Welcome back to another edition of the Art of Manliness podcast. In this week’s episode we return to our series “Man Stories” where we interview a different man every other week and ask him what manliness means to him. This week our guest is Dan Kern. Dan hails from Winnipeg, Canada and he works as a voice actor. Thanks Dan for taking part in the interview!
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Brett McKay: Brett McKay here, and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness Podcast. And this week, we return to our series called Man Stories where we interview a different gentleman every other week, and ask him what it means for him to be a man. And this week, our guest is Dan Kern. Dan, welcome to the show.
Dan Kern: Thanks, Brett. I’m so excited to be here. This is great.
Brett McKay: Fantastic. Well, Dan, take a few moments to introduce yourself. Let us know about you.
Dan Kern: Okay. Well, as you mentioned, my name is Dan Kern. I came from a background of radio and television, worked for 22 years in that industry. I’ve also worked in film and theatre and production, I worked for six years as a professional photographer, I photographed actors, I’ve acted myself, and these days I make my living as a voice actor, I read radio and television commercials and I read documentaries et cetera, and that leaves me free for most of my days to write, I work on novels, short stories, essays, and things of that nature.
Brett McKay: Wow. So you’ve done it all?
Dan Kern: Well, I’ve done a lot, yeah, I wouldn’t say certainly all, but it’s kind of interesting, because it’s given me where I am in my career now, and it’s given me a great opportunity to really sort of pick and choose which skills I want to use, and then of course, the ones that I don’t need anymore, I can just let them be, you know, over on the sideline. They’re there when I need them, but, yeah, I’m a pretty lucky guy in that regard.
Brett McKay: Where are you from, Dan?
Dan Kern: I’m in Winnipeg, Canada.
Brett McKay: Oh, great.
Dan Kern: We’re right in the centre of the continent actually, almost sort of right in the center, on an east-west level, and then pretty much as well on the south, so, yeah, right in the middle of the landmass, that’s where you’ll find me.
Brett McKay: Great. And do you have any family, Dan?
Dan Kern: I do, yeah, I have– I obviously– mum and dad, three sisters. I have a wife and we are not together anymore, but I still talk to her and we’re great friends and that’s it. No kids.
Brett McKay: Great, great, fantastic. Right, Dan, so are you ready to get started with the questions?
Dan Kern: You betcha.
Brett McKay: All right. So, Dan, when do you feel like you became a man?
Dan Kern: Well, there are some who say that I haven’t yet, and I find that kind of funny. I think one of the things that I sort of made a decision in my life early on was not to have any kids, and so I think that I sort of lived most in my life. I’m 45 today. Not today, isn’t my birthday, but I’m 45 years old. I think without having kids you sort of miss out on lot of the milestones that sort of tell you that you’ve become a man. So you sort of– you have to find it through other ways, and obviously, I mean I’ve matured over the years, and I do, you know, I’m a man obviously, but I think it hit me a couple of years ago when somebody came up to me out of the blue, somebody that I had been working with sort of coaching, and they said to me, you may not be ready for this, but you’re my mentor, and I sort of had that little sort of epiphany, that sort of parting the clouds I realized, oh, my…I guess I’m a man now, you know, so it was kind of that little moment.
Brett McKay: That moment when someone asked you to be a mentor. Was it a professional mentor or was it just more personal or…?
Dan Kern: I think it was a little bit of both, you know, but, yeah, certainly it was professional, I mean, one of the things that I’ve always done with my career is I’ve shared openly with others who are just getting into the businesses that I’ve worked in, and I’ve always been sort of an open door kind of person, and if they have any questions to, you know, please call, but, yeah, so that mantle that they put on me that day, that sort of made me feel like I was a man.
Brett McKay: That’s fantastic. We talk a lot about mentoring on the site, how it’s– you know, when you are an older person to take the time to mentor younger people, because not only that helps the younger person, you know, get their bearing straight but I think there is a lot of benefit that we as men get from mentoring as well. And besides that, epiphany that you feel like you become a man, were there any other benefits you got from the mentoring relationship?
Dan Kern: Oh, gosh, it’s endless, and I think that the person who actually does the mentoring is actually the bigger benefactor from that process. I think the person who is learning obviously that’s what they get out of it, but nothing sharpens your skills and your wits about you more than sort of being put to the test, and when somebody asks you a question about something that you’ve done, it really it sharpens you. It also inspires you and energizes you. I know for a little while there I was hanging around some people that were much much younger than I was on a professional level, we were working on some films together, and their energy was just so infectious, and I came away from that experience thinking, you know, I wasn’t– sorry, they weren’t the ones who benefited from this, I was. And that was because I made myself available in a mentorship role. So, it’s a win, win, win.
Brett McKay: Definitely. All right, Dan, what does manliness mean to you?
Dan Kern: This is funny actually because this is actually how I found the site, The Art of Manliness. I was actually doing a search, a general search through Google on that topic I was researching for one of my novels because of one of my characters has to go through that very question and asked that very question, and all of a sudden I stumbled upon this site and I was like, oh, my goodness, look at this. So, I think I’m still answering that question and maybe that’s one of the reasons why I’m writing, and especially choosing the theme and then writing into my novels, you know, what does that mean? So I’m not trying to really briefly give you what I think it means to me. I think it means capability. A man is someone who is capable and uses their strength and their skill and their intellect to that end. I think being a man means treating others with respect, and I think that really becomes especially so with women, and I also think that being a man is all about charity, and, yes, so I think that’s why I’m at, at least at this point in my life. I don’t know ask me 10 years from now, I might have a different set of answers.
Brett McKay: Yeah, I think maybe after you’ve written your novel as well you might have a different set of answers. Fantastic. All right, Dan. What men, you know, living, dead, fictional, have influenced your views of manliness?
Dan Kern: Well, I grew up in entertainment media, so I tend to look at those people I guess, maybe, and some might say that’s a little bit shallow, but I think if I were to sort of point to the quintessential man’s man these days, I would have to say it’s probably Brad Pitt. And it’s not just for the movies that he has been in, but it’s for what he is doing with his life as well, I mean, he’s taking his fame and his money obviously and he is using it to good ends, I mean, he is doing some really honorable things I think in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and there’s other issues and things he is involved with around the world. And I think that that’s just such a…I don’t want to use the word worship thing, you know, because it’s not really that, but I just think it’s so admirable that he is doing that, and I mean not to mention too, I mean he is a great looking guy.
I also look to George Clooney. I think he does the same, you know, guys like Robert Redford and Richard Gere have sort of all given their time and talent and money to worthy causes. There is an American President that I’m quite enamored with these days, I know he is getting older. I’m not looking forward to the day when he won’t be with us anymore, but that’s Jimmy Carter. And I know he has been sort of lambasted this last little while for some things that he said, but you know, here is a former President of the United States of America who goes and helps build houses for homeless people and I just go wow. So, yeah, I think he is one. There is an author I’m very fond of. His name is Paulo Coelho and Leonardo da Vinci.
Brett McKay: Yeah.
Dan Kern: I don’t know. He just a– I read a biography on him awhile back, and you know, and he was really into cooking, you know, he came up with a recipe for minestrone soup that works even today.
Brett McKay: Is that right?
Dan Kern: Yeah. And he’s just– I don’t know one of those weird guys that just kind of like, you know, just wow, like it would be really fun to meet him.
Brett McKay: Yeah, you know, he’s quintessential Renaissance Man and we’ve written quite a bit about on the site.
Dan Kern: Yeah, I think so.
Brett McKay: Very good. All right, Dan, how has your father influenced your conception of manliness?
Dan Kern: My dad is one of these guys who really doesn’t say too much right off the bat, so he is really patient, one of the sort of slow to anger, slow to speak kind of guys, and so he is kind of– he is still alive, he is going to be 75 in December, and he is actually quite the Google Earth expert. He shows me stuff on there that I would, you know, it’s like how on earth did you find that? But he is one of these guys who has shown me over my lifetime very quietly, you know, sort of the way to be a man, and I’m just in awe of that.
Brett McKay: Is there anything particular that you remember?
Dan Kern: You know it’s the things that I don’t remember, I think that are sort of coming back to me now, you know, like I remember when he didn’t get mad when I had done something. And I remember when he didn’t do something that everybody expected him to do, which would have been the easy way out. And those things now as I contemplate the characters in my own stories, they are slapping back at me like a wave, like a wave in the ocean, and some cases just sort of rolling me over. It’s just been one of those really wonderful kind of almost spiritual kind of discoveries.
Brett McKay: Dan, you mentioned your dad is pretty handy with Google Earth, but is there another skill that your dad has that you wish you could do?
Dan Kern: Yes. And it’s a bit of a shame. I think I’m a bit of a shame to him maybe even also is auto mechanics. Gosh, I’m terrible when it comes to fixing cars or I can’t even change the oil, and I know there’s a number of your readers right now listening to the podcast who might be going tsk, tsk, tsk to me to me, but my dad is one of those guys where not only is he really good with tools, but he also has that intuition, you know, he can sort of, you know, there is like horse whispers and dog whispers, he is kind of like a car whisper, you know, he can sort of listen to a car and sort of drive and he sort of knows what’s wrong with it, and I have none of that. I inherited none of that from him.
Brett McKay: Do you have a desire to learn those things or just…?
Dan Kern: No. No I don’t know what it is. It’s like I sort of I grew up the artiste, and I have rather lovely hands, which have been featured in posters before. I’ve worked as a hand model, and I don’t know the whole thing about getting my hands dirty in oil and grease and stuff and cutting them, I mean as I’m in love with the romance of that thought, but wouldn’t want to get involved doing myself, so. I think I’ll leave the fixing of cars to my dad.
Brett McKay: All right. Dan, what’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done as a man, either emotionally or physically or spiritually?
Dan Kern: I have to say fire someone. I was– back in the 90s, I found myself as a general manager of two radio stations in the Province of Saskatchewan here in Canada, and I had become good friends with the morning guy, the guy who did the morning radio show, and it just wasn’t working out and I knew that I had to fire him. One of the best pieces of advice that was given to me was, the minute you know you think you should fire someone, then do it the next minute, but don’t do it on a Friday because then they worry about it all weekend, do it on a Monday.
And so I sort of had to take all of that and parse it and sort of make a game plan, and the more I thought about it of course the more sick I became. And so I said to my wife at that time, I said, you know, this was on a Friday and I knew that on the Monday I would have to do this thing, this deed, and I said to my wife, I said let’s get out town, let’s just go, and she says where, and I said I don’t care, I just don’t want to be in the city, I don’t want to run into them in a grocery store or a movie theatre anything like that, and she said, okay.
And so I went, and of course, I stewed about it all weekend. And when I came back on Monday, after the show, I called him into my office and I said I have to let you go. And he was quiet for about a minute, and I was just churning inside, and he looked up at me and he said, I’m not quite sure how to thank you, but I wasn’t sure how to go about quitting and now, you know, I don’t have to. And so it was all for naught, all of that horrible worrying, but that’s just the thing I think was that for me was that I realized that I would be messing with another man’s livelihood, with his family, with his future, with everything, and I just, I wanted it all to be okay. So that was the hardest thing for me.
Brett McKay: And do you think if you had to do that again, it would still be just as hard or…?
Dan Kern: I don’t think that ever gets easy. I think for anybody who has ever been fired, you know, and they think back of their boss and they think unkind thoughts, I think those people really need to know that unless you’ve actually been in the chair and done the firing, you have no idea what that takes.
Brett McKay: Yeah, yeah. Well, Dan, thank you for taking the time to speak to us today.
Dan Kern: Well, my thanks to you as well, and I just want to offer my congratulations on your successful website, it’s like well over 50,000 RSS subscribers, your book launch. I’m waiting for my books from my local bookstore because that’s what I do, I support my local bookstore, and they are not in yet in Canada, your podcasts and here’s to your future media empire, Brett, I think you are awesome, and thank you for doing what you are doing.
Brett McKay: Thank you, Dan, I really appreciate it.
Brett McKay: And that wraps up this edition of The Art of Manliness Podcast. Make sure to check back at The Art of Manliness website at www.artofmanliness.com for more manly tips and advice, and until next week, stay manly.