by Stu Rhodes –
So who are the “Men to Watch,” really?
In this edition of Seaside we get to celebrate the successes of some prominent men in our community and even take a peek at some up and comers. Dollars to doughnuts, these men didn’t slide out of the womb with “successful” tattooed on their foreheads. Chances are they benefitted from some guidance and mentorship along the way.
As a regular contributor to Seaside, I have the privilege of writing about success stories related to Saanich students exploring the trades. I’m a carpenter by trade, and not a linguist. However, I can’t help but notice the words “trade” and “tradition” have a common root, and some sources seem to indicate rather similar origins for various definitions of both words. Interestingly, the historical model of trade training relied heavily upon traditions of the craft being passed along through careful and methodical mentorship. In fact, a hallmark of a good tradesman is not only mastery of his chosen craft, but his ability to pass along the requisite knowledge, skills and attitude to his underling apprentices through mentorship.
As a young apprentice, straight out of high school in the mid-’70s, I benefited from that very type of mentorship from a man I now consider
my sensei. Don Metcalf was my employer and a journeyman who taught me the value of time and money. He held the bar high when it came to expectations around work ethic. He gave me guidance to help me develop skill and technique. He gave me responsibility, and probably most importantly, he gave me opportunity. Opportunity to succeed, and opportunity to fail. And though the admonitions were not always pleasant following failure, they were instructive, corrective and supportive. My apprenticeship was the epitome of experiential learning.
Growing up, I was fortunate to have a father who provided mentorship in much the same way. He taught me to play sports, but more importantly taught me to play fairly and be a good sport. He taught me how to bait a hook, and how to scalp the meat off a willow grouse. He helped me develop my own set of values and taught me how to stand up for myself. He even tried to teach me how to be a gentleman, though some may argue I didn’t learn the latter lesson so well.
For a boy to become a man, it helps to have prominent male role models in his life, be it a coach, dad, teacher, uncle or employer. As we mature it is incumbent upon us to be mentors for the next wave. After
all, life is very much like an apprenticeship.
So, back to this month’s theme of “Men to Watch.” Who are the men to watch, really? May I suggest that all of our boys are the men to watch. Every single boy in our community is potentially a man to watch. Every one of those boys is also a man to watch out for too. Affirmative action initiatives of recent decades have been amazingly successful in terms of promoting opportunities for women in general, but especially for young ladies and girls to improve their lot in terms of education, employment and status. Unfortunately, our boys have been left in the wake of the great work being done in an effort to equalize the playing field for their female counterparts. We need to remember our boys and re-empower them too.
Today’s boys are somewhat downtrodden and pushed aside at the expense of every new initiative that comes along. For many of our boys, it’s kind of lonely to be just an average, ordinary boy. New thinking shuns normal boyish behaviours. They aren’t really allowed to push and shove, or tussle in the grass anymore. Rather, they are required to comply with much more benign expectations. Since they can’t just be boys, they are withdrawing. On average, they could be described as a demographic wallowing in complacent and consuming mediocrity. Where I encounter them most, in our public school system, they are conspicuously absent from most leadership roles in favour of our young women leading the charge.
When I talk to employers who are looking to bolster their workforce in various trade sectors they frequently complain there aren’t enough journeymen these days. I always tell them: “If you want to grow journeymen, you have to plant apprentices.” The same holds true for “Men to Watch.” If we want to have vibrant, successful, male leaders and contributors in our communities, then we need to take care of our boys. We need to mentor them to greatness. I challenge all men to be that mentor. Photo by www.nuttycake.com.