How Jack Failed

Photo by yellowskyphotography [cropped, altered]

Mack and Jack were remarkably alike: they went to the same college, had more or less the same IQ, the same level of drive.

Most remarkable of all, they married twin-sisters, making them brother-in-laws.

But that’s where the similarities stop.

For whereas Mack went on to create a life of abundance and freedom for himself and his family, with extended family vacations in India, Fiji, Australia… all while having spare time to play jazz violin and write poetry…

…Jack is still scrambling. His marriage seems always on the brink of collapse… his life always but one financial misstep from the abyss. His children, now in their early twenties and off to college, are polite yet distant… shivering with relief to finally be out of that house.


Mack and Jack were alike in nearly every way except one: the SCRIPT they followed.

As Jack readied himself to propose to his wife all those years ago, he had asked himself, as all men at this threshold do, “How shall I live my life now? How should I then BE as a man, a husband, a father?”

Tragically, Jack adopted the script we’ve ALL been groomed for… the one they’ve been baking into us since we were boys:

* Work hard, even if you don’t enjoy it
* Sacrifice your time, your strength, and your money for others
* Think big, but not too big. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment
* Don’t take excessive risk. Slow and steady wins the race
* Your happiness is not important. Fulfilling your obligations is everything
* Family life isn’t supposed to be fun. Get to work
* Sacrifice is your chief utility and contribution
* When you find yourself tapped out, double down on duty

These ideas… we take them as axiomatic. We believe without scrutiny that they will lead us to the promised land of sufficiently-funded retirement, an affection-filled marriage, of healthy, well-adjusted children.

And it’s a crock of shit.

For this script has no master playwright. No, it’s the blind leading the blind. It’s old slaves admonishing the young slaves how not to rattle their chains.

Based on this misplaced faith in the script, Jack went to school and got a “good job.”

And sure enough, thanks to his intelligence and drive, he climbed the ranks.

But somehow, Jack never had enough money. Every bonus, every raise… it always got sopped up. Jack and his wife fell into a decades-long pattern of arguing over money, never realizing that the root problem was that they were in-fact slaves… that the master had only granted them enough money to keep them fed and productive.

Jack thought the script would spare him the tooth and fang of the jungle… that it represented a carefully-mapped route through the minefield of life… that it would keep his family safe, his nose clean… that it would make him, someday, happy again.

You hope and pray you will last the night without freezing to death, huddled by a dying fire, crowding the last remaining coal as the blizzard rages all around you.

Thankfully, Mack was under no such illusion.

Mack rejected the script wholesale.

While other men convinced themselves that duty was utmost, Mack saw that his FIRST duty was to his own fire. For how could he ignite others if he did not himself bear a flame?

While other men convinced themselves that working for yourself was too risky, Mack saw that the ULTIMATE risk was to place trust for his family’s finances in the hands of other men… that it was far better to create an income-producing enterprise that HE controlled.

While other men told themselves that good fathering was characterized by self-sacrifice, Mack saw that men flutter to sacrifice like moths to flame not because we are honorable, but because it is secretly easier for us to bear the pain of losing than the mantle of victory and expansion… that it is easer for man to risk his time and money than to risk what truly moves the needle: his hope, and his reputation.

It’s not too late.

So long as you have breath… so long as the forges of your imagination still function, though they may creak and groan… you have time.

It’s never too late to burn the old script from your life and create a new one…

A way of working and living and loving and dreaming that cuts the old thread of desperation woven through your life…

Never too late to finally create income-producing works of art and business that bear your true mark… authentic creations you know you’re capable of, but up until now had not had the courage, or the self-granted freedom to coax out of yourself.

You’ve risked your time, working thousands of hours for the man.

You’ve risked your money, spending countless dollars on “turnkey business systems,” MLM starter packs, self-help books and get-rich-quick courses.

Now it’s time to finally take the true risks… the creator’s risks:

It’s time to risk your heart again. Time to seize those blackened, failure-hardened callouses and peel it back to the pink… despite the unbearable risk that your new venture still might not, again, work.

It’s time to risk your reputation. Time to do what you must do to move your project radically forward, regardless of what the people around you think… to let their dismay or condemnation or mockery or judgement or repugnance fall, like chips, where it may.

Otherwise, when you get to the end of your life, this bogus script you’ve given your life to will be exposed… the true cost finally accounted for… and at last, too-late, will you see that it was never a path to the good life, only a road to slavery.

So burn the script.

Burn the fear and half-measures from your heart.

Re-wild yourself.

Learn, again, to navigate the mountain by starlight, grasping at pine boughs in the windy dark.

Give yourself, finally, to the old primordial terrors and passions.

Find, at last, your own way.


Bryan Ward is the founder of Third Way Man and author of the LIT Black Paper


  1. Very poignantly said bro. Too many of us have bought into the outdated dogma which seeks to keep men as slaves; surfs that should stay in the broke minded never dream big or strive for more. Keep it down and stay where you are in the class your family has aleaus been. That or have succumbed to the newer insidous message meant to neuter men through shame and made the helpless idiot in modern media.

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