A Man
Overboard

 

 

 
Getting to Know
Stan Sherman


How often do we, as men, make a soulful connection with each other?

A man told me just yesterday that following his recent relocation to a new area, his wife had made fast friends with many of their neighbors. He said he “held back” being chummy with the guys until he could “hang out” or “play a game of poker with them.”

Sound familiar to you?

Stan Sherman knows how to make instant heart connections with men. To know this man, he must be experienced in person. His energy is fabulous! He’s funny, smart, and down right effervescent! This article does not capture one-tenth of the essence of this great guy. I count him as a friend of mine, and he also happens to be the Enrollment Coordinator for The ManKind Project.

Stan was willing to talk with me just days before his marriage. He and his bride, Kathy, were getting hitched the next weekend and were preparing to fly to Hawaii from Philadelphia for their honeymoon. Stan took some time out of his busy schedule to share some of his stories about how men can more easily talk to men.

In our telephone chat, I started off by telling Stan how I had mangled a conversation with a man sitting next to me on an airplane. It was late at night and I was tired, making the second leg of a trip that started in California and ended up in North Carolina.

I like talking about “men’s work” so I asked the man a bunch of questions right out of the text book … like if he was familiar with “mytho-poetic” stuff or “rites of initiation” or finally, in desperation, “those guys who bang drums in the woods?!” He was completely turned off and adjusted himself in his seat and stared out the window. We didn’t speak the rest of the trip.

Stan said he could help me out with a few suggestions on how I might handle the next opportunity to connect with another man.

“This is what I do,” he began. “I ask the man about himself. I ask him something simple like, ‘what do you do for a living?’ He tells me what he does, then I tell him what I do.”

Stan has a day job as the National Sales Director for a Barcelona-based textile company. He said he loves what he does in this thriving company. However, when “I talk about what I do, I also talk about my passion around The ManKind Project,” he added. “I then tell the man that my real passion is with this organization. I tell him that this is what I do for a living … and this is who I am.”

So, inevitably the man asks “What is The ManKind Project?”

“I tell him about the New Warrior Training adventure,” Stan said. “I respond by saying it’s probably the best men’s leadership training I’ve ever found.”

The man usually says, “Oh really … leadership?”

“I then go into a process where I ask the man a lot of questions. I call it an interview … my belief is that men out there want to connect with other men, but they haven’t done this kind of men’s work and don’t know the steps to take to make that kind of connection. One of the things I was told once was that women are about relationships and men are about scores. You know, ‘there’s a man on second, it’s the bottom of the ninth, with two outs’ … a lot of men want to go a little bit deeper. I’ll have a more fully engaged conversation with a man 9 times out of 10 times.”

That’s a pretty good score, Stan. Tell me about one of those times.

“So I’m coming back from New York on an Amtrak train to Philadelphia and this guy is sitting across from me. He turns to me and asks, as most men do, ‘what do you do?’ I tell him, ‘I’m in the textile industry, I love what I do, but my passion is my involvement with the ManKind Project and the NWTA weekend.’ He tells me he’s in the IT field and works in Boston, but of course what he asks about is the ManKind Project and the NWTA weekend. Before I tell him about the weekend, I ask, ‘why don’t you tell me more about yourself?’ So he tells me about himself, his marriage, his job …

“So, here’s what I do … first, I have a conversation with that man about what’s important to him. I make a connection with him. Most men we meet are only used to talking about news, weather and sports. I start asking him about him. The conversation about the weekend happens much later. I then tell him about me. I tell him about my life and where I’m at - the struggles I have as a parent and with my relationships. So we both connect from a heart place and get to know one another.”

“Then I say to him, ‘I learned a lot about my life on the NWTA weekend.’

I create an atmosphere for a deeper conversation before I talk about the weekend. When I do talk about the weekend, I tell him about the all the gifts I’ve gotten from it. I say, ‘I learned what was stopping me from doing good things in my life; I learned what was keeping me from doing things I did not want to do in my life. There were some things I wasn’t accomplishing and I didn’t know what was stopping me. The weekend gave me a lot of insight. I learned that I was spending a lot of time in my head and I was missing the heart and soul of life – especially with my daughter.’ ‘Do you have kids?’ I ask him. ‘Yes, I do,’ he says. ‘Tell me about them,’ I say.”

Now Stan has the man talking from his heart about his children, who are important to him. After really listening to the man, Stan continues with the theme of leadership.

“One of the things I learned in my leadership was to lead by following … it was a whole new concept for me.”

“The guys says, ‘what do you mean?’ So I tell him that I’ve learned from my daughter to listen … to really hear her … hear what she’s saying.”

By now the guy’s head is bobbing up and down in recognition.

“I’m learning to have patience with her,” Stan continued. “These are all skills that I’m learning through men’s work. My life has been blessed. It’s opened my world and improved my relationships in my family. It wasn’t that things were all that bad, they just got better.”

The guy then tells Stan all about his parents, wife, and kids.

“Before we know it, we’re in a very involved conversation about our lives for two hours … I believe I got off the train having made a difference in that man’s life, but I know for sure when I got off that train that I was changed.”

Okay, I think I’m getting this. It’s about asking the right questions to get to know a man. What are the questions again?

“The questions are for the man to ask himself,” Stan insisted. “I’ll ask, ‘Has your life turned out for it to be all you wanted it to be? Have your relationships turned out to be all you hoped for? Have you considered how good can you stand it? Have it all?’ I would ask them to look in the mirror. ‘Has it all shown up? Have your pictures been fulfilled?’ If not, there’s still an opportunity to learn. What is it about men that we spend so much time in our doer and we don’t spend any time in what we want to be? Who do we want to be in the world? A powerful communicator? A man of integrity – balanced. Virtue. Grace. That’s not what we do, that’s who we are. For me, it is about leadership, clarity, and the skills to articulate the future in a precise way. The great thing about leadership is that I carry me everywhere I go - so I must be a leader in my own life.”

Stan tells me he has time for one more story.

“I was on a plane going from Philadelphia to Chicago and this interesting guy sits next to me. He just looks like a character - a businessman and an artist. He sits down and I look at this disheveled guy and ask ‘What do you do?’ - same thing as before. It turns out he works with this company that restores artifacts - statue preservation. His company was responsible for articles that came from the Titanic. On this particular trip, he was working with a town in Wisconsin that had an 80-foot statue of some guy and they were there to restore it. This guy even worked with NASA restoring missiles for public display.”

The man tells Stan about being separated from his wife and moving from New York to Washington, D.C.

“I told him my story where I did the NWTA weekend sixty days after my divorce. I told him how I got some real gifts from the experience. I said had always heard ‘Don’t pray for less problems, pray for bigger shoulders.’ Well, I found my bigger shoulders on that weekend. It equals the birth of my daughter because it was the birth of me. You go into this world to learn how to become a doctor, writer, film maker, truck driver, or whatever … but where’s the school to learn to be a better man? For me, this is the school. This is where I’ve learned to be a better man. I don’t think we’ve been trained how to be men. About 30 years ago, the world around women changed for them and their rising female conscious outstripped the rising men’s consciousness. I had some catching up to do … to be the man I was meant to be. The man I was trained to be by my father, friends, and environment was not the man the world was calling for …. I have learned to be more of a king in my own life. Women test men, like David Deida says. Women want a man to be in his king.”

Men not initiated into MKP want to know what goes on during the NWTA weekend. What do you tell them?

“I tell him about how it affected me and then I ask the man how his life is working. I’m able to accept that every man could use the weekend, but not every man is ready for the weekend. When I talk to initiated men about enrolling other men into the weekend, I tell them to think big and don’t get attached to the results. We say in our MKP motto that we change the world one man at a time, but when we enroll a man, the man that changes is me.”

Stan said there are basically two kinds of men who come to men’s work. Those who are “tired of being broke, wounded and depressed” and those whose lives are already “perfect.”

“Two years ago I got a call from a man who said, ‘I always wanted to be a doctor. Now, I’m a radiologist, married to my high-school sweetheart, I have two kids, and live in a half-million dollar home.’ So, I asked the guy, ‘why are you calling?!’ The man said, ‘I walk around and there’s a piece missing … and I can’t figure out what it is.’ I said, ‘you may find that on the NWTA weekend, but I don’t guarantee that.’ He said, ‘that’s what I thought you were going to say.’ He called back after having done the weekend and said, “I want to thank you, I found my answer. I’m thrilled.’ I said, ‘So am I.’”

One man told Stan it wasn’t what he “got” on the weekend, it was what he “left behind.”

Referring back to his own experience, Stan said he had been introduced to The ManKind Project in 1997 from his friend, Gary.

“I knew about the weekend from Gary, who had done it three years earlier, but I thought it was just something Gary did. Then he asked, ‘What’s the most important thing in the world for you?’ I said, ‘my mortgage, my kids, and my business.’ He answered, ‘You’re absolutely dead wrong.’ It felt like a smack across the face. Gary said, ‘It’s time you learned to take better care of yourself. When you learn to take better care of yourself then you can better take care of others.’”

Stan later became center director for the Philadelphia community and is currently a Co-Leader in Training. He staffs 3-4 weekends a year. He keeps a scrapbook of pictures from his experiences in The ManKind Project.

“The man who got me to the weekend is now the best man at my wedding this weekend,” Stan said, with a catch in his voice. “I’ve known him for 30 years.”

Recalling an incident at the end of his NWTA weekend, Stan spoke of a man who approached him.

“He says, ‘good morning bro’ and hands me this card. I read it: ‘By now you have faced the green monster and seen the other side. This is a life changing weekend, this is a pinnacle … yet the best is yet to come. Remember the magic. You are not alone. There are other men. Thank you for your trust of my soul. I’m honored to call you my brother.”

I was aware tears were welling up in Stan as he spoke of this incident.

“It still does it for me,” he said, pausing. “If you ask me what I get out of this work … seven days a week for the last eight years … I’m standing here crying because I have men like this in my life. So Gary’s coming to stand by my side. He’s one of the most special men in my life.”

Stan is one of my favorite people. Whenever we get together at MKP events or talk on the phone, he’s always affable and fun with that “Philly” kind of edgy attitude.

“We call it being a goofball,” he chimed in. “The work has been a fountain of youth. It keeps us young. My life is so much richer, even though it may not be easy at times. But I have been able to enjoy it a lot more.”

After all these years, Stan said he is finally “comfortable in his own skin.”

Days before Stan was initiated into The ManKind Project, a staff man called him to make a connection.

“I told the guy on the phone, ‘You gotta give me more than this, bro …’ The man responded, ‘Pretend you’re in a deep dark forest with no way out …. by the end of the weekend the staff will take you to the road. You will have three choices: you can turn around and go back into the forest, you can sit down by the road, or you can walk on down the road.’”

“You should know, the last eight years have been the most magnificent walk down the road I can ever imagine.”

Contact your local ManKind Project community www.mkp.org or Stan directly @ email-stanley.sherman@verizon.net or 610-766-1209

© 2005 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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