One of the most important pathways of self-awareness is through the lens of fatherhood. I can become a better man simply by looking around at the many fine examples of fathers I have around me, starting with own. What traits do I admire that I could develop in myself? What traits do I resent that might be an uncomfortable but useful mirror into some of my own deficiencies as a dad?
Like many men my generation, I am critical of my father sometimes. I'm a member of the baby boomer generation that commercialized personal growth and many of our pre-War era fathers were poorly equipped to effectively deal with our self-awareness drives. The irony is not lost on me, since a well-equipped son can more than make up for that apparent deficiency.
My dad is turning 90 this year and I know he did his best. Despite not having a mother and father to guide him, he showed up to every hockey and football game my team was in even though I rarely played. He taught me how to sell, how to own a room and how to use humor in both appropriate and grossly inappropriate ways. I've passed these on to my children. I owe my passion for music, food, personal style and the best of everything life has to offer to my father's example. But more than that he is a testament for the courage required to go out on a grand adventure and stake a claim in the world. He moved to Jamaica as a young man and was effectively self-employed for much of his career.
I also have a stepdad, a father-in-law, a former father-in-law, a former high school teacher who grew into my first mentor, uncles, many senior male cousins, a younger brother and many older men who are more like big brothers than friends, clients or business associates. Each of these men have shaped who I am and the mission I am on. Even my kids grew up with a very good man in the role of step dad and I am grateful for his character and his role in helping to shape their missions.
Masculine energy whether you are male, female or gender neutral is about the mission, about going into the world and claiming a piece of it to build on. Feminine energy and the drive to love and be loved is awesome too and just as important to personal happiness, but the drive to go and build something lasting out in the world is the yang to that yin. I leave it to Bruce Willis to illustrate what pure, testosterone-fueled masculine energy is all about...
Whether we like it or not, and whether it comes by way of socialization or genes, we are who we are based in part on who are fathers are. I have traits of my father that I gladly own and use (salesmanship), traits I am wary of and resist (charm) and traits I present despite all my best efforts to avoid developing them (addictive personality.)