By Rob Shaul
“When I grow up, I want to be a little boy.” – Joseph Heller
Several years ago when I first started programming for military athletes I took a September and traveled to several units to learn, and also teach pilot programming courses.
One of the units I visited was an Air Force National Guard SOF unit in the Southeast – PJs and Combat Controllers.
Even though this was a National Guard unit, these were full-time jobs, but because it was a National Guard unit, the unit’s members weren’t forced to move around from duty station to duty station … they could stay in at their current location, indefinitely.
The guys were older – all in their 30s, and I’ve never met more happy guys at work. I conducted a programming course, and we spent a day at the range doing Range Fitness drills, and I don’t think I ever laughed as much over two days in my life.
Don’t get me wrong, these guys were professional – attentive in the course, trained hard in the gym, shot well and were open-minded at the range. But I’ve never seen a bunch of full-grown men, and colleagues, be as professional, yet have so much fun at work.
“I go to work each day with a bunch of 8-year olds,” one Combat Controller commented to me. It wasn’t a complaint.
I’ve read some research on some of the reasons adult men have shorter life spans than women – and why husbands usually die before their wives. One of the theories is that for many men, after high school, or college if they go, their number of adult male friends declines rapidly. In my own experience, and what I’ve observed with others, is that adult women, in general, have a large number of casual friends, and most have one or two really close friends.
Not so for many adult men. I’m not sure why or the dynamics of it, but most adult men don’t have a wide circle of friends and few have a close male friend or confidant who isn’t a family member.
I haven’t seen statistics or research on this, but my sense is men in male-dominated occupations like the tactical professions (military, LE, Fire Rescue) have more male friends – other men they work with daily, and closer friends they’ve kept in touch with after transfer to a new duty station. Part of the reason, I assume, is that the physical nature of the work, the dangerous mission sets, and the shared difficult experiences and suffering all act to bond the men in these professions together.
My guess is a group of bankers or stockbrokers working together don’t develop these deeper bonds and friendships.
For those on the civilian side, sometimes these friendships can develop outside of work. In my own experience, the 2 older lab rats – my training partners James and Cody – are valued friends, and our training time a cherished, protected part of my daily routine.
I’m over 50, and they are both in their 40’s, but from 6-7 AM Monday through Thursday we’re not much older than 8 years old. We joke, mess around, train hard, and have a lot of fun. It’s my 6-7 AM “play” time.
“Little Boy” doesn’t require like-minded buddies, thankfully. You can do it on your own.
It’s an attitude of playfulness, sense of adventure, curiosity, and open-mindedness we can bring to every experience and opportunity, every day.
Kids have helped me. I firmly believe kids keep you young. I had countless little boy adventures with my eldest two sons … stuff like tubing down creeks, swimming in irrigation ditches, endless games of whiffle ball, cold lake skinny dipping, brutal wilderness backpacking trips, scary drift boat fishing trips on unfamiliar water, power ski days followed by hot tub poaching missions at Jackson motels.
It would be inaccurate to say I did this stuff to show my sons all this fun. I did it because I liked “play” as much as them. The fact is I would have not have had all that adventure if they weren’t there. I would have been too old, or too busy to do a silly float tube trip, swim in an irrigation ditch, or skinny dip in the lake. This experience with my sons taught me a great lesson about how to live life.
I can’t speak for women here, as I simply don’t know the female experience, but for men, I can’t find a better way to live or a better “career” than Little Boy. This is different than being a “Peter Pan” – a man who never develops beyond adolescence never commits to a partner, place or job – someone who isn’t “solid.”
It is possible to be 49% all business, and 51% Little Boy.
Now, I have a 3-year old little boy at home and a little girl on the way. I’m counting on them to keep me young into my 70s!
“Little Boy” as my career choice!
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