A Man
Overboard

 

 

An Interview with Charles Maclean


I was taken aback when my interview with Dr. Charles Maclean began with him asking me questions.

“Tell me about your reader,” he insisted. “What is it that you sense spins the propeller on their beanie? What do they seek when they read your interviews in Menstuff or in The New Warrior Journal from The ManKind Project?”

Well, I didn’t know what to say, at first. [I’d love to hear your response directly to this question, dear reader.] So, speaking from my heart I said: “I think men want to get to know the truth of another man. I’d like to get to know you, Charles. And, I think my readers would, as well.”

He responded in the tone of voice that I imagined a scientist would, reflecting over a hypothesis, as he mumbled the words “disclosure” … “connection” … “go deeper.”

Our conversation continued in the same vein. I experienced him as bright and full of lots of curious fun. He was willing to jump right in and “go deeper.”

“I grew up with a mis-belief that I could never earn enough merit badges or advanced degrees to get my parents love,” he began. “I believed I would never be enuf.”

According to Maclean, The ManKind Project has helped him deal with his own issues around money and generosity – professionally and personally.

“I’ve been able to get to know myself better around whatever plenty or scarcity issues I still have, and do it in the safest place in the world, among my brothers of MKP. I chose the animal name Worthy Ibex [the antelope like spiral horned high-climber of the Atlas Mountains] because I am worthy of both giving and receiving love, acknowledgment and wealth.”

Maclean continued.

“When I moved here to Oregon from Texas, I found a men’s group and some of the men were also in MKP. I dug in my heels and resisted going to the weekend when one man pressured me saying, ‘Charles, you SHOULD do this.’ Then I saw other men, men like Don Hynes, that I loved being around … and what struck me was who they were and how they related to each other and me … that’s what led me to ask about this mankind thing that they held in common. I went from disbelief and skepticism, to really cherishing The ManKind Project. I love the deepening for me that came with the connection to guys in my I-Group. One of the best moments was when I got 'hot seated' when I decided to leave my I-Group to form an elders group. Another juicy moment was when as an I-Group we ‘did men of service’ together preparing and really serving our brothers outrageous meals at the weekend training.”

Before MKP, other men’s groups were like “Group Light,” he chuckled.

“The other groups were friendly, social, and activity oriented,” he added. “But I had to ask the question coined by my colleague Ann McGee Cooper, ‘Is the juice worth the squeeze?’ So I chose to give myself the deeper gift of The ManKind Project.”

Maclean as a donor advocate traveled for six months across the US and abroad sharing and learning new philanthropic practices.

“I was in New Zealand helping staff a training there,” he recalled. “What I picked up is that there are things that are universal coming out of the unique Maori culture. There are ways of listening closer to the earth. There was no hiding out on that weekend.”

Maclean acknowledged his own “act” or shadow around looking good and he blessed his involvement with the Elder Community for helping him eliminate more of the “smoke and mirrors” in his life.

“The 'never miss it gathering' on my schedule each year is the Elder Retreat at brother Stosh Thompson's llama ranch in Sisters, Oregon. It’s a time when I claim more Sovereign and more Magician. Elder energy is a different energy. We’re in the last quarter of our lives.”

Maclean referenced the movie “Patton” as a poignant example of how an Elder or leader can interact with men in either a supportive or abusive way.

“Do you remember Patton in the hospital awarding the medals? As I remember it, he goes to one soldier who is badly physically wounded and awards him the medal with lots of praise. The general then goes to the next man who had been shell shocked. Today, we call that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Once Patton knows the man is not suffering from a physical ailment, he abuses and shames the man. Right there in those two scenes we see the bright shadow of the healthy sovereign and the dark shadow of the tyrant. There they are - back to back: the blesser and the abuser. It was a very real distinction for me.”

Maclean said, "The word blessing is one I grew up with in my church, but it is off-putting to some who have burned by organized religion."

“I use the word acknowledgement to describe what I wanted most from my father. There is an understanding of giving and receiving that comes with an acknowledgement. My father’s generation falsely believed that if a father wasn't criticizing his son, the son should take that as acknowledgment - that the absence of negative feedback was positive feedback. I believe that the absence of both positive and corrective feedback is abuse. The ratio of positive to negative has to be at least 5:1 in order to be openly received and used. Generations of fathers have been acknowledgment deprived themselves, not knowing how to give or receive. Too many of us grew up mistakenly believing we had to earn acknowledgement.”

Maclean discussed the differences between compliment, performance recognition, acknowledgment and self-acknowledgment.

"Compliment is what you get for what you have, 'nice bead adornment on your talisman.' Performance recognition is what you get when you do what's in your job description, 'Thanks for buying the food for the weekend.' Acknowledgment or blessing is what you get for being who you really are, ‘I feel safe doing the guts work because I know I can count on you to bring integrity to the process.’ You can't earn or buy acknowledgment or blessing. You just 'be' it. You just deserve it. Self-acknowledgment is the other important piece … the ability to give myself blessing, particular on days when I’m getting beat up by the outside world. That’s when I ask myself, ‘what am I proud of that nobody notices?’ Then I give that gift to myself. It’s the heart of generosity."

Maclean referred to fellow trustee Curtis Mitchell who speaks about MKP's role in releasing and deepening the value called generosity imbedded in each man.

"Generosity is when a man makes places for that value to be expressed at a higher level," Maclean said, referencing Mitchell. "It's about creating a culture of generosity. In that context, men CANNOT NOT give to their passions. They begin to give out of self-interest blended with a spirit of enlightened, rigorous, accountable, joyful community give-back. That’s a driver in my life. ‘Generosity itself is the self-blessing,’ Mitchell has said. ‘It’s an assertion that there’s enough, more than plenty, for all of us.’”

So meet one of our newest trustees on The ManKind Foundation who called himself a “Rookie Trustee” and said his contribution is bringing the spirit and practice of “positive psychology” and "appreciative inquiry" to himself and those he serves.

“If I fear cockroaches, then I will look for and find cockroaches wherever I go. So, applied to the idea of money, if I fear scarcity, I will find and generate scarcity.”

Your humble correspondent had the opportunity in D.C. and again recently to make phone calls on behalf of The ManKind Foundation. It’s really a fun experience when done right. Maclean was in the numbers of men who reached out and gave others an opportunity to be generous on those phone calls.

The man, well-schooled in the art of “Warrior Listening,” explained how he approached the task. Actually, he referred to it as a privilege.

“I’m here as a committed listener to you as a brother, and I want to hear your passions and your 'pissosities' about MKP. Unless I am willing to hear both - what it is that disconnects and generates distrust – then I will keep a distance between you and me, and me from myself. In regards to relationship-raising (what others call fundraising), I’ll often ask a number of questions: ‘What are you most pleased with that MKP has brought into your life? What are you most pleased with that you have brought to MKP? What do you want MKP to be more and less of …? What role would you like to play in making that happen?’ It’s all about what is the mix of time, talent, dollars, estate gifts, etc. for a man. I want to honor whatever that is … a ‘yes,’ is a gift, a ‘no’ is a gift. It’s the ‘maybe’ that derails both of us.”

Maclean said he has discovered in his research that we may very well be hard-wired toward a giving disposition.

“There is evidence from a study by Dr. Cathleen Smith that in the first 6-12 months of life, infants attempt to soothe adults – the very ones whom the babies depend on for their survival. When the adult is upset, the child knows it and trys to comfort them. Smith noticed this in pre-verbal children who even attempted to soothe other infants they didn’t even know. In twin studies, there’s some indication of a predisposition to care about others. I believe it because I can see something shining in the look of people who have given of their time or finances. Medical studies show there’s actual improvement of the immune system when a person volunteers, gives, or even watches others doing good. Dr. Dean Ornish says, ‘Giving may be the most selfish thing we do.’ Put another way, ‘I do the good that I do in part for the good it does me.’”

Will you say something about the shadows around giving?

“The shadows of giving … two things come to mind. I believe that each of us is on a continuum from giver to receiver. We’re comfortable somewhere along that line based on what has personally been most useful, or most painful to us. I was a righteous giver. Whether it was love or money, or acknowledgment …I was more comfortable giving than receiving.”

Here, I strongly encourage you to check out Maclean’s story around his growth in being able to receive. It’s called “What I Learned From Children About Giving and Receiving.” It’s under Articles at his website.

I really liked this part of his description around the shadows of giving:

“If I only give, then I will likely attach strings. If I only receive, then I’m really just being a taker and put nothing back in circulation. That’s the real challenge – being open both ways. I can be supportive and acknowledging without the shadows of pandering or codependency.”

Maclean talked about the movie “Pay it Forward” and the idea of giver and receiver in a balanced relationship.

“The act of giving is like a teeter totter or balancing an equation. The teeter totter is tipped with either giving or receiving – it puts me one up and you one down. The homeostasis of the relationship has been changed. It’s not necessarily good or bad. However, to rebalance, I can either give back to you – a reciprocity approach that can be very manipulative in fundraising - or I can give forward from what I’ve received in my life to someone else. Let' say like giving into a self-sustaining scholarship fund for others, some time after I've received a scholarship myself.”

Maclean noted how the River Jordan flows into the Dead Sea. It's dead because it has inflow but no outlet.

He spoke again about his phone calls engaging men in the possibility of giving to MKP.

“'I don’t write charity checks, some men say' … many of the younger men are looking to make a social investment; they want to see two things: 1) They want to know in advance what their gift is going to accomplish and be told later what it did . . . or didn't accomplish. MKP needs to continue to conduct research on the measurable results of the work. 2) ‘I want to see that my gift helps the organization become more self sufficient and less dependent on me.’ For instance, ‘I want a non-profit that sets up a youth at risk program with a coffee shop, or a job training component where people have to show up on time. I want the income from that related business to fund more of the nonprofits ongoing programs.’”

The number of look-alike non-profits has grown immensely, according to Maclean, along with a growing public distrust of non-profits. So the questions from a fundraiser have to be more targeted to what the giver wants. The fundraiser should ask first what the giver cares about. And then the organization should be able to tell its story in 30 seconds. Man, I’d like to be able to do that with MKP.

“Dr. Paul Schervish says we’re shifting from demand side fundraising, where it feels like my hand in your pocket, to a supply side relationship that says, ‘help me understand your passion and let’s see if what you’re passionate about is a match!’”

Maclean has some new ideas on how we can better orient ourselves toward giving.

“As a donor advocate, I am committed to assisting brothers to define their own giving mission. One of the tools I’m offering on a pro-bono basis to Mankind brothers is a generic, step-by-step fun process for crystallizing your personal giving mission and then acting on it.”

So, instead of being like “a Texas tumble weed blown across the highway by the last windy request” we can get control of our giving and say "yes" or "no" to any request and feel good about our decision . . . and ourselves.

“Eventually we get to the place where we seek out opportunities to give that match our mission,” Maclean stated. “I know I’ve made a good ask when you say, ‘Thank you Charles for the gift you gave me when you gave me the gift of being able to give to The Mankind Foundation.’ In my newcomers view, the MKP Foundation is just a funnel, a vehicle, where people who care deeply about the work can give their way. My experience is that my fellow trustees are a group of men committed to opening up the flow and confronting our culture’s views on scarcity, enough-ness and worthiness. It's about deepening the culture of generosity within each man.”

Using a different metaphor, borrowed from Tim McGuire, former President of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Maclean said the Elder stage of a man’s life is like an elevator.

“For those of us who have been given much, we can send the elevator back down to help others. And, we can assist them to lift their own elevator. It's about UpLift.”

I enjoyed spending time with this man and getting to know him.

If you’ve a mind to … visit his website www.philanthropynow.com and download pro-bono tools, tips and strategies for giving wings to your own hard-wired generosity. - RB

Charles’ juice comes from coaching, facilitating workshops and researching about: The Artful Ethical Ask; Donor UpLift; Donor Acknowledgment; The Future of Philanthropy; Skills For Financial Advisors. He has written some 25 articles on giving and asking and developed a suite of giving support tools. He is the author of “Shifting From Donor Fatigue To Donor Resiliency.” His work has been appeared in the media from the New York Times to NPR’s Talk Of The Nation. You can reach him at advocate@philanthropynow.com

© 2006, 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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