This sounds extremely vague, I know. What I mean is every man should build with his hands in some way. The thing I recommend to most men who have hit a rut in life or just feel like they are missing something is to build a shop. I understand a lot of people don’t have the space to put up a full blown shop but it could even be a shed or a pimped out dog house. Along the lines of building it could be something mechanical like an engine, car or whatever. I also recommend learning new skills. I bought a MIG Welder a couple years ago and taught myself how to weld via University of YouTube. When I was younger I’d play with my dad’s old welder. I’d fire it up and burn through a few sticks joining pieces of metal together. I was creating. That’s the whole point.
After I sold my gym in November 2016, I took the proceeds and put up a shop. Now, my carpentry skills are mediocre so I hired another combat vet to put up the structure for me. I learned a few things in the process. I sourced all the materials for the job, ordered the concrete for the pad, rented a skid steer loader and did all the dirt work myself. After the shop was built I went to the local hardware store and picked the brain of their electrician guru. Not having much experience in the whole wiring arena, I needed to know what wiring I needed to wire the outlets and lights. I found out what Romex was. The cool thing about building a shop was I had a reason to buy some new tools, I learned about internal wiring, framing, concrete, excavation, etc. After I the 30×40 shop was built, I ran power to it from my main breaker in the house and buried an internet wire and added a router so I could play music and whatnot up there. It’s basically a man cave. Occasionally I’ll add build some shelving and right now I’m about to add an upper level for more storage. OH! I also put in a wood burning stove and learned about stove piping. All-in-all it was an absolute joy to put up.
Honestly? I think we’re facing an epidemic that we don’t even realize is here. Creativity. Think about small children. They are constantly figuring things out. I listen to my 7 year old talk about the most outrageous things and just brush it off but what I don’t realize is that he is tapping into his creative side. As kids enter school, they are forced down a path via a standardized curriculum. Don’t even get me started on electronics? With TV, NerdPads and NerdBoxes running rampant in American households many parents turn away from forcing their kids outside or, heaven forbid, teach them how to use hand tools to make something. Right now, my son is asking me what he can do. He’s bored. I told him to go outside and figure it out. He does this all the time and I know how it ends. I’ll go upstairs and look outside to find him building something in the dirt or with my cordless drill in the driveway screwing boards together. As we age, we lose our creativity. With deadlines and the stress of providing an income for our families, many men don’t find the time to be creative and do something out of the box. Here are some interesting stats:
American Education Before and After the 1990s
Creativity is making something unique and useful and often produces innovation. Prior to the 1990s, American education cultivated, inspired, and encouraged. However, since the 1990s:
Losing curiosities and passions. Because of the incentives or sanctions on schools and teachers based on students’ test scores, schools have turned to rote lecturing to teach all tested material and spent time teaching specific test-taking skills. Students memorize information without opportunities for application. This approach stifles natural curiosities, the joy of learning, and exploring topics that might lead to their passions.
Narrowing visions. Making test scores as the measure of success fosters students’ competition and narrows their goals, such as getting rich, while decreasing their empathy and compassion for those in need. However, the greatest innovators in history were inspired by big visions such as changing the world. Their big visions helped their minds transcend the concrete constraints or limitations and recognize patterns or relationships among the unrelated.
Prior to the 1990s, many schools had high expectations and offered many challenges. However, since the 1990s:
Lowering expectations. Schools focus on students whose scores are just below passing score and ignore high-achieving students.
Avoiding risk-taking. High-stakes testing teaches students to avoid taking risks for fear of being wrong. The willingness to accept failure is essential for creativity.
Prior to the 1990s, educators sought to provide students with diverse experiences and views. However, since the 1990s:
Avoiding collaboration. Because teachers have been compelled to depend on rote lecturing, students have few opportunities for group work or discussions to learn and collaborate with others.
Narrowing minds. Schools have decreased or eliminated instruction time on non-tested subjects such as social studies, science, physical education, arts, and foreign languages. This contraction not only narrows students’ minds but gives them few opportunities for finding or expressing their individuality and cross-pollination across different subjects or fields. Low-income area schools, especially, have decreased time on non-tested subjects to spend more time on test preparations.
Prior to the 1990s, schools provided children with the freedom to think alone and differently. However, since the 1990s:
Losing imagination and deep thought. Test-centric education has reduced children’s playtime, which stifles imagination. With pressure to cover large amounts of tested material, teachers overfeed students with information, leaving students little time to think or explore concepts in depth.
Fostering conformity. American education has increasingly fostered conformity, clipping eagles’ wings of individuality (All schools preparing students for the same tests and all students taking the same tests). It has stifled uniqueness and originality in both educators and students. Wing-clipped eagles cannot do what they were born to do – fly; individuality-clipped children cannot do what they were born to do – fulfill their creative potential.
Fostering hierarchy. Students’ low scores are often due to structural inequalities, which start in early childhood (e.g., the number of words exposed to by age 3), affecting their later academic achievement. Yet, high-stakes testing has determined the deservingness and un-deservingness of passers or failers. The claim of “meritocracy” has disguised the structural inequalities by conditioning disadvantaged students to blame themselves for their lack of effort.
Many folks will read this and say, “Well, I just don’t have any free time”. When people tell me that, I tell them they are not stating a fact, they are stating a priority. If I told you I’d pay you $10,000 to dig a hole in my yard within the month, you’d suddenly find time to do it. It’s all in how we prioritize. That’s why I am encouraging people, men, to plan to build something. FIND THE TIME and do it. You can do it by yourself, with a friend or with your kids or spouse but you need to build something. Sit down and draw up the plans and work that plan. The feeling of accomplishment is outstanding! Men like building things and creating things. We were born to do it. So, do it.
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