A Man



June interview with Ken Fearnley

The International Man

I admire a lot of men in MKP. Ken Fearnley is one of them. He’s shown up brilliantly as our Structure Chair for the past two years.

I’ve watched him deftly handle the Project Council meetings at Glen Ivy with clarity and precision. He keeps us in between the ditches, as we say here in North Carolina .

So here it is, before I bury the headline: Ken Fearnley, Outside U.S. Man Becomes 1St Center Council Chair! (He now sits on the Executive Committee representing your Center Director and your community.)

It was fun to interview Ken because he’s one of the most precise men with language I’ve ever met. He said he learned the skills of communication growing up on an isolated ranch in Alberta , Canada .

“My mission is to create a world where no man stands alone by reaching out to men around me and men around the world. It’s a meaningful mission for me because I didn’t interact with any other kids until I was six years old - when I first went to school.

“It was very traumatic bringing me into a school-yard culture, not knowing the rules of the playground, isolated, on the outside, and not part of in group.”

Fearnley has been around men’s work since 1982. He was there in the beginning with Michael Mead and Robert Bly, and other pioneers.

“Back then, those drumming circles and men’s retreats were led by charismatic leaders with strong personalities. We sat at their feet and learned what it is to be a man.”

In 1985, Fearnley started an annual men’s retreat of his own at a wilderness camp with around 30 men. Then, in the Spring of 2000, he attended an NWTA.

“The thing that really impressed me about my weekend was the democratic leadership of the staff. On previous retreats, there was one paid magnificent leader telling other people how it’s done. In MKP we learned more on our own. What else impressed me was having the staff number as large as the initiates.”

The “long term follow up” after the weekend also impressed Fearnley.

“Other retreats I experienced were a one shot thing – we heard the wisdom, but had no place to integrate it.”

Trust me, Ken, we still have very charismatic men in this organization, and they can take over a meeting if there’s not a good STRUCTURE CHAIR to guide things along.

“Oh, yes!” he exclaimed. “We are still charismatic and it’s easy to put some of these men on a pedestal … but our organization isn’t built around that idea. There are powerful men in our Project with different skills and abilities. The great men in MKP attract other great men; we just have to make sure that the structure allows for all men to be heard.”

Where did Fearnley learn his skills in handling a group of powerful men? Well, he’s been in local government since he was 25 years old – as a member of the city council. And, he was re-elected twice! For nine years he was involved in municipal politics in Canada .

“I was immersed in Rules of Order, Parliamentary Procedure, and getting legislation passed. Governance is a huge aspect of my life.”

Later, he went to work for a not-for-profit company helping low-income Senior Citizens. He led 400 employees in a $20 million-dollar operation.

So, Ken … what do you think about our new Chairman George Daranyi and his “Good to Great” ambitions with MKP?

“The Hedghog Principle is about identifying the key thing we do well as an organization. We’re going to have to prioritize ourselves. One of the struggles I had for two years as a Center Director was dealing with the myriad of demands on my time. There was always somebody asking for something. Learning how to prioritize my time while putting up secure boundaries around what the community wanted - helped me succeed.”

Ken said that one of our main considerations in the Project will be how we approach marketing ourselves.

“Boysen Hodgson made a phenomenal statement at the Center Council meeting: ‘If we don’t define ourselves in the market place, others will do it for us.’ Other people are defining us in the world because we have abdicated that role. We need to get our story out in a good way. We’re already doing marketing whether we like to call it that or not, because by big definition - attracting people to our NWTA weekend is marketing. So the question is: ‘What are the tools we choose to do the marketing; how do we ramp it up?’ Do we go on big PR campaign, or do we work with refining who we are and what we are doing now?”

Fearnley said he hopes MKP will have our “hedgehog” guiding principle in place by next February so a program can be implemented to carry our message to the world.

Switching gears … our Canadian friend has also been previously involved in the International Development of MKP.

How does it feel being the first Outside of U.S. Center Council Chair?

“It’s not surprising that I would be the first Outside of U.S. Center Chairman because as a Canadian men in the U.S. tend to see me just as themselves. And, Outside of U.S. men see me as one of them. Traditionally, Canada has had a strong diplomatic role in the world where people see us as not really American, and Americans see us as not really foreign. It’s a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between us and them.”

“One of things MKP has to come to grips with is for Outside of U.S. to have more autonomy with its own internal structure. Right now we have a U.S. Corporation (MKP) with branch offices in other parts of the world. What we need is a world-wide corporation with the U.S. as one of the offices. Now, that statement could scare a lot of people, but there’s something in it for the U.S. as well. There’s a change in the energy and focus where the U.S. can deal more exclusively with its own issues.”

So, it could happen where the U.S. simply has one vote in a world-wide organization?

“Yes. There needs to be a new entity called MKP USA that is separate from MKP for the U.S. and for the rest of the Outside of US Centers. Right now, MKP is being overwhelmed by US-based issues that are not necessarily relevant to the rest of the world. We talk about MKP International. Legally there is not an MKPI.”

According to Fearnley, the Structure Committee headed by David Kaar, will be looking at how to develop this organizational structure to take us into the future and across the planet.

So, Ken, tell me about how you’re going to help the Center Directors as their new Chairman?

“I see the job as Center Council Chair in two parts. One is to the faithfully represent our centers on MKP’s Executive Committee. I’m speaking for 38 men who don’t sit around the ExCom table. I am THEIR representative – for THEIR needs on the ground in each Center. I have to represent them competently. It is ExCom’s most powerful constituency. I have to wear that mantle with dignity and humility. I have to be willing to say, ‘okay, this is what the centers want and need.’ I’m here for the Center Director who has a question; I’m the man he can talk with if he’s struggling or having trouble; he can bounces his issues off me.”

And how do we balance that with serving the good of the whole on ExCom?

“That’s the second part. I need to be on the inside with ExCom. I can’t do that by pounding on a table during a meeting. I have to be a part of the team where I’m listened to. It’s a dance to find the balance of holding the integrity with the Centers and what some might consider a good ‘ol boys’ club at the top.”

I believe you can do that, Ken.

“I am confident in my ability to serve the Centers and also allow our elected officers to make decisions – sometimes a difficult decision for the Centers to understand.”

This month’s theme is ‘Who do you Serve?’ What say you, Chairman Fearnley?

“Let me say first that I’m not a church going man. I don’t follow any organized religion. I would say that what I serve is an idea of the ability of us to make life better. I believe that mankind is ultimately good, but I also believe that fear stops men from being good. We need to figure out a way for men’s natural desire for connection and service to move through the fear. That’s my own personal struggle … with isolation as a child, I have huge fears of intimacy, contact with other men, trusting other men … for me, moving through that fear is to touch the natural goodness of man.”

Do you think there are any archetypal realities we share in common?

“Well, it just so happens my wife is a Jungian therapist.”

Your Humble Editor laughed out loud.

“Christ is an archetypal figure for me that represents the ultimate goodness of everything,” he said, quickly adding, “but this is not a matter of religion for me. There are so many manifestations of a ‘Christ Figure’ representing the ultimate good in man in other cultures and religions. I’m not talking specifically about a Christian belief system.”

You’re one of the most CLEAR-thinking men I’ve ever met, I told him. How’d you learn to do this?

“It’s a gift,” he responded. “I was given a talent when I was born, and also I chose to hone that gift through personal development.”

How about a blessing for us?

“My blessing to MKP would be for men to look into your hearts and don’t sweat the small stuff. We’ve got something fabulous here - let’s take it from good to great.”

© 2008, Reid Baer

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The fame you earn has a different taste from the fame that is forced upon you. - Gloria Vanderbilt

Reid Baer, an award-winning playwright for “A Lyon’s Tale” is also a newspaper journalist, a poet with more than 100 poems in magazines world wide, and a novelist with his first book released this month entitled Kill The Story. Baer has been a member of The ManKind Project since 1995 and currently edits The New Warrior Journal for The ManKind Project www.mkp.org . He resides in Reidsville, N.C. with his wife Patricia. He can be reached at E-Mail.

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