This blog post first appeared in the Noah Gets a Nail Gun.
You’ve seen the commercials for the most interesting man in the world – he starts the morning saving endangered alpine birds, followed by a dominant performance at the international polo competition in Dagestan, then wraps up the evening mending flaws in the theory of relativity over a cup of an exotic beverage he brewed the night before from seal scrotums, polar bear teeth and arctic ice. Quite a list of accomplishments for any one lifetime, yet just an average day when you are … the most interesting man in the world.
If the characterization wasn’t so over the top, I’d find my man card status threatened by the mere existence of such a person. But you don’t have to drink Dos Ickies to be found interesting. You don’t even have to be the most interesting man in the world. A much more attainable goal is to become The Most Interesting Dad to Your Kids. How do you do this? Start with pursuing things you find interesting.
Robert Lewis, author and founder of Men’s Fraternity, talks about the importance of a man having something to look forward to everyday. A man needs productive interests in his life, things that make him a better man. Too many guys in their 30s, when work gets hot and heavy and the kids get smelly and sticky, give up all the activities that they found fun and interesting in their 20s. They pour their lives into their jobs, come limping home to try to make it through one more night. Just barely enduring the kids, hopefully not checking out too long or blowing up too often, they fall into bed in yard-work clothes with one thigh hanging off the mattress, too exhausted to shower away the grass clippings. All merely to wake up and repeat the cycle again tomorrow. What joy. And by the time the weekend comes along, little league and dance parties consume any remaining energy. The only rest seen in a given week is their ritual seven minutes on the office toilet. Even that gets interrupted by the guy in the next stall calling his mom to wish her a happy birthday.
But as Robert Lewis said, it is important to do something with your life that is interesting, even if only to you, something that gives you energy and makes you look forward to the next day. Even if you think you don’t have the time. You must come to believe that it really is worth the time. Why? For you own sanity, for the sanity of your wife and kids, for opportunities to sharpen and be sharpened by other men.
Before we had kids, I did a fair amount of fly fishing. At the time, I had a friend who said two very important things to me, he said “I’ve explained to my wife that fly-fishing is cheaper and more entertaining than counseling.” Meaning, if he didn’t have some outlet he would probably go insane. He also said, “And if I ever get bored of fishing, I can just stop and fiddle with my gear.” Meaning, half of the fun of the sport for him is acquiring and learning how to use the gear. There was an artistry and cathartic aspect to just getting ready to fly fish that was interesting in and of itself. The tying of the flies, the practicing of the cast, the community and friendships that developed, all of this gave him joy. He didn’t have to be on the river to be enjoying the sport. But more than anything, he understood that he needed this outlet to keep from going crazy. He had to have something like this in his life to keep him healthy.
I’ve seen a number of guys lately who are able to sustain the maddening pace of work/kids with no other outlets for a few years, mostly because the allure of their job keeps them going, but once they reach the pinnacle or plateau of their career, they look back down the hill and think “I shaved my face for this?” They’ve not fostered any part of their personal life and have thus become very un-interesting to almost everyone, including themselves.
Proverbs 20:5 says “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” It’s interesting that we still know very little about the deepest parts of the ocean. We’ve been x thousands of miles away to the moon and explored the outer limits of the solar system, but can’t go seven miles down into the water. The pressure is so intense at that depth that if you were to inadvertently pluck a nose hair, your brains might shoot through the exposed follicle. Actually, people can’t even go to those depths, only unmanned vehicles.
But no worries, because this verse isn’t referring to the ocean (and none of us are that deep anyway), as an ancient Hebrew person couldn’t afford a full SCUBA system. And without oxygen and neoprene, it’s hard to get deeper than a dozen feet.
The Hebrew word for “draw it out” refers to the act of getting water out of a well, of drawing up a bucket. And it comes from a word describing, “lowness as a state or goal.” Remember the cartoons where the well bucket would drop and send the rope spinning, causing the crank handle to do a Mike Tyson on some pour soul’s face? The bucket drops in a hurry. In fact, the natural state of the bucket is lowness – is to settle in to the bottom of the well and stay there. But when you’re low – whether you meant to get there or not, you’ve got to draw it up. When tempted to vegetate, you’ve got to pull up the bucket!
I know a guy who hates his job. I mean HATES it. I felt sorry for him for the first year or so, but now I don’t want to hear about it any more. I don’t ever ask him about it. Because if he still hates his job, it’s his own fault. Only he can make that change. He has to find something interesting. But that’s no easy task. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things a man can do. It takes intentional hard work to get to the heart of a man. But a man of understanding, or, for our purposes, an “interesting” man, will draw it out.
For the sanity of your family
When I was a kid, my dad often amazed me. He seemed to be the strongest, fastest, smartest person I had ever met. There was nothing he seemingly couldn’t do.