other entertainment enclaves, I think it likely that a majority of people still hope for a terrific marriage at some point in life.

A Proposal

With all this said, I’m convinced that it is time for two major revolutions in America: 1) a deeper feminism and 2) a return to real manhood.

I’m probably not qualified to take the lead in promoting whatever the deeper feminism should entail. Personally, I think my wife Rachel’s essay “Steel to Gold” and the writings of Anne Lindbergh and Laura Munson are a good place to start a deeper feminism; but I’ll leave the topic to women.

As for men, a return to real manhood might start with the following characteristics:

Restraint

Compare Jane Austen’s Colonel Brandon to Willoughby. Or consider the hero of Wister’s classic book The Virginian. Real men, according to these and other examples, have self-control and “self-possession.”

The real man doesn’t have to show off, because he knows who he is and is comfortable with himself. He has no need to impress, bolster or try to make an impression. As needed, he takes action. But he lets his actions speak for themselves.

His “moral vision is of men who struggle with and eventually master” themselves and take a stand to improve the world. He doesn’t need “to compensate for anything.” He is “his own man.” And that is enough.

Strength

The real man knows that his greatest challenge and the true measure of his valor is to conquer himself, to overcome his own weaknesses, temptations and fears and choose to be the man he really wants to be.

In this process, he has the courage to learn from others and also to take a stand alone when it is right.

As part of this, he learns from his mistakes and changes himself — no matter how hard this process is — making his life an uphill path of progress and improvement. He uses this inner strength to do good in the world.

Action

A real man is great at something. He doesn’t try to be great at everything, and he doesn’t make excuses for his areas of weakness. But he does develop true excellence in something that really matters to him. And he uses it to improve the world.

Open-minded and creative and daring and still hold[ing] on to the old virtues.”

The real man blends what works with exploring the new. He believes deeply in the small and simple things which are often called common sense, but he is always looking and seeking.

He equally loves the little comforts and great adventures which make life great.

Caring

The real man cares. He cares about his deepest goals, about those he loves, about other people in general. He cares about freedom. He cares about fairness and opportunity and ability. He cares about the future.

He cares about a lot of things, and he considers simple caring a personal call to action. He doesn’t expect everyone else to care about the exact same things he does, and he doesn’t require anyone to care about him specifically; but he does demand of himself that he face his cares and live by them. And when someone else does choose to really care about him, he is profoundly touched.

None of us live up to these ideals enough, I think, but they are all worth pursuing. After an Esquire survey of 20- and 50-year-old American men selected Clint Eastwood as the coolest man in our nation (for both age groups), Stephen Marche wrote:

“And now that we are supposedly entering the next crisis of masculinity — this time the world doesn’t need men because we can’t listen, we can’t sit still in kindergarten, and so all society will shortly be a massive gynocracy in which men’s primary role will be as the problem children of successful mothers and wives — we need Eastwood more than ever.

Whatever else has changed over the past fifty years, self-mastery and control over our lives are still what we want more than anything.”

Marche further suggests that many Eastwood movies show examples of manhood. For example, he “drives around the country with an ape, brawling for money and seeking for love.”

What could be more manlike? In other words, men sometimes grunt like monkeys, or Tim Allen, but they daily put themselves on the line working to support those they love, hoping to be loved in return.

Above all, I’m convinced that a significant part of a return to real manhood includes seeking romance, love and marriage less for what we get out of it than for what we can give.

Men who go into the marriage relationship mainly for what they can get usually fail. Only those who truly love their partner, who are willing to give their heart and soul to helping and serving, to giving rather than getting, become great husbands.

In short, men who are in a romance, love or marriage primarily to get something for themselves probably won’t be happy with the result. The same is true about fatherhood.

Being a man is about freedom and the responsibility that naturally attends it, and about using one’s freedom well by committing to the right things and giving our hearts and lives to them.

When we are real men, we’ll work to build great marriages, great families, important daily work, a lot of happiness, and a great nation. It’s time for a focus on real manhood in our world, measured at least in part by the quality of what we give to our marriages.

So in addition to restraint, strength, action, daring, creativity, open-mindedness, courage, self-possession, caring and selflessness, I add commitment to the beginning list of how to be a real man.

I have no idea how the feminist debates of the 21st Century will shake out, but I do know that if more men (married and single, of all views and types) work on becoming truly great husbands, the whole world will greatly benefit.

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Culture &Education &Family &Featured &Mission

Book Review: Rascal by Chris Brady

November 1st, 2010 // 2:00 am @

In his modern classic, Rascal: Making a Difference by Becoming an Original Character, bestselling author Chris Brady introduces two groups that are currently leading our nation and world.

Both groups can be found in Wall Street, Main Street, Las Vegas, Silicon Valley, Hollywood and in both of the major parties on Capitol Hill.

Both groups have great impact in the world, but the direction and focus of each group is significantly different. And unfortunately, members of one of these groups are far too rare.

The first group is what Brady calls:

“…the Council of They. They are the thought police, the guardians of political correctness, the masters of conformity, the keepers of the status quo. It is They who struggle to keep life always the way They say it should be, who fight change, who persecute creativity, and hurl criticism at anything that smacks of originality or authenticity.

“They try to say who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out.’ They seem to have so much power that good, creative people leave their lives on the shelf rather than face their wrath. They will try to influence how you live, what you do, whom you should marry, and how you should raise your children. They want control, obedience, and blind acquiescence…

“The only problem is, that herd of people following along in step aren’t going anywhere, and as long as anyone listens to them, he or she won’t go anywhere either.”

Like almost anything in our modern society, it is tempting for Republicans to point to this definition and say that the Council of They is Democrats, and for Democrats to say exactly the same about Republicans.

Many in the media, ironically, would think of the Tea Parties—who are clearly not following the path outlined by the experts.

Perhaps the reason this resonates on both sides of the political debate is that herd thinking has become too widespread across our society.

The second group doesn’t really act like a group, because it is made up of independent individuals who do their own thing.

Indeed, perhaps because of this choice to act according to their own views (not as followers of the herd mentality), Brady calls these people “Rascals.”

“What Rascals do is get out of line. In fact, many Rascals have heard most of their lives that they are out of line in one way or another! Rascals don’t fall for the lure of going along or becoming someone else just to please others. Rascals follow their convictions and confidently head in the direction of their destiny, mindful of their Creator and not of the crowd.

“Non-conformity is not what we are talking about, but rather, authenticity….The first rule of becoming a Rascal is to slay the dragon of They. Rascals, quite frankly, don’t care what They say. Rascals don’t take their cue from the peanut gallery. Rascals are driven by their own sense of purpose and direction.”

Brady rejects the definition of the term “Rascal” as unprincipled or dangerous to society, and instead focuses on people like John Wycliffe, the American founders, Mark Twain, Harriet Tubman and Mother Teresa who see what is needed in the world and go against the norm in order to make the world better.

One of his heroic “rascals” is the freedom-loving Chinese man who stood in front of the tank in the famous video clip from the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Some of the very most important Rascals in history are regular people who ignore the path of the masses and take action to make a positive difference in society.

For those who want to be such leaders, Brady includes an excellent test to help you find out how much of an independent-minded leader you are.

I highly recommend this book to everyone.

What America Needs

Modern America needs a generation of great leader-citizens. Many great leaders like Gandhi, Andrew Carnegie, Margaret Thatcher, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and others have done things in ways outside the mainstream—ways that are creative and genuine.

Such people have been called by many names, including Outliers, Pioneers, Explorers, Beagles, Founders, Mavericks, Trailblazers, Disruptive Innovators, and Leaders.

I have referred to them as Statesmen and also Social Leaders. I have written about them, and how to join them in making a real difference, extensively in my books and articles.

Most recently I described the coming impact of their independent thinking on the political future of America in my book FreedomShift.

Centuries ago the great classical economist J.B. Say invented a name for people who go against the norm, change things for good even in the face of societal opposition, and turn unproductive commodities into productive resources for society. He called them Entrepreneurs.

More recently, Jonathan Fields called them “Career Renegades,” people who overcome the widely-promoted fears that unless we follow the “normal” paths outlined by society we’ll end up failing.

In the new post-meltdown economy, success at all levels and walks of society is more and more dependent on being this innovative type of person. In our time, perhaps the best name for such people is “supermen” and “superwomen.”

Whatever we call them, today they lead most small businesses and more of them are found in small business than anywhere else. America needs more of them.

We live in a society in desperate want of leadership from such people. The future of our national prosperity depends on how well they overcome the current challenges to the economy—including government overreach—and apply innovation, initiative, ingenuity, creativity, tenacity, and social leadership in our nation and world.

Such leadership is needed in business, family, neighborhoods, the arts and sciences, society and government. Each of us should consider in what ways we can improve ourselves and provide such leadership.

Our national future may well depend on how effectively we make and implement this choice. And it is time for Washington to decrease regulation, taxes, and get out of the way of the small businesspeople who can rebuild our economy.

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Aristocracy &Book Reviews &Entrepreneurship &Leadership &Mission

A Review of Launching a Leadership Revolution by Chris Brady & Orrin Woodward

September 15th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

launchingaleadershiprevolutioncoverAs a fan of leadership books, I try to read everything that comes out in this field.

Unfortunately, reading hundreds of books on the same topic means there is seldom something really new—fresh, exciting, revolutionary that uplifts the entire genre.

The last such surprise for me came several years ago in the writings of Steve Farber. But now, finally, comes another great addition to the leadership genre: Launching a Leadership Revolution by Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward.

Their subtitle, “Mastering the Five Levels of Influence,” sounds like typical management book fare, but it isn’t.

Each level is vital, well-taught and interesting, and together they form a truly revolutionary model for leadership.

This is not exaggeration—this book is excellent! I rank it right along with the best of Drucker, Bennis, Blanchard, Gerber, Collins, Deming, and Farber. It is destined to be a classic.

Brady and Woodward teach that everyone will be called upon for leadership at some point in their life.

They then turn leadership upon its head, noting that while many people seek leadership for the perceived benefits of power, control, or perks, the true life of a leader is actually built upon

“…giving power (empowering)…helping others fix problems…and serving others. Leaders lead for the joy of creating something bigger than themselves.”

This follows Greenleaf’s tradition of servant leadership, but with a twist.

Launching a Leadership Revolution shines because it gets into the specific work of leadership. It outlines many pages of work leaders must do, and explains which work to focus on most.

But the book seldom uses the word “work”, instead preferring the active “working.” Just the list of “working” items for leaders is worth more than the price of the book.

Maybe the best thing about this book is the authors’ ability to take traditional, classic leadership basics and give them new, profound definitions.

For example, the definition of learn goes from the old “a leader is always learning” to “a leader must be able to learn from anyone.”

Imagine the leadership revolution that would occur if top executives and government officials really did seek to learn from everyone!

Another example: The meaning of perform is transformed from “please your boss” or “improve the bottom line” to “persevere through failure to find success.”

This is the best definition of leadership performance I’ve ever read in print. And the book teaches the reader how to do it.

Likewise, the advice to develop others as leaders moves beyond all the clichés to become “learn to trust your people.” It includes fitting them to be truly trustworthy.

That’s what leadership should be– but seldom is even considered.

There are many other examples. This book is a revolution that builds on the best ideas and thinkers of the past by applying them in fresh new ways applicable to the information age.

We learn from case studies such as George Washington, Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin and many others right along with contemporary needs and challenges.

Above all, the book places leadership success squarely on the success of mentoring and gives excellent advice to mentors on how to help people bring out the leadership inside them.

Everyone serious about Leadership Education will want to read this book, and apply the principles to our learning and mentoring.

In truth, great leadership is simply using great influence for great things, and this book can help each of us do this.

In these times of government bailouts and “fixes,” it is important to remember that the American Dream never was a government program. The American Dream was a leadership revolution, where regular people chose leadership and became leaders.

This revolution is still needed today, perhaps more than ever before in history.

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Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Book Reviews &Education &Leadership &Mission

Mini-Factories: The Greatest Freedom Trend of Our Time

September 14th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

The following is an excerpt from Oliver’s recent book, The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

If freedom is to reverse the onslaught of American and global aristocracy, it will likely do so through the greatest freedom trend of our time.

This trend is revolutionizing institutions, organizations, relationships, society and even nations around the world. It is still in its infancy, and many have yet to realize its potential.

The experts tend to overlook it because it seems small. It will likely always seem small because it is a “bottom-up” trend with no “top-down” organizations, alliances, or even affiliations.

Truthfully, it isn’t even a single trend at all–it is thousands of small trends, all following a similar pattern.

Malcolm Gladwell called part of this trend “outliers,” Harry S. Dent called it the “customization” explosion, Alvin Toffler said it is the wave of “revolutionary wealth” as led in large part by “prosumers,” John Naisbitt named it the “high touch” megatrend, Stephen Covey called it the 8th Habit of “greatness,” Daniel Pink coined the descriptor “free agent nation,” and Seth Godin refers to it as “tribes.”

Others have termed it “social entrepreneurship,” “the new leadership,” “a new age,” and even “the human singularity.”

All of these touch on facets of this freedom trend, but I think the best, most accurate and descriptive name for it is the “mini-factory” model.

Modernism came with the factory–the ability to mass produce. This revolutionized the world–economics, governments, how we spend our time each day, what we eat and wear, relationships, the size and functions of our homes and cities, etc.

Today the mini-factory is changing everything just as drastically.

In ancient times the wealthy set up estates or fiefdoms to cover all their needs, and the masses worked to provide the needs of their aristocratic “superiors.”

In modern times the factory provided mass goods and services.

Imagine the impact on everything in our lives if each family could provide all, or even many, of its needs for itself–and do it better than kings or politicians ruling over working peasants or even corporations employing workers to produce goods and services.

Such is the world of the mini-factory.

How Does a Mini-Factory World Function?

For example, what if parents could educate their children better than local school factories, with the best teachers, classes and resources of the world piped directly into their own home?

What if a sick person had more time and motivation to research the cases of her symptoms than the factory doctors, and the availability of all the latest medical journals right on her computer screen?

She would also have holistic works, original studies, alternative and collaborative experts, and the ability to email the experts and get answers in less time than it would take to wait in the hospital lobby.

Ten friends would likely send her their experiences with similar illness within days of her mentioning casually online that she was sick. If she chose a certain surgeon, a dozen people might share their experiences with this doctor.

What if a mother planning to travel for family vacation could just book flights and hotels herself, without calling the “expert” travel agent? Maybe she could even choose seats on the flight or see pictures of her hotel room–all in her own home between her projects and errands.

Welcome to the world of the mini-factory. I purposely used examples that are already a reality. But they were just a futuristic dream when writers like Alvin Toffler and John Naisbitt predicted them before 1990.

Technology has helped it, but the impetus of the mini-factory trend is freedom. People want to spend less time at the factory/corporation and more time at home. They want to be more involved in raising their children and improving their love life.

In an aristocracy, these luxuries are reserved for the upper class. In a free society, anyone can build a mini-factory.

What is a Mini-Factory?

A mini-factory is anything someone does alone or with partners or a team, that accomplishes what has historically (meaning the last 150 years of modernism) been done en masse or by big institutions.

If a charter school provides better education for some of the community, it’s a mini-factory. If it does it at less cost and/or in less time spent in the classroom, so much the better. A homeschool or private school can be a mini-factory.

Of course, if the charter, private, or home school does a worse job than the regular factory, it is a failed mini-factory.

If joining a multi-level company and building it into a source of real income serves you better than an employee position, it’s a mini-factory.

If downsizing from a lucrative professional job in Los Angeles to a private practice or job that pays much less but allows you twice as much time with your family and a more relaxed lifestyle in, say, Flagstaff or Durango and makes you happier, it’s a mini-factory.

Entrepreneurship, alternative education, the downshifter movement, environmental groups, alternative health, the growth of spirituality, community architecture, the explosion of network marketing, home doctor visits, the rebirth of active fathering, and so many other trends are mini-factories.

How do Mini-Factories Impact Freedom?

It all comes down to this: Big, institutional, non-transparent, bureaucratic organizations are natural supporters of aristocracy. Freedom flourishes when the people are independent, free, and as self-sufficient as possible.

I am not suggesting going backwards in any way.

Forward progress is most likely in a nation that is both well educated and highly trained, where big institutional solutions are offered wherever they are best and individuals and groups seek smaller solutions where they better serve their needs, where free government enterprise rules apply and there are no special benefits or perks of class (either conservative aristocracy or liberal meritocracy), and where government, business, family, academia, religion, media, and community all fulfill their distinct, equally-important roles.

Such a model is called freedom. It has been the best system for the most people in the history of the world, and it still is.

To adopt freedom in our time, either the aristocracy must give up its perks and voluntarily restructure society, or the masses must retake their freedoms bit by bit, day by day, by establishing mini-factories.

Mini-factories will be more successful if each person only does a few, and does them with true excellence.

Freedom will flourish best if there is no organization or even coordination of the mini-factories; if individuals, partners, families and teams identify what is needed in the world and in their own lives and set out to deliver it.

This is especially hard in a time like ours where the employee mindset wants someone to “fix” things (like the economy, health care, education, etc.), exactly when an entrepreneurial mindset is most needed to take risks and initiate the best and most lasting changes.

If real, positive, and effective change is to come, it will most likely be initiated by the people acting as individuals, small groups, and teams.

If it comes from the top, it will tend to only bring more aristocracy, and the day of freedom will be over for now.

Whatever your mini-factory contribution might be, consider that it will help determine the future of freedom.

Is it Worth the Challenge?

Mini-factories can be hard to establish and challenging to build. Many people fail once or several times before they learn to be effective.

But the type of learning that only comes from failing and then trying again is the most important in building leaders and citizens who are capable of maintaining freedom in a society.

Note that this very type of education is rejected in a training model of schooling, where failure is seen as unacceptable and students are taught to avoid it at all costs.

This mindset only works if an aristocracy is there to take care of the failures.

In a freedom model, citizens and leaders learn the vital lessons of challenges; failures and wise risk-taking are needed.

Starting and leading a mini-factory, and indeed all entrepreneurial work, is challenging.

Those who embraced this difficult path in history established and maintained freedom, while those who embraced the ease of past compromises sold themselves and their posterity into aristocracy.

In the long term, though, aristocracy is much harder on everyone than freedom.

What Will You Build?

As you consider what mini-factories you should support, start, and build, just ask what things could be done (or are being done) better by a small mini-factory than by the big organizations that try to control nearly everything in our world.

If it could be done just as well by a mini-factory, the change to the smaller entity can drastically promote freedom. If it can be done even better by a mini-factory, it is better for life itself!

The mini-factory is the new vehicle of freedom.

Take a mini-survey: What are your pet complaints? Government? Develop family government models. Health Care? Educate yourself on prevention and self-care. Education? Learn the principles of Leadership Education. Media? Start a blog. Entertainment? Develop a group of hobbyists who share your interests, whether it be Harley road trips, ice fishing, scrapbooking, etc.

You get the idea: Live deliberately, and do not wait for institutions to change to meet your needs.

Do not waste your energy or good humor on complaining.

Find a mini-factory that does it right and get behind it–or start one yourself. So many are needed, and they can bring the miracle of freedom!

The future remains unseen. It is the undiscovered country.

Many ancients felt that fate drove the future, but the idea of freedom taught humanity to look each to his/herself, to partner with others, and to take the risk to build community and take action now in order to pass on a better life to our children and our children’s children.

Today, that concept of freedom is waning–slowly and surely being replaced by a class culture.

Those who love freedom, whatever their stripe–be they green, red, blue, rainbow, or anything else–are needed. They need to see what is really happening, and they need to educate themselves adequately to make a difference.

The most powerful changes toward freedom will likely be made by mini-factories, in thousands and hopefully millions of varieties and iterations.

Aristocracy or freedom–the future of the globe–hangs in the balance…

Click here to learn more about the mini-factory trend and to purchase a paperback copy of The Coming Aristocracy. Click here to download two hour-long webinars with Oliver DeMille explaining mini-factories.

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Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Aristocracy &Business &Culture &Economics &Entrepreneurship &Featured &Liberty &Mini-Factories &Mission &Producers

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