Man to Man: Episode #1 [VIDEO]

by Brett on October 3, 2010 · 59 comments

in Man to Man

I get emails every day from men all over the world asking questions and seeking advice. Some of these men are looking for answers to some really serious problems like handling a divorce or getting over a job loss. Others just want to know where they can get a safety razor or recommendations on a workout plan. I’ll even get really random questions like whether you should wear a monocle on a first date. (Answer: No, unless you’re going to a murder mystery dinner.) I try to answer these questions to the best of my ability. I really want to be as helpful as possible to you all.

Today I want to try something new with answering these questions. Instead of answering them via email, I thought it would be interesting and useful to answer some of these questions in a public forum for two reasons:

1) I’m sure a lot of you out there have the same or similar questions and would find the advice or answer useful.

2) I’m not an expert on this whole manliness thing. I’m learning and improving myself right along with you all. I know that a lot of you out there might have better insights and advice to offer these readers than I do. I want to take advantage of the AoM community’s collective wisdom and experiences to answer these questions, so answering the questions in public will give you a chance to chime in and help a fellow man.

I decided to go with a video format mainly because it’s something different, and it will keep things interesting on the blog. If you want your question answered on Man to Man, just ask me a question using the contact form. It can be about anything. From the serious to the trivial. And don’t worry. We’ll edit out any personal details in order to maintain your privacy.

With that said, let’s get started with the first episode of Man to Man. Enjoy!

Man to Man Episode #1

In this week’s episode, Seth from Tacoma, WA writes:

Dear Art of Manliness,

I’m 33 years old, married, and I have one kid, and I work at a great job. My life is fantastic and is packed with lots of great stuff, yet I’ve been feeling numb and like I’m sleeping walking through life. What can I do to feel more present in my day to day life?

I want to thank Seth for being the guinea pig for our inaugural Man to Man episode. Thanks, Seth!

My Response

I’ve been in the same boat as Seth. I’ve had moments in my life where I’ve been so busy that I felt sort of detached from reality. What worked for me was making time in my schedule for some quiet contemplation and meditation. So I started waking up earlier- about 5:30AM- for 30 minutes of meditation. I light an oil lamp on my desk and just zone out on the flame. My goal is to just clear my thoughts as much as possible. In addition to meditating, I’ll use the time to think about my goals, my life’s purpose, and my relationships with my friends and family.

After a few weeks of this practice, I started feeling much more grounded and present in my life. If you feel detached from life. I highly recommend giving some manly contemplation a try.

What do you think?

I know there has to be lots of you out there who’ve felt the same way as Seth. What have you done in your life to feel more grounded and present? What advice would you give him?

Please keep your comments uplifting and edifying. I want Man to Man to be an edifying forum where men can feel safe asking and answering these questions.

If you have a question you’d like answered on Man to Man, just shoot me an email via this contact form. Remember, it can be about anything!

{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

1 David October 4, 2010 at 12:14 am

Thanks Brett, great job as always.

I have actually been getting up about 45 minutes earlier than I used too. I’ve been at it for about three weeks (though not much last week due to a work situation). I found it easier to get up than I expected, probably because I enjoy the time to myself. I have been using the time to read, plan my day, and review projects I have coming up. Instead of turning on my computer, I spend time in my Moleskine notebook. For some reason, pen and paper helps me feel more grounded and I organize my thoughts better.

Though its only been a couple of weeks, I already feel like I am getting a better hold on what I want to accomplish and who I want to be.

2 Phoenix Men's Counseling October 4, 2010 at 12:28 am

I work with a lot of guys like Seth, and although the exterior things seem to be great, it is not necessarily an indicator of how we’re feeling on the inside. For men who go numb, we’re usually out of touch with some impulse we’re not attending to, and may be preconscious about. I would advice to sit with the numbness, and see how it manifests in the body. Usually when we’re out of touch with the present moment, it means that we’re out of contact with ourselves. Men use numbness, depression, avoidance, withdrawal and other coping mechanisms to flee their experience of the here and now. Seth, if you can learn to sink into the felt sense of what it means to be numb, it may turn into something else: pain, anger or some other experience. We often numb ourselves off from these types of experiences, because they’re difficult, and stay numb to deal. I don’t know if any of these words ring true to your experience, but if so, try allowing those “felt senses” to come up in your body, and see what happens. You might be surprised. – Jason

3 Kris Freeberg October 4, 2010 at 12:34 am

Great vid Brett.

Many religious traditions affirm your post, complete with the oil lamp.

In Orthodox Christianity we make regular use of oil lamps which we call Vigil Lamps or “Lampadas” as well as incense. And we have a special word for the stillness and breathing techniques you described, “Hesychia.” One who practices Hesychia is a Hesychast. Google it for more info.

Good stuff, keep it coming.

BTW where can I get a classic satin-lined, broad-brimmed fedora like our grandfathers wore?

4 Kris Freeberg October 4, 2010 at 12:35 am

PS – congrats on fatherhood! Prepare to be changed . . . .

5 Cod R Physh October 4, 2010 at 1:08 am

I have tried adding a few rituals into my life. I now spend time in my version of morning relaxing with a straight razor shave. Yes, it takes a long time. It also gives me time to center myself.

6 Ron October 4, 2010 at 1:41 am

Actually, I do what Brett suggested: taking some quiet time to myself, doing some deep breathing, trying to clear my mind. A nearby church has a chapel that is available 24/7 (keypad entry after hours). I find getting away to a “sacred space” helps. And I do what David does. I find that putting thoughts, goals, plans, and yes,
failures, on paper helps. I once wrote my autobiography. It will never be a best seller, but I discovered that my life is actually pretty darn good! And I find that walking in a park or around a lake helps. Good luck, Seth.

7 Glenn G October 4, 2010 at 1:49 am

Keep up the good work. I’ve been spreading the word about AoM amongst my friends and acquaintances and hopefully it will spread even further and benefit everybody.

I like your solution; simple yet elegant (oil lamp is a nice touch).

Kris Freeberg mentioned above about the connection between contemplation and Christianity and I just want to emphasize that. I know we have a sizable contingent of Christian men on AoM. I have witness the admissions of those who carry a Rosary in their pockets or a small book of the gospels, etc.

If you are a God-fearing man (whatever Name you call Him), these are the times to turn to quiet prayer. In fact, I say use Brett’s solution but add some quiet prayer or chants to that time. The latter has the effect of clearing your mind from the internal dialogue.
My advice to the religious men is to have a focal place in the house that serves as a kind of altar, where people gather to pray. oil lamps go great in that setting and so do kneelers.

8 Bruce Backman October 4, 2010 at 2:45 am

Hey Brett…good advice. I was up this morning spending a bit of quiet time outside. I think of Jesus and how he often went off to a quiet spot to pray. In some way or another getting grounded (by yourself in a quiet spot) on a somewhat regular basis is quite important.

I have seven children and have many, many things on my plate (more than I care to think about) but spending some quiet time by myself or focusing and spending a few moments with one of my children, reading, working with my hands…these are all ways I am able to find myself back to the PRESENT NOW!

One other thing that may be interesting to people that I have found (in addition to your very good advice)…very often when people are feeling a bit detached from reality (a bit spacey) it is helpful to work on the Thyroid Gland or balancing blood sugars. Both of these health issues can make it very difficult to live in the present moment.

Thanks for a great post!

9 Ben October 4, 2010 at 2:47 am

The thing that really helped keep in in focous through my teen years (which could have been very turbulent otherwise), and I still come back to on a regular basis, is the book Hagakure. It is a collection of phrases, maxims and anecdotes compiled during the 17th century as a guidbook for Samurais, ment to help them better themselves constantly, and keep them mindful to their Way. It has an all-in-jump-into-the-fray life-in-big-bites attitude, which help cultivate virtues, courage, and engagement.
I also recommend this article:
Hagakure can be found online as well, but not in its full versions.

10 Chris October 4, 2010 at 3:05 am

Great video and suggestions all. I’ll just add that each week you should spend time to ‘sharpen the saw.’ This may be different for each man, but if you take the time to bolster yourself in the physical, mental, spiritual, and social/emotional areas, you can always be grounded in your time on this earth.

11 chris October 4, 2010 at 3:20 am

I also have felt like seth, I agree with making some time for yourself to reflect. Something else that has helped me is making a point to help or to serve someone in whatever way you can. I dont get it and i am usually to dumb to see a need right in front of me let alone look for one, but when a chance comes around to help someone, especially when you dont feel like it, take the opportunity to help and something will happen.

12 Robert B. October 4, 2010 at 3:27 am

I don’t know if you’re a Christian, but if so, the lives of the saints are phenomenal resources for getting rid of that “dryness” that you are feeling. Another alternative is exactly what has been suggested, meditation. If you wish, meditative prayer is a useful tool to put your life in perspective and open your heart to conversation with the Divine.

If you’re not a Christian and you don’t think the lives of that saints or mental prayer is something that would seem too foreign for you, I suggest reading in general! You can live vicariously through a good novel without obsessing over it and its a good chance to break up the staleness of a typical day. Imagine yourself in the Badlands with Theodore Roosevelt or go to Middle-Earth with JRR Tolkien by using a book as your tool. Waking up early to read or making it a pre-bed ritual is a useful way to make the ordinary extraordinary by becoming absorbed in a good book.

N.B. Don’t get too absorbed! It’s in keeping with manliness to be temperate not only with drink and food but also with your free time. Don’t let a really good book take away time from the family.

~Peace be to you.

13 Rob October 4, 2010 at 3:31 am

What I do is walk. Because I’m on my feet most of the day Monday to Friday, and because I only really have the time and desire to make and eat dinner then zone out for a couple hours after work, I can usually only find the time for it on the weekends, but I walk a lot. Usually for two or three hours, I’ll just walk through the city, down some new road I’ve never taken before. Usually the first hour or so I’m still distracted and hung up on whatever, but by the time I get done my mind is clear and I’m in a much better state of mind. It really recharges my batteries. And I should add that I don’t just meander down the road, I power walk like I’m trying to get to work on time and I’m running late.

14 Justin October 4, 2010 at 7:10 am

The best time I’ve found for contemplation is while I was mowing the lawn. If you have a large enough lawn it becomes a nice time to just think about whatever for a long enough time. I now live in an apartment and I don’t have the opportunity to mow the lawn but I find time by walking or going for a drive by myself. Great ideas here and I feel confident that this is important because it is something I have been doing for a while now and I’ve always had this sense of purpose and drive.

15 Dave Campbell October 4, 2010 at 7:22 am

This numbness is the same as the Restlessness that is at the core of the AoM. There are two ways to attack this: psychologically and physically. Your brain adapts to the stimuli that you provide. You have become acclimated to your life(style). It responds the same way your body does. When you first start a sport it can be cumbersome. After practice, it is routine because you have developed muscle memory (inter-neuronal activity). In order to challenge your body you need new and different exercise. Vary your routine. The same goes for your brain. If you are an accountant take a biology or a psychology class at a community college. If you work with kids take statistics. When you move out of your comfort zone you develop physically and mentally. Having been a street biker years ago I recently got on a Mountain Bike this summer. Believe me, I have not been numb!

16 DaveKerwin October 4, 2010 at 7:31 am

I think the man to man series will be awesome. Great idea on it, the vid, and the community of men involvement. This series represents what I beleive is missing the most in men’s lives: raw oppurtunities for iron to sharpen iron.

I would say to Seth that his detachment comes from a lack of connection to the purpose of his life. There is something burning on the inside that he wishes to release as a man in this world. There is only one problem, he can’t identify with it. Perhaps a close manly friend can work with him one on one to help bring it out and call him forth as a man. This is something on a large scale so we should not do it alone. HTH

17 Dave October 4, 2010 at 7:43 am

I think sometimes that this numbness comes actually *because* of the success that you achieve in your life. Once you are no longer struggling and you start to see the benefits of your previous hard work – the problem is that maybe the benefits are not as good as you thought. Or, it’s just the lack of new challenges. Meditation may not be the only thing you can do to help with this feeling (although it might be a good idea for some men).

While I agree with what most people have posted, I think much of this depression/restlessness can be fixed by finding new challenges. They can be physical (maybe you could train to run a marathon?) or mental (take up chess?) or anything else that interests you. The main thing is to find something that is difficult, but can be achieved with enough time and effort.

The task of becoming a better man itself is a good combination of physical and mental challenges (especially if you find a way to set some measurable goals).

18 Michael October 4, 2010 at 7:54 am

If the problem is detachment, the answer is meditation. Even if the answer is not meditation, meditation will lead you very quickly to what the answer is.

The big thing you have to do is be prepared for nasty shocks once you sit down and think about things. Strong feelings of detachment come from an unwillingness to update assumptions which are being challenged. Maybe you’re lucky and you just got too busy to keep in touch with yourself. But it’s more likely that your life is out of balance in a serious way, and you’re going to need some unaccustomed honesty.

19 Hans Hageman October 4, 2010 at 8:03 am

The times I’ve felt like this have been the times where I’ve lived too long in my head. I forget to pay attention to intuition, physical stress, and flexibility – literally and figuratively. Breathing, yoga, bodyweight exercise, and mindful hiking are some of the tools I have used to repair this mind-body disconnect.

20 TR October 4, 2010 at 8:34 am

Similar to Brett’s solution, I sit outside and focus on my senses rather than my thoughts. What am I seeing around me? What am I hearing? What am I smelling? Feeling? Soon, your focus is simply on taking it all in rather than the worries that were on your mind minutes before. Sometimes, this lack of occupation with the “busier” thoughts allows your true feelings about matters to be given opportunity to develop. You might be contemplating the colors of the plants or calls of the birds, when suddenly your answer pops up in them middle. Just allow yourself to be – to exist. See what happens. Cold outside? Bundle up.

21 Eric Granata October 4, 2010 at 9:11 am

What have I done to stay present? Sadly, not enough. However, I spent much of the weekend pulling bulbs from a flower bed, shoveling dirt, planting things, etc. and let me tell you, there is nothing like sore hands and back to remind you that you are alive.

22 Dave Flora October 4, 2010 at 9:15 am

This is a great topic for discussion. One of the things that I believe makes us feel “numb” or “cut off” in life is meaningful interaction with others. Service can often provide meaning, so I’d suggest finding a way of donating time (and money if you have it) to a local church or charity. As many of the studies have suggested, the most satisfying career choices often have the closest ties to helping others. Find a group, get involved with peoples lives and do something to help. After all, nothing makes us feel connected to life like being connected to others!

23 Jeff Sutherland October 4, 2010 at 9:16 am

Brett, great video presence, and nice idea with the oil lamp!

24 Marcus Aurelius October 4, 2010 at 9:26 am

An excellent post and some simple yet potentially beneficial advice. I think numbness for many people has roots in lack of a sense of connection to others. Being active, especially with other people, seems to me a good idea. Also, congratulations on the impending arrival.

I’ve added a link to this video on the Rule Hibernia Thumbs Up page at

25 jeff October 4, 2010 at 9:27 am

Brett, I think this series is a great idea, and having read through the previous comments, I commend all for offering encouraging and supportive words.

I would like to echo what many others have said already, especially Dave and chris. Our American culture puts a lot of pressure on us to “acquire.” Get the wife, get the kid, get the “great stuff.” I have no doubt about the potential fulfillment in these things – marriage and family are the greatest joys life can offer. But I would encourage all of us men to seek ways to serve others. Volunteering for those less fortunate, spending time with a friend who just needs someone to talk to – these opportunities to give of ourselves can reconnect us with the world at large. Often times it makes our problems seem much less important. Best wishes to you, Seth, and all the other men.

26 Blake October 4, 2010 at 9:41 am

I think that meditation is the way to go. The only thing I would consider adding is doing some jumping jacks to make sure you’re body is awake. When you sit, you might try counting your out-breaths until you reach ten, then start over. When a thought comes, recognize it (“hi thought”) but then put it down. Don’t put any energy into it. You have the rest of the day to do this. Instead, you want to just observe how your mind and body works. Try ten minutes and then increase it daily (or weekly, whatever) until you reach thirty minutes. I know that this has worked for me!

27 CRW October 4, 2010 at 9:45 am

Two things did great works on my “connectiveness” in my past. One was the 7 Habits, especially two parts- Roles and goals ( listing out WHO you are, and what you are going to do that week to fulfill that role. The second part was the “sharpen the saw” Habit, which puts it all into perspective to be responsible for your own well being.

Lastly my advice is to take up running, or some activity that you can do by yourself for a long period of time, perhaps one day a week. The trick though, was to *not* use headphones, enjoy the time alone… Let the inner dialogue run free. The

28 Joseph October 4, 2010 at 9:53 am

I did not read all of these suggestions in detail, but what I read was very good. At the risk of repeating someone else’s comments: In addition to spending the quiet time in meditation/reading/prayer, find someone with whom you can talk about what you are experiencing or doing during these times. Try to find someone who strikes you as spiritually mature, and seek their guidance in these matters. From my own experience–I struggle with certain defects, and this approach to prayer has been a great help–I’d have to say you are on the right track, and some support and direction would be an additional help.

29 Mike G. October 4, 2010 at 10:00 am

I’ve had a slew of depression, relationship and unfulfilled life issues over the past few years and I’ve been working recently to overcome these internally. First off, the flame meditation idea is great and I plan to give that a try. Some things that I’ve found have been helping me:

• ”The Wisdom of No Escape” – this is a book on Zen/Zen meditation by Pema Chodron. The title of this book is what grabbed me and her approach to meditation is surprisingly easy, effective and welcoming. Which is not to say it’s “easy” but Ms. Chodron focuses on simplifying the process so as to make it unintimidating. If you’re new to meditation, I’d check this book out and I cannot stress how much of a difference the teachings have made in my life in terms of being present and shifting my perspective.

• Writing. In a couple of places, I’ve come across the recommendation to write daily. Along these lines, I try to commit myself to three pages longhand a day (although I don’t always get the full three down). I’ve found it helpful to just unwind whatever’s in my mind onto paper and get it out. To this end, don’t focus on “Is it worth writing?” but rather just write. Write nonsense for three pages or bitch about your boss or write “F@#%” a thousand times or write a summary of the day or whatever. Don’t write with any purpose and don’t go back and reread the pages and judge yourself. Just write.

• Workout. I’ve found that I need to be active in the morning regularly. Not so much for fitness, although it certainly helps, but for state of mind and mood through the day. In addition to all the great benefits of a workout, I find it also functions as a sort of forced meditation in that while I’m doing my second set of push-up, I’m not thinking about anything else except how close to the floor I am and how much effort I need to get back to the top.

Overall, it’s an ongoing process and a daily re-commitment.

30 Kjell October 4, 2010 at 10:07 am

Having or have a baby? Get ready to feel the numbness of sleepwalking, because that is what you’ll be doing to help them get to sleep! It will pass though. I’m now trying to find that time for “me” while in the context of my own family and I think it can be tough balancing and integrating children into what was once just my life.

I think a lot of men connect powerfully to life through DOING. Being out on the basketball court, refinishing a piece of furniture, setting up the backyard for a party or BBQ, spending time on a project in your manspace. There is something therapeutic in the repetition and focus of a project that challenges and hones ones skills, that there is a natural parallel in thinking about and honing one’s sense of self. Of course, this all starts with the question “So what’s this all about? I’m alive – what should I do?” Everyone has to settle into that one and be comfortable with their own answer. No one can do it for you – and I find the answer changes as I do and my life evolves.

31 Kelly October 4, 2010 at 10:22 am

I think you got to find what you like to do. Is it walking in the woods? Sitting on the top of a hill, looking at the landscape? Taking coffee on the patio in early morning? It could be a combination of things. What is important is that you get a few minutes a day (ideally an hour or so) to think. This should be in addition to sitting on the can. You need some unstimulated time without the internet, without T.V., without the wife and kids, to sit and contemplate life. To really think, relax, and reflect.

You may want to start or finish this time with a bit of exercise so you feel like a badass for the rest of the day. It may just improve your heart condition too.

I hope all is well in your neck of the woods. Congrats on the new baby.

32 Jose A. Troche October 4, 2010 at 10:31 am

I can relate to what Seth is feeling. I work long hours on shift and a lot of days I really wake up, work the whole day, and go to sleep, without any personal time. I’ve found that instead of quieting those thoughts and contemplating it’s better to let them go, so once a day, I do some free writing to let it all out. I just grab a blank page and start writing until it’s full. I don’t think about what I’m writing, I don’t edit it, I don’t stop my hand for anything, as a thought comes to mind it goes on the page. At work I can usually grab about ten minutes of down time to get this done, and due to where I work, I just shred the paper when I’m done. At home, I have a program called RedNotebook (for Linux) that I use as my daily journal, and I take a bit of time after going through my RSS feed to write for about ten minutes. I find that as long as I do some free writing each day, no matter when I do it, as long as I get it done, I feel more focused, less cluttered, and less overwhelmed by the day to day.

33 Tim Buck October 4, 2010 at 10:48 am

Looking critically at your post I can see some things. Whether it was intentional or not, you listed out the facts about your life in a particular order:
1) Your age
2) that your married
3) your family (one child)
4) your job
Out of those facts, you speak most highly about your job (calling it “fantastic”), but you don’t state how long you’ve been married or how old your child is. I think your primary focus is on your job and the “things” you have and now that focus is leaving you feeling empty/numb. I recommend several things. You have the order down correctly (ignoring point #1), you should focus on your wife first, then your kids, and finally your job (I would put God/Religion above wife, but I don’t want to make any assumptions about you). Spending time giving back to the community is a great way to create some manly pride and feel alive (go bang some nails on a Saturday at the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate in your area) or take your child to visit the local nursing home. Focusing on the world around you, rather than what you can take from the world, makes you feel alive. One final thought, if you haven’t done it yet…take the Art of Manliness 30 Day Challenge (search for it on the site) and try to accomplish the challenges…I guarantee

34 Rob October 4, 2010 at 10:50 am

Pushups and Pullups. Doing 100 of pushups will get that dumb feeling out, yes sir.

35 Tim Buck October 4, 2010 at 10:51 am

(continued) you will feel more alive at the end of the 30 days. I know none of these suggestions were a “daily” routine kind of thing, but I think your problem requires a little more to address. I’ve seen some suggestions on exercising in the morning and I whole heartily agree (something simple like trying to do 50 push-ups without stopping and 50 sit-ups).

36 Mike October 4, 2010 at 11:12 am

I have found that keeping a journal is one of the most therapeutic ways to not only deal with problems, but enhances self discovery. It enables me to put down on paper my thoughts and allows me to remove those stressors from my body and leave it behind in the pages of the journal. It takes a little bit to be able to start, but don’t concern yourself about the form…its for you…no one else. You will be amazed at how much you will be able to write…do it before you go to bed, or like a number of people have suggested, wake up early and make it a part of your daily “ritual”. Good luck…I think we a re all pulling for you!

37 Ken October 4, 2010 at 11:40 am

I have to be at work at 7:30AM, which means I have to leave my house around 6:30AM. The gym I work out at opens up at 5AM though, so recently I started getting up at 4:30, brushing my teeth, then heading out to the gym. 30 minutes of cardio every morning does wonders! I get home from the gym at about 5:45AM, shower quickly, eat breakfast, and out the door right on time. It really helps me wake up and focus every morning.

38 Guy Miller October 4, 2010 at 11:48 am

I think we get to a time in our lives where we have done everything we’re told to do to be “successful”. We’ve studied hard, worked hard, got our house, wife and children and it seems like everything we’ve worked for has arrived. Now what? Possibly if we look at the pattern our lives have centered around acquiring “things” to prove we’re happy and successful. I think the void felt is because we’ve missed the charity component….giving back, serving others, helping others. Making the world a better place for future generations.

39 CJ October 4, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Will echo Hans on breathing, yoga, exercise, and walking. and Dave on connecting to others via service (talk about being mindful and in the moment!). Would also like to add a thought about diet: so much of what people eat today is processed junk and you may be missing vital nutrients. How about doing something fun (maybe with the family?) like taking a cooking class on Mediterranean cuisine (supposedly one of the healthiest out there). You’d get to create, be in the moment, spend quality time with family and you’d be eating well. Later, occasionally add in music, themes, visits and sharing with others, meeting new people and cultures and other discoveries.

40 Tom October 4, 2010 at 2:05 pm

First off I want to say Brett this is an excellent series you created. I love the idea of being able to share our thoughts with one another and help out a fellow man. I am 26 and my life can sometimes get pretty crowded with things and thoughts, From work and family to my girlfriend and my social life there really isn’t much time for me anymore. Plus living in Las Vegas can sometimes adds to the stress. I find that waking up around 5 am and going for a quiet drive helps get me get calm down and relax. I just get in my car and drive. The streets at that time are empty cause the city has just gone to sleep so I am alone with my thoughts. No radio or anything, just me and my thoughts. Also if I have a stressful day at work I will come home, pour myself a tall glass of single malt scotch or a bourbon, light a cigar and just sit on my patio and think of my day and what I want out of my life. It really seems to help me center myself.

41 Josh Crocker October 4, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Sweet Brett!

Great thoughts! One thing that I do to stay “present” and in the moment is take one day a week (usually Sunday, but not always) to turn off all of the week’s regular distractions. No phone, no computer. I go outside with the family or by myself and just enjoy the weather (even if it’s raining or snowing) and focus on doing something COMPLETELY different from what I do the rest of the week. It’s a great mental-breather for me.

Thanks again!

- Josh

42 Donald Conner October 4, 2010 at 2:34 pm

I’ve been in the same boat (age, wife, kid, job) and have felt the same thing. I spent a lot of time trying to get to the bottom of the feeling and for me it was because I was focused on the wrong things, had too many things going and wasn’t focused on the right things. I spent some time alone and time with my wife to help re-orient my life goals and to determine what was important to me. I also try to focus on finding joy in doing little things. (For instance mowing the yard. Focus on feeling the sun and the wind, the sound of the mower, going back and forth.) I also get up early on Sunday mornings and smoke a pipe before the kiddo gets up. This is like Brett’s oil lamp. Again I’m focusing on the aspect of smoking and blowing smoke rings (cuz you have to have some fun), the draw of the pipe, the flare of the tobacco as you draw, and the heat of the bowl. Once the kid is up I usually play with him and let mom sleep in. This lets me focus on him and helps to build a bond that I hope will last well into adulthood.

The key point is to evaluate why you’re feeling the numbness. It’s probably a protection mechanism to help you get through the day-to-day grind.

43 Matt October 4, 2010 at 4:21 pm


Thanks Brett for AoM and this excellent idea.

Martial arts is something that works beautifully for me, in getting back to the present. There is a nice meditative quality to being forced to consider nothing but what is going on immediately around me, since that is the only way of not being hit in the face. After a mentally and physically challenging session I am extra aware of the environment around me in general, and I feel relaxed and unworried.

44 Colin October 4, 2010 at 6:33 pm

The best thing that has ever happened to me was becoming a Christian and finding the right church. It’s given me a sense of honor, purpose in life, and the best and most supportive friends a man can have.

45 TimothyR October 4, 2010 at 6:53 pm

What I find that helps me in this situation is to pull out and refresh myself with my list of core values. Getting lost in the noise of everyday life both drains and disorientates me. Remembering who I am and why I’m that person centers me. It also gives me a clearer perspective on everyday things that I hadn’t realized were gnawing at me. Good luck, Seth.

46 Stephan October 4, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Just a thought on the email. I am only just coming to 18 and might not be able to help much, but i mean if this helps, what I like to do if I feel that life is just passing by is that I like to venture out to doing new things. For example you might want to try out new styles such as dressing, types of hats/caps, even the way you wear them. You can even consider taking up a new sport or something like that.
I mean this seems to work for me so far, dunno if this has been much help to those facing the same issue, but I sure do hope that it helps even a little bit =)

47 Chris October 4, 2010 at 11:58 pm

Insightful as usual.

48 Rob October 5, 2010 at 1:07 am

Mazel Tov Brett!

49 Josh October 6, 2010 at 2:51 am

I like Brett’s advice on clearing your mind and giving yourself time to think about things. For me, it’s on my morning run. Whenever I go on a long run I zone out and have a lot of time to think over things. For me it’s an escape. After running I feel refreshed and it’s easier for me to concentrate later in the day during classes and studying (I’m in college). I hope this can help you in some way.

50 Jordan October 6, 2010 at 9:28 am

Daily devotionals and quiet prayer definitely help me. Sometimes, just changing the radio station helps too. I’m a huge classic rock maven, but when I need some more substance, a good Christian radio station or some worship music helps clear my brain before work and remember what my life is about.

51 Neil October 6, 2010 at 11:49 am

Wow Brett, that was awesome. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy this website. I am in the same position as Seth, I am going to give your recommendation a try.

52 Andy October 6, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Hi Bret, this is pretty cool, thanks!
Good topic too.
It’s happened to me before and seems like little things, like a small change in the routines, even just taking some time (like your example of the time you take in the morning) to clear your head and reflect and let your mind refresh and chill out. Good stuff.

Oh, and good point about the deep breathing exercises.

53 Jay October 7, 2010 at 2:10 am

Brett, excellent as always. You’ve got the “giving back” taken care of with AoM. Thank you.
I didn’t see this mentioned in the comments, how about a “gratitude list”? Sometimes, when I’m in a funk, I create a list of all the things I’m grateful for. It seems to help with the restlessness and angst of modern living. I also find that it helps me focus on what’s really important. Another thing the gratitude list can help with, what’s not on it. If a major componant of your life doesn’t make the list, or you find yourself really struggling to write it down, because well, you know you should be grateful for it, but you’re really not… Hopefully you get the picture.

54 Jamie Matthewman October 7, 2010 at 3:17 am

Some great stuff already mentioned, particularly taking sometime out each day to clear the mind and connect to why your here.

Personally when I feel like this, which I know many people do it’s time to start asking yourself some big questions. I take some quiet time, (away from the family), I sit down with a pen and paper and simply write what first comes up for you (without over analysing!). If you want to have a go, you might want to ask question such as –

What do I really want?
When I look at my life right now, what do I notice is missing?
If I knew my purpose today what would I doing?
Where in my life do I already know I can find inspiration easily?
What would today look like if I were living my dream?
If my life is as perfect as I think…why do I feel this way?

And so on….

The better questions you ask the better answers you’ll get! Be prepared to go perhaps where you’ve never gone before…

I hope that helps


55 Jack B. October 9, 2010 at 11:50 am

Instead of meditating for 30 minutes, try prayer. It’s especially good for children to see their father on their knees.

56 Chris Kavanaugh October 10, 2010 at 1:00 am

I am, like Kris above orthodox christian. Contemplation, or if you would meditation, prayer, or as somebody once accused me of ‘goofing off’ is a universal tradition.
It doesn’t matter if you kneel,stand,jog, do yoga,prostrate yourself or sit on the kid’s swing drinking a beer.Take time out, even as people admonish you it is the ‘stuff of life, don’t waste it’ or something to that effect. If you choose to read, discover something forgotten or unloved: I am still making my way through G.K. Chesterton, introduced by of all people Allan Watts on his Sausalito houseboat explaining a nuance of my then study of buddhism. A personal mantra helps. Before adopting the Jesus Prayer, mine was “sometimes I just sit and thinks, but mostly I just sits.”
And you are more than welcome to use a vigil lamp. Don’t let the greek ya ya’s charge to much.

57 Matt October 10, 2010 at 10:54 pm

Hey Brett! I’m gonna get off-topic here because something else in your “Man to Man” video caught my attention. You’re gonna be a Father! First-timer? Either way, I can’t even fathom how exciting that may be. I do know, however, that part of the excitement gets channeled into creating just the right room for our newcomers.

Interestingly, the whole idea of having a separate room for your baby is pretty much an American thing. And it seems traditional enough, but man, you gotta check this out:

In college, I had a wonderful psychology professor. Her name was Dawn Hopper. She wasn’t a ‘textbook’ professor–She gave us all the knowledge we needed, but her lectures were always incredibly down-to-earth and she always related lessons to real-life situations and stories. She was a big follower of the work of Abraham Maslow, but also taught us a lot of evolutionary psychology, which is where things got interesting. She’s a very conservative (Not politically) woman who came from traditional Italian and Russian families and was always using evolutionary psychology to back up her life advice, such as supporting monogamy and the like.

Mrs. Hopper is a parent of, like, 4 or 5 (All now grown) and she was always imparting wisdom about parenting and I’ll never forget the things she taught especially about raising babies because, admittedly, I’m one of those young guys who actually has the goal of settling down and having children early in life. Now, this relates to giving our babies their own rooms. Personally, I don’t think it’s wrong and, most certainly, I don’t think parents have faulty intentions. However, what I was taught by Mrs. Hopper was this: Keep your baby in your room with you–Even in your bed. Not just for safety reasons, but even as babies, personalities are forming from day 1. What keeping them in the room with you does–Aside from generating a strong bond–is it helps develop self-importance in the baby. They learn their worth early on with subtle parenting practices like these, which feeds into Maslow’s principles on self-worth. And don’t worry about cut-off ages. If you have a son, you can teach him manliness even when he’s still snuggling between mom and pop. And don’t worry about a cut-off age. There’s no such thing. My professor taught me that contrary from popular American thought, this makes kids stronger, not sissier, and in many cultures, was widely practiced. It creates a sort of neural safety net for when they get older. As a prime example, she used Natives. By no means culturally similar to us, but very grounded in nature and even as adults, their children often shared tents with them. Their families were exceptionally close.

Here’s another thing I learned, but I’ll keep it short because I went on a bit with the bedroom topic. If she can, get your wife to breastfeed as often as needed. Aside from the first feeding being necessary for transmission of anti-bodies and the immune system, subsequent feedings again create a strong bond and develop the self-importance/ neural safety net I was talking about. One thing my professor said she did was, whenever her babies cried, she propped them right up on the teet. It calmed them immediately and in the most natural way possible. Even at ages slightly above whatever the ‘cut-off’ is considered, she did it. And another thing, she said never to worry about where you are, restaurant, shopping mall, wherever. People may be turned off by it, but what’s less natural: Breastfeeding a kid when they need it or denying them (Which has an emotional impact) because you don’t want to creep overly prude passersby? Oh, and she never used a bathroom. She believed the saying “Don’t eat where you crap” was just as valid in such cases.

Anyway, that’s my little bit. I’m not saying other ways of parenting are improper, but I definitely get the vibe that her advice was the best way to go. Certainly look into it.

And may I say, CONGRATULATIONS! I hope the journey into parenthood for you is an amazing one and that every day is filled with illumination.


58 David October 16, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Hi everyone !

I’m 19 and according to the ancient greeks I’m not yet a man because I’m still studying. But I love art of manliness and because I’m kind of old fashion are inspired in becoming a real Man.

This man to man idea is pretty cool. I thought that Seths question was interesting and your suggestions was also a smart one. I also take time to push the pause bottom.

Yet I wish to give a slight suggestion to waking up from this unconsciuous mode. I found it is very rewarding to uncomplish projects. I for instance unread to write several books and movie scenarios. I know I might never get them fully done but just working on them is fun. In a more realistic point of view, I recently ran the 16km: Paris-Versailles ( yeah I’m french ) and I loved it. It was fun, physically demanding and everyone congratulated me. Next race coming up is the semi-marathon(that’s going to be a tough one). If you have goals too I suggest you work on them. You might start one and forget about it. But knowing that you have it will lead to wanting to accomplish it and will be a spare wheel for the futur.

By the way, I don’t if you can send me direct e-mails but I’m American and French and am willing to give any tips on how we do things here in Paris (France): à la française.


59 Joe Morris October 21, 2010 at 11:30 am

For me, the way to snap out of it is to go for a run, ride a bike, or do something that gives me that quiet feeling of “oh yes, I’ve done something good today.” I first discovered that feeling after finishing a successful day of snowboarding. That day I really pushed myself to ride faster, harder and fly higher then before. There were a few wipe outs and I ended the day feeling good. And that night, even better. I rested in bed thinking that was invigorating and good for the soul. Now of course, snowboarding isn’t for everyone but accomplishing something for the day is imperative.

I too have a child — congrats Bret — and no doubt it gets hard to do these sort of things when you’re being a father. The thrill levels change but that doesn’t mean they have to end. In fact it’s better if you can get a way for a little bit. Practice a little manliness and come home and extend that feeling with your children. In other words be a good father. On a daily basis, it’s a feeling of saying “I’ve done something good today.”

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