The Lone Wolf Myth

The Lone Wolf Myth

lone wolf image

Over the years, I have watched my father work alone. As the stand-in contractor for my childhood home, he put up drywall, did plumbing jobs, fixed electrical, and completed other home projects. At the same time, he was and has been a successful entrepreneur, hustling and grinding to succeed to varying degrees without much support or help. He rarely goes to a doctor or therapy; unless it’s an emergency, he never seeks help with personal issues such as his diet or exercise. For the 42 years I have known him, he embodies traditional masculinity, a “man’s man” who, as a child of the 40s and growing up poor, learned to be tough, not complain, and live the value of hard work and discipline.


I am proud of my father for teaching me the value of hard work, discipline, commitment, and getting things done. However, I have also learned that his life seems much more difficult than it needs to be. He often does things himself when he can get support, which leads to frustration, delays, and sometimes worse results. He is frequently tired, angry, and frustrated due to challenges and difficulties. His health has suffered due to his unwillingness to seek advice from experts or get support in his recovery from health challenges. In my opinion, his relationship with my mother has also been strained at times due to his reluctance to embrace new ways of communication and support.


Despite his flaws, I am grateful for my father and the lessons he has taught me through his successes and struggles. He has been a great example of how to succeed and how not to operate for success. He has left me better than his parents left him, which is the ultimate goal of any parent.


In the Gene Keys, Richard Rudd says, “As our ancient ancestors discovered, failure really means one thing – to be isolated. The moment you cut yourself off from your tribal support network, you lose touch with the living chain that supports and nourishes you.” 


I couldn’t agree more with this statement, and something I find interesting is that the fear of failure in our ancient ancestors led to the creation and building of community and the collective coming together in groups and tribes. We knew our chances of success and survival exponentially increased when we communed. Failure was actually about doing something that would have you ostracized from the community, forcing you to be alone to likely die at the hands of another community, animal, or element. 


Our perceptions of safety and survival have changed in modern times, specifically over the last century. Most of us won’t die if we fail. Failure rarely leads to ostracization. And even if we are ostracized and kicked out of our families or communities, we likely will be fine. In fact, many of us choose to leave our families and communities and start over elsewhere. Even those who don’t entirely abandon their origins typically move to other homes and neighborhoods and create their own community. At the same time, we abandoned knowing our neighbors, even those living in apartments right next to us, and often seem suspicious or frustrated by them. We encourage young people to leave their homes for college, live independently, and create their own families. We have even adopted the absurd phrase “Self-Made Man” to acknowledge a man who has built wealth and status independently. However, more recently, we’ve learned that in households where three generations live together, i.e., grandparents, parents, and children, the overall mental health of the family is better, there is less financial stress and pressure, and the overall lifespan of the family members increases.


When I think about the men I coach one-on-one around business, leadership, or relationships and those who attend The Alchemy of Men Retreats, the concept of the “lone wolf” comes up often. Most men tend to operate alone in various ways. It’s typically regarded as expected, and most men actually like to think of themselves as not needing support or help. They try to achieve results independently. They will hustle and grind, struggle on their own. While building a business, most won’t get support and won’t hire coaches or therapists, and many struggle to relinquish control. They won’t share their marriage or relationship issues with their buddies if they have any. They cover up challenges and fears with stoicism. They won’t seek help for mental health challenges, and often, nobody knows they need help until it’s too late. They struggle in their businesses, carrying the world’s weight, always trying to be strong and have it all together.


From what I’ve seen, at the root of this issue is the fear of asking for help. This fear masks failure as asking for help, getting support or assistance, leaving men alone, and trying the same techniques over and over again. It leads to trying harder, grinding it out, working longer hours, and building up frustration and burnout. It leaves us without friends or community and strains our partners as they are forced to be everything to us – friends, lovers, confidants, therapists, and advice givers. (This is often women’s biggest complaint in relationships with men.)


It seems men would rather suffer alone than ask for help or get more results to get results in community. 


Sometimes, people ask me how we can do a better job of supporting men. What comes to mind is reminding them that they don’t have to do it alone and that it’s not their job to carry the weight of the world. That when they suffer, when they are in pain, when they are stressed out and burned out and unhappy, they can’t be the fathers and partners we need them to be. And men can still be strong and tough together and in groups. Even the Spartans knew 300 of them were much more powerful than one of them. 


While I don’t know if we’ll ever go back to living in small tribes or communities, supporting each other and living more symbiotically, I can hope. Support, via community or family, or a band of brothers, a men’s group, a club, friends that help each other, saying yes to coaches and therapists, more men going on men’s retreats and willingness to go on couples or non-gender specific retreats will bring us back together and teach us once again how much easier life is when we do it together. 


Ask yourself this: As a man, are you more committed to going at it alone and struggling in the process, or are you more committed to getting the results you want?  


If you’re more committed to getting the results, it might be time to try going about life in a new way. Ask for help, get some support, and start learning that not only is it more fun to be part of a pack, but we can perform at a higher level for longer, do more, achieve more, and have way more fun in the process. 


Lone wolves die alone. Lone wolves scrounge for scraps. Lone wolves are always on the defensive, looking out for predators. 


Wolves in packs have safety and security; they howl at the moon together, have full bellies, sleep well, and produce offspring that live full lives. 


Come be part of a pack. Come give and get supported

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