Boys' Rites of Passage

Our Sons' Futures

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Proud Village and Prouder Parents

Posted by Thomas on December 23, 2011

We picked up my son Glynne from the airport late last night. It is hard to explain how good it felt to put my arms around him after his return from the United States Coast Guard boot camp training and hold him tightly. We talked until 2 A.M. As my wife and I sat and listened I beamed inside. Proud that he is not idle. Proud that he has direction. Proud that he pushed himself and came out on the other side successfully. Proud that my son continues his journey into responsible male adulthood. As he shared with us I saw the years of effort, love, and support by so many manifested before my eyes. I am humbled to no end. And I thank The Village.



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Fathers Forge Futures

Posted by Thomas on December 21, 2011

Before you continue:

This post has 1080 words.

On average, it will take you less than 12 minutes to read.

Although, in many ways, my father was an utter mess (an alcoholic, in and out of prison etc.)—there were life lessons I learned from him despite his failings.

He would often say to me “Son, I am an example of the man you don’t want to become…”

There are moments in every child’s life when we witness a behavior, interaction, or incident involving our parents that forges our future. As eyewitnesses the effects can positively or negatively impact our lives.

I have said before that a rites of passage program for boys, although formalized, have lessons that are imparted through everyday life beyond the confines of a program. While growing up our sons watch us—the good, bad, and ugly of our character as fathers—and learn from what they witness. As fathers we forge the futures of our sons by depositing into their character. Let us fight until our knuckles are bloody, our bodies achy, and our heads hurt to impart humility, love, kindness, hard work, truthfulness, meekness, patience, longsuffering and much more. When those traits live in us (fathers) we can more easily cultivate them in our sons and when that happens their futures are set aright.

In his book Never Eat Alone, bestselling author Keith Ferrazzi in chapter 5 The Genius of Audacity recounts a compelling story surrounding his father’s humility and audacity to ask. I retell that account here with permission from the author. And encourage every father reading this to embrace audacity in grooming your son for responsible adulthood. What you desire to see in him; live in your own life thus forging his future.

The Genius of Audacity

Seize this very minute; what you can do, or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

My father, Pete Ferrazzi, was a first-generation American, a Merchant Marine sailor in World War II, and an uneducated steelworker whose world was hard hours and low wages. He wanted more for me, his son. He and I were inseparable when I was growing up (his friends called me “re-Pete” because he took me everywhere with him). He knew I would have a better life if he could help me find a way out of our working-class heritage.

But my dad didn’t know the exits. He’d never been to college. He knew nothing of country clubs or private schools. He could picture only one man who would have the sort of pull that could help me: his boss. Actually, the boss of his boss’s boss’s boss—Alex McKenna, CEO of Kennametal, in whose factory my dad worked.

The two men had never met. But Dad had a clear sense of how the world worked. He’d observed, even from the plant floor, that audacity was often the only thing that separated two equally talented men and their job titles. So he asked to speak with McKenna. McKenna, upon hearing the request, was so intrigued that he took the meeting. In the course of the meeting, he agreed to meet me—but nothing more.

It turned out that McKenna liked me—partly because of the way I had come to his attention. He served on the board of a local private elementary school, the Valley School of Ligonier, where all the wealthy families sent their children; by reputation it was one of the best elementary schools in the country. Strings were pulled, and Mr. McKenna got us an appointment with Peter Messer, the headmaster.

The day I enrolled in the Valley School, on scholarship, I entered a new world that set me on an entirely new course, just as my father had hoped. I got one of the best educations in America, starting with Valley School, then Kiski School, Yale University, and on to Harvard Business School. And it would never have happened if my father hadn’t believed that it never hurts to ask.

As I look back on my career, it was the single most important act in my life. Moreover, the lesson I learned from my father’s action, like no other, informed all that I have done since.

My father simply couldn’t be embarrassed when it came to fulfilling his family’s needs. I remember once we were driving down the road to our home when Dad spotted a broken Big Wheel tri-cycle in someone’s trash. He stopped the car, picked it up, and knocked on the door of the home where the discarded toy lay waiting to be picked up.

“I spotted this Big Wheel in your trash,” he told the owner. “Do you mind if I take it? I think I can fix it. It would make me feel wonderful to give my son something like this.”

What guts! Can you imagine such a proud, working-class guy approaching that woman and, essentially, admitting he’s so poor that he’d like to have her garbage?

Oh, but that’s not the half of it. Imagine how that woman felt, having been given an opportunity to give such a gift to another person. It surely made her day.

“Of course,” she gushed, explaining that her children were grown and that years had passed since the toy had been used.

“You’re welcome to the bicycle I have, too. It’s nice enough that I just couldn’t throw it away…”

So we drove on. I had a “new” Big Wheel to ride and a bike to grow into. She had a smile and a fluttering heart that only benevolence breeds. And Dad had taught me that there is genius, even kindness, in being bold.

Every time I start to set limits to what I can and can’t do, or fear starts to creep into my thinking, I remember that Big Wheel tri-cycle. I remind myself how people with a low tolerance for risk, whose behavior is guided by fear, have a low propensity for success.

The memories of those days have stuck with me. My father taught me that the worst anyone can say is no. If they choose not to give their time or their help, it’s their loss.

Nothing in my life has created opportunity like a willingness to ask, whatever the situation…

Keith Ferrazzi is the author of Never Eat Alone and the founder of the myGreenlight, an online training program for networking that offers the structure and support to put Keith’s bestselling books into action in your life for unparalleled career success and satisfaction. Go here to learn more!


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